October 27, 2008
October 26, 2008
This has been a full week for us!
We really enjoyed family camp with our church last weekend. We caravanned with a family who just joined our life group and ended up being the first ones to arrive. We walked around the grounds for around 30 minutes and then unloaded everything quickly since the first storm of the rainy season was upon us! We haven’t had a good rain since June so this was welcomed, but it did complicate things a bit for family camp! There was intense thunder and lightening and the municipality of the county kept turning the power off to keep the lightening from damaging things. We ate all of our evening meals in candle light and had the evening sessions and talent show illuminated via generator. It was great atmosphere, but challenging because of all the mud and having to stumble around in the dark! We would do it all over again in a heartbeat. We loved getting to know everyone a little better.
We were guessing that after a weekend of playing at camp together that no one would come for the evening service to hear Dan preach. We were joking all week about the four people who would come! We were pleasantly surprised to find out that we were wrong. Dan printed 60 fliers to hand out and there were not enough for everyone. This was the first time that our church had heard him preach and he did a fantastic job!! It fit perfectly with the flow of the sermon series we had been going through all month and also the sessions at camp. It was timely, encouraging, and really blessed people.
We had lunch with the pastor and his wife on Monday afternoon and they asked Dan to consider joining the preaching rotation and also to be available to be a substitute pastor to teach when other pastors in the denomination are away. It was tremendously affirming! Thank you for all of your prayers!
In the 7 days of this week we had 11 meal meetings with different ministry partners. (Lots of eating!!) These last few months have taken us out of our usual communication with them and it was good to catch up with so many people. This week we hope to connect with a few more as well.
Dan is also working on the Thembe Orphan Homes in Pretoria again this week (or maybe it is next??). He loves serving through using his hands and tools!
Miesha is yelling at me wanting her breakfast and we have to dash off to church now. We love you all!
October 20, 2008
I do love this one...
and this one!!
October 11, 2008
Usually an easy way to open up a conversation with a stranger in Africa is to ask questions about their family or kids. I wanted to talk with one lady and when I asked if she had children, she turned away from me, and refused to talk to me anymore. I could tell I had made a serious blunder so I asked one of the ladies to interpret for me and see what I had done to offend her. Apparently this lady had two little girls (ages 5 and 2) and no one from her family would agree to help her care for them. She left her little girls with a neighbor when she came to live out the last days of her life at Village of Hope. She didn't want to talk about them because she had no idea how they were or if they were being taken care of. Doesn't that break your heart? It sure did mine! It is hard for me to imagine being in such a desperate place, but it unfortunately is more common here than I originally realized.
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!!
This is what one of the team members said:
“My name is Kristen Lakjer, and I come from sunny California. Africa has been on my heart for many years. Through prayer and investigating different missions agencies, the Lord directed me to serve in South Africa with Dan and Janell Hartley. I didn’t know what God had in store for my journey to South Africa, but I had full trust that He would guide me a long the way, and He sure did!
I look back on my time here in Africa and there is one experience that stands out most in my mind. I have to tell you a story of Nkhnsane. I met Nkhnsane at Village of Hope, which is an AIDS hospice in Ennerdale. Nkhnsane is twenty-six years old with two daughters, ages seven and nine. What I noticed most about Nkhnsane is the joy she had. I could see the love of God shining through her face. Her smile was so bright that I too could not help but smile. The day I met Nkhnsane she was to go home for three days to visit her family. I was so happy for her. It was a blessing to me to see God being faithful to her, even though she was sick. She told me that everything in her life belongs to God, and that she gets by day to day because she has the love of Jesus in her heart. I was sad to say goodbye to Nkhnsane, not knowing what would happen the next day.
The next day we went to Finetown and made some home visits. One of the homes we happened to visit was Nkhnsane’s family’s home. It was such a joy to meet up with her again. I was able to meet her mother, father, and her two daughters. Even though my time was short with Nkhnsane, I was able to connect with her as a sister in Christ. I will always have her in my prayers and I ask that you remember Nkhnsane as well, because she is now back at Village of hope till she gets to go home again.”
This is her posing in front of the corregated metal shack that her girls and parents live in.
