Follow by Email

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beta Sigma Psi: The Weekend

Weekends are generally anticipated as a time of relaxation.  Of course, that is a relative term.  Compared to what we had been doing, the work wasn’t as hard, but we still made good use of the time.

On Saturday morning most of the team went to a local craft market and saw what Welkom vendors had to offer.  This is where we buy great big bags of dog food to feed our great big dog Vlad.  The guys were fond of the “Horse-dog” as they called him.  He has been pulling guard duty at the property for about the last 6 weeks – ever since we started to have valuable items there to guard.  A couple of the guys were able to get some souvenir soccer jerseys left from the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Tex and I went to a local shop to stock up on supplies for an outreach.  The previous Sunday a church in Thabong took up an offering for us and it came out to almost $160.  We wanted to use these funds specifically to help spread the Gospel in this community.  At the shop we bought high calorie food supplies.  Once we brought them home we added some of the things that had been donated and shipped in our container for protein.  Then we packaged all these together and took them to the local dump.

DJ went along as our interpreter.  We wanted to ensure the parcels went to those who needed them most, specifically to the families with children.  Each parcel also received a Gospel tract in the Sesotho language.

Right as we arrived at the dump 4 young men approached our cars.  One of them came and asked to become my son.  This is the first time that has happened.  It is pretty common to be asked for a job, but I have never had a grown man ask to become my son.  I had to speak through DJ, because he didn’t know English.  At first I thought I was misunderstanding – I asked why he wanted that and his response was so that I could take care of him.  I asked how old he was and he said 24.  I asked why I would adopt him, as in, what does he bring to the table.  He said he had some qualifications like mine I guess he could work in my mine, if I had one.  I questioned if he was looking for work and he said no, he wanted to become my son.  Then I asked the key question –have you been drinking.  His response was “I’ve only had 4 beers so far.”  Once I asked that I guess he figured the conversation was over, and he left. 

Amber, the kids and I stayed with the vehicles while DJ took Lois and the guys into the dump to find the people who needed the food parcels.  The municipality must have recently done an operation out there, because there were hardly any children.  Periodically they go there and “clean things up” meaning they make sure the kids that live there are moved somewhere else.

After the dump we still had some parcels left, so we took the guys and the food to Number 7, the squatter camp just down the road from us.  Each family with kids there received a parcel, and there was one older lady who is very, very ill.  DJ was able to sit with her in her shack and share the Gospel with her, then pray.  I asked if she understood and he said “Yes.”  I asked if she agreed and he looks at me with one of those “It’s hard to say” looks.  To me that was the coolest part of the entire outreach.  Several of the guys were able to come into the shack with us and see DJ share God’s Word.  And his discernment to see that she understood but yet he wasn’t sure if she made a genuine decision was encouraging.  Praise God for his boldness and pray for the seed that was planted.

On Sunday we attended Grace Evangelical Fellowship that met at Morning Star Care Centre.  Morning Star is a Christian daycare for HIV+ children.  Some of our very close friends work there.  Val Bekker gave the guys a tour after church.  The photo with all the stars is there wall of rememberance.  They have been in operation for 10 years now, and each star represents a child who has died while enrolled at Morning Star.  This is usually a very touching time for team members as they see again the effects that HIV/AIDS is having on so many innocent lives.

Sunday afternoon most of the guys went out with Brian on his dirt bike and ATV.  While tooling around one of the many mine dumps in the area they came across a group of illegal miners.  Apparently they have found that they can get some gold from the areas around these dumps, so it has become quite busy and quite dangerous out by these areas.  Since the guys were on motorized transportation there wasn’t too much danger, but you always have to be aware of things here.

Beta Sigma Psi: Friday Day 9

On Friday we finished up a few odd ends.  Four of us made a batch of bricks in the morning while the rest completed laying all the steel reinforcement in the forms.  From this description it seems like such a light-weight day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Viewer Discretion is Advised

Fashion in South Africa is either 25 years behind, or 15 years ahead.  Hopefully behind, because no one needs to see this much thigh ever again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beta Sigma Psi: Thursday Day 8

Thursday was more of the same for Team BSY.  After digging the entire foundation on Wednesday, there was a bit more work required to fully prepare for pouring.  There was some final leveling, laying plastic for a moisture barrier, and then setting steel reinforcement for the concrete.  While this work isn’t as physically taxing, it can be a bit time consuming.  They stayed at it, though.  You can see in the photos that by the end of the day they were dead tired.  But not too tired for a rousing game of “Ticket to Ride” once they got home.

