Thursday, April 28, 2011

Michigan visitors, yeah

Today Vern & Dianne Meyaard and Vern & Mary Bosch from our church in Zeeland, arrived in Lesotho. They are here for about a week and it was so good to see familiar faces and give them all a hug. I told them that it almost doesn't feel real to see someone from home. I am so happy they are here because I have been missing home pretty badly for a few days now. We enjoyed a nice big dinner and then we would have spent some time talking, but they were overtaken by my children. Elijah was busy telling one of the Verns all about what he has learned in school and showing him his collection of Magic Tree house books and Jigsaw Jones books. Faith was having Dianne read a Christmas blizzard book and then one chapter of one of her Puppy Puzzle books. She said my mom usually reads one chapter a night to me..."how many days are you going to be here?" And at the same time both of them were chattering away, Mercy went and grabbed a few books of her own and showed them to Vern and Mary. I think my children have been missing their grandparents quite a bit so they held in everything they have been wanting to share and then let it all loose in a 2 hour period. I can't even begin to quote all the crazy things they were saying, but Bryan and I had a huge laugh over our kids, especially Faith who is usually more shy.

So after we had them brush their teeth and get in bed, the adults were able to get more talking done. We were able to share about our time here and about the time they were here 5 years ago. So much has changed and developed, yet so much is still the same. I am looking forward to tomorrow when they will have more time to play with "all my kids" aka my 3 and the 50 other kids here at BG. We got to introduce them to several of the kids today, but they will have lots more time to hold babies and play with kids. We are excited to share our journey with them and know that they will be blessed by Beautiful Gate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Walking Partner

One thing that I have always loved to do is take a nice walk either by myself or even better, with a friend. It seems to be the perfect way to work out any stress I have, give me a chance to enjoy God's amazing creation, and listen to or talk with a special friend. I have been really missing the companionship that I once shared with my walking partners in Zeeland (Rachael, Chris, Jaclyn, and Dianna). Today, Donna, a volunteer from Australia, and I went for our first walk and it was just what I needed.

She took me along her walking path which is about 50 min to an hours walk at a fairly quick pace. We walked through a lot of the back roads to the northeast of Beautiful Gate. I had no idea there were so many people living in that area of Maseru as the paved road ends and we have never gone that way. We walked along a dirt road and passed many children and adults who were sitting or standing outside. Most of the houses were made of cinder blocks with tin roofs held in place by large rocks.

One thing that struck me today was the friendliness of all the people we walked past. They were eager to say hello and smile. We would greet many of them in Sesotho and they would answer us in English (it seemed as though they were as eager to practice their English as we were to practice our Sesotho.) Before coming here, I had been told of the dangers of being alone in Lesotho and while it is true that there is crime in any big city and we are in the capital of Lesotho, I am surprised at how friendly and close this community is. When we were walking through their neighborhoods, they smiled and made us feel welcome. I love the Basotho people and am blessed by their joyfulness.

I am looking forward to many many more walks through my neighborhood and hope that over time, we can make some new acquaintances. Donna and I both seem to love a good walk and a good talk and I am thankful that God has provided her as my new walking partner. So it is with a thankful heart that I say goodnight to you all :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our first African Easter

He is Risen.... Praise the Lord, Christ is Risen!!!

Happy Easter everyone! We had a very nice service at church this morning to celebrate Christ's gift to us. His death and resurrection are the reason we are here. He tore the veil and allowed us to be drawn closer to God and therefore be privileged to hear God speak to us. He died for us all, the abandoned kids here at Beautiful Gate, the mothers and fathers who chose to give them up, and the caring staff who love and tend to their needs each day. He died for us even if we have not chosen to love Him back and accept HIS GIFT. Such selfless love is unimaginable, yet necessary and we thank you Jesus.

