Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - Teach Them Diligently

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Stories from South Africa - Living in Rural South Africa

Driving out to our rural outreach location was interesting - the view was awesome rolling hills, banana and orange trees - (The fruit in South Africa is awesome)!  Some of the bananas were covered in a plastic bag - I am not sure why.  The community we went to live in was rural yet not too rural.  Our goal for this outreach was to live in tents, cook over a fire, start up some ministry in the town and have a chicken experience.

 I like to say it was a bit of The Apprentice - having our own initiative  to start ministry,  Surviver since we had to cook over a fire, use a long drop (outhouse) and take bucket baths, and the Amazing Race - because this whole experience in SA was kind of like this.  The only difference was we couldn't kick anyone off.  I am sure some of my teammates wouldn't have minded kicking me off a time or two.

We arrived to Pastor James's court yard and were shown where we could set up our tents.

When we were preparing to leave for the Rural outreach we were given some advice:
1.  Your kids will be dirty get used to it.
2.  Don't let your kids play in the sand - as there are worms in the sand.
3. Cover your kids in misquote repellent before dusk.
4.  Your kids will be dirty get used to it. 

When we arrived the first thing little Lucy did was make her happy sound and lay down in the sand and start playing.  We quickly realized that it wasn't going to be possible to keep it out of it.  Irina also loved the sand - thankfully no worms.

The second thing Lucy did was poop in her diaper and then reach her hands into her diaper and spread it all over her.  We had just arrived were still figuring out where everything was located and we hadn't collected any water yet.  The bathroom consisted of a "long drop"  another name for an outhouse and the shower was accomplished with a bucket.  So I stripped her, cleaned her with wet wipes and dressed her again.  All in all it was a good initiation of our time in this rural community.

We then set out to set up our tents.  We were a mixed group of people.  There was Jonathan a young man of South African Afrikaans decent who had just turned 18 the month before.  Danree who I say is from the Brooklyn of South Africa - Cape Town who was from Indian decent.  Jaco our team leader also South African Afrikaans decent.  Then Faith our co-leader from Hong Kong China, Maria from Ohio, Tony and I from South Dakota and our three kids.  Maggie from Sweden and Donghyuk from South Korea.
Our Rural Outreach Team

We were given two tents with the idea that the children could sleep in one tent and Tony and I could sleep in the other.  We quickly realized that the African nights were too dark and there wasn't any possibility of a night light in a tent.  Also the malaria pills that we were giving our children caused some interesting nightmares.   We then thought maybe Wesley and Tony could sleep in one tent and I and the girls in another.   Wesley wanted to be in the bigger tent so it ended up with me and the kids in one tent and Tony by himself in the other tent.  I quickly put a ca-bash to that and so all five of us slept in the big tent.  It worked out, I wasn't going to be with all the kids all by myself.

So that began our 17 days of tent living.  Finding room for our stuff - trying to keep it from the edge so that the night dew wouldn't seep in, the biggest problem was the sand - every two days I would put all our stuff into the pack and play and sweep the entire tent out.  I was always amazed at the amount of sand that accumulated.

Ministry was a mixture of things.  We did some dramas for the grammar school, did an AIDS/HIV talk for the local high school.  Did house visits and prayed with people.  Played with the local children and a few of us did the sermon for the church services.   We were also able to go to a local school for the disabled after I got to know one of their Deaf students Jeffery.  It was a struggle to understand each other with my American Sign Language and the South African sign language being very different.  They did use the same finger spelling and not British finger spelling so we were able to use that a bit.  We found creative ways to communicate but at times it was quite a struggle.  The program we did at the disabled school was by far one that I remember the most and they really enjoyed it.
Me in the middle of the Deaf Education Classroom, Jeffery is on the far left with the red under-shirt.

One women I won't ever forget - was covered in sores.  It was pretty clear that she had AIDS - We were able to talk to her and pray with her.  I really felt God impress on me to share with her the story of Hagar and how God saw her.  That God loved her and saw her and wanted to know her even more.  I won't ever forget that women for me she really impressed on me how much God loves us all and wants to meet us where we are at.  That his love is all covering and there is nothing He doesn't know and through it all He loves us.

Struggles of the Rural outreach were many.  It was challenging to live in a small tent for 17 days and Tony and I had our share of arguments and frustrations as we balanced doing ministry and children.  Our team was very helpful and shared the load of watching the children so that Tony and I could do some ministry together.  We had some personality conflicts that I won't ever forget, but through it all we were brother and sisters in Christ and in that we grew and God used us to encourage the church and the community.

I was very impressed with the big night sky of rural South Africa it was amazing to see the other stars in all their glory!

In a future post I'll share the challenges of the Long Drop and Bucket showers. 

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