Ndjamba Bedenitha (“Bende” for short) was one of our 3 amazing translators in Namibia. She was so much more than just a translator though. She was a mother, a counselor, a friend to so many, and most importantly a beautiful vessel of the Lord’s kingdom. Bende taught me so many valuable lessons that I thought were too good not to share.
1. Relationships are more important than time
One of the main lessons that Bende taught us, was that relationships are in fact, more important than time. Coming from an American worldview, relationships are viewed from the opposite perspective. But, living and learning in a culture such as Namibia, relationships are everything. Whenever we would go into the villages to greet and share the Gospel, we would first shake their hand, look them in the eye, learn their name. Then we would sit and talk, until they welcomed us, until a relationship was built. We wouldn’t just go into the villages, tell them that Jesus saves, and leave. We would build a relationship, get to know them for who they are.
And Bende was a beautiful representation of this! She would walk through the villages and know all of the children’s names! She would sing songs with them, stop to pray over an elderly woman whom she knew with malaria. Bende knew everyone, and they respected her for this reason. She didn’t tell them that they were wrong, she didn’t judge them, but instead showed nothing but love. And in return? They saw the love of Christ, all because of built relationships.
2. Unity is oneness, not sameness
Now I can definitely say that I learned that unity is oneness, not sameness by the way I differed from the locals of Swartbooisdrift, but what I think is even more beautiful is the unity that our IMMERSION team learned. My team and I met the day before we traveled to Africa. We had never met before, only chatted a little over Facebook. When we met, we were totally in the honeymoon phase. Total BFFs! It wasn’t until we arrived in Swartbooisdrift that we started experiencing conflict and differences. Our team leader had warned us that we would experience conflict before working to the “performance” stage of team building, and we surely did! But, through this conflict I remember these words coming from Bende.
Through the way that she lived and loved, we realized that we all have different gifts. That God handcrafted and selected each of us for a moment as this. If even just one of us had not been a part of that team, the dynamics would be completely off. Through the heartache and pain, God used each of my team members to perform, to be living vessels of the Kingdom to bring glory to His name. We weren’t the same. We were not alike. But unity is all about oneness, not sameness. And it wasn’t until we realized that, that we were able to, as one, reach a village of those who are even more different than us. And how beautiful it was!
3. God has been moving long before we arrived
Bende has been a part of this ongoing ministry in Swartbooisdrift for years. She knows the locals, the children, the families. She has been a witness in this area much longer than we have. The ministry itself has been ongoing for over 30 years. But Bende will testify that, yes, God is using us to be His hands in feet, but He has been moving in Swartbooisdrift, in Africa, long before any missionary had ever stepped foot. I don’t know why I was under the impression that I was going to go to Africa, tell people about Jesus, and leave. Africa is blessed, yet broken. It is easy to change the fruit, but to change the fruit, you must first change the roots. And that itself is an ongoing process. We experienced harvest, but we also experienced the planting of seeds, the watering of seeds, and the growing. And this is not because of me, my team, Bende, or the ministry. That itself is the power of Christ. He has been moving in Africa, blessing these moments from the very beginning.
4. We are not “human doings,” we are human beings
The first Saturday that I spent here was our first laundry day. I woke up, washed my laundry in buckets, and then… nothing? This was a total shock coming from an American culture. What do you mean today we… rest? What is rest? I want to DO something! Bende would wash her clothes and then sit. Sit in the midst of nature and meditate on all that the Lord has been doing. She would find so much beauty in what I viewed as just, well, trees. Even on mornings where we would do ministry we would ask first thing in the morning, what are we DOING today!? And she wouldn’t know. She would let the Lord lead in prayer, and decide after that. We were created for worship, not to do do do! We were created to be like Mary, not like Martha.
Luke 10:41-42 states, “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
From this moment, life became so much more beautiful. The dirt for once had beauty, the trees had life, and ministry was not so much about doing, but rather being. Sitting in the homesteads we would talk about the family’s goats, their health, their children. We would lose track of time, because time is not what mattered anymore. We saw them for people, for who they were, for the beautiful creation that they were created to be. We heard their stories, learned their names, and saw the presence of the Lord through it all. For the first time, just through being, not doing, I saw hope. Hope, for Africa.
