Sunday, December 1, 2019

Smaller Beautiful Moments

Thursday was our last day in South Africa.  Meyer and Louise planned a debrief for our group to give us some time to reflect about our trip before we leave South Africa.  We met at a winery called Doolof which means labyrinth.  They have beautiful grounds with a river walk and a labyrinth.

On the way to Doolof is a shoe store that makes leather shoes that are cheap compared to US prices for leather shoes.  We stopped in quickly to shop on our way to Doolof.

At Doolof Meyer talked a little bit and then led a group on a river walk while others of us went to the labyrinth.  The purpose was to be in the moment.  We were to look around, listen to the sounds of nature and be in the moment.  I walked the labyrinth because I LOVE labyrinths.  As I walked the labyrinth there is one view that is amazing.  The mountains are in the background with trees and green grass.  It is a breathtaking view.

I saw that view but since I was to be in the moment and tuned into nature I saw other smaller items that were also beautiful.  

This little yellow flower was one of the many things that stuck out to me.  The message God spoke to me was don't miss out on the little smaller beautiful moments because you are so focused on the big amazing view of the mountains.  

On these trips, people want to see something accomplished.  We built a house.  That is the big amazing view.  Everyone wants to know what you accomplished on the trip.  What is harder to see are the millions of little tiny interactions that make up our trip that are the tiny flowers that are easily overlooked.  I didn't lay one brick on this trip.  I took pictures on the worksite and handed out candy to everyone.  I have nothing concrete to show for this trip but I have a million small moments that I wouldn't trade for anything.

I will never forget one of the workmen on the worksite asking me for a masking tape name tag.  It was important to him.  Everyone on the worksite had name tags so we could call people by name.  You can see Abie's name tag on his shirt.  He posed for this picture for my son Seth.  This is one of the smaller beautiful moments from our trip that I don't want to forget.

The ice cream truck that we had on Friday for the Mosaic kids, employees and volunteers.  I handed the ice cream out to the kids.  It was a waffle cone with vanilla ice cream and sprinkles.  We went for the deluxe cone.  I started to tear up when I handed the cones out to the smallest kids that came up first.  The look in their eyes was priceless.  Another small flower or beautiful moment from our trip.  was present and shared this moment in time with those kids, employees and volunteers.

Ma's for Wellington - After their Thursday program was over, we stayed and we anointed the volunteers and gave them a small packet of candy that included a Bible verse that I pray for them all the time.  

May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

I love encouraging these women.  They are doing the hard work every week loving the 160 preschool age children that come to Ma's for Wellington on Tuesday and Thursday.  We sang and danced during this time.  This was once again another one of the beautiful moments on this trip.  I can't show anyone anything concrete from this one moment in time but it is one where we were all connected and we loved each other with God's amazing pure love and it was beautiful.

I literally can go on and on with stories like this.  The women's Bible study on Friday at OHISA that Louise led for the Mosaic mothers.  The home visits with Cornel on Wednesday morning.  Our group visiting from John the bead guy a friend of Cornels that has been very sick to buy souvenirs.  The birthday meal at our house that Hennie and Katie cooked where they came out with two amazing cakes playing a birthday song and dancing.  So many little moments where the lives of our group intersected with the lives of people in South Africa changing us both.

One last little flower from the trip is the friendships that the mission trip team members build on the trip.  We shared so many special moments on this trip.  We each brought different perspectives and life experiences to this trip.  The trip touched all of us in different ways and I love how that happens.  They were a great group and I will be forever changed because the paths of our lives crossed for this two week period in South Africa.

I am thankful for the reflection time that we had.  I will be honest and say that I thought about missing it to go say goodbye to my friends at Ma's for Wellington.  It breaks my heart that I didn't have time to do that but I am so glad I stayed.  Meyer and Louise led us through a reflection time.  Tony and I spoke a little and then we went around the table and said something we were thankful for.  This was our one connection to Thanksgiving.  :-)

After Doolof, we headed to Cape Town to visit the waterfront for a few hours before we flew out of the Cape Town airport that evening.  

When Tony spoke at Doolof he told people to come up with a 30 second response to give to people when asked about the trip.  I thought about this as we drove home from the DC airport.  My 30 second response to the question "How was your trip?" is...

The trip was heartbreaking and humbling but full of God's hope and love.

Wednesday - Our last workday...

On Tuesday night we flew from Port Elizabeth (Mosaic's third location) back to Cape Town and drove to Wellington/Paarl Valley (Mosaic's second location).  Our group had been fighting some sickness so hand sanitizer was my best friend.  I had it in my pocket.  I would squeeze it into everyone's hands but I didn't let anyone else touch my hand sanitizer.  :-)  I am thankful to say that everyone was doing ok by Thursday for our trip home and everyone was fine on our flight home.

Wednesday was our last workday.  The house was ready for some walls to be painted so our group painted if they didn't do the alternative activities.

Ma's for Wellington Preschool
The first alternative activity for today was going to the preschool graduation for Ma's for Wellington.  (Remember that their school year runs January to November NOT August to June like we do in the US.)  We were only able to stay for part of it due to a commitment to visit Nederburg primary school.  The kids were each going to get a backpack with school supplies and a pair of leather shoes for school.  The classes would come up in front of the group and sing a song.  The group that sang before we left sang the song "Give Thanks".  It made me tear up.  The people I love in South Africa may not have much financially based on US standards but spiritually they are so very rich.  I am humbled on every trip by the faith of the people I meet.

