Friday, August 24, 2012

It's a Wrap

There is no greater feeling than presenting a family that has never known the comfort of four secure, permanent walls with their first real home.  Having completed this mission on Sunday, we headed out of Potch Monday morning to, what we all agreed, was the cherry on top of this amazing trip.  Destination : Safari!

En route to the safari, we stopped at the African Market.  Stall after stall of traditional African wares were on display, perfect souvenirs of this unique adventure.  The only thing standing in our way was “negotiating” price.  Not for the feint of heart, haggling for purchases left us eager to climb back on the bus and head to Pilanesburg National Park.

Sunset and sunrise tours through the park in an open-air jeep gave us breathtaking close-ups of God’s amazing African continent.  Mere minutes after the gates closed behind us we were gazing at a family of giraffes patiently munching an evening meal.  Elephants, zebras, wildebeests, black and white rhinos, impalas and hippos were some of the astounding creatures we witnessed.  The morning trip even presented a look at the ever-elusive lion, while the evening trip provided a far-off glimpse of cheetahs. 

Our evening meal at the safari was a traditional African braai in the park, complete with campfire and rangers to keep any curious animals at bay.  Less than 24 hours of R&R provided a once in a lifetime opportunity capping our adventure.

After a quick breakfast, we were on the road again Tuesday morning.  En route to the airport, we were able to dedicate our final free hours to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. 
Startling and disturbing images presented in shocking form contradicted the graceful animals we had witnessed just hours prior.  Graphic images of Apartheid’s darkest side lay in contrast to the peaceful message of Nelson Mandela’s olive branch. The museum seemed to scream the message that all of South Africa is a party to: this is a land of contradictions.  From the innocent and joyful faces of sweet children orphaned by AIDs, to tired grandmother’s forced to become mothers again to their children’s children, from the gentleness seen in an elephant towering next to our jeep, nursing her young, to Mosaic’s fierce commitment to establish a sustainable community amidst some of the worst diseases, social problems and poverty on our earth.

It was a privilege to be a part of this trip.  We didn’t always have hot water, English-speaking bus drivers or the patience for our circumstances, but we were met with grace and hospitality at every turn.  Thank you to all who prayed for us, encouraged us and held us close to your hearts when our bodies were thousands of miles from home.  We thank God that we have intact families and homes to return to and continue our prayers for our brothers and sisters in South Africa.  We will keep Jordan, Aunt Suzie, Meyer and Louise and the entire Mosaic family with us as we settle back into our homes, forever changed by our experience in South Africa.
--Donna McFadden

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hey Bus Driver…..MOVE THAT BUS!!!!!

What an amazing day!!  We started out the morning attending Potchefstroom Methodist Church for the 8:30 youth service.  The boys and girls attended in full school uniform which included blazers and hats for the boys.  The service was in English which made it possible for us Americans to participate.  Jordan Ridge and her friend Tiaan played drums and guitar in the praise band.   A special guest spoke from the Prosecuted Church, an organization which helps spread the gospel in countries where Christianity is banned.

After church we headed to the Mooi River Mall for a few hours of shopping.  We got souvenirs to take home and housewarming gifts for the family moving into the house we’ve been building.  Donna McFadden and Deb Boyd did a fabulous job picking out sheets, towels, comforters, books and toys for the family.

Afterwards we came back to the guest house for our last lovingly prepared meal by our favorite caterer, Riaan.   We presented him with a thank you card signed by all of us.  He shared a reading with us about a devoted husband who quit his job to care for his ailing wife.  The kicker was when he read that this gentleman felt like he didn’t HAVE to care for her….he was privileged to care for her.  Of course tears filled the room.  Sadly Riaan lost his own wife just last year.
After lunch we headed over to the job site one last time.  We met the family and had a housewarming party with the Mosiac friends and families and the Germans.  Then the moment we’ve all been waiting for all week….the presentation of the new house to the family….Marta and Mofati and their 4 children….2 boys, 2 girls, 3 of which are foster children.  Between the house and the gifts there were again, more tears of joy!   The family was sooo grateful to be receiving a real brick home for the first time with room for everyone, indoor plumbing and electricity.  They had previously been living in a one room tin shack called a Mokuku.  It was like an SA version of Extreme Makeover Home Edition.  Now I understand the amazing joy the design team and volunteers share when they yell, Hey Bus Driver…MOVE THAT BUS!!  While we were there we shared cake and juice with the family and had many photos taken of everyone.  Aunt Suzie and her husband Louie even made an appearance. 

