Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family Fitness Center

LIV Tennis ClinicOur team continues to be busy with LIV holiday club activities this week.  Two of the ladies on our team hosted a tennis clinic to teach  tennis skills to the LIV kids.  In the Early Childhood Development Center, our team hosted an art class, helped run an obstacle course, and supervised a bounce house.LIV ECD

In other areas of the village, a couple of guys hosted a rugby clinic and played a game of touch rugby with the kids.  Rugby is one of the national sports of South Africa and their rugby teams are some of the highest rated in the world.  The founder of LIV Village is a former professional rugby player along with one of the staff members we’ve been working with.  So rugby is a big sport at LIV.

LIV Rugby GameLIV Village is blessed with excellent facilities and options for the kids.  In addition to the Early Childhood Development Center, tennis court, and rugby field, LIV also has a BMX bicycle track and skate park.  LIV RollerbladingToday, part of our team ran BMX bike races while we helped host an open skating time for the kids on rollerblades.  Most of the kids have never skated before, so we helped them with everything from learning to put on the skates, to standing up, walking, and ultimately being able to skate without holding on.  Most of them learned very quickly and were skating on their own in no time.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fast And The Furious

Boxking Day Derby RaceToday was the Boxing Day Derby at LIV Village.  John and the guys on our team helped the older boys at LIV build soapbox derby cars for a big race.  Julie and the ladies on our team helped the LIV girls make pompoms and other items to help root for the racers.

The race consisted of several heats which allowed most of the LIV kids to participate either by driving, or helping to push the cars.  The race course was about 300 yards long and the cars raced to one end, turned around, and raced back.  About halfway through the racing activities, a South African police car patrolled through the LIV property.  Perhaps they heard about some wild street racing and came to check it out. Winking smile

In the end, the yellow team, which was the car that John helped build, scored the most points and was declared winner of the First Annual LIV Boxing Day Derby.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas From South Africa

LIV Christmas ServiceWe would like to extend our warmest Christmas greetings to you and yours.  And we do mean warmest.  Today the weather in our part of South Africa was a blistering 98­°.  With the humidity, it felt more like 108°.  Guess it’s not going to be a white Christmas this year.  Then in the late afternoon, we experienced a torrential thunderstorm.  The weather here can change dramatically throughout the day.

It’s an unusual feeling to celebrate Christmas in the middle of summer.  It was even stranger to see swimsuits and summer wear displayed alongside Christmas items when we visited a local mall a few days ago.

Today we attended a Christmas service at the LIV Village church which included a retelling of the Christmas story with the kids dressed up in costumes.  John ran the sound system for the service and Julie helped pack gift buckets of food before the service to distribute to the moms.

The service was followed by a wonderful braai (BBQ) meal with the orphans, moms, and staff of LIV.  At the end of the meal, each child received a simple Christmas gift.

It’s been a challenge for our team to be away from family during the Holidays, and we’re suffering a loss too being away from Cole for the first time at Christmas.  Merry Christmas, Cole!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Imported From Detroit

Making Boxing Day Derby CarThe day after Christmas is a holiday known as Boxing Day.  In it’s origins, it’s a day to honor servants who had to work on Christmas day.  Today, it’s a day to exchange unwanted Christmas gifts at the stores – very similar to the day after Christmas in the States.  Here at LIV Village, it’s a day for another party for the kids.  Boxing Day Derby CarsOne of the events is the Boxing Day Derby – a soap box derby where the kids will compete in race cars they’ve built.  John and a couple of team members helped the boys assemble cars for the  derby in LIV’s woodshop which is operated by a master carpenter from the U.S.  He helps teach woodworking skills to the boys helping to prepare them for future jobs.

Julie and a few other team members helped kids make decorations for the Boxing Day Derby.  On the day of the derby, racers will be cheered on with homemade pom-poms and colored flags.  They also made Christmas star decorations for the church service on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Purrfect Gift

TJs GiftEvery Sunday, LIV holds a church service for the children, moms, and staff of LIV Village.  They also open their gates to the community as a form of evangelism and outreach to their neighbors.  In addition to the regular church service, which is conducted in English and Zulu, there is a large children’s program called Promise Land which is also a bilingual service.  Each week about 100 kids attend.  This week our team was given the responsibility for running the Promise Land program.

