Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time with God's Children

Today was just amazing! On Wednesdays at 1:00pm the staff have a time of worship together (called Time with God) so they can pray, sing, and encourage each other with scripture. One of the leaders of the worship team decided to step out and left every third Wednesday open without a leader. The worship team's solution was absolutely perfect! Now every 3rd Wednesday of the month from 3:00-3:45pm any staff who wants to can take 45 minutes off work and just play with the children, hold babies and feed babies. House mothers can switch houses and play with the kids from another house (one house staff will always be in their own house though in case there are problems or questions). There are many staff who do this each day at tea time with the playgroup kids, but there has never been a planned time for all of us to meet together and play.

At 3 o'clock today we all met in the circle and sang father Abraham and did the motion and then listened to some scripture about caring for children. Then we split up and grabbed kids and babies. The office staff, preschool staff, maintenance men, my family and many of the house staff went all over the place playing with kids. I have never heard so much laughter at Beautiful Gate between the staff but also among the children. It was perfect and made me smile and feel content. It was like a miracle of team building among all the staff as well as bonding with each and every child. The staff were the hands and feet of Jesus today and it was truly beautiful.
I hope your day is blessed too,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

I never would have imagined that my life would be like this. First of all, I never would have thought that I would be living in Africa. Second, I never thought I would be a missionary. And lastly, I could never have imagined the people that I have met since being here.
I have met local Basotho people and new friends from countries all over the world. Today we had the opportunity to have lunch and fellowship with 3 other families from our church here in Maseru. One family was from Belgium, another from the Netherlands, another from South Africa and then our family (including Laury). It was a great time of learning about our different cultures and languages. But, I have to admit that South African hospitality is some of the best. We have also been blessed to meet a few other Americans (mostly with Mission Aviation Fellowship) at church and will be getting to know them more in the very near future.
Once again, this is just a small glimpse of what Heaven will look like, as there will be "people from every tribe and language" there. I look forward to getting to know all of them better and also meeting new people as well.
Thank you for your prayers and support.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

3 new Canadians on their way...

Today is a bit of a bittersweet day for our family. As much as we know that the children here at Beautiful Gate are only here temporarily, and are just awaiting adoption to their families, we forget how sad it is to say goodbye. Our whole family is feeling it today as we said goodbye to 3 children who met their mom and dad. Being there when they met was the most beautiful scene. It was so special to see the instant love of the parents for these 3 children that they have been praying for and waiting for, for many years. A dream come true, their family complete, and the joy was evident. Honestly we are so happy for them and we praise God for putting them in loving Godly homes. Today was also the first time I felt like I knew the families who were adopting. The mothers had emailed me a few times before they came and we were able to encourage and pray for each other. Then seeing them here ready to meet their new children was so joyful. The adoption process is a very long journey for some families and it was such a blessing to see them "in the delivery room" in a sense.

As we walked back home, Elijah said he was going to miss one girl so much because she is one of his soccer buddies. He even wanted me to run out to the store and buy her a soccer ball as a goodbye gift. He also said he was going to miss her brother so much too. Faith was sad because she and the girl used to do cartwheels together all the time and then just sit in the grass and laugh. She spent hours in the sandbox with both boys as well, building, cooking, driving and any other thing they could come up with to play in the sandbox. I am going to miss hearing the girl yell, 'Me' Anita COME! 'Me' Anita SIT HERE! 'Me'Anita Boooooook! And one of the boys is the sweetest most sensitive and shy boy I have ever met. They brightened my day every single day since I arrived at Beautiful Gate on December 6th. May God bless them and keep them and turn His face toward them and their families and smile on them.

I am thankful that God has placed our family here and that we have built relationships with the kids and are building relationships with some of the families as well. At the rate things are going here with adoptions, I am finding more and more reasons why I will need to visit Canada one day to see all these precious kids. And I am still praying for a miracle for one mom in particular who lives close to my hometown and has waited a long time for her son and several very special families in West Michigan who have started the process or are seriously considering adoption from Lesotho. From what I saw today and many other times since December, it is worth the wait, the anxiety, the financial strain, etc. Just don't be surprised when I cry when I have to say good-bye to your new children because I love all the kids here with my whole heart!

