Sunday, August 15, 2010


Well, I'm now back. 15 weeks in South Africa, 19 hours of flight time, and I'm back in Virginia. I'm home... sort of.
Right now Greg and I are still Nomads, living in friends' houses, and trying to figure out how to resettle into life here in Virginia Beach.

Two weeks back and I've gotten the same question about a hundred times, "How was South Africa?" What is the answer to that? Do you want the 2 minute answer, the 20 minute answer, or the 3 day answer?

My difficulty to answer this question probably comes from the same reason I haven't written in my blog. How do I put into words such an experience? How could I do justice to expressing what God is doing in South Africa, and what he is doing in my life? How do I try to explain what it's like to be a foreigner in a society of dozens of overlapping cultures. Each group of people has its own economic standing, social expectations, internal and external conflicts, and frequently separate languages. Right now, South Africa is in the midst of a precarious status quo; many separate groups living in the same space, and unsure how to react to each other.

God's desire is to reach each culture, and each people group, around the globe. Too often we, as followers of Christ, decide who to reach out to based on who we are. We live with filters of what we think people need and of what we think it means to love people, but too often we miss the mark.

I think one of the challenging parts of being in South Africa, was that God opened my eyes enough to know that the Western church very often gets things wrong. Unfortunately, God left out the piece about what the answer is supposed to be. As frustrating as that can be, I recognize this to be intentional. If God withholds knowledge, He challenges me to follow Him instead of my own wisdom.

So how do I reconcile all of this? How do I take the experiences this summer and use them to produce fruit in Virginia Beach? How do I not get frustrated about Hummers with 30 inch rims when there are children who need food? But who am I to decide that owning my Honda is better than owning a Hummer?

Why does this place feel so foreign, that once felt like home?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ok, so I'm a failure as a blogger

I'm now just shy of posting a month apart. I tried to commit to writing at least once a week, and I clearly did not reach that goal. Still, please have some grace for me, I have not been sitting around. The last three weeks have been incredibly busy.

Tomorrow (Saturday the 3rd) will mark the return of our Week 3 Trailer Ministry teams. This was our biggest week so far, with trailers in 10 different communities. In each of the previous two weeks we had trailers in 5 communities, and the logistics involved in that has been tremendous. It's been interesting that this week has been actually a little easier because we've gotten into a rhythm. We've had teams arriving, being trained, out on ministry, coming back, debriefing, and going home, all overlapping, so the timing and details have certainly been a challenge.

This week has been quite different for me because it started with me lying in bed with an Angry African Flu. Clearly, this is not it's actual name but I haven't had a flu like that in years. I was pretty well stuck in bed for going on 5 days which brought on horrible cabin fever. Still, with time and antibiotics, I'm doing much better and for the last two days I actually got to go out with one of our teams. We were with New Life Praise Church in Stinkwater (pronounce this town stink-V-ater... Afrikaans makes a W sound like a V). Working in this area was definitely a lesson in small town politics and corruption, but that's a story for another time.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support, I'll try to be better about posting in the coming weeks. As I have time, I'll try to put up a quick story or two from this last month. I hope you're all diligently watching the World Cup, and feel free to email me anytime =)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

5 More things I've Learned about South Africa

1) A monkey in a church will inevitably get poo on the one piece of exposed sound equipment.

A monkey we have named Herman has moved into our grounds in the last few days, and Tuesday he managed to sneak his way into the church. This was hilarious and a little frightening, because we didn't know if he would get violent if he got cornered. Still, he did a spectacular job flinging poo everywhere. I haven't been able to snap a picture of him yet, but I'll get one soon. MONKEY IN THE CHURCH! Africa is awesome.

2) Greg lied to me and made me believe there is a bird who is afraid of heights.

The hadeda ibis is a ridiculously loud bird. They're named that because they say "HA-DE-DA, HA-DE-DA!" really loud while flying. Greg convinced me that they're afraid of heights and don't like to fly. Part of me feels stupid for having believed him, but I like the idea that they're afraid of heights because they yell the whole time they're flying. I reject the reality and substitute my own.

3) It is important for the safety of those around you to stay on Twitter during a staff meeting.

Monday morning we were sitting in staff meeting and Bruce (our associate pastor) falls over laughing. He said, "Marcel just posted to Twitter: "If anyone is reading this at Eastside, I'm stuck in the bathroom. Can you please come let me out?"'
Marcel, one of the Ignite interns, was in fact, stuck in the bathroom stall because the handle on the inside had broken off. However, this story gets more ridiculous because Marcel was the 3rd person to get stuck in that bathroom. A 10-year-old boy got stuck on Friday and an American guy named Nate got stuck an hour after arriving in South Africa. Marcel wandered around telling people not to get stuck and we posted a sign, only to get himself stuck and tell everyone in the land of Twitter about it.

