Mission Reflection: Missionary learned to “really” pray through serving in South Africa

One of the gifts of cross-cultural mission service is that the experience of working with people of another culture and language deepens one’s own spirituality and discipleship.  A Catch of the Day posting from Heidi Schmidt in Argentina on Sunday, June 9, captures that dynamic vividly and inspirationally: 
Good morning! One of the myriad gifts from my experiences and life in South Africa was that I learned to pray, I mean really pray, through my body and soul as never before. There was always music, dancing, swaying, drumming, soul-piercing ululations, singing in at least 4 part harmony, stomping of feet, but most of all there was God drenched in the middle of it all. The Divine was palpable, reverberating through me, connecting me to the deepest roots of my being and to an extraordinary Oneing with everyone else.  Ohhhh, the Spirit was a movin’, impossible not to get swept up in it, we were all rapt in God. I can still feel the tingling energy of joy run through my being at the memory of it.  May we remember, may we experience God’s bursting dazzlement through everything this day! What a great line! This poem really caught me today…this comes with all my love, from my heart to your heart, heidi
The Worst Thing
The worst thing we ever did
was put God in the sky
out of reach
‍‍‍‍‍‍pulling the divinity
from the leaf,
sifting out the holy from our bones,
insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement
through everything we’ve made
a hard commitment to see as ordinary,
stripping the sacred from everywhere
to put in a cloud man elsewhere,
prying closeness from your heart.
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
The worst thing we ever did
was take the dance and the song
out of prayer
made it sit up straight
and cross its legs
removed it of rejoicing
wiped clean its hip sway,
its questions,
its ecstatic yowl,
its tears.
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
The worst thing we ever did is pretend
God isn’t the easiest thing
in this Universe
available to every soul
in every breath.
-Chelan Harkin
Baba Yetu 
Ndibeke mna
Monica Vega and Heidi Schmidt have been cross-cultural missionaries for nearly 30 years.  They served in South Africa from 1998 to 2004 with African Medical Mission in Mthatha, South Africa, where they worked in a rural orthopedic hospital and a clinic on top of a rubbish tip, and from 2005-2012 in the communities of Itipini, Ezibeleni, and Alice, South Africa, where they developed Isibindi Projects, a South African response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, serving over 5000 children.  They later served in Brazil, 2013-2016, where they supported and promoted mission in the country, with a focus in Amazonia, as well as ministries with women suffering violence and women street vendors in São Paulo.  Since 2016  they have been serving in the Proyecto Guadalupe in Jujuy, in the northwest corner of Argentina, where they work to prevent addiction to drugs and alcohol with children and youth, as well as women and children affected by violence.  As Roman Catholics, they are consecrated lay missionaries following the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld. They were appointed missionaries of the Episcopal Church for the majority of their time in South Africa and Brazil.  St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, has been their sending parish for the past 18 years, and that congregation faithfully supports their mission across languages, cultures and nationalities.                                                                        
Heidi sends out the Catch of the Day devotional email every day of the year.  If you’d like to subscribe, let her know at heidimaria14@icloud.com.  And keep Heidi and Monica in your prayers.
Posted in Mission Companionship, Mission Practice, Missionaries, South Africa, Women in Mission.