Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day Six: Bophelong and AIDS Babies

We returned on Thursday to the same school we visited on Wednesday, but had a bit more time in the morning to serve and meet with the students. In the afternoon, we went to the Voortrekker monument in Pretoria.

During our time at Bophelong school, one group washed and scrubbed the chairs the students used while the other group organized the books in the library.

Most of the guys worked on the chairs. Some of them wear their pants too low. No comment.

Many of the girls worked with Amanda in the library. She was grateful for the additional hands in organizing the school's books.

At break time, chaos erupted in the main area above. Students were everywhere. Americans tried to keep up. (We had a hard time.)

Duhann, being an African-American, had a clue what was happening with the boys before we did. Notice him running? (We didn't.)

Meanwhile, the girls were exceedingly sweet. Two latched on to Chloe and Ronnie and never left their side. Until we had to go. Seriously.

Notice the boy with the mohawk? Get ready. Apparently, he was beating some Americans up. (Yes, that means us.) When I came over with the camera, he was beginning to punch and kick Nate and Dylan. I had no idea what was coming.

Then it began. My beloved CHCA students sent him after me and I was bruised for life. Seriously, this child hit hard. For some reason, the boys found it fun to beat the living daylights out of us. I still have bruises. And no, I am not kidding.

Being intelligent, I quickly diverted the boys and sent them after Grady. And told them to pull up his pants. They didn't, but they did beat the crap out of him.

And then Grady sent them after TJ. At what point should we start hitting back? We wondered. I'm still wondering.

The girls, God bless them, played circle games and held hands. Punching, kicking, and leaving bruises did not occur to them.

We never found out Mohawk's name, so I think we finally settled on Mike Tyson. Seems fitting enough, but he is missing the face tattoo.

Grady finally put Tyson in a full nelson. That subdued him for about ten seconds.

And then TJ held him up by his ankles. He didn't like that, either.


Victoria was, I am certain of it, in heaven with these girls.

There were actually some boys who were not exceedingly violent. This was one of them.

Amanda with her students. Amanda Kuderer was one of my students when she graduated from a small school in Cincinnati called Christian Center Academy in 2004. I only taught there for one year, and was hired at CHCA the following year. Amanda is living in Mamelodi now and working for Pastor Titus as a teacher/administrator at Bophelong for one year. An inspiring story which, if more of us in the West would do, the world would be a better place.

Around lunch time, we went to the AIDS BabyHouse which is a ministry of Doxa Deo. Hanna is the mother of the house which currently holds 10 babies under five who have AIDS, HIV, or other life-threatening conditions. This was one of the most impacting parts of the trip for many of our students.

Karen spent some time with this child on the right who survived an abortion over two years ago. The trauma of her experience has caused damage to her brain and spinal cord. When you pick her up, her head must always be secured.

Nate Post with one of the more active girls at the house.

Paiten with Dineo, a boy who now has full-blown AIDS. Holding a child with AIDS is one of the most difficult-- and still beautiful-- experiences in this life.

Nate Flint with the boy who was born with just a brain stem. When he was born, he was given only a short number of months to live, but he just had his second birthday.

Me with Solly. When I visited in July, Solly had HIV. Now he has AIDS. My heart aches for these children and those who care for them. This is truly God's work.

Our group with the kids. In the middle of this pic is Gideon, our bus driver for the week. He was incredibly helpful and participated in whatever we were doing each day.

After lunch, we ventured to this monument (called the "Voortrekker Monument") which commemorates the Afrikaners trek from the Cape to Pretoria in the 1800s and their amazing defeat of the Zulus. On an opposite hill in Pretoria lies the new national monument of South Africa called the Freedom Monument.

The city of Pretoria from the Voortrekker.

Inside the Monument is an empty tomb on top of which a ray of light shines every year on December 16. There is a tiny hole in the highest ceiling which is aligned perfectly so that it only occurs on this date, the anniversary of the Voortrekker's defeat of the Zulu.

On each wall there are detailed drawings and depictions of the Great Trek and the wars that followed. Our guide described each step to us on our tour.

And then... began our interesting but slightly creepy adventure with some Chinese tourists. They literally pulled a few of our girls out of the tour to take a picture, and so the boys went over to join them.

A few of our group being photographed and recorded by the tourists. One of the men loved to say: "Welcome to China." We weren't really sure how to take that, but they loved us.

At one point, these guys were taking so many pictures that it felt like they were the paparazzi. In stubborn defiance, I started snapping my own photos of them. It didn't really work.

Our group outside the Voortrekker on 1/14/10. Another event-filled day.

