By Papama Mtembeka
I grew up in a Christian family, so I was surrounded by the idea of God and the church from when I was little. I never had a reason to question my faith or what I believed. For me it was quite simple. My parents are Christian so I’m Christian too. I lived for 19years of my life not really know what being Christian really meant or witnessing God work in anyone else’s life. Being Christian mostly meant going to church every Sunday, praying to God to ask and give thanks for things. I never thought of it any more than that, because God was doing things for me. I took whatever God gave me without considering what my relationship with him was and what he required of me. To me it was ‘God loves me so he will give me all the things that I need.’ Yes, God did all of those things for me, but because I didn’t really know who he was it might as well have all been for nothing because it wasn’t bringing me any closer to him. After my mom died when I was 12 I ended up living with different aunt’s over the years. Mr Jung and Helen found me and took me out of the situation that I was in by me putting into a private school out of the township so I could have different better opportunities.
It wasn’t until I started living with my new family that we grew close and became a real family where I could finally get an idea of what God is really like. God used them to give me a small glimpse of what his love for me is like. For example when I didn’t do well in my Matric year my dad, Mr Jung supported me, instead of being disappointed in me. Him and my mom Helen did everything they could think of to help me improve my results. Over and over again they supported and advised me as I continued to mess up trying to find my way. My dad continued to be there everyday giving me advice and guidance. My mom played the role of a loving and strict mother where she would help me with my studies, teaching me discipline and how to take care of myself and others around me. Preston was such a joy in my every day life. On the darkest days where things felt extremely hard he was always there cheering me up, reminding me of the little joys in life, what it feels like to be needed, loved and looked up to. Through them I learned what it feels like to be in a loving family that always supports each other. This is what God did for me and I could not and still fail to completely fathom how he could have so much love for me even when I didn’t know or care about him.
The only thing that I was really sure of was that they knew Christ a lot better than I did and that he was working through them for my benefit, but I didn’t truly understand why. I knew that we were all Christian, but I also knew that the relationship was different. The way that they worship God was completely different to how I did. At this point I wasn’t reading the bible or praying as much so this didn’t bother me as much as it should have. I could see God’s grace and power working through them, but that still didn’t inspire me to truly seek him out because he was already doing great things for me so I didn’t really have an incentive to. God though was relentless in the fight for my life. He showed his patience, love and understanding towards me through the family. Every single time that I would mess up and stumble my family would be there to help me back up and guide me in the right direction. Anyone else doing what my mom and dad did out of their own freewill would have given up on me, but because God was the one in charge he showed his unconditional, relentless love to me through their patience and understanding. He is the one who brought me into this family so he could reach me through them. Through all the good and bad things in the last 6 years God was preparing me for this moment right here. A moment where I can say I am Christian and truly believe in it and him. Not because I deserve it, but because he loved me even when he didn’t need to.
I’ve always known that I wasn’t a good Christian and not living the way that I should but because I didn’t really understand who God was it was hard for me to want to please him. During all of this time and all my trouble committing to him Jesus Christ never left me. When I felt like my life was falling apart and I was failing in school He was using the family, their friends, neighbours and even mere strangers to help shape my life to his will and prepare me to be able to seek him out and build a relationship with him with no reservations and on his own terms. For example both my parents have friends who are professors at the University and they would ask them for advice and information whenever I needed any. Also our neighbour who is a good family friend and a professional Psychologist offered me professional academic evaluations free of charge, which helped identify what my weaknesses are and that has allowed me to work on making them strengths. With both of my parents’ spiritual and physical guidance I have gotten to a place where I know who Jesus Christ is in my life. It is still a work in progress, but God has revealed himself to me and I am happy to get to know him, love him and serve him with my whole heart and mind. The love that I have experienced from God is the greatest most truest thing I’ve ever felt. It’s a love that has filled me up in places I never knew were empty. That is the kind of love I am willing to share to anyone who will have it because it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
My orientation at the University of Cape Town is next week. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me in this new love I’ve found in him.