Lions and tigers and bears…NOT!

3/15/11 Tuesday

8:00am  SA
1:00am AL

On the road again…it is sobering to know that we will be on the asphalt for two solid days. Yikes.

Today is Tuesday.  I feel as though I have lost the weekend.  We arrived at Kruger Park on Saturday morning about 9:45am.  This was not the most ideal time to look for animals, but that fact didn’t hamper our excitement.  Immediately upon driving into the gate we saw some animals: impalas.  They are beautiful animals.  We stopped and I ooohed and aaahed, and then Peter mentioned that we would be seeing lots of them.  I didn’t want to believe him, as I felt we had a real find.  But he was right.  He/we began calling them “ushers”, the implication being that the ushers are the first people you see upon entering a church, and there are normally plenty of them, but THEY are NOT who you came to see.  We saw lots of ushers!

So we drove on.  I definitely will not give a blow by blow of the next two days, mainly because I cannot recall every detail.  It really is just a blur of bush and animals, so I will give a general description.

We are riding in an Isuzu 4-door truck.  We are all fairly comfortable.  Peter normally drives but, since Tim has his international drivers license, he takes over occasionally.  For most of the trip, Alyssa and I have been in the back seat, Tim and Peter in the front.  Alyssa and I are covered with pillows and sing a lot.  I have taught her a few songs much to Tim and Peter’s chagrin.  She loves “My hat, it has three Corners”, “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza”, and “There once was a farmer” but I have limited their “playtime” to once a day.

BUT, we left the pillows in the back of the covered bed as we entered Kruger.  In Kruger we rolled down the windows and drove slowly looking for any creatures that may appear on the sides of the road.  I must admit that looking at the bush for long periods of time was rather draining.  I felt hypnotized, mesmerized and trancelike for those long periods of time.  We were covered with dust and getting perpetually sunburned amidst all the sweating. Tim and Peter were very good at spotting the animals and I finally got the hang of it.

Among the first animals we spotted were the elephants.  They would kind of just appear…almost as if their grey color camouflaged them by appearing as shadows.  They were so much bigger in person than I expected and we saw several of them at different points of the few days we rode around.  I loved watching them pull down tree limbs with their trunks and eat them like salads.  It is no wonder that the bush does not have tall trees as the elephants knock them down so easily.  We saw the baby elephants, too.  Yes, they are cute!  At some points were as close to them as 20ft.  It was an adrenaline rush, for sure!

We saw some hippos far away in the river but they liked to stay low in the water kind of like the crocodiles.  The crocs didn’t excite me much as I had seen so many alligators in the states.

My most desired animal to see was a giraffe and it wasn’t long before they, too, appeared.  They are H-U-G-E and we were so close to them…amazingly close.  They would walk up to the car and observe us just like we were observing them.  Then some zebra might randomly appear behind them.  I got a great pic of a zebra appearing between the giraffe’s legs.

By mid-morning, as it was growing hotter, the sightings of the animals grew sparse so we resorted to bird watching.  MOST of these birds I did not even know existed and they were stunning.  We stopped every few yards for me to take “just one more pic.”  During the heat of the day we would stop at one of the fenced off areas where they had restaurants, overlooks and pools.  Peter and Alyssa swam and I took a nap. Not sure what Tim did…I should ask him!

Then, by about 2:30 we were back in the truck again. By about 3:30-4:00 the animals were moving again.  By the end of 2 days I was worn out and opted out of the bush exploration on day 3.  Peter and Tim trudged on without me and even went on an evening safari with a group last night where they finally had their much-desired sighting of some LIONS.  Tim’s regret is that he chose not to take the camera on the evening ride, so alas, no still photos of the lion (Peter did get them on video, so there was proof!)

All in, during those three days we saw: Impalas, Elephants, Giraffes, Cape buffalo, Zebras, Baboons, Monkeys, Kudu, Hippo, Rhinoceros, Hyenas, Wart hogs, snakes, porcupines, iguana, Crocodiles, Rock lizard, birds (eagles, vulture, lilac crested rollers, horn bills, secretary birds), mongoose, wildebeests, ostriches, and lions.

The equally wonderful aspect of this Kruger outing was our host family, the Flemix’s.  Arthur and Ermine home could not have been more beautiful nor their hospitality more gracious.  (The Flemix’s daughter, Michelle, was Peter’s father’s personal assistant at the Lighthouse for several years.  Her parents were close friends of the Snyman family.)

The Flemix’s own a furniture company called FFG (Flemix Family and God).  They buy furniture and sell it to the people in Mozambique.  Mozambique’s border can be seen from their home, as can Kruger Park.

