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Crazy Things You Find in Africa

September 2, 2009

Hello everybody! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve last updated you last. Seems like a lot of my emails start like that. August 4th I turned 25. It was great to get a Lakers Championship shirt and DVD from my parents that next Friday. One package from my parents and one from my grandma both arrived as people were flowing into a party they were throwing for me. It was a great way to turn a quarter of a century.

So the big news of my life is that I went all the way to Africa to get an American girlfriend. She was part of that group from the states who came here to help build a new classroom for the school. I also joined them on their next stop in Empangeni. Her name is Karen. She’s back in Chicago, but we got to spend a few days together in various locations before she went back. We’re doing the whole long-distance thing for now, but we’ll see what God has in store. She wants me to tell you that she is super cool and that none of us expected this to happen, but it’s definitely a gift from God.

The week following my birthday, I went with a few members of my church to a healing/revival conference in Durban. This was hectic, but it was an incredible week. The days were packed from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day with a two-hour break for lunch and dinner. Randy Clark was the main speaker, who was one of the leaders of the Toronto Blessing. One of the highlights was hearing from Suprisa Sithole, who shared a few stories of how God used him to raise several people from the dead! Crazy stuff. It was cool, because it just wasn’t a learning time, but there was also a time of impartation for healing. On the last day Randy asked if there were people who had never prayed for someone who was healed. Out of the 300+ people in the conference there were 10 who raised their hands. I was one of them. He then asked us to come up front so he could pray for us. It was a special time, where I feel God did something great in me. Now I’m so amped to pray for the sick and have incredible faith to see God’s amazing healing power at work. Now I just got to go pray for the dead to be raised. Why have you never seen someone raised from the dead? Have you ever prayed for a dead person? I haven’t, but hopefully will have enough faith to do so one day.

It’s been quite the challenge teaching these kids, but awesome at the same time. I get to share Bible stories, but really miss preaching and ministering from the word. The Home Based Care ladies of Botshabelo have a training/equipping time every Wednesday morning. Adrian, the guy who usually leads it, has been on holiday for 3 weeks, so he asked me to step in for him. I’ve already got to share twice, and actually should be preparing for my sermon tomorrow, but instead I thought I’d write you fine people. I’ve also had the opportunity to disciple a guy in my life group these last few weeks. I feel called to pastor a church in the near future, and it’s cool to see God already beginning to shape this pastoral side of me, even when I didn’t expect it.

In 4 days, I will have been here 6 months! Please pray for the second half of my work here with Botshabelo and direction for the future, especially for Karen and my relationship. Thanks to all who support me, both financially and prayerfully. You guys are amazing!

God bless,

 Taylor

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Team America

July 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.

Taylor

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All The Single Ladies

July 20, 2009

Ok, I don’t really want everyone to see this, but I feel like I have to. The goodness comes at 25 seconds into it. Yes, friends and family. This is what I’m doing in Africa 🙂 I’ll update you in the next few days on my trip to Empangeni, where I got to help build the foundation for an orphanage and met some amazing people. Until then, you will have to enjoy this:

 

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Dangerous

June 19, 2009

“I’m ready for Christianity that ruins my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild, unpredictable and …well…dangerous!”

– Mike Yaconelli

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Go After the Biggest Dream in Your Heart

June 3, 2009

For the 3 months I’ve been here in South Africa, I’ve only blogged about what I’ve been doing. I miss getting to share things that inspire me, which were written by others.  Here is something that inspired me, written by Anne Jackson a blogger and author:

“I was having a little Twitter chat with a friend of mine yesterday – one who has been a big cheerleader in my life. After sending me a bit of encouragement about the roads I’m taking, and ones I am considering taking over the next six months to a year, he said this:

Go after the biggest dream in your heart.

I don’t know about you, but I know for me, the biggest dream in my heart is scary. It’s crazy! It doesn’t make sense.

I find myself asking, “God…is that really you?”

And yesterday I heard Him tell me, “If it doesn’t make sense, it probably is me!”

God asks us to do things that don’t make sense.

In fact, a preacher chick I admire once said to me, “there is NO NATURAL way a supernatural destiny can be mapped out….”

So as my friend said…Go after the biggest dream in your heart. Especially the ones that don’t make sense.

God’s your provision. Get out of the way and give Him a chance to prove it to you.

