Playing with the custom timer on my camera
"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'" Luke 2:10-11
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your Christmas is a blessed one!!
Here are a few pictures of us from their going-away party last night:
Me with the Pelotswhweu Family
Reading time with Tshepiso
I love this little girl!!
- Botswana is experiencing one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. The national HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15 to 49 is 24.1 percent, which is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The United Nations Development Programme estimates that by 2010 more than 20 percent of all children in Botswana will be orphaned.
- HIV/AIDS threatens the many developmental gains Botswana has achieved since its independence in 1966, including economic growth, political stability, a rise in life expectancy, and the establishment of functioning public educational and health care systems.
I can't tell you how sad these facts make me. At first glance, these might just seem like common statistics and facts regarding AIDS in Africa, but to me, this information has much deeper meaning. You see, in the two years I have lived here, I have grown to love many adults in that 15-49 year age range. When I read that 24.1 percent of this age group are HIV positive, I wonder how many of those people I care about are included in that percentage. When I read that more than 20% of all children will be orphaned here, I wonder how many of those are students I taught or children I worked with in the children's ministry at church. How many of those children have sat in my lap, held my hand, or given me a hug? And how many are not yet orphaned, but have parents that fit into the first statistic? It just breaks my heart.
Today my class was on a mini-field trip to a local lodge here in Maun. We went on a walking safari and while walking, one of my students stepped on a thorny branch. Unfortunately she wasn't wearing very good shoes, and one of the thorns punctured her foot. When I handed her best friend a Band-Aid and she went close to put it on her friend's foot, the kids around them spoke urgently, "No, don't!" One thing I've gotten used to about living here is that when someone is bleeding, you do not go near that blood. If you have to treat them, you wear plastic gloves. If you don't have gloves, you don't touch. That's just reality here. With almost 1/4 of the population HIV positive, people are forced into being extremely cautious.
My student didn't mind putting her own Band-Aid on (I'm sure she totally understood) and nothing else was mentioned, but this scene stuck with me all day. And my heart broke again for this very sad reality these kids have to live with.
Please could you say a prayer today for Botswana and all countries dealing with this ongoing battle with the HIV/AIDS, especially for all the children whose lives have been severely affected by it.
Hard to believe it has been two years since this post. What a journey it's been!
After an emotionally trying week, lots of time in prayer, journaling, and reading the Word, and seeking the counsel and prayers of many wise people, I feel confident that the Lord is in-fact moving me back home, and although it will be so very difficult to leave these people and this country that I've grown to love, He will help me in the process and lead me into the next season He has for me. I still am very unclear what that is and definitely fight the fear and anxiety of the unknown, but I know that the Lord's plans are perfect and best. This week I've leaned heavily on Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."
I'm so thankful that the future is in His hands and I can trust Him completely, even with my limited sight, as He leads me step by step.
Also, a couple in my home church in Austin has been in the process of adopting two children from Haiti for the past two years. It's been a long, grueling process that unfortunately isn't over yet. BUT, one of their children, Story, was finally able to come home a couple weeks ago. You can read about this exciting time for them (and be really inspired by adoption) on Jamie's blog or Aaron's.
For a giggle, check out Leah's blog with all her pregnancy adventures. I love it! Or check out Tisha's for some great inspiration.
These are just a few of my favorite blogs that I hope you enjoy, too. Happy reading!
Anyway, here is the short version of things lately:
- With the internet being down, I've had lots of time to read, which has been fun!
- I've also been spending loads of time with a few of my teenage girls. We chat, watch movies, watch Glee episodes (we're loving that show!), and just enjoy each other's company.
- Bible study is still going strong with our current topic being, "Intimacy with God" and working on developing a strong personal relationship with Jesus.
- I love my class so much and am so very proud of them. I love the recent Bible study time we've started together and rejoice at seeing them mature in their faith and their understanding of scripture.