They showed us to our rooms (KING BED for Tim and I!  Woo hoo!) Arthur then mentioned that he hoped he had not overstepped his boundaries, but he had planned a Braii (rhymes with BUY).  Now a braii, as I explained a few weeks back, is a cookout where one cooks many different types of meat.  The Flemix’s garden is rather large with many types of fauna, trees, and pathways.  In the middle of it all is a big stone pit (looks almost like an alter!) where Arthur was preparing coals for the meat.  Ermine and I chatted while Tim and Peter and Alyssa went swimming.  Pretty soon the meat came out: lamb chops, chicken shish-kabobs, and boerewors (sausage). They had another covered area that had two tables and a serving area.  Ermine had prepared stir-fried vegetables.  Needless to say, we were starving and were so grateful for the grand meal.  We loved chatting with them about the Lord.  They were so full of life and joy and they were genuinely glad that we were there to fellowship with them.  They had left their church only a few months before because of the legalism.  Their town is so small so there were not many other options for church.  (Before we left this morning we prayed for opportunities for fellowship for them.)

Anyhow, their home was beautiful.  She is a decorator so every inch of the house had a story: the furniture, the art, the books and the keepsakes.  It was a feast for the eyes.  Arthur took me on a tour of the garden on the day I stayed home.  Ermine formally did landscaping and had in intricate understanding of the plants, trees, and design.  She had an oriental part of the garden complete with coy fish, a Jewish garden and a few other garden areas.  Everything was green and lush.  Their growing season in this part of South Africa is year round, though things flower seasonally.  She had 3 azalea plants, one of which had plum-colored leaves…wish I could have brought it back for my yard.  The garden had lots of lizards and salamanders.  They had spotted a black mamba skirting across the tops of some of their plants once and had captured three python which they let loose at Kruger.  Ew.

Oh, this part of South Africa, including Kruger Park is a malaria zone.  The Flemix’s have something like Glade Plug-ins in each room that kills mosquitoes in their home and they keep a can of spray out and use it continually.  Oh, yes, all of us are on once-a-week Malaria preventive medicine, which we will continue to take till mid-April.

Anyhow, the Flemix’s were so gracious.  An inspiration.  They fed us extraordinarily and each meal (and tea time) had a colonial feel about it.  Ermine always used a tablecloth for her properly set table.  Her domestic, Emma, came “with the house.”  She shows up each morning at 7:00 and works till 3:00.  Emma is illiterate but works like a machine, cleaning up after each meal.  Whoa.  That took a bit of getting use to.  She also tidied our room.  Though she didn’t speak English, she smiled in our language.  Beautiful.

After our second day in Kruger, the Arthur and Ermine met us at the gate and led us to a little place for pizza.  Well the “little place” was about 7-8 miles down a very rocky road…we all mentitioned that this pizza must be VERY good for them to go down this road.   I must admit that I was NOT crazy about going to a restaurant since I had sweated, ridden in dust, took a nap on the ground and just felt, uh, sticky!!

Well, as we arrived we read signs that said, “enter at your own risk. The big 5 can be found here”  WHAT?!?!  The place was a private resort that overlooked a watering hole at Kruger.  WE met Michelle (the Flemix’s daughter) and her husband, Bernard.  We all sat on the balcony overlooking the watering hole.  When we arrived Michelle pointed out the bathing elephants and the kudu (or were they impala!?)  And then the sun started setting…wow…it was surreal!  I was like a kid jumping up and down from the table, taking pics of the elephants and the sunset intermittedly.

Arthur ordered us some fruity drinks (sans alcohol!) and we sipped them and enjoyed the final moments of day light.  The pizza (foccacia) was well worth the drive and then they insisted we have dessert, too! (How could I say “no”?)

Our relaxing time there quickly came to a close.  Ermine gifted me with a home-made beaded necklace that she owned but wanted me to have.  She also gave me two books: one on cantering across South Africa, the other on true-life mysteries from Mozambique.  We hugged and blessed and bid our farewells.  Arthur promised that they would come to visit us in Montgomery within two years, so hopefully a few of my 12 followers will get to have the joy of meeting them, as well!

We got on the road about 7:30am and traveled till about 5:00, went to a mall for supper and then met up with Kenith in Bloemfontein.  He, too, is a friend of the Snyman family and was a most gracious host for the 11 hours we were with him.  He lives in a townhouse and it was masterfully decorated.  All the pieces of furniture were different from each other, but he had a way of tying them all together to make sense.  He also had quite the eye for art and had some beautiful pieces.  YES, I took pictures of his pictures.  They were so inspirational.

Today is Wednesday and it is 7:15am.  We have been on the road for one hour but there is a lot of road construction so who knows how long the remaining 1100Km will take….

