Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Real Africa

Before my time here was finished, I wanted to experience a bit of the “real Africa.” I love Cape Town, but it’s a teeming metropolis and has more of a European flair than anything. Not so Namibia. This week I enjoyed a short holiday in Etosha National Park, located in the northern part of the country. It’s a hot and harsh environment, and is said to be one of southern Africa’s best locales for wildlife viewing.

I saw pretty much everything but elephants and the big cats (lion, leopard and cheetah). From giraffes nonchalantly crossing the dusty roads right in front of me, to mischievous honey badgers having a party in the trash bin next to my tent, I loved every wildlife encounter. To see these animals in their natural habitat was one of the highlights of my time in Africa.
Etosha is also a place of quietness and peace. I have a t-shirt that says of South Africa, “No better place than a wide open space.” That could easily describe Namibia as well. Just a few hundred yards from my campsite was a water hole with an amphitheatre-style seating area for viewing the various animals as they wander in at dusk to eat and drink. As I watched steenbok, white rhinoceros and a lonely hyena take their turns, the words of Psalm 145 came to mind: “The eyes of all look to You, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (vv. 15-16).  

There’s a lesson to be learned for us humans. As far as I could tell, these animals don’t seem concerned about where their next meal or drink of water is coming from. They just go about the business of being who God created them to be. The Creator does the rest. If only we could learn to be so content.


Last Saturday I attended one of my favorite events in Cape Town all year. Carols at Kirstenbosch draws thousands to the national botanical gardens, where the amphitheatre is set against the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain. It’s not promoted as a Christian event, but story of the Messiah is clearly proclaimed from Isaiah through John, and traditional Christmas songs are sung by candlelight. The guest speaker reminded the audience that not only is Jesus the greatest gift of Christmas, but that He too wants a gift – the gift of our hearts. I can’t help thinking that in the U.S. – if such an event could even be held – someone would write a letter or start a petition or boycott the sponsor because it excluded people of other faiths. But here people simply enjoyed themselves, and as far as I could tell, took no offense. It’s a refreshing sight to one who hails from a land of political correctness.

Looking for Love ...

Sometimes a teacher wonders: Do these kids listen to anything we say? I found out last week that one of our Red Hill teenagers, a 15-year-old, is pregnant. Just five months ago she attended our annual Wait4Me concert and pledged to abstain from sex before marriage.

Sadly, young girls in the townships often seek their identity and purpose from men rather than God. An older teenage boy, or maybe a young man in his 20s, will come along and tell her she’s pretty. He promises to provide for her. She feels “loved” and gives him her body. Then she becomes pregnant, he disappears, and now there’s one more fatherless child and one more teenage mother with a bleak future. Not to mention the possible spread of HIV because this man has multiple sexual partners.

But the work must go on. The message must go out. The prayers must go up. Lord, please save these young people from a lifestyle of sexual promiscuity.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mixed Emotions

In just over a week, my South Africa adventure will come to a close and I will return to the U.S. The past 17 months have produced some of the most memorable times of my life. People ask how I feel about leaving. I find the answer is easy, but the emotions are not: My heart is split 50/50 – I’m excited to return home to family, friends and whatever God has planned in terms of a place to work and live; I’m sad to say goodbye to a lot of special people and to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 

There have been many goodbyes in the past week, including today, my last working in Red Hill. Mzo had the teenagers sign a poster for me. I appreciated all the comments, but one of my favorites was this insight from 14-year-old Gregory: “Thank you for teaching us about God. You are the best teacher. You are almost like a teacher.”

Well, thanks. I think.

