Expecting and the Unexpected Vol.2 // Raising a Baby in South Africa
Some of you may know that over half of the money I make from this blog goes to an orphanage in India as well as to our dear friends, Max and Cambria, who live in South Africa. They work for an organization called YWAM to train up leaders to go serve the needy all over the world. The reason I share that with you is twofold. First, it’s to thank you for reading and supporting me with this crazy life of blogging because it’s making a real difference in a lot of peoples lives. Second, it’s because Max and Cambria became new parents this past year and I asked Cam to share what is been like for her to become a mom in Africa. I wanted you all to have a chance to actually get to know her a bit since, by just reading and supporting this blog, you are actually supporting her family. We as moms face so many challenges regardless of where we live and there is so much we can relate to, connect on and learn from one another. Her story is definitely one worth reading and I hope you will feel encouraged by it! So here it is:
"As a little girl I couldn’t wait to be an adult. I was adventurous and restless, and I often dreamt of freedom and all the places I would travel when I was older. I envisioned how I would dress and what colors I would dye my hair. As I grew older I impatiently awaited the usual milestones: getting a driver’s license, moving out, going to college, and getting a job. I couldn’t wait to be married, and eventually have kids too.
Something I could never have expected was what life as an adult would actually be like and all the challenges that came with it. I didn’t realize how simple being a child is, and how much more complex and at the same time vibrant life becomes as you get older. I didn’t know that with the freedom of being an adult comes the reality that you have to make big choices.
I spent my late teens and early twenties living the ideals that I had grown up dreaming about. I went to college, I traveled the world, I got tattoos, and I dyed my hair all colors of the rainbow.
When I was 25 years old, I was dating Max, my now husband, and I moved to South Africa to work in full time Christian ministry. This decision and what came in the five years that followed have really challenged me and shaped me…in many ways causing me to grow up. Suddenly I blinked and I was an adult, and it was so much more than I dreamed in every way!
The biggest choice of my adult life came when Max and I conceived our first child. We knew we had to think about our future. Bringing a baby into the world forced us to open our eyes and lay everything on the table, and decide if the life we had chosen for ourselves was the right life for our kids too. We ultimately wanted to decide whether we should remain in South Africa and continue life in ministry.
There are many layers to why this decision was such a challenge. For one, we have always struggled with being so far from our families. Now that we were having a baby we imagined how much more we would be missing out on. We wondered if our community of friends could offer the same kind of support we would have with our families. We also wondered how much our kids would miss out on in being away from cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
On top of that, even though South Africa had become home to us, we knew we would never fully fit in, and that it was not as safe as the part of America we are from. Being foreigners and being aware of potential crime are realities that always linger in the back of our minds- and we knew our kids would feel that too. Additionally, South Africa is different than America in many other ways- from education, to healthcare, to the products we use and buy, to the different languages and accents…we knew that with these factors our kids would be foreigners in America as well.
Finally, the nature of our work in ministry means we live on the generous financial support of our friends, family, and churches. We knew that having kids while living on support would require a whole new level of faith that we weren’t sure we had in us.
Max and I searched our hearts, and we prayed. We examined and discussed our values and desires. We evaluated where we had been, and where we wanted to go together as a family. Over the coming months, our hearts and what we felt we were supposed to do began to come into focus until it was clear: We realized that we were meant to stay in South Africa and continue with the work we were involved in.
We knew that we did not end up in South Africa by accident, and that there was more for us in this nation. We also wanted to remain in ministry, and to raise our kids in the messiness of all that that means.
With our decision to stay came intentional and difficult choices:
First, we chose to live far away from our family. This was admittedly the toughest of all our decisions. In choosing to stay in South Africa, we chose to make the community around us our family. We had an amazing group of friends who were like-minded in our Christian faith and also incredibly safe and accepting. We were excited that we could raise our kids around such beautiful people.
Tied to the first decision came our second-- we chose to embrace the cross-cultural environment we found ourselves in. In our ministry we work with people from many different nations, plus the diversity of South African culture is vast. We had grown to appreciate the beauty of diversity and how much it challenged us to think beyond ourselves and our ethnocentric worldviews. As humans we often feel a tug toward familiarity, but with this decision we intentionally chose what was foreign because it challenged us and forced us to open our eyes to things we had never seen before. We so desired for our kids to have a bigger perspective of the world than we had grown up with.
Third, we knew that choosing South Africa meant choosing the option that was not the safest or most comfortable. We chose to embrace South Africa as home, despite the crime and things that were different than America. We had come to love the nation, and we chose to make its story our own. We wanted to sit at the feet of the people (so to speak) and watch and learn from them, because what they carry is invaluable, and so worth it.
Lastly, with all of these choices, we ultimately felt we were choosing what God had led us to, which eased many of our fears and anxieties. We desired our children to know and trust God, and that meant us being faithful to walk a path that wasn’t necessarily the safest, most comfortable, or even logical… but it was a path that God walked with us and therefore would lead to life, joy, and fulfillment.
During my nine months of pregnancy in South Africa, and in the subsequent months since our little one was born, our decision to remain and continue our work has proved to be the right choice day after day.
Early on in my pregnancy as we searched for care providers, we found an amazing group of midwives who conducted themselves with incredible professionalism and profound beauty. They were the perfect matches for us. When it was time to give birth, I was able to give birth at home with these women. It was such an incredibly empowering experience, and I am so grateful. I could not have imagined my first birth to be more perfect.
In the weeks that followed the birth of our son, our community was an awesome support to us, bringing us meals and offering to hold the baby while we took naps. We felt so well taken care of and encouraged, even being so far from home.
Every day, when I go out with my son, I am amazed time and time again at how kind complete strangers are toward him and our family. South Africa is full of some of the most caring and big-hearted people. When people talk of South Africa, they often talk about how it is riddled with crime and incredible pain from a dark past. But that is not the whole story! I have found that unless you live here you cannot know the extravagant goodness of people toward one another, or the radical generosity, helpfulness, and warmth that people offer so freely. You won’t hear about the sweet waitresses who coo over your baby and kindly hold them while you eat your meal. Or the many gentlemen who prop open doors so you can fit your stroller through. Or the compassionate woman in line at the store who encourages you and tells you that being a Mom is the best journey you will ever go on. You can’t imagine the amount of laughter and well wishes that daily fill the streets of this nation through simple encounters.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that on hard days I doubt our decision to remain in South Africa. There are days that I long to be near my family, or I wish for the familiarity of American culture. But mostly our life in South Africa is better than expected when we made the decision to stay. It continues to shape us, challenge us, grow us and refine us. Day after day we trust that we are where we are supposed to be, and we go on raising our child with peace, joy, and rest in this simple fact. South Africa to us is our treasure hidden in a field…the value and riches we have found in this nation are of inestimable value, and worth giving up everything for."
If you would like to hear more about what Max and Cambria do or would like to consider supporting them yourself you can find more information here.