Today, our family and Laury hid eggs, chocolate marshmallow eggs, and dum dum suckers for all the kids. It rained all weekend so we had to borrow the preschool and split the older kids and younger kids up into two groups. The little kids went first and were just so cute. Most of them found a dum dum sucker, took off the paper and sat on the floor eating it. They did not want to look for anything else because they were so happy to have the sucker. My kids and Laury pretty much had to finish finding things and then we made a bag for each kid to take home. The older kids were ready and they knew what to do. They were done in no time and were super excited for their bags once we split it all up evenly :) It was very special to see their smiles and hear them talking excitingly.

Bryan's family has always made Easter a special day of fun family time for my kids so it was great to pass on that fun to about 35 kids. The other 15 are babies and not able to participate this year. Hopefully they will have their own families to celebrate with next year! All in all my kids got to decorate 56 eggs this year because we also wanted to make an Easter bag for each of the staff who were working today. It was a great way to spend our first African Easter. One funny thing was that I associate Easter with spring and it is fall here so I have to remember that there won't be any tulips or daffodils blooming this time of year :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Car

Just wanted to update all of you who have been praying about our car situation. Our Lesotho agent called the car dealer on Monday and she said that the dealership was closed all day. So, our car was not loaded for shipment like we had hoped and we have heard nothing since then. Which means no car...

We also have a prayer request that we would like to pass on for our suitemate, Laury. Her father was diagnosed with pnemonia and he is in his earlt 80's, so pnemonia is a bit of a concern. It is hard for her to be here and not see him to know how he is doing. Prayers for his health would be very appreciated as well as prayer for Laury to have peace. Having a family member get sick when you are overseas is very hard and very emotional.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Well, we purchased a lovely Toyota Harrier exactly 11 weeks ago today. We were assured that the car would be here in 2-4 weeks, but due to some unforeseen tax evasion on the part of our car dealer, our car has not been released. Bryan called our Lesotho agent on Friday and he was told that the car is suppose to be released this coming Monday. Now, we KNOW better than to get our hopes up but this has been the only encouraging news from her in about 7 1/2 weeks, so we thought we had better request a little prayer support from our friends. We would love to have our own car so we can take a day trip once in awhile, get to the post office before it closes at 4:30 (I have about 15 letters I need to mail out), pick up our friends from the airport when they come to see us (we can hope right Vern, Vern, Mary and Dianne), and get groceries when it is convenient for us rather than reserving a Beautiful Gate car and trying not to inconvenience others. All in all, we were pretty frustrated when it did not come for the first 8 weeks and the last 3 weeks we have just been joking around about our car. We found that laughter instead of anger will see us through this :) So, please pray with us that our car will be delivered this week and released quickly out of Lesotho's customs. Thank you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thank You

When we returned from Cape Town, we had an update on our donations received in March. Wow, it was an unexpected amount and what a blessing. We are very humbled by your generousity and really appreciate it. We are not fully funded and have been having trouble getting everyone set up who wanted to support us as we are in Africa and can't just visit or call everyone :) Yet, God is faithfull and has provided some unexpected donors as well as friends who are supporting us more generously than we expected. God is proving once again that He is in charge and He is going to carry us through the next 4 years and 7 1/2 months (but who's counting, right). When we bought our tickets without reaching our goal, it was a big step of faith for our family, as we have always been blessed with stable jobs. We know things may get tight as we get further along, but we know that if God wants us here, He will keep providing. Thank you for your help and pleasing God and blessing us with your giving hearts. Beautiful Gate is blessed by each of you.

