Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wanted- Coffee and a friend! :)

Okay... so I am the sappy one of the 5 of us because I am the first one who has been feeling homesick for my family and friends. I am not depressed or having a horrible time, I just want to hang out with some of my friends and have a cup of coffee(Biggby sugar bear never sounded soooooo good). Beautiful gate is amazing and I am loving all the kids. I like going out with the play groups and just hugging the kids and getting some of their wet sloppy kisses all over my face. It is such a blessing to be here and know that I can in some small way, make the kids' day a little brighter. I feel like I want to just have some of my friends or sisters or moms to share it with, in person (Bryan is wonderful, but it is nice to have a girl to talk to sometimes). I don't feel like I want to go home, I just want to ship some of you here to share this with me and carry some of the burden with me because it is a blessing to serve here, but it is not always an easy load to carry. I know I'll make friends here, it just takes time :) I love all of my wonderful friends who will be reading this and I am thankful that there is facebook and skype because it makes a big difference.
Blessings,
Anita

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hello Friends and Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas was enjoyable and full of good memories as you celebrated Jesus's birthday with friends and family. We drove to Ladybrand, South Africa and spent the day with Ray, Sue and their family. It was relaxing and enjoyable for all 5 of us. The weather was warm and sunny the entire day so our 3 kids spent every possible minute in the swimming pool with the 4 other children who were there (there was also a baby, but he was too small to join them). The children had a bit of a highlight in the afternoon when Sue gave them some packages from the post office that she had picked up a few days ago. Oma and Papa had sent some Christmas presents for them and they were so excited to get some mail (we also enjoyed a Christmas card from Vern and Mary, thanks) as well as a few gifts:) They did not want to leave when it was time to go, so I'll say they must have enjoyed their Christmas visit. I hope each one of you had a wonderful Christmas too. God Bless You!
Anita
P.S. If you are reading this I want to wish a very happy birthday to my special friend, Julie Wildschut today! I love you Julie!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beautiful New Arrival

Okay, so I don't know what I was talking about in the last post. Yesterday, Beautiful Gate had the pleasure of receiving another Child of God into our care. He arrived around 4PM and I dare say that he is probably not more than a few days old. He was found at a mall in Maseru, when someone saw a shopping bag move on it's own. After looking in the bag, the person found this beautiful baby boy! Anita and I have been in that shopping mall a couple of times already. I don't think that we can go back to that mall without watching every corner and bag anymore. We are sad that his mother has made this choice, but we are happy that he was found and brought to Beautiful Gate. We look forward to watching him grow and hopefully be adopted soon into a loving family. Who knows what he will be when he grows up? Only God knows. Mercy has already asked if he could be her brother.....but she quickly followed that with asking to have 10 just like him. :)
Please pray for him and any other abandoned children in Lesotho. We pray that they may be found quickly and brought to safety. And, that they may be united with their forever family as quick as possible.
Bryan

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beautiful Gate Update

Well, we have been here for 16 days (including today) and our family has been blessed to see 4 kids leave into loving homes. We will be witnessing our third official farewell adoption send off today. And one other family was found and came to pick up their child. I was blessed by being able to help with the farewell ceremony on Monday, as Ray was not able to make it to Beautiful Gate that day. So, I filled in for Ray. There is nothing like "trial by fire". I hope that I did a good job filling in for Ray. Today, I will have the same opportunity as Ray is taking a well deserved Christmas break.

We have also not had any new kids dropped off at Beautiful Gate, which is a blessing! But, I am afraid that January will be a crazy month. Most of Lesotho shuts down from mid December to January for Christmas break. So, I think that the department of Social Welfare is probably at a skeleton crew and will all be back after the new year. But, we will be prepared and love any child that comes through our gates.

We also have had the pleasure of meeting other missionaries here in Africa. Jim and Josephine Zylstra have joined us at Beautiful Gate for the week to tour Lesotho. For those of you at Haven CRC, you will recall that Haven sponsors them through CRWRC as well in their work in Uganda. What a small world! It has been great to see some familiar faces and also be able to show them around Maseru yesterday.

Last Friday, Anita and I were able to witness a new family meeting their child for the very first time. There were many tears of joy and it was such a blessing to see! The only way that I could explain it was when each of my children were born. The very first time that you get to hold your child and nothing else in the world even matters or even exists. That was what they were like. The rest of the room ceased to exist. We could only watch in amazement! I don't think they took their eyes off their new son for the rest of the day! Today is the farewell ceremony for that family. Please pray that their new family will adjust well and that the Lord will fill their lives with love and peace!

