“Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10
One of the biggest differences between the Swazi and American culture is the value of time. In America, if you are supposed to be somewhere at 2:00 then you are expected to be on time, and if you’re not it is considered rude. In Swazi culture, however, it is completely acceptable to be several HOURS late; in fact, it is expected. Although it’s frustrating to live in this slow paced culture (even when we are walking to town or wherever we go, we walk so much fast than the Swazis. They take their time and are in no rush to get anywhere, which is foreign to our fast paced, busy American life), God has been teaching me a lot through it.
Psalm 46:10 has been my theme verse this trip. “Be still and know that I am God.” But who ever knew being still was so darn difficult? Slowly but surely, I’ve learned what it means to “be still” and I’ve grown to love it. I’m such a “doer” so God has taught me not to do but to be-to be with people and ultimately be with God.
One of my favorite parts about working at the care points is when one small child curls up in my lap and falls asleep in the security of my embrace. I can sit for hours with a child fast asleep on my lap, and I love it (even though they sometimes pee on us). It’s so peaceful and calming, and there’s just something special about not doing anything-just being with the child. It’s a perfect picture of God’s love for us. He longs to be those arms that we go to-that we will rest in His embrace.
It’s not always easy to do that-to be still before God-but I have the opportunity to do that every morning. We have built in quiet times every morning for an hour and half and go has been teaching me what it means to still my heart and curl up in his lap. We also had an entire day of silence last week where we couldn’t speak to any of our teammates the whole day. I was not excited, to say the least, and thought it was going to be a waste of a day, but it was an awesome experience to drown out the rest of the world for a whole day and just spend time with Jesus. Isn’t that our whole purpose in life, anyway? To spend time with the one we love most? So why is it so difficult in our American culture to do that?
I love the culture here because people are valued so much more than time. When we walk places we are greeted by anyone and everyone-they are just all so friendly! One man, Lucky, even stopped what he was doing to spend several hours with our team walking and showing us around town at the beginning of our trip. Just the other day, Hannah and I were in the park and decided to go sit by a group of high schoolers. I was expecting to only say hi, make a little small talk, and then move on; but God had other plans. We ended up hanging out with the two guys and two girls for a couple hours! While Hannah talked with the two guys about Swaziland and the King, I talked with the two girls about life, school, dancing, and their culture. They opened up and we talked about boyfriends, AIDS, saving sex until marriage, and “being faithful” as one girl, Alicia put it.
I’ve learned that the cure for loneliness is BEING not DOING. I love to serve people, and I usually do that by doing something, but when I visited the Hope House it was a different story. The Hope House is like a hospice center, set up by the Catholic church here, and each patient has an individual house/unit. When we first went, I was extremely scared and nervous because I didn’t know what to say or how to keep a conversation with a complete stranger who is suffering. But Kate and I made an immediate connection with a Go-Go (grandma) named Sepiwe. She is a bundle of God’s joy and passion and she lit up when we stayed to talk with her. We listened to her talk about her family, we read the Bible with her, we sang with her, and we prayed with her. She has such a powerful faith and I love hearing her pray in SiSwati-there is just something so special and moving about her prayers and the way she says, “Jesus” (Jesu) with such love and emotion that it melts my heart. I thought we were going there to bless her, but Kate and I walked away being blessed ourselves. Sepiwe even asked us to bring her some yarn so she can make us slippers…this is all from just BEING with her.
Last but no least, my ultimate learning experience is being with God and letting him love me. It’s so hard for me to think that he loves me and likes me just the way I am. I’m so used to doing things, performing, or trying to get God’s attention or approval (the way I try to get human’s approval), but I fail to realized I already have his attention and love. I realized that I didn’t believe God could love me for me because I didn’t love me for me. So the Lord has really been working on my heart in this aspect, but satan has equally tried to keep me down. But we all know he’s no match for Jesus’ power and love. God has pursued me in amazing ways these last two weeks. I am a lover of written word-that is my love language. After a rough week emotionally and spiritually, God used words to touch my heart that whole next week. One day after another all week I got a letter/note from someone affirming me and my character; little did they know it was the EXACT words I needed to hear each day. I truly felt like God was writing love letters to me all week long! My favorite came from a 13 year old girl Tanele, who is one of the girls I teach at GuGu’s school. Though she is 13 she is not very educated and is still learning English. Here is part of one of the letters she wrote me:
Mary-Kate I love you some much my friendly. I am praying for Mary-Kate for LORD Jesus love you Mary-Kate and me Tanele. Mary-Kate you are so special for me my friendly. I love you Mary-Kate. I think Mary-Kate love me. Mary-Kate is beautiful my friendly. You are so special for Jesus. God bless you my friendly Jesus love you some much Mary-Kate. I love you Mary-Kate very beautiful Mary-Kate your heart very nice.“
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.