Cape Town Day 5

This morning we headed straight to Mountain View to set up the tents for testing day. Attendance started out slow, but picked up very quickly. We had stations set up for height/weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and testing for TB and HIV/AIDS. In all, we probably had around 60-70 people show up. It all went off without a hitch!

There were two kids standing next to the table while we were cleaning up and after I picked up the juice container they started running their fingers along the table and then licking their fingers to get the juice off. There was one little girl named Mimi who would not smile at anyone or talk to anyone all week. By the end of the testing day today she was running around, laughing, yelling “Ante, Ante” to every lady and playing hide and seek under the table.

I saw a lady named Anthea in the testing line and asked her where her baby was. For those of you who have seen photos from my previous two trips, I have gotten a photo with this baby named Anica each year. She was at the day care and she asked if I would like to see her. She went to the “kritch” (daycare) to get her so I could see her and asked if I would like to take a photo with her. It is so amazing to watch these kids grow up.

In the evening we did a hygiene day for the parents of the kids. We had stations for foot washing, hand washing and massage, face washing, blood pressure, blood sugar, nail painting and crafts. The first lady that came through was a 60 year old lady. She told Michele how great it was and that in her entire life she had never had a facial, or had anyone care for her that way. And that she felt special.A couple of the support group leaders went through the line as well and loved it. One of them, Bernadette, started giggling as I was watchng her face. I asked her what was so funny and she said “never in a million years would I have imagined that Heather (me) would be washing MY face.” Justin even popped out with his facial skills, and did quite a good job from what I heard. I think that all of us were a bit nervous at first but by the end of the night we all decided that this was the best ministry of the entire trip. Watching these women be loved and pampered and showing them love and Jesus was just amazing. I personally was doing face washing and there was something so amazing about being so up close and personal with them. They would open their eyes and stare straight into mine. It was defintely a connection that was worth something.

Brenda and I spoke to Melissa (one of the life skill educators) about the crafts and asked if they were too hard for the kids. She said no, they weren’t too hard but that most kids wouldn’t even try because they have been told so many times that they can’t do anything. They get that both from home and from school. They can’t keep up with their grade 1, so they fall behind. And then when they get into grade 2 they are still trying to catch up from grade 1, and the same happens every year. By the time they get to grade 5 they drop out of school because they are so behind. The Life Skill Educators have gotten to the point where they have started speaking to the teachers to find out who is falling behind so that they can tutor these kids.

At the end of the evening we gave all of the parents and Living Hope staff goodie bags. There was a gentlemen who was working at the community center where we had the events this week and he was given a goodie bag. He was SO grateful and kept telling us thank you over and over.

We had a woman who told a team member that the only time she has had anything like this done is when Faith Promise comes there. It is cool to see that Faith Promise is making such an impact with these people so far away in the city of Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town Day 4

We started the morning off at the Living Hope offices for devotions with the Life Skill Educators. We went to Mountain View to go door to door with the second half of the folks to invite them to the testing day. While we were walking, Julie and I asked Marguerite if we could visit Eunice. Last year she was the lady I blogged about that had TB and had just gotten out of the Living Hope clinic. She had gotten down to 87 pounds and was very sick. This year, however, she was of normal weight and looked as happy and healthy as could be! Marguerite told her that we requested to visit her, and she could not stop smiling. She was such a beautiful lady. We also visited the home of a gentlemen who came right out and and told us that that he was Muslim, but then asked us to pray for him. We saw a few people who were doing drugs or had beer bottles in their hands, and as soon as they saw us coming they hid their stuff behind their backs.

We finished our “street” pretty quickly and went back to the home of Anti Annie where they do the support groups. We sat for about 45 minutes and another group joined us. We sat there and sang songs with each other. We are officially the Living Hope/Faith Promise Church Choir as of today.

After door to door we went back to Jack and Jill daycare to wait for the entire group to return and the pre-k children were in the play yard. I saw Mumfie sitting in the sand box by herself so I walked over and said her name through the fence. She looked up at me, a huge smile came over her face, and she crawled over to the fence to try and give me a kiss. She puckered those lips up! That baby is so sweet, I just want to stuff her in my suitcase and bring her home. That turned into about 10 little girls at the fence trying to give me kisses. I got air kissed on the cheek about 50 times. They thought it was hilarious when I made the mmwwwaaaaa noise.