Meanwhile, back at the O’Tool hacienda, our family was engaged in another task.  On Wednesday I had received a text message that our visa application had been received back in our local office.  This is the same visa that had expired on July 11th.  In fact, we had received official paperwork stating that we are illegal immigrants, but that it is ok for us to be here illegally.  So you tell me whether we are indeed illegal, since we have permission to be so.  Go figure! 

Anyway, after several visits before, during, and now after our application process, we finally received our stamps.  The process has changed, and we are only allowed 24 month visas as opposed to the traditional 36 months, so we get to repeat this process 33% sooner.  Since I still couldn’t hear due to the ear infection Amber handled the standing in line.  It only took us 3 hours for them to put a sticker in each of our passports and sign the sticker.  So that was pretty nice.  During those 3 hours I began to feel a bit woozy so as it turns out, I spent the afternoon in bed again.

As a side note, our dog Vlad has been doing duty at the RHI property, guarding all the valuables.  As such, we have looked into getting another dog to keep at our house.  Kirby is our new Labrador.  The kids have been enjoying him, as you can see.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beta Sigma Psi: Wednesday Day 7

Wednesday was a dichotomy.  With Ben’s return to the US, Amber, the kids, and I set out for Johannesburg early.  Of course, Ben was also with us.  The team stayed here with Brian to start work on getting the 2nd foundation ready to pour.

We didn’t go directly to Joburg.  JT, one of the guys from our Bible Study had phoned on Monday to say that there were some things that were really getting him down.  He is at university in Potchefstroom, which is only about an hour or so out of the way from Joburg.  Ben had met him earlier in the trip, and this was a good chance for us to stop by for some counseling and for Ben to say goodbye.

When we arrived at Potch I learned that the problem was, in the grand scheme, relatively minor.  It was one of those issues that at the time seems like it might be the end of some hopes and dreams, but once confronted and given some prayer and meditation quickly dissolves into one of life’s little bumps.  JT is a young man of wisdom, and generally handles himself with great temperance.  We met him and took him to the local McDonald’s for breakfast.  There I sat with him for about an hour and discussed the biblical viewpoint for resolving his problem.  Praise God for his willingness to come to Scripture and submit himself to the Word.  I think we both left greatly encouraged and thankful to our God for His direction in our lives.

After Potch we headed to the chiropractor in Joburg.  I needed an adjustment to help with my illness, and all of us were long overdue.  After that we headed to a local craft market where Ben was able to do a bit of African-style shopping.  By that I mean that all the vendors are trying to rip you off, and you get to play the bidding game.  Ben did great, although if you are ever going to dicker with someone at a local market, you need his sister Ellie.  I’ve never seen anyone cut the deals she did two years ago when she was here.

Finally, we couldn’t drag it out any longer and had to head to the airport.  A quick bite at KFC, and then we pulled up to the curb at OR Tambo International Airport.  We unloaded Ben and Meredith started crying.  My problem is that whenever I see my mother, my sister, my wife, or my daughter start tearing up, I start to lose it too.  We got Ben into the Delta check-in line, and before I left we prayed together.  I had to defer to him for prayer, because I probably wouldn’t have made it through, what with the sobbing daughter and all.  Finally, we shared one last hug and said goodbye.  Meredith proceeded to cry for the next 45 minutes.  Amber and I did everything we could to distract her but with no success.  All she kept saying was “I’m sure going to miss Ben.”  Please remember to pray for our kids in this whole adventure.  God has put us in an amazing ministry for His name, but I know it weighs on our children sometimes.  God is always faithful.

Since we were in Joburg, I’ll let you hear about the construction side from the guys who were actually there:
Wiped out tonight! We dug out the footings for a second foundation today. The plan is to build Brian's house, then two children's houses, Louis’ house, then a mission team house. In time they will have 10 children's homes built with 60 orphans. The digging took all day, after we spent an hour filling the brick molds. Dusty spent the day in bed fighting sinus problems, but is up and feeling better now. After a hard day at work we went to Brian's house and had chili and corn muffins. We're going to call it a night early. We haven't had much of a break the last few days, but we are happy with the progress. We didn't come here for vacation. We are blessed to be the Lord's hands and feet!

When we got back I couldn’t believe they had finished the whole thing!  Again, a testament to the attitudes of some young men dedicated to making a difference for the Lord.  Thanks to all who made their trip possible.  They have represented their families, communities, and themselves in an impressive manner.  It is a pleasure and a privilege to host these young men.

