1.27.2012

Experiencing Joy

She knocks politely on my door but I am too focused on reading my bible that I don't hear the knock. My door slowly opens and before I know it she is lying down on my bed with me, book in her hand. I shut my bible and smile back at her. As I open the book she grabs one of my pillows on the bed and snuggles up. This is the third time I've read this book to her this week but she still chooses it every time. I get her to read the words like "to, I, am, you" etc hoping that her English would improve a little. Halfway through the book I look down at her to see if she is following but her eyes are shut and she is sleeping soundly. I take a mental picture in my mind and thank God for her. She is so precious to me. Every child that I live with is. I try to carry this little girl in grade 1 back to her bed without waking her but I get interrupted by the other girls playing chase upstairs when they should be getting ready for bed. She opens her sleepy eyes and smiles at me once more. When I put her into her bed she tells me she loves me and instantly shuts her eyes again. She seems so at peace tonight and I thank God for being a part of this boarding house life...
Yesterday she cried missing her family and for being bullied at school but as I shut out the light and look back at her all I see is peace. I know their are angels around her. 

Life at the boarding house is starting to have routine again.. and for that I am so thankful. I know the nine new children now (a bit about each) and can successfully spell and for the most part say their names. In the two weeks of being at the boarding house I have about 30 short stories like the one above that I could share. Every child is just so precious to me. My prayer since day 1 has been for the Lord to give me his eyes in every situation of my trip. I want to do the "God thing" in every situation so bad, despite screwing up almost daily. As I fall deeper in love with the Lord I fall deeper in love with the children, my job, my co-workers and South Africa in general. More and more of my heart is here and I know as the months grow on the connections I build will only be stronger.

Since there has been no new hospital trips and the halfway mark is approaching I am starting to feel at home. For the first time since I got on an air plane and flew halfway across the world things are starting to have a rhythm to it all (key word is starting). I want to let you know that I am happy. Truly happy. Yes, this experience has been hard but I didn't want this year to be easy. Even though their are struggles that I am facing and many things that I wrestle with daily I know that nothing is impossible with my God and that He is always taking care of me. I love resting in that fact!

I wish I could summarize the past two weeks better for you but it just takes SO long and you get bored reading so much text. On Monday, Thursdays and Fridays mornings I now teach computer classes to unemployed people in the area. The students range from a 17 year old who wants to bring her 3 week old baby to class, to a refugee from the Congo, to a Gogo who can't speak English let alone turn on a computer to a middle class man who just lost his job and looking to learn more about computers. Let's just say my class is filled with the coolest people and I learn so much just from chatting with them about their lives. I also am so excited to teach this course to them because it empowers them & that is the main reason I am here this year- is to empower. To help people believe that they are on this earth for a reason- that they have a purpose and a God who is crazy in love with them.

Also I have the opportunity to focus on early childhood education. I got to travel a bit in these last few weeks to a school and a creche (pre school) to see what the major needs are. I am hoping to compose a binder and kits to take to the creche's who really have next to nothing. It breaks my heart every time to see what people live in just around the corner from where I stay. Babies who sit on a mat day after day after day...it's hard to have my heart broken but it's made me realize over and over again what is really important; what matters in life.

Just know that your prayers are being heard and that even in the midst of struggle, oppression and suffering there is so much laughter, joy and hope

Neliwsa loves using my camera to take lots and photos and the other girls love to pose

I had to post this picture because the child's face in the bottom left is priceless!

I love the children that I live with

Last Tuesday I had the awesome opportunity to fit 400 smelly children's feet with new shoes. This is a grant that Gateway received to help out this school in a rural area.

Sam trying on new pair of shoes for a little girl

these children will receive a new pair of shoes! Shoes they desperately need.

1.22.2012

A Way to Help



Many of you have been following my blog for a while and have heard my heart and some of the crazy stories that I've been privileged to experience over the last 5.5 months since I've been here. You've also had a glimpse at some of the children that I get to live with!

My parents are coming down to see me (which I am STOKED about) and will get to experience some of my life here in South Africa.

While my parents are here we are going shopping for the boarding house kids and would LOVE to have your support as well!