4) In the grocery store, you can buy a frozen bag of chicken heads and chicken feet. They are called Walkie Talkies. (I'm not joking about this... the name is ridiculous... and the chickens still have beaks and eyeballs.)

5)Nothing in ministry is final until it has already happened.

I am now at the point of assuming that all things will change constantly, and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Still, the World Cup starts tomorrow whether we're ready or not - so hopefully God's got the rest of the details in His hands =)

Keep praying for the orientations and send-out of our first teams this weekend!

I Consider Myself Repremanded

Annie - Your white girl american fans are awaiting a blog update .

Alright, as the 6 of you reading this demand... here's Africa post #3! I've already broken my commitment to post once a week, but I'll try to be more consistent from here.

So what am I actually doing here?

Well, this is what my days look like.

First, this is the view I wake up to. (Admittedly, the polution adds to the beauty of the sunrise, but it is still a spectacular panorama of Pretoria.) Our apartment (aka "flat") is in an area of town called Queenswood which is a decent drive from Eastside, but it's spacious and comfortable, so no complaints. Right now I'm living here with Kelsey and Christina, two other American interns who arrived about 10 days ago.

The three of us commute in one of two vehicles. #1 is the Bloubessie. She is a spunky, electric blue (her name means "Blueberry" in Afrikaans) Daewoo Matiz packed with a 0.9 Liter (yes... less than 1 liter) engine. There is NOTHING power in the car, no power steering, no power locks, no speakers, no radio, not even a working overhead light. Greg calls her a motorcycle with a roof. But, I do not complain. She has been excellent transport. The other vehicle I drive is the polar opposite of the Bloubessie, a Volkswagen Kombi named Tannie Aster ("Tannie Aster" means "Auntie Iron" in Afrikaans). In a land of small cars, this is a mega-soccer-mom van. It's nice for transporting people and stuff, and people always let me merge on the highway, but it's obnoxiously big.

40 minutes after leaving our lovely flat, we arrive at Eastside. The grounds at Eastside are beautiful. When they bought the land (4 years ago, I think?), everyone said it was a horrible place for a church that nothing would ever grow on the land. But alas, we have amazing grounds guys and the flowers are still blooming in what is quickly becoming winter. (I don't know the name of this flower, I just think it's really neat looking. I'll ask one of the guys and see if I can find out the name.)

Mornings always start with quiet time and prayer meeting, and 2 days a week we have workout club. After that, the day is filled with meetings, emails, phone calls, and general preparation for connecting our teams with the churches we're working with around the Gautang area (Gautang is the province we're in).

It seems unbelievable that I've been here almost a month, and more unbelievable that the World Cup is only 8 days away. At times this task seems insurmountable, but each day God has given us a new reason to trust his faithfulness. This morning for example, Joint Aid Management (JAM) Food Ministries committed to donate as much food as we need to feed every kid we meet on ministry. That's between 3500 & 4000 kilograms (7700-8800) pounds of food free of charge. With portions around 100 grams per child, we can provide 40,000 meals over these 4 weeks. Pretty incredible.

Thanks for all your prayers, please keep praying as the teams begin to go into ministry in the coming weeks. If you want to follow more about the ministry, we're now launching a website where you can follow more of what's happening when I'm not consistent updating my blog =)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dumela a Tshwane!

10 days in South Africa and I have had quite an education so far. Here are 5 fun things I've learned since I've been here:

1) I've learned that Pretoria is no longer called Pretoria. The new name of this city is Tshwane, which makes much more sense given that it is in a region that speaks mostly the tribal language of Tshwana. I've tried to learn as much Tswana as I can, but there are lots of sounds that are not in English. Last weekend we had a training in the region of Hammanskraal with the pastors of the churches we'll be working with in the area. We spent all of Saturday training their church volunteers to run programs within their churches, and many of the volunteers had fun trying to teach me Tswana. I have "thank you" down, and I'm definitely ok with "hello" (dumela) but a few of the other important words like "good morning", "good evening" and "good bye" I'm still practicing. My pronunciation of those is very white girl American. But the churches have been really excited about building children's programs and soccer programs, and it's exciting that we get to be a part of helping resource their ideas.

2) I've also learned a few important Afrikaans phrases, most specifically, "Gaan kotz in die bos." This means "Go puke in the bush." It can be used in it's literal form, but mostly is used to dismiss anyone who is being ridiculous.

