Friday, February 25, 2011

African Nuggets

 Forever a mother
A very special person I have met on one of our feeding scheme rounds is a Gogo – who will forever be a mother.  I still do not know her name as her English is limited to “God Bless you”, but I do know that she has a heart that has imparted many blessings.  She lives in a tiny house – a 2-roomed house in fact.  One side is the kitchen / Bathroom / “lounge” (with no furniture) and the 2nd room a bedroom for 5 people.  There is no running water in the house – just an outside tap; and electricity gets bought when they have the odd Rand or two.  Her daughter died while giving birth to twins and thus left behind a young boy of 6 and twins (a boy and girl).  The daughters’ husband is never home as he is permanently on the road looking for work.  Which leaves the Gogo to act as mother to the children.  Often one will arrive and she will be sitting on the floor with the twins on either side of her – feeding, dressing, changing (the twins are now about 6 months old) – and the young boy also sitting at her feet “learning his numbers”, as they could not afford to send him to a pre-school.  She also looks after Ashley – an abandoned brain-damaged girl – from another family member.  Ashley spends her days rolling around on a blanket – is wearing nappies and needs to be fed, changed, calmed down at regular intervals – and is basically an adult baby.
Have I ever heard a word of complaint from this Gogo who herself should be spoilt and enjoying her twilight years?  Never.  Just expressions of thankfulness; praise to God for seeing her through yet another day and noticing a woman caring when she herself needs caring.  The photo is of the young boy enjoying his daily bath.  Isn’t life wonderfully simple?  Who else can brag about having a bath in the beautiful sunshine?

I just hope his work realizes that they have a Good Samaritan working for them
She was lost.  She had actually been lost from the minute she left the safe haven of her home – a Gogo (a granny) of about 93 years – who was frustrated and wanted to do something useful – not just sit around at home.  We had seen her wandering around Aphiwe in Tembisa from even before our classes started – but not really thought anything about it.  Then came the knock on the door.  Could we please take the Gogo back home?  Her legs were tired and even her spindly wooden walking stick could hardly keep her upright anymore.  Now the community spirit we experience daily in Tembisa came into play.  This Gogo had left home at 6h00 (we later discovered) . . . it was now past 10h00 ; she was more than 3km from her home;  couldn’t remember where she lived; could barely speak through a mouth devoid of teeth  - but was now identified.  A young gentleman on his way to the train station to get to work just happened to recognise her and realized her predicament.  He then plucked up the courage to come interrupt our class to ask if we could give the Gogo a glass of water and take her home later.  He was prepared to wait for us – and to be late for work.  How thankful I am that the community has accepted us – know that they can trust us – have the freedom to ask us favours.  We took the Gogo home immediately with the young man giving directions.  When we dropped her off she was muttering about “now she just has to sit around again” (once translated) – but soon cheered up when we invited her to join us for a cup of tea whenever she was near Aphiwe again.  The young gentleman we dropped off at the station – a good hour late for work! 
It made me wonder . . . would I have stopped to help knowing that I would most probably be late for work . . . would I have recognised my neighbour – let alone someone who lives some distance down the road . . . would I have cared enough – or would I have left it – rationalizing that it was not my problem.
Goliath is bullet-proof
On Friday mornings we are privileged to give Sunday School lessons at a variety of pre-schools (ages 0 – 6years).  The main aim of these lessons is to give the busy teachers a break (they start work at 5h30) and also to show how to teach concepts such as numbers, colours, size and shape by using stories from the Bible and simple resources.  Now – it is quite a challenge to teach at these pre-schools.  It is not everyday that a mago (white man) comes to your school – so all want to attend the class.  You are then faced with a range of ages – from 2 to 6; a class where at least 3 languages are spoken, and English is not a first language for anyone – and therefore you need to work through a translator; and often the space in which you have to do your lesson is no larger than a single garage.  But it is fun.  This Friday we did David and Goliath.  Someway through the story I realized that the teacher was struggling to translate.  I would say one sentence – but she would talk and talk and talk.  Eventually she said “There is no word for “armour” which the children would understand.  Hmmmm. Predicament.  But then a simple solution – Goliath was wearing a bullet proof vest – he was bullet proof. 
It made sense to her ; it made sense to the kids.  The children didn’t even question how it is then possible for someone who is bulletproof to be killed with a stone?  Modern technology obviously still has its weak spots.  They loved the story – I loved the moment.

