Monday, June 29, 2009

A Short Updatette

I've spent the last week in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and am getting ready to head back to the farm tomorrow afternoon. This week was spent with Josh and Jamie, an American couple and their family, who have been living here for four years as Josh builds relationships with a team of local boys he coaches in soccer.
Sunday morning was spent on the soccer field with a few of Josh's boys where they have been meeting the last few weeks for church. The boys are eager to learn and ask questions and it was great watching them interact with Adam's questions, and slowly open up over the hour we spent with them.
A few of the days here were spent visiting two J-Life teams in Durban, just an hour away. We were able to spend time with them getting familiar with their work and encouraging them as they started their VBS programs today.
This weekend will begin the training for STEM (short term Equipping missions). There will be two groups: the first group will be trained this weekend and then sent out as the second group comes to be trained next week. Adam and I will then be leading one of the teams from the 2nd STEM group out for their practical application for 7 days.
Time is short and internet is limited. Please keep STEM in your prayers. Good and encouraging things are happening on a lot of different fronts down here :-)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Feeding the Hungry

While in Extension 23 we met a dynamic young man named Bayanda. At 23 years old he is full of fire and energy for the Lord and puts that to use in many different ways. One of these is a program at a local school that provides a free lunch for many kids who cannot otherwise afford it. Oftentimes before the children are fed Bayanda will lead them in songs and give a short message. We had the opportunity to join them on Wednesday and Friday, where Adam was given the opportunity to share some of his testimony.
The days started early in the home of Mama Ashila, where we cut up vegetables and prepared enough food for about 200 kids. It was a scary moment on the first day when I realized I would be left at the house to help prepare the food while the guys left to attend to other business before returning to help bring the food to the school down the road. Of the four other women in the house with me, only one spoke English and I had just met her that morning as well. For the first time since arriving in Africa, I felt myself telling God I was anxious about where He had me. I realize it’s a strange thing to suddenly feel anxious about when there were many other things that could have made me nervous over the last two weeks, but I suddenly felt the stress of feeling alone and not knowing how to communicate. At the same time I was feeling incredible anxiety, I realized that a positive experience would only result from a positive attitude—so I resolved to expect the best. Unfortunately that didn’t solve my problems right away…
Imagine a movie scene with the white girl in an African kitchen, and no one speaking English. She tries to look around and see how the others are cutting these incredible hard vegetables, but her efforts result only in chunks of potato dropping onto the floor or flying out of control into the big pot of water on the other side of the table, splashing everyone in reach. That was me—I’d never felt clumsier in my life. However, the morning turned out to be one of my favorite times so far! I could do nothing except laugh at myself every time a potato flew across the room or I took 5 times longer to chop something up than anyone else. Eventually one of the women took my knife from me, and waving it in my face told me “I show you to cook African way!” She showed me the easiest way to cut up a rock hard sweet potato and how to cut the squash so that all the peel would come off. Instead of becoming frustrated with my ignorance these women took me under their wings and taught me something because they saw I was willing to learn. They gave me every opportunity to participate and encouraged me even when I knew I was holding things up. These are the kinds of people who empower you to excel – the ones who will lift you up and push you forward because they believe in you, even when you struggle. Because of them I overcame silly fears of not being able to communicate, cutting vegetables with a sharp knife in the palm of my hand, and even stirring a pot that spit boiling water at me. By the end of the morning they informed me that I was now ready to marry because I could cook in an African woman’s kitchen ☺.

Unfortunately, you can't teach everything

The awkward stages

Gogo Emily

We spent 5 days last week working a township called Extension 23. These are villages of government houses 12 x 15 feet big. A 61-year-old lady named Emily lives in one of these houses – along with 15 children who would otherwise be homeless. What is advertised as a Daycare has turned into an orphanage with more children than she can fit (4 more children live down the street with another elderly woman). J-Life has a team of workers at a newly planted church in Extension 23 and has committed to partnering with Gogo Emily to construct another building on her property to help house the children she has taken in. The kids in her home range from 2 years of age to 13, and the older ones still attend school during the day, then return to help care for the younger ones.
On Sunday we saw an awesome example of a church BEING the church, as well as meeting for a service. ACTS Church in Vereeniging planted the church in Extension 23 and Sunday morning saw the two congregations come together in the township to clean up trash, finish some water piping at the base, and create a sidewalk of old pavers in front of Gogo Emily’s house. I was able to hang out with some of the kids afterwards and try to get to know them through my EXTREMELY limited Zulu and the English they are learning at school.
Over the rest of the summer, we plan to keep in contact with the team in Extension 23 and with Gogo Emily to keep up with the progress on the orphanage.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I have an accent...

I'm spending the day at a school, helping sort donations and getting to know kids who come to spend time in the classroom. At the moment I have 12 7th grade girls in the room with me making scrap books. The children quickly recognize that I don't talk right, and ask me where I'm from. I've never been called "maam" so much in my life. I love being within the people here...not just an observer, not just a tourist as I have been in the past on my travels. I love knowing that the entirety of my time here will be spent with the people.
While I quickly adjusted my body time, experiencing no jet lag, it's hard to accept the falling temperatures here in South Africa. Driving to the school this morning I stared at the thermometer that read -5 degrees celcius. Winter is only just beginning and I regret that I didn't pack more layers.
It's my fourth day in Africa and it feels like I just got here. There have been changes to my schedule from what I originally thought and next week I will be living in a township, working with the J-Lifers there. Each week thereafter will see me in a different part of ministry, from working in an orphanage to helping lead a short-term mission trip with a team from Texas at the end of July. Throughout my time here I will be working closely with Adam, a man I began dating last year, and who has been living in South Africa since the beginning of this year. It's definitely a blessing to have a familiar face to help me adjust and bridge the gap between myself and J-Life and I begin building relationships with them.
Thank you for the continued prayers and support. I can already see God working in and around me.
It's official...I love being in Africa. :-)