30 December 2007


An article I wrote about my friend's struggle with AIDS and the battle to obtain ARVs has now been published by my university's newspaper. See the below link to read the pdf version.


peace & joy in 2008.


17 December 2007


Well, after 36 hours of travel during the holiday season, I finally arrived in San Diego! I'm still quite overwhelmed by the mass amounts of people, traffic, holiday decorations... the list goes on and on. The London airport was a rude awakening to the Western world (see below post) but I am so glad to be home. There truly is no place like home!

Thank you again for all your prayers & encouragement. I look forward to catching up with many of you in person!

Warmest blessings this holiday season.

14 December 2007


Well here I am in the London Heathrow airport, sitting at my laptop with my Starbucks Gingerbread Latte in hand. I’m back to the land of commercialism and over-stimulation. As I passed through the hour-long security line into the terminal I was bombarded by duty-free shops. Channel, Burberry, Border’s, MAC, all the big boys. I’m back. I was just short of bursting out in tears as my senses were attacked by masses of people, adverts and overfriendly salesman. I’m back.

And then it happened. My great fear. I started looking at those Marc Jacobs shoes. Oooh those are the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. I noticed the tall Londoner pass me with her designer purse and to-die-for boots. And then another one. And suddenly I felt so inadequate. If I just had that bag. Oh or those books!

This is not happening. Yet another attack of tears. Oh God help me!

Suddenly I was flooded of pictures from my last 7 months. Handing out soup to that little boy with no shoes in the middle of a rainstorm. I’m thinking about that lovely pair of leather boots. Pleading with my HIV positive friend to eat lots of vegetables and take care of herself while I am gone. I’m enjoying my $5 dollar coffee. Holding a little Zambian orphan who was fascinated by my fat. I’m eyeing the skinny blonde across from me. My beloved coffee shop staff who were thrilled to accompany me to the airport because they had never been to one before. This year I have been in 11 airports.

I think I’m going to be sick. I wanna go home. To Paarl.

Oh God, help me. Flood me with your wisdom and compassion. Make me more like your son.

13 December 2007

homeward bound//week31

Well I cannot believe 7 months has already passed. In some senses it's flown by. In other ways, it feels as if I've lived in Paarl forever. I run into familiar faces at the grocery store. I discuss politics at braais (bbqs). I'm in churches' "family pictures." I'm referred to as auntie by all the staff's children- even sister by some of them. I'm one of them.

Just the other day my pastor introduced me as an African American to a new friend. And there's some truth to that! In some ways, I've become very African. I'm always late. I take hot milk with my tea and coffee. I say "is it?" and "ja." I complain about our 10-cars-on-the-road "traffic." I watch soccer. I don't wear shoes. I've become South African. Yet, it's very obvious I am American. I like email and lists. I demand my rights. I barely speak 1 language, let alone 4. And I want to fix everything, on my own.

And now as I prepare to start my journey home tonight, I look forward to many things about America- Mexican food, Starbucks, fast Internet and excellent education!

On a serious note, I do crave the community that APU has generous given me, the wise words of my mother and the humor of my father and siblings. I look forward to returning home. But I approach the return with caution because of the dreaded word- "reentry."

Many questions come to mind. Will I be overwhelmed by the fast paced society? What have I forgotten? Will I be able to enjoy the same things I did before? What will frustrate me? Will I be understood?

I think those questions stand as my prayer requests. So as you think of me, along with the safety of my 36 hour journey, be praying for the great reentry process. I'm expecting beauty within the pain of leaving one home for another. And I await the even greater lessons God has in store through this transition.

Thank you all for standing by me through prayer and encouragement. My 7 months here was a collective effort. And I will be forever grateful.

May God shower his peace and warmth upon you this holiday season.

10 December 2007


Well I’ve returned from the wilds of Africa yesterday. After driving about 3,700 miles up the middle of southern Africa, I know understand why South Africans say Africa starts beyond their borders. It’s a completely different world out there.

To recount all that I experienced in my short 10 day road trip would take pages so I’ll share just glimpses of this crazy adventure. On day four, while driving through Botswana we had several elephant citings on the side of the road. They are such beautiful creatures, even while flapping their ears and threatening to charge you.

On the way to the Zambian border, we passed kilometers of semi trucks, which wait for days, often weeks, to get clearance to cross from Botswana to Zambia. Because of the long days of boredom, abundant prostitution takes place here and along most African borders, which only aids in the rapid spread of HIV across the continent of Africa. It was a sad reality to see first hand.

Just past the Botswana border, we crossed the famous, hippo and crocodile infested Zambezi River on a “ferry.” As I shared my wooden raft with a semi truck, there were many prayers said. Once we reached the Zambian border, it was chaos. All at moments you had to be aware of everyone around you for fear of theft. After our cars were cleared to pass through the border, we had to go through on foot. I was quite blown away by their immigration system, which consisted of writing our own information on a piece of paper once we got our passport stamped. Yes, we had arrived in Africa.

