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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Life & Times - Police Parade

The other day we were filling a trailer with fill dirt from a old abandoned railroad bed.  As we worked we saw a few Zama Zama's running our direction.  These are the illegal miners that have made headlines all over the world (Click here for a previous post on the topic).  These miners have become a very serious problem.  In fact, we learned that a police officer from Lesotho was killed by them.

We had thought to bring along our pepper spray and stun gun, which was nice.  As we saw them running toward us my hand automatically moved to my waistband where said stun gun was conveniently holstered.  The four Zama's reached a clump of trees and brush and immediately dropped to the ground, looking back toward the road they had just crossed.  This drew our attention to that road as well.

As soon as we looked we saw several police cars speeding along that road in the direction of two different mine shafts.  Then the several police cars turned into several dozen.  Then the cars turned into police trucks, riot vehicles, disaster relief vans, emergency response units, motor bikes...really any and all law enforcement vehicles that you can imagine.  We saw well over 100 vehicles go by, and when we left they were still coming, as far as the eye could see.

We still haven't heard the specifics on what was taking place, but that was our excitement for the week.  Actually, the most exciting part was the sight we witnessed on our way out to the train tracks.  Just around the corner from The Village, and before this whole parade started, there was one lone police truck parked in the shade of a small tree.  While one officer ate his lunch on the hood of the truck, the other officer was practicing his kung fu moves...Walker - Texas Ranger-style.  That was exciting!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Life & Times - Despicable Tim

A couple years after I left home our family adopted two new dogs, Pippen and Lucy.  Lucy in particular was one of the ugliest dogs you'll ever find.  What she lacked in beauty she made up for in cunning.  Let me clarify:  My family lives on an acreage near Carroll.  The road in front of the house is a shortcut for many different businesses and the schools.  So it gets quite busy sometimes.  Lucy herself never chased cars.  But she taught all the other dogs to chase cars, thereby eventually eliminating her perceived rivals.

Flash forward to 2011:  A movie is released called "Despicable Me" in which a super villain sees a young child drop his ice cream cone.  As the child bursts into tears, the villain stops and makes him a balloon wiener dog, at which point the child stops crying.  Then said super villain pulls out a pin and pops the child's balloon.

"What is the point of these stories?" you may be asking yourself.  Let me clarify: My brother Tim has been staying with us for the last two months.  Throughout his life he has been the proud owner of many nicknames - The Weasel, Rat-a-Tim, The Parts Child, etc...  He is now the proud owner of his newest nickname:  Despicable Tim.  Let me clarify:

It all began when my cousin Tom was still here.  After one day of hard labor we were wrapping things up and heading home.  At this point a minor wrestling match broke out between Tom and Despicable Tim.  Knowing such a clash of titans could last for days - weeks even - and since I was tired and ready to go home, I declared that whichever person's knee, hand or arm touched the ground first would be the loser.  Tom, being exceptionally strong and fleet of foot instantly began to lay the smack down on Despicable Tim.  Tim's cunning, however, won the day.  Tom's foot slipped out from under him, sending his knee crashing to the ground and cutting a deep gash right over his kneecap.  Despicable Tim - 1, Society - 0.

The next instance occurred near Memorial Day (which isn't celebrated in South Africa, oddly enough).  Our whole group went to a nearby park to play bocce ball.  After everyone else left, Despicable Tim, Taylor, Dwayne Jakuja and I stayed at the park to toss the football around.  Eventually it evolved into a little game of "500" in which Taylor threw the ball and Despicable Tim and I tried to keep the other from catching it.  Normally Taylor threw high-arching lobs, with an occasional line drive tossed in to keep us on our toes.  On the specific instance in question Taylor threw the mini football as fast, straight and hard as he could.  Despicable Tim was slightly in front of me and about to catch the ball.  I reached forward and stuck my arm straight out, hoping to deflect the ball away from him with my outstretched hand.  At the precise moment the ball was to arrive, Despicable Tim grabbed my arm with both hands and pulled down, leaving my defenseless face to catch the ball.  Lacking opposable thumbs on my nose for catching a ball, I was left to drop to the ground and burst into the pain-induced tears that come only from a direct blow to the nose as the blood began to flow.  Despicable Tim - 2, Society - 0.

