Sunday, March 29, 2009

So fun to spoil the unspoiled!

The last few weeks have been so much fun at the pre school in Blok E! One day we made rice crispe treats for them...they had no idea what they were so they just stared at them as we set the treat on their desk! It was hilarious and so fun to introduce them to a favorite American snack.

Brittany found a plato recipe online, so we spent one afternoon making different colors of fun! The kids thought this was the BEST thing in the world....They could have played with it forever, seriously!

Last was our BIG birthday party at school. Brit had the idea for us to throw a massive birthday for everyone. So we came in Thursday morning screaming, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" and hugging them...haha, they were so confused! Next, they were all given balloons which gave them entertainment for hours. We then played "pin the tail on the elephant" one really got the concept of that game, but it was still fun nonetheless:) The big finale was the cake! We brought in two birthday cakes glowing with candles on top! Adults starting coming in from the street due to rumors of cake being served...We ended up using every last crumb of that cake due to people infiltrating the pre school from outside.

I'm anti-spoiling kids, but this was so, so fun! We gave them a humongous piece of cake with thick icing layered on it. They were in seventh heaven. Also, I had found some candy bars pretty cheap at the grocery store...big, thick, chocolate candy bars! Next after they were done, we played a game where the winner would get a candy the end everyone received one! They were literally bouncing off the walls!

It was just so great to see these kids who aren't promised a meal everyday light up with excitement! They were so, so appreciative... and probably alittle sugar sick as well:) But I think they would say it was well worth it...

Enjoy the pictures!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

When the goin' gets tough, the tough gets goin --lion king

A whirlwind of emotions.

The worst and the best weeks!

One of the hardest weeks of my life was the last week of February. It started out with the bee story (which is told in one of the blogs below) and then there was Charlton. Charlton was one of my favorites from the youth group (not sure if i'm supposed to have those, oops!). We found out he was in the hospital randomly on Sunday the 22nd. We went to visit him and he looked great and said he just needed a blood transfusion because he was having kidney problems. However, later in the week we heard it had gotten worse so we went to visit him again. This was quite the difficult experience. Charlton was not doing well at all. His chest and throat had swelled up, he could not speak, or do much for himself. He needed a kidney transplant, but to no avail. I sat there and looked around at his room...his room of four patients... no TVs...the other patients were just laying in their beds with nothing hooked up to them except a bag for visitors..just blank stares... That was hard enough, but then I looked at charlton... a boy who was lively and jovial the week before... now he is sitting here on his death bed with no IVs in him, no nurses constantly checking on him, nothing like home in the US. He could have been helped in South Africa but his family did not have the money. I sat there in awe of the situation. How is this happening? Before I knew it my vision was starting to go black and I had to walk out of the room and sit on the floor with my head between my legs.... Everytime I would go back in that room, the same thing would happen... I would get on the verge of fainting and have to exit the room (This has never happened to me before). The most suprising part was discovering how terrified I was of having something wrong with me and having to be taken care of by this hospital. I had the hope that if something was really serious I could always go back home to the US and get "good" medical care. And then it hit me..but wait!? Why is that fair? What did I do to deserve to be born in a country with more money, better medical care, etc. I don't get it. Charlton is just as much of a human being as me... why do I get better access to quality health care than him? Charlton could have surely been helped if he was in the U.S...I know it...or atleast his life prolonged.

The rest of the week I slept on the floor in Brittany's room to be around people...the whole week was dark..even the dog started breaking out in bumps everywhere all over his body...but no money to take him to the vet. Lenie would storm in during the middle of the night and tell us she had to rush to the hospital because Charlton was doing very bad. Then the next day she would tell us he was doing better so we got excited. But by the following Sunday- one week after he had been admitted into the hospital, Charlton died.

I am still trying to process that week. Death is rampent here. Lenie goes to about two funerals PER WEEK. Most people I have met have all lost a child, husband, and/or a sibling. This was the first time it hit home, though. All I know is that it is my responsiblity to continue to give back to the poor and needy for the rest of my life. I don't know why I was born somewhere with so many accomadations... but I do know that everything I have received needs to be given back two fold to others without.

So that was the hard week. We planned our Zambia trip right when I got to Africa. However, I had no idea it would land at such a perfect, perfect time during my stint in Africa! I needed to get out of Rehoboth after that very hard week... and knowing God and his omniscience, he planned the trip at the most perfect timing!