While we were in Cape Town 4 new babies/ toddlers were brought to Beautiful Gate. We are up to 50 children now which is the highest since we have been here. Also, while we were away a few of the children in the preschool came down with mumps. Everyone is doing fine and healing, but they could use some prayers for good health as autumn is here and it gets cold in the morning and at night. Change of season can bring more runny noses and overall less healthy kids.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Sister's Dream

We had a dream…I was going to go to college and be a counselor and she was going to be a nurse. Due to having a blood transfusion when she was young (before they tested for HIV) and then needing to go through testing for HIV/AIDS when we were a little older made her passionate about the disease and made her want to help children with HIV/AIDS. Her test was negative, but as a family while we waited for the results, we were all very scared about getting it if she was positive. It was still early in the discovery of AIDS so we still did not know how it was transmitted and the 7 of us in my family were anxious about her results. That is why she was going to be a nurse and I was going to be a social worker so she could help kids who had HIV and I could help counsel them and their families in a clinic we set up. We used to sit and talk about our dream as we grew up together, my best friend, my sister, April and I.

I went off to college, and she began nursing school. I began a little different course of study(rather than Psychology) because I knew I could not afford to get my Masters as I had to pay my own way through college. I instead chose criminal justice (but wound up as a social worker in my job after college). Life was going well for me as I met Bryan and we began to plan our wedding…

Life did not go so well for her. She married the wrong man who did not treat her well. She had physical problems which caused her immense pain and made it hard to work. She actually required surgery and needed to miss some of her nursing classes and they failed her. She gave up hope for her dream and gave in to depression, so much so that she ended her life on April 11, 1999. In my sorrow and then through the path my life took, I forgot our dream.

Now here I am, 12 years later in Lesotho, Africa working with HIV/AIDS babies and children. I am holding and caring for the children my sister loved and dreamed of helping. I am feeling her smile from heaven as she watches me and my children running and playing with the kids here. It is with joy and a full heart that I remember her today because we are living our dream in a different way. I am here caring for the children at Beautiful Gate and showing them God’s love for them without fear of HIV because I know God wants me to love them and April is in heaven welcoming those little ones who couldn’t hold on to life and who God has called home.

This post is in loving memory of my sister, my friend, April Michele Owens.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Our Cape Town Adventure

Our trip to Cape Town was wonderful, heart wrenching and inspirational. It started on Saturday and Sunday with a drive across the beautiful and varied landscape of South Africa. On the way, we saw wild ostrich, baboons, gazelles and even a zebra or two. As we approached the Western Cape we came through some very beautiful vineyard areas (see picture below). And while Anita and I were in awe of the mountains, valleys and kilometers of grapevines, we were also reminded of the ugliness of the area when we rounded a corner and saw the township of the valley. It was heart breaking to see the living conditions of these people.

After another hour of driving, we arrived in the heart of Cape Town. In the picture below, you will see Table Mountain in the background of this beautiful traffic circle (hint: it is the flat mountain in the picture, hence the name). And you will also see the city in front of the mountain. (That is not our car).

And the harbour behind us was beautiful as well. From here, we drove down the shoreline and over Chapman's Pass and then on to Fish Hoek, where our cottage on False Bay was literally just 40 feet from the bay water. This is Fish Hoek! We were also able to meet with the other directors and managers from the other Beautiful Gates. We ended the day with some worship and prayer time with them. What a great way to start the week and get to know new friends.

On Tuesday, all the directors and managers spent the day updating each other on our personal lives and ministry lives. This was great for Anita and I to get to know the other Beautiful Gate organizations and who God has appointed for them at this time.

On Wednesday morning Anita and I woke up early and watched the sun rise over the mountains across False Bay while sitting on the beach! It was awesome to see God's Majesty as His light shown across the cape.

The rest of Wednesday morning was filled with meetings for Beautiful Gate while Anita and the kids (along with the other ladies and kids) were able to play on the beach and explore some of the other sites and sounds of Fish Hoek. On Wednesday afternoon, we all went and toured Beautiful Gate, South Africa. It was amazing to see the similarities and differences of Beautiful Gate, Lesotho with Beautiful Gate, South Africa. Beautiful Gate, South Africa is located in the township of Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town. It was amazing to see the difference in housing from Cape Town city to the townships. This picture is just the edge of one township and doesn't even begin to convey the living conditions there.