Lastly we closed out the day and this very special time in Potch with a pizza party back at the guest house with Meyer, Louise and Carine from Mosiac.  In the morning we will present our Inn Keeper Helena with a thank you card for putting up with our crazy requests.  So sad to be leaving Potch, but looking forward to heading to Pilanesburg Game Reserve tomorrow for a real South African experience and then get ready to head home.  Miss you all!!

--Sharon Roche

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Making a House a Home

Each day we work in South Africa, we are faced with new challenges and exciting experiences. Today, our last work day, was no different. Our old friend, the wind, was back, blowing strong. I am praying that wind blows some extra happiness into the house :D. The morning started with many new faces. Meyer had friends join us to help paint inside the house. It was their first time helping with a Mosaic house and it was exciting to be a part of that. Jordan and her friends were also with us today, working hard to get this house completed. Outside, new bricks went up on one side of the house in order to create a fire wall. We also finished the dugga on the fence. It looks amazing! The window trim and decorative corners of the house were painted a beautiful terra cotta color. The color was continued on the side fence to tie it all in. Our house looks so amazing and strong. Inside, we painted and painted and painted (and maybe a few other things)! Between the tops of the walls and the roof, we used dugga to create a barrier from the elements. The dugga got primed and the walls were painted a beautiful, warm color. Interior doors were installed in the rooms and the bathroom, and then were painted the same white as the trim. Beams were washed, floors were swept, and small touch-ups were made throughout the house. Today was all about transforming the house into a home. Every step we took today was done with love and with the new family in mind.

Personally, I feel so blessed for SO many reasons. First, just being here is a gift. I continue to hear that we are helping others, but I know for a fact I am being helped by this experience. God is an amazing multi-tasker ;) He is making me more aware of my gifts and is giving me a lot of questions that I look forward to finding the answers to. Second, having the opportunity to work with each of the team members has been a great thing for me. It is so special to learn about each person's reasons for coming here and how this has changed them. Nightly devotions have added to that. I feel so lucky to know all of these people. Finally, the blessing of working with and learning more about Meyer and Mosaic has been life changing. Just listening to his story and the knowledge he has gets my gears going and makes me want to be better. How lucky am I? So lucky and so incredibly blessed!
--Tracey Fernandez

Hearing God Call

I am no stranger to the notion of listening for God to guide the way. Many of us have heard the advice: if you are still and quiet enough, you can hear Him calling to you, telling you the right thing to do. Yet for all the times I heard this counsel and thought I understood what it meant, I never actually experienced it. Needless to say, I was quite confused when I finally did hear Him calling, and He told me something that was not only surprising, it seemed downright ridiculous. Seven months after graduating from college, He told me He needs me to become a doctor so I may help provide care to those in our world who do not have access to medicine or healthcare. God, you’re crazy! I said, Sure, I’d love to do that, but it’s too late, I already finished school. Why don’t you pick someone else, someone younger, someone stronger? But He persisted, and as the idea sank in, I realized He had been sending me signs for the past two years. So here I am now, back in school studying pre-med. And He didn’t stop the instructions there; He told me in order to truly fulfill and understand this huge redirection of my life, I needed to go to South Africa with Hopewell this summer. So with the help of Hopewell’s loving and benevolent congregation, here I am for these two weeks, in South Africa. Reflecting on my scholarly journey now, I have an ever-deeper appreciation for the educational opportunities I’ve been granted. We have seen on this trip how education is one of the only ways to break the cycle of poverty ensnaring the people of Ikageng. So many of the children here stop going to school at a very young age, while some never even start school. At the same time, we have witnessed inspiring examples of how school can release them from the socioeconomic trap they are in.

