“Rain, the Dry Spell is Over!”

Today was a treat from our Father God. We left early, before the sun had risen in an overcast sky. The forecast called for rain, but as much as the Cape needed it, we hoped it would hold off just long enough for us to go ON SAFARI!

We headed inland through the incredible and majestic Cape Ranges, their jagged summits disappearing into clouds, heavy with rain. We passed through the Huguenot Tunnel, about 2 miles through the heart of the granite mountains. We passed vineyards ready to be harvested, their delicious fruit being sold on the roadside by opportunists who steal the hanging fruit to make an ill-gotten profit.

We ventured deeper inland into the Karoo, a desert land dotted with sparse bushes and craggy hills. Our destination was Aquila, a private game reserve nestled in the barren landscape.

Packed tightly into our bush vehicle, our guide informed us that we would be experiencing an African Massage – very bumpy roads, and indeed they were. Springbok, zebra, hippo, rhino, giraffes, gemsbok, elephant and lion. We saw them all. The weather was perfect. The sky cleared and the air was fresh and crisp.

This evening, on our return home, we did our mission debrief. Each of the team members shared what they had learned and what was for them the highlight of the trip. It was amazing to hear over and over the same sentiment, the kids were what made it special. Even the team members who had come mainly for the work project had been won over by the innocent smiles, hugs and unconditional love of the children. Most of the team hope to return to do it again next year.

A short term mission trip is a life-changing experience. Those who go will never be the same again. Our lives have been branded forever by the sweet smiles of dark-eyed children.

As we were sitting in the living room of Sonnekus, someone remarked, “it’s raining!” And it was. The rain was pouring down. The dry spell was over. For me it was a message, a confirmation, a promise. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

We will be home soon, with stories to tell and experiences to share. But we will not be the same people who left you 10 days ago. The children of Cape Town have changed us.

God bless and much love,
Your very humbled South Africa Team

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Beginnings and Endings

The day started early for some of us who gave up precious sleep to rise before daybreak and watch the sunrise on the beach across the street from us. As soon as we passed through the tunnel that took us underneath the train tracks, and emerged onto the soft white sand of the St James beach, we knew it was all worth it. With the sound and sight of thunderous waves crashing on the shore, the amber glow of the promised sunrise, and the misty mountains on a distant shore we stood in awe of God’s amazing creative handiwork.

No earthly artist could capture the sight, the sound, the freshness of the morning air, the nip of the wind on our cheeks. It had to be experienced. As we watched for the first glimpse of the fiery orb, I couldn’t help but worship with a song in my heart, “Hallelujah, God Almighty the great I AM!”
It was the perfect start to a perfect day that I did not want to end.

As a special treat, Nick had ordered KFC for all the children of God’s Little Lighthouse and the Dream Center. We served the children the chicken and chips (French fries), the delicious smell of fried chicken wafting through the air. For the children it was a rare treat and most of them sucked every morsel of finger-licken goodness off the bones. All that was left was greasy handprints and satisfied tummies.

While the children napped,and we waited for the Dream Center children to come from school, we sorted all the bags of crafts that the children had created all week, plus a handful of sweeties, ready for them to take home. We sucked every morsel off every minute of time we had with the children, but we were still hungry for more.

Saying goodbye was very difficult. We hope to be back next year, but who knows except God, if our plans will become reality. What will happen to these children in the space of a year? We all have our favorites even though they are ALL so special. Little hearts that we have connected with. Little faces imprinted forever on our minds. All we can do is pray for them and trust a loving Father God to watch over them.

Tomorrow we have a day of sightseeing before we leave the fair Cape bereft of little pieces of our heart.

God bless you all, our loved ones, and we thank you for your sustaining prayers.
Your South Africa Team, numbers one through fourteen.

Is it Thursday Already?

The children were so happy to see us this morning. You would have thought that we had been gone for days. One little boy came up to me and said, “I missed you.” And then asked if we would come back tomorrow. I said, “yes,” with a heavy heart, knowing that I would not be able to give him the same answer tomorrow. It is going to be difficult to say goodbye to the children tomorrow night. But I don’t want to think about that just now.

Today was a productive day. We finished the narrow deck between the buildings that will house the shoes that the children leave outside in a lovely straight line.