Day Five: Mamelodi

In case I have not yet mentioned it (which I probably have but since I haven't updated this blog in couple of weeks, I will mention it again), we had the opportunity during this trip to share some time with one of our local (Cincinnati) churches. By a twist of fate, Crossroads church sent a group of 33 mission workers to the exact same place in South Africa at the exact same time we were visiting, and all 33 of them just happened to be on our plane.

Crossroads has had a ministry in South Africa for several years, and a few of their former members have actually moved to SA permanently. On Wednesday of our first week, we met with the Crossroads group at their hospice in Mamelodi. We also happened to visit and serve on the same day as the United States Ambassador. On to the pics.

This was our arrival Wednesday morning. The building behind the buses is the Hospice, which serves the high number of Mamelodi residents who suffer from AIDS/HIV and other diseases. We had a brief tour of the facility.

Again, our group just before meeting our Crossroads contact. The Ambassador arrived at around 9AM, and I must say it was interesting to ride through Mamelodi, one of the poorest communities on earth, following a caravan which included the Ambassador. He arrived in a Mercedes. Touche.

There is a school attached to the church nearby the Hospice, and you can see it just behind the students in this picture. Another one of our contacts in Mamelodi was Amanda Kuderer (left). I'll speak more about her later as well, but suffice it to say that meeting her was, once again, amazingly coincidental.

The view of the Hospice from the school, called Bophelong Community Independence Primary School. We also visited and served this school on Thursday.

The students playing outside during one of their breaks. Our students enjoyed meeting them.

This building is an orphanage which is just behind the school and Hospice. It currently houses 12 children, but the community expects it to grow in number quite soon.

We walked further behind to the Kretch, which is a South African pre-school. At first they told us to just look at the students through the windows (as you can see), but we were eventually allowed in to see the children, seen below.

In the afternoon, we made the aforementioned fifteen-minute drive in the Ambassador's caravan to the tents stationed in the informal settlements of Mamelodi. Here, the Crossroads group works with medical professionals and interpreters from the church and neighboring community to provide health consults and medical services to the people in Mamelodi. We were blessed to assist for the day.

In the pic above the students have just arrived and were awaiting instruction.

It was difficult to get a good shot of the tents as a whole, but suffice it to say that it was a well-organized space. The tent to the right was used for medical procedures and dental work, and the tent to the left was for eyecare and vision.

A view from the tent which provides eyecare. Hundreds of glasses and supplies have been donated to assist with giving the people of Mamelodi the best possible treatment.

Left to right: Brian Tome, the pastor of Crossroads church, the US Ambassador and his wife, and Pastor Titus Sitole. Pastor Titus runs the Charity and Faith Church in Mamelodi and is the primary contact for the Crossroads group. Extra tidbit of knowledge: Titus speaks nine languages. Yes, you read that correctly: nine.

Our students hard at work during their consults and information. The line (or, as SAs would call it, the "queue") would begin here with some introductory questions and information before funneling the patients to the proper tent for treatment. Each student had an interpreter from the church to help with the language barrier.

Duhann and Alysse in the midst of asking questions and marking their forms. I was terribly proud of our group this day.

Victoria and Nate Post (with his trademark backwards cap) taking their turn. You can see Maria getting information in the queue in the background. Some of our students worked here; others worked in the tents at the medical procedures. Chloe actually pulled a tooth during a dental procedure, and I believe she brought it back to the States.

Karen Hordinski really enjoyed this day. Her heart for service, poverty and injustice inspires me.

We were told that Mamelodi is a community of over one million people. Everywhere we turned, we saw townships, shacks and informal settlements. It struck me later that the city of Cincinnati has only about 3-400,000 residents. Amazing that Mamelodi is well over double that amount, but not nearly as large.

In the afternoon, three of our girls had the opportunity to return to the school and see some of the new instructional techniques which are being offered. Thanks to a program which is very much like Skype, the students of Bophelong will be personally tutored by American and Canadian teachers online.

The system is still a work in progress. The man in the center with the blue shirt is Rob Seddon, our contact from Crossroads. It was kind of him to allow us to join their ministry for the day.

On the way from the school back to the tents, we got lost in Mamelodi. We could have sworn the directions were wrong and we would drive through the townships for hours, but somehow we arrived just as I was calling. It was an amazing and heart-wrenching experience to drive through some of the most abject poverty I have ever seen.

Our third day of service was perhaps the most impacting. Seeing the poverty which envelops Mamelodi and the reality of AIDS, HIV and other diseases was very difficult for many of the students. Our challenge to the students was not to be glad that our lives are not like this, but to see what we can learn and how we can benefit spiritually from such an experience.

More is coming. Soon.