A third instance occurred on a Sunday afternoon.  Taylor and Despicable Tim began a wrestling match of their own.  This time no blood was involved, but Taylor nearly passed out.  Apparently he hadn't been there to witness Tom's knee injury.  Despicable Tim - 3, Society - 0.

On another and completely separate occasion we were in Thabong picking up people from our church in order to make a group visit to the children's ward at the hospital.  As we waited for the adults to arrive a crowd of children began to gather.  WWE (professional "wrestling") is extremely popular here.  These children began to torment Despicable Tim and soon an amateur professional wrestling match broke out.   Despicable Tim played Andre the Giant, fighting off a half-dozen children at once.  Had these children but known the despicableness that Tim is capable of they would gladly have escaped with just their lives.  Alas, in the midst of a body slam Despicable Tim faceplanted one of the young boys directly into the turf.  Fortunately, after a brief timeout accompanied by tears and crying, this boy returned to the fracas, sans his street cred and dignity.  Despicable Tim - 4, Society - 0.

The fifth and most severe injury sustained by the victims of Despicable Tim occurred during our Fifth of July celebration (the Fourth was rainy and cold).  A tarp covering some important construction materials was blowing away.  As Taylor agreed to chase down the tarp Despicable Tim challenged him to a race.  Midway through the race Despicable Tim heard Taylor say "My legs are stiff from sitting so long."  As Tim turns to respond he sees Taylor stumble headlong.  On his descent Taylor had the presence of mind to attempt a tuck-and-roll.  Regrettably, it was a fraction of a second late and Taylor crashed to the ground, landing squarely on his shoulder.  He instantly knew something was wrong, as there was a large bump protruding from his collarbone region, a bump that hadn't been there a moment before.  To get the full explanation, I insist you read Taylor's own account on his blog:  Despicable Tim - 5, Society - 0.

Not content with inflicting physical injury, Despicable Tim proceeds to hit for the cycle, inflicting emotional damage as well.  Let me clarify: One day last week my sister Rosina and Despicable Tim spent the day at the local children's ward, playing with the children, reading to them, and in general attempting to make their day brighter.  Some of these children have been living there for over a year now, so I'm certain that visitors who come only to play with them are a welcome experience.  Well, Rosina initiated a game of Keep the Balloon Off the Floor wherein you attempt to keep a balloon off the floor.  In Despicable Tim's defense (which would be the same as playing devil's advocate, I guess), the duration of this game had apparently gone on for quite some time and several of the children seemed to tire of it.  Despicable Tim, with his misplaced sense of chivalry, decides he will save the children from Rosina's despotic demands that they enjoy themselves.  At which point he takes out his pocketknife and punctures the balloon.  I'm not sure if you've ever played Keep the Balloon Off the Floor, but I can assure you the game is much more difficult and significantly less enjoyable if the balloon is deflated...or in this specific case, deflated and in many pieces.  Despicable Tim - 6, Society - 0.

I close this account by relating an anecdote from Michelle, my brother Sam's finance.  Let me clarify:  She said "When I first met your family I wondered why everyone was so mean to Tim.  Then I hung out with him once and I understand."  Thus concludes the sad saga of how Timothy came to be known as Despicable Tim ("concludes" if we're lucky and assuming he doesn't injure anyone else throughout the remaining duration of his stay).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Life & Times - Strikes

Every week Lois, Amber, and whatever visitors happen to be with us go to Thabong to do an outreach ministry with children whose parent/guardian is under hospice care.

This past week they went out the day after electric price increases went into effect.  Normally South Africans don't need an excuse to strike, but this time they have a good one.  Our electric prices are spiking by 27% this month.  Imagine if your utility bill increased that much in just one month!  You'd be a bit upset as well.

