Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas in the ParK!





HalF TimE Report---it's IChristmas. :)

Half Time Report

Merry Merry Christmas to everyone StaTesiDe! I do pray that it is a joyful time of year for each of you and that you are experiencing God’s love story of Christ in a new way this year. It is amazing to prepare for the Holiday in a different country, feeling like I get a new perspective of just how BiG our God is; that the same story is being taught and celebrated 10,000miles away at the bottom of Africa. It’s all over the world. We are celebrating here by hosting Christmas in the Park. Most people who live in the city are not actually from Pretoria but rather have come here looking for work or to go to school. So, many people travel home for the Festive Season leaving only those in town who cannot afford to go home or do not have a family to return to. Sunday night, we put on a service in the middle of Burgers Park, singing Christmas Carols and just joining people to get to know how and where God wants to come into their worlds. It was a beautiful sight, the candle light, held by children, families, guys from the street, and staff of TLF, singing Silent Night. This whole week we will have activities during the day for fellowship then on Christmas Eve, there will be a big meal, songs, and Santa in the park. Apart from being with my own family on Christmas, there is no better way to celebrate the life of Christ than being with the family here; brothers and sisters I have not met yet; people who are probably aching for a simple conversation or company during the holidays. Those of you who are lucky enough to be with family this week, please realize how blessed you are to have those people around you. I encourage you also to find ways to include the ones who may not have loved ones near. Look for simple and sincere ways that speak of extravagant love.

Since this year is coming to a close, but my year in South Africa is at about half-way it seems appropriate to do some reflection and summarization of what’s been happening here. Also to let you all know the craziness that’s in store for 2010!

The past 5 months have been pretty documented so I won’t go into too much detail but sometimes its fun to put everything together to be encouraged that God is active.
Lerato House Outreach-weekly day and night outreach to the Ladies of the Night. During the day, a group of us go to the “bad buildings,” to meet with the women, distribute condoms, first aid, and information, and mostly just spend time building relationships that will eventually lead to the women taking steps away from a destructive life and into the one that is waiting for her. 5 women in the last 2 months have signed up for classes at a local organization that teaches sewing, baking, and computer skills. They will start training for other work! Sarah and Lebo are two women that I’ve spent some time talking with and have heard some really incredible stories of what is “normal life” for them. We sit in an old abandoned tavern that usually smells like rubbish and is apparently used as a toilet too. They lay there waiting for the evening’s work to begin. We chat for awhile about men, life, and the world cup, then they start asking about God. About what His love means. These are some of my favorite moments here, sitting in strange places…just talking with my sisters…no strings attached. Walls of social expectations and racial rules that still exist can be broken down. Praise God that He is the original author of reconciliation.

Prison outreach-on Tuesdays we go to the juveniles section of the prison to lead a bible study and do some sort of activity. One of the girls will usually start us with a worship song, and let me tell you listening to the sound of strong voices praising God from the brick walls of a prison is something out of this world. I know that He hears those girls’ hearts and smiles. Last week, they all made Christmas cards to send home to families or friends. One of the girls who was released from prison came to Lerato House and talked of great plans to stay and to turn her life around. Unfortunately, within just 3 days she had run away and is, most likely, back in Sunnyside with her “boyfriend,” who she claimed, doesn’t sell her, just the others.

Policy/Advocacy Unit work- TLF has an advocacy unit which is small but strong! There are two guys that work full time, partnering with the different projects to help them take on events and really spread a message effectively. I have joined them 2 days a week mostly to do research and some foot work when there is an event happening. At the beginning of December for World Aids Day, Rivoningo, the Hospice Center of TLF wanted to do an event and thought that going into the hospitals in the city to train nurses about the myths of HIV/AIDs would be a good idea. Turned out to be an incredible place to talk about this. For about 2 weeks we did workshops then on December 1st there was a parade through town ending at an event near the State Theatre. Lesego, a girl who was originally given just a few weeks to live came to Rivoningo and started getting proper treatment. She now is walking and is generally healthy, living an normal life for a 23 year old. She had the opportunity to speak at the event, telling her story and encouraging others to be responsible, get tested, and stick to the ARV medications. I walked two guys who came to our table afterwards asking to get tested, to the clinic down the road. Talking with them along the way was so interesting, to hear their thoughts and nervousness about finding out their status, they hadn’t been testing in 7 months. I pray that those two guys found out good news and that they will continue to be responsible with their bodies and others.

So, all of these things, along with the everyday conversations, questions, and opportunities that come up are evidence to me that God has brought me here for a purpose and I am so thankful and humbled to be able to carry His name down the streets here, loving people by and with His grace.

With the new year, come new projects. Could you be praying that God would guide and bless these endeavors?
Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition: TLF is joining with a number of other organization in the city, including the city itself to establish a project to stop Human Trafficking. There will be many different facets to it, but it will be outreach based. We hope to get information and training into all of the businesses, restaurants, taxis, hotels, taverns, and bus stations in the city as well as do training for flat caretakers and taxi drivers on how to identify a potential trafficking victim and what to do in that situation. There will also be direct outreach like what is already happening. The School of Creative Arts will be included to do public street theatre and events speaking about the issue. Both potential victims and buyers will be targeted.
Better World Village: During the month of the world cup, all schools are released and many people who are not working (south Africa has a 42 % unemployment rate from what I hear), will be just enthralled with the games going on. There will be fan parks and viewing centers all over the country. One will be just a block away, in Burgers Park. This one will be different though, there will be discussion forums about leadership, homelessness, environmentalism, and abuse. It will be a fan park with a further purpose than just the games. There will also be a street soccer tournament and a youth leadership group working with the kids. The city of Tshwane is partnering with TLF to support and market this and I am so curious what it will turn out to be. TLF is gifted with the ability to dream big and trust in God’s abundance…please pray with us that it will become what He intends it to be.

So, these, along with all of the normal activities that are happening around TLF, it will be a very busy few months. I know it will just fly by. Or, as they say here…time will really run!

Now, I need to say a HUGE thank you for all of you who have contributed to this trip financially and otherwise. Your gifts have completely blessed me and allowed some great work to be done here in Pretoria. May God bless your generosity. Thank you also for the prayers. They are priceless and many times I have really felt the love and support coming from somewhere in the WeSt! I love you guys so much and really hope that this trip has been a bridge in many ways. That is something that would be great to explore for this next few months is how it can become more of a connection between you and this place; between Bellingham and Pretoria, Puyallup and Pretoria, Texas and Pretoria. I would love to see people connecting with projects, learning about this country and the things that are happening around here. Please let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions.

With this thank you comes a request. I will lay out my monthly budget for you to see where your finances have been going. There is also an explanation of what my needs still are for the rest of my stay here. I trust that God will provide and there is no fear in my heart that the necessary money will come. He is good and will not lead people without preparing the way for them and supplying them with every gift; material and spiritual that is necessary to accomplish His purpose there. Please ask God if this is something that He would have you give to.

Monthly Budget:
Rent: $70
Internship Fee: $30
Food: $80-100
Transportation: $15-20
Communication (internet/phone/etc):$15-20
Other: $20-30
Total: $230-270/month

This does not include my plane ticket home or the unexpected costs that inevitably come up as life rolls on. Rent may also be increasing as my living arrangement changes. $70 per month is obviously an amazing price for rent and this includes utilities but I am unsure of what the new situation will be. No doubt, it will be slightly more expensive than it has been so far.

Need: 2,000-2,500. Initially my estimate was that the year in total would cost about 6,000 and God provided the initial 3,000 that was needed to get here and support me for the first part of the trip. This estimate still seems accurate and currently, I will need to raise at least 2,000-2,500 more dollars in order to finish my time here and then make it back home (and I would really like to come back home at some point).Plane tickets home are about 1,100 for a one way trip (thank you World Cup). And I am planning on returning at the end of July.

If people want to donate to me, TLF or to one of the projects.

