Tuesday, December 29, 2015

We have a house!! Yay!!! God is so good and He is always on time. On Saturday, Darin and I went to look at a house in one of the settlement areas near us. This house ended up not having indoor plumbing, which made it a no for our family. We left feeling really disappointed and stressed and tired and confused. We decided to drive around a bit and see if anything caught our eye. Nothing did, so we decided to head for home. On the way, we passed a building that we drive past daily. We weren’t even sure if this was just an open building or a house, but we decided to stop and ask. Long story short, it was a house, it has been vacant for 2 years and soon it will be filled with Feys!

The house sits between the Catholic Church and the housing complex of the nuns/sisters. The priests used to stay in the house and it is full of books, filing cabinets and lots of loose papers. There is also a lovely statue of Jesus greeting all who enter. The house needs work…quite a bit of work. The electricity needs to be hooked up again, plumbing needs to be sorted, the kitchen area is having some demolition work done, the back door is bricked in, the floors are a mess and there is a lot of stuff that needs to happen in the next week and a half before we move in. We know it can be done, but sometimes we get tired thinking about it all. God has been so faithful up to this point and He will not leave us now!

Here are a few before pictures just to give you an idea of where we will be living:
Bathroom 1 of 3

Office that will be our bedroom

Entry way looking into office that will stay an office

Future home of Kitchen/Dining area. Notice the bricked in back door

Office that will remain an office

House and Front Yard

More pics later. Will make sure to do a before/after post as well.

Thank you all so much for praying. Please don’t stop now! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hanging by a Thread - Christmas 2015

We are three days from Christmas 2015. A time of waiting and anticipating Emmanuel, God with us! Jesus;  He comes to us as a tiny baby, but His whole being runs through the Bible as a thread, tying the whole creation, fall, redemption story together. Jesus, the Word, who was present from the beginning and who is the light and brings life to all! Jesus, the man of sorrows, the one who would be rejected, despised, tortured, and then pierced for our transgressions. Jesus, the babe in a manger who is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Jesus, who was and is and is to come, the thread of life, goodness and grace, the thread that we can hold on to and trust that He will not break!

This past year we have often felt like we were “hanging by a thread”, and in our darkest moments we have had several times when our eyes have been pulled away from who that thread is. We have felt doubt and despair, worry and fear. Today is December 22, and as of this morning, we are still waiting to find a home to occupy by January 1. For us, this whole process of finding a home has been a time of testing, of fear and doubt, of feeling flooded by mercy and goodness, of clinging to faith, of struggling to understand what God is up to. We have had a couple houses slip through our fingers just before contracts were to be signed. We have made countless phone calls, have had our hopes lifted high only to be dashed down again. We KNOW God is faithful, but right now we are clinging to the thread; Jesus, hear our cry!

2015 has been a year of changes. We finished our work with Tshepo ya Bana, which was good as we could see how God had been working to move us into full time ministry with Take Action Ministry. Yet goodbyes and changes are never easy. We have stepped back from a place and a role which, especially for me, provided much stability and purpose during the 4+ years we have been in South Africa. It has been difficult for the kids to imagine living somewhere else. We have either lived on the property or across the road from TYB the entire time we have lived in this country. This is home to them, they know the property, they love all the little kids, and they feel comfortable here. Moving is scary! Knowing that 2 pairs of eyes are watching us closely has been a constant reminder for Darin and I to cling tightly to the thread of HOPE and to teach our kids to do the same. To help them to understand that even when things are scary and uncertain, we have someone sure and strong that we can hold tight to.

Our work with Take Action has also been changing. The ministry has been GROWING and we are excited to see what God will do next. We recently started a project focused on directly helping families with food and clothing and helping them to set and reach a goal that will (God willing!) lift them out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness that so many people in this area find themselves in. We are so thankful that through our donors, both big and small, we have an overabundance of food and clothing that has made this part of the ministry possible. Darin has also been really involved in Busetsa, a job creation initiative that is an off-shoot of Take Action Ministry. He loves being able to use his management and business skills in this venture. These are just two small projects of something much greater. If you want to know more, please check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TakeActionMinistry