October 4, 2008
We had Ruth and Kristen with us for three weeks in June/July and we did ministry together in Finetown with Pastor Terrance Wessels. All his friends call him "Wessie". We admire him and the work he and his church do in the impoverished community right down the street from where they live. In this photo, Wessie is in the front, Heather (dark blue) and Jenny (brown sweatshirt) are OC missionary teammates, Kristen is front left, Ruth is front right holding Miesha, Tina (in orange) and Helen (black and white stripes) are members of Wessie's church's Compassionate Care team. Micah Witherow (baseball cap) got the day off of school to come and help us do ministry. I am so glad that his parents let him do this. I think there is no better education than working with and helping people in circumstances which are different than yours. We loved working with this group!
Finetown isn't "fine" at all and it is filled with people deperate for a touch of love and the gift of hope. We worked at a project called Zanzele ("do it yourself") for a week. There are around 60 trained health care volunteers who work in pairs to serve those dying of AIDS in their communties. Zanzele also is a home where 28 orphan kids live with their foster mother Mama Linda. She is my new hero!
Zanzele also has a feeding project on the campus and they give free food to several hundred children each day and also assist some elderly people who do not have any money. The priority is to feed orphans and vulnerable children - can you imagine several hundred orphaned and vulnerable children in your small neighborhood? (vulnerable children is a definition given to kids in several types of situations. The most common scenario is they may still have one parent, but that parent is sick with AIDS and can't work/can't care for them.)
Ruth is a nurse in Canada and she and Dan did a first aid training for the people who work with those sick with AIDS.
Several people said it was a really helpful review and many said they learned something new! Ruth also did a workshop on how to process grief since everyone every day are surrounded by death and those who are dying. There were lots of tears, some good processing, and valuable counseling type listening techniques communicated. One thing I have observed about Africans and how they process grief is that they rarely give themselves permission to cry, to grieve and to talk about their pain. I have seen this several times with the parents are dying, the kids watch their parents get sick and waste away to skeletons, but they are not allowed to ask questions about what is going on. They know their parents are dying, but they can't ask "how much time do you have left? who will care for me when you are gone?" Many never get to hear stories about their parent's lives that are crucial to pass from generation to generation. (Can you tell I am passionate about this?!! This is why I am writing the Bible Study curriculum for my friends who are dying of AIDS. A portion of it is called Leaving A Legacy...teaching them how to write their life stories to pass along to their kids. It is now translated into the Sotho language!)
Below are the healthcare workers who attended the class. There were 4 health facilities represented and these leaders will in turn teach others underneath them to maximize the impact of this training!
Several of the ladies had deep pain that they were willing to share with the group. One lady shared the pain of growing up without her father. She tracked him down and wanted to have a relationship with him. She also asked him if he would help fund her education so she could become a nurse. She only knew him for one year before he died of AIDS and he didn't make any attempt to build relationship with her or to assist her in acheiving her dream of becoming a nurse. She was grieving the loss of a father (even though he was absent) and also her dream of becoming a nurse to help people.
Another lady had just buried a husband two months before and was struggling to process her grief with friends who had a difficult time understanding and supporting her. This training will be an amazing tool these gals can use to help people they meet to process grief.
October 3, 2008
For 3 days this week, we went away on a retreat with our missionary teammates. This couldn't have come at a better time since Dan and I were EXHAUSTED and badly in need of rest. There was a point last week where if I was allowed, I think I seriously would've considered resigning from being a missionary and heading back to the states where life would be easier. Miesha wasn't sleeping well (cutting 4 teeth at once...cute little overachiever!) which means I wasn't getting much sleep, I had a sinus infection for 2+ weeks, we had just put my parents on the plane, we said goodbye to a good friend who just moved back to the states (we miss you Marci!) and we had either been traveling with teams or had people staying with us for 70 of the past 109 days. (yes, i just counted!) To top it off, last week Dan had a kidney stone and was in the hospital for 24 hours. Stressful! That came as the "icing on the cake" for me and seemed to suck the last ounce of energy I had left.
Last Sunday in church our pastor's wife Lisa prayed for me. She prayed for refreshment and renewal and for God to "refill my gas tank" so that I could keep going.
The last couple days were good in that regard. We did some swimming, some bike riding, some napping, and feel that our batteries are recharged. PRAISE GOD!
I think that I'll try to update you on our adventures in the past couple months in bits and pieces...starting from the earliest and moving forward from there. God did some amazing things in and through the teams we led and I am excited to share them with you all. (hopefully many of you will have already heard some of the stories because of our email updates, but I'll try to add more pics!)
Thanks for bearing with my lack of postings! I hope to get into a groove here soon. lol