To me: through the website using PayPal www.ibhuloho.blogspot.com or by mailing a check made out to my step-mom Margit Davis, so she can deposit it in the South Africa account in the US.
To TLF or a specific project: details are on the TLF website; www.tlf.org.za


Here’s some suggestions of movies if any of you are interested in getting a peek into South African culture: Sarafina, Tsotsi, Izulu Lami, District 9, and of course, Invictus

For New Year’S I’ll be travelling to Mozambique for a week and am so excited for another breather from the city. Stay tuned for stories from the sea as well as some thoughts about race here in South Africa. That has been one of the hardest things lately…is getting glimpses of how deep the racial devide is. It is so hard to see, but makes the moments when true reconciliation has happened just that much more beautiful.

I love each of you and cherish our friendships---far and near.

God bless you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cooked In Africa

First, it must be confessed that I am stealing the title of this blog from my new favorite cook book. You guessed it, “Cooked in Africa.” To kick it off, here’s a lovely recipe for you to try:

Savannah bread---very similar to bear bread---but tastes like the Savannah.

500g self rising flour

340ml Savannah cider (or any hard cider)

5ml salt

15ml olive oil

Let dough rise for 20 minutes. Bake for 40 minutes.

It’s delicious! This cook book is full of beautiful photos, stories, and flavours from all over Southern Africa. The author travelled around Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, and Zimbabwe collecting basic and interesting recipes from the people he met. There are some other ones that I’ll have to try soon; spade steak (cooking meat on a shovel over an open fire), mackerel cooked in banana leaves, and mama’s crab curry. Anyone want to come over for dinner?

Cooked in Africa, also because it’s about 32* (sorry that’s Celsius people) and walking around feels a lot like touring the inside of an oven.

It’s the festive season now, and the city is clearing out. Most people who live in Pretoria are not actually from Pretoria, they have come here for work. So now with the holidays approaching people migrate back to the rural areas where their families still live. Sundays the streets are already pretty quiet so I am curious to see what that is like most days of the week. Businesses and government buildings shut down for the few weeks before Christmas and New Years, people take vacation since it is also an extended school holiday. We at TLF however will be busy hosting the infamous “holiday program” for the kids in the community. All the projects will be involved; Lerato House, Swelelang (the foster home for girls), all the Yeast City Housing project kids, and the children from Salvakop. Each day between Monday December 7th and January 8th will have a different activity. There will be an environmental day, an Olympic competition day, an arts/crafts day, etc. It is going to be a great time to really get to know the kids better and have some fun together. Ideally, it will be an opportunity to further build community as well as keep kids from finding too much trouble with all their unsupervised time out of school.

As far as the past few weeks goes, it’s been quite diverse. Just to break it down a little bit: two weekends ago, 3 of the other German volunteers and I took a road trip east and north to the provinces of Mmpumalanga and Limpopo. The next week was packed with workshops at the large hospital in town in preparation for World Aids Day. That weekend was TLF’s year end retreat which was held at the Hartesbepoort Dam just West of Pretoria, then more , World Aids Day, and preparation for the Holiday Program. Yesterday was the Yearly Christmas breakfast and gift exchange for the TLF staff and board members. In the afternoon….I sat by the swimming pool and read a book…

Road Trip! We decided about a month ago that it would be fun to do some exploring by car. Just East of Guateng province is Mmpumalanga (mmm-poo-ma-lang-ga), where the “Panorama Route” is. It’s the main route to Kruger National Park, so it’s busy but once you get off the beaten path, there are some cute old mining towns, gorgeous waterfalls, and lookouts. The Blyde River Canyon is breath-taking (pictures were in the blog just before this). We drove through rural settlements where cows crossed the road at will, women were walking down packed red dirt roads with buckets of water or bags of mealie meal on their heads, and small brick houses with tin roofs spotted the landscape. We drove past huge game reserves and actually screeched to a halt and a scream (yes, mine) when I saw a giraffe standing next to the fence. She looked at us, then sauntered off…leaving the 4 of us standing there staring- jaws dropped open, 10 yards from the car with all doors open on the side of the road. I still forget I’m really in Africa sometimes. Saturday, we moved north to Limpopo which is also known as “Africa’s Eden.” It’s where the majority of the fruits and vegetables are grown for the entire country. We had arranged to camp in someone’s yard, found through Couch Surfing (which you should all check out). In the rain, at about 9pm, we got to the garage where we were supposed to meet our host so he could lead us to his place. His place ended up being a beautiful farm complex in the middle of a valley. We would have still been content with a patch of grass to pitch our tent but instead were led into a luxurious guest room. It was an amazing evening, chatting with the three siblings who lived at their parents home; A very generous Afrikaans farming and gaming family who were more than happy to have guests. I woke up to what felt like a dream. Opening the curtains to see a lush green valley, taking a walk through the garden there were papaya, lemon, grapefruit, avocado, and orange trees; strawberries on the ground. Breakfast! Sitting on the porch with my avocado toast and fresh coffee…I was in heaven! Later that morning we got a tour of the game farm and a send off with 8 bags of tomatoes for the road. The four of us demolished one bag before we were even off the property!

Bury the Myths, Save the Patients. Immediately following, this epic road trip was a very revealing week at Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The Policy and Advocacy Unit of TLF that I have also been working with partnered with the Rivoningo Hospice Center on a campaign for World Aids Day. Our theme was “Bury the Myths, Save the Patients.” We aimed to confront the many myths that go around claiming to cure AIDS. Working with an HIV/AIDS Center just near TLF, we went into the Hospital to speak with the nurses and other medical staff about the urgency of patients adhering to ARV’s, and educating about what some of the “cures” being advertised are. We also went into a boy’s shelter in Salvakop, the Potters House (TLF’s women’s shelter), a drop in center for people living on the streets, and even did a night shift workshop at the hospital. It was a hectic week but I really believe that God provided supernatural energy and really was able to do practical work in educating the ones who are in a position to pass on the information to so many others. It was amazing to hear the questions that came from the nurses. There is still such a huge need for awareness, education, and counseling around the HIV/AIDS epidemic. South Africa has not only the highest number of people living with HIV but also the most new cases of infected people every year. The Anti-Retroviral Treatment is free here and accessible to most who need it but there is so much stigma around taking the medication or even getting tested that many do not take those essential steps. On World Aids Day, we were a part of the march from the Union Buildings to a square down town where the State Theatre was hosting a stage event with some well known performers. It was incredible because one of the girls from Rivoningo, a 23 year old who just 6 months ago was told she had only a few days to live, was given the chance to share her story with the thousand or so people watching. She encouraged people to take responsibility, get tested, and to really stick to the medications. She is now recovering very well and is so positive and encouraging to everyone around her. The most humbling part of the day though was in the afternoon, two men came up to our information table to ask about taking an HIV test. We referred them to the clinic just around the corner and they looked leery. I offered to walk with them to the place and they hesitantly agreed. That 5 minute conversation was so revealing to the mindsets of people. He used to get tested every 3 months but now hadn’t for about 7 months. He was nervous about the results but knew that it is important he knows. You could see the nervousness in his eyes. I tried to encourage him that he was doing the right thing but all my words seemed so flimsy to speak into a life altering situation. The prayer became that God would bless these guys’ willingness to find out their status. That he would use them to motivate others. I will never know the results for those two men but will pray differently for the others who are brave enough to get tested and make changes in their lives and even more so for the ones who are still in denial that this is a disease that has completely changed the world and must change our lives here.

A quick update on Kelebongile, the girl that I mentioned before who had come to the Lerato House just out of prison. She promptly ran away after 2 days at the house. We had a few good conversations about her life with Paul in Sunnyside and I will continue to pray that she has the courage to step out of the world that has apparently become so ‘comfortable’ for her. Drugs, abuse, and money are all very captivating things. I must believe that she will someday be free.

