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For most of us from the U.S. (or “Westerners” in general), trips to the developing world are preceded by well-intentioned advice: negotiate taxi fares before you get in, carry a copy of your passport at all times, learn a few words in the local language and, inevitably…
Be flexible, be patient—things will happen when they happen. Time is different in different cultures.
But reflecting on the perception of “flexibility” in the U.S., I’d venture to say we are operating in a different universe rather than a different level.
For instance, take a standard U.S. job interview question about your ability to deal with uncertainty:
Tell us about a time when you had to adjust to accommodate a sudden change in plans.
For many of us, our minds probably jump to the time the overhead projector failed right before a presentation (catastrophe) or the news that 18 people were coming to the meeting instead of 12.
Few of us can say,
“Well, I remember this one week where our internet and phone were down, the front axle fell out of our primary transport vehicle, and our second-in-command was out sick with a spider bite.
…and did I mention we were running a children’s home, raising 38 kids? Rough week.”
In a First World context, it sounds like the apocalypse. But shockingly, when all of the above befell the Makaphutu Children’s Village last week, I hardly noticed. I mean, I saw the setbacks as they transpired but didn’t feel them. I just typed away on my laptop in the Makaphutu office as the blows came.
“Really? The front axle, eh?” I heard Nic, Makaphutu director, say on the phone from his office. And then, “Has the cable been stolen? Right.”
A wave of brainstorming, phone calls and adjustments ensued, interrupted by the occasional cup of tea. Several “Plan Bs” commenced (and Plan Cs and Ds) until all kids made it to school and play dates, all food donations made it to the community and all scrapes and bruises from the day received due attention.
These things happen, and life continues. Not just life, but an incredible, life-giving ministry continues to flourish, leaky pipes and all.
Being flexible isn’t just about being able to emotionally withstand change—it’s about gettin’ stuff done when everything comes tumbling down. When the only thing certain is uncertainty, what can you do besides trust the good Lord will provide and get to work?
Or as Nic described it to the Makaphutu kids at a Thursday night prayer meeting, “Pray like everything depends on God, and work like everything depends on you.”
Watching the staff at Makaphutu, I’m reminded how important their wisdom and knowledge of this area are. They know when to complain and when to be patient, when to make new plans and when to stick to the old ones, when to fix what’s broken and when to start over. That’s flexibility.
At the end of the day, caring for the children is clearly their priority. All efforts point there. In fact, nothing stops the office bustle faster than a child popping in to say hello or sitting down for a chat.
The staff here walks their road faithfully no matter what breaks or doesn’t show up. Makaphutu gets it done.
So next time you get a flat tire or lose your keys, send a little prayer to Makaphutu and the other organizations working around the world with daily doses of inconvenience.
Goodness knows they’re praying already…but still, a little extra wouldn’t hurt.
- Pray! Say a prayer for Makaphutu as they face the day to day challenges of their work. Pray for their staff and volunteers, their donors, their children, and social workers they work with.
- Read more about how Makaphutu fits with the mission of Loving South Africa.
- What inconveniences do you face in your own life? How can you power through them with the faith and commitment shown to us by Makaphutu?
- Consider donating to Loving South Africa. A donation of $70 can feed one AIDS-orphaned child for a month. Your contributions will help equip organizations, like Makaphutu, to care for their children and community.
About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.