Thursday, March 31, 2011

Five Words from Jensen’s World

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Jensen is turning into a little South African.

Sweetie = Candy

Although this seems like a term for endearment, it’s actually what Jensen now calls “candy.”

Example: “Mama, can I have a sweetie?” (I have to remind myself she’s not asking for a boyfriend)

Biscuit = Cookie

A biscuit really should only be coupled with gravy or given to a dog, but Jensen now uses this word for “cookie”

Example: “Mom, I’d really like a chocolate biscuit.” (Do you see how wrong this feels? Is a biscuit ever chocolate?)

Fetch = Go Get

Again, I feel this word should be reserved for dogs – but here it’s used when something should be retrieved by humans.


“Mom, can you fetch my jacket and slippers – I’m cold?”
“No, Jensen, you can fetch it yourself.”
“But mommmmmm…I’m not tall enough. I’m only 4!”

Hey = Huh

Jensen now consistently uses the word “Hey” where we Nebraskans would generally use “Huh.” She always catches me off guard with this one.

Example: “Whatcha ya doing, hey?” (I feel a bit like we’ve turned into horses)

Plastics = Band-Aid

I guess there is plastic involved with Band-Aids – but using this logic, shouldn’t all things constructed with plastic be called “plastics?” For instance…toothbrushes, cups, plastic silverware…Can you imagine? It would go something like this, “Go brush your teeth with your plastics and take a drink from your plastics and don’t forget to eat with your plastics?” Something is not right.

Example: “Mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!! I need a plastic! I’ve cut off my right toe!”

P.S. I won't go into how she asked me for a "rubber" this morning (yes, that would be an "eraser").

Thursday, March 17, 2011

High Tea and High Hopes

The “Baby Safe Girls” celebrate the small and big victories of 2010 – with a dress-up High Tea event

During tea, we looked back over 2010 and were amazed that the Lord brought hope – even in the midst of seemingly impossible obstacles.

In 2010, approximately 500 babies were dumped in Cape Town alone. A result of poverty, abuse, HIV/AIDS, hopelessness and desperation, the challenge seemed overwhelming.

And yet through Baby Safe, 50+ babies were NOT dumped. 78+ mothers chose life; they made a plan and sought help instead of a rubbish heap. 27+ women and children walked a road of rescue or restoration, to prevent these circumstances from even happening. 238 lives were touched, changed, challenged. Now in 2011, we look ahead with expectation that the LORD will do even more!

The Stats of 2010…

- 238 women and children were helped by Baby Safe

- 107 women were counseled before their Termination of Pregnancy at the local hospital (of these women, 20 of them changed their minds and made a choice for life-over 1/5th!-and possibly more that went unknown)

Note: In the US, 1 out of every 5 babies are aborted. Yes! That is actually true. We are excited that here on the continent best known for high abortion rates, 1 out of 5 babies intended for abortion (at the hospital where we offer counseling) was saved.

- 58 women, who made a choice to parent, were met on an individual level by our Baby Safe team

- 38 babies were born

- 7 babies were successfully placed in loving homes through adoption

- 8 children were put in a place of safety in our network of safety families, 4 of whom were placed long term while the other 4 were able to be reunited with their family.

- 27 women and children experienced intervention or preventing for either difficult or even life-threatening situations, many going through the process of discipleship

- 1 baby successfully in our local baby safe, as 1 brave woman chose to give her child a future rather than dumping it!

These women and children came to us from every background, circumstance, race and region.

We worked with countless from our local communities of Masiphumelele, Ocean View, and Fish Hoek, as well as surrounding areas like Muizenberg or even Khayelitsha. They were black, white and colored, Xhosa, Afrikaanse, Zulu, Zimbabwean, Malawian, and more. Each one different. Each one desperate.

Yet the LORD sees each of them and calls them by name. He called them to life and not death, to hope and to healing. He looks upon them and sees his children, forsaken royalty, calling them to a greater destiny.

“The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; but you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land, “Married”; for the LORD delights in you.” -Isaiah 62:2-4.

Note: Information adapted from Danielle Kittinger’s Baby Safe blog post.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cup of Cold Water

Oh my! We know times are tough in America and gas prices have skyrocketed.

To commiserate with America’s Ridiculous Price of Gas Pain – the price of gas here is $6 a gallon. Since we typically buy gas in liters and rand (the currency here)…it took us a while to calculate fully HOW BAD IT IS. Our mouths fell open when we did the math last week and realized it’s $6 a gallon. Painful!

Shortly after I came to this realization...I kept a diary of my driving schedule.  Let's just say - it's the LAST day I'll do that!

The Diesel Diaries - A day in the life of the Ostrand diesel truck (we decided to buy a 10 year old truck to transport soccer equipment and mass amounts of people who live in the townships).

