Thursday, March 31, 2011

Overwhelmed!!

This is how I feel right now. It has been a crazy couple of weeks at Beautiful Gate. I have had more meetings in the past couple weeks and look forward to a change of pace when I get to Cape Town on Monday. We have been trying to resolve soooo many issues at the same time. And, to be honest, things do not work nearly as quickly as they do in America. On numerous occasions, I would be talking to someone on the phone and they would tell me that they would call me back with the answer. I would even set dates for them to get back to me. EVERY TIME, without fail so far, not one of them has called me back. AND, I have to call them back! Then, they still wouldn't have an answer! I have told Anita that if anyone in America tells me they have poor customer service, they have NO idea what poor customer service is!! I joke with Anita now that customer service here is taking the employee (not Beautiful Gate's employees, of course) and then doing all of their work yourself, just so you can get some sort of result. Don't laugh, it is true.
We have hopefully put a very stressful part of Beautiful Gate's operational review behind us now (we have been working on it since I started working here in early January), and now we have the pleasure of two teams coming to serve at Beautiful Gate. The first team is a group of people from The River CRC in California. Laury and I have been working hard to ensure that this trip goes off very smoothly. I will be able to see them on Saturday as I pick them up from the airport. Then, I will immediately leave to go to Cape Town when we get back. Please pray that Laury will have the strength to help that team while they are here next week. The second team is actually a study abroad team from Azusa Pacific University, which is coming in May. 12 students, 2 professors and their 2 children (yes the 2 professors are married) will be living with us in our house for almost 3 whole weeks! This will be an interesting time. I have not lived with college students for a very long time (longer than I want to admit, I am getting old). But, we will start the final phases of planning for that trip as soon as I get back from Cape Town.
There are many other issues that I am dealing with on a day-to-day basis here at Beautiful Gate. Some are fun and some are stressful. Balancing work life at Beautiful Gate with family life has been more difficult than imagined, as it is sometimes hard to be "off duty" while living on campus. Plus, finding time to play with the Beautiful Gate kids in all of this has been hard to find. On the positive side, I have been able to meet 3 of the 4 adoption agency representatives that Lesotho adopts to. They have all been wonderful people and very much appreciate the level of care that Beautiful Gate gives to it's children.
Please pray for our car (STILL). It is still stuck in customs in South Africa. I am struggling with patience for this, especially as it means that we need to rent a car to go to Cape Town next week (when we should have our car already). Our clearing agent in Lesotho told me a couple weeks ago that the longest that she had someone wait for a car is 8 weeks. Guess what, last Sunday was 8 weeks! It is great knowing that we are setting new records here! But, we should get our car sometime in the future :) I just hope that we won't be coming back from our 5 years here when we finally get it.
Sorry for the "vent session", but I just want you to know some of the frustrations of living in a different culture. Thanks again for all your prayer support! It really means a lot! We couldn't do this without the support of all of you! And, Ray, please don't worry about me, I will be fine. I just need to learn to adjust to this new culture. Thanks again!
Bryan

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mercy's Babies

Today I had Mercy come with me into the baby houses so we could visit the littlest ones at Beautiful Gate. We almost always go and play with the kids in the playgroup in the afternoon and I thought we had better change up our routine a little or we won't get to know the tiny babies like we do the toddlers and preschoolers. Mercy and I enjoyed some special time together and held and talked to lots of babies today. Here is what Mercy has to say about her babies...

"I didn't carry one. I was racing with one of the little boys (she and a 8 month old boy were crawling on the floor. She had a toy that they kept racing toward. His 'Me' thought that was super funny). I heard a little baby crying and told the 'Me' that he was crying. He was crying until mom picked him up and then cried again because he had to go to bed. I like the babies at Beautiful Gate. I love the babies. Bye!"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Faith's Cow Lesson

Well...we all need a light hearted moment once in awhile, so I'll share a story about Faith today. I was in the kitchen washing up our lunch dishes and enjoying the view out our kitchen window. I noticed a herd of cattle coming by so I told Faith to come see them as she LOVES animals. She went out to the fence and there were about 4 of them that she could reach out and touch if she was brave enough (but she is not yet ready to pet a "big cow"). She was looking at a huge bull and said something about the bull being the biggest girl cow she had seen. I then explained that it was in fact not a girl cow because it did not have udders. Faith then said, "You mean only the girls cows have milk!" "Yes, that is the way God made them." Faith then proceeded to walk the length of the fence and look under each of the cattle (about 8 of them) to inform me which were cows and which were bulls. It was rather funny by itself, but then I realized that their shepherd was watching Faith with a curious face. Yep, we are some weird Americans here in Lesotho! I wish I had taken a picture of her walking down the fence looking under the cows because that visual is what made it so funny to me. I am glad I could start my week with a laugh. I hope you all have a great Monday too!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elijah's reflection

On Wednesday we took a trip to another orphanage/ child care center in Maseru. This is Elijah's reflection of our visit there.

