Sunday, August 28, 2011


I don’t really know where to begin. This past week and a half has been a whirlwind, much of it spent being in awe at God’s amazing work.

Words could not express how excited I was for Kala and Kelsey to arrive; to have family here with me, understanding what it is I see everyday. I knew they were bringing a lot of supplies, but oh my goodness I could not have prepared myself for the crazy amount that they brought. When they rolled in those seven, stuffed suitcases and opened them all up, I was speechless. I just sat there, completely in awe at your generosity. As we began to dig through all of them, my mind started running a million miles per hour thinking of all of the ways these supplies could be used. I had to sit back and close my eyes for a second and just pray for wisdom to know where each and every donation should be placed. It was quite an overwhelming task organizing it all. (a good overwhelming, I might add) Items were counted and separated based on type and need. Finally, we finished and our end result was one suitcase full of teaching supplies for the math teacher, one suitcase full of teaching supplies for the literacy teacher, one HUGE suitcase full of school supplies for the students, a suitcase full of lunchboxes and water bottles for the students, a suitcase full of children’s clothing, AND another HUGE suitcase full of toys and nail polish and all things random. Yeah, it was insane. God is good.

I feel like I could just leave it at that and everyone could leave amazed at God’s goodness. But I suppose since you were the ones to give, you deserve to know where your donations went. =) Friday morning rolled around and us 3 girls took the 2 suitcases for the teachers, the huge one full of school supplies and the other huge one full of lunchboxes and water bottles. We arrived early to meet with the teachers and get organized, and we ended up spending a good portion of our morning trying to keep kids out of the classroom. Haha The teachers were amazed…they are still talking about how shocked they were today. I kept telling them my sister and cousin was bringing a ton of supplies, but I don’t think they had any idea it would be that much. They couldn’t believe they each had their own bag full of supplies to teach with. (and let me assure you, those teaching supplies are already being used literally everyday) They LOVED it. And those words don’t even do it justice. Then, we got to laying things out on students’ desks. It was so fun! I couldn’t wait for the kids to be let in. They were so excited! I wish each one of you could have been there to see how appreciative they were. It was amazing. And let me personally thank you, because teaching since that day has been SOOOO much better. No longer am I CONSTANTLY interrupted with, “I don’t have any rubber” (eraser), or “I don’t have any Prittz” (glue), or “I don’t have a pencil.” They all have now and are putting it to wonderful use! At the end of the day, we passed out the lunchboxes and water bottles. I think the kids were in shock at all of the surprises. And it was so fun to see them using all of there new things the next week. All three of us were flooded with thank you notes from both students and parents.

While the majority of the donations went to the school, there was still a large amount left to be distributed elsewhere. On Sunday, we headed to Mayville (the slum) with bookbags stuffed full of all the clothes. We met with a group of girls that get together every Sunday afternoon for a discipleship-type group and got to spend time laughing and learning with them in a tiny one-room “house”, and then leave them with all of the clothes. Because of going there that day, it has now opened the door for me to go back each Sunday and lead a Bible study for them. Today, I went and was flooded with questions about how to recover from rape and abuse. These are YOUNG girls, and these are real problems they face everyday. I am very nervous for such a deep task, but at the same time I am so excited that God has granted me the privilege to spend time talking to these girls about His Word and mentoring them through life’s difficulties.

And the giving still didn’t stop there. =) On Monday after school, we took the huge suitcase full of toys, balloons, make-up, nail polish and all kinds of random fun things to St. Martins, the children’s home I go to on Saturdays where several of my students live. The kids were CRAZY EXCITED! It was mad chaos distributing it all, but it was so wonderful to bring so much joy to them through such simple things. Because of this distribution, I have been welcomed there with more open arms and was even allowed to take a few of the girls out of the orphanage to buy them lunch this past Saturday. The kids at this orphanage crave attention. When I was there yesterday, the little ones fought endlessly to sit on my lap and be closest to me to hear me read them stories. The littlest things mean so much to them, so you can imagine what huge suitcase full of new toys did for them.

Are you tired of reading? Cause I haven’t even told you the best parts yet. =) We were able to use money that was contributed to pay for the tuition of 3 students at Carrington who didn’t have the money to return the next year. These 3 students were carefully chosen, because they each only have 1 more year left before high school, and in order to apply for high school here, you have to have a clean slate. And if you can’t afford Carrington, which is really cheap, that means you’ll be going to a school in the slum, with next to no chance of making it to high school. The money was given and the 3 students were told on the last day the girls were here. The principal was crying and the children were speechless. It was a beautiful moment.

And then finally, there’s Mary. Meeting Mary on the girls’ last night here was a direct intervention from God. There’s so much I want to tell you about Mary, but it will have to wait until my next post. I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for now. All I ask for you to do right now is to pray. Pray for her safety, and pray for wisdom for myself as I figure out how to help her. I promise I will explain in detail soon.

