Friday, May 25, 2018

Communion in the Truest Sense

This morning, I awoke with a strong desire to read Ephesians and, again, was moved by Paul's description of unity in Christ's body. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Just beautiful.

So I was well primed for our visit to Drakenstein Prison to participate in Hope Ministry's restorative justice program. Now before I continue, I must remind you that in 1990, former political prisoner and (later) South African president, Nelson Mandela took his steps to freedom on the same road on which we were standing. So to plant our feet on the same road … pretty incredible. After checking in (which was shockingly easy), we went to Medium A to meet with inmates who were serving life terms, which equates to 25 years in South Africa. Cornel, who we met through Ma's of Wellington, reminded us that these serious offenders were once victims of crime who learned how to be criminals. Then she took us in. We listened to the presenter and the inmates as they literally lived out the gospel before our eyes … with Christ offering release for the captives … release of pain, sin, old ways, bondage … you name it, Christ can overcome it all. (Did you shout "Amen"? You should.) They testified, offered one another forgiveness, practiced telling the truth about their crimes, took responsibility for hurting their victims, and readied themselves for meeting those victims face-to-face on Saturday. Powerful stuff, for sure. We listened, we served a meal, and we sat among them and broke bread. Communion in the truest sense.

But most impactful on me was this: The Lord turned my face toward two inmates in particular … one I felt I needed to speak to and one I needed to listen to. To the one I needed to speak to, I offered a blessing, which he received like water in the driest place. To the one I needed to listen to, I offered my ears as he confessed his crimes to me and asked me to pray for the forgiveness of Christ over him. Then, a volunteer told me that three inmates decided to give their lives to Christ yesterday and he asked me to say the sinner's prayer with them. So in a circle, comprised of Hopewell folks and inmates, I led them in that prayer as they asked Christ into their hearts and lives as Lord and Savior. There is freedom, my friends, and then there is FREEDOM! These men, although incarcerated, are learning what a deeper freedom can mean for them, for their community, and for this world.

After leaving Drakenstein, which we did reluctantly, we visited the Mosaic homes in Paarl. Brad Lloyd, if you are reading this, the walls you helped me build in 2016 are still standing. Just kidding, but not really. Now families are moving into those homes. They have electricity (finally) and furniture. One of the moms will be sleeping in a bed tonight for the first time in 4 years. Praise the Lord! Later in the evening, Craig and Alex helped a family move in.

The Mosaic kids were so excited to see us … still amazed that we would travel across the ocean just to see them. Our Hopewell crew played with them on the community center's new play area. Such joy and laughter. The majority of our work has been saying--not only with words, but also with action--that they are valuable children of God who are created, loved, and embraced. For some, that's a totally new concept. The need for that proclamation is the same no matter where we are in the world. We played, we sang, we danced, we hugged, we prayed, and we ate. Communion in the truest sense.

We are now sitting around the fire in the kitchen of the Brantzeg home, cooking pizza in the fire (called a braai in Afrikaans). We are sharing food, laughter, memories, perspectives, and praises to God who dwells on high. Truly, God's glory brings me to tears today. Soon, we will move to the piano to worship. Communion in the truest sense.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for you are the bread of life. One Lord, one faith, one good day.

The Rains Down in Africa

Thursday, May 24th

Hearing a marvelous sound and much needed rain.  Wellington is currently in a crisis.  We praised God for each drop knowing this means so much for the people who live here.  Today we went to the Mosaic Community Center and spent time with Ma's of Wellington who work with the preschool aged children in the mornings.  We met with Nuzuku to learn about the program and what they do for the children.  The start of the program was singing and a few of the Ma's did a skit about not littering.  Children were hesitant to take responsibility to pick up the clementine peels and other trash.  When the Ma's asked if I was the culprit I hopped up to lead them in collecting the trash.  Multiple kids swarmed the area to collect the debris.  The Ma's sat in chairs around the children some on the floor with the holding them.  Drew, Ashley, Jonathan and myself sat with the children during the program.

When they started to sing the song telling the children that God loved them we were invited to sit with the children.  I had two laying with their heads on my lap.  Drew laid on the floor and had multiple children surrounding him.  Each of us embraced by the little ones and personally I was moved to tears.  We know that these beautiful women are spending time to help these children feel loved, fed, and have a place to come for part of the day to stay off the street. The group was smaller today because of the rain but still wonderful experience.  After the song and some quiet time the children were slowly gathered by the Ma's to go to their designated tables.

