Monday, January 31, 2011

Durban, Back Lot Car Purchasing, The Indian Ocean & Water Supplies

This last week has been crazy for us! After rejoicing in the fact that our house has been rented, we turned our attention to getting a vehicle for ourselves. This required some advanced planning, since we already looked around in Maseru to no avail. So, our next opportunity was to purchase a vehicle directly "off the boat" (literally) in Durban. You are able to purchase a vehicle in Durban for a much cheaper price. But, you have to pay a lot of taxes to get it to Lesotho. So, our total purchase is not done yet. And, the car is technically still in Durban until our transporter can pick up the vehicle and bring it back to Lesotho. Then it will get registered and THEN we will be able to get our new vehicle. So anyway, last week, I needed to meet with the "clearing agent", who will help us with the taxes and registration and shipping of the vehicle to Lesotho from Durban. She informed me that I needed to fill out 3 forms and get them all certified. That means that after you have all 3 forms, you then go downtown Maseru to have a police officer, or some other "high up" person, look over your papers and stamp them to say that they are an "official copy". The next day, I took them back to the clearing agent. Then, on Thursday, I was going to borrow Ray's car for the weekend trip, and he ended up getting a flat tire on the way in to Beautiful Gate! So, after he arrived here, we went to the American Embassy for a meeting with some "high up" people about the adoption process and then I had to take Ray's car to South Africa to get two new front tires. This went smoothly, but took time. After the tires were changed, I stopped in at Ray's house and used his phone to confirm our accomodations for Durban for the weekend, as my Lesotho phone was having issues calling South African phone number (Ray corrected me on how to dial the phone). Don't laugh, it's much different here from America! Okay, you can stop rolling in the aisles in laughter.....really. Anyway, I then headed back to Lesotho and met with another person, who knows a "guy" in Durban, who could help me navigate all the vehicle yards to choose from. He was also very helpful in letting me know which type of vehicle to look for in my budget. So, I got back home that night at about 7:30, helped Anita to get the kids ready for bed, pack my clothes and get some sleep, as we wanted to leave Beautiful Gate for Durban at 5AM! Yes, we are crazy. Anyway, 4:30AM came very quickly and we got in the car and headed for Durban. I am telling you the truth that the sun was already up at 5AM and we got through the border crossing very quickly. Then we had a wonderful drive around the northern edge of Lesotho. About 1/3 of the way to Durban, we had to stop and stare at a mudslide that had pretty much covered the road. Luckily for us, some trucks had gone through before us and we were able to get Ray's car through the 10 feet of two track that was made in the sand. Then, about 10km later, we had to come to a complete stop again, as the road looked like it had just "sunken" about 6-8" from where it originally was made. Luckily, I am a very good driver and was able to navigate that area with ease, as you quickly get used to "Striped Zebra Crossings" (or speed bumps, as we call them in Michigan), since they are all over Lesotho. The rest of the drive to Durban went very peaceful and pleasant (as peaceful as it can be with three kids in the car). We arrived in Durban and found our accomodations to be very nice. We had no view of the Indian Ocean, but we were only one road up from the shore and found an nice walking path to get there. After settling into our place, Anita and I left to go car shopping (the kids stayed with our new friend Laury, who came along with us to Durban). Anita and I spent the rest of the afternoon car shopping with Willard (a man from Zimbabwe who knows all the "vehicle dealers"). If you have ever been to shipping yards, you will know that Anita and I were way out of our comfort zone, as they are some very interesting places to be. But, after our first car lot, we started to feel a little more at ease and started to understand "how this was going to go down." If it sounds like a drug deal from a TV show, you are onto the right feeling of how this worked. Anyway, after a couple hours of looking, we dropped off