Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prayer Requested

We should have posted this and requested prayer for these people over a week ago, but I'm just now thinking of it.
South Africa is struggling right now with a giant case of xenophobia. Xenophobia is basically when you have a fear or hatred towards things that are foreign. In the township areas of South Africa many foreign refugees are making their homes there. They are leaving politically unstable and war-ridden areas like Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Malawi, and especially Zimbabwe. Recently the local South Africans have been threatening violence and mistreating the refugees because they are taking some of their jobs. It's known in these communities that often the refugees work harder and are more trustworthy then the locals because of their desire to create a new life for themselves and their families. Many local South Africans forget that during the worst periods of Apartheid that their citizens found refuge in these same nations that are now counting on them.
Because of this rise in violence that grew over the last two weeks many refugees are feeling pressured to return home. Many have sought shelter and safety in churches in their areas.
What was amazing at the end of last week and this weekend was that regular people started standing up and saying that this mistreatment wasn't right. They held marches and demonstrated. The churches really came to people's aid and provided for them. (King of Kings, the church that started Living Hope, hosted around 150 refugees.) But there is still a lot of unrest and bad feelings. Please pray that God would move in that situation and that communities can come together.
We were able to get pretty close to some refugees during our time there. One woman, Angela, from Zimbabwe, and Antoine and his wife Matty from the Congo. They are special to us but they are really trusting God now. They left really dangerous situations in their home nations hoping to find refuge in SA. We hope they will find it there.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

We be sharin'

If you would like to hear more about our trip and some of the specific things that God taught us then join us next weekend at our church, Grace Community.
We'll be preaching for the weekend services on Saturday at 5:30pm and Sunday at 9:15am and 11am. On Sunday night at 7pm we'll be sharing more reflections at the End-of-the-Year celebration for the Youth Ministry. For this event we will be sharing some videos, pictures, and different lessons from the morning services. This time is open to anybody that would like to join us.
If there is anything that you specifically want to know more about leave us a post on the blog or email us. That way we can tailor what we are sharing around some of the things that you all are interested in. God did so much, taught us so much, and allowed us to experience so much. It will be a difficult challenge this week to narrow that down!

By the way, today, May 25th, is our 6th Wedding Anniversary and Sarah's 28th Birthday!! Can you believe she put up with me for this long?!?! She has made such a major impact on my life. I wouldn't be half the man I am without her! But of course, all of you already know that.

Cheers,
Casey & Sarah

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Book Review- Confessions of an Eco Sinner by Fred Pearce

This is the last book that I read before we left South Africa. It's apparently the imported version, but Amazon leads me to believe that there is an American version coming out soon.

The story is of a London journalist who sets off on a crusade to learn about the origins of all of his stuff. His food, clothes, electronics, and energy. Everything! It's interesting to see, especially as a Westerner how far and wide our consumption stretches. We use and waste so much of the earth's natural resources, so it gets sad at times. He does a good job of not just finding out where his t-shirt is sewn, but finds out where the cotton was grown, and what it took to grow it and move all of the materials around.
It's a pretty balanced view on all of it. He also points out where he often falls short in protecting the environment (including flying all over the world to write the book). He also, though, really digs deeper into things like fair trade and carbon offsets. Things that we believe on face value, but aren't always as they promise.
If you have any interest in the environment and don't mind a little guilt, you'll enjoy this. The only missing part for me was that most of it was focused on the waste and consumption of the UK and not the US. I'm assuming the new version will have more of an American focus.
Overall Grade: B

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Here are some pictures of our last full day in Cape Town, Tuesday. The week was VERY full with seeing friends, finishing up ministry and projects, and saying many goodbyes. We know we are SO blessed to have made such great friends in Cape Town and are so thankful for all the people we were able to minister with and to.


These are pictures of Sarah's last support group meeting in Oceanview. The group had a goodbye party for Sarah and Casey complete with prayers, gifts, and many well-wishes. It was a beautiful day!

Sarah and Angelique



Casey and Donovan



Sarah and Glenthia, with the pillow she made us - so sweet!



