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.