Monday, March 3, 2014


When I enter into conversation with  people who have have spent any time at all in South Africa, I light up.  I also figure out quickly how much time they’ve spent there (If they stopped over for a trip, if they’ve spent a vacation in Cape Town or if they’ve lived there).  I always get a little proud, knowing that we have lived there for six years and were able to see the incredible truth of the most complicated, incredible country on this earth.  SO much like my own homeland…and yet so different.

We’ve just returned from a two week trip back – almost one year to the day that we moved away after living there for six years.  We took two friends with us for a dual purpose trip – one purpose was to be there for  Hennie Keyter’s book launch (I had the honor of ghost-writing  his long-awaited memoirs); the second purpose was to deliver three amazing cajons to three different  local churches there.  Three churches that are similar in mission (to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ, baptize and make disciples) yet so different in location and expression. 

Our time there was too fast, and it made me remember sharply how it used to be quite the opposite.   We used to say the same thing about our visits back to the USA when we lived in the RSA.  As we used to do when we made our visits home, we speed visited with everyone (many times stacking meetings on top of other meetings.) Everyone seemed to understand that our time was limited, but it was very hard to deeply share our hearts and catch up in comparatively brief times together.

I must admit, everyone had a very favorable reaction to my weight loss.  They all seemed to equate it to my happiness to be back home.  I guess it is, in some ways.  When I said goodbye, I was nearly 80 kg’s (176 lbs) – I am now 58.5 kgs (129 lbs) - all is due to my fairly recent sobriety and weight management program.

Our team that accompanied us: Seth, an eighteen year old aficionado on the cajon; and Colleen, a prayer warrior, were amazing.  They took to South Africa like a bird takes to the sky.  They were receptive to the massive spirit of hospitality and grace that our friends gave constantly.  I was so happy they were with us!

Now I am back - home in my office - watching squirrels store nuts in the tree just outside my window.  The rain has just stopped falling, leaving a grey backdrop to contrast the fresh green leaves of the mature trees that thrive on our street. 

I miss the heat of the day and the wide open doors that allow flies to inhabit the same space as people.  I miss the dongas in the dirt roads, the cries of Hadadas outside picture windows, the bright orange sun and the endless sky.  I miss (more than ever) my South Africa.

I can almost hear my South African friends, reading this and rolling their eyes: “That Janet, she thinks she’s South African!”  They love a good ribbing and were always quick to remind me that I was American living in my adopted homeland.

The truth is, part of me will always be South African – I have the seal of permanent residency to prove it!  In my passport, a banner page has a seal of South African permanent residency – a seal we worked hard to get.  When we received it I cried and hugged the man who placed it in my passport.  He awkwardly acquiesced, as Mario packed up the documents and left the building, frustrated that the whole process had taken so long.  Both of us were overwhelmed with emotion.  

Such were the emotions that South Africa inspired in our hearts.  It was never lukewarm; always hot or cold.  It was the land of the open heaven or the driest Spiritual place.  It was the place where we luxuriated in supreme joy; it was the place where we had the loneliest despair.  It was the place where we were surrounded in genuine hospitality and family; it was the place where we longed for our family “back home.”

It was the land of contradictions and when we went back we remembered how it was in our hearts.
I’ve spilled my blood there.  I’ve lived and ached there and rejoiced there.   In leaving it, we left our best friends, our church and our idyllic landscape behind. 

Nkosi sikelel iAfrika, you are the most incredible, wonderful land that has stolen our hearts. 

Our home, Mario and I say, is in heaven.  No other home is really home.

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  1. It was such a joy to see you both again. Missing your friendly smiles already.

    1. Thank you, Joy!! We loved seeing you and Geoff. Thank you for your love and faithfulness with SipAway!!