You just never know . . .
“I was sitting at the hospital waiting for the doctor, feeling so sick, when I got a phone call saying my grandchildren were coming to spend the weekend with me.  I started worrying because I knew there was no food in the house and I was using the last of my money to pay the doctor.” ( C )
“The parents of the pre-school  have not being paying as most of them only have “piece” jobs – so by Friday I had used up the last of my mieliepap for the kids, but I had some bones which we were going to cook up for a stew with a tomato, and survive on that for the weekend.” (M)
“I really didn’t know what to do – the street kids and orphans were going to come in the morning for food and donations had been really bad.  There was nothing in the freezer and only some sugar in a container.  And sugar on its own is not food.” (G)
And to think that I had been contemplating whether or not to drop off the food that Friday – or freeze it and wait till Monday.  A catering company, Horn&Philips, have kindly been giving us their “left-overs” after big functions.  It entails us fetching it; sorting out what should go where and to whom; repacking it and then going to deliver it- a good 3 to 4 hour job.  On a Friday afternoon – especially a very hot African Friday afternoon – this is not a sought after job!  But something moved us that day.  Oh I believe now that it was an angel – but on that Friday afternoon there was just no rhyme or logical reason for doing what we did.
C wasn’t home (she was at the hospital) so we just left a donation of meat and vegetables on her kitchen table, and even popped some dessert in her fridge;  M and her family were cooking up the bones when we arrived – and a sparse meal suddenly turned into a feast (talk about turning water into wine.  I now know how big those smiles of the bridegroom must have been when experiencing that miracle);  G just found the nearest bench and cried.  It was good to cry with her.
From a small donation of food that could have been chucked more than 50 hungry tummies were fed that weekend.
You just never know . . . H&P didn’t know what a massive difference their contribution would make (it seemed so little) . . . we didn’t know what just a little extra effort would make to the lives of so many people that weekend.  Thank God we were prepared to be moved.  As Lucas said in an exhortation recently “nothing ever can happen until something moves”.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Get digging!

I had an interest in food gardening before I came to South Africa, and hoped to be able to implement it in some way while we were here.  I feel it's really important that people have a connection with the food they eat - preferably by putting in a bit of cardiovascular exercise! - as it helps us to remember the awe of creation when those new green shoots start coming through....not to mention the provision of the Almighty Creator.
Soon after we came to Margate, Ben met a photographer, whose wife was a gardener.....with an interest in community food garden training.......isn't God amazing?
We came into contact with an orphanage, where the committee who run it have kind hearts but struggle to make ends meet for the bills etc.
We are hoping to help them with advice and training very soon, but in the meantime, they have a huge plot of land which is currently growing mielies (corn) and a few shrivelled tomatoes - I could see that if this ground was used effectively they'd more fresh produce than they'd know what to do with!  They'd never have to buy any, and could probably sell surplus to get an income.

Sue (the garden professional) came along this weekend to train those who were interested.  The system involves easy maintenance, self-composting and easy watering once it is up and running.  Brother Nelson, his wife and son came along to help with the digging and pick up tips.

The first plots are in place, it remains to be seen whether they can keep up the watering in the first few this space!

your sister in Christ
Caz Parsons (Margate)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jack up a shack

Maria is a regular attendee in the Johannesburg ecclesia. Her brother, who she lived with, was a member of the meeting. He past away a few months ago, and she had nowhere to live. She found a shack in a township in Tembisa but the shack was leaking. 
Because of all the heavy rain fall we had the past few months most of her things were damaged. We had many members of the meeting donating things like clothes, blankets and many more but the leaking of her shack still was a major problem.
We went to Maria on Friday the 11th of Feb. When we got there, we were joined by two 5 year old boys. They were explaining things to us but we did not understand them as they were speaking in Zulu. Our two young “foremen” were either excited or trying to tell us how to do the cementing job that lay ahead.
We (Michael and I) started to mix concrete to put all around her house. At the start of every new batch we mixed the boys were explaining to us what to do and just pointing there fingers while we just nodded our heads and said yes.
We also met a lot of people who wanted to know what we are doing and wanted to know how they could get involved. We told them about the Aphiwe centre and every thing going on there. They were all very eager to know more so maybe in the future we will have a lot of new Bible students.
With love - your brother in Christ
Hendri Viljoen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Our weekend of feasting