What’s the biggest dream in your heart?”

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God is the Father to the Fatherless

May 26, 2009

I sent this email out to my email list a week or so ago. Thought you’d like to read it too:

Hope everyone’s doing great in their corner of the world. It is headed into winter here in South Africa and it is getting cold. I didn’t think it got cold in Africa. Yes, the heaters and warm blankets are coming out and apparently I have neither. Time to rummage around the property. Things have been going pretty good here. I was sick all last week, which wasn’t too much fun. I wash my hands, I sanitize, I drink bottled water. I’m trying mom! So finally back to normal health, but will probably be sick soon enough.

I’m still teaching my class and discipline is still the issue. It doesn’t seem to stress me out so much, so I guess I’m getting used to it. Slow and steady wins the race…at least that’s what I’ve heard. We just got 5 new kids in the Babies Home, 1 baby and 4 toddlers…ALL BOYS! This now makes our total to 15. I got to do bath time last night. It was only for an hour and a half, but I was ready to be out of there. Plus, the TV is broken, so you can’t easily entertainment them. I am whining and complaining and I only work in the Babies Home like 4 times this month. I am on shift this Sunday morning. Should be fun.

These kids have really been on my heart these last few days though. I was talking to one of the girls on staff here with Botshabelo and we were talking about some of the kids. A good portion of them have HIV. You can’t tell who has it, because they all seem like normal healthy kids. I only know, because I help give them their ARV medication when I am volunteering in the home. In the 2.5 months I’ve been here there have been 2 kids adopted to families in Europe, yet there are many who remain. There have been many kids fostered or adopted out of this home over the years, but hardly any of the kids have had HIV. So many people are afraid of having a kid with HIV, but yet these kids remain. The kids are very happy in the Babies Home, but it’s no place to grow up. These kids need a family.

I am so proud of my neighbor Bee Jay, who came to volunteer a few years ago from the Netherlands, but now lives here. She is a 25 year old single foster mom, who is fostering a 5 year old girl named Lerato, who has recently left the Babies Home. It is so awesome to play with Lerato and get to babysit her from time to time. It’s crazy to think that Bee Jay is only a year older than me and already has a 5 year old. She is definitely an inspiration and has got me set on adopting kids with HIV in the future. I don’t think I could be a single foster dad, like Bee Jay, so I am praying that I will be able to do this when I get married.

I have worked with kids for a few years now in church and non-church settings. I have gone over so many rules and guidlines of what to do with working with kids. Rules like not letting kids sit on your lap, no piggy-back rides, and side hugs only are great rules both for the safety of the child and for keeping the worker free of any accusation. I obviously am definitely always looking to keep these children safe, but they still need to be loved. One of the girls last night was complaining that her head hurt and that she was tired. At that moment I felt like I needed to be a daddy to her and just held her as I sat with the rest of the kids. This really broke my heart that she didn’t have a daddy who cold just hold her when she didn’t feel good.

I am experiencing God in a mighty way over here. Wish you were here 🙂

Please pray for these kids and especially those who have HIV. Pray for families for these kids and that they would be healed of their HIV.

God bless,

Taylor

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What I’m Up To

April 29, 2009

Hey everyone, just wanted to update this, because I haven’t in a while.  Things are still going well here.  I can’t believe it’s been just about 2 months since I’ve been here.  I’m still teaching my 1st grade class. It’s still quite frustrating, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  This week is a 3 day work week, which is pretty awesome. We were off on Monday and are off on Friday.  You wouldn’t believe all of the public holidays this month (unless you are one of my South African friends who reads this).  April is like this, but the rest of the year isn’t.  Last Wednesday was a public holiday, so that everyone could go vote.  Sounds like a cool idea to me.  I wonder how it would go over in the U.S.   I got to go away for a little holiday (or vacation) this last weekend. It was a lot of fun.  We hardly did anything for 3 days, which was pretty much the point.  I have found out that I am afraid of horses in the dark and I run at the sound of baboons.  I also stayed far away of the cobra, while other guys were running to kill it. As I told my friend Bronwen, “I’m tough, but I’m not that tough.”  So that’s pretty much all going on right now. If you somehow miss my face and voice, here is a little something to tide you over :).  I did the announcements for church this last weekend. For the record, I did not give myself the nickname Captain America, but have humbly embraced it.