A more Spiritual Perspective

Mandy Young and her children

My birth name is Mandy – AMANDA!!! – when my mother was very cross with me.  It means loveable and worthy to be loved, but I think that is a title that often slips off my head a little skew.  I was born in a little place called Garneton, alongside the Kafue River in Zambia.  We lived in a small row of houses with the bush opposite.  I learnt my love of nature there and a deep connection with the Bemba people, especially Rosie who looked after me a lot of the time and the old black man who tirelessly brought me home every time I ran away to explore.

Junior school was threatening, separation anxiety playing an initial role.  And then I found it difficult to find friends.  One day in an attempt to gain some attention I stole the classroom key and hid it in the chalk box.  The headmistress announced anyone who could find the key would be rewarded with a box of chocolates.  Well you know what happened next, I was soon eating some Melting Moments and had received great applause for my find!

The age of ten was my worst year.  My parents moved from Zambia to Zimbabwe and I was sent to boarding school 2 countries away.  I did not know anyone, I did not see my parents for 6 months and even my grandparents who lived in the same town did not visit.  The positive part of that year was that I met God.  We used to talk alone in the chapel especially on weekends when everyone else went to visit friends and relatives.  He was an available parent and a great friend.

That was not the first time we had met, me and God I mean.  I was always drawn to Him.  I am told at 5 years old I wanted to respond to an altar call but my parents embarrassed held me back.  That was not the only time they held me back from an ardent Christian crusade, the second time was probably for my best, it was when I wanted to leave school in grade nine to travel together with a man carrying a cross throughout Africa. 

God and I really made a connection when I was thirteen.  Back at boarding school, but this time only 30kms away from home.  I woke up most days wandering why life was worth living.  A personal encounter with Him changed all that.  Life now made sense.  I was passionate about Him.  Lead Bible Studies, Outreach programs and Christian Hostel meetings both at High School and throughout University.  At University I lead our Residence Fellowship and oversaw 8 different Bible Studies, personally leading an Evangelistic Bible Study for 4 years.  Added to that was attendance at ‘Two Bare Feet’ and regular outreach to an Alcoholic Rehabilitation Centre near Stellenbosch.

Yes, University was at UCT.  I passed my Honors in Social Work, and then returned to Zimbabwe to pay back Government Bursaries by working at the local Social Services in Gweru and Bulawayo.  I played a lot of sport in those days, both at High School and UCT.  At High School I was seeded no. 10 in Zimbabwe in terms of U/18 girl tennis players and no. 1 in the Midlands Province.  At UCT I played tennis and basketball in the first teams and competed at several Inter-University tournaments.

During my first year of work in Gweru I met Paul, Rowan and Cindy’s father.  He was initially a friend of a friend, in the town for a few days on an accounting contract.  He phoned me at work to report an incident of husband battering.  I was still new and naïve, so was not quite sure whether to take him seriously.  I got him back that night by actually beating on the squash court, not with my racket, just my skill. 

Our marriage resulted in two amazing children and the introduction into full time Christian ministry.  Paul studied at the Baptist Theological College.  During this time we were initially House parents at Marsh Memorial Children’s Home, with Cindy 3 years old, Rowan one years old, and we looked after 6 other children, for 2 years, who were initially between the ages of 8 and 18 years.  Alongside us as House Parents were Ami & Gerrit Coetzee who now run the Agape Family Centre in Grabouw.

After leaving the Children’s Home & during Paul’s final year of study we were sponsored by the Cape Town Baptist churches to run the Student Work at UCT.  As I had a history as a UCT student initially attending Wynberg Baptist Church where Graham Ingram was the Pastor, I also moved to Vineyard (now Jubilee) when the church split over a doctrinal difference in the use of the gifts of the Spirit.  During our leadership the student ministry shifted from being only Baptist sponsored to both Baptist and Vineyard backed, to finally evolving into a Christian organization sponsored by Vineyard alone, renamed Genesis.  This was ultimately the student committee’s decision, but obviously one Paul and I supported.