- The deaf ministry has really grown! The past two weeks we've had nine deaf adults and teenagers at church to sign for. It's been challenging and has stretched me, but it is also a great blessing!
- My emotions have been all over the place lately. I can't wait to spend Christmas with my family and just enjoy time with them again. I also feel extremely sad to be nearing the time of saying good-bye to these kids, teenagers, and adults who I've grown to love so much. I feel pretty lost for direction, still, and covet prayers for God's will to be shown clearly to me, whatever that may be.
I miss keeping up with all of my friends and family via the internet and apologize for my lack of communication lately. Thank you for your patience and prayers. Sending love to you all!
For some reason I always seem to be rushing on Sunday morning. It just never fails that I find myself running late, no matter what great intentions I have. This morning was no different. On top of running late, though, I was also feeling anxious because I knew I would be signing the whole church service since Keturah (my signing partner) is no longer here. This always makes me feel anxious and nervous.
About ten minutes before I rushed out the door, I received a phone call from Jana to say that there would be several more deaf adults and teenagers joining us for church today. My initial reaction was a quickening heartbeat and feeling a little shorter of breath. I know that I am so not qualified to interpret the church service for all of those people. Thankfully Jana said she would be helping me, which was a relief, but I still found myself leaving without the best attitude.
All of this changed when I actually arrived at church. First of all, there is something that seems to happen to me once I get in front of the people I am signing for. God just takes over and blesses me with extra energy and knowledge of the signs I need. I actually find it to be a real joy to be able to interpret once I get up there. But added to this is the fact that these nine people we were signing for were amazing to sign for! They were so attentive, focused, and involved with what was being signed. I ended up taking the three teenagers to youth and interpreting for them there. Oh my gosh! I never expected these young ladies to bless me so much! I told them I absolutely LOVED signing for them and can't wait for next week!
God reminded me of some important lessons today. If He calls us to it, He will help us through it! He will provide all we need. Also, when we are doing something for Him, it will inevitably end up being a great joy and blessing to do. I mean, we get to partner with Him in ministering to people He loves. That's pretty cool. Praise God that He will use us in spite of ourselves, in spite of our limited abilities and negative attitudes, and bless us abundantly in the process. What a great God we serve!
The second great blessing came at lunch time today when I met with seven of my students for our first weekly Bible study meeting. These are the kids in my class who are participating in Project 3:45, and we decided to meet once a week to discuss what we are learning. It was absolutely incredible to have Bible study with my students!! This was definitely a first for me as a teacher and I LOVED it!!! Oh my gosh, I honestly don't even have words for what an awesome experience this was from me. I can't wait until next week!
God is doing so much in these kids and I seriously just can't believe what I am seeing. Please keep praying for them and I'll gladly share more praise reports soon!!
Here's the latest:
- Most of my students went on a four-day camping trip with the standard 7 teacher and had a wonderful time. I missed them so much and must say that I was incredibly relieved when they safely returned to the school. :)
- Election day has come and gone here in Botswana. This day only happens once every five years, so it was an exciting day! We were reminded again how very blessed we are to live in this peaceful, stable country where, unlike many countries in Africa, we have no need for fear on election day.
- There has been an amazing amount of ministry going on lately, especially among the kids in my class. They have just suddenly become so open about spiritual things, asking some really great questions in class. Several of my students have joined with the teenagers in participating in Project 3:45, an initiative to get the kids reading their Bibles everyday. Last week I taught the nine participating students in my class how to do the REAP method of studying their Bible and we are going to actually meet each Tuesday during lunch to discuss what we are reading and learning. Bible study with my students....incredible.
- The ministry with the youth has lately been going really well! Friday's Fire by Nite was probably the best one of the year. The best part about the night happened after the great worship time had finished, after three of our student leaders had shared powerful testimonies, and after Matt preached a powerful message, when he asked if there was anyone there who had yet to surrender their lives to Christ and wanted to do that now, about 10 to 15 hands went up...including one of my students!!
