We absolutely love having people from all over the world join us for a Season of Service, our short-term volunteer program. These individuals come to South Africa with a heart to serve, and words can’t say how much we appreciate them. Over the past month, we’ve had the privilege of hosting Juliana, Lara, Damaris, Isabela, and Thiago from Brazil, and Sarah and Benjamin from Australia. They’ve graciously agreed to share about their experiences and giving you a glimpse into a day in the life of an SOSer!
How would you explain a typical SOS day to a friend?
“I wake up early, have my personal devotion time, and have breakfast. Then most days I’d be doing campus investment – which could be physical labor or just helping around the base. And then in the afternoons doing the After School Programs most days, which consists of working and playing with the children. Then coming back and chilling for the night and prepping for the next day.” – Benjamin, Australia
“We wake up, have breakfast, and then most days we do campus investment. Then we have lunch, and then we go to the After School Programs – that is really cool and I really enjoy being there. When we come back, the sun is setting, and it’s so good to enjoy this part and have some food, read the Bible or have our devotional, and see the view from the rock.” – Damaris, Brazil
What has been one of your favorite experiences?
“There was some moments the first day when I got here, and I got to know the children. The first impact I had, it really touched me. […] I think the little moments with them, and what they say and the love they give. Out of nothing they just came and give love. I think this is what is my best experience.” – Isabela, Brazil
“I love going to the church. It’s so different! Everybody is so happy, and it’s really neat.” – Thiago, Brazil
“It’s hard to pick one, as there have been so many God moments. I love being able to hang out with everyone at night time and get to know them more and play card games. And even building, as hard and exhausting as that is, it’s really nice to see everyone coming together and working to help each other. I think my favorite moment so far, though, was when we first went to Embonisweni, and little Mbali was there. Straight away she came up to us and gave us a hug and was like, ‘Hey, you! Come! Come!’ We were kicking the ball to each other and she would point to who she wanted us to kick the ball to, we had to do it the way she wanted. But then we all sat down and Swazi was doing a devotional with the ladies, and Mbali came and sat on my lap, and just sat there and hugged me. I nearly started crying, because all my life I’ve dreamed of being able to come to Africa and sit and play with the children and hug the children. And so in that moment, it was like all my dreams came true. She was so trusting. She had never met us before, but she was happy to sit on my lap and play all day.” – Sarah, Australia
“I love spending time with everybody and going to the afternoon programs. But one thing that really touched my heart was a specific moment with John, he is one of the boys (at the ASP). […] I think he is 12, and we were playing and we had so much fun together, and then I told him that in a few days I was going back to Brazil. And he said, ‘Can you take me to Brazil with you?’ It really makes me feel so sad, because I cannot. But at the same time I want him to understand that he can build his life here. He can enjoy spending time in South Africa; in Embonisweni. And also yesterday, he wrote me a letter, and it said, ‘I met someone who is special for me. She is my best friend forever and I will never forget her.’ For me it’s so special to spend time with him, because normally guys would do it. But me, as a girl, he trusted me and it makes me so happy.” – Lara, Brazil
“The thing that most caught my attention was when I went into the communities, Embonisweni and ClauClau, and I had the first experience meeting them. I got to give everyone hugs, and I just wanted to stay with them forever. I really loved the joy and happiness of the ladies who cooked. They are so happy! I also see the happiness of the children. Even when they are passing through difficult moments and facing a lot of problems, they are still happy and grateful for what they have. Three girls wrote a letter for me – I had just met them that day. And they wrote, ‘Come back, we will miss you!’ And I wasn’t expecting it, as we didn’t necessarily have a deep connection with each other. I loved all the care, the love and gratitude that were found in the same place.” – Juliana, Brazil
“I’ve loved my time here. It’s my first time out of Australia, so it’s been a big step. What really stood out to me on this trip has been the After School Programs. I’m a one-on-one conversationalist, but with kids, I love just doing stuff with them. So whether that be piggy-back rides, shoulder rides – I love it all. You name it, I’ll do it! What really struck me was how trusting they are, how welcoming they are. We are total strangers but they are more than happy to come up and give hugs. It really shows me Jesus’ heart for little children. There’s verses about how we are to be like little children – how they are so trusting, and we are to have faith like that. It also showed me that it’s something I love so much that I could see myself doing more of it. That’s what I was praying for on this trip – that God would show me if this is something that I could do after this missions trip. And so, at the moment, I think it is. It could be anywhere in Africa – but at least I have that focus now of knowing that this could be where God wants me to be. That, for me, is awesome!” – Benjamin, Australia
“For me, it’s some moments that we have with the kids. It’s so special. Just one smile makes my day! I really feel connected with them. I really enjoy nights at [the staff’s] house too. It’s really special – everybody connecting, sharing stories and sharing moments. And spending time with Ben and Sarah [SOSers from Australia], because we are all Brazilians here, and to hear about their culture and country is really cool.” – Damaris, Brazil
What have been challenges?
