Celebrating Our 10 Year Anniversary with a Taxi Driver?

South Africa Taxi
This is a common South Africa Taxi. This vehicle is similar to the one that hit me this week.

My tenth year of serving as a missionary in southern Africa was commemorated with a run-in with a taxi, and unfortunately, not a set of cupcakes. I had just dropped John off at the Gauteng Train Station in Sandton that would take him to OR Tambo International Airport. John was on his way to catch a flight to Malawi for a seven day ministry trip. John was celebrating our tenth year in southern Africa by doing just one of the things he does best – coaching and encouraging southern African ministry leaders.

For me, February 8, 2016 was projected to be a full day of teaching, coaching, and encouraging Micah, Jake and Caleb in our little Happy Blue School. We were about to start our fifth week of the new homeschool year. Later in the day, we would share about our memories of ten years of life here.

Our family had only been back in South Africa 12 days after returning from a seven-month home assignment in the States. Honestly, I wasn’t very settled yet. On our second day back we experienced a burglary. Before John departed for Malawi, his time had been focused on repairing and improving our security. In addition to this diligent work, we had various tasks around the house and garden to attend to after being away for such a long time.  And then – smash!

A taxi had rammed itself into our vehicle and knocked me back into the reality that we were firmly planted back in southern Africa.

You know what?

Ten years of living life in South Africa could be described just like that taxi encounter.

Over the course of the past ten years, I have gained a number of significant life lessons that have arisen from encounters with people I never would have known had I not lived here.

Had I not chosen that specific route home, I would not have met that particular taxi driver. I would have missed out on what countless South Africans have experienced with stereotypical taxi drivers in Johannesburg – to be dismissed, ignored, and mistreated and perhaps, killed. Because of that Monday morning encounter, my sympathy for those who have been victimized by a taxi driver in some way, has changed to empathy.

My encounter with a taxi could have been so much worse. There is a reason these vehicles are called death machines. According to a recent statistic, there are 70,000 taxi accidents a year in South Africa. And of the 36 deaths a day caused by road accidents, three of them are taxi-related.

Yet, to say that that this particular experience could define my ten years in South Africa?

Really?

As a result of that short encounter, I had a choice of how I was going to respond and then live out the remainder of my South African Mission Anniversary Day. I had been hit at 6:35 am. What an early morning shocker! Would I allow that to wound and scar me or would there be something better and even transformational to arise from it?

You see, over the course of the past ten years, I have been offered similar choices in how I would respond to the joys, wonder and exhilaration of life in southern Africa. There have been choices offered in how to accept the heartache, depravity and challenge of our missionary life as well.

Would I allow one event that both shocked and unsettled me, define my South African experience?

No.

Ten years of living life in southern Africa has taught me to do more than that.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned so far…