Once you start listening to God, you realize He really likes to drive a point home. Moment after profound moment on this trip, I see and hear why God instructed me in the way he did. I have learned so much from Meyer and all of those at Mosaic about the healthcare needs of South Africa, from treatment to prevention to education. Today was an exceptionally special day for me because Jordan and I took a leave from the work site to visit a nearby medical clinic in the township. South Africa is home to a 5800-bed hospital – the largest hospital in the world – which we passed on our tour of Soweto the other day. This clinic is not that hospital. It is the place where people from the township walk to for treatment because they cannot afford transport to a hospital. There are no ambulances in the event of an emergency. Often people are too ill or injured to even make it to the clinic, or resist going because of the difficult process of getting there. The clinic has four professional nurses and one doctor, who stops by to treat patients on an irregular basis since he splits his time between several clinics. The doctor was not there on the day we visited, so the waiting room was not as full as it is on days when he’s there. On those busy days, patients spill out of the building onto benches outside and when those fill, onto the street. Topping the list of illnesses they treat are HIV/AIDS and TB – illnesses that we in the US can easily take for granted as ones we will probably never experience.

We learned that the clinic used to provide food to the patients, especially those taking ARVs for HIV/AIDS (you cannot take this medicine without food). Unfortunately, without warning, their food donor pulled out and consequently the clinic has lost many of their patients. Their goal now is to plant a garden on the property so they can grow their own food to provide to the patients. Touched by this predicament and supportive of their self-reliant plan, Jordan and I decided to bring them some compost, vegetable seeds, and tools to help get their garden started. It was an uplifting end to a heavy afternoon, as we bonded with the staff and saw how excited they were by our gesture. Another lovely moment came when we were chatting with the staff and one woman told us that she recognized us. Our group attended a church service in the township last Sunday, and it turns out that she worships at that church and saw us last week. We told her how much we enjoyed the beautiful music and service; she told us how happy they were to have visitors. It was so special to feel that interconnection with the people of Potchefstroom and Ikageng, and see a bit of the reverberations that our visit may have. God is truly making connections, warming hearts, and changing lives for all who are touched by this trip – and for all those who hear Him call.

--Natalie Bezgin

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Day of Mixed Emotions

Today was a day full of mixed emotions.  This morning we went to the Mosaic Crèche.  For some of us, this was our first opportunity to meet with the children from this preschool; all of them are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.  The moment we stepped out of the van, the children were all running full speed in our direction, arms wide open.  I opened my arms to one of them, and he jumped from about three feet away, just about knocking me off my feet!  For a while, we just ran with the children, pushing them in the swing, lifting them up on the jungle gym, or pushing them on the merry-go-round.  Later, we all joined together in a big circle, sang songs, clapped our hands, and danced around.  All of the teachers asked how Jen was doing, and gave me something to give her upon my return.  You could tell that they really miss her.

Every time I took a picture, the children would immediately want to see the picture on my camera.  I was amazed at how well they could get around on an iPhone – swiping from picture to picture and even using two fingers to enlarge the pictures.  I also spent some time with the smaller children from the nursery, including one that was rescued by her grandmother from the trash.  After so many days without the rest of my family, I’m not sure who enjoyed the love and hugs more!  It was incredibly overwhelming at times, but I had to remind myself that these were some of the “lucky” ones.  They had wonderful, caring teachers to teach them in a very nice facility.  There are so many children in “the township” that are not offered the same opportunity as the children at the crèche.

After lunch, we went over to the worksite and were pleased to see that the Mosaic workers had finished putting on the roof and were putting the panes of glass in the window frames!  We were so excited to see such progress, we jumped right in!  Today was spent priming the corners of the exterior as well as the perimeter fence.  We were able to put sod down in the front and side yard as well.  Probably the most exciting thing from the worksite today was the installation of the doors.  At the end of the day, we asked where the truck was to load, and we were told that we didn’t have to pack it all away.  We could lock it in the house!  The time has gone so fast; I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day to work on the house!  It has been such a rewarding experience.