PS. There is peace in Lesotho again. The march on Monday was peaceful which was an answer to prayer. I do not know the outcome of anything that brought on the strike and the march. I do not know if the people will get a raise in pay, but according to our staff, it is very doubtful. I also do not know yet what has happened with the taxi fares. I do not know if they went from R4 to R5 or if it went from R4 to R10 which had been proposed. So while I feel like I have very little to offer in my knowledge of justice in wages and taxi fares, I will at least inform you that there is peace and everyone is back to work. Thank you for praying because after the protests and destruction that occurred last week, only God could have kept the mobs calm on Monday as they marched.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Toy Library

Today, I was struck by an interesting idea... my children's outdoor toys are becoming like a toy library. We have around 20 neighbor kids who come to our fence daily asking to borrow toys. I was very cautious in the beginning because I was not sure if they would really borrow the toys or if they would think I was giving it to them to keep. Thankfully 80% of the kids at least understand English so it has been working out. We have been sharing our soccer balls for the past 5 months (3 have been lost or popped and today they got to play with our 4th, we are going to need to require visitors to bring us a deflated soccer ball when they come visit so we can keep up with demand, hahaha, but recently we have been sharing our tennis balls, footballs, and hoolahoops. There are several younger kids who do not play catch or soccer very well so we have been giving them coloring book pages and a few crayons to color with.

God has given us a lot and it feels good to have a "toy library" so we can share from our blessings with those who have less than us. This method is especially nice because now we do not have to play any favorites by giving things to certain kids, but instead we share with them all. It is beautiful to see their smiles of joy when the toys come out. It is nice also because they do not come just to get the toys, they also ask for Elijah, Faith and Mercy to come and play too. Some days I let them walk around and play outside the fence and other days when I can not watch them outside the fence, they just play catch over the fence with my kids. Today we had kids here from 1-6pm. I let my kids play for a while outside the fence and then pulled my laptop outside and played some children's christian music while they all played.
Thanking God for creative ways to impact our community,

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quiet Weekend before the March

The weekend is calm and peaceful in Lesotho so we will be taking this opportunity to head to Malealea to do some hiking. It is a beautiful scenic place and we have never been there, but have heard that it is nice. I think only Elijah would be ready for pony trekking of our 3 kids so I think we will be doing some hiking on foot instead. Looking forward to some fun family time on a peaceful day.

There is another march scheduled for Monday from 10-2pm. It is suppose to be peaceful and their hope is to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, but once again we have been told to stay home. Bryan, Laury and Jessica will be leaving to head to Jo-burg, but they will leave before the march begins. The kids and I will remain at Beautiful Gate and pray for peaceful resolution.
Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lesotho Update

We wanted to update you all again with the situation that is here in Lesotho. Please read the last post for the first day of the "stay away" days for the factory workers. After that strange and eventful day, there was very little news yesterday, other than the occasional workers still picketing on the main street by the factories. There were two more shootings yesterday. And, protesters were pulling people out of their houses and beating them, if they were found to have gone to work. One of our staff had to dress in disguise so that he could make it to work. Beautiful Gate sent most of our staff home early yesterday so that they would be safely there when the tension level was set to rise (3-5pm was anticipated to be the most tense hours, as that is when the factories were to let out).
Today happily started off quiet, but we are not sending the van into town for fear of the protesters either injuring the vehicle or even shooting at our staff in the van. Sounds rough, but anyone that is perceived to not be following the "stay away" policy is considered to be against them. (Even though they would agree that an orphanage cannot stop its operations). We were also able to learn that the Government of Lesotho has turned off all public radio stations in the area today. This is unfortunate for us, as this was our easiest way to gather information on what was going on around the area. This has made some of our staff a little concerned, in that the government is starting to take away the "Freedom Of Speech" by shutting down the radio stations. Of course, we can get the one channel that is run by the Government. And, we are also able to pick up one other South African radio station. So, I am now having to listen to my drivers each time they are out and about in town to see how things are progressing. This is very tough, as each person can have their own opinions.
We have also heard that the Prime Minister of Lesotho has fled to South Africa. This is not surprising, as he appears to have sided with the Chinese factories all along and has not even made an effort at negotiations in this process.
Also today, protesters were being arrested and put in jail. But the worst part is that we are hearing that the judges are no longer hearing their cases at sentencing, so the protesters are just having to wait.
We have also heard that South Africa has sent representatives to assist the Lesotho Government with this situation. Hopefully they can restore peace and work towards peaceful negotiations.
Happily, Beautiful Gate has been able to keep a low profile through this and we have not had any incidences during this time. All our staff are safe and staying out of the politics (without being caught by either side). Today is also supposed to be the final day of the "stay away" protest. So, we are anxiously waiting to see what tomorrow will bring. We are still taking precautionary measures tomorrow, but are hoping to have some of the staffing issues return to normal.
I must say that I have learned a lot during this time! And Anita and I continue to ask you to pray for Lesotho and the situation. We know that God is in control and we pray that all sides will be heard.
Thank you for your prayers and support during this time!
Keeping you informed,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request

