Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You can sign up for Mocha Club!

Well. I'm excited.

Our Rolling Hills Mocha Club is ready to roll and I'm hoping we're all going to create teams... Follow this link to sign up and then create your team: https://www.africanleadership.org/mochaclub/new/30

They've made it pretty easy to invite people. You can import addresses from gmail, yahoo and hotmail. Be sure to customize your invite message and you're ready to go. It's as easy as pie.

See you at the Braii!



I am writing up evaluations for both Living Hope and the Team House this week and would love any feedback you have regarding any aspect of our trip. Please send it to me in e-mail form (by Thursday, please) rather than posting it on the blog.

Also, if you have thoughts to share about future missions to South Africa, let me know. In the meantime mark your calendars...we are headed back Feb. 22-March 7, 2008!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Braai Plans

This is what a braai looks like in Ecuador. Yes, these are guinea pigs. However...

Our braai is this week! No rodents! The plans:

Thursday, March 29

6:00 p.m.

Dave and Julie's house (2221 Lindell, 37204)

We will provide kebobs for everyone; we need you to bring everything else, including your own plate, cup and flatware.

Okay, just kidding. We do need you to bring food, but not your own plates! :-)

Just reply to this post if you are coming and with what you plan to bring. Everyone does not need to provide a side or a dessert, so those who love to cook and can make that happen, please sign up first! You may not be as good as Cath, but that is okay!

Can't wait to reunite soon, friends...

Friday, March 23, 2007

World TB Day - Nato

it infects 1/3 of the world's population.

Right on the heels of World Water Day is World Tuberculosis Day. This disease kills more than 2 million people each year around the world, and can be prevented. Use today (and tomorrow) to learn about the disease and why it claims so many victims in other parts of the world. Take a minute to send a message to world leaders to increase the amount of attention paid to TB. Then, support programs near and far that are working to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. A little time learning and a little time acting will save lives.

(from Cool People Care's 5 Minutes of Caring)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Soweto Gospel Choir - Nato

Link to 'Soweto Gospel Choir' in the iTunes Store

As many of you noticed, I found a recording of Njalo (Always). The recording is from the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa. The group currently has 3 amazing albums, tour the US frequently and are ambassadors for Nelson Mandela's '46664 AIDS Foundation' (46664 was Mandela's prisoner number at Robben Island).

(from the Soweto Gospel Choir site)
"The Soweto Gospel Choir was formed to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of African Gospel music. The 26-strong choir, under the direction of David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer, draws on the best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto. The choir is dedicated to sharing the joy of faith through music with audiences around the world."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Something I Read—Amy J

It's Saturday afternoon and I am sitting at my desk at work trying to write a compelling 8-page brochure. It's not going so great at this moment. I'm just wishy-washy and contemplative and I can hardly figure out all that I'm thinking, much less compel anybody on earth to do anything—which is problematic for my work life.

I talked to Leah. She reminded me of what we were doing at this hour one week ago... which was absolutely nothing except sitting on a plane for like, the twentieth hour. I told her I feel like Africa was months ago. How is that? How do I come home from an extraordinary place and feel so far removed? When I think about how simple life in Africa was and how un-simple I make my life... that's part of my lesson from Africa.

I grabbed the book "The True and the Questions" by Sabrina Ward Harrison from my desk (clearly, the books are helping me process...) and I totally get what she's saying:

"I see myself rushing around maintaining and preparing for what will happen next and the worries that go along with it. Getting ready for life—not being in life. It seems we start so young with the routine. If we stop there are so many worries of what could happen. Will I lose the connection? Will I be replaced? Will I be forgotten? It is exhausting—gripping onto too much. I am reminded of May Sarton writing in Journal of Solitude: 'Imitate the trees. Let go. Cut off excess. Prune. Wait. Watch. Grow deep and high to the sea.’"

It actually reminded me of Jeremy and Jennifer and Hutch. I've been thinking about them this afternoon—trying to reenter life here. They've lived so simply and enjoyed it so much. And now they're back to our pace. That's tough. Maybe we're supposed to pray for them... maybe that's why we met them in the first place. But what do I know?

I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow! aj

Friday, March 16, 2007


Well, let me tell you...this really hasn't been the best adjustment for me. When I would walk outside, I would close my eyes and pretend that the traffic noise I heard was really the crashing of the waves, that the wind I felt smelt of salt, that I was not at the Y but walking to the beach; however, I opened my eyes to where I really was. I'm not going to lie that I was a bit disappointed at my surroundings. BUT.... (there is always a 'but')’Suth Afica’ (yes I had to put it in there).

