Wearing My Zebra Pants

100_0443Last weekend we went to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. It’s a fabulous shopping experience on the harbour. A group of five guys dressed in zebra striped work out pants, ala the Hulk Hogan era, were wowing the crowd with their limbo skills. Not only could they duck under the limbo stick while chanting, they even lit the stick on fire and then shimmied underneath it. Not so much as a hair was burned but the crowd gasped at the near misses. One guy had a serious afro and I’m not sure he realized just how close the outer limits of his hair came to being toast. Continue reading Wearing My Zebra Pants

Uprising

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 1.52.27 PMThe Masi teens and leaders rebuilt a shack yesterday. It took 8 hours of hard work. If you receive our newsletters, we once mentioned a boy named Bobby. It’s his house. There was no roof, just tarp. Cape Town winters are cold, rainy and very windy. There was no floor, just dirt.

The teens decided to rebuild it. They didn’t have fancy sponsors. They weren’t trying to raise money for a summer camp, or field trip.
In the words of one of the leaders, “His house is not right. The conditions are very bad. I mean, we all live in shacks, but his is not right.” Continue reading Uprising

Why Does God Make Some People so Rich When Others are so Poor? Does He Hate Us?

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This week in our Masiphumelele teens’ club we have been inviting questions, tough questions.  We have been asked about the reliability of the Bible, about trust in Jesus, and how to navigate traditional, African religious worship as a follower of Christ.  Today came the toughest question yet,  “Why does God make some people so unbelievably rich when so many others are so unbelievably poor?” Continue reading Why Does God Make Some People so Rich When Others are so Poor? Does He Hate Us?

Thanks Big Guy

Group3-300x168Living Way’s Worker Readiness Course prepares employees for the workforce by teaching tangible skills such as work ethic, time management, hygiene, conflict management, CV preparation, interviews, dreams and goals. (from living hope website)

Kevin received many notes of thanks from workers who benefited from his maths tutoring. Our favorite is this one:

To Kevin,…maths has become a little easy now thanks to you, you made things much clearer.  Thanks big guy, you are awesome.”Ntombizanele

Being the 6 foot bald guy has its privileges.
To Kevin, (Living Hope volunteer)…maths has become a little easy now thanks to you, you made things much clearer.  Thanks big guy, you are awesome.”Ntombizanele – See more at: http://www.livinghope.co.za/changing-lives-through-living-way/#sthash.7Am7aLGx.dpuf

We Made It!

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 2.04.08 PMAfter 27+ hours of traveling, we arrived in Cape Town. All 7 of us and our 22 pieces of luggage.

It’s been 3 weeks since we spent our first night in our new home. A few observations about South Africa:

-It’s winter here. It’s cold. Especially inside where there is no central heating. Cold, people.

-I (Cristi) still struggle with shifting the car with my left hand and staying on the left side of the road when driving. Kevin is a pro.

-The language is beautiful. Yes, it’s English. But, honestly, I still can’t understand sometimes.  For instance, a friend send she would be by to drop something off to me “just now.” In my American mind, that means “pretty soon.”

Not so. After 3 hours of waiting and starting to wonder if she’d changed her mind, Karen came. “Just now” means later. “Now Now” means right now.

If someone asks to “touch sides” with you, they aren’t getting frisky. It means “get in touch or touch base.”

Cooking has been an adventure. First of all, the rest of the known world uses the metric system. This means that I have to do some fancy math calculations to figure out:

-I’m buying 2.2 lbs of meat when the sticker says 1 kg

-The speed limit is NOT 100 mph

-Gas (petrol) is R10.23 per litre. Which means $5.50 a gallon.

These are just few examples. You all know how much I LOOOVE to do math. Curses.
Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 2.04.32 PMWe spent time in Masi, at Holiday Club, playing soccer and watching kids play lots of soccer. Kevin will be focusing his energy on the community of Masi. You can read the history and circumstances of Masi HERE.

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 2.04.19 PMThis is the view outside our house, after a rain. Cape Town has got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Overall, it’s been a fairly smooth transition. Although, if you’ve ever received customer service within 12 hours of your request, kiss that person. We waited nearly 3 weeks for Internet, the phone company knows us by sight and the bank…grrr. But all is set now.
Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 2.04.39 PMThe hardest part has been missing YOU. Our phones don’t jingle with text messages, the kids aren’t at someone’s house or playing with friends, family BBQ’s are not a phone call away. Homesickness was inevitable, but we had no warning it would be this painful.

When you transport a flower from one environment to another, it inevitably dies a little. We had deep, deep roots. And digging in will take time.  But, given the support and prayers from you all, we will eventually flourish. Please keep us in your prayers.

Cristi

Cease Striving

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 4.44.24 PMTwo weeks ago I spoke at church about giving up everything for the Kingdom.  Cristi and I have been led by God into this place where we give up most of what is comfortable and familiar and homey and give ourselves to helping the poor and the afflicted, all for the Kingdom of God.  We have walked this road, step by step, eyes wide open.  But, sometimes the cold, hard reality hits.

At work this week, I was struck by the fact that we are giving up our “safety nets”.  Here in the US, the land of opportunity, we rely on our safety nets.  When things get hard financially, we have opportunities to help ourselves.  We might be able to work some overtime, find a second job, or even get a better job.  If things get tough enough, there is government assistance or help organizations.  I have always given lip service to trusting God for everything, but in reality, the land of opportunity is always there.  It provides a safety net if God doesn’t come through.

What struck me is that in less than four weeks,  we will be walking the tight rope without a net.  As missionaries on volunteer visas in South Africa, we cannot work.  If things get hard, I can’t deliver pizza or work the night shift at the Kroger warehouse.  We will be thousands of miles from home in a place where we only know a couple dozen people.  Wow!  Swinging from the trapeze without a net.

