Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wrapping Up

As you can tell, we had some extra time to catch up on our blogs today.  Our flight from Cape Town to Paris was scheduled to leave at 11:20pm on Wednesday.  While we were at dinner Tuesday night, we received an email indicating that our flight was cancelled.  After an hour on the phone with Air France, we were given a flight to Joburg and then one to Paris.  Our original two hour layover in Paris turned into an eight hour layover.  Well, this has given us plenty of time to take some airport naps and write some blogs.

I've been on ten mission trips to South Africa (plus a handful of vacations).  Each trip has its own flavor.  Its own unique story created by the individuals on the team and their interactions with the local people - a conversation, a wave hello, a call for dugga (mortar), a smile, a hug.

For those who have been on the trip with me in the past, you know that I can be task focused.  This year's trip was different.  This year's trip for me was about building/fostering/growing relationships.  Maybe this change of heart was aided by our schedule being off from the beginning due to flight issues and rain or maybe this is just me evolving to focus on what's really important.  The group seemed to have similar plans as we spent as much time at the community center with Mosaic and Ma's for Wellington as we did on the work site building the two houses.

The houses will get done.  And I want to thank those that contribute to the Beyond the Walls campaign as your financial donation went towards building two more Mosaic houses (as well as supporting Ma's for Wellington, Second Harvest, and Nederburg Primary School).  We had the pleasure of showing Nozuko the house that she will move into.  An incredible woman with an infectious personality became speechless as we showed her the house and a few kitchen appliances.  Nozuko shared with us earlier that day something that God has put on her heart that brought the entire group to tears.

I want to thank our group for following the call to go on this trip and their flexibility with the changes in schedule while on the trip.  I want to thank the prayer partners and prayer warriors who held us up over the past two weeks.  I want to thank those who followed our blog.  I want to thank those we left behind to take care of life back in the US.  You enabled our group to go on this trip.

I encourage you to stop one of us and ask us to share a story.  It was an incredible experience that is always so difficult to put into words.

God bless,


Hanging Curtains

On Tuesday I helped hang curtains in the houses with Pastor Vicki.  While doing this you can realize that something as small as hanging curtains can have a big meaning on someone else.   I was able to see that I took curtains for granted and realized that having curtains allows for people to have privacy.  Think about how many things in our houses that we use daily we take for granted and don't realize that some people don't have things as simple as curtains for their house or even having a house with windows, running water and, electrical lighting.


Heading Home!!

Well yet another amazing trip to S/A has ended for us- - -all except another 8 hour plane ride from Paris to Phil.We are all exhausted but feel wonderful as we do on every trip to S/A

Unlike most of the younger folks that come on these trips, Vicki and I "choose" to "disconnect" for two weeks.We are old enough to know that the world can survive just fine with us not being connected. It is different since we come together and have not left a spouse/family behind. I  still even show my work Out of Office message to say that I am in rural S/A on a church mission trip with NO CONNECTIVITY. Alyssa or Mark will be glad to assist you in my absence! I do not mention that there is some intermittent connection capability that we will have our downtime in CapeTown, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.

Now to the building. Of course the houses being built by Mosaic look like all of the other ones we built in past years. It takes us a day or so to "regain" a semblance of skill with a trowel and DUGGA/cement!  Before you know it, you begin to think you really can lay brick.

The main focus of this years bricklaying for me was bathrooms. I did one shower and bricked a bathtub in place. That was just after Patty and I had finished a great looking wall- - - - - - and then the S/A foreman came along and sold "NO NO-WINDOW GOES THERE!!!!!"
Patty and I both agree that was "his " responsibility to tell us where windows go!

Bricklaying was not the only task that we did. Folks painted floors,glued down carpet tiles in two house (on top of concrete). The fumes were quite strong. At one point Vicki and Patty had been doing that for hours- - - - and they both thought Tony was Nelson Mandella !! After some fresh air-they returned to normal.

Tony supervised, Cammy directed and Seth, Matt, Jim, Patty Stephanie, Vicki and I joined in with our local workers to actually make good progress.This trip was a day or so shorter as to work but we all agreed that we really laid a lot of brick.

As always, doing this work is the real reason we come here and come back. When we presented Nozuko a stove and fridge for that house she will move into soon- - - - her reaction of tears and head shaking says all you need to know. Yes the flights are long and difficult, and it is not cheap but when you realize that you joy gave the most deserving person in the world the S/A version "Powerball"- - -you know why you came.