But really, as I was driving down Hwy 100 to go home, I just felt God speaking: “Sam, my beauty that I have created for my glory and for you enjoyment is not just in South Africa, it is all around you!” It was then that I really felt convicted of being sad that I am back, of returning to a place that I felt had not the glory of God in it.

I just encourage ya’ll to really look around and see that God is glorious even in Nashville and that He is doing an AWESOME work here among us! As I read your blogs, I am getting so excited that God is truly moving us to ACTION!! And this is why we went: to be changed and to change not only in South Africa but also here back home.

Here are some pictures that I took of Nashville awhile back. Just look and see that the Lord is and has been truly good even here at home! Believe me: this has been a hard lesson!

insync - mandy

Hi Y’all! 16 March 2007

Greetings from Sunny(windy) Noordhoek, Cape Town, 'Suth' Africa (I can all here you guys repeating it after me:) I’ve been wanting to email you guys since you left but for lack of email addresses its only happening now and on your blog. (I snuck in!)

I can't believe a week has passed already - hectic! It was awesome having you guys come to stay in my house. I call it my house cos yesterday my mom happened to be in the Cape (my folks live 1800kms away so it’s a memorable occasion 'Suth Africa' when we see each other) and she asked why I didn’t have shoes on when I was essentially ‘at work’ and I said, but this is my home. And then she said in good mother style ‘but I hope you wear shoes when the people are here’ to which I promptly repeated, ‘but this is my home’! I’m sure you can all visualize the conversation between us!

Hey! This computer just corrected my spelling against my will! It changed my spelling from visualise to visualize! How rude! A big no-no in Suth African English is NOT spelling our words the American way! Dodgy! Yet now it’s doing it for me! Aaahh! The American’s are taking over!
(if it’s guys like you… I wouldn’t mind – you’re all legends!) 'Suth Africa'

On the way back from dropping you guys off at the airport, all my good intentions of going visiting in Stellenbosch fizzled away as exhaustion set in. So soon after I arrived back at the Team House and noted it’s empty hollow feeling, I stumbled downstairs and into my bed. But I didn’t sleep before I putting my thoughts on paper, I wrote it in poem form (I know… I’m a bit of a freak! Who writes poems these days anyway!)

'Suth Africa'

Neverthelesss I’ve decided to pass it on to you guys regardless of what you might think or how much you might laugh! Now that you know me, you know that being laughed at/with is a regular occurance!

I really enjoyed your energy, (as was quickly picked up by a stranger in the street on the first day you arrived) and your drive. 'Suth Africa' For those who feel a calling to come back may it be for only 2 months or so, please be in touch! I saw the Thomas’s the other day (long live cocoa!) and they raved about you guys and I chatted with Cath while we were driving somewhere and we came to the conclusion that – based on all round performance (professional voice) – you guys were an ultimate team (and that's a huge compliment remembering we’ve had and seen many many groups)

And thanks SO much guys for my office! It’s SUPER cool! Groovy!

Love you lots!
God bless,
And keep dominating for Him!

I bet I got you guys all mimicking 'suth africa' in random sentences and repeating my South African words! (for those who were observant enought to notice:) Oh, and email me sometime, madrap83@gmail.com I promise to reply!

Okay back to the poem, here it is…
*nervous pause*

In Sync

It’s strange, the people who cross our lives.
A connection,

A captured frame within a life time of film.
You understand,
No explanations,
An undercurrent,
Between two people.

Worlds apart,
Ages apart,
A bond.


The silent dance,
In sync.

MR 09 March 2007

If it doesn’t make sense then don’t worry bout it,

if it does… then it was written for you!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Glimpse of Hope?

CNN.com World Article - 3.15.07:
South Africa fighting 1,500 new HIV infections a day

Mocha Club-Amy J

The Rolling Hills Mocha Club Team launches on Monday! I had breakfast with Barrett (Mocha Club Guy) yesterday and he shared a much bigger picture of Mocha Club's work in Africa. The bottom line is, $7 a month is transforming Africa. And we get to be a part of that! There are so many amazing projects that are happening through Mocha Club.

Right now, our Rolling Hills team is set up to support the purchase of ARV drugs, the drugs patients at Living Hope receive. I want to challenge you to get on the Mocha Club site (mochaclub.org). If you "Search for Existing Clubs" you can read about each clubs purpose. Our club is listed and if you're like me you're ready to enter your info and start building your page, but we really should wait until Monday b/c the page is getting an overhaul this weekend.

I hope you all will see the outrageous potential in this program. As the Africa team, I hope we will lead out on this effort!

OK. That's all from me at this moment.

I am looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday! I feel like I haven't seen you all in months.

