Had I known what God’s plan was for my life, I would have paid more attention in English class. Never in my wildest dreams did I, a small town girl from a primarily Afrikaans-speaking community in South Africa, envision living in the US, working at a church and going on Outreach trips.
All photos by Riani Martin
Due to a job assignment, our family relocated to the US in 2004. I was comfortable as a stay-at-home mom raising two boys - chef, taxi driver, gardener, etc. – for many years. Then, one day, my husband suggested I look into working outside the home. He travels extensively for work and both our sons were older and in school full time, so perhaps a job would be a good outlet for me. So I prayed about it, not too seriously, just so that the next time my husband brought it up, I could say “I prayed and it’s all in God’s hands now.”
Oh, but be careful what you ask for - you might just get it. Prayer is powerful! A few months after my “not so serious prayer,” I received a phone call. God had provided the perfect job for me: 5 minutes from home, flexible hours, part-time, doing things that I enjoy. This even included testing new recipes out on the staff! I started working at Crossway Christian Church as the Lead Pastor’s Assistant, which is where I encountered Enlace.
Ever wondered what it's like to be on a service team? Check out this video to find out!
Part of my job is helping with the administrative and logistic preparation for Global Outreach trips. It always struck me how changed the team members were when they returned from El Salvador. Difficult to pinpoint exactly what it was, but something about them was different. It stirred me and in November of 2016 my younger son and I joined the team on a trip to El Salvador.
The first day on the work site I was really looking forward to building relationships with the community. I wanted to tell two women that Stefan is my son so I asked the Enlace staff “how do I say Stefan is my son” in Spanish. I practiced and with my South African accent I told them very proudly that “Stefan is my son!” All of the sudden everyone started to laugh and then someone said, “Riani, you just told them that Stefan is your monkey!” From there on I stuck to smiles, basic Spanish and hand signs. Hands. Using hands for communication, picking up rocks, learning to make pupusas.
Let’s be honest, making copies, doing all the admin and logistics stuff can be mundane. But then I went to El Salvador and saw that the “mundane” things I do with my hands make a difference. All of the sudden, my job came to life. Emailing Enlace staff was not just contacting a name in cyberspace anymore. Now I am reaching out to a real person with whom I laughed, mixed cement, hugged, and cried.
The Enlace staff became my friends on the first trip, and my family on the second. I learned that, no matter what you do, God can use you for His kingdom in ways that you never expected. Take the next step, go experience God and His work. It will change your life. It changed mine.
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