I spent a week with some friends in Cape Town this past week before heading to Johannesburg yesterday for ‘work’. I can honestly say I’ve never been to a place quite like Cape Town and I walked away with a few lessons from my time there. I thought I’d share with you. Some are lighthearted; some aren’t.
- Always visit friends who live in beautiful places (even if you have a strict agenda, make time)
- Ask questions: You never know what you could learn, see, or do if you just ask. Ask about life there. Ask about a favorite place. Ask about how they found their church. Ask. Ask. Ask.
- Bring them something they can’t get where they are. This will give you lots of brownie points from the beginning (in case, say, you take long showers).
- Be willing to see all parts of the city. Don’t just stay in the touristy parts. Each place has an ‘underbelly’ or a rough area. Drive by it at least. The richness of society and culture comes from everywhere, not just the 4 star hotels.
- Vegetarian food really is yummy!
- Just because a place looks like a sketchy hole-in-the-wall, not-a-real-restaurant place doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try it. The fanciest places often have the worst food, ya know.
- Risk. Open up. Take chances. Genuine people want to get to know you. Remember that. Build trust. I didn’t realize how much I needed to talk through the past year with people who had walked a similar road. I am so thankful my friends were able to listen, process, and share their experience with me too.
- God will use anyone if they only obey. He is moving is Africa. He is moving in South Africa. He is moving in Cape Town. He is moving everywhere. Surrender yourself to His plan and you’ll end up more satisfied, more humbled, and more excited about where you end up than if you try to figure it out yourself.
- The social structure of South Africa is incredibly complex. I realized I will never fully understand all the layers and intricacies. Not South African and not having spent all that much time here, it’s impossible for me to grasp the tensions, the history, the hurt, and the hope that each South African holds on to.
- Other white people do go in townships! I saw, for the first time, white people investing (to some degree) in townships. Last summer, that wasn’t really the case. I saw good things in this and challenges as well. I’m currently wrestling with short-term ministry models and don’t yet have an answer. There is value, of course, in short time missions. However, I wonder how often short-term missions not connected to a long-term organization can have in a community. I noticed a wall with some of the people I met in the townships because they always asked, ‘will you be back?’ or ‘when are you leaving? Soon?’ It was almost as if they expected my friend (who is longer term) and me to up and leave without a good bye but with promises of returning.
- Learn your capacity. There will always be need. There will always be more people to reach, love, help, and know. You always ‘should’ be doing more. You always ‘could’ be doing more. And you always ‘ought’ to be doing more. However, that thinking will burn you out….quickly. Learn your capacity and work within that well, with intention. Go deeper with those things in your capacity instead of trying to go wider and losing steam. Rest. Rejuvenate. Have fun. Take time for yourself and your family. Only when you are living a balanced life can you pour into others.
- You don’t have to know people all that well to win Apples to Apples. Truth.
- Come with a learning spirit. Don’t assume you know it all because chances are you really don’t. Listen. Don’t judge. You never know what you could learn once you just stop and drop all your preconceived notions.
- Penguins hang out in the woods…not on the beach. WHAT?!
- Sustainability is key. Don’t be afraid to speak up for what a sustainable life is to you.
What have you learned this past week?