P.S. About my "Processing" post... I heard a song that's helping me process or maybe it's inspiring me... Sara Groves "Add to the Beauty" It kind of sums up my feelings about my account of our trip and how I feel toward Africa.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Processing... -Amy

Now that we're all back into our routines, what's happening with you guys as you process our trip?

I had a positive experience and I find myself telling people about how much I love Africa—the beauty of it, the grandness of it all, how God outdid himself when he created such a gorgeous place. And then I find myself trying to explain the outrageous paradox called Africa. A place where beauty and the ugliness of stigma coexist; where the poorest of the poor live practically across the street from "wealthy" people; how can a land so ravaged by AIDS be home to people unrivaled in their joy; and I think about Red Hill, where one woman celebrates having a container that allows her to administer love and mercy to children who probably dread sun fall every night because of the things that happen in that very community.

I find myself sorting through the contrasts with each new conversation. I am no closer to a theory or a solution than I was when we landed in Nashville. But tonight, I picked up a book from my coffee table... "Hope In the Dark." I've had it for months and read it many times, but it suddenly means much more to me now that I've seen Africa with my own eyes. Jena Lee (BloodWater Mission) and Jeremy Cowart wrote/photographed the book, which by the way has great pictures from Cape Town.

Jena writes:

"The first time you drive on Cape Town's highways you're sure to notice the stark contrast of overcrowded, shack-filled townships amidst a well-developed city. The strange thing is that most people in South Africa, myself included, begin to ignore it. It doesn't shock you anymore and it's easy to turn your gaze away from the situation and pretend it's not there. But that's what apartheid was all about—denying the value of an entire people. In the laws, apartheid ended more than twelve years ago, but I'm not sure if it has truly ended in our hearts."

Later in the book she says...
"People ask me, 'Doesn’t' it paralyze you to walk so closely and intimately with suffering? No, I tell them. If I've learned anything from my time in Africa, it's that though the suffering is overwhelming, so too is the hope.'"

I'm processing—praying for rescue from an apartheid that seems to still exist, praising God for hope that triumps in His people.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A thought to Ponder - Allison

As I was sifting through the 256 emails that I had to return (most of them meaningless junk-yet they had to be sifted through) I found this quote on the bottom of someone's email and thought I would share!

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

- Nelson Mandela

It seemed fitting towards my day but I do hope that they ways that I have been altered create some change in the world around me! I guess that is the challenge before us.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Home, But The Story Continues - Nato

After another brutally long flight and a short hop from Chicago, we finally made it home on time last night at 8:15PM to the cheers of many of our friends and loved ones. While this officially concludes our trip, as you might have gathered, much has been learned by each of us throughout this journey and many of the lessons won't truly hit home until a few days or weeks after being home.

With that being said, please continue to check the blog on a regular basis.

FRIENDS: Conitnue to pray for our team as new revelations come, and look for many new photos from various members of the team.

LIVING HOPE '07 TEAM: Continue to write new entries here. Unpack your stories, process your thoughts and new visions God has given you. Post comments on the entries of others and share in their experience. This is a wonderful place to communicate to everyone that has been a part of this incredible journey, both in South Africa and here in the States (this also will cut down on the hundreds of mass emails, replies and RE: RE: RE: FW: RE: replies). We'll post pics here as well as information about the upcoming braai.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hangin' At Heathrow, Part Deux - Nato

So here we are at London's Heathrow airport again for 4 hours. The British supremacy means that we had to do a second security check after we arrived, as well as paring down our carry-ons to 1 piece per person. Other than the fact that it baffles me how you can make it 1/2 way around the world and have the rules change within the same system. But I digress....

It's definitely a much longer journey back home than it was going the other way. Thoughts of shortly seeing family and loved ones keeps us figiting on the long flights. The good news is that the longest leg is now over.

Today is also Zana's birthday, so make sure you wish her a happy day.

We look forward to seeing you all upon our arrival.

Friday, March 9, 2007

All Good Things... -Amy J

"All good things must come to an end." I've heard that old cliché my entire life. I just don't think it's true. While our time in Africa comes to a close, our thoughts and prayers and purposes are far from over. As Brent says, our work in Africa is just beginning.

The truth is, Africa leaves a mark. As with most mission trips, it is hard to explain all that Africa is to us. Each of us has a different perspective. So when you ask us, “How was Africa?” it may take us a while to answer. For certain, we can say it’s been “good”, but to explain how much we’ve loved and been loved, how we’ve lived in community, how we’ve marveled at God’s creation, and how we’ve walked alongside the poor and their precious caregivers… well, we will struggle to explain.

While we are the team you sent, we don’t come home with a plan for what’s next. Truth is, we’re not entirely sure what’s next. But we are sure of one thing, whatever’s next, it’s got to be a team effort—a Rolling Hills effort. I love the intentionality of RHCC. I love how our people get behind missions—think about all that God allows us to be apart of in the world… Moldova, Ecuador, and now Africa.

