We burn things here in South Africa. When my parents were visiting in March, I jokingly made the statement that “At any given moment, 30% of South Africa is on fire.” It’s a massive exaggeration, but it is very common to see bush fires as you travel down the roads. And around this time every year, we burn the bush – the tall grass – we burn it to the ground. And for weeks, the ground is blackened and charred.
But then, something seemingly miraculous happens. Up through the charred remains of the bush, you begin to see new life. Beautiful, bright green grass, healthy and thriving, even though it is surrounded by blackened earth.
And then, almost overnight, our bare trees flower and are full of green leaves and beauty. New life.
I love this time of year in South Africa. It never fails to take me by surprise and take my breath away with its suddenness.
I have been rather quiet this year. And I am very sorry for that. But I want to share some things that I have been learning in my quiet. And I want to have you pray with me for renewed life.
This has been a hard year. And please, as you read this, don’t think that Ellie is coming off the field or her ministry is falling apart. But when I embarked on this journey of full-time foreign missions, it was my heart and desire to always be honest with those who love and support me all over the world. So this is me being vulnerable with you. It’s been a hard year. The road has been filled with hurts, conflicts, frustrations, sadness, and painful/difficult news. There has been a fair share of joys, excitements, and wonderfully good days too. But as I look at the year as a whole, I see a lot of ‘scorched, blackened earth’.
But God. I love those words. But God. He is faithful. And he has allowed this ‘scorched’ time in my life. He has given me this gift. And I believe he has given me this gift because he loves me and wants new life to spring up from my scorched heart.
This year has been filled with my failures. It has been filled with me choosing selfishness instead of love. Indignance instead of forgiveness and grace. Looking for the flaws in others and ignoring the sins in my own heart. Scorched earth.
But in His faithfulness, God has been opening my eyes. Prying them open, really. And it’s painful. But from the scorched earth, I am beginning to see new life spring up – bright and filled with hope. And here is where you, as the body of Christ, come in. Pray for me. Pray for a soft heart, open to correction. Pray for a spirit of humility and unity to flourish here. Pray for new life.
Since I haven’t sent an update in so long, please allow me to close out this update with a recap of some of the things that have been going on here. The beginning of term 2 at JCA brought with it a terrible case of pink eye for me…bad enough to keep me out of school for 4 days. It took 2 trips to the doctor, 3 different strength eye-drops, and antibiotics to heal. Since then, I have essentially just been flitting from one illness to the next it feels. From pink eye, to head cold, to chest cold, back to head cold, and finally, ending out the term with pneumonia. Term 2 was difficult. But the most difficult part came right after the term ended. The Monday following the end of term, my dad was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am by no means the first missionary to experience something like this…a loved one getting sick, or even dying. I have a teammate who lost her sister less than 3 weeks after she got to the field. Everyone has a story. And everyone experiences hard things – whether on or off the foreign mission field. But for me, this was big. My dad is the rock of our family. And the prospect of cancer was a scary one. I am so thankful that his diagnosis came during a long break for me from school. I was able to go back to the states for almost 3 weeks, attend doctor appointments with my parents, spend quality time with my family, meet a new niece and nephew (another nephew was born while I was there, but I wasn’t able to travel to meet him at that time), and worship with my home church.
After 3 weeks, I made the trek back to my Africa, which I had missed very much, to begin Term 3 of school. In going “home” (to the States), I realized just how much I have grown into my life here in the last 20 months…how many roots have been planted, and how much I love this life. During the first week of Term 3, my dad has a double mastectomy. When the pathology came back, it revealed that the cancer had not spread! We were (and still are!) praising God for his kindness to us!
We are now more than halfway through Term 3! It is so hard to believe the end of the year is coming so soon! And before I know it, I’ll be back on an airplane for the month of December, having completed my first 2 years in South Africa. I’m looking forward to connecting with a few of my supporting individuals and churches!
Dear friends, please continue to pray for me, Bethesda, Jabulane Christian Academy, our team here, and the children and students who need to understand the love offered them through Jesus.
I love you all and praise my God for your love, support, and influence in my life.