Casey with Alleta's daughter, Jodie. They were, of course, fast friends



Here are some pics from our last day in Red Hill, the township where Casey most worked with the kids and teens. They had a surprise good-bye party for us with songs, prayers, and a feast! It was so special!








Last dinner with great friends, Mike and Meg Massingham and Mike Jenkins




Our friends at home created all these cards of encouragement and prayers and we opened them throughout the trip. Each one was posted on our closet! We love you all - thanks for all your support!!

We are HOME!

Hey everyone!

I am typing this blog update from my blessed and beautiful couch - praise the Lord! We are home safe and sound! We were greeted in our home to flowers, a cleaned house, a decorated Mexican fiesta, and a groomed Lance, among other things. What an incredible community we have here! Thanks for your prayers of getting us home! We look forward to catching up with everyone this week and will be updating with final pictures and thoughts this coming week.

Lots of love!
Sarah

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Half-way Home

Hey everyone,

Sorry we haven't had much of an update this week, our computer is evidently getting tired, so we have not been able to post the pics we wanted to. They will come next week, as we ended our time with many great times with the friends we have made here. I feel like we keep saying the same thing, but we are SO BLESSED by the relationships we have formed and the people we were able to minister to here. We feel so full of blessings and grace. God has been abudantly good to us here. We have made half of our trip home, we are now in Amsterdam for 27 hours. We fly back out tomorrow, and get to Raleigh Friday night. It is a beautiful day in the Netherlands, and we really reccomend Amsterdam if you love bicycles, cafes, canals, or hippies. We made one wrong turn into some shady areas, but serious this place is cool. So we are decompressing and taking lots of deep breaths. We will update this weekend (or ASAP) with final pictures and thoughts from our trip.

Thanks for all your support! Love you all!
Sarah and Casey

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Tears Begin...

Hey eveyone,

We will post a bit more tomorrow, just wanted to ask for your prayers as we finish our time here. We have only one full day left - ahh!! Today we said goodbye to my support group and the kids at Red Hill, two groups of people that God gave us to love and we are going to miss them! Tears have been shed and it's really beginning to hit us heavy. Tomorrow we are running around saying last goodbyes to more people and getting packed up. Someone teased us today that we are stretching this goodbye thing out pretty long.... guilty as charged. But only 24 hours left and then the plane is waiting!

Love you all!
Sarah

Book Review

“The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality of Racial Reconciliation” by Tony Campolo and Michael Battle

Growing up, I truly think I was unaware of racial issues in America, partly because of growing up visiting my mother’s vibrant Mexican family in California. It wasn’t until high school that I realized the great segregation, in my instance in the South, and how different the ‘cultures’ seemed to be. In my time at seminary, I began to engage my African American friends about issues of race, power, and privilege and was shocked to hear of the dim realities that still pervade our country in regard to prejudice. As I have grown in my understanding of God’s calling to His church, I recognize that we are to play a role in uniting His people across barriers that once keep them divided. This book is a vision and guide for anyone who longs to see the church in America reconciled racially. It would probably be easier to accept our dissimilarities across cultures and races, and just declare that we are too different to ever worship together, or we could pronounce that God longs us to be one, even if our styles, histories, and comforts will make us fight for true unity on this side of heaven. Being in South Africa, I see clearly the grief that comes from prejudice and racism, and I think even in America we have many racial issues to still deal with, even if they are not as overt as they were in the 1960’s. I encourage anyone who longs to see the church racially united for all our greater good and fullness of worship, to read this book and begin to put its teachings into practice.

Overall Grade: A

Updated Flight Times

These are updated flight times provided by our amazing travel agent Betty Rock of Argo Travel. Again, just in case you need them.

14MAY KL 598 CPT AMS 11:25p 10:50a
16MAY NW 57 AMS MEM 2:05p 4:55p
16MAY NW 5718 MEM RDU 6:45p 9:45p


We leave in 36 hours!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!

Cheers,
Casey

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hey everyone!

We had a great weekend and thought we would share some pictures of all we did. So fun!