I almost did not post this because I don't want to alarm our friends and family, but prayer is very needed right now, so please know that we are being safe and cautious (and NOT leaving our house until it is over). There was a march and a stay-away protest/strike scheduled today in Maseru. The taxis (main and almost only transportation for most Masotho) are raising their rates and may even more than double the current rate which has caused fear and panic for the local population. They then planned this march/strike in order to let the factory owners know that they need more money so they can afford to travel to work each day.

We were told that while this is a planned and supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, it would be wise of us to stay home and not travel during the next few days. So yesterday, we bought enough groceries for a week or more. Today was the first day of the strike and it did not remain peaceful. Three people were shot and one was fatal. There were rocks flying and tires burning and they even created a road block at the end of our road to prevent either people or police from traveling by the factories (protesters made the road block, not the police). A few of our staff spent the night here so they would not have to travel through the dangerous crowds who had gathered to protest. Several others are pulling a double shift so that our drivers are not required to drive by the factories to pick up our staff. All this is happening in Ha Thetsane and that is where we are living so we ask for prayer that the strike will end soon and that no one else will be shot or injured in the next few days. I understand their desperation as they already make such little money and the taxi prices being raised is going to really hurt those who are already poor and barely making it. God is in control and I know He will care for these scared and desperate people, but pray for peace and calm as they make their statement to the factory owners and the government officials.

Here is the email from the American Embassy that we received;

As anticipated in last week’s security notice, crowds are gathering throughout the city, such as in Thetsane near the traffic circles of the industrial area and near the stadium in preparation for a march. The march is scheduled for today between 1000 and 1400 hours, and the proposed route is from the sports stadium to Main North 1, down Mpilo Road to the Moshoeshoe Statue.

The Embassy reminds you to take proper precautions when traveling, such as avoiding areas of potential intimidation, route of marches, and ongoing demonstrations. Avoid any large crowds/gatherings of people. Ensure you have alternate and tertiary travel routes. Carry your cellular telephone, and report all security concerns to the Embassy immediately.

Protesters have blocked Kofi Annan Road (Pioneer Road) near Maseru Private Hospital with burning tires, rocks, wire, and other improvised obstacles. This route should be avoided until further notice.

Thanks for your prayers as Lesotho needs them right now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Super Bo M'e

Today we had the funeral service for Nthatua, a 5 1/2 month old girl that went to be with Jesus. It was truly an honor to be a part of the service. We began the service with a couple songs as we followed the hearse down the gravel road to the cemetery. The men had already dug up the grave site and the casket was taken from the hearse and near the grave site. Three people were asked to recall moments from Nthatua's life. It was a beautiful time to reflect and see the love that she received from the staff at Beautiful Gate. Then the House Mother of Nthatua was asked to give her memories from their time together. At this point, the House Mother broke into sobbing and it spread through the crowd gathered around the site. She was not able to give testimony at this time, so another House Mother was able to speak on her behalf.

