WELCOME!!

This blog is an account of our lives and ministry in South Africa. Please click on the tabs above to learn a little more about us and what we do.

We hope you enjoy our blog. Please feel free to leave your comments, we love to hear what's on your mind!



(If you got here from facebook or Twitter you can read the rest of our blog at SmithSA.blogspot.com)


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Freedom Park Singing

Below is a video taken of HIV patients in Freedom Park singing early in the morning before the medical clinic opened. We were told that they meet once a week when the HIV clinic opens to encourage one another. This particular day they were remembering one of their fellow patients who had recently died from AIDS.


video

Friday, July 24, 2009

Team Reactions #4

Red Rocks Team Reactions #4


Below is an entry by Amara Filan, who just returned from working with our Red Rocks Team in South Africa.


South Africa


Our trip to South Africa changed my life forever. Every aspect of it still has me trying to figure out how I really feel. The experience was unforgettable & I am so thankful that Troy (Amara's husband) & I got to go. I feel like I got to meet angels on earth & it was so inspiring to see people who truly dedicate their lives to serving others in such a humble way.



The kids were incredible. Each one touched my heart & I miss them & pray for them often. To know what they have experienced in their short lifetime shocks me & breaks my heart. It saddens me to be here & know that there are still so many kids who live in S.A. & worldwide that are still living in terrible circumstances. These kids have such a sweet soul & are so innocent; I do not understand how anyone could possibly do anything to harm them. It breaks my heart.


Knowing the children’s stories was so important to me to see what they have been through & how far they have come. The kids were so accepting of us & embraced us, not wanting us to go. I find it harder to be here then there at this time, as I think of what some of the kids are enduring as I write this. I also find it difficult to not dislike some of the kids here in the Western world. The kids in Africa are so happy to simply be loved & have a meal a day & one outfit to wear, where I find most kids here are so materialistic & self centered & always need more (the adults too). That has been so tough for me.


Some of the people we met in South Africa have changed the way I think. They serve others so selflessly & do it with love. The doctor (Dr. Neil) I spent the day with amazes me. I asked him how he survives daily life as the need is so overwhelming & depressing. He said that in SA they say “ You don’t eat the whole elephant at once, you chew it one bite at a time” and that’s how he is motivated. He knows that even if he helps one person, it’s enough to keep going. That inspired me.



I met a woman in 4th stage HIV (as her body rejected medication) who is in the final days of her life & her smile & attitude will always be engraved in my mind. Despite her immense pain, she was able to smile & hold my hand.


The doctor’s wife runs a program counseling the people of Rustenburg. She takes in babies at any given moment & is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, willing to do whatever it takes to improve a life. She truly works for God & changes lives.


The woman (Martha) & her daughter who don’t work so they can feed needy children from their humble home move me beyond words.


The YWAM group does so many great projects & helps so many people as well. All of these people will forever be heroes in my mind & I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I had to meet them.



I am thankful for Lincoln listening to God & bringing our group to Rustenburg. I don’t think that any of us came back the same. I know it challenges me in the way I think & live my life & I hope I will never go back to the way I was before this trip. I believe Troy & I will be back in South Africa & can’t wait to go & get more involved.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

AIDS Statistic

AIDS Statistic

I read an interesting article on MSNBC about AIDS research in South Africa.

Following is a quote from this article:

"During nearly 10 years of government denial and neglect, South Africa developed a staggering AIDS crisis. Around 5.2 million South Africans were living with HIV last year — the highest number of any country in the world. Young women are hardest hit, with one-third of those aged 20-to-34 infected with the virus."

Team Reactions #3

Red Rocks Team Reaction #3

Below is a post by Rick Messer, part of our Red Rocks Team that just got back from South Africa. You can read the rest of Rick and Jenny's posts on their blog.

I chose this post from Rick because it is very real. Not every moment was full of meaning and inspiration. Sometimes the kids we came to love and serve were a little annoying. That's just the real world.