We got into a circle to share stories and pray. One guy was obviously suffering from TB, so we took him to the clinic. We had another guy who gave his life to Christ right then! Allyson (one of the support group leaders) said that a lot of the folks didn’t want to talk to the Living Hope staff, they wanted to talk to US from Faith Promise. Everyone in the community was very open to speak with us, inviting us unto their homes, and asking us to pray for them. They know who Faith Promise is. They don’t necessarily know we are a church, but they remember Faith Promise and that we return every year and why we are there. We are the only church that goes into that community. Hearing these ladies tell us all of these things was such a blessing to us. You think, “I’m only here for a week, what kind of impact will that make?” But these ladies let us know and constantly reassured us that we are not forgotten. There were a few areas of the township that even the Living Hope staff were not allowed to enter, and this year they spoke to them! That is the work of God! We stopped and talked to a lady and she had a little girl that we assumed was her granddaughter. She told Marguerite that no, she was not her granddaughter. She was just taking the girl for a walk because at that moment the girl’s mother was in her home doing drugs.

For lunch we went to Boulder’s Beach and to see the penguins there. Then we were back to Ocean View for kids/teens club with the kids from Mountain View. We walked over to Mountain View to bring them over to the Community Center in Ocean View. I found Yolana, the little girl who is wearing my sunglasses in the pictures from previous years. I said hello to her and called her by name and she said “You know my name?” I told her yes, I know your name, and your mother and sister and I called them out to her. She went around for the rest of the time telling everyone “She remembers my name, and my sister’s name, and my mom’s name.” The kids really enjoyed everything! From the foot washing, to the face washing, to the hand washing. The thing they were really excited about was the warm water. The minute they put their feet into that water their faces would just light up. They loved it so much that a lot of them tried to come back and get in line for a second wash. How many children in the states do you know that would stand in line for 20 minutes to be washed? There was a kid at the face washing station, Marco, who sat in his chair with his head held back and eyes closed and just waited. He never moved, never opened his eyes. He just sat there waiting for that touch. The kids would touch their face after the washing to see how it felt. There was one teen boy who was sitting off to the side, not really talking to anyone. Jennifer kept trying to get him to come over to the hand washing station. Motioning for him. After awhile, he came over and put his hands in the water. She tried talking to him over and over, but he would never say a word. He finished and started to walk away and then returned and in a small voice said to her “Thank You.” There were several teens there that would tell you straight out what her ambitions were. One girl was named Jamie. She wants to be a lawyer. She is in 9th grade, and she was very sure of her ambitions. Another girl named Lazeem who told Jessica that she was the smartest kid in her class and she was very good at math. These kids WANT to go to school. They want to learn. Again, how many kids in the United States WANT to go to school? Just pray that kids like these two get a chance to get out of these townships and break the vicious cyle of poverty.

We spoke to Denise, who runs the Jack and Jill daycare, and she was giving us information about the new housing that is being built next to Mountain View. The residents of Mountain View have been promised for the past 26 year that they will get new housing soon. Now the government is saying that if they have a combined income of 3500 rand or more they are not going to qualify to move into the new homes…which is a total of $416.70. The combined amount for one family-per month. They are also saying that they will allow people from the other townships to move there as well. On land and into houses that the people of Mountain View have been promised. The people of Mountain View are now torn because they want to go, but they don’t want to go if others cannot. Please pray for Denise and her husband, as they are going to meetings on September 20 to lobby for the people of Mountain View. Our devotion this evening was from I Corinthians 15:58. “Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain.”

Cape Town Day 3

Well… Today was AMAZING!!! We started off with morning devotions and fellowship with the support group leaders at the Ocean View township community. I tell you, these ladies are absolutely wonderful. Most of them live in the very communities they serve and have such a heart for their spiritual sisters and brothers.

After morning prayer, we went to the community of Mountain View and went door to door, sharing with them that we are doing a free Health/TB Clinic on Thursday and inviting them to come for the screenings and bring their children. What an awesome time! Even though these people have very little (and I mean EXTREMELY little, by our American standards), they open their homes, invite us in, and share their stories openly. As one of our team members, Brenda, said today- they know the meaning of community!

