Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lion Park: Part 2

Proof that lions are ferocious and could bite your head off...literally.

Proof that lions are just over-sized kitties.

On the prowl...

Is that lion sticking his tongue out at me?!

Aslan? Is that you?

We made friends with this giraffe.

He had the nastiest tongue ever.

In case you missed it before, watch us feed the giraffe doritos here.

Lion Park: Part 1

Another HUGE highlight from the time Ted spent here was going to the Lion Park in Johannesburg. Enjoy the pics.

Petting a lion cub!

Probably one of the coolest experiences ever...

This is the first time that I have ever seen a giraffe sitting down!


First, Ted stuck his tongue out, rocker style...

Then the lioness did her best "Ted" impersonation!

Hangin' in Joburg

I've been meaning to post a few more highlights from the couple weeks when Teddy visited. We spent a couple days in Joburg, where we got a chance to reconnect with my friend, M'Easy. (You remember M'Easy, right?). Joburg is a pretty hectic city, and I don't think I would want to live there, but we had a good time exploring it fo a couple days. We also went to see the movie District 9 while were in the city. Not the best movie that Hollywood has ever produced, but the setting of the movie was Johannesburg, so that made it kind of cool.

Ted and M'Easy chillin in Joburg.

M'Easy and me in Gandhi Square in Joburg.

Snapshots of Tanzania

Here are a few pictures to, well, give you a picture of what Tanzania is like. Enjoy.

This is Mlandizi, the nearest town to where I was staying. In Swahili, "mlandizi" means "one who eats bananas."

Some of the local farmland just outside of Mlandizi.

It looked like a storm was rolling in, but it never rained. It's not quite rainy season yet!

Cows and goats running down the street are a common sight in Tanzania.

And, of course, the beautiful African sunset.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Teaching in Tanzania

While in Tanzania, Bhuti and I taught several courses in disciplemaking youth ministry to 13 students from all over Tanzania. These youth workers have been studying through J-Life for about 9 months now, with 9 more months of training to go. Every two months, they come together at the Mission to Unreached Areas Church (MUAC) training center in Mlandizi, where they go through two weeks of intensive training in class. Then, they head back to their communities to begin implementing the things they are learning in class. I taught four courses over the two weeks on the following topics: Relational Ministry, The Church as a Medium for Discipling Youth, Spiritual Leadership, and Recruiting Leaders. I'm certainly no professor (although I do have a sweet beard!), but I enjoyed the chance to pass on some of the things that I've learned to others.

Enjoy the pics...

Bhuti and me with our students. In case you can't spot me, I'm the big hairy white guy in the back.

Lecture time!

George, Zaca, and Grace working hard on an assignment.

Loveluck, Zepha, and Frida hittin' the books.

Nema, Biggie, Henry, and Apasaria working hard!

And a few more pictures of me teaching. All of the teaching was translated into Swahili by Zepha.

We had a lot of fun together!

It was such a great opportunity for me to be able to invest in the lives of these guys and gals for a couple weeks. We learned a lot together. Like I said, I really enjoyed the teaching, and in some capacity I feel like teaching might play a role in my future ministry. Only time will tell!

Mission to Unreached Areas Church

As most of you probably know, I recently spent two and a half weeks in Tanzania. For those of you who might not know your African geography very well (it's okay, I didn't know Africa very well until I got here), Tanzania is quite a large country in East Africa, just south of Kenya. Here's a map to help you visualize where I was. Along with my friend and fellow J-Life staff member, Bhuti, I flew into the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, right on the coast of the Indian Ocean. From there, we traveled inland a couple hours to a small town called Mlandizi. In Swahili, "Mlandizi" means "one who eats bananas."

In Mlandizi, we partnered with an incredible ministry called the Mission to Unreached Areas Church. They have planted over 300 churches in the unreached tribes and villages of Tanzania. We stayed at their headquarters in Mlandizi, where they also run a missions training school, a mercy house for abandoned and disabled elderly women, and an orphanage for abandoned and abused young boys. It was such a blessing to see the incredible impact they are making for the kingdom of God!

At the Mission to Unreached Areas Church headquarters in Mlandizi, with Biggie (left) and Zepha (middle). Biggie is the J-Life Tanzania leader, and Zepha served as my translator throughout my time in Tanzania. These guys are awesome!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Back From Tanzania

I arrived back safely in South Africa this morning, after spending the past 17 days in Tanzania. The past couple weeks were filled with countless challenges, but even more blessings. At the end of it all, all I can say is "God is good!" I've got so much to share about my experiences and the ways that I saw and experienced God, but those stories will all have to wait. After two months of nearly non-stop travel to six different African countries, I am officially exhausted. To add to the exhaustion of all the travel, I contracted malaria while in Tanzania, which I'm still recovering from. All that to say, it's time to rest! More updates will be coming soon, but for now just praise the Lord with me that lives were changed in Tanzania, and that the Lord's hand of guidance and protection was with me. Thanks so much to all of you who are praying!