“I want so badly to believe, that there is truth, that love is real. And I want life in every word, to the extent that it’s absurd.”—The Postal Service

Last week was Thanksgiving, but as you have read life was full of the exact thing that I am so thankful for so Siri and I celebrated one week later, just 3 days ago. There is a room across Museums Park with a big long table and a great kitchen to prepare a meal for 25 people. Our friends, the other German volunteers, and Siri and I all cooked the favorites (only substituting chicken for turkey…since ostriches are a bit hard to catch). Mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce (thanks MOM!), cranberry salad, Pumpkin pie (thanks again mom!), and stuffing. For everyone it was their first Thanksgiving! We did it right, going around to say what we are thankful for. It was a beautiful night; people from South Africa, Germany, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and the US all together…coming from rich families, middle class, the streets, rural farms, and inner cities. It was the inclusive table that we are working towards on a larger scale in Pretoria and in the world.

During the retreat, we appropriately talked about Abundance and it was a surprisingly challenging subject to think about and to try and turn into a reality. We are called to live with and in the abundance of Grace that God has given us and to pass that on in tangible ways to the ones around us. God has really been challenging me to think big, to dream and trust that if He provides the vision, He will also provide the resources. There are people here who are doing this in incredible ways and it’s great to watch, participate and learn from them.

In the next few weeks I will write more about this and also describe some of the things that are in store for the new year! Also, I would like to break down what has happened so far this year and really emphasize how much work God is doing here in this city and in the people he has drawn into this community.

For now, will you join in this prayer with me and think about where you can be following His example?

“You are the God of the broken, the friend of the weak. You wash the feet of the weary, embrace the ones in need. I want to be like you Jesus to have this heart in me. You are the God of the humble…You are the humble king.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

WanderInGs

*The Blyde River Canyon. Panorama Style--sorry it's so shrunken.


*Some friends at the Yearly TLF Retreat-Tumi, Grace, and Freddie!
*The girls! Also at the retreat; Siri, Maren, Rebecca, Me, Relienne
*One of the little boys I made friends with at the retreat, Mike!










*Bathle-this picture is extremely
accurate-arms ready to knock something over, sticky face!

*Mac Mac falls;one of the lookouts we could actually see on the road trips up north.

*The biggest Baobab tree in Africa (at least that's what they claim) Yes, that's me inside of it!

*Eva, Marlena, Carlotta, and I at the lookout over they Blyde River Canyon. So beautiful!

New blog to come very soon. As in the next two days or so!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009











Durban Photos


Siri and I on the "Golden Mile" in Durban!

Barber Shop- Taxi Stop

Barber Shop-Taxi Stop

Each morning on the corner of Boom street and Van Der Walt Street, on my way to the Lerato House, there’s a old man with a beautifully creased face who pulls some stunt to try and get Maren, Carlota, or I to get into his taxi going to “MABOPANE, MABOPANE”! It’s usually something like an empty water bottle set in the middle of the sidewalk and if we step around it to one side or the other he’s there to greet us with a big missing-some-teeth-smile and a directive arm into his mini-taxi. We say good morning, laugh a little bit and go on our way, past the final fruit stands and impromptu barbershops that are set up with just a piece of carpet, a chair, a mirror, and some display poster with pictures of handsome men with jerry curls or radical designs shaved into their heads.

The people I pass each day are becoming some of the bright spots in it. From Museum’s Park where I stay, to the TLF office there are people who have found “their place” in the city. It’s nice to have friends to greet along the way. Brenda and her boyfriend have claimed one of the light-post benches as their seats for watching the city. Most days they are doing some washing and have laid clothes out to dry on the hedges of the city hall park. Their little boy, Branwell who is about a year and a half old is often playing with some bottle cap or charming the passersby (myself most definitely included) with his curly brown hair and hopeful smile. He’s one of the kids that it will be hard to part with at the end of the year. Chris occupies the bench next door to these three. He’s an older white man who is now blind. Chris has come up with the nickname for Siri, Miss Seattle. The other day, he asked her when she will become, Miss Universe!? Jenny used to join Chris on the bench but has recently found a new location for awhile. Frankie runs the corner candy and necklace table and somehow makes a living on the profits. I’ve never really seen him with any customers…but he’s a great guy and is always happy to chat. His buddy’s are usually chilling in the park behind him playing cards or smoking. So, although we white ladies here in Central, do stick out like….well like, white ladies in central, it’s been really fun to get to sit down with people and chat…hopefully breaking down some of the stereotypes that are present on both sides of the conversations.

Most of you have seen the comic, Family Circus. You know the ones where they follow the little boy around during his whole day. By the end of the day there are lines in and out of the house, every door, tree branch, fence post, and animal has been run around twice. This is how many days here feel like. Last week, I was talking with my mom and step-dad on Skype at the internet café. It’ closed at 5, so at 5:20 I had to leave (African time does work to my advantage sometimes too). But I had set a time to talk with a friend at 5:30. The owner directed me to another café “just down the street.” I hustled over there…3 blocks away, to find that this café was open for 2 more minutes. They kindly directed me to another place that is “just the same as ours.” Silly me, assumed that meant they had Skype too. So, back to Church street (another 3 blocks), past the Jet store and CNA, past the ABSA bank, down the hallway, through this massive building I had never seen before, down the escalator…I found the place. It was open for 15 more minutes, they did not have Skype and cost 3x as much as anywhere else. Finished. Ready to give up, I slowly started to wander home. Taking a different route, just for the sake of variety I passed another internet café in some little shopping center and popped my head in just to check. It was a decent place so I hopped online there to admit defeat to my friend that I had hoped to talk with, 30 minutes after the fact. When I get home to the states…I will be the best scavenger hunter in the WHOLE WORLD! To find places here, you must look for clues, take hints from the people around you, always always ask a second opinion, and assume you will make 3 extra stops to get where you’re actually going! Turn it into a game and this way of living is actually entertaining! I’m learning why people don’t (or can’t) rush here.

Since were talking culture…some of my favorite new phrases that are quickly becoming a part of my vocabulary:
Now now- it means later, or much later, or maybe later tomorrow…..to clarify that something will truly happen soon, you say “just now” or now now now now now!
That side- to say something is “over there.” Ex: Stephens went that side just now
Jump the robot- cross the street. Traffic lights are called robots… Ex: Let’s jump the robot to catch that taxi.
Salty cracks-crackers. They’re salty and they’re cracky.
Make a plan- This one may seem self explanatory but the way it’s used is amazing. It’s said for everything…you need lunch, you make a plan. Forgot your pen and need another one, make a plan. The best comparison is “figure it out,” in American English.
Organize ________: To pull things together, or “make a plan.” But I never knew that so many things can be organized! Ex: I need to organize some money for transport. Or, I’ll organize us some food for lunch. It’s also a little ironic sometimes due to the fact that things are usually so un-“organized”.

Something fun that’s begun to happen in the past month is that I can recognized different accents from areas in South Africa and from the other South African countries. The Zimbabwean accent sounds distinctly different to me than the South African. Sometimes the difference between northern and southern Zimbabwe is noticeable but I’m still learning. Though, in South Africa there are many different accents too; the coloured people have a very strong accent as do the people from Durban/Kwa Zulu-Natal. British and Afrikaans are also very different sounding (not all white people sound the same here). I can also hear the difference between a few of the languages; Zulu, Tswana and Sutu. The Nigerians in Pretoria also have a noticeably different way of speaking. Though, sometimes I’m wrong about who’s from where…it’s fun to try and start guessing. My accent is hard to mask so the game doesn’t really go two ways but many times people have spoken to me in Afrikaans and been surprised or offended when I can only respond in English. Sorry ne!?

