I know some of you must be thinking, where has Grayson been? Well, since my last blog post (the one regarding my hospital visit) I have been very busy. After a few weeks of recovering from surgery, I started to really prep for my trip.
It all started when I realized that I was mistaken about the ease of getting a visa. I had heard from several people and I had studied the South African website and was under the impression that it was an easy process that required very little documentation since I am just going as a “tourist.” However, I soon found out that I was severely mistaken. The application and gathering of all the paperwork actually required a staggering amount of hours and energy, all capped off by a long journey up the east coast to Washington DC which I made last week. Where it gets interesting; however, is when I arrived at the South African consulate in DC. Once there, I quickly found out that the word “Intern”, even “UNPAID, VOLUNTEER intern” is not a fan favorite. The man saw a letter that was included in my documentation that he didn’t like, and without hesitation told me that there was no way I was receiving a visa. I sat and tried to “sweet-talk” him for roughly a half hour before realizing I had exhausted all efforts to persuade him. I am usually quite persuasive, but no luck this time.
As I left the building, I was filled with anger and disappointment. I had driven 12 hours alone to get the Visa and was denied because of a single piece of paper. It seems so pointless to deny me this. I decided, however, to take this as a learning experience and ask what good can come from this experience rather than why did this happen. Not everything always works out the way you plan it, so you have to take the hand you are dealt and learn and grow from it.
After really thinking it through and talking with my mom about the good lessons that were coming from this tough experience, I had peace. God made it clear to me that he was in control of the situation as he has been with the rest of this trip. We have another plan for getting the visa, so we are back on track and nothing but God will stop me from going on this trip! I learned a lot from this experience including the need to do more thorough research next time, but really good experiences came out of my trip as I got to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and grandparents in Richmond which was an unexpected blessing. Also, I took the longest solo car ride to this date. Another step in my journey of life…
Thank you all so much for keeping up with me, I am back to posting regularly now that this stressful two week period of my life is over! My flight to SA is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12 so I will touch base before I go and once I am settled there. Please pray that the rest of my prep time goes smoothly and that God continues to prepare my heart for my mission in South Africa.
Last week God threw another challenge in front of me. I woke up early last Tuesday morning with sharp pains on my lower right side. I immediately was pretty sure what it was, and it made me angry. I got my mom and we decided to go to the urgent care. As I had feared, they sent me to Piedmont Hospital with what seemed to be Appendicitis… man, it really hurt…
I went to the ER and was admitted, had a CT scan, and ended up being admitted into the hospital fairly quickly. The doctors looked a bit puzzled, which is never a good sign and I soon learned that the main concern for the surgeon was the excessive swelling in my abdomen including areas around my appendix. By this time, it is already almost Tuesday night. They wanted to observe and try some antibiotics. I had to spend that night in the hospital, but woke up the next day optimistic that I would be going home. To my disappointment, I thought the same the next day. Finally on Thursday, I woke up to some good news. The antibiotic treatments I had been receiving had begun to work and had reduced the swelling enough to do an exploratory laparoscopic surgery to check to see if it was appendicitis or something more serious. I know a lot of people were praying it was just appendicitis. Thank the Lord that was what it was and they took it out and I was out of there in no time. I was home really before I knew it and the anesthesia did its job!
Throughout the whole thing, I really just had to rely on God. With my trip coming up and all that preparations it requires, this was the last thing I needed. I was trying to work some more before the trip and get a lot of things done to prepare, and this just slowed that down. God has really shown me the way, though. This could have happened as so many different times – when I was coaching the kids this summer at swimming, when we were in the middle of moving, when my mom was traveling, when I was already in South Africa, so I am really grateful for God’s timing. My trip may be delayed slightly to give enough time to heal (more about that soon), but other than that, I am unscathed. God is a good God and I am so glad to be on the road to recovery!
Thanks for your continued prayers…
I wanted to update everyone on what I’ve been up to since I left Ole Miss after just one semester:
As a “trial period”, I decided that during the 7 months I had at home I would involve myself in ministry, as well as work full-time. I spoke with the youth minister at my childhood church and asked him to introduce me to the ministry. He gave me the opportunity to serve as a volunteer with the youth program and it has opened my eyes to a whole new sense of joy that can’t truly be explained. A mission trip is an experience packed into weeks that you cherish and remember and are great, but getting to share the gospel consistently with students who are just a few years younger than me has allowed my faith to constantly grow alongside theirs. Spending the whole weekend with the students for DNOW (Disciple Now) was another huge growth experience.
I was asked to volunteer at Vacation Bible School and I got to lead the 6th graders. It was a challenging, but worthwhile experience. It really allowed me to work with an age that I had yet to do all that much with, so it was great to get that experience. It was also super rewarding to see the curtains drop and the lights turn on in the kids’ heads as we introduced Jesus to them.
While serving at the church, I also had the opportunity to work at Chick-fil-A doing lunch deliveries. Wow, that place knows how to spread joy. Is it sometimes slightly a little much, sure, but seriously those people are awesome to be with every day. I met some really cool people doing that both inside and outside Chick-fil-A. It really let me surround myself with good people and see the good in so many situations.
The choice I made to leave Ole Miss was bold…and many people questioned it. Some still do. But God is making the way clear for me. I am called to South Africa at this stage in my life. What about after that? Well, I’m not sure yet, probably finish school, but God is cool and his plan is a whole lot bigger than mine so I’m just along for the ride! Questions have been answered and stars have finally fallen in line and my trip is beginning to take shape. I am so blessed, thank God.