Of course this is nothing new for God.  The Bible is full of stories of people following Him, regardless of how crazy, and of HIm coming through each and every time.  He fed millions of people for 40 years as they wandered through the desert.  Elijah was fed by ravens.  The disciples followed homeless Jesus around for 3 years after giving up their occupations.  Each time conventional wisdom was probably not on their side, but God was.

We aren’t fully supported and we find a peace in this.  This is where God has led us.  We have been warned, cautioned and advised.  Some have prayed for doors to close and others have encouraged people to pray for us because we have “inadequate support”.  To which I think, though the whole world be against me, if God is on my side, I am happy with “inadequate support”.  Imagine Elijah telling a fellow prophet, “God had me prophesy about this drought, and now he wants me to go to a desert ravine” and the prophet replying, “Don’t go.  With this drought you will have inadequate support.”  Or after Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to drop their nets their father says, “Don’t follow that homeless rabbai.  You have inadequate support.”

We are seeking the kind of faith we find in the Bible.  But, how can we live normal 21st century, middle class American lives and expect to find an extraordinary God?  We have to give up our safety nets.  That is where we will find Jehovah Jireh, the LORD my provider.

But, the realization that this next step is so close is kind of scary.  (Of course, it is not an act of faith without the uncertainty.)  We wrestle with the tension, knowing God will provide and also knowing that if He doesn’t we are in deep, deep doo-doo.

We have already seen Him provide in amazing ways with a house and furniture.  We are certain that He has a vehicle or two already waiting for us.  God will continue to show Himself to be faithful and He will get the glory, especially because of the doubts.

God is amazing in how He orchestrates the details.  I was telling Cristi about my thoughts and discussing them with her, as I was doing some reading.  Wouldn’t you know, that a few minutes later I read Psalm 46:10, which is about the kingdom of Judah not worrying about the threats from the Assyrians, the most powerful nation in the world at the time.  God was going to protect His people.  It was appropriate for me just the same.  “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

It seems that if God can save Judah from impending doom, He can take care of the needs of a family of seven in a foreign country.

Kevin

Take Away

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 9.02.38 PMI had  a dear friend ask me last night, “Why don’t you just go into the inner city and work with kids there? They need hope also.”

She’s right, they do need hope and love and attention. We had the privilege of helping at a church-sponsored sports camp for kids just off 5th Avenue in Columbus. There was about 130 kids  running, kicking, yelling, singing, dunking and having a good time. The camp was free, as was lunch. They heard about Jesus and God, and hopefully felt love from his followers who were there running the camp.

At a certain age, when you look into their eyes, especially the girls, you can see hope diminish. Abuse, poverty, hatred. They all start crushing their world at a young age.

This is what is looks like in the townships we visited in South Africa. Except:

-TAKE AWAY RUNNING WATER. Having a sink, faucet or refrigerator in your apartment would be a luxury.

-TAKE AWAY INDOOR PLUMBING. Add a port-a-john. But not one for each family. Add one for the block. And don’t count on it being clean.

-TAKE AWAY HOUSES. Take out the kitchen and the bathroom and the bedroom. In fact, take away the houses. Add cardboard and tin, maybe some barbed wire. Add one room, for everyone to share. Lock your house to keep out criminals? Ha!

-ADD AN 80% UNEMPLOYMENT RATE. Take away all government sponsored assistance. There are no food stamps. There is no free medical care. In fact, medical clinics at all will be hard to come by. But that’s ok, you won’t be able to afford it anyway.

-TAKE AWAY EDUCATION. Right next to the park where the sports camp was being held in Columbus, was a brand new elementary school. Stained glass window, LED display on the grounds, modern layout, huge playground with trees and green grass. In some townships, kids walk to school for miles, others don’t bother going at all. That’s ok, there’s too many kids and too few teachers. The teachers are underpaid and exhausted. There are no levies to pass or government funds to help those schools. “You get what you pay for” is the motto. And if parents can’t pay than you’re out of luck.

-ADD APARTHEID, HATE and RACISM. The townships are an eyesore on a beautiful city. The haves and the have nots are blatantly obvious. Painful. Palpable. The wealth is impressive; the gold and diamond industry has been good to some in this country.

-ADD CRIME. Yes, the urban environment is rough. We saw some 9 millimeter shell casings scattered on the ground at the corner store. But, Cape Town was recently labeled as the 5th most dangerous city in the world to live in. If you know 1000 people in your area, expect 17 of them to be murdered this year. There is a saying that in Johannesburg, a “girl is more likely to be raped than to learn how to read.” Murder, rape, assault. It’s life.

-ADD HIV/AIDS. South Africa leads the world in HIV/AIDS victims. In the township we visited, AIDS claimed over 20% of the community. For every 10 of your friends, choose 2 to have AIDS. Because AIDS has ravaged the country, there are millions of orphaned children.

Take the population of New York City and Los Angeles. Combine them and make them all children. There are no adults. That is roughly how many children are orphaned in southern Africa because of AIDS. Now make the 9 year old the head of the house. Have the younger kids work for food. Watch out for gangs and sex traffickers, who will only be yet another avenue for the spread of AIDS. Don’t forget to do your homework.

-Now pretend these are YOUR children.

That is exactly what Jesus says to us. Except He says, “These are MY children. Feed them, clothe them, love them. Please do this for Me.”

Sure, it would be easier and more convenient to drive down to Columbus a couple of days a week. It would be cheaper, that’s for sure. But, we don’t feel called to do that.

The orphans and widows across the world in a hard to reach place called South Africa is what breaks our heart. The work there is daunting, the path there is overwhelming.

But when God says, “Let me show you what needs to be done.” Who are we to say they are not worth it?”

*Aaron Tally photo

Cape Town, South Africa

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