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


*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!