From the moment I heard about the International Immersion trip we would get to take to South Africa, I had great expectations. I was eager to learn about the country that one of my pastors belongs to, experience the cultural melting pot of Cape Town, and see the influence that Christ and the Church have there. This is certainly what I have experienced while being here in Cape Town. But God has been teaching and showing me (Taryn) so much more. 

Before the teams left for South Africa, we had a prep week to focus on building our team leadership, packing, and preparing our testimonies to share in the country. However, I fell sick on the second day of prep week. The severe abdominal pain I thought to be a stomach bug turned into an ER visit the next evening. I was told I had appendicitis and would need emergency surgery first thing the next morning. Due to a perforated appendix, I had an extended hospital stay with a complicated recovery that led to three nights in the hospital in Georgia and two weeks at home in Indiana. All this happened when I had expected to be in South Africa with my team. 

However, in the midst of the initial emergency and pain, I had half forgotten that I was supposed to be on an international trip. It wasn’t until a few days post-surgery that I had space to process I was missing the long-awaited South Africa experience. This was disappointing and it took time to lament this well. Still, I couldn’t help but rejoice in the protection and the love that God poured over me. 

I saw God answer prayer after prayer. I saw God heal my body day by day. I saw God lift my eyes to behold Him and to love Him. I also saw how “perfect love casts out fear” as the Impact 360 staff and Fellows and my family and friends poured God’s love on me and calmed my nerves and disappointments. God’s people know what love is because they know God, for God loves us first (1 John 4:18-19). Our loving God provides for all His creation’s needs in every moment of every day—even the little things like ginger ale and love notes. But also in the big things like surgeries and anxious hearts. 

As I worked through recovery the following days, I realized I was suddenly freed up with lots of spare time. I had to sit, rest, and just exist. I had to live out the second pillar of Impact 360: Be. During this time, God ministered to me and taught me about my identity in Him, that I belong to God and God’s family. In the face of the disappointment and pain, I had the greatest joy of knowing who I am and to Whom I belong. 

By God’s grace and healing, my body recovered enough to be able to join my team for the last ten days of the trip. Even during my travels to South Africa, I saw God continue to provide as I met various people. For instance, a gracious hostess and her family shared their lives and stories with me, inspiring me with their love for the Lord. Through these stories, God prepared my heart to love people who are unlike me here in South Africa. 

Upon arriving, I’ve seen God’s provision in South Africa as well. The work of a local ministry called Living Hope, the worship of local churches, the life of local Christians, and the transformation in the Fellows around me are all tangible examples of the Lord at work. My heart continues to rejoice as I see the same God whom we worship and who provides comforts in Georgia and Indiana does the same in Cape Town, South Africa. And the same God who loves me and my loved ones loves the people of South Africa and their loved ones. 

Taryn Lengacher