Rick's Post:

I worked in Phokeng the whole day today and felt pretty useless most of the time. I also felt very selfish when the kids arrived because I was tired of some of them. Some are sweet and kind but some are kind of demanding. One boy climbed all over me for hours (literally). I didn’t know how to to tell him to stop without being mean.

There was no point in time that this kid wasn’t on somebody’s back or grabbing on to their leg!! (gotta love ‘em)

Kid on Dave's back

Sweater Kid on Chris's back

Sweater Kid on Kim's back

Sweater Kid on Lizzy's back


Says it all… Ha!
Sweater Kid


Amanda showed me how to make swords and dogs out of balloons and that was until some of the kids got a little grabby. We got swarmed!
Swarmed Balloon Maker!

Ended day at Martha’s playing soccer. We played with about 12 of us in the street. Troy, me and Lincoln were on a team with a few kids from the neighborhood and we played against 6 more. They won some “Coke Lights” from Lincoln (They don’t have diet coke there, just “Coke Light” -minor cultural detail I thought I’d throw in).

For the second time, I noticed a boy who was playing soccer in the dirt streets in just his socks. I learned his name and sort of became friends with him. He’s called and text messaged me a few times since I’ve been back! He wore his school uniform when he played soccer. One time he kicked the ball hard and said his foot was hurting. I asked why he didn’t have shoes and he said they were too big and when he kicked the ball his shoes would fly off. I showed him a better way to tie his shoes, but they still flew off! I decided I would just get him a new pair, so we got some at the mall (yes there’s a mall nearby, I was really surprised too!) and Jenny gave them to him the following Monday.


Me and Lincoln loosing badly in soccer, you can see the kid in the white shirt playing without shoes:
Me and Lincoln Loosing in Soccer


While we were playing soccer I saw a little boy that we all had noticed over the past few days. He lived next door to Martha. He is probably about 2 years old and is alone, outside all day.
Pete


The whole yard is dirt and fenced with barbed wired. Some of the team saw him eating some orange peels that we had thrown away. He was reaching through the fence and eating them off of the ground. Troy went over the fence and gave him some fresh fruit that we had in the van.
Pete and Troy1

Team Reactions #2

Red Rocks Team Reactions #2

Below is an excerpt from Jenny Messer's blog about her trip to South Africa.

-Jenn’s Day One-

Journal Entry Tuesday, June 22nd

“One day… I made it to Africa, I hesitate to fall in love.” (This was the first line of my journal entry for my Africa experience, it still rings true in my head as I type this and I am positive will be with me always. I want to go back soon and often. I knew I would have to leave this place and I had to process that very fact before I even left, when I got there to my dismay, it was even more lovely and hard to leave.)


“I breathe the colors and smell the sound of laughter and crooked smiles. I have already been saddened when the children had to leave–just to go to bed! (I am not able to list names of the children on the internet, but she was the one who latched to me and then I could not let go.) “I taught her to clap, grab her cheeks and say OH! We twirled our fingers in the air as trees, pointed to the blue sky and moved like the wind. I feel love as she holds tight to me and says, Mommy.” Today was the first day I heard that word.



Saturday, July 18, 2009

Freedom Park Laughing

Freedom Park is an interesting place, joy and laughter is not uncommon in the midst of tragedy and heartbreak. Many times Americans are very self conscious about wanting to taking pictures of the people there. It makes us feel self conscious, and disrespectful. While that might occasionally be the case, more often than not the people love to have their picture taken.

Below is a video taken by Rick and Jenny, part our Red Rocks Team that just returned from South Africa. They are taking pictures of the people and then showing them their image on the digital camera. They obviously are very thrilled to see this technology at work.




Saturday, July 11, 2009

Red Rocks Team Reactions #1

Below is an entry from Chris Price, one of our Red Rocks Team members who just visited South Africa with us. I've asked the team members to write a blog entry explaining what they learned and experienced on their trip. This is the part of the trip that I really enjoyed, watching the impact on others lives. I've already seen what they are seeing and experienced it and I know how it has affected my life. It's very fulfilling to be a part of that process in the lives of others.