Beta Sigma Psi: Tuesday Day 6

Tuesday was concrete day version 1.1, at least for the men.  Amber and Lois kept their weekly ministry appointment at hospice.  Just to say a quick word about our wives, specifically about mine, they put up with a lot.  Amber did almost all the cooking for this team, did laundry every day, prepared for their arrival, and generally runs a tight ship at home.  Between them, Amber and Lois keep us in line.

Back to the construction progress.  Since the guys had run out of sand the day before, we had about a third to finish.  We started aroundt 8:30, hit it pretty hard, and finished around 2:30.  These guys are amazing in their willingness and ability to work and work hard.  I felt terrible that I abandoned Brian and the team on Monday.  Although I had to take it relatively easy on Tuesday, God gave the strength needed to stick it out.  I had the light-weight jobs and I was beat.  I don’t know how the other guys did it.

All told, we poured about 35 cubic yards of concrete.  As we were finishing up, everything looked so good, and Brian and I were both so encouraged by the progress that we jokingly discussed busting out the first children’s foundation before the team left.  Joel Pudenz was standing there and said “Let’s do it.”  This team doesn’t back off from manual labor.

Tune in again to find out if we made it.  Since I’m a week behind, you probably already know.

And speaking of abandonment, Ben had to say goodbye to everyone Tuesday evening.  We are so thankful for his willingness to give his summer to God's work.  He sacrificed almost 3 months of good income and school vacation.  During that time he did whatever was asked, without a complaint...that is, if you don't consider new ideas to increase efficiency complaining!  I told Ben that he owed me a nickel for every new idea he came up with.  I think I'm up several thousand dollars.  Although in all fairness, he is an engineering student, a Stangl, and a Wiedemeier and can't help himself.  It's in the genes.  Now that he's gone, I'm really missing all the great ideas, since I don't have many myself.  Seriously, when Ben arrived, I looked forward to spending several months with my cousin.  As he leaves, I look back on several months spent with my brother.  He has become part of our family and we'll miss him terribly.  And his ideas.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Pop Quiz

In the photo below, Micah is:
a.  Going for the trendy new "Hobo" look
b.  Showing his disdain for the Cyclones
c.  "Yeah, but you should see the other guy..."
d.  Reaping what he sowed (inside joke for the guys on the team)
e.  Showing you what happens when you leave your shirt on the bottom of the pile of used cement bags, and then Louie lights that pile on fire.

And the answer is....(scroll down)

...keep scrolling... it comes...

E.  Showing you what happens when you leave your shirt on the bottom of the pile of used cement bags, and then Louie lights that pile on fire.

Although D and B both would have counted as partly correct as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beta Sigma Psi: Monday - Day 5

Monday was concrete day.  We started off with 3 cement mixers.  We had planned on a long day, getting started before 6:00am.  Once we started we learned that one of the cement mixers was completely broken and another wasn’t working very well.  Unfortunately, Monday was a public holiday, so everything was closed.  Brian was able to get the manager of the rental company to come in and open up so we could get 2 replacement mixers.  God continues to bless us with favor on so many fronts.  The fact that we were even able to pour was an act of God on our behalf.  The city is 6 months behind on building permits, yet through persistence on Brian’s part we were able to get ours approved in under 2 weeks!

We had these 6 guys, plus Brian, Ben, Leonard, and me.  I wasn’t much help however.  I had been fighting a cold for a few days.  Sunday night I only slept for 3 hours due to an earache.  I figured I would just push through it and eventually it would go away.  About noon I sat down in the container for a break and the next thing I remember I was in our car and on the way home.  My eardrum eventually ruptured, but since it was a public holiday, none of the doctors were in.  Amber spent part of the afternoon running to the pharmacist getting some things for me, and I slept it off while the guys continued working.  At about 6:00pm they ran out of sand with about a third of the foundation yet to pour.  The guys came back dragging.  Brian himself said that pouring this foundation was probably the hardest he had ever worked in his life, and this from a guy who has done construction for a living for years.  Not one of the guys ever complained.  We were nothing but impressed with their willingness to work, and to do whatever it took to complete a task.
In fact, after a long, hard day of labor, they came back and ate supper, then a couple of them returned to the property to sleep in the container for security.  Thank God for strong backs and weak minds…at least that’s what I kept telling them.