Okay- so let me just say that these next comments are NOT to make anyone feel guilty, but I just want you to understand the ways to pray for Living Hope and the 7 communities they serve. When we were going around, talking to people and praying with them, do you want to know what the number 1 prayer request was for? Food. Especially food for their children. Our pastor’s wife, Michele, made an observation yesterday that really shook all of us. A little girl had thrown up during kid’s club, and there was absolutely NO FOOD in the vomit. Now, that may sounds like a gross and strange comment, but think about it for a minute- no food at all. Let me say- I have NEVER had to pray for a meal. Never. Every day of my life there has always something to eat. I have also always had a dry, warm place to sleep, shoes on both feet, running water, a toilet, and a mom & dad. The next time I hug my dad, I am going to think of the 84% of kids in these 2 specific townships that don’t even have a father “figure” in their lives (not to mention an actual father).

I don’t say this to make you sad, but to encourage you (as I am being encouraged) to be so very thankful for the people and resources we do have in our own lives. The majority of Americans really have no idea what privileges we have. God has blessed us so richly- it is important to remember that He did not do so just so we could buy a bigger house or a nicer car, but so we could help people in need. Okay- enough of my soap box 😉

Today’s Living Hope “lesson” is on Living Right, the second “arm” of the organization. This focuses on several aspects:
– Teaching on how to live healthy and make right choices (education- ex. Hand washing, diarrhea, drinking water (it would actually shock you to know how many children die here just from dehydration and diarrhea)
– Health counselors (HIV, TB, full health screenings including eyes, etc)
– Support groups (deals a lot with people on anti-retrial viral meds- ARVs- to keep them on the path, otherwise they default on taking their meds and continue in their disease- specifically TB), groups for single moms (how to prevent them from giving HIV to their babies), HIV patients, TB patients, chronic disease, elderly, etc.
– Life skills educators (LSEs) work with children (as I mentioned above, 84% of the children do not have a father figure in their lives). By the way, this is supported by the DAD program (see www.livinghope.co.za for details- basically it is a Dollar A Day- I do this and it is so easy!)
– After school programs (The S.A. gov’t just took all NGOs (basically all non-profit groups- faith based or otherwise) out of schools about 7 months ago- pray for the LSEs as they make the transition and are trying not to lose contact with these children)

After the morning community walks, we went to Cape Point and enjoyed lunch overlooking the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. It was one of my favorite sights from last year and was a huge blessing, especially for the first timers in our group.

The afternoon was the start of our Hygiene Clinic, which is part of the health outreach this week. We had the privilege of pampering the Ocean View kids by doing face, hand and foot washing stations, followed by nail painting for the little ladies, craft time, and snacks! It was so touching to see the kids enjoying getting clean (they especially loved the WARM water 🙂

Tomorrow, we will do the same thing, but with the children from Mountain View instead. I’m already looking forward to working at my face washing station 😉

Well, it is very late and we have a 6am wake up, so good night and God bless from Noordhoek Beach!

Cape Town Day 2

This morning started with loud music, some rowdy team members dancing in the breakfast room…it was pretty amazing! We have such a great team.

We rode to the Living Hope offices to get a tour of the facilities and hear updates on the program. The tour included the Living Care facility, which is on that main campus. {Living Care serves people with chronic illnesses including HIV and AIDS by offering Palliative Care in its 22 bed facility, as well as through Home Based Care in six different communities.} We then drove around the township of Masiphumelele, and then on to the Living Way facility. {Living Way works to empower people from the under resourced communities in the areas they serve with economic and job skills. This is done by equipping people with the tools to live productive lives, empowering and training business owners to be sustainable and increasing employment through access to training in skills like agriculture, baking and computing. These strategies are based on Biblical principles and ensure that people have meaningful opportunities for income generation while realizing the dignity that God has in mind for every human being.} We walked through the Living Way campus and saw the tunnels where they are growing the tomatoes and cucumbers. They have been teaching a group of folks to farm and they then turn around and sell what they grow to local groceries. The tomato plants were very tall, and they were only two months along! It has to do with the hydroponic tunnels and the fact that they grow the plants in bags of sawdust rather than in the ground. They told us that everything currently growing in the tunnel has already been pre-sold! We went to Vusi’s shop (Vusi makes the amazing hand poured/hand painted candles and wire crosses I love so much.) to purchase some candles. He was the first graduate of their program, and has done so well with his shop that he has moved into a larger shop AND he had an assistant helping him sell today! There was a young man named Lucas who had moved into Vusi’s old shop and makes picture frames from repurposed wood. They were gorgeous. Another new development for Living Way is the music/cinema program where they teach people about the film industry. They have been contracted to shoot two films already!