Children, laughter, Sunset, lovely weather and great friendships is what God blessed us with this past weekend. We started off on Saturday where we had a delicious meal at Molly who runs the Thato day care centre. She cooked us a African meal and we had Bro Stuart Walker from the UK and Frederick and Yolanda with all their children from the safe home joining us. Yolanda’s home of safety is only 2 blocks down from Molly, we picked the children up there ad walked up the street with one or two children each. Molly and her family really treated us by feeding all the children and serving us. After watching the Sunset in Tembisa and playing with the children on the jungle gyms we started our walk back to Yolanda’s home. It felt so good walking in Tembisa at night and feeling so safe. We had many people look at us, probably thinking we were crazy, but the children loved it and so did we.
 On Sunday we had Molly’s children attend the meeting together with Frederick, Yolanda and all her children. As we arrived all the older Sunday school children came running to collect a child and they looked after them the duration of the meeting, they were so quiet right throughout the meeting we almost forgot they were there. This was followed by and Ecclesial lunch, after the children got over their fear of the cat and dog they started to relax, swim and played with some bottle tops (this kept them busy for hours), we had a slippy slide out which was also allot of fun. As the adults discussed a book we have just read the children all had their afternoon nap. We had coffee, tea and cake and spent some more time in the garden with everyone. Hendri and myself then took Yolanda, Frederick and the 7 children home after a very long and exciting day. “What a beautiful weekend” said Yolanda as we started our journey to Tembisa.
Liezl Scheepers
Ignite2020 team - Kempton Park

Monday, February 14, 2011

CUDDLE goes live in Margate!

All the talk, now time for action! 

Despite not being a qualified teacher, or having children of my own, our time with the Scheepers in Kempton Park had persuaded me of the huge impact that the crèche teacher course could have on so many children in disadvantaged communities.

Most of us know how much important brain development takes place in the preschool years, yet in South Africa government schooling does not commence until aged 6-7.  If you cannot afford to pay fees to send your child to a well-run, well-resourced preschool (or 'crèche' as they are known here), your child will be struggling alongside his/her peers in Grade 1 and beyond, with the consequences on their education and career prospects profound.

And this in a country where school leavers are fighting for limited university places and job opportunities even when they have good grades.

So I had, on Leona's advice, spoken to the local Social Development office and got the names of 12 crèche teachers who may benefit and I had tried to visit most of them personally in the rural areas high above Margate. I had seen how remote their crèches were – it took 3 hours to visit 7 of them, with our little Hyundai Atos struggling up the rutted dirt roads – how many of them would feel it was worth their time and taxi money to make the 45-60 minute trip to the Margate Good News Centre for the course?

I had 18 possible names but just 3 ladies who had paid by the time the morning of the first lesson arrived.  And it was raining…….after some heartfelt prayer the skies cleared and I went to set up the room.  Half an hour before the class was due to start, 8 ladies poured off a taxi outside the Centre! Praise God! 

In total we had 15 ladies attend the course, we even ran out of coffee cups at break time and sister Cecilia had to gallop down to her own house to get some more!  Many of the ladies knew each other so there was relaxed chat throughout, and some audible gasps of appreciation when some of the information was passed around – like a roster for cleaning toilets!

The first week was an amazing blessing after all the planning and emotional investment, and so this week it felt almost too much to ask that they all return – but they did!  They happily cut out bits of newspaper and sang songs but struggled and groaned when I made them sit on the floor for the 'morning circle', so we'll be standing from now on!

