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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Tidbits

Recently our lives have been so crazy that it is difficult to carve out time to post.  We had two weeks of Point of Grace Hope Team 1, which was filled with long days of hard work.  The day they left I had a speaking engagement in the morning, then made another batch of bricks in the afternoon.  The next day I preached twice, along with having the boys over for a Bible study.  This week we've been trying to make enough bricks to finish off the Niehoff's house, as well as complete the installation of the sewer line.

Amber has kept herself busy keeping me and the kids in line.  She picks up so much of the slack and does whatever comes up.  The Saturday that I was speaking she had Kate and Atang here at our house, along with Lindie Niehoff and our two kids.  The next day she made lunch for the boys after our Bible study and church.  So she really is a trooper.

I am posting this because our 5 year old daughter Meredith is now a philosopher, gladly sharing her wisdom with anyone who will listen.  And I figured these need to be recorded for posterity.

1.  While Kate and Atang were here Meredith caught a gecko.  We found a nice little jar for it's home, but when I reminded her to keep the jar out of the sun or the lizard would die, she responded "Yeah, this little guy doesn't want to be dead for the rest of his life."  --  Feel free to quote her if you'd like.  It's not trademarked yet.

2.  Meredith started preschool 2 days per week.  Yesterday was her first day.  From a personal standpoint, sending your kids off to school is not really very cool.  While we intend to homeschool, we thought this age would be a good time to expose her to Afrikaans, so that when she has to take it later on, she will be better off.  Anyway, on this her 2nd day of school she comes home with 2 silk worms.  According to the teacher Meredith came running in from the playground in a semi-panic.  "Teacher Rose, I need a box" she said.  "Why?" asks Teacher Rose.  "I need it for my snails" (she is a bit confused, yes).  The teacher tells me that she warned Meredith that she would need to ask Mom and Dad if it was ok first.  Apparently Meredith gives her this little wave and says "Oh, that won't be a problem." So she obviously knows that Mom and Dad are suckers for little creatures too.

3.  When I later asked Meredith who gave her the box she says "my teacher."  I asked which teacher and she responds "The one with the flat head."  As if we O'Tools can say anyone else has a flat head.  Have you seen my dad?  And I've recently discovered it's genetic.  Mine gets flatter every day.

4.  Speaking of my dad, we were reading about the wise men in our Bible story tonight.  Meredith says they brought gifts of "Gold, Frank, and Merle."

5.  Another Meredith gem - "Mom, why do you always say 'ouch' when I step on your foot" as she intentionally steps on Amber's foot.  It's like her own sadistic little version of Tickle-Me Elmo.  Step on mom's foot, she says ouch.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Life & TImes of Louis & Amber - Sweet Banana Update

For those who are avid readers of this blog, or for anyone who heard one of our presentations when we were back in the US, you might remember me talking about a character named Sweet Banana.  If you don't, you can get a refresher on who he is in this article: Click Here.

Since our return to South Africa, the Lord has really laid Sweet Banana on our hearts.  His real name is Stara, which means "the one with many talents".  About 9 months ago he decided, for reasons unclear, to leave the life of crime and gang activity and try to make a legitimate living.  He is now staying with DJ's family and sells fruit in the nearby town of Virginia.

We have had several opportunities to see him, and a few times have been able to carry on some minor conversations.  Every time I see him I invite him to church with us.  The first couple times he came up with excuses, but always promised to come sometime.  The last few times I have asked he showed much more willingness.  One Sunday morning I showed up at DJ's house, and his whole family was getting ready to come - everyone except Stara.  The night before DJ's neighbors had held a party - and by party I mean an all night drinking binge with blasting loud music.  I was there at 8:30 am and they were still going strong.  I had to walk through their yard to get to DJ's house, and they all wanted me to come party with them.  I politely declined and told them all they were welcome to come to church with me, to which they also politely declined.

I finally made it to DJ's house after turning down a couple offers of beer.  There I waited for everyone to finish up getting ready.  Just before they all finished I decided to head back to the car.  Stara, however, wouldn't let me leave the house without an escort.  He made sure to follow me back through the party and then stayed with me at the car until one of the other family members joined us.  I guess he was just looking out for me.

