Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Day at the River

So, I tried 4 times today to upload a few pictures to our blog, but to no avail as you can see (or not see in this case). I really wanted to give you the visuals that I had today. After school I took our kids to the river to look for dinosaur bones (we knew we would not find any and were just enjoying using our imaginations). Along the way to the river, it seemed like we picked up a kid from each house we went past until there were 8 of them following us down to the river. I am feeling a bit like the pied piper in a fairy tale story but with children following me and not rats. I thought they just wanted to be with my kids because white children are a bit rare, but more and more I find them sitting by me and talking to me and coming to me when they get hurt. Once again I expected to be close to the BG children and I am, but I am surprised at how many neighborhood kids I am getting to know.

Anyway, once we were to the river, my kids and all the other rolled up their pants ( or should I say I rolled up at least 6 pair of pants despite having only 3 kids, hahaha) and waded into the icy water and then dug in the sand with the spoon and cups I had brought from home. Elijah and his friend Luky were digging a huge hole so they could make a mine. Faith found some clay and began rolling it into balls so she could collect them, Mercy was just digging in the sand and getting dirty (I know you are all shocked that my 3 year old would do that right), and then 5 of the neighborhood kids started sliding down the sand hill on the bellies. Wow did they get covered in dirt (those are the pictures I wanted to show all of you)! Then 5 of them decided to go farther down the river and strip down to their underwear and take a swim, brrrrrrrrrrr. My kids were not even tempted to join them and just laughed at how crazy they were to swim in the ice cold water. During this time one little boy just sat down next to me and kept smiling shyly at me while all the other kids played. I guess he just needed a little adult attention so I tried to give it to him even if he has no idea what I was saying ;) After an hour and a half at the river, we packed up and headed back to BG and as we walked by some of the kid's houses, they said goodbye and headed back home. We picked up a whole bunch more kids as we walked and they happily walked us back to BG.

As we were walking by one house, Luky told us it was his house and he is the friend of Elijah's that we have "employed." I saw a little girl who has been coming to BG's fence often and I asked him who she was and he said it was his sister. I think she is barely 3 years old! It made my heart happy to know that not only are we helping Luky and his older sister have food each week, but we are also helping this little girl have food. Elijah told me today that Luky said thanks for the big bag of papa we gave him yesterday because when he went to bed his stomach was full. It brought tears to my eyes then and it did again as I wrote that. Last week satan tried to paralyze me by the need around me in hopes that by my being overwhelmed, I might not be able to help. But God has given our family wisdom to help this family and Luky has been so grateful and thanked us each time we have given him his "wages" of food and school supplies. Thank you God for helping us, help him and I also thank God that although I can not help all 8 kids (nor the 30+ others who live close to BG) who were at the river with us, I can be their friend and sit with them, laugh with them, and cry with them. God is good!
God Bless You All,
Anita

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sharing My Day

Today was a relaxed day. The kids and I spent the morning with some homeschooling and I even got a little creative with their math and made a store for them. Both Faith and Elijah were working with money in their math books so I took a bunch of their toys and made them buy them with exact change. Faith struggles with adding quarters and tends to only pay with dimes so I had to be a mean store clerk and told her no dimes would be accepted for certain purchases. That worked!!! Naturally they had so much fun that they did not want to get back to regular school but wanted to play store for the rest of the morning. I'll have to remember to save my creative ideas for the end of school not the beginning, right!
Then we all went to tea time for a little morning break. When we finished our tea we went out to the playgroup and got all dirty in the sand box with the BG kids. The kids all love the sand boxes at Beautiful Gate and they sure can get messy. I had about 4 little girls and a little boy who I was tickling and chasing around when we were not in the sandbox. I love getting a good laugh out of the kids and they seem to like it too or they would not keep coming back for more! After playgroup, I made lunch and watched out the kitchen window as neighborhood kids ran and played outside the BG fence. There were about 8 girls who were swinging around and singing songs in Sesotho. Today I did not have my kids join them because yesterday I let them play out there for over 2 hours with a soccer ball and hula hoops and I did not have time to watch them again today (house needs to be picked up once in awhile right).