With this being Christmas week, our team put together a program centered around a Christmas play Julie originally wrote in 2001 as part of our first year on the mission field.  It’s called TJ’s Gift.  It’s about the animals in the stable on Christmas night and the various gifts they give to the newborn baby Jesus.  TJ happens to be a tabby cat whom all of the other animals discount but ends up giving the best gift of all – a gentle purr that puts baby Jesus to sleep.  Each member of our team played a different animal as we shared a unique perspective on the Christmas story.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Shoes

Bird NestThere are all kinds of new and interesting wildlife in South Africa.  The birds are especially interesting.  Here at LIV Village, several trees are filled with elaborate, covered nests.  They are fascinating to look at, especially considering they are built by creatures without opposable thumbs, let alone hands.  They are intricately woven together and fully enclosed to provide shelter from the weather.

Bird Nests in TreeThese unusual nests can be found hanging from the tree branches, much like fruit.  They can also be found scattered on the ground.  Apparently, the nests are built by the male birds.  If the female isn’t happy with the nest, she will pluck it off the branch throwing it to the ground.

Bird Nest ShoesOne of the little girls at LIV had an ingenious idea of reusing the fallen nests.  She picked up a couple and put them on her feet to make a pair of shoes.  This is recycling at its best.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rumble In The Jungle

LIV Jungle GymToday we hosted another tea party for some of the other house mothers.  We did the same prep with the kids including cards, jewelry, and cookies.  In addition, John and the three other men on our team got involved in some maintenance projects including helping to build a jungle gym for the kids.  A lot of old, broken jungle gyms have been donated to LIV.  The guys were able to sort through a large junk pile of old pieces and help assemble a new jungle gym for the kids.  There’s still a few days work left to complete it, but it should be a lot of fun for the kids once it’s finished.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Perfect Timing

In addition to providing a home, LIV also provides on-site schooling for all of the kids.  The goal is to give the kids an education better than what’s offered in the public school system and help empower them to become leaders when they grow up.  Older kids are also taught vocational trades so they have the skills to find good jobs once they leave LIV.  But the most important part of the education is that it is Biblically based and the kids receive a Spiritual worldview in all they are learning.  The culture at LIV is to raise kids with strong Christian values and views.

What we consider Christmas time in the Western world is actually the summer season in the southern hemisphere.  This means the kids are now out of school for their summer break.  To help keep the kids occupied, LIV hosts a holiday club this time of year.  Unfortunately, many of the staff at LIV have taken time off to spend with friends and family during the holidays creating a challenge for the holiday club.  What a perfect time for our team to be here!  Our team has been able to step in and help fill many of these voids.

Today, we hosted outdoor games and activities.  These kids have a LOT of energy so this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.  In the afternoon, many of the kids settled down to watch the movie Cars.  It seems like everywhere we go, Disney continues to follow us.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tea Time

Today our team helped host a special tea party to honor the LIV house mothers.  In the morning, we assisted the kids with making cards and a special necklace to give each mom as a gift.  Other kids made cookies for the tea party.  In the afternoon, we invited the moms to relax and enjoy an afternoon of being served.  We helped the kids prepare and serve coffee, tea, cakes, breads, and cookies.  It wasn’t long before the moms started dancing and really having a good time.  It was wonderful to recognize these ladies who have made such great sacrifices for the kids at LIV.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Party Time

LIV Shoprite PartyOur ministry at LIV started with a real bang!  Today Shoprite, a local supermarket chain hosted a huge party for the LIV kids.  Activities included bounce houses, water slides, a foam play area, jewelry making, face painting, and more.  Coca-Cola brought in a stage and DJ to help create a party atmosphere.  Everyone received free hats, balloons, and t-shirts.

A lot of food and snacks were also provided including fresh fruit, muffins, fruit juice, and popcorn along with hamburgers and Coke for lunch.

There were several games and competitions with prizes for the kids.  There were also contests for the house moms who received buckets of food as prizes.  The weather was beautiful and a perfect southern hemisphere summer day.  Helping control 150 kids during an energetic event can be quite a task.  It was lot of fun but we were pretty exhausted by the end of the day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Village People

LIV LogoToday we arrived at Lungisisa Indlela Village – LIV Village to begin the next segment of our mission trip.  LIV is a large orphanage outside of the city of Durban on the east coast of South Africa.  Recent statistics reveal there are over 5 million orphaned children in South Africa.  LIV was launched in 2010 to help deal with the crisis and leave a legacy for future generations.  LIV is in partnership with government, businesses, and the Church to provide urgently needed holistic residential care on a large scale for the thousands of vulnerable and parentless children with the core vision to: Rescue a child, Restore a life, Raise a leader, and Release a star.