A few Sundays have passed since that day.  It always seems that something is in the way.  Just two Sundays ago we found he was all ready to go to church with us, only church had been cancelled because everyone was in Johannesburg visiting another church that day.

This week I was really hoping it would work out.  All throughout the week DJ mentioned to him that he should come to church this week.  On Saturday we took the team to eat an authentic South African meal at DJ's house.  After the team started eating, DJ and I went to find Stara.  He'd had a good week selling fruit and he was spending the weekend drinking up the profits.  DJ knew where his favorite bar was, so we started there.  I pulled up and DJ went inside to see if he was there.  While waiting several guys came up to me to talk.  One of them wanted 2 Rand for music.  There was music blasting in the background so I told him to just enjoy that.  He said it was a jukebox and would be ending soon.  So I told him if he wanted music he should sing.  The other guys thought that was funny, but he didn't seem to think so.

About that time DJ walked up and said Stara had left not long before.  DJ's grandmother's house wasn't far away so we went there to see if he was around.  He hadn't stopped there, so we proceeded to do our own little pub crawl through the Straighteen neighborhood of Thabong.  We stopped at a couple more places and couldn't locate him.  Finally we gave up and headed back to DJ's house.  When we arrived there he mentioned to me "you didn't look afraid at all when you were talking to those guys at the bar".  I responded "no, should I have been" to which DJ replies "mmmmm...maybe a little bit."  I guess I have a lot to learn.

Sometime that afternoon, after we had left, Stara showed up back at the house.  DJ told him that we were planning on him for church the next day and he said ok.  He wanted to go to a friend's house, but DJ told him he couldn't get drunk and needed to sleep at home that night.  He said he would be back.  I learned all this when I phoned DJ at 8:00pm.  Stara still hadn't gotten back from the friend's house.  He didn't arrive home until past 4:00am, and of course he was completely sloshed.  DJ tried to wake him up the next morning but couldn't even get him responsive.

God still has Stara on our hearts.  He has shown positive signs in his life, but then there are still the discouragements.  I am preaching this coming Sunday, and I hope that he will be sober enough to join us.  Please continue to lift Stara up in prayer.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Potty Training

We have recently started potty training Drake.  By "we", I mean Drake's first mother Amber, and his second mother Meredith.  I've been minimally involved.  But one thing I do have to work on, now that we're potty training a boy...I need to remember they are called underpants, not panties.  The poor kid is going to get a complex if I can't start getting this right.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Construction Progress

Here are some photos of the latest work going on at  Restoring Hope Village.  The first three photos are actually from August, but I included them so you can see a full view of where we've come.  The first is preparing the foundation, the second is pouring it, and the third is our first two rows of blocks when we were checking our measurements.

The remaining photos have all been taken this week.  We have been hosting a team from Point of Grace, and they have been working diligently to get our first house done.  We put in 4 total days on the house this week, and you can see that all the brickwork is done.  On Monday we expect to set the trusses, and hopefully have the entire house enclosed by next Friday.  To give a comparison, if we were using conventional brick and mortar construction, it would probably take at least a month (if not significantly more, what with the laid back work habits of the culture).  These new blocks have definitely been a blessing from God.  Without them we would have to hire the work done, and would then be at the mercy of the motivation of the laborers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Good Genetics

Obviously brains run in the family.  I mean, this guy only turns 2 on Sunday, but already he knows who is #1.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Speeding Ticket

Normally I'm a very conservative driver.  I probably shouldn't write about this, because next thing you know I'll be in a collision.  I have received two speeding tickets in my life, and recently I received my 3rd.

It all happened on a Sunday morning.  The team from ISU was here, and we were on our way back from church in Thabong.  There was a grand total of 10 grown men in our car.  Now the Toyota Avanza was designed as a low-cost Malaysian alternative to a minivan, designed to seat 7.  However, I need to point out that it was designed for Malaysians, whose average height is 6 inches shorter than that of American men.  I would venture a guess that their average weight is significantly less as well.  Really, when is the last time you saw a heavy Malaysian?  I rest my case.

