Day 2 – Sunday
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3
Our scripture from worship this morning, Psalm 23:1-3, could not sum up our second South African day more beautifully. Following an early-morning walk around the neighborhood (which borders the Game Reserve) and a hot breakfast prepared by two of our team members (Thank you, Cindy and Andrea!), we began our day by worshiping with our African brothers and sisters in Christ at Dihatswane Village Church. As we pulled up to the small, corrugated metal and wood building, we could hear the songs of praise coming from inside. We stepped through the doors and were immediately greeted with hugs, smiles, and handshakes from children of God of all ages. After being led to the decorated chairs in the front of the church set aside for us, we joined in to the singing, clapping, and dancing (as well as we were able!). The enthusiasm and joy in the room was overwhelming, and I think I can speak for all of us by saying that we would have loved to stay there for the rest of the day. When the singing time ended, Pastor Mpho invited Cindy, our fearless leader, to come to the altar area to introduce the rest of the group, and we were all given the opportunity to stand in front of the congregation and share with them a little bit about ourselves and thank them for welcoming us into their village. When each of us had introduced ourselves, Pastor Mpho welcomed us once again, telling us just how grateful they were for the sacrifices we had made and the time and energy we were going to give. He told us that “God lived in Dihatswane” and that we, having been to “God’s dwelling place,” could now go to heaven. Needless to say, the service began in a beautiful, humorous, and very encouraging way.
As Pastor Mpho shared the message for the day, I was overcome with gratitude, once again, that God has brought me (and this team) to South Africa “for such a time as this.” He spoke about putting God first in our lives – in all things – and giving him our best. In his inspiring and enthusiastic way, he reinvigorated in all of us a passion for our ministry here. God worked through him in a powerful way to “restore our souls” (however jet-lagged they may be!) and remind us that, because God gave us His best in His Son, Jesus Christ, we now can give Him and His people our best. Our team cannot wait to do just that – by his power and “for his name’s sake!”
After the service, we were invited to take a group picture with the entire congregation. As we huddled together, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1 (a verse one of our team members had shared with me earlier in the trip) and gave thanks that I was “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” – in South Africa! We said goodbye to our new family and left even more excited for the week ahead.
Following church, we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant called Nando’s, which is known for his Portuguese (ironic, I know) “peri-peri” sauce (similar to buffalo sauce, but more vinegar-y), and were able to spend time with the four Orchard: Africa interns who are living in the house until the end of July. We then did a little shopping for late-night snacks and headed back to the house for the Game Reserve Drive. At 3:15, our wonderful taxi driver, Lorato, took us on the 2-hour drive through the African Game Reserve, and were excited to see and take pictures of zebras, rhinos, ostriches, wildebeests, warthogs, kudus, red hartebeests, and water buffaloes. We returned to the house to a dinner of “braai,” which is African-style barbecue (lamb, chicken, and boerewors), and ended the night with a two-and-a-half-hour devotion time in which God worked powerfully in all of our hearts and brought us closer together and to Him. He is doing great things every moment, and we praise and thank Him for His work in and through us! Bring on Day One in the village!
Greetings all! We are just finishing up our first full day in South Africa. This morning we all gathered to study and discuss the history of the country we will be spending the next 10 days in. Then it was off to Mafikeng, we entertained each other on the four hour drive sharing life stories, enjoying the diverse landscape, and playing silly road games. As we drove the city changed to farmland, and we could tell we were approaching a much more rural part of our journey. Arriving at the village was as exciting as we anticipated. Groups of children flocked out of their homes to wave and check out their new visitors. As we walked the children skipped along behind us, yelling hello. I think we all giggled as much as they did as we waved back and forth. Our first stop in the village was at the chief’s house. He greeted us and told us how happy he was to have us helping in his village. I would say we felt just as blessed to be there. The rest of our walk took us through the whole village, past the school, through a few herds of cattle, and past many different homes ranging in various bright colors. Pastor Mpho had a little surprise for us, we were guided to a man who owned a cattle farm, he told us about the importance of steer to them and how they are such a large part of their culture. They use their hide for clothing, meat for food, and even their dung for fires and cleaning. We were able to join hands and pray over the mans land and for our teaching in the village. Once we arrived at our home we spent the evening getting to know each other, playing games, and sharing dinner. We all are looking forward to our journey tomorrow and the people we will be blessed to meet.
