“The things you fear are undefeatable, not by their nature but by your approach”- Jewel
So I ask myself first what is fear? and second what is approach?
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat to ones personal peace. So what are you afraid of? What I learned most about myself in 2017 was that I am afraid of failure and of not being able to show anything for my life and most currently my service as a Peace Corps volunteer.
At the start of 2017, I had spent approximately 7 months in country and what did I have to show for it? Nothing tangible is what I had thought to myself so of course after a wonderful new years vacation in Mozambique to rejuvenate my senses I was ready to hit the ground running. Soon as the gates of the schoolhouse opened for the year I attended all school meetings, did a few interviews to gather teachers’ interests and most importantly the needs of the youth. What I learned most about my service to others is that it’s not necessarily about me but instead the needs of the people. What did the youth need?
For most of the teachers and staff they shared a need for structural things including more classrooms and a hall. All things that I surely wouldn’t be able to grant them but I still listened and heard them out considering that there was a big problem of overcrowding in the classrooms which further affected the learning of students and thus lead to a need. One need though that the staff collectively expressed for students was an increase in resources to assist them in their English speaking.
And that’s when a splendid idea popped into my head. How about we do an English camp and since the students really expressed such interest in the arts I thought why not do a hip-hop English camp like the one I did during my time in Malaysia? From there I went and found my old grant application and tweaked it a bit to submit to the embassy. Then presented what seemed like a splendid solution to aid in the problem to the staff and they all loved it. I then gained interest and secured funding from the embassy and the project was basically ready to go forward until things began to slowly fall apart due to lack of participation and cooperation from the school. I had done everything and I had put in so much work and it hurt me to see such a potentially successful program just crash and fall before it even got off the ground. If you look at most of the above sentences you will see an over usage of I statements. All things centered around me and then that’s when it hit me that maybe my approach was all the way off. So now we ask ourselves what is the meaning of the word approach?
Approach is a person’s way of dealing with something. So from this situation I learned that my approach was all off target. If my target audience was youth then why exactly was I asking others about their needs instead of going to the source its self? I am in no way saying that one must go over authority but I am saying that youth are the experts at their own lives and probably have a better understanding of how they would like to be assisted than adults. I’m just saying lol.
Fast forward from that situation and feeling far less stressed and overwhelmed I began to focus a bit on this approach thing and I began to focus on the way in which I approached my relationship with God. Since arriving at my permanent site I had attended Sunday service with my host family almost every Sunday while at site. Although the church was preached in siSwati I still attended as an act of obedience to god, a way to fellowship with other believers and also as a way to integrate and meet more people in my community. The church is the cornerstone of my community and Christianity is of most importance here in Swaziland so it was important that I attended church but over the months I found myself growing further and further away from Christ. Most times due to the language barrier I faced in church I would often times sit there in silence while distracted by outside thoughts, which would take me out of my zone. I yearned for all out fellowship and inclusivity. I felt so alone most times during service and just wished I stayed at home instead. I also felt a bit afraid to no longer attend church because I wanted to continue to make my family proud and also not offend others at the church. So back to this approach thing, I said what would I do? My first approach was to inform my make (mother in siSwati) about my struggles but she had very little solutions to the problem because the pastor did not speak English and there were very few English speakers in the church that could effortlessly translate siSwati to English. Whelp that was pointless I said to myself. My second approach was to reach out to a friend for help and that’s exactly what I did. She suggested I pray about it but also just inform my family that I would no longer be attending Sunday services with them due to the lack of English, which was a legitimately understandable concern. Although they were saddened by my decision when I broke the news to them I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.