This strike was loud and large, but relatively least here in Welkom.  That stands in contrast to the teacher's strike last year in which some teachers physically assaulted students who continued to attend school and wear their school uniforms.  There is also a steelworkers strike currently, which has cause some delays in our ability to proceed with construction.  So far we've had enough to keep busy, but our next project is pouring another foundation which we hope to do before Tim and Rosina leave in early August.  So we would ask for prayer that the strike end quickly.  You never can tell how long these will last.

The Life & Times - Family Photos

When taking engagement or wedding photos, things are pretty simple.  Then, as you add children to your family, family pictures become exponentially more difficult.  See below.  Our children get their personality from Amber's side.  The O'Tool side is always very serious and sober-minded.

The curse of O'Tool men:  Nothing back there to keep our pants up.

Secondary curse of O'Tool men:  O'Tool women who try to help them

The Life & Times - Carnivore Restaurant

Recently I've fielded some complaints that we haven't updated this blog frequently enough.  And those are valid complaints.  So here is some catch-up.

The same day we took Michelle and Allison to the airport for their return to the US we had a group excursion to Carnivore Restaurant in Johannesburg.  This experience was quite a treat.  The restaurant is located at Misty Hills Country Resort and Spa, rated one of the 100 Most Romantic destinations in the world.  The menu varies, but it operates on the Brazilian Steakhouse principle, wherein the wait staff carries meat on skewers and you ask for it whenever you'd like.

Carnivore is unique in that it serves a variety of game meats, based on availability.  I've heard they occasionally serve meats as exotic as Crocodile, Python, Giraffe and Hippo.  On our trip the meats they were serving were a bit more tame - in addition to chicken, ribs, lamb, beef, and pork they served kudu sausage, kudu meatballs, regular kudu meat, impala, zebra, and eland.

There was a variety of opinions within our group, but my personal favorite was the Zebra.  The consensus of the game dishes seemed to be as follows, from most delicious to least:
1.  Regular Kudu
2.  Zebra
3.  Kudu Meatballs
4.  Kudu Sausage
5.  Impala
6.  Eland
It might come as a surprise, but I would actually order a Kudu or Zebra steak over beef, it was that good.  Not something I would probably do frequently, because it would get kind of pricy.  But for a once in a lifetime experience, definitely worth it.

Delicious Kudu
Scrumptious Zebra
Delectable Eland
Appetizing Impala

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Life & Times - New Bible Study

Two years ago we had a Bible Study with students from Lebogang Secondary School.  That is where we met the 3 Jakuja boys, Makhasi, Alex, Brilliant, David and the others.  Now that most of them are in college our studies are on hold.  After our return to South Africa a year ago we started a second Bible Study here at our home with our friends Lawrence, Trish and Paddy.

About 2 months ago we were joined at our church in Thabong by a man named Zachariah, his sister and his sister's friend.  Zachariah has been a believer for a few years now and after church one day came and asked for some discipleship materials.  I gave him a Bible Study booklet and he gathered a group to meet each Wednesday for study time.  We currently run with 4 adults, 2-3 youth typically, and then lots of children who sit and listen as well.

Yesterday we all went to the children's ward at the local hospital to give gifts and candy, talk to the children and pray with them.  God gave us a wonderful time of fellowship before and after.  There were also a few opportunities to share the gospel with a few family members of the patients.

Zachariah had joined us even though he hadn't slept in 36 hours.  Last Sunday his grandmother passed away and much of the responsibility for the funeral fell on him.  In addition, he is seen by his family as the "family pastor" so everyone was coming to him for words of encouragement and prayer.  He has had an exhausting week but was still willing to arrange and join us for our visit to the hospital.

Please pray for Zachariah and his extended family that have joined us at church and for our Bible Study.  Also, we would like to thank First Reformed Church in Evansdale, IA,  Point of Grace Church, and Johnston E-Free for sending Bibles over.  Almost every week we get a new request for Bibles, and you can see in these photos that they are put to good use.  We appreciate your partnership in this ministry.