I think back to November and a small grin develops into a large smile on my face. Julie walked through an incredibly challenging month in the Malaysian jungle—intense ministry and challenging living conditions. I, on the other hand, took a month off to recuperate from my season of diving. I spent my time investing in my relationships with family and friends before co-leading a missions trip to Swaziland in December. Days after the trip ended, I headed for the States to intern with Children's Cup (and get engaged).
November started off with a bash! My favourite Norwegian couple, Mr. T and Cathrine, arrived in the first week, and we spent seven well-balanced days relaxing, traveling, serving and enjoying life's finer things. We ventured into unchartered wine-producing regions, ate good food, spoke about the fullness of life and sat by the pool at their hotel. Tough life, I know. But considering where I'd come from, I was happy to chill out for a few weeks.
I was still fundraising for the trip to Swaziland at the time. (Honestly, I'd yet to raise a single cent.) And Mr. T and Cathrine felt called to pay my entire way. Just like that, I was sorted. A faithful God using people to empower other people. He'd moved so tremendously over the last two months... I felt like I was surfing the longest wave of my life. For any surfer, that's the best feeling in the world.
God called. I responded. And He provided, as He promised.
My family was happy to have me back in Cape Town on a regular basis. I lived with them, so we saw a lot of each other. My brother Chase, Stefan and I enjoyed many a sleep-over at the Pampell residence. We'd stay up late, talking and watching American football (a rarity in South Africa). Every morning spent with the Pampell family was enjoyed over a cup of Community Coffee before we'd drop their three kiddos off at school for the day. "Uncle Tony" loved these mornings. (Since then, the Pampells moved back to the States, and just six weeks ago, I was privileged to drop the kids off at their new school in Wilmington, North Carolina.)
November eventually came to an end, and I began preparing myself for Swaziland. Saying farewell to my family was on my radar as well. After leaving for the States, I wouldn't see them again until my father's 53rd birthday—five months down the road. A lot could happen in five months (and a lot certainly did).
The trip was incredible. I served alongside an incredible group of Godly men and women, most of whom are still very involved in my life. And like most short-term missions trips, I received more than I gave. God brought revelation and restoration in regard to my old way of life... I had been carrying the weight of my past.
Upon returning to Cape Town, I was ready, prayerful, stoked, willing, honoured, blessed, joyful, dependent on Christ, in awe of Jesus, wanting more, humbled and committed to living my life for the Lord.
The next thing I new, I was boarding a plane to Julie's hometown. I remember walking out of the security checkpoint at McGhee-Tyson Airport like it was yesterday. There she stood—the woman of my dreams. A woman I'd known for six months… 30 days in person and 150 days over Skype and email.
We walked together. I put my arm around her side for the first time ever, and I smiled.
To read our full story, please visit our Love Story page.