- This student and another one have been coming to church and Fire by Nite with me for the past couple of months. I've sensed God working on their hearts and have been praying a lot for both of them, so you can imagine my joy when I saw this young man raise his hand. One of the most special moments of my teaching career happened soon after that when he came up to me after Fire by Nite and said , "Miss, I'm ready for a change." We chatted for a bit, I made sure he knew what decision he was making, and then we were able to pray together as he surrendered his life to Christ. Definitely one of the most precious moments of my life.
I wish I could update more, but my computer battery is almost dead! I'll be sure to update again soon, but until then, please continue praying for the youth and specifically for the kids in my class. God is working. He's working in a really powerful way. I love having a front-row seat to watch!
- One of the teenagers came to my classroom with my camera that I'd left at Fire by Nite on Friday, which I presumed was long gone. He saw it there and recognized it as mine, picked it up and held it for me over the weekend. I was so excited to see it in his hands this morning! And so very proud of his honesty and responsibility.
- I had a little send-off for most of my students as they embark on a four day school camping trip. I'm really excited for them, but admittedly sad to see them go. I'm going to miss them! Praying for a very safe trip with tons of fun adventures.
- With only four students left in class, I needed to be creative with my teaching. I don't really want to teach any new concepts to 1/5 of my class, so I decided to have some fun with them with a competitive game of Monopoly! (Hey, there's learning there...economics, math, business skills...) Sadly, I lost. But we had a great time!
- Every Monday afternoon I get to hang out with a bunch of teenage girls as we study the book, A Young Woman's Walk with God. I love this time with them and always feel so blessed afterwards.
- Two of the girl boarders and one of the boys came over to the house after school for a hilarious game of Spades. I love laughing so hard that my stomach hurts...something that happens often with these three. :) Sadly I lost this game too...badly...but at least we had fun!
- Theresa (my housemate), Ashley, Dietra (two of the interns), and I went to Audi Camp for some girl time and cafe mochas! It was such a nice little outing and I really enjoyed getting to know them more.
- Ashley and I hosted "Aerobics Night" in my classroom for a 30-minute workout with any of the boarders who wanted to come. We had a really good showing and collectively burned A TON of calories. So great!
- Now I'm ending my day by watching an episode of 24 before enjoying what will surely be a great night's sleep.
Today we found out that our water tank was filled for us to have water for today so we could do laundry, dishes, etc. We were warned, though, that this water was river water and would not be suitable for drinking. Um, understatement. I'm not sure this water is suitable for anything other than flushing the toilet. I'm pretty sure there is more dirt than water in this liquid coming from our taps. Unfortunately I didn't study it close enough before doing laundry, and my beige sheets are just a tad bit more on the brown side now. We've been boiling the water so we can wash the dishes in it, and the jury's still out on whether there's any point in bathing with it. Will it cool us down? Yes. Get us clean? Don't think so.
On top of this crazy water issue (which by the way is affecting the entire village), we're also in the middle of an incredible vehicle crisis here at the mission. Two missionaries' cars are in the shop for repairs with no known completion time, Pastor Jerry's new jeep was involved in a terrible accident this week that totaled the jeep (but amazingly left its passengers unharmed), one of the mission vehicles was in a wreck the day before and another one needs to be put in the shop for something minor. It's crazy! Vehicles are precious here and it is such a burden when they are down. (I have some experience with this myself.)
Needless to say, we'd love your prayers! Both for the water and power situations to be fixed and for God to work out this vehicle crisis. The missionaries and staff also need prayer to remain content in this time and to stay focused on the ministry we are here for. All of these inconveniences are nothing to the Lord and I know He will bring good out of this time. Thank you in advance for your prayers!
