Gap Youth Services

Africa Trip – February 2010 – TESTIMONIES

do I put into words what this trip has done for me, the team, and
the people that we served? My name is Gary Demian. I accepted Jesus
as my Lord and Savior about 2 yrs ago. I married the most wonderful
woman I have ever met 6 months after accepting God into my life,
then did Breakthrough a few months later.

In November ’09 I was invited to join
in on a mission’s trip to South Africa. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed
immediately driving to our location. I saw the poverty in the houses
that some of the people lived in. During the time in Kayamandi,
we engaged with children and adults in a number of exercises. The
kids opened up and shared their lives with us. Family, secrets,
trust and honesty were just a few things we learned from these children.
Seeing the children and hearing about their daily lives and the
struggles that they go through on a daily basis was humbling to
me. I witnessed many kids, whose lives are so hard, being able to
play and engage with us and other children. When they were in that
moment of play time, it was like they were able to forget and put
aside everything that is wrong, and just be in that moment. I saw
a joy that you can’t experience unless you are there watching it
unfold. It was inspiring. I left South Africa with a whole new perspective
on life. I’m committed to appreciating all that I have and been
blessed with, being vulnerable with the people in my life. I will
reach out to friends and family when I need help, just as I asked
the children and people of Kayamandi to do with me. – Gary Demian

South Africa was a wonderful opportunity
for me to expand my definitions of hope! I was truly touched by
the children’s generosity and abundance. The wanted so badly to
share themselves and did so courageously. I was moved by how optimistic
the kids were in the face of having so little. This caused me to
consider perhaps my hope is actually based on the “things”
I have rather than Christ. In some ways I thought these kids and
their families have a faith that is more “real” than mine.
They have very little to call their own and sometimes they don’t
even eat, yet despite these circumstances they give themselves to
life when I might have given up long ago. I was particularly touched
by the workers who were giving their lives to create opportunities
for the teenagers and help them stay away from danger and harm.
The trip was worth every penny after day 1. It was so calming to
tangibly meet the needs of others and stand with the youth of Africa
to rescue their country and rewrite a new legacy for their children
and grandchildren. – Amy Maxwell

As I sit here now thinking back over
our trip to South Africa, I get a sense of awww and am humbled at
all that God was able to do during those two weeks. I had the priviledge
of counseling the staff at one center after a 27 year old single
mom of 4 died of aids. The staff in their discouragement wondered
why they were doing the work they were doing. I also counseled young
girls who were raped and worked with house mothers in two safe houses
set up for children ages 0-4 who had been raped or abused. The overwhelming
feeling of hopelessness and despair was present as I sought God
for a way to speak into these lives in such a short time. The love
that the staff poured out to those they came in contact with is
a gift, the gift of love that only God can give. Once the staff
realized how much of a gift they are, they were encouraged that
God had gifted them with such a responsibility as this. In a country
where women are considered to have no value until they are married,
The 27 year old single woman was considered an outcast, unwanted
and shunned by her community, however, in her last days, she experienced
God’s love, that she was worthy of touch, worthy of God’s love.The
staff spoon fed, bathed, changed her diapers and loved on her when
no one else would. This experience, challenged my complaints, challenged
my sense of entitlement and gave me clarity of purpose and vision.
In my own strength, I can’t do what God has called me to do, but
in His strength, my weaknesses are made strong. I feel that God
showed me that rather then complain about what I don’t have, use
the gift that I do have and walk it out. Thank you for all who gave
of your love, prayers and finances to make this trip happen. Thank
you for the gift that you are. – Cheri Meadowlark

Excerpt from a letter from Ati,

“My friends and I will remember
you when you go back to America. I wish I had a long time for you.
I will be kind and loving to each other. And I will be responsible
to you and worthy. I’m trusting you and my best friend Todd. I love
him. I wish in the holiday of June, I want to go with Todd in the
United States of America. I will remember you, my friend Todd”.

When I am a away from home for any given
time, I miss many things. My own bed, where the sheets and blankets
are soft and warm. The dining room table, where I eat, pray, and
look out the window over green grass and watch the cars go by. My
bathroom, my toilet, my carpet, my leather chair with its’ matching
ottoman which I prop my feet up when I watch the Olympics on my
TV. My coffee maker, my refrigerator, my lamps, my skis, my truck,
my pictures, my plants, my towels, my own toilet paper, my piano
that I don’t know how to play… The list goes on and on.

Now I have friends in South Africa.
And I can’t help wondering “If they ever had the chance to
go on vacation… What would they miss?” Would it be their
40 square foot house, their corrugated steel un-insulated walls
with no windows, the hot, dark afternoons sitting alone, parentless
with the fear of being taken and sold, dirt floors, fabulous plumbing,
the stray dogs that over time have become the same breed, the treacherous
ankle breaking, washed out alleyways that only a rock climber could
appreciate. Would it be the man killing chickens everyday in front
of the day care shack or would they miss knowing at least 1 murderer,
1 thief and 1 rapist on a personal level?

