Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two Weeks and Thankful

So where exactly am I now? Well, it’s a little hard to point it out on a map.  I’m living and working in the Amangwe Tribal Area, located in the Loskop area of KwaZulu-Natal province. The roads here don’t have names, the few shops are mostly out of everything, but the people are lovely, and I’m loving it!

Here’s what I see in the road every morning on my walk to work:


And here’s where I work:


In the last two weeks at work, I’ve spent time in the garden, visited some local schools, gone with a nurse to visit people living with HIV and AIDS, starting planning for the camp we’ll put on in October, worked on learning Zulu, and spent a lot of time with OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) teaching games and songs, learning names that are difficult to say, and building relationships. It’s been a good first two weeks and I’ve been reminded again and again that “children are a gift from God…” Pslam 127:3. While these children aren’t mine, I feel so blessed that I get to be a part of their lives!  Actually, I feel a bit like I’ve been adopted by them as the new kid in the neighborhood.


While they just learned Ultimate Frisbee, they love it and want to play all the time. We have to stop the games for cows sometimes though.

I’m also very thankful for the pace of life here. Having left a very busy season of life in the States, the slower pace is so refreshing.

From a hike last weekend

A verse I’ve been hanging on to is Acts 3: 19 “…the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.”  How good to know that even when the pace isn’t slower, refreshment come from time with Him. No matter how busy life gets, or what's going on, He is the Source!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Here


The sinking South African sun painted the sky all orange and pink as I returned from a run this evening. It’s beautiful here! 



I arrived safely in Pretoria on Sunday and this week has been filled with training and preparations. Siyabonga for your prayers. If you didn’t guess, siyabonga, is one of the ways of saying “thank you” in Zulu. It’s one of the few words I can now say.  I still haven’t had much time for language learning, but I head to my site tomorrow and will be searching for a tutor there who is willing to teach a slow, but dedicated learner.


My home for this next year is in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Did you know that it snows in those mountains?! And that it snowed last week! Winter is just ending here, yes, that’s right winter...but the end of winter means spring!


How thankful I am that God made seasons, in weather and in life, and that “there is a time for everything under the sun” (Ecc. 3). I’m grateful for this opportunity to be back in Africa and am excited for what this year will hold. I want to make the most of the time, to run with endurance the race set before me, to fix my eyes on Christ, to love with His love, to share the good news and to always follow where He leads.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Heading Back to Africa


I’m headed back to Africa!  On August 30th I’ll be flying to South Africa to work as an Orphan &Vulnerable Children (OVC) Project Support Specialist for a year with Thembalethu Care Organization through Peace Corps Response. Themablethu ( which means hope) is a Christian organization responding to the effects of HIV/AIDS & poverty by sharing God’s love holistically with the sick, supporting OVCs, and empowering the Amangwe community, in KwaZulu-Natal Province. 
I’m excited for this upcoming adventure and the ways the Lord will work over this next year.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

I’d appreciate prayer for:
  • Daily opportunities to share Christ’s love with those around me
  • Working with a local youth group and after school program
  • Planning a summer camp for 35 HIV positive children
  • Providing training to local staff


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Going in Grace (& Peace)

With a tear in my eye, today I’ll fly…I’ve said my goodbyes and had a few cries, but now I’m ready to go. As all my projects have wrapped up, closing has the feeling of contentment. These past two years have been wonderfully full. How thankful I am indeed for this place and these people. Rwanda was simply a country I’d heard stories about before I came. Now it is the land that I’ve lived in and loved.





With two of my host families

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” Philippians 1: 3-4


This blog has highlighted bits of my “African adventure” and I hope that through it, 1 Thessalonians 5:24 shone through. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass.” The Lord has been ever so faithful every step of the way. And now, another adventure awaits…


“From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” Romans 11:36

Monday, January 31, 2011

Telling Time

Time is a tricky thing to track. Of course we know it ticks away in measurements of seconds, minutes, and hours, which turn into days, and months, and years. But somehow, those months can flash by quick as a blink, and memories, held tight, can last forever.
Saturday (January 29th) marked two years of living in Rwanda and with just 2 months left, the days seem to be flying.


But as they fly, my projects are finishing up too.
This is exciting! (Often bringing to mind Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ”)
The preschool, I wrote and received a grant for, finished construction and re-opened this month! Its dirt floor and packed mud walls have been replaced by clean solid classrooms and a reading room with books.
Before:
After:
It was so exciting to watch the transformation, and now to see it put to good use.

