Monday, March 27, 2006

Leaving Our New Family…
(Saturday, March 25, 2006)

Today is our departure day. It is also the day to determine the champion of the Cup of Hope Soccer Tournament. It’s a gloomy day to start with and it is threatening to rain but we know the games will go on as scheduled. The first one is the consulation game for third place. It gets started sometime after 8:00 am. Our first big challenge is to run power out to the field. We have had a tent and chairs brought in and have scheduled a Gospel Choir to perform. The awards ceremony will follow the games so we need to be able to run a sound system. Things are never easy to make happen in South Africa but with persistance and a lot of hard work, Brian manages to get us wired for sound.

Finally, the championship game begins and so does the rain. At this point, we are very thankful for the tent. At halftime, the choir group performs a couple of numbers. The rain slows as the game winds down and “Home Spurs” wins 2-1 over “Valentine”. The awards ceremony goes well but we know time is short. First, Brian and Nick handed out the Cup of Hope T-shirts to the players on all the teams. Then the MVP of each team received medals and shin guards. The third place winners received some caps that had been donated. Before handing out the first and second place trophies, Nick gave a mini-sermon on why we had come to Loskop and talked about Jesus and also about abstinance before marriage and to have only one sexual partner. Then Pastor Welcome prayed for the group. Then the first and second place team received a trophy and soccer jersey.

A quick tear down followed as we needed to rush back to Agathos to pack the combi. We were able to gather the children for one last picture. Good-byes, hugs and tears followed. It was very difficult pulling away but our time at Agathos was over…at least in the physical sense. We will carry the children and others we met here with us forever in our hearts.

* submitted by Becky

Where did the time go?
(Friday, March 24th, 2006)

With only 1 day until our departure, we wanted to go back to the Tech High School to play some more worship music and give a message. We were already very familiar with most of the students, having played in and watched their “intramurals” Soccer Tournament in which grades play agaisnt each other. The kids happily greeted us as we arrived. Ryan, Richard, Pastor Welcome and Nick led them in some worship songs. With an outside setting in somewhat of an open courtyard and it being early in the morning, we were worried about getting participation from the crowd. (unlike the other high school where the students were bouncing around, climbing trees to see in, etc. this one was a bit more mellow) But, we played with passion and also had these students singing, clapping, and jumping around! Then, Becky gave an awesome message about serving others and explained why we came to Loskop. She spoke with a huge heart for the Lord and the students were listening attentively.

As we walked home with our instruments (Ryan w/ Guitar and Nick w/ Jimbay), many Zulu people commented to Pastor Welcome that they were amazed that white people could play music and have rythym! One woman asked Ryan to play her a song as she was walking to the Health Clinic. Without hesitation, Ryan serenaded her a song in Zulu about Jesus. Her face filled with joy as she listented to him play!

While Brian, Mike, Wendy and Becky hung at the cottages, Nick, Ryan, Richard and Pastor Welcome made the 2 hour round trip drive to Petermaritzbug to pick up the soccer t-shirts we would be giving to the players in the tournament and other last minute items.

After dinner, we had planned to start a fire and sing songs for the children and make Smores. Although the rain washed away our plans to stay outside, we still used the fire to make Africa Smores (tea bisbuits, marshmellows, and chocolate syrup). It was a bittersweet moment to laugh and play with the kids, knowing we were leaving in the morning. But, all the joyful faces, smiles and hugs were well worth it!

After the kids went to bed and the rain stopped, we sat around the campfire with some of the long-term missionaries staying at the cottages (Pyllis, Scott, and Carolyn). Ryan led some worship songs while many of us reminisced over the last 2 weeks in our minds. The night ended with a very emotional speech by Ryan. He publically thanked Pastor Welcome for the friendship and fellowship that they had created over the 2 weeks. Aknowledging that Pastor Welcome had showed him an entire new side to worship, Ryan thanked him by giving his guitar. (Ryan had been teaching Welcome to play, and the Lord has blessed this greatly! Pastor Welcome has already been leading songs at church and bible study after only playing for a week and a half!) It was an extremely touching moment that summed up our trip. Not only did we come to South Africa to serve and minister to others, we came to be ministered to and have our life changed forever…and it has.

*submitted by the team

Can We Stay Forever?!
(Thursday, March 23rd, 2006)

That is, of course, if our loved ones can be with us! The morning started out bittersweet…our last day to walk the kids to school. Then, it was Work, Work, Work! While Wendy and Becky finished painting the rec hall with used motor oil (getting more on themselves than the walls) Mike, Ryan, Brian and Nick did some manly work…digging trenches. We have been working on getting a house ready for the missionaries when they come to visit. So, the trenches we are digging are for the power and water pipes. It is amazing what you find when you dig…old trash piles, rocks, more rocks, etc.

After working hard, Brian came up with a great idea. We decided to take Richard and 3 of the older boys out to dinner for being so kind to us while we were here. Richard is the caretaker of these boys (Zamani-18, Kenaini-14, and Melusi-13) and they also helped us with the work projects on their time off from school. While Richard and the boys had to run some errands first, we decided to grab a taxi and head to Thokozizo for some souvenir shopping. In the short 4-mile taxi ride, Nick was in a conversation with a local Zulu man. Through faith and encouragement through some letters he had received, Nick was talking to this man about not having sex with his girlfriend and to wait until he is married! This is just one example of how the Lord is giving everyone amazing power to step out of his or her comfort zone!