We walked through this community on
the first day and we were greeted with smiles, hellos and thumbs
up. When we were working at the legacy center, we heard “good
work, nice job, and thank you” from the other side of the razor
wire. The children, in the midst of, what we would consider a prison
environment opened their arms and desired only to bless us with
the beauty of who they are. We experienced hope and saw God working
from the inside out, one child at a time.

Being part of this team has been a great
honor. It has thankfully forced me to appreciate what I take for
granted and the entitlement that I so often enjoy. – Todd McNeive

This was my third time to South Africa.
It is always a profound, beneficial, and blessed experience for
me far beyond the reach of my ability to articulate. This time was
special as it had been about two years from my last visit. To see
the township of Kayamandi transform as it has (i.e. the building
of a medical training station atop the legacy center, transition
facility, foundational homes, etc.) and to consider that perhaps
even in some small way the participation of our GAP missions has
contributed to this – PRICELESS. The day before we commenced our
training with the youth I had a group of familiar faces run up to
me screaming my name and immediately engaging in conversations pertaining
to a workshop on purity and vision we did there almost two years
ago – PRICELESS. To have two young gentleman who participated in
a GAP training in South Africa over four years ago help facilitate
this workshop – PRICELESS. Thank you to all of our friends that
are supporting GAP missions and know that your sowing has reaped
and continues to reap a legacy of faith, hope, love and eternal
significance to the country of South Africa! – Robb Farrell

“Jesus keep my life and protect
our lives; I will go and keep looking to you all the time.”
As I walked into the Legacy Center classroom, in Kayamandi, these
are the words the children sang. I was amazed at their perfect harmony,
at their smiles, and the zeal in which they sang. They were so excited!

Listening to their songs, and later
as I watched them play, I found myself wondering what they could
be so excited about; after all, this is Kayamandi. Kayamandi: a
township built of poverty, shacks, trash, broken families, rape
and violence; all things seemingly unexciting. As we took a walking
tour through the streets, my heart was not ready for what I saw.
There was trash strewn for miles creating an incessant stench where
ever we walked, thousands of metal shacks, children who did not
own shoes, toddlers walking up to you hungry for affection. This
wasn’t a world I was used to, and there was definitely nothing exciting
about it. I had so many questions. How was this possible? Who could
anyone allow such poverty to exist? I became angry. Who stands up
for the people of Kayamandi? Where is their justice? What did the
people think about living here?

Soon, I was matched with a group of
7 girls, my small group. They were quiet, at first, but began to
open up as we worked together more. We talked about trust and secrets.
They shared some of their secrets and spoke of the death of parents
and friends, violence, rape and fears. They told me their hopes
and dreams for their futures; college, doctors, lawyers, social
workers, teachers. They are striving to make a difference in Kayamandi.
There was no anger as they spoke, they were not caught up on the
negativity apparent around them. They didn’t live in bitterness
toward adults, a system, or a government that had failed them. Whether
they were playing jump rope, singing, or sitting talking about life
and the future, they lived presently in the moment they were in.
How precious is the ability to simply be present? I quickly realized
there was a lot for me to learn in Kayamandi. Naturally, I am not
one to sit an embrace each moment. In my world there are deadlines
and meetings and lots of things to do. Unfortunately, there’s been
little time to connect with those who matter most. No time to truly
give of myself, unabashed. This is not exciting.

Yes, Kayamandi has many social wrongs
and I soon understood that it was in my ability to be present with
them, instead of bitter or angry at flawed systems, irresponsible
adults or at what was happening around them that would make the
most impact. In being present, I found that I could offer them something
that my anger could not, hope. I realized that there is a simple
joy in being excited for the moment. That is exciting!

I miss the kids in Kayamandi and think
of them often. What’s happening in their world? Have they eaten
today? Have they kept their commitments to themselves and to each
other? Are they continuing to take stand for their future? Are they
safe? Were they able to take the lessons given and tuck them away
to build a better future? Did they learn as much from me as I did
from them?

I pray for them constantly and hold
on to the hope in my heart for each of them. Hopefully next year
I’ll be able to go back and serve in Kayamandi. Jean, Amy, and Robb
along with everyone else on the team made this trip the greatest
experience of my life so far. – Chantal Monique Duson

This trip to South Africa was incredible.
From walking the streets of Kayamandi to discussions within my small
group, every part affected me in a profound way. One of the things
that really stood out to me was the love the kids had for the team
and their simple joy. I walked onto a playground at a school and
was immediately swarmed by over a dozen kids, kids I had never seen
before, yet they embraced me like a close friend. Looking into their
eyes and seeing the happiness in their wide smiles, and love for
each moment was a profound lesson. I have become so much more grateful
for every moment I have and for the opportunities and blessings
in my life. And like the kids who were so quick to love, I have
learned to love more freely and enjoy the moments I have. – Allen

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