  • My God is with me. Whether I feel Him or not, He is present. He truly hemmed me in – behind and before – with His hand upon me when that taxi crashed into our family vehicle. I was protected and though, discombobulated, I was in one piece. Time and time again, my God has taken me through a number of situations where I have consistently come through in one piece while living in South Africa. Even when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, even when my kids experienced emotional abuse in their schools, even when we were burglarized six different times, and even when I felt lonely and felt that no one understood, my God has always been with me. Which leads me to…
  • God is in Control. He has a plan and purpose for each and every day. He knew I would have an encounter with a taxi driver on Monday. He knew what was going to transpire. He knew that I wasn’t going to be physically hurt. He knew that the taxi driver would not assist. And He knew the taxi driver would drive away. Which leads me to…
  • Not Everything Will Reach a Resolution. I cannot fix everything. There are things that happen in life that must be released. People either do not understand what I need from them or they have no interest; just like that taxi driver. Which leads me to…
  • Life Does Not Center Around Me. What I think is right, good, and true, may not be what someone else thinks. They may have an altogether different desire, opinion, need or world view. Which leads me to…
  • I Need to Get Over Myself. Enough said. Which leads me to…
  • All People Deserve my Respect. Even that taxi driver. When I first spoke to him, I was respectful and asked him for his help. Even though he didn’t offer his assistance, I must remember that every person I encounter here was created in the image of God and has great potential to live out their lives with hope and purpose. Which leads me to…
  • Everyone Needs Hope and Encouragement. Despair is running unchecked and impenitent across every continent and leaving people despondent and heartsick. I believe more than ever that people need to know and trust in the hope of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that the God of Hope would fill the people I meet with joy and peace as they trust in Him – so that they would overflow with that amazing mercy, grace and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13) Which leads me to…
  • Be Generous and then Be Even More Generous. What do people need most from me? In my opinion, they need my attention, my care, my hope, my love, and my time. In this day and age, many people have schedules that are insanely full. Yes, crazy-crazy-crazy full! They have no time for others, let alone themselves. When I am with someone, I want them to know that I am ALL-IN with them. And if they should take advantage of my time, my resources, my abilities, and even my heart, then this leads me to…
  • I Will Forgive. The truth of the matter is that I will be taken advantage of – by taxi driver, stranger and friend. Honestly, it’s when family or friends disappoint or exploit me that I am wounded the most. Yet, living in southern Africa, I have had and will continue to have many opportunities to be generous and then see my generosity go unappreciated and unrecognized. Yet, I refuse to let this hurt turn into bitterness. Instead, this leads me to…
  • The Cross of Jesus Christ and the Day of Resurrection and Victory. Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be betrayed and to be wounded by the injustices and evil doings of not just others, but me. He took my stuff on Him. And then, He destroyed it all. Once and for all. The hurt, the bitterness, the despair, the despondency, the abuse, the exploitation, the busyness of life, and so much more were crucified and then redeemed. And because of this, I want to live my life in southern Africa with a joy that is overflowing into the hearts of others – even with a taxi driver who really wasn’t very nice to me – because Jesus Christ, my God and Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit are all at work within me…always. I want others to see that revelation and be blessed by it! Which leads me to…
  • There is Peace in the Darkness. I may not be in control, have all the answers, be able to predict what is going to happen – even on an anniversary day – but I can rest in the assurance that my God is present and His peace is always, always, always, and always available to me – even as I walk forward in the dark.

The day that commemorated our tenth year of mission life in southern Africa is something to embrace and celebrate! I have learned a lot here – but more importantly – there is still so much to be gained from life here – even from a reckless taxi driver.

10 years Cupcake

Our family will celebrate with those cupcakes, now!

16 Comments

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    • Thank you, Evan! How are you? I dropped by your blog post the other day to check in on you! I would love to hear how you are and if 2016 is faring any better for you. I do hope so! love, heather

      • Hi! Sorry it took a while to reply. YES 2016 is starting out a lot better than last year, although it still has its struggles. I passed my “disownniversary” as I am calling it this month and I’m actually doing pretty well emotionally and mentally. I’ve made good progress in my PhD program as well and just recently passed my preliminary oral exams which was a Big Deal! So, yes, life in generally is definitely improving. I haven’t been on my blog much but I appreciate you looking in on me. I still keep track of how things are going for you as well. Wishing you and your family all the best!

      • Hi Evan, thanks for taking the time to check in! I really appreciate that.

        I am glad to hear that 2016 is off to a better start. Congrats on passing your preliminary oral exams. I know it’s a big deal as my brother and sister-in-law both have PhDs and teach, work, and continue to research at a state university. What you are doing is huge!

        I’ve finally pressed the ‘follow’ button on your blog. Your blog is the first one I’ve done that with. I confess that I’m not really into this ‘like’ or ‘follow’ blog business as I prefer to know who I am interacting with. So, now I’ll know when you write – when you do and have time. No worries on that! I understand. I didn’t have a lot of time to blog when I was in the States and only write when I have inspiration.

        I’m taking an on-line class at the moment called High Trust Leadership. One of the premises of the class is that believers usually take one of two paths in their relationship with God. They either take a path that centers on pleasing God and end up in the room of Good Intentions; a room of bitterness, shame, self-righteousness, control, and isolation – or they take the path of trusting God and end up in the Room of Grace. I bet you can tell which path is the one that leads to love, peace and finding out who God says we are. One of the statements I really liked was this: “Our righteousness is a measure of how we love – as Jesus loves us.” Too often righteousness is paired with the word self. That’s what people see. Instead, the righteousness that God wants us to see is one of love – centered upon the love of Christ.