3) Many South Africans (particularly taxi drivers) consider driving laws optional, particularly stop signs and robots (aka stoplights). Also, merging is a vehicular demonstration of Survival of the Fittest; Darwin would be proud.

4) God can, and does, provide for His people in miraculous ways. We had about 120 people to feed lunch to on Saturday, and there is no way that the gas to cook the rice or the rice itself should have lasted. But as we scooped out rice, it continued to extend, and we ended up with two small bowls left over. It was awesome to watch. Those same meals will be what we're bringing with our trailers during the World Cup. We want to feed every child that comes to a Holiday Club, and we are doing it with this rice meal that is supplemented with vitamins. We can feed 6 kids for just 36 US cents; it's quite a product. We're still about $3500 short, but God has already shown up, and we believe he will continue to do so.

5) Cricket is a very odd game. Two guys run back and forth between three sticks on each side and have to hit a ball that is bowled by a guy who pitches kind of like fast-pitch softball. Saturday afternoon I put these big leg protectors on and giant squishy gloves and learned to bat in some batting cages. It's quite an odd hitting motion, particularly with all the gear on. But honestly, more odd than that is the fact that in the original form of the game, it lasts 5 days, 8 hours each day. What kind of spectator sport lasts 40 straight hours? And, within those 8 hours there are two tea breaks and a lunch break. I'm not convinced it should be permissible to have a tea break during a sporting event. However, Greg is playing on a team that plays a short version of the game called 20/20 Cricket. It only took about 2 1/2 hours to play. This was much more tolerable than 8 hours with tea breaks.

You can see a few of my pictures from the first week are up (just click on the slideshow and they'll come up full screen). I'll post more later in the week (uploading just uses a lot of bandwidth).

Thanks for all your prayers - keep praying for more food, blankets, and volunteers.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Welkom in Pretoria!

(Welcome to Pretoria... in Afrikaans)
I am now in the process of absorbing at least two new languages (Afrikaans and Tswana) plus the dialect that is South African English.

I landed last night around 6pm local time after a long and excellently turbulent flight. (It was about 4 hours of turbulence... I thought the fuselage was going to just split apart at the seems.) But alas, I landed and so did both my bags (though I did also learn not to borrow a bag right before a trip - I had no idea which black rectangular bag was mine).

Greg picked me up from the airport and took me out to his apartment complex where my excellent host family had organized a braai (a South African barbeque) to welcome me. It also felt quite good to sleep in a bed last night.

Today, I jumped in (was thrown in?) with both feet with three meetings with leaders and pastors to discuss upcoming plans. It's great to see so many people getting behind one vision and one mission.

The plan for tomorrow is one more meeting with a pastor, and then 6 of us are driving off to Hammanskraal (about 35 minutes north of Pretoria) to run the 2nd of 5 trainings for pastors and volunteers in the area. When the international teams come in, they will work with a local, under-resourced church and the local church volunteers to run programs for the local children, teens, and adults in the area. So this training is for those pastors and local volunteers. One of the big goals of this program is to help empower many of the under-resourced churches to use what they have to reach their communities in positive ways.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Still In Virginia

Ok, so for those of you who were expecting a "Annie Landed Safely" message... I haven't taken off yet. Due to bad weather in Atlanta my flight into Atl got canceled and I rebooked for today. So, I take off for Atlanta in a couple of hours and with any luck I'll land in SA tomorrow (Wednesday) around Noon Eastern (US) time, 6pm SA time.

Thanks for your prayers, I'll let you know when I get there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


How is it, that after months of preparation I still feel so extraordinarily unprepared to go to South Africa? All I've done for weeks is make lists, run errands, send emails, make phone calls, organize, pack, plan, sell 80% of my worldly possessions, and yet I still don't feel ready to leave. I know my brain says that no one ever feels ready to leave, but that doesn't steady my emotions enough to make me sleep well. Andy Stanley has said that no one is ever more than 80% sure of any major change and I guess that 20% feels as if it is bearing down on me tonight.

I have Pandora playing on a worship station right now and Passion's version of "Better is One Day" is on.
Better is one day in Your courts, better is one day in Your house, Better is one day in Your courts, than thousands elsewhere

Lord, teach me to trust that truth. I am following as You have asked, I am choosing to be obedient in the tasks you have put before me, but I am having trouble seeing the blessing beyond the sacrifice. I want to believe that my life will be more blessed and more fruitful and more honoring to You and those around me as I am following Your direction into Your "courts" and Your ministry, but my head doesn't know how to trust that right now.