After looking at local crafts and jewelry, we sat down to eat. For 2 of the boys, it was only their 2nd time in a restaurant! Our hearts were filled with joy as they looked over the menu with excitement about what they were going to eat-and boy did they eat! Not only did they finish their meals, but ate our leftovers and had dessert! It painted an amazing picture about the things we take for granted in the states. Remember, these boys are in high school and are unfamiliar with eating in a restaurant. The fellowship with the boys was great. I know we have said this before, but their hearts are so innocent and pure. We laugh at the silliest and most simple things with them, but during this time our Lord is bonding us together even closer as brothers and sisters in Christ.

After the meal, the conversation of music came up. We began to ask about the type of music they like to listen to. Kenaini said that he loved Gospel, while Melusi stated he liked rap. Through the conversation, it was brought up that it might be ok to listen to both. IMMEDIATELY after hearing this, Kenaini shot back. He grabbed the salt and sugar, and asked us if we thought these items could be used together to eat. He told us that when you mix gospel and rap together (he was talking about rap with bad words in it, like 50 cent), it tasted bad just like salt and sugar do together. This is a man of God! An object lesson seconds after hearing something?! WE WERE BLOWN AWAY! AMEN!

Tomorrow we are going back to one of the high schools to play some worship music! Tomorrow is going to be another great day!

* submitted by the team

“Home, Home on the Range…” African Style!
(Wednesday, March 22, 2006)

Today was our second attempt to go to Spionkoff Game Reserve. The weather was nice in the village but as we got closer and closer the fog just kept moving in. They said they would still take us out so we stood around for quite a while waiting for them to get our horses ready. Finally, just as we were getting paired off with our horses, the rain started coming down. But, our guide took us on out anyway! Shortly down the trail, however, the rain stopped…Hallelujah! Because we were on horseback, we could go off the trail and right up to the animals without startling them too much. We saw Gnews, Wildebeast, something like Antelope, Zebras and Giraffe. We were 10 feet from almost 25 giraffes! Some said they saw a Rhino off in the distance but most of us just saw their evidence left on the trail. There were a few exotic birds, too. The scenery was breathtaking. Wendy said, “I feel like I’m on a real live African Safari.” And Ryan’s response was, “Well, Wendy, you are!” We even saw baby Zebras and baby Giraffe (can you tell this is Becky and Wendy writing!). It’s amazing how God made each animal unique and special. He truly is a craftsman and we all are His creation!

Our next stop was the Kwala-Zulu Weavers – a shop where the native women make craft items to sell, and the money goes back into the community. We stocked up on candles, rugs and African masks. We also warmed up with a cup of coffee at the Waffle Hut.

Next we headed up to JD and Barbara Borgman’s house. Their ministry, Ubuntu Partners, work alongside of Agathos. Their house is on the most amazing piece of property with a view that is truly God’s country. The combi couldn’t make it up the dirt driveway so we had to hike the half-mile trek up the hill. But it was so worth it! They served us a delicious lunch that included homemade Apple Pie! We even had napkins (a luxury we’ve done without at the cottages). After some relaxing fellowship time, we headed back down to get the combi out of the mud and headed to Estcourt to post our blog.

After dinner, Pastor Welcome led a time of worship and devotions for the team and some of the older kids who hadn’t gone to bed yet. He spoke on Romans 3:23 – 25.

Today was a wonderful day!

* Submitted by the team

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

...and Ryan changed twice!
(Tuesday, March 21st )

Another big day of soccer…and another rainy morning! But, right around 9am…you guessed it…the rain stopped! AMEN! As we mentioned in our Monday blog, the children were out of school on for a National Holiday. Well, they were out again today because of the same Holiday (the holiday is really today, Tuesday, but they just got a long weekend). With that said, Aaron and Pastor Welcome decided to play a joke on us gullible Americans…at breakfast, Pastor Welcome came up to Nick and told him that the grey colored shirt he was wearing was offensive to the Zulu people on this Holiday and he would have to change. Nick thought that he was joking, but Pastor Welcome became very serious…so Nick went back to his room and changed. Then Pastor Welcome went to Ryan and gave the same him the same story, except saying a white shirt would be offensive to the Zulu people because of Apartheid. When Ryan changed into a brown shirt, he was told to change again! Pastor Welcome also got Wendy, Mike and Becky with this joke. We didn’t really talk to each other about it and it didn’t click that other people were wearing colors we were told to take off. Mike was even hiding a shirt under his raincoat at the soccer field because he didn’t want to offend anyone! At dinner, they finally let us in on the joke…we vowed to get Pastor Welcome back before we leave!