My spiritual growth is a top priority for me at this stage in my lifeand if its not helping me grow then I’ve learned to let it go. My final approach was the tell god all of the desires of my heart which was something really hard for me to do in prayer. I always wondered the necessity of speaking it if he already knows the desires of my heart. But then when I read Luke 10 where the disciples asked Jesus how to pray and he told them to start off every prayer with “Father hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” then it all made sense to me. It’s about honoring him through our prayer life. Just fellowshipping with him and having faith in him to tell him your problems and believe that he will deliver. It’s also important to not make our prayers shopping list but for us to learn to have real life conversations with him as if we are talking to a friend. For me it made prayer real and much closer. Before it seemed like I was praying to some far off person but with this approach it brought him much closer to me. Its like he’s sitting right next to me when I’m praying. And unlike a therapist taking notes, he’s all ears and I have his undivided attention. Its feels good to have someone who will always be there to listen to me no matter the time or the severity of the problem. That’s what I cherish most about being a child of God. The knowing that he will never leave me or forsake me gives me a peace that surpasses all understanding. So my prayer to him mid year was to help me grow more spiritually, find a church home, practice the fruits of the spirit and to find love. I put love at the end because I wanted it but would also continue to be patient as I did since 2014. But to my surprise it moved itself up on the list.
May 2017 is when it happened as I attend Bush fire music festival with friends. I had planned to meet a few Peace Corps friends from Mozambique and I was excited. That’s when it happened and as much as I didn’t know my spirit did. Something was different about him and although I couldn’t quite place my finger on it things felt just right. He was a friend of a friend and it was so unexpected. Can you believe we kissed on the first day we met? Yeah that happened. Maybe it was the kiss that ignited something between us? (Probably not, that’s for the movies). I fully attribute all of it to God for allowing me to let go and receive all in one breath. I met the love of my life all by changing my approach. After coming out of a long three year relationship, slightly going on a hiatus while also looking on the low to simply shifting my focus to myself god granted me a beautiful and carefree love. Lets just say I’m grateful. Since dating we’ve started having weekly bible study with one another and also attend church together at least every other Sunday. I feel so full.
After fasting for a few days leading into the next year we decided to fast so that we can be in the perfect position to receive all of Gods blessings for 2018 and also to attend service on new years as opposed to turning up somewhere. This years message we received from attending church on was RESTORATION and that God is restoring all things lost or forgotten in 2017 in 2018 and I am excited. I think last year was the first year in a while where I didn’t spend my new years eve in church so it felt good to continue traditions while making new ones with my partner. I am excited for all that is in store for me this year in 2018 but more importantly I am excited for all the things that didn’t go my way in 2017. I take those defeats as blessings in disguise and I am ready for restoration in my spiritual life and my love life so I claim it in the mighty name of Jesus. One of the ministers pastor JB used the analogy of an octave to symbolize the importance of the number 8 for completion. He said that in every octave there are 8 notes with the first being a low doe and the last being a high doe and then back to a low doe to go into the next octave. The symbolism in this is that in life although we may start out at a low point through Christ we will always end up higher than where we started if we just trust in him. Also when getting to that higher note you have to start at the low doe of the octave and that’s what most people recognize you; at your lowest note but what they don’t know is that you have just reached a higher level. It was so simple the message but made so much sense when it came to putting our total faith in our savior when we want to get to the higher place in Christ.
Before this realization of changing my approach to alleviate fear I thought to myself damn am I going insane? I think Albert Einstein said it best when he said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result and that is exactly what I had been doing leading up until 2017. I wanted a closer relationship with God yet my approach was to read my bible every blue moon, listen to gospel music when I needed a pick me up, continuing to attend a church that wasn’t meeting my spiritual needs, praying only when things got rough or when I really wanted something and lastly and keep looking for a Love that I first had to find within myself. Thank god for what we call realizations but what I call gentle reminders from God because I would have kept down the same path going nowhere. Almost forgot, since changing my approach to my service as assistant coach for the girl’s volleyball team we won sections, myself and my counterpart started a successful girls empowerment club at the primary school and with my other counterpart we will be working to open a library. I owe none of these successes to myself but all to god and the beautifully wonderful people he has placed in my life along my Peace Corps journey. I officially finish my service in about 7 months and I am trying to hold on to every moment while also counting down the days until I can hug my mom again with a slice of pizza in one hand and a burrito in the other.