Wednesday, October 6, 2010

this side of the sea

"You look like the elvin king from Lord of the Rings!" shouts a frazzled woman in the alley to the man walking past who obviously took the random blurt as a compliment. His eyes lit up and his long straight hair caught a quick breeze as he turned to join the woman in wherever she was heading. Yes, I am back in Bellingham. These strange but beautiful conversations that I overhear everyday are part of the charm that this city has. People dress in multi-colored organic textured layers and head down to the Saturday market (which thankfully sells beetroot), you can walk around at 2 in the morning without fear, and the Bay just comes to life in the sun or during an autumn storm. Thank you God for bringing me back to such a beautiful place.

It's been about 2 months since coming back from South Africa, and I do apologize for the delay in writing the "returning words." To be honest, until just a few weeks ago, there weren't too many to share. Each day was hard. Normal things were overwhelming and I felt out of place. In some ways this is getting easier but in some, not. More to say later about that.

Thank you Scott for the encouragement to write. On a sad note though, a B'ham essential is gone. The QUarterback is out of business. No more 25c wing nights. So sorry.

A quick summary of the last 2 months. I returned with Cameron (praise God for the blessing that relationship has been), in August and moved back to Bellingham to look for some sort of work. My lovely friend Tanya opened up her house to take me in.It was a great place to transition. We were living in a little cottage behind someone's house, sharing a room, cooking on a hotplate, and making use of a small space. In some ways it felt like training wheels to coming back into a society who values a lot of wasted space in the name of "luxury." Thank you Tanya for sharing your home and for the people living in the house who also truly valued community enough to share their space with others. This last month I moved in with 2 other girls in a 3 bedroom apartment on High Street. They are wonderful and it is a beautiful place. We have a view of downtown and Bellingham Bay. I feel spoiled everyday but am thankful to have a place to sit and breathe and to e living alongside some good friends.

The job situation. Many people had told me that coming home would be a process but I made the mistake of thinking that this would be a process that I would have some sort of control over (isn't that often a misconception we have). Instead it has been a process happening to me. The first month, each day felt different. Some were fine. Some were very painful, others were a blur. My prayer was and is that the work that God was doing in South Africa would continue there and that in some way it would also carry over to this side of the BridGe. To pay the bills, I got a part time job as a recpetionist at Catholic Community Services and I am so grateful for this chance to be back at CCS, working with people I know as well as having time to just be. Be back in America and to re-adjust to life here, see family and friends, and to listen for what God has next. He has been so faithful! He who began a good work in you is SURE to bring it to completion! There have been some interesting conversations about what organizations are doing here in Bellingham and in Seattle around the issue of Human Trafficking, as it is such a prevalent one here too. I will post some links to the websites on here.

Am I going back? God willing. This is something that I am offering up and is in many ways out of my hands. I would love to and am open to what God has in store. For now though, I hold the work that was done there and what continues with open hands knowing that He will continue His work with or without me there...and if God wants me to return, He will lead and will provide. Cameron's also very excited to go back some day!

Thanks to everyone who so faithfully prayed this last year. I've said it before but just to encourage you to continue praying for those who are serving abroad and in your own communities, I felt the prayers! It has hit me more lately, the miricle in the fact that I was not injured, seriously threatened, or harmed in any way during this last year. Many that I know were not as fortunate.

Some things I am so grateful for in returning here:
-breathing fresh air everyday
-riding my bike around down town
-great friends
-cooking fresh, local foods
-being able to be out at night
-leaves changing color
-seeing family
-good coffee
-having lakes to swim in or run around
-quiet places
-church community, worship

What do I miss?
-fruit stands on the sidewalk
-walking across town everyday
-the unpredictability of TLF and Pretoria
-the Jacaranda trees
-jumping on a minitaxi and ending up in another country
-essential creativity
-red dirt
-seeing zebras every once in a while
-almost getting run over by cars in the street
-museum park sunsets
-being "in" after dark and having to get creative with friends
-TLF friends!
-smells of the streets
-Rajah curry powder

For now, stay well. More to come. I want to continue this blog and put up more pictures from this last year as I sort through them and print some. If you have any specific questions about the year from this perspective or about what's going on here...please let me know. I'm happy to write! Its still a little strange to have internet access all the time, but i'm getting used to it.

with love always,

Music suggestion of the day: Vusi Mathlasela, and the Afro Cuban Allstars. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

pictures to prove it

Enjoy the photos! More to come when i get reconnected with the techy worlD.

The End.

The gazebos came down easily after enduring wind, children, and sprinkler systems for 31 days. Poles were splinted with bamboo sticks and bandaged with red duct tape. Posters advertising information about women and children trafficked all over the world were as tattered as the stories themselves. After an hour or so of deconstruction of the Better World Village, I sat down on the lawn, my favorite little boy Bathle (I'm trying to convince his mother she should let me take him home) in my lap and my favorite man Cameron next to me, and took a deep breath. It's over. A band played on stage and there was a slide show of photos from the month on the big screen and I didn't try to hard not to get weepy. Breathing relief, exhaustion, and thankfulness, were all tangled up together. Just one more day of work here after a year of settling into this community, trying to follow Gods lead in the work and relationships. Each day navigating the challenges of working for a non-profit and living in the inner city.