This country and this amazing vision of Meyer Conrad and Mosaic has left an indelible memory on our hearts and souls. We will continue coming here as long as we are able.


Swop Shop

Hey everybody, Down here in South Africa we were at the Mosaic community center to see how the swap shop works. Throughout the week, kids collect recyclable objects around Wellington. Every other week the dump truck comes by the community center and collects all the recyclable object that the kids collected. They divide the recyclables into 4 categories: glass, plastic, paper, and can. they earn points depending on what they bring and how much it ways. we take the number on the scale and multiply it by the specific number according to category: glass x1, Plastic x3, paper x3, and can x3. then they take the sum of the products and round it to the nearest five, then they go into the store and exchange points for materials. I liked how the kids were earning things they need or want to survive, and they are cleaning up the environment.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Friday Swop Shop & Sunday Church Service

Friday Swop Shop

On Friday our group got to see how the swop shop works.  First kids from the community collect trash and then they get points based on how much trash they collected.  Then the kids used the points to get items in the swop shop.  They first get a sheet telling them hw many points they got and then two volunteers help the kids wash their hands.  They then wait in a line to go into the swop shop.  The swop shop has items like cookies to basic hygiene items like soap and toothpaste to rain boots.  When they are getting ready to leave they get some food to take home with them.  This week it was carrots and pita bred.  The kids were excited to get some prizes to enjoy.  

The swop shop is a great way to help clean up the community and rewarded the kids for their hard work.  Seeing all the kid’s faces reminds me of why I am doing this and how blessed I am to have simple items like soap that I take for granted.

Stephanie Martin

Sunday Church Service

We went to church on Sunday morning in Wellington.  We went to the church that some of the ladies that run Ma’s of Wellington go to.  It was a two-hour service but it flew by.  I felt very close to God during the service, which was a beautiful thing. 

A group from their church recently went on a mission trip to Taiwan.  It was interesting to hear about their mission trip experience while we were on our mission trip.  They also mentioned that we were visiting from America during the service.  The congregation reached toward us and prayed which was amazing.

I actually took notes during the service because I wanted to remember what was being said.   The question was asked “What does the LOVE of God motivate/compel/drive me to do?”   

I am on this mission trip because of LOVE.  I LOVE the people I meet on these trips.  I LOVE the people that I go on these trips with.  I feel free to just share God’s LOVE with everyone I meet.  When I am living my daily life in the US, I don’t really think about living my day LOVING others.  The person preaching also said "We must not let our love grow cold."  I feel that is what I am doing in the US.  I let my love grow cold.  I didn't do it intentionally but it just happened because I wasn't thinking about it.  I need to work on this when I return to the US.  

I need to live my days LOVING EVERYONE God places in my path no matter where I am in the world.

Cammy Brantzeg

Random Thoughts

I am sorry that I didn't include any pictures.  It takes forever to upload them and I just wanted to get an update posted.  I am typing my post while we are sitting at the table waiting for our dinner to come.  

Two new German volunteers arrived today.  Lars and Anne (the previous German volunteers) left right before we arrived.  Julian and Kirsten are the new volunteers.  They arrived yesterday and they joined us for dinner tonight at Le Bac.  They both seem nice and I am looking forward to getting to know them better.  They are both planning to blog while they are in South Africa so I will try to pass along their blog information when I have it in case you want to follow them.

Cammy Brantzeg

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It has been an emotional day...

Wow!  I feel like this day had a whole week of experiences included in it.  I will try to share and describe what we did but I know my words will not be able to express the emotions that I have felt today.  Vicki talked about the fruits of the spirit last night in our Bible study:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.  I have tried to share these today with the people that came across my path and I am also trying to be better at receiving them from others.  It is much easier for me to give than to receive...

Part of our mission trip team spent the morning with Ma’s for Wellington (MforW).  This is a group that meets in the Mosaic Community Center and runs a program for 160 community children that are preschool age. The ladies that run this program are angels.  They pour love into the kids and volunteers.  They have around 50 volunteers that are mothers and grandmothers.  The empower these women and build them up.  All volunteers have a colored apron representing the small group of kids that they will work with after the initial large group.  Everyone knows what they are supposed to do.  It runs so smoothly and you can tell they all LOVE what they are doing!

In the beginning of their program they sing songs, provide a Bible message, and pray with the children.  