Tyson and Jori have been changing as well. It is hard to believe that in less than 6 months we will have a 12 year old and 10 year old. Where has the time gone?? Tyson just wrapped up Grade 6. He continues to enjoy school, especially Natural Science, where he learns about nature, science and technology. He is still into Legos and has also found enjoyment in building things out of wood or bits of electronics and machinery from his stash. This year was quite a struggle for our sweet boy. Each child has quirks that make them unique, and sometimes these quirks can take over and make life difficult. This year we have been working with a few different specialists to help Tyson better control these quirks, so that he can more fully enjoy his life. Dealing with medications and side effects and trying to figure out what works best without making Tyson too tired has been a battle, as anyone on medication of any kind will know. We are really thankful that we finally seem to have found a combination of meds and dosages that are helping Tyson to get along better throughout the day. This whole situation, learning more about what Tyson is dealing with, trying to help him cope, trying to be patient, understanding and wise, has been a time of stretching and growing for our whole family. There have been many moments when we have felt like we were barely hanging on, but again we are thankful that the thread we cling to is strong and sure.

Jori just finished Grade 4. She is entering that stage where girls move from being little and sweet to a bit catty and difficult. We are thankful that Jori remains teachable, but she is a girl and like all girls, she has her moments. She has continued to enjoy good friendships, but several of the girls in her class have chosen this year to present a harder side, leading to many tears and this mommy trying to find the best way to teach our girl about life’s realities, while also giving her the tools she needs to respond and live in a different way. Jori continues to love creating; with crayons, loom bands, giving Barbie new hairstyles, painting her nails in stylish ways and more. Jori still enjoys going up to the main house and playing with the little kids there. She has been a great big sissy to Amo and Miss O as well.

Speaking of Amo and Miss O, our family has been going through changes with these two lovely girls as well. Earlier this month, we moved Amo back to her family home. She has spent 2 nights with us since then, which were such a gift for us! We have been to see her and her family several times and she is doing great, still smiling and giggling. We are thankful for the care that she is receiving at home, but look forward to taking our girl every now and again for an overnight visit! 2015 was the year for Miss O. This girl, who lived with us for a few months in 2012, has been waiting for a family for years. In His perfect timing, God has provided that family. They will be arriving in January 2016 to take their girl home! Miss O is the only child from our time at Tshepo ya Bana who has not yet returned to family, been adopted or been placed in foster care or an alternative care situation, so knowing that her time to move on is so close is really, really exciting for us. We will sure miss all the smiles and silly faces of Miss O, but are beyond thrilled to be counting down the days with her until her family arrives! Threads of Grace and Goodness all over the place!

We have had a wonderful year of visits from family members; my parents in March/April, my sister in July and another visit from my dad in September. We are looking forward to meeting Miss O’s family in 2016 and Darin’s mom arrives on the same day! Tyson and Jori can’t wait to see Grandma Karen again! My parents are planning to come again in March/April of this year. We are so thankful that our loved ones will take the time and make the effort to come and spend time with us.

Thank you to the many of you who have been praying for us. Please continue to do so! We know that we have an Ever Faithful God.  As it says in a Bible Study I have been doing: He loves us, He knows what is going on in our lives, and He can do something about it! I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do. Thank you God for Your Promise, the Thread we can cling to, Emmanuel God with us! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Keeping Busy

It is December 4. The kids are finally finished with exams, hooray! They still have school for three days next week; not sure what they do on Monday, Tuesday is their Fun Day and Wednesday is the Honor’s Program. Then School’s Out for Summer!!! The kids will be off until the 13th of January and Grandma Karen arrives on the 12th. Whoop Whoop!

We are still, yes still, looking for a house. We wanted to go see one today, but the owners weren’t home. There is one other one that we are waiting and praying on, but this whole situation has really been testing our faith. There are days where I just don’t get it. It’s like, “Ok, God, we said we’d be out of here months ago! Why are things not moving along???” and then I start to feel stressed and icky, so I try to just let go, but then I feel like I am in denial.  There is a fine line there between denial and letting go, at least for me! So we are waiting, praying, and trusting and KNOWING that God has a plan and that His timing is never late or early!

Today we brought Amo to her family. She will be there until Wednesday, when we will fetch her for a couple nights. Friday she has appointments at the hospital and her aunt will be coming along to meet the physiotherapist and dietician who I have gotten to know over the past several months. Then I will bring them all back home again. We are thankful that we are still in this area and are around to help the family when they need a back-up plan!

