Monday, September 8, 2014

PAM bags

It was 10am and we were ready.  We had an international skype date set up between 3 of us stay-at-home moms, from the cold mountains of Lesotho's capital city to the sunny coast of South Africa.  We smelled a micro enterprise development in the future for one of our friends and you could FEEL the energy and anticipation in my living room.

By 11:30, skype and facetime still weren't working.  Gak, 1st world problems.  We weren't giving up! We felt led to pray and the Lord provided FB chat as our improvised line of communication.

It all goes back a few months when we still lived in Lesotho.  Remember the soccer boys we worked with?  I learned early one of the boy's moms, 'Me Puseletso, had a sewing machine.  I took her a reversible cloth bag and asked if she could imitate the pattern.  She did a fantastic job using Lesotho's seshoeshoe material and even added her own flair.  I showed the bag to my friend, Carolyn, who then put in an order for a different style of bag, also made of seshoeshoe (pronounced "seshwayshway").  It also turned out beautifully!

'Me Puseletso's bags quickly gained popularity with the international community in Lesotho and she began to fill orders and perfect her patterns and quality.  After moving to South Africa and seeing an even larger pool of potential clientele, I began to pray about what God may have in store for 'Me Puseletso and her sewing machine.  You see, 'Me Puseletso fights against all odds in Lesotho.  She's a single mom and is otherwise unemployed but has an impressive hand in her urban garden and in raising her boy.  Her son faithfully attended my after-school French and homework lessons.  I can tell you there is something to this kid.  I believe God has a plan for him.  She is trying to offer him a better future.  One with hope and continuing education.   

As I prayed for her and her son's future, I began to see how God had plans to be HER Jehovah, her Provider.  He made her a brilliant seamstress.  She had the skills, she had the desire, and she had the work ethic.  She just needed the clientele.  So, Puseletso had the skills, Carolyn had the facebook chat to make our communication possible, and I had the international network that wanted her products.  3 stay-at-home moms.  Micro enterprise.  God's provision.

One digital date and much planning later, 'Me Puseletso is now working on her first stock of 20 bags to send me to be distributed here in South Africa.  She's not sure if they are going to sell.  I'm pretty sure she soon won't be able to keep up with the demand :)  She came up with the product name, "P.A.M.'s Bags".  P.A.M. stands for Puseletso Asteria Mathetse...the woman who started a business by sewing a bag.

'Me Puseletso and Carolyn in Lesotho during our FB chat.
Me in South Africa
Bouncing around ideas
A few final products

Beautiful seshoeshoe material from Lesotho
To find out more, visit the PAM Bag facebook page. PAM products will be available by direct order through 'Me Puseletso in Lesotho and select local shops and hotels in the Ramsgate/Margate area in South Africa.  Private message with any questions.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Your Mother Tongue from a Foreigner...

10 "There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me."

19  "Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue."  -taken from 1 Corinthians 14

To place Paul's words in their true context, he is writing to the church of Corinth about speaking in tongues.  On a broader level, he is coming straight out of defining LOVE in the previous chapter and moves here to address encouraging the church and revealing God's message to people in words they understand so that the church may be built up, so that instruction can be carried out, and so that unbelievers will fall on their face and worship God.  The point is that God be revealed to mankind in words that have meaning.  In words that convict.  In words that build up.

But God, I'm tired.  And my brain might be full.

I'm losing my French.  I miss Pidgin.  I miss the familiar sounds of Nooni.  I tried my hand at Sesotho last year.  Now I'm learning Afrikaans and Zulu at the same time.  And Lord, some days I just want to go back to a language I already know.  One where I don't feel like I might be stuck in toddlerhood for the rest of my life.  

What's that you say, Lord?  

Love never ends?  


So we never stop trying.  We never stop trying to reach people with the meaning of His love in a language that is richer to their ears than my own, so that possibly, just possibly with 5 words that make sense, a side of God may be revealed in a way that thousands of words of English could never unveil.

And yes.  English is spoken here.  But the words of your mother, your mother tongue, penetrate deeper and richer than the language of a foreigner, even when these words stumble forth from the foreigner's tongue with the awkwardness of a toddler.

Extra Afrikaans lessons with Mevrou DuPloy after school

Faith gave me my first Zulu lesson last week.
Because there are people here who I really, really love.

"And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed."

Daniel 7:14

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Insane Stability...

Everest and Budu not shown.  Everest has kittens in the oven and is as grumpy as ever.
Budu's a snake and I don't want him anywhere near me.
Perhaps it IS a little much.  3 dogs, however many cats, a snake, and the 4 of us.  It's been called, "the Danforth Farm" and "the Danforth Zoo" and we love it. 

Why this craziness?  With all the transitions we've been through in the last year, why add animal insanity to the list?  