Back to they Snyman’s at 6:15…12 hours on the road.  We saw black headed sheep, regular sheep, cows, ostriches, goats, horses, donkeys, and baboons on the trip home.  What an animal Kingdom FEAST we have had!

Charlotte’s brother, Jonathan, is in town for a few days.   We all ate some chicken and potatoes for supper and then watched American Idol…it was nice to chill for a while and tomorrow we hit the ground running again!  Woo Hoo

Swaziland: an education in expectations

3/11/11 Friday

I have stepped back in time.  I am sitting in one of 9 anorandak chairs under a cypress tree, overlooking a vast view of trees, gardens, mid-20th century buildings and enjoying the cool breeze…oh, and a young man, whose name I cannot pronounce, just brought to me the tallest and largest stemmed glass of iced water.

This stunning place, which we woke up to this morning, was worth the 15-hour drive that it took to get here.  We arrived at 9:45pm last night.  The last 20km was up the side of a very steep mountain and on a very rough road.  I was thankful that it was pitch black dark (a sweet gift from God) so that I did  not have to face the cliffs on what was a very narrow road.

But first things first.

We got up about 6:00 on Thursday in Lesotho to begin what we thought was going to be a 9 hour drive.  We told Maba that we didn’t want breakfast, as we would get a “quick bite” on the road.  We bid our farewells and were out of her driveway by 6:40am.

We were out of Lesotho pretty quickly (customs, etc.) and on the road.  The trip was yet another stunning feast for the eyes.  The panoramic views change quickly, each possessing their own unique characteristics, yet each breathtaking. Pictures will never do it justice.

We finally found a little place to stop and eat called Ionia.  It just happened to be Africa’s LARGEST cherry plantation.  It was quaint and cute and good.  The owner insisted that we taste the cherry liqueur before our meal (it was de-lish) and then we purchased many cherry type foods: chutney, jam, shortbreads, candies, etc.  It truly was a memorable experience…but, it took 2 hours (not our fault: they were slow!)  The sweet lady looked at our map and gave us an alternate route for our trip for which we were thankful.

Finally, we were back on the road again and, before we knew it, we were headed into the Golden Gate National Park.  Of all the views that we have seen, this was the most spectacular.  Peter sped thru it like a racecar driver, as the roads were good for that!  We gasped, exclaimed, praised and oooohed and aaaaahed.  That only took about 30 minutes and was the highlight of that very long journey.

The rest of the journey was consumed by MANY stops for road construction, some lasting up to 20 minutes each.  As we got closer to the South African boarder we were relieved but realized that we still had quite a bit of the trip left.  Customs was an experience (had to dig out computers and cameras and record serial numbers!?!) and some of the folks just weren’t nice!  Swaziland customs was crowded and not as progressive, but when we told the lady that it was our FIRST time in her country and on her continent, she rose to the occasion and was a bit nicer.

We had to stop along the way to get final directions to Bulembu and the only place open was a bar.  The gentleman knew exactly where we were going so he gave us good directions.  I have already written about our last leg of the journey so I will begin with our arrival.

When we finally got to the top of the mountain, the whole village was asleep.  We followed the signs to the Lodge (where we had reservations) but it was locked.  Suddenly (!) a gentleman with a flashlight appeared and he fetched another man who checked us in and took us to our villa.

Our villa (circa 1960ish) was filled with windows.  It has 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, a kitchen, separate living room and a dining room as well as a laundry room with 3 very-much-used sinks. The people who managed the mines originally used these villas.  The whole thing possessed a plantation-like feel.  We all headed to our respective bedrooms and slept very soundly.

The next morning Peter rose early to look for Dennis, our contact person.  He found him and he (and Vernon) sent word back that they would wait breakfast on us.  We hurried and to get dressed and went to the Lodge dining room.  The pictures will have to describe it but it was nothing short of charming.  The doors of the restaurant opened up onto a veranda, surrounded by a garden.  We ate inside on nicely set tables.  Everything looked pristine and perfect.  They had a wonderful coffee bar and our hosts offered us some before we began chatting.

Dennis and Vernon took the time to explain how this former thriving mining town with 10,000 people had dwindled to a couple hundred when the mine closed in the early 90’s.

Bulembu was an old mining town and was, evidently, “hopping” in the mid-1900’s.  It was set up like a plantation complete with a plantation estate, a private country club, cricket field, soccer field, volleyball court, tennis courts, pool and stunning gardens.  There are mature trees everywhere: avocado, cypress, blue gums, pines, as well as climbing flowering vines, birds of paradise, hibiscus, daisies, huge multi-colored hydrangeas, butterfly bushes hostas and many other varieties that I have never seen.  When you have your windows open you can hear the birds but I only saw a few of them. I was told that there are monkeys in the trees but they escaped our view as well.

