Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A New Chapter for Amanda

Amanda is our deaf friend. Today we were able to bring Amanda back to the audiologist. Unfortunately, it was confirmed that she is completely deaf in both ears, and hearing aides would do no good for her.

But there is good news: we were finally able to get in to speak with a social worker to look into schooling for her. In fact, the director of Deafsa (Deaf Federation of South Africa)felt it was such an important case that he also got involved. They are recommending a boarding school in the Eastern Cape (15 hour drive away), where she would be able to live with other deaf children. While this would be a dramatic change for her, it is probably the best option to secure a positive future for her. She is so far behind her age group that 24 hour/day emersion would help her catch up the most, and in reality even a school just 45 minutes away from her home would be impossible for her to get to with no transportation. The opportunity for an education and having safe housing will make her far less vulnerable to being taken advantage of. (Also good news is that there will likely be governtment funding available to her for the school being that they are in such financial need. So transportation back home for holidays would be the main expense.)

Our prayer for Amanda is that she will now be able to build friendships and feel like a real part of the deaf community.. a place where she can belong. She will gain a sense of identity when she is able to have a voice and express herself. Please continue to pray that enrollment procedures would go quickly and that God will give her peace as she transitions into this completely new world. She is feeling nervous, but very excited. She was so happy to see deaf people today signing, and conversing, and carrying on just like us. She very eagerly attempted signing the alphabet, and used her own gestures to communicate with the social workers. Not everything was understood, but they would laugh about it. And to see her eyes be opened to new possibilities was incredible. A new chapter in her life story has just begun. God is so good!

Oh yeah... We are also wanting to get her an ipad with a sign language app. Please contact Paul or me if you might be interested in donating funds for this. Amanda (and her sister-in-law Beauty, and brother Richard) are all so thankful that people are praying for them and wanting to help them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday in Masi

I am so excited about the wonderful day we had. Our team has been spending quite a bit of time in the township Masipuhmelele, and really trying to find more ways to reach out to the community. We felt it would be worth a try putting on an open-air event in front of their Baptist Church, with songs, dancing, skits, some testimonies/sharing etc. So, on a Tuesday morning we headed up and down the streets inviting people to our “show” that would be later that same afternoon.

At 3:00, as school children began to swarm the streets, we turned on some music and prayed people would actually show up. And they did! Somewhere between 150-200 people, mostly young children to pre-teen, and some moms and a few other adults, joined in praising and worshiping the Lord, singing songs with us, watching intently as we performed our dramas and dance routine for them, listening to Paul share about the power of prayer, and they even learned the Macarena (who knew South Africa had been deprived of the Macarena up until now)! And after the “show” we were able to just hang out and get to know some of the kids. The kids were so eager to ask us questions. And the moms were super appreciative of having something fun for them to do after school. It was an incredible way to open the door for more relationship.

I had a wonderful time chatting with half-a-dozen 10-12 year-old girls. One conversation in particular seemed to be divinely appointed. Unghle is a 10 year-old who is grieving the recent death of her mother. She did not know if she was sick, or why she died, only that her dad one day told her she had died. Her father left for the Eastern Cape area shortly after in search of work, so she was being looked after by older siblings. She fondly shared memories of her mother with me, and I shared with her that I have a daughter in Heaven too, and told her how much I looked forward to seeing her and Jesus in Heaven one day. Just to be able to hug her and tell her how sorry I am for her loss was a great privilege. I know I spoke the loving words God wanted her to hear. And to see her lovingly smile up at me with gratitude was enough to make my heart both melt and break for her.

We didn’t know if the event would go over or not, but we gave it a shot. And because we wished to glorify God, he stepped in and went to work for us, to make it a huge success. Everyone had fun, and relationships are being formed as well. We are going to do it again this week, and hopefully get to follow up with the same kids. I am so excited about this.

Faith and Cake

I love chocolate. Plain and simple. I love it on any occasion. I love it when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. I love it. Really, I love any dessert, not limited to chocolate, but especially chocolate. And it’s not that we haven’t had any desserts since we’ve been in South Africa, because we have. It just felt like a good time to have dessert again. So, on a Saturday night after dinner, I announced my craving for a really good piece of chocolate cake. And being we are trying to live on a fairly tight budget, and are rather busy too, I lazily and selfishly decided to pray that God would find a way to delight us with the gift of chocolate cake, so we would not have to buy or bake it ourselves. The prayer itself was rather pathetic. I would say maybe slightly sarcastic, but yet it really was my heart’s desire at that moment. The people on my team nodded and chuckled in agreement, and the prayer was released to the heavens.