Its not over yet, and I'm not sure that even when I go home, it will be over. After a year, the connection with a place is deep and the connection with people even deeper. Last Friday was my official last staff meeting and the time to say goodbye to the official job. Since then, passing people on the street or stopping in the office has already felt different. There is so much beauty in the ordinary and mundane of this city. Normal daily conversations with people have become highlights. Routine acts that just have to happen and sometimes became very frustrating are now things I know will be missed. To give you a taste of some of the names you may here me remember, here you go:
George is one of the security guards outside of the tlf offices. He is usually sitting on the cement ledge playing on his cell phone. But when anyone passes he looks up, gives his big huggable smile, and says “GooDday, how are you?” This quick chat would often be enough in the morning to get my mind checked in to engaging with people at work and stepping outside of my own mind.
Freddie the gardener. Wisdom like this guy has is rare, as is his ability to speak clearly and bluntly into whatever is going on in your life. Wait, actually nothing that Freddie says is clear or blunt. It's usually babbled full of extra words and questions that never get answered and stories that seem to be unconnected. But there's wisdom and truth within it all. And the way that he talks wraps you up and takes you with his wandering words. There have been many times where a “hey RoBi!” from behind a plant he's digging around, has turned into a chance to hear from God too. Freddie sharing his story and experiences with Christ have often spoken into mine. He wants to come to Chicago and work with youth but he also wants to stay a gardener. I think he likes the Simple life.
Scholastica's son is Junior. Junior has the most attitude and personality of any 2 year old I've ever met. And he gets it from his mother. Schola is always quick to say hi, and to ask for something. But she and I have had a good time this year. Her attitude is covered by the bright smile and hearty pat on the back that comes with it. She works hard and although she is always wanting something to be different in her life, she walks forward with peace and patience.
Lunch usually came from Annah, the girl who sells fruit on the corner of Andries and Minnar. We never figured out how old she was but she was there selling apples, kip kip, butternut squash, and avocados everyday. Green apples, one rand. That's my favorite lunch. She would usually laugh at something that was happening in the group of us walking by, give a smile, then keep flirting with whichever guy was trying to use the public phones that she operated.
Alan has been around since the beginning. He, his wife Brenda, and little boy Branwell, used to sit on the bench outside of City Hall and set it up like their living room. Branwell would be layed out on a blanket on the sidewalk and laundry drying on the hedge. They are now in Cape Town with Brenda's family and Alan is still working washing and parking cars. Its nice to see him on the way to work, give him a hello and an African handshake, and hear the latest news in his life. Recently he's had a need to go to Jo'Burg and has gotten into a habit of telling us that someone in his family has passed away. Last week it was his 90 year old grandmother, mother, and his uncle. Maybe he forgets that Cameron, Siri, and I all stay together and that we would fit the story together eventually. Alan and his family will be in my prayers for a long time. That they would be able to heal and move forward in this world and that they would come to understand a God that cherishes each of them.
Chris and Jenny. I've written about Chris and Jenny before and haven't seen them much lately. They were, for a long time, a part of every walk to work.
Tumi is a regular at the Potters House. She sits in the corner, usually sleeping but sometimes grabbing a cup of coffee or tea. She's quick to greet you with a slap on the back and a smile so big her eyes close up. There's always some reason why she's not staying at the Potters House, but she seems pretty content to just be around it.
Now for one of my favorite “Pretoria characters.” Rasta. Mo Fire, One Love, Togetherness, Respect, Mo time, Bless I, Rasta. He works on the corner of Bosman and Minnar just opposite Museum Park and lights up the neighborhood (literally and metaphorically). We cannot always tell what Rasta is saying other than it is usually some sort of blessing for the day. He sells sweeties, snacks, and beaded creations. One day he gifted me with a rasta colored beaded ring! To me, he seems like the guardian angel of the area. As Cameron put it...he stays out of everyone's business but somehow knows it all anyway. Rasta...much love, respect, and more time right back atcha!
Abel is Museum Park's caretaker/handiman. He doesn't speak much english but what he knows, he uses often. He and his wife (I think) and a few other family members stay in one of the rooms on the west side of the complex and he's up early everyday fixing, tinkering, or painting something. His cap is falling off his head but always has time for a “morning morning morning” or a “good good good,” Never is a word said only once. Sunday mornings, he's listening to beautiful music and a little boy dances and his wife does the washing. As much as Museum park became a cage in a lot of ways, it also became home...a big home with a huge and crazy family.
All of the German volunteers have become very dear to me also. We have walked this year together in so many ways. We arrived around the same time last summer, adjusted to South African traditions together, lived together, traveled together and endured a month of insane world scale event together. Maren, Nora, Marlena, Carlotta, Antje, Carola, Saskia, Laura, Eva, and Simone will all be very missed. Each of them will be remembered for their generous hearts, laughter, willing spirits and amazing cooking! I have learned so much about the German way of life and even have picked up a few words here and there. So now, there are not too many secrets between the Germans and Americans.
Last, youngest, but definintely not least are the children here who will be remembered so fondly the size they are. Next time, if there is a next time, they will have grown in ways that would be impossible to imagine: Kiki, Koetze, Bathle, Junior, Sinesipho, Ntogoso, gave so many of their hugs and tears to this year. They were often the ones who inspired me to show up to office duty once a month. It was a chance to play with them for a few hours. Their transparent joy reminded me always of the words of Jesus that unless we become like these children...we will never see the Kingdom of God. Thank you little ones. May our paths cross again sometime very soon.

Some of the routines that will be missed: getting airtime, buying bread daily, fruit for breakfast, not having a refrigerator stove, oven or shower, trying to figure out which taxi to take to get anywhere beyond walking distance, locking up the bathroom so the toilet paper won't get stolen, and forgetting that spathlo (chips, russian, bread, and cheese) is not a healthy meal.

Some things really changed during the month of the World Cup, while everyone was in town and international eyes were on this country, people were friendly in a new way. They asked questions, why we were here and if we needed help. The city was more mixed than usual. It was strange to see white people, latino people, and eastern European people walking around town like normal. The city was beautiful. Now, it's back to normal. But my prayer is that some of the changes that happened here will not be temporary. That the atmosphere of the park will be sustained. That it will continue to be a safe place for children and families and that it will still be a place to gather and enjoy the beauty of each day.

Since then, these last 2 weeks have been enjoyable. We took a trip to Pilanesburg to say goodbye to all the animals. Unfortunately still no elephant or lion sightings. There was a trip to Cape Town, which I will have to write about later and now, in the final 3 days its sorting packing and saying see you laters to all those who have become my community here.

Now, if your interested the plans for coming home are to be in Tacoma for a few days then head north to Bellingham, pray there is a job or some potential jobs there to look into, get settled into a new house (at least for a month) then spend some good time with my Mom and Jeff who will be visiting from Texas. So looking forward to sitting with people and just hearing where they are at and how they are doing.

Thank you for joining me in this journey that God lead. I will stay in touch over the next month or so during the transition back home. I am as curious as you may be in what God has in store next, what lessons will follow me home and in what ways the world will look completely different on the other side of the ocean.

Stay WeLL South AfricA.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ke Nako...It is HERE!

It has been 2 months since I've written a blog and that is officially way way too long.

