Monday, April 25, 2011
Friday, April 22
Dear Family and Friends,
You are all greatly missed and we look forward to being home with you in 2 days. We will leave here missing our Zulu friends and praying for them, their health and the ACM ministry.
What a way to end our service here in South Africa starting with services at 7 am and Rev Rob preaching twice today, services not ending until 8pm, taking only short breaks and time for meals together. We spent the day alternating between organizing what supplies we will be leaving behind for ACM to be provided to those in need and for next year’s team, packing for our travel home and worshiping with the people of Grace Evangelical Church. The people of GEC and Gubethuka gathered starting last night for fellowship and will continue through Sunday for the Easter holiday glorifying our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We had the unique experience to meet with the community and provide additional education today in break out sessions. Dr. Amy and Dr. Andy, with the help of our friend Talent, educated young and old in proper oral care and the importance of oral hygiene. Dr. Andy also helped to lead a special break out session with Rev. Rob and Bruce for the men of the community sharing in fellowship, answering much-desired questions and counseling. Dr. Cathy shared with the women much needed guidance and information pertinent to their health care. The people of the community seemed to enjoy this time so much so that other portions of what had planned were cancelled. This is just a testament to how valuable the information that many of us at home get on a daily basis is, this may be the only chance that some of them get to ask questions candidly to a physician and get straight answers. The rest of the team; Sarah N., Sarah R., Heather, Barb, Kristie (the craft queen), Amy, Anna and Megan, during this time enjoyed singing, dancing and crafts with the children of ACM. The joy in their actions, voices and faces is uplifting and inspiring, even the littlest ones that sing “sahamba sahamba” marching in place know what it is to praise our Lord.
Anna and Megan also spent some time dying eggs with the team children and put on an egg hunt between their bouts of running and swinging and playing with their new South African friends.
We were blessed to partake in a traditional Zulu meal prepare by the ladies of ACM, as a send off and holiday celebration, topped off by Italian Easter bread and cup cakes in honor of Bruce’s birthday (I know, an international buffet).
We praise God for a successful trip in that we have shared the love of Christ with many here and amongst our team. God has provided the time energy, rest, strength, supplies needed, safe travel in country, and wonderful people of ACM that gave up their time and committed to translating and traveling with us throughout these two weeks. I believe also that we have each learned something about our selves, our God and one another that I hope will fill our days with growth, praise and building of relationships.
Please pray for our friends here, for our health and safe travel home as we are continuing to pray for all of you back home.
Much love and many blessings in the name of Jesus Christ,
Thursday, April 21
Our last three days have been FULL! We left at 5:00am Tuesday for Inguavuma. The drive was uneventful. We arrived atop the mountain around 8:30 to find all 150 patients there in the yard of Gogo Myani’s (Mercy’s mother) waiting for us. Surely some had arrived by 0400 as with previous clinics. We briefly sang some Zulu worship songs, Sabelo preached from Romans 10:8-10, then we saw patients and handed out meds. Gogo Myani prepared a wonderful Zulu lunch for us (some of us even got to see our first chicken catch and kill….hmm……). Many patients received glasses. All were prayed for. We finished before dark, played with 40 children gathered in the front yard, packed up and headed down the mountain, catching a GORGEOUS sunset over Lake Josini on the way. We arrived at the Game Park in time for a delicious dinner and went to bed exhausted but full of joy and wonder at what God had accomplished. Our 5 clinics were over and now it was time to reflect, process, rejoice and give thanks.
Wednesday we rode through the game park at dawn, at brunch, swam, slept, relaxed, and reflected, then went back through the game park at dusk. It was fun to hear the team buzzing with amazing stories (being surrounded by 20+ giraffes eating and strolling about, herds of cape buffalo, zebras, rhinos, a hyena, 10+ elephants as close as the giraffes but not as friendly!). Our evening devotion was from Psalm 104:24 – “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” It was wonderful to see and reflect on God’s handiwork (and between us we probably have 2000+ pictures so be sure to ask to see them when we get home!)
