Two months later, and I can’t believe that I am so blessed to still be living in this beautiful country sharing God’s love. We volunteers here in Westville have been keeping up with the same projects in Clermont, Lamontville, Mariannhill and Durban, but with one less volunteer. My bunk-mate Maggie has gone back to the US, but I know she has gone to let her light shine and start a fire with her passionate spark. I miss her, but I know she is needed there at home as well.
What I would really like to share with you all this time is how I’ve been a witness to such an inspiring ripple effect that South Africa creates. Everyone touched by it can’t help but pass it on. There is something so special happening here.
This is technically my 11th month being here in South Africa since Jan 2010. I’ve gone back and forth between here and home in the US. Now everyone has heard me rave about the spiritual buzz that lives and grows here. But, as much as I talk about it and show pictures it does no justice until you experience it first-hand.
My parents Ellyn and Gary Schlageter and little brother Tom did just that when they came for a 3 week visit, but I tell you- this was no vacation. We put their skills to good use.
My Dad is a carpenter and builder by trade- I wish we could have access to him year round. He did some creche upgrades in Margate. He replaced a door frame that was destroyed by termites- it was quite the project, and really messy. The door had literally fallen off and into the house, and it wasn’t safe for the teachers or kids to use. Also, my dad is a real perfectionist when it comes to his work. It was difficult for him to use the limited tools and resources on our budget, but in the end the door worked and the kids in the creche could now get from the classroom to the toilet without issue. The teacher that runs the creche told my dad that he made her dreams come true by merely giving her a working door.
He also put up a fence and gate at Mariannhill Good News Centre for their Creche. This helps ‘contain’ the children and protect them. We planned to have him work during school holidays while the creche was off, so he’d have less little kids bothering him and no distractions. Well, didn’t plan that the kids would be there playing anyways looking for something to do over the holidays. So over two days, my dad worked tirelessly while one of us tried to keep the kids entertained away from him. Quickly we ran out of ideas after countless games of ‘simon says’, wheelbarrow races, hide and seek, zulu hymns, etc. Soon enough these kids were ‘helping’ my dad, and you might think it was frustrating trying to control children between the ages of 3-5 and power tools at the same time- but my dad was loving life. He let the kids ‘help’ him drill and hammer. It probably took twice as long, but he gave these kids attention where otherwise they would be neglected. After working, he let them play with his sunglasses and hat, and he was so touched by them that he returned a few days later with sunglasses for all of them.
No more turning back
Now, about my mom. Once she’s committed to something, there is no stopping her; she’s in it 100%. It was beautiful to watch her over the 3 weeks come to appreciate and understand what I love so much. There is complete freedom in Christ in this country to help and serve others. There are no hoops to jump through if you want to visit the sick, feed the needy, or even publicly pray. From her first day here being involved in a work day on Sunday morning and crying while singing along to the Zulu hymn ‘Jerusalem, the city in the name of the Lord… oh Lord I want to be there!’. I knew she was hooked, and changed. That’s all it takes here, just the experience of how passionate the brothers and sisters are, and seeing there love working out in action. It’s contagious- it’s that ripple effect, and you can’t help passing it on.
My 12 yr old brother left saying that he would come back. Now, everyone assumed he’d come back to visit me, I mean why else would he come back? His response ‘No, when I’m old enough I’ll come back and volunteer too.’ Wow… I watched him mature before my eyes. He wants to come serve God and help those in need here in South Africa, when it’s time.
My family all helped with the food parcel distribution that we do once a month for orphaned children in the Clermont township. Now when I explained to them that we only have 200 parcels that we give to our registered orphans, but that we expect more people to come. These extra people just hope we have some food for them as well, but sadly, we don’t. Finding this out, my dad said ‘Well, let’s just go to the grocery store and buy food for everyone.’ Hearing that suggestion just warms my heart and breaks it at the same time. It’s impossible to feed everyone who is hungry, that problem will only be solved when Jesus returns… but just seeing my family care so much for these strangers made everything worth it.
Coming to an End
While my family was here, they came to all the projects and were fully involved. They ran after school club in Clermont, youth class in Mariannhill, a jumble sale in Lamontville, time at the Bible Education Centre (where they signed up 31 new students!), a week of food parcel packing and the distribution day, along with visiting the different townships and making those lasting relationships with contacts and brothers and sisters. For their efforts my mom and dad were honoured with traditional Zulu clothing hand made by sister Sebenzile in Mariannhill.
It was sad to see them go after the 3 weeks, but I watched them grow during that time. They left with a mission. They have a plan to raise whatever extra money they can to help out here with whatever projects need funding, and not just that- they plan to raise money to come back again next year. But, it’s not just about coming back, when they went home I know they’ve done nothing but share their experiences, their passion, and let the ripple from South Africa effect more than just themselves. I know for a fact my mom is already working on convincing friends from home to donate money, goods, and their time to come out here and volunteer as well.
When I came out here for the first time and every time since, I was focused on what I could do to help South Africa. I never knew how much my experiences here would help me, but not just me- everyone close to me as well. I really pray that we can all be open to changing for the better. Amen.