Five Days of Nonstop

Last week was Thanksgiving. I have always loved this holiday because it is all about quality time with loved ones and being thankful for what the Lord has given. And a parade. And turkey. But mostly loved ones. It was pretty difficult on Thursday to be apart from our parents, brothers (and sister-in-law), grandparents, extended family, and close friends. Empa (but), we had many great distractions that kept the focus of our day far from missing home.

Saturday, Tyler and I drove to Johannesburg to pick up our first team from Summit Church in Petal, Mississippi. We had been praying and planning for this team since we got here in September. We felt lots of excitement along with tons of nervousness.

You know, nercited.

This blog post will give everyone a glimpse of what a mission trip week is like for us. It was busy, but so good! We pray this post will plant a seed in your heart and stir you to want to be a part of what the Lord is doing here.


Sunday:
This day was devoted to making our way up the mountain. We left early in the morning from Johannesburg. After a few hours of driving we had a delicious breakfast at a lion park! The team really enjoyed seeing their leader get spooked when the biggest lion wanted to tell him hello. After about five more hours in the car we finally made it home to find hot taco soup and Christmas decorations (thanks Anna, Bek, and Mic for the soup). We got everyone settled into their rooms, had a brief time of orientation, and got a good night’s rest before the busy week.

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Monday:
We started the day with a complete orientation for the team. The Flora’s and Barnhill’s helped us gather all the information we needed to go over. Tyler put together an extensive document with everything on it.

It was a long morning of hearing Tyler’s voice, but the team seemed to appreciate the cultural and religious background on Lesotho.

Then we took the team down to the Love Poppy room where they met MmeMookho and all the BoMme (women) who make the ornaments and jewelry. We picked up MmeMookho, drove to the closest Care Center to gather the other BoMme, and headed to MmeMaTumo’s house. MmeMaTumo is the grandmother to Tswanelo (TSwaan-ell-oh) and Motsilisi (Moots-see-dee-see), two awesome children who attend Khokhoba Care Center. This home visit allowed the team to see what village life is like for the Basotho. They also had the opportunity to meet two of the kids from the Care Center at their home and encourage their grandmother. Molly did a great job sharing The 2 Kingdoms and Lenette shared her testimony. God has been calling her to serve in Africa for over 45 years, and she jumped in and shared without hesitation! It was a great first time out for the team. Tyler and I could tell we were going to have a great week with them!

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Motsilisi & Tswanelo

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That afternoon, we went to Khohlo-Ntso Care Center. We introduced all the shy kids to their new friends from America by playing a name game with a ball. The team brought over a whole suitcase full of Legos and the kids were in heaven after they were dumped all over the floor! When it was time for centers, they jumped right in and did a great job interacting with the kids. The team had a Bible story and craft prepared as well. They taught the story of Jesus calming the storm and emphasized that “Jesus is my Peace”. Jeremy, one of the BoNtate (men) from the team, even had the kids “making rain” with their hands by making different noises resembling the sounds of rain. The kids loved it!

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Tuesday:
We went to Khohlo-Ntso Care Center early in the morning to have teacher training with the BoMme. A couple of the adults on the team are teachers in America. They had some manipulatives and strategies for us to use while teaching the kids Math, English, and Bible. They did an outstanding job! The BoMme learned so much and really appreciated the encouragement they received (and us too). While teacher training was going on, Tyler took some of the guys to tag 50 chickens. They used zip-ties to make a colorful bracelet for identifying the older chickens from the first batch. Don’t tell the poor birds, but these bracelets mark the ones who will be supper first (once their egg production begins to decline). Ntate Pokah also used their help weeding the field where they have planted corn for the Care Center. Those guys had a long, hot morning but did a great job.

During teacher training, Matsietsi (Mats-see-et-see) came to the Center. She has finished 7th grade and has plans to go to high school in Janurary. When we all left for lunch, we brought her along with us. The girls from the team did great at spoiling her. Matsietsi’s face lit up when she found out that Molly is 14 and Maggie is 15,  they are so close to her own age.

After lunch was one of the highlights of our week!

The week before the team came we visited the primary school that most of our kids attend. Our intention was to ask if they could let our kids out a bit early. Because the team was going to be here, we wanted the kids to come play with us at the Care Center as soon as they could. While we were meeting with the principal, he expressed to us how much he loves it when teams come to the school and play with the kids. He asked us what day we were planning to come with the team to visit the kids at the school. Of course, me and my big mouth committed to Tuesday afternoon. As we walked to our car after the meeting, Tyler asked what my plan was for that time. I had no answer.

So, when we told the team about this opportunity during our Sunday evening orientation we were worried they would be stressed out by the addition to the plans. But no, they were ecstatic about sharing the Gospel with over 300 children! It was amazing to see their energy and excitement about something we just sprung on them. They planned three stations and split the kids into three groups (by age). One station played a giant game of tag, one station sang songs (in English and Sesotho), and the last station told stories about holidays in America and Lesotho (you know, because it’s Thanksgiving week and all). And at the end of our time we all gathered together and the whole team acted out a skit that told the complete gospel story. It was great!

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Tyler says his favorite part was looking through the crowd of faces and seeing the few that we knew from the Care Center. It was cool to see them interacting, playing, and learning with their friends.

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That afternoon, we spent time back at Khohlo-Ntso Care Center trying out the new strategies and materials the BoMme had just learned at teacher training. They did such a good job and the centers were run very well. We could also tell a difference in the kids after being with the team the previous day. This Center is known to be a bit more reserved and shy, so it was neat to see the kids open up a little bit more now that they were becoming more comfortable.

The team shared the Bible story about the paralyzed man whose friends brought him to see Jesus by opening up a hole in the roof. The kids were hooked on this story; they listened so well. After another cute craft, this one involving a “paralyzed man” on a paper bag mat, the kids had a firm understanding that “Jesus is my Healer”.

