As the final day of the Out of Africa Mission arrived, the team were determined to make the most of it waking up early and heading to Wilderness beach close by to watch the sunrise with the Northern Irish volunteers who we had become honorary GB members over the last two weeks. The morning was filled with baking yummy delights to place in the party bags for the children from Blanco whom we would be taking on a day trip later on and of course the team had to make sure their wares were edible!!! After 20 bags, 20 brownies and 29 cookies were completed, we headed to a local farm to await the arrival of the 20 kids. As the sun shone, we spent the afternoon playing games, face painting, feeding the animals and riding the train. There were smiles from both young and old alike as the children were given their mementos and once again the team were struck by something how small and inexpensive could make such a difference.
To complete what had been a brilliant last day, the six of us headed out to dinner with the three other volunteers and Pierre along with his wife and two children. We reflected on what had been our highlights of the trip and what we would be taking from our experiences here. We have been aware of all your thoughts and prayers over our time here and all of us have grown and been blessed by what has been an amazing experience. We would like to share with you a selection of our departing thoughts.
On many occasions, the team were struck by the passion and dedication of the local people we met determined to make a difference in their communities in both Blanco and at Kidstop. When running around trying to juggle many different tasks and not being able to take a moment to breathe, they commented “but hey its ministry” rather than doing what is so easy and complaining. We were all challenged by what we faced and taken out of our comfort zone but through this was changed by God. The team saw regularly the power of love, affection and time in people’s lives in a world that is so often material-needy. On a daily basis, we were reminded that God has wonderful plans for us. We may not see the immediate impact of the work we are doing but God is using us to lay foundations and that when working for his glory we can have a great impact. We have been given my gifts and talents by God to make the most of our 86,00 seconds.
After some relaxation time in Cape Town, the team have returned safely and settled back into life in the UK. We will continue to meditate on our time in George and grow in our relationship with God. Our time has been life-changing and we thankyou for your support.
GB FIZZ 2015
On Thursday of week 2, the team visited Kidstop, an afterschool drop-in centre run by a local charity called Youth For Christ. Being the school winter holidays the centre was open all day from 8am until 4pm and despite the rain keeping most of the children away, 50 still attended. We quickly got stuck with anything we could help with and although a rainy day meant a movie and indoor play, there was still lots to do. The team were inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff who provided two hot meals, biblical teaching (the film also had a Christian message) and the love and affection that the children of this township needed. The joy of those attending was obvious. The team also learnt some new action songs to take back to the UK as the worship led by the older boys seemed to continue through most of the day.
Having been exhausted by our day of fun at Kidstop, we reflected on their teaching theme, Choose to Make a Difference. They discussed Matthew 5: 13-16, a passage well known to many of us. We see within these verses that God calls us to be lights of the world so that our actions shine out for his glory. We often feel that we are not worthy to do his work but the team were reminded that we are worthy, that God forgives us and cleanses us. He has called us despite our imperfections and lives both with us and within us. However, we still need to be active participants in the process showing Jesus’ love for us to others we meet.
The day ended in a truly South African experience, with a planned electricity blackout to reduce the countries power consumption. On a regular basis, the government turns off the electricity for approximately two hours at a time with very few services unaffected. All houses, traffic lights, businesses and even hospitals go into darkness, relying on alternative sources if they wish to continue to function. With no electricity, the team were left with only one option and after a candlelit dinner headed to the frozen yoghurt bar, which remained open thanks to their generator, for dessert.
Sorry for the lack of Blogs but due to our second week in George we had very limited WiFi signal but the team have been writing them and we will slowly post them so that you know what we were up to whilst away. Your prayers were felt and very appreciated.
On wednesday of week 2, the team went to a Rosemoor Home for the Aged. When we arrived, we discovered that the manager expected us to paint the nails and brush the hair of the residents. Being unprepared for this, there was a momentary feeling of panic as we searched for ideas on how to entertain the residents. As the sister in charge took us around the bedrooms and communal areas, we were struck not only by how many people lived there but, on speaking to the some of the ladies who spoke English, how infrequently many were visited. With no equipment, the team decided to utilise what little singing talent we had between us to form an impromptu choir providing renditions of both worship and contemporary songs we could remember. Despite being awkward at first, there was a great sense of fulfilment as the residents laughed, clapped and joined in the words and actions. How often they were laughing with us or at us is uncertain!!
In the afternoon, the team learnt we were to take some of the children of Blanco on a day trip later on in the week. In preparation, we used our Girls Brigade craft skills preparing party bags as a memento of the day.
Later, Pierre asked us to reflect on why, in a range of circumstances, we are hesitant to take the initial step. Relying on our own strength, we are hampered by fears of failure or what people may think of us. When we do not succeed on the first attempt, we get frustrated and angry at ourselves. Understanding that God is using us for his purpose and that he is always journeying with us, we were encouraged to persist when faced with difficulties and discomfort, just as both Jesus and the disciples before us have done. In doing so, God’s work becomes easier, just as singing did for more residents we visited.