I think it’s easy to see how huge of an impact your gifts have made. 56 second grade students. 2 teachers. 3 sixth grade students. 1 principal. 80 orphans. 25 girls from the slum. 1 sweet girl and her baby from the streets. All of these and so many more were hugely impacted by your gifts, including myself. And the best part is that the giving of these gifts has led to so many open doors for me to continue to share the love of Jesus and His message while I am here. It will not just last until the lead runs down on a pencil or a balloon pops, it has the potential to last for all eternity, because those pencils and balloons, those math bingo games and crotched hats, those toothbrushes and pencil sharpeners, have opened the door for me to share about Christ’s love. It’s amazing what God can accomplish through us when we’re willing to make the sacrifice.

Thank you all.

If I may, I would like to personally ask for some intense prayer. It was extremely difficult to see the girls leave this past Thursday. I miss home so incredibly much, yet I know there is so much more God has for me to accomplish here. When they left, I felt so overwhelmed at all the tasks set before me, like there was no way I could manage it all on my own. And you know what I’ve learned? I can’t do it on my own. I am in desperate need of God’s strength to get through each day. Please pray that I am flooded with His strength and joy, so I can effectively minister for His gospel while I am here.

Less of me God, more of You. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I have been overwhelmed by the news of your generosity. It’s only a few days away from Kala and Kelsey’s arrival, and I absolutely cannot wait to get a peak inside those suitcases! The impact that all of it will have on these children’s lives will go beyond what you can imagine. Let me prove it to you….

Meet Smangele. 

One of my poorest and most neglected students. From my very first day at the school, Smangele captured my attention. I can’t really put a finger on why exactly, but I think it was God leading me to a plan He had in store. She was timid, extremely timid. She would never speak out in class and when she talked right in front of your face, you could barely hear her. Her English is very poor, due to a lack of support from home for her schooling. Before, when she would ask her mom to sign a report card or help her with anything, her mom would yell at her for bugging her and tell her to leave her alone, in not such nice words. She was quickly falling behind from the rest of the class and no one seemed to have time to care.

One day, I noticed her shoes. They were completely fallen apart….the backs worn through and the buckles flapping lose. She might as well have not had anything on. I noticed them because I saw another student kicking mud all over the back of her legs, she was clearly picked on. I pulled her aside to check the size, but it was worn off so I whipped out a ruler and measured…21 centimeters. After school let out, I was so anxious to get to the store to buy her a new pair of shoes. God had burdened my heart for this little girl tremendously. 22 dollars later, I walked out of there with the perfect pair. I couldn’t wait for the next morning to come. Little did I know God had much more in store than a comfy pair of new shoes.  

When I found her the next morning, I put my hand on her shoulder to guide her into the room before the rest of the students could come in. She flinched and through up her hands in defense as soon as I touched her; my heart hurt to think of what had caused her to react that way. She relaxed when she saw it was me and followed me into the classroom. I pulled off her old pair of shoes and pulled the new ones out of the box. You should have seen the look on her face. Such anticipation, such disbelief. I gently slipped them on and buckled them, wanting her to feel like a little princess. She had the biggest smile on her face, and I would have been content with just that moment. But God had a bigger plan...

A fellow 2nd grade teacher wrote out a note in Zulu (the mom doesn’t know English) explaining where Smangele’s new shoes came from, so she wouldn’t get in trouble. That same week, I began tutoring Smangele and another very poor little boy who struggles with English after school. You should have seen how excited they were to “get to be tutored!” Seriously, the individual attention they crave is overwhelming. The next day, Smangele had a note for me from her mom, written in Zulu. I had the same teacher translate it for me, and it was obvious her mom was extremely thankful for this small gift. She thanked me over and over. Each day that passed, Smangele began to emerge more and more from her shell.  I began the tutoring on Monday and gave her the shoes on Tuesday. On Thursday, when she got to school, she ran up to me to show me her notebook. With great pride, she showed me the page where her mom had helped her study for her spelling words the night before. She kept saying, “Look Miss! My mom wrote the word ‘men’ for me! Look! She wrote it for me cause I didn’t know it!” You know why she was so excited by such a simple thing? Her mom had never helped her before. Before, Smangele was just a nuisance, now, her mom saw value in her.

On Friday, Smangele volunteered to pray in front of the class. She STOOD in front of the class and prayed as best she could in her broken English. When she looked up from her squinted eyes, she gave me the biggest smile. Smangele was confident. All of this happened as a result of $22 and 30 minutes of tutoring each day after school. Smangele was a joyful, confident little girl and Smangele’s mom was a helpful, caring mother. I was absolutely blown away at what God could do with such a small gift, all He needs is a willing heart. These children LONG for attention and someone to show that they care. Every single day, students are begging me to tutor them after school. What am I supposed to say to a child that looks at me every day and says, “Miss, can you take me today? Can I go with you today? Please, let today be my turn.” It’s so unbelievably overwhelming. As I’m trying to help one student with their class work, there is ALWAYS at least 6 hands tapping on me to help them. My mind runs a million miles per hour all throughout the day as I am learning to help at least 5 students with 5 different questions, all at the same time. All students who need their questions answered slowly, in broken down English. And even then, at the end of the day, I know there were several that I missed.