We have also been able to locate our home schooling supplies. We have to do one or two more steps yet, but hope to have the supplies by January. This has been an answer to prayer, and now that we know the steps, should make future purchases much easier. Please pray that we receive the supplies soon. They kids are doing well, but having a structured school day could be very helpful. Plus, they have had a long enough Christmas vacation (Nov 20 - Dec 31). We have been working on some reading with the kids and Elijah does have a math book along. But, having all the supplies will make Anita's job much easier.

Please pray that our house in Zeeland will rent soon. It is a tough time to rent as Christmas is a time that no one wants to move. But, we know that God will provide. If you know of anyone, please send them to Corey at Cornerstone Real Estate Management.
Also, please pray for our banking situation. We are having issues trying to transfer funds, but hope to have that resolved in the next week.

Thanks again for all your love, prayers and support. We miss you all!
Bryan

Sunday, December 19, 2010

God's Message

As only God can do, He has turned our disappointed and frustration around today into joy and peace. Nothing has changed in the area of school supplies or banking issues, but we had a good service at church today that went straight to our hearts. The sermon was about Joseph and Mary and the struggle they must have endured with people questioning why he married her even though she was with child and people may have shamed and shunned Mary for her pregnancy outside marriage. The pastor pointed out that it took 30 years for Joseph and Mary to even begin to understand what God had planned. 30 years of questioning looks and 30 years of wondering what did it really mean to be the parents of God's Son.

Then the pastor took an unexpected turn and began to talk about what God has called each of us to do and asked whether or not we are obeying that call. He walked around the congregation and started saying things like has he called you from being a teacher into adopting 10 children from Africa, has He called you from being a regular pilot into being a pastor pilot, and then when he was standing near us (and we have never been to this church and he does not know our story), and said, 'has He called you from being an accountant into being a youth care worker'. My eyes welled up with tears and it was like a message straight from God. He has called us here and we obeyed His call. Why are we disappointed? Why are we not trusting Him for every detail? Why do we have doubts? It was as if we were meant to be there this morning because the message was just for us :)

He went on to talk about what would have happened if Joseph would have refused to marry Mary or what if he decided to not go to Egypt when the angel told him to take Mary and Jesus. Egypt was a foreign land. He had no connections, no family, and no friends and he just had to go for the safety of Jesus who wasn't even his own son (through blood anyway). I have joked a few times with a friend of mine who really did not want me to leave and I told her that I have to come to Lesotho because I don't want to be swallowed by a whale or carried away by an enormous eagle, but in all honesty God has a plan for each and every one of us and we need to just trust His plan and obey it because you never know who you are meant to touch or lead to Christ (it could be just one person or a whole group of people). We needed the reminder and I am sure we will need plenty more in the next 5 years. Thanks you so much for helping us be here and being our encouragement because we KNOW God wants us here right now.

I have some cute little kids to go play with 3 of my own and about 30 others :)
Have a blessed Sunday,
Anita

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disappointed

Well... The kids and I were anxiously awaiting Friday because our homeschooling supplies were suppose to arrive on Thursday and then Mae Sue would hopefully be bringing some on them on Friday morning. Well Mae Sue came, but not with our school supplies. They are stuck in customs and we need to receive a fax with a detailed description of what is in the boxes and then we have to pay R1700 to get them out of customs. I guess the Geurink Safari class will be postponed until January :(. I knew that our container was going to get stuck in customs, but I did not expect our school supplies to get stuck there too.

I think what has been disappointing us the most is how hard it is to get anything done while here in Lesotho. We had difficulty opening our Lesotho bank account and after 2 days of waiting in lines and getting all the correct paperwork, we opened an account. Now, we tried to transfer money from our American account to our African account, but it won't work because our African routing number only has 6 numbers instead of 7. We can't talk to anyone because we are in Africa and we have been getting the run around on email from our bank! I am beginning to see why everything takes longer to get done in Africa because this has been quite the hassle. I know everyone says TIA=This is Africa and I guess I now know why they say that. I guess my other advice is- there is always a hidden cost too in Africa so be prepared to pay extra for a lot of things (our bank account here is one where you have to pay to deposit and withdrawl money, crazy).

Sorry to do a little blog venting, but Bryan and I have been a little stressed out by some of these details and could use a little prayer while we wait to get them figured out. God is in control and tells us not to worry because He will take care of the details of our lives and we just need to remember that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A picture.....finally!



