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.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Garden Progress

Today I visited Freedom Park, a squatter camp, to check on the progress of the garden that the Red Rocks Church Team helped plant in August.  The garden is doing very well.  The residents have expanded it to about 3 times the original size and they are already harvesting vegetables.  

I met the ladies who are working the garden every day.  I asked them what their plans were with the garden.  I expected them to say that they looked forward to having some fresh vegetables for themselves and their families.  But instead they said that they want to sell the vegetables and raise enough money to open a mortuary so that people in Freedom Park can afford to bury their loved ones.

Death is so prevalent that they are more concerned with burying their dead than nourishing the living.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

South Africa Stories

A frightened little 18-month-old boy, wearing only a tank top and shorts (it was pretty cold at that time of year) was shivering alone in a chair, completely silent.  He had just been brought to the children’s shelter where our family worked. We didn’t know a lot about this baby. A lady had found him abandoned and called a social worker to bring him to us. We didn’t know his name, birth date, or anything else.

I tried to talk to him but he wouldn’t make eye contact with me or even acknowledge my presence. He sat with his fists clenched and his arms held closely to him, almost in a protective stance. His clothes and body were filthy and he smelled like smoke from a fire. When I picked him up to try to comfort him I felt he was burning up with fever. I also noticed that he was not wearing a diaper but was completely dry. (We later found out that he was not able to urinate and he had to be catheterized.)

I rocked him for a while until the head caregiver was ready to give him a bath and check him in.  As she weighed him, I started to notice all of the wounds covering his little body (while I was rocking him, I was holding him close trying to keep him warm, so I didn’t notice the injuries earlier.) He had many open wounds, some as large as a nickel, as well as other scars in varying stages of healing.  Someone had caused these injuries to this sweet baby.

I had to photograph each wound and was dismayed at all of the horrible things I saw.  He had a huge lump on one of his arms, scars on his neck, back, chest, forehead and knee. His feet were very swollen. I just kept praying and telling him over and over that he is safe now, and we love him and will protect him.

As he was bathed, I wondered if he had ever had a proper bath in his life. He didn’t flinch or show any emotion when the soapy water came into contact with his open wounds. He held his arms and legs in the fetal position with clenched fists; he would not relax even a little.

After he was bathed and dressed, he was served dinner, which he ate well. He was given a name that means “Gift”.

Looking back, I don’t understand how I was able to be in the room, calmly documenting all of the abuse that this baby had been through, without falling apart emotionally. I can’t even fathom how someone could do all of this to a baby, but I am so thankful that he was found and brought to us. I know that God has a plan for this little guy’s life, and I am grateful that He allowed us to be a part of it.


Monday, September 27, 2010

New Mailing Address

We have always gotten our mail at the shelter, but now that we've moved, we needed to get our own PO Box.

Our new address is:
Lincoln and Jenny Smith
PO Box 132
Waterfall Mall
South Africa 0323

We still have contact with the shelter, so we will still receive any mail that has already been sent to that address.

Friday, September 24, 2010

RRC Team Update

Last week I went to the squatter camp of Freedom Park to check on the work that our Red Rocks team did in July/August.

The garden they planted is doing great.  Some of the HIV patients in Freedom Park have joined together to work in the garden.  It took our team a back breaking week and a half to prepare the soil for a portion of the field.  These patients have expanded the area of the garden to about twice the size of what our team had done.  That is A LOT of VERY hard work.  That soil is seriously very, very tough soil to break up.

I was very happy to see that they have taken the initiative to organize themselves and put in the hard work to expand the garden.  They've planted seeds and the vegetables are beginning to grow.  This is a wonderful opportunity for them to grow healthy vegetables for themselves, and also to be able to sell the produce to make a little extra money.

Our church, Red Rocks Church, raised some money during vbs last summer.  I was able to use part of this money to buy two more loads of manure for the new portion of the garden.

This is a picture of the garden now that the patients have expanded it.  
(click on the pictures to enlarge) 

When the Red Rocks team was here, we built 2 shacks for homeless families.  I learned from Jackie, the coordinator of orphaned and vulnerable children in Freedom Park, that she has been regularly following up with these families and they are doing well.