About a month ago the german girls and I took off for the mountains. It has been about 10 months since i've seen proper mountains. Like craggy, crisp air, terraced garden, stone face mountains. Lesotho was full of them! We took a route through the northwestern part of the country within a country. Up and over the Maluti mountains. Our first stop was in Roma, a small trading post town just outside of Maseru. Our drive took us over winding roads through the small villages, passing horses donkeys and herds of goats the whole way. As the sun set, the fields turned an incredble color of green. It was a hazy, mossy green that I have never seen before. We settled into the backpacker which had amazing big beds then went out for an evening walk in the village. Some girls from the area decided to be our tour guides for about an hour and showed us the community center, their schools, the little red berries which you can eat, and the small shop tucked behind some buildings. Unfortunately, my sceptical side was going crazy after living in South Africa for 10 months. Apparently, my new motto is “trust no one.” Okay, so it's not that bad, but I was definintely looking for any tricks these girls may try to pull to snag a camera. The next day, we settled into a routine of driving for a LONG time, then finding a place to crash for the night. Cook dinner and take an evening hike. The third night, was a much more unexpected “evening hike” than we were ready for but it was so worth the treck through the freezing cold. We ended up at a national park which claimed to have accomodation. Pulling up to the entrance just after closing time, we hoped that the accomodation would be near. A stunning view met us at the visitors center. Sunset over layer upon layer of mountains took our breath away. So did the 0 degree temperatures. The huts we would stay in were 2 km away. It was getting dark, we were frozen, but had no other options so off we went...a hike to the river to find our huts. The frozen, dark walk was more than worth it when we arrive at our hut which had cots and a propane heater, then there was the kitchen hut with candles, stove top, and all the supplies we needed to cook our potato curry and enjoy it with a bottle of wine and a card game. Next day we did some exploring around the park, hiking all morning then had to head out and make our way back to Pretoria. Of course, such an amazing trip could not go unhitched...while trying to exit the country, a money hungry border patrol decided that we needed to be “an admission of guilt fee” in order to get across the border since we had somehow missed the entry stamp place on the way in. 200R went to this guy for he and his buddies to have a nice lunch. On us. This was the first, and God willing the last bribe I have to pay in Africa. But hey, I guess it is all part of the experience hey?

When we returned to the city. It was both exciting and stifling. Knowing that the next few months would be fairly hectic. Paul and Kellie were going to arrive in the next few days, Aaryn would also be showing up, then Cameron would finish off the house properly. All these new additions along with the beginning of the Soccer World Cup when TLF would start hosting the Better World Village (which I will tell you more about soon).

The outreaches with Lerato House continued and we were still attempting to do outreach in Arcadia, where a lot of women work on the streets. Every week there are challenging conversations and realities to invite God into. We walk away with a new awareness of the depth of pain people in this city are in. Not just the women who are working the streets, by choice or not. But also the men/women who choose to exploit precious women just to satisfy some greedy desire. The loneliness and hurt that motivates this action is tragic. While we are walking the streets, we pray not only for the people trapped in the sex industry but those who are trapped into using people as objects. What does human trafficking look like in this city and why is it a challenge to combat? My friend who lives in one of the buildings in Arcadia saw us a few weeks ago. She grabbed my arm and pulled me around the corner, told us speedily that she only has 4 minutes to talk before her pimp will call her phone, asking why she is not back on the corner. The week before she had stolen 5 laptops and 12 cellphones, as instructed by her pimp. When we asked if the police do anything when they catch her on the corner with stolen goods, she laughed and said that if they do she just tells them who her pimp is and they leave her alone because he pays them off weekly. How did she get here? About 2 years ago, she was living in Durban and met this guy who seemed really nice. They dated for about 6 months then he told her about his company in Pretoria that would be a perfect place for her to work at. She agrees to go with him to Pretoria, but when she arrives, the company isn't what she expected it to be. He traps her in the flat, addicts her to drugs and threatens to hurt her family if she leaves or argues. One and a half years later, she is still working the corner of Pretorious and Johann Street. Stories like these are common here, they are often hidden but all too real.

The Arrivals: Paul and Kellie flew in after their trip to Italy and settled in quickly. It always takes a few days of wandering the city and gathering the essentials to get sorted out in this town. But they got towels, cellphones, and some food. A week later, Aaryn flew in from his travels around Asia. The reunion began! We were given an amazing opportunity to visit a camp south of Pretoria that some friends had previously volunteered with. 4 days of just enjoying nature and the company of each other was exactly what we all needed. Camp Busisa was about a 5 hour drive along the Drakensburg Mountains away. It was a gorgeous drive but as we approached the land where the camp was...we all started to hold our breath at how beautiful the area was. Valleys spread out between lines of hills and mountains covered with evergreens. Rolling hills of tall golden grass broke up the forests perfectly. We were given the chance to do some small projects around the camp to pay for our accommodation which we were all more than happy to do. Paul and Aaryn blazed some trails and cleared out a camping spot. Kellie and I painted window frames, and Siri re-tiled a shower floor. Other than that, days were spent hiking trails, going down zip lines over rivers and valleys, jumping waterfalls (freezing ones!), chatting, playing cards, sitting on balconies and watching the mist fill up the valley. This place was like heaven! The pictures will not do it justice but they'll give it a valiant effort. Four days felt like 2 weeks and it was just enough to re-energize us all to jump into the wildness of the World Cup kick off. Again, the incredible vacation has a frustrating final touch. During the drive back, after we stopped for dinner at a petrol station, Paul realized that the back left tyre was flat. We consulted a few guys at the garage, tried that foamy tyre filler stuff, but eventually had to put the spare on. Driving 300 km with an 80km/hour limit is incredibly defeating. Especially when a 4 hour trip just turned into a 7 hour long trip home on a sunday night. Good friends pulled through though. We swapped off driving, sleeping, and keeping the driver awake. The weekend was still so worth it. We got to see a new part of this beautiful country and soak in the fresh air and open fields.

The next day I was heading to the airport to pick up Cameron. After 10 months of writing back and forth, buying phone cards, and sending songs and letters across the sea, we could finally be in the same country! My friends here would see that my boyfriend was not imaginary. :) His flight came in late to the jo'burg airport and I ended up going there a few hours early because I didn't know what else to do with myself and I was so excited. Everything went smooth and he came walking through the gate, the last one off the plane. For a few minutes I was nervous that for some reason he had decided not to come. A wonderful reunion, and pretty much instantly comfortable, it has been fantastic having him here. Getting a chance to experience this interesting, challenging, and beautiful combination of cultures. He has been an amazing support in the work going on through TLF and we are trying to find the precious little free time to steal away and just chill. Again, pictures to come soon.

