Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Good Lie

The Good LieTonight we rented the movie, The Good Lie starring Reese Witherspoon.    It’s a true story that follows the lives of four Sudanese children that are orphaned after their village is massacred during the Sudanese civil war.  They escape on foot and travel thousands of miles before reaching a refugee camp in Ethiopia where the spend the next 13 years.  Their lives are completely transformed when they are selected for resettlement in the United States.  The story focuses on them and the people in the States who help them adapt to new lives in America.

This film really struck a chord with us and reminded us of the many people whose lives we’ve been involved with in Africa.  Tragic circumstances and broken lives are part of everyday life in Africa.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Keep On Truckin’

Cole's New TruckWe have really enjoyed spending time with Cole since returning from South Africa.  We’ve had several days to catch up with him and exchange what’s been happening in our lives for the past two months.  It’s exciting to see how he has matured and is gaining a sense of being self sufficient.

He had the opportunity to use our car while we were gone, however now that we’re back, it’s time for him to find a new mode of transportation.  Over the past week, we’ve helped him look at several cars.  It’s been pretty slim pickins for cars in his price range, however we came upon a great little pickup that’s in good condition and meets the budget.  He is now the proud new owner of a 1994 Toyota pickup!  Congratulations Cole!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pomp And Circumstance

CDTS GraduationTonight we celebrated graduation time with our CDTS students.  It’s been a VERY busy 5 months including 3 months of teaching here in Chico and 2 months of international outreach ministry in South Africa.  Tonight was a wonderful time for us and our students to reflect back and remember everything God has accomplished through them.

Now that CDTS is finished, they will be embarking on the next stage of their lives.  Our students will be exploring various opportunities God has been preparing them for.  Some will be staying here to serve at YWAM Chico, some will be returning to South Africa, some will transition to mission opportunities in other nations.

As for us, we will be closing out our time here in Chico over the next month.  We will then spend a few months in Southern California meeting with family, friends, supporters and churches as we prepare for our return to Mali in July.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Eagle Has Landed

We arrived back in the States yesterday and made it home from the airport early last night.  Our travel was uneventful and flawless.  Thank you for your prayers.  It feels good to be back in California.  The next several days involve more debriefing with our team.  We’re also really looking forward to reconnecting with Cole and taking some time to catch our breath before our next transition.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Take The Long Way Home

Our time in South Africa has come to an end and today we head back to California to wrap up this Crossroads Discipleship Training School.  Our first flight today is an in-country flight leaving at 4:30 pm.  This leads to our next flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, then our final flight to San Francisco.  It’s another 4 hour drive from San Francisco to Chico and we hope to arrive back home around 6 or 7 pm on Sunday.  With the time change, we have 36 hours of travel ahead of us.  But we’re eager to be home and reconnect with Cole.  We’re also looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, taking a hot shower in our private bathroom, and enjoying the privacy of our own home again.

We still have several days of debriefing ahead before our students graduate next Saturday.  It will be a challenge with the jetlag and exhaustion from the past 8 weeks, but we’re anticipating our team will finish strong.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Monkey Business

MakarangaWe’ve spent the past two days going through a debriefing time with our team reflecting on our 8 weeks in South Africa.  On Wednesday, we met one on one with each team member and family at a beautiful hotel and conference center called Makaranga Garden Lodge.  It features 30 acres of indigenous and exotic botanical gardens, 18 ponds, meandering streams and a waterfall.  It was a wonderful place for our team to relax when it wasn’t their time to meet with us.  Unfortunately, the two of us were meeting with people in a board room all day, so we personally didn’t have a chance to enjoy the grounds.

On Thursday, we met as a group to review each day of our time in South Africa and reflect on what we were able to accomplish, who we were able to minister to, and how we saw God working in all our team did.