Anyhow, to make a very long story short, some investors purchased the town (about 2005, I think) after several babies began to show up when word got around that they would be taken care of here.  These businessmen have it set up to be self-sustaining.  They produce and sell honey, bread, bottled water, timber, and arts and crafts.  People are busy working everywhere: builders, bricklayers, road-repairmen, aunties (caring for children), managers (managing the various parts of the village and its unique purpose) as well as cooks, waiters, waitresses, maids, etc.

They have 130 babies now, the large majority that was found in garbage or toilets.  Then there are toddlers, preschoolers and children of all ages, all who are cared for in facilities that are set up like homes.  The ratio for preschooler care is 2-1/2 child to one caretaker.  Pretty impressive.  As they get older and are set up in homes, with the care-ration being one “aunty” to six kids.  As they get older (18) they are set up in transition type homes.   The mothers of most of these children had AIDS and have died or are unable to care for their children.  Some were simply abandoned or unwanted.  They are, however, most wanted here.

After talking a bit about the set up it was time to meet some people.  Our first was our unofficial tour guide, Allison.  Allison’s family is from Houston so we was, needless to say, quite glad to see some Americans.  She was a teacher here for a few years but now she strictly works with the youth.  She runs the Royal Rangers program (which is why Peter wanted to visit) as well as the youth group for her church.  So, she was assigned to us to give us a tour.

First she took us to Robin’s home.  Robin and her husband have been in the area for over 15 years.  They are founded ABC (Aids Baby Center?) when people figured out that they would take care of these babies.  She led us into one of the toddler facilities and as we walked in, I reached down and picked up one of the children.  Robin quickly asked me to put him down.  I did.  I glanced over at Tim and Peter and they looked as stunned as I did.

She was very professional and detailed with her tour.  Tho I was still a bit shocked at her rebuff, I was still quite impressed as we went from house to house looking at the children and the facilities. None of us, not even Allison, touched the children.  Finally, after some tour/time passed, Peter asked her, very politely, why they preferred us not to hold the children.

Robin explained that their desire is that this place be as much like home as possible.  They have many visitors and a pattern can be set that if one child gets held, ALL of them want to be held and it, quite frankly, disrupts their routine.  Basically, “we” are just passing through, and do not really contribute to making their environment stable.  (PLUS, some of the younger children are fearful of white faces.)

Robin finally began warming up to us as we entered the baby house.  The 3 year old son of one of the Aunties came and sat in my lap.  As she shared some of the stories of finding some of the babies, Peter asked if it was ok for him to hold Ernest, a sweet baby boy who was restless in his walker.  She said yes.  Ernest was found in a garbage dump.  The mother had wrapped him (placenta and all) in a plastic bag and put him in her trash.  The truck had picked up the trash and brought it to the dump.  A person digging thru the trash had found the baby, alive, and brought it to Robin.  He was covered with skin infections that had also made it’s way internally.  They nursed him back to health, and here he was, a thriving and much loved baby!  This was only one of several similar stories.

Robin has quite a heart after ministering children and provides a very structured, sound and loving environment for them.  She is protective of the children and the aunties and my feelings of being “slighted” subsided the more she shared.  These children were her charges and I was simply a visitor.  Once again, my expectations must take alter according to reality.

Robin also told a story of how her and her husband were going into a nearby township, known for its violence, to feed children.  They did this daily for 8 years.  One day, they had absolutely no food to take to the children. She said that she actually thanked God for the day off.  But, alas, God wanted the children fed: she had heard a knock at the door and, upon answering it, found  a Muslim woman who had peanut butter.  LOTS of peanut butter.  She just said that she “sensed that she must do this” and she had learned a long time ago to do what she sensed she must do.

All things serve God (Psalm 119:91)

There were other bits of glory that she shared, but I took notes and will wait to expound upon those at the ladies salad supper in April.

Then we went to the high school and explored the different level classes from grades 7-12.  We met the self-proclaimed “cool kids” and the sleepy kids and the mischievous kids (they are all everywhere, aren’t they?)  They emphasized, as does the rest of this unique village of Bulemu, that they are raising the next generation of Swaziland leaders.  You can feel future strength rising in the air.  Allison was connected to many of these kids through the Royal Rangers and her church and the relationship showed.

After this meeting, we met Candice, the rather young principal at the preschool.  It was a stunning organization complete with a sensory garden that Candice had just completed for the children.

Then onto the Doozy (sp?) homes where we met Jenny. These are home where the ratio is 1 adult (an aunty) to each six teenagers.  The aunty has 3 weeks on and one week off (to go visit her children) and then they have one aunty who travels from house to house filling in the gaps (sounds like an organizational task for Patricia Watts!)