After breakfast, Becky and Wendy were able to go on a little excursion to a community called Hilaruiknulu (Big Forest). The first stop was at Gogomayaba’s, the mother of Luginile, a caretaker at the cottages. Right before they got there, the good ole reliable cumbie got stuck in the mud! JD had to get some help to push it out. When they finally arrived, they met with 20 homecare workers and caretakers who work with children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Celimpilo (Ask For Life) is the name of this focus group. These women have no support from the community, and compiled a list for Barbara of all the resources they need to fight the epidemic. She spoke and encouraged them that they would help as much as possible. Then they served tea and snacks. The second stop was the Zulu village community meeting in the Tribal Council Hall to bring together all the leaders in the community to encourage them in their fight against the AIDS epidmeic. The three visitors from World Vision shared why they were there, the pastor, Moses, preached and there was much singing as there is in all gatherings of Zulu people. Wendy also shared about our group and the work we are doing with Agathos. They served lunch of sandwiches and cheetos and then it was time to go outside to watch the Zulu dancers! The boys went first and danced to drums in their sheepskin costumes. Next came the girls in their beads and bare chests! Definitely a Zulu tradistion that has been passed down from generation to generation. By this time it had stopped raining and the sky cleared to reveal a beautiful view of White Mountain. It was an incredible visit. These people truly love Jesus and believe He is the answer to their problems.

Back at the cottages, the guys headed over to the soccer field to get the games started. While Brian stayed at the field to make sure everything was going smoothly, Nick, Ryan and Mike went back to the cottages for more work. They dug an extremely long trench, inserted some piping, and filled it back in. With the kids anxious for some attention, the guys promised to go on a hike after they were done. This, as it seems, turned out to be a fun experience that led them through mud, rain, shrubbery, more mud, random villages, and even more mud. While on our little hike, Phyllis, Carolyn and Jules (Phyllis is Aaron’s wife, they are the couple from Minnesota who are living here for a year, Carolyn is the mom of the family from Canada who is here for 6 months, and Jules is JD and Barbara’s neice who splits her time as a nurse with Agathos and another orphange) who did a session for the girls about good hygiene that included brushing teeth, bathing, etc.

After dinner, Aaron led our devotion. He shared a touching story about why he was here to serve in Loskop. It really put our entire trip into perspective and really challenged us to take advantage of these last days here. Then, we took some time to pray for Richard, Aaron & Phyllis, and Scott & Carolyn. As long term missionaries (6 months to 1 year) here with Agathos, we felt as if we needed to ask the Lord to do many things for them. It was wonderful to lay hands on them and ask God to bless them with many things. They were very thankful that we took the time to lift them up to the Lord.

We have a CRAZY busy day tomorrow, something of a play day. One more attempt at horseback riding on the game reserve, lunch at JD and Barbara’s, a hike in the Drakensburg Mountains, and then Bible Study at Pastor Welcome’s church. We’re praying for good weather. Off to bed!

* submitted by the team

Work Projects and Fellowship
(Monday, March 20th)

After a fun night of fellowship at the Braii, it was time to start off the week with some good ole fashioned hard work. While Ryan went into Estcourt with Pastor Welcome and a few others to do some grocery shopping, the rest of the crew finished some of the work projects. Becky, Wendy and Brian continued to paint the motor oil on the newly installed stripping, while Mike & Nick measured, cut and nailed the final stripping on the back side of the Rec Hall. Inside of the Rec Hall, many Zulu women were working on beads and crafts to sell. JD’s wife, Barbara, has set up a ministry called the Langalibalele Project to assist the women in buying the materials and selling them in town. Barbara also sends the best of the jewerly to the US to sell.

The kids were out of school due to a National Holiday, so they were hanging out around the cottages. The older children took this opportunity to do their laundry, clean their room, and help us with the work projects. They do all of this without being told! They also washed all of their soccer cleats (they are still wearing them every chace they get!)

While we were working, a lady and her husband from World Vision came by. They are old friends of JD’s and he was giving them the grand tour of the cottages. She “interviewed” some of us about our perceived needs of Agathos, and it was very exciting to hear that World Vision may be investing thousands of dollars!

Around lunch time, Nick’s new teammates came by the cottages to get him for their game. Nick took Kaenani (a 14 year old orphan) with him and they met then team down the road to hop in a taxi to travel to the game. When it was all said and done, 26 people crammed into a 15 seat cumbie! While warming up for the game, Nick asked his teammates if they knew while he was in South Africa. After a long pause, one of them said, “Worship?” Nick explained all about the trip and why the group came to serve in Loskop. Before the game, the team let Nick pray while the Team Captain translated.

After a long day of work, we decided to head to Thokozizo w/ Pastor Welcome and Phyllis (Wendy was feeling a bit under the weather and stayed at the cottages) to undwind, relax, and process the previous week. It was great to share some of the experiences and conversations we have had with the children as well as some of the local residents of Loskop. After a good time of laughing and story telling, we headed back to the cottages to rest for the long day of soccer and trips that were planned for Tuesday.

* submitted by the team

Monday, March 20, 2006

Church and The Braii
(Sunday, March 19th, 2006)

It was a beautiful day today in South Africa. The church we attended was Power of God Ministries led by Pastor Welcome. It normally meets in a local High School but there was a problem with getting the key so we met at the Agathos cottages. There were approximately 75 people in attendance including all of the kids and us.
Ryan helped lead worship along with Pastor Welcome, Nick and several members of the church. Their worship is very free and they have wonderful voices. Some of it was in Zulu and some of it was in English. Then Pastor Welcome preached an awesome message.