Keep in mind this is from the girl that REFUSED to drive in Africa for the first 6 months I was here

Destination #1. 7:30 am  - Go to Ocean View to pick up the women for the Sisterhood of Success class (NONE of them have cars and many cannot afford the 75 cents for a taxi to class)

SHOULDA BROUGHT MY HEELS: Today my crew of women is running a bit late (God bless Danielle who picked up the "on-time crew" and took them to class). The first two women stroll up (they are so tiny they look more like teenage girls). They still need to take one of their kids to creche (the word for preschool here), so I drive over to the creche to drop off the child.

Discussion going on in the truck at this moment? The fact that we are missing Beth, one of the other students. Beth told them she was sick…but they are concerned that she lied about being sick and that her abusive boyfriend is holding her captive in her flat (an apartment complex like “the projects” in the States). A gangster and drug addict, he doesn’t want Beth taking the Sisterhood of Success class – he’s terrified she’ll realize she can become successful without him…a REAL-LIFE “sister of success,” if you will.

They convince me to weave the truck around the back alleys of the flats and talk her into going to class today. I don’t usually roam around the flats – overrun with gangsters and drug addicts – but I tell them if the three of us go together, we can do it.

Note: Regret #45: Giving up high heels in Africa – those spikes could have come in handy today, coupled with a Fancy Nancy Karate Kid Kick to the kisser.

Trooping up the deteriorating stairs, we quickly knock on the door and she answers immediately…fully dressed and ready to go. Apparently her 4 year old ran out of the house when they started fighting, afraid her dad would beat her mom again.

Now we’re off to find the 4 year old girl! Somewhere! We track her down at a neighbor’s house and take her to crèche.

ON OUR WAY TO LIVING WAY CAMPUS (where we hold the Sisterhood class): I ask the girls…"What is your happiest childhood memory?"

  • Mia says, “I remember being in school and going on field trips to museums. That was fun. I didn’t know then how hard life could be.”
  • Lisa says, “I remember walking with my sister hand in hand on Christmas morning – through our neighborhood to my grandmother’s house. That was a nice memory.”
  • Beth says, “I don’t have any happy memories.” Choking up… “but I know Jesus can change my life.”
  • I say (still driving), “Beth…Jesus was there with you when you were a child – all those times you cried…He cried with you. He was there. He loves you.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the truck.

Destination #2. 8 am - Go to Living Way to drop off the women for class – I hop out of the truck and run through my morning Sisterhood routine: make sure there is enough food for snacks and lunch, collect money the students have earned to pay for the class, update the “contest board” (whichever team of women can pay off their $30 for the class first – wins a lunch out with Alli and me), answer questions, confirm the schedule. It’s a bit “hectic” (as they say here).

Destination #3. 8:30 am – Jump back in the truck at lightning speed and go home to pick up Jensen for school (we only have one vehicle that can take our kids). Karl has given her breakfast and packed her pink princess backpack with the required items for preschool in Africa: snack (she’ll only eat bread and butter – you’d think she spent her first 4 years in prison) and her “cozi” (aka swimming suit – daily swimming at school – why not?)

Destination #4. 8:45 am - Go to preschool (drop off Jensen – she is met by a posse of happy friends to see her)

Destination #5. 9 am - Go back home (try to remember to grab everything else I may need for the day

Destination #6. 9:15 am - Go to Living Way again (pick up Alli – my fabulous partner in crime – her car is in the shop)

Destination #7. 9:30 am- Go to All Nations for presentation on what Baby Safe does and how Sisterhood for Success if making a difference. Meet Elmien for the first time – the newest member of the Baby Safe team - and ask her if she can help us with class today. Amazingly she agrees!

Destination #8. 10:45 am - Go back to Living Way with Elmien and Alli (for the third time today) and find out Elaine, one of the students, just received a phone call that her mom is very sick and she needs to be rushed to Ocean View to take her mom to the hospital.

Destination #9. 11 am - Go back to Ocean View (for the second time today) 
  • Drop off Elaine at her house
  • Go to Ocean View library (post dance class flyer for 10 year old girls to attend a new dance class)
  • Go to an Ocean View crèche (one of the crèche directors called very upset that the some of the Sisterhood children have been coming to creche on days we didn’t pay for/make payment for Sisterhood childcare) 
Destination #10. 11:30 am - Go back to Living Way (for the 3rd time today) - Do individual evaluations for each student with Richard, the instructor, and Alli. They both have such amazing input and encouragement for the women.

