Wednesday, November 25, 2015

South Africa 2015!

"Look around at the nations, look and be amazed! For I am doing something new in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it." - Habakkuk 1:5

     This summer was such an amazing summer!  I graduated from my first four years of college with a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology/ Audiology. Next, I got accepted into a Master's program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Adelphi University! I thank God for this, because personally I wasn't sure where God was going to lead me. I got wait listed in two colleges, so I knew God was telling me to wait, and I knew we were going to South Africa, so I wasn't sure what God was going to do with that. But, three or four days before I left for South Africa, I received a call that I was accepted, so thank you God for showing me where he was leading me.

     The biggest part of my summer was to have the awesome opportunity to go to South Africa on a missions trip at Hands at Work! This trip definitely had the biggest impact on me out of all the trips I have taken over the summer. Julie and I went with five other young adults, all in our twenties (Joel, Kevin, Diana, Corrin, and Ann), while Sarah, a young woman from my church led us in Africa. I met people and saw things that I will never forget. In the picture above, for example, the girl's name all the way on the bottom of the picture between Julie and I, in the white sweater, is Angel (I don't know if maybe she had an African name, but that's what she told us her name was). This picture was taken on the last day we were going to be able to visit and see her. When we were saying good-bye, she kept going around to all seven of us and jumping in our arms and kissing us goodbye. It was so cute, so Julie and I took this picture with her and some other kids joined in. This was only one of the many great experiences I had in Africa. Below, I am am going to go through all the days and tell a little about my experiences:

6/7 - Sunday
       This was the day we left for South Africa at 8:05 am from JFK International Airport. Julie and I actually got to the airport at 6:45 am and met Corrin and Ann there as well. In our church vestibule there is a picture of us four as we are getting ready to through airport security. Then we progressed through security, actually pretty quickly. By 8:05 we were seated on the airplane and ready to go. So the first part of the flight was around seven hours long from New York to London and the second flight was around ten hours long from London to Johannesburg. Finally we arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa. We then took a four hour bus ride to Nelspruit, the biggest city near the Hands at Work hub (village). We were introduced to some of the members at Hands at Work and played some games while we waited for the other three members of our team to arrive. They finally arrived around 9:30pm and then we all went to bed because we were all tired.

All of us in South Africa!
6/8 - Monday
       This was officially the first full day in South Africa! After I woke up and right away took a picture of the view from our room, it was amazing! This day we just got introduced to our hosts and what we would be doing the rest of the time on our visit. We got a tour of the hub and met some of the people that  we would see the rest of the time. There were people from all over the world there for example, Canadians, Australians, English and Americans. The next day, we were told, would be our first visit to a care point. Let me explain how the care points and care workers work. So there are different communities throughout South Africa. Some of these communities, the most vulnerable, have care points in them. Care points are places where the most vulnerable children go to after school. These children get three services if they are found to be most vulnerable. The services are medical care, a school uniform to be able to go to school, and a nutritional meal each day. At the care point there are usually three or more care workers there. Care workers are like parents to these children. They are there to support, love, counsel and hold the children accountable. Care workers visit their homes which is how they build this relationship. Care Workers with the support of Hands at Work together try to meet basic needs for health, education, food, and emotional well-being in these children. This was explained to us, and much more. It was alot to take in but I think it made us more excited and nervous.

6/9 - Tuesday
       AHHH!!! This day was so exciting, we would go into our first community and visit our first care point. The first care point we visited was in the community of Swalisha (Zwelisha, however it's spelled). We woke up, had breakfast and then got ready to drive into the first community. When we arrived at this community we introduced ourselves to the care workers their. We then prayed for the children that would be coming soon. We learned that this care point was relatively new and had only 25 children and 6 care workers (3 were Martha, Patricia, and Victoria). Well, that day from 11am to around 3pm we spent time with the kids and care workers. Some of us played soccer with them, some of us taught and played "red light, green light" with them. Some of the younger one's loved just being held and swung around. For awhile at one point I was holding this little boy and he did not want to go down (eventually he did). We helped the care workers serve the meal and then the kids played a game with us. The game was about chasing after us and putting us against the van ("the jail"). The kids would then hold us there while they counted to three and then let us go. We would run in all different directions and they would go chasing after us and catch us again. This went on for a while and then they performed a skit for us.  Bethuel, a service center worker, translated it for us while they performed it. It was about child abuse, which was sad, but it is what they know. After the skit which was pretty long, we got ready to leave and go back to the hub. It was such an experience to open up this trip, it was eye-opening to realize all that we take for granted. 