        I know you are busy. No need to respond if you are. I just wanted to reply and say thanks for stopping by.

        I’m sorry about this time being a point of remembrance of when your family disowned you. I am sure it is very painful. You continue to be in my prayers, Evan.

        Take good care, heather

      • Hmm, what your teacher is saying is interesting. I wonder how far he or she would take that. I wonder if his or her child or friend was gay or transgender if they would just “trust god” and leave it alone, or if they would insist that they must serve god by telling this other person how to live their life and trying to “shepherd” them into compliance with their demands. In my experience, lots of Christians talk about how they trust god but none of them really fully do because they know that sometimes bad things will happen and their god won’t do anything to help them. It’s only natural to recoil from that, and I don’t blame them. What I object to is people claiming that they trust god fully to take care of things while simultaneously trying to grab power over others and control them in the name of serving god.

        I guess what you said about what you’re learning in class really caught my attention because my church and parents and sister and Christian “therapist”* all insisted to me that I needed to “trust god fully” and he would lead me, and they all insisted that they also would trust god fully with my life. But when I did throw my trust on “god” and left literally everything up to him, I was led in a different direction than they wanted. And none of them… not a single one… trusted god to handle the situation. They all reached back in, grabbed for me, abused me, controlled me, and ripped me to pieces while crowing about how loving they were being and how much they trusted god to “fix” me. I asked them multiple times, “if you trust god so much, why don’t you just trust him to lead me to the correct understanding without your help?” I never got a good answer. I think, deep down, they knew that their god wasn’t going to do anything. They knew that by leaving it to god they were leaving it to chance. And that wasn’t a risk they were willing to take.

        In the meantime, I DID throw all my trust on god. I’m glad that I chose trust rather than “serving” and I do think it led me to better outcomes than just doggedly trying to do what people told me was god’s will. But undoubtedly my outcome was not the one your class had in mind. But maybe I’m misunderstanding the concept. I don’t know… thoughts?

        Excuse me if my jadedness is showing :P.

        *I refuse to dignify this “therapist” with the title without quotation marks since she had no sort of degree or proper training but she was represented to me as a legitimate therapist. Unsurprisingly, her “therapy” was unprofessional and harmful, and I have good reason to think that she breached my confidentiality as well. In my opinion, it should be a crime for religious counselors with no certification or degree to represent themselves as therapists without stating up-front their lack of qualifications. Sigh.

      • Hi Evan,

        I cannot speak for the leaders of this class as to what they would say to you. I can only respond in what I would say based upon the precepts I am gaining from this course.

        One big teaching issue is exactly what you share: control. Here’s one quote: “When we live or work in environments that encourage hiding, we don’t feel safe. If no one asks how we are, who we are, how we feel, or why we do what we do, it is easy to hide what is true about me. As a result we communicate through our roles and not through our persons.”

        I think in your family that once you began walking in a different direction and a direction in which they didn’t know what to do with or how to relate to – you shook up your role in the family. They brought into what was happening or what wasn’t happening to their hopes/dreams for you, their own history, temperment, personality, wounding, influences and unresolved sin. And one of the things they chose to do was attempt to control you.

        No control environment is spiritually healthy.

        Trust is defined differently, I think, in this class. We are trusting God with who He says we are and leaning into the destiny He has for us. It’s all about becoming….in Jesus….all that He has for us.

        All of this centers on ‘being’ and not ‘doing or serving.’

        Another quote from the class: “Maturity itself is a process of trust rooted in grace experienced in relationships.”

        From what I understand, there wasn’t much grace offered to you in the name of the One that I love.

        I’ve thrown a bunch of stuff at you again. After being in the States the past seven months, and witnessing the duplicity of the Christian life there in many ways, I just want to say there is soooooooooooooo much more to following Jesus than what you have experienced and what is being shared. If we as believers are not loving as Christ loved, we have no right to speak in His authority. I really believe that.

