[God is here]

As a solid introvert, these few moments after 6AM are energizing, peaceful, and in a way, making paths for safe mental processing. I am the only one awake. And although there is only my breathing splitting the quiet in all of Pretoria, I am rewarded. The African sun greets me in a way it does no one else; I am the first one it says good morning to; I am the first skin it touches.

Not everyone can say that.

Our car was ambushed the first time we went to Mamelodi. The children just wanted the love of the Americans– the attention and affection of the missionaries. They saw no point in waiting till the vehicle was in park. My car door was opened for me by a 7 year-old girl who quickly took notice of my hair, pulling the hair-tie out, running her fingers through the strands to undo the braid. There was a persistent echo of the children’s languages but all I could make out was “I love you.”
I think the echoes were for us. I felt small hands touch my face. The fingers were poking my nose ring and in an attempt to reenact the pain of the piercing, the kids made a sharp pop sound with the tip of their tongue, then screamed in fake agony. I felt the small hands also brush palms up and down my arms while others tugged on my clothes to look down my shirt for a better view of more skin.
Never in one instant have I been more tangibly loved.

God is here.
In any place where such love is shown, the Holy Spirit has a way of moving through the air, of living in the walls; where children eat their dinner with their hands when it looks like soup to me. There is a presence here. There is a knowledge that you wouldn’t believe residing in the squatter community of Pretoria; a wisdom of adolescent girls who believe they should be treated better than how her abusive fathers treat their mothers; a beauty in the physical scars of 15 year-old Caroline.

When I was being dragged by strands of my hair to their dinner table that held every child, I listened to the foreign voices speak things I couldn’t comprehend. Two kids instantly took their plates, got up, and dusted off their seats as they pointed for me to sit down. Some children at the opposite end of the table just stared at me, but not even my smile could break their straight faces. Other children hurried their eating to sit on my lap, run their hands through my hair, or lift up my maxi skirt to see the shoes I was wearing.

At this moment, God began breaking my heart. This image alone, turned a flame inside of me into a raging fire.

Although we come, travel, and serve in the hope to plant seeds and bring some sort of light to a dark place, I think many times, we’re revealed a shadowed part in our faith, in ourselves, in our lives that is suddenly exposed, set on fire, and engulfed in passion for something better. Sometimes, the children pour out to us more than we missionaries can pour out to them.

I hope God sees me the way I see these children. I wonder what child I’ll be like when I see Him pulling up in a car. Will I too not see the point in waiting for it to park? Will I have child-like faith and search for what his sandals look like? Or will I sit in awe at the end of a communion table completely shocked by just the sight of Him?
Will my love be so apparent? Will I scream out “I love you” in a voice He’s never heard? Will I be enough?

I saw no fault in these children. There was no wrong. There were no doubts. There was just beauty. There was just God. There was just love, massive amounts of love.

“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”
Matthew 19: 13-15

I am surrounded. There are children everywhere and the noise of their youth is energizing, peaceful, and in a way making paths for safe mental processing. The Son still greets me in a way He does no one else.

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