Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If you only read one part of this, read #2

So, I have quite a few fabulous things to update you on since my last post (which seem like forever ago)!

1) I have moved in with a family! I mentioned in my last post that I was going to, but now I actually have. And I am in heaven. The Harveys are absolutely wonderful! They have welcomed me into their (gorgeous) home like I am actually family. I would be completely thrilled with just that but...I have my own bedroom and bathroom (Amazing), my drive to campus is now cut in half, and I have someone to share clothes with (Nicole Harvey is a year or two younger than me, almost exactly my size, and oddly enough, we look alike)! Seriously, I feel like God has hooked me up. Also, in South Africa, everyone has a house keeper/maid. If you have almost any amount of money, it is expected that you have one because there are so many people here who need jobs. How much money you can pay determines how often the person comes and what exactly they do. I am now blessed to live somewhere where the house keeper comes everyday AND does our laundry! I am so spoiled. I'm going to have a hard time going back to the US, in that regard.

2) Kids Club this past Saturday was so encouraging! The day started off overcast and rainy, which immediately reduces the amount of kids who come; however, as the morning went on, the sky cleared and more and more kids came. The exciting part though, was this: some of the other people from my church who also help out at Kids Club (and have been there much longer than my three weeks), have been trying to get the director to allow us do some sort of spiritual enrichment with the kids. With about ten minutes notice, we were finally allowed to do it! We came up with a quick skit, complete with brooms, tennis balls, and plastic bags, showing the story of David and Goliath. Our "tag line", if you will, was, "With God, I am strong." We needed something that was simple English, but that could really convey a good message to these kids. They loved it. They cheered for David when he (figuratively) killed Goliath, and repeated the phrase many times. And a lot of them really did seem happier, even just from when they walked in earlier in the morning. It was so cool to be able to have a subtle impact on the faith of children who have such a hard life. It still amazes me how I can be with these kids who, 50 yards away live in shacks, and then drive 20 minutes in the opposite direction and see mansions. Honestly, it was harder this time, leaving the kids and going back to my life. It's a weird reality to live in: one where I get more used to the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots, yet become more sensitive to it. I was able to snap one picture on my phone, and have included a few others that someone else took that day. I also am considering setting up a Pay-Pal account this blog for anyone who wants to donate to help these kids. The money would probably go towards buying food, coloring books, and other small items for Kids Club. Thoughts?

3) So, after Kids Club on Saturday, I went to a LION PARK!! It seriously was SO cool. I am not exaggerating or being overly dramatic. Yes, it's not a safari (which I still would like to go on), but going to a lion park guarantees that you see stuff. One of my friends here, Gordon, took me; and it was a good thing, because he knew how to get the lions to get up, off their (probably) overfed, lazy butts. If something fast goes past them (the lions), they (should, at least) instinctively chase after it. So that's what we did. We revved the tires and sped past the lions. (I'm not actually sure we were allowed to do that.) As we take off and look back, through the dust that is floating behind the car, what do we see but a massive lion bounding towards are car! We stopped, so it stopped - right next to the driver's window! It was unbelievable. We literally could look into his eyes. Lions really are such beautiful animals; yet, so powerful and intimidating. (Although, I can see why when they're laying down, someone would think, "I'm going to get out of the car and just take a really quick picture." They just look like giant stuffed animals!)
In another area of the park (completely cut off from the lions), there are giraffes and zebra and antelopes (or something like that). It really was such a beautiful scene - and it did look like something out of "The Lion King". The giraffes, even though everyone knows they're really tall, are surprisingly big. It's head was at least double the size of mine and it's tongue...ugh, giraffe tongues are disgusting. I know this first hand, because we got to feed it. Giraffe tongues are about 18 inches long and look like a slug. I feel like they must a life form unto themselves. Regardless, petting and feeding a GIRAFFE was one of the coolest things I've done.
After feeding the giraffes (I know, what else could there possibly be?!), we got to play with lion cubs! OMG. Lion cubs are unbelievably cute and cuddly. They are also surprisingly strong - it's a good thing they don't know it. They're like puppies, but cats. We played with some that were probably just a month or two old; those were the really sweet ones. There were also a couple that were about four months old, and surprisingly, already much more aggressive. There obviously stronger, and I'm guessing, are more aware of that fact. I started to pet one and then, changed my mind. The scratching and biting (even though it's only four months) was too much for me. I think those guys should already be out with the adult lions.
The whole day was such an incredible experience. Another reason you must come to South Africa.