Thank you for sending us. We’re on our way home, hopefully very different than when we left.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Freedom for the Captives - Lesli

Well…….we all went to prison today! After a yummy breakfast of ostrich sausage, we headed to the Waterfront of downtown Cape Town. We boarded the Sea Princess ferry at the Nelson Mandela Gateway and sailed to Robben Island. The island contains a prison that once housed 1,500 political activists during apartheid, including Nelson Mandela, who later became the first democratic president of South Africa. Our tour was led by two former prisoners, one of which was incarcerated four cells way from Mandela. We actually went into prison cells and read the struggles of the prisoners held captive there. It was hard to realize many of these men were imprisoned in our lifetime with the last prisoners being released in the early 1990s. This made us aware of our own civil rights struggle and very thankful that we live in a country were we have political freedoms.

The afternoon was spent on the beautiful Waterfront of downtown. We had a wonderful lunch on the water and enjoyed some diverse shopping. We headed back to the team house at 5pm when everyone else was trying to leave the city as well. Traffic is universal! We made it back and had a share time overlooking the breathtaking scenery that surrounds us. Everyone made a daring trip to the beach for a group picture! I say daring because the winds are really fierce around here and we were eating sand! Dave led a wonderful time of praise and worship and reflection of our time here. We are excited to be starting our journey home tomorrow but saddened to leave this beautiful place and its even more beautiful people.

For those of you at home, we’re can’t wait to see you! We have so much to share. God has been so good and faithful. We have learned so much and feel so blessed to join God in His work in Cape Town, South Africa. See you soon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Two days left in ‘Suth’ Africa - Leah

You may think I have misspelled South Africa, but apparently this is the correct way to pronounce the country. Mandy, one of the team house drivers of the “green bullet,” told us earlier this week we were saying it incorrectly. So on a daily, moment by moment basis, we practice saying, ‘Suth’ Africa. Now you would think Mandy would be so pleased that we are trying to pronounce her country correctly. It has started to become more of a game though, to see how many times we can say ‘Suth’ Africa in random conversation. I would like to say I have been successful and could possibly win the game. Mandy disagrees.

Now to switch gears a bit. Today was a jam packed eventful day for all teams. Team A was busy attending support groups and visiting Capricorn (another place supported by Living Hope). Team E created a wall where there was no existing wall. This wall will help house our dear, sweet Mandy’s office, who is from ‘Suth’ Africa of course. Then my Team B successfully presented the Living Hope marketing strategy to Trevor, GM of LHCC.

WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! (Sorry I just did the Arseno Hall sound and arm movement….I got a little carried away. I’m excited!)

Okay, let’s talk about the completion of the marketing strategy. I have to admit how unbelievably proud I am to be a part of this team. God really pulled us together to show Him off. The morning was quite stressful with all the crossing of the t’s and dotting the i’s. Then we needed to get the 18 page document printed and bound. Now let’s assess this situation. Team B completed an 18 page marketing strategy in about 5 days. Yeah that’s God! I won’t lie there were moments of frustration and intense challenges. During those weaknesses, God bought us together and created the common goal….Him. I believe Living Hope now has the ability to change the South African community and international community in many ways.

So you see the beginning of the day was all business related. Little did we know how the afternoon was going to affect us. We were headed to Red Hill to the kid’s club. Red Hill is approximately 30 minutes or so away from the team house. The drive was indescribable. God’s glorious creation was all around with sparkling blue ocean and roaring waves. Then we made it to Red Hill. To give some details of this place, Red Hill consists of around 600 people. The population is at least 50% HIV/AIDS positive. Yeah, I began to feel somewhat overwhelmed. Then you see the beautiful children that make up this seemingly hopeless place.

We were able take part in the kid’s club, which consists of a recreation time, bible lesson, and of course a peanut butter and jelly sandwich....yum! We played several games with the kids: Simon says, Red-rover Red-rover, Duck Duck Goose, etc. I will have to admit I had a lot of fun! Amongst all the fun, it was difficult to not be plagued by the poor living conditions. Pressing on, you know that God is faithful, and that’s all we’ve got. We MUST trust in that!

Then many, many games later, the children learned about the Ten Commandments. It was great to see them listening so intensely. After one of the sweetest prayer I have ever heard, it was time to eat some PB&J sandwiches. I was told to pay attention to how the kid’s ate their food. They would hold it very carefully and cherish each individual bite. This might have been their only meal today. All in all, the situation may have appeared hopeless but knowing that God has placed special people here to work with this community helped to give me some relief. With all that being said, I need to ask a favor…please pray the community and salvation of Red Hill.

