July 9, 2008

Week 2 with team

Hello Everyone,
We have had a really great week! Thank you for praying for us.

Early this week Monday through Wednesday we were in a township called Finetown working at a preschool. Finetown is not a very “fine town”. It is full of shacks and run down residences. People there are struggling to find employment and sustainable incomes to support their families. When we asked Pastor Wessie what we could do to help that would last after we leave the community – he said the teachers at this local crèche (preschool) could really use some training. I recruited our teammates Heather Witherow who was a teacher in the states for 20 years and Jenny Teichert who has taught Sunday School for 10 years. The two of them did a fabulous job and in usual African style, things were a little different than what we expected.

Heather wrote a wonderful summary so I’ll include it here for you to read:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13

Janell sent me a sms right before our time at Zenzele Daycare/Preschool in Finetown was to start saying, “Just a head’s up. Wessie has invited more teachers to the training next week.”

Have you ever been “all ready to go” with something, and then come to find out that you have more work to do at the last minute? That note caused me to fly into high gear and get more teacher packets and materials put together by Monday.

It was worth it.

Last month, Janell and Dan asked Jenny and me if we would be willing to help with their short-term team the last week of June. They only had two STEP people (short-term mission of two weeks) coming this year and needed us to help put together a hands-on workshop on how to teach, structure a preschool day, and provide materials. Their STEP people weren’t teachers, but would help us in any way we needed.

So, on Monday we set out for Finetown not knowing exactly what to expect. We put together a theme of “God Made Me” and modeled how to teach it to all the teachers with the children from Zenzele Preschool/Daycare/HIV/AIDS outreach. We were told to expect 120 children (ages 2-6). However, because the school holidays began this week, we had 40-50 children each day. In addition to them, at 1 pm or so, older children from the community come to the Zenzele facility to get a meal. Once there, they hang out. Throughout the course of the time there, we not only had preschoolers to manage, but the older kids too.

With the help of the other teachers who came to observe and learn, we had more hands to assist us and native Sotho speakers to help when we needed translation.

The little children had never done the things we presented. Playing with play dough, finger painting, coloring with a crayon, making a mask from a paper plate were all new experiences. So, we had to help them by hand in nearly every case. To say we were busy, is an understatement.

The teachers were so thankful to receive the packets and materials we put together for them. Gratitude radiated from them. But also need.

When Jenny asked them what their biggest need was, they all said, “food” in unison. Imagine that. Food is their greatest school supply need as a teacher. They feed their students two meals a day. Not only to teaching, the majority of the teachers prepare food for their children every day.

I put together a questionnaire for the teachers at the end of our time asking how they would like us to follow-up with them. Every teacher had a list, with food at the top of the list. Next were tables, chairs, carpets, toys, school supplies, and teaching materials. All of them asked for teaching on child development and more ideas on how to teach concepts and develop themes. Most of the teachers have never been trained in any way. Running a preschool/crèche provides income for their family.

We had twelve+ teachers participate in our training who represented nine different preschools/crèches in the Finetown Community. Each preschool/crèche has between 40-120 children in attendance.

It was a great week. If you would like to see more pictures and a little 10 second video of our time in Finetown, then please check out my blog…


Thank you for your prayers for me this week and in the future as we contemplate how to follow-up in Finetown.

Thank you for your continued prayers for Zimbabwe too.

With love,

We loved our 3 days working with the children and pray that the investment we made there will last far into the future. One quick thing to add – while Heather was teaching indoors, Dan was outside working on the play equipment. He quickly became everyone’s favorite because he fixed all the swing sets, slides, and jungle gyms. There was a lot more laughter on the playground once Dan finished welding! J

Wednesday night we left Johannesburg to go up to Kruger National Park and while we were driving I got a phone call that left a huge knot in my stomach. It was from Hamish Rogers, our ministry partner for the second half of this trip. He said that his mother in law had a massive stroke. They did surgery to remove an abscess on her brain and she lapsed into a coma like state for 2 days. They weren’t sure if “Mum” would last the weekend. They weren’t sure they would be able to be a part of the ministry plan we had put into place for next week. Wow. Talk about a change of plans. We weren’t sure what we were going to do. These ministry weeks take quite a bit of planning and I wasn’t sure we could come up with a comparable plan B in time. We did a lot of praying and asking the Lord for wisdom!

Praise God, we heard from Hamish on Saturday night that Mum was awake and sitting up and responding to people around her. This is a huge answer to prayer. We are also thankful to God that Hamish and Terri are still able to do ministry with us Monday – Wednesday this week. We will be working in an impoverished community called Leseding to provide some first aid and sanitation training as well as some youth programs and a feeding program. We hope to contribute towards and further the work they are already doing in their community.

We had a wonderful 2 days in Kruger Park and saw tons of beautiful wild animals in creation. It is always a fantastic experience!!

For this coming week – please pray for:
- our health! Dan, Janell and Kristen are sick with head colds. Please pray that Miesha and Ruth won’t catch it and that we will recover quickly!
- For continued healing for Terri’s mother
- For open doors as we minister in the community of Leseding.
- For Ruth and Kristen to experience all God wants for them here in Africa
- Safety as we travel
- FOR ZIMBABWE. Our brothers and sisters up there are really struggling as this was the week of the run-off elections. Please pray for God’s protection and provision. I am forwarding another email to you with Zim details for prayer.

We are so grateful for your partnership!

Dan, Janell, Miesha (and Ruth Richardson and Kristen Lakjer this month!)

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