June 11th, 2010. The long awaited opening ceremony of the Soccer World Cup. South Africa vs. Mexico. TLF, as I've mentioned before has had plans to host a month long, city wide, free festival in Burgers Park. Today was the first day. As is the African tradition, the day must be kicked off with a parade. And how does TLF do parades? Does anyone remember the second blog I posted? Yes, TLF does parades dressed as clowns! So about 70-80 of us dressed up, made ourselves up, and hyped up the city dressed like clowns. We joined bands, schools, traditional dance groups, fans, and all sorts of vehicles to draw the crowd from Sunnyside to Pretoria Central. 3 hours of running, jumping, smiling, goofing, handing out flyers, and blowing on vuvuzelas is a lot. But the crowds came. That night at Burgers Park, about 10,000 people showed up to watch the Bafana Bafana take on the world! We had planned on about 3,000 and were legally only allowed 5,000 in the park at a time. All of us saw people start streaming in, vuvuzelas and children in hand. People kept coming, and we all started praying. Pleading with God for positive energy and miraculous peace in a crowd that size. There were 40 security officers and about 60 staff members. Thankfully, people enjoyed the game with a lot of enthusiasm and a kindness with each other that I have not seen often here in town. It was a blast to watch the sea of yellow and green get pumped up and cheer on their nation. Thankfully, the game ended in a draw and people went as quickly as they had come.

Since then, everyday in the park there are stage performances, dramas, advocacy information tables, a sports village, arts village, children's village, and an environmental village. People come and set up picnics, play small games of soccer, and watch the soccer games on our big screens. It has been a great success to have a new bright spot in the city. The park seems to have been reclaimed as a safe and beautiful place for families to enjoy. I hope that this continues after the games are over. That the drug usage, and dirtiness that used to be common there, has decreased and I hope can disappear altogether. God has done a miracle with the success of this daunting feat, and we can continue to hope for miracles daily in this space.

The Counter Trafficking Coalition has an information table up every day in the park. Volunteers stay at the table and hand out info about what human trafficking is, what it looks like in this community and how people can protect themselves. It has been an interesting place to be everyday, people have great questions and very true stories of what they have experienced. Groups of children will come up (maybe just to get a sticker) but we snag the opportunity to tell them a story with pictures about how people are lied to, taken from their home, and trapped somewhere and hurt. They are quick to pick up ways to stay safe. People come up and say they've heard about the “issue” but claim that it doesn't happen here in their town or that it couldn't happen to them. A few questions later, they see it in a new way. Here is a poem that someone was inspired to write about the issue, after they had heard a little bit about it:

Greediness intertwined by lust of money
humans turn to be object of sale
in the eyes of God tears run forth
while in the earth it turns to be cursed
tilling it came forth nothing
people watching while monsters roam the earth
Children become victims of money making schemes
They watch and do nothing
They hear but act not
WAKE UP people
WAKE UP nation
it is time to stop it
it is time to end it.

We have a long way to go in actually combating this tragic reality but there are steps being taken forward and a movement for many organizations to come together and really start speaking with one loud, unified voice.
Honestly, most of my time in the last 3 weeks have revolved around the Better World Village but some other fun things have been happening (somehow), woven into long days at the park. Some of the pictures will be from this stuff:

Going to a baby shower at Mandla's aunts house in a township south of Johannesburg
Kellie's birthday braii, Praying Mantis pinata included
Being inspired by Cameron to find some decent coffee shops in town
playing cards almost every night with 6 of my favorite people
Cheering on the South African and AMERICAN soccer teams. (sorry but we really have to loose that guy Altidore!)

Now, with just less than a month to go before returning home, there is so much on my mind and on my plate. I am confident though that just as God has been walking with me and providing for this time here, He will only continue to do that in the journey home. It will be such a joy to see everyone and to get a glimpse of what's next. The next blog will talk about this a little more, since I'm sure by this point you are all finished reading my blurting. Thanks for reading on, and again my apogies for leaving this for 2 months. Please know that I am alive and happy here and that you are each so precious to me. Thank you as always for your prayers and support. I will be home on July 26th. We'll talk soon.

Stay well!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


50 days and counting

Let the countdown begin: 50 DAYS until kickoff!
Since the last time…I’ve been to Botswana and back for a much needed break from the city. My cousins, Pete and Shelley and their kids Caleb and Malena recently moved to Gaborone (the capital of Botswana and conveniently only 4 hours away), so for the Easter weekend Siri and I traveled north via Mini-bus. There were plans to tour the Okovango Delta…world famous for something…and the salt flats, where all the tour books warned you can get disoriented, lost, and die. But once we arrived and were kindly escorted by Pete to their home…we stayed put. It was so refreshing to be in a home, to wake up and chat over a cup of coffee with family from home. Mornings were spent playing legos or building some construction in the back yard with mud and sticks. We found some local adventures in the termite mound down the path, which apparently makes a good snack to the trained tongue. To me, it tasted like mud. One afternoon we explored the “mountain” just outside of town but were more captivated by some Baboons. By “some” I mean hundreds jumping, rummaging, climbing, and fighting. And on all their rears were strange growths…think nuclear power plant accident. We all got some good, immature laughs in about that! The hike was nice and gave us a sprawling view of the overgrown village of Gaborone. Botswana is so different than South Africa. The atmosphere is calm, safe, and friendly. There are goats and donkeys sharing the road with cars and mini–taxis. It’s nice and I hope to go back. Siri and I both had a great time and it was difficult to return to the city. The time did provide a good chance to reflect and re-energize for this next season here in Pretoria. It will be a busy one and a tough one, no doubt.
As far as the Human Trafficking Campaign goes, things are really moving forward. We have done a few more trainings for outreach workers and people in the Potters House womens shelter, and all the TLF housing units. People’s responses are incredible…they want to start spreading the word. There are plans to do outreaches in more of the communities here in Pretoria, to work with the children so they can tell the story too, and to train the building caretakers of City Property, the largest property management company in the city. God is moving! Our new outreach to Sunnyside is proving to be a challenge as the crime is much more organized in that part of town. Many of the prostitutes there work out of brothels that are hidden in flats. These are often run by Nigerian pimps who are also wrapped up in the drug trade. The last few weeks have been nerve racking to say the least as we are constantly being watched and the intimidation factor is huge. The pimps keep an eye on us at all times as we are talking with the ladies and the women also constantly glance around to see if they are being watched. Seeing the fear in these women’s eyes and at the same time watch the guy across the street stare at us and keep us in his peripheral vision makes me reconsider our time there. Personally, I am being so challenged to really look at how we do outreach and why. Please pray that God would lead us, not the other way around. Not sure I am in a place to say more than this yet but it has been a very difficult area for me to sort through.
On a more positive note, a few women have really taken some steps into changing their lives. Sibongile, who we see at least once a week down-town has been coming to Lerato House to get her ID and Resume updated and is registering for a training course through another organization here. She has a very hopeful attitude and is putting a lot of effort into stepping out of her current situation. My friend Petunia, the woman who had the injured finger a few months ago, is also starting to ask more questions about what Lerato House can help her with. She previously worked at Woolworths and Shopright but now has had difficulty finding work. My hope is that she will keep asking questions, and trusting us to walk with her in her journey off the streets. Both of these women said that they are not looking forward to the World Cup because they don’t think anything will change for them. “It changes for them” Petunia said as she waves her hand towards the Union Buildings. “But not for us down here,” and looks around at the broken building, abandoned field, and junk yard. She’s right. When I asked what they would most like to see change, one woman said she would like a job, a home, and a community. Those are not extreme requests. The simplicity and attitude of that answer silenced me. Those things would keep her from having to sleep with 50 men a day (not an exaggeration) to earn her 200R ($30) to send to her family for survival. Still lots of work to do here.
It’s been a smelly few weeks here in the city. The garbage workers have been striking in very creative way. Each day, there have been garbage bins dumped in the street, trucks tossing rubbish all over the roads, people tipping the garbage cans on the sidewalk over as they walk, and all the cars driving over the whole mess. Just in the last few days have the workers gotten busy again. I really hope they got their raise.
An update on the people coming to help out here…Paul and Kellie are on their way from Italy probably this weekend to join us here and start work on the Better World! Aaryn is coming on May 24th from Vietnam also to jump into the action and dun dun dun…Cameron, my incredible boyfriend will be coming on June 1st for a long awaited visit. He’ll be working on an art project for TLF’s new building TAU building to tell the story of ashes to beauty. It was formerly a budget hotel housing many young girls and keeping them to work as prostitutes. Now it will be the new Lerato House, our shelter for at-risk girls. It is beautiful story of redemption and I know that Cameron will create a perfect piece for the entrance. Thank God that He has paved the way and provided for this time. 
Celebrating the small things;
Siri and I will have a refrigerator starting next week
The basil and wildflowers are coming up
Dinner last night was tomato, pumpkin basil curry and pasta sauce

