Yeah, so that’s how our relationship began—over tea. And over time, Tony and I became more and more comfortable with each other.
Nearly everyday, we served in the townships together. Of course we made occasional eye contact. But we were very intentional about maintaining our distance... and thus, our focus on the work we’d been called to do. Then every night, like clockwork, we’d swap stories about our pasts and dreams for our futures. I think both of us had an inkling of a feeling that our interest in one another was no small deal.
Eventually, my team was clued in to our relationship, but to any other outsider, Tony and I seemed like nothing more than acquaintances. We were intent on setting mature and appropriate boundaries for ourselves and for the situation. I still had five months to go in other parts of Africa and in Southeast Asia, and Tony would be in Cape Town. We had to be OK with that reality.
And so, like any good thing, our time in Cape Town eventually came to an end, as did our work in Masiphumelele, Red Hill and Lavender Hill. On Saturday, June 29, 2013, we'd take a train from Simon’s Town to Cape Town’s city center, and from there, we’d endure a 20-hour bus ride from Cape Town to Nelspruit.
Three days prior to my team's departure (Wednesday), we served with Tony, Chase, Tyler and the Pampell family in Lavender Hill, a colored Township in the Cape Flats nicknamed “Gangland.” (Below is a video news clip from June 2012 that reported on gang violence in Lavender Hill.)
We worked with a large group of children at a local church's crèche (daycare). During a meeting with the church pastor, he told me, "This is a monumental day for the majority of these kids. For many of them, this is the first time an adult has ever expressed unconditional interest in their lives." In that moment, I began to understand how much impact can be made in just a few hours.
Often, we don't realize how much God can do with a few hours, with a few dollars. We think what we have to offer isn't enough, so we don't offer anything. That's incorrect thinking. Everybody has something to give—a dollar, an hour, a smile, a listening ear, a warm home, an encouraging word. And we serve a God who can move mountains through our generosity and willingness to sacrifice.
(Recounting this story about Tony and me reminds me of so many memories, so many lessons the Lord taught me in those 11 months overseas—memories and lessons I never want to forget.)
We didn't leave the crèche that day until each and every child had left. It was our last day serving with our South African friends, and Tony had been called into work. He and the other members of his dive team were leaving Cape Town in a few hours, and they were scheduled to spend the next several days mining off the western coast.
We said a generic goodbye in the parking lot of the church (in front of everyone), and that was that.
Raymond was following our team to Nelspruit. We were meeting up with the rest of our squad and leaders to debrief our time in Ukraine and South Africa, and he offered to take any and all of us into the Kruger National Park on our off days. We gladly accepted.
As for Tony, I had no clue when I'd see him again… but deep down, I knew "never" wasn't going to be the case.
To read our full story, please visit our Love Story page.