A message from Mother Sharron

10/31 –

I would have to say that the St John’s visit to St Peter and Paul and Kwasa exceeded all hopes and expectations. It was great renewing “old” relationships – and forming new ones with all who visited for the first time!! The fact that you travelled such a long way and spent and gave so much to be with us, was very humbling. Your being here was a gift to us and you shared that which is priceless – your time, energy, giftedness, love, compassion, attention and care. Many, many lives were touched, transformed and enriched by your presence here, and memories of you and your visit are indelibly imprinted in our minds. The children have missed you and are asking when you are coming back again – as though it could be next week!!!  The soccer boys are hoping the St John’s team are practising – they look forward to a re-match! The teachers and staff miss all the extra assistance you gave in the classrooms and kitchen. I think of you each time my tyres crunch over the gravel driveway you laid!

Although we are separated by many miles – know that you live in our hearts – that we thank God for you all that we pray for your well-being and happiness.

Love and prayers

Sharron

SHARING SMILES AND SOCCER SHOES IN SOUTH AFRICA

What excitement when the Kwasa children saw the soccer equipment from the St. John’s Church School.  They were eager to find shoes, shin pads, and shirts that fit.  Several needed the socks that were included by the Church School.   

 

As soon as one young man had tied his new shoes, he sprinted across the yard.  He wanted to see how fast he could run with his new footgear.  The young man showed lightening speed and a big smile.  He was like the excited child at Christmas who could not wait to play with his new toys.

 

 

St. John’s Church School can be happy with the delight enjoyed by these aspiring soccer stars.  Equipment no longer needed in Washington has found a good home at Kwasa.  Thanks to those who worked to collect, clean, and pack the used equipment, particularly, Lisa Kirchenbauer, Nancy Mathias and Holly Sukenik.  Thanks also to Luis for quietly slipping away to buy new soccer shoes for a young man who could not find a pair that fit.  

 

After these budding young soccer stars were fully equipped, they challenged St. John’s to a soccer game    with Mother Sharron Dinnie officiating.  The Kwasa kids wanted to test their new equipment, of course, against the best.  Little did they expect that the St. John’s Eagles (thanks to Kaye for naming the team) would be up to the challenge.  Our soccer standouts kept the game close for the first period.  But the Kwasa kids then took command.  They played smarter, ran faster, and kicked straighter    of course, because of their new shoes.  By the game’s end, the Kwasa kids were smiling victors yet the Eagles stood proud, having fought the good fight on the soccer field.

After the game, everyone glowed in the late afternoon African sun, celebrating the spirit of South African togetherness with a wonderful group photo.  Both teams, of course, can’t wait for the rematch in two years.   Abbott   

 

Kwasa Center

The very fact that God has placed a certain soul
in our way is a sign that
God wants us to do something for him or for her.
It is not chance;
It has been planned by God.
We are bound by conscience to help him or her.

Once we take our eyes away
from ourselves, from our interests,
from our own rights, privileges, ambitions –
then our eyes will become clear to see Jesus around us.
Mother Theresa

Halfway around the world, I found the miracle of God’s love in a little school called Kwasa.

Robin Webber

Some reflections from Ellen

  • On our first day, