Meet the Explore Team from Every Nation, South Africa! They’re an awesome group of people whom I met and spent time with for the past three weeks – and will never forget and am forever changed by. This is our story.
The Explore Team are 12 amazing people, and their mission is to go around the world to explore and learn from different countries, love God by loving people, and celebrate life!
I met them on their first day in Kathmandu, Nepal – the second country they visited this year. I joined my parents, who are some of the leaders in our church, as they held a briefing for the Explore Team on important things they needed to know about Nepal, and about the events and places they’d be going to. This is because part of their mission was to serve us, and we wanted them to feel right at home.
Carmen, the one and only vibrant black South African in the group, high-fived me immediately when I passed by her seat. Next, Roxy and Maryke (pronounced: Ma-rai-ka) stroke enthusiastic conversations with me, as I fancifully tried to understand their warm; lovely accents (which, interestingly, had a British lilt to them). Then, a fresh batch of the South African dudes poured in and greeted every one of us.
I saw how the team members’ hair colours varied from dark brown to dark blond, while their eyes were brown, green, or blue. The average height for the guys was above 6”, and I had to crane my neck upwards to speak with them!
Their appearance and culture was something new for me, but I enjoyed learning and getting used to them both.
Though, one thing that bound the South Africans and us Nepalis and Nepalis-at-heart was dancing! We excitedly watched their “Alive” (by Hillsong Y&F) dance performance during our Easter church party (yes, there is such a thing) – something they put together in just a few days of practice.
Later, we played the Bollywood music on, and boy, did they get our South Asian groove on quickly!
Another time we danced nonstop was after one dinner at our house. At first, Roxy, Bert, and Riaan showed us South African grace as they danced their sokkie – an Afrikaan ballroom dance. After, everyone let loose on our living-room-turned-dance-floor while busting moves to an array of fast dance beats, and it was absolutely funny to watch and dance myself!
The next story comes from last Easter Sunday, when we visited their guest house to celebrate Marielle’s birthday.
After having cake, we settled down on their comfy couches and started conversations, as praise & worship music played in the background.
Then, I bolted up in surprise to hear my favourite Christian band playing, of which I was the sole fan of in our church.
“Is this Rend Collective?!!?!” I asked incredulously. They chorused, “Yes!!!!!” And I became so ecstatic to have finally found fellow fans – and a whole group of fans at that! They played a couple more music videos of Rend’s for me, and lifted my spirits even higher with their conversations.
Maryke, in her soft and beautiful cadence, shared, “If you like Rend Collective, then you’ll like Matthew Mole as well.”
Matthew’s a South African singer with a folk/electronic style and splendid songwriting. Because of him, I got to appreciate South African culture and my belief in God more. Plus, with credits to Maryke, he’s become one of my favourites already, and I’ve been playing him over and over since they left, which was over a week ago. His accent and songs’ messages so remind me of Explore, and I miss them more every time I hear him.
I got another recommendation for Matthew from Walter, a really tall dude with a youthful demeanour. He would initially remind me of Walter Mitty, and we discovered that we both had many things in common, like our passions for art and music, plus a unique characteristic of collecting all sorts of information and stories. It was marvellous meeting someone so similar to me, and I’m sure he thinks the same thing!
Carmen, who I mentioned before, was someone I immediately clicked with. She shared her energetic personality with me, and it was a joy telling her about myself and my passions because she was even more excited about me than I was!
We share a love for life-changing books, so I lent her one of my favourites – The Fisherman’s Testament – and she finished it a few days before they left, to the disappointment of André and Bert, who also wanted to read it.
After one of our dinners together, we found that we both also have a particularness in washing dishes – of which we thought nobody else had, but couldn’t wash dishes any other way than our way. We were both like, “FINALLY, someone understands!!”
Playing Uno with the guys another day, I noticed that André arranged the cards in his hand by colour, number, and type – something I also did. I was so happy when he straightened the cards on the used-up deck like someone with OCD, because that’s how I rolled, too. I also beat Bert, who was winning almost all of the rounds for some insane reason, which was a fulfilling experience as well.