Willard at his home and went back to our place and went with the kids to the beach for an hour. Then next morning, we picked up Willard to continue our car shopping and dropped off Laury and the kids at Ushaka (a Sea World park in Durban). Anita and I were able to look at about 4 more car lots before finding the car that we wanted and haggled over the price. We ended up buying a Toyota Harrier (look it up on Google). It has a few dings and dents, but it fit our budget and gives us the ground clearance that we were looking for (so we don't bottom out on the striped zebra crossings. (By the way, I can now confirm that zebras are black with white stripes, as the speed bumps are black tar with white stripes!) We put down a deposit on the vehicle and still had enough time for Anita and I to get to Ushaka and enjoy some of the shark tanks and even catch the seal show! The kids had a blast there. We then left the park to go do some "body surfing" in the ocean by our place. (We stayed just about 15km north of Durban, in Umhlanga Rocks (again google it)). The beach was wonderful and the waves were awesome. We all got soaking wet and Faith's hair changed from blond to "sandy blond". No... I mean it, it was literally covered in sand!
While I was a little further out in the surf from the kids, I met a man who asked me what part of the US I was from. I have no idea how he knew we were from the States other than speaking well English (that was an intentional joke), so I told him that we were from Michigan. After telling him that were were helping Beautiful Gate for 5 years, he said that he had just finished preaching at a church about 1/2 hour before he came to the beach. He was telling Indians (not the Native American kind) about grace. Most of them have never heard anything like it! He also told me that he was from Utah (he was not Mormon) and that he had pastored two churches in Durban (5 years each) over the past 10-12 years. It is really cool how God sets these "appointments" up. You just never know who you are going to meet! After a little more chit-chat, we both went on our way.
The next morning we woke up, packed the car and then went to the beach for one last stroll on the surf. It was a beautiful sunny morning! The Lord gave us great weather for the trip. Our drive home went very well, except that the road was now closed at the two spots that we traversed on the way to Durban. So, we had to enter Lesotho at an earlier boarder crossing spot. This was alright, in that we were able to see much more of Lesotho than we had before. But, it was amazing to see the "night and day" difference from South Africa to Lesotho (in terms of poverty level). This also resulted in our trip back home taking about an extra hour longer, as the speed limit in Lesotho is much slower.
We arrived home safely and I promptly fell asleep with the kids, as I was developing a cold. We also found out that the water in Lesotho, which had been shut off on the Tuesday before we left, still was not on! This meant that the people of Lesotho had to go without "good" drinking water for six days already! If you have not been here before, people can sometimes travel miles to get to the closest water spigot to get water, and then they fill their cans and wheelbarrow them back to their houses! Beautiful Gate has a spigot right outside the gate and we are connected to the city water supply. But, since the water was out, we had to switch to our reserve well, which would last us about 7 days. Needless to say, when we found out the water was out still this morning, we started to get worried as we only had about one or two days water supply left in the tank. But, about lunchtime today, the water came back on in Maseru. Now, the water pressure is not very good, as everyone is clamboring to get water again, but it is back on.....for now. Please pray that it stays on. If it does, all should return to normal and we can restock our well. The Lord has been good to Beautiful Gate, and He is supplying for us at just the right time. God is good....all the time!
As I write this, I am feeling much better, after taking the day off from volunteering from Beautiful Gate with this cold. It was a rough morning, but tomorrow is another day that God will bless us with! I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!
I had better end this epistle!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Praise Report!