Another something I’m excited about connects with my work in the hospital pediatric ward this last year. It’s been such a blessing to be in that environment and be providing (and training nurses in) psychosocial support. What does that mean? Play, of course! However, toys aren’t as readily available here. So, as I’ve mentioned before, I began sewing dolls and beanbags (used for games and to explain medical procedures.)
This was great, but…I’m leaving soon.
So, guess what? I learned that the local prison houses both women and their young children. How’s that relevant? Well, I introduced the dolls and beanbags to the social worker there and we distributed some to the children and developed a plan. We now have “The Sew Good Project.” That means a group of female prisoners are sewing dolls and bean bags, so that children living in the prison and hospitalized children have access to play materials.

My hope is that this will be a sustainable, and it should be, as we are using free fabric scraps from the local tailor shop and beans grown in the prison’s garden. What a neat thing it is to see these women now using some of their time to sew for the good of others and in doing so, learning some new skills and thinking about how they can give back to the community. They seem to love it, the children sure do, and I do too!

Other fun events from these last few months include:
Facilitating for a girls leadership camp (Camp GLOW),
organizing a Christmas Nativity skit with my host sisters,
climbing Mt. Bisoke,
hosting neighborhood kids for craft activities,
and beginning to plan for my trip home (will be stopping in Europe on the way back.) But for now, I’m still here.
And how glad I am for that! You know, we talk about “African time” meaning most things start later and take longer than they’re supposed to. Well maybe that is true, but there’s another side of it too. It means slowing down to visit with neighbors instead of rushing by, stopping to smell the flowers, and giving thanks to the God of the Ages, who holds each day and life in His hands. Yes, time is a tricky thing, but that’s all the more reason to treasure it. Every day is a gift, each moment an opportunity.

“Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; and His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How does your garden grow?

The seeds we plant today are the harvest we’ll reap tomorrow. But when is tomorrow? In some ways it’s today, in some ways it’s in a few weeks, or months, and in other ways it’s for the rest of our lives. What do I mean? Well, you see the seeds are not just plants, they’re also seeds of encouragement and seeds of hope, seeds that don’t just grow in the future…they give a future.

These last few weeks some fellow volunteers and I have been doing garden trainings. We’ve held these at the homes of different families, many who have children who have had or currently have malnutrition. By sharing with them simple ways to improve their gardens (i.e. digging deeper, enriching the soil, pulling weeds, and planting (and then eating) nutritious vegetables), we’re building on what they already know and helping them to help themselves.


Last season in my own garden I planted lettuce, something I can never find in my local market here. It grew great and I enjoyed many a salad. Eventually a few remaining plants went to seed. I didn’t pull them, but instead enjoyed watching the life cycle, and was surprised by the almost broccoli looking form it took. In due course, it was time to replant and when I went to pull out the remaining lettuce stalks (they were no longer heads) I was met by a great surprise. I didn’t need to replant. The lettuce had sprinkled its seeds in the soil itself and plants were already growing…in abundance!

I’d planted, but then they’d grown and multiplied. That’s just what I hope for the gardens we plant and the skills we share. That they will grow and multiply and produce an abundant harvest. I hope this for the plants of course, but also for the smiles and the encouraging words.
The story of Jonah and the big fish is well known, but as I reread it, the end of the book was what really stood out to me.
Jonah 4:5-11: Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life." Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
“And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant.” It’s easy to get excited about plants growing, change comes quickly and it’s easy to see that a difference has been made. In lives and hearts it can be a little harder to see, but don’t give up. Remember the compassion of the Lord, His faithfulness and love. How glad I am that this world is in the hands of the Gracious God instead of the Jonah and what a delight it is to get to be a gardener.

James 3:17 & 18, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, the peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Climbing

The beginning of Isaiah 40: 9 says “Get yourself up on a high mountain…”



Well, that’ exactly what I did! But why does the verse say to go? To declare good news. And I do have good news: Together my friend Sonia and I, made to the top of Africa and the world’s tallest free standing mountain, Urhuru Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. In fact, we were standing on the summit a month ago today.



What a delightful adventure and experience. I loved every minute of the climb (and am so thankful I didn’t have any altitude sickness!)

However, that is not the Good News. The good news, the glorious Truth, is even more exciting. (And I must say, I was pretty excited, skipping on the summit after watching the most spectacular sunrise up above the clouds!)




So what could be better?


Just a little further in the same chapter of Isaiah, verses 28-31 shares this:


“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who hope in the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”


God is the Good News! He’s the Creator of the ends of the earth (glaciers in Africa) and His handiwork was such a delight see all along our trek. From unusual trees, friendly monkeys, and a zebra rock, His creativity was declared everywhere I looked.




But He didn’t just create, He sustains! How wonderful to know no matter what type of mountain, when challenges come along, God will be there, faithful and strong!



Happy Trails