Greetings from Killarney Lane – not in Ireland, but in Mafikeng, South Africa!
We woke to another beautiful, sunny morning and started the day with breakfast cooked by the “snorers”. After breakfast we had the privilege of meeting many of the staff members of Orchard Africa. Pastors; teachers in the preschools; leaders in the learning centers (after school programs); cooks who prepare and serve meals for the children; caregivers who visit the sick in their homes and coordinate their care; the deputy headman of Top Village; housekeepers; and the driver who delivers food, takes people to the hospital, transports people to government agencies and navigate through the forms . . . all of these individuals live in the villages they serve and are essential to the success of the Orchard Africa programs.
Pastor Mike mentors pastors who are already serving in villages and trains them to take on the responsibilities of facilitating change. As they demonstrate readiness for leadership, their villages are chosen for feeding programs, learning centers/after school programs, preschools, care for those with HIV/AIDS, and preventative education for HIV/AIDS.
After mingling with the staff, we were provided with HIV/AIDS education by Michelle. The information was clear and straightforward as the presentation was designed for high schoolers and illiterate adults. In Africa, hundreds of years of a polygamist society make behavior change challenging. However, this behavior change is essential, as John Fluharty pointed out tonight, because the entire population of the continent of Africa could potentially be wiped out by AIDS. A study by the UN determined that South Africa is the nation that is the best hope to slow and eventually stop this epidemic, and potentially save the entire continent.
Although we were sobered by what we learned, it was time to head to the village of Madutle. What a ride! The paved road ended just before the border to Botswana, where we turned right (staying in South Africa). For the second half of the one hour ride, we were on dusty, rutted, gravel roads to the isolated village. Although people drive on the left in South Africa, we swerved from one side of the road to the other as the driver tried to avoid the worst of the ruts and holes. I don’t think I’ll complain about roads in Michigan again!
When we arrived on the outskirts of the village, we decided to get out of our vans and walked the rest of the way. Although the homes, ranging from tin huts to 2-3 room government built houses, were very modest, the dusty land surrounding each house was raked and fenced. Each home has an outhouse, typically in the back corner of the yard. Although there is electricity in the village, there is no indoor plumbing. Even the school has outhouses.
There is a primary school in Madutle and when we arrived all the children were in school. As we walked by the school they ran to the windows and waved to us. The adults were friendly and greeted us, including two men selling produce at a roadside stand, one of whom was sitting in a wheelbarrow, and a man with two donkeys pulling a wagon.
The preschool children had just been served their hot noon meal by Orchard Africa and were sitting on the porch of the preschool/learning center/church building, eating their lunch (rice or maize with beans) with their fingers. As they finished they ran up to us, most with big smiles on their faces, reaching out to hold our hands and play.
Our first day of VBS was lively. Approximately forty children from ages 6 – 17 arrived after school. Each child was given a T-shirt with their name on it (although we goofed up and wrote their surnames/last names, which we had to correct this evening). This was followed with a cappella singing (the instruments which the MPPC VBS had purchased had not yet arrived), led by Eric and Vanessa. Pastor Victor was a blessing as he translated everything. The older children knew English, but the younger children needed the translation. Brad and Tiffany led today’s lesson, introducing prayer. The highlight of the lesson was when Dave pushed a plate of whipped cream in Brad’s face and Brad forgave him with a hug, to illustrate the concept of ‘Repent’. A game of throwing candy back and forth illustrated how much easier it is to have a relationship with God when we stay close to him through prayer. The children surprised all of us by reciting the Lord’s prayer by memory in Setswana.
For today’s craft each child was given a drawstring backpack, filled with a book, crayons, stickers, and small toys. to decorate. At the end of today’s session, these children took their backpacks home to keep.
Outside the building were almost twice as many children who wanted to join in. Pastor Patrick, of Madutle, kept them entertained in the yard.
After almost two hours of VBS we said good-bye to the children, until tomorrow. We were all tired, but happy. On the rough trip home we were treated to two giraffes on the side of the home. What a wonderful, blessed day!
Tonight, as you give thanks to God for your blessings, remember some of the little things that we too often take for granted: indoor plumbing, toilet paper, smooth(er) roads, grass, three meals a day, garbage pick-up, . . . The people of South Africa have blessed us and thanked us as well for the encouragement and love we bring from all of you. Good night.
Here’s a video made by the Bethany/Calvary mission team that went to South Africa this August.
Bethany/Calvary Mission trip 2011
Credits: Chris Cole
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Luke 18:16-17
Casey Kennedy (left), Tom Kromer (right) and child (Molelwane Village).
There are simply not words to describe the feeling that overtakes you when a child who has never seen you before, cannot speak your same language, and basically has no reason to trust you, comes running with a smile and an open hand. Without even saying a word, it was evident that their hearts were the biggest part of their little bodies. Jesus says let the children come, and as we walked through the village of Molelwane, they came. Our team of 16 had over 30 children come and grab our hands as we walked. Some were talkative and some were silent with a smile, but there was one thing that was clear, Jesus loves and cherishes the hearts of his children. It was such a beautiful picture to witness our team walking along with these children, who had no other reason to be with us than to be simply that, with us. They just wanted a hand to hold.
Our group has been blessed with the opportunity to spend a week in the village of Madutle, getting to know its people and children. While we will not be there until Monday, we were able to see the hearts of South African children today, and it has already had a huge impact on our team. I am confident that God will continue to stir in our hearts throughout the upcoming week, and I pray that he would use us to bring glory to his name. We are excited to “let the children come” as they definitely have a special place in God’s heart.
Mt. Pleasant Community Church
It’s pastors like Joseph Kgaje that are changing lives and are making an enormous impact in rural Africa.