We were supposed to leave for South Africa today.
Our departure date was only one month out when we realized we didn’t get our visas in time and it could quite possibly take 3-6 more months. They could also come any day. Without going into the boring details of visas…we just have to wait until they come in, and we cannot make them come any faster.
My life has never felt so out of control.
Folks, moving to South Africa to be a missionary is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I haven’t even gotten there yet.
The sacrifice is absolute. The grief is intense. The testing is incessant. The spiritual warfare is palpable.
Everyone asks how it feels to be delayed. Some assume it’s wonderful “to be home a little bit longer.” But it is no longer home, as I have known it. It is the land I am leaving behind to step into my future and honor my obedience. It is a place that has become complicated, inconvenient, sometimes even lonely.
A year has gone by since we first committed to going. It seems like every second of that year has been consumed with South Africa. From telling our friends and family, to preparing with our team and getting a lot of training in Church Planting School, to purging our belongings, to raising financial support, and daily processing with each other and with God about how we are doing through the whole journey. It has been exhausting, and I just want to get there already!
I went through quite a gamut of emotions when we discovered this delay was happening. Denial, sadness, disappointment, confusion, anger, and really annoyed.
I am making this huge sacrifice by moving my life across the world.
Shouldn’t God make this go a little more smoothly?
When reality set it in that we were going to be here much longer than planned:
- We were weeks out from leaving, and counting down the days.
- I already said goodbye to an 11-year career. I gave my clients away to one of my coworkers. I sold all of my haircolor and hair tools. I can’t go back. (6 more months of my income would have been nice.)
- Our house was half packed, and it was in complete disarray.
- I started saying my goodbyes to people I wouldn’t see in the coming weeks.
- We had begun the process of disconnecting from San Diego.
- We had put our house on the renters market and signed a rental agreement with a property management company.
- We had already pulled out of all our ministries, passed our LifeGroup onto our interns.
- Etc. etc.
Our lives were completely disrupted by this “delay.”
Soooo many questions ran through my mind.
Do I just leave things halfway packed, and live with a completely unorganized, dysfunctional house, or put everything away, only to start from ground zero when the visas did come? I felt pressure to be “at the ready” with everything prepped to go at a moment’s notice, but neither of us function well in a chaotic environment.
Or should we just move out of our home, and rent it out anyway? But then where would we live in the meantime, and who would take us in for such an unknown and unclear amount of time?
Even grocery shopping became complicated. Sounds trivial, but I shopped and planned out my purchases to last us as long as we were scheduled to be here. We began to run out of things exactly when we were supposed to leave. (I must admit I am impressed with myself.) We are out of salt and pepper. Should I buy the big or the small containers? Should I even bother refilling the peppercorn grinder? Is it worth paying more for 4 rolls of paper towels instead of getting 12 for the same price at Costco? I don’t know when we are leaving, so how much do we need? Is it wasteful to buy more, even if it’s cheaper?
We spent the whole year pressing into our team in order to bond and prepare to do life together in South Africa. But now they are there, and we are here, and we miss them. Desperately. We are craving the “team life” we have come to cherish, but we are separated by oceans and conflicting time zones. So how do we get those needs met and also invest here, when I know, inevitably, we will be leaving?
Then there were the more serious questions: Are we still going to South Africa? Is God redirecting us? Is He telling us not to go? Most of our team already got their visas. Why didn’t we get ours? Is it a sign? At the time, God wasn’t saying much, and I was so confused.
Y’all know by now I am a question asker, and I am not afraid to ask God the hard questions. He was being surprisingly quiet.
I felt the weight of the unknowns like a ton of bricks on my shoulders.
My heart felt like a balloon that had been untethered…floating somewhere between San Diego and South Africa, about to burst from the pressure of my new reality, unsure where to land.
I couldn’t land in South Africa because it is not an option. I hesitated to re-tether to San Diego, because that just meant I was going to have to start the separation/grieving/goodbye process all over again in a few months.
Just when I didn’t think I could bare it, the fog I was living in started to lift. He did not answer all of my 47 questions in a detailed list of explanations. He was still quiet…
Quiet, yet somehow, and without words, He began to speak peace and strength to my spirit.
(Isn’t God brilliant? He speaks without words.)
I cannot really describe what He is doing. My best attempt at explaining it is to say that I think Brian and I both will be going to South Africa (whenever that is) as much healthier versions of ourselves, than if we had left as planned.
I have had a few weeks to process all the things I wrote about above. I am no longer fighting this happenstance. I threw my fit, cried my tears. I am now submitted and surrendered.
There is something about surrender that allows you to enjoy the season you’re in, even if you don’t like it.
It turns bitterness into sweetness. Ashes to beauty. Lemons into lemonade. You get the idea. The Proverbial Silver Lining.
We are choosing to make the best of this season by spending time with people we love, doing fun things in San Diego, and hopefully take a vacation. (We haven’t had our own vacation since our honeymoon.)
For us this looks like:
- Friday: United Pursuit concert. We were on a little date in North Park when we ran into a group of our friends from church. They were grabbing dinner and heading to a concert afterwards. We didn’t have tickets and it was sold out, but they scrambled and somehow found some for us. That evening of worship refreshed my soul. It seemed particularly thoughtful of God to work it out for us to attend, since I believe He is calling me to worship in this difficult season (read about it here).
- Saturday: Freedom Day. Our church put together this quarterly, daylong conference focusing on freedom, inner healing, and deliverance. It was a powerful day, full of God’s presence, miracles, and goodness. We were asked to attend again so we could help facilitate it in South Africa, but I just think it is always good to be in the center of what God is doing.
- Sunday: Beach Day! We spontaneously joined my sister and her family at the beach on Sunday after church. It was a beautiful day and the ocean was a balmy 75 degrees. It was so relaxing, and I just love playing with my niece. Super thankful for extra moments with people I love. (p.s. my sis is pregnant with her second baby – a boy! – and thanks to this visa issue, I will get to meet him).
- After the beach, we decided to stop by a brewery (we love craft beer.) We were playing a game called Chat-pack, which is basically a question game. Brian randomly asked the bouncer one of the questions, which turned into a conversation. He began to share about his life and mentioned that he had severe back and neck pain, thus, disqualifying him from better-paying jobs. Brian said, “Jenny is going to put her hands on your back and ask God to heal you.” (That was the first I heard that I was going to be doing that, but I was excited to do so!) He said, “Whoa. I feel heat. And my back feels a little better. You have special hands.” We laughed and said, “No, it’s just God’s power and presence on you.” I prayed again. We asked him to test it. He said he couldn’t even bend over to tie his shoes in the morning. So he got up, bent down and touched his toes, and the ground. He couldn’t believe it. And I couldn’t either. God healed him!
I have prayed for tons of people in my life to get healed. I have received countless prophetic words about having a gift of healing. I will be honest – I became so discouraged by the lack of healings I have seen over the years. Why does God keep telling me I have this gift, but when I use it, nothing happens? Well, I don’t really have the answer to that, either. What I do know is a man got healed, and his life won’t ever be the same.
Isn’t it just like God to ignite a dormant gift in a time of heartache? Isn’t it His goodness to provide environments for me to worship in, which is exactly what He is calling me to do? And isn’t it His acute awareness of my deepest need to give me extra time with people I am going to miss so dearly, when I am across the world from them sometime soon? This season, which has its challenges, is absolutely slathered in His tenderheartedness. What else can I do, but get on my knees, and embrace this delay.