v Erin’s heartfelt comment after our first day with the children at the Kwasa Centre: “This has been the best day of my life.”
v Dancing and singing during the church service at St. Luke’s in the township of Duduza, and Robin’s declaration that the spirit of God is truly present here. Marching up, row by row, person by person, to give our offering. The church has no musical instruments. The strong beautiful voices and clapping did not need help. We all wondered if we could bring the same outward joy to St. John’s, especially under those circumstances.
v Lisa leading compline at the end of very busy and tiring days. She was able to infuse us with new energy during the services and gave us the opportunity to talk about personal reflections, many of which haunted us.
v Laura’s spontaneous dancing with the children on one of our visits. She made those children so happy: she showed better than any of us how much she liked being with them. You go, girl!
v Robin and Fred’s firm decision, which was a huge hit, to buy lollipops for every child (and teacher) at a school in one of the settlements we visited.
v John Herzog’s strong leadership on and off the soccer field. The young teen girls from Kwasa picked up Laura’s cheer: Go Johnny, go Johnny, go Johnny – all in a very British accent.
v Eric’s outstanding gift of photography, which brought each child and adult close to him.
v Abbott, Erin, and Jeff interviewing Dominic’s grandmother. Dominic is now in a public school. The grandmother has struggled to care for him since his mother abandoned him as a baby.
v Being called “Mother Sharron” by one of the three year olds at the Centre. I could never fill Sharron’s shoes, so this was particularly moving. Bringing me down to earth, I was told that several of the younger children called other women on the trip “Mother Sharron” too.
v Watching the St. John’s Eagles play the Kwasa Centre teen boys soccer team (one girl, Promise, was allowed to play a few minutes on the Kwasa team). Our team, led by Jeff Phillips, included Erin Bladergroen, John Herzog, Lisa Saunders (she played tough defense), John Paty, Eric Generous, Dan Guenther (intrepid goalie), Catherine Outten, Lauren Edwards, Holly Sukenik, Abbott McCartney, and Paul Barkett. During the first half, the Eagles held on, but the Kwasa team came out blazing in the second half and scored several times to take the victory.
v Worshipping and dining with the parishioners of St Peter’s and St Paul’s in Springs. They showed us again the incomparable generosity of the people of South Africa.
v Watching (and joining briefly) the hard labor performed by Dan Guenther, Bill Brownlee, John Herzog, John Paty, Jeff Phillips, Fred Webber, Lauren Edwards, and Paul Barkett (among others) as they spread gravel on the drive, rebuilt a fence, painted, and did carpentry work at the Centre. After working so hard at physical labor, they all had time and energy to play and read to the children. See as examples the photos of six foot plus grandfather Bill Brownlee sprawled on the floor with young children and John Paty reading and playing with the children. Everyone grew close to at least one child.
v Three young women on the trip (Erin, Laura, Isabelle) had long straight hair that enchanted the Kwasa girls in particular. All three sat for as long as the children wanted to have their hair combed, touched, and braided.
v Ellen Parke reading with the children and her moving reading from the Book of Ruth during the Sunday service at St Peter and St Paul.
v Luis’ sermon (good enough is the enemy of great) and his trip into town to buy soccer shoes for two older boys (none of the shoes we brought from the US were large enough for them) because he felt immediately (while at least one of us was thinking it was too bad, but….) that no one should go without a new pair of soccer “boots.”
v The joy our church school students brought to the lives of the older Kwasa Kids who received new soccer shoes, clothes and equipment and to the younger children, each of whom received a stuffed animal and a gift bag. All the items were donated by the church school students.
v Holly, Robin and Catherine serving lunch to the children, with a thank you, ma’am required of each child.
v The extreme hunger of the children, who ate as much as was provided.
v The magical and joyful expressions on the faces of children as they watched John Paty play back his video of their singing performance for us.
v The gift of the safe return from Iraq of Lauren Edwards, who joined us on the trip shortly after arriving in the US from her Marine Corps service in Iraq. More to celebrate: Captain Edwards will soon become Major Edwards.
v The special effort made by Dan Guenther to take his wife Suanie (who arrived after our work at Kwasa) to meet the children at the Kwasa Centre because, he said, her trip would not have been complete without seeing Kwasa.
v All the mission trip participants brought their own special gifts and talents to the Kwasa Centre. So many special moments transpired that it’s impossible to recount them all. They will all be delighted to share their testimonials with you.
P.S. Below are pictures of the gifts that our St. John’s sunday school students made for the Kwasa children. They are proudly displayed in the library at the Kwasa center.