On day five, after visiting the beautiful Victoria Falls, we finally made it to the Dykstra home in Lusaka. They are a family from Minnesota working with World Vision for 2 years (check out their blog). They graciously turned their backyard into our campsite for the week.

The following morning was a day I’ve unknowingly waited years for. When we pulled up to the school, about 10 minutes out in the bush, I was overcome by emotion. As we drove down the red clay road, we were greeted by neat rows of singing children. Never before have I seen so much joy. As children immediately mobbed me, I realized a vision I’ve had for the last 4 years was finally coming to fruition.

For the following three days, I had two children on my lap and at least four hanging on my limbs at every moment. It was precious. It's amazing the power of touch. These children just wanted to be touched. And they wanted to touch me. At one point at small boy was pinching the fat on my arm and not much later a little girl began to examine my fat as well. At first, I thought, "I know, I know, I've got some extra fat on me. I've been trying to shed it, okay?" I was annoyed. And then it hit me. These kids are not used to fat. As I looked around the place, I couldn't find one child or teacher that seemed to have any excess fat on their bodies. As the 10th poorest country in the world, their diets consist of mangoes and millie pap (a sort of more substantial and bland cream of wheat). Meat is an occasional treat seen on their plates maybe- just maybe- once a month. The children have one meal a day, which the school provides. There isn't an opportunity for fat. Yes, opportunity- it's a privilege, a luxury, that I have some extra chub. Later on, as I trudged thru the red clay mud to the truck, for the first time, I found myself thanking God for the extra fat that has frustrated me often. Now there's a lesson to be learned.

It’s been a whirlwind adventure and I’m still processing through a lot. But one thing I am sure of is my heart continues to wrap itself around the people of Africa. Seeing these two beautiful countries has only confirmed that. I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for the opportunity to see God’s people across the world. I’m reminded that my life has little do with me. God’s driving the car. And it’s been, yet again, another crazy adventure.

29 November 2007


Well things are starting to wind down here in Paarl and I’m about to end this adventure with yet another adventure.

Tomorrow morning I will be headed off with 23 other South Africans and Americans on a cross-countries road trip. Over the course of the next 4 days, we’ll drive across the South African karoo into Botswana, past Victoria Falls and into Lusaka, Zambia. We’ll camp along the way and then in the yard of the American missionaries we are visiting in Lusaka.

Once in Lusaka we will put on a holiday club for 350+ children at a school for orphans. In the afternoons we’re hoping to visit the children’s villages and build relationships within those communities. We’re all very excited to minister in a new culture and see how God has been moving in Zambia.

This trip is particularly significant for me because this will be my first time to a new place in Africa. As many of you know, my heart is not only for South Africa but the continent as a whole. I am anxious to see other parts of this wonderful place. And it’ll be my prayer that God will open my eyes to what he intends to share with me during this time in Zambia.

After I return from Zambia on the 9th, I will be in Paarl to say goodbye for just a few days and then will be arriving at LAX Dec 14th at 7:35pm. It’s all gone by too quickly but I am so ready to be home with all my dear friends and family. You’ve been missed!

With such a big adventure on my doorstep, I covet your prayers. Thank you for your faithful encouragement and support over the past 7 months. It’s been a blessing to know I have a whole team at home praying for me.

Here’s what you can be praying for:
o Safety: We will be driving in a caravan of 4 trucks & 4x4s and will be camping out in the “wild” at times. Be praying for smooth running vehicles and protection from hungry animals- seriously!
o Health: We will be in a malaria & yellow fever zone. Enough said.
o Opportunities: Our purpose in going is to minister to these children through our relationships. Be praying that God will provide the opportunities to build into these children’s lives.
o Guidance: As I shared, this is a big trip for me personally because it’s yet another step in exploring the calling God has placed in my heart.

winding down//week28

Well things are winding down... I've begun saying goodbye, which hasn't been fun.
And the week has been full of packing & paper writing. So I must just leave pictures to tell of my week...

24 November 2007


This Thursday I was missing baking pumpkin pies, Hayden & Reed arguing over who had to set the table for 18, my dad taking his sweet time doing unneeded home projects 10 minutes before our friends arrive, and my mom remaining graceful through it all. It was a holiday I didn’t think I’d miss, yet I spent most of the day recalling past holidays & wishing I’d be there for the chaos of this year’s holiday. Now, more than ever, I find myself so grateful for the gift of family.

But what I’m really grateful for this year is food.

As I always do, I spent my Thursday afternoon playing with and feeding little children who eat, on a good day, twice a day. On hot days we pass out bologna sandwiches instead of soup. Between you and me, I can’t stare at the sandwiches too long because it makes me queezy. Yet these kids gratefully accept their juice and sandwich. They are truly grateful.