Thursday we returned through St. Lucia, saw hippos and crocodiles, spent a brief moment at the famous St. Lucia beach -- just long enough for the kids (that includes Sarah R.) to get covered in sand rolling down the dunes, much to everyone’s delight – then returned home in time for the Thursday night worship service. Rev Rob preached out of I John – God’s love. One of our team helped Sabelo pick up van loads of kids to bring them to the church for a 2-night Easter weekend “lock-in”. At the moment there are 90 kids sleeping at the church! It was a great reminder that while the game park is amazing and special the real ministry is back here in eSikhawini. Not just the 5 clinics we do in these two weeks but the 1000+ kids that are part of ACM’s weekly bible clubs. Every day the Mafus and the ACM staff reach the next generation with the gospel – and are offering hope and light in the darkness.
I had a moment to talk with Sabelo about the Impilo ministry (several of the older ACM kids have created a separate but similar ministry with a vision to reach teenagers). They have a vision to reach youth with the gospel and sow God’s love and peace and reconciliation. The week after we leave they will host an event at a local high school using mainstream music to start conversations about God. Sabelo will preach about the greatest love, God’s love, a love that never fails. He tells me the school is a large one so they are expecting over 1000 teens to be there. What an amazing example of a ministry multiplying itself! Teens reaching their peers. The ministry here is bearing incredible fruit and it has been a blessing and a joy to have been part of it for even a short while.
As Mary did before so many years ago, we have seen God at work here and now we are treasuring up all these things and pondering them in our hearts. And like the shepherds we will return glorifying and praising God for all the things we have heard and seen. The amazing thing about God’s amazing grace is that it shouldn’t surprise us anymore! But I don’t mind being reminded again and again about the savior who loved us enough to come and die for us, and who bids us Come, Follow Me!
Siyabonga. Lala khahle.
Monday, April 18
We glorify Your name. We glorify Your name. Baba. Father. We glorify your name. These are the words to a favorite Zulu song of mine. I wish I could convey to you to power and beauty of the Zulu voices as they sing these words. In fact, I wish I could convey to you all of the beauty and wonder of this place. Of these people. There simply are no words sufficient.
Today was glorious indeed. We had a day of rest – true rest. This team is so efficient and effective that after church on Sunday we took a rainy afternoon and transformed the chaos that had developed through our four clinics into a neatly packed and organized group of medicines and supplies to be taken up the mountain for our fifth and final clinic. Sharon, Cathy and Megan helped create a supply of medicines to leave for Mercy and Isaiah to use throughout the year (Mercy is a trained nurse). Sarah N. and Anna organized the pharmacy supplies, while Barb organized her nursing supplies. Kristie, Amy and Sarah R. helped to clean the Mafus’ home – one week of 18 guests, including 4 little ones, makes for a messy house J. Heather and Bruce continued doing our laundry (this year we asked everyone to pack only in their carry-ons to allow more room for medical supplies. But carry-ons don’t carry enough clothes for two weeks. Heather and Amy and Kristie have been keeping us, and the Mafus, in clean clothes). Andy prepared dinner with RevRob, grilling some delicious hamburgers. The rainy day ended as it began – raining. But we were able to squeeze in a little game-playing in the evening, popping some popcorn for a delicious snack.
After organizing and preparing everything yesterday, we were able to find some rest in today. Mercy and Sabelo and the rest of our team of Zulu translators headed up the mountain with all the clinic supplies this morning – and praise be to God they have arrived safely!! Sharon, Sarah N. and Isaiah headed into town(s) to run some errands. The rest of the team headed to Richards Bay for some lunch, a little time at the mall, and then a trip to the Indian Ocean. The skies began cloudy, but the day ended beautifully and the crashing waves pounding the sand reminded us all of God’s incredible power. He can tell the ocean to only come so far. He can move the mountains. He can make the rain fall, and the sun shine. He is an awesome God.
Tonight, we’ve enjoyed yet another delicious meal prepared by Anna and Megan. RevRob led us in a time of devotion, reminding us that we are blessed if we live the lives God has called us to live (see Matthew 5). And now we are cleaning up, packing up, and preparing for our trip to Ingwavuma for our final clinic. It’s as if we have turned a corner in this trip. Home, and all of you that we love and miss so much, are in sight. But our hearts are here as well, with these friends we have made, and in this place that has touched us all in unique and special ways. And so we ask that you pray for us. To stay in the moment(s) here. To stay present in this place as long as we are blessed to be able, so that God can continue to use us in whatever ways He can. There is much left to do here – much left to experience. So please pray for us in this way.
