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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Life & Times - Another Perspective

The following is an update from my sister Rosina.  She has been here since May 13th, along with my brother Tim and a few other family members and potential family members.

After months of anticipation, planning, and yes, even a little apprehension it's hard to believe that we are finally in South Africa. Our first two weeks here have just flown by as Louis and Amber have kept us all very busy with a plethora of projects and activities. 

My goal in coming to South Africa was first and foremost to see my family but also to assist in the building of Restoring Hope Village-an orphanage for children affected by the aids epidemic. Construction for Restoring Hope Village began just a little over a year ago. In that short amount of time The Village has gone from being an empty piece of land to having a fence all around the property, and having the first children's and staff homes built. When we arrived preparations had been made to begin construction on the second children's home. The concrete for the foundation had been poured but that was about it! In the two weeks that we have been here we have put up all the exterior walls and on Friday the guys got all the trusses for the roof up. It has been exciting to see it go from a slab of concrete to something that resembles a house. Now I know this may come as a shock to some of you but I have never been involved in the construction of a house before so helping out with this project has been a learning experience each step of the way. And Michelle and I may or may not have been fired from a job or two :P

When we arrived there were only two girls living at The Village; Lerato (9) and Monica (7). In the last week we received two new babies. Our first baby came last Monday and it was love at first sight. Amohela is only 25 days old and weighs less than four pounds! The first time I gave her a bath I couldn't believe how tiny she really is. Michelle and I had a blast going through the container in search of some little girl clothes. She is swimming in all of them, even the newborn ones, but we are hoping that in a short time she will grow into them. Our second baby arrived Thursday morning. He is quite the opposite of our little princess. Tumi is only six months old and already weighs nearly 20 pounds! He's a little butter-ball. He has only been here four days but he has already received several new nicknames, the two favorites being Sumo and Jabba. Both babies are absolutely precious and there is never a shortage of people to love on them. 

Baby Amohela
Baby Dumisang with Meredith and Drake
Rosina cementing the brick walls

Rosina tired of cementing brick walls
While we have been quite busy working on the new children's house our time here has not been all work and no play. Yesterday we went to Thabong for a game of soccer and a traditional South African meal, complete with Walkie-Talkies (chicken heads and feet). After lunch we went to the Boskoppi Lion Park in Kroonstad, which is about an hour away from Welkom. We were able to get into a cage with some tiger cubs and play with them. Even though they are only a couple months old they have already perfect the art of sneaking up and pouncing on their prey (their prey being us!). We were also able to see some leopards, jaguars, lynx and lots and lots of lions. Seeing the full-grown lions up close gave a whole new meaning to the story of Daniel and the Lions den.  

No, Tim and Rosina are not engaged.  Tim is just awkwardly placing his hand over Rosina's for an unknown reason.
Well, I'd better get going. Tomorrow looks like it's going to be another busy day. Thank-you to those of you who have been praying for our trip and for the ministry Louie & Amber and Brian & Lois have here in South Africa. It has been so exciting to see God work but there is still so much left to do.  Please pray for continued safety as construction for the Village moves ahead. Please also be praying for God to be preparing a new housemother for the next children's home and also for the children that will soon be living here. Thanks again for your prayers. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meet Mama Lizzar

With the opening of the first house it was important to find caregivers for the children that would love them and provide a godly example.  While our goal was initially to find houseparents, God chose instead to provide us two housemothers.  Mama Lizzar is our full-time mother and Mama Melita is our part-time mother.  Because this culture is so filled with debauchery and decay it is nearly impossible to find godly couples committed to one another. 

Mama Lizzar is in her upper 40’s.  She has 4 children of her own, the youngest being 19 now.  Her oldest 3 children have already passed away.  The first died from HIV related illness, the second was taken by cancer, and the third was killed in a car accident.  Just 2 weeks ago she nearly lost her fourth child.  He was walking home from church on Sunday afternoon with a friend.  Some gangsters confronted them, took the friend’s cell phone and slashed his throat.  Her son ran and was caught by a couple of the thugs.  He was severely beaten, but for some reason they didn’t kill him.  She has seen more grief than any mother should have to bear.