"It was very very very poor and unsafe for kids. Because the playground equipment and the beds did not look safe to me. There was no grass like Beautiful Gate. The place where the older kids swam was very unsafe and deep for the little children. There was no fence around it so the little kids could get in there easily and drown. The playground was more for older children and not younger children but Beautiful Gate's is for young children. One thing that was different that they had was pigs, roosters, and maybe chickens.
The kids looked very dirty and sad. Because they did not have a family, that is why they were sad. They also had older kids too. I did not see any people supervising the kids except the older kids. It made me feel that orphanage was unsafe. I felt very sad for the kids there. I thought the kids were nice. I hope that that orphanage can get more money and more people who can supervise the kids."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Habakkuk's Reminder

After yesterday's experience, I was still been a bit emotional today. Mostly this morning when I read emails and comments from my friends and family. That meant so much to me. I needed to hear encouragement, sympathy, righteous anger, etc, so thank you.
I do not understand anymore today than I did yesterday about why this boy has to suffer, or why any other bad thing has to happen to innocent and undeserving people. But I do know this, God is GOOD. He is still worthy of my praise and worship. He can turn this into something even better, something I could never even imagine so.... To me the situation may look hopeless but not to God. He will restore joy.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength...
(Habakkuk 3:17-19a)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Am Ruined!

Today was heartbreaking! I had just finished taking the kids on a nature walk collecting twigs, leaves and flowers for Faith's assignment. As we were walking back near the gate, Ntate Edward came walking quickly toward me and he was counting change in his hand. He came and told me that there was a 10 year old boy right outside the gate. The boy had heard that Beautiful Gate takes care of orphans and he hoped he could come and get some help as he was very hungry. Unfortunately our child care facility only houses children up to about 5 years of age, so he can not stay here with us. Edward had just enough change on him to get the kid a ride on a taxi into town and he gave him directions to an orphanage for older children. I ran home and grabbed several pieces of bread, a few apples, and a bottle of cold water for the boy along with a little more change so he had extra for food. Once I gave him the food, he looked up into my eyes with the most sorrowful eyes and said thank you with such a sincere voice that my heart literally broke right there. You know how there are times when you just know that God has ordained a meeting and it leaves a lasting mark on your soul, well today this was my meeting. I wished him well and walked into Bryan's office where I said that today I hate Lesotho (I was slightly irrational and emotional and don't really hate Lesotho) and started to just cry and cry. I am still tearing up as I write this and remember his face. How horrible to be 10 years old and have no one in the world left who loves you, who will tuck you in at night, who will make you meals, who will teach you how to be a man, who will do nice things for you just because, who will comfort you when you are scared. No one...

It turns out that while I was inside telling this to Bryan, Elijah ran home and got 5 rand of his allowance and gave it to the boy because he thought he needed a little more than I had given. Oh, I was so proud of him for his heart of gold and for understanding how desperate the young boy's situation is. Then Mercy came running into Bryan's office with Kody (her stuffed black lab) and gave it to me to make me stop crying. She was very worried to see mommy crying and Kody always makes her pain better. Then, Faith held my hand and walked me home. I am so blessed to have my 3 kids and they are learning so much about life in another part of the world. My prayer would be that they continue to have compassion and empathy for those who are hurting.

I feel like I am ruined. I will NEVER again be able to live my life with the ignorance of the true pain and suffering that goes on in the world. I will never be able to get those haunting eyes out of my mind, true pain, suffering, brokenness. God has broken my heart for the children who are hurting in Lesotho and it is so hard. I want to just lock myself in a room and cry for hours because the pain is so great. My empathy for them is making it so real to me and I know I can only help one kid at a time, but that does not make my heart feel any better right now. Sin sucks. It is so unfair that the innocent have to suffer so greatly. I know that God can comfort and heal and He loves that boy more than I ever could so please pray with me today for this poor boy. I don't know where he is or if I'll ever see him again but pray with me that he is safe and has a full stomach and that God will give him a second chance with a family and better yet, that God will reveal Himself to this boy as a father who will never leave or forsake him. Thank you so much for your love of our family and for the children here in Lesotho.
Anita

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Small Taste of Home!!