After lunch I read a few books with Faith and then had to help our roommate Laury unload groceries from the van. She shops for the children and staff at Beautiful Gate every two weeks. Then we unload the groceries and sort them into 4 piles for each house. Bryan, Laury and I fill up wheelbarrows and take the food to the houses. When the BG kids are outside, they often come up to the wheelbarrows and take things off so they can "help" and carry the items to the houses for us. They usually stop right in front of me and block my path for a long time, but they are so cute as they are eager to help with the "heavy load." After my last load of grocery deliveries, I stayed in the house for a few minutes chasing all the kids with some plastic animal toys and making the noises that the animals would make. I am not sure if the house mother appreciated me getting the kids all hyper, but I had fun ;)
I made dinner after that and then we ate dinner and all sat around (my family, Laury, Merline, and Jessica) talking and sharing a little dessert. We moved to the living room and talked a little while longer and Bryan, Jessica and I all had a kid cuddled up on our lap so we could keep warm. Mercy was so tired she fell asleep on Bryan while they cuddled. That was partly due to her playing rather than napping this afternoon. As I type this most people are in bed because I think they are so cold that going to bed is the easier thing to do so they can stay warm. It was 45.5 degrees Fahrenheit this morning and I think it is probably back to that now as I am writing because I have almost lost feeling in my fingers ;) I know this isn't an exciting post but I thought I would just share our day. It was a good day and I hope tomorrow will be good as well.
Good night,
Anita

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Birthday!!!

Happy Birthday to Beautiful Gate!!! Ten years ago today, Beautiful Gate was "born". It is amazing how many kids have received hope and a future since then!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"You did not do it for Me"

“For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:42-46

I am struggling desperately with these verses. The children that my kids have been playing soccer with have been coming to the fence each day for months now and a few of them are becoming good friends with my kids. One of them is a 12 or 13 year old boy who is an orphan but whose sister has been caring for him. He has no school shoes so he can’t go to school sometimes and he has started telling us that he is hungry. His sister lost her job at the factory so they do not have enough food to eat. He told Elijah his story and then we had a staff member talk with his sister to confirm that the story was true. The kids and I have made a plan where he will help us walk around the outside of Beautiful Gate once a week picking up litter in exchange we will provide him with a bag of food and a few other essential items (shoes, warm socks, etc). It is the best I can come up with so he is not forced to beg and can maintain his dignity. We have been told by many not to just give handouts because it strips away their pride and having him "work" for it will help him feel good about himself. But is it enough? He was telling Elijah today how hungry he was but there were 10 other kids with him so if I gave him food, I’d have to feed them all. If I feed all of them they will tell their friends and soon there will be 50 kids or more outside the gate begging for food each day.

I am praying for God’s wisdom in this situation but I feel defeated. I am overwhelmed by the need and by the desire to care for the least of these. What if Jesus was one of the kids asking for food and I said no because then I’d have to feed 50 kids? What if it was Jesus who did not have warm enough socks and I made Him pick up litter to earn the socks? What if Jesus was one of these kids at my door and I refused to help Him? I have such doubt that I am doing enough and I feel like running and hiding from the need around me. I think of the story of the boy on the beach who is throwing back starfish that have washed up on shore. There were thousands of them and the boy was throwing them back one at a time. A man asked him why he bothered throwing them back because he couldn't save them all. Then the boy picked up another starfish and threw it back and said it made a difference to that starfish (very paraphrased version of the story). But I can’t seem to think that way. I think what if I helped the wrong one? What if I helped one that could crawl back on his own, but missed the one who needed the help the most? Who do I help? How do I help? Am I pleasing Jesus or am I being selfish by not sharing more of what I have? As you can see I am struggling a lot right now with doing enough for God. The boy’s story above is just one example of many more I have seen and heard. Just writing this keeps bringing tears to my eyes so I will end this post.
Anita

