Katie Justice is beginning her year in South Africa as an ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer. The program relies on coordinators who facilitate the young adults’ ministry and provide mentoring and spiritual guidance. To support a coordinator, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
Yesterday, as I sat outside on the porch at Mama Shoni’s house thinking and looking at the view of the township of Manguang where I am living, a little girl approached me and sat right next to me on the porch.
This little girl’s name is Neo. She is a beautiful child. She is Mama Shoni’s granddaughter. She is about 7 years old and she loves to talk. The thing is … she only speaks Sesotho. She does know some English, but just the basics like hello, goodbye and few phrases. She is also autistic. I honestly wouldn’t have known this until Mama told me.
As I have gotten to know Neo, autism does not define her. She is a normal young girl who loves to play and laugh like all the other kids. I also want to mention that she has a beautiful singing voice. She and I have become really good friends. It did not take her long to get used to me nor me to her. At the beginning of our friendship, she would always call me doctor. This is because all of her doctors are white, so it is easy to understand why she would think that I am a doctor. It did take a while but now she has started calling me by my name. When she says it, you can tell that there is something special behind it.
You see although I am not able to always understand exactly what Neo is saying, I can understand it in a different language. That language is the language of love. This language can be understood anywhere regardless of where you are. It always warms my heart when I see the great big smile on her face and she says “Hello Katie” and I reply right back in that same language with “Hello Neo.” She has already won my heart and I know that she will be someone that I will never forget. She has been helping me understand why God has placed me here in the first place. Meeting her has really made my heart learn how to receive love as I give it. All I can tell you is that when I see this little girl, I see the face of Jesus.