6/10 - Wednesday
The house we stayed in at Oshoek from
Wednesday to Saturday!
        This day we woke up early to leave for a community called Osheok. We were going to stay overnight from Wednesday to Saturday. This community actually has three care points in it. One is Stobela, one is called Osheok, and the other one is called Beezkop. We left for the care point Stobela at 8:25am and arrived at Stobela by 12 noon. We went this time with Audrey, Floyd, Vusi, and John, Craig. Some of these were service center workers and some worked at the hub. Although this was the second day, it was also the first day we went on home visits. When we arrived at Stobela we split into three groups and each group went with a care worker to one of the child's home that came to the care point. Home visits are when you visit a home of one of the children that attends the care point. There is no specific order of what to do at a home visit, it is more on what God wants you to do. For example, my sister went once on a home visit and ended up helping the child-run household get their water supply and mine were usually spent talking and praying with the family or individual that was there. After we came back from home visits, we helped make the meal that the kids would eat which consisted of pap (a maize porridge) , chicken feet, and cut up cabbage. This was the meal we always ate when we were out by the care points with the kids throughout the entire two weeks. After we ate, talked, and played with the children and care workers we left the care point. We went to a house that we stayed in over the next four nights. When we arrived at the house we talked about the day and what we were planning to do the next day. We planned to have a talk about Hands at work in more depth and then go back to Stobela. We planned to do something nice for the care workers and hand out t-shirts to the children at the Stobela care point. Then we went to sleep.

6/11 - Thursday

        This day we woke up and had to take bucket baths because there was no running water at the house we were staying in. The we were supposed to go to back to Stobela to do something nice for the care workers, but then the pension truck came to that region and the  workers had to get there pension. So, us visitors listened to Audrey, Vusi and Floyd explain more about how Hands at Work works. Thy showed us the analogy of the wall they use to establish a christian base for their work in South Africa, which is to the right. The foundation is Christ. The next layer is the church, then healthy leadership, next are holy home visits, serving the most vulnerable, then the three services (food, education, and health care).  The last two are care worker support and care points. As they establish the bottom foundations, the wall is built strong to protect the most vulnerable. After we heard more about Hands we went to Stobela. By the time we got out there it was late and we helped the care workers make lunch for the children. After lunch was made however, we broke into groups and each went to a care worker and asked them to tell more of their story and how they got started with Hands at Work. This was such a great opportunity and privilege to sit down and hear what they went through and how by God's grace they came here. After each care worker told us their story we gave them a t-shirt  like the one below. They right away put them on and wanted to take pictures with us, which was fun. I do have the pictures so if you want to see them ask me to show them. Then we took some pictures with the children and then went back to the hub. The first picture on this blog is a picture form this day. 

6/12 - Friday
The Wall!
       This day was the day we went to Beezkop. When we arrived at the care point we gathered and prayed for some things and then celebrated Floyd's birthday! Happy Birthday Floyd. The way they celebrate birthdays is that the birthday person, or people, stand in the middle of the circle of people. Then the people standing around go to the center and give the person a hug, one at a time. They sing a cool happy birthday song while they give you hugs. Even though it was not my and my sisters birthday yet, we got called on with our birthday the next day. This was such a cool experience and everybody had to give each of us a hug, which was funny. I remember feeling so happy, I could not stop smiling! After the song was finished Audrey and Sarah prayed for us. After this, we split into groups and went on home visits. I went on these home visits with Floyd, Diana, and Kevin. I saw two families and a beautiful landscape. This day I saw the most modern house I saw during the trip, which was not like the houses here, but it was the most modern to me. The children were just leaving for school when we got there so we got to say hello to them before they left. In this house the grandmother was there and she asked us to pray for some things with her grandchildren and school and for her children to find jobs. In the next house we visited we saw a Gogo (grandmother) taking care of four children. She had had eleven, but all died except for four. We prayed for her children at school with exams. When we got back to the care point we talked about our home visits, helped prepare the food and talk a little. The kids ended up being so late, so we did not get to play with them that day, although Kevin, Diana, and I got to go into one of the schools. This was such a cool experience. Floyd checked something with one of the kids whose home we visited and we got to interact with some of the school kids. They called Kevin "Jackie Chan", which was funny! When we got back, we left the care point to drop off Floyd and Audrey at the bus stop to go home. On the way back we stopped at a gas station and got something to eat. When we finally arrived back at the hub we talked with our hosts, Christine and Daytona about our time that was spent in Osheok away from the hub. 

6/13 - Saturday
Happy Birthday!!
This day was the best birthday I ever had!! Me and Julie turned 22 in South Africa!! In the morning everyone at the hub gathered to sing some songs and me and Julie got sung for again, this time with all the Hands at Work staff present. Then we went to a coffee house in Sabe, another town in South Africa,  We had a birthday lunch which was delicious! Then we went on a beautiful hike near a river and took some fun pictures. This was also the day Brother Eddie our pastor, came to visit until Thursday. We drove to the airport to pick him up at 2pm. On the way we saw banana plantations, macadamia farms and chestnut farms. The ride was beautiful. On the way home we stopped at a supermarket to get some food, which was cool, because their supermarkets were a little different although they still had Lindt chocolate which as our present from Bro. Eddie. When we got back to the hub we played games and relaxed, then went to bed.

