Monday, March 31, 2008

God's whisper

Hey everyone,

So just wanted to share a quick update of what is happening with my friend Patricia, who I spoke about on the previous blog. I chose to not see her on Sunday and take a full break from ministry. Today I had an incredible training all day for support group leaders about how to motivate and empower people with chronic illnesses. It was incredible, hope to write more later. So long day, really tired, and I was about to walk to the internet cafe for some 'me' time when I felt God tugging on me and whispering 'Patricia.' So I said, Dude! God! I've had a long day, I am tired and have stuff tonight, can't I have some 'me' time?? (Not too much to ask I thought). Again, I heard 'Patricia.' So I begrudgingly went back upstairs, got the car keys, and drove to the clinic. We all KNOW that God wants to bless us and show us His glory, but can it be on our time?? Immediately walking into the clinic I felt joy and refreshment, I have really begun to befriend the patients there! I love to see them smile and talk about their day. I found Patricia, and she is still alive, but looks noticeably thinner and was barely awake. I touched her hand and she jumped and then smiled to see me. She could talk a bit more today and we chatted some as I held her hand and stroked her hair. She asked if I enjoyed coming to see her, and I said I loved to see her. She said she loved to see me too. Wow, what a gift, you have no idea. I now wonder if she asked me this because her family visited her on Saturday, and they honestly didn't look that happy to be there. I wonder if it was a strain to them, and maybe she wanted to know if I really wanted to be there. She talked about how they thought she would die days earlier, but she is still here. We just smiled and talked a bit, and I just was present with her. Seriously, I felt really present, there was no place I would have rather been. As I started to say goodbye, she said she would wait for me. I don't know why this was striking to me, but it really was. She might have just meant she would wait in her bed to see me tomorrow, when I promised to come back. She might have absolutely no idea what she was saying; this mostly likely. It struck me, however, as something sacred that was being said beyond even her. Like God was telling me that she would wait for me in heaven. Maybe that's exactly what she meant. Maybe I am super over-emotional and created it. Either way, I receive the gift from God of my friend, Patricia, and sharing these moments with her. And there is not a thing in the world that would have brought me more joy this evening. God knows our hearts and our needs and desires to meet them all, but I think He loves to surprise us too. Listen to His whispers, because He is leading us to places we would never expect, to see and experience things we could never hope or imagine. God is SO good. Keep Patricia in your prayers, that she wouldn't have pain and would feel great peace.

Love you all!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Face of Christ

My thoughts and prayers today at with Patricia. Patricia is a patient in the health clinic for chronically ill and rehabilitated persons. She has been there my entire stay in South Africa, and in our first meeting she asked if I would pray for her. Since, we have shared conversations and smiles as she has continued to fight various illnesses. When I went for a visit on Friday, I immediately noticed a dramatic change in Patricia’s condition, and asked Jess, the social worker about it. Jess told me that Patricia was ‘not doing well at all’ and that she had called her family to come and visit. It was clear she was in the last stages on life and it was time to say goodbyes. I went to Patricia, and she recognized me and held out her hand to me. I sat with her as she coughed and grimaced in pain. I believe it was the worst condition I had ever seen a human being in, and up to that time the thought of this moment in my mind was one I had churned over endlessly in fear. I was terrified that in those delicate moments with a terminally ill person, I would be completely overwhelmed and disgusted. However, when faced with this call, to be present with people in times of horrendous suffering, I found myself completely calm and at peace. I prayed peace and God’s presence over Patricia and she agreed with these spiritual truths. I stroked her head and hair and looked deeply into her face and eyes. The words of Matthew 25 flashed in my spirit, and I knew that I was caring for Christ in those precious moments. It was a privilege. Our time came to an end, and I promised Patricia I would return, knowing that there was no guarantee to the hours or days left in her life. But Christ and His loving embrace were powerfully near, and I knew that He would carry her through her anguish. It is moments like these that can never be captured in words, but must only be experienced. They are not reserved for the ‘super-spiritual’ but for each of us, as we are all invited to find Christ in the last and the least of our world. I continue to invite you to come close, to the suffering in our world, and the image of God in each of us. Please pray for Patricia, that her suffering would be minimal and that she would know the powerful presence of God.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Hello friends and family,

Thank you so much for your continued thoughts and prayers for us! We are so grateful for your partnership in this mission, and we feel you marching beside us. This week has had many ups and downs and yet God has held us strong with his mighty right hand through it all. I think he is taking us deeper in our experiences and interactions with the people here so we might know truly know His children and truly meet Him (read Matthew 25 – this is where we find Christ Himself!). I was sharing with another missionary yesterday what a gift it is to be able to do with work alongside Casey. We have always been confident in our different gifts, and so God continues to use us both in very different ways here. However, each day we are able to share the joys and pains of loving these people and come together for solidarity and strength. I am abundantly blessed to walk this path with Casey!

For me, this has been a week with a broken heart and some shed tears. It actually didn’t even begin in a ministry setting, but as I woke up on Easter morning. For some reason that morning I woke up and my heart was heavy for my friends in the health clinic and those in my HIV support group. I wondered how Zolilie was feeling and if he was able to sleep with his cough from tuberculosis. I thought about Donovan who has been struggling with sickness related to HIV and who feels abandoned and alone even in his own home. All day I couldn’t get them off my mind. What was strange was that I didn’t feel like God was leading me to visit with them, although we did take hot cross buns to one woman in my HIV group and met her family. I just felt like the Lord wanted to me sit with the sadness, grieve over their pain, and lift them up in prayer. So that is what I did, and it took me down to a heartbreaking place. Finally by Tuesday night I had a complete breakdown before Casey and God, because it’s just not fair! It’s one thing to see a movie or read a book with characters suffering through such pain, but it brings it to a new level of anguish when the people in torment are your friends. There are really no answers to this sorrow, but I knew that God was present. A friend reminded me the next day that God too grieves over their pain and our tears are His.

Someone passed this quote on to me recently, it’s from a song by Jeff Buckley called “Hallelujah”
“Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and broken hallelujah”

Hallelujah is a word we find in the Bible that is used to express joy or praise. This song lyric stings me because I think that making praise to God does not always mean that we are doing it with emotional feelings of happiness. Certainly love is ultimately victorious as the war has been won by our great God, but the battle rages on today and sometimes we praise even in the midst of great grief and pain. I don’t know how you do mission work without the eternal hope of Jesus Christ, because things can seem so hopeless sometimes in the here and now. But I praise God because I know there is more, and I work to ‘forcefully advance the kingdom’ as it says in the gospel of Matthew while I am on this side of heaven.

Lastly, I am encouraged so much by all of your comments of the blog, but my friend Allison Matlack, who commented yesterday, particularly encouraged me. She ended with a quote from Gandhi that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I echo her thoughtful sentiments. We ALL have a place to reach out and help. We ALL can be a part of bringing the kingdom here on this earth, and make the simple prayer of “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” a true reality. I pray that we all are a part of this prayer. I feel overjoyed with the friendships we have made here and those that continue to grow and deepen at home. I pray blessings on all of you as we journey together.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Update on Events and Prayer Requests

Good morning!

A few of the things that I’m starting to do here that you can be praying for:
One thing is my role trying to develop volunteers for the Red Hill Holiday Club. The kids have three weeks off of school right now and we have these clubs the next two weeks (planning this week). It’s kind of like VBS. My job is to try and develop the teenagers into leaders for the club. Well, I tried meeting with them today and learned that their English isn’t very strong, so that made things challenging (they speak Xhlose, which is one of the clicking languages). So, just pray that I would know how to communicate the principles and what we need from them in a way that they would connect with. The Program in this community is under-staffed, so the better I’m able to raise up some leaders amongst the teens, the better things will be long term.

In this community they recently had a major fire and many people lost their shack homes. This has brought a lot of attention to the area and many mission organizations are trying to get involved. Avril, my supervisor, has asked me to sort of ‘investigate’ what their plans are long term and try to make sure that we are partnering together and not doing our own things. Apparently in one of the other communities where we work (Masiphumelele) there are over 100 organizations working there, but nothing is changing b/c everybody is doing their own thing. She doesn’t want that to happen in Red Hill. So, pray that I would be able to humbly communicate with these groups and be a catalyst for connecting these ministries so we do what is best for this community long term. Living Hope will be there for the long haul as they have been for a while, so we need to be the ones bringing the groups together. Somehow I got tapped to do that! I feel a little over my head with both of these tasks. I know and believe that God will work through me, in my strengths and my weaknesses, but I felt a bit worthless today. The situation today was actually a bit comical, which is how Sarah and I feel most days about things. Thanks for the prayers so far! Keep them coming!

Also wanted to share something that happened this week that was very impactful for both Sarah and I. It is pretty amazing the enormity of the struggles of the people here. You can sort of separate yourself from it, even in our roles (which is what 99% of the white people here do), which I don’t want to do. I want my heart to break over their struggles. Tuesday, on the street in Muizenberg (which is just a little beach town where LH has an office), a lady asked us for money to buy some sort of like corn meal stuff. Some how we started talking to her and ended up there for 10-15 minutes with her crying. She can’t feed her kids and can’t find a job. Her kids cry b/c they are hungry and so she just gets more depressed. It was like we were the first people that took the time to listen to her. It’s so heart-breaking though. She wants to provide for them, but has no means to do it. There are too many people and not enough jobs. It’s very similar in the way that everybody from central Mexico moves to the border to get the jobs in the maquilladoras. Eventually, the jobs run out, but the people are stuck there. Everybody has moved to Cape Town and Jo-Burg and there are just no more jobs. It’s terribly sad! When we got in the car to leave we pretty much didn’t say anything all the way back home.

Thanks for being a part of this!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Blessings

Just as many of you were finally going to bed after some nail-biting NCAA tournament games (we are so jealous) we were going to an Easter sunrise service with the church we attend here, King of Kings. We were blessed all day as we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord! Thought we would share the great pics - God is good!

We begin with worship songs as it is still dark

One of the pastors is giving a short message as the sun continues to rise...

There were two beautiful baptisms that morning, what a gift!

The sun has risen and our Lord is risen indeed!

We missed celebrating our Lord with you all this Easter, and you are constantly in our thoughts and prayers! We send you MUCH love!

