It's spring here in Pretoria. It's rainy and cold, and the jacarandas are blooming everywhere. Their branches loom overhead, loaded with purple blossoms that fall and carpet every inch of Pangani's garden. I'd been missing cold rain, and I've gotten my wish these past few weeks.
Jacarandas at sunrise along a nearby street
The past month has been full of so many things (but maybe that's just the way things go here). My friends Anne and Karen came to visit in mid-September. They joined the five apprentices and the Stewart family for a weekend away to the Drakensbergs, a range of mountains in a province southeast of Pretoria. The scenery was beautiful, we went on a couple of hikes, and spent plenty of time just hanging out and relaxing at the cottages where we stayed. After our return to Pretoria, I spent a week juggling my responsibilities with showing Anne and Karen around the area. One of the highlights of the week was getting caught a little closer than we would have liked to a rather angry elephant at a local game park. I thought it was awesome; Anne was a little less enthusiastic.
Hiking in the Draks with Anne and Karen
Most prominent in my mind right now is a crazy and amazing trip I went on this past weekend. Last Friday night, Doug and I took Granny, three of her daughters, her son-in-law Solomon, and their cousin Andries on a road trip to the Durban area. On this journey, we were hoping to reunite Granny with her daughter Dumazile, who was kidnapped when she was seven years old. 37 years have now passed, and recently Granny was able to get information about Dumazile's whereabouts.
The house where Dumazile grew up
The journey was quite an experience--driving through the night in the rain, followed by a 2-hour drive on muddy, slightly perilous mountain roads. We kept passing incredible views, looking out over valleys and mountains beyond. At one point, I turned to Granny and exclaimed how beautiful it was. She responded by shaking her head, saying, "Oh, Barbara..." and covering her head with a blanket so she wouldn't see the dropoff to the side of the van! When we reached the home where Dumazile was raised, in a remote village in the mountains, there were several animated conversations in Zulu between Granny's family and the woman who raised Dumazile. We were finally able to drive to Dumazile's home and bring her back to be reunited with her mother and her sisters.
Granny with her daughters
The sisters...including the "white sister," as they called me!
When we saw our first glimpse of the daughter who had been missing from Granny's family for so long, Annah looked at me with joy in her face and said: "We have found our sister." All I could think was that Dumazile looked exactly like she belonged. She looks like Granny, she looks like her sisters Betty and Annah, and she looks like her niece Champagne. Dumazile was so happy to finally know her mother and sisters, to finally know that her mother did want her and had been searching for her. It was amazing to be part of the reunion and to hear the family exclaiming what a miracle it was to find Dumazile. As we were leaving, Granny walked with me on the way to the car. She kept saying: "I am so blessed, Barbara, so blessed by God..." We all felt that way as we began the long journey home.
I've felt so blessed to be here this past year, to see and be part of the amazing things God is doing. As my time in South Africa comes to a close, I'm excited about what God has in store for the future (though those details are still getting figured out). Even so, it will be hard to leave this community and these people who've come to mean so much to me. All of the apprentices are balancing thoughts of what's next with finishing well here. It's a delicate balance, to be sure...
-For my roommate Carissa’s continued recovery following her third surgery on her elbow (and at the same time, immense praise for how well she’s doing and how much movement she’s regained in just the past week!)
-For wisdom and perseverance as Sarah and I finish our writing project and figure out how much to do here and how much to put off till we get back to the US
-That my time here would finish well—in bringing things to a close in ministry and in saying goodbyes to everyone
-For continued guidance as I settle the next steps leading into next year