The kids then broke into four groups where one group worked on their cutting skills,  one group played with clay, another group played with blocks and the last group were told stories.  At least I think the lady was telling them stories, it is hard to know since I don’t understand the local language.  :-)

MforW prayed for around 9 years for a kitchen, which was answered when the HOOP arrived in South Africa.  With the HOOP they are able to provide the children in their program breakfast AND a lunch. The food these kids eat at MforW might be the only food they eat that day.  One of the things that made me tear up today was seeing these kids eat.  It is heartbreaking to think this may be their only meal but these ladies are doing their part by being God's hands and feet in this world by helping the children God puts in front of them.  

It was sunny out today!!  It has been raining which Paarl desperately needs so we didn’t complain but the sunny skies today were great for us to start building the two brick houses.  The other half of our group started bricking the two houses with local workers first thing in the morning.  Joe Lisowski started a wonderful tradition last year by making masking tape name tags for everyone on the worksite.  Tony made name tags today which helps our group work with the local workers and build relationships.  They made wonderful progress today and the weather is looking good for the rest of our trip.

Next door to the Mosaic houses is a community center for elderly people.  I received a call from Nielen, shortly after Ma’s for Wellington was over, asking for me to bring Pastor Vicki to the community center for the Elderlies.  The Elderlies wanted Pastor Vicki to pray with them.  Last year, we met and prayed with this wonderful group of people.  It was amazing last year and it was amazing again this year.  It is a powerful experience to pray out loud in all different languages together.

Many more things happened during the day but I need to wrap this post up.  We ended our day doing a Bible study with the Mosaic kids and kids from the community.  Patty led the Bible study and it was fantastic!  Patty spoke about the fruits of the spirit like Vicki did with the adults the previous night.  The kids acted out different Bible stories.  We sang together.  It was a lot of fun!  The kids participated and seemed to enjoy it.  

It was an amazing day but it has also been emotional.  Some of the stories that we hear are not easy.  The lack of water, sanitation and food are heart breaking but the people we meet are beautiful.  They are God's children and they are shining God's light into the world around them.  I am just happy to be able to spend some time with them in their light.  Their faith is beautiful and I have so much to learn from them.  

Thank you for your prayers.  Please pray for us to learn and grow from the people that God places in our path on this trip...


Dust it off…!

Last night Pastor Vicki led a women’s Bible study for 20 women.  We were a mix of Africans and Americans, but all thirsty and eager for the message from the Word of God.  We talked about the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians, chapter 5…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.  We talked about the fruits that came naturally to us, and through tears we shared testimony about those fruits that we all struggle with each day.  As we prayed for each other, our sister and friend, Nozuko challenged us to “dust off” those fruits that challenge us and let them shine for the Lord. 

So friends, each morning as we awake in this beautiful country, we “dust off” our shoes and we roll up our sleeves and pray that God will use us to bear fruit for His glory.  As we paint and brick on the job site, as we meet and encourage the army of servants who are doing God’s work in this community in Paarl, and as we share in a mutual desire to be a reflection of God’s love in all things, please pray for us…that we dust off any barriers that keep us from linking arms in the fight to win souls for Christ.  God is so incredibly good!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

the best laid plans...

As most folks probably know by now, we're here safe and sound, thank you, God!  It's Tuesday evening and we've completed our first work day here in SA.  Even with the travel challenges we've faced(as in a missed plane connection in Paris; 12 hour delay), which resulted in an afternoon in that beautiful city, it has been an amazing trip thus far.

Today we headed to the community to paint.  We painted the interiors of houses numbers 3 and 4 (from our work last year) and tomorrow we'll head to houses numbers 1 and 2 to do painting, as well.

Some of us spent time at the community center spending time with the children and Ma's of Wellington.  Such an amazing experience...hard to even articulate.

At every turn, we are confronted with smiles.  I'm not sure that we, in the U.S. can even translate the beauty of that.  These amazing people, in the midst of their deprivation, find joy at every turn.  Their recognition of the faces who've been here before that they recognize, are simply 'appreciative'.  Their  faces reflect joy, as they know it, and a faith that is exemplified in the midst of need and depravity that most of us have never known.  It is such a beautiful example for those of us who have so much.  We have lots to learn and much to process.

Your prayers for this team and the folks we serve are coveted.  Thank you, friends.  Know that we are well and blessed here.  Thank you for your prayers for this experience and for these amazing people.  In HIM and for the Team, vicki