Breath of Life

Cape Town Letters: An Open Letter to my Bishop and all my friends

Dear Bishop Swanson,

lifeGrace and Peace to you from Cape Town, South Africa.  It was on my list of things to do to write you and all those who support me this past weekend.  There is a writing I still must do, but I am delaying it to write this instead.  My life unfolded this past week in a way that made me catch my breath and so I am compelled to share.

On Monday I had an appointment and so I called a driver I am friends with to transport me.  He asked me if I would ride somewhere with him first.  I was not really sure what to think, for he had never asked me something like this before.  He took me to a road that he had been driving on a couple of days before where he had witnessed a little girl killed.  He said he saw the whole thing moving before him like a train.  He could see the Mercedes speeding down the road and see the girl and he knew she would not make it across.  He shared with me how he saw her body crushed and her blood in the air and it is what haunts him now in the day and in the night.

He told the story so carefully that I could see it in my own mind.  Because I didn’t know the girl and what she looked like, I found myself replacing her with little girls I did know, recognising how easily this very thing could happen to any one of them.  I asked him if we could breathe deep breaths in and deep breaths out, remembering the gift of life, and then the two of us sat quietly for a moment.  I prayed words over the life of a little girl I never knew, the driver of the Mercedes who killed her, and my friend whose mind was held captive by the witnessing of this tragedy.  People are killed every day in South Africa, people are killed every day all over this beautiful world, so often in incredibly tragic ways.  Yet, there was something about this story of a little girl killed on a main road that has worked in me, reminding me how important it is for us to remember that speed kills.

There is a speed to which we address life in this day and age that leads to a sickness in our spirits.  Speed inhibits our ability to see the beautiful right in front of us and we move right along wholly unaware of the precious opportunities that exist for us to absorb. Untouched layers of life that are the joy and the mystery we seek go unearthed for the speed at which we pass them by.  There is a much that is too much that we are moving towards and in our race–the magnificent comes to an invisible demise without us ever knowing it.

There is a beautiful word here in South Africa, found in the Zulu language, “Sawubona.”  It means, “I see you.”  In response, one would say, “Ngikhona” which means I am.  As one is seen, they are.  The languages of the world teach us about the people and what is important to them.  It is important to see and be seen.  As our eyes touch each other our lives touch.  It is important for us to see and be seen, to have our lives touch the lives of others, and to allow  the change that is born through these interactions that are our God given dance of reality.

This morning I walked much slower on my way to work and I looked directly into the eyes of the people I came across.  A man this morning told me my eyes were smiling and I told him that my grandfather always told me that I was the only angel he knew who had the devil dancing in her eyes and he laughed hard and said, “yes, yes…your eyes they have the dance of mischief in them.”  It was a good way to start the morning, laughing.  It was also good to see and be seen on my way to work by a human being whose eyes danced with mischief just as he described mine to.  I found myself thinking of him through out the day.

Soon, I know I will slip into a quicker rhythm.  It will happen without me thinking about it, but I am working on remembering that life is but breaths one woven into the next.  I was fifteen minutes late for my appointment yesterday, for sitting with a beautiful person who was broken over the loss of a little girl’s life.  The world did not end for my fifteen minutes late to take those breaths with him.  Yet, there is a speed out there we are being tempted toward and in the spiral onward we become a part of a machine that has no space for breaths that we must take in order to live the beautiful in our life.  The machine we become a part of with our speed is the machine that kills breath.

I hope that those who take the time to read this will entertain a moment today to breathe in deeply and breathe out and remember what a beautiful precious gift we are afforded with our one wonderful life.  Don’t waste it friends, live your life seeing and being seen.  I am so very thankful for all of you in my world.  I am overwhelmed when I realize the love that surrounds me in all of you.  Thank you for staying with me on the journey.

With love from South Africa,


***To help support my ongoing ministry in South Africa, donations can be made on the giving link on my blog.

Leave a comment


  1. Juana

     /  August 30, 2016

    Thank you my sister for sharing this beautiful reflection around our need be intentional to take in and savor the breath of God and enjoy the walk through life with God. I have wrestled these last few months as I adjust to my new life as a pastor without a people, so-to-speak, (congregation) for now. I have heard the soft whispers of God urging me to slow down and ‘just be’ and take it all in during this season. I know this is best, but the shadow of my former life as the “pastor in charge” who was always doing, haunts me from time to time. And yes, I know I have missed a few things or will miss some things, if I continue the hurried pace and refuse to allow God to prepare me for what is next and reveal a much more richer life along the way. So, thank you for this reminder to be with Emmaunel who is with me.


    • Juana, attend to the soil of your soul as much as possible beautiful one. You have too much to give the world with all you are and all you see that others can be. So thankful to call you friend, Strength you in your unfolding chapter of life and ministry.


  2. Annie

     /  August 31, 2016

    So beautiful, Michelle, but heartbreaking for your friend. So glad he could share his pain with you and be seen and held. Thank-you for being so present you could recognise him. And I totally agree with your grand-father! 😉


  3. Pam

     /  August 31, 2016

    Dear Michelle, Your Aunt Pat shared this with us last night at our Prayer Shawl meeting ,, It was a moment of pause to sit and listen to your very important message … Your writing is remarkable too, Thanks so much for sharing that information …. I often feel the rush of society, personal duties, and responsibilities so I need to be reminded to just breathe …Sorry for your friend that he had to experience the terrible death of a child . There is something especially sad when tragedy hits the life of a child I think. Have a good day , Pam


    • Pam, what a gift to know the Trinity prayer shawl group was reading on the other side of the world. I would not be who I am today were it not for the faith of my Aunt and the people of Trinity UMC who have loved me since I was a little girl sitting in those pews eating M&M’s out of Ray Willis’ jacket pocket!! Shhh…it was always our secret! Please send my love to the Shawl group and to the Church at large. So much love…



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