A month before I turned 21, I moved from the U.S. to South Africa. My plan was to stay for six months, doing volunteer campus ministry. From the day I set foot in Cape Town, I was enamored with her beauty. I fell in love with her diverse landscape, cultures and languages. Within two months, I extended my visa for two more years.
I kept my original return ticket and went home for Christmas after the first six months, but committed to going back after a few weeks with my family. After a wonderful reunion and holiday season, it was time for me to go. Just days before my departure, the unthinkable happened.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I didn’t know what to do. She was a single mom. I’m the eldest of two daughters. I felt it was my responsibility to stay and care for her during whatever lay ahead — yet I had already committed to more time in South Africa.
I was torn.
To this day I don’t know what swayed the scales, but they tipped in favor of Cape Town.
And I left.
I left my mom and my sister and the cancer. I waved goodbye to them at the airport — but really, they were right there with me. My body may have walked away, but they remained tightly entangled in my heart.
Back in Cape Town, I fell apart.
Every day, I doubted my decision to return. I felt as though I had abandoned my mom in a critical time of need. I wasn’t angry with God, I just felt … flat. Neutral. Disengaged. I didn’t have an appetite for anything spiritual.
I felt like a hypocrite.
I had gone to Cape Town to teach people about Jesus and the Word of God — and I had no desire to open my own Bible. I didn’t even want to pray.
I cried almost every night.
In the Lord’s grace, He slowly and gradually drew me out of the pit of despair. After months of treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, tests indicated that Mom was in remission. We all breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for his mercy.
Four years later, the cancer returned with a vengeance. Malignant cells attacked Mom’s bones, lungs and liver.
It was the beginning of the end.
This time around, the Lord helped me to keep my head spiritually. I was devastated and terrified of the future, but deep down, He helped me to trust Him. Mom was a faithful believer in Jesus. Even if the cancer prevailed, she was safe in His arms.
Countless people prayed countless prayers, begging God to heal her.
She rallied, then declined, over and over again. She was on various strains of chemotherapy for four years straight. The rollercoaster of emotions was extreme — up, down, up, down. It became so exhausting that after a while, even small victories tasted like defeat.
Through it all, Mom’s faith never wavered.
One morning in Cape Town, I was serving as MC of a ladies’ gathering at church. I asked one of my college student friends to share her testimony. She stood at the microphone and shared a story about how her mom had died recently. Suddenly and unexpectedly.
As her voice wobbled with traces of raw grief, she testified, “God gave me grace. He has carried me in the midst of this trial. It’s only by His grace that I am here today. It’s all grace.”
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
The tears flowed freely down my cheeks. I was on the other side of her story. I knew my mom was nearing the end, and I couldn’t see the light.
I thanked God for His grace in my friend’s life, but I didn’t think it could happen for me. I didn’t think I would ever be able to bear losing my mom. I doubted God’s faithfulness.
Four months later, my mom died. She was 59. And God did the unexpected. He gave grace. Abundantly so.
God granted sufficient grace for me to fly alone across an ocean for my mom’s funeral. He gave grace for me to endure the burial and memorial service. He gave grace for me to sort through all of mom’s belongings and get back on a plane back to Africa.
It was hard and painful, yes — but not impossible. God did not leave or forsake me. Instead, His grace was sufficient, and His power was made perfect in my weakness.
To Him be the glory.
Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.
Check out Kate’s newest e-book here!
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