Friday, August 27, 2010

Blogosphere Blessings

Last week, I was back in Ohio where I grew up and I had an opportunity to meet one of my blog friends in person.  This was the first time I had a chance to meet someone face to face that I know from the blogosphere.  And it was wonderful!

I don't even remember how I discovered her blog, but I have been reading Christy's blog for about 2 years, soon after she began blogging.  I have always appreciated how real, genuine, sweet and wise she is, and I love the perspectives she shares on her life and the Lord.  I have thought on many occasions, "if she lived close by, I would love to have her as a friend in real life and just be able to sit down and grab a cup of coffee with her."  When I realized I was going to have a little bit of free time during my visit to Ohio, and that she lives just 45 minutes away from where I grew up, I just knew I had to e-mail her and see if it might work out for us to meet.  She invited me to her home for lunch (which included some delicious chocolate brownies and coffee) and we spent the whole afternoon chatting about life, ministry, marriage, and how we've seen God's hand on our lives.  We even discovered during our visit that we were born in the same hospital!

Christy was just as warm and thoughtful as I knew her to be from her posts.  Her home is beautiful, cozy and inviting, just like her blog.  I felt welcome and comfortable from the minute I walked in the door. 

If you don't know Christy already, head over to her blog Between Here and Home.  I think you'll be so glad you did!  And if you ever have a chance to meet a blog friend in real life, take it!  It is so fun, and a sweet blessing, that two women who never would have had a chance to meet, were able to do so because of the blog world.  God can encourage and bless us in ways that we wouldn't expect and I am thankful that He has blessed me with Christy's friendship through our blogs, even though we live thousands of miles apart.

P.S.  There are still more photos coming from our summer adventures in Africa & Italy, but we've had a back-up drive issue that has meant hours and hours and hours of backing up & recovering photos.  Thankfully, we didn't lose any photos!  I look forward to sharing a few more posts in the coming weeks!  And some fun crafty projects too!

Friday, August 13, 2010

BEAM Africa

Our Campus Crusade for Christ team was blessed to serve with BEAM Africa for 2 weeks in the Nellmapius Township outside of Pretoria, South Africa.  More than any thoughts I can share, a photo is worth a thousand words as you look at the faces of the precious children we worked with at BEAM.

Just looking through the images from our time loving on these kids makes my heart ache to be back with them.  I miss their sweet spirits, their huge smiles, the sounds of their belly laughter floating across the field, and their deep joy.  I miss being greeted by little feet running to our vans each morning, warm bodies jumping into our arms before we could even get out of the car, and shouts of "bye" chasing us down the road until they couldn't keep up any longer, as we drove away each afternoon.  We didn't do anything extraordinary to be embraced so extravagantly by these hundreds of little faces.  We just loved.

This is my sweet little South African friend, Ofrance. (O-france-ay)  She was my buddy and was usually by my side all day every day that she was with us at BEAM.  I miss her gentle spirit and her smile that melted my heart.  I'll share a story later about how the Lord used this little girl to speak into my life.

Truman loved them as much as they loved him.  This picture just makes my heart smile.  He's going to be a great dad!

Hours and hours of soccer were played.  It's always a favorite, but these were the weeks of the World Cup, so there was a special excitement for all things soccer.

Kids of ALL sizes loved taking turns riding on the shoulders of our US students. "This one, this one" could often be heard as they shouted and pointed to themselves to be sure we knew that they wanted a turn next!  No wonder our students were so tired every night!

All of the girls LOVED to play with our hair.  They could braid and re-braid for hours.  Sometimes, 2 or 3 girls would even share a head if there weren't enough to go around.  We ended up with some very creative hairstyles!

At times, my lap was VERY full!  It wasn't unusual to have 2 or 3 kids sitting in my lap while another 1 or 2 played with my hair.  (That's precious Ofrance again on the left.)

This little one is Norshea. (Nor-shay-uh)  She was standing alone crying when we arrived at BEAM our last morning.  I picked her up and held her in my arms and she wouldn't let me put her down for the rest of the day until we got in the vans to leave.

Some hugs, care, and attention turned her tears into smiles.  And some upside down swinging brought out belly laughs.  Seeing that smile all day brought me such joy.  I was the one in tears when I had to say goodbye that afternoon.

This was Truman's buddy, Chantel. She sat with him one afternoon and then she wanted to hang out with him all the time.  She even brought him a little gift and he gave her a bracelet the day we left.

Even though it was winter, many of the children didn't have shoes. Many of those that did had holes in their shoes.  

BEAM does an amazing job of serving a complete meal each day including meat, vegetables and a starch. For many of the children, this might be the only meal they eat that day.

If you saw any of the opening or closing ceremonies for the World Cup, you probably heard the Shakira song "Waka Waka" that was the official anthem of the World Cup.  We literally heard it at least once a day (but usually more like 5) for the entire five and a half weeks we were in South Africa.  It was a favorite of the kids and little voices were often heard singing "Waka waka, eh eh, Tsamina mina zangalewa, This time for Africa."  

It wasn't lost on them that this was a special time for their country.  In many ways, they couldn't have been farther removed from the glitz and glamour of the World Cup.  Most of them have never stepped foot outside of the township.  But somehow they sensed that eyes from all over world were on their country, and they had a pride that welled up within them that they are South African.

In my eyes, I see future leaders.  I see the beginnings of men and women who can change their township, their country, their continent.  There are so many obstacles working against them.  But if love, God's truth, and belief in the people they are and the people they were created to be can win out over the evil that surrounds them, their country will be blessed and changed by their lives.  God has a specific purpose for each and every one of them and I am thankful that BEAM Africa exists to help them find it.  I pray for God's hand of protection over each of their little lives and for His purpose to ring louder in their hearts than any of the other voices or influences that surround them.  I see their joy.  I see their gentle spirits.  I see their strength.  I have hope for their future.  It's Time for Africa.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Home Sweet Home!

We arrived back in the US last night after nearly 8 weeks overseas, 2 continents, 7 cities, and 30+ hours of travel over 2 days.  Home sweet home!

We are jet lagging and were ready for bed long before 8:00 pm tonight.  We are working hard to make it to at least 9:30 before we crawl into bed.  Our bed.  Which I missed dearly during our time away. 

There is nothing like extended time away, especially in a foreign country (or 2), that makes you appreciate the little things....the little comforts of home and the many conveniences that are just a normal part of a daily existence in "the States."  I am thankful to be able to take a hot shower anytime I want, and not worry about running out of hot water.  I am thankful that I have piles of laundry because we are blessed with clothes, more clothes than we can wear in a week (or several) in fact.  And, I have both a washer and a dryer in our house, which saves me from doing laundry by hand in tubs or spending hours at the local laundromat each week.  I am thankful for a kitchen to cook in where I can make our favorite foods....and eat healthy.  I am thankful for towels and sheets that are dry and smell fresh instead of damp and musty.  I am thankful to sit on our comfy couch and enjoy the quiet stillness.  I am sure that there are many other things I will remember to be thankful for as we continue to settle in and get back into our routine.

I am so excited to share photos and stories over the next week or so.  I had hoped to post a few updates while we were away, but internet access was slow if it was even available.  I promise that I will post photos soon.  Very soon.

But first, I hear our bed calling.

P.S.  Just so you know that I am not thankful for everything, I can assure you that we are not thankful for the weeds that are nearly as tall as us (literally) in our backyard.  Or the ones that took over both our grass and our flower beds.