LIV HouseToday, there are over 150 children living at LIV.  The vision is to grow LIV to 600 children.  Each child lives in a house with 8 children and a house mom.  The house moms are women who have dedicated their lives to be a mother to the children in their home and to raise them as her own.  The concept is to create as much of a traditional home atmosphere as possible.

LIV Houses & KidsLIV exists to raise the next generation of leaders in South Africa.  LIV places vulnerable and parentless children into a family environment where they receive unconditional love, spiritual discipleship, care and nurturing and where all their physical needs are met.  Children are tomorrow’s future, so the manner in which they are raised will influence who they become.  HIV/AIDS and poverty have resulted in many children being abandoned and orphaned.  LIV wants these children to be a generation that will influence positive change within South Africa, the continent of Africa, and the world.  If these children are equipped with essential moral values and life skills, they truly can live lives that will influence and inspire others.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Movin’ On

Drakensburg BraaiIt’s hard to believe that our South Africa outreach trip is already one-third complete!  Today was our final day at YWAM Drakensberg.  Last night the YWAM base treated us to a traditional South African braai or BBQ.  It was an incredible meal and time of fellowship together with the other teams we’ve been serving with.  We have really enjoyed the hospitality and ministry opportunities here.  This has been a blessed time for us and our team.  Tomorrow we load up our team and move 2-1/2 hours south to the LIV Village orphan ministry.  We will be at LIV for the next 3-1/2 weeks including the Christmas and New Years holidays.  We look forward to sharing about our ministry in the days to come.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow

Planting a GardenAs our team once again went to several different ministry locations today, we were excited to have a chance to go on some home visits and encourage and pray for people.  Four of us went out with a social worker from an organization called Philakahle.  We were a little disappointed when we found out that instead of visiting we were going to help install a garden in a local village.  We spent three hours installing fence posts and metal fencing in the hot South African summer sun together with some men from the village that came to help.

After the fence was installed, the social worker did take us to the house of the woman who we installed the garden for.  We were excited that we were going to get to do some home visits after all!  We sat in the woman’s humble one room hut and had a chance to share and pray with her.  She is a grandmother suffering from HIV.  She has no source of income and the garden we helped install is her only source of food.  She was so grateful for our help and prayer.

Village GardenAfter we said goodbye, we traveled to a different village to pray for and encourage a woman who had recently received a garden from the same organization.  As we sat in her home, her 11 year old son was lying on the floor.  He suffers from a spinal disease and is unable to control his body.  He is also unable to show any facial expression besides the pain that would come over his face during a spinal spasm.  In addition to her son, the woman also cares for 11 other children who lost their parents due to HIV.  Several of them also have HIV.  Again, this woman doesn’t receive any assistance besides the garden that provides the food for her family.  She is a Christian and we talked and prayed with her for about 30 minutes and provided her with a lot of encouragement.  She was very thankful when we left.

Praying Wtih DorisWe then proceeded to a home in another village to drop off supplies to start another garden project.  An older woman came running out of her house to greet us.  She gave each of us a huge hug and said “I love you!” over and over.  It began to rain so she invited us into her home to talk and pray.  Her name is Doris and she is a 66 year-old grandmother.   She’s been suffering with a lot of fear due to HIV both for her and her family.  She has lost one son to HIV and fears she is going to lose more family.  We talked with her, prayed with her, sang with her, and danced with her.  When we left, the fear had gone and was replaced instead with hope and joy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bob The Builder

Our team separated into different ministry groups again today.  This time, Julie stayed back at the YWAM Drakensberg base to help some of the kids in our group with their schoolwork.  John went to the Place of Safety with a few other people to work on some handyman projects.  Unfortunately the Place of Safety does not get many male volunteers and a lot of broken items and practical projects have built up over time.