We have officially found a renter for our home and the family is willing to lease it for all 5 years!!!! Praise God! We were just getting to the point where we discussed how many more months we could swing paying our mortgage before we had to let it go. God knew what our breaking point was and answered our prayer. The fact that our home is a great fit for this family and that they want it for 5 years is only something God could pull off :) Thank you for your prayers. I know God heard all of you praying and once again, He stepped in at the right time and provided for us. We feel a huge burden lifted and now we can focus more attention to serving God here without the constant worry in the back of our minds about what to do if our house doesn't rent.

God's faithfulness is something we are learning to trust in. He keeps coming through for us sometimes early, sometimes at the last minute, but He is always there and we are amazed by Him. We will have to keep reading back in our blog to be reminded of moments like these next time we feel discouraged.

Also...Elijah would like to announce that he has been asked to play on a community soccer (football) team. There is a teenage volunteer who helps with the football league and he wants to take Elijah on Fridays for practice and on Saturdays for games. Elijah has never played soccer before except at recess at school so it will be fun to watch him learn and to see him making friends in the community. Most of the kids speak some English so it will be cool to see and hear them. He will begin next week as this Friday we are headed to Durban to attempt buying a vehicle.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grumpy Attitudes :(

Well, I am sorry that you have not heard from us for a few days. I wanted to post something, but nothing significant has really been going on. In fact, I think I cursed us after my last post about our "good day" because for about 5 days we have all been grumpy. I can't put my finger on why exactly, but it is in all 5 of us. We have been more short tempered with each other and the kids have been fighting unlike they have ever done in their lives. It has been a tough few days and so I thought I'd just ask for prayer. We need to go to God with our bad attitudes and grumpy spirits because it is not of Him. I want to figure out what is causing it so we can be our happy, carefree selves. Not sure if it is the change in our schedules, the different food, lack of familiar friends/family, the weather, etc. So we would appreciate some prayer or encouraging words :)

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" Phillippians 2:14-15

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Day!

Wow, what a good day! The kids and I had our second day of "school" with our real sonlight curriculum. We were overjoyed to receive our books over the weekend. I did some quick studying (pretty much all day Sunday) to get ready for the week of teaching because as much as I know in my head it would be wise to take more time to prepare, none of us could wait another day to start. Our first two days have been amazing. I am not naive enough to think every day will be blissful and easy, but it was a great way to start! I'll be adding a few more subjects in a few weeks, such as science and art.

We also spent the day being a bit sneaky. Our suitemate, who is from the Detroit area of Michigan, had her 19th birthday today. The kids made her cards and I planned a meal with our other suitemate so we could have a suprise birthday dinner tonight. The kids were actually able to keep quiet all day and Sue came with her daughters for a fun filled evening. I think she was feeling a little sad being away from her family today, so hopefully we helped a little.

When Sue arrived, she also carried in packages from 3 different friends/family. We had so much fun opening boxes and envelopes. My mother-in-law sent me the softest slippers in the world because I was a good wife and mom and packed everyone in my family slippers, but I left mine by the back door.Oops! She also sent taco seasoning which we have been craving so this week we are having tacos! Thanks mom for the seasonings and slippers, Bryan likes his too. The kids got some fun silly bands, coloring pages, and cards from some of their friends and Elijah went yelling happily through the house when he saw that his friend Joshua sent him a magic tree house book (his favorite series). Thanks Sammy and Eric for your thoughtfulness in your gifts and tomorrow I'll enjoy a salad just for you with my italian dressing from home. I love seeing their excitement and it makes me realize how much we really do miss home when we get so overjoyed everytime we hear from friends or get mail :) But I have to make special mention for my very special friend Terp, who is currently recovering from surgery and could use prayers for healing. Her package contained something I never expected to see shipped all the way to Africa just for my husband....3 packs of single servings of SPAM. For those of you who know Bryan and how much he loves to wear his SPAM shirt and tease people about his love of SPAM. It was AWESOME! We laughed so hard it almost made us cry.

We are blessed and we can feel God's peace with us everyday. We are happy, yet we miss our friends and family. We are enjoying our adventure, yet we miss some of the comforts of home. We are being stretched and challenged, but we are becoming stronger. We are growing closer as a family and we have not missed our tv once (I can say that now because we have not yet missed the superbowl, poor Bryan). God has shown us that this is His plan for us right now and I am thankful that His grace and mercy are surrounding us too. Thank you so much for your prayers, love, emails, cards, packages, and every other way you show us your support.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Few More Pictures!

This is a closer picture of us while at the Mohale Dam and a picture of a traditional Basotho home in the mountains.

Family picture

We visited Mohale Dam yesterday and it was a pretty amazing sight. The children and I read about it online for "school" on Thursday and then we took a tour on Saturday morning. The view along our drive was breathtaking with all the mountains, wild flowers, fields, herds of animals, and it was also very special to see the houses (round stone huts) and local Basotho people with their traditional blankets on. We stopped by a steam on the way back and all of us ran around splashing in it. Faith accidentally fell in a bit of a drop off and got soaked, but we all had fun anyway, and for once I was prepared with an extra outfit for each of the kids :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just thought I'd share my day