And this Thursday, I learned from my little friends what gratefulness looks like.

It looks like loving your rubber bologna sandwich and the hand that passed it out.

I want to be bologna sandwich grateful.

15 November 2007


Today I watched a boy get hit by a car.

I walked from the dirt patch where I park every week in Chris Hani and passed by the fruit and vegetable stand. Laura and I were laughing about something. Before crossing the street to the church I looked left. Out of the corner of my eye I watched a boy of eight or nine run across the street only to be propelled twenty feet to the other side by black VW hatchback. At that same moment I heard a thud- the kind that makes you go weak at the knees.

A mere fifty feet away, I stood paralyzed with shock. My heart was threatening to jump out of my mouth. My hand over my mouth seemed to suffocate me. I felt light headed. And as I stood there helpless, I watch the boy struggle to stand. Instantly, his legs gave out and he returned to the pavement hopeless. A man from the offending car jumped out, scooped the boy up and returned to the car. As the drove past, I got a quick glimpse of the boy’s quivering lip. And they were off.

My mind was suddenly drowning in questions. No one had gone to look for his parents or a friend. Did this boy know these people? The clinics are closed. Will they wait the long hours with him at the government hospital? Or will they drop him off at sangoma, a witch doctor? What if he’s bleeding internally?

I still can’t wrap my mind around this.

But what really strikes me is the mass suffering of these children. This car accident was a tangible and difficult evidence of suffering. And how many more children have avoided car accidents but are dying of HIV or AIDS? None of them have big thuds to scream their case.

This is a big world with big problems for little people. Good thing we have a big God who hears all those thuds… right?

11 November 2007

a tug of worlds//week26

Below is adapted from an article I wrote for APU magazine, "Generation Why." I think it best describes the inner turmoil I'm facing as I prepare to move from a developing country back to the wealthiest nation in the world's history.

As I leave my adolescence behind, I find myself in the middle of a ferocious tug of war. After many touching encounters with the world’s underprivileged, I have wanted to forsake my lavish American lifestyle. However, the desire to meet societal standards makes it a challenge. For a humanitarian spirit like myself, to buy or not to buy is a troubling dilemma.

At first glance it may seem simple. I must simply avoid the unnecessary acquisition of stuff. But I, like many American Generation Y-ers, was raised in a world where happiness, acceptance and success were all implicitly measured by the designer brands you owned, luxury cars you drove and extravagant vacations you enjoyed. I live in a land where 16-year-olds receive new SUVs and sports cars for birthday presents. A place where college students, including myself, carry their books about poverty, disease and other world injustices in designer bags. And where private schools schedule ski vacations so families can make use of their “snow homes.”

I always had an innate sense of caring for others. I would put money in the offering at church for those starving African children, and my family made several trips down to Mexico to give away our old clothes. I was well aware that there were many people in the world who lived nothing like I did. But it never really affected me. That is, until my first trip across the big pond to South Africa. There I made friends which shoeless children dressed in tattered clothing. There I held children whose parents’ lives had been stolen by a rampant disease called AIDS. At the formative age of 16, I found myself in a place that didn’t put value on brands or appearance, but rather on life, simply because life is a luxury there.

Upon returning, my heart had been transformed. Instead of longing for a new Coach purse, I wanted to see shoes on the feet of the AIDS orphans I had held. Yet within months, I was competing with my Juicy Couture-clad friends. I was spending $700 on purses. I was asking for a new, faster car. And I was concerned with the weight of Nicole Richie.

Year after year I returned to South Africa to see my friends who were delighted with their one tattered uniform and the chance to attend school with poor lighting and no heat. I held one dying child after another. And I would return each time to the States adamant that in remembrance of them, I would not succumb to our materialistic society. And time after time, I would embarrassingly fail at my resolve.

Now, after seven months of living amongst the poverty and crime that grabbed my attention three years ago, I wonder if seven months was enough to transform my whole heart and mind. When I return, will I be able to repress 20 years of socialization? How do I live in that world but not of that world?

03 November 2007


Today Jesus told me to play.

“But Lord, how do I play? I don’t know how to play. What’s so important about playing anyway?”

“I will teach you. Just come.”

“But Lord what about the things that need to be done? What about planning for tomorrow? How will I make an impact for your kingdom if I don’t get to a place where I can impact?”

“Jenna. You won’t get anywhere without me. I order your steps. And right now, you need to play. If you don’t play now, you’ll never play again. You need to play because you need to let go. You need to let go of tomorrow.”

“Yes, God. But what if I stop to play and then forget to plan?”

“Trust me Jenna. Your ways are not mine. When we do it my way, I get the glory. But forget about that plans. It’s not about the plans. It’s about the play.”


“Yes, dear.”

“I don’t know about this. Are you sure?”

“The day you stopped playing was the day you stopped fully trusting me. Tomorrow will always be there. But today is just today. So play. I’ll teach you. Just come.”

