Nine of us arrived on Wednesday February 22nd, somewhat jet lagged.  We spent the afternoon having lunch near the beach and then promptly passed out around 8PM.  We had a wonderful driver named Francois that Hendre helped arranged and he made sure that we did not get lost and were on time to our meetings.  Madi Van Staden arranged for 2 lovely flats near the church so we had one for the ladies and one for the men.

On Thursday, we met with Charlie Johnson, a missionary from Global Life Works and toured Kayamundi, a local township. We got to play with the kids in the preschool and walk around meeting and praying for people. In the afternoon, we met with some of the local teens and heard about their vision and dreams.  It was a great time of connecting.

On Friday, Barrett Orteg, Elizabeth Byrd, Oliver Perry and I spent the day with Dewaldt’s youth mentoring team (Dewaldt is the youth pastor at Stellenbosch Gemente, one of the largest churches in South Africa with 4,000 members) and Madi Van Staden’s staff from her Make A Difference (MAD) ministry which provides educational opportunities for underprivileged youth doing day 1 of ACCD’s new Transformational Leadership training.  It was a very powerful day and the staff was quite participative and responsive.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team, Linda Costa, Sonya Gereghty, Hank Vance Jr., Alicia Long and James Green went and visited the 6 patients that our nurse from Global Life is working with. They sat and visited, inquired after their needs and arranged to bring food, water etc.. back the next day.  They visited the local bead shop where the women in the community work to support themselves.  They arranged several meetings for the coming week to visit and volunteer at a few underground child care facilities that are overworked and understaffed.  They also drove a mom to the hospital to see her son who has AIDS (he is only 4) and has been hospitalized for 4 months.  It was an intense reunion and we brought her back the following week to spend a few days with her boy.

On Saturday, we completed Day 2 of the Transformational Leadership Training and got excellent feedback from the participants.  Great testimonies and stories of transformation!

The rest of the team brought groceries to several families without food and prayed with them.   In the afternoon, we all traveled (with Charlie and his soon to be adopted son Yamkela, (who is 8) to Pringle Beach and met pastor Theo Geyser and some of his staff.  There, we enjoyed fellowship and fresh lobster, caught that morning and cooked on the beach.

On Sunday evening, I spoke at the teen service to about 70 teens and young adults on the topic of identity and God’s name for you.  After the message, we split into 6 small groups and our team went out to facilitate discussion for another 30 minutes. During that time, a young South African woman named Ingrid came up with tears in her eyes and introduced herself.  She is 22 years old and about to finish the first round of medical school.  She shared her story about how God met her in the midst of her own teen confusion and rebellion and called her name.  Her vision is to work in the community and provide medical help to the impoverished areas.  I talked to her for awhile and then walked her over to meet Charlie Johnson.

On Monday morning we drove into Kayamundi and brought groceries to several families and some candy to give out to the kids.  It is amazing how little people have and their general attitude of faith and gratitude.   Then, we drove around the coast to see the penguins.  South Africa has the only tropical penguins and they live on the beach near Simons town.  It was a long and gorgeous drive along the coast.

Tuesday morning we went back to Kayamundi with Charlie and picked up the mom who hadn’t seen her baby in months to take her back to the hospital in Tigertown (about an hour away).  We stopped off at the grocery store first and bought food for her stay at the hospital and to share with other families there.  The hospital provides food for the patients but often the families who come and stay with loved ones don’t have the finances for provision.  We prayed outside for God’s anointing for our time there.  We walked in and were waiting for the elevator when a young lady with a cart rolled up.  The team engaged her in conversation and discovered she was heading down to the children’s ward to do crafts.  We asked if we could come and help and she said “absolutely!”  So, half the team went with her and the other half went upstairs with the mom and the food.  When we got upstairs, we saw many children sitting alone in metal cribs.  We bought the mom to the room with her son and he jumped and squealed with joy. Last time we brought her to visit, the team took a photo of them together, had it printed and framed one copy for the mom and one for the boy to keep when the mom had to leave.  We gave them the gift, and the little boy hugged it to his chest.  We stayed and passed out food – roast chicken, bread and boxed juice.  I spent time with one little baby who didn’t make a sound for an hour.  He or she just sat up, wrapped in a blanket, looking out with beautiful brown eyes.  If anyone got too close, the baby put his/her little arm up to cover his/her eyes.  I have never seen a baby be so quiet for so long.  Elizabeth started playing with a little 2 year old boy, blocks and trucks and taking pictures with her digital camera.  (Elizabeth has a gift of starting spontaneous games with every child we encountered along the trip.  She is truly amazing!)  When it was time to leave and we got up, the little boy burst into tears and cried so loud that we all almost cried too!