Friday, June 17, 2011

Winter Struggles

Winter is setting in around Lesotho and unfortunately BG's social worker was right. She warned us that our numbers would increase when the weather turned colder. We have had several new babies added each week. Last week Bryan posted about the one day old and the one week old babies who were found. Yesterday we got a 3 month old baby. The mother died and the baby's father is unknown. The grandmother was unable to care for the baby so she gave the child to Beautiful Gate. We were surprised by how small he was for being 3 months and we have some volunteers here this week from Cape Town who have been giving him some extra attention for the past 2 days. Then we got a 5 month old baby this afternoon. His mother was shot last night and the police found him and brought him to the hospital and then to BG. He looks well cared for and it is so sad that he had a mother who was caring for him but then she was abruptly taken away. We are at 55 kids now and there were only 42 when we arrived.

The staff at Beautiful Gate could really use your prayers. There have been so many deaths of their loved ones this week. One house mother's brother died, a house helper had her baby prematurely and the baby died, another house staff's sister had twins who passed away, and one of our staff members became sick months ago and has been gone trying to recover, but last night she passed away. It is a time of sorrow and mourning for many staff here and they could use the extra prayer support. Many times, they just accept these deaths with a look of hardness because they are so used to death. But under that hard look, I wonder how their hearts really feel. To lose siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and children must be heartbreaking and it must hurt even if it does happen more frequently than I can fathom.

Winter here is hard on the Basotho people. There is less food in their gardens, not enough coal or fuel for the fires and sickness abounds. Many cannot care for their own needs so the needs of their children will go unmet. They will go hungry or be abandoned so the parents won't have to see them suffer. Tough choices...what will they do, how will they make it when there is no money and no jobs. Then they may be weak with lack of food and resources and sickness will invade and bring even more devastation to families. We are only in the first month of winter and I am a bit anxious to see what the next month and a half will be like, but please pray with me for the children who are out in the fields waiting to be found, for the staff who are mourning the losses of family and friends, and for the the Basotho people who are suffering with lack of food and work and also who are struggling with sicknesses.
Thank you for your prayers,
Anita

Monday, June 13, 2011

Distracted

Satan has allowed us to become distracted and bothered by things which are not important to our calling here at Beautiful Gate and in Lesotho. He has lied to us, frustrated us, discouraged us, etc. We have taken our eyes off Jesus and His calling and lost track of our purpose and goal. As I sat in church yesterday and really reflected on these past few months of waiting for our car and waiting for our boxes in the container, I realized that we have been wasting our time. We cannot control for a single minute when either of those things will arrive. And honestly, will they help me to better serve God here at Beautiful Gate? Will I be a better witness for Jesus because I have a car or because I have a comforter on my bed? Will I serve His purposes for my life better because we have more crafts and toys for the kids? As I thought through all of these things I realized something which I am sure is not profound to you, but it was for me.... It is just as easy to lose track of the goal and be distracted by worldly things and frustrated about things which we cannot control here in Lesotho as it was in Zeeland.

We still have our faith, our health, the resources we need to be warm and well-fed, and we have each other in our family, but we have not been thankful for those things. Instead we have been focused on what we don't have. We certainly are aware that we have much more than all the Basotho's around us and that has bothered us, but it did not bring us to our knees in thanksgiving the way it should. Most of our Basotho friends live in tiny one to two room cinder block houses and we are living in a great house. We have running water and though it is unpredictable and will run out on occasion or is cold, at least we have running water and do not need to go out and use a pit toilet when it is 32 degrees at night. We can use the Beautiful Gate truck once a week to get groceries and also on Sundays for church and only 2 of the 40 staff at BG even own a car! We have not been forced to use the public transportation yet. We always have more than enough food to eat and rarely have the same meal more than once a week and they eat papa and moroho each day. We have so much to be thankful for and our time would be better spent thanking God for what we do have and less time worrying about what we do not have. Sometimes God says yes, sometimes He says no and then sometimes He says not yet. My prayer is that we will please Him with our actions and attitudes while we wait for His not yet to be a yes.
May God help each of you in whatever it is that has been your distractions. May you persevere and keep your eyes focused on Him.
Anita