Today I’m learning to play. Who knows what I’ll do tomorrow.

Have you played today?

29 October 2007


This week I celebrated my 20th birthday. The simplicity of the day was refreshing and monumental.

I spent my birthday in Mbekweni, the local township I’ve given my heart to. My only request for my birthday was that I spend the night in the township. It’s become such a central point of my life that it only seemed natural.

I spent that night at Pastor Mqokeleli’s home. His family has become some of my closest friends, and that night they were my family. They invited two other good friends of mine, Andiswe and Pam, and we enjoyed a traditional and scrumptious Xhosa meal prepared by Mama Nosipho. And to top it off, they prepared a pig’s head in my honor.

As Mr. Piggy starred at me from across the table, my stomach began to resent my adventurous spirit. But how could I resist? This story could top eating chicken feet or maybe even my African chicken pox.

After three samplings from different areas of the head, we came to the sound conclusion that that was all that was making into my stomach that night. I returned to the rest of my meal feeling rather victorious.

As I lay in bed that night after a sweet time of cake and gifts, I was overwhelmed by the blessings of that day. All the usual extravagance of American birthdays was stripped away and I was left with the heart of the matter. The real reason to celebrate me was to celebrate the work that God has done in my life that has brought me to this day.

Happy birthday to me, but all the glory be to God.

18 October 2007

Smells of yesterday//week23

Today still smells of yesterday
To remind us
Our hands hold power
To execute evil atrocities
To suggest subtle harm
To craft calloused wounds

Tomorrow hopes on the smells of yesterday
To remind us
Our hands bear promise
To restore rightful dignity
To embrace equal peace
To create colorful love

And maybe one day, we will be a sweet fragrance.

While exploring Cape Town on my last day with my mother, I was reminded of a harsh past that lingers in the present. As we turned a corner, my roaming eyes jumped at their newest discovery. Outside the Civil Court stood a haunting remembrance of what our evil natures are capable of. On each side of the decorated entrance stood two benches from the Apartheid times, labeled “whites only” and “non whites only.” May we not forget our stench of yesterday in hope that tomorrow we will become the aroma of Christ.
[2 Cor 2:14-15]

13 October 2007

get it//week22

Last week I found myself yet again at the Cape Town International airport. I think I know that place better than most. The influx of visitors to MCM these past 5 months has landed me at the airport at least twice a month.

However this trip was unique. Because I drove out of that airport with the most precious visitor to Africa this year; my mother.

After three years of stories, my mother came to see it for herself. She came to see what it was that managed to steal her daughter away time after time.

She saw the beauty, the dirt, the hope, the hurt, the wealth, the poverty, the people, the animals- she saw it all. And after several ordinarily sacred encounters, she understood. Finally, my world made sense to her.

I will never forget her words, “Jenna, I understand your passion now. I understand why you have to keep coming back. I get it.”

She gets it.

I still don’t get it.

I think that’s mysterious wonder of this adventure God brought me on. I don’t get why he called me here.

I can’t handle a spider the size of my pinky finger in the States. Last night I found a spider 2 times the size of my hand in my bathroom. I like being settled. In the last 5 months, I’ve moved 7 times. You can find me a Starbucks at least 7 times a week. There isn’t a single Starbucks in South Africa. At first glance, the only thing about me that seems to point to Africa is my backside.

I’m an unlikely candidate. But God chose me. I don’t get it. But she does. Probably because she’s a mom. Moms get everything. But don’t tell her I said that.

So as she’s reaching to understand why I’ve moved 10, 000 miles away from her, I’m still trying to get it myself. And the mystery continues to point to God. And for now, that’s all I need to get.

08 October 2007


In between arguing with my pestering cough and spiteful fever, I spent my time this week helping finish up a crèche [preschool] in the township. I’ve painted giant rainbows. Moved boxes. Scrubbed floors. Moved more boxes.

And I embarrassingly admit it was one of the biggest lessons for me in servanthood this year. Because it forced me to do things I didn’t want to do at times that I didn’t feel like helping. I was either too hungry or too sick or too tired or just not in the mood.

We all know serving involves putting your self aside and making sacrifices. And some times that’s easy. Sometimes serving is really fun. Like dishing soup to hungry children. Or helping one of the mamas with her washing. Or playing Bingo with the elderly.

But dirty floors don’t smile at you and brown boxes aren’t cute. It’s just not as fun.

But as I halfheartedly scrubbed floors that were only to be trampled by many dirty feet minutes later, I realized I needed a lesson in serving. I began to thank the Lord for the chance to serve when I didn’t want to. And thought of how many times Jesus must have been so tired and didn’t feel like serving others and yet he did.

How many more floors will I need to scrub until I truly have a servant’s heart?

