Rain slashes against the windows. It’s winter in Stellenbosch - another cold and grizzly day. The mountains are hidden in a heavy fog. I have never experienced a June quite like this one. Inside, a fire crackles in the large fireplace. I can feel the apprehension in the room; it is palpable among the group of young women gathered in a circle.
I go first and I share my story - the story of how the Lord found me and rescued me from myself.
It’s never easy, but I have shared my testimony enough to know that there is power in it. There is power in each of our stories - power in the unique way God reveals himself to each of us, power in His redemption.
As each young woman shares her story, fingers tremble and hearts race. Tears fall; sheepish smiles follow. These women barely know each other, and yet they will be living and learning together for the next six weeks.
It is East Mountain’s Summit internship program. Eleven young people in their late teens and early twenties, some South African and some American, have come to East Mountain’s retreat center in Stellenbosch to see what the Lord has to teach them.
As I listen to these women and pray for them, I start to feel alive. A part of me, dormant for these last months as I’ve struggled through postpartum days and long nights, begins to stir. I remember that I am more than simply a pair of hands to feed and clothe and rock. As I gaze down into the blue eyes of my baby, I hear the young woman across from me stumble over the words - that she was unwanted, that she can’t remember her mother, that she was made to feel unloved.
My heart aches and I wish there were a way for her to go back. I wish someone had been there to cup her chin and tilt her small face upwards and to tell her that the Lord doesn’t make mistakes; her life is no accident. As it is, she now hears this truth for the first time at age nineteen. The Lord has healing for her in this place, and he’s only just begun his redemption of her life.
I feel bold and confident. I can speak truth into these women’s lives. I can listen and ask thoughtful questions. I can help them process what the Lord is doing within them.
Fast forward two weeks, and I pull up to the retreat center on another rainy day. I hunch over the steering wheel, sobs racking my body. In the back, baby Micah wails - on and on, as she has all morning. It’s just too much and I feel I have nothing to give. I laugh at myself - at how I thought I could be a mentor to a young woman. These days, my life feels like wading through a mud pit - mucking through endless care-taking and sneaky postpartum hormones and trying to learn how to be a mother.
And yet, here I am. Waiting to pick up the young woman I am supposed to be “discipling.” She dances out to the car and suddenly realizes that my mood is grim. She knows my baby has colic. She’s heard me articulate that these days are hard, that I haven’t found my rhythm as a mom yet. I have been honest, and yet raw tears are something else altogether.
But, the Lord knows what I need in that moment and I find it in Erika’s gentle hug, in her assurance that things will be okay. And I am reminded that discipleship is not about confidence and having the right answers - many times, discipleship is raw life, laid bare for another to see.
Discipleship is not only the stories the Lord has already redeemed in our lives, but those he is actively transforming, day to day.
And so I open myself up, and we have a lovely brunch together, and I find myself excited by all the Lord is doing in her heart. She cuddles my baby and offers sympathy and reflects back to me what I look like - something I’ve sorely needed.
Just as this young woman learns best in community, so do I.
On the good days and on the hard days, we find ourselves increasingly thankful for East Mountain - for how this group of missionary families and South Africans have joined hands and formed real community - and invited us in. They have been our surrogate family, and encouraged us to exercise our gifts, and given us a forum to see God at work. As God continues to mould Jack and me into who he's called us to be, I’m thankful that East Mountain is a part of it.
As you muck through your day-to-day, may the Lord bless you with community. May he give you the courage to seek it out and the determination not to settle for anything less. May you find that whatever your station in life, there are those you are equipped to encourage and those ready to encourage you.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”