What do people think about America? Oh, we’ve gotten some incredible questions and comments about the US. It’s is so funny to be from a country that is completely egocentric. When you travel outside our borders you learn quickly how skewed the world’s view of our nation is. Both Siri and I have been asked so many times, which celebrities we know….and if we live near them. Do I know Brittany Spears? Nope. “What!? You don’t! But she’s American!” Will Smith? No. Beyonce? No, sorry. I don’t know any celebrities….I have seen one…but people are not impressed with Ryan Stiles. Sorry Ryan.
Some other favorite questions… “Where is America…is it in Europe? Wait, where is Europe!?” “Who’s the governor of Washington DC?” “What state is Florida in?”

It’s fun to explain our little country to people….or at least to try.
Today, walking home from Salvokop (a community literally on the other side of the train tracks), there was a little girl about 4 or 5 years with a bright pink backpack on, that had written on it in black sharpee, “Beyonce.” I think the little girl had been named after her mom’s favorite singer!

In many ways, South Africa and America have some common ground in the diversity of their landscape, geography, and people and it has been so interesting to see in small ways how we can be learning from each other in adapting to and honoring these differences. One of the visions that TLF works towards is the idea of an “inclusive city.” This is a place where all people feel represented, safe, and valued. It’s a difficult reality even to completely comprehend but I believe that it is not only the desire of God for His creation but also something that He empowers us to help create in our daily interactions with people and in how we live and work in the places we are present in.

It’s almost Thanksgiving and there will be a lot of events here to keep my mind and heart busy as people are back home feasting and enjoying each other. Tuesday, I’ll be leading a Bible study for the girls in prison. Thursday is our monthly celebration to recognize the good things that have been happening in the community and that following weekend is the organization’s yearly retreat which I’ve heard is a really great time! So, family….don’t worry about me too much. I’ll miss you all dearly but there will be lots of food and fun here to fill me up! I love you guys!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You GotTa Make a PlaN cont.....

You have to make a plan......

So those scattered thoughts give you some idea of what’s been going on but mostly they were just to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking over here. Now for some more coherent news. First, thankfully my new hero Shawn, the IT guy at TLF fixed my computer so all the info and pictures from home have not been lost. Have I learned from this lesson....yes, buying dvds to write all my stuff to this week to back it up. Blah blah blah.

The past few weeks there have been meeting meetings meetings. As I was mentioning before, TLF is great at taking on great BIG projects. If you like, could you join me in prayer that these would really take off the ground and that we would have favor with the city and with the public. To name a few:

World HIV/AIDS Day awareness campaign- We are planning a city wide event with the theme of “Stop the Myths, Save the Patients.” It is common practice in South Africa and in many African countries to use traditional medicine or Muti to “cure” HIV and AIDS and cancers. This Muti is a combination of herbal remedies and magic. There are flyers all over town advertising how to heal yourself or cure some ill by drinking “AMAZING GRACE TEA.” The presence of these false cures encourages people with terminal illnesses to go off of the proven medication ARV’s (which are free to the people in South Africa) in hopes of using some quick fix. It’s a very dangerous thing also because many people will start their own businesses advertising that they have found a miracle cure. Walking down the sidewalk you’ll see tables set up with bottles of brown liquids and yellow juices...these are makeshift pharmacies. Our event has to be on November 30th instead of the true World Aids Day, December 1st due to some political barriers that were thrown up by the city. The event will start with a march to attract the public and the media. We will have two HIV/AIDS patients share their stories, then some medical workers do a question and answer time with the public. The School of Creative Arts is planning a drama and some music to go with the theme. It should turn out really well.

Lerato House Outreach- Recently, the outreach workers at Lerato House (myself included) stopped doing outreach in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Pretoria because it was too dangerous. We now go only to Central, mostly along Bloed street because the women work independently instead of directly under a pimp. After meeting last week with Wilna DeBeer, the director of PCM, she suggested we try to find some ways of getting back into Sunnyside safely. This is the part of town where the Nigerians have basically taken control of the prostitution and drug markets. (Has anyone seen District 9? It was an interesting depiction of the Nigerian influence in the townships and cities here. The movie was banned in Nigeria). Women are held captive and only let out at night to work, even then they are always within the pimp’s sight. The tight control by the pimps makes it very difficult to get information to the women if they want to get out. Not impossible, just difficult. This next week, I’ll be going on outreach with another organization that is still working in that part of town. Hopefully, this will be a chance to see how and where they are making it work. God is faithful and I know that He will protect us when we walk out in His name but we can also take precautions. It should be really interesting to go to this part of town and probably very different than getting to know the women working in Central.

Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign- There are a lot of mixed emotions about the World Cup coming here to South Africa in 2010. People are excited but are also understanding the changes it will impose on this country. In preparation for the games, TLF has taken on two big campaigns, this is one and the other is Rebranding Homelessness. They see it as a great opportunity to make the public aware of the injustices that are present in their own city. Also, it’s a chance to make the wider world aware of what’s happening in South Africa and actually, all over the globe. We will be working with FIFA and the city to do outreaches to hotels, building managers, stadiums, restaurants, salons, schools, and taxis about how to avoid being trafficked, how to identify someone who may have been trafficked, and how to assist in getting that person out of the situation. Our focus is women and children in the sex industry although human trafficking actually covers many other issues too.

So, these are a few of the things that I have been a small part of here so far. It’s been interesting to work towards such lofty goals in the “African way.” There are a lot of meetings (as mentioned before), lots of walking around the city to talk with people, lots of side tracks and diversions, a lack of funding all around, last minute planning, then...all of a sudden....it’s happening...it’s working I am learning quickly to reserve judgement until the final event is finished.

On our way to Hatfield last weekend, the taxi man turned around after telling Siri and I that the ride would be 10R (about $1.30) and said that next year, during 2010 it will be 20R. We laughed and he looked at us seriously and said, “if it’s in US dollars, it’ll be $50.” He’s a smart business man in some ways. Prices are certain to go up all over the country but I’m curious if it will really affect Central as much as some of the other areas. White people are already afraid to use the mini taxis so I’m not sure the demand will increase with the increase in tourists. If locals won’t even ride in them, will visitors? I hope so. The taxis are fun...during the day.

Speaking of the local whites...just recently I’ve started to make some white South African friends here. It’s been so different than getting to know the black South Africans. There is a certain solidarity that’s assumed. People think I will identify with their opinions about city center, food, my living arrangement, and all the black people. They are surprised when I don’t. I went to lunch and a Christmas market in the suburbs with a woman who grew up during Apartheid and offered a different perspective on the freedom struggle than I’ve heard before and gave some really honest opinions about the “old” and “new” South Africa. She is curious about what it’s like to live in the middle of the city not around any other white people and said that she’s very excited about the new freedoms now. That she is free to go places and get to know people she couldn’t before. This conversation and some with our new friends in Durban have given me a whole new picture of how complex the racial issues are here. You have the British and Afrikaans who are allis at times and enemies other times. The Indian people and the Black people are also categorized similarly sometimes but then have a strong division between each other. It’s also a huge generalization to just say “black” people since there are at least 11 people groups that make up the “black people,” all with very individual languages, foods, and traditions. The coloureds are a group of people all their own. It’s truly a RaiNboW NaTioN.

Today was my second twinge of homesickness. I was in the Shopright to get a notebook to make a calendar for the next 3 months. Downstairs, lit by nasty florescent lights, there were Christmas decorations up everywhere I started looking at the fake Christmas trees (actually thought about getting one for like 5 seconds) then heard Christmas music playing Really It’s holiday season here. There in the store, I felt it....that’s right....the Holiday SpiRit. As soon as I stepped out of the store into the 85* weather, it was gone as I sweated my way back to the Lerato House, but for a moment, I could have been anywhere in the world...and wanted to be home....tucked into a sweater and waking up to frost on the grass.

The next few weeks should be fairly “normal.” Next weekend some friends and I may go for a drive in Mmpumalanga (beautiful countryside and nature reserves). It would be a welcome break from the city sounds and smells.