There are 16 children at the boarding. There is no living room or place for them to play except in their rooms. My desire is to buy the children a colouring book each and a set of 8 crayons. They love to draw and colour and I know this will be such a useful gift!
Other needs:
-they love soccer but have no soccer ball
- books.. esh.. most of the children are learning English and reading is one of the most helpful ways to accomplish this. There isn't a lot of "easy to read" books at the boarding house and I am desperate for some of those
- flash cards to help learn addition subtraction etc.
- hulu hoops/skipping ropes to play outside with

If you have something right away that you thought of, my parents do have a bit of room in their suitcase to take something over, however if you would like to help out a money donation would be fabulous. You can fb/email me (see contact section) or if you know my parents you can call them too and I will give you ALL the details on how to go about this (it's SUPER easy- just don't want my details over the world wide web)

I promise to take pictures when we go shopping and also in the deliverance of the presents to these kids so you can personally see that you made a difference in these children's lives. These kids mean everything to me and I thank you once again for just following me on this journey and making them smile!

Hope your weekend went great.
Loads of Love
Mads.

1.18.2012

Bible study is starting at the boarding house and I couldn't be more thrilled!

Here is a quick video to give you a taste of what it is like


PJ Party!










After Bath time around 6pm the children always put on their pj's as we get ready for dinner (which is about 730-8)

Yesterday Phumilile and Neliswie asked me why I don't wear my pj's to dinner?
We decided to have a pj party and take some photos before dinner after I agreed to wear my pj's to dinner- the girls LOVE having their picture taken and taking pictures- it was a lot of fun last night.

Although there are 9 new children to the boarding house and it feels like day 1 all over again I am so blessed to be loved on by so many new children. God has HUGE plans in store for this year- that I am certain of.

:)

1.16.2012

Weekend Fun








My weekend was filled with lots of laughter and amazing conversations. O and the best home made nacho's I've had in a while.

I'm back at the boarding house this week and met the kids this morning- super cute! It was their first day of school and they were so excited:)

Pray that relationships and trust would be built quickly with the new children at the hostile. I only have 7 more months!

xox

1.14.2012

8 Struggles

Hurray for the weekend! 

Just a boring update on my comings and goings this past week: 
Shawnti had to come down to the doctors so I got to spend lots of time with her and Jared came over to my house for a few nights! It was 40 degree weather all week so I pretty much died and it was great hanging out with them. Than yesterday we went down to Durban back to Shawnti's house for the night- and we watched Adele (one of her concerts)- o my word I'm so in love with her and her music even more!!! I have a few hours now (Saturday) and a million things I want to do but I'm spending tonight having a much needed girls night with some friends from church. So excited for that and than on Monday I move back into the boarding house! 

Okay now the reason I'm blogging. I am taking a Field Studies class for my degree in PACS at University of Waterloo. One of the requirements this year is that I keep a journal of the issues that I am wrestling with and things that relate to peace and justice. I won't share them all with you because they are long but I want to give a quick little paragraphs about 8 things I've really wrestled with while being here. I hope this helps you experience a little bit more of what I am going through. If any of them particularly stand out to you, you can email me (my email is in my "contact" section) and I have no problem sending you more!

1) Crime- this is a massive issue in South Africa. Everyone person I meet has a story of something being stolen, someone breaking in. Being held at knife point or gunshot is common here. Coming back to work this past week we shared stories about our Christmas. The same roads I walk through in the daytime people are getting shot for no reason only a few hours later at night. A question I've really wrestled with is the history of crime in South Africa- where does it come from? From personal experience when I had my laptop stolen I went through a phase of feeling helpless- they would shoot me if I didn't give them my laptop. Obviously my life is more important than a computer so I wouldn't fight back because people kill someone here for $3.00 but what power do I have than? Doesn't that give birth to a society that if you have a gun/knife you just get what you want? It's been an interesting thought process. 