It was a full day. With pancakes and breakfast pizza filling every inch of our bellies for dinner, it was time for a much needed nights sleep.

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I have to include this picture, because, this man was a lifesaver to me. Every meal he was hands on doing whatever needed to be done. I could not have done it all week without his help. Thankful for him!


Wednesday:
Food delivery day! We wanted to take our team to see what Jim and Teresa Flora do for the BGR (Baptist Global Response) food deliveries. But first, we wanted to let the women on the team spend some time with the Love Poppy women who were sewing stars. Shanna shared a devotion with the women and we all shared in fellowship and singing. It was a really special way to start the day, both for our team, and for the women who were about to start their work.

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When in Africa, plans rarely go as planned. Let’s just leave it as that. This day (at least the food delivery part) did not go as I had planned. But in all things, God’s hand is on it and it turned into a great experience for the team. We ended up loading 35 food packs and heading to the Motsuko Valley. We had planned to go just up the road, but this change in plans extended our travel time by about 50 minutes each way. It turned out fine, and the team was able to share The 2 Kingdoms (while performing the skit from the afternoon at the school) and Sabrina shared her testimony. The people in the crowd were very receptive and many seeds were planted.

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We were so grateful for the team’s willingness to jump in and help with this delivery.

We rushed back for the team’s first afternoon at KhoKhoba Care Center. We played some keep away, BoAbouti (boys) versus BoOusi (girls), and they warmed up to their new friends very fast. The team jumped in and really took special attention to a few of the kids with special needs. Ntene (deaf) and Tsiliso (down syndrome) lit up while they received the extra help they crave. They shared the same Bible story and craft from Monday. Because there are two Care Centers, it made the planning a bit easier as some days can just be duplicated. The kids at KhoKhoba learned that “Jesus is my Peace”.

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Another great day! By this point we were getting spoiled rotten by just how helpful and flexible this team was and Tyler began to seriously considered hiding their passports so they couldn’t leave!


Thursday:
Happy Thanksgiving! Today we had another full day of ministry, no holiday break for us! We started out by going to the lodge (hotel near our house that serves breakfast and has free WIFI). After a good breakfast and some pictures by the reservoir, it was time to officially get started.

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We held teacher training at Khokhoba Care Center in the morning. Again, the teachers on the team did a fantastic job going through everything with the BoMme. The BoMme were listening so intently and we could tell they wanted to learn new and better ways to help the kiddos. It was great encouragement for Tyler and I.

While teacher training was taking place, Tyler and some of the guys from the team excused themselves to go tag the 50 chickens at this Center. Tyler was happy to have the help, they are quick and sneaky and having four people catching and zip-tying made the process go a lot smoother. After the chickens were done, two of the youth boys on the team, Colton and Bryton, walked down the mountain to the closest well to get water for the chickens. So helpful!

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Teacher training took most of the morning, so when the BoMme had no more questions, we excused ourselves for lunch. After a quick break we all came right back to the Care Center for the afternoon. Because it was Thanksgiving and we had a lot of food to cook, Tyler and I tag teamed kitchen duty and time at the Care Center throughout the afternoon.

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If you were to look at the team, you would think they had been working in Africa with these kids for way more than just four days. They were so comfortable, getting right on the floor and playing with them, speaking to them with such love and respect. The kids responded so well being with them, and listened so intently to the Bible story. Today was a repeat of the paralyzed man story. By the end of the day, after all the games and crafts, and through all the giggles and smiles, the kids knew that “Jesus is my Healer”.

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After everyone got cleaned up from the day, we went to the Flora’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was such a special time for Tyler and I to be able to be with them and at their house. Like I said before, Thanksgiving is meant to be shared with family and I was sad not to be with our family that evening. So, it was great to be able to share the holiday with our new Lesotho family. The team also had a great time. They said they didn’t expect to have a Thanksgiving meal so they were pleasantly surprised when they saw the spread of food the Flora’s had prepared for us. We are so thankful for that special family!


Friday:
For the team’s last day in Lesotho, we decided to split them up into two groups. First, we headed out to get all the food we needed for the kids’ weekend food packs. After the food had been purchased, we divided the team into two cars and went on our separate ways. Tyler took half the team to Khohlo-Ntso while I took the other half to Khokhoba for home visits.

Tyler’s group went to Motsilisi’s (Moots-see-dee-see) house where Jeremy taught the gospel and Maggie shared her testimony. Motsilisi’s grandmother was receptive but upon understanding all she would have to give up (ancestor worship, belief in witchdoctors, etc.) she was not willing to be born again. It’s hard to watch someone turn down the gospel, but it is not our job to force someone to accept Christ when they aren’t willing to follow him completely. The team did a great job explaining what following Christ means and that it’s not a decision to make half heartedly, it’s a full commitment. We pray the seeds that were planted will take root in her heart. We are also planning to stop back in to follow up with her soon!

Rachel’s group went to Tspang’s (TSay-pong) house. Colton and Bryton prayed, Shanna shared her testimony, and Molly shared The 2 Kingdoms. As they were sharing, more women came up to listen. After they finished sharing, two of the women (one of them being Tspang’s grandmother) told us they wanted to be born again. MeMakefuoe spoke with them about giving up everything they worship and believe in and putting their complete trust in God. Jeremy, from the team, prayed with them to accepted Christ and to be born again! We gave them a card with scriptures in Sesotho and gave their phone numbers to Ntate Molapo (pastor of Khokhoba Baptist Church). He will follow up with them as well and get them plugged into discipleship at the church.

Tyler and I plan to visit both houses again to follow up with the decisions made. In caring for these children, we pray that God will touch the lives of their caregivers as well. Doing home visits is one way we can share life and Christ with them.