But, as soon as you entered the premises of Beautiful Gate, South Africa, you could feel God's presence there. And, we were blessed to hear a wonderful choir that was practicing in the chapel. It was great to get to know the staff there. (There is even an American helping there too!)

Thursday, we had more meetings in the morning time, and then had some free time in the afternoon. Anita and I took this chance to go to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Unknown to us, they are actually two different places very close to each other (you can see one from the other, check it out on google). It was really windy that day, with gusts that actually took Anita and I off balance. We climbed up the path to the lighthouse at Cape Point. This is the view of Cape Point from the lighthouse, the closest place to the actual point.

We were also able to see a baboon up close while at Cape Point. Hint: it is on the wall behind Anita and the kids.

We then were "blown over" to the Cape of Good Hope and saw an ostrich up close next to the shore. (See our facebook pages later for more pictures). On our way back to Fish Hoek we were able to stop by a beach that is famous for African penguins and watched them waddle along the shore. We then made it back to Fish Hoek for a couple more meetings in late afternoon and then went out for dinner as a group.

The picture below is of the Cape of Good Hope, taken from the lighthouse at Cape Point.

On Friday morning we had breakfast as a group and Anita and I decided to keep the family in Fish Hoek for one more night while the rest of the group went home. We spent the rest of the day on Friday exploring Cape Town and having a wonderful lunch at a vineyard with a beautiful view (see picture to the right for our lunch view).

After exploring, we decided to have more playtime at the beach with the kids (the water was really cold) and then ended the evening with a nice latte (or hot chocolate for the kids) at a great little restaurant on the beach in Fish Hoek.

Here is a picture of all the kids on the beach during the week!

We woke early on Saturday morning, packed the car and drove back to Lesotho (over 14 hours). It was a long exhausting day of driving, but the Lord brought us back to Lesotho safe and sound. It was a great trip and we enjoyed every moment with our new friends! It was the exact medicine that I needed after a stressful week before the trip. We will never forget Cape Town and look forward to seeing more of it on our next trip there. I will sign off with this amazing picture of God's creation again!

Yours in Christ,

Bryan, Anita, Elijah, Faith & Mercy

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Safe Travels

We are back from Cape Town and wow, what an incredible place! We had a fantastic week meeting new Beautiful Gate friends and hanging out as a family. We just arrived home and it is midnight so I am going to bed. Just wanted to let all of you know that God kept us safe on the roads and all through the week. We will write more tomorrow after we sleep :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cape Town

We wanted to let all of you know that we are leaving today for a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Bryan and I are attending an indaba (get together) of all 4 Beautiful Gate centers in southern Africa. Bryan will be in meetings Tues-Friday and I will be going to half of the meetings. We will be staying on the beach in Fish Hoek and it sounds like it will be a wonderful time for us to relax, be encouraged by other missionaries, meet new friends, and be reminded as to why we are here, serving those who need compassion. We do not know if we will have Internet access so we wanted you all to know that we are traveling and may not be able to blog for 8 days. Thank you for praying for us as we travel and meet together. Prayers for God's will, guidance, and protective hand for our family would be appreciated. The kids are HOPING to have a chance to finally see some wild life in Africa as we have only seen a few new birds and one monkey since our arrival (other than cows, sheep, goats, etc). Cape Town is known for having a colony of African penguins and also some cape seals and we are anxious to enjoy some of God's creatures that are not common to Michigan :) We will also be staying on the ocean and we are not yet sure which ocean as Cape Town in right where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. The Indian is warm and the Atlantic is cold from what we hear so we are hoping for the Indian Ocean (selfish I know). We find it ironic that many of our friends are also traveling this week for spring break and for those who are not and were hoping to skype, we really don't know about the Internet so we would love to, but will have to wait and see. Enjoy your spring break Michigan friends and we will enjoy our fall break (that is still a little weird to me). Blessing to you all in the coming week! Anita