When Trials Come (and when they don’t)

the lyrics to Keith and Kristen Getty’s song are worth consideration.

The perspective I gain from remembering God’s character and plan (in the face of my own weakness/when I mistakenly think I’ve got it all together/when the brokenness of the world seems overwhelming) is always needed.   These verses, in particular, remind me that He is good, and He will put all things to rights.

I turn to wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known.
My confidence will rest in You;
Your love endures; Your ways are good.
Your love endures; Your ways are good.

One day all things will be made new;
I’ll see the hope You called me to,
And in Your kingdom, paved with gold,
I’ll praise Your faithfulness of old;
I’ll praise Your faithfulness of old.

Remembering why Jesus came

Look around…see the reasons, the people, that caused Jesus to leave perfection and enter the messy world we live in.

Find a few more people, a few more reasons, at XDRTB.org.  The pictures are hard to look at, and unfortunately, they are also just the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe this hits me hard because I’ve seen it live, and the reality is horrifying.  In the South African village clinic I visited, there was a TB room that was jam-packed with people receiving treatment.  For the number of people in that treatment room, though, there had to be a greater number of people unable to get to the clinic and therefore, treatment.  Most people with AIDS don’t die from the disease directly; they die from an opportunistic infection like tuberculosis. Extremely Drug-Resistent Tuberculosis (XDRTB) develops when the first and second strains of TB are treated improperly.  Someone dies from TB every 20 seconds.

I debated posting this today, on Christmas Eve.  Then I remembered that there’s no hope for those infected with TB, no hope for you, and no hope for me, except through the advent of Jesus the first time to make salvation possible and the advent of Jesus the second time to make shalom, life-encompassing peace, a world-wide reality.  In the meantime, we can pray for His kingdom to come to earth and let it come in and through us.

On that note, may your Christmas be filled with the heart understanding that God is with us.  May you experience not only the joy of the season but also the joy of right relationship with God through His Son, Jesus.  Joy to the world, because the Lord is come!

Pictures from South Africa



The line to get food from the feeding project

Here are a few pictures I tried to post last time.  I will plan to have a web album up soon so I can easily post more, but these are a few of my favorites.  The top one is the feeding line in Top Village.  The kids bring their own containers to be filled with rice, beans, porridge, etc.  The bottom one was taken at VBS on our last day with one of the little girls who attached herself to me.

Gloria and me at VBS

Home again

I’m sorry to those of you who wondered if I was dead or alive there for a bit for not posting earlier.  The time since I last posted has been quite the whirlwind.

Our team spent three days in Cape Town at the end of our trip, which was a very interesting experience.  The area is beautiful, and we got to go to the Cape of Good Hope on our last day.  The topography of Cape Town reminds me a lot of the topography of Seattle with the mountains and bay around the city. 

We finished the trip with a flight back to Joburg, then Joburg to London and London to Phoenix.  Finally, on Friday, I flew home to Seattle. 

Saturday was a graduation party here at home for Sherilyn and me, Sunday was full of church, and today has been pretty calm, for which I’m thankful.

Before I left for this trip, my biggest concern was coming back and dealing with leaving the need I had seen.  I knew that my heart would be drawn to the kids, and I knew that I would want to stay there.  As I prayed about this and talked to friends about it, God reassured me that He would provide the grace I would need to be there with the kids well and leave when the time came.  He has faithfully done that, and I am finding purpose in being here. 

One thing that has made the difference is the knowledge that Helping Hands in Africa is truly making a difference and that advocacy here in the US is just as necessary a contribution as being in the village physically.  We found out that if 2,400 people give $5 each, the children of a village can be fed for a year.  We plan to use Facebook to network college students and inform them about how they can be a part.

Elephants, giraffe, zebra, rhino, and hyena

We’ve spent the last two days at Pilanesburg National Park, and we were blessed to see all these animals and more as we drove through the park on a four hour safari.  It was an incredible experience, and the whole team really enjoyed it.  We watched elephants drink at a watering hole, and were charged by a black rhino (who stopped before hitting our vehicle).

Before we went on our trip to the park, we had a debriefing time with Michelle and Mike Tessendorf.  We spent a lot of time talking about what we had seen, what we had noticed in the two villages, and what we can do when we get home.  It was a fun conversation as we discussed ways to spread awareness and encourage the American church (in our local churches and areas of influence) to rise to the challenge of responding to the AIDS pandemic here.  It certainly has more of a face for me, and I hope to share that when I get back. 