I love you all. Enjoy the pics from Botswana and of the flyers/poster we are spreading around town.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

to ShoW yOU!

day to day

“Hello nice, can I burn you?”

What!? As I jog past a group of workers heading home after a day at the construction site, they holler in my direction…something that I still cannot decipher. I can guess what it means to be called nice, but I don’t know what that second part means. And I don’t have much interest in figuring it out. So I toss a casual , “hello” back to them and keep on running. Along the highway that passes central prison, through the Salvakop field which has just recently been cut down and burned, around the neighborhood, back past the fruit vendors, through a few patches of mealies growing and people chatting or chilling in the streets, over the bridge, through the bus station and down the hill back to Museums Park. This is my evening run. All this while the air is getting crisper as autumn approaches and the sun turns the sky neon pinks, purples, and oranges. It highlights the tin roofs of the shacks and glistens in the eyes of the kids that run with me for a block or two. They are fast, and usually win any impromptu race that gets started. That light makes this city a new place.

In the past month, I have been trying to find some islands in my day. A friend gave me this analogy and it has really helped my sanity. We need times to sit still, to have some comfort of familiarity, and to settle into routine when everything else around us is new and constantly changing. I bought some Earl Grey tea for the mornings, planted basil and wildflowers to watch grow, got a new pen to write with, and have started going on evening runs. All of these things have really contributed to a new peace, necessary after realizing that I am still very much adjusting to life here in South Africa, but more, life in a city. It has been nearly 8 months now and the transition is still in process. This probably won’t finish by the time I board the plane to come home. We are constantly adjusting and learning and changing and everything here is new still. South Africa is a place of paradoxes, of strange combination of realities and to reconcile these in my mind is difficult. This schizophrenic reality is even revealed in how my time is spent here. There is time to take vacations and do some exploring of this beautiful country. And I am so thankful for these opportunities to see places like the Blyde River Canyon, Durban, Mozambique, Nature Reserves, and soon Botswana. Hopefully, in this last season here, there will be a chance to do some backpacking in Lesotho (check out the pictures…it’s ridiculous) and take a visit to Cape Town. Trips like this are full of wandering, laughter, eating strange food, navigating bumpy roads on public transportation, resting, and breathing clean air. On the flip side however, other days are full of work. Busy schedules of meetings and emails; organizing outreaches and gathering materials; making plans, and walking the city streets. The weight of the lives that people are living here is a lot and to manage it in such a hectic, cluttered, and rushed environment just increases the challenge. God has been faithful to remind me though, that this is not my job…to carry that weight. These arms are not strong enough. He has also been good to remind me that the islands I’m finding have been allowed and provided by Him and for His Glory.

Finally, here are some photos from Margit’s visit here last month as well as from Siri’s birthday party. The other volunteers have been so generous and helpful and will compile some of their photos from this year for me so there will be lots to show when I get home. I need to get better at taking pictures of the everyday things…as I’m sure those will be some of the things I miss the most.

Thank you to everyone as always for your thoughts and prayers for the work and the people here. It is really working. My friend is recovering very well and is planning on staying to finish her time here, our work with the Counter-Trafficking Coalition is moving forward. We have most of the resources we need and have begun outreaches. There are some new girls at Lerato House and people really use the services there, often referring cases to us. Work has been slow for the ladies of the night and they are surprised at this, unsure of what it will be like during the World Cup. Our hope is that this will create a curiosity in other options for employment and training…which is available.

Some of the things we’ve been cooking around here:
Malva pudding, Butternut and tomato sauce for pasta, Curried eggs with onions and toast, South African Tiramisu, Gem squash stuffed with creamed corn, and chakalaka pancakes.

It’s much more difficult to cook properly with only a 2 burner stove top, 1 pot and 1 pan, no oven and no refrigerator. But we get by and have gotten much more creative. Siri and I are both essentially vegetarians now. It’s avocado, mango, and orange season now though…so I’m happy!

South African fun fact of the day: You can buy anything you want on the street. Literally.

Just a few of the things I’ve seen for sale on the streets: fruit, shoes, dvds, cds, candy, corn, phone charges, sun glasses, flags, hats, juice, mirrors, earings, bags, car stickers, watermelon, vuvuzelas, soccer balls, HUGE inflatable soccer balls, brooms, fatcakes (donuts), cell phones, nail clippers, and finally, a big classroom diagram of the human body!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

what in the world is going on

To all my long lost friends and family. First, sorry that it really has been a month since some of you have heard from me. Yes I'm alive and things are going fine here in Pretoria. For those of you who want the quick and easy update this is it: enjoying the new flat, work is busy, still thankful to be here, saw a giraffe and rhino, I miss doing Yoga class, and I'm spelling things the European way now. For those of you with either more time on your hands or more we go!

