Not Christmas

This time of year is a real battle for me.

As Christmas draws near I realize just how lonely this journey is. There’s no chill in the air, dark evenings or any chance of snow.

There’s no Christmas markets with hot cocoa and roasted chestnuts. No late night Christmas shopping, bustling in and out of the shops, Christmas carols being sung or a Salvation Army Santa ringing his bell. There’s no hunting for the perfect tree, cutting it down and carrying it home.

There’s no family fun nights, no games of Uno with my siblings, or cuddling on the couch watching the SnowMan.

When we said “yes” to the call I didn’t realize what I was sacrificing. And this time of year it hits real hard.

When I committed to carrying freedom to the most captive I didn’t take into consideration the painful and lonely path I was taking my family on. Tonight I am painfully lonely and I just want to pack up my family and take them far away from here.

Far from the gun shots, the robbery and highjacking that has happened in our neighborhood tonight.

Tonight I want a normal life.

Tonight I don’t want to be a missionary.

But tomorrow I will wake up again knowing that I am called. That we are called. And I will try and make Christmas special for my babies. I will try and make it better than last Christmas.

I will do what I can. And I will continue to speak and bring freedom to those to whom I am called. Because I am strong enough, and I am qualified enough. Because He chose me for all of this life.

#livingbyfaith #missionarylife #livinginafrica

The Roaring Battle Cry and the Still Small Voice.

This past week has been one of extreme highs and devastating lows.

Monday and Tuesday seemed relatively normal, or at least our version of normal. Kids at school, doing amazingly well in their end of year exams, me running Hope’s Closet and Mart working on a long term vision, doing all the running around and basically keeping life running smoothly.

Then along came Wednesday. Precious’ discharge day. The day that the next step of her recovery began. Candice, Tracy and I met at the AIDS center early to help her pack up and start the transition.

Our ladies don’t do well with change and we could feel resistance from Precious right away, but she complied and after the long drive to the Mission she settled in and is taking the bull by the horns, as only Precious could 😁. She has a very long journey ahead but we have a feeling that she is going to push through.

Before leaving the AIDS center Candice and I made a desperate plea on behalf of Nosipho. We urgently needed a bed at the unit for her and we knew that there is always a waiting list for a bed.

We prayed, we called our prayer partners to pray and we took a chance. Favor fell! The Sister in charge decided that we could trade Precious for Nosipho! So on Wednesday Precious left, they changed the bed linen ready for Nosipho to take her place.

I love how He loves His daughters.

Thursday consisted of Candice and I running around making contact with NGOs that might be able to help us in the work that we do. One thing that we soon realized was that there is zero support or answers for the women to whom we are called.

Frustration is something our whole team is learning to surrender at the feet of Jesus.

Frustration/anger is a double edged sword.

On one hand it pushes us forward, ignites a fire in our bones. Causes a battle cry to rise from our innermost being. It brings determination and resolution to keep fighting and pushing for an answer.

On the other hand it can cause resentment, anxiety and despair, all things damaging.

We have to be so protective of our hearts, minds and spirits. We have to practice self care and take time to process. To remind ourselves that we do not have to carry the load. Sometimes we (I) forget.

Thursday evening was one of light and dark. Nosipho came to us not knowing that her life was about to change. She sunk onto the bench and rested her head on Candice’s shoulder. I knelt on the ground in front of her and took her hands in mine.

” How many nights have you been sleeping outside?” I ask.

“I’ve been outside for five days. I’m so tired and sore. I just want to sleep.”

” What would you say if I told you that last night was the last time you will ever sleep rough again?”

At which point she breaks down sobbing, falls into my arms and whispers “thank you ” over and over.

As the rest of our girls come to us Nosipho shares with them how her life is about to change. My heart broke as I watched their reactions. First joy that their friend is getting the help that she so desperately needs, and then extreme sadness that they were not going with her.

Over the past few weeks there has been a shift in the ministry. A shift in who Father is bringing to us. We used to have a large number of sex workers who were somewhat “high class”. Girls who were still in ” good condition “. But recently those girls have been replaced with the most desperate, the most broken, the most addicted, the most vulnerable. Every week they come , starving and in pain. Their desperation hits at the very core.

T.K dying from AIDS and malnutrition. Mbali still a child, victim of sex trafficking. Yvonne fighting for survival for herself and her 2 year old son. Beaten by a client. Kelly “spiking” heroin in order to forget. Zama victim of abuse since childhood, selling her body because she has no other option.

And Nosipho, our darling. Now safe and on the road to recovery. She was weeks away from death. Now embracing her new future. As we watched them all turn to her and hug her goodbye I broke.

Overwhelming despair, pain, sorrow and brokenness took over my entire being.

Nosipho climbed into Candice’s car ready for the drive to the Respite unit. And I climbed into Karen’s car and lost all control. A deep agonizing mourning wail. A cry that I have never cried before. Trying to control it for the sake of my team mates was impossible, thankfully they get it, and they get me. As I arrived home I bypassed Martin and the shower and went straight to my bed, pressed my face into my pillow and screamed. I couldn’t stop. I screamed and screamed. The anger, frustration and grief flooding out. A battle cry from the depths.

For a few days I fought the anger and despair. I couldn’t align the pain and the promises of a Father who loves His daughters. I couldn’t feel Him, His love felt distant, unreachable. I spent time alone, self caring, seeking, re-energizing. For three days all I felt was grief, despair and pain.

And then came the dawn. A still small voice, “I am here and I am with them.”

I am left wondering if the darkness and despair that I felt was just a glimpse into how our girls feel daily, or maybe it was how the Father feels over the pain of His beloved.

Either way the dawn came. It was a sweet relief. I am forever changed.

Psalm 30:11 You did it: You changed wild lament into whirling dance. You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wild flowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about You. God, my God. I can’t thank you enough.

I’m not much of a whirling dancer but I sure am thankful for His still small voice.

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We appreciate all of your love, prayers and generous support. We can’t do this without you.

The Downs Family x