All of our new friendships have been such a comfort and joy. Sam and I joined the American Association of South Africa in Capetown on an outing to a local winery and learned how to prepare a yummy winter meal. We've spent several Saturdays hiking with the Walk-a-bouts, a hiking club we were warmly welcomed into. Sundays have been special as we've found our church home, a vibrant loving part of God's family meeting at Common Ground Church. And finally, all of the Smith International families have returned from their holidays and we've enjoyed several fun gatherings as we strive to make new homes away from our homes.
Whew, all that by way of an introduction! Though these new friendships are special and deserve a blog post of their own, who I really want to write about today is my new friend, Maria, a beautiful Godly woman, delightful neighbor, and also the wife of a co-worker of Sam's who's been an incredible blessing to me this past month. It's hard to believe but the threads of our friendship and the hope and encouragement it has brought to both of us actually began in Singapore almost 72 years ago.
I know I may have lost you on that last sentence! Let me try to explain this amazing story of how God weaves our lives together..."working everything out for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose" Romans 8:28
In September 2007, I accompanied Sam on a business trip to Singapore. He spent the week in classes while I spent the week exploring. It was quite an adventure for a rookie world traveler like me. I enjoyed museums, gardens, and shopping, but my favorite sight of all was "The Gate of Hope". There was just something about this place that touched my heart and ministered to my soul. Just before the trip, we'd learned that Vanessa was expecting our precious Riley Lynn...not unwelcome, but unplanned. Our hearts were heavy knowing how difficult the path would be. Strolling around the grounds of this former convent and orphanage that had been a home to so many children somehow comforted me and filled me with hope in a way I can't quite explain.
The Gate of Hope
Try to read the fine print on this plaque... you'll see why later in the blog.
Fast forward to September 2009. As soon as Maria returned from her holidays in the states, we began getting to know each other, sharing as we walked along the seawall. One day she shared that her mother, born to a Chinese family, had been placed in an orphanage because of a superstition about girls who were born in the year of the tiger being bad luck. (Do you remember reading about that on the plaque above?) Her mom was later adopted by a Christian family. She then shared that her mom had married at a young age and immediately had 3 children. Maria was the oldest. Her parents had struggled and eventually divorced placing Maria and her brother in the same orphanage her mom had been brought to as a baby because they were unable to care for them. Maria, my new friend, had walked through The Gate of Hope when she was 6 years old and spent most of her childhood there.
Her story and my own Gate of Hope experience have once again given me just a glimpse of how purposeful random things in our life can be. My heart is filled with hope when I think of what God did to bless Maria, the daughter of an orphan and an orphan herself for a time. Truly, truly, truly, I'm so thankful for God's provision, encouragement, and faithfulness to keep his promises and cannot imagine life without the relationships with family and friends that he has blessed me with...both old and new.