Just trying to enjoy all the last moments with these awesome people! Love you all!
Sarah



Sarah with Benadette, Robin, Amy, and Iver - a family in Oceanview



Casey speaking to the youth group at Oceanview Community Church



Beautiful view at our house at Betty's Bay, where we stayed with the Torrances and other friends



Casey and Cameron



Party with the Life Skill Educators at the Prince's



Casey with Clinton and Vernille



Sarah with Nathan's daughter

Friday, May 9, 2008

People!

What a great week with so many wonderful people! We have been so blessed to spend great amounts of time this week with many of the people we have grown close to in our time here. We have been invited into the lives of people with many different backgrounds and lives, and we feel that we have learned so much from each of them. Casey has mentioned many of these events this week in his blogs, but each time with these friends is so rich and filled with laughter and joy, it's hard to express it all.

I am soaking up some great time with the support group leaders that I work with this week. I just treasure these incredible people of God! On Monday Casey and I went to an elderly group in Muizenburg. I had been a couple of times and LOVE these ladies - they are spunky, full of wisdom, and very open to learn and grow. They then INSISTED that I bring Casey who they described as a 'hunk' by his picture. They loved their time with him on Monday, and one of the leaders, Grace, now calls Casey 'a hunk for God.' Love it.


"The hunk" with his ladies


Sarah with Grace and Angela - the leaders


Sarah with all the support group women

Then today I planned most of the monthly support group leaders meeting, where all the leaders from the different communities come together for training, encouragement, and to recieve the tea supplies they use when they host their groups. I planned a time of devotion and teaching, all of which was based on scripture the Lord laid on my heart for them. We had a great time of learning, hearing from God's word, and worship. I absoutely loved it. After sharing lunch and a time of prayer as we leave with all the leaders, we had a guest speaker who I was really excited about. His name is Dr. Andy Young, and he is the creator of the flip-chart that I have been training the leaders on. We were able to get him to come in and share his heart and vision about the chart. It was a GREAT day! I just pray these leaders beleive in all God longs to use them for - they are incredible!

I am pretty much exhausted from the week of running around, getting last minute things done, and seeing a LOT of people. Saturday and Sunday we are going to a beach town called Betty's Bay with Evan and Kerryn and some of their friends. We are really looking forward to getting away for a time, resting, reflecting, and having fun.

Tick tock - time is running out!
Love you!
Sarah

We did it...

Today was a good day for us. Sarah had a great meeting with all the Support Group Leaders and I presented my Teen Club program to the Life Skill Educators. Both went very well.
The best part, though, was the quick farewell time they had for us at 12:30 (including cake). Some people made a few comments and it made us feel like we did what we came to do. We wanted to learn, not impose our ideas. We wanted to enter into their lives, not stay back. We wanted to serve them, not come to have some sort of special experience. I have thought we did that, but they confirmed it by what they said. They appreciated how we approached our time. One of them, Nathan, who I've learned a lot from said, "They came as missionaries, not tourists." That's exactly what we wanted to do.
It was a great day and really affirming of what we have tried to do.

Tonight I'm speaking at a Youth Groups Retreat for Ocean View Community Church. One of the LSEs, Timothy, is their Youth Director and he asked me to come. Pray for that, please.

Cheers,
Casey

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dinner in Ocean View

This last week or so is filled with lots of get togethers as we close down this road show. We had Mexican food Tuesday night at Ryan and Ashley's. They are two American missionaries that are both from Tennessee, but met here, and got married. Mandy and Vernille joined us. Sarah made pico de gallo. It was good!

Last night though we had dinner in Ocean View with a few special families. Shagmie (one of the Life Skill Educators) organized dinner at his girlfriend Lauren's house. I took Lauren's dad Adrian, Shagmie, and Adrian's best mate Desmond to a rugby game a few weeks back. That's basically who got together. Desmond and his wife Isabelle brought their 4 sons. Adrian's wife Francis cooked an amazing meal! (Lauren and Samantha are their only daughters at home.) We laughed a lot. Adrian brought 'a word' a few different times. We argued over who is going to win the Premiership and Champions League: Manchester United or Chelsea. Of course, everybody knows Man U is going to pull the double, but Isabelle was passionately arguing against them. It was hilarious. Most of the time I just sat back and laughed. It was such fun and quite a treat for us.

