The Backstory of my Africa journey.
I had this niggle on my heart about going to South Africa and felt a beckoning to go. But I ignored it for a while thinking nothing of it and not thinking that God could agree to such a wild and spontaneous trip during my University term. Yet the more I put it off the more it niggled at me. I felt a knock at the door of my heart. Will I be going? However, as time pressed on I didn’t think much about it and let it rest.
It was over Christmas break that I hung out with a friend, Harry, who randomly mentioned he was going to Africa later that next year. This was around the time I had started to entertain the thought of going too. One night I watched the movie “Mandela” with my sister. It was heart breaking and eye opening all at the same time. I felt so inspired and yet broken for what the people at that time faced.
One thing I noticed most was Mandela’s outrageous freedom to express his desires, needs and worth even when faced with death. He was bold, brave and fearless and knew exactly what was right. Nothing could steal that truth from him. It was as if even when faced with the darkest situation, his boldness and strength shone even brighter. There is one part in the movie where he is in prison, having been saved from death row, and even there he knows he’s worth being treated like a human. At one point he asks for trousers instead of shorts for all the guys in the prison. His request is heard and later on they are all given trousers. This might have seemed like such a small request and yet it changed the whole place and attitude of the men, as they suddenly also saw that they were human and worth being treated like one too.
His outlook was from such a deep a place of freedom and knowing the power of his freedom no matter his circumstances. This made me think how much I would love to meet those who have experienced prison and have found hope despite it.
Prison is not always a physical one. Often it is a mental one before it becomes a physical one. I have been amazed by how many people are in-prisoned internally and yet they have so much freedom externally. It highlights that freedom is a state of mind.
I had plucked up enough courage to ask my Dad’s permission to go on this wild trip and see what he said. So I asked to call him. Eventually we talked and despite thinking he wouldn’t be up for it, his response was: “this is something you’ll need to put past your tutors”. Surprised by his reply, the next day I composed my email to my tutor to ask his opinion as it would require me taking time off University to craft my project abroad:
Dear Ashley.I have been back this week settling in and thinking about the self initiated brief we have over the 6 week period coming up.Over Christmas I was reminded of the time I spent in South Africa during my gap year and the passion it birthed in me about freedom and identity. I worked in a prison ministry when I was there and got so impacted by what true freedom is. It set me pondering that despite having so much freedom in the west, I was really challenged how a lot of people are not really as free to be who they are as as they could and perhaps should be.I went to Nelson Mandela’s memorial service when I was there and the experiences have left life long memories. After watching the movie “Mandela” over this break, I was moved to tears and deeply impacted. Thinking about my next project, I wanted to make it all about freedom of identity. As I still have a few amazing contacts in South Africa related with prison ministries I would love to base my work on this and begin the filming process out there.Therefore I would plan to travel there for 2/3 weeks between the end of January and early February in order to get some footage and do some more research. I wondered if this would fit with the course and, if so, when would be a good time to come and discuss this with you?Thank you for taking the time to consider this.Jessica.
It took me a while to pluck up the courage to send the email. So on the evening of the 17th and early morning of the 18th, I sent it.
That morning I woke up to an email from a friend, Sarah, who lives out in Cape Town, of a movie of a man from Manenberg whose life was saved from gang life and drug addiction and who met Jesus. His life changed when hearing the song “I’m no longer a slave to fear”. He realised in that moment he doesn’t have to be a slave to drug addiction. It made me cry! I also couldn’t believe it was that song that radically changed his life – as this song was also major in my own personal loss of a friend, Bryony, and gave me courage in facing my own fears.
Then on the morning of the 18th I went for a run a different route to normal and bumped into a friend. And we ran back to her home. I opened up about my possible Africa trip and she immediately encouraged me to go for it.
Jessica – “the reward of saying yes is greater than the regret of saying no”.
So I decided there and then that if I saw Ashley that afternoon I would talk to him about the possibility. So of course, I bumped into Ashley that afternoon and asked to speak with him. I felt scared to the core about speaking to him, yet went for it anyway.
Later when he was free to chat, we found a place to sit and discuss. Crossing his legs he just looked at me and said: “well your email fits perfectly with the brief. So I can’t see why this can’t happen“. Stunned at this response I almost felt speechless. I was not expecting that reaction. He told me the dates that I could go and crazily enough they were the exact dates I felt God tell me that morning that I would go….the 2-22nd February!