After church it was time to kill the lamb for the braii (cookout). Several of the Zulu men took the lead to slaughter and prepare it for cooking. Many watched but Wendy and I helped the cook, Nellie, peal potatoes for the potato salad. Wendy prayed for a quick and painless death!

Most of the afternoon, we hung out with the kids and the members of the church who came back for the braii. It was a fun time of fellowship. One of the kids, Melusi (13), told us how he could be living with his Gogo (grandmother) and his brother, but he prefers to live here because he knows that here he is LOVED. At his old home, he was not really being cared for.

The meal of lamb, potato salad, corn and Zulu bread was very tasty. Afterwards, we had a real treat - Ice Cream and Soda!! Thank God for a restful Sunday as we prepare for another work day tomorrow around the cottages.

*Submitted by Becky

Soccer Saturday
(Saturday, March 18th)

Today was the big day for our Loskop Cup of Hope, a 14-team tournament sponsored by Agathos & Hope Chapel. Games started at 9am and continued through to 6pm. We were concerned about the weather…last night we walked the field and prayed for numerous things, including good weather. Rain was in the forecast, and it was raining a bit in the morning…but right around 9am, the rain stopped for the rest of the day! PRAISE GOD!

Richard went to Estcourt to get a live sheep for our Braii (cookout) tomorrow night…and the sheep gets to stay the night with us tied up outside until tomorrow… I have 3 words to say about that! Baaaaaad Animal Sadness!

Although today we were not on the move a lot, it was nice to sit back and have some fellowship with the children and the people of Loskop. While Wendy and Becky got their hair braided from the girls during some of the games and learned how to do laundry (Zulu style), the guys tried to speak with some of the locals. Our Zulu is coming along nicely! We can greet people, ask them questions, tell them “Thank you” in singular AND plural, and tell them “No Problem.” Our accents are pretty good too! You should see some of their faces when we speak Zulu to them-they are caught off guard, but really excited that we are trying to fit in. However, some of the conversations were tough. Many of the people had already heard about all the soccer cleats we had brought with us. All day long, whether people came to the Cottages or on the soccer field, we were approached and asked if we had any more cleats left. It was heart wrenching to tell them we were all out.

Throughout the day, around 1000 people came to the tournament, with hundreds in attendance for each game. The field is surrounded by a huge concrete wall, which had people sitting all around. The field itself is not in the best of shape. There are HUGE clumps of grass/weeds all over, which makes the ball bounce in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Playing on gravel or dirt would be better! I was very anxious, as my team, Ever (Eva) Smiling, did not play until the last game of the day. It was great to watch the teams play with pride and spirit as the fans watched with intensity. Brian & Mike did a fantastic job providing the ref’s with shorts, shirts, flags, and socks.

The final game was approaching…I was going to play! ( I know the soccer picture looks like the one the other day…same colors, but different team and jersey!) Although soccer is a huge passion of mine, I have an even bigger one…JESUS! I knew that if I played well enough, I would earn the respect of the town, which would make it easier for me to minister to people during our next week. Through a long warm-up of running, skipping, clapping, singing Zulu songs and stretching (It’s a good thing I have rhythm!), we were ready to start. My coach told me that I would start at the #10 position (Center Midfield-they use numbers instead of names) The crowd was chattering about this white man from America and was wondering if he could play! Right before we started, my team prayed. Out of 14 teams, they were the ONLY one who did that! I knew that God had placed me on the right team!

The game started out with a telltale sign of what was to come. The other team received 2 penalty kicks within the first 10 minutes of the game! Although they missed the first one, they converted the second, and we were down 1-0. My team had a few chances, but we went into halftime with the same score. Halftime was very interesting…not only do the players and coaches talk, but ALL of the fans from your team join in. Seriously! We had 50 –75 people at our halftime talk. An older man who was obviously very passionate about the game and our team did most of the talking!

The second half was wild…my coach moved me to the #8 position (Right Wing) to try and create scoring opportunities. Luckily enough, that’s what I did…even though I am pretty out of shape! Halfway through the second half, I jumped up and did a bicycle kick that everyone thought had scored. The ref, however, disagreed, and we played on. (there were a few other calls that did not go my way as well, and Pastor Welcome was yelling that this referee had it out for me! We later learned that the ref was from the village of the other team…hmm.) With about 10 minutes left in the game, there was a scramble in front of the goal. The ball bounced in my direction, and I put it in the back of the net….GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL! So, I did what any soccer player does when he scores a goal in a big game…I took off my shirt, waved it around, sprinted to where all the fans where, and dove head first across the ground! My teammates dove on top of me, as well as many of the fans. It was the greatest feeling I have ever had after scoring a goal! All this celebrating earned me a yellow card, which I gladly accepted…it was well worth it!