Casey and Sarah

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Married to Jesus

I haven’t become a heretic, bought into the Davinci Code, and decided that Jesus was married. It’s just that sometimes I feel like I’m married to Him (her). This isn’t some sweet platitude about how intimate I am with Jesus. It’s a bit of a stretch…
The majority of you know what’s like to be around Sarah. She makes you feel better about life, about yourself, and about your faith in a savior named Jesus of Nazareth. The city of Cape Town is quickly learning what it’s like to be around her. And it’s been almost healing for them to be near her. Sarah has started counseling several women here. These women have real problems. They all live in poverty for starters. One was raped as a child. One woman is mistreated by her parents. One lady’s kids are stealing from her. Another woman is being abused by her husband. Word seems to be getting out about Sarah. That she has some sort of healing touch (it’s because she is pointing them to JESUS). When I hear about their struggles I’m so dumbfounded as to what I would say. How I would “fix” their problems. But she doesn’t do that. She can’t fix their problems. She just keeps pointing them to Jesus. He’s the only one that can heal them. But it’s just amazing to watch as the women request these meetings with her and walk away transformed. It really reminds me of stories in the Gospels when people did all sorts of things to see or touch Jesus. They climbed trees, the dug through a roof; they lost all their dignity. Whatever it took to be near Jesus they did it! And it feels like the word is spreading. “If you talk to the cute American girl something will happen.” What will happen is that she will point them to the only thing that can ever heal their pain, Jesus Christ our Lord, the one that conquered the Grave!
Sarah will be embarrassed that I posted this, but it’s true, and it’s just been amazing to watch her “light shine before all men”. She’s been a star, in the Ephesians 3 sense. For so many of us she’s been pointing us to Jesus for a long time, I’m just thankful that now the Southern Peninsula of Cape Town gets to experience it, too.
Cheers, Casey

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Video Thoughts from Lauren and Tre

We thought we'd share some thoughts from my sister and brother-in-law, Lauren and Tre, as they left South Africa yesterday. Enjoy!

Sarah's finals thoughts from the Jones' visit

Hello friends and family,

Well the weekend has arrived and I finally have time to sit down and write about the great experiences of this week. Lauren and Tre left yesterday afternoon, which was then followed by a thick cloud of sadness, which even surprised me. Guys, I was SO SAD when they left and it took me the whole night to get over it. The time we shared with them was so rich and fantastic that I literally felt a weight of grief when it had to come to an end. How good is our God that He has lavished me with so many tremendous gifts! I am so blessed to have a sister that is kind, gifted, loving, God-fearing, and beautiful. She is an incredible person to even know, and I get to share her as my sister. It was a gift to do ministry with her this week and just to have her by my side. She has a beautiful heart for women, for loving them, building them up, and helping them to vision a greater life then they would see on their own. She has so many things in her future. And then there is my brother-in-law, Tre, whom I truly consider my brother. He is full of joy, love, humility, and strength. To see him in action in ministry, teaching, and lavishing kids with love was fantastic. He is a terrific minister of God, husband, and brother. So yeah! I was sad when Friday came!!

One thing I thought about this week was that I had wished to give them this incredible ministry experience while they were here; you know, the best week ever!! But it’s pretty near impossible to create this kind of experience for anyone, and especially here in South Africa. Our ministry here is very relational, and it builds deeper and wider each week because of the time we spend with the people here. When we leave we might have little to count and show for our ‘successes’ but I know God is using us here to touch hearts and love deeply. So on Friday morning I was scared that they didn’t have a great enough ministry experience, when the Lord reminded me that the goal of a real missionary is not to be able to count successes or triumph in what has been created, but find joy in ‘coming close’ to real people and allowing God to love them in deep ways. Truly, Lauren and Tre were able to touch hearts while they were here through the great love of God, and they were definitely able to see the heart of Africa and God’s great work towards the people here. So as always, God is good!

Thanks to all of you in Nashville who supported Lauren and Tre on this trip! It was a great gift to us and to the people here in South Africa. And I trust that they were able to see the heart of God through the eyes of the beautiful people we served together here.

Love you all!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Hello! We have been loving hanging out with kids this week - it is so fun to hug on them and love them! Thought we'd share some more pics!

Sarah with Oceanview kids

Tre throwing kids around...


A kid giving Casey a piggy-back ride...

After the piggy-back

And now we begin wrestling...

More wrestling :)

Can you tell we are having a good time with these kids?? Love you all!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sharing some pics...

Here are a few pics of the week - more to come!

All of us at the top of Lion's Head mountain

Sunset at Lion's Head

Lauren playing with kids at Oceanview

Times Like These...

Hey guys!

So sorry we haven't been able to update too much this week - time is flying by with Lauren and Tre! We are having a blast together just talking, laughing, and doing ministry together. We have been able to show them the different ministries of Living Hope, and they are getting to jump in and love on some people here, too. They have been helping Casey teach in the high schools in the mornings and we are checking out the kids and teen clubs in the afternoon. It is always great to jump in with the kids there - they always have open arms and hearts for us! A special treat for me was taking Lauren with me to my HIV support group on Tuesday afternoon. We shared a beautiful time together as the group opened up their hearts and loved and supported one another. Once again I am reminded of the privilege I have to know these people deeply and love them. They loved meeting Lauren and even had some time with Tre and Casey at the end. What a gift! We have also been doing some exploring of Cape Town in many ways. We have 'bouldered' rocks at Noordhoek Beach, climbed Lion's Head (this CRAZY mountain), gone boogie boarding in the Indian Ocean (ask Tre), and eating enough Billtong for an entire city! I can't express in words how special it is to share this experience with my sister and brother. They are amazing, gracious, and humble, and I love them so much!! Thanks for all your support and prayers this week - more updates and pics to come - PROMISE!

Monday, March 17, 2008

More Thoughts from the Prince's

Hey guys! We thought we would post a video of our thoughts from our FOURTH weekend here in Cape Town. And watch for some special guests! Love you all!

Love from the Princes and Jones!

Hello everyone!

Well we have had a wonderful weekend here in Cape Town because Lauren and Tre have been visiting (my sister and brother-in-law)!! We have had a great time catching up and sharing all that God is doing in all our lives. We wanted to share some pictures from our sightseeing adventures as we have shown them the beauty of this city.

Sarah and Lauren

Casey and Tre

All of us at Chapman's Peak

Casey and Tre eating 'billtong' - like beef jerkey and Tre's new obsession!

Baboons are everywhere here...

All of us at the bottom of the Cape Point hike - where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet

Lauren and Tre at Cape Point

Saturday, March 15, 2008

They're Here!!


Just wanted to let you all know that Lauren and Tre, my sister and brother-in-law are here in Cape Town for a week-long visit! Woo hoo! We've had a fun day together and can't wait to share Africa together this week. More to come - but they are here safe and sound!


Friday, March 14, 2008

Come and Listen

Hello everyone!

If you can believe it, I’m at a loss for words. Casey would beg to differ, since I have had a wealth of words all week as I am trying to work through all that is happening. But as I have thought about what to share with all you special people, I have been at a loss. I know that my words are trite and small compared to the greatness of God’s great work in this place. I am in awe of our God, and living a life of worship and prayer out of that awe and humbleness. Our God is at work in every detail in our lives and deeply at work in every part of our heart. We only have to open our eyes to see it happening.

Casey eloquently shared about how we both have felt that God’s vision has strengthened this week for our ministry here – thank you for your specific prayers about that! I am so excited for Casey to be able to dig in and do some great work here that will bear fruit for many years to come in the lives of these teenagers. And for myself, I am just so thankful to be used. When Avril Thomas (our ‘boss’) and I were done talking about what I wanted to do and what the ministry needed at this time we both got teary and wound up because it is so exciting to serve Jesus with people who share similar hearts. We are SO blessed to be working with this ministry – they are phenomenal and so surrendered to God. If you want to come to Africa, come work for Living Hope! Website is if you want to check again :)

So I will now be digging into ministry with the support groups and specifically their leaders and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. After my second week of hanging out with my support group I knew that was my spot. So I will continue co-leading my group and then begin to mentor, train, and encourage the existing support group leaders, which happens to be a great need. These men and women are humble, enthusiastic, and filled with love for those they minister to weekly in their groups. What a privilege to come alongside them and build them up – something that also will bear fruit for years to come! I have to say that thus far the piece of ministry that has brought me the most joy is my own Tuesday afternoon group that I help to lead. These people are so full of faith, strength, perseverance, and hope. I want to cry and laugh all at the same time when I am with them. As I grow closer to them I learn more and more about the deep difficulties these people face on a daily basis with judgment, illness, and medicine. They are ostracized from most people in their communities, including their family, and yet they are able to come weekly to a safe place where they are loved and accepted. It is probably the most beautiful picture of the Kingdom I have ever seen. My co-leader Hilary and I are planning some fun outings for them in April to love on them, so I will let you know about those – I CAN’T WAIT! These people deserve unending love and dignity to be poured out on them and I love being in their lives!

I find myself knee-deep in a place I have dreamed about for so long, and I feel very sensitive and ‘present.’ Some moments it is overwhelming, like after a meeting I had with one woman in our group this week where she shared her life story of abuse, pain, rejection, and loneliness. And yet this woman is a Christian and trusts that the Lord will be enough. Emotionally, I don’t know what to do with this information, but I just receive this friend as a true gift of our Lord, who shows me the depth and power of His grace. But don’t worry all you ‘moms’ out there – I am taking good care of myself, and leaving LOTS of space to pray, think, listen to God, and rest. He is re-creating me in this time through these profound experiences, and they are such a gift.

I was reminded today of how difficult it can be to learn a new language, as I have tried for so many years to learn Spanish. They say that you know you are really starting to ‘get it’ when you think and dream in Spanish. This came to my mind because of our time early this week with my Duke professor Peter Storey who told us that we need to read the scriptures thorough the eyes of the poor and hear the truths of the God through the hearts of the poor. I am used to receiving from God from my privileged, comfortable, and self-sufficient life where God is something I have added to all I already possess. So it feels like I am trying to learn a new language, to learn to read the scriptures and receive the truths of God through the hearts of the poor. It is unnatural, but as I try to take it in through these beautiful people I have met here, I am unquestionably finding a God I have missed my whole life. Our God is mighty to save, His right hand protects those who are persecuted, His grace is truly sufficient, and He brings joy and life to those who seek His heart. May these weighty truths be true for my new friends here and merciful God, may they be true for all of us! I invite you to read this familiar passage today, but to ask God to help you to hear it through the hearts of the last and the least of this world. May we all truly see our great God!

Love you all!

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Video we made for Grace youth

Hey guys!

We wanted to share this video with you - we made it for the youth at Grace at one of the townships here called Red Hill. There will be more to come! Love you all!

Feeling Like Ester!

