I’ll never forget the night we found out we were pregnant with Lucca.
My husband, Dustan, had just returned from a trip to South Africa and we had spent the night discussing the prospect of us moving there as part of our work. By the end of the evening, we were pretty sure this is what we both wanted to do. We felt nervous because it was such a massive move, but also really excited for the adventure.
I had no reason to suspect I was pregnant, but before we went to bed, I felt a strange urge to do a test. The positive result meant we went to sleep that night with a lot to think about. We knew 2017 was going to be a big year for us!
The following weeks and months consisted of lots of thinking and praying, as we prepared ourselves for what will probably be the most significant move we’ll ever make. We will relocate to the coastal city of East London, South Africa in mid-November this year to be Lead Pastors of Calvary East London. Calvary is the church we are a part of here in Townsville and there are campuses in seven cities across Queensland. East London will be our first international campus.
At the beginning of 2017, I remember us saying to one another, ‘We’ve got a big year ahead of us! We are having another baby, and we’re moving overseas’. We joked that these were pretty insignificant life events, really. Knowing that it was a lot to process all at once, we decided to focus on having the baby first, then we would get the wheels turning on the move to South Africa. It was quite funny, a few days after Lucca was born, I turned to Dustan and said, ‘Okay, so now we’ve had our baby, we should start thinking about moving’. Of course, we had already begun the visa application process, however there was only so much we could do before Lucca was born. Her birth meant her name was now official, which meant we could get her passport, and so forth.
Our families have been really supportive of our decision. We are both very close to our families, so the move isn’t going to be easy. Having said that, in the context of history, there hasn’t been a better time to make a move like this, because technology affords us the ability to be able to stay in touch easily.
I speak to my own mother often, so we’ll have to find a new groove with the time zones to maintain our regular chats. My mum has been a huge influence on the way I raise my own children. She’s often my go-to for any parenting advice. I’m one of four children, so Mum has got plenty of experience in the motherhood department.
She’s such a selfless woman. She’s practically devoted her life to raising her four children. She was so conscientious in the way she mothered us, and I think that has definitely influenced the way I approach parenting. She always says, ‘the best thing I ever did was raise you kids’.
My generation wants to be able to do everything – right now. We want the career, the lifestyle, the social life – and we want to be awesome parents. But you can’t always do everything. Mum has taught me the importance of being present in raising my own children, instead of trying to do too much. Sometimes, she says, ‘Sass, you need to just focus on your kids right now. Your main responsibility in life is to look out for them, especially in these early years when they’re developing so much in such a small amount of time. Take every opportunity to stop and play with your children’. And I do! Our lives are still extremely busy, but I feel like we’ve found a really great equilibrium. I love the time I spend with my kids. I try my best in every moment to be as present as possible. I know that for this season right now, my role is to be a great mum and wife.
Life in South Africa will be very different to what we’re familiar with in Australia. I think the culture shock will hit us, but that’s part of the fun. In terms of the location, it’s not dissimilar to Townsville, or the Sunshine Coast, where both of us grew up. It’s coastal and a regional capital; about an hour and a half flight away from both Cape Town and Johannesburg. It’s a really beautiful city, but there is also so much need there. Right on your doorstep is extreme poverty and corruption; hence the reason we want to lead the church there—to hopefully help make a difference in people’s lives in that city.
As a mother, I believe I have a really unique opportunity to instil something positive into the character of my children. External influences obviously play a big role, but particularly in the first couple of years, I recognise there is so much a mother can do to influence her kids. My desire is to help my children get a good understanding of how to manage their emotions and to be empathetic toward others. I’ve heard that one of the key factors in determining a person’s success is their ability to recognise and manage their own emotional health. More than genetics or good schooling, success comes when a person has a healthy, balanced awareness of self. When this is the case, you’re able to interact well with others and be influential in your sphere.
If I can help my kids understand themselves, and help them get perspective on who they are in the context of the bigger picture, then I will be happy.
A lot of people think we’re crazy, moving to the other side of the world with our two young children. But for Dustan and I, doing something like this has always been on our hearts. We’ve always talked about one day living and working overseas, and raising our kids (at least for a part) in another country, where they would have the opportunity to speak another language and interact with people of different cultures. I think it’s a really good opportunity for the kids to expand their worldview.
We never imagined our move internationally would be to South Africa, but the more we think about it and get ready for the move, the more excited we are to hopefully make a difference in people’s lives in that specific part of the world.