I wanted to share this with you to give you an idea of just how much of an impact your donations are going to make. If one pair of shoes lead to changing a little girls’ entire life, can you imagine what 4 huge suitcases stuffed full of supplies will do?!?! And even for my own daily exhaustions’ sake, I cannot wait to have 4 extra hands, 4 extra ears, and 2 extra mouths there beside me to help these children and give them the individual attention they crave. I just know God is waiting to change hearts and lives as a result of your donations. So thank you, thank you, thank you. You have beautifully demonstrated exactly how the body of Christ is supposed to function. God is about to work mightily.  

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"   - Matthew 25:40

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It wasn't meant to be this way.

“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” –Genesis 1:31

Have you ever cried, sobbed rather, at how fallen humanity is? Today I did, for the first time. I saw a lot today and this week, and at the end of the day all I could do is curl up in bed and cry. We have fallen so far. God had perfect harmony and a plentiful world in store for us, and we lost it. We really, really lost it.

Let me back track a bit, so you understand where I’m coming from....This week, I found out several of my students are HIV+. I saw more and more often my babies without lunches. I was informed that the reason you can never hear Thabile when she’s trying to talk is because she’s verbally abused at home. I had a conversation with a teacher about another one of my students (who is 8 years old, by the way) who was recently informed of this little girl’s sexual attempts with other students. This same little girl who has severe anger issues, and who spends 3 hours after school every day alone with a security guard while she waits for her mom. (all things pointing towards sexual abuse) This morning at the children’s home, I heard stories from teenage girls about how they ended up there, either from the loss of their parents or some form of abuse. I heard them say that several of them had been raped. Today, I was reminded of what several of my students’ lives are like as I drove through the squatter huts. Metal, cardboard and wooden slabs stuck together to form one little room that an entire family lives in, 2 rooms if they’re lucky. The “better-off” ones from this area live in government built houses, which are the same size as the huts, just built with cinder block. Thousands of these tiny “houses” clumped together for as far as the eye can see, amidst mud and garbage.  Also today, at a Zulu pre-wedding ceremony, I saw people, who are “created in God’s image” be consumed with alcohol. I heard them change the words of a worship song from church so that the song praises alcohol, not God. I watched vulgar, drunk men lose control. As I sat there, I just wanted to cry. Not because I was scared, but because my heart HURT for their brokenness. For the peace they are lacking. How did things come down to this? And my heart didn’t just fall apart for those people’s brokenness, it crumbled even more on the drive back to where I’m staying, when I saw the shift from the Zulu huts to the British-like middle class homes. These people, who are “better” because they have more ‘self-control’ and ‘dignity’. Who just can’t shake off their pride, and so they live their comfortable, separate lives, as if there aren’t people in desperate need right down the road. 

I was miserable as I looked out and thought, how could the world be this way? How can all these evil things be happening? How can there be mud huts and secured, multi-bath and bedroom homes within just a few miles of each other? I just couldn’t digest it all. When I crawled into my bed and let out my frustration, all my thoughts led to this: how in the world could God actually love us? How could Jesus leave HEAVEN and come down to this rotten, filthy mess we’ve made and DIE for us? This is a love we can’t even begin to comprehend. I opened my Bible to the very beginning and read the first 2 chapters of Genesis, then I stopped. Up to this point, the world was perfect. It was just how God intended it to be. I laid there and closed my eyes and imagined what it might have been like. We have no idea, because Genesis chapter 3 happened. I didn’t even want to keep reading. I just wanted to think about living in perfect peace and harmony. But, I knew deep down, now’s not the time for that. Like or not, I live in this fallen world. I am a part of this sick place where horrible things happen to innocent children and where people shiver in slums while others are sipping on hot tea right down the road. I felt so depressed at the thought of it all, and then a notecard with a verse scribbled on it fell out of the front of my Bible…

Nehemiah 8:10 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I gave a sarcastic laugh. How in the world am I suppose to have joy in the midst of this??? I thought about this for a while until I heard my Savior’s still, small voice. I can have joy, and I have to, for it is the only way I will have the strength to get through each day. I can have joy because I have that deep down peace and hope that comes only from being His child. Because I know that I am in the center of God’s will and that through His strength I can make a difference. This week, despite all of the terrible things I heard and saw, I also saw God work mightily through one small act of kindness towards 1 child. (more to come on that story) This world is a mess, and it is in a downward spiral. But that does not at all mean that we are allowed to just give up, or even lose any joy or peace over it. We are commanded to follow Jesus’ example, which means loving people unconditionally and helping the helpless. And we can do this with joy, as we look forward to what’s to come. No matter where we are in this world, there will be hurting people in need of Jesus all around us. Will we reach out to them? 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”    -John 16:33