In our last discipleship meeting with the mothers we covered Ephesians 6:1-2, in which children are commanded to honor their parents so that things “may go well” and “long life” will accompany them.  During our discussion I noticed that Mama Lizzar was holding back tears, not entirely successfully.  I can only imagine what thoughts were going through her mind as she considered the Lord’s promises in relation to her own life experiences.

She has not only lost her children, but has experienced abandonment from her husband as well.  I mentioned that it is nearly impossible to find godly couples, and at least 75% of the blame for that falls on the men in this culture.  They are completely absent as husbands, fathers, role-models.  In fact, if a mother passes away and the maternal grandmother and father both want to care for the children that are left, 9 times out of 10 the grandmother will win custody.  Children are considered orphaned if the mother dies, because it is so rare that the father is in the picture providing care for the child.  Often the father is unknown, is nowhere to be found, or in a case that we are dealing with the father actually raped the mother.

Mama Lizzar’s husband left her in the mid-90’s for a younger woman.  3-4 years later he came back, asking for forgiveness which she knew was the right thing to do.  She has a fairly good understanding of God’s opinions of true marriage and His views of divorce.  After he returned they lived together for about 2 years before he again left her for another young woman.  Since that time she says she has been celebate.  He, in the meantime, has not.  Currently he is serving time in prison for an alleged rape of a former girlfriend.

Both our housemothers express a desire to raise the children of Restoring Hope Village to know and honor the Lord.  We have seen them reading scripture to the girls and they both seem to enjoy church.  In fact, two weeks ago Mama Lizzar told me as we were driving home that she was disappointed that church was over, saying that she could have sat there the whole day.  Of course, that is another thing typical of the African culture -  Church services last for hours.

Now that our second house is under construction it will be important for us to find at least one more godly caregiver.  Since we have been impressed with both housemothers so far we can hopefully get some good recommendations from them.  It is vital that our first hires become good examples both to the children and to future caregivers.  It seems in these early stages that God has answered that prayer.  Please continue to pray for our housemothers, their spiritual growth and leadership of the children, and that the children would come to know and love Christ as well.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Life & Times - One Little Two Little Three Little...

Meredith is turning six this summer.  It's time she started learning some survival skills.  My career choices were narrowed to Chiropractor, Missionary, or Navy Seal.  You never know when you might be marooned on a deserted island.  Look at Gilligan, for crying out loud.  That was just supposed to be a three hour tour.

So Meredith and I cut ourselves some bamboo poles, then made a little Teepee.  This was after our family nature walk around Welkom where we collected acorns and bombed each other.  Even Amber and Drake were involved in the acorn war.  By time she turns 7 Meredith will practically be a lethal weapon.

Drake is already getting in on the fun.  Look at that expression.  You don't want to mess with him.  He is thirty pounds of pure cuddling fury.

The Life & Times - The Second House is Underway

In anticipation of our summer visitors, we are getting ready to build the second children's house.  The foundation was prepped this past week by some people we hired.  We learned the hard way, as Team ISU and Ben can confirm, that digging these foundations by yourself is quite a chore.  This time we decided it was more cost and time effective to hire a crew.  They dug it, laid the plastic, Brian and I put the reinforcing steel together and got it set.  We got some help with that from Brian's sister Stephanie, Jennifer - another visitor from the US, and Siyabonga, an 11 year old kid that has been showing up around the property pretty consistently lately to hang out with us while we're working.  The crew is supposed to pour the foundation today, so hopefully by next week when 6 new victims arrive we'll have plenty of work for them to do.  We already have enough bricks to finish this house so we're praying things really flow smoothly and move along.  Exciting Times!