“I don’t think I can live in Johannesburg anymore,” she declared.
“I’m too scared,” she admitted.
I met my new, beautiful South African friend at my hair salon yesterday. She was tasked with helping me with my hair color. As I sat there, Princess* began to share her heart with me.
I asked, “Why are you scared? What happened?”
Her voice shook as she began her story. “Last night, while I was at a hair salon in my township, two men entered. They started yelling at us. The salon attendants shouted at them to leave, but that only made the two men more agitated. One of the men pulled out a gun and started waving it in my direction. I went numb. I couldn’t move. I hate guns. I hate them. I came to this hair salon to relax and get my hair done. How is it that I cannot even relax in my own hair salon?”
Princess continued, “The gunmen took everyone’s money and their phones. They yelled at us all to go into the back room. We didn’t know what they were going to do. I was so scared. I thought I was going to die. After they pushed us into the room, they slammed the door and ran away.”
She paused and then continued her story.
“I told them I couldn’t stay at the salon. My hair was still wet and still dripped with shampoo. I had to get away from there. I ran to my home. I could hardly speak. My body kept shaking. I am so angry. I am so resentful. I work hard, and everything that I work for is taken away by these guys. What do I do now? I can’t even go into a hair salon and do something for myself without being afraid.”
She went on, “This year has been the worst year of my life. I’ve had trouble with my daughter. I have been very sick and haven’t been able to work. Other things have happened that have stretched me. And now, this! I’ve never been robbed like this before – in a hair salon! I just don’t think I can live in Johannesburg anymore. But where can I go?”
“Do you think that all of the trouble I’ve had this year will bring me to a place of greater good,” Princess asked me. “Does something good come from this bad?”
“Doesn’t Scripture say that when bad things happen it can bring something out that is good?” she pressed.
What do you say in response to this story?
As I sat listening to Princess, I was amazed that the Lord had brought me into her life for just this moment. You see, she was substituting that day at my hair salon. Princess is a temporary worker. Our lives intersected on the day that she was subbing for someone else and it happened to be the day of my appointment. I knew this was a Kairos moment.
Karios is a word found in the New Testament that speaks to a specific God-ordained time, the “right time,” the “appointed time” which is not bound by past, present or future realities. A Kairos moment is when the Lord slices His way through time to bring about something of eternal significance – even something like bringing someone close who needs to know that God loves her.
When I told Princess I was a missionary who had been living in Johannesburg for nearly fourteen years, she stared at me with questioning eyes that gave her confidence to ask, “Why are you still here? Don’t you feel afraid?”
I answered, “I love living here.”
She pushed back, “Really? Why?”
I responded, “Because of people like you. I get to meet and interact with amazing, lovely, generous, and beautiful people in South Africa. There is a special warmth of heart in this nation and its people. I love being with people like you who are so kind.”
Princess went silent.
Then she said, “I can’t believe I am going to say this, but you gave me hope just now. I didn’t have any hope when I came here this morning. You see something I have forgotten to look for here.”
There was much more that we shared together, but as she finished up with treating my hair, I asked Princess if I could pray for her. She said she would really like that. So, I did. I took Princess’s hands in mine and I prayed words of love, hope, strength, and protection into her life. I told her that the strength she felt in my hands was a representation of the strength and care that Jesus offered her in that salon when he shielded her from harm and the strength and care that He would give her now.
Then she asked again, “Will my life get better?”
What a difficult question.
I was honest.
I said, “I don’t know.” Then I asked, “Was 2018 a hard year for you, too?”
She replied, “No, 2018 was a wonderful year.”
I offered, “Some years are harder than others. We go through seasons when difficulties seem to come one after another after another. It’s all we can do not to cry out for peace and for a break from so much pain and sorrow. I don’t know when things will start to improve in your life. What I do know is that nothing lasts forever. That doesn’t mean that we don’t live with a measure of pain that emanates from past struggles or past deaths in our lives. However, the Lord does give us the strength, support and care to keep going which helps us reach a place of deeper intimacy with our Lord – a place where we know Him better and love Him more. That’s what I’ve learned during similar difficult times in my life, Princess.”
“Thank you,” Princess answered. “I’m glad I met you today.”
We talked a bit more before Princess needed to move onto a different person in the salon.
I don’t know if Princess will choose to stay in Johannesburg or not. I don’t know if her fear and feelings of vulnerability will overpower her courage and resolve. But what I do know is that our Lord brought us together for a brief moment in time. I was able to tell Princess that she mattered and that her questions and concerns mattered. I was able to remind her of the hope of Christ that lives within her – even in a very scary world that threatens her peace of mind.
It’s my prayer that she will look to her Lord for encouragement and strength in the days ahead.
His word promises:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
New International Version, Proverbs 3: 5-6
The contentment in life that Princess seeks is found in leaning not upon herself or determining which kind of circumstances make her life ‘good,’ but in trusting God with her heart’s care and security. It is He alone that will help her find her way forward.
I can’t do that for her. But I can encourage her. And that is what I did.
That was a gift my God gave me yesterday. He allowed me to be available to encourage a new friend – someone I may never see again – because as I shared, she is a temporary worker at my salon – hired for only one day’s worth of work.
Isn’t that amazing?
It just makes me wonder.
Who else needs a word of encouragement and hope today?
May I be ready!
Note: Princess is a pseudonym to protect her identity. The image of the salon is representative of one like where she was robbed.
Photo credit to SHLC