Saturday, September 24, 2011

First Impressions

Once again I am squeezing in a couple minutes to blog from the Nelspruit Mall. There is so much to share and so many photos to post. here is just a smattering from the last two weeks
In flight from Hong Kong to Johannesburg

Krugar National Park

Making Friends at Michel's Children's Village. Every morning we run the "Toddler Time" and in the afternoon with help with the after school program. There are always kids to supervise, noses to wipe and hugs to be given. What could be better?! The picture of Jason playing soccer is at the Backdoor Church. Isn't that an amazing view?

Yesterday we went on a home visit to the local community called Backdoor. Iris Ministries has a preschool, Bible School and daily feeding program in the Backdoor. Jason and I were able to give a Bible teaching before the feeding time. After that we visited a family in the community that was going through a hard time. The wife Talitha was stabbed in the chest yesterday and nearly died. We got to pray for her and her three kids. Little baby Zoe was so precious but not feeling very well so we got to cuddle and pray for her as well. Zoe's mother has HIV and Zoe may as well. In Backdoor 1 out of 2 people are infected with HIV.

Our time here is going by very quickly. This upcoming Thursday we will take a bus across the border to Maputo, Mozambique where we will spend the night before flying to Pemba in the morning. Please pray for protection during this time of transition. God is certainly showing us that he is in control and worthy of our trust.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

We're in AFRICA!!!

Hello! We are alive and well! We have had an amazing 4 days in Hong Kong, 2 days in flight, and 5 days in Africa. We have not had Internet since we arrived so I will quickly peck away from this Internet cafe. I would love to share some photos but that will have to come later.

- Hong Kong was incredible and really felt like we were "home". We especially savored the familiarity, comfort and quality time with great friends. Ruth Auty organized a potluck while we were back so we got to catch up with 50 friends Thursday evening. Other highlights included going on a date, taking hot showers, and Josiah having lots of play time with his buds. We felt so blessed by our community of friends in HK although our time was too short.
- Sunday night we flew 10 hours to Dubai on the world's largest airplane (Jason could tell you the numbers) with a stopover in Bangkok. We spent some blurry- eyed hours in the Dubai airport before an 8 hour flight to Johannesburg. Flying Emirates was lovely and the kids did well. We even had a surprise when we met Pastor Surprise (that is really his name!) sitting across the isle from us on the flight. Pastor Surprise is a key leader in Iris Ministries and was returning to the children's home we are staying at in South Africa from a conference in "Pismo Beach" Such a crazy small world!
- When we got to our guesthouse in Johannesburg I collapsed onto the bed and fell into the deepest sleep of my life.
- The next morning I felt great and we all got over the 6 hour time change very quickly.
- We met a friend from High School, Chris Hayes, the next morning at the Joburg airport. He is a fellow at Oxford had flown in to speak at a conference. It was so great and surreal to connect with him after so many years.
- We rented a car and drove 4 hours to Nelspruit where we stayed at a beautiful guesthouse at the MercyAir base. We built in this time to rest, get healthy and prepared to serve at the children's home. It was fabulous!
- Safari!! We spent a day in Krugar National Park and it was incredible!! September is the dry season so the animals come close to the road in search of water. We saw elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, lions, impalas just feet from our car. The kids loved it. . . pictures to come for sure
- We managed to find the Mozambique Consulate (drama) to apply for our visas. Please pray that we are approved for the 90 day visa!
- We arrived yesterday at the Michael's Children's Home. It is full of beautiful, energetic children. We are falling in love! The home is going through a difficult transition and just lost two sets of house parents. There seems to be plenty to do which is a blessing for us. Today Jason went to the Bible School graduation and I stayed home to watch the kids in the baby house. Can't wait to post pictures of the babies!!
- Josiah and Annette are doing well and love Africa (which is actually a very similar climate to San Diego- heavenly). I asked Josiah if he had noticed any people with black skin. He shrugged his shoulders and said very sincerely, "no mommy". Kids are the same everywhere and always make friend so quickly. Not many of the kids can remember my name, but they all know Josiah.
Thanks so much for all of your prayers. We have really felt God's protection and provision each step of the way. God is good!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stepping Back in Time

We took a walk today to a quarry Jason discovered on a run. It's just around the corner from Arms of Love, come along with us. .
First we passed this
then this

then this boy, to which Josiah matter of factly pronounced "look it's a naked noodle"

Then we come to THIS.

