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You Are My Friend

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by Julia Greif Julia is a member of the EM Africa staff and lives in South Africa full time. She recently led the 1-Month Africa IMMERSION team to the Himba tribe of Namibia. This blog was written as a reflection of her time spent with the community there.

Like most, if I look back at my life, I can count very few people who have been there for a long time and stuck around until now. Some friends come and go. But once in a while, you find people who come into your life and stick around and continue to pray with you and see you for who you are. We take people like this for granted. That is to say, we take the word “friend” very lightly.

I’m learning a lot about friends and what it means to be one. On the mission field, we constantly encounter people with whom we become very close in a short period of time. When you truly put relationships first, you become friends quickly and are bonded by not only the experiences you share but also the lifetime warranty that someone knows you, will stand in the gap for you, pray for you, and even if you don’t see each other again, will await eternity together.

In a small, rural town in northern Namibia, among the trees and bush lies a group of people called the Himba tribe. Their traditions have been passed down for hundreds of years. Coming from the Western World to them, it’s as if time has stood still for centuries, seeing their huts made of dirt, the way they cook over a fire, dress in next to nothing, and live with almost nothing. To the outside world, we wonder why, but entering into these places, you see that everything is about family and tradition.

Namibia Mission Trips

On our first week in northern Namibia, we traveled about an hour outside of the town where we were staying to a Himba Kraal—a communal place with many huts, fires, and cattle. We had lived among them in town, but to truly step out of anything familiar and into their land was amazing and so different. I was awestruck that God created us, knowing full well that every people and nation would be so different, yet here we were together (albeit in a bit of a stare down because of the language barrier). I was not sure how we were going to communicate, but I kept asking God to allow the doors to be open as he wanted.

We walked to the top of the hill where they were going to build their church. Previously, they were gathering for church services by a large tree. This particular tribe is one of the few who has come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and you could sense Him and feel the peace among the people. As we were on top of the hill, the Himba women looked at us and we looked at them, unsure of what to do or say. We do not speak one word of the same language.

Thankfully, one of our team remembered how to ask people for their names, and so in the best Herero I could muster, I asked the first lady her name. We laughed a bit but she realized what I was asking and she told me, and we went around the circle and said our names and laughed at how they couldn’t say our names and we couldn’t say theirs. What happened next is something that will stay etched into my brain for my whole life. It brought to life the truth that every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, and all nations will come before God.

I simply asked our translator what the word “friend” was and I looked at my new friend and told her in Herero, “You are my friend.”

She smiled a big smile and looked back at me and pointed at me and said in Herero and through excited squeals, "Friend, friend." We walked hand-in-hand down the hill, and she took my right hand and put a bracelet on and pointed at her heart. I don’t even know how to describe such a simple gesture, but I truly meant it, and I know she did too: We are friends. Not just the friends who will see each other a lot and laugh—but for eternity, she will be my friend.

Namibia Mission Trips

The rest of the day we sang and laughed with them. We tried on each other’s shoes, we prayed with and for them. I’ll never get to tell you the way I saw God, but I saw Him in each of their faces, I felt Him in their presence, and I truly believe I will see them again. I pray that I never forget these moments that are not about how much I will see people again or how many words were said, but the meaning from the heart when we looked each other in the eye and said we are friends. We meant it. We felt it. And I want to continue to be that kind of friend.

I can look back and remember the tribe we visited, and they can look back at the girl who came to them and could barely say their name but was able to pray for them. I was challenged in that moment to not just say we are friends but to be one, then and until I see them again. God is just so amazing.

While in Namibia and from the city where I live in South Africa, I was able to contemplate God and think about how big and how vast he is while watching elephants cross the road or the seeing the sun set over land where lions and cheetahs roam. He is the breath of the Himba tribe and he is the blood that makes my heart beat. We are all one body, connected through Jesus Christ, and I want to be a friend and find a friend in every part of the body that I meet.

I want to remember what Christ did daily and not only just remember it but be about it. Share that unconditional love that He wraps me in. Share the grace that He gives daily so we can continue to fight the good fight. Share His promise of eternity with Him and our family of believers. Share the friendship I have with Jesus and my Father in Heaven.

Namibia Mission Trips

Lord, I pray to always be brought to my knees by these things of the Kingdom and to share everything you’ve given me by seating me in the Kingdom with you. Thank you for your love at this moment and forevermore, and I pray for all of my friends, that we will worship together again.

Check out 1-Month Himba IMMERSION!


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