On the way back to the house for lunch, Tyler’s group picked up Limonta (De-mon-ta) and had her come over for lunch. Lenette and Sabrina wanted to spoil this little one and gave her a bath and new clothes! When I got back from the home visit to Tspang’s house, I walked in the bedroom and saw her sitting wrapped up in a blanket next to a heater. I almost started crying. She was so sweet getting warm while Lenette picked out clothes from her suitcase and Sabrina scrubbed the tub from the dirt that came off of her. I really loved seeing them love on this girl. She sure has a special place in my heart.

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In the afternoon, we headed out to the Care Centers. We stayed split up so that all the kids could have one more day with their new friends from America. It was bittersweet because this was their last afternoon. The hit of the day was a fun game of hot potato, which all the kids took very seriously.

The lesson for the day was about how “Jesus is my Savior”. The kids learned about Jesus dying to take the punishment for our sins and rising on the third day. One of the older boys at Khohlo-Ntso said that his favorite part of the day was learning about the resurrection of Jesus. After the craft and family circle, it was time to head home.

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After dinner and our last night of debrief, we surprised the team by taking them back to the school we had visited on Tuesday. Nobody was there, but because that valley doesn’t have power, it is incredible to look up and see the unhindered sky. Without light pollution, there are countless stars in the sky, and once your eyes adjust you can even make out the milky way. It was a great way to end their time in Lesotho, the Kingdom in the Sky.


So here we are a week later. The team is safely home and working to get over their jet lag. This week has been a bit busy, hence why this post is just now getting out. The kids are now on Holiday break and are at the Centers for a full day. We love having the extra time with them! We are also eagerly awaiting Brett and Allison’s return today from Zimbabwe. There is so much to get done, but we are so happy to have more hands helping us for a few months.

Over the coming weeks, please be praying specifically for Ntene (the boy who is deaf), the four rising high school students, and three current high school students as we tackle gathering up their paperwork for school. Our goal is to have as much collected before Christmas as possible, however, the school year won’t start until the end of January. If we can get all their paperwork together, proving their caretakers financial need, then they may be awarded scholarships and won’t have to pay for school.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without sharing one more thing we’re thankful for. So this Thanksgiving we are thankful for your prayers. We know we wouldn’t be here without the army of prayer support we feel on a daily basis. So thank you for coming alongside us and keeping us in your prayers.

With Love,
Tyler & Rachel

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Will There Ever Be Routine?

Below is a short recap of the last few weeks. Just to share what has been going on here.

Rachel and I spent the last two weeks of October with the Flora’s semester intern, Mic, and their foster child, little “M” while the Floras were in South Africa. We were surprised by how much fun we had, and at the same time, how tired we were from such a busy two weeks. Mic has become a great friend of ours, and we really enjoyed working with her so closely. She is ministering this semester by teaching little M, sharing discipleship lessons to new believers, and helping the Flora’s with food deliveries from BGR (Baptist Global Response). And, little M is learning to count by twos, read paragraphs, and is always entertaining us. During these two weeks, she even learned to ride her bike without training wheels! We all had so much fun following her up and down the street as I held on to her. After a few close calls, she quickly got the hang of it and now she doesn’t even need help getting started.

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Don’t tell Teresa, but we may have spoiled her with a movie and popcorn almost every night! We even had to deal with the consequences of giving a 7 year old a Coke with dinner right before bed. Never again.

We love this little one and are praying daily for her.

She also came with us to the Care Centers every afternoon. She did great with all the kids! Well, besides for the time she slammed a door and broke the door knob off so I had to climb through the window to pry the door open… Kids.

Rachel and I remember the day we taught the kids 4 corners. We played outside with 4 chairs and the kids were loving it. I saw sweet little M with her arm around Tspang, sneaking from chair to chair with her. They were being so cute together. We got in the car and little M was so excited to tell us about her new friend. I wish I had gotten a picture of it. Such a special memory for us.

Tspang is one of the newest to the center. I think she started coming over the Summer. When we got here in August, she was extremely quiet. Not like the other kids, I had actually never seen her open her mouth. She wouldn’t play with others and we would find her sitting alone just watching everyone else. But this particular day, we brought in new toys for the kids before most of them arrived. Tspang and Maipato started playing together! I was amazed. She was talking and interacting more than I had ever seen her do. And smiling!

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I was so happy to see her opening up and being a kid. Rachel and I often wonder about what the kids are like when we aren’t there. If they talk more, act differently, or even misbehave more? It has been amazing to see the kids change over the last few months and becoming more comfortable with us being around. It is so great to be greeted by smiling faces and waves instead of just blank stares.

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One of the major tasks for us has been delivering from BGR to villages nearby (and some not so nearby). Lesotho has been in a major drought for several years and as a result many have been left without food. Each month several hundred families receive a supply of mealie (mashed corn), beans, oil, and peanuts along with several spices and salt to cook with. It is such a blessing to be on the giving end of a project that is doing so much good and saving lives every month.

There was one day that we delivered over 70 food packs to a village and I was asked to teach. I taught about the widow from 2 Kings 4:1-7. In this story Elisha instructs the poor widow to take the oil she has and pour it into as many vessels as she could find. A creditor had come and was threatening to take her son if she did not pay the debt. God worked a miracle by multiplying the little oil she had. After all the jars were filled, she sold them and had enough money to pay off her debts. I was even able to use the oil that goes in their food packs to illustrate God’s provision.

This was my first time teaching to a large crowd. I’ll be honest and say I was nervous while preparing, but after getting started it felt so great to share God’s word. I am looking forward to the next time sharing in a setting like this.