I am falling more and more in love with the country and the people here. It's starting to get cooler, as March, April, and May are autumn here. I'm definitely not there yet, but it's feeling more like home. (Oh, and my driving is a thousand times better!)
I was reading in Luke today, the passage where Jesus heals a demon possessed man (sending the demon into a herd of pigs), as well as, the following passage where a woman touches Jesus clothes and is instantly healed of her internal bleeding. Once again, I was struck by two things: A) Why did Jesus tell the man who once had the demon not to follow him, but rather, return to his home and tell people about what was done for him? B) Even though he knew someone had been healed because they touched him, why was Jesus insistent on finding who that person actually was? Just as I said in a post or two ago, I came to the conclusion that I think people's spiritual healing is more important than their physical healing. It at first makes me feel a little weird - it's so important for people to be physically helped and healed! - but the more I study the bible with people and see the need for God in my own life more and more, I am compelled to help people spiritually. This life is so temporary, and as I see such extremes in riches and life styles here in South Africa, I believe and am OK with that fact, more and more. I am more grateful for the life I do have and the blessings that fill it, but I think (and hope) I'm becoming less and less attached to them.

Please share your thoughts with me about the Pay-pal account...and whatever else you want. :)


Friday, February 18, 2011

Normal life

First off, I just have to let you know (whoever you are) that I am writing all this on my phone because I don't have any other internet access, but still want to post something. So at least act like you like this post, please. :)

Well, it has been about a week since my last post and honestly, nothing terribly exciting has happened. I think "normal life" is settling in; which is good and a little difficult. When there are always things going on and things to do, I don't notice that I am kind of by myself in Africa, seven hours away from my family and closest friends; but when all of that stops, then I notice. Even though those moments can make me feel insecure, I have truly felt tremendous love and support from people here and back in the States. I've been meaning to write this: I have to express how grateful I am for my campus ministry back in Boston - I have felt nothing but ceaseless encouragement from you guys. The package of cards you sent with me has been a continuous source of joy and inspiration, as I often reread them over and over. (And I loved the slow clap video.) ;)

This week on campus was good. It was the first week that I felt like every person I talked to WASN'T quite thrilled to hear about our bible discussion. However, that's not something I'm not used to and plenty of people rejected Jesus, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise. It is really cool though, to be sitting on campus in a bible study and see another bible study going on 50 yards away. As a small ministry at UJ, I really do feel like we are becoming a family and are like-minded in helping people to know God. It never ceases to amaze me that the bible is the same everywhere, that regardless of cultural or financial differences, people really are the same, and that everyone needs God. No matter where you are. If you've never been to another country, you must put it on your list of things to do in the next few years. It will change your life. (And if you're a freshman in varisty...that's university here...or a senior in high school and don't know what to study, look into international relations. It's the best major ever.)

New news: I am moving in with a family on Sunday! I am quite ecstatic about this. As mentioned previously, I am currently living with two other women who are truly wonderful. They have been my first sense of home here and for that I am grateful. But I had always pictured living with a family before I got here. I'm not sure why - perhaps because my family had two college girls live with us while I was in high school and it was fabulous; or because when I lived in Washington, DC for a summer, I also lived with a family and loved it. I think I am an old soul and thoroughly enjoy being with people older than me. (Don't get me wrong - I love and my friends who are my age.) I think, also, that when I don't have my actual family here, I appreciate feeling that at least I have some family here. I like coming home to a home. AND, this family has wifi in their house! Blogging, skyping, facebooking, and just general internet vegging will be so much easier! (And no more writting posts on my phone! My fingers are getting cramps.)

Tomorrow, I am going to kids club again and then to a...LION PARK! How cool is that?! At the park, you drive your car through the park with lions all around. Obviously (or maybe not so obviously?) You do not get out of the car. I've heard you're not even allowed to roll the windows down. And in another part of the park, you can hold lion cubs. Eek! I am so excited. Pictures will come soon, I promise!
I am sure I will have much more to write after this weekend...enjoy yours!


Saturday, February 12, 2011


Well, this is a lovely suprise...