01 October 2007


I’ve been blessed with so many “moments.” Moments that I know I’ll relish forever. Moments where my world is engulfed by sweet laughter and genuine camaraderie. Moments that words nor photographs can ever do justice. Such moments have taken time to arrive to, because it takes time to build relationships; especially when you are considered a stranger. And so I cherish these. And every once and a while feel compelled to share.

This week I spent a treasured afternoon with Andiswe’s family in the township. There was nothing profound about the afternoon. Such happenstances have now become ordinary, which to me makes them all the more sweet.

Afternoons are my favorite time of day in Mbekweni. The children are playing in the streets. The mamas are finishing up the chores. The men are starting to return home from work. The setting sun creates a humble glow around the rusty shacks. And the smells of unbathed children and slaughtered chicken create a peculiar smell that my senses oddly welcome.

On this afternoon, while soaking in all the delights of the neighbor, I sat with Andiswe’s parents, Joyce and Wiseman- I should add that those are their English names; I’ve failed miserably on several accounts to pronounce Xhosa names. I watched Joyce hang the washing on the line, which created a brilliant rainbow that sailed above the rows of brown shanties. Wiseman sat outside in a stiff chair that seemed to refuse him the relaxation he was seeking after a long shift at the factory. Inside was Andiswe, washing the dishes in a worn out rubber bin. And their precious neighbor next door, who I only know affectionately as mama, sat and mended her youngest son’s pants. And as I sat on a wooden bench, which struggled to support my prospering backside, I began to fade into their world. And there was my moment. I was greeting the passing neighbors, asking Joyce what was for dinner tonight and listening to one of Wiseman’s grand stories. My moment continued on for hours. It was one that left me gleaming for the rest of the night.

And it’s moments like that where I again find joy in the simplicity of life.

I wish many moments upon you all this week.

22 September 2007


Another week as come and gone and I find myself so fulfilled. Whether it’s dishing soup to children, learning Xhosa, marveling at our Lord’s creation or hugging my dear little friends. And this fulfillment is found in experiencing God in simple ways. And no words can truly paint an accurate picture.

So this week glance through these pictures and be blessed. May you see Jesus in the eyes of precious children. May you see Jesus in the beauty of nature. May you be blessed by the reminder that true fulfillment comes in experience God. And often that is in the most simple ways.

16 September 2007


Meet Joy. At the simple age of 3 she doesn’t have much to say. Or maybe I just don’t understand her mumblings. The darling toddler demands to be in my arms every Thursday during Bible study. She doesn’t really personify her namesake but occasionally I can sneak a smile out of her. Joy lives with 16 other foster brothers and sisters in a shack that resembles the log cabins I used to build with my brother. With so many other children and just one precious mama to take of them all, I wonder who holds Joy when Thursday has come and gone.

Meet Sisifo. This 2 year old comes running when he hears me call his name every Wednesday afternoon. I won’t leave until I’ve tracked him down. At 1 year old he wanders the streets of the most dangerous neighborhood in the township alone. When the sun sets, Silvertown is the last place to be. Yet little the little boy plays unwatched in the streets. I wonder if anyone worries about Sisifo.

Meet Cameron. Quiet and gentle, the 1st grader always seems to find my hand when I visit Magnolia Primary. He seems to be an oddball amongst his peers. Rarely do I see him joined by other little boys. I don’t know why. Cameron doesn’t have much to say to me. But his smile when he looks up at me says it all. He feels safe. I wonder if there are any other times that Cameron feels safe.

Meet Yonda. What an advantageous 4 year old she is! She is the most beautiful girl you’ll ever meet. She is the beloved daughter of my best friend Andiswe. Yonda is certainly loved & adored. She is a bright little girl. We teach each other our languages but I must say she is learning much faster than I. But she is born in a home with no money for education, let alone food some days. I wonder if Yonda’s bright mind will ever be given a chance.

These are just a few of the stories of the dear children my heart has attached to. There are so many stories to be told. And some days I am so overwhelmed by the silence. As a follower of Jesus, I am reminded that Jesus loves all these children and will look out for them. But he has also given us the task to look after such children.

But I still wonder, who will tell their stories?

07 September 2007

never no more//week17

This week Paarl came together to worship. And I mean all of Paarl; black, white, colored, rich, poor, charismatic, legalistic, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, American all joined together. It was a true miracle. Only the power of the Holy Spirit could join together what a history of bigotry has separated.

Listening to the mighty voices joining together in praise seemed to be a prelude to what heaven must like. The stunning harmonies were a testament to a greater unity.

Each night this week Toringkerk Church opened its doors to all. Never before had the wooden pews welcomed the graciously sized derrières of the Xhosa mamas. Never before had the ornate ceilings each with the joyous shouts of colored voices. Never before had that place of God seen all colors of God’s children joined together. But when has “never” been anything more than an invitation for the Holy Spirit to stir?