But I will do it, with the strength, the peace, and the joy that the Lord will provide. Thankfully, the kids, the teenagers, the adults, the country of Botswana...all of them belong to Him. They are safely in His care and I know He's going to continue the great work He's doing in all of them. Maybe I'll see some of it from afar. Maybe I won't see or hear from some of these people again until Heaven. Either way, I rejoice that God will not leave them. He loves them so much and will continue pursuing them for a deeper love relationship with Him. I was just one person in their lives. He will send more. And though they've blessed me more than I can possibly express, He will give me the strength to leave them in His hands and open my heart up for new relationships, for new students, for new youth to pour into, for new experiences and opportunities to share Him with others. The chapter is slowly coming to a close....but I know a new and exciting one will quickly follow. And praise God that He will hold my hand as He leads me into it.
Lord, give me all the strength I need, and please, please help me to make these last couple of months the most special, most precious ones yet.
We've seen quite a bit of good lately. Here are some praises:
- Matt, Kelly, and I have been investing in a group of eleven teens who we see great leadership potential in, as well as a heart passionate for the Lord. Our leadership meetings (held every other Saturday) have been wonderful and great encouragements to us. I'm so excited to see how God continues to work in them!
- Project 3:45 has been going for three weeks now and we are seeing good fruit already. (This is an initiative to get the kids reading their Bible every day.) Many of the kids have commented on how much they are loving reading the Word.
- Some of the youth who've been really resistant to the Lord this year are beginning to change. We see their hearts softening and their hunger for the Lord growing. So exciting!
If you would like to begin praying intentionally with us for the youth in Botswana, specifically those we work with, please contact me to let me know and I will give you more specifics on things to pray for. We've prayed that this term would be the most powerful one of the year, and we still believe it will be. We've already seen God answer prayer in huge ways, and we believe so much more is yet to come!
632 days since I arrived in Botswana. That's 15, 168 hours. I wonder how many of those I made count. I'm remembering today that each day provides twenty-four new hours to try to make a difference, to love, to share Christ with someone, to encourage someone, to laugh or cry with someone, to help carry a burden, to grow in knowledge or wisdom, to discover something new in the Word that I never noticed before, to appreciate the beauty in the creation around me....the opportunities are endless.
Praying that my last 75 days (1,800 hours) in Botswana are spent well, striving to make each moment really count.
In a couple of months I will finish my 10th year of teaching. It's hard to believe it's been that long, but I am reminded of it every time I come in contact with a former 4th grade student of mine who is now in college! I've been reflecting a lot lately on this calling God has given me, one to love on kids, to help them reach their full potential, to build relationships, and to reflect Christ as well as I can to all those young people placed in my care for 180 or so days a year. I really can't think of another thing in this world I'd rather do.
It's funny when I came to Botswana on my scouting trip to figure out how I would best "fit" at the mission, teaching was not on the top of my list. I just figured that since God had called me out of teaching in America to serve in Botswana, Africa, surely He had other plans for me than just to teach. Well, if you read the first few posts on this blog, you'll see how the Lord slowly revealed to me that teaching was exactly what He had in mind for me, even here in Botswana.
You see, for some reason I thought God could use me to do more for Him involved in a "real ministry" here. Maybe I could serve more people. Maybe I could grow more. And maybe that is true, but what I've found is that He has given me a very special love for this occupation. Not so much the actual teaching of lessons (although I love that too), but mostly this amazing privilege and opportunity of having twenty or so children in my care everyday, providing incredible opportunities to pour out love and encouragement in countless ways, helping to shape who these kids might become, and striving to reflect Christ to them all through the process. What I've found is, this is a real ministry.
Some days my heart just overflows with thankfulness that I get to do this job. Today is one of those days. I felt it when I walked into my classroom this morning and was greeted with shouts of "Miss Andrea!" accompanied with big hugs. I felt it when I sat in chapel this morning next to two of my students as we giggled and sang and prayed together. I felt it when I handed back graded tests and saw kids' faces light up at their good score as they ran across the room to show their friends. I felt it when I found one of the boys in my class crying and after a walking chat together and a big hug, saw those tears turn into a smile. And I felt it when I checked the mail and found a letter from a former student who is now in 7th grade, writing to tell me "thank you" for teaching him and helping him to be a better reader and writer.