“…And who knows but that you have come to this position for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14b

Today we finally got to meet our supervisor, Avril. She and her husband, John (the founder of Living Hope) were gallivanting around the States meeting with supporters, having meetings with other organizations, speaking at a missions conference, and visiting the White House at their invitation. They obviously weren’t really gallivanting, they were very busy. But it was so good to finally meet her.
But that’s where it starts getting hectic. We went in at 8am thinking we’d be there an hour maybe a little more. At 11:30am we were leaving her office! It was an incredible meeting of her realizing our skills, interests, and passions; and then her connecting them to some projects and initiatives that really need those exact skills, interests, and passions. It was actually very weird watching how much God has particularly fit us for this time in Living Hope’s history. It really did feel like Esther. I know that sounds so presumptuous to compare yourself to a major, heroic Biblical character; but it just felt like that.
The things that she really wants me to be working on are perfect for me. When the school term ends in 2 weeks they have a 3-week break. During that time Living Hope does “Holiday Clubs”. I’m going to help plan the club for Red Hill, the community that Stanton leads. Specifically with that club I’m going to be recruiting and developing leaders for that club, hoping that many of them will continue throughout the year to be leaders with the Kids Club, which I’ll continue to develop. Most of those volunteers will be teenagers from that same community. I’m excited about that opportunity, because over the long term it will really help Stanton.
Then, as I’ve been telling you, I’m going to help develop the Program for the Teenage Clubs. That will mean helping to establish a real vision, set of goals, and specifics for curriculum. I’m going to work with some specific Life Skills Educators that are passionate about the teenagers. The goal is to have this all done by April 30th so that we have two weeks to play with it and have it final by the time we leave! I’m super excited about that! Please be praying for it, though. There are parts of it that feel so over-my-head. I feel more like it should be Sass or Brian doing it, but I know that God has equipped me to do it as I’ve learned so much from those two great men over the years.
I think just giving those things away to me would have made Avril’s day because the teen clubs have just been running on their own for a few months without any real guidance or design. Now, we can establish that.
But, then she started talking with Sarah, and man, God just made Avril’s day. Avril is in charge of the whole “prevention” side of Living Hope, of which both Life Skills Educators and Support Group Leaders fall under. Sarah started sharing how she’s loved the Support Groups and how she’s already realized that they need more training and pastoring. Well, that’s something that Avril has realized that they needed, but didn’t know how to make it happen. We all know how amazing Sarah is at shepherding people both individually and as small groups. And, it’s amazing how God is using the work she did over the last year or so with coordinating small groups. Essentially that’s what she’s going to be doing here: coaching leaders! So, basically God is combining her passions (the poor and broken) with her skills and abilities (shepherding, counseling, and coaching). Isn’t that hectic?!?! God is amazing! I honestly have only seen Him move in such amazing ways like this a few times in my life. So, I’m just totally thrown off my horse by this.
Sarah is going to continue visiting with patients in the clinic. She’s also going to continue leading her support group, while adding another group to her schedule. She’s also going to organize a resource library for support group leaders. And, of course, she’ll get dragged into EVERYTHING I’m doing (as you all have seen before).
It was the most amazing meeting and a great day! Again, it’s so humbling to feel like you are doing anything worthwhile that might actually matter in bringing “thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
At the same time I’m continuing to be humbled as I watch the amazing job that Jeff Cash and Sass are doing with the High School Ministry. Has everybody seen the music video they did? If you haven’t, you have to go to and check it out. It’s incredible!
So, this is a really long post, but God deserved it! Please keep praying for us. We are REALLY going to need it now!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prayers for the week!

“We can do not great things, only small things with great love. It is not how much you do but how much love you put into doing it.” - Mother Teresa

Hello friends and family,

There is so much going on around us, in our lives and ministry, and in our hearts. I feel like I just try to take in each moment, and I am praying to be ‘present’ with all that God is giving us in this place. We are so blessed!

Casey has shared about our ‘eventful’ weekend, and I must say that it was very full and wonderful. It is a gift to have people around us to share this time with, laugh, discuss, and admire the goodness of God. We are so thankful for Evan and Kerryn Torrance, as they have been so generous to us with their lives. It is truly a gift to find such wonderful friends half-way around the world, even if they do ‘bully’ Casey into riding 100km races two days before. :) On Saturday we had a great time of bonding with our flat-mate Mandy. She is truly a gift of joy and energy, and she is already pushing us to do things we would never do on our own. I have some great bruises and scratches, but I couldn’t think of a better way to see Cape Town then from on the side of a mountain. Today (Monday) we spent time with Peter Storey, who was a professor I had at Duke Divinity. He is from South Africa, and was a Methodist pastor and bishop here during the apartheid fight and end. He was also a chaplain to Nelson Mandela while he was in jail, among many other accomplishments. I was delighted to learn he lives very close to us here, and we visited today with he and his wife, Elizabeth in their beautiful home. I quickly remembered why his class was among my favorites at Duke, because he is a fountain of wisdom, humility, and challenge. He takes the Bible very seriously and has been a pastor all his life who truly called his people to the painful and life-giving call of Jesus Christ. We left with buzzing heads, great reading material, and heavy hearts to all that God is calling us to ahead. I am again convicted that my call into the Kingdom of God is one that will push me to challenge realms of the world that might be considered ‘controversial’ by many Christians, like race and wealth, but it is where God is truly found among the seeming treasures of the world. I have much to discern!

This week I am going to be diving deeper into the counseling and social work ministries of Living Hope. I am going to begin meeting with some of the lay counselors who lead the support groups for people with HIV. These are extraordinary people, who have little mentoring and supervision, and so I will be working to create relationships and groups with them to support the work they do. Some are even beginning to ask to meet one-on-one with me to receive guidance and counseling for their own personal lives. What an incredible blessing and privilege! Please pray that God will use me for His purposes and make a way for the ministry He desires while I am here.

