Coming into this international immersion trip, I (Lauchlinn) really didn’t know what to expect. I just came with an open mind and an excited heart for what I would learn and how I would see God work. One of my favorite things the Lord has been teaching and showing me is joy. I have seen more of it here in South Africa than I have seen anywhere else. We get to work with and serve so many people in different circumstances and living conditions, so it’s incredibly influential when I see someone who has almost nothing give freely of what they do have, which so often is their joy. Some days here can be long for us Fellows; we might be playing with kids for hours, drenched in sweat from working on a farm, or walking through shack townships doing home and health checks, and yet I have found that I only need to look and listen for a minute to be uplifted. Just around every corner is a smiling face, a friendly hello, or joyful singing that just can’t help but make your day brighter.    

I’ve experienced so many different kinds of joy. From the carefree joy of a child playing their favorite game to the joy of a grown man who has nothing but a copy of the New Testament and a t-shirt, but who has found his identity in Christ. There is also joy to be found in serving others and knowing that when we serve them, we are also serving the Lord. I have experienced so much joy while serving alongside my friends, no matter how difficult the task may be. They are constantly encouraging me and finding the fun in the little things, and the Lord has taught me so much through them and the conversations we have.  

Another one of my favorite ways I have experienced and seen joy is through the creation here. From the mountains to the valleys, sunsets and sunrises, beaches, and abundant wildlife, there is so much to find happiness in while being surrounded by what God has so intricately made. I can’t help but be in awe of it.    

I have learned that joy is so often a choice, and it is one that so many people here make. Seeing people who don’t have anything due to a fire or ill health, have lost almost their entire family, or have other afflictions and yet are smiling from ear to ear is incredible and infectious. Everyone around them just can’t help but smile too. I have also been reminded that you never know what a person is going through and a simple smile or friendly word can go so far. It is something that I want to bring back with me and never forget. No matter my circumstances, I can choose to have joy. I have all I need to be joyful, and that is Christ. I am so thankful for how the Lord has shown me joy through this trip and the people surrounding me and am expectant for everything else He will teach me.    

Lauchlinn Bays