The “Walking with God” church revival was a movement intended to assemble and encourage the Christians of the Paarl Valley. Each night this week, almost two thousand people from all over the valley filled the church. People from churches all the around joined together. Some served soup to the hungry. Others ushered people to their seats. Those gifted musically led the mass in worship. Authors and preachers came from across the world to cheer on the church. It was cross-cultural occasion that had never happened before.

Sure the haggard wounds of a harmful past still lingered, but there was a gentle awareness of coming reconciliation that could not be ignored. And while the town of Paarl has a long ways to go before genuine unity is reached, it seems to me that we’ve entered a new era where “never” is no longer binding.

31 August 2007


As tears streamed down her face, I could barely make out what she was saying. But the tears said enough. The muffled words, “HIV positive” finally hit me, like the soccer ball that had found my nose last week.

Positive? What a funny choice of word for something that is anything but positive. The medical world sure isn’t language sensitive. Stop it Jenna! Say something. Anything. Uh… God, help?

Nothing could have prepared me for Monday morning. As I left the clinic with my friend Pumla, I was searching for words. Any words would be fine. Just as long as I spoke. All I could say is “wow.”


Of all things to say. But how do you respond to news that your friend, whom you encouraged to get tested, is infected with a virus that is pillaging the earth?

I say wow. And then I cry. A lot.

Since that shattering morning, the week has dealt long waits in the public clinic, tears, hard conversations, more tears and heaps of questions. We’ve had more blood tests, more counseling, more news breaking and more crying.

At the end of the day, I sit here questioning anything and everything. Why Pumla? What next? Why am I not a medical genius? And why did I bring my flat iron to Africa? Okay, the last question is totally irrelevant, but it goes to show how my mind doesn’t know how to handle the crucial and the trivial all in one brain. It’s never had to before. Sure, I’ve watched family friends suffer thru cancer, which has been tough. But we live in America- there’s hope.

Where’s the hope for a 23-year-old woman living in a small township with no parents, job or education? She cannot even afford a simple multivitamin to keep her immune system fighting. And without her health, well it’s a quick ride down the hill.

I wish I had a happy ending to this story or a feel-good realization about how good our God is. And don’t get me wrong, I know our Lord is sovereign- in fact I’ve already seen his hand at work. And yes, we’ve been known to smile and laugh this week. But the reality is, I don’t know how long I’ll be hugging Pumla.


24 August 2007


Reality, according to Webster, is something that has real existence and must be dealt with in real life. I’ve always known rape really happens. I’ve heard people kill each other. But I’ve never dealt with those realities until now.

Last weekend, in my beloved township of Mbekweni, a 16-year –old girl Nosipiwe was raped and murdered by several young guys in the community. She was a bright student and a wonderful contributor to her community. It has been quite a loss for all of us. Unfortunately, the tragedy does not end there. After she was murdered, a friend of hers took the shoes, which belonged this friend, off Nosipiwe’s dead body and never reported the murder. These callous actions have grieved the community, especially the youth, and have called them to action.

A few days after the murder, I was visiting a friend in the township. While chatting, we were interrupted by boisterous voices. We looked across the way to see a substantial group of young people marching towards the friend of Nosipiwe’s house. They gathered outside this girl’s shack and began to throw rocks while demanding that she give the police the names of those who killed Nosipiwe. Within minutes the police had arrived to break up the demonstration. They began throwing teargas and shooting rubber bullets into the crowd. Children were running left and right, some screaming out of fear, others out of anger. The older youth stood still, demanding justice. With each passing moment, more policemen showed up with feisty dogs and intimidating guns. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was in the middle of a movie. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

While it was under tragic circumstances, I felt like I was given a sneak peak into history. My friend told me demonstrations like that, on a larger scale, played a big role in the end of apartheid. And there’s something so beautiful about young people coming together in harmony to champion justice. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows."

Since then, the community has continued to fight for justice in this tragedy. You can read more about it at .

Please keep Nosipiwe’s family and the community in your prayers. There will be a memorial service tomorrow that our Mbekweni pastor on staff, Mqokeleli, will be hosting. We pray that during this time of grief, our young people will learn to turn to the Lord, for he is the ultimate comforter.

So as I continue to spend more and more time in the township, I find myself dealing with the everyday realities of life here. Some days it’s just overwhelming and I wish I didn’t know the things that I do. However, the more reality I experience, the more I see a need for our Father. And that’s one thing I pray I never forget.

19 August 2007


Well this week has been quite an adjustment for myself. At last we’re done with our short-term team season. As fun as it was to introduce Americans to this wonderful place, it was so exhausting. So the peace and quiet has been restful for my introverted self. But as the dust settles the recent empty mornings and subdued evenings has created a longing for home.

I’ve been missing the smallest things like chicken burgers from the Den, the friendly homeless man outside Starbucks and watching my roommates workout in our living room. I miss my mother begging me to stop drinking Starbucks and the worship at Kaleo. I miss the Walk on Fridays and watching the Chargers with my dad.