Tonight it's dinner with the Massinghams, we think. Tomorrow is Flatmate Flapjack Friday. And Saturday we are going away with Evan and Kerryn to Betty's Bay.

Can't believe that we are at less than a week! Oh, and your prayers worked. If you saw the video you know that I was asking for prayers to see if the 7 Checkpoints folks would give us the curriculum I wanted and they did! Praise God! It's going to be so helpful!

Cheers for now!
Casey

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just in Case

Just in Case you want to get this on your schedule:

Fri 16 MAY NORTHWEST AIRLINES LV AMSTERDAM 210P **
NES 57 AR MEMPHIS 455P

Fri 16 MAY NORTHWEST AIRLINES LV MEMPHIS 625P **
NES 5747 AR RALEIGH/DURH 912P


I just wanted to make sure you had it...just in case.

Stormers Rock

So, I'm beginning to really like Rugby! It's such a manly game. Much more than Football!! And to be honest, more than soccer, as well. These guys are just beasts and amazing athletes! I went to my 4th straight home game this Saturday. They won, AGAIN, and are now in 4th place. They have two games left and need to win those to make the playoffs. Check them out at: www.iamastormer.com.
This time I went with Clinton, the Team Leader of the Life Skills Educators in Muizenberg/Capricorn. He's an awesome guy who is really excited about his relationship with Jesus. I think we've cultivated a great friendship. He's in his 30s and most of the people on his team are in their early 20s, so I think our times of conversation are significant for him since we are a little more on the same level. Our times together definitely challenge me since we are often chatting about the impression that Americans give the world and other significant topics. He asks great questions and really challenges me.
My relationship with Clinton is just one of the many great relationships that have developed. Those relationships have certainly been a significant part of our time here. Much more than the work we did or the things we produced. The relationships have been the most important and will be the things I take back to Raleigh with me.

Cheers,
Casey

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Newsworthy

Today I wanted to share something I have been thinking about a lot lately, and something that has really been challenging me. We don’t have a tv or get the newspaper here except on special Saturday mornings, so we have to really seek out what is happening in the world these days. Here in Cape Town, one way that newspapers advertise what they are writing about in their daily paper is through paper signs that are ‘charitably’ posted all over the town. The slogans are short and usually highlighting the sensational stories of the day. Here is an example:



I will admit, there are many horrible and sad things that happen in this town. We actually recently learned that South Africa is an unbelievably dangerous country with one of the top murder rates in the world, top theft rates, and top rape numbers. There is so much unrest in the lower classes here and dark shadows left because of apartheid. Most of the crime is burglary and petty theft, but it can be deadly and dodgy (a word they love here). Actually, many wealthier South Africans are facing real questions of whether it is even safe to raise a family in a city with such chaos. Still, even with the statistical facts of crime and danger here, it can quickly turn into a dismal morning when every moment of the drive you read a sensational slogan about murder or rape cleverly posted by the news organizations. It seems that the entire city continues to work itself into a frenzy about the bad things that happen, and Casey Saturday morning struggled to find any positive news in the paper.

Then, one morning a couple of weeks ago, I was elated to read signs like this one covering each sensational news post along my drive.



The poster slogans were endless; colored sayings such as ‘Choose Love’ and ‘Good Will Win.’ These messages directed my entire day and I was deeply affected by them, as well as pointed in a new direction of creating love and encouragement. After some investigation, I learned that these posters were created by a group who has named themselves ‘Bob Joplin’ (the signature on each poster). This is who they describe themselves to be, and their challenge to the community.

“Bob Joplin is a group of friends in Cape Town, who have had enough of the constant torrent of negative news headlines that we are fed on a daily basis. We want to balance things out a little by creating our own positive news campaign.
None of us believe that focusing purely on the negative is going to help either ourselves or the community at large. That is not to say that we live with our head in the clouds & look at the world through rose tinted raybans. We accept that crime is high in South Africa. However, there are also many compassionate, humanitarian initiatives taking place in this great country that few people ever come to hear of. If you are involved with one of these, please let us know.”