All that about WHAT I’m doing here....now quickly, the HOW am I doing here....
Of course there are adjustments that have to be made when you go and live in a new city but these have all been okay. Mostly it’s food or living arrangement stuff. I”m used to living in shared space so that’s been fine. There are the usual struggles of kitchen and bathroom time. Getting used to the normal food...pasta and vegetables for dinner, granola, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. I feel good though. God has been so faithful to walk with me and teach me during this journey. He has provided friends here to enjoy things with and amazing friends at home too who have been great at emailing, sending letters, and just little words of encouragement. I miss my family and feel more connected to them now than I have in a long time. I am learning so much about the importance of those relationships and really want to be investing in them, even while I’m here. Family is a precious gift that many of the people I’m working with don’t have. The hard part is to process all the things I see with the girls and the women. It’s hard because the intensity the pain that is in most people’s lives is so different than in the US. The abuse, rape, and crime rates are so high here that almost everyone has been directly affected by these somehow. God is quick to remind me to hand these things over to Him. I cannot fix people and it’s not my job. I can and will walk along side people, love them, and offer whatever I can. After work during the week, I’m tired. Trying to get in a routine of running or working on some project but usually there is a really good balance of work and play

Alright, as always, thank you each for your support. I hope that you are blessed as you are such a blessing to the people around you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

you gotta make a plan

local is lekker.

Just to brief everyone on why I've been a bit distant on this world wide web or words....Siri's camera got lost during our trip to Durban last week, my computer crashed on Thursday (in it are all my pictures and writings). So, sometimes, it's hard to recreate some of the stuff knowing that it's in that little monster of a machine. Hopefully, the IT guy from TLF will be able to fix it this weekend and we'll get back to normal. But for now...here goes a scrappy version of the last 2ish weeks.

First, the trip to Durban. SO AMAZING! After a 9 hour busride overnight, through Jo'Burg and Petermaritzburg we arrived to a grey drizzly sky...at the ocean! My water radar kicked in and we made a straight shot to the beach. The record continues...everytime I try to just dip my feet in the ocean...I end up soaked! Oh well, we sat in a coffee shop watched the hard core surfers take on the waves in the rain and planned out the next 5 days (sort of). Durban is in the provice of KwaZulu Natal which is a primarily and historically Zulu area then the Indian and British traders came through. Now, it is a crazy mix of the three cultures and is very very different than the mostly Afrikaans and Tshwana Pretoria. What did we do....went to a huge Indian market for some shopping, got a tour of the Juma mosque (one of the largest in the Southern Hemi), tackled as many waves as possible, ate delicious food...curries and some more European type meals, met some new friends who were happy to show us around town and offer a different persective on the "new" and "old" South Africa.

As usual, not everything goes as you think it will. We intended on only staying in the city for 3 days then going to Tugela Ferry to where Siri's friends live, but transport became a problem. So, we hopped to some different backpackers and found one right across the road from the beach. So beautiful. For some reason, the area looked like a very posh Oregon Coast. All along the waterfront there is construction happening in preparation for 2010 and they have built a huge new stadium for the games. All in all, the trip definately felt like a vacation. But the overnight bus back into Pretoria then having to work the next day was a little rough. So worth it.

Things around here are moving quickly. I was hoping to explain some about all the project that TLF is taking on for 2010 and to ask for some help in prayer that I would be able to decide which to really be investing my time into. TLF is a very visionary oganization and has huge plans. Looking back at what they have accomplished in 15 years of working in the Inner City, somethings working...they have helped some major changes come about and have really supported the people here. I'll have to do that later.

The holidays are coming and so far, I'm not too homesick. Yesterday, I went to a Christmas Market at the University of Pretoria and it was so much like the holiday bazaar at PLU. I got a little nostalgic. We celebrated halloween by painting squash and buying a "horror" movie...one of the Nigerian ones that are sold on the street. They are horrible enough thank you. There was caramal apples and spiced cider...so nice. It is still strange though that the "holidays" will be hot hot hot and not crispy and white.

okay, let's consider this part 1 of 2 posts...the other to come in a few days.
thanks to everyone for your support, thoughts, letters, and prayers. I really do appreciate them and know that God is working through this trip in your lives as well. He is faithful to provide and lead. He works in such creative ways and I am happy to have Jesus as my teacher here.

LOVE TO YOU ALL!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

to tell the tales

Some photos may do more justice in telling some stories than I can this time. The city is beautiful and as I was walking across town this morning to pick up some boxes of condoms to hand out to the women on the street (by the way, you'll get very interesting reactions walking down the crowded sidewalks with two big boxes of condoms), it started to sink in how much I really am enjoying this city. I'm thinking of starting a "You Know you're in Pretoria when...." list. :)

Anyway, here are some pictures from the last few weeks. Siri and I are heading to Durban this evening on an overnight bus for a short trip to the coast! East meets Africa.

Shoot. The BloG master must be on holiday. Photos are not uploading. I"ll try facebook.
If you're not already my friend on there...find me!

P.S. here in the city people have come up with a new line to use on passersby..."Add me" yes, as in add me as your friend on facebook. Really people...let's not get crazy?!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Compliments of the RaiN

Just when I was about to plug in my headphones and start tip-typing some news from the last two weeks, the sky turns a hazey red-grey, the thunder rolls in and I hear the plops of rain hit the sidewalk. Lightning is close enough I could grab it if I just stuck my hand out the open window. Rainy season is on it's way. Normally during the rainy season, there is a thick rain between 4:30 and 6 in the evening; just in time to wash off busy days of all the workers walking home. I've been caught in it just a few times and it's not so much the thump of raindrops that I worry about...remember where I was raised...but the branches that fall from the jacarandas. Those are fun to dodge!

Thanks though to the spring showers, all the flowers are out in the parks, grass is green and the city feels fresher. People's umbrellas are put to good use blocking both the rain and sun.

So, it's been awhile...and it's been a fairly "normal" few weeks here in Central. Siri and I finally got to go see our friend Ngwako perform with his band. He is such a talented Marimba player (and is quite smitten with Siri). The concert was in a township called Mabopane at a bar called, "The Taliban." When we asked the owner how he came up with that name for his club, he told us that he and his friends had been watching the news after September 11th and thought that the area looked a lot like the places in the Middle East where the Taliban were hiding, so they decided to name it "Taliban." Maybe our expressions of surprise inspired him to follow it up with... "it's more of a nickname though." Sure, your bar's nickname is printed on the billboard and sign? Hilarious. The music was incredible and watching these guys perform then talking with them a little bit about what jazz music means to them and to South Africa as a whole has challenged me to listen differently. I've never been against jazz but maybe I've just never heard it the same way. It tells such deep and powerful stories but allows the authors to enjoy the telling, dance in the pain of tragedy or walk again through the love stories of their lives. Miriam Makeba was the first African performer to really make it abroad, she is now known as Mama Afrika. Her success made room for a musician named Phela, then Hugh Masekhela to really be heard all over the world. Music was born here.

Before the concert we were in the restaurant watching a soccer game between two of local teams, the Cheifs who are from Soweto and the Sundowners, from Mamelodi. The local teams are really popular and there's a hectic rivalry between the Chiefs and the Pirates, both from Soweto (a well-known township in Jo'Burg). You are either a Chiefs fan or a Pirate....I'm still deciding...

Last week also, I visited the NieuCommunities program in Pretoria North. They are an American organization run through CRM (Christian Resource Ministries) that offer 'apprenticeships,' for young adults who are still trying to figure out where God is leading them in their lives. They have beautiful property and a large house where the apprentices live and work out of. It was great to meet a few other Americans (strange to hear the accent...mostly west coast...YEAH!) And talk with them about their experiences here in S.A and the process of adjusting. It also was a challenge to see what life in the suburbs might be like and the contrast it is to living in the inner-city. After some arguments in my mind I came to the realization and acceptance that I really am happy to be living down town. With all of the challenges it brings, it is so worth it to be able to walk around the streets and really enter into this new world. To have my assumptions and realities confronted (more later about that). I am thankful that while walking through Burgers Park in the afternoon I can run into a friend or two and sit and chill and have some great talks. Obviously it would be easier to leave the city and go back to a "home" to process with other people that come from a similar background as I do. But God is doing some serious work on my heart and mind through living in this community and having to adjust to it's rules and realities.