It has been an interesting week! It has been raining every day for about a week now. There have been very few spots of sun, and we have been wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt just about every day this week. Not that it is as cold as back in Michigan, but it is supposed to be summer here. The picture above is when the kids gave a sock puppet show to the kids of Beautiful Gate on the last day of really nice weather.

On a side note, I just wanted to update you on the total that was raised by the Haven CRC Middle School Group. A few weeks before we left, we mentioned that they surprised us with collecting pop cans from the neighborhood and donating to the money to us. We were amazed with the amount of pop cans and truly touched by the love that those young adults have shown us. The amount raised was more than $350.00, and by my calculations, that would be over 3,500 pop cans!!! Thank you soooo much. You have no idea how much we were blessed by this!

Yesterday morning, our whole family took the morning time and helped some staff with feeding and holding the kids. This was a great time for us! I even got to meet the new set of twins that came to Beautiful Gate. They are very cute. I hope there is a family out there that will be willing to take both of them.

Anita was able to have a little one on one time with another child that is a little behind developmentally. It was great to see the smiles on everyone's faces, especially the kids!

Elijah, Faith and Mercy seem to be adjusting great! Except for Mercy waking up at about 6AM, due to the sun coming up at about 4:30AM each morning. We will have to work on that. The kids love playing with the play group and holding the kittens. Hopefully our home schooling supplies will arrive soon and the kids will have to "start" school again. Elijah enjoys reading books to the kids, but we only packed a few along.

I have also been reading "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" to the kids before they go to bed. They can't wait to finish the book and then be able to see the movie. Then we will have to start on "Prince Caspian" and so on.... It has been a great bonding time for the family at night!

Thank you all for your support! We are eternally blessed by everyone for their love and committment to us. I hope that all of you are able to visit and see Beautiful Gate and Lesotho for yourself! It is worth the cost!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Whirlwind of fun!

What an interesting weekend! It all started with us skyping about 6 different people on Saturday. What a great time to catch up with family and friends. At one point, we actually had two skype sessions going (one on Anita's laptop, and one on mine) and we also received another call at the same time. Unfortunately, we had to decline the call, but we were able to catch up with them later. Skype has really helped us to keep the worries about our families and friends at a minimum, plus I think it helps us with home sickness. We have not had too much home sickness yet, but it has only been a week, and it still feels like a vacation!
Saturday also brought us our first "red clay dust storm". The wind picked up and carried all the dust along with it. It got so bad that the kids came screaming inside. I was able to take a quick picture (on my Facebook page). The mountains in the background were gone!
Sunday, we went to a CRC church here in Maseru. Sorry, CRC stands for Christian Revival Church, not Christian Reformed Church :). It was a hopping service...literally. Faith really liked the jumping and dancing that took place during the songs. And Elijah had a wonderful time at the Children's service. And today, we found out that his Childrens church teacher is a volunteer at Beautiful Gate! Once we got home from church on Sunday, it began to storm the rest of the day. This caused random power outages and the internet was down all day. It was a good thing that we skyped with so many people on Saturday. That also meant that we missed the Haven Christmas program online. We heard that it was good and that the kids dedicated it to Elijah, Faith & Mercy. We are anxious to see the service, when able. Anita and I are both touched by the thoughtfulness of that dedication.
Monday, I was privaledged to sit in on my first management meeting at Beautiful Gate. This is something that will become one of my primary responsibilities, and I look forward to the challenges that this will present. I was taken by surprise, that during the meeting, the Lord gave me a strange sense of "peace" and I felt that the Lord was truly confirming that I was right where He wants me to be. And, I believe that I have come to Beautiful Gate at just the right time! I didn't hear any voice, but I just felt that. Sorry for all of you who want me to have a terrible time and come home sooner (you know who you are.)
Today, I spent some time in the office getting ready for a meeting that we will have tomorrow as well. Then Anita, the kids and I were given a tour of downtown Maseru. It is nice to be able to "soak in" all the cultural differences. Many of the Basotho people have been very friendly and just stare at us. (We are definately the minority here). Most of them stare at Faith's hair. But, all in all, we are having a great time! We visited the Shop Rite (the other grocery store in town) and had fun exploring that.
I am starting to get used to driving now. I am much more confident in my abilities to drive a stick on the left side of the road. And I don't turn on the wipers (instead of the blinker) nearly as much anymore. It is amazing what you can adjust to.
We ask that you continue to pray for our family in these transitions. Also pray for Beautiful Gate, as the finances continue to be tight. Thanks again to all of you for following our adventures. Please remember that we could not do this without your support. We cannot express how blessed we feel to be able to help these kids!
What a mighty God we serve!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adoption Day

Oh... how we have been looking forward to seeing our first adoption, and it is hard to believe that we only had to wait a few days. Friday morning we met two couples from Canada one who would be adopting their son and the other who is in the final stages of paperwork and waiting anxiously for their turn. Bryan, the kids, and I were able to sit in and watch as a family was made whole. It was the most beautiful sight and brought tears to my eyes a couple times. To see the pure joy and happiness on their faces was just a small glimmer of the love our Father has for each of us. I will be praying that their adjustment goes very well and thank God for the reminder of why we are here. These children need a family and seeing them united with their new family is the most rewarding experience.