After lunch, we met the Life Skill Educators and Support Group Leaders at the Living Hope office in Ocean View. These guys go out every day to work in the communities and they are some of the kindest, most amazing men and women you can meet. For those of us who have been to South Africa before, it was great to be able to catch up with them for a bit. They couldn’t stop saying how great we were for coming back and they definitely remembered our names as easily as we remembered theirs. It is such a blessing on both ends – ours and theirs. This year, we are doing all of our outreach in the Ocean View Community Center. Last year we worked strictly in Mountain View, but Living Hope is trying to relay to the folks in Mountain View that they are a part of the Ocean View township…not a separate community…and that they are just as loved and important as everyone else. We arrived for afternoon club around 3:30 and by 4:00pm there were around 100 kids there. They played games, danced, and had a talk about hygiene. The kids were so ready to play and run around with us. As a visitor, you can not expect to be there and not have kids playing with your hair, holding your hand, and forget trying to sit on the floor. You will have at least five kids fighting for your lap or even just trying to get close enough to touch you. They are such sweet kids. You just want to line them up and go down the line giving each of them hugs.

Tomorrow is our first day in the kids/teens club and the first chance we have to work in the communities and we absolutely cannot wait!

Cape Town Day 1

We arrived in Cape Town last night and headed for The Team House. It was so late, and we had just traveled a total of 27 hours, so we went straight to bed.

We left the Team House early Sunday morning and went to King of Kings Baptist Church. John Thomas is the pastor of this church and he and his wife Avril are the folks who started Living Hope, the organization that Faith Promise works with. The church motto is “Love God. Love People. Make Disciples.” He preached a sermon based on this message. His basic points were to evaluate yourself and see how are you doing on your journey? What are you doing to help liberate people? What are you doing to help people in general?

From King of Kings, we made our way to Masi Baptist Church. This is a church that Living Hope planted in the Masiphumelele township. The service was in Xhosa. As Americans who don’t speak Xhosa, we had no idea what they were saying. But the great thing about God is that his love and message are universal. We may not understand, but you know that worship is happening.

After lunch in Simon’s Town, we headed to Table Mountain and actually got to go to the top! You can’t go up if it is too windy or cloudy. The view of Cape Town from up there is ridiculous. Ridiculous beauty. Just more of God’s work.

In the evening we went to Hillsong Church. You want to talk about kids being fired up for Jesus. That place is a three story room packed FULL. They had to bring chairs out in the foyer to seat people. There was a gentlemen speaking named Reggie Dabbs and he was absolutely hilarious. You should definitely look him up, as his story is amazing.

We came back to the Team House for dinner with Pastor John Thomas. Hearing him speak about Living Hope and how it got started and how much God has done for them never fails to bring tears to my eyes-even after hearing it four times already. Tomorrow is our first day in the township of Ocean View. He gave us some statistics that floored us – such as the fact that only 16% of the children in Ocean View have a father figure in their life.

As someone who has been on this trip twice before I absolutely cannot wait for the people who haven’t been before to experience everything that I love so much about this country and the townships. The people are so hard not to love.

FOCUS Group Ministries Annual Walk-a-Thon

I wanted to let you know about an exciting event that I’m going to be a part of soon.  On Saturday, August 25th, FOCUS Group Ministries is having their annual Walk-a-Thon and I’m asking you to pledge your support for my Walking Team. The 1.5 mile course begins at 10:30am at Victor Ashe Park off Bradshaw Rd.

 

FOCUS is a 501c3 non-denominational Christian Ministry located in Knoxville.  As a FOCUS teammate, I’ve witnessed firsthand God doing incredible work in the lives of youth, women, and men in the East Tennessee Criminal Justice System.  The purpose of this year’s event is to highlight how FOCUS helps restore families who have been affected by incarceration. On August 25th a FOCUS family member (student, former student, volunteer, etc.) will join my family as we walk, getting to know each other and celebrating how God builds His kingdom in such powerful ways!!

 

I hope you can see that I’m excited to support this ministry in their “Changing FOCUS, Changing FAMILIES Walk-A-Thon” – we believe it’s worth the walk!