July 9, 2008

Week 1 of ministry with team (June 16-22)

You are so important to what we are doing here!

Let me start by apologizing for not getting a letter out last weekend. It has been SO busy and each night sleep ended up taking priority. As we look back the past two weeks and at what is ahead in the next 14 days, we are thrilled at what we see God doing and are excited about what is ahead!

First off, last week Monday through Friday Dan worked long hours each day to frame in a building for a project called the Themba (hope) Orphan Homes. There are two buildings for orphan homes and another building for kitchen, living room, and offices. Dan framed in the kitchen/office and it was approximately 25ft by 50ft. He was recruited about a month ago to be the lead framer because most structures in this area are made out of bricks and they needed someone with expertise in wood framing to help. It was a delight for him to serve them in this way. In usual Dan style, he grabbed his tools and worked hard until his part was finished. He has no idea how many children will be living there or what the mission statement is for the ministry…he was just happy to help! J

Some other big news, Miesha has a new cousin! Dan’s older brother Jon and his wife Elena welcomed Natasha Gabriella Hartley into their family on June 9th. Congratulations Jon and Elena!

Our first ministry “team” consisting of two ladies from North America arrived on my birthday this last Monday. We have had an amazing 5 days with Ruth and Kristen. They rested and had birthday cake with me on Monday, we visited the Lion Park and had orientation with them on Tuesday, they did ministry preparation with us and met our Life Group Wednesday, on Thursday Ruth and Dan taught a first aid class for 40 home based care givers who call themselves the Angels of Africa. On Friday Ruth taught a class on processing grief to 9 lead caregivers from some local hospice centers. It was beautiful to hear them cry and open up and begin to process some of the loss they have experienced in their lives and to teach them how to help others process also.

We also got to deliver some baby clothes to a lady named Bebe who was going to abort her baby, but was convinced by a Christian lady named Linda to let the baby live. She told Linda that once she had the baby she was going to give it to her. Baby boy Ciyabonga (meaning “we thank you”) was born a week ago. Bebe agreed to nurse him for two weeks before giving him to Linda. Being a new mom myself I couldn’t imagine giving my baby away, but after meeting Bebe I have more compassion for her choice. She is a desperate lady. Her boyfriend is in jail, she has no way of making money and she is currently living in her sister’s two room shack made out of corrugated metal. She has two other children already and no way of providing for them. Although Linda already cares for 28 other orphan children in a house on the property where we have been ministering, she is happy to take in baby Ciyabonga as #29 and to deal with the interrupted sleep and weariness that comes with caring for an infant. Linda is my new hero.

Today (Saturday) we went to visit some patients at the Village of Hope - an AIDS hospice center. We decided that rather than going to sing and preach to them (since they get that quite a bit already), we would go in to pamper them and give them a special party. Approximately 15 ladies from the local church we are partnering with also joined us and we had a wonderful time being the hands of Jesus to love these people who are dying. We soaked their feet and rubbed wonderful smelling lotions over their frail legs. We cut their toe nails and painted the ladies’ finger nails. We did makeovers, we gave them chocolates and coke and brightened up their living room with lots of balloons. Some guys from the worship team went room to room singing worship songs to them. We took their pictures, then printed them and gave them back to them to keep or to give to their families.

God opened up opportunities for us to talk to some of these people and to say “Jesus loves you” in a way that could be received. One lady named Jostina told me that she was angry with God about being sick and lonely and I was able to tell her that this party today and the gift of being loved and cared for by us was evidence that God sees her and still loves her. She cried and gave me a hug. It was an amazing day! The ladies from the church were so excited about how well the party went and committed to return every two months to do special days like this.

Since I know many of you are curious, Miesha does accompany us while we are doing ministry. However, in cases like this where she would be exposed to sick people, she stays in the car and Dan and I take turns staying with her.

Thank you for your prayers for us. They really do make a difference!!

In the coming week on Monday-Wednesday we will be working in a local crèche (pre-school) and our missionary teammate Heather Witherow will be teaching 10 local crèche teachers some techniques for stimulating learning for these kids. The teachers haven’t had any formal training to be a teacher and a few haven’t even graduated from high school. When we asked what we could do to help that would last after we leave, they requested some teacher training…so that is what we are doing! There are 50 kids per teacher and they squeeze into their classroom which is a converted 40ft container! Currently they just sit and sing all day, so hopefully we can give them some tools to make it more fun.

On Thursday through Saturday we will be in Kruger Park doing some game viewing, then transitioning to a new town for ministry next Sunday.

Please pray that we will continue to have rest, good health, that Miesha will continue to be flexible and a good little traveler, and that the Lord will continue to use us to bring hope, joy, and compassion to those we meet. Thank you for being on this journey with us. We couldn’t do it without you!

(I'll insert pics soon!)

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