Life at the Lerato House. Things are getting better at the house. Maren, Carlotta and I have had to work through some very frustrating and discouraging situations in planning the holiday program, working with the South African child/youth care students, and building relationships with the girls staying there. Last week though, things started looking up. We are celebrating the small steps! During the meeting on Monday, people actually made efforts to understand and be understood. People were busy with individual tasks during the day, and some really fun things actually happened. The girls went swimming on Tuesday then had a beauty day in the afternoon where they all gave each other manicures and talked about being precious in God's sight as his daughters. Three of the older girls are preparing now for the Matric exams (highschool finals) and will be getting ready to graduate in December! We are praying that they'll take time to study and do the work they need to do to finish strong.

Last week also, I had a really good conversation with my supervisor (whom I had only talked with once or twice before) about what the expectations were for me there as an 'outreach volunteer' and what the vision really was for the outreach team. I was getting so frustrated with not knowing really what the goal of our outreaches were or why they seemed so flaky half the time. She was happy to give me the info that I was asking for...and I got excited for what's in store. There is one thing that I'm learning about this place...if you ask a question...you'll get the most basic answer...if you want more information you have to ask specifically for it. Assumptions about how information is shared are very different in the US than in South Africa. After the conversation we decided that we could start brining a first aid kit to the 'bad buildings' and Marabastad for the women who have open wounds that are infected and not healing well. Also, I learned that there is another drop-in center in Kallenin, a township in the East, that TLF works with and that I can start going there too. Also, at the beginning of the year, the outreach team goes into the schools and does presentations on AIDS/HIV, human trafficking, and other issues that are affecting teens in this city. The picture of outreach got a lot bigger and longer term...which is exactly what I was looking for. Hopefully from here out, realizing what we're working towards will help me stay focused when the daily things don't happen the way I think they should. God is always so much bigger than we recognize and I am thankful that He is opening my eyes to where and how He is active in people's lives and in this city.

As we've been learning what it looks like to live and share Good News in the city, there's a concept that I've been so challenged by. It's a seemingly obvious one that we all claim to do...Be PreSenT.
There's a book I've been reading that describes "being present" in these three ways:

"To become present is to become present first of all for God- to open ourselves to be surprised by the fact that God is already present in the very places where we arrived thinking that we would be the saviors; to open ourselves to the work that the Spirit has already done. There are communities that we write off as if God is not there. But to become present is to find signs of God's presence where we sometimes least expect it.

To become present is to make ourselves vulnerable, being present for ourselves, being open to face our own prejudice, feelings of discomfort, barriers or walls that we still need to transcend.
To become present is to place ourselves where Jesus was, in the shoes of others, in some of the most vulnerable places of the city." -The Gospel, children, and the city.

There is so much to learn about what this really looks like day to day and I am happy to be studying with the best Teacher in the world.

There are some great kids here who have been cracking me up! There's Togoso, my coworker Xolani's son. He's just over one year old and is a little dragon. His name means joy but every time I've walked into their house...he greets me with a growl and a stomp down the hallway. He's the cutest dragon ever! Vusi is a little boy who lives next to TLF and who's family is friends with some people who are working with the organization. Vusi will come over to Museums Park just to visit. He's quick to ask questions but quicker tell you how things really are. I'm so glad there are kids around play with and learn from.

If you're praying:

Petunia-a woman we met during our outreach. She has been asking a lot of questions about starting her own candy-selling business in order to get off the streets, and is wondering about other places to stay. She is the woman who inspired the first aid kits being brought down and has shown interest in really taking care of her wounds. Thank God for this new friendship and pray that she can have the courage to take steps into a new life.

All the people affected by HIV/AIDS, rape, and abuse here in South Africa. I've been doing some research for the event being planned for World Aids Day on December 1st and its astounding the myths that are still commonly accepted and practiced in order to "cure" AIDS. The 'virgin cure' is still so popular...which leads, in part, to the high rape rate. People stop taking their ARV medications in hopes that traditional medicine (beet root, powders and herbs, bones and shells) will heal them.

Continued safety as Siri and I walk around the city

Guidance in friendships

I love you all and am thankful for a supportive community at HOME!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In the FooTprinTs of ZeBras





































I'm laying here on my bed with freshly washed sheets, full of chicken curry, yellow rice, and salsa, sunburnt, but so content to remember earlier this afternoon I was swimming in a gorgeous river in the Magaleisburg Mountains. There's something great about resting after a few days of hiking, sitting with sore muscles, remembering the panoramic views and close encounters with "nature."
After such a challenging week last week, this one has been a deep breathe. At work, the Lerato house girls are officially on their school holidays so us volunteers were in charge of organizing a Holiday program to keep them busy during last and this week. Sounds like a great time, but was much more complicated than it sounds. I'll fast forward to the highlights of the week. Tuesday, we had a blast in the swimming pool. A lot of the girls are still learning how to actually swim but have a good time just jumping in, screaming, and splashing each other. Friday, in honor of Heritage day (which was Thursday) we decided that we would all cook lunch together, each sharing a dish from our country. Maren and Carlotta, the German volunteers, cooked some potato-mince casserole which was delicious. The South African students cooked pap, beef stew, and spinach (a very traditional meal here), and I baked chocolate chip cookies for everyone. The girls at the house seemed to enjoy learning how to cook some new foods and had even more fun with the digital camera. (Pictures above). Apparently they're all preparing to be super models. It was a short week that went very quickly. Although last week was difficult, I am confident that things can and will improve as we all learn to communicate with each other and listen to the ideas that we each have to contribute.
Now, that you're all curious about the title of this little blurt....yes, I SAW ZEBRAS! Heritage Day is celebrated here by people gathering together by cooking food and enjoying each other's histories. So to celebrate my Pacific Northwest Heritage, my friend Maren and I decided to go exploring in the mountains to find some hiking trails. We took off for Rustenburg which is about 1.5 hours northwest of Pretoria by mini-taxi. From there....well, that's as far as we'd planned. Thankfully, we found favor with the people in Rustenburg. Hopping off the taxi in the middle of town proved to be a bad idea since there wasn't really anything there. After asking a few people where we could find any tourism information, they all pointed back the way we came and said it was too far to walk. "Too far to walk," is anything more than 3 blocks here so we considered this and took off walking. A woman at the tourism office (which just opened on Monday), eventually offered to just drive us to the gate of the Nature Reserve that was near the town. Happily, she took off for the hills and dropped us off with just one request, that we call her and tell her when we make it home safe. I could write for hours about how beautiful this place was but the pictures should do it more justice. Maren and I wandered around for awhile on a few different trails and we walked down and saw the savannah plains...and yes...Zebras! They were just grazing in a small herd. Zebras are gorgeous! We both shrieked and started laughing at how funny it was to just see Zebras and at how easily amused we were. After a whole day of hiking and spotting other animals like Springbokke, Sable Antelope, and all sorts of other deer like animals), we were tired and had to head home before dark. Not to worry...at home we rounded up Siri and our friend Nora and started planning to go back to camp for the weekend!
Saturday morning the four of us jumped on another mini-taxi and jetted back to Rustenburg. At this point we were feeling much more confident on directions and plans. From the taxi-rank in town, we found another ride to the gate of the park. I'm learning here that there are often rules for so many things that one, are unnecessary, and two, are not followed or enforced. So at the park, you are not "allowed" to just walk in, you must drive. (Thursday, we paid for our non-existant car just to satisfy the woman at the gate). So we hitched a ride with a family that was going to do some bike riding. People were so willing to let us jump in the back of their truck and haul us down the road to the visitor center or the gate. After sorting through the "rules" of the park with the woman at the gate, it was finally settled that we could camp there...if there was a spot...but "the whole park is full." Right. Saturday was spent wandering the trails with a goal of finding the river and going for a swim. Wandering, check. River...eventually, check! Colors in the Kganswane Mountain Reserve are so unique. the reds of the stones and dirt, deep and bright greens of the trees and ferns, then brilliant blue sky escorted us around for two days. Views from the top of the peaks stretched forever and mostly it was grasslands. A herd of baboons escorted us for awhile on Saturday. Thankfully, they kept walking pretty far ahead of us since none of us are up to par on our baboon defense skills. Later, in the evening, after a swim in the river we went back to camp to set up and crash. Crash we did, at 8:30. For as hot as it gets here during the day, it gets ridiculously cold at night. Yes, shivering and sore from the hard ground, I slept for maybe 3 hours. Once I was woken up by Siri and Nora looking out the screen of the tent and nervously laughing at the fact that two Zebras were rustling through our garbage bag! Too nervous to peek out, I trusted that Zebras are not aggressive and that they would be satisfied with some empty cans of beans and packets of soup. They were and left quickly. So wild. I'm used to raccoons or squirrels but baboons and zebras are a different story to see sneaking into your camp. Maybe its something we'll get used to here but I hope not! Siri, Maren, Nora and I traveled really well together. They each have a real appreciation for simplicity and for small wonders in the world so we had a great time talking about the giant termite hills, wondering about the rocks, standing in the windblown grass on the top of a hill, then jumping into the freezing cold river water. The whole trip was just so relaxing and truly restoring to my Spirit. My lungs really breathe better when they're filled with clean air from grasslands and mountains and my heart is satisfied and ready to take on another week in the big city.

