By Harold Vance
In South Africa last summer, I met a woman with misshapen feet. They were bony and scrunched up and looked incredibly painful, though I never saw the pain in her eyes. Every day, I saw her dancing on those feet, and walking for miles, the very miles that had deformed her feet to begin with.
This beautiful, sassy little fireball was Auntie Mathilda. She walked miles throughout the townships of Tokyo SeXwale and Ocean View, on the outskirts of Jeffreys Bay, visiting friends and neighbors, brethren and sistren, who were either dead or dying of AIDS and/or tuberculosis, two prevalent killers in the area. She walked miles and hours in any and every weather, bringing the true love of Christ with her everywhere she went.
I saw her bring life to places where only death seemed to live. I saw her bring light into places too dark to see even the darkness. I saw her bring joy into even my own cynical heart.
Last week, I learned that Auntie Mathilda passed away. I was a bit distraught at first. It seems I haven’t quite come to terms with dealing with death. As a Christian, it seems that it ought to be an easy enough thing to deal with, at least knowing how beautiful a heart she had, and how absolutely devoted to and in love with Jesus she was, and how she showed that so clearly in every thing she did.
From her daily walks to her hours upon hours of time given freely to the Pelsrus Clinic, to the sewing co-operative she was working to establish for people who had lost the use of their legs and other functional mobility, to the frame of a foil lion that she pulled off her wall and gave to me as a going away gift when I had to return to America soil, Jesus was in it all.
Since I’ve been back in the States, mostly throughout the last couple of months, I’ve been listening to some teachings on imaginative prayer, and I’ve been wondering about how to utilize such prayer as commonplace in my own life, being myself a very visual person. Yet, at the same time, I’ve been finding myself having to fight off the skepticism of whether such a thing as imaginative prayer could actually be from God or if it would be only of my own doing, a figment of my imagination, if you will.
Last night, in the middle of worship service in Saratoga Springs, I was gifted with an answer in the very form of imaginative prayer. We were singing the song, “Worthy,” and the music was really picking up and growing more intense. As I was dancing and singing, I closed my eyes and I saw Auntie Mathilda standing before the Lord, although she wasn’t only standing, she was dancing; dancing as she did nearly every morning in J-Bay, when we would come to greet her and to join in on a few house visits with her.
Only as I saw her there, in the vision that seemed to begin within me but quickly surrounded me, she was dancing with even more joy, more exuberance, and more energy than ever before. And she danced with a lot of joy, exuberance and energy before. A lot. And as I looked down at her feet, I saw that they were fully restored and shining with a new radiance, a glory that came from all the love they carried throughout all of her life.
I smiled, and it warmed my soul.
Harold lives in the midst of the beautiful mountains and streams in New England, and works as a program guide in an alternative high school in Vermont. He received his Bachelor’s of Arts in English from Green Mountain College, in Poultney, VT. Harold is very excited and looking forward to his upcoming marriage this summer to Nicole Stoodley.