This morning, Elijah and I went to 2 of the homes and asked if we could help. We were handed a couple bottles and a couples babies. It was cute to see Elijah trying to hold one of the larger babies as he sat in the chair. I was across the room sitting on a bed and feeding a beautiful little girl. We talked to the babies and then laughed and talked to each other. Not only were we able to bond with the babies, but we also had some quality mother and son time too. Bryan, Faith, and Mercy joined us a little later in the morning and took a few turns holding babies. So far, most of our time had been playing outside with the older kids so it was very nice to have some time inside with the littlest blessings at Beautiful Gate.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sock Puppets

Yesterday was a nice, quiet day. We did not have anything planned and we could just spend the day as a family, adjusting to the new place. We woke up in the morning and did some school work with the kids. Then I was able to have tea time with Dillon (Ray's son) and Amelie (our suitemate). We were able to spend some time with the kids of Bgate while they were on playtime. Anita read the book, "If you give a moose a muffin" and in that book, the moose puts on a sock puppet show. Then Elijah and Faith came up with the idea of giving a sock puppet show to the kids. So, off they went to their room and came back with the sock puppets that they made on the airplane (Thanks Amy!). They then put on a show for the kids and they all had a great time. A lot of the staff really enjoys having our kids play with the kids of Bgate. And, our kids really like playing with the kids of Bgate.

Elijah and I were able to take a walk outside the walls of Bgate and walked to the river that divides Lesotho from South Africa. I was amazed to see the steep drop off of about 30 feet to the river.

We were also able to make our second trip into town to get some more groceries that we needed. We were also able to take our time and explore the Maseru mall a little more, just to familiarize ourselves with it more.

After dinner, we read our books some more and I have started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to the kids at night before bed.

Please check out my facebook page for more pictures. We miss you all!

Bryan

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New things learned

Today Anita and I had a meeting with Ray in his office. I joked about how if felt like we were going to the principal's office (or head masters office as Ray calls it), but we had a wonderful meeting. One thing that Anita and I did learn from the meeting is that a 1/2 hour meeting can really take about 2 1/2 hours. All kidding aside, it was a great time of information and prayer.

We were also able to have some magnum bars last night as well. For those of you who don't know what they are, it is probably the best ice cream that you can get around here. We had mint bars last night. The closest way to describe it would be like a nestle crunch ice cream paddle but with mint ice cream instead. They were delicious.

I am still having difficulties putting pictures on the blog, but I am able to get them onto my facebook page. So, if you want to see them, you will need to "friend me" and look in my albums.

I took my first drive to the store last night without someone who lives here. I know that doesn't sound like much, but driving on the left side of the road takes some getting used to. I don't think I made too many errors, but I kept on turning on the windshield wipers instead of indicator (blinker for you Americans). The two levers are on the opposite side of the stearing column over here too. All in all the trip to the Pick N Pay was successful and uneventful (which I was happy for). There are some crazy drivers over here. I almost had to use my "hooter" (horn for you Americans) but refrained as I was too busy telling myself to stay left.

We also had some papa for dinner last night. It is corn that is dried out, then mashed into a flour like substance and then boiled in water to make what looks like grits, or instant mashed potatoes. It is the main staple of the diet over here. We also had some scrambled eggs and some sauce to put over it to give it some flavor. All in all, it was a good dinner, and filling too.

Thanks for all your prayers and support! It is still so unbelievable that we are here!

Bryan

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let the Journey Begin!