Jackie has found some tuition money to send the children to creche (pre-school) in January.  At that time, the parents will come to the after school program to give back to the community by working in the garden or participating in the job creation program there.  It's good to hear that Jackie has a heart to not just give these people a hand out, but to see them mentored to both give back, and to help themselves.

When our team was in Freedom Park in July they met a little boy living with his mother in a shack.  The mother was very ill and needed to go to hospice for care, but she didn't want to leave her son.  Our team helped coordinate care for the little boy and we brought the mom to hospice.

 Here is a picture of the little boy when we first found him.

Here is a picture of the little boy after our team cleaned him up, provided new clothes, fed him, and arranged foster care for him.

Some people from our team really have a heart for this little boy and have continued to provide money for him to go to creche (preschool.)

I was able to see the little boy and his mom last week, but the story is not necessarily encouraging.  The good news is he has been reunited with his mom.  The bad news is that she left the hospice before she was healthy because several other patients had died and she was afraid to be there.

It does not seem like her health has improved at all, she is still very ill and can hardly walk or take care of herself.  The caregiver told me that the little boy must stay home from creche to help care for his mom.  

Can you imagine a child this age responsible for caring for his dying mother?

The caregivers are trying to arrange for the mother to go to the government hospital for care, but this is not really an encouragement as the government hospitals are not well run.  The conditions are truly quite appalling.  I've known many people who have either been misdiagnosed, or severely neglected while staying in the hospital.

The caregiver told me that the mother has another son who is around 15 years old and lives a few hours away.  They have requested for him to come home to help with his mother, but I don't know if that will really happen or not.  The little boy will likely go to a foster care family if his mother goes to the hospital, but if the older brother comes home then I'm sure that the older boy would care for the younger.

The good news is that he has people who are looking out for him and making sure that he is taken care of.

Here is a picture that I took this week of the little boy with his mom in front of their shack.
The lady on the right is a caregiver from the HIV clinic.

This is a sad, real life example of the devastation of AIDS in South Africa.  There are no quick and easy answers to the problems caused by AIDS and poverty.  Even though there are positive improvements and lives are being changed, the obstacles are monumental.

In South Africa there are 2 million children who have been orphaned because of AIDS.  Each one has a story like this.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Even If He Does Not....

Living in South Africa brings with it a certain level of danger.  I'm not talking about the Indiana Jones, romantic, exciting kind of danger.  I'm talking about the real, "Holy cow, I could die!" kind of danger.

Over the last two weeks we've had 2 cobras in our backyard, a few feet away from us.  

These are Mozamibique Spitting Cobras, the second most dangerous snake in Africa.  They can spit their venom with complete accuracy up to 8 feet.  In both encounters the snakes were raised up in an aggressive posture with their heads flared at us.  We were closer than 8 feet.  One of them struck at Rocco, our boxer, but missed him because of a fence in between them.

Needless to say, this is a little unnerving to us.  For several nights we slept restlessly, dreaming of snakes.

But we have a choice; to live in fear, or to trust God.  In church this last week the pastor mentioned the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace.  When threatened with death, their  response was:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O King.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  (Daniel 3:17,18)

The part of this scripture that stuck out to me was, "even if he does not..."

It is no fun to live in fear.  Fear can cripple and paralyze you from following the will of God.  We know without a doubt that we are in the middle of God's will here in South Africa.  So we have a choice to trust Him, knowing that He will protect us.  But even if He doesn't I know that He will give us the grace to handle whatever comes our way.


Friday, September 3, 2010

A Happy Heart

Yesterday I met a local Tswana pastor.  I spent some time explaining to him what we do here in South Africa, and he let us know how he appreciates our willingness to come and serve his people.  

When I was leaving he told me, "It makes my heart happy just to look at you.  Did I tell you that?  Even now when I look at you, I want to cry, and I don't even know why.  It just makes my heart happy."

Of course it was an encouragement for me to hear this.  But more than just being an encouragement, I took it as an exhortation to encourage others with my words.   By saying this he reminded me that our words can build others up, or discourage them.

Today, I'm working on encouraging others with my words.