South Africa Series: Kathy McClure (part 4)

Giving Children Hope

Today we visited the Reagoboka Community Center. Much like the Maubane center I’ve been telling you about. This center feeds 181 children porridge before they go to school in the morning, and then has a EDC class of about 22 children ages 3-5. They also feed the children on their way back from school in the afternoon.

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Parents pay $5/month for their children to attend the EDC class. It costs less here than the $15/month at Maubane, because they have a small building already and are able to get a few government grants and stipends.

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After school is over around 1pm, the EDC children return home and the school age children are fed while they attend to their schoolbooks and homework. South Africa actually has a really good primary education system established with these workbooks and what they teach the children during the day.

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The municipality also installed the Enviroloo for the bottom part of the toilets. The TenDollarTribe through Help One Now paid for the construction of the top of the toilets.

Elizabeth runs the community center at Reagoboka. Tears filled her eyes as she shared about how she used to sit and pray every day for a bigger building to help these kids, and now God is answering that prayer!

You see, Elizabeth, is the daughter of “Gogo”—an elderly Grandma who has prayed for years, and still lives on the property in Reagoboka. Elizabeth has seen Gogo live out her faith and is using the talents God has given her. It is because of her gift of administration and management, and because of how God has miraculously moved through unique fundraising supporters, that Reagoboka is where it is today.

In order to get stipends and grants from the municipality for an Early Childhood Center, you need a building. In order to get a building, you need money. You can’t continue on with the grants, until you have an inspector come and give you the go ahead.

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They are currently half way through the construction of the next building, which will be much like the building under construction at Maubane. It is a blessing that Maubane and Reagoboka are so close in proximity because the buildings can be constructed at the same time. When the cement trucks come out, they go to both locations. And the kids love to see these big trucks that are so rare to see! You can see in these pictures that the roof has been poured. 

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The next step is to finish the skylight, walls, windows and all the furnishings. The skylight will be burglar proof and very similar to these skylights in the current children’s room.

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Abba’s Pride is another organization that the Take Action team supports. This group comes in and trains the teachers on how to organize a classroom, what toys to use and when, and so on. They provide more valuable training than the actual training one must take to receive their ECD training certificate. To give you an idea of the children’s day:

– Served Breakfast

– Morning Routine (calendar, weather, etc.)

– Child Development (this month’s topic is fire safety)

– Nap from 11am-12noon

– Lunch and the parents pick up the children

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Each teacher must continue their education training once per month. At this they learn how to have patience, love the children better, and so on. Take Action is very pleased with the Reagoboka teachers because they are so good at applying what they are learning. 

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We were fed a delicious and authentic South African lunch of bogobe (porridge), morogo (spinach and potato mash), chakalala (beans and vegetables) and kgogo (chicken).

Foreign food can be scary, but I can’t begin to tell you how delicious this food was!! I especially loved the spinach/potato mix and the beans!!! I could literally eat it at every meal.

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This afternoon we toured two different homes. There are no words for their poverty.Their position can easily feel hopeless. If they take a taxi to Pretoria (2 hours away because of taxi switches), it will cost them about $17. A days wages for being a gardener or house servant would only be about $30. So half of their wages goes to transportation. If they don’t have a job they can get a grant of about $35/month but they must stand in line for 3-4 hours once a month to receive their pay and go through a lot of paperwork.

The Reagoboka Caregivers (a team of ladies that goes out into the community to help households like this family and check up on them—kind of like our social workers only they serve the family too) has given them blankets, given them vision, guidance and encouragement and has helped them learn the skill of budgeting. Now instead of spending their money on food right away, they are able to allocate savings for things they need to buy, like beds.

South African Words I Learned Today

“buck – ee” – pickup truck (in Afrikans)
“robot” – traffic light (in Afrikans)

FYI: I am not going to try to spell the actual word in their language!
Just pronounce it like I wrote it above, and you got it! 🙂

-Kathy

Written: 9.14.16

 

South Africa Series: Kathy McClure (part 3)

A Girl With No Name

Today we had an in-depth tour of the Maubane Community Center we were at yesterday for children’s church. The community center started with Pastor Norman and a small tent. Ten children originally attended. Along the way Pastor Norman has moved from the tent to a building, a home and then finally to the grounds the community center is on now. And through it all he took 22 orphans off the street (at different times over the years) and raised them as his own sons and daughters. We asked him his vision for the property, and his response was he has a vision to transform the community.