--Deb Collins


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Aunt Suzie: A Walking, Preaching, Singing, Dancing Dynamo

Rolling through the gate of Aunt Suzie’s daycare center at 9:00 this morning, we were met with her vibrant garden and the smiling faces of more than twenty of her “elderlies” who spend their days in her capable hands.  At 77 years of age, Aunt Suzie is a walking, preaching, singing, dancing dynamo.   The ladies (and 2 gentlemen) greeted us with smiles and hugs.  They range in ages and physical abilities, but most impressive was 98 year old Agnes, who joined Aunt Suzie for a rousing round of song and dance.

We presented Aunt Suzie with 30 audio bibles in Tswana for the elderlies.  Excitement registered in their eyes as they listened to the bible in their native language.  Several of the women are blind, making this an extra special gift.  In addition to the bibles, we presented them with prayer squares and…Chocolate! 

Aunt Suzie and her staff hosted us with coffee and cake and brought us up to date on her plans to build a hospice.  We had the opportunity to view the prospective site on the way to the center and were impressed by the size and condition of the property under consideration.  It is a large, well-built facility with 25 rooms and multiple bathrooms.  Jordan has worked diligently petitioning the government for purchase of the property.  Progress in South Africa is slow, but Jordan and Aunt Suzie speak almost daily as they map out the strategy for moving forward with this project that is so close to their hearts.

Our visit with Aunt Suzie concluded with a tour of her home and the introduction of her husband, Louie.  Aunt Suzie never ceases to amaze us.  She described to us the original two room tin shack that stood on the property, complete with outhouse.  She has, over time, collected and reused building materials that have resulted in the construction of a truly beautiful and spacious home, complete with two bathrooms and indoor plumbing.  The former outhouse has been converted into laundry room.  Is there nothing this woman cannot accomplish?

After communion with the elderlies, we rushed to the building site, polished off a quick lunch and got back to work on the house. It was another day of record winds in Ikageng, but with the help of Mosaic’s contracted workforce, we were able to finish the stucco on the walls, polish off the outside corners of the house, paint doorframes and roof beams and do some major clean-up work around the site, including the moving of 3 LARGE stacks of bricks.  Most impressive, we pulled out of the building site before dusk – the first time all week.
Although it was short day on the worksite, we are all feeling tired and sore tonight. We are hoping to turn in early and rise refreshed for tomorrow morning’s visit to Made by Mosaic and an afternoon filled with…you guessed it – more building.

Thank you all for your prayers, cards and comments.  Your encouragement means a lot to us!

--Donna McFadden

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Day of Contrasts

After a very productive day of work on the Mosaic home yesterday, our small mission team was rewarded with a day off to tour sprawling Soweto, a 78 square mile township populated by 4 million black residents (and three white families). The two hour drive from our comfortable guest house in Potchefstroom, or “Potch,” through metropolitan Johannesburg and into Soweto provided a reminder of the vast economic and cultural divide that still remains between the poorest and wealthiest citizens of this Texas-sized country. The elegant mansions of “Jo-Berg’s” Park Town neighborhood – built in the late 1800s by wealthy white land owners – stand in startling contrast to the tin shacks populated by hundreds of thousands of families just down the road. 

On arrival in one of the poorest sections of Soweto, we were greeted by our tour guide “Bee.” Bee explained that most of the simple shacks along our walking tour had no electricity or running water. One of the highlights of our tour was a visit to the home of “Gladys,” a resident who patiently answered our questions about life in the township. While her tiny corrugated-steel shack would have no hope of meeting the rigorous building standards that govern American construction codes, the home was tidy and well-organized. We were thankful for the opportunity to catch an inside glimpse of everyday life in the township.

The team returned in the early afternoon to Potch. The traditional dinner we were served by Mosaic’s Meyer Conradie offered another “taste” of life in the townships. Our meal, consisting of chicken feet (see photo below) and “Mielepop,” a corn-based dish with the consistency of Cream of Wheat, is the most common fare found on township dinner tables when food is available. While it was an unnerving experience to say the least, each of us gave our best effort to eat the portion given to us.