I unexpectedly ended up spending the night at the Renton's house (the couple who lead the church I am interning for here in Joburg), which means I get to use internet! It's amazing how exciting things that were so commonplace in the states can be now.

So, it happened: I had my first meltdown. It wasn't quite as dramatic as a meltdown really sounds, but it was a build up of emotion and then a flood of tears. Friday night, we had a campus devo and braai (an African bbq)...and it was great. It really was. But it was one of those moments, like my first Sunday service here or the baby shower that I attended last weekend, that remind me that this is not home. At least not yet. I feel like I have to shout at the top of my lungs that I completely want to be here, and that the people have already captured my heart, and that I really do like the city of Johannesburg. I don't want anyone to think that because I had a meltdown, that those things aren't true. It's just times like these that I'm grateful for the promises of God.

Mark 10:29-31 - "I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life."

Now on to updates about my life here...

The first thing I HAVE to talk about is my driving. In case you didn't see my last post, I am driving on the LEFT side of the road. It was absolutely terrifying when I first started and my car is slightly tempermental, which took some getting used to, but now...I am driving by myself most places! And I don't accidently turn into the wrong lane anymore! (Only did it twice...thank the Lord that there were no cars in those lanes.)

This is my charming car. I named her Nala.

It continues to amaze me how open people are here to studying the bible. At UJ's bible talk this week, we had 37 visitors - most of them different from last week. This week, I had girls coming up to me asking, "Can we please get together tomorrow [to study the bible]?" I truly feel like an ambassador of Christ.

Today (Saturday), I went to "Kids Club". This is a section of an area that is full of people living in shacks; complete shantytowns. Every Saturday morning, from roughly 9am to 1pm, over 200 kids come to this...area (that is really all it is...a fenced off area with trailers, kiddie tables, a few computers, and nowhere near enough coloring books or frisbees)...to play, to wait, to sit. Most of them get dropped off while their parents go to the store or just try and get things done. There are so many kids; and from ages two to 15. I don't have pictures because the guy who runs it doesn't want the kids being exploited, since it has happened before. I truly respect that and agree with it; especially coming from a country that floods the news with "starving children in Africa", but really, is desenitzing us to it. Hopefully as I spend more time there, I can earn enough trust to take some pictures, because it is apart of my life now.
I played frisbee with some boys for a little bit, colored with other kids for some time, but mostly sat with two twin, toddler girls who didn't speak; but, just sucked on their green lollipops and clung to my legs. The less stimulation and attention babies and young children get, the less they develop (obviously); but it was so sad to see it, for real. Some of the kids were energetic and super chatty, but so many just sat there and never said anything. Granted, for most, there probably is a language barrier; but so many of them just had a sort of blank look on their face. Yes, it is what we see in the media (and maybe I'm about to contradict myself here) but it is so real. I can drive twenty minutes from these shantytowns in one part of Johannesburg, to 6 bedroom houses in another part. It's unbelievable. I am quite confident that at this point, my thoughts are coming out as complete rambles - between recovering from missing home and family and friends, seeing what I saw today, and accounting for the fact that I should be asleep - I know that I am still processing everything around me.

I've been reading the gospel of Luke, and was recently reading the passage in chapter five where Jesus heals a paralytic. I've always had a hard time understanding why Jesus first forgives the man's sins and then heals him; as well as, why he asks the Pharisees, "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?" I don't know! I can't do either! But I think I realized this week, that Jesus forgave the man's sins first, because he was (and God is), above all, concerned for our salvation. God wants all men to be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4) And it is better for us to enter heaven maimed, then hell perfectly intact. Jesus healed people. He, undoubtedly, came to serve and to heal. But most of all, he came to save; so that we would have something worth holding onto, far past this life. 

I know this posting was probably a little more serious than others, so to lighten the mood, I will end with this:

I am so not a Justin Bieber fan. (I just had to look up how to spell Bieber.) I am so far from Bieber fever; but, as I'm sitting at the Renton's computer and looked through their iTunes for something to listen to, I discovered the J. Bieb song "Pray". I don't know if everyone knows about this song and I am just discovering it because I am not a Bieber fan, or because it's hard to keep up with pop culture here in SA. And although I still think he is ridiculous and corny, this song chipped off some ice on my heart for him. The music video is kind of moving, I'll admit; but most importantly, it was a reminder for me to pray. To quote a good friend, to pray like our lives depend on it. The images that are in the music video are things I'm seeing here in South Africa. And as I study the bible with people, I've never been more sure that people are lost and hurting and need God. And the most powerful thing I can do - even beyond moving to a new country or donating clothes and food - is, pray. So, go on, get a little Biever fever. ;)


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I drove on the left side!