Steph and I were watching tv the other day and this commercial came on where this couple was talking about the horrible weeds in their back yard and the struggle in destroying the dandelions. I made fun of it and told Steph that if Greg and I ever get to a point where our biggest stress in life is killing the weeds in our lawn, she has free permission to punch me in the face.

She laughed but responded (perhaps quite prophetically), "Yeah, but there may come a day when you'll wish your biggest stress is the weeds in your lawn."

I know, that with the greatest challenges come the greatest growth. And I am honored that God would think I am worthy of such an incredible task, but that doesn't make me feel any more prepared.

But, tomorrow the sun will rise. I cannot think 10 months down the road, for that matter I can't think 10 days down the road. I will choose to honor God with tomorrow... and then I'll go from there.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2 talks!

I'm a little behind on getting talks online

We did a series at Fuse in March about Honoring God with our Time, Talent & Treasure. Here's my talk on honoring God with our treasure: enjoy =)

Here's my talk from last week about Jesus: 100% God and 100% Man.

Ok, More excitement than you guys can handle!

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? let me know =)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

19 days... Unbelieveable

I'm not even sure I've written that much about my trip, but Monday May 3rd I leave for 3 months in South Africa. All the planning, all the preparation, all the work... and I'm down to 19 days.

The story of how I've gotten to this point is a wonderful story of God's provision. When I get a few extra minutes, I'll post that. My goal while I'm down there is to post stories and pictures each week on my Sabbath day (maybe Tuesdays?), but for now, please be praying for safe travel and the preparation of my heart.

I am so thrilled to be able to take this time to serve the people in South Africa. ... And I can't wait for some more African Worship!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sometimes We Just Have to Show Up

This week at work has been nuts and exhausting. It has also not helped that the Olympics are on and force me to stay up late to watch the intensity of obscure sports like skicross and women's bobsledding (both of which I would really like to try!). All that to say that tonight as I was driving home from work I was thinking of every reason why I shouldn't go help at Nitelife (our middle school youth group) tonight.

I said a short prayer of, "God, I don't have anything left, if I'm going to be at all useful tonight to this ministry, it's going to have to be through your stength and your stength alone." And with that, I drove over there, totally exhausted but willing to try.

And God provided. Upon arriving, I had immediate energy and God reminded me why I love middle schoolers.

He's done this before, but I need to be taught this lesson quite often. God sometimes just wants us to show up. He's ready to do the work through us, if we just ask and make ourselves available as willing hands and feet.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why I love Jane Austen.

**Note: I almost didn't post this after I wrote it, but I'm being brave and truthful on a topic in which I think many can relate. Ok so here goes.**

This is a discourse I have repeated rather frequently, but tonight Steph and I drank tea and watched Sense and Sensibility, so I am again obliged to dote on Jane Austen. Look, it even effects my writing. What a very Jane-Austen-type first sentence.

And yes, I love the way her characters interact and the dialogue they use, but more than that, I love her view on love.

Too often I am frustrated with the way movies and books and tv shows view love. Love sparks into a burning flame and then is extinguished in rapid succession with few consequences. Too many movies attempt to illustrate love between characters by simply a romantic line, a passionate sex scene, and some sweet conversation they have lying next to each other with artfully placed bedsheets. But that's too easy. That's cheapening love into some sappy combination of emotional and physical lust. I describe it that way particularly because I think too many times women lust after emotional connection, no matter how temporary or contrived. But that is not love.

Love is complicated. It is selfless and committed. It seeks the good of another before the good of oneself. Often love is confusing, and frequently it can be crushing. The term "heartache" is very aptly named and doesn't just happen at the end of a relationship. When love cannot be bistowed on whom the heart is attached, whether because of distance or dischord, the heart aches. Just as love is not easily grown, heartache cannot easily be remedied. It is the opposite of the passionate fire and quickly extinguished lust. But the slow, steady attachment is the right kind of love.

Jane Austen's characters must see all sides of the complexity of love before they are able to find real love. Now, it is true that all of her characters always ultimately end in love, but isn't that what we all want in the end? In Sense and Sensibility there are a series of star-crossed lovers who keep their love for one another a secret from the world. It is the loyalty and longing between these separated lovers that is ultimately much more fulfilling than any spontaneous encounter and passionate sex scene.

It's like Jim & Pam in the Office. It's Jim's extended devotion to her even when she was not reciprocating affection that is so engaging and powerful.

Perhaps I am biased toward this kind of love. It is the kind of love I know best; the kind that knows the deep ache of separation and the elation of reunion. And though it seems difficult and complicated and confusing, I would never trade this love for the emotional and physical lust that is advertised in most modern stories.