The ending, however, does not get any better…we went to Penalty Kicks with the other team, and I MISSED and we lost! Yup, from Hero to Zero just like that! Unlike other countries where I might have been laughed at, yelled at, or even shot, I was welcomed with open arms and hugs from teammates. The manager of the team asked me to play in a “friendly” game on Monday in another village. Although I do believe this “friendly” game is being played over a nice sum of money, I am going to play anyway and use it as another way to minister. All of the fans were also very encouraging, telling me that I will do better next time. Although I wanted to leave out that I missed the PK, (HA!) it paints a picture of how the hearts and souls of these people are SO Christ like! The orphans even chanted songs for me and gave me hugs as I walked through the front gates at the cottages. The Lord is laying his hand on the people of Loskop.

Back at the cottages, we listened to the joyful voices of the Ryan, Pastor Welcome, and the church choir who were practicing for service tomorrow. Being outside and taking in a lot of sun, we called it an early night…with Church and a Braai tommorrow night, we need our rest!

In the back of a goat truck…

with poop pellets and hay at 7:30 in the morning is how we started our day! This all started as we, guess what, that’s right…we ran out of gas on the way to Spioenkopp, a game reserve, where we were going to ride on horseback to see lions, hippos, giraffes and elephants. However, the monsoon that started last night decided to reappear on our way to Spioenkopp. So, as we hitch-hiked, a goat farmer picked us up on his way to work and offered us a ride in the back of his small pick up truck. We all loaded in the back of the truck, as the driver, Peter, drove us the 20 minutes down the road to the game reserve.

Once we arrived at the game reserve, we found out that it does not open on rainy days. Even though we looked like drowned rats and were willing to ride in the rain, the park ranger sent us on our way. So, Peter, the ever-gracious driver, drove us back to Winterton, the closest town, to get gas. We looked like real tourist to the Zulu people as we road in the back of a pick up truck during a heavy rainstorm taking pictures and video. Once we arrived at Winterton, we filled up Peter’s truck with gas and thanked him for his generosity.
Richard “Petty”(I’ll explain later how Richard got that nickname), our Agathos host, haled down a taxi, a van actually, (Praise the Lord) to take us back to our combi stranded on the side of the road. We stopped at a local tourist area to have a late breakfast. We walked through a couple of shops and thanked God for warm coffee and a place to dry out. As we have come to learn in our brief week in South Africa, nothing ever really goes according to plan. But the Lord has a plan! Praise God!

The group then headed to the town of Estcort to run a few errands and purchase supplies for the soccer tournament AND to post our entries on our Blog. We arrived at Estcort right at noon. Well, guess what, Friday from 12 – 2 most of the stores close down because they are run by Muslims and Fridays from 12 - 2 are a time of worship. So we walked around town, picked up our supplies for the soccer tournament from a few stores that remained opened. We arrived back at the Internet Store right around 2. The Lord has answered our prayers. We were able to publish four days of Blog entries AND add pictures!! Hallelujah!!

We arrived back at the cottages in time for dinner. Tonight was a special night! We ran a fun night of assembly and games (YMCA style!!). Ryan opened with a couple of worship songs. He is truly gifted! Nick led the children in “Going on a Lion Hunt” and the game of electricity while Mike, Ryan, Becky and Brian got prepared to perform a messy skit. They were hilarious! Mike and Ryan pretended to wake up in the morning to get ready to go to the soccer tournament. Becky and Brian were their hands and were hidden behind them. They “helped” Mike and Ryan brush their teeth, wash and brush their hair and fed them breakfast. The smiles and laughter that emerged from the kids made this evening one that we will never forget. Nick and Wendy Jo did the banana and bandana skit. Wendy Jo used her bandana to wash her face, wash her hair, clean her ears, put it in her pocket and pick her teeth all while Nick was using his banana to do the same. This was a play on words skit while Nick had his back to Wendy Jo as she talked about her bandana as he thought she was talking about a banana. Even through the language barrier, the kids understood. Praise God for his grace and compassion as He bridges the cultural gap.

(As we are typing this entry, a rat ran across the wood beams on the ceiling and a bat did a dive bomb at our heads. Oh, Happy Day! Oh, Happy Day! When Jesus washed our sins away!!!!!!!)

Thanks everyone for the comments on the Blog. Please keep them coming, as they are encouragement to all of as we continue to be humble servants so far from home.
We are so blessed to be here to show God’s love, grace, joy & mercy to the community of Loskop. We look forward to the many opportunities the Lord will provide for us to share His love.

Good luck Cole & Clay on your first soccer games! I love you and am cheering you on from South Africa! Rick, I love you & miss you very much! Mom & Dad, thank you for all your support. I love you!

*Submitted by Wendy Jo

Friday, March 17, 2006

Siyapila (Zulu greeting=We are Alive!)
(Thursday, March 16th)

I’m not sure what day it is, they all seem to blend in to each other. But today we all went Nbongi’s house who is a caregiver for 15 children. She also has a hospice with 5 people who are in the last stages of AIDS. The moment we walked into her mud hut you could feel the presence of God. She is a true living, breathing, walking example of Christ. She truly walks in His footsteps.

At Nbongi’s, we brought over meat and toilet paper. After many hugs and thank you’s, she asked us to stay for 5 hours! She set up a few chairs for us and listened to some worship songs on the accordian played by one of the men who live there. Then, we sang a worship song for her and the children. After ending in prayer, a few of us went into another room to pray with 2 women who were in the last stages of AIDS. Although the women were in much pain, huge smiles were on their face.