So here is our overloaded car, and I'm scrunched into the driver's seat cruising back into town.  It was the middle of the month, and I should have known, since traffic officers are notoriously more numerous mid-month.  The reason is people are paid at the end of the month here, and so by the middle they are running low on cash.  I'll let you fill in the blanks of what is supposed to happen when they pull you over.

Anyway, they had set up just as the speed changes from 80 km/hr to 60 km/hr.  According to their speed gun I was going 78 km/hr.  One difference between traffic officers here and those in the US is that here they rarely pull you over.  Typically they just sit alongside the road with their radar and cameras and then a couple weeks later the registered owner of the car receives a ticket in the mail.  However, this doesn't allow for the earning of a "mid-month bonus", so instead of shooting a picture of my car's license, this guy comes charging out into the middle of the highway.  He wanted to be sure I saw him, so he came almost into my lane and waved me over.  However, because my car was so overloaded it took me about 100 meters to come to a stop.

Had I thought quickly enough I could have just kept driving, because they weren't using the camera for obvious reasons, and they couldn't have chased me down in their car because it was parked a bit back from where they were stationed.  But with the onset of my advanced age, my thinking skills have slowed.  So there I was sitting in a car with way too many people, not knowing what they would say about that.  Up walks the traffic officer and before he even arrives at the window he starts to ask "Would you like to see your speed on the radar gun?"  (Now I may sound like one of those strange homeschoolers - probably because I am both strange and homeschooled - but I have learned a thing or two.  Take the killdeer bird, for example.  It will often fake injury, pretending to be unable to fly, in order to lead predators away from it's young.  And I felt about this ISU team as if they were my own offspring, so I felt it my duty to lead the predators away from them.  Especially since I would have been the one in trouble anyway.)  So I quickly agree to walk back the 100 meters with this traffic officer to accept my lumps.

The gun did say 78 km/hr, and it was probably accurate.  I wasn't about to give them their mid-month bonus though.  Turns out the fine was about R200 or roughly $25.  Given what the alternative would have been in the US for going about 12 miles over the speed limit, the R200 didn't seem so extreme.  And now I know exactly where the speed limit changes from 80 down to 60.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Beta Sigma Psi: Monday Day 12

You’ll remember our goal was pour the first children’s foundation before Team BSY left.  On Tuesday afternoon it was nothing more than a nice thought and a dusty piece of ground.  Joel Pudenz said we could do it, and with a lot of motivation and hard work by the guys, Monday morning had us pouring another foundation.

Of course, it wasn’t without a few hiccups, but the second time around was much smoother than the first.  We had learned a few things, it was about 33% smaller than the last foundation, and everyone was in good health – or at least good enough.  Micah also remembered to not put his shirt under the pile of cement bags, so he didn’t have to go home in his birthday suit.

It took almost all day, and at the end of the day BSY wanted to leave their mark on the house.  They inscribe their name and date in the concrete, but unfortunately it was under where the wall is going to be.  Brian gave them permission to inscribe the letters of their fraternity on the entryway floor.  We dyed some cement, then they chipped out the concrete where the name was going to be.  Maybe this will be the new tradition instead of painting a mural.  Of course, that means your team would have to build a house while they are here, or at least pour a couple foundations.

Post Script:  Tuesday was leaving day.  While it was great to look back and see all that was accomplished, it was difficult to see this team go.  Not only because we’d grown quite fond of the boys, but because Brian and I, DJ and Bridge are now back to working without the assistance of Ben or 6 other diligent and skilled workers.
Tuesday also happened to be our 8th wedding anniversary.  Amber was able to accompany us to Joburg, where the guys got to visit a lion park and see some local wildlife.  They also went to an area market and got some pretty sweet bargains on local merchandise.  Then it was off to the airport and back to a soggy Ames for the start of a new school year for the guys.  For us it was back to Welkom to prepare for POG Team 11 in September.