So finally have some moments to write about our outing on Tuesday with my support group. This is a support group that meets in a clinic in a community called Oceanview. These people are HIV positive and are struggling with many life difficulties, including their illness that will eventually take their lives. Hilary, my co-leader who works at the clinic, told me that two of the women in the group, who are sisters, have a cousin with HIV who died just on Monday night. She had a two-year old child. These are the realities of living with HIV, even with the tremendous medicine that is available to them these days. Hilary and I decided it would be a great gift to these people to have a day outing to see the beauty of the city, which most of them have never even seen. From the start I knew it would be a particularly memorable day, and I was right. I even wore my special 'hippie' shirt given to me by my good friend Elizabeth Voiers - the shirt was graciously passed on to me for my own hippie adventures. This was its first appearance, and I don't know what will ever top this...
We picked the group up at 8:00 am and set out for the day. Everyone was so excited from the get-go, and the ride to town center was filled with laughter and singing. We ate breakfast at a local restaurant chain called "Wimpy" and continued to Table Mountain. Table Mountain is one of the central tourist attractions in Cape Town as it is an incredibly beautiful mountain shaped like a table, with a cable car to take you to the top. You can see the whole city and the extraordinary beauty of the city. We arrived there to find a one-hour line just to purchase tickets, on a blazing 90-degree day. The group got in line, but I knew they would never make it through the wait. You forget sometimes that these people are as sick as they are, but they live a life in very fragile bodies. I suddenly got the idea to go ask a manager if there was anything they could do for us; and I figured being an American couldn't hurt :) So I went to the front, found a guard, and shared who we were, asking if there was anything they could do. They were immediately gracious, and ushered my friend right to the shady front as I purchased tickets. What was exceptional was that people treated us like royalty all day. These people are obviously both poor and sick, both characteristics that get them ignored and abused most days, but on this day they were special. It was beautiful.
We soon were on the rotating cable-car riding up to Table Mountain, an event in itself for our friends, and we walked around and marveled at the majesty of God’s creation at the top. At one moment I was able to share some time with one woman who began to get ill in the scorching sun. We sat in the shade and talked about her life and the disease, and we just enjoyed the time together. God uses ALL things for good, even illness. This same woman earlier in the day pulled out a surprise feast of cookies and chips from her bag, which she shared with us all. There were so many unbelievable moments all day that I will treasure as vivid memories for years to come.
After riding the cable-car back down, we went to the Cape Town waterfront, a picturesque and fun place to shop and eat, and had lunch at KFC (by far the busiest restaurant there!). Next we decided to drive home along a scenic cliff-side drive that overlooks the beach. As we are in Africa, and thus move on “Africa time,” they day was getting later and later, and we realized we wouldn’t have time to both stop for ice cream and stop to put our feet in the ocean. The women decided they wanted ice cream over the beach, and so we drove towards home in search of sweets. Inside I hurt a bit, and I prayed simply to God, “God I want to really bless my friends today and take them both for ice cream AND the beach…” Finally we saw another Wimpy restaurant, and as we go to pull in realize it was RIGHT alongside the beach. I praise God out-loud and told them all of my prayer. Not surprising though, because God was weaving his loving hand through every part of the day. So we bought ice cream cones, the staff at Wimpy gave us all balloons, and we walked to the ocean to experience the refreshment. It was nothing less then a little piece of heaven.
How do I sum up the day? The facts of the experience included two meals, ice cream, an exploration of Table Mountain, fun at the Waterfront, and a dip in the ocean. Once again, however, words are insufficient to describe the fullness I felt in my heart to bless these new friends of mine. Their days are continually burdened with medicine, family problems, abuse, ostracizing, and pain. For one day we were all filled with joy, laughter, prayer, conversation, food, and the beauty of the Lord. In addition, I was able to spend this mind-boggling day with my remarkable and loving husband. One of the things I have always loved most about Casey is how magnetic he is and the way he is able to love people. He was his extraordinary self on Tuesday and loved these people so well it was humbling even to me. Oh, and you know he can always make us laugh! What a gift to share this with my best friend and husband.
Thank you for your support of this trip, and because of your overwhelming provision we have been able to do things like this for others. You will never know what it has meant to us that you have enabled us to bless these unseen saints. THANK YOU!!
With GREAT love,