Today they were able to tackle several of these projects including fixing broken toilets, installing an emergency fire hose, building shelves, installing privacy screening around the property, and removing a grapevine from the yard.  Some of it was very labor intensive work but satisfying in that it turned out to be a huge blessing to the Place of Safety kids and staff.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Safe House

Today our group split into 4 different ministry teams.  The first went back to Thembalethu to finish the shade cloth on the garden project we started last week.  The second team went to a small evangelism crusade in a neighboring town.  The third went visiting some homes with a social worker to bring hope to people suffering from HIV.  Due to transportation limitations, John stayed back to to work on administrative matters while Julie accompanied the fourth team to a ministry called “Place of Safety”.  It’s a safe house for children at risk that come from abusive homes.  It can accommodate a maximum of 15 kids who spend up to 9 months in the home until it is safe for them to return or a more permanent situation can be found.

Julie and the team did a children’s program that included songs, stories, and games.   They also did a craft project and each child made a cross necklace out of beads.  Most of the time volunteer groups are made up of adults only.  This day was special because the seven kids from our team also went along and were able to play and interact with the house kids.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Send In The Clowns

Thembalethu Kids ClubWe just finished a 3 day kids club at Thembalethu.  It was a combined effort of our team from California, the DTS from Durban South Africa, and group of South African high school students.  Each day, our program started with a welcome and songs.  We then moved into a time of group games followed by a Bible story.  After a lunch break, we did a craft then played some energetic outdoor games.  We wrapped everything up with a short concluding message and invitation to receive Christ.  About 30 kids raised their hands indicating they’d like to receive Jesus!

Thembalethu ClownsOn Thursday, a couple of our students dressed up like clowns and surprised the kids during the outdoor games.  It was a HUGE hit!  We needed to wrap up early a couple of days due to the heat, but everyone still had a great time.  In all, over 70 kids visited the kids club.  Most are from poor and impoverished homes and are victims of HIV – either directly or their immediate family members.  We thoroughly enjoyed working with the kids.  It was easy to fall in love with them and we are going to miss them.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Hope To The Hopeless

IRIN-AIDS-Ribbon

December 1st is World AIDS Day.  It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and show their support for people living with HIV.  It has been held each year since 1988.

South Africa has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS compared to any other country in the world with 5.6 million people currently living with HIV and 200,000 HIV related deaths recorded last year in South Africa alone.  The Nkomazi region where our team is currently serving, has the highest infection rate in South Africa with 50% of the population living with HIV, making this area the worldwide epicenter for HIV.

Many of the ministries we’re currently working with focus on people living with HIV and/or dealing with the loss of friends and family who have died from the virus.  There is a great stigma attached to HIV and a lost sense of hope for those living with HIV/AIDS.  Our goal is to bring them the light of Christ and restore a sense of hope to their lives.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dancing In The Aisles

Khethani Christian FellowshipThis morning our team visited Khethanni Christian Fellowship - a Zulu church just outside Winterton.  The service was VERY upbeat, loud, and exciting.  The worship music was similar to gospel music from the States and the service reminded us of the church portrayed in the movie The Blues Brothers with people singing and dancing in the aisles.

The pastor gave a great message out of James 5 about sickness and healing.  He preached in both Zulu and English.  It was a typical African service in that it lasted for 3 hours.  Thankfully the weather was cool so it was comfortable in the church.  We brought 40 in our group including our team from California, a DTS team from Durban South Africa, and group of high school girls from South Africa who are serving with us for 2 weeks as part of a program exposing them to mission work.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fieldwork

Today our team was invited to a Christian school to do a morning program for the students.  It opened with the school choir performing a few songs for us.  Our team then stepped in and taught the students several new songs.  We then did a couple of short drama presentations followed by a brief time of teaching explaining what the dramas represented.  Afterwards, we took them outside for some outdoor games, face painting, and other activities.  We were introduced to a new game called Netball.  Although it was new to us, the Kiwis on our team were familiar with it and helped in running the game.  It’s similar to basketball, however there are no backboards on the hoops.  Also, the players can only move one step at a time before having to pass the ball to one of their teammates.

