Saturday, March 11, 2017

South Africa

Fifteen years ago (our first year on the mission field) Josh and I went to South Africa.  We were thrilled to have another opportunity this year to go to South Africa with our kids.  Our reasons were three fold: our friends the Dwires were going on vacation and invited us to join them for a few days, Josh felt led to teach the Freedom in Christ discipleship course with our long time friends the Ribbens, and we wanted to visit my sister-in-laws parents while in South Africa.  Needless to say we had a great time and were very blessed by our trip.  We loved being with friends, having a true vacation for 4 days, reconnecting with missionary friends from Nigeria, doing ministry together, enjoying really good food and comforts and beauty along the way, spending time with Johan and Thea (sister-in-law's parents), and seeing God in a different country and people.  I will let the pictures speak the rest. 
Traveling can be so exciting - but the reality is it is LONG, my kids get sick (Holding barf bags by their mouths for hours and carry multiple barf bags in my purse when ever we fly or ride in a vehicle - not fun!), we were delayed, it costs, you wait...and so now we are happy to be home and not move for a couple months.  We flew three days total, rode in about seven different vehicles or taxi's, slept in six different places...not to mention the seven hour drive from and to our house in Obulle.  It is all apart of traveling anywhere in Africa.  It is good to be home!  (I am so thankful I can say that now days!!!)

Ok, I have to admit I have several of pictures at great food places (even American places - my favorite coffee, Starbucks).  We were excited to eat so many treats!  Valentines morning we had Krispy Kreme.

Our first few days was spent with Dwires in Joburg.  We had date nights and watch each others kids, we shopped, we had a double date together, swam and more...  What special memories we now share!

One of the great things about South Africa is the exchange rate.  One day everything was half off at the Fun Zone so that meant each activity was about a dollar!  It is all special when we never get to do any of these things.

glow in the dark mini golf

You may not understand this, but it feels so good to have such a nice place to stay, hot showers, conveniences, look nice, places to go, things to do, easy and feel normal.  I love our home and life in the village, but a break and such niceness is a blessing.  South Africa is more like America than the Africa I know.   (Wow, don't we look alike?!) 
One of our favorite days was going to Gold Reef amusement park.
It was super nice, fun, and empty so we could ride a ride and stay on and go again because no one was in line!
I haven't been to an amusement park since before the mission field  and it brought back lots of happy memories from my childhood.  My kids have never been to a real amusement park.  They were a little nervous at first but really enjoyed it once they tried rides.

The log ride was one of the favorites 

Luka's first roller coaster ride with mom!

All you can eat pizza :)
Our next week was spent in a suburb of Joburg with the Ribben's family.
Mike and Megan started missions with us back in 2000 on a summer mission trip.  We then both served our first years in Nigeria together.  We grew very close in those difficult years.  Mike and Megan went back to the States for a few years, then served in Nigeria again, and 3 years ago moved to SA to serve.  We had not seen each other for almost ten years when Josh and Mike met up last year at a conference.  From there a plan was in motion to come and teach with them. 
Our first afternoon together we went ice skating at the mall - oh my, where are we?!
Our kids loved it!  (So nice to be cold!)
Emalai and Stella became friends quickly.
Emalai called her Priscilla the whole time and was like a little sister to her. 

Swimming at the Ribben's house

Josh and I took a walk up a small mountain by their house

The mountain was full of SA national tree - Protea

The kids had a great time together at iJump

Lydia and Grace went to school for a day with the Ribben kids.  School starts at 7am, lunch at 9:30, and out of school by 2pm.  I was proud of them for going and experiencing school in a different courntry.  
It rained almost all week!  One dryish morning Megan dropped us off at the botanical gardens.

We hiked to the top of the falls too

This was my favorite plant - God is creative!

South Africa had a tropical storm on the coast while we were there so we ended up with a full week of rain and about 60 degree temps - that is 40 degrees less than we came from in Obulle!  We enjoyed the change of pace.  I even got to have a fire a couple nights - and not sweat to enjoy it.

While the kids and I spent the week with Megan and the kids, Josh taught Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course at Tshwane Leadership Foundation (TLF).  Mike partners with TLF in ministry.  TLF works with the homeless, has a shelter for women and children, works for justice, and more.  To Josh and I the similarities brought us back to our time and ministry at Guiding Light mission in Grand Rapids.

On Friday our whole family went to the chapel at TLF.  

Josh was thankful to minister together with Mike to share God's truth with the people at TLF.  There were 24 people who took the course from all different countries, races, backgrounds...  It was rewarding to hear one women go home each night and go through the material with her daughter and husband, to hear people say they were released through forgiveness, and realizing that confession and repentance brings freedom.  We pray true freedom in Christ is the result for those who took the course and that they share it with others.  

Informal settlements between Joburg and Pretoria

Then it was time for old and new friends to say goodbye.
Our kids connected beautifully with the Ribben's kids.  We all had tears upon departure.

Thanks Ribbens family!  May God be with you, lead you and use you.
Our last stop was Pretoria to stay with my sister-in-laws parents, Johan and Thea.

They took us just down the road from them on a small safari.
It is always fun to see animals and some new ones for us.
God is creative indeed!

We had so much fun our family went again a second time!

This time we saw the rhinos!  (They cut off the horn because of poaching.)
We did miss the cheetah and her cub by about ten cars - bummer. 

An amazing solar eclipse

I loved our meals together in a beautiful semi open room.
(Emalai liked Opa's biltong - eating it in picture.  I personally liked the milk tart!)

We had such a wonderful weekend with Johan and Thea!  Johan has great questions and listen with interest, Thea is simply sweet and loved on all of us, she is beautifully passionate about her Lord, Johan made Luka's day by watching rugby with him and teaching him about cricket...  We had a meaningful worship service with them at their church.  I was touched worshiping with my South African brothers and sisters.  It was expressive and felt so refreshing.  The message was on allowing Jesus the author of our stories to change/redeem our stories so we can change the city/world.  We loved our time and were sad it was so short.  Luka even cried leaving Opa and Oma.
Thank you and God bless you Johan and Thea - can't wait till next time!
A couple pictures for Grandpa.  Grace and Luka had an archery lesson and practice.
They loved it and Grace was an inch from a bulls eye!

This is Luka in his new Blue Bulls hat because we saw the Blue Bulls (SA rugby team) in the air port.
Luka met Jonnie and had his picture with him.  Since then he is a fan.

And that is it from South Africa.
We learned a lot, were able to share Jesus and see Jesus there.
We are thankful and blessed by our time there.
(Mandela all out of beads!)