The next day we visited a local church. The sermon was titled, “The Cake is Already Baked.” The point of the message was that God surely hears and answers our prayers, and that we must remain faithful to see the answer of the prayer unfold. The example given was the story of Daniel in the lions den. He called out to God in prayer, and while it took 21 days to see the prayer answered, God had in fact acted on it immediately; it had just been “in the works,” so to speak, as events were unfolding in the spiritual realm; really, it was a great message and reminder to challenge our faith.

The cool thing, to really emphasize the point, is that the pastor pulled out a chocolate cake and announced that the “cake is already baked. God has prepared it long before we actually receive it. The moment we send our prayers, God replies.” Then, without any knowledge of our prayer just the night before, he states that he is going to send this cake home with the visiting YWAM team! We got our CAKE! And God gave us a wonderful and loving message to go along with it. What a great example that God really does care about the small things, even selfish desires of our hearts. He enjoys giving good gifts, because he loves us. That was the best dessert date I could imagine: chocolate and the love of my heavenly father.

Called to Love

Amanda is a beautiful 15 year-old South African girl with dark skin and dark eyes. She has short spunky hair to match her upbeat attitude. She has a delightful smile that can light up your heart. Even after meeting her just briefly, she warmly hugs you as if you’ve known each other a long time.

She lives in the slum-like township called Massipuhmelele, west of Muizenberg. This is where 40,000 + blacks live. Though the Apartheid has ended, little has been done to combat the segregation in communities and injustice of poverty. The homes there range from small stucco cottages to tin and plywood one-room shacks. Desperate families will put up shacks wherever space allows, often renting the small yard of another family to just make shelter for themselves. Amanda lives in such a shack with her adult brother and sister-in-law, who have taken her in. Her mother is aging, and unable to care for her. It is common here for children to be looked after by various people because of family illness and poverty.

Amanda’s world is entirely different from the world I grew up. She does not have the modern conveniences that many Americans take for granted. The laundry, cooking, dishes, bathing, sleeping, socializing… all is done in one small space, with neighbors right there, homes practically on top of each other. While American teenagers have collections of music, and closets full of clothes, Amanda hardly owns anything. And yet she is joyful.

Amanda is joyful despite her living conditions, and despite the fact that she lives her life in silence. She is isolated from her peers, left out, as most of them attend school and sing and dance and goof around together, and she does not. You see, according to her brother, Amanda was born deaf. Without adequate finances, she has been unable to even see a doctor. This is her reality, and in the past there has been little hope of any change. But does God really wish her to exist in silence?

I believe God has a special purpose and a plan for Amanda’s life. So, if God’s will were to be “done on earth as it is in heaven”, what would that look like? I know God performs miracles, and I prayed my heart out for God to heal Amanda’s ears. With gestures to her ears, and praying hands I tried my best to involve Amanda in the prayer. She nervously smiled, nodding her head in agreement with my prayer. I asked the heavens to pour out on this beautiful girl. But nothing happened. And I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I hugged Amanda, and thanked God for his love and power. I know God has wonderful plans for her. But what? How? I’ve prayed with her several more times, and continue to pray for her on my own and with my family.

As I struggle with feeling helpless in this situation, I am reminded of what Katie Davis wrote in her book, Kisses from Katie.

“As I read my Bible last night after falling into bed, the Lord continued to take me to the miracles of Jesus. And something I have never noticed before really stood out. The Bible tells us of Jesus magnificently raising Lazarus from the dead, healing numerous deathly ill people, and feeding thousands.
What the Bible does not mention, but what must be true is that, years later, Lazarus still died. The people Jesus healed were inevitably sick again at some point in their lives. The people Jesus fed miraculously were hungry again a few days later. More important than the obvious might and power shown by Jesus’ miracles is His LOVE. He loved these people enough to do everything in His power to ‘make it better.’ He entered into their suffering and loved them right there.
We aren’t really called to save the world, not even to save one person; Jesus does that. We are just called to love with abandon. We are called to enter into our neighbors’ sufferings and love them right there.”

And so now my new question is, ‘How can I best love this girl, God?’ In the several visits we have made to see her and her family and friends, we have exchanged pieces of our hearts. The warmth and hospitality we have received just makes me want to help even more… to really be able to do something tangible. ‘Could we get her to a doctor? Could anything be done to improve her hearing? Could she go to a special school for the deaf?’ I choose to trust God that he has something awesome in store for this girl. And I will not give up faith that her life will be a testimony of God’s unfailing love. And I thank Him for this great opportunity to be a part of his love story. To have new friends. To be forever changed.