On Tuesday, the team headed back to Blanco where we were introduced to two women passionate about helping their community, Stella and Carla. Recognising that many of the township were unable to take medication because they had no food with which to take it, these women cook twice a week to provide a meal for those who attend the local medical clinic. We joined in preparing the food although were not nearly as quick at peeling and chopping as we should have been. Despite this, the soup was soon prepared and we headed to the clinic to give it out along with bread from Pierre’s bakery. We had many customers and were out of food within the hour.
We returned to Stella’s house to prepare another batch of soup before becoming the local version of “Meals on Wheels”. As we walked through the township delivering to the elderly population, the weather was not with us and despite it being dry, the team often found themselves battling the wind and the dust. We were struck not only by the differences between how we live in the United Kingdom and how the people of the township survive but also how simple acts, such as cooking a meal, can make such an impact. As we headed home, we were left with complete admiration for Stella and Carla who despite having little themselves were determined to help where they could.
With only a few days left, the team reflected on how we had bonded and become a family over the past ten days. Whilst walking along the railway track at the weekend we noticed that every plank of wood was different to the other; different shapes, different lengths and in different states of repair. Despite this, they were all serving one purpose. The GB FIZZ team is a random bunch of women. We are from different countries, of different ages, from different church backgrounds and at different stages of our lives. Despite this we have come together to serve one purpose, to be used by God as tools for his glory in George and the surrounding area.
The preschool was finally finished and so after lunch we headed to Blanco, one of the local townships. As we walked through the village the team felt like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, slowly gathering a trail of children behind us as we went. Once we arrived in the park, we quickly settled into a game of Duck Duck Goose which was enjoyed by everyone despite the language barrier. The afternoon was filled with Stuck in the Mud, piggy back rides and playing hairdressers. Constant laughter and smiles came from the children and the team members as we played demonstrating to us that the best gift you can give is your time, love and affection.
The team continued to reflect on the journey we are taking with God. Deuteronomy 31 verse 6 teaches us that even when we do not feel his presence, God is travelling with us and will not fail us. This knowledge has and will continue to enable us to step out of our comfort zone as we continue to have new experiences in Blanco throughout the week.
In addition, we were reminded of how important we are to God. Pierre drew us to Genesis 1 verse 26. During the creation story, this is the first and only time that God consults the Godhead stating “Let us” rather than “Let there be…”. We are created in his image and he loves everyone of us just as we are. He wants to use us to carry out his plans for his glory.
The team have been joined by a group from Northern Ireland and although we will be doing different activities through the day, we hope that during the communal evenings we will join in fellowship together and learn from our different experiences.
The comic highlight of the day came from seeing the manager of the preschool chasing a stray cow out of her garden.
Tomorrow the team return to Blanco.
Sunday brought a day of rest for the team. We joined Pierre at his church where it was more what we were accustomed to back home. The service reinforced the key themes from our first week here. The words of Isaiah 9 verse 6 were hung on the wall of the church:
” Wonderful Counsellor. Mighty God”
Many times throughout the week we have reflected on the sovereignty of God not only over our time in George but also in our lives back home. The minister reminded us that although we often expect God to work immediately in response to prayer, it is normally a journey that we take to develop our understanding of God and his plans. This journey may not be easy and quick but God is wonderful and his plans are to prosper us.
After church, we headed to a local coffee shop for a tasty lunch. The team also used this time to head to the shops to buy extra warm clothing as some had not anticipated how cold an African winter’s night could get with no central heating and having spent the first week wearing the same jumpers whilst painting!!!
In the afternoon, we headed back to Victoria Bay, one of the local beaches. We were taken on a walk along a disused railway track where we got hilltop views of the beautiful local scenery. The walk may not have passed a thorough Girls Brigade risk assessment but the team had a great time and made it back to house in one piece!!!
With only five days left in George, the team are keen to ensure that we make the most of every opportunity we have. With this in mind after heading to the preschool to cover it in prayer tomorrow, we plan to throw ourself into working in the local township.
Despite the arrival of the weekend, the team were determined to do the best possible job for the preschool so we headed to add some final touches to the mural (more of this to follow on another day). En route, we stopped off at Beans, the coffee shop Pierre runs and supplies with baked goods on top of organising our time with Out of Africa Missions. He also bakes for many other restaurants in George and the surrounding area and the longer-term volunteers have to do a daily bread delivery run.
Having spent a week painting farm animals, it was time for the team to see creatures of a different kind up close and personal on a game drive. With the help of our guide, Austin, we spotted a host of animals including ostriches, rhinos, giraffes, antelopes, elephants and lions. Although having been very well fed by Pierre and his wife through the week, we clearly didn’t look appealing enough and the team made it all back in one piece inspite of the close proximity to the wildlife.
After dinner, the evening was spent learning just how flexible we were by attempting to pick cereal boxes up from the floor using just our teeth. Alex proved the most supple being able to reach just a flat piece of cardboard. How useful this skill will be throughout the rest of the mission is still uncertain.
The team were able to skype the GB Europe executive team before continuing the competition with an evening of card games. Tomorrow, we plan to experience church African-style again before sampling what George has to offer.