Written by Ray Haakonsen, Oceans South African Ambassador:
I’m certain many are aware of a TV series from some time back Titled ‘Touched by an Angel’ where lives were changed for the good due to an ‘Angel assignment’ that intercepted lives. In the series the Angel was ‘sent from heaven’ as a task from God to help someone out.
However, it is my belief we have Angels walking with us who have a unique ability to naturally impact lives around them for the Kingdom of God. I recently met one such ‘Angel’ in the person of Taylor Martin, a high school Special needs student, traveling with a team from Grand Rapids Christian located in Michigan, chaperoned by teacher Mr. Bryce Lutke and Oceans Ministries staff member Mike Verkaik.
Their trip involved visiting us at Oceans Retreat Center in Cape Town for 3 days followed by an outreach to Beautiful Gate Lesotho, a care center for abandoned and HIV/AIDS affected children in Lesotho. In the time with us they visited a church and ministry to children in a nearby township (Shantytown) and as a ‘tour activity’ were given the opportunity to climb iconic Table Mountain, standing steeply at 1085 m (.6 mile) above the ocean below.
Climbing Table Mountain ,as opposed to taking the comfortable revolving 5 minute cable car ride up, is a daunting prospect, not impossible by any means, but it is a strenuous and muscle sapping over 1.8 miles winding, steep trail. It was on this climb I got to experience and know what an amazing gift Taylor is to our world. Very soon the main group was climbing up the steep slopes of the mountain, named “Hoerikwaggo” or Mountain in the Sea by the original Khoi people of Southern Africa. But only 5 minutes in Taylor said she was tired and her legs hurt. Truthfully I felt the same, but experience told me (as I am a tour guide and have climbed it a number of times) that it will get easier fora bit before harder towards the top.
So the memorable climb began at 6:30 am, with Taylor, Tim Spykstra, Mike Verkaik, and myself in a group on our own, whilst the main group were quite aways ahead. Ive met so many people and some of those have had huge impact on my life, not least the 2 gentleman climbing with me. But honestly, Taylor quickly became one of those individuals. The climb with her was EPIC! Sure she often said “How longer?”, “I’m thirsty”, “This is too hard”, “I wanna sit right now” and “Where’s Mr. Lutke and my friends”, hollering for them all the way up the mountain!
But what an absolute joy, inspiration and delight Taylor was to us 3 older gentleman who looked after her. Along the way we met many people who noticed her efforts and urged her on by name. But it wasn’t just the climb, but who Taylor is. Sure some did not always know how to handle her, but oh my, she won so many hearts as she freely greeted people, catching some by surprise but who then greeted her back. By the time we reached the top 2 1/2 hours later, Taylor had a large support group, who had been inspired by persarvence. Everywhere we went with her, she would greet random people and compliment them on their clothes, smile, hairstyle and brought a smile to many. Such pure, innocent, God given love beamed the heart of Jesus to all she met. At times her honesty had us in stitches, but we loved it!
Taylor’s family can be so proud of their beautiful ‘missionary’ to Africa, who has blessed many with her authentic, exuberant love in the brief time she has been here.
I learnt so much from her in the area of overcoming challenges, unconditional love for others and speaking out words of love and encouragement. She for me is the epitome of the authentic gospel….clearly Taylor lives out the greatest commandment given us by Christ.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest Commandment. And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbour as yourself – Matthew 22:37-39
May this ‘Angel” inspire each of us to love one another in our every day lives!