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Our Kid's Thoughts

"Yesterday me and the Beautiful Gate kids got to play soccer together. I brought my soccer ball to play group. My best friend at BG has a broken arm, and it made me feel sad that he has a broken arm (he fell off a swing). I wish he had not broken his arm. I was amazed at how fast he ran with his broken arm and he never fell. After I played soccer with the kids I came home and went into the fort my dad made and I rested." - Elijah

"I like to play outside when it is sunny. I like to see sheppards go by behind our house. My friend broke his arm. I am sad since he broke his arm, but my other friend is good. He didn't break his arm. He is not injured or nothing. I love playing with my 2 friends here at Beautiful Gate." - Faith

"I love to walk with the littlest kids in playgroup. There is one little girl that I like to hold hands and walk her to her house after playgroup. I am watching Snowball (our "adopted"outdoor cat) try to catch a bird. I love to pet Snowball and I love to watch Snowball hunt. I love love Snowball and the other cats here even Peanut when he is mean (that is the shy cat that hisses at the kids)." - Mercy

With Love,
Elijah, Faith and Mercy

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hope & Love

This week has started off very interesting at Beautiful Gate. Nothing has gone the way that I have planned, but my plans are small and insignificant compared to God's plans!


Yesterday, Beautiful Gate was called to receive two new children from Queen II Hospital. This is not uncommon, but 2 on the same day is a little strange. The first child was found abandoned outside just South of Maseru. It is one week old. The second child was found near a dam that supplies Maseru with power. This area has a lot of people walk by it. This child was found wrapped in clothes but still had not been cleaned up from delivery. I cannot imagine that someone gave birth to a child and immediately wrapped it up and abandoned it! The police came to retrieve the child and Queen II Hospital cleaned the child up and called the Department of Social Welfare. DSW then reviewed the children's cases and decided that Beautiful Gate was the appointed place for their future to begin. Seeing them wrapped in warm clothes and little baby clothes when they arrived, you would never know that they were abandoned less than 24 hours before. They are now a new blessing to one of our houses, where they will receive food, clothing, shelter and most importantly.....



HOPE, LOVE, AND THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST!



God has a plan for their lives and it will be interesting to see where they go and what they do! Sometimes I even envy that God gets to know it all and see how it all unfolds. The Lord has a wonderful plan laid out for them!



Today, God also brought together another divine intervention. An eleven year old girl found Beautiful Gate and asked for our help. Her mother had disappeared in South Africa and after the death of another "family" member, that "family" could not support her any more. So, they did the most unthinkable thing I could even contemplate... They dropped her off in the middle of the industrial area in town and told her to ask around about orphanages nearby. She spent the night outside and slept in the rain and cold weather. She didn't even have a warm pair of pants. In the morning (today) she asked many people going to work where an orphanage is. Someone must have pointed her to Beautiful Gate. Unfortunately, she is too old for us to take care of, so after some warm food and finding some warm clothes for her, Beautiful Gate took her to the Department of Social Welfare to find a "home" for her. My greatest fear is that she will go to one of the other orphanages in town and just barely have her needs taken care of. Sometimes I wish that Beautiful Gate would accept children 5 or older. It is heartbreaking to see children just tossed aside like that. Think back to when you were 11. Now imagine that your parents have left you and dropped you off in a strange part of town. You finally find a place of "safety" and they transport you to another "facility". I hope and pray that God will look after this young lady and find her a loving, caring, Christian "home".



But, in the midst of all this pain and sorrow, "these three remain: Faith, Hope & Love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corintians 13:13. I must have faith that God will provide for ALL of His children. I hope that there will be an end to stories like these. And I love seeing these children confidently embracing their future knowing that God has a plan for their lives.



God also has a plan for your life! Don't ever forget that God is always right beside you. All you need to do is ask for Him to fill your life and He will guide you through whatever comes your way.


