International Immersion was a truly transformative experience. Personally, I (Elizabeth) had the privilege to travel to Cape Town, South Africa. I experienced some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, but they were coupled with heartbreaking situations. I was struck by the glaring contrast between mountains sloping down to the sea and crowded zinc shacks riskily connected to a power grid. However, even as the country declares a national crisis over electricity rationing and struggles with the effects of apartheid– South Africa’s history of racial segregation and injustice– God is at work in South Africa.
One of the things that struck me most about my experience was the South Africans’ view of God as a loving father. There is an epidemic of fatherlessness in South Africa, and plenty of reasons to dislike a view of God as Father, yet these people have a relationship with God that is like being a child of a parent who is always listening. This challenged me in ways I did not fully grasp until I returned home to the United States. Sure, I believed that God is like a Father to me, but I do not think I understood this until I saw it lived out. I was challenged to redefine my view of God and accept Him as my Heavenly Father.
Part of the purpose of our Immersion experience is to view God’s heart for nations and cultures other than our own in the United States. South African culture is very relational; it is impolite to not have a conversation about how one is doing and what is happening in one’s life prior to discussing matters at hand because people genuinely care about each other. Are not we as Christians supposed to be relational like this, to genuinely care about how others are doing, and what is happening in their lives? I took away that I need to be more intentional about spending time with others and getting to know them, to really help further the kingdom.
In Cape Town, there is also a large focus on local missions. People are passionate about reaching their small communities. A lot of times, we in America (and even I myself) think that missions always have to be overseas in some exotic, secluded place. Yes, I did go to a foreign country to be immersed in the culture and do some service work, but I was taught that local missions are very important. Even one person placing their trust in Christ makes years of local missions worth it. I came away with a desire to get involved in local ministries that have a heart of service and a complete reliance on God for resources. All of the partners we worked with in Cape Town fully submitted and surrendered to God’s provision for their ministries to operate.
This semester, I intend to work on my relationship with God so that I see Him as a Heavenly Father. I also intend to be more intentional with my relationships and get involved with local ministries. I am grateful for my experiences in South Africa and for the new things I learned about God and His Kingdom.