The weeks since last time have really flown by but some very significant things have been going on. My step-mom Margit came for a visit for a week and we had a great time exploring just outside of town. We went to the Hartesbeepoort Dam area and stayed in some great little backpackers. After getting lost a good number of times, we found ourselves at Pilanesburg National Game Reserve and spent the day on Safari. Safaris are HOT! It was a blast searching with the binoculars for zebras, springbokke, rhinos, and giraffes. I cannot even start to describe how beautiful the park was and how much fun we had shrieking when the hippos would pop their noses and eyes out of the water, or when we finally at the end of the day spotted a "tower" of giraffes in the trees. Margit nearly jumped out of the car to get a better look. Good thing we didn't see any lions. We also got to go to a musical at the Market Theatre in Jo'Burg featuring Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo who are both significant and world famous jazz musicians who did a lot during the Apartheid Struggle. It was amazing! Pictures will be coming soon. The trip went very quickly but I think she got a taste of the reality, beauty, and variety of South Africa. I am so thankful that she could visit, it was nice to have a bit of home here!

Why has it been so long? Thank you first to those of you who have been so dedicated in keeping in touch and sending your encouragement, it means a lot. The last night that Margit was here we returned from dinner to find my laptop gone from the flat that Siri and I stay in. It was stolen from our lounge and the person had to have come in through my bedroom window. In the tradition of police officers, they arrived and went on to ask me what they should do! Furious, I told them to search the flats that were also in Museum Park since no one else would really know I had one there and other valuables were not taken. No luck. The computer is gone and that greatly limits Siri and my chances of writing any sort of emails, blogs, or posting pictures. The pictures are also all gone. God is still good and quickly reminded me that things are things, and people are what matter. 4 days later, another of the volunteers here was attacked just outside our gate. She is, thankfully and miraculously doing alright now but it led to a very hectic and traumatic day and week for many of us. But as I said, things are plastic and people are priceless. The police are still investigating the case so if you like, please pray that justice will be done and the person will be caught. Also for her recovery and all of our attitudes. There are a lot of new security measures in place for Museum Park now and the changes seem to be limiting the number of people coming and going so that is good.

All of these things, along with some others really seemed to be a Spiritual as well as physical battle and were challenging much of the work that is being done. We are all reminded that as we work towards furthering the Kingdom of God, there are forces that do not want this to happen. The Counter-Human Trafficking Coalition took a big hit, with people getting sick and information being lost, meetings confused and schedules disrupted but we are back on track now. I will post more next time with exactly what we are busy doing.

Last night, Mashadi, Sheryl and I went on the night outreach to Pretoria Central and it was so nice to be back out on the street. The ladies were pretty friendly and were joking around and talking with us about how things have been going. Sometimes, they are only interested in talking if we have soda or tea or coffee in hand but last night they were really willing to chat. It is always interesting to just sit down and talk about work with a woman who's industry has so many stigmas around it. Some women to be praying for specifically are: Mavis, Olivia, Lizette, Linda, Sibongile, Moshudu, and Polly.

Finding space in the city is difficult and this past week, it was brought to my attention how different life is here than at home and how much this still affects me. So, it has been my new challenge to try and find some spaces to escape to and breathe. Last weekend some friends and I found one! A great big park just outside of town to hike, bike, and ride horses in! There are giraffes and zebras running around, tall grasses, and beautiful trees. Still looking for others, but the list is growing. In the next month or so, I am hoping to do some traveling again. My cousins Pete and Shelley just moved to Gaborone,Botswana and Siri and I are hoping to visit over the Easter Holidays. At the end of April, the plan is to do a hiking trip in Lesotho (there may even be snow there by then).

A new favorite person that you should check out is: Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche Communities. His words and work have been very encouraging and challenging lately and we all could learn something from his life!

Okay, more to come in a week or so...maybe even some pictures!
But I love you all and pray that you are well.

Peace that continues to surpass understanding and grace that keeps us serving Him,


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Better coming!

A BetterWorld…is coming….

Jah rastafari! Bless i….salasi i….Jah provideth! Amen man. Amen. That’s my new greeting in the morning from the old Rasta who runs the stand on the corner. Frank has moved to the other side of town (actually just the other side of the park in front of City Hall). Last week, I picked up a three drawer stand on the side of the street and was struggling with it back to Museum’s Park when Rasta came up to me and offered to help. We walked and chatted (yes, every sentence ended with “I”) the rest of the way home and now, we are good friends. Maybe it helped that I was wearing an colorful beaded armband that he had made. Sorry Rasta I will not smoke with you though. Yesterday, he offered me his chips with a cheery “bless I”! I don’t even have dreads, wonder how he found out that I have some Rastafarian tendencies.

The three drawer stand is now nicely sitting in the corner of my new bedroom. I had to clean out the cockroaches and hammer a nail or two into the bottom drawer, but now it’s decent, and does a fine job holding my socks. Siri and I spent this last week organizing the final details of the new flat then cleaning, scraping, mopping, cleaning, and painting. It’s really amazing how different the place looks now from when we first did our exploring of the other flats in this compound. It feels like a home. People have been so generous to lend us the necessities and even the frilly decorations (like lacey curtains…sick). No, we have zebra stripped fabric covering a wall, painted 3 walls in the living room Argentina blue, my room is peach with fabric hanging everywhere, our kitchen has a collaged map of South Africa over one whole wall, and Siri’s room now has a yellow floor and is decorated with her wardrobe. The house is beautiful! Who knew how many uses milk crates could have. Currently, they are the structure of our coffee table, stove, bookshelves, dresser, end table, bathroom cabinet, footstool, and I’m sure in a few weeks we’ll discover many more uses. We are so thankful to have some space, some peace, and a place to welcome others into. Already it has been so fun to have people drop by for tea or lunch or a movie! One downfall, the toilet is outside. The middle of the night potty stop still requires a pep talk to actually get out there. We’ll get used to it though.

And now for something completely different.

“Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.” Isaiah 1: 5-7

About a month ago, after one of our Wednesday night street outreaches. I was reading the Bible, bumped into this verse and had to stop. That night I had been talking with a woman named Petunia who I had met a few weeks earlier. When we met in Marabastad (another location in Pretoria), her finger was swollen to the size of about 3 fingers, there was a gaping wound that was severely infected. I talked with her about what happened and she said that a client had bit her. She had gone to a clinic and they had given her stitches but a few days later, due to infection, they were taken out and she left the wound open. Now we bring a first aid kit with us each week and the women are very open to letting me do first aid if they have minor cuts or wounds. We talked about how to care for it and she asked if she could do it on her own. Petunia took some supplies and did a great job of taking care of it. A few weeks later, her finger looked almost normal again. Praise God. The point though, is that that night, after meeting her again, then reading this verse, so many images came to mind. These women are wounded and beaten and often do not comprehend (or have taught themselves how not to comprehend) the depth of their injuries. It speaks of the state of the city as well as the people in it. We do not realize how much our rebellion damages us. For the women working on the street, some of the afflictions are simply closer to the surface. It struck me how infected our lives are with sin and selfishness. We are just like these women in many ways. A few verses later though, the Bible says this:
“Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the cause of the widow. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool…Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” Isaiah 1:17-18, 26

There’s hope! We have hope that things can change. This is what I pray for this city, for the people that I meet on the street, for those impacted by abuse, fear, oppression, entrapment, and addiction. There are so many in this city who are seeking justice and are going to the dark corners and forgotten buildings to let people know that this justice and freedom is for them too!

This past week, I attended a training hosted by World Hope, a Christian organization working against Human Trafficking in South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. It was really an amazing opportunity to be challenged and taught about what is really happening in the world, just beyond our vision. The facts are devastating but the movement that is growing and awareness that is being raised about Human Trafficking is incredible. TLF has launched a Counter Trafficking Campaign for the city of Tshwane and as we have been working towards the World Cup, we have continued to discover and be invited into the plans of other organizations and groups of people. I’ll describe briefly what our plans are (in cooperation with many other organizations).
*Street Outreach; TLF partnering with a few other organizations will be doing street outreach and awareness raising at taxi ranks, bus stations, taverns, salons, train stations, and a few other locations outside of the city. We will use public theatre, posters, one on one conversations, and trainings to talk with people about what trafficking is and how they can play a role in preventing it as well as helping them avoid becoming trafficked themselves.
*Public Spaces: We want to partner with the School of Creative Arts to put on performances, use art and public interaction in the shopping malls and public squares in town to start the conversation with people who may not be aware that Human Trafficking is happening here in their city.
*Protection/Aftercare: The Potters House, Lerato House, and other shelters will make beds available to temporarily house victims of trafficking, especially during the World Cup. Social workers will be on hand to handle the cases and try to get people back to their homes.
*Trainings: We want to work with the property management of the residential flats in the city to offer trainings for all of the caretakers who will be working; giving them the information of what to watch for and resources on how to deal with potential situations that may be taking place in the flats, right in front of them.
*Being a part of BetterWorld Village: During the World Cup, TLF and it’s partners will be hosting a fan park in Burgers Park where there will be stages to discuss social issues such as homelessness and Human trafficking. This is a great opportunity to continue to raise awareness creatively and empower people to step out and start making changes in their communities in very practical ways.

God has really been confirming that this new role, is where I need to be for the next 6 months here. I am still at the Lerato House 2 days a week and I really enjoy my time there with the girls. Right now there are 6 new girls and they are adjusting pretty well. One girl ran away but was brought back by the police.

If you are still interested in learning more about Human Trafficking and the different campaigns that are working to fight against it, check out these websites and articles or feel free to email me or comment your questions and I will try to find out some answers or resources for you:

Justice [ACT]s


TLF’s Better World

Time Magazine’s Article on Trafficking in South Africa,9171,1952335-1,00.html#ixzz0ckJxtjsa

The Ultimate Goal, South Africa

World Hope South Africa

Sorry for being sort of slow lately to update you all about what’s happening here. Time is running and the days really fly by. On a more personal note, I’ve been thinking about home a lot lately and will be excited to come back. Right now, that seems far off but I know that July 25th will sneak up on me. Yes, I have a plane ticket. Washington state, here I come! Oh no…that’s scary to think about. One day at a time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Luxury of Life and Space

The Luxury of Life and Space

Welcome to 2010. Happy New Year! Apparently there’s some debate on how this new year is to be pronounced. Is it “two-thousand and ten” or is it “twenty-ten-yourself-around,” or the popular…TWENTY TEN? Here, at the center of all the World Cup hype…it is definitely Twenty-ten. It’s all happening in twenty-ten. I think it’s catchy.

And we are all back from the festive season now. After a beautiful trip to Mozambique, I was very ready to get back to Pretoria. It feels comfortable here in many ways. It’s good to know the streets, to have a bed to sleep in, to know how much fruit costs at the street stands, and to know the language. Moza’s national language is Portuguese; a beautiful language but a bit foreign. Mostly I scraped out attempts at Spanish which were received with smiles and at least some understanding. Me and the man selling baskets in the Central Market had a nice chat about how strong each basket was and what I could use it for…all in SpAn-ortgeGueSe. We had a good time, ending the conversation with a hug and a universal, Caio! Mozambique is distinctly different than South Africa. Maputo, the capitol has very obviously lived through a recent war and not much effort has been made to rebuilt or beautify the streets or buildings. All the buildings are grey cement with flaking paint and broken windows. Streets are full of garbage, broken furniture, and old cars. Just outside of the city, rather than the suburbs here in South Africa, you are instantly in the bush. Nicely paved roads makes way for broken cement then quickly turns into potholes covered in bright red dirt. Mango trees line the road and ladies walk down paths to everywhere wrapped in wonderful combinations of bright fabrics. Houses are huts, food is grown in each small town…there are not many markets. We are spoiled by options most of the time and during this trip, we quickly learned to survive on Mangoes, pineapple, coconut, rice, and Coke.