It has really pressed me in my thinking of how we as humans are so easily tempted to focus on the negative and difficult parts of life rather than what is truly good. The reality is that pain, negativity, crime, and hate is not just happening in South Africa or Cape Town, it’s happening all over the world, and even right where you are. Each day we have a choice to how we are going to see it and what we are going to do about it. We can see it negatively, hide from it, judge it, ignore it, sulk about it, and even just grieve it. Or we can accept it and choose to also open ourselves up to the great good that is at work all over the world, as well. So many of the people we have met here have made this choice even in the midst of their own great heartache and struggle, and their lives and work humble me. Even though I would like to magically grant the world peace, like a beauty contestant goal, I know God has given me right now and right here. I pray that I would have the courage, and I pray that we would have the courage to choose to see the compassion and love all around us and take steps towards creating more love and goodness all around us.

Love,
Sarah


“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same" (Nelson Mandela)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Update-O-Rama

Hello friends and family,

The official weekend is here now and I thought I would fill in some gaps of how we have been filling our time here in South Africa. We have not accepted jobs as official book reviewers here, but what else can you do to pass the time without tv?? What did people do?!? We have really enjoyed this space in our lives to read and learn so we are soaking it up and hope you will read some of our pics as well!

Things have been slowing down with our ministries this week and we are just trying to finish up a few projects. Casey is working on the curriculum for the teen clubs for Living Hope. He has created a ‘skeleton’ of what the themes will be weekly and is now working on filling them in with more details. He will share more of that next week, but it has been great for him to be a part of developing some structure and depth to a much needed part of the ministry in the townships. These teens have so many things attempting to influence them and what a great opportunity to share the fulfillment and life we can have in Christ!

I have been continuing some relationships and counseling with different people I have worked with here in South Africa. My friend Malcolm that I mentioned weeks ago who is a patient in the health clinic (check blog on Friday, April 11) got back from his time of rehab and is stronger and more focused. I look forward to spending more time with him this coming week and encourage his further rehabilitation. Another patient in the clinic, Zolilie (check blog on Tuesday, March 4th) has finished six months of tuberculosis treatment which is a great celebration, but unfortunately he is still sick with various illnesses and it’s possible that the TB is still in his system. I think he is a bit discouraged and will spend more time with him this coming week, as well.

Other than that we are enjoying the people here as much as we can. I guess Casey and I are what you might call ‘social people,’ eh? We have made great friends in all social and economic contexts here and loved each group of people we can befriend. On Thursday night we went to the 21st birthday party of one of the Life Skill Educators, Vernille, which is evidently a BIG deal in the colored (Indian and lighter black) community here. There were a ton of people (we were 2 of six white people – yes!) and phenomenal food. We chatted and laughed and even danced a bit (okay, so Casey and I were the only ones dancing). Then, last night we got to see Evan and Kerryn Torrance because they are back from Raleigh! We celebrated Kerryn’s birthday with pizza and pudding (what they call all desserts, this time it was cake and ice cream). We are intensely blessed here to have met so many incredible people to share this time with. Seriously, it’s a blast.

This weekend we look forward to resting a bit, catching up on some details, and getting ourselves ready for our last full week in Africa. Can’t even begin to process what it means to leave this time and come home, but we are both looking forward to lots of hugs, sweet tea and queso. J This coming week we will be very intentional about writing on the blog all that is happening and sharing how God has been moving, teaching, and changing us – so stay tuned!

Love you all,
Sarah

Casey and Vernille, the birthday boy (or man)

Eric and Natalie, two life-skill educators

Sarah and Roger, life-skill educator

Vernille and LSE's having a great time

Casey, post-prank done by John Thomas, founder of Living Hope Community Center. His wife Avril, and our boss, is also pictured and we are in the middle of a prank WAR with them. They may have won the battle, but we will always win the war...

