Friday, February 29, 2008

Pictures from Living Hope Retreat

A group of Living Hope life-skill educators. These are incredible young people that work with kids and teens teaching them life skills for a full life and sharing the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Casey and Stanton, a life skill educator he is working with.

Living Hope Facilitator's and Educator's Retreat

Hey everyone! Last night we went on a retreat hosted by the mission team from Nashville that is working here. They put it on for the Life Skill Educators and Support Group Facilitators that we will both be working with. It was such a blessing, and we are so excited to minister with these gifted people. Casey created his first video with glimpses from the night - check it out!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Deeper and deeper

Hello everyone!

So it looks like Casey and I will both be updating the blog when we can, and sharing our separate stories of what we are experiencing here. We want to thank you for your responses on the blog – they always make us smile! We love you all!

While some of our experiences are shared, we are already getting involved in some different ministries here to use our different gifts. I am working with a social worker named Jess at the Living Hope clinic here. It is a clinic for people who are very sick, most with AIDS, but also other life threatening diseases. Today I had a meeting with the doctor, social worker, and head nurses about each of the patients and their development. Their goal at the clinic is to rehabilitate the patients and move them back home or to anther more permanent medical clinic if needed. I have met most of the patients at this point, but it is so challenging to actually do what I have been called here to do! I know that I must sit, be present with these people, get to know them, and love them in the name of Christ. But wow, it is so hard and uncomfortable, and I think I would rather be building a home!! My eyes are already opened to our attitudes towards ‘missions’ and our goals of accomplishing so much. Maybe some of the greatest gifts we could give the people we serve is just to be present with them and love on them a bit. Tough stuff!!

I also went on Tuesday afternoon to a township called Oceanview where they hold a weekly support group for parents living with HIV. It is staggering to see how many people are either infected by the disease or just AFFECTED by the disease, like family members and children. It is everywhere here. I am reading a book called “The AIDS Crisis,” and it gave me some shocking statistics:
·38.6 million people were reported to be living with the virus in 2005
·Africa has only 10% of the world’s population but bears almost 64% percent of the global burden of AIDS
·The problem of AIDS is heaped onto the already growing problems of poverty and ethnic conflict, among others
·South Africa reports that 18.8% of the population is affected with the virus, and approximately 30% of pregnant women are HIV positive
·Today South Africa has the second largest number of people with AIDS in the world
·It has been claimed that the AIDS epidemic will go down in history as one of the greatest pandemics of all time

So weekly I will be at a health clinic in the Oceanview township working with a nurse to lead this support group of HIV infected parents. I went on Tuesday to meet the group members, and it was such a humbling experience. First of all, I felt incredibly overdressed, clean, and ‘together.’ It just feels silly for me to be in this environment, as I know I have no experience with this disease, and I feel completely inadequate to be ministering to these people. BUT I truly do trust that the Lord is putting me where He wants me and will use me for his purposes. And I am already learning so much from these people, as one woman shared with the group that having HIV has taught her that the first and most important thing in her life is that she is at peace with herself and with Jesus. Amen, and that is most important in my life too.

Please pray that God would give me wisdom and grace as I begin to meet these people more and more and care for them. I pray that I will be able to love them well and believe in the abundant lives that God still wants for them, infected or not.

Love you all!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You want me to do what?

How's it? (more South African slang)
So, things have finally picked up around here.
On Tuesday, though, I got thrown to the wolves. I'm going to be teaching (or helping) in a local high school here. We teach "Life Skills/Orientation" but they don't usually do High schools (usually primary schools) so this is a trial. My first day the guy in charge, Stanton, hands me the key to my classroom and told me the class was 45 minutes. 45 minutes of what?? Eventually he told me I was supposed to talk about suicide. Wow! What a way to make an introduction. So I decided my best chance was to actually talk about that rather than trying to talk about myself for 45 minutes. It actually went pretty well I think. Obviously Jesus showed up on that occassion. Today I just watched and helped the regular teachers. One guy, Duncan, was teaching the suicide portion ( I guess he just wasn't around yesterday) and Stanton was teaching about relationships. It was more fun to be in there, observing, and just adding little points. Stanton was awesome at teaching about relationships. He really gives them a new vision for what their lives can be like. The program is awesome though b/c we have the opportunity to go in these schools and totally talk about Jesus, a lot. IT's a neat opportunity for Living Hope.
Yesterday afternoon I watched one Kids Club, but it was led by a visiting team, so it wasn't normal and today Sarah and I visited a different kids club. It was incredible!! They meet in this old trailer sort of thing. Basically the trailer part of an 18-wheeler. They did worship for about a half hour which meant that they sang songs they already knew like crazy!! Dancing, banging beats on the walls, etc. They loved it! Afterwards the little kids went outside and played and some YWAM folks led a Bible study for the older kids. At the end they get a small meal of soup and bread. It was so great to see how much the kids love the leaders here! And they love getting their friends to come to Kids Club.
The other main thing I'll be doing, besides teaching, is visiting all the "Young Executives" and "Young Girls" Clubs. These are basically Kids Club for older students. This program just started so I'm basically going to visit each club and then help write a program/curriculum/plan for them. I'm pretty excited about that since it's something that will stay around long after we are gone. Keep praying for that. It's going to take a long time to learn the culture and know how to create something that fits. I know God can use me though if I just submit to Him.
We can feel your prayers, please keep them coming! We're starting to meet more locals and they say they are going to take me to play touch-Rugby and footy (indoor soccer). I'm pumped about that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Our first glimpses