That afternoon, we had lunch with the staff at Theo’s church.  Lots of ministry opportunities opened up with the Make a Difference program. MAD is a 3 year old program that Madi Van Staden runs which provides funding for education, through college level, for underprivileged children.  The program makes sure that each child they take on can be fully funded through college before they accept another one.  They currently have 35 kids enrolled.  The Legacy program, that Louise from the church runs, is a sister program providing mentoring for these young people.  Madi is really interested in hosting a GAP Youth Training next year, combining youth from the church and the MAD program.

On Wednesday, we did an all-day training for the young people from the church and the MAD program.  We had about 30 teens, a mixed group and it was wonderful.  Sonya and Barrett facilitated the day, with the support of the team.  The theme again was identity in Christ and God’s name for you. Sonya shared her personal testimony which was powerful and anointed!  The teens loved the day and we saw plenty of transformation in the hours we were together.  One highlight was meeting a set of 15 year old twins, Tessa and Jonathan, who were orphaned and lived as wards of the state. These two were SO powerful and passionate.  Tessa wrote the following poem at the end of the day:

 “I think life is a miracle

I think life is a chance

I hope chance is a vehicle

That drives you far from your past.

God is my hero but I also have my fear

That one day when I wake up

My brother won’t be here.

You see, I believe in God to save us,

To cure us and to love and sometimes

I just sit and wonder is God really up above?

I know he has given me his life

I am sure he’ll give it once again

He shouldn’t take one step just

Help me walk all ten

God has rinsed me of all evil

And has filled me with all good

I want to know my purpose like

A tree is cut for wood.

I know God will never leave me.  It sounds

Simple but it’s true

I’ve trusted Him my whole life and I hope you do that to.”

The feedback from Wednesday was incredible and there is a huge open door to come back and be with the youth there! We are planning a possible mission trip later this year and a GAP in Feb/March 2007.  Linda Costa, who is the director of missions on the GAP board, will be coordinating this trip with Elizabeth.

Thursday morning, Linda, Elizabeth and Oliver went with Madi to look at some possible GAP camp sites.  I had a meeting with World Vision and the rest of the team slept in a bit.  At one we went back into Kayamundi to donate money and support Precorious, which is the local bead shop where ladies in the community make and sell jewelry.  We also stopped by the clinic there and dropped Hank off to spend some time with the doctor and nurse.

On Friday morning, we stopped by the church to say goodbye to Theo and his staff.  Then we went out to Pneumatix, a local school of ministry that provides degrees in pastoral care, creative arts and a host of other areas.  The founder, Cois, is a good friend of my friend Hendre Coetzee, who lives in So. Cal.  The school is located about 20 minutes outside of Stellenboch and is a full campus with dorms, class rooms etc.  They are very involved in Transformation Africa and the Global Day of Prayer.  We headed back into town, had an amazing late lunch, complete with wildebeest, warthog, kudu, springbok and the traditional Africa side dish pap (pronounced pop) which is a combination between grits and polenta.  We were joined by Madi and also Ricky Cupido, who is a pastor from the local Vineyard fellowship. The restaurant we were at, Sosati, had only been open a few months.  We noticed a dedication at the bottom of the menu “dedicated to the Alpha and the Omega”.  The owner and his wife knew Theo and were very friendly and welcoming.

On a side note, during our entire trip, the area was experiencing constant rolling black outs, about every three hours, lasting from 2 to 5 hours, without warning.  On the way out of Theo’s office on Tuesday, Linda and Oliver were stuck in the elevator for about 10 minutes until the generator came on.  Almost every meal at a restaurant was interrupted with a loss of electricity.

Bear in mind that we would regularly find ourselves stopping and praying for people, often ones randomly met in restaurants.  Sonya has a gift in that area and is quite an enrollment machine! Ministry literally unfolded wherever we went and God is revealed agendas and opportunities beyond what we could have planned.

