Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Smiles make my day

Isn't it amazing how much a smile can make your day change from good to awesome?

Yesterday I was in Kabokweni with the New Hope team. We had a good afternoon preparing for the feeding, spending time with the volunteers & waiting for the kids to arrive. It was a long, hot afternoon & the kids had barely gotten there when we had to leave.

Alan Bennet is leading the team from New Hope & had been here last June with a group of guys to see come along side of our ministry. Alan, Steve Horvath, Bill Hinshaw & Jeff Mitchel spent some time working on a home for Lucy & her two daughters. Lucy was very ill with AIDS and her teenage daughters were at risk in their little shack with no protection from a drunk, abusive uncle. Their new home was a blessing. Lucy has been very ill but has recently gone back on ARV's & is doing well.

As we were ready to leave yesterday, Alan asked if we could go by to show the team the home he had worked on. As we drove up the street, Lucy was sitting on the neighbor's porch & saw us. She jumped up waving & ran towards the road with a huge smile on her face! Well, we couldn't just drive on by! Hugs were given all around & Lucy just couldn't stop smiling. She took Alan's hand & walked him to her home. A couple of the guys pitched in & carried water containers up the hill to her home too. I don't think Lucy stopped smiling the whole time we were there.

I couldn't get over the excitement Lucy had to see us. And her happiness to show off her home. It made my day complete.

A smile...what a difference it can make in your day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New friends, new country-part 2

Texans are probably some of my favorite people. Kacy's team from BACC was here for about 10 days to love on Kacy, experience Africa & get their hearts broken. I had the pleasure of helping with their team. Great bunch of people!

We did tell them at orientation that our prayer was for God to break their hearts for the things that break His. I'm not sure it's what they bargained for, but our prayers were answered. Time after time, they saw God in the people of South Africa. They experienced being the hands & feet of Christ, while seeing how heart-broken God is for his children here. And they truly showed what the Body of Christ is all about. As they ministered to the children & volunteers in each community, they brought so much hope & joy. And left with tears in their eyes. And seeking more.

On Monday, we went to Kabokweni for the feeding. I took the team on to see the new Care Center that is being built, one of the volunteers homes & to see one of the homes we built in the community for a gogo & 6 grandchildren. As we got to Khatiwe's house, Pastor Steven just broke down crying. Her home is nothing more than a small metal shed. No windows, dirt floor, one room. We wouldn't even use it to store our lawn tools in. I told him that when Khatiwe first got the house, she was so proud that she finally had a place of her own. A few weeks later, she had a snake come in her house & was then very scared to have her 2 small children there. I took a visiting team down & we circled the house & prayed over it. I told him how I believed that the snake was just satan's way of trying to steal her joy. Seeing the house & hearing the story absolutely wrecked Steven. As a father to 2 young girls, he couldn't stop crying over Khatiwe's story.

On Tuesday John took Steven & Carly to Mbonisweni. The team had been out the week before to the feeding at Pastor Sthembiso's church, but we wanted to show them a few homes & share the dreams of a safe house in Mbonisweni. As John started telling them of the riots, fires, circumcision camps & other things that we had experienced over the past year, Carly got very quiet. And upset. And mad. She had already experienced the kids & how heart-breaking, but rewarding that is. But to see the other side, the side that most people don't experience, the side that is a spiritual battle, well, let's just say she was a little mad at John for wrecking her for Africa. She already feels like God is calling her to do more here. Not sure what that looks like yet. Her souvenir was a tattoo of Africa with the quote "If I don't...who will?"

Needless to say, our time with them was too short, but long-lasting. They experienced all God had for them & are seeking more. At our debrief, after everything was talked about, Steven asked his team, "So, now that you know, you are responsible. What will you do?"
Hmmm, I think I will use that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New friends, new country

This past week I had the opportunity to go to Swaziland for the first time. A friend of mine, Kacy, had to renew her visa & since Swazi is only about 90 minutes away, we decided to go across the border for the night. I had heard how beautiful the country is & wanted to experience it myself.

Swaziland is the last remaining kingdom on the continent of Africa. The king has about 13 wives & marries from different tribes to ensure that there is no tribal wars. I would think that would create wars, not prevent them! Anyways, the drive was stunning. Mountains & views like you wouldn't believe. The first town across the border is Bulembu, which is an abandoned mining town. Asbestos was mined there & you can still see where they have cut into the mountains as well as the cable cars for transporting the asbestos. After the mining companies pulled out, the town was pretty devastated. In addition to the lack of jobs, AIDS/HIV are very high in the area. The town was left with orphans & people with no opportunities. A mission organization came in & bought the town. They now run the town as a tourist destination with all proceeds going towards orphan care. The goal is for the town to be completely self-sufficient by 2020. Care-givers & job training have been set up, homes converted to hotels, a honey plant started for jobs & a wonderful restaurant serves the tourist & brings in much needed jobs. All in all, it's a wonderful town with a future that seemed hopeless before.