Words are too small to even begin to describe what this trip is like. I feel more at home here in Loskop, South Africa then I do in America except for the fact that my wife isn’t here. Life is simple and sweet. The people are loving and warm. The landscape is beauty at it’s best and truly one of God’s fingerprints.

The team has worked together and is growing closer by the hour it seems. On such a trip you get to see the different gifts God has given each person and some newly discovered one’s as well. God is moving in us, among us, and through us. We have been stretched in so many ways for the better.

We have also given out many of the soccer cleats, shinguards, socks and shorts to the orphans. For the past 2 days, as soon as they get home from school, they run to put ALL of their new treasures on! They wear them for the rest of the day and into the night, even at dinner. It is really funny to see some of the little children who are wearing shoe sizes much too big for them…but they are SO happy! Also, the caregivers have been given some “indoor” soccer shoes and have already begun to wear them.

We have to apologize for the lack of Blog entries. We have been experiencing some technical difficulties so we will post when possible. Pray for our strength and endurance. Pray for our compassion and faith. Pray for God’s light to shine in South Africa and His glory to be seen.

*submitted by Ryan

A Powerful & Emotion Filled Day
(Wednesday, March 15th)

After breakfast Wendy, Mike, Ryan and Nick walked the kids to school. This 40-minute walk was a great time to get to know the kids and “walk in their shoes.” It amazed me the distance a child as young as 4 years old needs to walk each morning. When we returned to the village Brian, Wendy, Becky and Mike continued to work on our construction projects on the dinning/worship hall and bathroom and Ryan, Nick, and Pastor Welcome practiced worship songs.

Pastor Welcome arranged for our team to visit a local high school during their lunch break. When we arrived students were waiting for us in one of the classrooms. As we entered the room these students sang songs to us in Zulu. Soon after Ryan started the first worship song, all remaining space in the classroom was filled with students, dancing, jumping and clapping to the music. The power of the Lord in the room was truly amazing. Once the room was filled past capacity students gathered 3 rows deep at the windows and some climbed trees to get a view! The worship team sang songs in English (Dance in the River, Glory, Glory, Glory) and Zulu (Jesus is Mine, He Lifts Me Up). Nick presented an awesome message about need to save sex for marriage and how to grow closer to Jesus. The principle of the school invited us to his office as we were preparing to leave. He asked us to pray for 2 sick ladies and 2 staff members that were in his office. We all gathered around these women and laid hands on them and prayed for healing and strength. As we left the school one of the students shouted from an open window “I want to dance in the river” in English. We all want to go back again.

Our next visit was the pre-school that is next door to the high school. Our team sang the same songs to the children. After worship we spent time playing with the children on the playground. As we left many of the children followed us along the school fence shouting in Zulu “We have learned so much from you.”

In the evening we all walked to a local Bible study. After worship songs (lead by Ryan, Nick and Pastor Welcome) Mike, Becky and Wendy shared their testimonies. We finished our day by walking home in the dark with the full moon proving light and the stars of the southern hemisphere shining bright. A few of us got a chance to talk with Zamhani, the oldest orphan at the age of 18. He was brought to the village in December with 9 of his siblings and cousins. Zahmanispoke of his desires to someday become a Pastor and preach the word of God. He says that he tries to talk to his friends at school about Jesus, but it is sometimes tough. We assured him that the Lord was going to use him to spread the love of Jesus. He was so excited about this and could not stop smiling. The team can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned for us tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Candace! Nick LOVES & MISSES YOU!

*submitted by Mike

Worshiping & Working
(Tuesday, March 14th)

DAY TWO AT THE VILLAGE…It is amazing to see how much has changed since the last visit here. There is a real kitchen, dining hall, and community area that have all been added. They have also added another toilet and shower! A shower that has a closing door, but still a view of the moon! More importantly they are adding to the number of kids that can take in as well as staff. We met a couple that have retired and made their way over here from Minnesota. There is also a couple with three children from Canada. We have also met Richard who is our host. He is originally from Seattle and is over here for a number of months to assist with teams that come over. He is also a caregiver for a number of children. He has begun to set up some wonderful opportunities. We had our first experience in a South African High School. It is a tech school, which means students have to pay more than the typical “public” school. On the other hand no matter what school you go to, all students are required to wear uniforms. There is an incredible sense of self-control and discipline among the students. All you teachers back in the states would be in heaven.

When we arrived at the school the students were arriving as well. They came to a central courtyard and lined up very orderly as they were waiting for our “program” to begin. To keep themselves occupied they began to sing. The beauty and quality of the music would soften any heart. Once all the students had arrived, the principal introduced us and told the students they need to listen to what we had to say. It was very important and could change their lives. Pastor Welcome had joined us and we sang some Zulu praise songs with Ryan, Richard and Welcome leading. After that, Ryan and Becky sang TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS (Yes you heard me right, in a public school with the encouragement of the principal and staff). Brian was able to share a short challenge. The students were going to play in a soccer game later that day and he talked about how Jesus should be the coach of their lives, managing their physical, mental and spiritual needs. HOW AMAZING to share the gospel of Christ to approximately 300 public school students with any worries of the ACLU getting involved!!!!