2) Contradictions: This is mostly between South African/Lesotho/Swaziland culture vs. North American lifestyles. The biggest one I am dealing with is the weight gain. You are healthy if you have hips and curves and extra weight on you but they tell you to your face. It is such an insult and you are consider rude if you ever tell someone they are fat or make remarks about their clothes not fitting. Another major difference about weight is there are so many people here who don't know what excess food is and yet in NA our culture is cosmued with weight loss and excess food. Just imagine with me if we didn't have all the magazines about how to loose weight, all the diet pills etc etc because we just couldn't get enough food for one day. Another difference was tanning over New Years. People want lighter skin while I wanted to be darker... it was actually very funny trying to find shade and sun

3) a)Marriage: still defines a women- with my feminist side.. this is the last thing woman should be defined by.
    b)Marriage: Zulu culture it is too expensive now for most people to get married. A man that works with me had to take out loans and wait 3 years to save up to pay for the wedding. In my NA upbringing I think we should be so past this by now. Paying cows and so much to the bride and her family, knowing that couples want to marry but can't. It's something I've really struggled with about what I believe and how important tradition, customs and cultures are. 

4) The fact that my freedom has gone to be out once it's dark. Go for an evening walk?- that's asking to be raped, abused, shot, stolen from... just don't go there. So once it hits 6:30 I am in my house for the night.. 

5)Jail: This may lead back to a reason why crime is high. People enjoy going to jail- they get fed and a place that is safe

6) HIV/AIDS: this can link to jail and crime. When you know you are dying from a disease- you can justify it better to steal and kill because you are going to die anyways. 47% of my province is HIV positive. With all the education out there today why does the numbers keep increasing? In a country where you can see the effects of AIDS killing a generation of people and leaving so many children with no parents. How much pain will people have to see before change can occur? What needs to be done to change this? 

7)BBBEE- black empowerment in South Africa. They are kicking out white people and refusing to hire white people any more because the government wants to employ more black people. However in a lot of cases they aren't as qualified and they haven't worked their way up. What frustrates me the most is that this is racism. The country is now discriminating against white people. Hmmm...

8) Schools: the education system is something that I have had to deal with since being here. They have condone passed where the children is just too old to stay in that grade. This year for grade 12 600 000 students enrolled. That same grade in grade R there was 1.6 million- where did a million children go to- every year? The pass rate is 30% here in most cases. It has been an incredible experience looking at this type of education system. What also struck me is South Africa has a "good" education system. I really don't understand just how blessed I am to have lived in Canada.


Have a blessed week:)
xo



1.11.2012

Thank You

January 11 marks 5 months since I've started this journey! Hurray! A part of me feels like I just got here still but it hit me a few days ago that I've been gone for a while. People have changed, second semester for university is starting.. life just keeps going on!

Here is a quick video proving to you that after pneumonia, collapsed lung and an near death reaction I am still ALIVE


Lots of Love
xo

1.08.2012

Stay Tuned:)

Happy Monday!!

Start of a new week- lots to get done and things are finally starting to become "normal" again- whatever normal is!

If you don't know already my parents are coming down to visit me in 38 days (but whose counting right?)
I can't wait to be able to share some of this experience with them. esssh I am SO excited!

As I am in the process of planning for them to come down we chatted about bringing an extra suitcase filled with things for the boarding house kids. There is SUCH a need for everything at the boarding house and it would be such a blessing to help them out. Some of the children left last year and I'm not sure how many kids will be in the boarding house this year. I will find out next week Monday and than get back you all about the biggest needs..If you would like to help out in any way please let me know! I will put a list up on my blog of needs (colouring books, crayons, playdough, stencils, stickers, flash cards for learning math etc) when I know for sure and so please stay tuned if you're interested.

I can 100% promise you that you helping out these children will be beneficial. It will go directly to them and I promise you they will use them:)

Have an amazing week!

xo

Just for Fun:

On Saturday I went to a park and saw 10 giraffes! At one point they were only 8m away! It was pretty neat although I was very timid of how many there were of them and only 4 of us.








1.06.2012

Bring it on 2012 - Part 2

Happy 2012!

I am so stoked to start this new year here in PMB. I hope you made some special memories when the clock hit midnight on the 1st of January. My New Years was pretty chill. Watched Cool Runnings and than gathered with 18 other people connected to MCC to toast under the stars. Than we went swimming around 1am. How many times can I say that I went swimming on New Years! Than on New Years Day I got to lay on the beach and read a book- pretty perfect memories if you ask me.