Jenny is from Boston and, again, was glad to see some folks for the USA.  She, too, was young and in love with Bulemu.  She basically manages the Aunties and the homes.  We were, again, impressed.

Then onto the art room where we met a YOUNG German teacher who had just finished a nice hands on class with the kids.  The kids were a bit rowdy as it was the end of class and they had glitter everywhere, but it was fun.

Then we went to the arts and crafts building.  A beautiful tall woman, whose name I cannot recall, came to Bulemu to teach the women, many who had no job prior to this, how to make crafts in order to sell.  I chatted with them for a while and though they were hesitant to allow me to take their pictures, they finally let me do so.  The needlework they did was beautiful and it was obvious that they were proud of it.

AH, the needlework!  They incorporated this handwork into bags, wall hangings, cards, and blankets (one of which Tim purchased).  They also had had made beaded necklaces, brooches, Christmas ornaments, and many other fun and unique items.

Then on to lunch at the Lodge.  They had already prepared for us to dine on the Veranda (it was well after the lunch hour) were we were served Spaghetti and a salad and tap water.  It was de-lish and it was so fun to sit outside under the umbrellas and enjoy the cool air.

Allison had to run prepare for her youth meeting and so we went back to our villa.  I needed to wash some clothes in the sink (yes, they had clothes lines outside) and then we hurried back for the Royal Ranger meeting.   Several dozen kids (age 7-12ish) were outside on the soccer field.  Allison had prepared for them to do a 3-legged race, which they all loved. She used the Vuvuzwella to announce the start of the games, as well as to just get their attention.

During the games, we met Callie from Connecticut.  She graduated a few years ago and has serving in Bulembu as well.  Again, she loved it but was only doing a 2 year stint…as far as she knew.  She was a happy and engaging young lady and we were thrilled to be able to give her a taste of the old USA, as well.

Then, on to the theater, where the Royal Ranger meeting was held.  The theater is on the list of buildings to be repaired but it was in bad shape.  Yet, you could tell that, in its time, it was a beautiful facility.

Six young girls led the worship, with only a jimbe as their accompaniment.  It was very nice.  Since there were no lights in the facility, it made it a rather calming experience.  And we were able to worship even though we didn’t know the words to some of the songs.  Allison had all of us to get on our knees and spend some time before the Lord.  It was quite moving to be on your knees with a lot of children.  The Lord speaks.

Allison shared about the weapons of our warfare, and broke the kids into groups for their study (they are doing some sort of competition and had to come up with a war cry.  It was very fun to be a part of.

Then everyone, but me, went down the mountain to view the Royal Ranger camp.  THAT is why I ‘was’ sitting under the trees sipping my iced water.

NOW, much time has passed and I am so far behind in my blogging.  It has been not only fast, but jam packed with activity…YES, I wish I had continued to blog every night but it has been nearly impossible, so I will try to finish Swaziland and post it and then blog later on KRUGER, which is where we are now.

SO after my little hiatus under the tree I walked alone back to the villa.  The stroll was so nice..and it truly was as if tie had stood still (tho well maintained!)  The flowers are plentiful and varied ad the mountain-view background just added to the allure.  I got back to the room and re-organized my poorly packed luggage.  About that time, Tim came in and we sat down for a cup of Rooibos.  I am getting quite use to that tea and will continue to drink it when we get home.

Then, off to the next meeting.  This one was the youth group from the church (they have no pastor at the present time but are hoping to get a new one, soon.)  We went to the former country club where a lot of teenagers were kind of awkwardly sitting around.  Allison got their attention and “encouraged” them to play games, talk, drink tea…because she was NOT going to do this for them!  They all began to move and play table games, play musical instruments and drink tea or coffee.

I spent some time talking to Temple. (Her nickname is Temple because that is what her African name, that I cannot pronounce, means!)  Beautiful young Swaziland woman (about 21, I believe).  She and I both shared quite a bit and we both enjoyed the time that we had.

Then Allison called us all back and we had some worship.  Three girls sang (led) while 3 guys played the drums, the electric guitar and the keyboard.  Most of the music was popular Christian music and it was a sweet time.  Then Allison spoke. She was beginning a series on being warriors in the kingdom, as most of the kids had just rededicated their lives.  The leadership (mostly from different countries) did a cute play and then Allison led the lesson.  We also spent a long time praying individually for the filling of his spirit and Allison spent some time praying with the youth individually.  She called Tim and me up front and prayed for us as well.

When we got back to the villa we heated up our meat pies that we had purchased earlier (meat pies are very popular “take away” here in Africa).  They were de-lish! Then off to bed.

