I’ve never been good at goodbyes. My heart entangles with real people and their stories. Trying unwrap myself feels something like trying to sort out 53 strands of Christmas lights which have merged into one undecipherable green mass of wires and bulbs after sitting in the box together for eleven months.
Let’s just say the sorting out process isn’t pretty.
Though Friday afternoon we visited the hospital in Qwa-Qwa, also called Phutaditjhaba (to say this visit was difficult doesn’t quite cover it), we reserved the morning for saying goodbyes in Intabazwe. I didn’t realize two-and-a-half hours could go by so quickly.
We first stopped at Doris’ home, where she generously served us our last cup of tea. Alex (again impressing me with his heart) gave her his Bible, knowing she couldn’t read Sasotho but could decipher some English. She still has lots of questions, but she now holds her own copy of God’s word to help her sort through Truth.
Though Julia and Samuel weren’t at their home, Liana, Maria and Solomon welcomed us warmly. Liana would not let us leave without providing her with her own copy of a Sasotho Bible. She pulled the shiny black cover close to her chest and said “Ke a leboha” (“thank you”) again and again. Maria, a 19-year-old athlete and student with hopeful life aspirations, squeezed us tightly as we encouraged her to stay in school, study diligently and never stop believing God has purpose for her life.
Last but not least, we went to see Masee, perhaps our most difficult goodbye. What final words do you give someone you most likely will not see again on this side of eternity? Her sitting room felt heavy with silence. She said she would miss us very much, and we echoed her right back. I will always remember her holding the now earmarked Bible close to her heart, emphatically calling it her “friend.” More than that, she promised to teach her five-year-old son, Thabong, to know God’s Word as his friend as well. We encouraged her to be a light in her community, to reach out to Doris who struggles with reading, and to invite Julia and Samuel to join her at church. Though AIDS may have some claim to her body, her life is dominated by the Spirit of the living God. She is determined to speak boldly and live radically for the God she discovered is her friend.
As I write this, my MP3 player is belting out a Hillsong song with these lyrics: “Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me. I give my life to the potter’s hand.” Regardless of heritage, financial status, color or nation, each of us is a lump of clay in the marvelous, miracle-working hands of the Potter. The possibilities are endless and the ultimate results promise to be astounding.
Yes, today I feel a bit tangled. But there’s hope. I will again see Masee–whole and healthy. And we will sip tea and talk all about the One who once brought strangers from opposite sides of the world, together as friends.