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After the Flora’s returned to Lesotho, Rachel, Mic and I went down to South Africa for a few days. We had to get some work done on the car and needed groceries big time. Mic was a trooper. We told her she could never share all the things she witnessed on that trip. Lets just say there were many occasions of our true colors being shown, and the not so easy parts of marriage were put on display for her to witness from the back seat. We could call it pre-martial counseling for her.

As I am writing this post, we are about to pick up a team of ten people. We are super excited, and also a little nervous to be hosting our first team. Fans of the blog will remember the term “nercited”. Well while we were in Johannesburg a few weeks ago with Mic, we went ahead and bought all the non-perishable food items for the them. It was quite the experience! Mic and I both had a cart to fill at Makro (equivalent to BJ’s or Sam’s Club), while Rachel ran all over the store finding everything we needed. Because our car was being worked on, we had to rent one for a few days. At the rental car place, we asked for a car that could fit the three of us comfortably. They gave us the smallest little matchbox car on the lot! On one hand, we were thankful for that car because it was cheapest, but on the other hand we were a bit nervous knowing all the shopping we had to do and the fact that Mic had to fit in the back with all the goodies. We were crammed in there good!

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We got lost in Maseru trying to find a hole in the wall fabric shop. I’m sure Mic was sitting in the back worried for her life as we sped all over town. After multiple attempts, we finally found it. Well, actually, we called the owner of the store and they had to come find us on the street. Seriously though, it was impossible! We were there to buy stuffing for the star ornaments the Love Poppy women are making for Christmas. We hadn’t bought this before and didn’t know how much we would need. We called MeMookho to ask and she didn’t know either.

So we bought a lot.

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We finally made it back home and unpacked everything. It was an adjustment moving back to our house, and it was weird not being with Mic and little M every minute of the day. We had grown to like the Flora’s house and our little family there.

That basically catches us up on all our adventures over the last few weeks.

Please be praying for us this upcoming week as we host our first team. We pray that their hearts will break for the orphaned and vulnerable children here in Lesotho, that the women from the Care Centers will be encouraged by their lessons and testimonies, and that the kids will have a blast with ten new friends to play with.

With Love,
Tyler & Rachel


This didn’t really have a place, so please enjoy a picture of our first Basotho gift. We were blessed by this sacrificial gift from one of the Care Centers, and even got to see the preparation firsthand. The Flora’s dogs got to enjoy the smell, but we really enjoyed our chicken dinner that night!

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Hump Day

Today was quite a busy day. I just want to give a little summary of what we did. Partly to let you all know and keep you updated, and partly for Tyler and I’s memories.

Last night the power went out after we were had gotten in bed. We had left the Christmas lights on in the living room because, “they are LED so they don’t take any power” one of us said. Plus, we want all our neighbors to know we are ready for Christmas. The first setting of the Christmas lights on the tree has them flashing and blinking fast. After you click the button a few times, the lights are on the setting where they just stay on like a normal. So, when the power went out last night, it was really dark. Then, just as we were falling asleep, the power came back on and the lights had reset. Tyler was hilarious! We could see the strobe blinking from the other room. He made his way to the living room and said he was going to have a seizure because of the lights flashing so much! I was in bed cracking up at him!

This is Africa, power goes off, power goes on. No reason or explanation.
Thankfully, this time it gave us something to laugh about.

So we woke up early to greet MeMaTabiso at out house at 8:00. She is from a nearby village and helps us clean our house and the guest house Reclaimed uses. Side note, I was weary of this at first. I felt bad asking someone to clean my house, mop my floor, and wash my dishes. It wasn’t until her son walked to our house and told us they had no food and was asking for his mother if she could work for us that I gave in. Today was the second time she came, and let me tell you, it is quite the blessing for both of us. We are able to go about our day and not think about the dishes, the dirty floor, or the pile of stinky clothes. And, she is able to have a job making money so she can feed her three children. She told us today that her youngest daughter graduated from kindergarten yesterday! She was so happy to share with us that she was able to buy everything she needed for school and even was able to take pictures of her daughter at the graduation. It is really neat to be able to see how we are helping each other in this relationship.

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After we got MeMaTabiso started at our house, we headed to see the BoMme (means women) working with Love Poppy (jewelry company Reclaimed has partnered with). Because they are not making jewelry right now, Reclaimed has ordered 200 star ornaments to be made for the Christmas season. We went by to check on them and see how they were doing. As always, they were doing hantle (“Han-Cle”, means good).

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By this time, it is 9:45 and we are heading to take chicken feed to Khokhoba Care Center. We dropped it off and talked with Ntate Molapo (pastor) for a few minutes before heading to the food delivery.

Around 10:00, Teresa, MeThato, Anna, Bekah, our little friend who we will tell about soon, and us used our muscles to carry 120 12.5kg (about 25lbs each) bags of mealie, 45 bottles of oil, 45 bags of beans, and 45 bags of peanuts for todays village. We have a nice little system now with an assembly line and everything. “Many hands make light work” I like to tell myself. By 11:00 we are driving to the village to drop off the food.

After this, around 12:15 we visited Katse High School. Tyler and I had never been there and needed to meet the principal before we enroll 4 new students in January (if they all pass). We received lots of good information about how to best get these kids into their school. We are a little overwhelmed with the task, but are confident we can get it done. They were very supportive of what we do and want to help the children get an education as much as we do. That was really encouraging for Tyler and I to see.

Next we went to the lodge. We got word this week we will be hosting a team of 40-50 people from Mississippi over Spring Break. Therefore, we are already starting to plan this week for them. We met the woman at the lodge who is in charge of reservations and told her the dates and how many rooms we need to reserve. She seemed confident they could help us house them.

Thankfully, it was lunch time. My favorite time of day! We grabbed something to eat and took a few minutes to sit down and process all that had happened already in the day.