We determine that of the 15 women attending the class - 10 are employment-ready and 5 are micro-enterprise-ready – which means the 5 will go on to “Sisterhood of Dreams” – a pre-entrepreneurial course. The others will start a genuine search for employment. We’ll help them with weekly support groups, accountability and internet training so they can search for jobs online. We also want to find out which women want to continue with the Bible studies after the course is over. Most of them want to! Exciting!

Individual Evaluations with Alli, Richard and me

Destination #11. 12:30 pm - Go back to preschool (Pick up Jensen – she looks happy and exhausted – about like me at this point)

Destination #12. 12:45 pm - Go home (have some family time over lunch – crackers, cheese, turkey – with baby marrow dipped in hummus. Yum!)

Destination #13. 1:45 pm - Go back to Living Way (for the 4th time today) to finish up individual evals

ON THE WAY THERE PICK UP MAN ON THE STREET: See Shane at the robot (aka “stop light”) on my way and give him a ride in the back of the truck (he’s a man with a bad limp who begs on the street that Karl and I have befriended - we're praying for a job for him). Drop Shane off at a taxi stand and return to Living Way.

Meet Shane

ONCE THERE, WE CONTINUE WITH THE EVALS: We pull each woman out of class one-by-one and spend about 10 minutes with them individually.

For some of these women, this is the most positive feedback they have ever received in one sitting – many in their lifetime. They beam as we tell them how proud we are of their efforts.

FORGIVE OR FIGHT: During our individual sessions, a heated argument breaks out with the women back in the classroom. Ironically enough, this happens during the “forgiveness” section of the lesson. We ignore it and let Elmien, who is handling the group discussion, take care of it. Baptism by fire…she does a great job and somehow manages to calm the class down and work out the fight. Drama, drama, drama!

Finish up the evals with barely enough time to get the women back into Ocean View before the cresche closes early on a Friday. EVERYTHING seems to close early in South Africa - but especially on a Friday.   3 pm?  Really? For closing a creche for working moms? What I wouldn't give for ONE 24 hour Wal-mart!

Destination #14. 2:55 pm- Go back to Ocean View (3rd time today) - we’re down a car for transport so the 9 of us pile into the front seat, back seat and bed of the truck.
  • 3:02 pm - Drop Zimbini off at the Ocean View wholesale shop to buy baggies for her brownies (she is fundraising for the course by selling brownies – but needs the little bags to put them in)
  • 3:08 pm - Drop off some women at Ocean View creche #1
  • 3:12 pm - Drop off other women at Ocean View creche #2
  • 3:15 pm -Arrange for some of the women to stay at another location (abusive boyfriends and family members make their current home situation unsafe)
  • 3:20 pm - Pick up Zimbini from wholesaler to give her a ride home
  • Do you feel like this is too much information about my gas mileage? It probably is...bear with me!

Destination #15. 3:30 pm - Go to Masiphumelele, the “black township” - I would normally drop Zimbini off at the entrance of Masi, as I’m running late to get back home. However, her hip started hurting her this morning, so I maneuver through Masi alleys and drop her off at her house.  I've been to her house 3 times - but I still can't rember how to get there!  I think she must be seriously questioning my geography skills. In fact, she says as much - in a Xhosa sort of way.  Gotta love Zimbini!

Destination #16. 3:45 pm - Go to Alli’s house (drop her off – this day has bedraggled us both!)

Destination #17. 4 pm - Go to the store (need chips for tonight – everything is much better with corn tortilla chips, isn’t it? Somehow a little Mexican goes a long way)

Destination #18. 4:30 pm - Go home (sit down for a half hour and discuss the day with Karl)

Destination #19. 5:00 pm - WALK to pick up Jensen from her play date in our neighborhood. Congratulate myself for zero gas mileage used for Destination #19.

Destination #20. 6:00 – Walk home with Jensen and make dinner for the family (pan sauté a flaky fish here called hake, and serve with broccoli and baked potatoes - Emme eats some fish!)

Destination #21. 7:00 pm - Meehan picks me up for our girls night (Thanks, Meehan! I don’t think I have the energy to drive ONE more block or the will to spend one ONE rand on gas).

I’m tempted to complain about the driving and Alli says, “You know Julie – there’s that verse about giving a cup of cold water– maybe giving a ride is the same thing?”

Maybe it is…I’m holding out for THAT! If so, I gave out about 20 cups of cold water today.

Note: Names of Ocean View community members changed.

On days like this Karl takes the bike to his meetings and soccer events so I can have the truck. Here are some photos of him transporting soccer players after practice a few days later. He has SERIOUSLY fit 27 kids in that truck!

Thank you again to all who gave towards our vehicle last fall!  You've been giving out quite a few cups of cold water yourself. We are grateful and the people of Africa seem to think it's their truck.  Looks like they're right!