For many people in South Africa, things are wrapping up right now and the December holiday is a time to go on vacation, take a break from work, sit back and relax, etc. While I am sure we will have plenty of time to chill, Darin and I are both really busy right now with different aspects of Take Action Ministry.

Darin has been really involved in Busetsa Wood, which is job creation initiative that is an off-shoot of Take Action. The hope is to train young men to build items to sell overseas, in crafters markets, and in their local area using old pallets. Busetsa means “to take back” or “renew” in Tswana, and the hope is that we will not only be able to renew old wood, but that in training young men, we will be able to “take back” their families from the grip of poverty and bring renewal to the local communities as well.

Here are a few of the products that are being made now.

Darin has a lot of involvement with the finances of Busetsa and setting up the business side of things. He will also be doing a bit more with the marketing for now, and hopefully a Facebook page and website will be up in the New Year. There might even be an opportunity for some of these items to be imported to the US, so save some of your Christmas shopping money if you see something you like!

Take Action recently got a huge book donation from Australian Books for the Children of Africa. These books were given to us at no cost, which is such a blessing as a lot of book programs require you to come up with your own shipping costs. I have been busy setting up an excel spreadsheet, listing the titles, authors, and condition of the books. This is the easy part as we also plan to make check-out cards and we really want to cover the paperbacks in plastic/contact paper to keep them in good condition for longer. I have 300 books on my spreadsheet, which are about 6 boxes worth of the books that we received. Only 10 more boxes to go, plus the various crates of books that I’ve been pulling out from donations we’ve received over the past year. My friend, Wanda, told me she also has loads of books, so I will be busy with this project for a while. We hope to have at least 2 portable libraries built, and filled with sorted and cataloged books by sometime in January. I might be enlisting Grandma Karen to help cover books if I can’t find some local help!

Tyson and Jori are really enjoying the recent influx of books into our house, as I’ve been taking a few boxes home at a time to sort and list in excel. They both love reading as you can tell. Jori even helped me by inputting data from 10 books. Administrative Assistant in the making!

Another program that is starting this week is something I have decided to call “Build Hope”. This is a program to support individual families that Take Action has some sort of connection with already. It may be a family that we know personally or that is involved with one of our community partner centres. We have been collecting fresh food donations from Woolworths, a high end grocery store, 2 days a week and have been awarded an extra day starting this week and will be taking on another day in January. This is really exciting as more food means more people we can help.

I made up a contract earlier this week for the families that will be in the Build Hope program. We want to make sure that we are not creating dependency, but rather coming alongside and helping the family to make positive changes in their overall situation. For this reason, the families that are involved need to have a measurable goal that they want to reach by not having to spend so much of their money on groceries. Maybe they will start a small business, pay off a loan, pay for job training, plant a garden, finish building their house, etc. Tomorrow the families will be coming to collect their food and will also be shown the contract. Please pray that this food will truly be a blessing to these families and that we truly will be prepared to walk a road with these families and encourage them to meet their goals! Pray also for the logistics and the language barriers as making sure people show up ON TIME and then understand what you are trying to tell them does not always happen! We do have a few local women who will be meeting with the families next week to go over the information sheet and contract so that everyone is on the same page J

The other big job Darin and I have to work on over the holiday is to get the distribution centre tidied up and put in order! This is no small task as there are constantly new things being brought into and leaving the distribution centre; JAM porridge deliveries, boxes of trousers, books, clothes, household items, furniture made by Busetsa, including shelves, tables and chairs, and so much more. Hopefully there will be a few cooler days so that we can work and not be overtaken by the heat!

In between all of this work, we will find time for fun. Hopefully we will be in a new house soon and the kids will be able to spend time exploring and getting to know their new surroundings. I am sure we will also take a few trips to the arcade and hang out with friends as well. We will be doing some fun things with Grandma Karen in January and my parents in March, so we aren’t planning on taking any trips over the school holiday, just hanging out, having fun and getting some work done as well!

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

Wow, wow, wow!!! We are only $50 away from reaching our goal!! Thank you to everyone who gave over the past week. The house is really taki...