We repeated the routine of the first two days; the VBS in the morning, playing with the kids outside until their lunch time, and then in the afternoon working with the Dream Center kids, helping with homework and then doing a Bible lesson, puppet show and craft.

Today we added a fun Zumba workout with the kids led by Diana, and Sabrina had the kids acting out the Bible lesson as Molly taught. It was fun to see the team members adding their personal touch and using their own gifts and talents for the Lord.

We are all tired, and tomorrow some of us plan on getting up early to watch the sunrise on the beach across the road, so I will say good night, sweet dreams, and I will write again tomorrow.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us. We need it.
God bless and much love from your South Africa Missions Team.

 

It was a “Lekker” Day!

Today was a public holiday, and so there were no children at GLL. Nick took the opportunity to treat us to a little down-time by taking us to Cape Point, the tip of South Africa where the two oceans (the Atlantic and Indian) are purported to meet. One side – the Atlantic- is cold, and the other side – the Indian – is warm. Hence most of the swimming beaches are on our side of the mountains.

Cape Point is ruggedly beautiful. The reserve boasts of several types of African wildlife, but we saw only several ostrich and a family of cheeky baboons. We hiked up to the lighthouse and the view was awe-inspiring. When you see God’s amazing handiwork on display all around you, you cannot help but worship and love Him.

From there we went to Simon’s Town, a delightful seaside town hugging the rocky mountain coastline. It also houses South Africa’s naval fleet, which was quite impressive. However, what really grabbed our attention was the outdoor African art and curio market with all kinds of bargains to tempt us into parting with our Rands.

After shopping for our gifts and souvenirs, we headed back to GLL for a lunch of P, B and J sandwiches, and then spent the afternoon painting walls, hanging new TVs , disinfecting every plastic toy on the premises and wiping down all the tables and chairs that are used by the children.

It was strange to be at GLL without the children. It reminded me of a shell that you find on the beach – a house that once was inhabited by a living creature no longer in residence.

We ended our evening at a local restaurant called “Lekker” (“very good” in Afrikaans). There we had traditional South African cuisine, like Bobotie and Cape Malay Curried Chicken, lamb bredie (stew) and malva pudding.

You may be wondering about the water situation. It is still dire, but South Africans (a hardy and humerous bunch) are taking it on the chin and making do. Extreme Response brought in two jojos of water (two huge containers of water) that are refilled weekly to keep the school going. The children run up the steps and peek over the wall to see the water truck pumping in the water to the containers when it comes. The toilets are flushed with a bucket of water, and only when necessary. There are no running faucets in any public restroom. You see signs that say “We use grey water.” Grey water is the water that is used in the showers and laundry, and can be reused to flush toilets and water the garden.

Tomorrow we work with the children again, and I can’t wait to see them.
God bless you, dear ones. Keep praying, God is hearing your prayers.
Much love from your Suid Afrika Missions Team.

Another Great Day!

There are no adequate words to describe the horrific conditions that these sweet children live under. Today, Nick took us through Masiphumelele and Ocean View to get a first hand look at the townships that the children come from. What these children are witness to in their everyday lives would make your skin crawl, so I won’t go into detail, but it really gives you a new appreciation for the haven that is God’s Little Lighthouse to these children. To see them playing, their sweet innocent faces lifted in joy and laughter, makes you marvel at the resilience of childhood, and wonder what effect it will have on their future lives.

We have heard that some of the children who have gone though God’s Little Lighthouse have become lawyers and other professionals, and it underlines the importance of a strong, wholesome foundation in early childhood.

Today Nick took us to the offices of Extreme Response and spoke to us about who and what Extreme Response is, their mission, their passion and their partners. We feel so blessed to be a small part of this vital ministry in Cape Town, South Africa.

We continued our VBS in the morning as well as several work projects, and in the afternoon worked once again with the Dream Center children. The children are starting to look for us, remember our names, and are getting more comfortable with us. They are already forming attachments to us that will make it so hard at the end of the week to say goodbye.

I cannot begin to tell you how amazingly special these children are. They are smart, obedient, friendly and sweet. They are so unspoiled and grateful for everything you do for them and the attention you give them. It is a true blessing to be able to pour our lives into them this week and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.