Meyer closed our evening with a very moving devotional about the hardship faced by several of the women now living and working in the Mosaic community. One mother in particular is caring for the three young children of her three daughters, all who died at an early age from complications related to HIV/AIDS. Their early deaths were not unusual. In fact, a very large group of South Africans in their age group were part of the country's “missing generation,” missing due to the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Finally, Meyer shared his experience of driving around Ikageng as the 16 year-old son of a wealthy white family and seeing, and hearing, the entire township population outdoors enjoying community together. Driving through the neighborhood back to his parents’ home, he noticed the eerie silence of a typical white suburban neighborhood. Silent streets, high fences, and no sign of the joyful community celebration he had just witnessed in the township. His final questions to us sparked a deep discussion among our group. Are we really better off than the people of Soweto and Ikageng? Has all of our material wealth built closer communities? Has it made us closer to God?

On a very personal note, I am feeling incredibly blessed to spend quality time with my daughter, Jordan, in her new “home away from home.” Her work on the ground here is making a tremendous difference not only in the Mosaic Community, but also for our dear Hopewell friend “Aunt Suzie.” I could not be more proud of the way she is following her own calling to help the people of South Africa. Please check out her blog at

--Jamie Ridge

Monday, August 13, 2012

Doused with Love and Spackle

Today started off with five women from our group venturing off to the Creche for the first time since we’ve arrived in South Africa. The rest of the group stayed behind at the work site to complete the rest of the walls so we would all be ready to spackle when the fabulous five women returned from the preschool.

We arrived at the Preschool and were greeted with wonderful warm welcomes from the teachers. They encouraged us to take pictures and dive right into playing with the kids who were out on the playground when we got there. This has been the moment I’ve dreamed about since finding out that I was going on the trip. I’ve been a teacher at Maranatha Christian Academy in Coatesville (a local Hopewell mission) the past eight months and children are my passion. I’ve been so excited to share what I’ve learned and my enthusiasm for Christian education coming to South Africa. The children were so giggly and smiling at everything we said and every picture we took. Hearing them singing on the merry-go-round and playing patty cake put so much joy into our hearts, it was overwhelming. After playing with them for a while we were then able to join them inside for music and lessons.

A special moment for me was when I was given the opportunity to teach the children a couple American songs and I chose the song “Jesus Knocks”. After we finished the teachers all smiled at me and said “Oh Miss Donna taught us that song last year” and I was ecstatic to reply “She’s my mom!” The teachers screamed with delight and it made me feel so good to know that each previous group that has come has made an impact on these children and teachers. 

After lunch, it was time for spackle! We quickly learned that some in our group were blessed with the unique gift of spackling while others… extremely dirty trying?! Our critic, Tony, was very specific in Meyer’s demands to leave the walls smooth with the dugga spread on not too thick and not too thin. It took a lot direction and spilled dugga, but we finally completed one room to perfection! We pick the task back up on Wednesday which is the next time we’re on the work site. Tomorrow we have an educational day with a trip to the Apartheid Museum and a tour of Soweto. We have a 6am start so goodnight Hopewell-ians! I miss you!

P.S. Notice at the end of each blog there is a link to leave comments. We are not feeling the love when we check the blog each night and no one has commented! Come on!!!!!
<3 Libby Hepner     

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Day of (much needed) Rest!

Today we started  out putting on our “Sunday Best” knowing that we would not have to haul dugga or bricks at all.  Mosaic community member “John” lives in house #4 constructed by Hopewell on a previous mission trip. This connection led us to worship at his home church, St. Ephraim’s Roman Catholic Church. What a profound experience!

While the service was primarily conducted and sung in Tswana, the spirit of God was present in the voices in a way that is impossible to describe. Every single person in that church sang and danced in full voice and with astonishing enthusiasm.  The only instruments used were handmade drums and tambourines which combined voices of pure passion and enthusiasm kept us completely engaged despite our language barrier.