And please, please pray for our journey up and down the mountain. We are anxious for the drive but know that God goes before us, travels with us, and holds us in His hands. And we know that you all are lifting us up in your thoughts and prayers and we cannot thank you enough. We may not be able to write for a while as we will be at the game park until Thursday night. But we will write as soon as we return (God willing ;) ). Meanwhile, we lift you all up in prayer as well. We think of you often. We thank God for you. And we look forward to seeing you all again soon!
What do I know of you, who spoke me into motion?
For where have I even stood but on the soil of your ocean?
Are you fire, are you fury? Are you sacred, are you beautiful?
What do I know of Holy?
Today I was reminded of these song lyrics while at the beach at Richard’s Bay. As Sarah mentioned, I too noticed the awesome power and holiness of God as we stood (at the southernmost point in the world that I have ever been) looking at the tall crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. God controls the winds and the waves, and he is most certainly in control of our lives. I am surely thankful of that fact!
So far, it has been such a privilege to serve the Zulu people. I think one of the coolest things is hearing them pray and worship in their native language. At church on Sunday in Gubethuka, the congregation sang songs of thanks to our medical team for helping them. They gave touching testimonies about how the medicine we’ve brought is such a blessing to them. It was very humbling.
Thank you again, supporters, for your continued prayers and faithfulness. I am reminded again and again that this trip was made possible through you and through God. Please pray for our clinic tomorrow on the mountaintop of Ingwavuma.
Sunday, April 17
Greetings from South Africa! It is hard to believe that we have only been here for a week…kind of crazy that next Sunday is Easter, and we will be on a plane back to the U.S.
Today we all enjoyed a well-deserved and needed break (for at least part of the day). After the record setting day of caring for 414 children (yes, that is not a typo…414) in the pediatric clinic, we took some time to rest, regroup and reorganize in preparation for our final clinic on the mountain in Ingwavuma. The morning for some of us turned out to be a little bit more hectic than others. I managed to sleep in, and my mom’s team managed to make it to church in Gubethuka with the driving expertise of Dr. Cathy. The other group’s clutch went out on the rental van leaving some stranded in the rain. Fortunately, Rev Rob was able to make it to church in time for his Palm Sunday sermon, a wonderful way to start Holy Week. The plan was to do the Sunday school lesson and craft with the children (planned by former Girl Scout leader Kristie), but that will be postponed to Good Friday services. The beautiful singing in at the church in Gubethuka and Kwamashesha was amazing, and it really touches your heart. It was difficult for people to get to the worship services this morning because of the rain. The roads were a bit treacherous for driving; I can’t imagine trying to travel on them by foot. We complain about snow in Michigan, but it doesn’t even compare to what the rain does to the dirt roads in South Africa!
I had a lot of fun yesterday caring for the kids in our clinic. It wasn’t so different from what I am used to downtown at Children’s…only difference is that some of them waited more than 8 hours for their chance to see one of the five doctors. The children waited patiently, dressed in their best clothing, and prepared to spend their entire Saturday for their medical care and yearly supply of medications. I had a couple of the children come with hand-written notes from their parents clarifying what was needed, and others posed a bit more challenging like the beautiful 3 year old twin girls who just sat staring wide-eyed at me and were even to shy to talk to my translator. Most of the time I relied on a 10 year old sibling to provide a medical history for all of the children in the family. My translator, Mama Nkosi, definitely has a special place in her heart for children, and I wouldn’t have been able to provide care to anyone without her help. ~ Amy
It has been a very busy week, one that I will never forget. In fact several times I have found myself on the verge of tears for everything that I am grateful for. I see the look in the eyes of the patients and know that being here was the right place for us to be. The Mafus are so very gracious and have opened their home to us and for that I will be always grateful. But more than that the work that they have done here in South Africa with the Africa Christian Ministries is amazing! They will always be remembered in our daily prayers. ~Kristie
We have both enjoyed getting to know everyone in our group and having the unique chance to share this special experience with each of them. We are looking forward to sharing our stories, pictures, and experiences with you when we get home. Please keep Africa Christian Ministries in your prayers as they touch lives in so many ways to the people of this community.
Amy & Kristie
Saturday, April 16th
Today, it rained. It rained children, and it rained water. And to quote our dear teammate Ezra, “I had a rough day.” But we also had a glorious day (and so did Ezra, Abigail and Tony who were able to have a little ice cream tonight, and play a little soccer with the Zulu children this morning).
