|Portia posing under Bonnie's "Ivy Cave" last year.|
Once upon a time, I met a quiet bride who loved God, her husband and children so much that she glowed.
Her name was Portia.
I think she was twenty-five, a baby by my standards. I had just arrived in South Africa and her husband, Thembe, was one of the elders in our new church, The Junction. Two years later, Thembe would pass away to heaven, leaving Portia a single mother of two boys. The transition made her rely even more on God.
By the time I left South Africa, she was my best friend there. She had a gift for living in the grace of God, no matter what. I wanted to be like her, and the thought made her laugh. After all, I was old enough to be her mother.
With me in America and Portia in South Africa, we communicate via SKYPE and whatsapp – the best app on my phone. Skype and whatsapp are the two things that validate the reality that we live in a big world – and we need to communicate in creative ways.
My whatsapp messages were all lost at the beginning of last month after I traded in my phone for a new one. I lost all of Portia’s encouraging messages. I lost messages of hope, hurt, and friendship. I lost the recorded account of Cynthia getting sick, and then dying. All of it was gone, surrendered when I upgraded for a newer model. It affected me deeply.
I used to read Portia’s messages when I felt lonely, insecure, lost or strange in my own country.
Today Portia turns thirty-five.
I just got to talk to her – freezing in Johannesburg. A recent cold front has made getting out of bed an incredibly chilling experience. Her home has no central heat or running water, but I have never known her to complain. The boys were still in bed when I called, Saturday morning under the covers with no schedule.
The sound of her voice reassures me that no distance can come between us – it is like we are both together, enduring the bitter cold of Johannesburg. Instead, I type this in shorts and a tee shirt, my ceiling fan cooling the room down as much as it can.
Portia’s birthday wish is to own a home, which I pray will happen. She works hard and has a good job, but raising her kids alone does take most of her resources. Darrel and Ebi go to a very good school, and Portia gladly pays the tuition, knowing that education is the gift that will benefit them the most.
I will pray this year for the perfect home for Portia– a home that she can call her own. Won’t you pray with me? It will be like we are all friends together –across the miles.Happy Birthday, Portia. Halala ngosuku lokuzalwa, my friend.