As Children of Change, Transient Ones, MKs, TCK's, Purple Kids, whatever you want to call it, life has been one big move for Sam and I.  An exhilarating adventure for sure, but with lots and lots of moves.  Multiply that by marrying one of your own kind, planning your entire adult lives around getting back overseas and BLAM, you've got the perfect environment conducive for non-pet people.  

But somehow, our parents did it.  My parents let me get a dog.  And a cat.  We took that dog all OVER the place with us.  All of us kids piled in the back of the Nissan Patrol and the dog scrunched under my mom's feet as a faux co-pilot.  My dad would have less wrinkles and gray hair if he had had his way and been dogless.  But those added wrinkles and early gray hairs from Scout are a sure sign of self-sacrificial love for us kids.  And being a mom now, I can tell you how much I would NOT go for a big lab squashed under my feet for a quarterly 10 hour drive to the capital city.  But my mom is my mom, the planet's sweetest servant, what can I say?  

Sam never had a dog or a cat, but let's not even start on his crocodile farm, pet python, bush baby, owl, rabbits, guinea pigs...

But back to why in the world we choose this insanity, not in tidbits, but in Jolly Giant size.  

Who owns pets?  Stable people.  Stable people with stable lives and stable jobs whose 5 year goals for success make sense and who clock in and out of work to achieve that end.  What do pets actually mean?  Stability.  Or a grasp at it.  I don't know that our lives will EVER make earthly sense as long as we're serious about following God wherever He sends us on this crazy planet, but we do grasp at earthly stability in this transient life.  So we're up to our eyeballs in animals.  What may seem like insanity to someone else is for us a sign of stability, permanence, and a choice to put down roots in this place He has called us to.  As long as God has us here, we're here to stay, folks.  Bring on the zoo.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sam the Maintenance Guy...

Someone asked recently, "What does a typical day for Sam look like at Genesis?".  We have not yet had a "typical day" and this line of work is definitely not a "clock in, clock out" kind of deal.  BUT, here is an idea of work at Genesis for Sam the Maintenance Guy.

First, a little background on Genesis.  6 years ago, Pastor Trevor Downham (our pastor here) found the body of an AIDS victim on the steps of our church.  His heart was broken and he asked the church, "What would happen if our church doors closed tomorrow?  Would this community even know that we were ever here?".  That spurred a whole movement within the church to start taking "church" outside the walls of our building and INTO the community.  They began by responding to physical needs, the greatest immediate need being AIDS victims who were dying rejected, alone, and without hope.  The church started an AIDS and TB hospice.  The staff at the hospice introduce each patient to the Lord and many come to know Him.  It's an incredible outpouring of Christ's love to the community, especially to the most neglected of people.  The church began to look beyond this immediate need and started thinking about how to invest in the community through preventative care.  

Genesis now has several community centers within half an hour of each other around the area.  The centers exist in response to needs in the community with the primary purpose of using these platforms to share the Gospel.  The centers have things like a gym, music academy, training center (teaching women to make crafts to sell), library, VBS, youth groups and Bible studies for urban kids, a hospice, computer training, leadership training, a school for autistic kids, a rugby academy, etc.  Each ministry we have seen so far has been effective at maintaining its focus on Christ.  The people who come are introduced to Christ and are mentored, discipled, and invested in on both a physical and spiritual level.  All of these buildings have no one to maintain them, so that is Sam's job.  He's the Genesis Maintenance Guy.  He loves his job because he gets to work at each center and SEE how God is at work through our local church.  Some of his jobs are really simple, like fixing broken windows, and others are more complicated, like reworking the entire water system for one of the centers.   

Murchison Center windows 
Sam doesn't have a "typical" day.  For example, the other day, he met in the morning with our pastor to figure out the direction of a new ministry that is being started at Genesis.  Then the hospice called him because they were out of water.  He worked on their water system, got it running again, and met with a few of their staff to try teach them how to conserve water more diligently.  After this, he got a call from one of our more rural centers where there had recently been riots.  A few of their windows were broken, so he drove out there, got the materials, and repaired them.  

Hospice and Youth Center water system

Some days, he fixes cars that are used by our food programs to deliver food to poverty-stricken families. Other days, he meets with our pastor and others on the Genesis team as they work on the direction of various ministries.  Sometimes, he works on the toilets at the hospice centers.  One day, he removed and rebuilt a wall in one of our buildings to create a more effective working space.  It can sound a little chaotic, but basically, his job is to keep these buildings functional and efficient.  It has relieved the staff of each of the centers who until now have had to outsource the work and has eaten up their funding that we would rather see used for further ministry.    
Genesis vehicle 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

South African Expert Novice...

Tomorrow marks one year that we've been in Africa's southern region.  Here are my expert novice thoughts on life down south:

1.  I love driving here.  Sure, it's on the "wrong" side of the road, but it's an exhilarating rush for horrid drivers like myself.  And for others on the road with me.