Here is Chris' entry:

It's difficult to put into words how this trip has changed my life. It's difficult to explain to friends and family how survival is a daily struggle for the people of Africa, or how they live in a place so vastly different from the quiet comfort of the States.

I’ve searched for some way to convey these experiences, and sadly, I am found wanting. I desire deeply for people to feel what I have felt, to see what I have seen, to experience all that I have experienced. However, I am slowly learning that my humble words and photographs will never suffice. The more I think about it, this makes complete sense, these things are worldly, how could they possibly compensate for such a divine experience?


Something inexplicable happens when you find yourself outside of every comfort you’ve ever known. Being surrounded by such tragedy I had to constantly remind myself that this is not a dream, but a dramatic reality.

I quickly realized that any aid or comfort I might bring to these people will simply not be enough. The change needed in South Africa goes far beyond improving a home or providing a meal. The people there are suffering from a condition of the soul. It's the same condition that can be seen in your next door neighbor, a friend at work, the person pouring you your cup of coffee, and in the person looking back at you in the mirror. For the people in Africa that know Christ I am eternally grateful. They have given me an entirely new perspective on God, and impressed upon me far more than I left with them.

After a few days back home I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the sum of my experiences. Simply said, I have been shaken to my very core. I have been forced to reevaluate every aspect of my life. God has shown me the importance of working for something eternal. I no longer wish to concern myself with the greed and selfishness of American culture, instead I now yearn to do Gods work. The kind of work that produces fulfillment and happiness.


For two weeks I lived light-years away from the all consuming pettiness of Americana and felt nothing but joy the entire time. Even through the tragedy of life in South Africa I felt happiness. A sense that I was working for my God and that he was working in me.

More often than not we convince ourselves that happiness is a new car away, a new job away, a new relationship away, etc. All of these are variations of one core lie, that true happiness can be obtained apart from God. Satan uses this one lie in many different forms, that we might be distracted from a true and righteous view of God. A view that says, happiness lies in Him and nothing more.

To all who may read this. I issue this challenge. A challenge that was given to all of us long ago. Lose your life and you will surely find it. Amen.

Before and After

This is for my Red Rocks Team that just got back, I want to share some earlier pictures of some of the kids that you came to love. I can't give their names on the internet, but I think that you'll recognize them.

This is the baby that our daughter Madison got to name. Her smile now lights up the shelter.


This is the same little girl the day she arrived at the shelter. She practically became part of our family. We would have adopted her if we could have.


This is a current picture of the little girl with Jenny from our Red Rocks Team.


This is the "grumpy old man" with his mom before she died.


Here is the "grumpy old man" 2 1/2 years ago. Notice how dry the skin is on his arms. His whole body used to be dry the like this and he wore socks on his hands to protect his dry skin. He was always in pain because of this. Now his skin has totally cleared up and he is so much healthier and happier.


These are the two drama queens of the place.


The child on the left here is the same as the child on the right in the above photo. No one could forget that smile.


This is the Princess
(in light blue) that is part of the siblings that I've written about. (I've been saying that there were 5 siblings, but I think there were actually 4.) This is her when she was at the shelter the first time. Her two sisters are in front of her in pink and behind her in red.


This is a current picture of our Princess.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Humbled and Amazed

In 2005 Jenny and I had the simple desire to live in a way that purposefully and intentionally allowed God to use us however He desired. At that point we began the process of moving our family to South Africa to work with AIDS orphans. Since that time the vision to reach the orphans of South Africa has spread, expanded, and mushroomed way beyond our family's efforts.


It has been amazing to watch God use our small e
fforts and multiply them exponentially. I can't say that it is because of our effort, or because of our faith, or because of anything that we have personally done. I'm so amazed to see what God has done in spite of us.