The team, with all our different personalities and penchants, is getting to know one another and form a strong bond. Nick commented tonight how he has been enjoying listening to the interactions of the team as we come together for different purposes. Some of us are old hands at the short term mission experience, and some of us are first-timers. We blend together as one team with one mission, and I am again amazed at how God brings the right people for the right time and purpose.

“Today has been a great day!” Yes it has been, Pastor Bob. And we look forward to the adventures of tomorrow.

Until the next installment, please continue to pray for us and we wish you a goeie nag. God Bless and much love,
Your South Africa Missions Team, one through fourteen.

“We Had a Great Day”

 

The above title is Pastor Bob’s contribution to the blog, and the reason why he is not writing it. 😉

Day one of our work week began with a morning devotional by pastor Bob, and once again our hostess, Pat spoiled us with a breakfast fit for a king.

We could hardly contain our excitement anticipating seeing the children of God’s Little Lighthouse again, and the question on the minds of the team that had been there before was; would we see any of the same kids, and would they recognize us?

Pam, the lady in charge of GLL, welcomed us and told us her story of how GLL came to be. She told us of the seeming insurmountable problems that had faced her, and God’s loving provision through the years culminating with her partnership with Extreme Response.

As we entered the building, the memories of last mission trip came flooding back.
While we set up the puppet stage, prepared the crafts and music for the VBS, several shy children peeked in the door to see what we were doing. The children had not been told that we were coming, so they were very curious about these strangers all dressed in green T shirts.

My question as to whether we would see some of the children we knew before was answered very quickly when a little boy called John came up and said shyly, “I remember you.” My heart almost burst with joy and gratitude. We had spent only one week with these children one and a half years ago, and yet we had been imprinted on their memory! What a confirmation that we are making a difference, albeit small, in the lives of these children. Later, several other children also said they remembered us. What a blessing!

VBS went without a hitch. The kids loved the song, and Diana, Sabrina and Molly had them up and moving. They were mesmerized by TC the puppet, listened attentively to the Bible story and the gospel message, and loved the craft that went with the Bible Lesson.

Spending time out in the playground with the children is a real treat. The children are so sweet, friendly, inquisitive and affectionate. They love the attention you give them, and they cling to your hands and pull you around with them saying, “come with me, auntie,” or “watch me, Auntie.” They look at you with adoring brown eyes and big white smiles. How can we not fall in love with them?

Some of the team worked on several work projects; scraping, water-proofing, and painting a wall, knocking down a partition wall and clearing away the rubble.

In the afternoon, Ron and Amy, of Extreme Response came and spoke to us about the Dream Center and the children that they help. Currently they have 30 plus children in the impossibly small Dream Center. These children are the ones that need the most help academically. Mainly because their parents do not speak English and cannot help them at home with school work. They all come from the townships of Masiphumelele, and Ocean View – two of the townships in the area.

These children come after school, and began arriving at 2:30 p.m. We helped with homework, read to them, and then did a Bible lesson, craft and song with them. One of the little girls did not want to go home when her parent came to fetch her, and would only be pacified when auntie Amy assured her that we would be back tomorrow.

It was a full and busy day, and we came home exhausted and ready to forgo dinner and go straight to bed, but Nick had a treat in store for us.

Just down the road in the fishing village of Kalk Bay is a unique restaurant called “Cape to Cuba”. it was fun to have a close to home though far from home experience, and the food was excellent.

But tonight we will sleep well. Our dreams will be filled with the faces of sweet brown children with large curious eyes, and happy giggles.
Goeie nag (good night) Loved Ones, until tomorrow.

Go, Connect and Share

Sunday morning began with the sound of crashing waves, the plaintive call of seagulls and morning birds filling the cool air around our lovely home away from home.
We were treated to a delicious breakfast by our hostess, Pat, and her son, Nick, in the quaint dining room of Sonnekus. Then we headed off to Medway Community Church where we would be fellowshipping and ministering that day.
South Africans are a very casual and relaxed people, and it was interesting to be in a church where the children play barefooted on the floor until the first part of the service is over and they are bustled away for their Sunday lessons.
The theme that day was “Saved to Serve” and the testimonies from Pastor Bob and Jorge fit beautifully into the theme, as well as our song “Go, Connect and Share.”