After such a high we made our way back to the village to begin work on some projects that had been identified for us. Brian and Becky dug a drainage ditch. Boy was that fun! They can attest that this part of South Africa is very ROCKY. Becky later moved on to scrubbing down a shower area with bleach to be later painted. How did Becky get all the fun jobs? Mike, Wendy, Ryan and Nick spent most of the morning nailing stripping to the new building to cover gaps where wind and rain was getting in. They will be later stained with Motor Oil. Now there is a home improvement tip I would never have thought of! By about 2:30 we were just about dehydrated and sun burnt so we called it a day for the project to move over to the soccer field and “watch” the Tech School tournament. Little did we know we would be playing… Nick, Mike and Brian played for the grade 12 team. HMMMMMM….we are not as young as we thought we were! Mike, that was a graceful fall! It was a great opportunity to make contacts and bond with the local community while sharing a passion of the Loskop community.

We headed back to Agathos cottages for dinner and them some team time and called it a day. God has blessed each person with wonderful individual talents. It is amazing to watch each person find their groove as they strive to serve and glorify the name of Christ. I wonder what tomorrow will bring…

*submitted by Brian

Getting Adjusted To Our Surroundings

Today was our first full day in South Africa. Still reeling from the events of yesterday, we decided to take it easy this day and just get acclimated to our new surroundings. Most of us took advantage of a late morning’s start to relax and get cleaned up. Nick, always full of boundless energy, got up and walked with the children to school; which was around 7:00 am.

Then Nick, Richard and JD (John David, an American who works with Agathos and has been living in Loskop for almost 10 years) met with the 14 coaches and the head of the Soccer Association in a small hut to discuss the upcoming tournament. Through a Zulu interpreter, all of the details were ironed out, which took quite a while. And, Nick was placed on a team called Ever Smiling for the tournament.

We began meeting the Agathos staff and the children’s caregivers…local South African women with beautiful smiles and hearts of gold. Everyone is here for the children and each other. We learned that there are 23 orphans in the village(age 1-18) and 4 Zulu caregivers. A majority of the orphans have numerous siblings or cousins with them. Of everyone, only 3 have tested positive for HIV…a little boy named Kwanelli(almost age 2), his mother, and another caregiver. However, the HIV virus sometimes takes months and years to show up, so we continue to pray that the number does not increase amoung the orphans.

After lunch, we gathered together under the trees for, first and foremost, a time of worship and devotion. We are so blessed to have Ryan with us to lead us each day in worship through song. Brian then shared a short devotion with us from a book he’s reading from Brennen Manning about Lazarus. Then Richard went over our schedule for the next 2 weeks. We will have a variety of opportunities to serve God, Agathos, the children and the community while we are here. You will hear more about these later on as our time progresses.

After our meeting, we hopped in the van and headed to a local town 20 minutes away called Estcourt. We first went to a computer store to upload yesterday’s Sunday’s blog and then to a grocery store to pick up a few snacks and needed items.

Back at Agathos, we had dinner and a short time to hang with the kids. Ryan and Pastor Welcome (he lives at the cottages…When we first met him, he said, “Welcome.” We said, ‘Thank You.” He laughed and said, “No, that’s my name!” He plays his joke on all of the missionairies!) led some worship songs for the kids as they sang and danced. Then, it was time for the children to bathe and head to bed…we did the same not long afterwards.

* Submitted by Becky

Monday, March 13, 2006


As you can imagine, traveling 3 continents in 3 days on 3 flights with 3 delays can be a little tough on the body-not to mention the smelly feet, greasy hair and oily skin! But, we are safe and ready to do the Lord’s work!

Our time in Paris was much needed for our team to continue to learn more about each other and bond. On the train ride, we met a girl who goes to UNCW…small world!
Then, it was off to prayer time in Notre Dame Cathedral, hanging at the Eiffel Tower, and walking down the streets in one big blob due to the freezing cold and icy rain-we had a blast! It was great to sit in a classic French coffee shop and share how God had tugged on our hearts to serve in South Africa, as well as talk through some of our nervousness.

Upon our arrival in Joburg, our new friend Richard greeted us at the airport. Richard is an Agathos staff member from Seattle who is currently serving an 8-month trip in Loskop, the village where we will be staying. He took us to the Apartheid Museum in Joburg, where we brushed up on South African history. The information we learned about Apartheid was truly amazing. Feelings of anger, embarrassment, sorrow, and shame, amongst others, traveled with us during the tour. However, it was a great tool for us as we try to minister to the Zulu people.

After the museum, it was time for our four-hour trip south to Loskop. This, as we found out, was not as easy as it seemed! With Richard having just arrived in South Africa 2 months ago and Nick riding shotgun and navigating, we began to take the “scenic” route. It came to the point where we were continuing to see the same things over and over again! But, as you can imagine…the Lord had a reason for all of this!