Before we left, I believe that God said that this trip would be a ministry to others and to the team as well.  The first day, we decided that each day, we would select one member of the team and it would be ‘their day’. That meant, lots of encouraging words, sitting wherever they wanted in the van, picking out where we ate meals and a time of prayer and prophetic words for them in the evening.  These were powerful times for us all.

Additionally, I gave each member of the team $250 of the money we raised to sow into the community however they were moved to during their time in South Africa.  At the end of the trip, we had donated to the MAD project to help with tuition and tutoring, to Charlie’s ministry in Kayamundi, to school tuition for Charlie’s son Yamkela, to our driver Francois for his continued studies, to the bead project in Kayamundi, and to a few specific families in Kayamundi.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many members of our team traveled back for a season. It is a beautiful and contrasting country.
-Jean-Marie Jobs

What if there really was no where to go? If death and devastating loss were such a reality that the space most people allow in their lives for mediocrity was nonexistent? If there was just life and just death? Nothing else? What if we were a people who really knew that without God, the devastation that we try to avoid is simply the life that we are already living. When love is the only option for survival, fear is eradicated and The God who completely embodies this four letter word becomes King. He becomes refuge, freedom, a smile, all of our lost children and family, our burnt down house and the food we’ve never been able to feed our dying. And then, just before our cup runneth over, He becomes we. HE becomes WE. He becomes WE. And, church is born. There really is dancing in the street. There really is dream in the souls of abused orphans. There really are miracles. This God of love is real.  A place to rest your head is real and His arms are real. This was South Africa. This was not a mission’s trip. It was an option. A choice if you will.
-Sonya J. Gereghty

This trip was full of the presence of God combined with the opportunity to serve and know others.  The trip was overflowing with revelation of God’s love and kingdom.  What stood out most for me was the principle that is illuminated in James Chapter 1.  “Consider it pure Joy when you face trials and temptations of many kinds.”  As I looked into the eyes of the people of Kayamundi, as I watched them walk in joy, and as I saw them relate to each other in love I was astounded by their choice to live with joy.  Most of the circumstance was drastic need, disease ridden and stuck, but in spite of the circumstance I saw the people live out this verse in a very real way.  I was humbled by their love and attitude.
-Barrett W. Orteg

South Africa is an amazing country.  For many years I had hoped for an opportunity to go to Africa and was thrilled when the opportunity arose not only for me to go, but to serve while I was there.  I knew God was calling us there and I was excited to see what things he was going to do and teach me through the time there.  I didn’t have to wait long to find out.  God reminded of the unique gift each of us is to the world, including myself.  I looked around our team and I saw each member play an integral part of reaching out to those we were there to minister to.  Some had a way with the little ones, others with the teens, and still others with the mothers who had lost children to sickness.  Some of us were gifted at singing, others at dance, and still others at public speaking.  I also noticed how each person we came in contact with was as well as incredible and unique gift to the world and specifically to us.  I saw powerful courage and strength.  I saw true joy and deep, passionate tenderness.  I believe though the most intense time for me on the trip came as we were leaving a hospital one day.  I had been playing with a little guy for about 30 minutes.  We had taken pictures, built with blocks, played with a dump truck, giggled, and laughed.  And then the time came to go and his eyes swelled with crocodile tears and as I had to walk away he began to scream.  It broke my heart as I thought about how desperately he longed for the one on one time with someone who was devoted to loving and caring for him in a way that spoke to his heart.  Isn’t that what we all want?  And it was in that moment I was reminded of how God is our refuge, lover and protector.  He longs to be with us in that way if only we are willing to rest in him and stop trying to do it all on our own.  I am so thankful for those few minutes with that little guy and I hope one day to see his beautiful smile again.
-Elizabeth Byrd

It seems to me that there’s a reoccurring theme God has playing out in my life for the past couple of years.  It’s brought great amounts of joys and pains but amazing all the same.  It is simply “Trust me” and usually nothing more, not why, how, when or where. No specifics.  I’m a detail oriented person, so, I like to know what I’m getting into most of the time so I can help myself and possibly others have the best experience. So, the vagueness of the communication sometimes gets a little annoying.  However, I know from experiences that His way is the best way despite my arguments to the contrary.  I knew I was supposed to go but not really why. Now, I know.