I’ve a habit for high-fiving, and it became Riaan and I’s version of a handshake. He’s a pretty awesome guy with awesome stories, and cool eyes that always seemed to change colour!
There was one time when he shot his hand up high, and it could only be high-fived by jumping (even if he was the shortest guy in their group, I’m still not that tall lol) – but I missed. As a consequence, I hit a friend who was passing by in the face! It was embarrassing, but we all laughed it off.
Another time I burst into laughter (for better reasons), was when Roxy and I were in a conversation about my art and talents. She encouraged me with, “Whenever you feel like you’re not good enough, remember your biggest supporter.” Then, she comically posed:
I bursted into delighted laughter and took a picture of her, then said that I plan to paste it in my vision board – so I won’t ever forget the people who believe in me!
The team had an abundance of uplifting words for me, and there was something special and memorable about them – so, whenever I walked into a room with any or all of them, I felt my heart leap and want to stay longer and get to know them more.
They were just overflowing with life in their conversations and actions! I remarked how their bright-eyed love refreshed us and continually reminded us how Jesus is so good and is the best thing in life. I’d really miss their company when I didn’t see them for days on end.
But sadly, all the times we were graced by their presence had to come to an end. As their last day came around, we woefully went to their guest house to say farewell. My heart had already started aching even before we arrived.
The night and afternoon before, I’d spent writing letters for my close friends in the team; to say thank you and to encourage them for making God proud in changing my life by theirs. So, I started approaching them in the middle of their getting-ready and talking-to-the-Nepal-people hubhub.
The girls and I couldn’t describe our feelings in words. We just managed by showering each others with tight hugs and love – and as Carmen and Roxy both told me, “We’re not saying goodbye – just ‘see you again!’” We were actually trying not to cry, but eventually, it would come – later on.
Some days before, I’d shared two of my own artworks to Walter and Riaan, of which they really appreciated the details of. It was nice to hear, because they were details I put a lot of thought into! So, along with my letters, I gave them those artworks.
In response, they showed and told me how grateful they were – plus, Walter shared about the historical background of the style of the envelope I used, and Riaan gave me a hug.
And I was glad to realise that I was changing their lives, too. But I was also sad because they already became my family during the three weeks we spent together, and I couldn’t bear them leaving.
We took a final group picture together, and then everyone started hugging each other and saying thank you, which got most of the ladies crying. I was kinda disappointed in myself for not joining in. After, we tearfully sent them off in their packed van for the airport.
Actually, my tears for them were late bloomers and came the day after. I was playing Matthew Mole and writing about them on my journal, when the heavy feeling in my chest rolled out of my eyes. It took me three days to stop being sad about them, and I’m still talking about them and liking all their pictures on Instagram, so I’m not over them – I guess I never will be!
And it also strikes me, because I never cry for someone who’s left me, even if I really love them – except if it’s someone who passed away (which has happened only once), or it’s the Explore Team.
They must’ve done something radical to my heart and perspective in life. After all, they were just so full of Jesus’ joy, and He changed me through them.
One more valuable thing I’ve gathered is how they taught me to treasure people. They are jewels to me; the best group of people I’ve ever met, and I cannot forget them and how they loved me. And it’s pretty exceptional to call people, whom I’ve only been with for three weeks, family!
But I do have more friends who turned into family – either in a short period of time or through the years. Yet, sometimes I forget them, or don’t think of them as fondly, because they’d seem all too familiar for me.
The freshness of Explore’s culture and finding kindred spirits in them makes them unforgettable – and now they’ve taught me to really treasure my friends who have lasted and will last for a long, long, long time, because they are all very precious.
Yes – I super thank God for making me meet the Explore Team! And, to the team members reading this right now – you might have heard me say this before, but, I say it again. Thank you soooo much; I love you!!!!