I think if we spent more time learning to be like Elinor Dashwood and less time learning the lessons of the doctors of Grey's Anatomy, our views of relationships and marriages would be much more sound.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exodus 6

This year, Greg and I have decided to read through the Bible. We've chosen a chronological reading plan which I really like because I'm interested to see how all of the books overlap and see how the events lead to one another. Right now, my knowledge of the Old Testament is many snapshots and stories, but I lack the big picture in many places.

Therefore, throughout the year I'll just be posting interesting things that I have been studying. First, did you know that the book of Job falls before the time of Abraham? We read the book of Job after chapter 11 of Genesis, then picked Genesis back up and finished it a few days ago. On to Exodus.

I love Moses because he is so amazingly human. We tend to think of him as this great prophet and leader, but he was hesitant and unbelieving and came up with every excuse he could think of to not follow through with what God had asked of him. Have I ever done that. Surely I have been in Moses shoes (though, perhaps with not such a great task ahead of me as he had).

But today I was actually most engaged not in what Moses did, but in the Israelites. The beginning of Chapter 6 is a profound promise that the Lord gives to Moses that reaffirms all of the truths that he told Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God promises deliverence and redemption. God finishes his speech to Moses by saying "I am the LORD" where the word LORD is YHWH in Hebrew. It means the existing one. The name was considered so holy that most Hebrews would never dare speak it. It is power and authority, and He is declaring his intentions and actions.

And the Israelites ignored Him.

vs.9 "Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage."

At this point the Israelites already knew that God has spoken to Moses, but their circumstances and struggles blinded them to the spectacular miracle that was about to take place around them and for them. How many times has God wanted to change my circumstances, deliver me, and bless me, when I was not open to accept his blessing? How many times have I gotten lost in my own earthly troubles and missed the Heavenly plan going on around me? For generations the Israelites had cried out to God for deliverance, but they were not ready for it when it came. Am I prepared for God to answer all the prayers I have asked of him? If tomorrow, God opened the floodgates of blessing onto my life, would I respond with joy and thanksgiving or continue to focus on other struggles in my life?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How do I teach what I don't yet understand?

I should be sleeping, but sometimes the only way of working through things is to write them out.

9am Sunday mornings I teach Middle School Sunday school. Earlier tonight I realized I wanted to talk about the tragedy in Haiti, and where is God in the midst of this kind of pain and suffering? But as I have been working on the Scripture and the lesson plan... I feel like the more I seek the less I know.

There are dozens of passages of scripture about suffering and enduring for the sake of Christ, but most of them are based on the idea of persecution due to faith. What about natural disasters? What about random acts of hate? I went over to my book shelf and pulled Matt Rogers' book "When Answers Aren't Enough" hoping to refresh some great wisdom or passage to help my kids understand. But as I flipped back through the book, scar tissue began to wear away, and I once again felt the sting of April 16th. This book was written in the year following the shootings and many of the experiences Matt shared were experiences I know and remember vividly.

It's funny, because in the almost 3 years since the tragedy I have talked to dozens, probably hundreds of people about what happened. "You graduated from Virginia Tech?" "Yes, back in 2007." "Oh... so were you... like there?" "Yes, I was. But it didn't at all ruin my experience at school. In fact, once the media left, things were much more stable. It was so great to see the community build around one another and come together for support." I have repeated this conversation many times.

But I think I still have so many unanswered questions! Why that day?! Why those people?! One day later and I would have been in that building, in one of those rooms at 9:30am. One change of day may have saved my life. but why?

I thought I had dealt with so many of these questions, and though I know the answers I, as a follower of Jesus, should give, sometimes they just don't seem adequate. Do I believe that in "all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose"? Yes. Do I believe that Jesus came that we might have "life, and life to the full"? Yes. Do I believe that God has plans for me that are to "prosper and not to harm, but to give hope and a future"? Yes. And I know, that death and tragedy and evil and hate are a result of sin in a fallen, broken world... but why that moment? Why wasn't it me? Why didn't the gun jam? I know that God does not produce evil, I know that God is perfectly righteous, and I know that God has far more power than Satan. So why did God not intervene on April 16th?

How can I teach what I don't yet understand? I don't know. But I refuse to shy away from the subject just because I am still learning. Tomorrow morning, I will sit with my middle schoolers and we will talk. If nothing else, I want them to know that to be confused is ok. To be frustrated is ok. To be angry is ok. Sometimes God is just asking us to pursue our questions, not to have all the answers.