The silver lining is, however, that during this time I’ve really had to trust God to bring friendships into my life that would support me during this time. He’s had to become my closest friend. And of course, my faithful father has provided. I’ve been blessed with three girls, Andiswe, Pam and Pumla. They are all small group leaders in the township, who I’ve known for a while. And in the past two weeks our friendships have really blossomed. We get together every Friday morning to pray and encourage each other in whatever challenges we may be facing. Having this special time has been such a joy.

And so I am welcoming homesickness as way of God pulling me closer to him. And as complement to all you at home. I am so encouraged by the emails & letters. You are all a bunch worth missing.

Blessings to you all.

12 August 2007

beyond poverty//week13

This week poverty became personal. It’s always broken my heart as I’ve dished soup out to barefoot children in the rain. It’s always convicted me as I complain about old shoes. But it was never personal, until I went to visit my best friend.

Andiswe is a beautiful 23-year-old Xhosa woman who is the faithful mother of charming four-year-old Yonda. She leads a small group of young girls every week at one of the community centers. The hardships and challenges of her life do not show on her face. Andi has the gentlest smile and the warmest hug. I’ve had the opportunity to spend precious time with her and she has become a dear friend of mine.

Well this week I was invited into her home. As I trekked through the mud, stepping over sewage and garbage, I quickly realized that she lived in one of the shacks that border the community center. For the past 3 years I’ve always wondered about those shacks & have prayed for those people. As I stepped into her home, my heart stopped. And as I looked around, it then shattered into delicate pieces. Her home has two small rooms off the main room, where there’s enough room for a table and some worn out kitchen appliances. The floor had was a thin material that seemed to become one with the ground beneath. The walls leaned in, as if they were huddled together to keep the wind out. In her room were a sagging bed and a few stacked suitcases. I quickly searched for words, afraid that if I didn’t say something I’d retreat to tears. So I volunteered to give little Yonda a bath. And as she sat squished in a tiny plastic tub I scrubbed her little body as she told me about her day, in Xhosa. Minutes later I was sitting on Andiswe’s bed, just like I sit on the beds of my friends’ at home. We began to chat about God. We giggled over boys. Yonda started to dance. And we laughed. Suddenly, poverty was not this taboo disease or life-ruining circumstance. Poverty extended no further than the physical. And while I still walked out of that shack heartbroken, I finally got a glimpse of true joy, of what it means to be sincerely elated regardless of circumstances.

And now I realize why people give up everything to live among the poor. It’s not the lack of material that attracts, but the abundance of spirit. And since I walked out of that shack, I’ve been waiting to run back in. Because what I experienced there went so far beyond the limits of poverty.

02 August 2007


We’ve had two teams here for the past 3 weeks and it’s consumed all my time. Since our staff member who is in charge of the short-term teams is still out I’m in charge. On Thursday our last team for a while arrives so I’ll be busy again for the next 2 weeks. After that I’m going to take some time to just enjoy South Africa. I definitely need a break!

Here’s some big news to share with you all, I’ve decided not to study with APU’s SA program next semester for a few reasons. First of all I've been really dreading leaving here in 5 weeks, as you all have read. I cry every time I think about it. I’ve given my heart to this place and these people. I’ve made best friends here and the staff have become my family. I run into people I know in town and I’ve made friends with the waiters at my favorite coffee shop. I have precious little kids that run to me when they see me. This really has become home. I adore Paarl. It reminds me of a farming town in the states, something I would never like at home yet this place as become so precious. So besides separation anxiety, I was wondering if I’d truly get the chance to make as many close relationships and experience the cultures as well as I can here. So after talking with my parents, APU & MCM staff we've worked it out for me to take online classes so that I can just stay here in Paarl until December!

Which also opens up the opportunity to go to Botswana & Zambia at the beginning of December on an outreach that we're planning. We’re going to do a VBS for an orphanage & go out into the rural villages and help people who have HIV & AIDS. I'm really excited to have the chance to see another part of Africa since I do feel that God is calling me to this continent. But I've been unsure of where, since I've only seen South Africa. So this opportunity in itself is an answer to prayers. So please keep that opportunity in your prayers as well.

Overall, I feel a huge peace about staying and am so excited to continue my internship here. God has been teaching me a lot. I’m constantly being reminded through the Bible & worship songs to wait upon the Lord and he will take care of me.

“Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength and mount up like eagles. They will walk and not grow weary, they will run and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

27 July 2007

balance//week 11

Well my itching spots have moved out and managed to leave minimal damage. I have a few endearing scars to remind me of the “consequences” of loving on children with no inhibitions but no shingles or pneumonia to report so I am grateful for all the prayers and a quick recovery.