Thank you Lord for showing me You today! Thank you for blessing our team! Help us to love others like our life depended on it!

This blog is dedicated to Mandy, our team house driver, in ‘Suth’ Africa.

My Theme - Nato

by Lori Chaffer

The backdrop of mountains cuts into the sky
They’re there to protect or intrap the ones inside
A quiet village is full of tired brows
Thin strips of farm land fight it out with the farmers

In the night the roosters crow with hunger
The wind brings dust instead of rain brought with thunder

And as I hold your dirty hand all that I can say to you
Is in the awkward smile I make
I can’t explain why I came to this distant land
Your simple smiles refresh my soul and
I can’t help but love you and know
That you have all you need

When I would get lonely and feel like a foreigner
I’d look up to the sky and see it’s just the same but brighter
Two eagles fly free but their patterns are not the same
One is weaker, but it’s spirit soars higher
What one yearns for it never seems to reach
The other has learned to separate its wants from needs

As I look into your face I see hope and not disgrace
And strength that carries you along the rugged road you travel on
And as we go our separate ways you can be sure that I have changed
Because I’ve seen the way you live

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

…If only for Marie - Julie

Today was a mixed bag for our team.

We spent the morning hours shadowing Home Care Givers into 2 communities (Masiphumalele and Ocean View) and observed as they dressed wounds, checked blood sugar levels for diabetes, checked blood pressure, asked questions about their wellness (and in one of my homes we sang White Christmas to a blind and nearly deaf 94 year old…never would I have imagined this as part of the job). We felt honored to be the guests in these families’ homes and were blessed by the good care that these women provide.

Some of our team had a chance to prayer walk at the Living Hope Ocean View Center. This is a building that was formerly the home of a drug lord and was condemned after his murder in the home. The home was acquired by Living Hope and was nicely renovated, and while the center is functioning well and has a clean, fresh look there is still a stigma in the neighborhood about the center and it’s past life. The kids and families often call it “the old house” which was the name it was formerly called. We took some time to pray that God will restore this building and will change the name of this place to “the good house.”… “the house of healing”, “hope and restoration”.
Will you join us in praying this prayer? Pray that God will alter the reputation of this block of land and cast aside all fear in the neighborhood from this place. That, as Laural prayed, they would “rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations, they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations (Isaiah 61:4)”

During the afternoon we led a training for the Care Givers. As a closing activity I passed around a basket of rocks and asked them each to take one to represent a patient that they have lost. We had a moment of silence to remember, to ask God to help them relinquish that person, and then when they were ready they were to come to a basin of water and place their rock in it as they emotionally relinquished the care of that patient to God. Some of them seemed sincere and some giggled through the experience. As they left this afternoon to board their “transport” home, a caregiver named Marie came to Allison and shared, with tears in her eyes, that the day’s activities had brought up much thought about her deceased husband, but that it was good to relinquish him to God. It was a powerful moment to see how God used that simple activity in someone’s life. We were glad we did it...if only for Marie.

Xtreme Monday - Nato

We have just experienced one of the most beautiful journeys. After the always-wonderful breakfast prepared by our wonderful chef Catherine, we travelled to an area known as the Boulders, home to over 3,000 jackass penguins (named for their braying and not their mannerisms). Penguins are one of the most comical animals in creation, and they’re monogamous too, unlike the red-butted baboons we saw later in the day.

From Boulders, we travelled to a portion of Table Mountain National Park, known as the Cape of Good Hope. Do not be fooled by your history books and the impressive lighthouse - this area actually includes 3 capes (Cape Point, Cape Maclear and the Cape of Good Hope). Sam and I took a road less travelled and went beyond the beautiful old lighthouse, located on Cape Point and quickly hiked to the (almost) Southern tip of Africa. It waas awe-inspiring to look at the entire continent emerge from the small point of land on which we stood. After returning from our journey, we realized that we had come all the way here, but had not actually hiked onto the Cape of Good Hope (!!).

Luckily, one of the vehicles we use for our travels ran out of gas on our way to the National Park, and while we technically only had a few minutes until our scheduled departure time, we had no idea when we’d actually leave. So, Sam and I took binoculars and hopped down the 2.5 mile trail (much like springbok in the hills), stopping along the way to check for the signal to quickly return. We received the signal, and 30 yards from the trailhead, we met Julie, Angie and Allison, who were sorry that out of all the signals we had worked out, we forgot to make the signal for “The rides are here, but the 3 of us will come meet you and the bus will pick us up on a road ending at the Cape of God Hope”. So back down the trail we bounded, until we reached the peak of the Cape, and subsequently made the hike down to the seaside.