It was about 2:00 now and time to head to Khokhoba Care Center. Woohoo, my real favorite part of the day! We drove up and a few kids were sitting in chairs outside. I was worried they were in trouble or something. As soon as I got out of the car, I heard, “1, 2, 3”, and so on. A few weeks back we taught them four corners (except we played outside using chairs, so we call it four chairs). They were playing it again and having too much fun. Tyler took the BoAbouti (Bo-A-Booty, means boys) to put all the chicken outside and then joined in the game.

When MeMookho (one of the BoMme who works at the Care Center and also knows English very well) arrived from her Love Poppy work (she manages the Love Poppy BoMme too), we asked her to come with us to a new store. For the Weekend Food Packs, we usually go to Lucky 7. We had heard some news that this little shop (they call it a tuck shop) may have everything we need at a much better price. We took a list of what we need and how many. 31 bags of mealie, beans, rice, milk, soyamince, and 36 packs of cookies. The prices here were better than at Lucky 7! We will be using this tuck shop from now on and will save M500 every week! This will allow us to keep the Weekend Food Packs going for longer! We still thank Hamlin Baptist Church for their donation for this project.

And instead of a very bumpy drive up the mountain to Lucky 7, this tuck shop is only a short walk from the church. We headed back to the Center to play more four chairs. When it was time for centers, I was so proud of the BoMme. They each knew right what to do and got to work getting the kids settled immediately. I was so happy! Many times, it takes a few minutes for it to get started. Not today, they jumped right to it. Tyler sat in with the math center and quizzed the kids in mental math (multiplication facts), and I sat on the floor next to our three kids who are working on writing their letters and numbers. They are trying so hard to get that darn pencil to make that silly shape. They are showing tons of improvement though. So proud of all the banna (means children) for how hard they worked today.

Just when we thought it was over, the BoMme are talking in Sesotho to the banna and they all get up and stand in line. MeMookho finally informs us they are working on a “sketch” (a skit) for the Christmas party! Shhh, she says it is a secret and wants to surprise the banna from Khohlo-Ntso Care Center. How cute! The boy that is Jesus wasn’t there so Tyler was his stand in. It was so funny because another boy, Poloko is the donkey Jesus rides in on. So Tyler had to “ride” on Poloko’s back! We were all cracking up! Thankfully for Poloko’s sake, in walks Tswanello, the boy who is playing Jesus. It was almost as if Twanello was just waiting for Tyler to get on top of Poloko before he showed up. It was perfect timing.

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The story they are sharing is from Matthew 21. It is the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The kids loved acting out their parts, and “the crowd” was especially excited to throw down their trash bags and cardboard, which they used in place of the cloaks and palm branches.

After their rehearsal, Tyler shared with the kids about the story they are acting out and what it means. The kids were very receptive and listened great. They loved that Jesus rode a donkey, and they ride donkeys all the time. Tyler taught that everyone was expecting Jesus come as a rich, important king, but instead he came as a humble servant. Jesus’ humility by riding a donkey instead of in an elaborate coach with beautiful horses shows us that he was not concerned by earthly treasures or kingdoms, but instead he cares for the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s great to see the kids faces when they begin to understand these big concepts about their Savior.

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After a long day, it is finally time to go home. We rush to get clothes off the line before the rain comes. And what do you know, there is quite the smell in our back yard. Oh my goodness. I look around to see if I can figure out what it’s coming from, and come to find out our neighbors have a large carcass drying out in their back yard. That smell is one I would love to forget. But don’t worry, when in Africa, your newly washed and dried clothes now reek of the same smell. No more nice detergent. Guess I know what I am doing first thing tomorrow morning: re-washing the clothes.

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What a day. It was great, and busy, and unforgettable.
And now the powers out again…

With Love,
Tyler and Rachel

A True Servant

Yesterday we continued with the weekend food packs for the children. As we were giving out the food, MeMaNeo told us a story of something that had happened the week before.

Tyler and I had been in Johannesburg for a few days so we asked Teresa to take care of the weekend food pack distribution for us while we were gone. We were so thankful that she could help us!

There is one little girl at the Khohlo-Ntso Care Center who has special needs (we suspect fetal alcohol syndrome). This is the same girl (named D) I wrote about a few weeks back. Well, the women at the Center told us that if she carried all this food home every Friday, someone would steal it from her. So, we have agreed to bring her food right to her house and hand deliver it to her mother every week.

Unfortunately, we forgot to tell Teresa about this last week while we were gone.

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This is Seko. He is almost in the 7th grade and one of the oldest boys at the Center. He is tall and soft spoken. But after hearing this story, we now describe him as SELFLESS and KIND.

He willingly, without any prompting from the women, offered to leave his weekend food pack at the church to pick up the following day, and carried D’s food pack for her. Wow. I couldn’t believe it. D does not even live in his villiage. He went way out of his way to help her and made sure she got what she needed before himself.

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We told him we were so proud of him and that he was so kind to even think about doing that for her. What a picture of Jesus, putting others before himself. Going out of his way to help someone in need.

This boy is on his way to becoming a fine young man. Please pray for his heart, that it continues to grow for the Lord. And even for D, please pray that more children would befriend her and that she can feel and know the love of Christ. Lastly, would you pray for the other boys at the Center who look up to Seko, that they will see what he does and follow in his footsteps.

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
Isaiah 58:10

With Love,
Tyler & Rachel

The Best Christmas Card

Sorry in advance, this blog post is a little out of order. We are going to go back in time about a month so I can share my first nursing experience while serving here in Lesotho!

The following is a true medical story that contains graphic descriptions of our encounter.

Our team was spending the morning in a village near Khohlo-Ntso visiting some of the children’s caregivers. I got a phone call from Teresa Flora (IMB Missionary and Registered Nurse) and she told me we had to come with her to see a man they had just met. She was on her way home to get supplies and had left the team (two members of the team were Registered Nurses as well) with the man to begin caring for him. The man was a 37-year-old paraplegic. He was HIV positive, had TB in his spine, was suffering from constant bloody diarrhea, had a terrible and productive cough, rhonchi heard bilaterally, and the biggest pressure ulcers I have ever seen.