We spent the last week in Zambia and got to view Victoria Falls (one of the 7 wonders of the world). We stayed at a hostel and met so many cool people with cool stories. Everyone had come from somewhere different and was on a journey to another place in the world. Of the many people we met, there was a group of about 5 girls and guys we all made friends with throughout the week. They found out we were missionaries and were very open with telling us they were not Christians. At the beginning of the week, I was waiting for these people to get tired of us talking about God and say we take Christianity too seriously...or too extreme! However, they stuck around and we had conversations about Jesus the entire week....they actually encouraged it! I'm still sort of confused about why they stuck around when there were plenty of other people to hang out with... they even stayed three extra days at the hostel to hang out. It was really encouraging and most of all we just really enjoyed eachother. We were laughing all the time and became really good friends by the closure of the week. It wasn't like they were a project or we wanted to convert them.. b/c only God can change a person's heart, not my very much inarticulate words, ha! It was just a natural friendship that led us to overflow in words about the most important things in each of our lives. So, after a difficult week, it was very refreshing and great to be able to speak in English about my savior to people who just want to know more and more.

Zambia/Victoria Falls!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Monday, the 23rd of February

This day started our great… Brit, Stephen, and I were all rejuvenated from the weekend and ready to get to work on the youth center, again. We had just finished painting a room and the clock struck 1:00. This meant the children were going to come by for songs and games on their walk home from school. We were singing “Shake another hand, another hand next to ya, shake another hand while you sing this song”…if any of you are familiar with that song…I presume only a few unless life ever led you to be a camp counselor…which then you, of course, know every silly children song ever made! … but back to the point. We were singing that song…

Then.. Out of no where.. Four boys suddenly dropped their belongings and ran off screaming! We were perplexed… “What is going on?” I wondered. Before we knew it, kids were screaming and running everywhere…there were bees scattered everywhere. Someone must have messed with a nest and these honey bees wanted revenge. Most of the children had ran away .. And we sent the remaining children home as everything seemed to be okay……we weren’t anxious at this point.

Next thing we knew, we heard a girl screaming at the top of her lungs crying for help. Stephen and I looked across the street….an 8th grade girl had a cloud of about 70 bees around her head…they respite..

Stephen and Brit ran to get water and Brit and I ran across the street to toss our water on this girl’s head….as we were sprinting, we saw this little girl approach and bang her hands on a car window.. begging for help.. the driver looked at her and drove away…

We finally reached her…dumped our water bottles on her head…. and the bees came after us. I lost sight of the little girl at this point but later learned she ran into the youth center still swarmed with bees to meet Stephen. Brittany and I ran down the street yelling “Help!! Please call for help…. Someone call the police! Help!” Some people laughed at us and some people just stared at us. As we ran into a building by the youth center, two grown men saw the bees swarming our heads and they ran away from us as we asked for help! was really hurtful and somewhat disturbing..

Praise God, but the bees started to disappear as we went into the building to get more water to dump on the little girl’s head. We grabbed a jacket and hat from men on the street and sprinted toward the youth center …. I have never, ever been so scared in my life… scenes from the movie, “My Girl” kept popping in my head when the little boy died from being attacked by bees. I also had never prayed so hard in my life.. And so loud… All I knew was that Stephen and this little girl were in that youth center and maybe with about 100 bees…

“Are they still conscious?”
“What do we do if they are not…”
“Has anyone else seen the American boy with us?” “Why isn’t he answering as we scream his name outside the building?”

Death crossed our minds b/c we didnt know the number of bees that had accumulated in the youth center… I have never felt the way I felt at that my life. I almost burst out in tears when Brittany said, “DO NOT CRY.. YOU CANNOT CRY RIGHT NOW”…so we ran…

Stephen’s head popped out in the youth center… what a relief! Stephen had managed to brush his hands through the little girl’s hair and shut her in a room with him (while remaining unharmed)… By the time we got there she was completely covered in stingers and wailing with tears… but somehow the bees were gone…Thank God… I say “Thank God” and “Praise God” often… but I meant it more than ever on Monday!

Long story short (or not so short), the little girl made it to the hospital and is receiving treatment as I type…

My point in telling this story was to remind you all of how short life is… not to be cliche, but be the person you want to be TODAY...I didn’t realize how much changing as a person I wanted to do before I die … We seem to forget we are going to die and that it might really happen to us so we start to become comfortable with our lives how they are.... but if today was your last, would you be content with how you lived it?

my answer was no.

However, no matter what, we know we have hope in Christ and are forgiven and can spend eternity with Him upon our asking him into our hearts. Lucky for me because I'm a huge sinner, selfish, and complain way too much about trivial things!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lunch Break!!

On the days we work at the youth center we intensly crave human interaction! It happens that a large group of kids walk home from school right past the youth center every day! We called one over to talk the first day... then the next day we played a game with a few... then it turned into a MASSIVE crowd of about 70 kids after a week!! It has turned into a huge blessing and one of the many little gifts from God during our lunch breaks!

Prevention... yah, nah?