This weekend I enjoyed a visit from Chiraphone, APU’s Director of World Missions. She was here in South Africa, where she lived for two and a half years as a Peace Corps volunteer, and was able to stop by Paarl for two nights. It was such a blessing to see a familiar face, as well as to be able to share my new life with someone from home. We had a great time together. She showed me up with her ability to communicate fluently to all my black friends in their language. But it’s all the more reason to practice! It was certainly a refreshing time for me. And it’s great to know that I have yet another friend waiting for me at home that now understand a bit of this wonderful life I’m living.

And it was good to be back with the visiting team from Orange County for their last week here in Paarl. They spent their time sharing in elementary schools in Paarl East & visiting our small groups in Mbewkeni. While I’m not always participating in what they are doing, I am blessed by hearing their stories. Certain things that I overlook touch them deeply. Things I’ve begun to accept outrage them. It’s this reason that I enjoy working with the short-term teams; they bring a fresh set of eyes to the things I encounter daily. And I’m challenged, once again, to find a balance between understanding and questioning. I want to understand that because of our own sinfulness, this world will never be sorrow-free but I hope I never stop questioning why there are children going to bed hungry in a town where men drive Mercedes and golf on the weekends. It’s a never-ending balancing act of coping with the daily heartbreak and maintaining an aggressive compassion for justice.

As the weeks continue to fly by, I find myself constantly thanking God for each moment and asking for a few more. It’s a balance of contentment and yearning. And I guess that’s what I’m learning this week: balance.

20 July 2007


Well God sure does have a sense of humor. Loving on all my precious children has given me, for the first time in my life, the lovely childhood disease, chicken pox. And it came at a time when I really needed to take a break from the craziness of ministry. However, God knows only he could stop me. And he did.

And what a time of spiritual retreat it has been. I spent time dwelling on the word of the Lord. And listening to his whisperings. Many intimate conversations were had. And I returning to ministry feeling replenished. Our God is the ultimate healer.

I cannot believe week 10 is coming to an end. I get teary eyed every time I think about leaving this place. It truly has become home. It is my prayer that God prepares my heart to leave or opens up an opportunity to stay. Because at this point, I am not ready to leave.

And since my week was spent on bed rest to avoid any serious complications to the chicken pox, there is not much more to report. But I thank you all for the prayers. My recovery was quick and complications-free. So praise God!

14 July 2007


The joy of a child is most definitely contagious. This week I was basked in that joy as I danced and jumped and laughed with the precious children of Magnolia Primary in Paarl East, the colored community we work in. MCM has had a continued involvement with Magnolia Primary for the past 3 years. It was the first school I ever taught in and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

We currently have a team here from the States who are putting on a vacation Bible school at the elementary school. Every day this week we have put on Bible skits, played games, sang songs and fed soup to over 300 children. Their giggles and smiles were the most precious thank you-s I’ve ever received.

One day, one of my little friends, Helen, tugged on my jacket and pulled me aside. With tears in her eyes she told me, “I just wanted to thank you for coming. Kids make fun of me for going to school at Magnolia because it’s so dirty but when you guys come and clean up I don’t feel so embarrassed. And thank you for telling us about Jesus.”

That’s what this is all about; making children feel treasured. Because that is what Jesus would do if he was here. The children were always a priority for him. And I’m reminded that of once again this week. And I think I will keep it as simple as that.

07 July 2007

glorious// week8

This week was glorious. There’s no better adjective to describe it. Glorious means, “beautiful in a way that inspires wonder or joy.” The beauty of the week started with God’s creation. Finally, the sun has come out to play. I was able to leave the uggs and coat at home. When the sun shines in the valley it casts a heavenly light upon the mountains and reflects a majestic glow upon the faces of our children. The warmth brings a joyful aura to the streets of Mbekweni. Dogs and children romp at will. And I stand in wonder of God’s attention to detail. It truly is glorious.

Wednesday was America’s independence day. However what was glorious to me this year was not the freedom I have found from governments but rather freedom from Christ. The freedom of realizing my Jesus is not American but rather international. The freedom of serving alongside my friends, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. As you may recall, this week our youth outreach took place. Under the banner of Christ, we came together- black, white, colored, American, South African- to love our neighbors as Christ has loved us. I don’t think any one of us reached out without being touched ourselves. Through the means of sports and creative arts, four different cultures came together to share. We shared our food, our languages, our stories and our time, which I think all translated into sharing a love that reflected something beyond human goodwill. The joy of that those two days was nothing short of wonderful.

The rest of my week was mark by small, glorious moments. One afternoon after serving soup to the children I decide to pull out my camera. As I was taking some pictures the boys, as always, were shaping their fingers to resemble guns. They’re always “shooting” each other when the camera comes out. So I told them that we needed to come up with some better signs. And thus I showed them signs for peace and love. They were thrilled to learn something new and began begging me to takes pictures of them with their new signs. It was a small, but glorious moment for me.

Moments like that continue to follow me as if God is telling me, “it’s doesn’t take much to glorify my name. But when you do, it’s beautiful.” And it certainly is.