Yesterday, we realized that we have a trip coming to Beautiful Gate and that we needed to get some single size bed mattresses, bed sheets and pillows. So, we took this opportunity to cross the border into South Africa to search for lower prices. We were successful! We were able to find a very good deal on the mattresses in Ladybrand. And, since we were already across the border, which can be a large hassle, we had already packed for a drive and overnight stay in Bloemfontein. For those of you who don't know South Africa very well, it is a larger city in South Africa about 1 1/2 hours drive from Maseru (two with all the road construction going on). Bloemfontein also has two very big malls that you can shop at as well. And if you can't find what you are looking for in Bloemfontein, you probably don't need it. Anyway, we arrived after dark in Bloemfontein and we went straight to dinner at the Spur. This is a good burger and steakhouse restaurant. The ironic part is that it is called Spur, but the whole motif is around American-Indian culture. It is also ironic, in that, there are no cowboys or indians in South Africa. This is truly one of those American culture invading other countries things. Anyway, after a wonderful meal, we went to our hotel, only to find that is was full. But, they had another hotel that they worked with for cases like this. We ended up staying at a nice B & B type place with some really neat themed rooms. It was very comfortable.
Then this morning (Saturday) we woke up and went to the first mall called Mimosa Mall. Once we started exploring the stores, it was very easy to forget that we were in Africa. It really does remind you of any American mall. They have food courts, jewellery stores, sporting goods stores, clothing stores, etc. After spend a lot of time and money (at least by accountant's standards), we went to the second mall called Waterfront mall. This one also had various different stores like Mimosa mall, but was a mall that was in the shape of a semi-circle around a beautiful pond. There was also a McDonald's there. We had not eaten at a McDonald's since we were on our way to Lesotho (in the Chicago airport on Dec 4). That makes it 3 months and 15 days without McDonalds, but who is counting? And it tasted just like home! It was so nice to be able to eat something that could remind us of home. Even Faith exclaimed how the chicken nuggets and fries were just like the ones in Zeeland! I know this sounds really stupid to some of you, but it was great to let the new culture just wash away for the length of a meal.
Culture shock is starting to set in for me. I find that I am increasingly more frustrated with some of the differences that I see everyday. Other things, Anita and I just laugh at. Case in point today was while walking through the mall, we saw quite a few people that were bare footed. Anita just looked at me and said, "In America there is always the "No Shirts, No Shoes, No Service" policy." I kept expecting some guy to walk into a store without a shirt at any moment. (That never happened). But, we were able to find pillows and bedding for Beautiful Gate, along with some much needed household supplies for our "house". (And we had shoes on!)
Anita is really excited for the electrical blanket that we will need in the winter time (June & July) to stay warm at night. Remember, we don't have central heating here and the entire house is made of concrete blocks and tiles, so it will be cold. We have not put the electric blankets on the beds yet.
But the best part of the trip for me was the drive home from Bloemfontein. Along the way, we saw the harvest moon rising over a beautiful South African mountain right as the sun was setting opposite us. The picture above does not do it justice. Then we started joking about the "harvest moon" and how we are good with that term as it IS going into fall here and now we can honestly say that we saw a REAL HARVEST MOON IN MARCH!!!
Thanks God for the small taste of home today!
Bryan

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Welcome Back and Car Trouble

This week brought a little excitement for the staff and volunteers here at Beautiful Gate. Allan and Donna have returned from Australia. They went home for a visit and unfortunately for them, experienced a lot of problems with their home due to the storms and flooding in Australia. They were delayed by a month and a half, so everyone is happy to have them back here at Beautiful Gate (except their family back home I am sure). Allan oversees the maintenance crew and all the building projects, so there will be more projects getting underway soon. Donna is a nurse who spends some time here at Beautiful Gate and at another child care center in Maseru. She suprised my kids today with some stuffed koala toys from Australia, bubbles, and a kitkat for each kid. They were very pleased and spent the afternoon using lincoln logs to build homes for their koalas. Very cute. So...welcome back Allan and Donna :)

We are beginning to make some plans for a trip to Cape Town at the beginning of April. Bryan, Ray, Sue and I will be meeting with all the other leaders of the other 3 Beautiful Gate centers/schools. One area of concern for us has been the delay in our transportation. We bought our car 6 1/2 weeks ago and were told it should arrive in 2-3 weeks. The car dealer owes some back taxes and so the car is unable to be released. We are told to just hang on and wait and that it will come (they just can't give us any ideas of when). So now we will have the unexpected cost of renting a car to get to the conference. We are trying to be patient, but we would appreciate your prayers that the car will get here soon so we can be good stewards of our resources. Thanks for your prayers already for those of you who are my friends on facebook. We know it will all work out in God's timing and we need to just leave it up to Him.
God bless you,
Anita

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Would God be enough?