This retreat away was just what I needed. I was pretty emotional writing to you in my last blog entry. Since the last time we chatted I've had more than enough time to think over every part of Christmas night and just be thankful that I'm alive. I've also had my blood work taken and ordered an epi pen that I have the joy of taking with me everywhere. I haven't gotten my blood work back yet but if I ever find out what I'm allergic too I'll for sure let you know. I was tested for 5 different types of peanuts. These tests are pretty expensive so let's pray we find out answers quickly.

I start work back on Monday and I am so excited to be back working at Gateway. Yes, I miss home but I don't want to be anywhere else right now. I am working for a NGO and doing what I love- how many times do people get to say that. I have my dream job already (if only it paid) and I want to soak up these next 7 months to be equipped for whatever life throws at me next. 

On our retreat I got to room with Jessica (SALTer who is based in Durban) and a past IVEPer from Swaziland named Dudu. Being here I am forced to live cross culturally instead of just reading about it.  I am constantly being forced to change and adapt to situations because if I don't.... well too bad for me.. life keeps happening and I'm left completely in the dark. Rooming with Dudu was so great because I got a window into her life, customs and learnt things that seem crazy to me are perfectly normal to her. A funny example was that when girls where shorts that are even a few cm above the knee are called "sexy pants." I couldn't imagine what some of the Sawzi boys would think if they ever saw how short some girls wear their shorts in North America. I learnt some pretty serious things as well- it is still custom for women to grow up and get married. The messages that I've grown up with about being single and in control. Hook-up and move on and don't look back. Marriage is getting less common in my opinion and divorce has become the norm. But for many countries still in the world. a women's worth and dignity comes with getting married. 
Another massive difference between the cultures we live in is how we respect our elders and people who are a few years older than us. Talking back to our parents- that would never happen. I asked her if she ever talked back to her parents or ever thought her parents made a wrong decision. She replied that her parents aren't perfect but that she would never not do what they say. When they told her to do something you did it. You never protested or asked questions. People older than you, you respect. It's as simple as that. 

I'm learning that my culture isn't "right or wrong" and neither is hers. It's different. And as 2012 starts I'm taking the time to realize each and every day what I like and don't like about my culture. What makes me so angry when I look at certain hidden rules that society puts on us. I'm also getting to experience what I don't like about South African culture and since there are 11 official lanuages here there are a lot of different cultures and types that I get to experience.

I get frustrated thinking about how there is such a push to buy more, get more, consume more and the list goes on. I fear that I will be upset about this when I come home but that I still won't do anything to change.  Will I still buy clothes that I know were made unethically and people didn't get far wages for? Will I continue to use a cell phone when I know that the rape in the Congo is happening because of the North American splurge for phones. All for what? Because it's convenient for me? Because I don't want to pay the extra 20 dollars to ensure that it is ethically made? These thoughts cross my mind on a daily basis and as I anticipate 2012 I am determined to make conscious decisions. I know now that my choices have an effect- they always do, no matter what I tell myself.  If there was no demand for 10 dollar shirts than the businesses could pay more to their workers - *sigh* if only it would be that easy. But do you get my point?

As 2012 starts I am determined to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly along my God who knows all things. (Micah Six) I have big hopes and dreams for 2012 and although one may call me naive when I tell them that I'm going to try and control my purchases and believe that slavery can end in my lifetime I know that I serve a God who is bigger than this world. I serve and love a God who loves this world but also is just. My God has the power to end slavery. I have no doubts. My faith is still growing but God is doing miracles all around me and I am stoked to see the miracles He will do in 2012.

So yes, I am still a little shaken from the many events that threatened my health in 2011 but I am trying to walk with a God who is all knowing. So why do I need to be afraid? Why do I need to worry? I named this post "Bring it on" and at the end of typing this I'm going to keep it titled that way because I am ready for whatever 2012 holds; not because I can do it on my own strength but I have a relationship with a God who is more than capable.


xoxo





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