We have arrived and are all safe & healthy. Unfortunately we cannot say the same for our bags. Due to the short time between connections in Charlotte, our bags did not make the flight. We’re expecting them to arrive on Sunday afternoon.
We are currently in a hotel near the Johannesburg airport for the night before making the trip up to Mafikeng tomorrow morning. We are all excited, tired, and happy to be sleeping horizontally.
Two years ago we visited a smaller village by the name of Madutle. It was one of the harder days for me personally. When we had visited other villages children would run out and greet us, families would wave, kids would hold our hands. When we visited Madutle we saw three kids and a lot of very sad faces. We all left with a feeling of sadness and depression. It was almost as if Madutle was a little forgotten village.
Yesterday we got to go visit Madutle. I was preparing myself for what I thought I would see. Instead of seeing terrible depression, I saw God’s amazing hope and love. The pastor of the village, Pastor Patrick, came out and greeted us with a smile and a lively hello. He showed us their beautiful preschool and community center. We got to walk around the village and talk to the families and chief. When we got back to the preschool, there were atleast 50 kids running, jumping, playing, laughing, and reaching out to hold our hands or get their picture taken. There was joy!
Pastor Patrick talked about America coming and how it has brought hope to his village. God’s hope. We got to see what happens when Orchard Africa delivers God’s hope to a village through missionaries. We got to be part of that! In coming and loving on them, we get to show them that God has not forgotten them and he never will.
Having been here before I knew that Wednesday was going to be a difficult day. I wasn’t sure how my team would receive it though. We start off the day going to the Lonely Park Clinic where it is baby day. Mom’s bring there baby’s in for the well check ups and vaccinations. Some have to travel several hours before it is light to get there. We are there by 9 am and it is already standing room only with several people clustered outside. Did I mention that there are 14 of us. The head nurse takes us on a quick tour where we turn side ways single file and side step trying to slide between the crowd. She finds a small space and we crowd around to hear about how the clinic runs. The nurses work 16+ hrs everyday and still not all that come can be seen, some have to come back the next day.
We go from there to the cemetery. I was shocked and disturbed that they took us there the first time I came, after discussing the reasoning with Pastor Mike last time and Sara this time, I realize that if we don’t visit the cemetery then we don’t truly get the whole picture of what is happening in South Africa. Many young die. The cemetery is easily doubled from the last time I was here.
We leave the cemetery and go to visit the sick. The tears have been flowing freely down my cheeks since the clinic, I manage to staunch them for the first couple of visits to pray for the people who are alive and in need of encouragement. I walk in the warm sun and feel the cool breeze on my face in-between the homes of the sick and I look around and can not help but feel a great welling of compassion rise in my chest, with this comes more tears. My one kleenex is tattered by now but I dab at them with it anyway.
The next home we enter is that of a 38 year old woman, about the same age as my friend Jen who is with me. The young woman is in the fetal position on a low bed covered by blankets her eyes are glazed with pain and she shakes uncontrollably. This has been her condition for many days now. She is too sick to go to the clinic and the Orchard: Africa caregivers come to her home to care for her. We lay hands on her, I want to pray but my throat is clogged with tears as the over flow runs down my face and drip off my chin, my kleenex is now useless. I shut my eyes and allow my friend Jill to pray the words I can not express. While Jill is still praying the young woman’s shaking stops and she raises her head to view what must seem like a sea of white faces in her tiny room. We touch her with love and ask God’s mercy be shown her. She smiles at us. I do not see because of my tears.
My team is quiet and subdued on the ride home, this is appropriate for what we have seen this day. We exit the van and I see my niece Hayley seems especially quiet, I put my arm around her and ask if she is OK and she just sobs against my shoulder. I get it, tears are appropriate for what we have experienced this morning.
VBS is especially sweet that afternoon. We revel in the fun and holding and hugging the little ones that are so hungry for our attention. That night we discuss what we experienced. Griffin the intern that has been accompanying us shares hhis story of grief with us and than he quotes one of the Orchard: Africa Pastors and says “South Africans are desensitized to death and Americans are desensitized to life”. This seems profoundly accurate.