The smells.
The dirty, soiled blankets.
The dark room.
The hopelessness.

Trust me when I say, the situation was rough. I had never seen pressure ulcers this large. The slough, the eschar, the tunneling. It went so deep that when we had cleaned out the sore we were able to touch the man’s hipbone.

Like I said, hopeless.

Okay pause, I need to go back one more time and tell about the last patient Teresa had with these symptoms (quadriplegic with even worse pressure ulcers). Her name was Nthabising (N-Taba-Sing). She sent her to the hospital to have surgery. Before sending her, Teresa had spoken with the doctors on the phone and set everything up. The surgery was planned. But when she got to the hospital, Nthabising sat in the bed for ten days and they did nothing. They didn’t even feed her.

So they got her home and the ulcers were obviously worse. Teresa did what she could. From our experience, the nurses here do not consider anyone who cannot walk to be “worth their time”. Anyone who is a paraplegic or quadriplegic is considered “home based care”.

Therefore their family is left to care for the sick patient.

This saddens me so much. Praise the Lord for Teresa’s presence in this woman’s life. Through their interaction, Nthabising came to know Christ as her personal Savior. And then her mother, her sister, her friends, and now there is a house church meeting in her village!

Through this woman’s pain and suffering, many people have come to know the Lord.

During this time Teresa was caring for Nthabising, a woman named Charlene Hahn, came from the United States to Lesotho for a mission trip. She is also a Nurse and was able to help care for Nthabising. Charlene had a brilliant idea. She taught Nthabising to paint. Nthabising would hold the paintbrush in her mouth and was able to brush away. Charlene had her paint a Christmas tree.

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And when she got back home in the States, Charlene had Christmas cards made from the picture. She is selling them to others to send to their loved ones during the Christmas season and using the money to go directly back to this woman’s mother and to help care for orphans in the community.

Nthabising passed away due to the complications and infection from the pressure ulcers. But we can rejoice in knowing that she is celebrating, dancing, and praising the Father!

If you are interested in buying this Christmas card to send to your loved ones this Christmas, please send me a message or comment below. I will connect you with Charlene. Or you can email her directly at nonnahahn@aol.com. They are sold for $12/per dozen. Each card has Nthabising‘s story printed on them and the picture that she painted. How neat would it be for her story of redemption to be on display for all to see this Christmas season!

With this previous situation, Teresa knew we couldn’t simply take this man to the hospital or clinic because they wouldn’t treat him. So, now to finish his story.

We got him cleaned up the best we could. We packed the holes with gauze that had been soaked in saline. Teaching his brother and mother the entire time about how they need to continue to care for them.

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Now I am going to brag on my husband a minute.

Tyler sat by his head the whole time. One hand holding a light for us and the other holding the man’s hand. He asked MeThato (our translator) to tell him to squeeze his hand when it hurt. He amazed me. Tyler could not stand to listen to my stories from clinicals and work back when I was in school. He hates the sight and thought of blood and anything medical. But, God gave him the strength to not only stay in the room but to sit down next to the man and care for his heart. While we were working on cleaning his ulcers, Tyler didn’t forget this man had a soul. I told Tyler that what he did is the most important part of nursing – being present in the patient’s life, making sure they know they are not alone, and caring for their heart and not just their physical body. 

After the Gospel was presented, the man accepted Christ and became a believer in Jesus!

Praise God!

I guess that needs to be my prayer. Not that I can heal everyone or even take pain away or even clean every wound. But that Jesus Christ will give me the words to share with the patient. Sharing with them that He is the only way. He is the only reason to live. Not to fear death but to fear what happens after you die.

With Love,
Rachel

A Great (And Busy) Friday

Today was so busy I just can’t keep it to myself!

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We started our day by going to Lucky 7 (the closest shop, it has simple foods and hygiene items – very small) up the mountain in Khokhoba. It was going to be a big shopping trip.

There is a church in America (Hamlin Baptist Church) who has committed to donating money to Jim and Teresa Flora every month to go towards a feeding project in Lesotho. And glory to God, do you know what they wanted to spend the money on? Our precious children at the Care Centers. You see, the Centers are open Monday through Friday in the afternoons. For many of the kids, the meal they eat at the Center is their only one for the day. That means, Saturday and Sunday, they are left hungry. Teresa approached us this week about using the money for weekend food packs for the kids!

We were so happy!

With the help of Teresa and the workers at Lucky 7, we got all the food for them and started distributing the food this weekend. All the kids were told to bring their backpacks so they could “smuggle” the food home. If other kids or even adults saw them just carrying the food, it may get stolen. NOT OK.

So, at Lucky 7, we bought 38 bags of mealie, 38 bags of beans, 38 bags of rice, 38 boxes of soya-mince, 38 cartoons of milk, and by far the kid’s favorite, 38 packages of cookies. It was quite the handful. The workers at Lucky 7 were very helpful and I think this will help us build relationships with them as we will continue to see them each and every week.

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We went to drop the food off at Khokhoba Care Center. The BoMme (women) were elated! They all agreed this was such a good thing for the children and were very happy to help out.

Then we headed to Khohlo-Ntso where we had planned to do a home visit for one of the girl’s Mme (mother, pronounced ‘May’). We dropped off the food at the church and picked up MeMasekola, MeManeo, and the girl herself (who yes, was skipping school and was already at the Center ready to play).