From penguins to peaks and now capes to cableways, we journeyed via cable car onto Table Mountain, one of the most amazing mountain ranges I’ve ever experienced. The mountain rises 1000m, and is capped by a flat peak allowing for hour-long hikes from end to end. Whit, Ethan and I found a gap, trailing back to the base, making Stone Door look like a child’s handiwork. Subsequently named Whiethanato’s (pronounced Wheat-an-toes) Gap, we spent a great deal of time sitting and marvelling at the amazing God we’re serving here in this land of vast contrast, both naturally and culturally. I have experienced God in creation many times, however my previous picture of Him became much smaller in the grandeur of today. Let all things their Creator bless and worship Him in humbleness.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sunday Musings - Sam

We started our day pretty wet. We hadn’t experienced rain in South Africa until the wee hours of the morning. The wind and rain howled through our open windows waking us with a fright! Chad and I ran to close the windows before more water poured through. We stood there a little startled and then went back to sleep before the day really began.

We awoke and began our second Sunday in South Africa with a hearty breakfast and good discussion with God and each other.

We left for the first church service of the day at King of Kings Baptist Center where John Thomas, Director of Living Hope, is senior pastor. The service was pretty contemporary with our beginning with the song “Every Move I Make”, among other worship songs. The message was on the alabaster jar event found in Luke and our living at the feet of Jesus. After the service, we headed for Masiphumelele Baptist Church where we had attended last week.

We had a very similar experience as last week at Masiphumelele. We sang many songs, but this time we were a little more aquainted with how the service functions: one of the congregation leads into the various hymns and songs. They announced number of the song that we were to sing and so we sang along. It was incredible! The rounds with the various vocals and parts resound in a huge chorus of praise to the Father! And this time, we were able to participate. “Jesus, keep me near the cross” was on song that I realized that they were singing. It was amazing! Unfortunately, we had to leave early in order to get lunch and go to the market.

We headed for downtown Cape Town, which is beautiful with the waterfront and mountains in the background, to eat lunch at, where, McDonald’s. Everyone was very happy to eat a hamburger that was actually beef (well, McDonald’s beef is a heck of a lot closer to real beef than that found in the hambugers we have eaten in Cape Town). We ate fairly quickly to get to the market in plenty of time to shop around and see everything.

The market was swarming with all kinds of people and African artifacts from bracelets made of elephant hair to tribal masks to paintings of scenes from the African bush to purses to jewelry to bowls. The task was on to find the perfect gift for an intercessor or significant other or for oneself but all at the best price. The ability to barter is the best talent one can have while at these markets. Trying hard not to get ripped off while still trying to help the individuals who still have to feed their families is the balance that must be found while at the market. Our team did not have a problem with this. Everyone felt great with what they had bought and from whom. With our treasures in hand, we headed back to the bus for our return home.

We filled the bus and headed off toward home but on a different route. We went along the Chapman’s Peak Drive, which is a street along the coast. Never before have I seen such a beautiful sight: sunshine, blue and green ocean waters, huge waves, big clouds, enormous rocky mountains…everything was just incredible! Pictures can only capture a part of this beautiful sight! We stopped multiple times to take pictures because of the beauty of the sights. No one could remember a more beautiful sight: Spain could not match it; Hawaii could not match it; etc. I might be over doing it a bit, but I will you: come to South Africa and witness it for yourself so that you can see the beauty that exists in the land, in the sea, and in the people of South Africa. Pictures can only catch a small glimpse.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

into the "wild" - whit

There is no lion on pride rock. They tell us there are seven but all we can find are three cubs lying in a pen filled with mud and a bizarre hunk of meat. Lions are one of five species native to Africa known as “The Big Five”, that is, the five most dangerous game on the continent. Today we saw four.

We all climbed into the vans at 6 this morning for the 3 hour trip to Aquita Game Preserve for our day off and a legitimate African safari. We are quickly informed, however, that only Americans call them safaris and learned soon after that this game drive was maybe not so authentic either. A large, decrepit Mercedes flatbed, loosely fitted with canopy and benches (which relied more on the people sitting on them to stay put than its unsecured bolts) pulls around, we awkwardly lift ourselves up and are informed there is no guarantee we will see any of their animals. All around wealthy Europeans snap pictures with pricey cameras and as the truck travels around the park we pass other groups on the side of the road having tea. We laugh, asking “Did you see the lions?” Apparently everyone gets tea in this game reserve, as well as bizarre sausages, much to our humility, and the whole time it is cold outside.