I did it: I drove on the left side of the road. Every stick shift car is a little different (and perhaps the ones in South Africa are particularly difficult), but I had a really hard time getting the hang of this one. And the stick is on the left! I can't really describe in anymore, other than by saying it was unbelievably stressful! Praise the Lord that I had very patient and kind people helping me, and that I only stalled once on the road! :)

It does feel pretty good though to have done it. I will sleep well tonight.

I'm a Joburger!

Note: Internet is pretty difficult. VERY few people have wifi. Most people either don’t have internet, or if they do, it’s basically a flash drive, modem thing you stick into your computer that has a certain amount of internet time on it. I’m working on getting one, but they are fairly expensive. (So please be patient with me if we’re trying to skype – I have to plan that and be at other people’s houses.) For blogging purposes, I have written an entry on my computer and then uploaded it to a computer with internet, via flash drive, when I can. I’ll try to keep posts consistent, but just be forewarned that they might not be. This post was written two nights ago.  

I have to start off by saying that I am listening to “Circle of Life” while I write this. It totally doesn’t seem weird listening to it here…it’s totally appropriate!

So, I am HERE! I am living in Johannesburg, South Africa and have been for a few days now! I’m not actually a Joburger…that would be someone whose from Joburg…I just liked the name.  I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just ramble off everything I think of:

It is BEAUTIFUL here! Really, that is the first thing I have to say. And all I hear is that Capetown is un-earthly beautiful…cannot wait to see THAT! The weather is just warm enough to get toasty (and a nice golden tan!), but not humid. No one has AC, everyone just leaves their windows and doors open all day long and it is plenty cool and breezy inside; absolutely ideal to me. It is just divine! (As everyone says here…anything at all wonderful is divine.) I have yet to see one of the theatrical thunderstorms I’ve heard so much about, but I’m sure they’ll come. (Or maybe I don’t want them too…I’ve heard when it rains, Rain Spiders come out and they’re as big as your hand. I might just faint when I see one, if not die, if I see it in any of my stuff.) My usual routes to the university, church, and friends’ houses include panoramic views of the city and mountains. I need to get you pictures.
I am living with two women in the church, in one of their houses. Almost all the houses that are at all decent have a giant wall around the property, with some sort of other security feature on top of the wall: an electric fence, barb wire, or shards of glass and metal. The house I live in has an electric fence around the top. It also has a bar-door in front of the actual front door. It really is a charming house though, in a good neighborhood. I am grateful to be able to live here and have never felt in danger. (I actually haven’t felt unsafe anywhere.)
The people have been WONDERFUL; absolutely delightful!  I honestly have yet to meet someone who wasn’t nice or helpful. (I had heard that South Africans were like that…it’s true, they really are.) The members of the church I am interning for here, especially those that I am working directly with, have overwhelmed me with welcome and generosity. I have felt so taken care of, and so wanted! Irene, who picked me up at the airport, exclaimed when we first saw each other at the airport, “I feel like I should cry! You’re like a long sister!”  (She was partly referring to all my visa troubles…see previous posts.) I have told a number of people here, and I am completely serious when I say this: of the four major moves I’ve experienced over the past four years, this has been the easiest transition. And I’m in AFRICA!
 I’ve been doing pretty well with the time change. So far, I’ve only had one night where I had trouble sleeping…it took me a couple of hours to fall asleep. Other than that, I’ve been sleeping more than soundly every night.
I will be getting a car here (provided by the church), but I have yet to drive…on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD. It’s been scary enough riding in a car that is driving on the other side of the road; I don’t know what I’m going to do when it’s my turn to drive.
Everywhere you go, at every intersection, there are people selling things and begging for anything you can give them. People sell everything from cell phone car charge to inflatable globes to bouncy balls. (I can’t even remember some of the crazy things I’ve seen out there.) You just get used to ignoring them…or if your window is down, actually saying “no thank you” over and over. Most parking lots have an unofficial security guard that you’re supposed to pay. By unofficial I mean, not paid by anyone, and by pay I mean, give money or food.
Like I said earlier, I’ve felt safe the entire time I’ve been here. Part of that is because you learn what to do and what not to do. Everything ends early here. I am pretty much always home between 6 and 8pm, simply because it’s not wise or safe to be out much later. Shopping malls close around 4/5pm. (There are always exceptions to all of this of course.) And because everything ends and closes early, our days start that much earlier. I’ll be out of the house by 9/10am. For anyone who knows me well, you’re probably thinking the same thing I’ve been thinking since I got here: “This is my kind of country!”
So the whole reason I’m here is actually to work with the campus and teen ministry of the Johannesburg Church of Christ. I’m doing this because I want to (obviously) and because they need help. It has been overwhelming the number of people who want to study the bible. On UJ (University of Johannesburg), we had our first bible discussion of the year (they don’t do semesters here) this past Thursday and had 30 visitors! People are definitely just more pleasant here and don’t like to say no to an invitation, but I do think they are also very open and looking for God. Realizing firsthand how many people need help knowing God in Joburg is opening my eyes to how many people need help knowing God everywhere! The couple that leads the church here in Joburg also oversees the churches that are a part of our sisterhood of churches for all of Southern Africa. That is quite a large responsibility. And even within South Africa (which has three capitals…Capetown, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein) major cities don’t have churches at all. There have been so many times in preparing to come here, and even since being here, that I have felt unequipped and plainly, not the best person for the job. But I do feel so needed. I’m reading a book by Max Lucado called Outlive Your Life, and in the chapter I just read, he says: “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” This statement stopped me in my tracks when I first read it because it humbles me and encourages me tremendously, at the same time. Even though, yes, I wanted to come here on my own, God planned this for me; therefore, I am qualified to be here.