Where to begin.... Well, we checked through the screening checkpoint at Grand Rapids airport on Saturday morning. When we arrived at our gate, we noticed that there was no plane there and the sign said that the flight was delayed. This put Anita and I into a bit of a tailspin to start our new life adventure. But, we just prayed that God would work out the details and that we would get to Beautiful Gate at His appointed time. Shortly after the prayer, I went to the check in counter and asked about future connections. The guy behind the counter was very friendly and helped us to get another connection to Washington D.C. and still make our connection from Washington D.C. to Joberg. So, our flight out of GR was delayed by an hour. After arriving in Chicago, we found our next connection to Washington D.C. and literally had about 5 minutes left to get some lunch (McDonalds) and then they started to board our flight to Washington. After wolfing down the lunch, we boarded the plane and found that we were bumped up to economy plus seating, which has a little more leg room. What a blessing from God! He listened to our prayer and blessed us with more than we asked for. After arriving in Washington D.C., we had to transfer gates again, but this time with only about 1.5 hours, instead of the 3.5 hours that we had originally had planned. So, we once again grabbed the kids and walked to the next gate, which would take us to Johannesburg. After arriving at the gate, we had about 10 minutes to get situated and they started to board that flight as well. But, we were now back onto our normal schedule of flights! Once aboard that plane, we were able to relax a little and just get some rest. The kids had fun watching movies and did a great job with all the sitting. Elijah sat next to a South African lady that helped him a lot on the flight and she taught Elijah many new things. i.e. you "pick up" trash, but you "fetch" people. So, after many hours of flying and having to wait on the plane while they fueled it in Dakar, we finally arrived in Johannesburg on time. We were also amazed that every single piece of luggage arrived too! Yeah God!

Kevin and Sue fetched us at the airport and we spent a wonderful evening at their house. The first thing that Anita and the kids noticed was the heat. The sun was already starting to set and it was about 75-80 degrees. The feal of the open windows in the back of the van to Kevin and Sue's house was wonderful. From what I hear, it sounds like we left just in time (snow). That night at Kevin and Sue's place, the kids had a very restless night (adjusting to the new time zone), but we survived it.

At noon on Monday, Kevin took us to say "cheers" to Sue at her workplace and then proceeded to take us to the airport. We had to do some creative packing, as we needed to adjust some of our carry-on weight. We forgot to move our camera out of a checked in bag, and we believe that we have "donated" the camera to an airport worker. Oh well. So, the only picture we have of traveling is of the kids in front of the giraffe in the Joburg Airport. Anyone who has flown through there will know what I am talking about. The flight to Maseru was on time and uneventful. We were 5 of the people on the flight that had a total of 19 people on it. But, I am pretty sure that we were at least 50% of the luggage on the plane. Once we cleared customs in Maseru, Ray and Sue were there to greet us and help us with the bags. They drove us back to Beatiful Gate and Anita and I both felt as if we were home. We were both uneasy in Joberg, but feel right at home at Beautiful Gate.

Our new "suitemate" made dinner for everyone and we had a great time of fellowship. Then Ray and Sue left to go home and Anita and I put the kids to bed and started to unpack some more. All in all, the Lord has been watching over us and we are greatful for this opportunity to serve "the least of these."

This morning we were able to go outside and play with some of the kids here. As you can see from the pictures, Elijah, Faith & Mercy had very little problem finding friends.

I will try to post pictures later, as I am experiencing some technical difficulties with uploading pictures (slow internet). We pray that God will bless you today, as He has blessed us this past weekend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

From snow...to orphans

We are almost ready to fly out of Michigan's winter and into Lesotho's summer. I have to admit that we picked a great time to leave :) I promise that wasn't one of the main reasons for us choosing December, but it sure doesn't hurt! The kids are not very excited about missing winter though :( They prayed for snow for several weeks and sure enough, God came through and there was snow on Wednesday morning! They were so excited when they woke up and saw snow that it almost felt like Christmas morning. I sold all their snowpants and boots, so you can probably image what they looked like after an hour outside. It never dawned on me to try the old fashioned trick of putting plastic bags around their shoes till my neighbor mentioned it (thanks Mr. Brian) but they were already a sloppy mess.

Are we ready? Well that I can not give an answer to. Is anyone ever really ready for something like this? I think we are a bit numb from a year of planning, fundraising, traveling, last times for lots of things, very difficult good byes, and a crazy amount of other things (some very major such as brain cancer and the loss of a precious new daughter)that have happened to our close friends. It is hard to leave when we want to be there and be supportive, but...

We are so blessed. We get to care for orphans! We get to bring 3 new playmates for them who will love on them and do their best to care for them because they are fully convinced that is what God wants them to do. I love the faith of my children and it is so encouraging to me. There is no better place to be that serving God with my family right beside me. We will learn so much together and grow so much closer and that is a blessing that will touch our lives forever. Thanks for praying us through this transition. We will be leaving this Saturday at 10:26am.