Surrendering My Life to God
I greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (a common Southern African greeting). It is hard to imagine where God is going to take you when you surrender your life to Him.
I greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (a common Southern African greeting). It is hard to imagine where God is going to take you when you surrender your life to Him. It is hard to imagine just how far my life is from the way I planned it. A decade ago, I just finished high school, and I was on my way to Kirksville, Missouri wanting to become a doctor. While I was in college I could feel God putting this love of missions and Africa in my heart. I was pretty reluctant, if God really knew me, then he would know that Africa is not for me! In 2005, I could no longer deny the calling, and with encouragement from my minster Debbie Roath-Griffin, I applied with Global Ministries. I was given a 10 week volunteer assignment at a Youth Centre in Soweto, South Africa called Bridgman. As most of you know, that first 10 weeks in 2005 changed my life, and made accepting the call to Africa easier. However, being honest, I was still not ready to completely surrender myself. In 2006, when I applied this time as a Global Mission Intern, I still struggled with surrender. When asked how long I wanted to serve, I was afraid of committing over a year. So we agreed upon one year, with the possible extension of a second year. Three and a half years later, my time as a Global Mission Intern serving in South Africa is coming to an end.
As I have been preparing to return home, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my experiences at Bridgman, the work there, the people that I met, and the lives that were touched, including my own. I could tell pages of stories, but would like to share some of what I would have missed out on if I had not said yes four years ago.
· I would have never have met Nelly. A tough young woman, with family struggles and challenges, but who really taught me what it means to be a selfless giver. She often contributed her whole salary helping to buy household items for her family.
· I would never have met TC, one of the most hyper and bubbly young women that you can imagine, someone who brightens up a room. Someone who told me, “You know Carla; I never knew that God could be fun.”
· I would not know Jackie, a dear friend and accountability partner. Our weekly morning breakfasts became an essential part of my week. There are times when God places a person in your life that knows and understands exactly what you are going through, and she could not have been more of a God-given blessing.
· I would never have known, nor had the opportunity, to see Sanele grow. I wrote back in 2007 how Sanele had given me a note telling me how she planned to commit suicide. The last two years have been a long walk with her, but she now runs a suicide support group at her school, and is one of the most committed GASA members.
· I would not know Nomvelo, a girl who has continually surprised me with her upbeat attitude and upmost reliance on Christ, no matter how bad things get. While, technically, I was supposed to be leading her, I feel like I learned more from her than she could ever learn from me.
· I would not know Thulani, an 11 year old boy from the Aftercare, who when questioned about what should be done about his constant misbehaving replied: “Forgive me, because Jesus forgives seven times seventy-seven.” (That was our bible story the week before. At least he was listening.)
· I would not know 10 year old Theo, or have a better understanding of the transforming power of the love of Christ. Theo and a group of his friends broke into Bridgman in December of 2008. With a lot of prayer and trepidation, we felt that we were supposed to invite these very at risk children to be a part of the Aftercare program. It took a lot to love Theo and look past his mistakes, but over time we learned to trust each other. Through that Christ-like love we were able to see him grow, move away from hanging out with his troubled friends, and really start focusing on his school work, greatly improving his grades.
· I would not know my husband Malusi Makalima.
Getting married to a South African was probably the farthest thing from my mind. I was going to go, do what I had to do, come back, and get on with “my” life. After a long road together, in the middle of 2008, Malusi and I discovered that we had feelings for each other, and could see Christ working through us together to reach out to so many young people. In March of 2009, he proposed. We were married on July 3, 2009 in my home church, the Slater Christian Church.
On December 19, 2009, we celebrated our traditional African wedding. We begin the morning at Malusi’s home church, Soweto United UCCSA, where we had a renewal of vows ceremony, for those who were unable to join is in July. From the church we went to his home, where we had a wonderful traditional ceremony. I was dressed by his family in a traditional brown and orange African dress, made by his aunt. Malusi also changed into his African attire, an orange vest with a beaded tie. We met outside and danced down to the tent next door, where we were greeted by so many friends and family members singing and dancing with us. We were given many words of wisdom and love. I was given my new African name, Nomsa, by my mother-in-law. It was a fabulous day, and one that I can’t imagine not experiencing.
My sincere thanks go out to each and every one of you. Without your prayers, love, and words of encouragement, this experience would not have been possible. There are many challenging and lonely days as a missionary, but knowing that I was not in this alone, makes it that much more bearable. My thanks to Global Ministries and Week of Compassion for making all of this possible, and to the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) for taking me in, and letting me be a part of your work.
As we celebrate the Easter season, I am reminded so often of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and the amount of surrender that really must have taken, and how far I still have to go on my journey. While Malusi and I do not know what our future holds right now, we hold closely to the Cross of Christ, ready to surrender to whatever God has for us.
Blessings to you all.
In His Love,
Carla Giger serves as a Global Mission Intern in South Africa, appointed by the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. Her ministry is possible because of funds provided by Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is serving with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Johannesburg, South Africa as an Assistant Program Coordinator.