I experienced love, community, servant hearts, the Holy Spirit moving about and a joy of a people that I dare say few others ever experience in the same amount of time.  I saw places where it seem at least by American standards townspeople had the right to complain about and despair in their circumstances of poverty and even disease.  However, I realized that walking in the streets of Kayamundi that though my eyes saw what should lead to despair my heart was not experiencing it with the folks that live there.  That was quite a quandary for me that reminded me of how Americans could seriously take note of this in many ways.  I experienced the hopes and dreams of visionary youth and leaders that reach far beyond their circumstances.  I even got to have several conversations with several single women that I fancied that left me even happier as a Christian.  It seems that my declaration as a Christian to them added value and credit to my conversations with them.  It was refreshing to be experience people welcoming that title with comfort rather than something less like what I experience all too often in Nashville.  The children were so ready to love and be loved, the youth were so open to God’s word and shared with me their hearts along with several adults.

It is clear to me already that God wants me to go back too. Why and when I don’t know yet but God’s got it and He’ll show up in those South African faces again.  I just know my new and older friendships affirmed who I am as a man of God and left me yet again basking in the knowledge that Father knows best.
-James Green

Early in the trip I keep hearing about the MAD (Make A Difference) ministry and I wanted to hear more. Then during the youth leadership training I was invited to sit in with a small group of young leaders involved in the MAD program. I began to ask more about the program and heard one leader after the other describe the impact that mentoring has had on them and the kids they mentor.

One of the ways God seems to be moving in this ministry is in pairing children with mentors. Whenever there is a new child that enters the program someone in the church volunteers to be their mentor without meeting the child and consistently they have been a perfect match.  Many of the children that are in MAD come from Kayamundi, which is a township near Stellenbosch, and have lost one or both of their parents. The volunteers in MAD build a relationship with each child and raise funds to provide for his or her education. I was able to talk with some of the teens in MAD during the youth training. One girl that has been in MAD for several years is now in college and while she is still connected with a mentor she is also a mentor to a younger child.

I was inspired and encouraged to see this generational transfer from a young woman who is still in MAD and already giving back through mentoring a younger child. I sowed the full $250 US, which is about $1,500 Rand into tutoring for High School students in the MAD program. As it turns out, they did not have a budget for tutoring this year even though it was a need. Several students would have been held back another grade without tutoring. Now they have a budget to work with and those kids have the opportunity to graduate with their peers thanks to all of our sponsors.
-Oliver Perry

I am writing to thank you for the incredible opportunity of traveling to South Africa with you and this dedicated team.

What I loved best about our trip was seeing how God showed up!  How many times did God open doors for us for”ministry in the moment?”  I feel like everywhere we stepped, He had gone before us to prepare the way, orchestrate a meeting or an opportunity for us to minister or be ministered to.  That was wonderful!

I appreciate the diversity of experiences we had on this mission trip. Visiting the township of Kayamundi, meeting the people there, many of whom were sick, poor and living in one room shacks.  Then understanding the strength and courage that they have and how even with so little, they are generous and kind to others.  Their courage and determination will stay with me. It was an honor to meet the people of Kayamundi, to bring them food and visit with them. Thanks to Charlie for introducing us to them.

Meeting with the youth of Pastor Theo’s church and the staff was great.  I enjoyed getting to know them and experience what it is like to live in their world.  I know they received value from the workshops, youth service and conversations we had with them too.

Now of course I cannot end this without thanking God for: the beautiful children we met, the richness of the giving we were able to do, the hospital visits, the food distribution and the future opportunities for ministry.  Also, the zebras, ostriches, baboons, penguins, the beauty of the beaches and the mountains and rolling hills around us, eating crayfish fresh from the sea… kudu, wildebeest, snails and many more interesting foods will also be long remembered.  What a trip!

Thank you God!
-Linda Costa

This trip was a eye opener for me. It was amazing to see the such a depressed area, stricken with aids, Stds’s, TB, and extreme poverty yet despite all this there are a large number of the citizens that get up every morning praise God for all they have and put a smile on there face. I was also honored to work along side Charlie Johnson who has such an inspiring heart for the people of Kayamundi. I am very excited about going back for future missions work because there is such opportunity to serve. I also got engaged to the love of my life Alicia Long while we were there!
-Hank Vance, Jr.