The earth is full of orphans. People without family, without destiny, who have never been loved. Hopeless, they wander. But God is the everlasting father. And when He adopts, He adopts for good.
In 2011, I went on my second overseas mission trip. Knowing nothing about my destination, carrying only a promise from God that my trip would be fruitful, I left American soil with a group of twelve friends. I had no idea this trip would change my life.
I landed in South Africa with no expectations, but it took less than 24 hours for me to fall in love with this country and its people.
For three weeks we worked closely with Floyd McClung’s missions organization, All Nations, sharing the gospel with the inhabitants of a small township called Masiphumelele. I found the Xhosa people in Masi to be incredibly beautiful. They were genuinely joyful in the midst of great poverty, they were receptive to the gospel, and they were starving for grace and love.
Compassion gripped my heart.
The Day of Salvation
On June 17th, a week into our trip, I met Okuhle. Another poor face on the street, another lost teenager who was completely broken. The only difference was that God sent me to him. I shared the gospel with him and three of his friends. His friends made fun of me and walked away. But Okuhle stayed. He heard hope in my message.
He needed hope.
Rejected at school and at home, Okuhle had turned to the dog-eat-dog gang life, looking to drugs and relationships with girls to numb his pain. His family practiced witchcraft and cult religions, so he had never known Jesus. By the time I met him, he had become addicted to tik, had stopped going to school, and had lost all hope.
But Jesus is hope. And Jesus introduced Himself to Okuhle through me. Okuhle asked me, “please tell me, how can I get to God?” I told him the simple gospel. He wanted Jesus immediately. He confessed his brokenness and surrendered to Jesus as Lord. Heaven rejoiced.
Strange, how God aligned it. Two teenagers from two continents with two very different stories whose stories converged at the intersection of two streets. Our futures suddenly connected at the cross of Christ.
We did everything together until I left. I poured all I knew into him. I taught him how to pray, how to read the bible, how to share the gospel, how to pray for healing, and how to worship.
When I left South Africa, I entrusted Okuhle’s discipleship to a Nceba, a Xhosa friend who worked with All Nations. Even though I had spent every second possible with Okuhle and knew I was leaving him in good hands, I left South Africa praying every day that Okuhle would make it.
Several months after I left South Africa, I was sitting on a friend’s couch working on homework. It was my junior year in college. A familiar beep notified me of a new email in my inbox. I opened it to read a Facebook message from someone I have never met. And I screamed.
Everyone in the house wondered why I had just screamed. But no one could fully understand what this Facebook message meant to me.
God is faithful.
For the next two and a half years I skyped with Okuhle every few months. From our conversations I learned that after accepting Jesus, the Holy Spirit filled him and supernaturally freed him from all of his addictions. I learned that after I left, he stood strong through persecution. I learned that Nceba faithfully took him under his wing and taught him how to read the bible, pray, and reach his friends for Christ.
I learned that he eventually moved into a YWAM house in Masi where he was discipled, refined, and loved like never before. I learned that Jake became like a father for him, giving him rides, clothes, food, and constant support. And I learned that he eventually did a YWAM discipleship training school, went on a two month outreach to Turkey, and that after he finished, he joined the school staff.
In three years, Okuhle had risen out of the ashes of a broken life and become a leader, a man of God, and an evangelist.
Meanwhile, I graduated from Baylor and went through Antioch Discipleship School. At the end of our school year we would be going on an overseas mission trip to one of four different countries. I hoped I would get to go back to South Africa.
After I found out I had been chosen to be on the South Africa team, I contacted Okuhle as soon as possible to tell him the news. We made small talk for a while, and then I surprised him, “I’m coming to South Africa in two months!” He freaked out!
The only problem was that he might be leading his two month outreach during the entire time I would be there. We agreed to trust God and pray that He would make a way for us to see each other in person for the first time in three years.
We knew that what God had started, He would surely finish.