This little girl, I will call her “D”, was born with (what we suspect is) fetal alcohol syndrome. Her mother is known for her alcoholism. D has an older brother and a younger brother. Last week, during the night, a man came into their roundavel and began beating D’s mother and little brother. His reasoning is unclear – there had been some gossip going around that may have caused his anger, but that is no excuse. The little brother, maybe 2 or 3 years old has injuries on his head and a broken arm. The Mme, has many injures on her head, her neck, and her back. Can you imagine?

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We went to visit her to bring some encouragement. D was so happy when we took the turn onto the dirt road towards her home. You can see in this picture, she ran ahead to greet her Mme and tell her we were coming.

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I had been warned that every time Allison tried to visit her, she was always too drunk to talk with. I had set my expectations low going in, just not knowing what to expect. When we walked in, she sat up from the bed and greeted us with a smile. Wow, I thought, she isn’t intoxicated, she will actually hear what we have to say. What an answer to prayer. We introduced ourselves and not ten minutes into our talk, Mme told us that she wanted us to take D as our own child. Heart. Break. Oh we wish we could. Tyler even told me later, “I would take her in a heartbeat.” But we had to say, “no, Mme, we cannot take her from you. She loves you too much.” Shew.

Tyler shared with her Romans 8:18-31. She listened so intently as MeManeo translated for him. I sat on the floor and entertained the banna (children) with my white hands. Haha! They were clapping my hands, playing with my fingers, and enjoying the attention I was giving them. Goodness they were cute. When Tyler finished sharing with her, she told MeManeo that it encouraged her very much. What an open door! She was sober and got to hear and understand some of God’s Word and it meant something to her!

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It was a great visit and we plan to go back next week. D was so happy! When we were leaving she told us bye and we had to correct her, saying, “no, come with us, we are going to the Center!” She came running out of the house yelling bye to her Mme. So sweet!

We got back to the Center and some of the children had arrived from school. The Flora’s have a team here this week with a free afternoon that needed to be filled with banna. The children had learned a dance at school for the 50th year of independence for Lesotho! They wanted to show it to us and the team from America. What a special treat for us!

The team shared the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den and brought puzzles for the children. The kids had a blast! As they worked on their new puzzles, we pulled aside one at a time to bring us their kit (backpack) to fill with the dijo (food) for the weekend. They were so excited! Their backpacks got so heavy!

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The children shared a meal together prepared by the BoMme. And then it was time to head home. But not before one last picture.

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We took some children home that live far away. Oh the sweet smiles they give us when riding the car. It will melt your heart and make you want to pass their village and just take them home with you.

We left that side and were heading home when we saw on the road a group of children with big heavy backpacks walking towards us on their way home. Our children from Khokhoba! Sweet Thabang even jumped up in the air when we saw us stopping. They all piled in our car and we took them home. I asked them, “Why is you kit so heavy? What is inside?” They all smiled big and Motsilisi and Tsepo listed out every item of food. Wow!

They won’t go hungry this weekend.

Praise the Lord!

With Love,
Tyler & Rachel

Ntene’s Journey

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Ntene was born 14 years ago and was a healthy baby boy. Well we were told he was 14, but his medical record shows he is 16, so the jury is still out about this. He lived with his mother for the first six years of his life until he came down with an unknown illness.

This illness leaf him completely deaf.

Looking at all the facts, it’s safe to assume he was sick with meningitis. Regardless of the cause, his mother did not want to raise a deaf child and moved away. Leaving him helpless.

Graciously another woman in his village took him in. Ntene’s “Mme” loves him very much and does all she can for him.

She is a true picture of the gospel at work. An amazing woman.

Ntene has been attending the Care Center at Khokhoba Baptist Church for several years now and is a favorite among the women and kids for his attitude, love, and smile!

But as he’s getting older, it’s becoming more and more imperative that he attends a school that can fully meet his needs and teach him to communicate through the use of sign language.

School starts in January, and there is a lot to accomplish in order to get him enrolled. So Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we took the first steps together to accomplish this goal.

We picked up Ntene and his Mme on the road and were greeted, as we always are, by the most beautiful smile we have ever seen. He was so excited to go with us. Another member of our party was Ntate Molapo, the pastor (Maruti) at Khokhoba Baptist Church. He graciously agreed to ride along for the journey and help translate for us. Ntene’s Mme did not speak much English, so having him come with us was such a huge blessing.

The last person to jump in the car was Ntate Ntjapeli, another man who is deaf. He came with us with the hopes of being tested as well. We had never met him but were connected together through Teresa Flora. He and his brother were standing on the edge of the paved road dressed up so nice. He had on a blazer, tie, and a fedora! He was looking so dressed up and nice. He was smiling so big and making noises to his brother as he climbed in our car.

If we could get both of them seen by the audiologist to learn if a hearing aid would be beneficial, and if we could take Ntene to the deaf school to meet the principal and begin the enrollment process, it would be a successful trip.

Both Ntene and Ntate Ntjapeli would make noise and point like crazy when they saw something interesting out the window. Ntene especially enjoyed the bridge, passing other vehicles, and motorcycles.  And, when we passed a construction zone Ntene was pointing up to the crane with a huge smile on his face.  We had so much fun with them riding in the car.

On the way down the mountains, we passed through a town named Leribe. This is where we had been told there was a school for children who are deaf. We decided to stop in to see the school and meet with the leaders to discuss what needs to be done for enrollment. The visit went very well. The women were saying hello to him in sign language until he repeated it back to them. He was smiling so big. We told the women his story and asked them if this would be a good for school him. They agreed he would benefit from being here but wished he had come sooner. If we can get him into school in January, he will have to start in the pre-school class to learn foundational sign language. We are hopeful he will learn quickly and get to advance to be with others closer to his age soon. This school also teaches them a trade – he would be taught how to work on cars, take care of a farm, or one of many other trades they teach that will help him live a successful life.

