Today we share more experiences from our journey here as we prepare to leave Thursday.
On our first visit to South Africa and to the Townships and villages we were awestruck by the beauty of the country and its people. We visited several villages, hospitals clinics and schools. We also worked at the food distribution. We took many, many photos. This, our second visit, we left the camera behind and spent all the time getting to personally know the people as individuals. We experienced them all as warm, friendly and loving people. Most of all we discovered what a faithful community they are to one other through their care and support. The food distribution, up from 85 families three years ago to 135 families this year, is due to the generosity of the people of St. Joan of Arc. The community elects those who will receive the food. There is no "me first!" If only we in the land of abundance would do the same.
-Tom and Mary Gorzycki
This being my eighth trip to this beautiful country I am always touched at its beauty and the hope and joy of its people in spite of many living situations you and I would call destitute. I continue to recall the many images that touched my heart in the village of Itipini.
-The children who came running barefoot down the muddy, rutted, rocky path with bright yellow bowls in their hands to received the hot food we brought for them in large pots.
-The happiness of a child receiving a friendship bracelet.
-The infectious laughter when they hid one bracelet in order to get a second.
-The relief of the adults to see a stack of food lined up for delivery.
-The bright eyes of the girls who received a new sundress.
-A grandma holding a grand baby with a new stocking hat.
-The joy of pushing the food uphill toward home in an old grocery cart.
-An occasional smile through sad, yet grateful eyes.
-The local organizers, Olga and Anderson who are loyally committed to helping AIAIA deliver food to this community quarterly.
-The little girl who took my hand to walk back with me after helping her Mom deliver food to their home.
Thank you to all of you who support our work here.
"My cup runneth over" with gratitude. During this amazing trip to South Africa the people here have shared their boundless love with us all. I have experienced a richness of soul and spirit gain and again amidst the poorest of the poor. I have seen forgiveness of the oppressors with the warmest of hearts. God's presence is vividly alive among the me , women and children who have faced so much adversity in their lives.
A challenge to us all: How do we teach a community of people to dream beyond their current circumstances when their ability to dream has been oppressed?
As my journey with the delegation from St. Joan of Arc comes to an end, I am tired but sad to leave behind all the new friendships that have been formed with the people living in the villages we have visited here in South Africa. They have shared their lives with us and allowed us to be of service with the meals served, food distribution, friendship bracelets, new clothes and more. However, I am taking back more than I gave, memories they have gifted to me. Smiles, hugs, gratitude, forgiveness, simplicity, and more.
From a Spark to Sparkles.
Returning to Malungeni, in the Transkei region, I was excited to see the many friends I had made last year. Yet closest to my heart was Zuyanda, a young man with special needs. He is basically unable to talk, but manages very well with his smiles and giggles. Though his one side, an arm and leg are crooked and crippled, he manages to walk all over the village arriving before we wake and leaving when everyone goes inside. He is watched wherever he is by the villagers.
Seeing him running my way, my heart did a big flip flop. He was just as beautiful as last year emulating confidence and strength.
This time I was was able to meet his birth mother who surprising to me, looks quite young. He is her eldest of six and was born almost three months early, yet managed to defy the odds and live. She remembers his birth, him having a spark in his eye and she knew he would live. At five he contacted spinal meningitis and lost what he had learned during the first years. Fast forward to now and he is a happy, social young man of 25 that everyone loves. He can be seen playing soccer with the teens, with us throughout the village visiting homes, proudly showing us his home. He carried and stacked food parcels the same as anyone else, just doing it a it slower. On Spa Day, he sat with the older gentleman and was first to scramble to an available empty chair when it was time for them to be made beautiful. He knew exactly what he wanted and had no trouble conveying this to his manicurist He beamed with pride when he picked out his nail polish...he wanted one with sparkles.
Sixteen times in fifteen years and it seems like yesterday when this all began. Beauty, poverty, absolute joy, loss of family and friends, new SA friends and family, HOPE that never gives up, but the best is the love of our SA family for their families and country and us.
Have things gotten better in SA in 15 years? Yes, the HIV/AIDS population has dropped but still not good. Some of the dirt roads have been paved, health care here seems a bit more accessible in the townships but most shacks still do not have indoor toilet facilities or electricity (unless stolen from the overhead poles and lines) most in the townships do not have jobs or transportation for a job. The people in the Eastern Cape would be starving without your generosity but YET the poor of SA are most joyous and grateful for their life here in SA. It is not about things.....it is about the people..... Family and friends. I have learned soooo much for my family in SA!!!!!!
Thank you all for being part of AIAIA's SA family!!!!!
With much love and blessings
We will be heading home on Thursday, the 5th and will be reunited with our families, friends and colleagues. It is always with some mixed emotion as we say farewell to our family here. This year's mission trip gave me a much clearer sense of how true it is when I say that Arm In Arm In Africa is coming of age. The relationships and ministries continue to grow strong and are creating a lasting difference in our world. As President of Arm In Arm In Africa, I want to thank the many individuals back home that financially and emotionally support our work. It is an honor
to share this mission knowing again that we do make a difference.