2.  Did I say that I love driving here?  Unlike the US, there is a lot more gray area in the driving etiquette arena.  Drivers in all parts of Africa are adept at adapting to the situation.  If say, a friend of a friend of a friend forgets that she's driving in South Africa and takes off pell mell down the wrong side of the highway, no one reacts with frantic honking and flashing of lights.  They simply adapt to her and merge out of her way, allowing her the gracious freedom to realize her mistake in her own sweet time. Much to far down the road.  But nonetheless, she realized her mistake.  Shame.

3.  "Shame" is one of South Africa's most commonly used words.  I can say this with all the experience of an expert novice.  There is no translation for "shame" in American, so I've gladly adopted the term as a new outlet of expression.  It can mean, "Isn't that cute?!" or "Dude, what a bummer!" or "How sad!" or "Awwww!" or "How embarrassing!" or....

4.  I think South Africans must teach their children that if they're going to do something for someone, they better do it with the jolliest attitude they can muster and say, "Pleasure!".  Guy takes my grocery cart to return it to the cart station and when I say, "Thanks!"  he grins with a, "Pleashah!".  New friends teach us how to make South African stew (poitje) and when I express gratitude, they grace me with a, "Pleashah".  I like this.

5.  If the driver in front of you is going slower than you would like, he'll pull over so you can pass him.  Brilliant system.  Once you've passed him, you flash your emergency lights as a "Thank you".  Then he'll flash his headlights as a "Pleashah!".

5.  "Lekker" means "cool".  And when you live on the coast with surfer dudes, EVERYTHING is lekker.  All the time.

6.  "7 for 7:30" is actually a saying when there is a meeting that is going to take place.  It means, "Show up at 7 if you want to socialize, but we're actually starting the meeting around 7:30".  I never did do well with time constraints in America.

7.  Everyone has dogs.  And everyone has at least one Jack Russell Terrier.

8.  Of everyone I have met at the grocery store and in shops, only one has guessed I'm American.  Everyone's first guess in Australian.  Guess number two is Canadian.  I don't think we get many 'muricans down in these parts.

9.  Our meat is organic and more free-range than you can imagine.  And my husband is one happy guy.  Lekker, dude.

10.  This is a land of gentlemen and ladies, but no pretense.  An incredibly fascinating culture for the anthropologically-minded and a thoroughly enjoyable one to live in for all.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Words of Life amidst Riots...

Yesterday, Sam took me to Murchison, one our more rural Genesis community centers.  There had been riots here for the last 3 days, possibly due to a lack of water.  The riots were over and Sam was on the job to fix some broken windows (not a result of the riots).  Murchison is home to a gym, music academy, training center, library, and feeding center.  Basically, it is a safe place for kids and youth to come and hear the Good News of Christ.

As Sam fixed windows, I took a look around.  The verse for the day on the front chalkboard was
Psalm 18:2,
"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, 
my shield and the horn of my salvation, 
my stronghold."

I wondered if God would use these words today to breathe into a community that had recently suffered a lack of stability, safety, and access to the most basic of needs.  His Word has breathed life into me.  It has changed me from blindness, from self, from wrong direction.  And I know it has the power to do the same for anyone who seeks Him.  These life-altering truths are why we are here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

He Has Filled Them With Skill...

I watched him sweat over the engine of a dying truck.  On the phone with buddies who run a local junkyard, he was trying to find the cheapest yet most uncompromised replacement parts.  In the last two weeks, he has saved Genesis Hope hundreds of dollars on labor and parts that until now have been outsourced.  In the last two weeks, I have spoken with over a dozen people from all walks of life who have been spiritually rerouted to Christ or missions because of what God is doing through Genesis outreaches.  I watched Sam labor this Saturday morning over this truck and I knew I was watching a beautiful thing.  

I have read about similar happenings in Exodus...about a time when the Lord called His people together to make their own unique contributions to build His tabernacle.  I read about how every skillful woman spun yarn with her hands, how men and women brought anything the Lord put on their heart to donate, how men came to engrave and design the interior of God's dwelling place, how men brought acacia wood to be used for a holy building.  I watched him work and I thought of these things, how we have been called to this place to serve with these people and under this church, how everyone is working together to contribute his or her craftsmanship as a love sacrifice back to God so that He may be bountifully worshipped by those who know Him and so that He may be found by those who don't.  I thought of those who have sent us and how I wish I could explain all of these things in earnest at their dining room tables in Iowa, California, Minnesota, etc.  For what He is orchestrating is great and the choreography of His grace, our senders, our labor, our collective worship, and the hearers is one I can't wait to retell in Heaven.  The labor is happening, both with the sweat of the brow as well as the praise of the mouth, and I am seeing people's hearts become alive in ways He purposed long ago.

Exodus 35:20-35
20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought theLord's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments.22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to theLord. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats' hair or tanned rams' skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord's contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats' hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.

30 Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. 34 And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.