Book Review- Everybody Wants to go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die by David Crowder and Mike Hogan


Yes, this is the 7th book I’ve read since we’ve been here. It’s amazing what happens when you don’t have a TV. I hope I can keep this up at home a bit. I’ve started another book and my goal is to finish it be the time we get off the plane. It’s a bit longer!
Now on to the book. If you’ve never seen David Crowder live or heard him talk much then you would be a bit confused by this book, because he’s seriously random. The book is much the same, so I knew what to expect. You have to get by that part and embrace it to enjoy this book. The book is a reflection on a period of the authors’ lives where they came face to face with death many times over a short period of time (including the Pastor that they helped start a church with in Waco was electrocuted and killed while preparing to baptize somebody in front of the congregation). They were really wrestling with many questions so they wrote a book that explored the “history of the soul” and the “history of bluegrass”. In between they add some other items that keep the book interesting.
I thought the book got better the further into I got. For somebody like me that has also come face to face with death more than I care to it was an interesting reflection (as I write this, it’s May 3rd, the 11th anniversary of my Mom’s death. On this day 11 years ago I was preparing for the State Cup Soccer Tournament in Winston-Salem, excited about my Senior Prom that night, and knowing that my Mom would die any day.) It was also an interesting process to read about many of my fears and anxiety. I’ve been in counseling for about a year over this exact issue. I want to go to Heaven, but I definitely don’t want to die. I’m so scared of the unknown of it. We really don’t know ANYTHING about it, and that sort of freaks me out. So, as the authors start exploring what they feel about it and how they have coped with each impending death I could really relate. Their thoughts, concerns, and questions were like many of mine. So even if I can’t write great worship songs like Crowder or grow a goatee that long, at least I know we are wrestling with some of the same issues.
All in all, it’s a creative piece of work and an interesting topic. One that we all thing about and will all deal with one day (we all will die, by the way) even if we don’t admit it.
Overall Grade: B

Besides this being the anniversary of my Mom’s death it’s also the Birthdays of Chris Sasser (38) and Chris Latta (49). Happy Birthday Old Dudes!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Some Humble Cake

Dear family and friends,

Hello! I feel like we have been a bit negligent in our updates this week and we have just found ourselves so busy as we get closer to leaving - shocking right?? We are cramming it in for sure, and just enjoying every minute of it. This week hasn't been really 'work' heavy as there are THREE public holidays this week where no one works. These South Africans know how to do it! So we are soaking up the beautiful Cape Town sun with various activities and seeing all the people we can.

Just something I wanted to share with you, a highlight of my week. I shared lunch this week with an incredible woman named Alleta. Alleta is in the support group I help lead, and has been HIV positive for 13 years. She is an incredible testament to the power of staying on your Anti-Retro Viral drugs (or ARV's) and keeping up with you nutrition and stress. Her story is mind-boggling and I couldn't begin to explain how awe-inspiring she is. She recently was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, which can be a killer here in Africa, went into the Living Hope health clinic for six days, and then two days later went on a mission trip with some other Living Hope leaders I know from Oceanview to Oatsworn, a small and impoverished town up north. She was able to minister to many people about the power of knowing your HIV status, and had one day of difficult counseling with a woman who became suicidal after finding out her positive status. But after loving on her and talking to her for a night, they surrendered her over to God and she showed up to greet them the next day 'another person' as they said. She was able to face the truth of her status and begin to walk forward in her new life. Beautiful stuff. Alleta lives a life wholly surrendered to God and spends each day helping and supporting others. She ministers to many people in the Oceanview township and speaks openly about her HIV status to create awareness and empowerment. I can't help but think, how would I live my life in the face of a deadly disease? She told me that you can't feel sorry for yourself but you must just keep walking forward trusting God will give you strength for every hardship. So humbling.

We went to an outside tea room in a garden and had a beautiful lunch sharing conversation and laughter. Afterwards we shared a piece of carrot cake for dessert, which I later realized was something I would never think twice about with a friend in America but I did think about it sharing it with a friend who is HIV positive. I do know that you can't get it through saliva sharing, but how humbling and even a bit depressing that I had to think about it. How often do people avoid situations with Alleta because she is HIV positive? How many relationships have been lost? How many times has she been rejected? I am just thankful for this heroic friend who lives each day surrendered to the Lord and with her head held high, and she is humble enough to be vulnerable to me and every person she meets.

These are encounters that I have never experienced before and they are teaching me more than I could ever read in a book or learn in a classroom. God's fingerprints are everywhere in these instances; you just have to open your heart to receive them. This is a beautiful time and I am humbled to be growing and learning from these people.

Love you all!
Sarah