I tend to analyze (to the max)every decision in life… I generally find there is no right answer, just different ways of going about things and moderation…

Lately, I have been pondering the subject of prevention! What does Jesus feel about prevention? No doubt, the US is a preventative culture to the extreme. And let’s just say, Africa is NOT!

I teach at a preschool. Before I start let me reiterate- a preschool… not middle or high school…

We have kids from age 2 through age 5 or 6. Each day 90% of children come with no shoes on. Mind you, there is more glass on the grounds here than I have ever seen before. Little, little kids just leave the building to go the bathroom by themselves. Sometimes, at the end of the day, we realize a few kids, who were originally at school in the morning, disappeared.

There is this adorable little two year old who comes and goes as she pleases…. Two years old!! One day she just walked around relieving herself throughout the room. Attempting to eradicate the smell, one little boy used a small little towel to clean it up. But to no avail…. The towel/washcloth was too small to be of much help…

Can you imagine having preschool aged kids just leave school whenever they pleased…. At home, if a child urinates on the floor, we have to clear the entire room out and sanitize it…..and would we ever give the clean up responsibility to a four year old?

At the end of the day the children just leave… I have never met one of their parents…. A little different from our strict sign-in and sign out procedure we have at home, eh?

My friends who are volunteer teachers here tell me it is okay to hand out meds to kids at school without parental permission.

Also, No one here finds soap a necessary for the bathroom.

The list could go on and on…. My point is to ponder which one is right? Or is one right? I am used to counting every child’s head obsessively every five minutes. In the US, I watch pre school aged kids like hawks to make sure they do not hurt themselves. One of the main things we learn at staff training for camp is “Prevention, prevention, prevention!!”

This is all I have ever known… and it always seemed right.

However, I question myself when I see a little boy, whose foot is bleeding, carefully picking out a piece of glass from his heal….. No complaints… no crying or wailing…. Just calmly and patiently fixing the problem so he can move on with his day….Brit, Stephen and I were far more upset about the cut than he was.

Kids seem to be fine and quite happy with the germs, without the soap, with the sharing of food, without the shoes, and without the constant supervision…

In the states, do I condition children to be more scared than need be… to be overly dramaticc…to cry more often… to lack independence….to make big deals out of nothing?

BUT!! … there is a reason we are so big into prevention….a lot of horrendous and sad incidents have happened that have caused us to be very cognizant and cautious about how we approach different situations…

THOUGH, I feel a lot less stressed here, in Africa, working with children ….instead of having anxious thoughts about a child hurting himself, I just wait until we cross that bridge to deal with that problem…

Jesus wants us to use our wisdom as we enter varying situations; however, Jesus also wants us to trust him and be anxious about nothing….

So in conclusion- I sit here and ponder… prevention… Is there a universal answer.. Or does it change with contexts and cultures?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

God bless the rains down in Africa !

The first picture is me showing you my plate of food for a going away party .... it consisted of ostrich, zebra, chicken, kudu, and crocidile! Thumbs up to all except the zebra!

the 2nd picture are two boys who ate lunch w/ me on the side of the roadd

the third picture is home in africa!

the fourth is a picture of stephen and I working on the roof

more africa pics

blok e pre school

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Africa loves Obama!

Backyard Butchery

Lenie (my host mom) called Brit, Steve, and I to come outside this Saturday.... so we did. She wanted to show us the truck full of sheep in her backyard... Brittany (our animal lover of the group) got very excited and asked if Lenie would be getting one as a pet. That is when Lenie pointed to the the pole in her yard which held the leash connected to a cute little lamb. I was hoping this lamb would have some hidden use besides dinner... My hopes were shattered when lenie answered, "Yes! We are going to kill it!"
Most of you know I LOVE meat! But who wants to know the animal prior to having it for dinner? Lenie asked Brit and I to hold the legs while they butchered it... we politely declined the "oh so generous" offer. Having a live animal slaughtered in my backyard for dinner was definitely the first!

Blok E pre school

Today we started our first day of pre school in Blok E. Blok E is the poorest section of town. The reality of poverty was all around us. As we walked to work we saw naked little kids runnning around, women walking around balancing their belongings on their head (so impressive), horse and buggies, donkey and buggies, and many, many tiny shacks built out of many different materials...these were their homes.

We had a lot of fun playing with the children. Even though they did not know our language very well, they loved to play games with us and sing English songs. We even learned some new songs in their mother tongue. They speak Que Que which is essentially the "click" language.

At one point I found myself surrounded by little girls braiding/playing with my hair. Simple things give them entertainment for hours.

The girls who work there now bring bread and peanut butter every day because the majority of kids have no lunch. We will continue this tradition once they leave at the end of the week.