Has something ever felt too easy to be right? I’ve kind of been afraid of that since moving here. Granted, I’ve been here less than a week, but it has been such a comfortable transition. I guess life just doesn’t feel THAT different yet. I always told people, “I’m not moving to the bush, it IS a big city”, but maybe I’m actually taken off guard by the fact that Joburg REALLY IS a city with roads and houses and showers (well, baths…very few showers. :/ ) and movie theaters (which are apparently very cheap –yes!). I’m a little nervous that I must be suppressing emotions of sadness and missing people, and that sometime this next week or the week after, I’m going to have a meltdown. And actually (I think I’m writing to myself here), that could very well be true. I also could just have a meltdown over the mosquito that won’t leave my room. But I also could be getting a lesson in the fact that sometimes God just lets things be easy for a time. I believe he really does. It’s like a time to rest and enjoy life before more refining times come again. Maybe that’s what I’m in right now; and I’m happy with that.

Oh, also, two notable things:
1.       I blew up my hair dryer. I bought an adapter, but I don’t know what happened…I plugged it in and was using it for a good 20 seconds and then – POP! There it went. The red reset button on my hair dryer looks like it melted. Oh well, I like to air-dry my hair anyway.
2.       Here in South Africa, if you have health insurance, gyms are FREE. FREE I tell you! AND, you get a card that you swipe every time you go to the gym or buy healthy foods, and you start to get discounts off your food and other things! Irene and her husband Justin have worked their way up to gold members, and get something like 75% off their food! The US needs to take a few lessons from these people.

Well, it’s 10pm…I am up far later than probably anyone on my block. I don’t have pictures yet, but hopefully I’ll acquire some soon…like, if I go to the Lion Park this weekend. 

Cheers! (That’s what we say here.) =)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Foggy Londontown

I'm in London! This is only my second time here...the first time was this past summer and I spent 15 minutes in the city. Yes, 15. This time I get NINE hours in the city! Maybe one day I'll spend an ENTIRE day here - what a concept!

I love London. It's one of the few places that I have always felt immediately at home in. That might not make any sense considering I've never even spent the night in the place, but some places just feel like home. New York is another one of the places I feel that way about.

I'm doing ok so far, not too tired. I got a grand total of maybe three hours of sleep, on the plane ride here. So even though I'm think I'm feeling and thinking normally, please excuse any typos or incoherency - is that a word? I'm thinking that if I exhaust myself today, then maybe I'll sleep most of the way to Joburg. The flight is somewhere around 10 hours, so I definitely have lots of time. 

Ok, I'm going to go enjoy the city!