For those of you praying out there...THANK YOU!!! Thank you more than you know for your support. It has been so necessary and felt this last few weeks. God is doing some real work here and He is showing me how messy it can be. There are some people in my life here who are so precious but in such difficult places right now. Would you please be praying for; provision for food and shelter for these people, for conviction in certain unhealthy lifestyle choices, and against the spirit of fear that keeps so many captive and lures the young people here into pursuing only comfort, not real life. God is the ultimate Provider and He does this in so many ways. Would we be open to and have faith in His provision.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TaXi!

The South African Police department has done a recent study of traffic accidents in the country's cities. The findings were that the third most dangerous place to be while driving on the roads is in front of a taxi. Driving behind a taxi came in second and in first place....take a guess...that's right....riding INSIDE of a taxi. These mini van drivers pack their vehicles as full as possible (so as to collect the most money) and take off for their location. There is some organization for how these work in the city. Each corner of downtown is a taxi "station" to a certain location outside of downtown. To get to Madabastad, go to the corner of Bloed and Andries, point your finger West and wait for a honking monster to stop and open its mounth. You'll be there in no time! Hopefully. Well, since this has been and will continue to be my and Siri's main form of transportation please pray that we get the good drivers. They are cheap and relatively safe as long as you don't ride after dark.

This past week has been the hardest since being here for so many different reasons. It hasn't been bad, just a struggle. There are too many things to go into complete detail here and within a few days many of the small frustrations will have already passed so I'll generalize. As I've mentioned before, things don't ever happen as planned in South Africa. Even that planning usually happens the day before whatever it is being planned is supposed to take place. Communication is difficult when most people around me speak 6 different languages, one of which I understand and the others are way easier and more fun to speak with their friends. Last night, after talking through some things I've come to accept that this year could be one of struggling through some hard things. If God needs to teach me and others some important and deep lessons, then the struggle will be worth it. If He wants to use me to bring down some walls of complacency I am more than happy to be at His service. The differences between short and long term missions are starting to become glaringly clear. To really enter into a new community and culture and learn how to teach and serve there in a way that will be received is an enormous challenge. It's so much easier to stamp a happy politically correct term on a situation then continue to act the same as before but to really dig in and try to understand and serve effectively will be a messier process I think. Please pray that God has mercy on me when I make mistakes, that He gives all of us patience with each other and a vision for how things can be here!

The girls at Lerato house are on holiday now for two weeks and I, Maren and Carlotta (the other German volunteers at the house) were told to plan a holiday program for them. Besides all the mis-communications about how and what this was supposed to look like, our ideas were not really heard and have been blocked in so many different ways. Thankfully, the girls are easily entertained so today they played Monopoly all morning and we had a pool party in the afternoon. All the girls seemed to have a great time jumping in, splashing each other, and learning how to swim. Plans for the next few weeks are still in the works. Saturday is a Sports day that the city puts on and all the Shelters in town participate in a soccer competition. Our girls are very excited to go and I'm sure will do very well! Thursday is Heritage Day and there will be celebrations all over the city of people gathering to dance and put on performances from the different people groups here. Freedom Park is just across the train tracks from our house and will have a big festival going on. I'm not sure what my plan is for that day. It could be nice to take a break and celebrate a little bit of my own personal Pacific Northwest heritage by finding some trails to hike or a river to jump in (I'll watch out for the hippos).

Its starting to stay light a little later now. Right now, it's 6pm here and the sun is just starting to set over the jacaranda silhouettes . The sky is a pinkish purple and hazy (thank you pollution). A month ago it was dark by now. Hopefully this extra time will allow some more freedom to do things after work. Once the sun sets, plans are much more difficult since we can't walk around after dark. Even 30 more minutes of daytime will be a big difference. Thankfully, the volunteers downstairs are great and they have an enclosed area with a table, ping pong table and a lot of chairs. Our balcony looks out over this little space and we will usually gather down there in the evenings with a candle and our dinners to chat and debrief the day. It's good to have some space outside where we can at least see a few stars.

I've walked through 2 pairs of sandals already and just invested in a new pair. You should see my feet at the end of a day. Before bed each night, I have to scrub them down. They're covered with dirt and dust, red from the sun, and tired from walking all over town but happy that they get to carry Good News!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reading the City





































Sunday, I walked down Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg with a backpack full of lemons. An old Grecian woman who has been living in the city for 52 years passed them through the fence as we were admiring her citrus tree. We didn't see her watering the plants in another part of the yard but when she came over, she was beaming and offered us a gift. When I asked if it was really okay to have a piece of fruit, she replied, "not one...plenty!" There we had an instant morning snack as we continued our sunny Sunday morning stroll to the art store and market.

After spending what seemed like the entire week getting more acquainted with Pretoria a.k.a Tshwane, it felt like a good idea to get out of the city for a few days and head to...a bigger one?! Somehow, getting out of town for even just two days really helped put this place in context. Saturday there was a huge carnival in Joburg where we, the resident clowns, were to go represent the FEAST OF THE CLOWNS to the entire province. "Carnival" is an interesting term to give to the event. To be honest, it felt more like a colorful, musical, crowded line trying to become a parade. Nobody had informed the city though that thousands of people would be traveling from all over to perform and compete for points that their city would be awarded. I think there were a total of 20 people who came out to see the "parade." Anyway, it was a long day dressed up as clowns, walking down the scalding streets of Sandton (a wealthy suburb of J'burg). Once the parade came to an finish...in the middle of a street halfway to our ending location...Siri and I took off in our costumes and facepaint to find the hostel that we were going to stay at that night. We found the Kung Fu Kitchen instead. Sweet and sour chicken is the same the world over...thank the Lord. Then, wondering how we were going to get across this city to our hostel we asked the waitress and she told us the delivery driver could take us there. Apparently he doesn't just deliver pizzas. 20 Rand and a short walk later we were at the doorstep of an old mansion, The Backpacker Ritz. Gardens, pool, paved paths through the trees, an eagle owl that sometimes attacks, and a beautiful sunset over the city welcomed us. It felt like a real vacation. It also felt like we were so far outside the city. But I suppose in a city that is 120km x 120kms large, there are bound to be places that feel less crowded. It was the quietest night of sleep since I've been here. Sunday, Siri and I walked to another part of town after a delicous breakfast at a real bakery We then took a minitaxi into downtown. The dreaded DOWNTOWN J'burg. Centers of cities have received quite a stigmatized reputation here in South Africa of danger, violence, crime, muggings, and poverty. When the man at the hostel found out that we lived in central Pretoria, he was astounded that two white girls would stay there...by choice. His expressions spoke the truth of his thoughts. Skeptical; confused and afraid of this part of town that I doubt he's even ever been in. This reaction after the conversations that had been had during our volunteer orientation was the period at the end of a sentence. Joburg was great...we explored Newtown which is the up and coming area near downtown. There was a free museum and a caf‚ where they were starting to play some great jazz music. We tried Amasanja....the traditional worm dish here. It wasn't bad...or maybe we were starving.