We were up bright and early for we were about to begin the KRUGER part of our adventure.

When we got up we stopped by and purchased some of the Bolembo honey.  Tim bought three pint jars.   Peter purchase a 5 gallon BUCKET!  It was so funny.  I asked, “Peter, what are you going to do with all that honey??”  He grinned and turned his face towards me and said very matter of factly: “I don’t know.”  (I guess you had to be there….)

We made it safe and sound thru the Swaziland border check and then got to the South African border.  Now this border was rarely used and all the workers were sitting under a tree when we arrived.  One of them got up and then sauntered into the building.  He took a LOOOONG time looking thru Tim and mine’s passports.  He just sort of turned the pages back and forth, and asked us some unrelated questions.  It all seemed very curious and it wasn’t until we arrived here in Komatipoort and Ermine, our hostess, explained that we was waiting for a bribe in order to hurry us along.  Since we were clueless, he received no bribe money and we lost 4-5 minutes.  No biggy, just interesting.

NEXT STOP:  KRUUUUUUUGEEEEER!!

Witchcraft and Blankets

3/8/11 Tuesday- 3/10/11 Thursday

10:14pm SA
2:15pm AL

Up early.  Too early. Like 5:45am.  I heard some people stirring and I didn’t want to be considered the Lazy American so I took a quick birdbath, and headed out.  Only to find that Seps (the 13 year old) had left for school and Booma, the 20 year old daughter, was walking out the door for work.  Maba had to answer a phone call so she got up but I urged her to go back to bed.  She did.

Tim and I sat on their porch and watched the chickens while we read our Bibles.  It was nice and quiet.  Pretty soon Alyssa was up followed by Maba and then Peter.  Maba had set her table using her nice dishes and all the forks and knives and spoons and cups and glasses…I help her made some tea and before long we were eating.  We found out that she had had a toothache and was going to the dentist…she had not had much sleep.  I asked if she had any Tylenol or Advil.  “No.”  So I gave her one of my two supplies.

A young man names Gervais was asked by Ntai to ride with us.  Gervais is a student and musician.  His father is an American and his mother from Lesotho.  He loves jazz music and works as a sound something…Anyway he will be going to the University of Missouri to study Architecture, though his first love is music.  It is the compromise that he and his father came up with.

Our journey to the village did not take too long.  The countryside was nothing short of breathtaking and the quirky things that make Lesotho, Lesotho added to the allure.  People wear blankets like coats…everyone from every part of life: Some dingy some beautiful…young, old, teenagers, children, rich, poor men and women.  EVERYONE has or wears a blanket.  The roads to the village were wonderful but the storefronts on the sides of the road were worn down and dingy.  Many of them lined the roads selling everything from fresh fruit to cooked corn to sandals to sweeties (candy).  Many people were walking.  Seemed like there were many more people walking than driving cars.

Gervais was uncertain about exactly where the village was (we figured out that they had assigned him to go with us because he had the cell phone connection!) but told us to “look for the tent”.  Tim spotted it so we hung a sharp left off of the black top and onto a VERY bouldery (sp!?) road.  We headed for the tent and were met straightway by the team.

The 12-member team is a part of a larger 30-member team called Latreau (La Trio).  It is a part of the Lighthouse church.  These young adults age from 17-27 and give a year of their life to minister to the community and beyond.  They go into schools and other venues and perform music, dramas and step-shows.  They are full of life and are passionate about God and sharing Christ with the nations.

Anyhow, they are on mission in this village for 10 days.  We got there just in time for their devotional time.  Now their devotional time began like our devotional times in America but then……

Since I am writing this on Thursday (or travel day to Swaziland) I will consolidate Tuesday and Wednesday since both mornings and evenings were very similar.

Devotional: We began walking up a bouldery hill towards our devotional sight.  We by passed several grass huts, one of which housed a very simple man who came rushing out, and after kissing all of our hands, indicated that he wanted me to take a photo of his cow.  I did and, upon inspecting it, gave his approval by kissing my hand again.  Then, he wanted a pic of him with his cow.  How could I say no?  So I did.  Again he inspected the photo and was quite please.  He was so pleased that he grabbed by arm with one of his hands and then with the other quickly laid it on my chest!  All of this was in one swoop of a motion.  Some of the Latreau team saw it and gasped at the same time I gasped.  Note: the man was a simpleton and was CLUELESS at what he had done…but it did give some of the team a good laugh!

Then we noticed that we had a different type of audience on the other side of the road: school children.  They were SO excited to see the team and the white Americans (note, besides Peter and Alyssa, we were the only whites around)  At first they just wanted us to make their photos  but then they wanted hugs…and lots of them…but the team was trudging on so on we went.  Peter introduced me to Caron, a 17 year old girl on the team and said, ‘the two of you are just alike.”  And, indeed, we were.  We had so much fun together, though Tim had quite a time keeping us moving.