As we have now been in Africa for a little over 3 months, I have seen children who have been abandoned, families who have been torn apart by AIDS, people who are managing to survive on way less a day than I used to spend on a coffee, children begging on the street with holes in their shoes so big, I can see their toes, and many other things which are hard to put into words. Yet, ironically, I have been greeted with more warm friendly smiles than I expected. I have seen people praise the Lord with their whole heart. I have seen true joy and innocence in the children here at Beautiful Gate despite the way they have started their life.

So... I was reminded of a song that I was listening to right before we moved to Lesotho and I want to share it with you (It is called "I'm still yours" by Kutless if you want to hear it on you tube)

If you washed away my vanity
If you took away my words
If all my world was swept away
Would you be enough for me?
Would my broken heart still sing?

(Chorus)
If I lost it all
Would my hands stay lifted
To the God who gives and takes away
If you take it all
This Life You've given
Still my heart will sing to you

When my life is not what I expected
The plans I made have failed
When there's nothing left to steal me away
Will you be enough for me?
Will my broken heart still sing?

Even if you take it all away
You'll never let me go
Take it all away
But I still know...
That I'm Yours

We may not always have a choice about the situations we are put in or the trajedies that we are faced with, but we do have a choice in how we respond. I have a lot of growing to do in the area of being thankful and praising God in all things, but I believe that He will never let me go and He will hold my hand or carry me when it gets tough. I praise God for the Basotho people and the lessons they have already begun to teach my family by praising God with their heart, mind and strength.
Anita

Friday, March 11, 2011

Homeschool

This week was a nice relaxing week and we completed our 8th week of homeschool! On Wednesday we spent the school day outside and Elijah even completed some of his work while sitting in a tree :) We watched fish jump from the pond and listened to the music of all the birds around us.

Faith is flying through her math book and will be finished way before the end of our first "semester". Thankfully we have 2 couples from our church who will be visiting in April so I'll try to order her the 1st grade book. It is fun watching her grow and learn each week! Faith's reading has been improving rapidly, but she is easily frustrated by longer words and will try to just guess rather than sound out the word. She is so good and obedient in school which her teacher loves and thankfully she loves school.

Elijah has discovered that he can't get enough of art and science. Bryan has been doing the weekly science experiments with the kids and Elijah looks forward to it. He loves to take his art papers outside and draw the nature around him. One day he even went to the maintenance building and drew a project that one of the men were working on. It turned out pretty good, and I think he has a little natural talent and it must be from my sister April :) because it isn't from Bryan or I! He also has been loving his reading books this year. He especially loved a book about the pony express and wished they still had the pony express so he could be a rider. Imagine his excitement when a friend from church told us that Lesotho has pony riders who bring medicine to the remote villages in the mountains. That is his new career choice at the time.

Mercy has just finished a preschool workbook I had brought from home. It had a little page in the back with a certificate to show she completed the book. Once I filled it out, she ran all over Beautiful Gate showing the staff members her book and saying "I finished preschool." If only it were that easy :) We have not done a ton of preschool work as she is only 3 but she already knows most of her alphabet and is always asking me to do school with her. She is such a cutie and loves to play "teacher" with me. I find that when we play teacher, she will do everything I ask so I am glad she came up with the game!

