Sunday, December 23, 2007

'tis the season

. . . and carrying on with tradition, I am sick! It is hard for me to remember a holiday season where I wasn't curled up under a blanket shivering and with a fever. Oh well, at least I'm consistent!
But, there's one big difference this year . . . . IT IS SO HOT! I never really thought that the temperature would make that much of difference, but it has been hard to remember that it is December and that Christmas is just a few days away. Yeah, we have up the tree and stockings. We made Christmas cookies last night and we've been playing the Christmas music all the time. But, without family, snow, and Dad's fudge, it's just not quite the same!
I think the hardest part has been hearing of our families' plans and the Christmas parties to come knowing that we won't be able to be a part of it all!
We have made some of our own special plans and are trying to add some new traditions; like scones and choc covered rusks on Christmas eve and the 8am Christmas service at church. We are having Christmas dinner with our South African partners and their family. For the first time, I'm trying to cook gammon and Shirley is making a leg of lamb.
We have been praying that God would make this first Christmas away from family special for all of us!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What a fun day!

God continues to surprise us by the people He brings across our path!
Today, as soon as our church service was over (10:30am) we all jumped in the car to head to a rural Zulu church that we had been invited to attend. But, the funny part is how we got invited . . . About a month ago, Kyle and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Richards Bay studying our Zulu. I started to notice that the two young men sitting at the table next to us REALLY sounded like me (that crazy Michigan accent that we've grown to miss). I begged Kyle to go over, apologize for his wife's eavesdropping, and introduce himself. Come to find out, THEY ARE FROM MICHIGAN. Dumi's parents moved to America when he was small, but then returned to South Africa to start a children's ministry in eSikhawini (a neighboring town). Dumi went back to Michigan to finish high school and stayed to attend college. He is back in South Africa with a friend on a short-term missions trip, but also working with his parents.
A few weeks later, we sat down for coffee with them as they explained all the ways that God has blessed his parent's ministry. It was incredible to see their passion for people to learn about Christ.
That brings us up to today. Dumi had called Kyle and invited us all to the service and then to have lunch in his parents home.
The service started at 11:30 and ran about 2 hours. The singing is great; simple yet full of rich harmony. It was fun to have known a few of the songs and be able to worship with them. Because we were visiting, they asked us to come up front and introduce ourselves. A guy was ready to interpret, but Kyle handled it all in Zulu. Afterwards, people told us that they were shocked to hear (and have understood) his Zulu. :)
A common part of a Zulu service is the testimony time. People will line up to give testimony of what God is doing in their lives and publicly give Him praise. The pastor explained that this is a necessary part of the service because a life that is changed by God should be evidenced by how God is working in that person! We then had a lot more singing and a time of preaching (with an interpreter to help us along). At the close of the service, everybody starts shaking the pastor's hand and then follow in line behind him. The line of hands to shake continues to grow and it becomes an incredible way to greet the congregation.
We then walked across the road to fellowship with Dumi's parents (Isaiah and Mercy) and a few others. Isaiah and Mercy are such welcoming people and encouraged our hearts as we sat around the table. They told us that we are welcome with them and their people and that they really want to see us learn the language.
I can't even explain how excited we are to continue building relationships with this family and learning from them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A little R&R!

Our first family vacation in South Africa! What a blessing to spend some time without a computer, Zulu notes, or cell phone reception . . . and just enjoy each other's company. We spent 4 days in a place called Cape Vidal renting a little cabin (which had plenty of lizards on the walls and sand that fell from the ceiling). Cape Vidal is a game park that's also right on the Indian Ocean. It was nice to go for a drive in the AM and see rhino and hippo walking around and then go to play in some waves. The Indian Ocean is very warm and the girls are learning to keep the salt water out of their mouths :)

Our family numbered 5 for this vacation. It was a joy to have Lily join us and on one game drive when she didn't come along, the girls thought it was strange to have her seat in the car empty.
The summer is starting to heat up here. We are consistently reaching temperatures into the 90's. February is supposed to be the hottest . . . I doubt it if anyone will ever come to visit then :)
It has been hard to remember that it is the Christmas season . . . I've always spent Christmas complaining about the cold! We will be joining our South African pastor and his family for Christmas. Most of the churches here have a Christmas service at 8am on Christmas day. We are looking forward to this and the traditions that will evolve out of our new culture.