One of his sons, Terry, currently helps at the community center leading singing, playing piano, helping with the kids, digging ditches—doing whatever is needed! When we asked him what his vision is for his life is, his response was that he wants to transform people. For many of us advocates, it begged the question, how many people do we know who would have that same answer?

One of the first things they added to the property in the past few years was the playground that Lisa Jo Baker had the vision for!

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They also installed two toilets on the property. The Take Action team did a lot of research to get something that would be efficient and not cause more work or problems for the community. The team chose to install the Enviro Loo which creates stabilized waste that is odorless and free of any health hazard. And you don’t have to empty it – ever! They have a pretty neat how it works video and explanation on their website!

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The basketball court is used for both basketball and netball. Netball is a version of ultimate frisbee and basketball. The girls netball team is becoming really good and it is a great way to get girls participating in the community center, plus it keeps them off the streets.

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The ECD (Early Childhood Development) Center is in the process of being built. As soon as they finish the building, they can start receiving grants based on how many kids are learning there. Once the building is completed, they can also get stipends for caregivers, about $1.60/day/child support, and even receive teacher training and other furnishing necessities like chairs and fire extinguishers.

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When we were in the building they asked us to imagine their vision as they mapped out where the kitchen would be (to make the porridge I showed you yesterday), the pantry (to store the bags of pooridge), a roll-up window where they can serve the food, and a large open area for the learning center.

To give you an idea of the numbers, they need $35,000 to complete the building, and $12,500 to purchase the furnishings including cubbies, chairs, etc.

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Currently they are using a small room to get an ECD class started. As we talked about yesterday, it wouldn’t be good in their culture to give anything out for free, so the class has started with about a dozen kids who pay $15/month. Parents who send their small children to other daycares, if they would send them at all, pay $20-40/month.

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Linah and Letty are the teachers. Linah lives about a 5 minute walk away from the community center and has two children of her own. Neither of the ladies have any training, but are being trained by the Take Action team slowly, and were asked to be teachers based off of their involvement in the children’s church and how their heart for the children is already showing there.

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The team is really impressed with the ladies. Every time they are given a note of improvement on what they are doing, they have put it into action the next time the Take Action team comes back to visit! For instance, last time Take Action visited they asked the ladies to get down on the floor and do puzzles and play with the kids. Today when we peeked in the classroom, that’s exactly what they were doing!

(South Africans don’t naturally stimulate their kids, so this is a process of transformation that Take Action has a vision to help them with!)

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Each member of the advocacy team a little gift box to give each of the children. I gave my box to a sweet little girl and helped her open it. The teacher later told us that this little girl had just showed up to the class this morning. They didn’t even know her name or where she came from, but they took her in as part of the group for today. We were able to determine that her name is Dineo (pronounced ‘deh-nay-o’). They will find out later who her parents are.

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After we left the community center in Maubane we headed to the Take Action Distribution Center. This is where they receive all the items that are passed their sell-by-date from the grocery stores, the bags of pooridge they distribute to all the different communities like Maubane and more.

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Here’s a quick and neat God story for you! The center received a fridge donation a few months ago after stating their needs in a business meeting. A few weeks later, the center was asked if they could use even more grocery store donations. Yes of course they would take them!!! That very next morning, without anyone else even knowing about their sudden increase in donations and need for more refrigerator space, that same local business called them and said they had another fridge they weren’t using. God at work!

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We had planned to enjoy our evening at a nearby game reserve, and on the way there we saw these alongside the road! Then we had dinner just before the safari tour and found these roaming the grounds!

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I learned so many interesting facts about the animals on our safari, like how it takes 4-5 lions to kill a buffalo, but you can probably look up those fun facts online. And since it is 11pm here and I need some sleep (we are 6 hours ahead of you in EST), we’ll keep the facts short. Perhaps when I get home I can write a post on the blog with some of those details and the photos I took with the telephoto lens!

Just to keep you excited, we saw elephants, giraffes, monkeys, zebras, buffalo, impalas and more!

Pssss…Crystal shared a video of the elephants on her instagram. My video didn’t turn out so well because I kinda dropped the phone as it got close to our jeep and we weren’t sure if it was going to charge us or not! 🙂 You can see my jeep in the background at the end of the video clip.

