Flying around the world to visit a new country, getting to experience a new culture, is an exciting experience.
Traveling to South Africa for two weeks on a mission trip was one of the best experiences of my life. Meeting new people, trying new food, seeing the beauty of the country were all fun new experiences that I will cherish forever.
But seeing this country and its brokenness is also heartbreaking.
Like many people in America, I grew up knowing that we are very lucky, that we are much better off than lots of other countries throughout the world.
But I had never fully understood just how privileged I am to call myself a U.S. citizen. While in South Africa, I experienced true poverty. Townships packed full with people, people living right on top of each other, cramming five people into a tiny tin shack that is smaller than my bedroom.
People who don’t have easy access to bathrooms or showers, or who don’t get three full meals a day. But many of these people are not despairing or hopeless. The children are filled with joy and love that they give freely. The adults are often very grateful for what they do have, even though to me it seems as if they have next to nothing.
One woman I had the honor of talking to had her home burn down in a fire in March and is living in what was supposed to be temporary housing. She has six people living in their tiny shack that leaks; there is very little space to do anything, and no privacy. But she never once complained about her situation, she was very grateful to be there saying that she and her family could have died in the fire, but they didn’t, and that they have much more than some other people.
Along with her gratefulness, this woman was unselfish. Rather than wanting to have her situation fixed, have a better home and life for her family, she wanted things to be better for everyone living in the temporary housing.
One of the most shocking parts of spending time in Cape Town, was seeing the drastic differences of people’s ways of living. On one street there are homes worth millions of dollars, and then you turn the corner and there’s a township full of people struggling to survive.
None of us will ever be able to fully appreciate the harshness of these people’s lives, but it is heartbreaking to think that there are fellow human beings living in such extreme poverty while we’re over here wishing for the newest smart phone.
It is so easy to take the things we have for granted, to always want something more, to forget the many blessings that we have every day. Traveling to South Africa and experiencing their way of life was a very eye opening experience that made me take a step back and realize how privileged I am.
Even though I am not capable of fixing these people’s situations, during the two weeks I was there, I was able to love on them and build relationships with them. So although I cannot change the world, I had the opportunity to be a light in the lives of people of South Africa, even for just the short period of time I was there.