Monkey TheivesWe’re leaving South Africa on Saturday morning, so our team had today off to rest, and do a final packing for our return trip.  In the morning, all of our team members went into town for some final shopping leaving the two of us alone at the house.  At one point, we heard a commotion in the kitchen and went to investigate.  We found several monkeys in the kitchen helping themselves to whatever food they could find.  We shooed them outside and watched them for a few minutes on the patio as they enjoyed their ill gotten gains.  That’s when we heard more commotion coming from the other end of the house.  We rushed to our bedroom to find several monkeys foraging through and enjoying our stash of comfort food including cookies chips, and candy.  Bad monkeys!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

With just a few days left in South Africa, today our team went on a safari adventure.  We visited the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Park – the oldest nature reserve in all of Africa.  The park is over 370 square miles and is home to many animals including what’s referred to as the Big Five.  The Big Five was a term coined in the early 1900s to categorize the 5 most dangerous animals to hunters.  Today, the Big Five are considered the top animals to see when on an African safari.  The Big Five consists of the African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Water Buffalo, African Lion, and the African Leopard.  Hluhluwe-iMfolozi played a key role in the preservation of the white rhinoceros.  In 1900, there were less than 20 white rhinos worldwide.  But due to preservation efforts of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, the white rhino has been saved from extinction and today there are over 10,000 white rhinos.

The park is 3 hours from where we’re staying, so our bus picked us up for an early start at 5:30 am.  This is quite a feat when you’re traveling with 7 kids.  We reached the park at 9 in the morning and transferred our team to 2 open safari cars for the trip into the park.  The temperatures were in the high 90s/low 100s so most of the animals were resting and not very visible.  However, on our 3 hour trip, we still managed to see lots of animals including warthogs, zebra, giraffe, water buffalo, antelope, rhino, elephant, impala, monkeys, baboons, and more.

South Africa Safari - LionAfter lunch, our bus picked us up and headed out to the main gate for our return home.  What should have been a 20 minute drive to the gate turned into 2 hours as our guide continued diligently searching for more wildlife on our way out.  We were excited by the animals we saw during the day, however we were a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see any cats.  Than the guide spotted something in the trees – 2 female lions were sleeping in a tree just 30 feet from our bus!  Then he spotted a lioness sleeping on the other side of our bus less than 10 feet away.  We were so excited!  It is extremely rare to see cats in the afternoon.  After watching them for awhile and taking lots of pictures, our bus continued on towards the gate.  A few minutes later, we came upon a large male elephant standing right beside the road.  He was a little upset and on the verge of becoming aggressive.  We stopped and slowly started backing away.  Thankfully, he didn’t charge us and eventually let us pass.  What an amazing day!  We were able to leave the park happy to have seen 4 of the Big Five and many other animals too.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Life’s A Beach

Durban Beach SwimmersToday was our final day of ministry in South Africa.  We spent the day doing evangelism on the beach in Durban.  We had several good encounters during the day including a young homeless man that made crosses out of palm fronds to raise money.  He used to lead a criminal lifestyle including robbing houses and taking advantage of people to get money.  Several months ago, a man befriended him and led him to the Lord.  He also taught him how to make the crosses so he could earn a living while sharing his testimony with people.  We bought him lunch at a local fast food restaurant and spent over an hour talking with him and encouraging him.

Later, we met a homeless Afrikaans woman who was selling bracelets to earn enough money for her and her two kids to stay in a shelter for the night.  We had some wonderful times of sharing with her and encouraging her in the Lord.  Throughout the day, we were approached by timeshare sales people that were handing us invitations for a time share meeting.  We replicated by handing them a Gospel tract and telling them about the Lord.

Durban LifeguardsWe also took some time to shop for souvenirs and trinkets from vendors along the beachfront.  We then took the chance to dip our feet in the warm waters of the Indian ocean.  The swimming areas at the beach are small and highly controlled.  They are only about 200 feet wide and are patrolled by several lifeguards both in and out of the water.  Most South Africans can’t swim, so most people just stand waist deep in the water and jump when the waves come in.  The lifeguards ensure that people stay within the swimming area and don’t go too deep in the water.  The swimming areas are also protected by shark nets as there is a large shark population in South Africa.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Two Different Worlds

Embo Township - DorisToday we attended church with a local YWAM missionary.  She took us to a new church plant that she’s been working with.  It was a Zulu service with incredible gospel worship followed by a passionate message.  Our group led one worship song and one of our team members gave a short encouraging message for the church.

After the service, we went into the local township to visit with several people in their homes and had a chance to pray for them.  The situations varied but we found a way to bring the love of Jesus into some sad situations. These included praying for a woman who had lost her husband two weeks ago, a girl who had a bad surgery experience last week, the families of some of the church men who don’t know Jesus, and a woman whose daughter had been recently arrested.