Some thoughts on this town and the people I walk by everyday. Tshwane Central felt like returning home when I came back Sunday evening. It was nice to walk down the familiar streets and see some smiling faces that are quickly becoming part of my daily life. Annah the girl at the fruit stand on the corner. Pretty, who runs the laundry shop. The old white man with just 4 massive dreadlocks and the big plaid bag. Rasta, who spends his days on the corner of Paul Kruger street and Minnar and shouts hello every morning. For being a city of 3 million there is a nice little neighborhood here surrounding Burgers Park. It feels safe (which I do acknowledge is not completely true) but it feels like it and that spirit of fear that is so common here has not gained the power to scare everyone away from this beautiful community.

Last week all the international volunteers attended an orientation for TLF. It was led by Steffan (the starter and former CEO of TLF) and his wife Wilna. They are an incredibly inspiring couple who have completely dedicated their lives to serving and loving the community around them. We had some great discussions about the history of Pretoria, building "inclusive communities," prejudices and fear, how to 'read the city.' We got some really great information about how during apartheid, cities were intentionally built to keep certain people out even to the extent that a visitor to Pretoria could travel from the airport to Central without ever having to see poverty. All of the townships or "locations" were established away from the freeways and behind a wall of industrial zones. Even still, the informal settlements are out of view of people traveling in from outside the city.

Slowly, very slowly, I'm adjusting to a new way of ministry here. I'm starting to internalize that productivity and moving forward are not always the most important goals. We are so influenced at a very deep level by the Protestant work ethic. That how well I work, or how much is built is a reflection of my worth; that God will love me more if I just work harder. There is a real understanding here that that is not true. : ) People are very relaxed. This is not an advantage in every situation but it is a new way of living for me. I tend to be relaxed and relational for the most part, but here, they take it to a new level. Already, it's been challenging and I'm sure it will continue to be but God is really teaching me through this and through those relationships.

" The fundamental building blocks of the kingdom are relationships. Not programs, systems, or productivity. But inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships. The kingdom is built on personal involvements that disrupt schedules and drain energy." -Kingdom Efficiency

We heard the story of how Lerato House came to be. There was an old abandoned hotel building in downtown Pretoria that the police knew was being used for prostitution so eventually they raided the building and brought the girls, as young as 11 years old to TLF and the first home was opened. A group of 13 girls had been removed from the lives of pain and abuse and were going to have the opportunity to heal and move forward. This hotel continued to be used and was still abandoned for many years. Just recently, TLF had plans to purchase some more property to increase capacity for Lerato House as well as to create some other affordable housing projects. The property they intended to buy fell through but they heard about a property auction and went to it. That rundown hotel building was on auction for just the amount that TLF had available as a down payment. Now, that same building the original girls came out of is being restored and rebuilt to house more girls in order that they will be empowered and encouraged and SAFE! Talk about redemption! God is really at work in this city and is using this organization like crazy around here.

Okay, it's late. I should sleep and dream of the blooming Jacarandas.
Love to you all.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The horns go beep beep beep










Some pictures from the State Theatre on Sunday, Priscilla at her grand opening, kids at the Potters House and a poster we painted, the German youth Orchestra, Siri and my faces, and a picture of me after smelling the flowers a little too closely.










It was my goal to try and write every week and this past week has whizzed past! As promised, I'll post a video of a piece of my walk from home to work. It's LOUD! Horns, music, shouting, laughing. Living in the city is so nice since there are tons of things to do and opportunities all the time to go to some show or concert or go dance but it is being solidified in my soul that I am not a "city girl." My lungs are ready for some fresh air and my heart is ready to see the Sea!

Here are the high points of last week.....Sunday, there was a concert at the State Theatre where Siri and I got to see the German Youth Orchestra along with some South African opera singers. There were two Argentine women singing opera also. The theatre was beautiful and I have never heard opera performed live...what powerful voices! Monday night, I went with Alexa (the German volunteer from last year) and Berend to play volleyball at the University of Pretoria. The university women's team has an open gym practice twice a week and the public is welcome to come and play. We had a great time just hitting around, the coach was quick to remind me of some basics that I have forgotten in the past 8 years. I didn't realize how long it had been since I have really played! The next day, we were all extremely sore but looking forward to going back next week. Tuesday, thanks to the School of Creative Arts, Sandile, Siri and I got tickets to an art exhibition opening at the Cultural Museum that's just around the corner from where we stay. It was for the poet and visual artist; Lefifi Lladi. He was very active in the 70s in the struggle against Apartheid and was living in exhile for 22 years. His art was beautiful and his poetry....well, we didn't really get to hear his poetry, so you may have too do the research on your own but he did tell a joke! So an American man goes up to a Tanzanian man and says, "I've got a deal for you, if you tell me a riddle and I don't know the answer, I have to give you $500. Then I can ask you a question and if you don't know the answer, you have to pay me $50." "Okay," the Tanzanian man agrees. So the Tanzanian man asks the American, "What has 3 horn, 7 legs, is purple, and can sleep forever?" The American man thinks for awhile and tells the Tanzanian, "I don't know," and pays the other man $500. The American man asks the Tanzanian, "What is it?" The Tanzanian responds "I don't know either, here's your $50." Womp womp womp.....So this great poet told a horrible joke and of course we all laughed! Like I said, you may have to do some research to find his "profound poetry." Wednesday, maybe it was the busyness catching up or bodies adjusting to the new environment but I got sick, just a cold but enough of a cold to leave work early and not be able to do night outreach with Lerato. Siri though got the flu pretty bad and we had to spend the evening in the hospital getting some tests done. There is a private hospital near downtown that TLF takes it's volunteers to so the care is good and the facilities are nice (don't worry parents). She ended up being just fine but needs to be resting for the next few days.

This morning at our weekly devotions, our house mother Priscilla had the grand opening of her new coffee shop! We all had breakfast there to celebrate her new business. She has taken The Kiosk from a run down little stand in the middle of this beautiful park (Burgers Park) and turned it into quite a succesfull restaurant. TLF now has given her the opportunity to expand to use the upstairs as a breakfast caf‚ and coffee shop. We had so much fun celebrating her success and got some treats too! Tonight, all the new German volunteers (there are 10 or so of them) and I and Alexa will be heading out for dinner in Hatfield to a little restaurant that I guess is quite good and inexpensive then to do some dancing. So, there. That's a week in the life of Robin in Tshwane, South Africa. Yes, I work also and maybe next week there'll be a little more about that. There were some funny things that happened during the outreach...stories to come later. The whole experience of sitting on the cement with women who lead such painful lives will need time to soak in and be stirred together with the Truth of the Gospel that I hold onto dearly during such times. God is really teaching me how to rely on Him, trust the Holy Spirit, and be bold in prayer. These women hold so much pain so tightly that it can only be God who is doing the work of restoring their lives, bodies, and Spirits.