6/14 - Sunday
Three Hut Canyon
       On this day at 8 in the morning we left with a bunch of the other people at the hub to go to a church on the campus of Uplands Preparatory and College. Its name was Salt Church. Some of the songs we sang were Blessed Assurance, Our God, Here I am to worship, Indescribable, and Above All. The sermon was on Romans 8: 31-39. Some notes I took were: God justifies us even though we are sinners and we are permanently loved by God through Jesus. After the service we went to Graskop to have a breakfast at this delicious restaurant with good pancakes. We then went souvenir shopping for a little while. After that we drove and hour to see Three Hut Canyon, which was beautiful. The picture to the right is a picture of that. ON our way back to the hub we also stopped and walked around in a nature preserve and saw beautiful waterfalls. Then we went back to the hub and relaxed and later on went to bed, excited for the next day.

6/15 - Monday
       This day we went back to Swalisha (Zwelisha), the first community we visited. This time we went on home visits and visited the care point. The first thing we did though, was that we had a morning meeting with all the hands at work people. The we split up into small groups and each group prayed for child soldiers, women's rights in S.A., and refugee camps. Then we left for Zwelisha. When we arrived we broke into groups and went to home visits. That day I saw a child run household, which we stopped and prayed at and helped them pick their potatoes. When we arrived back at the care point we helped make the pap and cabbage lunch and then served it when the children arrived. Then we played with the kids and taught a few red light green light, which was fun. Then we went back to the hub, had dinner, played some games and went to bed early because we had to wake up early to go to Kruger National Park the next day.

6/16 - Tuesday

       This was the day we spent in Kruger National Park. We left for the park so we could get there at 5am and spend a whole day there until 5pm. This was such a cool experience. The park was so different from other parks I have been to, in that it was mostly brown with tall grasses and bushes. Sometimes there would be clusters of trees. There was so much diversity throughout the park. We ended up seeing four out of the big five. We saw two groups of lions on the side of the road, a whole herd of water buffalo, a rhinoceros (actually three types: we saw a dead rhino, a rock rhino, and an alive rhino), and alot of elephants. The one we missed seeing was a leopard. We saw such an array of animals which were; Impala, lilac-breasted roller (a bird), fisher eagle (another bird), a giraffe, wart hogs, vultures, 2 crocodiles, yellow-billed hornbill (bird), a young male bush buck, a whole group of baboons, koodu (deer family), a niyala bull, a goliath heron, a freshly dead impala, zebra, an ostrich, a magpie shrike, and wildebeest. When we got back from the national park we had dinner at the African School of Missions which was right next to Hands at Work. It was such a delicious diner and had such good conversation. I had desperately wanted to see a cheetah, but in the end I did not. Even though I did not see the cheetah, I saw amazing animals and part of God's creation.

6/17 - Wednesday
       This was our last day traveling to a community. It was called Siyathuthuka. Before we left for Siyathuthuka, we gathered with all the people at Hands at Work and then broke into small groups. We prayed for some things for a while and got to know some new people. After prayer was finished we left for Syethuthuka. When we got there we went on home visits. I got to go on this home visit with the pastor at the church I go to (Brother Eddie), and it was a good experience. We saw a Dad who has three girls. We ended up praying for his daughters to do well in school and for the house to get proper water protection soon. After a second home visit, we went back to the care point to help cook the meal until the children got out of school. When the children got to the care point after school we helped serve them. After eating was finished we played for hours with these children. There was a few girls that stayed close to us girls. I must have held the most children this day, which made me so happy. That day us girls sat down and let the girls who wanted to play with our hair, which they were fascinated with (especially Ann's!). It was so nice to see how close these children were to God. They got together at one point and sang, which was a blessing.We went back to the hub site and were already going to miss the home visits and interaction at the communities. 
Corrin at the Siyathuthuka care point!

6/18 - Thursday
       This day was spent packing for our trip home and helping with maintenance at the Hands at Work hub. Us four young women helped rake leaves at the hub while the young men helped with other tasks around the hub. We then had a game of ultimate frisbee with the their people staying at the hub. After that we talked with our hosts about our experience a little more. After dinner we played some dutch blitz together and then went to bed, knowing that our trip was almost over.

6/19 - Friday
       This was our last day and I do not think anyone wanted to leave. Early in the morning, at 3am, actually the part of the team that was going to Maryland left, which was Diana, Joel, and Kevin. We said goodbye, sent them off, and then went back to sleep until 7am. This was the morning that Hands at Work had their Hands on Deck meeting. This was a meeting when the people who had traveled in other African countries talked about their experiences and when the visiting groups talked about their experiences for a short time. This meant we would speak. Each of us who were still there, which was four of us, spoke about something that touched us. 

6/20 - Saturday
       This was the day we arrived home at about 10:30 am. This was the last flight until we reached home. When we arrived at JFK airport we all waited for our rides to pick us up from the airport to go home. We stayed up all day until nightime in the US to be able to adjust to the time change easier, even though we were all tired. I thank God for this amazing chance to go abroad and encourage those spreading his word.

Thank you everyone who made this wonderful experience possible and if you have any questions please feel free to ask me them in the comments below!! (Sorry if I got some things spelled was a long post!)