Bryan

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Encouraging Moments

This week Bryan and I had a few encouraging moments and I want to share them with you.

The first is that I got to meet the little boy I posted about 2 days ago. My friend brought him over to my house and when he saw me, he made a little grunting noise and help his arms out to me so I could take him from her. It melted my heart that he wanted me to hold him and it also squeezed my heart with pain to see his swollen stomach and tiny arms and legs. He is so tiny, but he seems to have such a fighting spirit. He is a beautiful boy and holding him and seeing him brought me peace and encouragement that nothing is impossible for God!

Bryan had a major breakthrough in his relationship with one of the BG children this week too. For 5 months, he has been driving her to school and picking her up almost everyday. He always says hi and smiles at her and tries to talk to her and she NEVER talks back to him. It has always bothered him that she keeps her distance and does not seem to want to trust him so each day he has continued to greet her. Tuesday, when he picked her up from school he greeted her in Sesotho and she actually greeted him back! It may not seem like much but for Bryan this is a big step for her to begin to trust him.

My final encouraging moment that I am so happy to share is about a little girl I met 6 months ago here at Beautiful Gate. She was around a year old, and every time I saw her she looked depressed. She would not make eye contact and if I picked her up, she would go limp in my arms. I have not let this discourage me though because I was very concerned that she has detachment symptoms. Each week, I'd pick her up and she would continue to look away and go limp. I'd sit by her at playgroup, push her on the swing and on the merry go round, but she continued to look sad and never smiled or looked like she was having any fun. Last week, I saw her really smile for the first time and wow, what a reward to see that smile. Then this week on Wednesday, she put her arms up to initiate me picking her up. When I picked her up she smiled at me and did not go limp in my arms. Then I played with her and she laughed, real belly laughs and I just about cried with joy. I played with her again yesterday and she was the same way laughing when I chased her and smiling at me. I feel like God has given me the best gift ever with that smile and laugh. I am so encouraged that she is going to bond well with her new parents whomever they might be! They are very lucky because she is precious.
Anita

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Neglected Boy

My new friend is a nurse who volunteers at a different child care center in Lesotho, not Beautiful Gate. Sometimes she gets new kids in who are extremely malnourished and she and her husband will take them home and care for them until they are out of danger. They have also done this with very sick children. I admire their strength in taking these children to their home and nursing them back to health. After they have helped them, they have to give them back to the child care center where they have to hope the kids will get the food and care they need to thrive. Sometimes, the kids are too far gone and they don’t make it, so my friend always sends her husband in first thing in the morning to check if the child has made it through the night (I understand why she does this, but poor guy). They have beautiful hearts and are doing such a great job caring for the least of these.

A couple days ago, she and I were on a walk around Ha Thetsane (Our neighborhood). She began to tell me about a brand new boy who was brought to her child care center (and who is now staying at their house). This little boy is 2 years and 8 months old and he weighs 5.5 kg (around 11 pounds). I think that is about what my kids weighed within the first 3 months of their lives. HE IS OVER 2 YEARS OLD!!!! How sad that he has suffered so greatly at such a young and innocent age. His head is normal size and he has lots of teeth which is good, but his stomach is swollen from starvation and his legs and arms are so skinny with absolutely no muscle tone. When she held him and fed him a little milk, she was worried that he might be too far gone, but then she kissed him and he actually kissed her back and tried to give her a little smile.

Praise God that he has the will to live and to fight despite the neglect he has suffered for years. He was staying with the tribal chief in his village and why it took them so long to respond to his needs, we will never understand. Please pray that God can restore his health and protect him from the possible side effects of poor nutrition in the early stages of life. We already know how much God loves him because he has provided this couple to care for him and nurse him back to health. Pray for the Basotho people to look after and care for not only their own children but also those in their community. Please pray that God will convict them that if they cannot care for these children, that they will find someone who can and will. The neglect is heart breaking and shocking and I pray their eyes will be open to what they are doing to these precious blessings from God. Thank you for your prayers for him and all the other orphans and neglected children in Lesotho and around the world!
Anita