Hey guys, here are some pics from our first tour of the Living Hope Ministries. Woo hoo!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Word from the moochers

Dear Family and Friends,

We are getting all settled in at Cape Town, and it’s starting to feel more comfortable every moment. On Sunday we met up with a mission trip team here from Nashville and we have been ‘tagging along’ with them ever since. It is a strange feeling because we are usually on the team allowing missionaries to ‘mooch’ off of us. I think we are going to be humbled in MANY ways over the coming months.

We went to two churches on Sunday; the first was Fish Hoek Baptist Church. This is the church that started Living Hope Community Center, the organization we are working with here. They are a small but mighty congregation. This week the president of World Vision was visiting, and the congregation was told that their head pastor, Pastor John Thomas has been invited for a visit to the white house in a couple weeks. Just another day around here… But seriously, it is an incredible church, with great spirit and passion. Casey and I recognized that we can get bogged down in ‘judging’ churches for what they do and don’t have, but what really matter is if Jesus is present. He is present here. Then we went to a church about 3 minutes away in one of the townships. It is a poor church, and it is in another language – which has some of the African ‘clicks’ you hear about. They were incredibly passionate and danced as they worshipped. It was such a joy to share time with them.

After lunch we went with the Nashville team to Cape Point, the southernmost tip of Africa. It is strikingly beautiful there, and awe-inspiring. It is also a huge national park – an African ‘must-see.’ As we are taking in all of South Africa, I can’t help but notice the beauty here, both in nature and in the towns’ architecture. And yet, right around each corner you have these townships, basically hidden from view. It is as if this community has hidden away their poverty and problems, and now they have to start facing them all.

Today we went with the Nashville church on a tour of the Living Hope ministries here in Cape Town and the surrounding cities. There is so much need here with poverty, education, health care, and AIDS prevention and care. Living Hope is an INCREDIBLE organization and they are mobilized in so many places to help. They aim for ‘holistic’ care that assists not only the physical and basic needs of the person, but also the spiritual and emotional needs. Even though Cape Town is modern in so many areas, the desperate need is everywhere. We learned, for example, that the government gives needy women 200 rand (about $30) for each child born, and so women have children just to make some money. The people we talked to that work for the ministry said that in the face of the insurmountable need, they could get discouraged. So their mantra has become not to change the world, but just to help change the life of one person at a time.

Tomorrow we will be meeting with some more people about the jobs we are going to start doing here. Casey will be talking with people about some after-school camps and I will be talking with a social worker about counseling and pasturing things I can begin doing. We are ready to jump in!

Please feel free to contact us – or post any questions as a blog comment. We would love to hear from you! Pray that God will put us in the right places and that we will continue to see and hear Him around here!!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

More Jo-burg pics

Too many Jim Collins

From Sarah's post you know all we did on Friday, but I think she finished at the fun part. See, we arrived at the airport at 4:30pm for a 6:30 flight. We didn't want to get stuck in traffic, so we left early. There was a long line when we got there, but everything was fine as we arrived at our gate, our first gate (C9) at least. Then, they instructed us to move to C13. We were there a while until they told us there was a delay, they didn't really explain why, but they started passing out snacks to keep people happy. At about 8:30pm they told us to move to E12. Don't get too worried, moving to E isn't like in Atlanta or something. It really just meant to go downstairs. Oh, at that point we had already found out that they were short one plane for 3 flights that night. I think they were short pilots, too. When we get to E12 they explain that basically there is going to be a lottery to see who gets on that flight and who has to wait a little longer. We were on the later one, so we went back up to C9 for about 15 minutes until they sent us to C12 which is where we eventually left from at 10:30pm. Ironically, we arrived before the flight that was supposed to leave before us. And, miraculously, we got all our luggage. Oh, and our roommate who was picking us up had no idea what was happening and we had no way to contact her. As we are leaving the airport with a friend we made to get a hotel she comes running up and gets us. So, we got home about 1:30am.