We teachers are so blessed. I mean truly, truly blessed. I hope we never take for granted this great calling God has given us. I know I personally am appreciating it more and more each day and looking forward to doing this for many years to come. Having almost reached that great 10-year mark, I'm happy to say I do believe I'll be "in this for life."
- This week flew by! If things continue in this way, December 7th is going to be here before I know it.
- School has started out great and I love having extra time to spend on teaching now that I'm no longer living in the boarding house. I have all my lesson plans done for the whole term (!) and have been able to stay pretty well on top of my grading. This is a wonderful change from previous school terms.
- It's so much fun having some of my girls from boarding come by to visit me at the house. We've had great chats and girl bonding time. We sit around and chat, catching up on life and sharing memories, or we relax and watch fun girly movies together. Gosh, I'm going to miss these girls!
- Bible study for the boarders kicked off well on Wednesday. I'm excited at the topics we'll be studying about and the guest teachers who will be coming this term. We're starting our series on "Sharing Christ with Others" next week, one they've been anxious to get started on for a while.
- "Fire by Nite" (youth group service) was so great on Friday night! I really look forward to spending this time with the teens, worshiping alongside them and praying with them.
- Kelly, Matt, and I met regularly over the break to pray for the teenagers and to do planning for the 3rd term. One of the things we planned for was a leadership training for a few teenagers we see in the youth group who have exhibited leadership skills and a heart for the Lord. We plan to have a lunch meeting with them twice a month where we pass on leadership skills we've learned and help them to grow stronger in their faith. Our first meeting went really well on Saturday. I can't wait to work with these guys the rest of the term!
- Semakeleng (the deaf young woman I help sign for) has expressed an interest in helping with children's church, so every other week we help out in the preschool class. We were all shocked this morning when 40 preschoolers showed up! There were tons of kids at church this morning, an exciting testimony to how God is working!
- It is really heating up here in Botswana. Summer has just started and our temperatures reached the mid 90's this week. I was quite discouraged when I looked at the weather for this week, which shows triple digit temperatures for most of the week. Oh goodness. How will we make it two more months until the rains start??
That just about wraps up week one. Looking forward to all the many blessings God has in store for this next week!
Please pray for these kids with me. I love them so much and am so grateful I get to be a part of their lives. I believe in them and pray for God's absolute best in their lives. "Lord, draw these teenagers to You. Let them know You more. Let them seek You with all of their hearts and find You. Let your Word be life to them and a guide to each decision they make. Strengthen their faith, their perseverance, their love, their integrity. Please speak through me and all of their leaders to help them in this process of growing closer to You. Thank You, Lord, for loving these kids and for never, ever giving up on them."
- I loved the month-long break I just had. Not only did I get to rest, I also had quality planning time for this last term, both for school and for ministry. I also met with my friends and fellow missionaries, Matt and Kelly, several times to pray for the youth and plan some things out. I'm very excited at things to come!
- Also occurring during the school break was our annual church "Camp Meeting" here in Botswana. It was a powerful four-day conference with special guest speakers and visiting churches from many different villages. Kelly posted about the conference, along with some great pictures here.
- There have been some recent logistical changes in boarding, resulting in me being asked if I'd be open to living in mission housing with another female missionary for my remaining three months here. Feeling that this would be a great transition for me (and the boarders), I packed up my little dorm room and moved across the mission plot to a beautiful house that I love! You can see the pictures of the house here.
- Because I am now relieved of my boarding mistress role, I find that I am able to give so much more of myself to teaching. I have almost all of my lesson plans done for the whole term (that's three months!) and I am totally caught up on grading. This hasn't happened yet since I've been here! I also have much more energy and feel like I am able to do and give more with my class. Such a blessing!!
