I have the privilege of completing this post while sitting in a beautiful home on a comfy couch, waiting for the potjie on the fire to be ready… Life is good! The South2North team arrived in South Africa on Sunday morning. Taking the Gautrein to Hatfield was such a pleasure. South Africa really feels like a first world country compared to other African countries, and it takes a few weeks away from home to realize again how lucky we are!
This week we are busy with our re-entry phase. We are taking the time to reflect on our experiences this year and also to finish up formal duties such as writing reports on our outreach. Our graduation takes place on Friday evening!
Allow me to share more about our final week on outreach…
The tuk-tuk ride to Kano village was a good experience. Kisumu’s rural areas were even more beautiful than I remembered, probably due to the fact that it had been raining. We took a different road than the one we took last year, and I was pleasantly surprised when I unexpectedly saw the Maisha Community centre. The building was under construction when a MOTE team visited Maisha in June 2010, and during that time they had only started with the second story. Now the Maisha community center was a proper double story building with a big dining hall, an office, a tailoring room and even a solar powered computer room with uncapped wireless internet. In little more than a year they have really come a long way!
We had a busy and enjoyable week of ministry… On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the guys helped with Maisha’s little farm. We took out weeds, replaced protection nets on trees and worked in the fields. The girls helped the ladies in the kitchen to prepare food for the 200+ orphans in the feeding program. I also helped to upgrade the computer lab’s software, a task made very easy by the uncapped internet!
We went to a very small church close to the community center on Sunday morning. The pastor invited us the previous day while we were walking past his house. Despite the fact that I confirmed three times with him that HE would be preaching, I was asked to deliver a sermon only after the service already started. I kind of expected this to happen so I did prepare a short word, definitely not a full sermon! By the grace of God it went quite well… (and it was our shortest African church service to date)
Sunday was a big day for the kids. Beatrice Williamson, founder of Maisha, and a team of four arrived from the US. You could sense the excitement in the air as hundreds of kids walked down down the dirt road to welcome them. You could see that she is really revered in the community. Beatrice grew up in the village, and through God’s great provision she had the privilege to study in the US, where she now lives. She returned to her home village to start the Maisha orphans and widows program, a project which has since grown a lot and has touched hundreds of kids.
Our final week of outreach was exciting and interesting. Maisha was a hive of activity, there were so many things happening at once. We helped one of the Americans to drill a shallow well, something none of us have ever done before. Using special equipment and techniques, but no powered machinery, we dug a hole of about 60 feet. Christo especially enjoyed this learning experience. During the same week one of the old houses was demolished to make space for a new orphan home, farming and leadership training sessions were presented and new agriculture techniques were tested. There was more than enough work to do!
Our evenings were spent with the kids. On my first outreach to Maisha I made some very good friends, Paul (14) and Elijah (13). I did not make friends like these on all the other outreaches I have been, and I thought that maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was one of my first outreaches. When I saw Paul and Elijah again I realized why we did become such good friends… The kids in Kenya are just different. Their English is quite good which makes communication easier and they are extremely inquisitive – they ask the most interesting questions. They are also very caring. I’ll never forget Paul’s words “By the way Hendré, you know, I pray for you and Bibi every night before I go to sleep, that God may keep you safe and that He may give you everything you need. I thank Him so much that He has brought you back to me.” In a later discussion when I asked him to pray for my family, he replied, “But I already do! I pray for your mother and your father every night when I pray for you. Why did you not bring them here?”
These are special kids indeed, but, the do not have it easy. Elijah’s father died earlier this year, and his mother has to walk two hours into town and back every day to try and sell a few vegetables just so they may have something to eat. There is absolutely no extra money for things such as school fees and clothes, something you notice when you see them wearing the same torn shirt for a week.
Given the chance, these two can really come far! Elijah wants to become a doctor and Paul an electrical engineer… high aspirations for two youngsters from a rural Kenyan village. I believe they have it in them to succeed: Elijah is very smart and does very well at school, he has a great willingness to learn. Paul is a very hard worker. I was so blessed when Paul took me to his home to show me his tomato farm and chickens. I expected to see a small tomato garden, but instead he took me to a 50 x 15m piece of land where his tomato plants stood. He explained to me how he started small, “just as an experiment”. He sold his first batch of tomatoes for R150, and with that money he bought more seeds and four A-Grade chickens. Kids here go to school till 5PM, six days a week! He had to use every spare lunch hour to work in order to prepare the bigger piece of land. His hard work is paying off, already the new plants are growing and he now has 9 chickens in total! It is stories like these that give me hope for Africa, stories of young people standing up against their circumstances, making a difference with a willingness to work hard! It is because of these characteristics that I have decided to sponsor them each month… I am not in the position to give much, but for them a little really goes a long way! (If you would be interested in sponsoring a kid like this, please give me a shout…)
Time at Maisha went by quickly. On our last evening there the American team treated us to fish that we enjoyed next to Lake Victoria. We were also given a great goodbye in the form of a farewell ceremony where the kids sang us a few songs. The next day we started the long journey back to Dar es Salaam…
The bus trip from Kisumu to Nairobi was great… The bus was extremely comfortable, something we did not expect, and the driver drove safely. Each seat even had sockets to charge your phone. The next day was a different story – the Dar Express bus from Nairobi to Dar was driven by a speeding maniac! Praise the Lord that we arrived safely in Dar, 14 hours later.
Our final evening in Dar es Salaam was the highlight of our trip for me… before dinner we came together as a team to pray and thank God for an awesome time. What was planned as a 30 minute get-together turned into a two hour session where team members expressed their gratitude towards each other and God. It was such a good feeling to finish our outreach well!!
All the glory to God! We were abundantly blessed: despite the fact that we traveled for 150 hours, sometimes on dodgy vehicles and on dodgy roads; despite the fact that we ate food from dodgy places; despite the fact that we traveled through places with a very high prevalence of Malaria and other diseases and despite the fact that we visited areas with a high crime rate, absolutely nothing bad happened. No one got severely ill, no one got hurt. We had no accidents, not even one break down. Despite the odd runny tummy, the food did nothing to us and nothing got stolen. I believe in that lies a massive testimony!
We as the South2North team want to thank every one that had a part to play in this amazing journey. Thanks goes out to every sponsor, every host and every person that prayed with us and for us. Without you, this would not have been possible! We are very excited about MIA2012 and so are all the people we visited, we are thankful that we could have played a part in this process and we look forward to see what God is going to do in July 2012.
Hendre and the South2North team.
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