The reserve was certainly not the African savannah we imagined but much more like Western Colorado and extremely beautiful. Don’t worry, we did see animals, all of which were native to South Africa, and quite a few of them. In addition to the lions, we saw white rhinos, water buffalo, and elephants, the rest of “The Big Five” found in the reserve (the other is the tiger). We also saw hippos, ostrich, springbucks, zebra, and wildebeests, which apparently come in blue and black. There was even a pair of cheetahs several of us got to pet. One of them even cuddled up to Chad and refused to get off him, even after much coaxing from the ranger, proving that a cheetah is nothing more than your regular house cat, just 5 times the size and capable of running 120km/hr. I can’t hardly remember all the things we had to laugh at today and while the park was more of a glorified zoo, we all got a little sunburned, some more than others, and had a great time.

The rest of the trip was spectacular as the drive from Cape Town to the reserve took us under a mountain and through a breath-taking canyon of high and dynamic rock walls. We then passed through South Africa’s wine country and enjoyed incredible views the entire drive. We all agreed Cape Town is as beautiful as any place in the world, but the drive proved the country stays just as beautiful inland. It’s sort of like Napa Valley but in the middle of the Colorado Rockies and much more drastic and beautiful. None of us knew anything like this existed in Africa.

I reflect on a day in the country and see that this part of creation - mountains, valleys, and animals alike - shows a tremendous amount of purpose on behalf of the Lord. There is so much creativity and intention in the design of this place that I cannot help but see God’s love in it all for there is hope in God’s love and purpose.

Tomorrow, we get to worship with the congregation of the Masiphumalele Baptist Church. This is a church seemingly in the middle of hopelessness. Their pastor was murdered a little over a month ago and the community it is named for carries an HIV/AIDS infection rate of 28%. You’ve read about the people we’ve encountered there and the reality is that the residents of this community have tremendous joy and hope. They are people who have experienced Christ, who do not measure their worth by their health and their surroundings. I believe God is showing us that his goodness in creation is merely a glimmer of the hope and purpose given to all people through Jesus Christ.

I had a hard time when we first got here reconciling such hardship in such a beautiful place but now it all makes sense. God has poured Himself out on Cape Town, South Africa, and the rest of the continent and continues to do so; the evidence is everywhere. God has blessed us today through our bumpy ride in the park and He is continuing to show us His heart and vision for this place. Cheers!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Want to know where your money went?- Amy J

So many of you generously supported the Africa team. Your generosity affirmed God’s call in us—that’s a generous gift.

But let me give you a glimpse of where your money went—50 lay counselors, homecare providers, and HIV support group leaders gathered with us for their first-ever retreat. And boy did they deserve a retreat! These men and women do the most difficult tasks with unexplainable joy. They are on the frontlines of HIV care, they have the hard task of informing people that they are HIV+, and they often care for them even into the last stages of their lives.

For us, a retreat is pretty common. For them, a retreat is a luxury. Imagine their delight when the walked into their cabins with bunk beds stacked three high! Or how much they enjoyed the braai (cook out), along with roasting marshmallows! Most importantly they retreated from the heaviness of their lives—they were able to "retreat" because of your giving. A portion of the money from each team member’s trip was used to fund the retreat.

The theme of our retreat was "Drink" and that they did. It was life giving for our team to minister to these folks. They worshipped and shared their stories, laughed and unloaded their burdens, and we were privileged to carry those burdens for just a bit. We were able to share new approaches to prayer with them from prayer postures, to journaling, to paint journaling. It was so much fun to watch them embrace these new ways of seeking solitude, which is something they desperately need.

For me, the most significant moments of the retreat happened as we closed today. We had the privilege of blessing and anointing the LH staff—yes, we actually anointed their heads with oil! (something I hadn't had the joy of doing before) Julie explained that to anoint means to “consecrate for sacred duty.” Their work is incredibly sacred. As we anointed their heads, we prayed this blessing over each person: “As I anoint your head with oil, I pray that your cup would overflow, and that God’s goodness and love would follow you all the days of your life.” I can’t articulate the holiness of those moments. As the Rolling Hills team anointed each other and these sweet people, we did so with the authority of Christ in us—it was powerful.

It sounds trite to say that today was beautiful... but it was. I can't fully describe the grace we experienced and gave. The compassion and love of God flowed through our team today and we were blessed far more than we imagined we could be. Your giving and supporting our trips enabled this to happen—you all are as much a part of this trip as those of us who are here. The Living Hope staff thanks you, as do we.

Heaven,Hope, and Flowers - Ethan Nokes

Most people who know me well probably thought I would never contribute to this or any other blog. They got this idea because that is what I told them. However, as strongly as I felt the calling to come on this trip, I felt the urge to post one of my journal entries. I feel that those who care to read this need to know what is being accomplished here. Though I will not be giving details as to happenings, I can give my impressions and feelings.

