Thank you for all of your love and support I am so excited to share this experience with all of you!

Monday, February 28, 2011


It seems odd that it is 6 months into my experience in YAGM that I am writing about prayer. But I have a confession to make; I am not good at praying. I’m awkward and weird about it. I would like a very simple, Joy Michelle Waughtal, this is how you personally should pray booklet. I realize that praying and faith does not work like that. Prayer and faith are a continual journey that will be a life long process of growing and learning. Coming into this year I hoped that I would grow in my faith, specifically in the area of prayer. I wanted to have a real prayer life. Like most aspects of my faith this has come gradually and it is only now looking back at 6 months of living in South Africa and focusing on this goal of a prayer life that I feel I have something to write and reflect about.
The first weeks in South Africa were overwhelming. I was thrown into a new culture and everything that entails: new food, new language, new traditions, it felt like new everything. This included something that I could never have expected, a new way to pray. I first noticed this in the church services. The first few times attending church I was absorbed with the singing and the dancing. The next few weeks I was noticing how there are parts of the liturgy that are universal in understanding, regardless of the language being spoken. After a somewhat embarrassing amount of time I realized how prayer is something more than a silent time or words printed in the bulletin. Prayer is something that everyone speaks during the service, not all the same prayer, but everyone praying what they feel. Not everyone speaks out loud but it seems to me that most people do chose to pray this way. During the services I have attended I know it is time to pray when I hear quiet mutters all around me. I have found listening to these prayers to be a powerful time for me. Although, I have to admit that I still struggle to pray out loud during this time. I find myself praying and listening to the prayers around me. Depending on the service I am attending these prayers are either in isiZulu, Sesotho, or Afrikaans. I do not understand the words around me but there is something about this time of prayer that brings me peace.
While I still struggle praying during the set time of a Sunday morning service I have found myself praying more than ever before in my life. As I am here through a church program I have learned that I am a go-to person to lead the prayer before a meeting or a meal. While I have always been shy about praying in front of a large group of people that shyness quickly went out the window as I realized that I was not in a position to say no. So I have become a public prayer in that regard. I have also found that at night there are some nights were there is nothing to do but pray. One such example has come from the rainy season here. I love a good rain shower, but the rain here has had me concerned and while I realize no house has ever collapsed due to rain it sounds as though that could change quickly. Lying in bed realizing that my fear is slightly irrational I find myself praying. I know that in prayer it is ok that my fear is irrational and I have understood finding peace in prayer more in these moments than I could ever explain through words.
These moments have paved the way for my prayer life. I still have a hard time praying. Part of me hopes that I will always struggle with prayer, because then it will be a constant challenge for focus. The difference I see now is that I turn to prayer. I find myself in situations where I feel out of control and I turn to prayer. This is a big deal for me as I have always been a mild control freak. I love to have complete control of a situation, as much as I try to deny it this is a part of my personality. Being in South Africa has challenged this over and over again. A realization that I have recently come to while taking this time to sit down and write about prayer is that my faith has changed and grown more than any other aspect of my life here in South Africa. Now in moments when I do not have any control I naturally turn to prayer no longer trying to regain control. It has become more familiar for me to be in a situation where I do not have control and I find that prayer comforts me the most in these times.
One such time where I did not have any control was on a recent kombi ride. Kombis are public taxis, fifteen passenger vans full of people. People in South Africa take these to get everywhere and they go anywhere. Being in Soweto it is easy to find a kombi that will take me anywhere from the mall down the road to as far as Cape Town. This particular trip I was returning in a taxi from Pietermaritzburg to Johannesburg. This five hour journey started with the realization that my fellow “Muddie” and I who were seated next to the driver in the front of the van filled to capacity that our seats were on top of the engine. As the ride continued we struggled realizing that in kombi manners the people in the front should not sleep. The final hour of this ride was spent in one of the most vibrant lightening storms I have ever seen. At one point it seemed that five bolts of lightening struck at once. Driving along having no control and being frightened of the storm I found myself praying, praying hard. And much like those nights in the rain, and those moments in church I found peace.
Looking back at six months I have found that my prayer life has changed. It is still not what I thought of when I started thinking about what prayer looked like but I am learning how it works for me. I know that there is no personal manual but I am finding that every time I find myself in a moment of prayer I find peace. I am not to the point where I set aside time and force myself to pray but I find myself coming to prayer due to circumstance over and over again.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Greetings from a HOT and sunny South Africa!

I know that most people reading this are reading from the cold and snowy North America. I have to keep reminding myself that it is February and being hot and sunburn is the norm for February in the Southern Hemisphere. I am really enjoying summer and all that it brings. Everyone in the Northern Hemisphere can give me a hard time when I am writing about being cold in June :)

Recently I have had many opportunities to share. Part of our program is set up so that we are able to serve with other volunteers throughout South Africa. These past few weeks I had the chance to travel and see completely different parts of South Africa. Along with my trusted travel buddy (Heather Nelson who is placed in a small rural community in the Limpopo province of South Africa) I spent two weeks traveling around Kwa-Zulu Natal province. We visited four different volunteers. The sites ranged from downtown Durban to very rural Umphumulo, the farming community of Escourt, and an incredible community of foster families outside of Pietermaritzburg. I loved getting to see the other sites. See how many other American volunteers see South Africa. I joked in the rural areas that I can't sleep without loud music or car alarms that are a constant in Soweto. Through it all my thoughts kept coming back to how each place fits the volunteer. Each one of us is here for our own reasons and are growing in our own ways and each of our sites fits us. At this point in the year it is hard to know if our sites fit us or or if we fir our sites or if we have each grown into our site, I believe that it is a combination of all those things. It is such a gift to be able to share our experiences with each other. Have time to see the sites of each area, serve along side each other and our wonderful South African hosts, and at the end of the day share. Share a meal, share our thoughts, share our time together.

This coming week I will have another chance to share. Share the South Africa I love and now call home. As I type this my mom, her husband, and two of my cousins are on a plane somewhere over Africa. (well at least I hope they are!) They will be here for a week. Enjoying the summer weather and seeing South Africa. I am excited to show them around, introduce them to the people who have made this experience what it is for me, feed them traditional South African food, and above all spend time together. Share this experience.

I cannot ever say this enough, thank you for letting me share this experience with you you through this blog. Thank you for your continued support in the letters, e-mails, thoughts, and prayers. It means so much to me.