Serving the children pasta, and meat sauce, clementines, oranges, chips, and juice pouches.  The Ma's also received the pasta with meat sauce, an orange, and bag full of clementines which are all donations.  Providing and sharing all the food helps provide nourishment for these little ones and their family.  With hugs the children dispersed back into the community.  The Ma's had circled up again and our group sat in the middle. Jen spoke about our group and said that some of Hopewell's congregation had prayed over the scarves with each stitch.  We all handed out scarves and prayed over the Ma's.  I prayed for the rains to continue as these women pour out their love to the children, and that the children would extend their love to those in the community. The Ma's embraced us with hugs that seemed to never end and it amazing to feel their love for us.  The love was unconditional for the children and our visit to extend back to all of those back home who have contributed and supported Mosaic.  Once the program ended we helped to clean up and met with Nuzuku again before heading out.

We took a trip to the local grocery store to shop for food for the remainder of the trip.  Drew and Amy cooked delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.  We had some down time before we would return to Mosaic for the after school program.  When we arrived the children greeted our team and some of the children remembered Ashley, Jen and Amy by name.  We gathered in the large room to sing and pray.  The children selected Amy and Ashley to help washing younger children's hands.  Craig, Drew and Alex went to the kitchen to help prepare the food.  Jen and I stayed with the younger children and once they were fed we broke into different groups to play and learn. Jonathan was with the older kids helping to create picture frames.  The youngest children practiced counting, tracing numbers, coloring, learning colors and building with blocks.  We went out to play in effort to release their energy. The rain started again and we returned to the hoop sang closing songs and prayer before saying goodnight.

Amy and Jen made chicken, spaghetti, garlic bread that everyone loved.  Cornel came by to visit and talk about the prison ministry she does.  The group looked forward to going to prison to serve and eat with the prisoners.  Each day has been unique and memorable, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to come see the work previous teams have down here at Mosaic.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pulling all the stops

In the completion of our stay in Potchefstroom, we said goodbye to our wonderful host Diane (having had our farewell with her husband Herman the night before) and started the day of travel to Wellington!

Our first stop was to Made By Mosaic where we got to go in to the kitchen and say hi to the chefs, who at the time were making some chocolate chip cookies. We visited the store and shopped for some wonderful handmade items to bring back home.

Our next stop was to the Apartheid Museum in . To see the cries of the hurting and the history of segregation in Africa was an experience we will not soon forget. Much was learned and felt as we walked through the halls of history showing the stories of people like Nelson Mandela and the people of this great country. It was good to see the context of the places we are now walking through and experiencing as we interact with the lives of those who have and are still being affected by oppression and hate. None of us regret visiting this enlightening museum and we will not soon forget the impact it had on us.

On to the airport we went for our next stop for our seemingly short (in comparison) flight to Cape Town! After landing, we traveled to our next stop in Wellington to get settled in to our places. We enjoyed a relaxing night of conversation and connection as we prepared in expectation and excitement to face the day ahead!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fuzzy Thing, Be My Friend!

Tuesday was probably the most exciting day of our stay in Potchefstroom, and was the perfect send off as we move to Cape Town. We started off the morning traveling back down to Aunt Suzy's care center for the elderly, bringing the last of our gifts to some of the elderly residents of the community of Ikageng, and talking to them for a while to here about their lives. The strength of these women absolutely astounds me: no matter how they struggled, whether it be with health issues, loneliness, or otherwise, they still ended up giving us more blessings and love than we ever could have imagined. For everyone we prayed for, they prayed equally hard for us, and blessed us on our journey. Aunt Suzy sent us off with love and a message, to let everyone back home know that they have the blessings of the elders at the center and to continue to pour out our blessings to those struggling here in South Africa. And also for Pastor Steve to pay for plane tickets to fly them to America (jokingly of course)!
After that we stopped for lunch and made our way to the really fun part of the day: the Kohra Lion Park! We saw big lions, medium lions, and of course, the most adorable, fuzzy lion cubs you could ever imagine. We even got to hold one of them (and it was incredibly soft)! Finally to end our day, we went back down to the Mosaic after school program for a farewell and one last day spending time with the children, answering their questions about life in America and giving them our blessings. Again, no matter how much we cam to bless these wonderful children, the blessings and prayers they gave us in return were far above and beyond what we could ever give them. This day was a day full of joy, cute animals, blessing, praise to God, and important lessons on the importance of showing each other love. I can't wait to bring these lessons with us to Cape Town!