I wrote this on Friday morning, before the retreat had ended. Please keep that in mind so as to avoid confusion when reading other posts from today.

Friday March 2, 2007
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long….

It is hard for me not to praise God. For most of my life I have found this to be true. There have been dark days for sure but I think my normal state of being is praise and thankfullness. I am very glad God gave me this disposition. That being said (a favorite phrase of Whit Stiles) I find it very hard not to praise God in this place.

Cape Town is beautiful.

Yesterday, following the vision of Tammy Teige. Whit, Tammy, Brittany and I went to take some roofing metal to a lady who serves and lives in Red Hill, a shanty town with very bad living conditions. Even there I was struck with beauty and hope. Outside the shanties, almost each one, were flowers. Red Hill is on the coast of the Atlantic and in the trees and away from the world and has horrible conditions and is made of throw away scrap and probably stinky when hot, but there were flowers.

Planted Flowers.

Even in sin and despair God gives us hope. Sometimes it is up to us to plant it and cultivate it, but it is there. Ready to spring forth and bless us. Ready to spring forth and show us the beauty that God has in store for us. Ready to spring forth, mature, and spread the seeds of hope and beauty for the future.

Yesterday we were at a spiritual retreat that we hosted for the caregivers and counselors of Living Hope. They work in deplorable conditions and in despair and get very little in way of rest and rejuvination. We were asked to led a retreat for them. We were nervous, scared, in the dark about what to do, but trusting God to work.

He did

I cannot say that we led the retreat because we did not. We participated in the retreat. Music, in several languages, dancing, sharing, food, the hope here is truly living.

One of the girls in my small group had a son who died suddenly when we was an infant. You can see the despair and longing in her eyes but she still gives care and love to those she serves.

The night ended with Dave on the guitar and me playing mandolin, sitting in the middle of about 40 people singing “Blessed Assurance”. I truly feel as though I have seen heaven.

Blessed Assurance all is at rest. I, in my Savior, am happy and blessed.
Watching and waiting, looking above. Filled with his goodness lost in his love.

I cry as I write this. I am sitting at a table on the veranda (no cigars), overlooking the ocean with the mountains behind me and the morning sun in my face.

I am overwhelmed by God’s beauty, grace, and hope.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Fun times in South Africa! - Laural

(Click on the photo to see a short video of everyone at the retreat worshiping during tea time!)

So here’s the thing...I’ve never written a blog before...call me out of date, I’m not sure. So be nice in your comments...
Well, this week has been full of firsts for me...first time in South Africa, first blog, first time to be completely inspired by lovely, Christ-filled, and spirited African men and women.
Yesterday, the Care Support Team spent another full day with staff members of Living Hope. We were with Support Group leaders, men and women who lead support groups for people with HIV/AIDS and chronic diseases- some of these leaders carry the same diseases as the group members. We were all amazed by the spiritual depth and hope of these people. I was moved almost to tears as they talked about the deep hurt and sadness that often fills their communities. But they are not overcome by the sadness- they pursue the wounded and the outcast and truly believe in the hope that can be restored through Christ. They see their job as their “calling,” it doesn’t matter the pay, the long hours or exhaustion that they experience- it is their joy to minister to the hurting and to spread Christ’s love in their community. They humble me.
We played a few fun games that the support group leaders loved! The “Human Knot” game proved to be pretty “tangled,” one group took forever, but we finally un-knotted ourselves. It provided lots of laughter and fun! Then, there was the South African hospital food that we had. I’ll say it again...South African Hospital food. Yummy...lots and lots of curry!! I learned a new word today...faff. What does it mean, how is it spelled? Any guesses? Leave me a comment.
Last night we had our team reflection time out on the beach. What an amazing site!! I have never seen such a big sky!! You don’t see this much sky in Nashville people, you’ve got to come here. What a picture of the vastness of our God. I was absolutely amazed that this God who makes the sky, the ocean waves, and the mountains is mindful of me and chooses to love and use me. How wonderful!
So today began our Home-based Carer Retreat. We retreated to Camp Faraway, which ironically is actually only about a mile away from the team house. The theme for the retreat is Drink- a challenge of the carers to drink from the Living Water, and be refreshed and renewed by Him. We had worship- led by Dave and the Carers!! They sang the most beautiful songs...words can’t describe the blessings that came from their praise. They introduced us to some exciting and confusing African games. Most of the time we were trying to guess at what we were supposed to be doing- but it was a blast. Then we had a Braai- that means Barbeque!! Nate and Brent did a great job on the grill! It was fun to see Africans roasting their first marshmellow.
We’ve headed home to rest and will return to the retreat tomorrow for Part B. Thanks for your prayers! More to come tomorrow...