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