- I am excited to continue ministry with the teenagers, with our weekly boarding Bible study starting up again tomorrow. We will be covering some wonderful topics and will be having some guest Bible study leaders coming in occasionally. I'm also thrilled with the new book study that will be starting next week with some of the girls in the secondary school. Additionally, I am loving my time with the boarders now that I don't have to be "in charge." I feel more freedom to just enjoy time with them and have already had some incredible conversations with a few of them. With this being my last term to get to pour into all of these kids' lives, I am praying it is a very meaningful and powerful one.
- In my planning times with Matt and Kelly, we worked on planning a leadership curriculum for eleven potential leaders amongst the teenagers (boarders and non-boarders). We will be meeting with these kids every other week for a two-hour lunch meeting, working on teaching them leadership skills and helping them to mature in their relationships with the Lord. Our first meeting is this Saturday and we can't wait!
Sadly, we've become a culture, especially within the church, where we believe, in Matt's words, that "it's not ok to not be ok." We want to keep our struggles to ourselves, hidden away from others, and often believe that we are the only one dealing with ....... (you can fill in the blank) and that people would shun us if they knew we were struggling with that issue.
The sermons from the past two weeks have wrecked me out. I can honestly say that my pride and insecurities keep me from being vulnerable with people about the things I am struggling with. And trust me, there's a lot. It's just that for whatever reason, we have this "best face forward" idea, where we only want others to see the good things about us. But honestly, how realistic is that??
The fact is, every single one of us is struggling with things, and probably every single one of us is wondering what in the world others would think if they knew we were struggling with those things. Can you imagine the freedom that would come with all of us taking James 5:16 to heart and humbly confessing to each other the sins we are dealing with while praying for each other, encouraging each other, and holding each other accountable?
I am hoping and praying that the truth of this scripture will become reality in our lives and we will begin to get real with one another, taking off our many masks. If we can do that, not only can we experience the healing referred to in James, but we can also destroy the hypocrisy that the world so often complains about when looking at the church, people projecting perfection while hiding a closet-full of hidden sins and struggles. Let's open those closets up and shed light on those things we are so afraid to let others see, knowing only in the light can we find the healing and freedom we so desperately want.
(Please find some time to go here and listen to the "And You will be Healed" sermon series. Also, read what some others are saying: Emily, Becca, Adrianne)
Today I am really, really missing my class. We've been on school break for three weeks now, with one more week to go. It's weird to think this will be my last term with them. :( I love each one of these kiddos and am so thankful the Lord has allowed me the opportunity to love on them and pour into their lives.
Can't wait to see all these goofy guys again...just one more week!
Today is a big day for my Dad. He turns 60 today! To honor him, I've created a "10 Reasons Why I Love My Dad" list (along with a few pictures). Here we go:
Dad and I hanging out, trying to look cool :)
Laughing through tears as we said good-bye at the airport
3. His helpfulness...when I read the book, The Five Love Languages, I knew right away that my dad's love language is "acts of service." All of my life I've known my dad as a do-er, whether it be helping me with homework, changing the oil in my car, painting my room, teaching me to drive (scary), teaching me to drive a stick shift(scarier!), helping me move...and move...and move, or any number of random acts of service to show his love.
Mom and Dad with Jason at his "Change of Command" ceremony.
Mom and Dad meeting Il Divo...a group we all love!
Dad and Mom at The Grand Canyon
Dad playing around with my cousin's son, Johnny
9. "Dad-isms"...I can always count on my dad to crack me up with one of his many funny sayings, word mix-ups, or crazy questions. He definitely helps to keep laughter in the family! And because of his sweet humilty (see #1), rather than getting hurt or angry, he just laughs right along with us. :)
10. His love for the Lord...although not boldy outspoken, my dad has a great love for Jesus. Many, many mornings as I woke up to start my day, I found Dad sitting at the counter with his Bible out, beginning the day with the Lord. I'm so thankful for a dad who loves the Lord and helped to point me towards Him.
This list is far from comprehensive, but is instead a small sample of the many reasons why I love my dad and think he is one of the greatest men in the world.