I just noticed something the other week that’s kinda funny. My two best high school friends have birthdays just one month apart. And my college buddies’ birthdays are all clustered in a few months pretty close together too. Today you get to meet another third of the JMHS Triumverate – Deborah. It will be fun to introduce you all to my college buddies close together as well when their birthdays are all coming 🙂
So, Debs. Katherine (from Week 2) brought us together at youth group sometime during our freshman year. The three of us stuck close throughout all of high school, stayed in touch during college and were in all of each others’ weddings. As more and more time passes since those teenage years, I marvel at how we’ve been able to remain close all this time. I do not take it for granted.
But let me tell you about Deborah. As I was pondering what to say, the line from Dirty Dancing popped into my head – “Nobody puts baby in a corner.” That’s how I feel about Deborah; you think you’ve got her figured out and fitting into whatever stereotypical box you have for her and then she pops out and surprises you with something else. When I met her, I mainly understood she was in the drama crowd and enjoyed singing and musical theater. I thought I knew what kind of person that was. But then, we would play capture the flag or something at youth group and this hyper-competitive, funny-trash-talking side came out and it totally flipped things on me. I was like, wait! who are you? She was an athlete – swimming on the swim team all four years of high school, while simultaneously performing in most of the HS dramas and taking on performances with other theater companies in the community. She was equally at home leading with me at Fellowship of Christian Athletes as she was in full ball gown wowing us all with her powerful soprano. She also never took herself too seriously. (Great story – we totally pranked our youth group at camp one year. She came out in her Madrigal gown and I had dressed in black formals as a piano accompanist. It was skit night and all we said was that we wanted to perform a song. We were the song leaders at youth group, so I’m sure they just thought we were going to sing a new youth group song or something. But, when we came out like that, you could almost see the cringing. I started up on the piano with some fancy sounding arpeggio and then Deborah started singing in her best operatic voice. Except we performed the extremely silly DC Talk chorus of “Jesus Freak.” It was great. A huge sigh of relief went out from the crowd as they realized it was ok to giggle at us. I wish there were video. Kinda. Actually, it’s great that was before the age of smartphones.)
She never brought a normal lunch to school – there were no peanut butter or ham sandwiches. Sure, she brought leftovers – but it was always something like tikka masala or baba ganoush (before any of us knew what it was). While the rest of us were daydreaming about sleeping in on a weekend, she was furiously perusing the weekend section of the Washington Post looking for a fun show to attend. She’s never been satisfied with just going with the flow and following the script.
So I guess it wasn’t too surprising to me or Katherine when she came back from a “short-term” missions trip telling us she had fallen in love with a Nigerian man while in India and they were going to get married and live in South Africa. I remember her telling us this and kinda expecting maybe shock and dismay, but getting delight and “of course you are” from us.
And guys – she is doing the real stuff over there!! She and her husband are running an amazing ministry there called Living Springs Faith Ministries, where they are dedicated to the transformation of the townships in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Their community development efforts are exciting, and challenging, and rewarding. Deborah and Gabriel are the real deal. They have two beautiful children, one of whom has some special needs that have made living far away from their extended family very, very difficult. But, in true Deborah form, she has tackled this challenge like every other thing in her life – with tenacity, grace, and incredible outside the box thinking.
Because of her challenges with her own son, she’s been able to advocate for missionary families and try to communicate with people ‘back home’ on the special accommodations that some families need to live out their purposes. She’s also never lost sight of the things that are important to her. While parenting two small children halfway across the globe from her family and working to get a non-profit up and running, she completed a master’s degree. Wow!
Debs – you are a treasure. Your willingness to go wherever you’re called and serve your family however they need you in that moment without ever losing sight of who God has said you are is an inspiration. Hugs from the other side of the world and thank you for letting me tell my circle about you.