“I’ve never cleaned a bathroom before. I’ve never painted doors and walls before. I’ve never done anything like this! And here, I’m trying new things and my parents are so happy! It’s totally out of my comfort zone. I love the idea of language and learning another one, so that’s why I’m trying to learn a little bit more SiSwati. It’s a challenge for me, but I enjoy doing it. But like cleaning the bathroom and doing all this stuff – I’ve never done before!!” – Lara, Brazil
“I am an extrovert, and I love when things don’t go as planned, and I’m totally okay with doing crazy things and stepping out of my comfort zone. I love that kind of stuff. I feel at home here – this is my jam! The most challenging part for me is that I can’t stay here forever. That this is, for this short time, where God has called me to be and I’m so grateful for that. But He’s also called me to go to uni and to finish that. I have committed to that, and I do have to go back and finish that. I’m not really thinking about it because I don’t want to. But I still know that is ahead of me and I have to go back, and I really don’t want to, but that’s where God wants me to be. So yeah, that’s the hardest part.” – Sarah, Australia
“To get out of my comfort zone. I never thought of being here, but being here with a lot of people and seeing a lot of places that I didn’t even imagine could exist. It’s so amazing, but it’s me getting out of my house and my comfort and being here. At the same time it’s so challenging, because I’m a stay-at-home person. I really like to travel, but I’m not a really energetic person. And to be here, every time we are doing something. But I’m really enjoy it – I’m really excited.” – Damaris, Brazil
What’s something you’ve learned?
“I now know I can do it. It was always a dream to travel alone, to be by myself and away from everything else. Here I didn’t know anyone – and now it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time. And I think I learned that I can do it and I can find my peace and myself in God, wherever I am in the world.” – Isabela, Brazil
“I think I can organize my life to find my secret place [in God]. Because I have in my house my secret place – but I have two kids, and two kids fill every space! I think I will get more energy from finding my secret place.” – Thiago, Brazil
“I’m learning to be surprised. If I receive a present, I will be happy. But nothing compares to the way that the ladies [responded] yesterday – I gave the devotional to them, and I was talking about courage. At the end of the devotional, one of the ladies said that, ‘it really made us to have courage and face the situations. The things that that you said really makes us think of our life.’ This touched my heart in a huge way. Receiving a present from Him is something like that – God is teaching me that these little things make a lot of difference.” – Lara, Brazil
“I learned how to work in a team. It was a really hard thing to do. I’ve always done things by myself, and I’ve learned to ask for help. I’ve learned to ask for help even if I can do the thing – I learned that I can divide with the others. Working on a team has helped me a lot.” – Juliana, Brazil
“I love learning new things – I’m just soaking it all in. I especially love the sermons on Sunday, and the devotionals at Monday Wake, and even all the different devotionals people share. I love hearing what different people have to say. But especially the sermons. They are so passionate, and even the translation speaks to me a lot. The one sermon that really stood out was the first one, about worshiping God in everything. God is the only one who deserves all our worship, and we can do it anytime. Everything that we do we can do it to worship God. Sometimes I’d just be working or even playing with the kids, and just be caught up in that – and I can even offer that as an offering up to God. I’m still learning that, but I think it’s really cool that’s how we can show our love and appreciation to God.” – Benjamin, Australia
“I’ve learned a lot of things. I learned a lot about interacting with people even when I don’t speak any of their language. Learning to play and have fun with the kids, even when neither of us know what the other is saying. At first it was hard because I kind of just sat there for a bit. A kid would be sitting beside me and I would say hi, they would say hi, and then it was like, alright, that’s all I can do. But I’m realizing that there are so many other ways that I can communicate with people.” – Sarah, Australia
“I learned how to see from a different point of view – beyond my point of view; to have more empathy. I learned to see the sovereignty of God. How He acts in so many different ways and in so many different people.” – Damaris, Brazil
Are you interested in a Season of Service? We’d love for you to join us!
interviews by Rebekah Ness