Embo TownshipOur home visits gave us a close up view of the extreme differences in the classes in South Africa.  In the township, we visited very simple two room homes with tin roofs, no indoor plumbing, and many without electricity.  The neighborhood was strewn with garbage and there were standing pools of sewage. Such conditions reminded us a lot of daily life in Mali. It was also a dangerous area, prone to drunkenness, drug use and crime. However we felt safe due to the size of our group, the fact that we were being accompanied by men from the church that lived in the neighborhood, and that we were on a mission from God.

Hillcrest HomeAfter our home visits, we walked literally two streets over into a neighborhood of million dollar manors located on a golf course.  It was a beautiful gated community that also housed five small castles.  The contrast between the two worlds was staggering.  There’s really not a middle class in South Africa, just the juxtaposition of the extremely rich living so close to the extremely poor.  This continues to contribute to the many social issues that plague South Africa.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

On The Road To Recovery

Yesterday and today we visited Careline Crisis and Trauma Centre.  Careline’s mission is “to provide support and direction to the community in their darkest hour.”  The Careline Trauma team attend around the clock calls from police, security companies and the public regarding various trauma situations such as rape, suicide, murder, robbery, housebreaking, death, domestic violence or car accidents. Often incidents of substance abuse and chemical dependency are referred to the Halfway House for further care. The Centre offers intervention, emotional support and trauma debriefing.

Our ministry was focused on the Careline Halfway House.  It’s a long term Christian based facility for people recovering from every kind of addiction including drugs, alcohol, gambling, sexual issues, anger issues, etc.  In the case of drug and alcohol abuse, once someone completes detox at a registered rehabilitation facility, they can join the Careline Halfway House for ongoing care ranging from 3 months to 2 years.

We spent several hours talking and interacting with the Careline residents.  We enjoyed getting to know them and hearing some of their stories.  It was encouraging to hear about the progress each one of them were making.  When talking about future plans and visions, the general response was, “I’m just focusing on one day at a time right now.”  In addition to the one on one interactions, our team was also able to present a skit about addiction, lead worship, and a couple of our team members were able to share their testimonies.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Wagons Ho!

Kloof Methodist ChurchToday we loaded up our team and moved from LIV Village to YWAM Durban, our final outreach location.  Our 3-1/2 weeks at LIV have been very rewarding.  It was difficult to say goodbye to many of the kids, but we explained our need to leave and that others would be coming to continue sharing with them.

YWAM Durban is in a small town called Kloof.  The YWAM base is located on the grounds of the Kloof Methodist Church.  The single ladies on our team are staying in the youth room, while the families are in the YWAM dorm rooms.  We are sleeping in the YWAM office.  The grounds are beautiful.  Like much of South Africa, we can’t leave the grounds at night for security reasons.

Kloof MonkeysWe’re looking forward to our last few days of ministry time in South Africa and sharing the church grounds with wild peacocks and monkeys that visit frequently.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Bling

Gospel BraceletsToday during the LIV Village holiday club, we taught the kids how to make Gospel bracelets. They are a simple bracelet made with a piece of cord and several colored beads.  Each bead color represents a different piece of the Gospel message.  Black – Sin: Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Red – Blood of Christ:  Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  White – Purification:  Acts 3:19 “Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”  Green – Spiritual Growth: 2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Blue – Water Baptism: Acts 2:41 “Those who accepted His message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”  Yellow – Kingdom of Heaven:  Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

We hope these bracelets will be a reminder to the kids of who God is and the plan He has for their lives.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Shop Till You Drop

Gateway MallThis afternoon after ministry, we took a trip to Gateway Shopping Center in Durban.  This was a surreal experience as it’s one of the nicest and largest shopping malls we’ve been in.  It certainly didn’t feel like we were in Africa.  It also boasts being the largest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere.  It features over 2.6 million square feet of retail space.

Gateway has 18 movie theatres, 6 Nouveau Cinemas, two 3D cinemas, a playhouse, more than ninety restaurants, more than 400 stores, 3 supermarkets, an arcade and theme park, indoor fun fair, a skate park designed by Tony Hawk, 3 Flow Riders, a gym, the highest fountain in Africa, a tenpin bowling alley, and a science theme park.