        Take care and I am so glad to know you!

        Blessings,
        heather

      • I totally agree with you that controlling environments are not healthy! Way too much of religious community seems to be focused on control. If there was less of that, I think the very idea of Christianity (or even setting foot in a church) would be much less toxic to me.

        And yes, in my opinion, I was offered very little grace (especially from my parents who abandoned the way of their own parents long ago). But I also think that every Christian defines grace and love differently, and every one of them would stand by their definition just as much as you stand by yours as god-given. And I don’t think there’s really any good ways for Christians to weed out which versions of loving are the correct ones and which ones aren’t. In my opinion, at least one decent metric is whether or not the person being loved /feels/ loved and whether or not the “love” feels hurtful to them. But I think most Christians would vehemently disagree with me, insisting that love should sometimes hurt and sometimes painful things must be done “for your own good” like giving a child vaccinations (nevermind that I’m not a child). How can I objectively claim that my version of love is the “right” one? People can quote bible verses left and right to defend their own view. Trust me, I’ve been through that before… no one ever gets anywhere because the bible can be used to defend pretty much anything.

        All I can do is say that it is the only form of “love” that I will accept. Unfortunately, that puts me pretty squarely outside of the realm of “love” that most Christians have been willing to offer me. I’m not sure that there’s really any cure for that. All I can do is try to protect people like me from being battered or killed by false love, but it makes me sad that the perpetrators keep on hurting and killing in the name of their god.

      • Thanks, Evan. I’m going to think about what you’ve written and get back to you on this soon. Blessings, heather

      • Hi Evan, okay, I’m ready to reply to this note too! 🙂

        I agree with you that Christ followers have a myriad of ways that they interpret what the bible says. For me, and I’m totally a learner, it is important to go straight to the context of what was written. I like to get to the Hebrew or Greek level and understand the word meaning and what the author meant.

        In my class, the instructor was sharing about Romans 5: 1. He shared that the word ‘peace’ that is found there suggested it was more than a feeling. This peace means that we now enjoy a friendship with God in which we can rest – He won’t give up on us. We’re in – always and forever. There is no separation.

        The thing is that many Believers don’t really embrace that thinking. They think that they have to keep working for God’s approval. They need to keep doing good things – or being good. And when they don’t keep it up and blow it, then shame descends. They just don’t feel like they will ever be good enough for God.

        The thing is though, there is nothing we have to do to earn God’s approval. We already did it when we believed and trusted Him. Once we have done that we have everything that is available in Christ. Everything. Yet, as I shared, many Christ followers don’t believe that and don’t live like it either. They don’t know all that is theirs.

        I’m not sure if I have responded in a way that makes sense or addresses all that you shared, but this is the direction I felt led to go.

        Thanks for all of the dialogue. It’s great for me to think through this stuff.

        Take care, heather

      • Thank you! Your response has helped me understand your views better. Take care!

  1. I’m terribly sorry that you had this experience, Heather, but glad that you are OK. Thank you for sharing this; you write beautifully and you always have a challenging message. Do you need help while your car is being repaired?

    • Hi Joy, thank you for your support! Thankfully, the damage is minimal. We are waiting until John gets home to fully assess the situation with the vehicle. It’s never a dull moment! Thank you again for your gracious and generous offer to assist. If we need anything, I will be sure to let you know! love, heather

  2. I needed this today. We have things breaking down – as things will do – but nothing on the scale of a taxi running into us – or burglaries – or things like this! I am going to read this everyday for a while! Maybe use it as my Lenten devotional – for 40days! Thank you for writing this!

    • Hi Sondra, I’m sorry things have been breaking down at your home. Yes, these things happen, but never at an opportune time! I appreciate your kind words of affirmation once again. Thank you so much! Blessings and joy, heather

  3. Thank you for your divinely inspired words. I’m going to print this out and re-read it often when I get discouraged or afraid. God knows what he is doing and I need to remember that! Bless you and your family as you continue to adjust back to your South African life.

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