GUEST BLOG: "Looking Back on Cape Town" by Marisa Van Houten


Marisa with the kids in Cape Town

I recently had the privilege of leading the Mocha Club trip to Cape Town, South Africa, and it was my third time traveling to Africa.  You’d think it would get easier to bounce back to life when you return, the more times you do it.  But for me, it just gets harder.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love every opportunity I get to travel to Africa and see firsthand the work that Mocha Club is doing.   It’s just the leaving that’s the hardest part.

I think I’ve narrowed it down to two things I experience over there that really contrast to my life here in the states: a slower pace and simpler priorities.

Africa’s pace is just inherently slower.  Less advanced technology, a reduced amount of communication, and little to no sense of punctuality or schedule (which can sometimes be annoying!) – these all equal a pace of life that forces you to enjoy the moment.  You don’t have the ability to be as distracted as we’ve made ourselves in the states.

And what I experienced was that priorities in Africa just seem simpler.  God, others, then everything else.  I feel like I’ve lost a lot of that the more I try to accomplish here.  I’m too busy trying to do and see all I want that I forsake what I need…what really matters.

So I’ve been wrestling through how I take those experiences and lessons that Africa teaches me and translate them into life here in America.

First, I stop and then, I remember.  I stop to listen, to wait, to enjoy…and stop worrying about what’s next.  I remember to look up, to look around, to look in…and remember it’s not always about what’s straight ahead.

We may think we are the rich ones, with our busy schedules and selfish ambitions, but the friends we seek to serve in Africa understand how to live more slowly, more simply, and they ultimately live richer lives because of it.

So, thank you, South Africa, for teaching me once more some of life’s most valuable lessons.



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  • Reply christine July 23, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I love your thoughts, Marisa!

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