It’s 3am January 27th 2015, and I’m waiting at Melbourne Airport for my flight to India. I’ve just been informed that my flight is delayed another hour. Great. I have already been here for three. So, as most of us do, I resort to Facebook to waste time. I’ll post a cool Facebook status and see if anyone else is awake at this ridiculous hour… [Check-in. Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, flying to Hyderabad, India]. Status: “Awake at a very (un)godly hour! But excited and so grateful for this adventure”. Yeah… That’ll do. I click post.
Moments later, my phone fuzzes with a notification from Facebook Messenger. Oh … There ARE people alive at this time of night! A message from Megan, a lovely American girl I volunteered with in South Africa in 2010. That’s strange, I haven’t spoken to her in years!
Megan: Hey … Thapelo’s shack caught on fire a few weeks back and they lost everything. Well almost everything, a few pictures remained in the scraps and ashes and I really think it’s something you want to see …
WHAT?… I’m stunned. I don’t even remember giving him a photo.
Let me retrace some steps for you. For those that don’t know – I volunteered in South Africa in 2010 for one year. The first six months included a Missions Discipleship Training (that completely transformed my life, I might add), and the remainder of the year I worked at a centre for children who were recognised by their school teachers as ‘vulnerable’ due to their living situations, and needed support and after school care. They were also either infected or affected by the HIV/AIDs pandemic in some way. I was partnered with Thapelo, an 11 year old boy who was very angry at the world. A month before I met him, his sister was shot point blank and killed while she walked him home from school one day. Thapelo did not trust anyone. God taught me how to love deeply, with abandon; to extend an arm of Grace even though it would be rejected every time. It was a long hard battle while I walked alongside this warrior. But I give all glory to Christ alone, who changed that boys life in six short months. He learnt to trust again, and to choose LIFE.
And my life would never be the same again.
So apparently (because I don’t remember), before I headed back to Australia, I gave him a small laminated photo of a happy moment we shared together one summer afternoon. And he kept it all these years…
His family’s home (…an aluminum shack in a riddled shanty village) was now burnt to shreds. Nothing left but ruins and ashes. The one thing to survive was the tiny laminated photo…
I’m shaking and crying like a baby in the middle of the airport. It could just be because I’m tired and emotional. But I’m thankful that no-one is around me in this terminal, because I just need to take a moment.