That was when I realized how much these House Mothers love these children. This is not a job for them. Each and every one of these children are just as important to them as their own children. These House Mothers are amazing women! I cannot imagine the "scars" that these ladies have. All the heart ache and pain from all the funerals of "their kids". Even the adoptions to "forever families" leaves a "scar". Even though the adoptions give each child a bright hope and future, it is also another goodbye for the House Mother. Today I was wondering how they do it.
And then I read the Bible in Ephesians 3: 17-19, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Nthatua was able to see a glimpse of God's love through their House Mothers. This is their calling. They are here to love every child that comes into their home. And they love each child so much, that they are willing to "give them up" to adoptive parents so that the children can be blessed even more. I cannot even imagine giving up my own kids to another person, and here they do it with the grace and understanding that reflects Jesus.

I thank God for that moment of seeing His love for us, through the work of the House Mothers here at Beautiful Gate. You never know where you will "see" God, but keep your eyes upon Him and you will be blessed at the most unexpected times.


Monday, August 8, 2011

A Mother's Love

Today I was reminded that I am in Lesotho, a 3rd world country where poverty destroys families. There is a little girl here whom I have loved on and worked hard to help her learn to walk. Over a month ago, she was reunited with her mother who had abandoned her when she was a baby. Today, her mother brought her back. She just couldn't afford to feed her and keep her warm. Seeing them together and the mother's anguish that she could not care for her child was heartbreaking. The mother wrote her daughter the most beautiful letter I have ever read and told her how much she loves her (I was tempted to post it but thought I should respect the mother who wrote it and the future family who will adopt this beautiful girl). She is not giving her up out of hatred or lack of love, she is giving her up so she can have enough to eat and a family who can provide for her. The letter is so heartfelt and the most wonderful gift she could give her daughter so she will always know that her mother cared so much that she gave her up.
Beautiful, heartbreaking Lesotho.
There have been times where I have wanted to hate these mothers who just abandon their children and leave them out in the cold where they can die or be hurt by wild animals, or leave them in trash bags or in a pit toilet. I want to yell at them about the way they are neglecting and abusing their precious gifts from God, and yet I feel the Holy Spirit pricking my heart to love them and to pray for them. I have tried to do that even before we came here to live. To try to put myself in their shoes knowing that the mother could be dying of AIDS, or she may have run out of food and can't bear to watch her child die of starvation. Today, God showed me one of those mothers whose love is pure and true. She may have done it wrong the first time when she abandoned her daughter, but this time she knew Beautiful Gate was here and she brought her to us and did the last loving thing she could do, give her to a family who can take care of her basic needs and so much more because she knew she could not and had to walk away in tears. This is a kind of love I cannot even begin to explain or feel because loving your child so much that you have to let go is unimaginable to me and I respect her and I love her and will pray God's peace for her.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Several updates

I just wanted to share a few updates with you. Mercy had her bandage removed and redressed yesterday and I am happy to report that there were no signs of infection. She has been so tough and brave and I am happy that her hand is healing up nicely. After 2 days of it being tender, she just got back to her regular old self and acted as though it never happened ;)

The staff member who inventories our donations was out sick for over a week and did not come to work to unpack all the boxes. He is back and so he and the 'Me' who is in charge of the baby houses have begun to unpack the boxes and inventory all the donations we have received. I asked Bryan to get a few pictures of them so he will hopefully have pictures of the mounds of donations soon.

Bryan and I received some really cool T-shirts that the Holland Christian girl's basketball team had made to support Beautiful Gate. They have done several fundraisers for Beautiful Gate as well and we wanted to say thanks. Also we received 2 donations this past school year from students at Zeeland Christian. One time, students did a pop can drive for us and collected cans from around Zeeland. If you know any students who are on the basketball team or at Zeeland Christian who have been involved in supporting us and/or Beautiful Gate, tell them thanks from us! It is so amazing when young students understand how important it is to help others and to care for orphans. Their love and service toward God are such an amazing testimony and example to all of us.

My last update is on the little baby girl who passed away. Family was located according to the police, but the family is either unsure the baby is theirs or may not be able to pay for the burial and service so may release her back to us. We do not know when she will be buried nor by whom at this point so we will keep you posted when we know more. The police are going to get back to us soon.