I moved to Africa with a couple of very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart-cocktail of faith, naivety, passion, and foolishness.
I was only 19.
I didn’t know much, but I knew that I loved Africa and her beautiful people. I didn’t set out on any grand mission or with any huge goals. I just wanted to meet needs where I could, and see what God would do with my meager fish-and-loaves life. I was hopeful that He could write a magnificent story for me and with me.
In the chasing of my dream, I found love. I got married, and together we pioneered a nonprofit that trained leaders and taught AIDS prevention in the poorest region of South Africa. God did astounding things. Constantly.
I watched Him open blind eyes, show up with eleventh hour provision, stop wildfires from destroying our mission base, and radically transform lives. After a decade of ministry, our team had grown to over 60 staff members, primarily African nationals. We trained over 100 pastors a year and taught 4000 public school students each week about living lives of purpose.
God was writing a story I never could have imagined.
He truly multiplied our fish and loaves to nourish the masses. He created something out of our nothing. He made life out of our brokenness.
Then everything crumbled to pieces when my husband finally confessed what I already knew to be true: He had been unfaithful. For a year and a half. With a friend of mine.
The pieces shattered even further when he announced he was done—with me and ministry. No matter how tightly I tried to cling to it all, I couldn’t hold any of it together. Not my marriage or my ministry or even my life… Everything seemed to unravel out from under me.
After 13 years of ministry in Africa, I was forced to close down our operations. I permanently relocated back to the States, walking away from my home, my work, my community, my vision, my history.
I fought both my story and the Story-teller. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!
It felt as though the narrative had come to a screeching halt. But He kept writing…
I’ve been divorced for a few years now. It still feels strange to say, and even stranger to truly accept at a heart level. Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death. There is sadness and anger and mourning and relief and remorse. Sometimes all in the very same breath.
And underneath it all is the hole left in my everyday by the loss of someone I’ve lived one-third of my life with. The missing is deep. It’s a missing of what was. A missing of who was. A missing of what could’ve been.
A missing of the story I was once living…
It’s as though I lost not only my future, but also my past.
In so many ways, I lost my own history. I don’t have a single person left in my life who walked that African road with me from start to finish. No one who was with me for all the memories, all the provision and lack, all the joys and heartaches. No one to corroborate what happened, to fill in the blanks where my memory fails, to simply remember with me.
There is a unique loneliness in that.
And even as I type these words with no clear end in mind, I hear Him whisper: I was there. Sigh… To be honest, it is so hard to feel content and satisfied in that. But I know it’s true. He was there with me. In Him I still have history.
My history is more His story than mine anyway.
Even if no one else knows the details, and my fuzzy brain loses track of it all, and I never get to speak it out loud ever again, my history is still there. Still making up the fabric of my present and holding up the foundation of my future.
My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me.
I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.
I am His.
No matter what.
And that is my story.
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