Love you all! Thanks for checking in with us!

Casey and Sarah after the race

Casey with EVAN after the race. Ouch :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

I did it and lived to tell about it…

The Team Before the Race
It’s over! I did it! I completed the World’s Largest AND Most Scenic Bike Race. I did it with a group of Frank’s friends (see earlier post for who Frank is). There were a total of six of us, 5 dudes and 1 lady. We all wore a balloon on our helmet so that got us lots of attention. The four other guys had something that sort of looked like scaled spikes on their helmets. Sort of like they were stegosauruses. 3 of the guys and myself finished the race together in just under 6 hours. For most of the race we all tried to stay together and it just wasn’t working. So, we separated before the final of the two really terrible hills.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience!! I’m really glad I did it. It was definitely a great challenge, but I prayed a lot and really felt God’s presence. All day I had great strength and endurance that only He could give. One time in particular He really hooked me up. Over the last 33 kms there are two giant climbs. The first one is called Chapman’s Peak. At the beginning of it there is a short section they call Little Chappy. When we started that first part my left hamstring started cramping like crazy. I was really nervous that it was only going to get worse and never stop. I just started begging God to take it away. And miraculously we fought it off together. I rode strong up Chapman’s Peak and the rest of the way.
It’s such a fantastic course and the scenery is often breath-taking ( and not just because you are riding a bike). I wish I could explain it in such a way that would do it justice. And it’s such a spectacle. 35,000 riders and it seems like the WHOLE city is out there cheering you on. My favorite place to ride was through Ocean View, which is one of the Townships where Living Hope works, you’ve read about it on the blog. It felt like their whole community was out on the roads. And they were excited. I rode through there just screaming, “Ocean View!!” or “I Love Ocean View!!” They loved that and gave me some great cheers!

All of this was part of a fantastic weekend! On Saturday we went Rock Climbing with our flat-mate Mandy at a place called Silvermine. Also, breathtaking!! It was such an incredible place to climb and Mandy was so patient in teaching and helping us. And Sarah is an amazing climber. She was totally shredding that cliff! I was so inspired by her! That night we had dinner with Mandy to complete Flat-Bonding Day!!

What an incredible weekend!! Dinner with the Torrances and new friends on Friday, flat-bonding on Saturday, and racing in the Cape Argus on Sunday. I have no idea why God is so good to us!! But I’m thankful that he is.

Now, let’s pray that I can still move tomorrow and that I’m still this positive about the race!!

Thanks for the prayers,

Riding Through Hout Bay

Rock Climbing
Casey helping Sarah

Us with Mandy

This is the view from where we were climbing. That's the Indian Ocean in the background!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I need's almost an emergency

So, I need some serious prayers. Last night, Friday, we were having a lovely dinner with Evan and Kerryn Torrance (refer back a few posts) and some of their friends. After dinner the conversation turned to how one of the guys, Frank, was riding in the Cape Argus this weekend. If you remember from my post about my new bike the Cape Argus is the WORLD'S LARGEST BIKE RACE!! So, out of nowhere, Evan says, "Casey you should ride the Argus. Mark (their pastor) isn't using his entry. You should use it and ride." After many laughs and much conversation I somehow got talked into it!!
So, on Sunday morning, about 10am (3am there) I'll take off in the World's Biggest Bike Race for about a 5 hour ride! It starts in City Center of Cape Town and continues all the way to Cape Point at the end of the Southern Peninsula, up around the other side of the peninsula, up two giant mountains, and back to Green Point Stadium. Total of 109klms, about 65 miles!! I know, what am I thinking?? I'm crazy!! But what an amazing opportunity to see Cape Town and to say that I'm going to be part of such an amazing tradition. The guys I'm riding with (Frank and his buddies) are riding casually, so I'm confident that I won't die.
However, I would cherish your prayers. 5 hours is a long time to ride a bike!! And the temperature should be close to 80 tomorrow. So, get up early and pray hard! We'll definitely post pictures and maybe even some video after the race. For info about the race check this website:

Gotta go, we're off to go Rock Climbing with our flat mate, Mandy. It's "Flat-Bonding Day."


Friday, March 7, 2008

Casey in Action

Hey everyone! Just wanted to share a few pictures of Simon's Town High School, where Casey is teaching three days a week. He is working with Living Hope as a life skill educator, and they have been invited to teach in the high school for a short time on topics like family, career, suicide, and relationships. I even got to teach one class of girls about relationships - so fun! He is doing a great job and really starting to create some relationships there. And it's a beautiful setting!

The view is beautiful!

Sarah with students

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dreaming together

Hello friends and family!

I feel like I have so much to share, but I will try not to give every detail! I have so much joy because I feel like God is using us here and it is such a privilege. We are learning new things each day, being humbled by these people, and growing in our faith and devotion to God. Scripture has such a greater power in my life here because I recognize my need for God's hand on me at all times.

I would like to share a bit about something that has blessed me incredibly this week. As Casey has shared, I was able to help lead a support group for parents with HIV this week. It is a weekly meeting of about 13 people and led by a woman named Hilary who is a wondering HIV counselor and an incredible woman of God.