All the lush, tropical vegetation had been cleared and I felt like I'd been taken back in time 3,000 years. People were dotted around the hot, arid expanse under the shade of makeshift lean- tos crushing rocks BY HAND! It felt like the Israelites in Egypt and I wanted to shout, "let my people go!" Instead, we walked around from lean- to to lean- to passing out little candies (which seemed really lame) and talking to the people. They seemed pretty surprised at our presence, and were timid but smiling.

We learned that it takes a team of two, usually a husband and wife, two days to fill a bag full of crushed rock. Their wage is $5US, so per day per person about $1.25US.The people work and live at the quarry along with their families. Kids kept popping up everywhere. This beautiful mother gathered her baby out of the shade of her lean- to to present her to me. She is only 3 weeks old. I learned that the baby was born here at the quarry, and the mom went back to busting rocks when she was one week old. She shyly shrugged and said, "we need money". I noticed her hands as we talked were covered in the rock dust as she cradled her precious bundle.

The walk home seemed longer than the walk there. I felt a weight upon my shoulders, heavier even than the 22 pound baby I'd been carrying for hours. How can I be paid so much for a job that I enjoy? What would it would be like to crush rocks all day long? What would it be like to give birth and raise a family here?

*In other news, tonight was our final night in the Philippines and we ended on a high note with a bonfire and fiesta to say farewell. We arrive in Hong Kong tomorrow at 1 am and we are looking forward to catching up with some of you soon!*

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ministry of Fun

The house- parents do a great job taking care of the kids' needs here; they send them to private school, cook nutrious food, and teach them responsibilty. All the parents have kids of their own and most work outside jobs (as secutirty guards, teachers, pastors etc) to make ends meet! At the end of the day there are not a lot of resouces left -time, money or energy- to do extra fun things. A lot of what Jason and I have done at Arms of Love is provide fun, simple activities that capture some of the joy and wonder of childhood.

Painting Faces

Girl's Slumber Party


Watching movies around our laptop (:
Bowling for bottles with coconuts
Water fights

Baking cookies

One day I made play dough for Josiah and Annette. The kids were fascinated because they had never seen anything like it. I taught them how to follow the recipe and they whipped up several batches. The next day the boys called me over in the yard, "Ate (Auntie) Christine, look!" They had started several small fires (unsupervised of course) in the yard and were cooking their play- dough "pancakes" and "sausages" over the fire in tin cans. I had to laugh at their idea of playing play- dough!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kids and Poverty

Two words I wish never went together. I am so emotionally exhausted from what we've seen today as we accompanied ICM on their home visits. ICM works with the poorest of the poor. If you are wondering what that means, here are the demographics of their recipients based on a recent survey:
- they earn an average of 37 cents a day
- 15% of mothers had a child die under age 16
- 34% say they go to bed hungry every night
- 24% are illiterate
- 45% have no directly electricity
- 71% own no furniture in their homes
- 15% walk at least 100m to get water

The first home we visited was a widow with 10 children. Later we met a 29 year old mother of 7. I don't have a lot of words tonight, but I did snap a few photos.

Riding the jeepney home from ICM we stopped to pick up two new kids that are moving into Arms of Love, Willy and Raymark. They weren't around their neighborhood so we swung by the dump and found them digging for scraps. When we called them they didn't go home, collect their belongings, or say goodbye to their families. They just got in the jeepney and "came home" with only the clothes on their back. This afternoon they were like caged birds set free. They ran back and forth between the houses, ate ravenously, and climbed all over us. They hugged and did not let go. I didn't want to let go either. Here are the brothers from left to right Willy, Raymark and Marvin (he has been here a year already).

Willy and Raymark need sponsors. If God puts it on your heart to sponsor them, you can provide for their basic needs of food, clothing and housing for only $35 a month. I know many of you already sponsor children through other organizations. I can personally vouch for how well the children are taken care of here and how far they stretch the sponsors' money. The kids love their sponsors and write to them regularly. Some told me their biggest dream is to meet their sponsor. If you are interested, please leave a comment, email us at or contact