South African Words I Learned Today

“buck – ee”      –     pickup truck (in Afrikans)
“robot”          –         traffic light (in Afrikans)

FYI: I am not going to try to spell the actual word in their language!
Just pronounce it like I wrote it above, and you got it! 🙂

-Kathy

Written: 9.12.16

South Africa Series: Kathy McClure (part 2)

There Are No Words

This morning we visited the Maubane children’s church. Pastor Norman started this church with a small idea that quickly grew into 400 children attending every week! He is now the overseer of the community center in this village of about 15,000 people who live in poverty.

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What I love about this community center and Take Action’s vision is that the locals are being equipped and empowered to show Jesus to the locals. Locals are developing a sustainable church.

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They warned us that the children at the Maubane Community Center would need to be loved on. They don’t have much touch or cuddling in their homes, if any at all, so no matter how out of our comfort zone it felt, we were asked hug them, touch them, and love on them.

As soon as we arrived and walked through the gates, we were swarmed with hugs and children running and grabbing our legs. The one child hugged me so strong, I first thought she was going to knock me over and then I wasn’t sure if she was ever going to let go. Folks, the emotions are so strong when this happens. I became a flood of tears, completely unexpectedly! “Do-may-la” I said again and again—which means “hello, how are you?”

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We marched around waving our arms, singing, making a train and doing chants. Then the group divided into smaller groups by age. This was the story time and also when we began to hand out the pooridge, clementines, and juice boxes.

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At first I was surprised there wasn’t more Bible teaching and story time. But as I reflected on it more and more, and thought about the discussion we had on the way there with our driver about what the church really looks like, I realized they are showing the people Jesus by loving them, worshipping with them, and feeding them. I’m still processing it all!

These kids wouldn’t have any breakfast without this meal. It still amazes me that everyone in the community doesn’t show up for the free food. But I guess it goes to show how strong the witchcraft and other religions are to them. When I asked if they would eat anything all day, I was told that they would probably have ‘pop’ for dinner. I thought they meant soda!! But ‘pop’ is their word for pooridge. 🙂

After the kids were fed, Dawid (pronounced “dah-vid”) and “Em-Poh”, showed us the agriculture progress. Dawid does not have an agricultural background but he has a heart and a vision to use agriculture to show people the gospel. (He is a white South African.) This guy is authentic! I wish each and everyone of you reading this could hear his heart in person.

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He started training “Em-Poh” only a few months ago on gardening, and today he had “Em-Poh” share with us everything they are doing. I love Dawid’s vision to find someone who is excited about learning, latch on to them, and then equip them to do the work, in order to create sustainability. Dawid could have shared the details with us, but instead he had “Em-Poh” do all the talking!

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Dawid shows the people that if we are faithful nature is sustainable. If we take care of the land, add the nutrients it needs, it will produce a crop. If we look after the soil it will look after our plants. This teaches the locals that it is hard work but it pays off. If we are lazy there is no reward, but faithfulness is rewarded.

Dawid takes a mentorship approach versus a classroom approach. Before he started teaching them, he planted dozens of spinach plants in his own backyard to learn how to do it. As he learned, he taught them what he was learning. He walks alongside them, but does not do the work for them. It is a process, just like discipleship is a process.

So how do they get started? If they get 100 people interested in farming, they work to narrow it down to about 20 who will be dedicated and show commitment. That way they only invest their time and teaching to the 20 who are ready to commit. By weening the others out, Dawid feels that the other 80 will be reached—as they see the lives changed of the 20 who committed.

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Here is a little example. When Dawid started with “Em-Poh” he had “Em-Poh” buy some seeds from him. Because if you give, the culture is such that they expect to be given to again. “Em-Poh” planted the seeds, cultivated them and they grew. Dawid taught “Em-Poh” how to harvest the plants and save seeds. Now “Em-Poh” sells seeds to the locals. Do you see the circle? How they are becoming a sustainable society that will eliminate poverty?

As Dawid is training these locals in agriculture, he is also discipling them. He can begin discussions like, “If we are doing agriculture God’s way, then how about doing marriage God’s way?”

Did his wisdom hit you as hard as it hit me? How exciting it is for me to see this in action, in first-person here in South Africa! Talk about being a part of something more! Something big! But it does take time. It is a process.