We all loved what they were saying about the opportunities he would have. We changed the topic to paperwork and what they needed to enroll him. The biggest thing they stressed was that they needed his birth certificate and proof he was an orphan. If we can get this paperwork to them soon, they will communicate with social services that he is an orphan and see if the government would help with the cost of tuition. What an answer to prayers this would be. Next week we will begin looking into getting this paperwork started. His only relatives live in the Lowlands, so this would be another trip for his Mme to get their signatures. Please pray for this process to continue smoothly and for perseverance for the Mme as we gather everything we need.

After the visit to school, we hopped back in the car and went the rest of the way to Maseru. When we arrived in the city, we went by the mall to let them see the stores, restaurants, and even ride an escalator. Ntene had never been on one before and he loved it!

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We also let them all pick a few items from the store. It was so great to be able to bless them!

After dinner, we headed back to the bed and breakfast we were staying at and had a great nights rest before the busy day to follow.

The next day was an early start as we arrived at the hospital as soon as they opened. Already the waiting room was overflowing and the line to check in was out the door. We waited in that line for about five minutes before being seen by the receptionist. We explained what we needed done (we had no appointment or referral, so we were praying to find the right person to get us seen that day) and she directed us to the ENT check in station. This lady was insistent that we must have an appointment, but after several minutes she gave us the much needed stamp validating we now had an appointment.

The only problem was that the stamp needed to be in a “Boukana” (medical journal that everyone has), and Ntene had a Boukana but Ntate Ntjapeli did not. So with Ntene’s book stamped we went back out to the waiting room and spoke with another man who directed us back to the first check in station to get a Boukana for Ntate Ntjapeli. Back at the first desk we explained that we needed a Boukana and she had us fill out “check-in” forms for each of them. That paperwork was tedious but once it was completed she signed those documents and sent us to another line for processing the appointment. This line only took another five-or-so minutes but the lady did not want to check them in until the Boukana was purchased. Rachel went to wait in a separate (and much longer) line to pay for the hearing exam and buy a Boukana while I pleaded for the appointments to be processed.

Finally the appointments for each of them were processed and she printed out the stickers for them showing the time they were checked in. I went and joined Rachel in the other line and purchased the Boukana and paid for each of their hearing exams. With a fresh new Boukana in hand, the stickers ready to display our appointment check-in time, and the correct stamps verifying the appointments were approved, we sat in the waiting room and began the four hour wait to be seen.

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Thank God Ntate Molapo came with us to translate because we couldn’t have completed half of this without him helping us get through each checkpoint.

The audiologist was a very nice Basotho woman who spoke clear English as well as Sesotho. She saw Ntate Ntjapeli first and told us that because of his age, she would be worried that if we got him hearing aids, he would be confused more than he could understand. Her thoughts were that if he did get hearing aids, he would choose not to wear them because of all the environmental noises he had gone without for 42 years. We were taken back and didn’t know what to even say. This poor man has never heard a day in his life and she is telling us it is better for him to stay this way. A day later, we are looking back on this and wish we were more persistent with her in assessing his hearing. Before this, neither of us had much experience with individuals who are deaf and how they cope and communicate in life. If a hearing aid has the potential to help him, we are tempted to try it out.

Next was Ntene’s turn, his Mme and him walked in and sat down. Before coming in, we gave the doctor a brief history and explained that this Mme took him in after he became deaf and his biological mother left him. She started with trying to talk to him, and all the sweet boy could do was smile back at her and then look over at us. She was speaking Sesotho so we don’t know what she was saying, but probably something like “Hello, can you hear me?” And of course, he could not. She took a look inside his ears as he sat so nice and still looking straight ahead. We asked her about the school for the deaf in Leribe and she knew it very well. Her only concern with enrolling him there was that he would have to be in class with pre-schoolers. We explained that the plan would be for him to learn the basics with the younger kids and then progress to be with children closer to his own age.

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She then used some fancy equipment that tested his ears for hearing. She was surprised at how much the test showed. What a blessing, he has a little bit of hearing! Not enough for him to hear anything without the assistance of a hearing aid, but enough that it would make a significant difference for him to use one! She would recommend getting a hearing aid for him to hear environmental noises and sounds to get his attention such as a cow mooing, a car driving down the road, and clapping. She doesn’t think he will be able to speak or understand a conversation fluently but there is huge potential for him to learn sign language and hear background noise in unison.

As you can imagine, we were overwhelmed with excitement about this discovery!

After a long morning, we grabbed some lunch and hit the road back to Katse. On the way home, we talked with Ntene’s Mme and made sure she was in agreement and understood all that had transpired at the school and at the doctor. We were so pleased with how much she understood and how much she was willing to do for him to get into school.

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As of now, our plan is to meet back up with her next week and plan a time for her to travel to his family in the Lowlands and get the paperwork started.

We have been blown away but all the encouragement and prayers we received as we started this journey with Ntene. We are so thankful for each and every one of you.

We will keep everyone updated as things progress!

With Love,
Tyler & Rachel


UPDATE:
We have recently discovered new information that both contradicts and better explains Ntene’s true origin story. Instead of re-writing his story, we are adding the new information below.

Ntene was abandoned by his mother when he was 5 years old and was raised by another family in his village. He never attended school and worked all day, every day in the fields as a shepherd.

He witnessed a dispute among two shepherds and was going to be taken to trial to testify about the situation. The shepherd in the wrong took Ntene to a witch doctor and asked that his ability to speak and hear be taken away so that he could not testify against him in trial. That day, Ntene became deaf and mute and has been ever since.

While this is heartbreaking, we firmly believe God is sovereign, and works in all things to do incredible things. Whatever the true story of Ntene’s hearing loss happens to be, we believe God has a big plan for Ntene’s life, and we are so grateful and honored to be a small part of it.

With Love (again),
Tyler & Rachel