Our clinic was a huge success today. Despite the rain, we were able to set a record by seeing more than 400 children in 10 hours, and providing “tons” of medication and vitamins to them. Our team from the U.S. and our Zulu partners played and prayed with them all, and tried to reflect the love of God to them. We provided lunch to many of the children (our standard PBJ sandwiches). Several of our team also provided transportation for the children and ACM staff to and from the clinic.
This was by far our best clinic this week. We are all exhausted, but feel great about what was accomplished. Several of the young Zulu men who work for ACM here joined us for a late supper and our evening devotion tonight, and sang some Zulu songs with us. Great fun!
We continue to pray every day for you, our friends, families and supporters back at home. We miss you all, and hope that you are well. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here a week already. Tomorrow is Sunday and we’re going to be helping with the children’s Bible study at both churches in the morning.
We are all well, looking forward to a restful afternoon tomorrow.
Sala kahle, siakuthanda. (stay well, we love you).
Cathy and Sarah N., for the team
Friday, April 15
Sonebona. Or as Ezra says “so-bo-na.”
We are ending our first week and time has flown by. Our team continues to be blessed by the people we are serving here in eSikhawini. Ironic, I know. God is moving in the people of South Africa and in the stirring in the hearts of our team.
Today’s theme of the day for me was LAUGHTER, as I listened to Tony, Abigail, Ezra and Josiah giggle uncontrollably with Mama Mafu. I continue to be reminded of God’s joy and grace in the lives of the Zulu people in the midst of extreme hardship and sadness.
My favorite patient thus far was a sweet, joyful, 90 year old woman, who was giddy like a school girl. Every time I brought another medicine to the table that the doctor had prescribed, she giggled and said, “I can’t believe this is all for me.” Time and time again, the people we served were overwhelmed by the gift of medicine. When getting basic pain medicine that we can buy for $7 at Costco is so hard, people are so grateful for even ONE day without pain.
It has been such a joy seeing each member of our team being used by God according to their gifts. From Dr.’s Amy, Andy, Bruce, Cathy, and Sharon’s healing touch to Kristie’s excellent direction abilities (as this is crucial for the running of a smooth clinic), God is moving. The gift of touch exudes out of Heather as she puts blood pressure cuffs on patient after patient. Tinashe’s heart for showing God’s love through teeth radiates with her every smile. The gentle hands of Barb show each patient that they are special to God. Sarah N.’s very presence (after 8 years) eases the patients as they trust her with their prescriptions. Megan’s passion for PT shone through today as a 5 year old boy with a developmental delay was fitted with a make shift walker (out of an old chair) – AMAZING! Sarah R.’s flexibility to be the “as needed” player made her invaluable. Rev Rob continues to share with us his words of wisdom after years of ministry, and has been surrounded by patients seeking help for their sight. It is so evident that God has put this team together with specific gifts in mind. Not only is our American team perfectly fit to support each other and fill in the gaps, our African team has also been hand picked by God for “such a time as this.” Even Tony, Ezra, Abigail and Josiah play their roles as “joy makers” so well.
As I sit here writing this email, our team is getting ready to meet for devotions and eating cake in honor of Tinashe’s last night with us. We are all a bit sad to lose this member of our team as it has been amazing to see a dentist at work for the love of Jesus.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Anna (& Ezra)
Thursday, April 14
Amazinyo (Of Teeth & Men)
Zechariah 4: 6
Not by my might, or by my power and strength; but by your Spirit, oh Lord Almighty
Africa Christian Ministries Medical Outreach includes a dental component for the first time this year. It has been an honor to be obedient, to be of service to and with my neighbors, and participate in the great commission, sharing and showing His love through dentistry.
I treated a gogo (grandmother) today, whom while I was dismissing, wrote me a note that said: “Ngiyabonga, ungikhiphe kahle inkosi, busise besengifile” (Thank you, you pulled my teeth so nicely, God bless you! They almost killed me!). Gogo did not know for the past two days I have been praying for each patient, praying for each tooth on each patient, praying for relief of those I get to serve, praying for a painless injection, praying for no teeth to break as I pull them, praying for there to be no post operative complications, praying for minimal post operative pain or discomfort. Praying for peace.
Granted, there have been a few incidents where I (yes, the I word) have been frustrated at my inability to treat everyone that has come into my temporary cubicle. But as one of my teammates reminded me, “We’re here, doing the best we can, with what we have. Thank God.”