Today was an interesting day for our family. I'll try and give you a rundown and I apologize if it is a bit mundane for some of you :) Faith woke up at 5:00am with a bad cough and I settled her on the couch so she could get a little more sleep. Mercy and Elijah crawled in bed with us at 6:30am and Mercy's face was looking worse than when she went to bed (she has about 10 mosquito bites and can't stop itching them so they are swollen and breaking open). We had breakfast and then did a little school (my homeschool books should be here Friday). Elijah did 2 pages of math and read a chapter in his chapter book. Faith worked on her writing and read a few short books and Mercy worked on painting and glitter glue :) Yep, I had a mess to clean up, but all the kids painted and decorated some cool pics. Elijah went to "work" with the maintenance staff and came home a few minutes later telling me he felt sick from the cement powder he had inhaled while at work. He promptly ran into the bathroom and threw up.

I then quick cleaned him up and set the kids up in front of a movie on my laptop because I had to be at the chapel at 10:30 for an adoption ceremony. Today, there was a couple and a single mother who adopted their little ones. The single mother stayed with us for 2 nights last week while her new son was getting better from the flu. It was so wonderful to see how much they had bonded in their week together. I cried a couple of times during the ceremony because I have gotten to know them and it was so amazing! We talked for awhile afterward and then said our goodbyes. I am beginning to get to know a lot of the kids here and I think the adoptions are going to become more emotional:)

I went home and made lunch for the kids and then cut Elijah's hair as it was getting too long. He was not excited and neither was I as I have not cut his hair since he was 2! The "new" clippers were not very sharp and pulled his hair pretty hard once and we had a meltdown. I don't think he will EVER trust me again when I cut his hair (I miss you Tammy and so does Elijah). He was relieved when I told him he could have a month off with no haircuts :) I then cut Faith's hair and it went great because I didn't have to use the clippers. Suprisingly, I really enjoyed cutting her hair and thought it was very easy compared to her brother's.

The kids and I then went to the playground and I pushed Mercy and Faith on a swing for about an hour (Elijah went home and rested as he was not feeling 100%). Came home and made dinner and then hung out with the kids and skyped with my friend Sammy. After we put the kids to bed, I got to cut Bryan's hair and he was much better at sitting still and not whining than Elijah was, so it went much better (he did say that the clippers pull a bit and hurt a few times so Elijah has been justified). It is a good thing that I can't seem to download any pictures on our blog because I am not sure I want to show you the haircuts :) In all seriousness, we can't get the pictures to work and so feel free to friend Bryan or I on facebook if you have it because we try to post pics every week.

Well, a lot of people ask what I do all day and this is just a sample of one day and none of them are ever the same! Today, we did not play with the Beautiful Gate kids due to the coughs and vomiting as we would never want to get them sick. Sorry if it is a boring post for some of you, but I thought I'd share my day! God Bless You and have a great day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Magical moments

We have been at Beautiful Gate for 1 month and 2 days (in case anyone is counting). It has taken me about a month to be comfortable here. I don't mind going into town, walking to the river with the kids, going into the baby houses, and I am starting to know who most of the staff are if not by name, at least by sight :) Yes. I am a bit slow with names and always will be! It is feeling more and more like home as the days progress and my comfort level increases.

Yesterday, I had kind of a magical moment with a few kids that probably helped me feel like I am fitting in and becoming part of the Beautiful Gate family. I was doing a walk through of some of the baby homes and there are 2 girls I like to visit who are almost at the walking point, but still need a little encouragement and support. I walking into their living room and one of them was standing on the carpet, and I got down on the floor and asked her to come to me. She walked all the way across the living room and into my arms and then gave me a HUGE grin. It felt very magical to me because this girl is usually very serious around me and rarely smiles, but she was so proud of herself! I felt blessed to be able to be there for her. I then pushed the two girls on the swing for about 45 min and both were grinning from ear to ear.

At play time, there was another boy who is usually kind of quiet around me (probably because I am kind of quiet too) and he walked up to me to show me a special treasure he was holding. He had picked a rose and he was holding it so tenderly in his hands. I asked if I could smell it and he nodded. Then I picked him up and he cuddled in my arms for awhile (which was like holding Elijah because he is one of the bigger kids). I enjoy the kids here with all my heart and am amazed by them each day. I feel so proud of them when they accomplish a milestone and I feel so sad for them when they get hurt. It is like I have added 40+ kids to my family and they are all so different and so special. It is cool to see my kids playing with them all too and making new friends. They don't need to know the same language. They don't need to have the same color skin. They don't need "fancy or new" toys to help them play. They just need the love and compassion of Jesus filling all their hearts and helping them find joy in sharing time together. It truly is beautiful here, in many many ways.
Have a blessed weekend friends,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work I Go!!!