After church we spent some time resting and enjoyed some shopping at the local mall. Then we went to the Mosaic Training Center for lunch and an awesome afternoon with the families of Mosaic. We were there to help say goodbye to the local German volunteers finishing their year of service to Mosaic. They presented an apple tree to the families representing “Life” for the families to nurture and enjoy for years to come.

After two days of dugga, an afternoon of Duck, Duck, Goose, Musical Chairs, Red Light Green Light and dancing lessons conducted by Libby, Stephanie and Natalie was exactly the remedy our tired arms needed. My own epic fail at sliding into my proper spot in Duck, Duck, Goose succeeded as comic relief (as intended) for the children, and fortunately (for me) was missed by our team’s cameras!

Hopewell’s VBS children provided dozens of beaded bubble wands that were enjoyed immensely by all of the children in the yard in front of the Training Center. We were treated to the most wonderful ending to our afternoon with dozens of children blowing bubbles by the thousands into the winds behind smiles that will remain engraved in our hearts forever!

Our evening ended with a delicious dinner and a moving devotional led by Jamie Ridge focused on The Prodigal Son and reached each of us in a different way. God is good! Peace…

--Pat Welch

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Strong Wind Blows

Day #2 on the worksite…  We arrived early, rested and eager to get started on another day of “bricking,” now experienced with trowels, scaffolding, dugga, well-versed in the differences between white and red bricks...  so proud of yesterday’s accomplishments and confidently expecting that day #2 would be a carbon copy of day #1.  But God had a surprise in store:  wind.  Big wind.  Strong wind.  Incessant wind.  Even the wrap-around professional construction goggles distributed to the team by Pat (Welch) were no match for the dust swirling and constantly blowing.  Brown dust on everything and everywhere.  The more fair skinned among us actually looked like we had our first golden bronze tans.

Our work site is no more than 100 yards from acres and acres of poverty unlike any we have ever witnessed.  Hundreds and hundreds of South Africans living in shacks (structures that our Chester County farmers would not house chickens in), many of whom are AIDS orphans.  But when the Hopewell team has finished bricking, one of those family units will have a dry, safe, 4 room home, replete with beds.  God is so good.

Aunt Suzie visited our worksite today!  Of course everyone who knows what a ball of fire Aunt Suzie is will not be surprised to learn that after giving out hugs to all on the HUMC team, 77 year old Aunt Suzie took control, and then started hauling bricks and distributing dugga to every scaffold unit – both of which are very heavy.  We are looking forward to the time we will spend with Aunt Suzie and her elderlies.  We are taking them a bag of Hershey chocolate candies, and we are told that Aunt Suzie will monitor how fast the candy is eaten because the ladies don’t quite know when to stop!

And now we all need to retire for the evening…   getting up for early church in Ikageng.

--Deb Boyd


Friday, August 10, 2012

Dealing with Dugga!

Greetings from South Africa! Today was our first work day.  It started out rather chilly, but as the day went on we were thankful that we wore layers, because we ended up in t-shirts.

Our whole group laid brick walls, inside and out. By next Sunday, we will have completed the home for the next Mosaic family. It took a while to get the hang of the brick laying process, but soon enough we were brick experts. We were brickin’ like craaaazyy (You had to be there)! The mortar is called “dugga,” so when we ran out, we’d have to yell that out and one of the workers would bring some to us. It was a lot of fun learning their language.
There were also many children running around from the Mosaic houses and from the village behind where we are building. They loved having their picture taken and seeing the pictures. They also loved hugs! But who doesn’t love hugs?! The day definitely was long, working from 8 until 6, but incredibly fulfilling. Meyer and Louise Conradie, the founders of Mosaic, told us their ultimate goal is to build a self-sustaining enviornment by not giving handouts, but creating jobs.

Now we are off to bed because tomorrow we will be up again at 7 for another 8-6 day!

--Steph Collins

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day One -- On the Ground!

Meyer Conradie of Mosaic Developments updates the mission team on the week ahead and the organization's latest projects.

The group gathers in front of Mosaic house #13. Building begins in the morning!