Yesterday was Tracy’s birthday. Today, she gave me a gift: being truly amazed by her.
Generally, my work here gets most of the attention. That’s kind of natural, given that I’m here as a journalist, tasked with producing public stories of what God is doing here through others. We came and serve as a family, but I have the official assignment and the most public one.
Tracy’s role has been largely undefined, hampered by her lack of medical credentials here and the brevity of her free time between school runs each day. She — the one who always dreamed of Africa and started us on this path, the one who always knew she wanted to work in medicine, the one who never had a career change — has struggled at times with the waiting and the uncertainty. She studied French and medicine in hopes of working in Africa; God sent us to a place where French isn’t among the eleven official languages and where she’s not able (yet) to practice medicine. At times, it sounds as mistaken as Him sending a reporter on a medical trip where he’d just take up space.
God doesn’t make mistakes, though, and He’s never surprised or thoughtless. Months ago, Tracy discovered that many of the car guards in our area of Cape Town come from other countries. Places like the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda — places where many people speak French. Most people park the car, lock it, and walk past the car guards with a smiling wave or greeting, but Tracy introduces herself and engages them in conversations. She asks them about their homes and families and hopes. She gives them mini-lessons on English if it seems they’re still learning it, and she uses her French to practice and to help fill in the gaps. She brings them fruit or snacks or even meals. She invites them to church and some — after meeting them enough — even home for dinner with us.
Most of the time, she encounters them on her own while I’m at work, so I don’t get to see her pouring Christ’s love to those who are in some ways marginalized. If I go to the mall on my own in the evening, they recognize the car and greet me enthusiastically in her honor, hinting at the work she’s been doing.
Tonight, though, we ran to the store together, and a car guard ran up to help us load our groceries in the boot. While I fished in my pocket for his tip, she began conversing with him. Introducing herself and asking his name. Learning he’s from the Congo and asking if he speaks French. Switching effortlessly between French and English to get the maximum clarity and show as much love as she could. She must’ve spoken to him for five minutes, and I got to watch her be fully engaged in her mission.
She really is amazing.
- for Tracy’s medical credentials here to be approved,
- for some developing ministry opportunities to come together, and
- for the needs of the car guards (including work permit renewals, sufficient wages to save for their goals, and health and safety).
Interestingly, “the Congo” is actually a nickname for both of two countries: Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s hard to tell in many of the conversations with car guards which is their homeland.