-Alex Lammers

Tuesday, May 22, 2018



                             How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together.
                             It is like fine oil on the head
                             running down onto the beard,
                             The beard of Aaron,
                             That comes down over the collar of his robe;
                             like the dew of Hermon
                             that falls upon the mountains of Zion.
                            There the LORD ordained blessing,
                            everlasting life.
                                                                 -Psalm 133

The morning started off with our den mother, Diane sharing with us our scripture for the day, Psalm 133. A message about how amazing it is for people to live together in harmony. Like the overflowing anointing of the priest, much like the overflowing of the Holy Spirit we heard preached on Pentecost.

Our first opportunity was to meet Aunt Suzie. We got to share prayer and hymns. We got to share scarfs and other goodies with the elderly Suzie has taken under her wings. We got to dwell with them in their houses and see them and us overflow with joy, tears of joy anointing their faces. We also got to spend time experiencing South African shopping as Aunt Suzie ran around like mad.

Off to Mosaic's after school program. We could not even leave the van before we were enveloped with children full of joy to see us. We got to sing together. We got to play together. Learn together. I got the opportunity to walk through the surrounding neighbourhood; a modest collection of shacks, no water, no power. It was great to see the joy on the children's faces as we walked through giving out flyers, sharing with the community a chance to worship Jesus with them. We were able to bond quickly with these children. We were sad to leave.

For dinner we were invited to a farm owned by our friend Dirk. It was an amazing time spent around the bon fire and the dinner table. We got to speak with our South African friends. We had the opportunity to learn more about their food and culture just as we learn more about the culture the children of Mosaic were a part of. They were different in appearance and with their native language.  Yet both cultures displayed an incredible warmth and hospitality towards. We were all left with overflowing joy from out brothers and sisters from South Africa.

To seal off the night Jonathan found a piano at Dirk's house and we had impromptu time of worship all singing together worshiping Jesus. Another one of our friends shared with us the scripture of the day from his phone Psalm 133 a fitting ending to our day of brotherly(and sisterly) love!

love Drew

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Afrikaans Word for "Moo" and Other Ruminations on SA, PA, and Matt Damon

I frequently daydream about moving to Mars.  Yes, that Mars.  Yes, and all that moving to Mars entails.  If you don't know what that entails, ask Matt Damon - the best botanist on Mars.  Why are we discussing Matt Damon? This is a blog about a Young Adult mission trip to South Africa, you declare!  And you are correct, and you are entitled to an explanation as to how Matt Damon growing potatoes on Mars is related to South Africa.  In case it wasn't already obvious, the answer is Pennsylvania.

I love my home state of Pennsylvania but I like to see new things.  The same old same old gets boring day after day, hence the Martian daydreaming.  But God gifted me with new things today, including red soil that reminded me of Mars.  No boredom today, not a single moment.  So many new things, in fact, that the day was practically overflowing with new things.  This should strike a chord with you Hopewellites.  We often ask God to make things new, make us new.  Today, at a church worship held in a hotel hall, I saw a new worship.  I won't call it a new style of worship; in fact, it was quite similar to what we do at Hopewell.  Yet, everything about it felt new to me.  The passion with which our SA brothers and sisters approached God and worshipped God is utterly flooring.  Even a little convicting if I am being honest.  I can't go into everything here but in a room full of people they still made it personal to each and every person there in a tangible way.  As the kids say, squad goals.

On another note, our safari pictures and videos from today are beginning to leak out on to the interwebs.  We saw every - and I mean every - angle of God's great creation that is nature today.  Wildebeast (both the blue and black variety which are both grey) gazelles, a family of giraffes, some fashionably late rhinos, and a few cows.  With every cow I kept wondering what the Afrikaans word for "moo" is.  I am told that it is "moo" but Google translate is not a reliable source.

Always remember to cite your sources,


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It’s The Final Countdown!

Hellooo everyone!
As we get into the final count down till the young adults head to South Africa we wanted to create this blog not only to record our journey but to reflect, process and share with our friends and family back home what's going on day to day. We will be headed to Potchefstroom and Paarl/Wellington to work with our partners Mosaic to do relational work and a few projects. You’ll have the joy of being able to see the perspectives of each member in our group as we will all take turns writing this blog across our two week journey. So Enjoy!!

While this is my second trip to South Africa, it’s my first time leaving my first job out of college. I’m finding I have a lot more responsibilities to worry about than I did before making things a bit more stressful. I cannot believe I’m sayibg but I can’t wait to get on the plane and watch hours of movies 😂  But nonetheless I couldn’t be more excited to share this journey with such good friends and to grow in those relationships and new friendships! So thankful that God has helped to pave paths to make this trip happen.

Thanks for reading our blog and check us out in the next few days as we leave for South Africa,

Ashley Judge