Anyhow, each morning the team makes its way to the top of the hill, which gives a spectacular view of the village that the team had come to minister to.  Words would not do it justice, but it was truly phenomenal to sit up there and just watch life happen from a bird’s eye view.  But I am getting ahead of myself

Ntai, the Lesotho pastor in whom his home we were staying, asked all of us to “sit on a pew in Table Top Community Church” (as he lovingly called the 10-day church).  Now a “pew” was one of the rock ledges over looking the village.  I opted to be a back row Baptist.  Tersia, the leader, ask if anyone had something to share from his or her early morning quiet time.  It was comforting to hear the students share the SAME type of things that our kids would share in the states.  God’s holy spirit does quite a good job at keeping his church consistent.  Then they asked if anyone had scripture to share.  Several of us did that each morning, turning them into proclamations over the village. Then we all sang…and sang loud…and sang long.  It was such a perfect church service: Christ centered, encouraging, focused.  I loved it!

On the first day we broke into small groups and prayed (our group prayed all together, out loud, at the same time).

Also, in our group was one of the young men—a shepherd—from the community.  Through a translator he told us how grateful he was that we were there for his village.  On the second day, Ntai handed out slips of paper that had been filled out by people who had made professions of faith.  We ach spent a long time praying for them as God led.

While up there, we had time to ponder and pray over the village.  I noticed a shepherd (wearing one of the customary blankets…as we were all getting sunburned, BTW) .  He led the herd of sheep (likely about 20 sheep) to a small grassy knoll inside the village proper.  He allowed them to graze for quite some time.  It was so serene: picture perfect (so I took a picture).  And then, that shepherd raised his rod and struck the hinny of one of those poor sheep!  It ruined my sereneness!  I thought, “Wow, what a mean shepherd!”  It really bugged me.  But then God showed me that that is what a shepherds job is…to keep us moving…to discipline (instruct) us.   I have been pondering that scene quite a bit.

Then, both days we went back down the hill.  Sweet fellowship time with some glorious people:

Ntai told us of the beginnings of the church in that village.  There was a young 20-year old girl who was from the village but worked in Lesotho and attended his church there.  She got ill about 2 years ago and, within a few days, died.  They went to her village (the village we were praying over) to have the funeral.  As a result, several folks prayed to receive Christ, and a church was begun.  The church in that village had struggled quite a bit (new believers), which is why the Letreau team was there.  They (we) were praying for more salvations.

HOWEVER, this village is held captive by a lot of witchcraft.  The people will go tot the witch doctor for healing or for answers…he will normally mix a concoction (known as a “fetish”) and tie it around the person’s neck on a piece of twine.  Many of the babies and toddlers had these (note fb pics).

After we got back to the team’s house they began preparing lunch: PAP, again…I am glad I like it.  I looked at where the team was staying .  It was an old two-room home that had nothing in it except a propane tank for cooking and a small table for serving.  All the team members’ air mattresses were stacked in the corner.  They had the church trailer outside of the door where they keep their food and supplies.  Some of the kids cooked and some washed dishes and/or clothes.  I asked about the bathroom and the girls laughed and pointed to the two outhouses.  Hmm. I must admit that I was very thankful that Peter has found other accommodations for the 4 of us.  It was a tough place but the team amazed me with their stellar attitudes.  They were truly there to serve.

Peter wanted us to meet the man who had loaned the empty house to the team.  He was “just up the way” in a hut.  Actually, it was only about 25 yards away with a stone cattle stall between the two places.  Before we began our short walk, Ntai took the time to explain to me that I was not allowed to walk between the cattle stall and a stone marker that was wrapped in barbed wire and chained.  That small muddy area had fetishes buried in it.  Men were allowed to walk over it.  Women, however, would call down curses on themselves if they walked over it. (Unless, of course, you were covered with the blood of Jesus! J)  I opted to be respectful and walk around the stone.

The man who owned the house was a fairly new Christian and was in a wheel chair. (I checked and couldn’t see, but was pretty sure he had two legs!)  Anyway we chatted with him, met his 20-year-old daughter and his two grandbabies.  The daughter was stunning…we did manage to get a photo of her, too.  They let us see the inside of their hut, which was much larger than I had imagined.  It housed a stove and some pantry space and had some mats folded up on the side of the wall.  Tim and Peter asked about how old it was (it had been built around the time the man was born: 1964).  We used some of Tommy’s money to bless him, in honor of the one legged man!