So I started my official position in the office this week. It has been filled with meetings, meetings, meetings. And although those are not the funnest things in the world, they were necessary for taking care of current issues and for planning the goals of Beautiful Gate for 2011. Ray has come up with an extensive list of goals, but I beleive that we can get a lot of them (if not all) completed by the end of the year. It will be challenging but fun. I have also been informed that I will be attending the conference of all the Beautiful Gates (there are four) that is to take place in Cape Town, South Africa. I am really looking forward to that, as I have wanted to take a trip there to see the penguins anyway. Now, we can take the kids with us and do a little sight seeing in the evenings, after the meetings of course.

I also had a chance to see a child that is still in the hospital (if I can call it a hospital) that is recovering from serious injuries that were sustained while it was abandoned in the wild. It was heart wrenching to see this little boy, but I look forward to the day the he joins us at Beautiful Gate. Then, he will get the love and attention that he needs. He is the reason that Beautiful Gate exists.... to help "the least of these." We are so blessed in America that we very rarely have to see anything like this.

We have also had the priveledge of having an adoptive parent stay with us, as the child was still recovering from flu-like symptoms. It has been a pleasure to watch the bonding process first hand. The mother cannot take her eyes off her new child. It really is fun watching these new families being formed. And, we will have the pleasure of seeing many more in the near future. A lot of the kids have been matched to families and now the fun part of the adoption process will begin for those parents. God must have known that we would need to start off with a lot of happy times :)

The kids are adjusting very well. In fact, Elijah has become an honorary part of the maintenace crew here at Beautiful Gate. He loves helping them with weeding the garden, sweeping the shop, etc. etc. Faith is enjoying her schoolwork that Anita does with her, and Mercy is enjoying the freedom of running through the puddles (it has rained a lot lately). The home schooling supplies are supposed to arrive soon, and then the REAL school work will begin for the kids. It will be interesting to see the adjustment that the kids will have at that time. And Anita too, as their teacher.

Thanks again for all your love, prayers and support!
P.S. Some of you may receive some mail that is postmarked from California. We are having a new friend from California (who was just recently at Beautiful Gate) send out some mail for us. It will save us money and also mailing time. Thanks Casey!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Year of the Rat???!!!

Okay, so those of you who skyped with us yesterday will find this old news, but for our kids it was an extreme highlight and they have not stopped talking about it. Last Sunday, I posted on my facebook page that Africa is full of adventures because I had a bird fly in our house and had to catch it in a bag and let it loose outside. Not unheard of for some people, but new to us!
Yesterday, I was cuddling with Faith and she yelled "Mom, I just saw a rat go in the kitchen!" Well, I was a little unsure that she really saw a rat, but I had Bryan check it out with me anyway. Sure enough there was a rat behind our refrigerator. Now, we are not talking about a cute little pet rat. No, this was a big, grey, nasty looking rat and it was in our kitchen. We closed all the doors to the kitchen (it is a shared kitchen with our suitemates) and opened the back door to the outside of the kitchen so we could hopefully scare it out. I know it doesn't solve any problems by letting the rat outside instead of killing it but our only "weapons" were a broom, frying pan, and feather duster. While we worked on scaring the rat out, the kids ran outside to find the stray cat that has adopted Beautiful Gate (and it was pouring rain so they got SOAKED). They told the maintenance man (Edward) about the rat during the process so he came to check it out.
In the meantime, Bryan and I had hit the rat a few times with our "weapons" and it lodged itself in the back of our fridge. Then Edward came in with a spear and stuck it into the back of the fridge and "took care of" our rat problem. The kids think of him as a hero now and today they saw him and said, "We don't have any more rats today!" They had a hard time going to bed last night due to fears of more rats, but we managed to calm there fears. Adventures will continue to await our family, I am sure, as we have already begun our new year with the rat!