South Africa is currently in the final days before their summer vacation starts and the teachers were very appreciative of us being there to give them a break.  In all there were about 75 students in first through eighth grades.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Garden Party

Thembalethu Garden ProjectToday we began our first outreach ministry project.  We went out to a ministry called Thembalethu in a village about 45 minutes away from the YWAM Drakensburg base.  We went to help install shade cloth on a community garden project.  The shade cloth will help protect the garden plants from the heat of the sun, bugs, and hailstorms – which can be heavy this time of year. 

Thembalethu means “Our Hope”.  It is a ministry that was set up in 1999 in response to the AIDS epidemic in the Nkomazi Region, Mpumalanga of South Africa. It operates in 22 villages with an approximate outreach of 250,000 people. There are also outreach programs in the neighboring countries of Swaziland and Mozambique.

In the region of Nkomazi, in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, the HIV/AIDS situation is bleak. Medical practitioners report that the incidence of HIV infection is as high as 50% placing Nkomazi among the highest infected communities in South Africa. In addition, local government hospitals estimate that 90% of their beds are used for AIDS-related illnesses. After two years only 1000 patients are on antiretroviral treatment (ARV) from government hospitals in Nkomazi, with an unknown number under treatment from private doctors. Poverty levels are high with 65% of the community unemployed.

The purpose of Thembalethu is to teach and equip people to care for dying AIDS patients, counsel traumatized families, take care of orphans, engage youth in life changing programs to combat HIV infection and to empower the local community to become self-sufficient.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Long And Winding Road

Drakensburg RhinoAfter four days of travel, we’ve reached YWAM Drakensburg – our first destination in South Africa.  Our first day of travel took us to San Francisco, California where we stayed overnight at the YWAM base in the Tenderloin district – one of the toughest areas in San Francisco.  Sunday took us from San Francisco to Atlanta.  We then traveled overnight from Atlanta to Johannesburg arriving tired and exhausted on Monday night.  We stayed overnight in Johannesburg before traveling 6 hours by road to YWAM just outside the town of Winterton.  Although the trip was long and tiring, we did arrive without incident.  Everything went very smoothly and everyone on our team traveled well – especially the 7 kids that were traveling with us.  Thank you for your prayers.

We knew we had finally arrived in Africa when, about 2 miles from our destination, we passed a rhino by the side of the road.  It was pretty exciting.

We’ll be saying and ministering at YWAM Drakensburg until the the middle of December.  We look forward to updating you about the progress of the trip and our various ministry opportunities.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Saying GoodbyeToday we left for our trip to South Africa – but without Cole.  This is the first time we have gone on a missions trip without him.  It was very difficult to leave him behind, but we remain confident he is prepared to begin life on his own.

Tonight we’re staying at YWAM in San Francisco and leaving first thing in the morning for the airport.  We will be flying from San Francisco to Atlanta and then on to Johannesburg.  We will arrive at 7:00pm on Monday night.  We’ll be staying 1 night in Johannesburg and then moving on to Winterton for extended ministry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back In The Saddle Again

201_3272We started our blog eight years ago when we took our first YWAM missions trip to Guatemala.  Now we’re getting ready to lead an outreach team to South Africa for an 8 week mission trip.  This seems like a good point to restart our blog and keep you up-to-date on our current ministry.

We’re leaving for South Africa on Saturday, November 22nd.  Our team consists of us (John & Julie) 4 single ladies, 1 single man, and 2 families with 7 kids between them ages 1 to 12.  We arrive in Johannesburg on Monday the 24th.  We will then travel to Drakensburg for 3 weeks of ministry.  After that we move on to a large orphanage in Durban where we will celebrate the Holidays with the kids and their house mothers.  Then in January, we’ll spend our final week in Durban along the southeast coast of South Africa.

Cole will not be joining us on this trip as he will be starting life on his own.  It’s going to be a challenge for us to be separated, so please be keeping us in prayer.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Fast and the Furious

We have been going through some difficult and confusing times since leaving Africa.  As a result, we have neglected to update our blog as we try to sort things out.  Recently, we decided to try something new.  We've heard a lot about fasting and praying over the years but have never actually participated in it.  We took the opportunity to finally give it a try when our church here in Chico challenged the congregation to fast and pray for 21 days to begin the new year.  It turned out to be an amazing time for us and God showed us some valuable things about our past, present, and future ministry.  And what better way to share these things than to reboot our blog.  So please stay tuned.  We have some exciting news coming as we begin regularly posting about what's happening in our current ministry and what lies ahead.