We’ve been anticipating the new Exodus: Gods and Kings movie for several months.  We knew it was being released while we were South Africa and thought we wouldn’t be able to see it on the big screen.  We were thrilled to find it playing at one of the Gateway theatres so we did indeed have a chance to see it while we are here.  While the film does take some artistic license, we did enjoy it overall.  It presents a wonderful avenue to open up Biblical discussions with people and can be used as a bridge to share the Gospel.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow

LIV FenceSouth Africa is a very complex nation with extreme ranges of disparity between classes.  A neighborhood of million dollar homes can sit right across the street from the poorest of slums.  Much of this can be traced back to the problems of apartheid and other social injustices throughout South Africa’s history.  This has resulted in an extraordinarily high crime rate in the country.  The murder rate in South Africa is also especially high and most people know someone who has been murdered.  As a result, security measures are taken everywhere.  Here at LIV Village, the compound is surrounded by an electric to fence to protect the children, staff, and property.  A small town called Cottonlands is located just a stone’s throw from LIV.  Cottonlands is stranded in poverty and the unemployment rate is a staggering 85%.  As a result, Cottonlands has higher than normal crime rate for South Africa.  When the LIV founders purchased the land for LIV Village, most people thought they were crazy building so close to such a troubled township.  But that’s exactly why the founders chose this location.  The vision is for LIV to reach out to the community and provide hope in the form of vocational training, job creation, and bringing in the Spirit of God to transform the community.  Today, LIV has started several business ventures in Cottonlands to provide jobs for the community.  They also offer several job training programs and other services to the people.  The goal is to completely transform Cottonlands into a thriving business community where everyone has a job and an opportunity to provide for their families.  But the only way this can be done is through the power of Christ.  LIV is striving to bring the Gospel into Cottonlands and see this community transformed for Christ.  The dream is for the electric fence to come down and have Cottonlands and LIV come together as an extended community.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year!!

We would like to wish you and yours a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.  We rang in 2015 with what LIV Village calls the Crazy Noise Party.  The celebration stayed true to its name.  It was crazy, and it was noisy.  The party started about 8pm.  The kids showed up in their pajamas ready to party and celebrate the New Year.  John joined in the fun too and wore Sponge Bob PJs to fit in with the kids. (Don’t ask why he has them).  Julie also got into the spirit with a colorful hat and lei.

In addition to Hillsongs Kids Videos playing on a big screen, our team provided clowns that made balloon animals and we all danced the night away with the kids.  There were also fireworks, music, and plenty of noise.  Around 10pm the kids started to crash and began sleeping on mats we set up at the sides of the room.  From there, the moms took over.  They celebrate by singing praise and worship songs in Zulu Gospel fashion.  One of the moms then brought a wonderful New Years devotion and testimony about a miracle that happened earlier in the day.  One of the moms passed out in her house in the early afternoon.  The kids found her and ran to get help from some of the other moms.  When they arrived, her heart had stopped and she wasn’t breathing.  Some staff members then loaded her into their car and rushed her to the hospital.  (Ambulances are hard to find in this area and are much slower than taking someone to the hospital yourself).  When they got to the hospital, the doctors were able to revive her.  They were surprised when she came back to life.  By all explanations, she should have remained dead.  What an incredible miracle to usher in the New Year with.  The doctors aren’t sure what caused her to pass out – perhaps stress or a panic attack.  But she’s doing much better now.  We would appreciate if you could keep her in your prayers.LIV Crazy Noise Party

About 11:30pm in true African style, the power went out in our area.  LIV Village has an emergency backup generator, but everyone who knew how to start it had taken the holiday off.  John has had a lot of experience with generators in Mali so he was able to step in and get it started so we could continue our New Year celebrations.  Just before midnight, we woke the kids and all gathered to pray in preparation for the countdown.  At the stroke of midnight, the Crazy Noise Party got even crazier and noisier.  Everyone then went outside to watch the thousands of fireworks going off in the township just outside of LIV.  With the time difference, we brought in the New Year ahead of most of you.  It was only 2pm California time when the New Year started here.