And the best part of the trip was spending time with my friends Kacy & a team from her home church, Bay Area Community Church. You'll have to read the next blog for more about them!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

House update

I'm sure you have all been wondering how our house is coming along. We were able to get the foundation all bricked in and it looks great! The back-filling took a little time, since we were able to use the workers from the base instead of hiring outside help. But they worked on it when they didn't have other projects to do, so it was a little slow. The electric lines have been run down to the house & now we are almost ready to pour the slab. The workers have been on break for the last 2 weeks, so I'm sure it will be a few more weeks before they are able to get back on our house.

The next phase will be a bit more expensive & time-consuming. It will be the bricklaying part. But not only do we need all the brick, cement, labor & supplies for that, but we also have to have the doors & windows purchased as well so that the frames can be bricked in. It will be the expensive stage! But, it will really be the major part of the building. Please be praying for us, that God would provide all that we need in His time! Blessings!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Things are just a little different in South Africa

Instead of graduation, they have Matric. Instead of Senior prom, they have Matric dance. And there sure aren't a lot of dresses to choose from! What they do have is either old looking or a little too risque, and very expensive. Most girls here have them made instead. One of our friends in the states mailed Rae 2 dresses, but do to the wonderful customs here, we weren't able to get them in time. Instead, we had our friend, Anneke, make her one. They had a great time designing & sewing it. I had the wonderful ideal of the boots! We really went with the 80's Madonna look. And it came out great, don't you think?

The after party was at the Botanical Gardens. John was the good dad & picked her up at 3am. Because here, you can't drive until you are 18...which is great when your daughter goes out to a dance! But, look real close on the ticket to the after party...caution, roaming hippos!!! See, I told you thing were just a little different here!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ndobile is a friend of mine that volunteers to take care of children in Kabokweni. I shared her story at my church a while back & in an earlier post. When I first met her last year, she had a newborn & a toddler, was living on her own in a small shack, with not much at all. It was cold & she had nothing. After sharing, a couple of wonderful people donated money & ask that she get some blankets. Well, we did better than that! We were able to use the money donated to buy her a nice queen bed with everything needed. Sheets, pillows, comforter & lots of blankets! It was fun being able to shop for her & bless her like that. But the funnest part was trying to deliver it. She lives up the side of the mountain. You can only drive up so far, and then you have to hike up this path. The day we were going to deliver it, of course there were no men around! So 5 of us girls decided that we would do it ourselves. Oh my! Five women, 2 toddlers & a baby...what a sight! I carried all the bedding, while the other women carried the mattress & box springs. Ndobile had the baby tied to her back, in the true African style, and still managed to get the bed up the mountain. We had so much fun making the bed & getting pictures & Ndobile was very appreciative!

As we were walking back down the mountain, a man was walking up. I greeted him in Siswati & he started talking to me. The girls told me he said I was beautiful & wanted to know if I had a husband. I told him yes, but thank you. I was feeling pretty good, being with all the young pretty women. But then, Ndobile said, "Auntie, I think he doesn't know that you are old." Um, well then! So much for that!

But we did have a good time & not only blessed Ndobile, but worked a few muscles that haven't been worked in a while!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Things you don't want to hear your husband say when he's in another country

1. "They are taking us to jail now"
2. "My phone is almost dead"

It's really not good when #2 immediately follows #1!

To back up just a bit, John went to Mozambique with Pastor Sthembiso & some members of the church this past week for an outreach. They were working in Xiaxia with some friends of ours that have a Youth For Christ base. Sthembiso's church had been once before & were eager to go again. The trip was a short one, from Tuesday to Friday, with lots of driving over very bad roads. Not to mention the hassle of crossing the border, pulling a trailer loaded down with donations. Potholes a foot deep are common in Moz, as well as corruption. But the ministry time was well worth it.

In the town of Xiaxia, there is a bridge that you have to pass over to get into & out of the city. Getting in is no problem, but to exit the city, you have to pay a toll. Well, in their case, it was the Hotel California...you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!

I got a text from John that said, "Pray. Heavy fine or jail". So, I immediately called him. I thought he was already at the border of Moz & SA. Nope, just the city, and apparently without the paperwork that nobody had ever heard of. Evidently, there is a new law, that if you are transporting people, you need some paper. Or there is a heavy fine or jail. So, our call pretty much went like this: "Where are you?" "I'm in Xiaxia & they are taking us to jail NOW" "For what?" "Paperwork stuff. Mark is on his way but the guy won't wait. My phone is going dead, so you probably can't get a hold of me. Gotta go." "Turn off your phone & I'll call back in an hour."

Not a fun conversation! And then getting NO information for 3-4 hours is not fun either! But, it all worked out fine. Mark made it there before they took them to jail & impounded the vehicle, they convinced the policeman to let them go type up the papers they needed, took them to be stamped & then were on their way. And afterwards, it was easier to see God's hand in it...they were stopped 6 more times before they got out of Mozambique. If they hadn't been so close to Mark, they would not have been able to get the proper papers & probably would have been in jail...for who knows how long!