Give thanks with a grateful heart

Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say, "I am strong"

Let the poor say, "I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us"

Nederburg Primary School
My church Hopewell UMC has been visiting Nederburg for over 10 years.  We originally weren't going to visit Nederburg on this trip.  Our schedule was packed and I just didn't see how we could fit it in.  God had a different plan.

Hank Kahl, one of our mission trip team members, had traveled to South Africa in May with the West Chester University honors college students.  The tour guide from his trip happened to live in Wellington so Hank met up with him one night.  I can't remember his name.  :-(  We found out that his tour guide lived behind OHISA (Our House in South Africa).  When I say behind our house, I mean literally behind our house.  They heard us celebrating Seth and Louise's birthday on Tuesday night.  He attended Nederburg and he knew the principal so he reached out for us and set up a time for our group to go on Wednesday morning from 10:30 to 11:30.

We had a nice visit to Nederburg.  The principal gave my church a certificate thanking us for our support over the years.  Pastor Vicki accepted the certificate from Principal Lawrence.

The school has some classrooms that are in really bad shape.  See the last picture.  The funny thing is that the inside of that building is the picture right above the last picture.  The inside of the classrooms look pretty good.  Our church is contributing some money to replace these classrooms which will hopefully happen at the beginning of 2020.

Mosaic Christmas Program, Certificates and Gifts
Our day ended at the Mosaic Community Center for the Christmas program.  It was HOT!  We usually think of cold for Christmas but in South Africa it is HOT.  It had to be around 90 degrees outside during the program in a room with NO air conditioning.  It was HOT!

The younger Mosaic kids acted out the Christmas story while the older kids that were in the Mosaic choir sang songs throughout the play.  They did a fantastic job!  After the play, certificates were handed out for participation the after school program. Special awards for leadership, kindness, improvement in reading, etc were also handed out to select kids.

At the end we handed out presents to the Mosaic kids that looked similar to what Operation Christmas Child does.  I didn't have a chance to ask people about the organization that provided the presents.

The last picture is me saying "Goodbye" to everyone.  I also told the kids and the choir that they did a wonderful job.  The choir can sing.  They are very good.  I kept is very short because it was HOT. 

I wish I could post pictures but I can't due to Mosaic's social media policies.  Since many of the kids are orphans or in the foster system in South Africa, we are not allowed to post their pictures on social media.  I tried to find pictures where you couldn't see the kids faces or it would be the back of their heads.

It was a busy day but I loved it all! I am glad I had a chance to say goodbye to the Mosaic mothers, kids, employees and volunteers. 

I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to Ma's for Wellington since we left in the middle of their program and I wish I would have said goodbye when we arrived before the program started.  That made me sad but it is a lesson for my next trip.  I will do better making sure we have time to say goodbye on future trips. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Port Elizabeth Visit & Safari

Just another amazing and sunny day in beautiful SA!  We’ve been so blessed to be able to travel to MOSAIC’s third location in Port Elizabeth.  This site is approximately 600 miles from Wellington where we’ve been building the houses and spending time at the Community Center.  Carl and Estelle Kirstein are the managers of this location and they and their staff are doing incredible work with some 59 children from the community.  The center is bright and open, colorfully decorated, with well-equipped classrooms, a kitchen and a large outdoor space where the kids can run and play.  When we arrived this afternoon, the children were joyfully playing a game with the parachute Cammy had purchased for them in the U.S. and it was a wonderful sight to behold.  The future looks so promising for this Mosaic site and the community, as they anticipate the construction of the 21 homes planned for the not-too-distant future.

On a ‘side-trip’, we had the opportunity to experience two different game parks where we took in the magnificence of God’s creation in those acres and acres of open space.  Be sure to ask a S.A. traveler to show you his/her photos(VERY UPCLOSE!) of lions, zebra, elephants, giraffes, hippo, a crocodile and many smaller animals.  For some of us, our favorite creature was the elusive warthog!  These scenes and creatures are simply stunning and we are beyond grateful to have had this chance to take a break and take it all in.

Two hippos are in the water behind the crocodile.  :-)

We are returning to Wellington this evening and then will prepare for our final full day in S.A..  Our time has passed so quickly and yet it seems as though we’ve been away from home and loved ones for a very long time.  It will be really hard to say good-by to those we have come to love here in this wonderful country.  Your continued prayers for our travels and experiences are deeply appreciated.  

Blessings, dear ones, in HIM.
Pastor Vicki 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Bible Study

Oh, mercy…how does one sum up what goes on here in S.A.???  Louise Conradie, wife of Meyer Conradie, the CEO and of MOSAIC,  leads a Bible Study for the Mosaic Mothers and Friday was the last of their meetings for this year.  Some of us had the rich blessing of joining these women for their time of study and fellowship.  Louise has the amazing ability to affirm and lift up these women whose lives  are often besieged with heartache, challenge and need.  They come together for worship, for prayer, and for study of  the Word, and to hold one another up.  Louise started our time together with worship.  That translated into a time of music and the freedom to move about the yard in the brilliant sunshine and warmth to simply to ‘be’ with the Lord- using rhythmic instruments, just  lifting up gratitude to the Lord.  We then spoke of the power of prayer and sisterhood.

Louise  then talked about wisdom of keeping our buckets full with the Spirit of Christ: through prayer, through scripture, the wisdom of  meditation and prayer:   simply spending time with the Lord.  

We ended our time together with Holy Communion and Anointing.  Never, never in my life have ever felt the presence of the Holy Spirit more profoundly- being with women of faith who trust in the Lord in ways that I can barely comprehend.  I lift up praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the way I see the movement of his Holy Spirit in this country and with these people. 

Thank you, thank you, Jesus, for the way you move and work in our lives.  Amen.

In HIM, Pastor Vicki