Working at the pre school will be a good break twice a week from working on the center for children and youth. It is coming along though. Hey, who would have thought I would ever know how to seal a roof?

Working at the center has taught me discipline and perseverence. I did not expect to be doing so much construction here. However, I am here to serve and have learned a lot about doing God's work when it is fun AND not so fun.

It is really hard work and I may not be here to see the fruit of my labor. But Stephen, Brittany, and I continually remind ourselves of the great need in Rehoboth for a safe haven for children and youth to come. Many times I like to work with children or a project after the dirty, background work has already been done. This time it is me and I am learning a lot through it.

Hey, sometimes we just break out in song and dance with the brooms and mops when we are about to go insane!

Prayer requests:

*Please pray for the children in rehoboth. Children do not seem to be valued here...they are more like a nuisance than gifts to the parents. Day to day I hear screaming, screaming, hitting, and more screaming at children.
*ministry through language barriers
*someone will mail my 4 year old nephew to me!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My team + 2 Bastars!

home, sweet Rehoboth

Last Friday we said our good-byes to the Rineer family. Brittany, Stephen, and I had such an amazing week with them. However, it was more like a vacation than real life. Our hearts were becoming anxious to see this little town called Rehoboth, of which we had heard so much.

Friday afternoon Mick Rineer dropped us off at Lenie Van Wyk's house. We stepped out of his car, placed our feet in the sand, and found ourselves in front of a bright purple house with bars on the windows. At this moment, it all became real. As Mick said "Bye!" and we found ourselves standing there holding our bags in this place we did not know with these people we knew nothing about. It was hard at first. I felt like Mick had become our Dad for the week and he was abandoning us. I hastily tried to remind myself I came here to be taken out of my comfort zone.

So we walked in...

It was decided that Brittany and Stephen would live with Lenie and I would live across the sandy way with Lenie's daughter, Latisha (25), and her 2 little girls. On the first night, Lenie revealed to us how elated she is about our arrival. She gets lonely since her husband died in the 90's --two months after she lost one of her sons. Our hearts broke for her and realized she must be a very strong woman to have gone through what she has.

Saturday, Lenie had a "Welcome Brie" for us. Brie means barbeque in Afrikaans. We ate all types of Baster food and boy, was it delicious! (By the way, Basters are the people of Rehoboth. They are a mix of German and African, which explains their much lighter skin. Rehoboth is a town full of basters---the term "baster" is not considered derogatory here in Rehoboth, but instead people feel a sense of pride to say "I am a Baster"). Anywho, after that we went to church and I was told I would be singing in front of everyone on the worship team!!! "WHAT??!!" They were not concerned about my incapability to carry a tune. So Sunday morning, there I was.... up in front of a large group of people singing my heart away (in a different language). But it was so fun and the people there were so, so nice. The Basters are such a loving community.

Sunday night, we got tucked into bed and.... well maybe that was a lie... we never get tucked into bed here due to the extreme heat...It is hot, but NOT humid-- which makes a Virginia girl who tends to sweat a lot very happy!
So Sunday night, we got into bed excited for a good day of work on Monday..

We woke up, walked a few miles into town and looked in awe at our project. We are to turn a very old, broken down building into a sanctuary for children and youth from the streets. The pictures below show what we saw when we first came in.

Each day has been filled with much hard work, dusk masks, gloves, hammers, etc. We have bonded with many people from the community who have come to work along side of us on this project. We come home exhausted and quite disgusting, but are greeted with a big dinner made my Lenie. Each dinner always consists of some kind of meat. The people of Namibia LOVE meat. This is good for me- due to my ability to put down meat faster than a boy!

After dinner Stephen, Brittany, and I usually play with the kids from the street out in the sandy yard until bed time. Kids here find enjoyment playing in the same yard (always barefoot) day after day. They have never heard of video games. This is quite refreshing.

I sit and wonder if this little place of dirty roads and cute little children will become home to me in a few months. Will this become normal? Will it be hard to be home in my fast-paced, technology-filled world?

Prayer Requests
-safety as we are working in some dangerous conditions in the building
-ministry with the children and women here

A funny story from Brit's blog: The older children speak some English and so they are helping to teach us some Afrikaans words--my favorite phrase is “thank you very much”--which sounds like you are saying “buy a donkey.” Even better was when we were praying after worship team practice (yes, all three of us are a part of the choir at church--we began Sunday and tried as hard as we could to sing along in Afrikaans) and the guy next to me said, “Yes Jesus, you’re a donkey…” Or at least that is what my English-speaking ears heard (: It really means something along the lines of “Thank you, Child of Jehovah.” I have a lot to learn, but it is so fun to finally be able to put small phrases together and say something correctly and have someone actually respond!

Buya Donkey, Tot Seins!