On Sunday I’m off to Namibia for a few days of camping and wildlife viewing. I’ll plan on posting photos when I return.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Simply Splendid

Table Mountain has a summer “sunset special” in which you can ride the cable car to the top (and return) for half-price. What you save in cash you pay for in chill bumps – it’s frigid at 3,500 feet elevation when the sun goes down. But it’s well worth it for the views. A shout-out to my friend Natasha Hoffman for the spectacular images below.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tis the Season

Below are images from our Red Hill Christmas party on Tuesday. As the old saying goes, a good time was had by all – including the crazy dog Fox, who spent much of the afternoon determined to destroy every balloon on the property

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Breaking Despair, Bringing Hope

A teenage mother who named her child “No Hope” – then changed it to “Jesus Is Our Hope.” A young man who began a job as a gardener and turned it into a career in health care. Twin sisters who are taking a stand for Christ in a blighted community where He is desperately needed. Through the ministries of Living Hope, God has broken despair and transformed the lives of these people and many more across Cape Town, South Africa’s South Peninsula. Hear their stories. See their faces. Celebrate hope.

That’s the synopsis of Faces of Hope, the book I’ve been working on for nearly a year. Now, with three weeks remaining for me in Cape Town, it is nearing completion. The front cover, back cover and inside pages are in the final design and proofreading process, and we’ve identified a printer, an American company that specializes in high-quality self-publishing.

Living Hope will supply the money for printing costs. That amount that, Lord willing, will be recouped – and more – when the book goes on sale. (Target release date: February 28, 2011). Separate from the printing costs, approximately $1,000 is needed for graphic design services. If you feel led to make a contribution toward this amount, please email me for more information.

Stay tuned to this blog for updated information on the release date and how to obtain a copy. In the meantime, see the following post for an example of just one of these stories of hope.


Neziswa Mlahlwa has a vivid memory of her 2005 arrival in Cape Town. “I was hopeless,” she recalls. Unemployed and recently diagnosed with HIV, she faced a bleak future indeed.     

Then God intervened. Neziswa visited the health clinic in Masiphumelele and joined a Living Hope support group for HIV patients. She went to work for African Hope Crafts, a shop that employs people with the illness. She began ARV treatment and saw her health improve. Best of all, she received Jesus as her Savior after hearing the Gospel from Living Hope staff.       

“I told myself, ‘This is not the end of my life.’ I realized I have a responsibility to take care of my children,” says Neziswa, the mother of two sons, ages 11 and 13. “Living Hope has given me a lot of hope.”   

Today she shares that hope with clients of her own, having joined Living Hope as a support group facilitator in 2007. “I tell my clients they can live a long life if they have hope in God,” she says. “He is the way. They must let Him rule over their lives. That’s what I have learned. I can’t rule myself. I must let God control me.”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Suburban Safari

Think of camels and Cape Town isn’t the first place that comes to mind. It’s not exactly the Sahara Desert. But in the South Peninsula, where I live, there’s a little shopping and dining complex called Imhoff Farm Village that’s home to three camels. For months I’ve passed by them nearly every day and always thought it would be fun to ride one. A few weeks ago I finally did so. My mount’s name was “Lightning,” a wry reference to his leisurely pace.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Non-traditional Thanksgiving

Yesterday was a Thanksgiving I’ll never forget. First, my American friends and I celebrated the feast with our South African colleagues at Living Hope. Since they are unfamiliar with the tradition, we began the festivities with a play telling the story of the pilgrims’ first harvest celebration. Then we enjoyed the Thanksgiving staples of turkey and dressing, along with some uniquely South African creations such as breyani, a curried chicken dish with rice and lentils. With no NFL football to watch on TV afterward, we settled for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It was my also friend Danielle’s birthday, so to top it all off, we celebrated by going to dinner at a new Mexican restaurant in Cape Town.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Doctor Is In

In Cape Town, a prevailing southeast wind blows in spring and early summer. It originates way down in the Southern ocean and arrives at the Cape Peninsula at gale force strength. It’s known locally as the Cape Doctor because of its ability to purge the area of smog and otherwise foul air. That’s the good part. The down side is it’s extremely disruptive to everyday life. Walking becomes a struggle to stay upright. Dust and rubbish and sometimes even bigger objects get blown around. The noise is constant, even indoors. I can’t fully convey it here – it has to be experienced to be believed – but the photos below give an idea of its effect on sea and sky.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Last year I wrote about Totsi, a dog that hangs around during our afternoon kids programs at Red Hill. He’s a sweet dog. Fox, on the other hand, is possibly one of the most obnoxious canines to ever live.