5. There’s nothing my God cannot do… for you!
Bende loved to sing songs with all of the children. We would actually just be walking through the village and she would begin to sing this song,
“My God is so big! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do, for you!”
It’s actually really catchy, and my teammates and I would be caught singing it all of the time. But as we would be walking through the villages children would come running—I mean running!—and they would start singing this song over and over. And as cute and catchy as the song is, it’s actually really accurate. There really is nothing that my God cannot do! I witnessed people from a tribe, almost an entire world away, hear that Gospel and believe. Ask to be new creations. I saw God provide food and resources for those without. The love of Christ is so clear and radiant in Swartbooisdrift. There really is nothing that God cannot do… for you!
6. How to kill a bat
Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Bats aren’t scary or dangerous, why would you need to kill them?” Going into this trip, I was both 1) coming from Florida, snd 2) didn’t get a rabies vaccination. So, the first night in Swartbooisdrift, I walk into the kitchen area (which was completely outside). Bats begin swarming my head, and this Florida girl went into panic mode. I mean, I’ve been around bats before, but… African bats? It’s a no for me. Bende comes running in with a tennis racket hitting the bats until they left. She (after making fun of me) laughed and gave me the tennis racket to use for the rest of the trip. I am super thankful for Bende teaching me not only how to get rid of an unwanted critter, but how to also man up a little bit.
7. Greet your neighbor… with song!
I learned really fast how it is not socially acceptable in the States to sit at your neighbors doorstep and sing them a song, followed by a word of encouragement. One of my favorite memories and lessons that Bende taught me was how to truly love your neighbor, and how to properly greet them in the culture that we were living. When we would go out and do ministry everyday, we would sit with the families outside of their homes. Bende would look at us and nod, and we would begin to sing. We had a handful of songs that we would select from (“How He Loves”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Good Good Father”). We would have Bende translate what the songs mean, and we would sing for the families, followed by a word of encouragement. This was one of the key ways to building authentic relationships.
We would not just walk into their homes and share, but wait until they told us that we were welcomed. We would wait until they felt loved, and the true purpose and meaning that we were there. The first time Bende told us to sing, we all sat in the dirt staring at each other. “Sing? Sing what?” But by the end of our time spent in Swartbooisdrift, we were singing. No, shouting! Singing songs throughout the villages. Singing songs to single mothers, children, families. Crying in the midst of worship. How beautiful is it to be able to focus our attention and turn our eyes to the Lord before we share His word with someone who has never heard it. To truly cry out and ask for Him to speak through us. And at the same time, making a family feel love and peace. Bende taught me how to love my neighbor.
8. To not ever doubt that every tribe, tongue, and nation will bow
Bende has been doing ministry in Swartbooisdrift for many years. She knows the tribes, the children, everyone’s name. She knows their stories, their trials, and she consistently prays for them. With everything she has she shares the love of Christ with them, and is never afraid to be bold. I have watched her sit with ladies from the Himba Tribe and tell them the true meaning of prayer. The true meaning of worship, which is not worshipping ancestors. And I have watched her testify that our God is the God of miracles. The God that makes the blind to see, the God who heals the sick, and casts out all fear. And I have watched members from an entire tribe on the other side of the world believe that our God is real. I have watched the chief of the tribe confess that Jesus is Lord of all. I have seen all of this happen, because Bende didn’t lose hope. She never had a doubt that every tribe, tongue, and nation would bow. And she still has this fire today. On the roughest days when it was difficult to see hope and purpose, Bende instilled in me that there is. That one day, the Himba tribe will no longer worship ancestors, but confess that our God reigns over all. Swartbooisdrift will be free from condemnation, and all of the angels in all of heaven will rejoice with joy. Because I have hope, and I am sure, that God is working more than we know in Africa.
"Mbekusuvera" is Herrero for “I love you.” From all the lessons that I learned from Bende, love is the greatest lesson of them all. Bende taught me how to love. How to take off my American-judgmental-glasses, and see the world how Christ views it. To love my neighbor even when it was hard. To love my teammates even when difference occurred. To laugh and be joyful at all times. To be bold and share a word of encouragement. Bende showed me what it really meant to love like Jesus does.
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You must have a group size of at least 6 members to join this trip. Please view the Small Team trips or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.
For most trips, you must have a group size of at least 6 members. Please view the Small Teams tab on each Community page or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.