Needless to say, with all this confusion people were getting pretty frustrated. Complaining, yelling at workers, giving their much-better, unsolicited advice. So we coined the phrase, "too many Jim Collins." Jim Collins is my father-in-law and he, maybe "once or twice" before, has had a hard time when things weren't done well. So, every time somebody freaked out we'd say, "Oh, there goes Jim Collins." There were a TON of them on this occassion!
So, when you see somebody freaking out over something that's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life feel free to call that a "Jim Collins."

I know Jim is laughing at this right now and then he would use his best joke, "I resemble that". What a great dude!!

Talk to you again soon!

Too Many Bergesons

Hello friends and family!
Well now we are REALLY here, where we are supposed to be. We spent the day Friday in Johannesburg, but we will be living in Cape Town for the next three months and we are finally here. But I wanted to share some stories from our tour yesterday in Jo-burg (what cool people call it, didn't you know??). So we were picked up in the morning by our new BJF (best Jo-burg friend) Dennis. I have really been looking forward to touring this town because of all I have learned about it at Duke. I took a class at Duke on South Africa and apartheid and a great part of the struggle happened in this town. Apartheid was the legal separation of blacks from the Dutch who has taken over South Africa. It lasted until 1993 and is a horrific part of our world history. We toured around Sowetto, which is township that had a great deal of violence and rioting. We went to a museum commemorating the fighting there, and it was incredible to see in the pictures how YOUNG these kids were. And yet they risked everything to fight for their dignity. Beautiful stuff. Then we went to Nelson Mandela's house - the man who became the first black president of SA. We had heard about this place and were particularly excited about one part of the house, the toilet. But there were too many Bergesons... A friend gloated that he was able to sit on Mandela's toilet and I was really looking forward to connecting with the leader in that way, but the toilet is taped up now... After that we went to the Apartheid museum which was incredible, as well. I would encourage you to check out the museum website at or for more info on South Africa's history check I think this quote by Nelson Mandela sums it up well, "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
What is so interesting about this quote is that I have been thinking about this ideal, and the horror of apartheid as I have been observing the people here. I can't help but wonder about these people, and this society that allowed such atrocities to go on for years? And immediately this thought takes me to my own heart of sin, and the ways I enslave myself and hurt others, as well. I hope that I can live in this place without judgement, but learning from their past in order to inform my own future. Ultimately, I have the prize because I know I am forgiven by the blood of Christ and redeemed by His life. What a great gift to share - and these people need it!
So I am feeling good today, although I can't take it in that we are here. So awesome. Our apartment is great, and I can't wait to see what God has for this weekend and first week.
Thanks for all your love and prayers!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We're here

We arrived in South Africa safe and sound. Bags got here and everything. We had a great seafood dinner and look forward to a great night's sleep. Tomorrow we are touring the Apartheid museum and Soweto before flying off to Cape Town.
Thanks for praying.

Casey & Sarah

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's finally here...

It's now the afternoon on the day before we leave. As we prepare to board a plane in the morning it's just been amazing how supportive and encouraging everybody has been to us. It's been totally humbling. Our community has loved us, supported us financially, bathed us in prayer! We can't even handle it. We definitely don't deserve all of it.
Last week, on Valentine's Day, Kerry and David Mandulak organized a surprise party to honor Sarah's work with the Young Adult Ministry at Grace. It was incredible to have everybody there to celebrate that. And, we were definitely surprised!!
Pray for us as we leave tomorrow. 10:45am to Atlanta and then we leave ATL at 4pm for our 18 hours of flying to Johannesburg. We spend the night in Jo-burg and tour there on Friday. Friday we fly from Jo-Burg to Cape Town.
We're so excited!!

Love you all!
Casey & Sarah

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Video about Living Hope

Hey friends and family.

Here is a video created by the Living Hope Community Center, the organization we will be working with, that speaks about the work they are doing in Capetown, South Africa. I think it will help give you a vision of what God is doing there, and what we hope to be a part of!