I feel like the boy who had the fish and bread that Jesus multiplied to feed the crowds of people. Jesus didn't perform that miracle becaus
e the boy had faith and asked for it. That boy didn't spend hours in prayer asking for a miracle. That boy didn't impress Jesus with his great sacrifice and service. He was simply in the right place at the right time. He was willing and available and Jesus chose to use him. That is how I feel. It totally has nothing to do with me, and I'm amazed to watch how God is working through us.


When the Red Rocks pastors caught the vision of reaching the orphans of South Africa I was amazed. When the Red Rocks team caught the vision and brought it home to their friends and family I was thrilled. Now individuals in the church are getting the vision and jumping on board with money and time. I am so humbled, amazed, and grateful. I couldn't say thank you enough to everyone involved in serving both our family and the orphans of SA.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Team Pictures

Cheetah at the Lion Park.


Proud Mommy and Daddy at the Lion Park.


The lions were being very photogenic at the Lion park.



Dave and Johannes working on the ceiling at Martha's.


Rick and Amanda making balloon animals in Phokeng.


The girl's Tea Party in Phokeng.


Chris working on the ceiling at Martha's.


This is the little boy our team nicknamed "Peter Pan" and wrote about in the song "Lerato".


This was our final team picture before we left for the airport.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The team made it home safely

I'm sure Lincoln has a lot more to post about when he is feeling up to it, I just wanted to quickly post to let everyone know that the team has arrived home safe and sound. Thank you for all your prayers over the past 2 weeks. It sounds like they had an amazing trip!

Friday, July 3, 2009

On their way home

Lincoln just called with 2 minutes left on his calling card, so we didn't have much time to talk. The team made it to the airport on time (barely!) and their flight leaves in about 50 minutes. By this time tomorrow they should be about an hour and a half away from landing in Denver.

Please continue to pray for their safety and protection.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Team Members

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Below is a journal entry written by Chris, one of our Red Rocks Team Members. It may not mean a lot to those of you that aren't on this trip, but I thought I'd post it to preserve the memory of 14 individuals that have become an amazing team.


June 21, 2009 will forever mark the day that my life changed forever. As I unloaded our luggage from my car at the airport I remember being filled with a sense of excitement and nervousness.

I knew that I would be embarking on a journey that would undoubtedly force me to reevaluate every aspect of my life. As we made our way through the airport our group instantly gelled. Its funny because it seems like I’ve known these people for a lifetime. God has definitely blessed me to be here with so many amazing individuals.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve truly seen the embodiment of Romans 12:4-8 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Every person has a necessary gift.

Lincoln has been an amazing leader, quiet, calm, and humble. Yet strong, faithful and confident. He truly loves this place.

I feel like Troy is our vice-leader. His knowledge of the ways of God challenges me, he is definitely someone I look up to. His wonderful sense of humor provides our team with necessary moments of laughter. The tragedy of this place could easily overwhelm a person. Laughter has kept us grounded and sane.

The carpenter after God’s heart. Dave has so many amazing gifts, his knack for carpentry has been such a blessing. Accomplishing what we have at Martha’s would not have been possible without him. His gift for music has provided us with so many moments of community and worship.

The Heavenly Chef. Rick has taken it upon himself to prepare our meals. His ability to make such delicious and satisfying meals on a small budget has been a wonderful blessing. Not to mention the food he prepares provides our team with much needed nourishment.

The tallest girl in Africa. Taylor’s presence was felt here immediately. Instantly connecting with Maureen, a woman who works in the shelter. Taylor has shown her and the other women here that they deserve to be treated as a precious daughter of God.

Love embodied. Kristie has a way of loving people by just being near them. As I watched her hold these children and weep for the broken in freedom park, I felt as though I saw Christ holding them and weeping for them.

K is for Karate Chop, what a perfect shirt for Kim to have. It describes who she is to a T. A confident little spitfire. Kim has a boldness that comes from God and a willingness to lend a hand where needed. I hope that something as small as her soccer ability has challenged the perceptions of what a woman is capable of accomplishing.

The megaphone “sweetheart”. Lorrie’s confidence in who she is has ministered to me greatly and shown our team the importance of embracing who he created us to be. Her sense of humor has also provided our team with so much laughter and relief from the emotional challenges we face daily.

