I wanted to create this site for those who may not know me to connect with my journey to South Africa. To start, I’ll share a little bit about myself. I’m the oldest of six kids, graduated from Cornerstone University with a degree in elementary education, and now nanny and substitute teach multiple times a week, so kids are a huge part of my life. I’m involved in my church, having taught kindergarten Sunday school for three years, serving every month in the nursery, and being involved in other ministries as well. I am now raising support to work with AIMI at The Pines in Welkom, South Africa.
My story about South Africa starts back in 2010. My youth group was planning a trip to work at The Pines and I really felt called to join. Well, things got a little bumpy in the process and my frustration led me to want to drop the trip. My mom encouraged me to pray about it before backing out and I went to my devotion time searching for any verses that would convince me to not go on the trip….but instead I came away from that time with an even stronger conviction that I WAS supposed to go. So I found myself leaving the country for the first time on my first flight, and a 16 hour flight to boot!
That initial trip was incredible. I learned so much about the world and my passion for children and I left my heart at The Pines as my body headed back to the States. I thought about pursuing missions full time and thought that a longer short-term trip would help me get a better picture of that, but the timing was never right and I started feeling a passion for education, so I shifted my focus to that. Freshman year of college was a learning experience in and of itself, but during that time, I started feeling God calling me to pursue that “longer short-term trip” I had dreamed of. I contacted The Pines and made plans to visit for ten weeks that summer.
The summer of 2015. What a life changing experience. I remember the first day, as I went to reacquaint myself with the kids, thinking “last time I came I had to come back, but I think this trip is just going to be a great closing to my visits to The Pines.” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. As the first few weeks passed, God kept nudging my heart and revealing that I was supposed to be at The Pines full time. I talked about with the director many times, prayed about finishing school online to return sooner, and left knowing that this was far from the end of my time at The Pines.
One of the biggest needs at The Pines right now (other than just more staff members) is in education. South Africa’s school system isn’t stellar and students make honor roll at 80%, pass at 50-60%, and still, often don’t pass. Knowing how big this need was, I decided that it would be best if I finish school at Cornerstone University (with one of the top teacher education programs in the state). This has been hard when I want to be there, but I know it is for the best.
Before leaving in 2015, I had already made the plans to return the following summer, this time for the full three months that I could without a visa. This trip helped confirm that I was supposed to pursue ministry full time and helped me clearly see my role in The Pines. For the first few weeks, the regular staff members were gone, so I was part of a temporary staff (and one volunteer who has been there for seven years), which gave me a lot more responsibility. Even after the staff’s return, I was no longer a guest and was able to participate much more as a staff member than I had the year before. I picked up some of the language (which still needs lots of work!), understood the culture more, and was able to make valid suggestions since I understood how things ran.
Now I’m in the fundraising stage. It’s easy to view this as a burden that I have to overcome before pursuing ministry, but God is showing me it is actually an opportunity to build relationships with people I wouldn’t have otherwise, share what God is doing in South Africa, and invite people to partner in this ministry. I am nervous but excited to pursue this step and definitely excited to get to South Africa and work with the kids there.