Thank you God, for your might, for Your strength. Thank you for these gifts of medicine and dentistry to express Your grace, to glorify You.
p.s. Happy Birthday Dr. Amy! We love you J
1 Peter 4: 10-11
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving another, as good stewards of the manifold Grace of God… Whoever serves, let him do so as but the strength which God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.
Wednesday April 13, 2011
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Tonight we sang “He is mighty to save”, and this morning we began with the verse from Matthew – ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. And both the beginning and end of this day, anchored in God and God’s strength and promises, fit our experiences perfectly.
It was a first clinic for all of us this trip, and a first clinic in SA for a number of our team. So there was some anxiousness about how things would go. But moment by moment, patient by patient, one procedure after another, there was a wonderful calm and confidence that grew among us and enabled us to both work well together and concentrate not so much on what we were doing but on the people with whom we were working and for whose sake we have come.
Simply put, it was as smooth and incident free a day as could be hoped and prayed for, and we thank you for adding your prayers to ours.
After a busy and full day yesterday of pill counting and medicine sorting, with the children joyously watched over by young people from the Church, and an evening of getting lunches ready for all of us and all the staff, we hit the beds for a short night.
Up very early and on our way shortly after 6:30 to Gubhatuka we arrived before 7:30 to find 150 people already waiting in line to see the Winter Doctors, and to find the ‘clinic’ set up for us by the young people directed by Mercy Mafu.
After introducing ourselves to the waiting people, and a brief affirming and challenging message about our faith by a young leader of ACM - Sabelo – the clinic began smoothly and ran that way all day.
Our docs, key to all we do, carefully processed patients who were first registered by our Zulu helpers, then screened by Kristie, Sarah R. and Barbara, who measured vital signs, and then ushered to one of the doctor stations by Heather.
Once seen by one of the Docs (how grateful our veteran doctors are – Sharon, Andy and Cathy - to have additional help from Amy and Bruce) our patients then either moved to be seen for eye glasses by Pastor Robertson and his great Zulu helpers, and or moved to the pharmacy to receive the meds prescribed by the docs from the pharmacy staff of Sarah N., Megan, Anna, and others who pitched in as time allowed. Better than Rite Aid or Costco for sure – very personal service.
A surprise this year and today was the number of patients who were referred by the docs to our Dentist, Tinashe. Thought to be mostly an observer today, our dentist did numerous treatments and even one extraction with her portable dental equipment. Dental hygiene surely needs encouragement, and rural dentistry may be that encouragement, though patients expressed only gratitude.
After all treatments and medication were completed each patient was invited to join the prayer circle where their concerns and needs and joys were prayed for by the Zulu prayer team members and members for our staff from time to time.
In the rush of all we were doing it was a delight to see our youngest Team members, Josiah and Ezra, taking turns zonking out in the pack-and-play in between rigorous play periods with Tony and Abigail, supervised by the great teen sitters.
All things did truly work together for good. We saw over 150 patients including a Chief of the Zulu and two of his wives. New glasses for them all!
Done by four, packed up and home just before dark, we gathered with the members of the Church in Kwamashesha for the Wednesday night Bible Study. Rev. Rob led a teaching and sharing about how God’s Word is addressed to us for our own good especially in times of trouble, anxiety, or stress. God is great and God is Good – all the time.
Tonight was a great dinner of Sharon’s taco soup (prepared largely by Anna), devotions led by Andy on guitar, and team member Kristie who shared her Scripture verse and her life token. Barbara continues to clean in the kitchen, tireless alongside Cathy and Kristie. The entire team lends a hand when needed.
A cloudy humid night – no brilliant southern sky – but we know the Southern Cross is there – as is the guiding redeeming light of love from the cross of our Savior.
We learned again today to trust in God through Jesus Christ, by whom, and through whom with whom we can do all things.
GOD IS WITH US ALWAYS AND IN ALL WAYS - BELIEVE IN POSSIBILITY
Today is another day of God being ever so present. Our team, those of us from MI and our friends here in eSikhawini, sorted/counted meds, lots of meds which are so valued by the people who come to the clinic. Also, there was getting eye glasses and the medical supplies ready for the clinic activity. Our first clinic is tomorrow at Gutbethuka. We are ready. Prayers for efficient joyful work and God the focus in our doings were so appreciated. It was a very busy full day. It will be an early start in the morning – on the road to clinic at 6:30 AM.
P.S. Tony would like his mom to know that he is having a great time playing with his friends. And he has been drinking a lot of juice because he has stayed dry the whole time.