The Mighty Rushing Wind

Katherine Vermillion

Katherine Vermillion lives and works in Knoxville, TN. She's one of our dear friends and has been supporting Yebo Life since day one. We had the privilege of hosting Katherine in January 2015. She served with us in Masiphumelele, Lavender Hill, and Constantia and helped host our very first retreat in Cape Town. Check out some of photos of her trip at the end of this blog. Thank you, Katherine, for sharing about your experience! We love and appreciate your heart.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
— Acts 2:2, 4

It’s impossible to ignore the mighty wind that rushes through Cape Town. It shakes the trees and whips up the sand. The gusts come without warning and threaten to knock you off your feet. Sometimes, though, it's a delicate breeze that just whispers as it whishes by. This great wind creates some of the best waves in the world, a delight to all those who surf. However, as it appears, the wind is always there.

During my recent stay in Cape Town, I kept thinking about this powerful Wind. I envisioned that it was God’s Holy Spirit, rushing through every part of the city, from Noordhoek to Lavender Hill, on the cliffs of Cape Point, and out to the distant edges of Khayelitsha. There was no place untouched. Every house, beach, shack, mountain, and even every Pick n’ Pay, was covered with this Wind. Unfortunately, as the reality of the situation hit me, I forgot. 

I saw the broken down “houses” in the townships, often made of any leftover wood or metal that could be fashioned into something that resembled a shelter. I walked streets where I would have surely been attacked, or possibly worse, had I been alone. I heard stories of babies left in a plastic bag or somewhere on the side of the road, unwanted and left to die. I witnessed a broken social system, still struggling to overcome the deep-rooted damage of apartheid. I listened to a sweet woman tell the story of her sister who was extremely weak and dying of AIDS. And I looked in the eyes of so many children living in poverty without access to a decent education or opportunities. I started to wonder where God was in all this.

How is this fair? Why was I given so much while they have so little? Why isn’t He showing up? How can He see his children suffering and do nothing?

The day before I left South Africa, I sat on a mountaintop thinking about all I had seen and heard. I could see one of the townships where we served off in the distance. A few tears streamed down my face as I thought about those helpless children who never asked to be abandoned or hurt or left without hope. I got angry when I was placated with answers like “we just have to pray for them” and “it’s all in God’s control” and “we did what we could.” That didn’t seem comforting or constructive. I felt like I should've done more—given more hugs and smiles and kind words and money and clothes and a safe, loving home. What else could I have given? Could I adopt them all and bring them back to the States? What else could I have done to help them? I wanted to do more. I couldn’t leave quite yet—my work wasn’t complete. But what I forgot is that none of it was my work to start with.

I was so arrogant to think that I had to be there for any change to happen. God was there and had never even left. He was the Wind, anywhere and everywhere, all at once. I prayed over and over that His Holy Spirit would rush into every space, home, and heart in Cape Town, just like the rushing mighty wind that physically moved throughout the city. I wanted Him to consume all of the evil places that had settled there. Jesus tells us in John, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I’d seen trouble all right. But I was finally comforted knowing that this broken world would not overcome us.

Ultimately, God is sovereign. He sees all, hears all, knows all. He goes behind us and before us—all of us—whether we are in Tennessee or the Western Cape. In those places where it seems there is no light, He shines. He shows up as a whisper or as a gust of wind, making Himself known to His people.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
 Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
 if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
 if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me,
 your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
 the night will shine like the day,
 for darkness is as light to you.
— Psalm 139:7-12

It was as close to a perfect hour as you could get. I sat on a wooden bench underneath a huge shade tree, the summer sunlight peeking through the leaves. The children living at the safe house played in the grass nearby, and I held the most precious little boy in my lap. The kids giggled from time to time, music to my ears. I whispered prayers over the infant I cuddled and held him close to me, and a glowing smile spread across his face at my every word. And all the while, a gentle breeze whirled around and embraced us.

I couldn’t help but think about the Holy Spirit. I had done all I needed to do or could do. His all-consuming presence was with us, even at this safe house, where kids without a loving home came and went. God hadn’t forgotten them. His love and comfort hovered there amidst the brokenness and supposed hopelessness. And I knew that when I had to return home, He’d still be there protecting and loving His sweet South African children and leading them on to the joyful and abundant life He had already planned in advance for them. He was and is and will always be there, and everywhere, like an overwhelming force of nature that, although we can't see, we'll always feel.