Our return to Redhill was a much-anticipated reunion. Three years ago marked a very pivotal time in our young, American, newly married lives: deciding to move into a little shack in a South African township to work amongst the Xhosa people. Life changing, really. Probably more for us than them. We had little inklings of what it’d be like, but had no idea it’d shape our lives and decisions from then on in such a large way. Not to mention the real love and bond with the people of Redhill, specifically with our neighbors David and Daisy.
So, you can imagine, the emotions that come into play, when you drive up the road, in anticipation to seeing them again, revisiting the little shack that kept us cold at night and warm in the day. (and no, that was not a mistake)
My heart felt heavy from the start of the day, wondering if they’d still be there, fearing they wouldn’t share in our excitement of returning, but mostly just out-of-my-skin thrilled for the opportunity to see everyone again. Liana, our roommate in this shack three years ago, and I both admitted feeling a little nervous just as we parked.
So we head up to our old stomping grounds, reminiscing and noticing changes in the once burnt grounds of a fire stricken land, now with flourishing gardens and natural landscape. We see David and Daisy. Tears start flowing and Daisy immediately embraces us and reminds me that I am crying the same as the day I left. David came around the corner and got his same old toothless grin on his face. One that looks like he’s trying to hold back his real emotions. “We often talked of you guys, wondering when you’d come back. Took you long enough” he said, in his almost cowboy-like abruptness. Soon came the little kids that once knew us so well, playing in our yard, and sitting on our laps. I saw Artule, a little boy whose photographs graced the pages of magazine stories of Redhill and my gallery in Portland. I had a photo of him hanging on my office wall at home, and would recognize his eyes from a mile away. He was happy to accompany us for the remaining tour of Redhill that day. Hand in hand, we went.
I was reminded of the scripture the Lord gave us while working in Redhill. Isaiah 58, a well quoted chapter of God’s heart for justice, and yet, for us, almost a prophetic inscription of what to expect from the Lord in our sun-scorched land.
“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in the sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called the Repairer of Broken walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58: 10-12