Sarah and Hilary

On Tuesday I walked into our afternoon group to talking, laughing, and the sharing of food. Perfect. I can do this. The group was in a lively mood and this helped everyone to open up for our time of sharing. Hilary begins the group with a devotional and prayer and then we open up the floor to the members. This week they each shared about themselves so I could get to know them more. They have incredibly diverse backgrounds and stories, and have had HIV from just 9 months to 13 years. One woman, Anjelique had her daughter there who also is infected with HIV. So sad. But they shared their struggles and their hopes. One woman said she cries alone in her room when she has difficult days. Another woman said that even though she is sick she wakes up every morning and thanks the Lord for her life. She also shared that she believes she has the right to dream and dreams can still come true. Amen. These people have lived hard lives and have many tough things ahead, but they are strong and have hope. And they have one another, and there is a neat solidarity among the members.

Honestly, every moment I was there I just felt so incredibly humbled by God. Humbled that they have allowed me into the group and want to share their hearts and lives with me. Humbled by all they have suffered through, and yet their strength. Humbled by their openness to share their pain and allow it to hit them. Humbled by the loneliness many feel and the neglect that can come from their families. Deeply humbled by the way the Lord is working in their lives and their choice to praise Him even in the midst of trials I could never understand. Humbled.

At the end I shared that I would love to pray for them if they wanted me to, and so most of them wrote down their prayer requests for me to take. Their personal situations include rape, abuse, loneliness, sickness, and pain. And yet they have hopes for the future to buy their own homes, to not be sick this week, to have love in their lives, to be all that God wants them to be.

I have been in hundreds of small groups and written down thousands of prayer requests in my life. I am ashamed to admit that most of the time the requests are forgotten as soon as my pen writes them on the paper. I am convicted of this, because prayer has extraordinary power and is a gift from God. The prayer requests of these group members are a treasure to me and I have been praying for them non-stop ever since we said goodbye Tuesday afternoon. I feel so privileged to pray on their behalf, and my love and compassion for them is growing even in our distance.

If you can't tell, this is a place of ministry that has already touched me deeply and I am already seeking out more opportunities with the support groups. I think it is a profound point in the life of HIV, where people know their fate yet have so much more life to live. It's all up to them, their choices, and their dreams. And I believe their dreams can come true. I pray that God will allow me to love these precious people deeply and that we can dream together of all God can do in our lives.

Please pray for Hilary, who is my co-leader and pictured above. She is a beautiful woman of God, with a pressured, full, and difficult life herself, yet she gives all she has for these people. Wow!

Love you all!

I think I finally get it...

I don’t know how to adequately express this but I’m going to try. On Tuesday Sarah leads a support group in one of the townships here called Ocean View. She leads with a lady named Hilary. She is also going to share more about it, so I won’t continue with too many details other than that basically all the people in the group are HIV positive. Some with just HIV and some with full-blown AIDS. Some have been diagnosed just 9 months, some as long as 13 years. Oh, yeah, I wasn’t going to rehash details. Moving on.
So, this week I went to pick Sarah up and I waited for her there in the clinic. When she finished she invited me back to meet her group. I met them, played with their kids, waited a few minutes, and then we left.
Afterwards, though, I realized something. In those brief moments I blew out of the water my previous experience, interaction, and encounter with people suffering with HIV and AIDS. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve EVER known or been in contact with anybody with HIV. And in that moment I met at least a half dozen people. So, that was really remarkable.

But as I thought about it longer I realized that I never shied away from these people or their kids. I never even thought of their struggles, issues, or diseases. I’ve just gotten so used to the idea that my job here is just to unconditionally love people that I never hesitated to touch them, talk to them, have their kids climb all over me, etc. I never considered any of it. But it wasn’t because of me or about me.
It reminds me of Sarah’s series of sermons right before we left for South Africa (if you aren’t from Grace you need to email them and ask for copies b/c they were amazing). She kept talking about us “coming close” to the poor. She challenged us to love with “actions and truth” not just with “words”. And she pushed us to close the “charity gap” and really engage people. I realized that I’ve done that now. I’ve always talked a great talk about missions, poverty, and caring for people, but I don’t know that I totally got it. I feel like I moved a step closer this week when I just came close to these people without ever considering their problems. That’s my hope for you, too, that you’ll join us on this journey as we continue to figure out what it means to “COME CLOSE.”
Love and Miss you,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

You have no idea how good I look in tight spandex!

So, I did something that many of you will think is crazy. I bought a road bike this week. I know it is kind of crazy. But it’s not as hectic (the word they use more often for crazy here in SA) as you think. I’ve wanted one for a while because running can get boring and monotonous so it’s a great way to break it up. And ever since we’ve been doing the spin class I’ve been inspired. And finally everybody in Cape Town cycles. It’s crazy, they are everywhere! Ron Torrance told me that, so I planned on trying to rent a bike, but they just don’t do that. So, I bought one!!
This weekend they even have the World’s Largest Bike Race here called the Cape Argus. It’s 35,000 people riding 109 klms (that’s about 65 miles) along some gorgeous but very difficult roads. The whole town shuts down (our church doesn’t have normal service) and the race comes right by our flat!
The plan with the bike is either to try and sell it when we leave (the place I bought seems to think I’ll have no problem with that or keeping it. I really think I’ll be keeping it and finding a way to bring it home. I’m determined to find a way. It’s really light and once you take it apart it will totally fit in my suitcase! So, Raleigh, be ready, because you have no idea how good I look in tight spandex. Because of course, I had to get real biker shorts if I’m going to be a cyclist. They have pads and everything. I have clip-in shoes and my first helmet!
I had to share my big news with everybody. Thanks for being excited for me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bob Marley Building Bridges

