Stories from Cape Town: Esam


FullSizeRender.jpgThis is Esam.

He speaks near perfect English, is a great conversationalist, and learns new dance moves really easily.

This is how a conversation went down between us one day. I had been teaching the kids how to dance ballet- pirouettes to be exact. Esam was picking it up like a champ…

Me: “You’re so good at this! You should be a dancer!”

I said it with a hint of humor in my voice. But he looked at me right in the eye with a bit of sternness and answered confidently…

Esam: “No, I prefer doctor.”

My heart dropped. His answer was the answer of undeniable HOPE. That’s right- HOPE….smack dab in the middle of all these shacks…these shacks that were erected out of necessity….by a people who were forced from their homes… a racist government bent on separation and power….

Using this conversation as an example, H O P E in its purest form is something only God can orchestrate. Esam lives in a poor shantytown filled with crime and violence. And yet, he sings songs to Jesus and has dreams of becoming a doctor. I learned that day that having hope in the face of a hopeless situation is what changes the world. And I believe Esam will do just that.

I asked him later how he spoke English so well. The answer revolved around his father. Esam described him as strict, but in the sense that he is extremely set on having his children educated in the best way possible; even if that means sacrificing the stability of certain comforts like food and clothing. As a result, Esam and some of his siblings attend a Christian private school. His voice was rather serious when he spoke on this topic. You could sense how big of a deal his education was to both his father and himself. He proceeded to explain that knowing English was also the way to get high paying jobs. It was the “language of the wealthy” that would help with possibly working in America one day.

That leads me to another topic Esam spoke a lot about that shocked me: how much he and everyone seemed to know about America. He called it the “most famous country” in South Africa (which I found ironic). I was a whole ocean away from home and here we were discussing it. And come to think of it, remnants of America were all around me. Taylor Swift blasted from the radio. The kids all knew how to “whip and nae nae” better than anyone. Coca Cola sponsored the Giraffe House we visited later on in the week. American clothing brands were a common sight. OUR politics were on the cover of South African newspapers.

All of this made me contemplate my blessings. I was born in America where I grew up speaking English all my life. I could have been born ANYWHERE. Part of me wonders why I have been so blessed. However, another part of me knows that these blessings can be USED for the spread of His Kingdom in a particular way; just as Esam’s life, regardless of the place he lives, can be USED for the spread of The Lord’s Kingdom also….just in a uniquely different and God-planned way. I see now that to be used by God, you don’t need to have the perfect formula of a life. There is no set design needed…only billions of different ones made to complete the ULTIMATE design.

So what may look like a dark path may very well be the NECESSARY path for one to take to best spread Christ’s light to the world. This is why we cannot see our trials as things that limit our impact for God…but as perseverance builders that have the potential to increase it.

This just reminds of how AWESOME our God is. He never made us with a boring “one size fits all” mentality. We can’t fully comprehend it, but He is continually designing intricate and diverse human beings to carry out His purposes.

And I say the word “awesome” in reference to God for a reason. Something I’ll never forget that Esam told me was how the word “awesome” isn’t a word you should use for people or things. He said that at school they taught him that the word should only be used to describe God. He makes an excellent point. The word “awesome” means “in awe of”, and God is the only one we should ever truly be “in awe of”.

So according to Esam, God (and only God) is awesome.

And I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes it’s little statements like these heard an ocean away from home that can make all the difference.


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