I moved to Africa with a couple of very-full suitcases, $200, 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 ministry 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 by His Spirit. 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 purity and 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.
And then the story changed dramatically.
Everything crumbled to pieces when it came out that my husband had been unfaithful. For a year and a half. With a staff member, 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.
I fought both my story and the Story-teller. This isn't how it was supposed to be!
It felt as though my story came to a screeching halt. But He kept writing...
After 13 years of ministry in Africa, I was forced to close down our operations in December. I permanently relocated back to the States, walking away from my home, my work, my community, my vision, my history.
I've been divorced for a few months 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 loss and there is hurt. 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. It's the small things I miss the most. Our comfortable routines. Our stupid jokes that no one else would ever think is funny. The way he'd draw diagrams when he was explaining something to me. His laughter...
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.
I can't find words to really capture what it means to feel as though I've lost my own history, but lately that is what I'm grieving the most. 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, fill in the blanks where my memory forgets, 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.
Whether or not anyone else knows the details, or my fuzzy brain loses track of it all, or I ever get to speak them out loud again, they are still there. They are His. And they are mine. No matter what.
In Him I still have a future. It is going to look very different than the one I'd been on track towards just a few years ago. It will be nothing like I ever thought it would. But He is already there, going before me to prepare the way. And to prepare me.
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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