All that to say, we have enjoyed our first 8 weeks of school and I am thankful that God has found a way to make me become their teacher. It is not as scary as I thought it would be and I like finding ways to make it more fun for all of us so we don't get bored. Thanks for those of you who have been encouraging to us and for your prayers. God's faithfulness to us still amazes us each step of the way!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shopping List

Today we had a great sermon from a new church. It was about praying and having effective prayers. One of the first points that the pastor said was how we (myself included) give God a "shopping list" of requests. Then he went on to say that we should not do that, but instead ask God what He has planned for the requests that we bring. An example was how he and his wife prayed for healing for their daughter (who is hearing impaired). God did NOT grant that request for him. But instead, God used his daughter (who is fluent in two languages) to talk to two groups in the past few weeks, and many kids were brought to Christ or inquired more, just because of her testimony. So, God purposefully said "No" to this pastor's prayer request because He had something more in mind for her than what even the pastor could fathom. The pastor also said that we should be in dialogue with God BEFORE we ask for the prayer request. That way we can pray with a passion of what God wants, not what we want.
This all got me thinking of my own prayers. All too often, I am in a hurry and then just list of my "shopping list" to God and then say "Amen," trusting that God will answer all my prayers. But, in reality, God will sometimes say "No," and then I get disappointed and feel that maybe my faith is not strong enough. But, now I know that I need to dialogue with God (which takes time) and THEN make my prayer requests with the Kingdom in mind.
So, I left church this morning thinking, "Wow, God really talked to me today!" That would have been enough for me, but then the pastor introduced himself to Anita and I after the service. And then I KNEW that God talked to me when the pastor starting talking to us about adjusting to this culture here and how we need to embrace the things that bother us, or we will just turn negative. What amazed me was that I had never met this pastor before and he was talking to me about the exact things that I have been struggling with this past week! With big changes in culture comes big adjustments that your mind has to deal with. And, if any of you know me, patience was not a virtue that God blessed me with. So, the long waits in the lines at the stores, the slowness of life around here and other cultural changes have really been "getting to me." But today, things just didn't have their normal negative affect on me, and thing seem to be "picking up."
In conclusion, after I dialogue with God, I will then ask for the appropriate things to pray for each of you who read this. And, even if I don't know who you are, I will ask God to let me know how I can effectively pray for your specific needs. I will just listen to God, and we will see how God blesses your lives.
May God be glorified in ALL things,
Bryan

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Elijah's cats and hi from Faith and Mercy

ZZZ...ZZZ...Meow Meow! What was that noise. Oh, it is just the kitty and she is sleeping. ( the kitty is an orange and white cat named snowball). I like to hold snowball a lot and she is the best kitty in the world. I like to play with the kitty and have her bat at the fly swatter and strings. Snowball distracts me but also helps me stay calm during school (and keep my temper because of Mercy). Snowball is a little tiny helper that helps me with my homework.

And also, there is Tiara. I left her out a little bit. She is Snowball's mom. Tiara is having babies soon and she is very patient. I also like her as much as Snowball. Tiara is a very nice cat and she does a lot for us. She is a good listener and won't go in our room when we yell at her. When we clap our hands she stops scratching the couch as a scratch post. The cats love to sleep inside on their special cat blankets mom picked for them because mom has allergies. The cats do not sleep here at night because they are out hunting.
goodbye and I miss you very much!
Elijah


I love you so much and you are the awesomest friends I have ever seen. I love you so much. And I hope you are at Africa. And I hope that you can be where we are. I love you so much. I finished my whole preschool book. I love you like an elephant. I love you like a giraffe. Good-bye
I love you very so much,
Mercy

Hi everyone. I love you very much and I miss you already. Thank you everyone who sent me cards for my birthday.
Love,
Faith

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Play time

Today, the maintenance men moved all of the play equipment closer to our house because they needed to mow the grass. It was an awesome day for the kids because they played outside all afternoon once school was done. All the Beautiful Gate children played on it as well so there were kids in the sandbox, kids playing soccer, and kids swinging and sliding. It was crazy loud outside in our front yard and it was fun to watch and join in. Elijah and Faith were exhausted by the end of the day and falling asleep faster than we could get them ready for bed.

Elijah has a couple of boys who love to play soccer with him now and they ask him everyday now to get his "ballo" so they can play. Faith has a 5 year old girl who has been trying to do cartwheels with her. Today they both went at the same time and wound up crashing into each other. Then they both fell over laughing. It was great to see Faith and her having so much fun because Faith has had a very hard time with the language barrier. I thought my kids would learn Sesotho very quickly, but instead I am hearing more and more of the kids here speaking English. Crazy! Mercy seems to like playing with the smaller kids because she likes to "mother" them. I am always hearing her saying "come on, hold my hand" in a very sweet, patient voice. The kids are getting more and more comfortable every day and it is such a joy to watch.

So on that note, our advice for you today is to take some time out of your day and just enjoy some play time :) I tried to attach a picture but our internet is on super slow mode tonight :( Sorry.