Since coming back to the city, I have already noticed some differences and it will be interesting to see how things continue to change as the year progresses towards the huge event ahead. Normally, it’s rare to see many white people walking around central, other than the few Afrikaaners who take the bus downtown to work in the large businesses or government buildings. They are quickly gone after work and seem to try and avoid walking the streets too much. But lately, I have seen so many types of people walking around! The other day, I saw a white guy with dreads walking along the street, an Asian guy was wandering Church Square, there was an interracial couple walking along Schoeman street, and a white family walking along pushing a stroller next to the large flats on Jacob Mare’! In any other city, these things are pretty normal…they probably even seem strange to be mentioning…but here, they’re unique…beautiful but different. I am praying that there is a change happening. That the fear of Pretoria Central is thawing and people are exploring from the suburbs or wherever they come from, and finding beauty and value in the inner city. For the past week, as a part of the Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign, I have been walking each street in the city (I have quite a few more to go), to try and identify what types of businesses make up the place so that we can do outreach more effectively. The other day I prayed that God would both protect me as I walked around (looking a little insane I’m sure) and give me a new perspective on the city. As I turned the first corner, a little girl about 4 looked up and gave me a huge smile and waved. I grinned and waved back, just appreciating the freedom and sincerity that is always found in children. Turning the next corner I saw an older man barreling down the sidewalk pushing a shopping cart crazily. It was so bizarre I started laughing out loud, hoping he wouldn’t knock me over. Just before the cart got close enough for me to be really nervous, he stopped, left the cart and gave me a big hug, started ranting something in Sutu that I couldn’t understand, then went on his way. The lady at the fruit stand up the road smiled at me understandingly, sharing that strange hilarious moment with me. It’s interesting to really look at the city, and I’m praying that God uses the information to lead us in our outreach that will be starting in the next month or so. Please pray that we are led to the places where women and children are being exploited and gives us wisdom in how to best offer a way out.

Luxury. How would you define it right now; in your current lifestyle, living arrangement, or situation in general? What would seem luxurious? Would it be driving a BMW or being able to get a massage every weekend? Would it be having a pool in the backyard or going on extravagant vacations every year? Would it be having three meals each day? I’ve lived here for 5months now and some of the things that I have experienced are beginning to settle into my mind and heart. At first, they were simply observations or “interesting things about South Africa.” Now, some of these differences are starting to be internalized. One of these is our idea of luxury. I’m sure it would be even more extreme if I were living in some small rural village out in the middle of nowhere, but even here in the city, my concept of wealth and luxury has really been challenged. Most flats downtown are one or two rooms. In these, there are usually at least 3 or 4 people living. If you stay with your family it could be up to 5 or 6. In that room is the kitchen, bedroom, common space, and then a small bathroom. These flats are pricey too. Too expensive for me to stay in here, working as a volunteer so I can imagine that even on a limited income it would be a challenge for people. I’ve driven through the townships, where nice houses are one or two room (all the rooms…not just bedrooms) total size being about the size of a large master bedroom or “regular” American family room size. They usually have a small yard growing maize and a fence to protect the small amount of personal property that’s owned. Even the place that Siri and I live in now is large compared to where most people in the city live. We have our own room, then a hallway, two bathrooms, a dining room, a balcony, and a kitchen with store room. Even though all this space is shared with 8 other people, this is luxury. It’s hard though, to then drive through the suburbs and see all the houses that have always seemed “normal” or decent…and realize that these require a certain level of wealth that most people in the world will never attain. Why has this become the standard, for a family of 2 or 3 to own so much space? I am not saying that it is a bad thing always and there have been many times here that I really miss having personal space or those things that I used to consider basic comforts but when they become assumed right’s or when a standard of living is assumed, it can become dangerous. Space is a luxury, especially space that you have complete authority over.

Something else that has been highlighted as a luxury we usually assume is our life. As you all probably know, the volunteers have been hosting a Holiday Program for the children in the community. The first Monday back after the holidays we did some projects on New Year’s resolutions, goals, and self reflection. It was a small group of kids and they were mostly very young, 5 years to 11 years old. The first activity of the day was to go around the room and write answers to 6 questions on posters on the wall. A few of the questions were, “What is something you’re proud of from 2009,” “What would you like to accomplish in 2010,” “what are you thankful for today.” At the end of the time, we went around and read aloud each answer to really affirm their participation. About halfway through reading, we all started noticing a few themes; these kids realize the fragility of their lives. So many answered, on all the different posters, “I’m thankful to be alive today.” “I’m happy to see 2010,” “I am proud of living another year.” “I am happy that I’m still alive.” These are very young kids holding the gift of their lives dearly. Many of the kids in our program have had parents, siblings, or cousins who have passed away. Some are orphans living in the foster home that TLF runs. Hearing such true answers from little kids was both heartbreaking and hopeful. Devastating that disease and violence have led to death being common in families but seeing that children value their own lives and realize that waking up each morning really is a gift can mean bright things for their futures! If kids value their lives and want to preserve and find purpose in them, this world will really bloom!
While we’re on the topic of funerals, one of the staff at TLF passed away on Christmas Day. Her name was Bongiwe and she worked as a house mother at the Potter’s House. One of the outreach workers for the prison met her when she was in prison and Bongi later came to live at the Potter’s House. Soon, she was given the post as a house mother and worked there for 3 years. About 2 years ago, she was diagnosed with blood cancer and was very sick off and on. This past November she got very ill again and had to move into TLF’s hospice center, she died on Christmas Day. Her funeral was last Saturday and it was a wonderful tribute to her and God’s restoration in her life. Bongi’s family was able to come here from the Eastern Cape and the service was held at the church, then a graveside service followed. Family was given a time to speak and her story was told. What stood out to me the most is how the community really came together; each man taking a turn in filling the grave until it is full and the job is finished. Women sing song after song with such strong and resilient voices. The cemetery is filling, and there are waiting graves on each side of where we stood. People obviously know the routine, they know what to do, when to step forward, when to invite the children, just where to place the flowers, they’ve been through this before. Our lives are precious and the expectation to live until 70 or 80 is a luxury. Can we follow the example of the children in Salvakop, and realize that each day we wake up is a gift to be thankful for, used for a PuRpOSE, and shared generously with those around us.

For those of you praying out there, here are some things that I, TLF, and this community could really use prayer for:
--There’s a new girl at the Lerato House, her name is Lebojang and she is just 13 years old. Pray that she sticks around and gives the house a chance. That she would find healing and community there.
--For Bongi’s family as they are mourning as well as all the others who have lost loved ones or are mourning over the holidays.
--Thank you for all that happened during the Holiday Program
--For Siri and I as we have the option for a new living arrangement. That we would go where God would like us to be
--For provision for the second half of my time here. That I would trust God to provide and realize that when he calls, He also equips
--For the preparations for 2010 and the Better World Village
--That the trend of a more integrated Pretoria Central would continue.

Cute story of the week: At the Holiday program last Monday, there was this little tiny girl, maybe 6 years old. She doesn’t speak much English, so an older girl helped to translate the questions as we went around the group asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She tucked her head into her arms and mumbled something in her native language. Princess, the girl’s translator for the day, looked up at me and smiled big. I asked her what she had said she wants to be….Princess answered; “She said she wants to be a transformer!” I laughed and the little girl looked up and just grinned and giggled. Priceless.

Matthew 6:25-27—Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?