Hello friends and family,

We have officially jumped into our second week of ministry here in South Africa, and I feel like we continue to learn new things around every corner. As Casey said in his ‘video message,’ this country has been described as the place where the first world collides with the third world. It is perplexing to see how close wealth and poverty live to one another here. You are driving through a wealthy community, one that looks European or even American, and you turn one corner and literally you are in the middle of ‘Africa’ as you would imagine it with people, music, food, and poverty. This past weekend we were at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town; a tourist ‘must-see’ and a beautiful place of shopping, restaurants, music, and people can be found here. As Casey and I were sitting down outside drinking a coke, a young boy came up to us asking for spare change. I recognized the boy because I had been watching him that day, as he and his raggedly dressed friend literally devoured some food that had been given to them by nearby shoppers after they had eaten enough. They were exceptionally thin with torn clothes and desperate looks. So when this boy approached us we began to talk with him, and learned that his name was James and that he lives on the streets right there in the city. He said he was 17 years old and had been kicked out of his house. We just talked with him and laughed together, and anything we could offer him seemed so trite to me when I knew he needed shelter, food, family, nurture, and the love of Jesus Christ. It was heartbreaking to me and it was all I could do to not drag him home with us. He is the same age of so many youth in Raleigh who could feed him for a year off their cd collection. Or my cd collection. These are the type of mind-boggling encounters we are having here, which seem to haunt me for days.

It seems that I will be spending my mornings in the Living Hope health clinic, and I am learning so much about HIV and AIDS and what it looks like in the flesh. I had a meeting on Thursday with the doctor and nurses here, and learned about each patient that we care for in the clinic. There is one patient named Zolilie that I have been able to spend some time with. He has a highly contagious form of tuberculosis as well as HIV, so he sleeps in a separate ward and must wear a mask when out on the premises. I can always find him by his faded orange Yankees ball cap. Yesterday we were sitting on the porch talking and I watched him clean his lunch plate quickly. I told him he must be feeling better and asked if he would be going home soon. He said he hoped so because he was tired of watching his friends die, and then proceeded to tell me about the death of his roommate on Friday. What do you say to that?? How could I ever imagine to understand what that feels like? What could my response be but to then play some Bob Marley?? Seriously, as the conversation moved on, I asked him what kind of music he liked, to which he replied ‘reggae.’ So I played him so Bob Marley off my ipod and speakers. I think it truly bought some light to the day, and he even stopped me so he could grab another friend to listen along. We sat and sang “no woman, no cry” together. As I left I promised him we would have more music time together and he laughed.

I do struggle for what my response could possibly be to this pain, and I have found some wisdom in the book “The AIDS Crisis” that I am reading. It says, “AIDS workers no longer refer to individuals as victims of AIDS, but rejecting that word is more than an issue of being politically correct. Victims are helpless; people living with HIV or AIDS are not. God holds us accountable for our actions and has given us a gift of dominion – of exercising control over our own behavior and our environment. Christians ministering to people with AIDS can restore a sense of hope and self-efficacy that mobilizes change.” These words speak truth and vision to me as I move forward, and I ask that you would pray that God would use Casey and I for this purpose here. I do believe Zolilie and many others have a lot of life to live, even with HIV, and I pray that God would help us to share that vision with them.

Thanks, as always, for your prayers and encouragement. We love you all!

Time With New Friends

We were blessed this past weekend to spend some time with some new friends that have a connection to Grace Community Church. Ron and Marilyn Torrance go to Grace and have become good friends, and happen to be from South Africa. Their son, Evan, still lives here and so we met up with him and his wife Keryn and son Cameron on Sunday. We had a great time together and even went to a concert in Stellenbosch - beautiful! Just wanted to share the Grace - South Africa connection. And thank God for new friends to share this experience with!

Casey and Sarah with Evan and Keryn Torrance

A view of the picnic area behind outdoor concert amphitheater

The amphitheater

So we went to the concert because Keryn was playing in it - aside from being plain cool, she is also an incredible violinist. The artist she played for was a guy named David Crommer, and he is very well known around here. The concert was in Afrikaans, the Dutch language that is spoken here by mostly whites, but it was wonderful! It was a bit folksy, somewhat like James Taylor meets Jimmy Buffett meets Paul Simon meets New Orleans Jazz. Got it? It was a fun night!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Special Time with Casey and Sarah

Casey has SKILLS! Enjoy our thoughts from this weekend on this video!

There was a Jim Collins sighting

On Saturday we visited Robben Island. Home to the prison for Political prisoners during Apartheid. A place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity. It's a very interesting place and we learned a lot. However, and you can hear all about this on a video that we are posting on a subsequent blog, the tour wasn't exactly a thing of beauty. After arriving back at the Cape Town waterfront about 2 hours late, we headed right to the information counter to request a refund. This is where I saw Jim Collins. Except this time it was in the form of his very own daughter! I've trained much of this part of Jim out of Sarah over our almost 6 years of marriage. But this time I was glad that "Jim" showed up. She marched right over to the counter, filled out the complaint form, spoke to somebody in charge, got his name and phone number, and told him exactly what she expected (a full refund, of course). It was a thing of beauty, especially because she did it with class and grace.

We'll keep you updated on any other Jim Collins sightings.

Our camera battery died at Robben Island so we have to wait and get pictures from one of the guys from the Nashville group, but this is one from the Waterfront that we just had to include. You may have to double click it so that it blows up and you can see it clearly.