Thanks again for your prayers.  We have a teen service to do tonight at the church.  Also, I am still healthy! Yeah!

South Africa never ceases to surprise me.

This week, we have seen dramatically the difference that Helping Hands makes in a village.  Last week, we did Vacation Bible School in Top Village, where they have been working for many years.  They have done caretaking, helped petition the government to build a school, operated a feeding project, identified needs among the kids, provided medical care and after school care, started a work project, trained a pastor and started a church together with the local church here.  This week, we are did two days of VBS in Molelowane Village, where Helping Hands does a feeding project, but that’s it.  The children were so different. 

There was plenty of evidence of malnutrition in way-too-small children and distended bellies.  It has been cold here this week, and the kids were mostly barefoot and in dirty, too-small clothes as we played with them, hugged them, held them, told them the Gospel story, and made balloon animals with them.  There will be more teams coming this summer to work with these kids, which makes me feel better.  In the meantime, I wanted to buy all of them a sweatshirt and sweatpants so that they would be warmer.  The kids were also a lot more agressive and difficult to work with, but there were fewer of them, which helped.

Church on Sunday was really good.  It involved no conga lines and was generally much calmer than the worship event on Friday night, but there was a sweet spirit there.  Mike Tessendorf preached on being lights, and our worship team did a few songs.  We also did a skit about wanting Jesus to be whatever we want Him to be- judgmental, Sugar-Daddy, etc.  The congregation seemed to enjoy it.

In the mornings, we’ve been painting the Learning Center in Top.  We finished it today, so hopefully the kids who do homework and hang out there will enjoy the new pink and blue walls.

Once again, my internet time is running out way too fast, so I’d better go.  Thank you all for your prayers!

Malnutrition, soccer, and conga lines in church

Yesterday was a full and interesting day on many different levels.  We started it with another birthday party, where we had children from Molelowane, the village with which we will be working next week, in our backyard playing.  The kids had a great time with beach balls, stickers, cake, and games.  Many of them just wanted to be held for 15-20 minutes at a time.  It was sad to see the results of malnutrition in many of them.  One boy was eight years old, and he looked like he was three or four years old.  A set of twins who looked like they were between 18-24 months old were actually four.  There were a few children who were quite violent; they would take things from other children and randomly hit, kick, or beat with a chair the people around them.  Those behaviors were a stark difference from the behavior of all of the other children we have met so far.  They have been the kindest, most selfless kids I have ever known.  If someone drops something, they will stop to pick it up.  If two small children are fighting, an older kid will come and separate them and then walk away. 

We were discussing the characteristics of God that we see in the kids  last night, and I realized that the kids here model the love and longing of the father heart of God.  When we arrive in the village, they chase the van we are in and gather around for us to get out.  They can’t wait to see us, and they do everything they can to be with us for as long as possible.  That must be God’s heart for people as well- longing to be with us and doing everything to make it possible. 

We also played soccer yesterday afternoon.  Thanks to some help from our driver (who played on our team and made the first goal) and the referee (a local pastor who made many a call in our favor), we only lost by 4.  The final score was 7-4, with the Top Village team beating us.  I had a lot of fun playing and was a little sad when it was over.  At one point,  there was a group of 7-8 boys sitting on the sidelines yelling, “Angela! Angela! Angela!”  Who doesn’t want to be a soccer star (even a not-really-very-good one? :P)

Last night, we finished this week with a worship event at the church pastored by the Tessendorfs.  There were four bands there, including the Chi Alpha worship team, the local young adult team, a village group, and a group from Jo-burg.  The conga line started during the first set, and I was quite literally pulled into it.  The whole service was more lively than anything I’ve ever seen (including concerts, rallies, etc.), but the conga lines ended in the first section. 

Today is a day off, and we will watch a rugby game and eat South African jerky this afternoon.  Tomorrow is church, which I’ve been told isn’t like the service last night.  We’ll see…

Lions, hair-doing, and birthday parties

Have been the substance of the last several days.  They have been incredible, and I am continually blown away by the amazing things we are experiencing and the surprises of this trip.

We had our last day of VBS today.  It was really sad, but we will get to see many of the kids tomorrow again when we play are massacred by the Top Village soccer team in a planned match.  I am planning on collapsing when we finish, or trying to play with kids and avoid actually kicking the ball.  Today at VBS, a few little girls attached themselves to me.  One of them noticed the hair on my arm, and trying pulling it lightly and stroking it.  We had been warned about that by Mrs. Tessendorf because it has happened to her.  Yesterday at VBS, we got our stations mixed up and lost one group of kids into another.  As a result, five or six kids hung out with Katie and me.  A few of them did our hair, and I had a few fabulous hairdos.  It reminded me of such a normal, kid thing to do, and it was sweet.

