Team AmericaJuly 22, 2009
Wow, in 2 weeks I will be turning a quarter of a century old and will have been in South Africa for 5 months. I am back at school now after being off for 3 weeks. I didn’t know I would be off for 3 weeks, but none of my kids showed up for school. The other schools in the area were off, and I guess they decided they should be off too. I had an awesome 3 weeks off though. I only rested for the first week and did some hard work the next two. There was a group of Americans over here on a missions trip that I was able to join. They came to help build a new classroom that is connected to my classroom. This classroom is also going to be the building for another service our church is going to have in Olievenhoutbosch (wow, spelled that from memory). It was a ton of fun getting to hang with people who understood my jokes and things I was used to. The group was composed of people from Chicago, Michigan, and Brea, CA. I had never met any of them before, but we became fast friends.
Since I had the next week off, they invited me to join them on the second part of their trip to a city called Empangeni. It is located about an 1 1/2 hours away from Durban, about a 7 hour drive from where I am now. I scrambled at the last minute to find a plane ticket, but managed to get one the day before we left. Empangeni is a beautiful city, very close to the Indian Ocean on the southern east coast of South Africa. We spent the week building the foundation and concrete slab for a new orphanage. The first day I was in charge of carrying the 50 kg (110 lb.) bags of cement to each of the 3 cement mixers. My arms were mush afterwards. The day we poured the concrete slab, I was working one of the cement mixers. It was very challenging to get the right amount of sand, stone, and cement. I did feel very manly though on both occasions. My favorite day was actually getting away with the guys. Some of the elders (pastors) of the church and the guys from our group went out for coffee, which turned into lunch as well. I was just so blessed being in the company of so many amazing men of God. I was just a sponge soaking up their Godly wisdom and had a lot of fun too. We were able to visit a few orphanages and other ministries that the church was involved in. One of the days we spent in a game park. This is the 2nd one I’ve been to since being here. It is so amazing to see giraffe, zebras, rhino, and hippo in the wild. I was dissappointed not to see any elephant or lion at either game park, but I guess you can’t really complain about that. We spent the rest of the week hanging out with other amazing people in the church and other members of Team America. It was actually the first team sent from “The Centurion Project”, a NGO started by the group leader Terry Krueger, who now is an elder (pastor) at Southlands Church in Brea, CA. He is a South African guy, who looks Mexican, was born in Zambia, and now lives in Cali. He planted Thandaza, the church we visited, 15 years ago.
In between these two weeks, I had the chance to attend the Dreaming Weekend for Botshabelo, the NGO I am volunteering for. This was for the board members and staff members to get away and dream for the future of Botshabelo. This was a great honor to join them, because I was the only volunteer invited to come. We did a dreaming time of where Botshabelo would be in 6 years. I got to act as the very 1st baby ever to be in our Babies Home, who in 2015 would be 15 years old. It was really fun. We actually just got the 100th baby to come into our Babies Home. There was a picture in the local paper of #1 holding #100. The first baby is now 9 years old and was adopted by one of the ladies who works for Botshabelo.
Everyone would get a kick to talk to me in person. The American group told me I have a slight South African accent. There are a few phrases that I now say naturally, but some I say on purpose to fit in. The most noticable is the inflection in my voice when I ask a question. I catch myself doing it all the time and have to laugh. I tend to end a lot of statements with the word “hey”, as in this is a cool email hey. When someone says something kind of astonishing, I say “sho”. Those are out of habit, but I purposefully get myself to say that things are “lekker”, which is Afrikaans for “sweet” and has made it’s way into English slang. I also am trying to get myself to say “is it?” to respond to statements made by other people. It seems normal when someone says something like, “my cat’s name is Sprinkles”. But when you say, “I had a crazy experience at the store today” and they reply “is it?” I think it’s pretty funny. It’s very South African and I’m trying to have it become part of my vocabulary. I also say “shame” and “bru” among others.
Please continue to pray for me in my class. Discipline is still incredibly hard. I am an untrained teacher trying to do my best, but still struggle in how to teach these kids and keep them disciplined, so I can teach them. Please also pray for me in my next stage after I’m done here at Botshabelo. I am 5 months into a 20 month visa, but am unsure of what God has for me after my 1 year commitment here.
It was also awesome to see the U.S. soccer team almost win the Confederation Cup here in South Africa. Definitely bummed to have missed seeing my Lakers win it all, but they’ve done it before and they’ll do it again.
Love and miss everyone.