Then Tim and Peter and Ntai left us to run errands and the rest of us did house visits.  All were very interesting but the one that stands out was the home where a new believer lived.  We encouraged her with scripture and prayer and as we were leaving I noticed that her friends baby had a fetish tied around its neck.  I asked the translator to ask if she was a believer or not.  She was not.  So Tersia and I and the translators came back inside and Tersia led her to the Lord.  AS she was finishing up I looked across the table behind the translators and there, on top of the microwave was a rat…a rather large rat…he was merely a foot or two behind the translator’s head.  I looked a Tersia and she noticed it at just that same time.  We were both very thankful that God kept us from screaming…it may not have been conducive to what we were doing.

Then we went back, changed into long pants and waited for the church service to begin. Peer and Tim and Ntai returned and brought us some cookies which all of us enjoyed.  Then onto church in the tent where the children had already put in the chairs.

Now church is quite different and one has to “get in the grove” for it as it takes on a shape of it’s own.  When we first arrived there were lots of children who were clamoring to having their photo made.  We complied and it was greatly entertaining for all.  Then we moved into the tent where the keyboardist was playing loudly and not very well.  But neither the team nor the kids cared and they started dancing and praising to some Lesotho praise music. I was wondering if any adults were going to come but gradually they started slipping in.

A Lesotho man grabbed a mike (I assumed he was the worship leader) and began singing as the team and the children continued to sing and dance.  He did not sing very well, but I think I was the only one that noticed that.  On the second night the team pulled me in and, though I insisted that white girls cant’ dance, THEY insisted that they could teach me.  It was fun and very joyful.  Then the team led some beautiful praise music.  After about 1-1/2 to 2 hours NTai introduced his Cape Town and American friends and then stood Tim up to preach (YES, he was prepared!)  It was an excellent sermon about light and darkness and light consuming darkness…. and Jesus and salvation.  It was interesting to watch him preach with small children all up under his feet, a light bulb swinging in his face, and intermittent sounds from the keyboard, which sounded like old style skating rink music.

Ntai translated and led the invitation in which many villagers responded.  One (obviously drunk guy) walked up first, thru his hands in the air and shouted “Hallelujah!”  One of the Latreau guys tried to lead him out, but the drunk didn’t budge.  So, the team member just picked him up and carried him out like a baby.  Peter leaned over to me and said, “you should’ve gotten a picture of THAT!”  J

After that, several people did come up and the team gathered around them, praying for the various individuals.

Peter came over and tapped Tim and I on the shoulder and motioned for us to go outside.  He said, “I want to show you something you have NEVER seen before.  I mean YOU HAVE NEVER seen this before!!”  He was terribly excited as he led us to walk along the side of the tent.  There at the corner of the tent, (unbeknownst to Peter) was a young guy relieving himself.  Tim and I just glanced at each other as this all seemed very odd and then Peter pointed to the sky and exclaimed, “LOOK! The Milky Way!  I bet you have never seen this before!!”  (He was right!)  Tim and I laughed and told Peter why we were laughing and then just stood there for a while listening to the praise music and admiring the HUGE Milkey Way!  Peter also showed us the Southern Cross.  The stars were stunning…and it was cool to see the stars in the southern hemisphere that we had ever seen before!

We arrived home where Maba had boiled us some water for our bath which was very kind.  I waited till morning to wash my hair, as did Tim (actually, Tim took a bath, sans hot water, the next morning. Ew.)

On the second day (Wednesday) after our devotional, Tim and Peter and Ntai and I went to climb a mountain…we had to pay about 30 rand each to climb up this mountain that carries a lot of history about this village.  I made it about 2/3 of the way up and realized that it was just to steep and slippery…Tim and Ntai and Peter and Alyssa all continuted on and I opted to climb back down to the shade tree…tim was a bit worried about me and kept climbing AND turning around and watching as I slowly crept back down…it was seriously unstable…but I found a nice place to sit under the tree and prayed for my husband, Ty, Jonathan, and Hamilton and, of course, my church.  It was a rather nice time with God but VERY strange to think about sitting all alone in a foreign country so far from home.  Tim finally came back down and we sat and chatted until the others came.

Then, Ntai was going to take us to a store that sold the blankets that all the Lesotho people wore.  I was so excited about getting an authentic blanket.  We drove a long time and then realize that we had practically driven back to Ntai’s home…and then went to the local MALL!  Yep, I bought a blanket from a JCPENNEY’s wannabe!  So much for local flavor!

Anyhow…the second night was much like the first, except that Peter preached.  He did a fantastic job and really challenge the people about their fetishes being idols and challenged them to burn them.  It was really a bold sermon for that community and many people responded.

Needless to say, we slept well that night too.