Then things fell apart between Paul and I.  There had been too much stress for too long.  We had not recognized the toll it would take on us to be supported by many churches but no fellowship in particular and the mistake we had made in not returning to Zimbabwe and the community of at least 8 families who were close friends and a necessary social, spiritual and emotional support.  Although we were now on the leadership team at Jubilee we had not been fully embraced there, we felt excluded from the close knit group they had become and they were struggling to work out Paul’s salary with little recompense in the meantime.  I guess we had also become too ambitious, Paul in terms of his developing ministry and me in terms of starting to study again.

In an attempt to find myself I left Paul taking the children with me and leaving the students shattered.  I made many wrong decisions in those years and created a tough road ahead for Cindy and Rowan.  The church also handled things unhelpfully.  There are many events that happened during that time that we have subsequently worked through and found reconciliation with apologies from both sides.

God restores.  My children and I worked hard to find healing and I think the consequences are evident.  I went on to complete a Masters degree in Social Sciences, my thesis around Divorce Adjustment Programs for children.  I begun work in a Private Practise as a Psychotherapist which I still work through today, taught UCT students Research Design and Stats, did some Industrial Social Work for Pick & Pay, taught Educational Psychologists how to implement the Divorce Adjustment programmes I had initiated in South Africa, consulted at FAMSA, became part of the Cape Amputee Clinic team and counsel Cancer patients at Ithemba.

Over the last 18 years I have returned to nature and begun researching animals with social behaviour - African Wild Dogs, Elephants, Dolphins, wild Meerkats and more recently the Baboons.  Life Insights from animals embellished my beliefs of God’s ways of relating and a more tribal / communal lifestyle.  This research has resulted in the Peace-of-Eden Self-Discovery WildLife EcoTours and TeamBuilding that I facilitate.  For more on that you can visit my websites, www.peace-of-eden.co.za and www.swim-with-dolphins.co.za.

Recently God blessed me with a new husband, Gus Robinson.  I am sure he will share his profile with you sometime soon.  At our legal wedding facilitated by Indaba the prophesies offered by Cindy for our marriage is that together we would create something new, that neither of us could have done separately, something that involves community.  Rowan prophesied that in our old age, like Abraham and Sarah, God would birth something new (not another child!) but a co-creation.  Marriage has been great and really tough, but I trust God for His purposes and ongoing work of restoration.

The future: My work and gifting is essentially in facilitating emotional healing.  I value the verse proffered us in Ephesians 3:20God is able to do far more than we think, understand or believe by the power of His Spirit at work in our innermost being.  My experience is that as I have become more healed on an emotional level my faith has become more authentic and I am more trusted by God, 

Presently I feel called to having an influence that is more far reaching than my Private Practise and Counselling work, through a book I am writing that hopefully will also become a film.  It is an interplay between my life insights from nature, why I needed to go on this journey of self-understanding anyway, and conservation facts.  It swings from personal narrative to a fictitious story that hides identifying situations. 

I also feel called to place greater emphasis and energy on the WildLife TeamBuilding I facilitate with the intent of changing the value systems of top executives, people with influence, to de-centralize power and create working structures that are more community/clan like with a culture of leadership where responsibility is shared, gifting is expressed and everyone is involved at the co-creation of Corporate goal-setting.  I believe that when these top executives take time to de-stress and spend time in Nature, with all their senses engaged, even their intuition, they will see, experience and understand God’s processes in a transformational way.

There may be some new research with the dolphins on the horizon – several pods of dolphins in the Cinque Terre Marine Reserve of Italy.  The research question will go something like this, ‘Can Intra-Species Interactions between Sociable Bottle-Nosed Dolphins & Humans facilitate Healing in areas of Physical and Emotional Abnormality and lead to Corporate TeamBuilding Transformation.  The Human target groups will be 1) the physically handicapped, Amputees & Pregnant ladies, 2) those dealing with Loss through Death, Divorce or Cancer, 3)  Autistic children & adults and 4) Top Executives.

I also feel a heart for supporting parents by helping them to develop more advanced parenting skills for emotional strength, maturation and healing, so that their children have a good sense of themselves, their worth and their God-Created potential.  And so that out of that place children, with age, are increasingly able to negotiate their way in the world with competence, loving relationships, responsibility, surrendered to God so that his kingdom can be advanced through them.

….And I am looking forward to being a granny sometime soon!