After the service we stayed for lunch at the church as the youth were braaiing boerewors sausages for lunch and we ate them much like a hot dog, in a bun, only much more tasty and spicey.

It was a real treat for us to see Greg and Carol Karsten again and to spend a good amount of time fellowshipping with them and the members of the church. It is always amazing to me that no matter how far we travel in the world, God’s people are brothers and sisters, and the bond is tangible and real.

After lunch we did some sightseeing and souvenir shopping, and by the end of the evening we were exhausted and ready to snuggled down into our duvet covered beds, the waves hushing us into a deep and restful sleep.

Day Zero

Finally, the much anticipated day has arrived, day zero. The count down has ended and it is finally mission launch day, Friday, March 16, 2018. 12 already tired team members met at the church at 2:00 a.m. (yes I said 2:00 a.m.) , packed up the bus and set off for Ft Lauderdale airport, anticipating with trepidation the 24 hour journey that would take us to the tip of Southern Africa, to the beautiful city of Cape Town. Our first sight of Africa was from 35,000 ft in the air, a misty, glowing world of pinks and mauves below a sea of blue. After many adventures and not so happy surprises in traveling, we arrived with our luggage and ourselves intact. We met our missionary host, Nick Carnill, and headed for our home away from home, the Sonnekus guest house in St. James. And what a home it is. A graceful old and very spacious house facing False Bay, with the back drop of the rugged Cape Ranges. Day Zero means something very different to the people of Cape Town. They are facing the worst drought in a century, and Day Zero is the day in which the authorities threaten to “turn off the taps” and force the Capetonian people to travel to inadequate water dispensing centers to fetch their rations of water. This has affected God’s Little Lighthouse in many ways, particularly since the water rationed for 4 people must make do for 130 kids plus staff. Reminders not to waste water are everywhere, and even in the airport bathrooms, the water has been turned off at the sinks so one is forced to use the provided hand sanitizer. In the gracious living room, which has become our briefing/gathering place, Nick outlined for us us the plan for the mission, and warned us of the dangers of walking anywhere alone. He then took us to dinner at a quaint little Italian restaurant in the picturesque town of Kalk Bay, just down the road from us, which is filled with artsy shops and all manner of tourist traps. We fell sleep with the sound of the waves lulling us to sleep, and the memories of the flight and mountains and the ocean turning into the dreams of a very needed sleep. Please pray for us as we execute the mission, starting with ministering in a local church on Sunday morning. God bless and tot siens (good bye). Your South Africa Missions Team

The Fairest Cape

 

 

 

Sir Francis Drake in July of 1580 saw for the first time the heart- stopping sight of the towering, rocky mountains, rising out of the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Against the backdrop of the cornflower blue sky he saw the unique flat-topped Table mountain and declared it “a most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth”. And to be sure, we who have seen it would likely agree with him.

Though centuries separate us, and the world has changed, the view of Table Mountain still takes our breath away when we view it for the first time.

But as beautiful as the chiseled mountains and the crashing ocean, even more beautiful to us are the faces of the children that we remember from our last mission trip in 2016, a year and a half ago. We remember their innocent faces filled with awe at the visiting Americans. We remember their laughter and joyous singing of the songs we taught them. And we can’t wait to go back.

We have been preparing these last few months. Team meetings, fund raisers, and much prayer, building a group of strangers into a team of friends. By the end of the mission we will have shared experiences that will bond us as a family.

We have already seen how the team moves as one entity, solving problems, deciding on the right course of action when something doesn’t go as planned.  As a company of soldiers go through boot camp, these fundraisers are our boot camp, helping us to see one another’s strengths and limits. Teaching us to work together to get the job done, no matter what obstacle is thrown into our path.

Our marching orders are “Go, Connect and Share”. Our mission and desire is that “in this world we will be like Jesus. We will walk like Him, we will talk like Him, we will love others because He first loved us.”

We ask… no beg, for your prayers. Pray for Cape Town, facing a severe water shortage that will affect us too. Pray for our travel as we embark on our looong voyage. Pray for our ministry to the children of God’s Little Lighthouse, and the South Africans we will meet each day.

We don’t know what adventure God has in store for us, but we will be ready with the armor of God protecting us and our sword in hand.

18 days until mission launch, and we will be ready…