Here’s a quick photo summary of how they need to prepare the ground for tomatoes. First, they have to dig a ditch. This ditch is 15m long and takes at least a day to dig. Many locals drop out at this point, as this seems an impossible task. But again, I love Dawid’s wisdom. What is his response? He tells them, work for only a half hour every morning while you are strongest and can get the most work done, and soon your job will be done!

Once the ditch is dug, they pour out old tin cans to cover the bottom. Remember we are preparing the soil for tomatoes, and tomatoes need iron.

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Then they layer wet and dry grass. The wet helps with the dryness of the region, adding a little moisture to the soil.

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Followed by a layer of chicken manure and cow manure. “Em-Poh” fluffs it with a fork and then puts some of the red soil on top.

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Then they add another layer of wet grass, dry grass, manure and red soil. With proper watering (about 5 liters a day through a special drip irrigation system), this soil should last 3-4 years before they would need to dig the ditch again.

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Tomorrow we are going back to Maubane and will see the children’s school that is there. We’ll also be visiting the distribution center that receives all the donations from the local grocery stores (things that have met their sell-by-date). And to end the day off at sunset we’ll be taking a break and driving through the game reserve hoping to see elephants, giraffes, and more!

 South African Words I Learned Today

“Kay – ah – le – boch – ah”      –     Thank you! (in the tongue of the Maubane)

FYI: I am not going to try to spell the actual word in their language!
Just pronounce it like I wrote it above, and you got it! 🙂

-Kathy

Written: 9.11.16

South Africa Series: Kathy McClure (part 1)

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Kathy McClure, a friend of ours at Grace Church, recently returned home after travelling to South Africa on an advocacy trip with a ministry called Take Action. Kathy documented her trip through an email newsletter and after reading the first one that Pastor Ivanildo forwarded to me, I thought: I HAVE to ask her if I can share these to our Grace Church family. Over the next week, I’ll be sharing Kathy’s letters back home from her time overseas and I hope you are as blessed and encouraged as I was reading them.


I made it to South Africa!

It’s so exciting to email you from South Africa! I hope to email you a very quick email every evening (South African time – which will probably be your afternoon).

On Thursday, I had a flight from Philadelphia to JFK, followed by a 6 hour flight to Amsterdam. That flight went pretty well. Our layover in Amsterdam was about 4 hours, and from about 2am to 6am (our time). I met the rest of the advocates and they were shocked that I packed everything into a carry-on and my backpack for the trip. 
Having only slept about a half hour at that point, I could tell I was tired, so I fell asleep immediately as I boarded the flight to South Africa. Literally, I remember sleeping through takeoff!!

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The 10 hour flight to South Africa started ok, but I will admit I was taken off guard when I looked at the flight tracker thinking we were half way through and we had actually been flying only two hours.

The KLM airline fed us multiple times and the meals, in my opinion, were excellent. I couldn’t believe how fresh fruits and veggies were used! I felt like I was eating healthier than at many restaurants! For one of our snacks we were given the choice of ice cream or crisps. (I later found out that crisps, are potato chips.)

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While there were movies on the flight, I found the flight tracker to be incredibly entertaining! I now know that we flew at about 600 mph and at an altitude of about 40,000 feet. There was even a cockpit view!

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By the end of the flight, I was exhausted. Quite honestly, I felt horrible. I knew I desperately needed sleep. Before I crashed on my bed, I had to take a picture of this incredible view above. I definitely feel like I’m in Africa when I wake up!

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We had a leisurely morning at the Lodge as we enjoyed a South African brunch, introduced ourselves to each other and learned about the Take Action team and what they do. It was inspiring to hear how so many families have literally given up their lives and corporate, well-paying, careers . . . sacrificing everything, to serve where God needs them. God is doing the work, and they are His hands and feet. I loved how the one lady said, “We act out of obedience, because often our faith is not big enough.”

Tomorrow morning we will be traveling to a small town to the north to attend a children’s church started by a local South African named Norman. They said it will be very hot and dirty, but they did recently get chairs for us to sit on – so that’s good! Over 400 children walk to attend this children’s church every Sunday and they will just swarm us when we arrive!

I am sure I will have dozens of photos to be sharing with you tomorrow!

-Kathy

Written: 9.10.2016