The lighthouse without a foghorn, Ashley’s quiet faith has spoken volumes to me, proving the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak. Ashley is often quiet, but when she does speak it is always meaningful and important.

The United States of Amara. I feel like the gift of comfort is so prevalent with Amara. I’ve watched her provide small words of encouragement and comfort to so many on our team. The manner in which its done is so real and honest. Genuine hearts like hers are too few and far between.

The gentle heart. When I think of Lizzy I can’t help but smile. I imagine Jesus doing the very same thing. Quiet and sweet, Lizzy is such a good natured person. I can’t imagine her saying something negative about anyone. She has shown me the importance of humbly loving others.

The consummate mother. Jenny’s motherly instincts and ability to teach children have been an enormous blessing.

Lion bait. On one occasion in particular Amanda challenged me in my prayer life. Her passionate prayer allows the spirit to penetrate every heart in the room, causing a unity with God that I’ve rarely experienced prior.

Jo-berg. The quiet and humble heart of Johannes has shown me an entirely new way of working. There are times in my life when I feel as though I was working for the Lord but Johannes does anything and everything that is asked of him. He does it as though God himself were giving him a command from Heaven.

I don’t know what part I’ve played within this organized chaos, I just hope that I’ve been half the blessing these people have been to me.

Day 10

Day 10 Red Rocks Team Trip

Today our team continued working on the playground at the shelter. We made pretty good progress but it isn’t done yet. We’ll work for a few hours tomorrow morning before our fun day in Johannesburg. Tomorrow we will go souvenir shopping, go to the Lion Park, and eat at Carnivore Restaurant in Jo-burg. It will be nice to have a fun relaxing day after working so hard.

Part of the team worked in Phokeng putting the final coat of paint on the ceiling. The cabinets were also installed today at Martha’s.

Tomorrow is Amara’s birthday (Amara is one of the ladies on the team) so we had a surprise birthday for her with the kids at the shelter. While she was in Freedom Park this morning the older kids in the shelter decorated a birthday cake for her and made some cards. It was a cool surprise for her.

Tonight we took the 7 oldest kids in the shelter to the movies. We saw Ice Age 3. It was a very cool treat for the kids. One of the girls that we took with us is the one that I wrote about earlier in our trip who has returned to the shelter because she was abused by her father. This was the first time that she has ever gone to a movie. She had so much fun. It was great to hear her laughing so loud in the movie theater.

Yesterday I wrote about the song that the team wrote. The music to it is very cool, you’ve got to hear it, but for now here are the lyrics:

They titled the song “Lerato” which means “love” in Tswana.


Verse 1

If one man could change the world

And bring color to this city of tin cans

Rusty blue, helpless but not hopeless hue

Sitting with the answers in your hands

All the lost boys are playing in the street.

Will you come play Peter Pan?

This aint no fairy tale it’s a barbed wire reality

But they’re not losing their innocence


Chorus

So come sail away with me off to the red soil

Step out of your boat and see what I can do

You might think that I’ve called you off to change the world

Maybe it’s the world that’s changing you


Verse 2

I’ve got everything you want but you’ve got everything I’ve been missing for so long

You live and breathe everything I need

Turns out you’re the one who’s savin’ me

Seems the reaper is standing at your door

But all we found was life inside

There’s nothin’ left worth livin’ for but all you want is more


Summary

14 strangers answering a call, nothing special at all

There’s a palm print that’s been left on our hearts

That won’t be wiped away when we depart



To fully appreciate the song you’ll need some explanations on the meaning of the lyrics, here’s a few of them:

-One of our team members named the kids playing soccer in the streets of Phokeng, “The Lost Boys”

-In the house next to Martha’s there is a little boy that is maybe 2 and everyday he sat on the other side of the barbed wire fence and watched all the kids play at Martha’s. Someone nicknamed him “Peter Pan.” He was so cute and adorable and sad looking as he watched everyone else play.

The boy below is "Peter Pan"