These ladies now all know where the Margate Good News Centre is, they know it is a church hall and that we run Bible courses there.  Even if these ladies don't choose to learn more about our heavenly Father and his Truth, I am making sure he is frequently a part of each lesson and I am confident that the education of the 10 or 20 (30, 40, 50?) children each teacher comes in contact with, will be richer and broader as a result of this course. Jesus told us that children are important to him and his Father (Mark10.14) so to be able to help them now, in this way, is an amazing spiritual adventure for me!

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matt 25.40

Caz Parsons, Margate

Monday, February 7, 2011

Jungle Gym Dismantled

"Rain, Rain Go Away Come Back On Another Day" How many times have we sung this song? Well on Wednesday 5 January 2011 it would have been really applicable. Hendri and I were asked to dismantle and retrieve a Jungle gym that was donated in Sandton and by the pictures we saw, we knew that this Jungle Gym was big and a handful but what we forgot was that the camera always lies.

 This was truly a blessing - a gift from God - as this jungle gym was HUGE and from it we would be able to build three smaller sized gyms for the crèches in Tembisa. But now how will we get it away? We decided to recruit Llewellyn Scheepers (Lucas and Leona's 16 year old son) and a 750kg trailer and off we went. On the way it started pouring down and we got worried but on our arrival the rain stopped and it seemed like we would be able to work in dry conditions or so we thought….. Enter Rain stage left!  A nice and refreshing rain started to fall on us and cooled our bodies from the hard labour we where performing and later on we were given refuge bags to serve as a rain coat. But alas the rain was stronger and we got soaked - but we kept going dismantling pole for pole, bolt by bolt. 2 hours later when we completed our dismantling the rain stopped.

We loaded all the poles onto the hired trailer that was 80 meters away, but the platform was too big and we had to dismantle it as well. But that was the least of our worries as it started to look as if the trailer would soon be overloaded but by God's grace and mercy we loaded the recently disassembled platform and all of the poles. Now to return home and off load.

Silence was the key word in the Isuzu on the way back as we were all so exhausted but yet satisfied as we knew we had done this to benefit children that are less fortunate, instead of enriching ourselves or a company. And that gave us new power and hope for after we stopped at the Scheepers residence to drop off the gym it took a mere half an hour to offload the trailer instead of the hour it took to load it all.

We are in the progress of designing and building the new Jungle gyms and I'm looking forward to telling you all about that.  

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." NLT Philippians 4 v 13

With Love in Christ

Michael Furstenburg

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gr R - Phonics Course

As a supplement to the 'crèche crash course' run by Leona, and an entrée to the Gr R Theme Books, she and I recently presented a course on how to teach young children to read and write, focusing especially on learning the phonetic alphabet and explaining to them how to use the 'alphabet book' compiled by Natalie Boardman from Oz. We have found the only way to make sure they understand what you expect them to teach the child is to have them complete all the work the child has to – i.e. they are the 'child' and we are the 'teachers'.
This is great fun, especially with ladies like Dora, who loves to be a 'naughty child' and see how we deal with the situation!
The alphabet book works as such: Each letter is assigned 2 pages, on the first page is a coloring picture starting with that letter, e.g. an apple for 'a', and on the second page the child practices writing the letter over a large template (or pastes the shape of the letter in with wool/mealie meal/glitter) and then several smaller templates. There are also about 8 pictures, some that begin with that letter and some that do not – he must circle/color only those that do begin with the letter, and then there is a space where the child must search for the letter or pictures starting with the letter in a magazine, cut them out and paste them. We encourage all the crèches to acquire these books for especially their 5 & 6 yr olds.
Most white children will complete a similar book in the first grade of primary school, I certainly did, and yet these ladies (most of them crèche 'principals') had never done such a thing in their lives! They had great fun creating the wool letters and searching for the correct pictures. What they enjoyed most of all however, was searching for the letters/pictures in the magazines! In fact we had quite a hard time moving on from that step!
It was a lovely morning with some really lovely ladies, and what I thank God for the most is that through each of these ladies we have managed to make a small but significant impact on many young learners. As always I feel very blessed to be part of such a great work.
Lilandi Furstenburg