After VBS yesterday, we drove out to the lion farm of a friend of the Tessendorfs.  There, he has lions ranging from 4 weeks to full-grown adult.  We watched the owner feed the lions dead chickens, watched the lions charge the fence we were standing behind, ate a delicious meal around a fire, and [most fantastic of all] got to hold the lion cubs.  It was definitely a bonus I didn’t expect on this trip and a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The pictures are great.  I’ll post them when I get home. 

This morning, we had a birthday party for 20 kids ranging in age from 4-7.  The ratio was almost 1:1, and a little girl pretty much attached herself to me.  She snuggled into my shoulder, so I just held her for most of two hours.  They ate cake, had mango juice, got presents of coloring books, and we played games with them.  They got to be just kids for those two hours, and it seemed so right- so as the world should be, despite how it actually is.

There’s a lot on this trip that is not as it should be, not in our trip, but in the things we are seeing.  No wonder God asks us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.  To see those things so clearly lacking in a society is heartbreaking.

 Much love, and thanks again for your prayers!  We’re all healthy and doing well, and Shawn arrived safely.


Here in South Africa!!!

Dear Family and Friends~ 

Good Evening from South Africa!  I am here at the internet cafe in Mafikeng in perfect weather and lovely fall color.  We have now been here for three days, and we are thoroughly enjoying our time here. 

We are living in a house that is across the street from Top Village, a large area of land where 10,000 people live in corrugated steel huts/shacks.  The paradox here is stark- a normal American suburban neighborhood is literally next to fields that look like they are from a dump. 

We have visited AIDS patients in their homes with caretakers from Helping Hands and seen the conditions in which they live.  We saw the pickup truck (called a bucky) with blankets in the back that is used to transport patients to the local clinic.  The Helping Hands workers here are amazing.  They work with such attitudes of grace and patience in really hard conditions.

We also visited a local clinic.  It is a drive of around 10 kilometers from Top Village, and it serves 5 villages with a total population of 30,000 people.  The most common form of transportation for the people here is their feet, followed by a wheelbarrow.  When we first arrived, I thought that no one was at the clinic because I was used to looking for cars to show how busy a place is.  We walked in, and found the waiting room full of 30-40 mothers with their infants at 9:15 am.  There were a few wheelbarrows out front.  They treat around 3,400 people each month with a staff of 6, including two nurses, an assistant, and a doctor who visits once a week for part of the day.

We have done two days of Vacation Bible School.  Yesterday, we had around 50 kids.  This morning we visited the local school in the village, and had somewhere around 150 kids today.  Unfortunately, I chose a time- and skill- intensive craft, and we had a difficult time helping even a third of the kids at a time finish it.  They seemed to enjoy the games, skits, and Bible stories, though.  We are trying to figure out how to prepare for tomorrow when we have been told that we will have many more tomorrow. 

Thank you all for your prayers.  I really appreciate them as I try my best to lead our group on short notice.  (Shawn, one of the ASU XA campus pastors, will not be here until Thursday because of passport issues.  I have been very thankful for past experiences in Mexicali and God’s grace!!)

Please feel free to leave questions in the comments section, and I’ll try to answer them. 

Much love, Angela

Off we go…

to graduation and South Africa.  People here keep asking me how I feel, and I guess that it hasn’t actually settled in.  Oh well…I’ll be there soon enough.

 Right now, I have several more hours with my parents.  It has been so fun to have them here.  I feel so blessed to be friends with my parents and really enjoy hanging out with them, and so blessed that they were able to come.  Graduation is much more meaningful with them here. 

This will likely be my last post until Sunday or Monday, when I’ll try to post from SA.  Thank you for your prayers; I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them.  For now, specific requests are

  • health- I would really like to stay healthy throughout this trip!
  • good conversations with people as we travel- we are hoping to meet and love on people who need Jesus in airports and on airplanes.  Also, pray that our group of 17 won’t be too obnoxious (as college students can easily be).
  • good attitudes even when we’ve been up/sleeping on planes/in airports for 40+ hours

Thanks again!  Trivia in case you’re wondering: We’ll be 9 hours ahead of PST/Arizona time.  We’ll arrive in Johannesburg at 6am on Sunday (9pm on Saturday PST).