Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Grace Filled Two Months

The last two months have been full. Filled with learning, adventures, and grace. The days have flown by and I’m afraid it’s been a bit too long since the last update, so there’s a lot to share. Feel free to just look at the pictures.

Some of the happenings from the past couple months include:
  • Exploring the local mountains. Two beautiful hikes in the Drakensberg Mountains, one to a waterfall and one to marble pools.




      













  • Planning and organizing a holiday kids club. This was pretty much 2 full days of VBS, with singing, crafts, Bible stories, games, lunch, memory verses and lots of fun.

This is me with about 1/2 the kids who came. They are holding paper boats they made.

They loved throwing water balloons!
  • Putting out a wild fire. The picture I have isn’t great, but the feat we accomplished was! 
Together with my host family, we battled a fire that was coming down the hill towards our houses, in the middle of the night.  No fire department to call and no hoses at all, we beat out the fire with wet burlap sacks soaked in buckets of water we carried. It was an extremely hot, long, smoky battle and we were filthy afterwards…but oh how we rejoiced when it was out. The time really helped us bond too, we’ve literally been through fire together and came out stronger for it. Here are a few pics of some of the family:

With host mom (Thandi) and her grandson Ayabonga
Ayabonga with Nokubonga, my host cousin (left) and Thando, my host sister (right)
  • Having neighbor kids over to play games and read stories. The word is out that I have cards and books.  It’s always fun to have guests. 
  • Planning and putting on a camp for some of the children my organization serves. This camp was the highlight of my time so far. It is the project I worked the hardest on and was the most rewarding too.  The kids who came had the opportunity to play and swim and do challenge course activities…and just be kids, leaving behind some of the challenges of everyday life. But they also got time to talk about the challenges they share in common, and learn about resilience, goal setting, and how we can have hope, even in the midst of very hard things. I’m so glad that hope isn’t just a word, but is found in Christ. Some really good conversations were had, kids opened up, the Good News was shared, plus we sang and prayed, and danced and laughed and had oh so much fun. 


Another blessing was that with all the busyness of camp, my quite time was a bit earlier than normal, accompanied by a beautiful sunrise.

  • Joining two families for a camping trip in a local game park.  We saw giraffes right as we were driving into the park, then lots of ostriches, zebras, warthogs and different types of antelope. In the morning just a little ways from our tents were two rhinos and a herd of zebras.  Blessed!


That’s a glimpse at what my last few months have looked like.  I really love it here and it’s been so neat to be a part of what the Lord is doing and have time to enjoy the beauty of His creation. But I do miss home too. A few weeks back I attended training in a nearby city. While there, I went for a walk and was thinking about how I was missing fall and the beauty of the changing autumn leaves. And then, right before me, was a giant jacaranda tree in full bloom. I'd been missing colorful trees without even thinking to hope to see them. And when I wasn't expecting it at all, there was a gift beauty. Pure grace.

So I stood right there among the falling flowers and prayed a thank you prayer for how God showers down blessings and makes beautiful things. I was reminded that sometimes beauty comes when and where we least expect it, but how that can make it all that much sweeter. And when I returned to my village, I starting looking and discovered there are jacaranda trees here too.   How had I missed them before!


I want to live with open eyes, to see His blessings and recognize them. To recognize that every day is grace - a free gift I don’t deserve and to remember that it is grace to get to share about the very greatest Gift (Ephesians 3: 8).

And oh how gracious God is to this one who has a hard time remembering and sometimes forgets to look...the reminders are right in the names I have been given. The name Anna means “grace” in Hebrew. And the Zulu name I was given my very first week here, is “Mbali”, which means flower.  And my camp name from a few years back is “Forget-me-not”. So this is a reminder to myself, whenever I see flowers, whether gracing a tree, a field, or a garden, remember God’s great grace. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” ~ Isaiah 40:8

And one more peak into that enduring Word says:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” ~ Ephesians 2: 8-10

Walking in and by His grace!

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