Bwana asifiwe (Praise the Lord),


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Baobab Tree

One of the coolest trees I've ever seen is found in Zimbabwe and the northern parts of South Africa. They're called Baobab trees, and they're stinkin' huge! They're unique in that it looks like the roots are coming out of the top of the tree. On our way back from Zimbabwe, we stopped and took a few pics of this monster baobab tree.

Teddy and me dwarfed by the massive tree.

There was an opening at the base of the tree that looked like a cave.

This picture was taken from inside the tree, looking up.

Bhuti, Ted, and me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Change of Heart

As much as I love people and cultures from all around the world, the more I travel, the more I realize how much of an American I really am. In some instances, I think the "American" inside of me is a good thing. On other occasions, I'm embarrassed by my "inner American." But still, I'm growing and learning.

The reason I'm writing about this topic is because I've recently realized that a major change has taken place in my heart. This might sound a little harsh, but I think American culture (and Western culture in general) has ingrained in us the idea that we should be able to get whatever we want, at the cheapest possible cost to us, regardless of what it might cost another person. On a larger scale, I think American big-business has this mentality when it comes to getting cheap labor overseas to produce the goods we so readily consume every day. Let's face it, we are "bottom line" kind of people. Harsh? Yes. But true? I think so.

Anyway, ever since I was a kid I have loved going to local marketplaces and bargaining with the people there. I remember as a ten-year-old going to Jamaica and bargaining with the natives for a little bamboo guitar and a wooden carving of a shark. It was a thrill to barter back and forth, finally settling on a price we could both agree on.

Since that time, I've been to dozens of these foreign marketplaces, and I've really learned how to play the "game." The shop owner is always going to start with a price at least double what he is willing to take for the item. As the buyer, you should always be willing to walk away. In fact, walking away is one of the best tricks to getting the price you want because, more often than not, the seller will call you back and accept your price. I also "learned" some things that I'm not exactly proud of. I "learned" to assume that these people were trying to scam me out of my money. I "learned" how to squeeze every last penny out of them, until they gave me the absolute lowest price that they could. Essentially, I "learned" how to be a greedy, rich American who hordes as much of my money as possible.

My thinking started to change a few months back, when I was bartering with a stone sculptor in Cape Town. Here I was, arguing down the price by the penny, when just down the road was the tin shack where this man lived. His name was Amos, and after talking to him for a little bit, I gave him more money for the item than what I knew he would take. I simply realized that he needed it more than I did. That's honestly the first time I've ever done, and it felt good.

My heart continued to change as I spent time in Zimbabwe. First of all, in the small village of Chihota, I met a stone sculptor named Andy. He lived in poverty, even though he was an incredible artist. His art should be sitting in a gallery, but instead he's forced to sell it for pennies. I finally got to see a face behind where all of these crafts in the markets come from.

And, finally, on our way back to South Africa from Zimbabwe, we stopped at this small marketplace on the side of the road, not far from Harare. I was doing my usual thing, assuming that these people were out to swindle me, and not even noticing their extreme poverty. As I was bargaining a price with one of the artists, he put the carving in my hand and said, "Here, take it. Just give me some food or clothing, and it's yours." This man wasn't looking for an extra buck to put towards his new flat-screen HDTV, he was looking for food to put on the table for his family.

Wow...that one encounter changed me. In that one moment I learned a huge lesson. I've been given so much, but yet the American inside of me is constantly trying to hold onto what I've been given. I really don't want to be like that anymore. My prayer is that God continues changing my heart, filling me with a spirit of generosity. It's a slow and painful process, but I'm learning to put others before me. And may God challenge you as well. In what ways do you find yourself thinking about #1? May God continue to mold you to be more like Him, considering the needs of others above your own.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Car Trouble

When it was finally time to say goodbye to our beloved village of Chihota, we waited...and waited...and waited. Apparently our taxi driver was operating on African time because he showed up over 4 hours late. But, when he finally arrived all was well, and we took off for Harare...and by we I mean 25 people plus luggage in a 15 passenger van. Again, this is Africa, and that's just how they roll around here.

I kid you not, we got about 3 kilometers down the road when we heard a loud "pop!" Yep, our tire burst. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that cruising with 10 extra people didn't help that tire much. So, we got out to assess the damage, and I asked the taxi driver if he had a spare. His response: "No, this has never happened to me before!" I had to laugh.

So we waited as the taxi driver tried to jack up the van.

It took 45 minutes and a handful of people just to get the tire off.

When they finally got the tire off, one of the guys rolled it back to the nearest town.

Out in the middle of nowhere, and with no spare, I was pretty sure that we were looking at a 4 to 5 hour wait. So I just chilled and played guitar on the side of the road. But, to my shock and delight, within just a couple hours, the tire was patched back up and we were back on the road and headed to Harare. African travel is always an adventure!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Even in the heart of rural Africa, I found a fellow patriot.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Pics From Chihota

This little hut served as "home" for our group while we worked in Chihota.

I always enjoy a chance to rock out on the guitar.

It was really great joining together with Praise in ministry again. He was my first roommate in Africa, and he remains one of my closest African friends.

I thought this tree was really I took a picture in front of it.