“Foxy,” as the kids call her, lives next door to the Living Hope shelter and is naturally drawn to the excitement of children running around, laughing and playing. Some of the younger ones are terrified of her – she’s a pit bull mix – but thankfully she’s never shown any sign of aggression. She’s just a nuisance, always getting in the way, trying to steal food, wrestling with other dogs who wander by. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to kick her, but at the end of the day I try to live by the Golden Rule. Do unto others as  you would have them do unto you – even those who slobber on you.

Pictured below: Fox after a day of “helping” the LowCountry team with a painting project; and in a rare restful moment.  


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cape Creepy-Crawly

A handful of venomous snake species are common to the Western Cape of South Africa. When I lived here in 2008 I saw one of them, an ornery sort called the puff adder. (Click here to read that account.) I had really wanted to add a Cape cobra to my list of wildlife sightings. Last Wednesday I got my wish.

Like most people, I find snakes creepy, but I’m also sort of fascinated by them. The Cape cobra is perhaps not as well-known as certain other snakes, but it’s said to be one of the deadliest of the African cobras. I was with the LCC team on a sightseeing tour at the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwesterly point in Africa, when our driver spotted it crossing the road ahead of us. We stopped and got out for a better look. Not too close, of course – we gave it plenty of space to continue on its merry way through the dunes – but close enough to appreciate that this dangerous creature was at home in its natural habitat and we were merely visitors.a

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Face Time

It’s never a bad idea to remind kids of the importance of personal hygiene. On Wednesday we gave a short presentation on proper dental care and bathing. The day ended with some one-on-one time washing the kids’ faces.

Hands-On Ministry

The LCC ladies again had a great time of ministry in Red Hill this week. After focusing on discipleship and leadership last week, they began a three-day workshop on Monday to help the local women with sewing and jewelry making skills. One project was to make children’s dresses out of pillowcases. Lumka Malima, a Red Hill resident and Living Hope life skills educator, said afterward, “I never thought about taking such an ordinary thing and using it to make a beautiful dress.” Phillis Canda, a Living Hope support group facilitator, added: “The ladies are always coming to me and saying, ‘We want to sew.’ Now I can tell them, ‘Now you know how. You can do it.’”

The workshop was intended to lay a foundation for economic empowerment. With basic vocational skills, combined with instruction on how to market their products, they will have greater potential for income generation. This approach fits with Living Hope’s mission as a holistic ministry, addressing the spiritual, emotional, and physical/economic needs of its clients. Here are a few more scenes from the workshop on Wednesday, the final day of LCC’s visit to Red Hill:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

For Such a Time as This

God again used the LCC team in just the right time and place today. We went to Living Grace, the ministry arm of Living Hope that serves the homeless and destitute. Cheryl shared her testimony about how God delivered her from alcohol abuse, a story that clearly resonated with a number of people in the room. Then she, Maggie and Tracy – along with Lauren and Tammy, two long-term volunteers – helped the clients do some beading and crafting projects. This team is quite “crafty,” and it’s been fun to watch them use their creative minds and hands to minister to people. Here are a few scenes from the morning’s work:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Signs and Wonders

This plaque is posted at the top of Table Mountain, near the cableway station where visitors arrive and depart. It’s an appropriate expression of awe that one feels on this mountain. It’s also refreshing to see God’s Word unashamedly displayed on a national park site. I have no idea if there’s anything similar in an American national park. I have a feeling if there is, we would know about it, because someone would have been “offended.”