We pulled into a gas station to ask for directions and to grab a quick bite (think of how tough this was seeing that the number of guys in the van overwhelmingly outweighed the number of women!). When we parked, a little African boy was searching through the trash for food. Brian offered to buy him some dinner, and Nick started to talk to him and learn his story…His name was Jeffrey and he is a 13 year old in Grade 8. He was wearing a worn down pair of boots that were about 3 sizes too big for him. About a month ago, his mom died in an accident (most likely Aids-most of the Africans are in denial and never say that Aids is the cause of death). He has 3 younger brothers, and they now live with his Grandma. But, she doesn’t work and cannot collect any insurance money because she doesn’t have an ID. Jeffrey has tried to get odd jobs, but people always tell him he’s too young. So, he told us that to provide for his family, he has to go around and beg for food and money. At 13 years old! While we continued to chat with Jeffrey, he told us about an experience he had at Sunday school earlier in the day. The teacher had asked a question about where Jesus was, and Jeffrey raised his hand and told her that Jesus was in the sky. She corrected him and said that Jesus was in our hearts. He was SO excited to tell us about Jesus being in his heart! Can somebody out there shout AMEN for what the Lord is doing!

Before we headed back on the road, we sent Jeffrey off with food for his family, soccer cleats (which he wore home), a soccer ball, toothbrushes, soap and deodorant. Numerous times he thanked us and said, “God bless you.” What an amazing way for the Lord to start us off!

Our anticipation increased as we continued on towards Loskop. Unfortunately, our gas in the van did the exact opposite, and we ran out of gas! Yes, you read that right…in the middle of South Africa, at night, on a deserted highway, we ran out of gas! Luckily, a tow truck came by after a good while and took Richard to get some gas. What are you trying to show us now God?! (read on to see…)

About 20 minutes outside of Loskop, we laughed and talked about how our day could not have been any more interesting…that was, until we almost ran over a body in the road. In the middle of another dark, desolate road, was a man lying smack in the middle. Obviously, our first thoughts were that this man was dead. We immediately called the police, and turned our van around to go see if we could help him. We all got out to examine the man, and to our joy and astonishment, he was breathing! Actually, snoring…we assumed (and hoped) that he was really drunk. It was a rather peculiar situation-remember, we were in the middle of NOWHERE with nothing around us! We then all realized that this could very well be a setup for us to get car jacked or robbed, so we decided to get back in the van, lock the doors, and wait for the police. This turned out to be an extremely tense 30 minutes, thinking the entire time that something was going to happen-a passerby who approached our van to see if we needed help even showed us that he was not armed…our faces must of given away our nervousness! Just before the police arrived, a taxi van came barreling down the road. Although our van was facing this taxi with our flashers on, it barely came to a complete stop, almost hitting the man in the road. (Just think…if our flight didn’t arrive late, if we didn’t get lost outside or Joburg which gave us the opportunity for a longer stop to minister to Jeffrey, and if we didn’t run out of gas, we would of not been there to see the man in the middle of the road…and without us there, he would of most likely been hit by that taxi…WE SERVE AN AMAZING GOD!) By the way, the police came, and the man WAS drunk…he finally woke up after three of the officers carried to the side of the road.

So…pretty interesting first day in South Africa to say the least! We want to thank you for the continued prayers. Please lift up Becky, as she is still not feeling well, and Ryan and Brian, as they were unable to sleep on the planes and have been up for 2 days straight. Also, please pray that we will continue to feel the Lord and have Faith in the crazy situations that have already begun to occur over here…we’re sure they aren’t the last!

We’ll end today with a quick “shout out” from Wendy… “To Cole and Clay, mommy loves you! Love you Rick, water the plants” J

We’ll talk to everyone tomorrow!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ready To Be The Hands And Feet Of The Lord!

Our team is anxiously awaiting our Friday departure time. Having spent months in prayer, planning, meeting, etc. we are ready to go! It is amazing what the Lord has already provided: 64 pairs of soccer cleats, soccer balls, jerseys, shorts, socks, shin guards, a variety of clothes for the adults and orphans, and almost ALL the finances we need for our trip! Can somebody shout AMEN!

What an amazing opportunity we have been given. Although traveling across the world to a Third World country can seem a bit scary, God has placed calmness in our minds and hearts. We know that God picked us and is going to use us to do HIS works-there is no better feeling in the world!

As we count down the days, please continue to pray for us...pray for safety and calming for our families, pray that we pack the appropriate materials, pray for strength and health, but most importantly, pray that God will stretch us and use us in ways we could never even imagine, and that everyone we come in contact with will know that we are there to show and spread the good word of Jesus.

Thanks for all you prayers and support! See you in South Africa!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How We Will Help

Our team will be traveling to Loskop, South Africa to work along side of the Agathos Foundation. The Agathos Foundation is an organization that provides South Africa's AIDS orphans and elderly with a family environment that allows them to achieve healthy, prosperous, and fulfilling lives, by meeting physical, emotional needs critical to their advancement. We will be given many opportunities to care for children who have been orphaned by the devastating effect of the AIDS epidemic. Projects we will be involved in include: construction and repairs, tutoring, mentoring, and sponsoring a youth soccer tournament.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

As We Prepare

Pray for Brian Kirschner, Becky Prescott, Mike Barnhart, Nick Errato, Wendy Gordon and Ryan Van Sickle as they prepare to serve God in Loskop, South Africa.