Identity of Grace and Bravery

I was an anxious and shy child that refused to do anything as daring as answering the telephone (what if it was a stranger?!), much less ride a roller coaster. I hid behind my mom and never wanted to leave the house,  but I so longed to be like the heroes in the books I read. I yearned  for daring adventure and to be a strong woman that would fight for what she believed in. Little did I know, God was writing me into His own story that would take me to the corners of the earth and on an adventure beyond my wildest dreams.

That experience started with a phone call from United World Mission- one that invited me into a world beyond my imagination. I was soon paired with an apprenticeship program taking me to Prague, Czech Republic. I stepped on a plane with much trepidation to join a  team that desired to bring the Gospel to an overwhelmingly atheist country (very different from my Bible-belt upbringing!). I was discipled and trained under a leadership that desired to see the church grow from a harvest of new believers. As I worked as an English teacher to form relationships, I began to learn the challenges of being a missionary, and where God wanted to meet those needs with His presence.

After almost two-years, I was offered the opportunity to finish my first missionary term in Cape Town, South Africa. As I stepped on the plane that would take me first to Dubai and then to Cape Town, I understood the feeling Samwise Gamgee said in the Lord of the Rings, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Again, God was inviting me again into a bigger story, one where I would learn what it means to be called  brave and a daughter of Christ, but that plane ride was scary!

I became an intern at East Mountain in South Africa through UWM. I lived and worked with South Africans that taught me so much, including inappropriate words in Afrikaans under the guise of polite phrases. As I came face to face with poverty and oppression that marks the beautiful landscape of South Africa, God began to show me what it looks like to believe that He is good in the midst of suffering.  Ministry was vastly different here than in Prague, but I was using the lessons that I had learned about His invitation and presence in my ministry. I worked  for a school that educated children from hard places. I began to see how my story, that had intersected the gospel, could be used to bring hope and healing to kids who have experienced so much trauma.

After completing a year in South Africa, UWM offered me the opportunity to continue serving as a long term missionary in South Africa. When I started this journey I thought I was defined by anxiety and fear, but though the discipleship of UWM and God’s faithfulness, I am learning to live out of an identity of grace and bravery.  Moving across continents, speaking new languages, sharing the love God has given me to walk in was more than I ever dreamed of when reading those books so long ago. I am currently support raising to return to South Africa!

By: Autumn Pendergras, Serving in South Africa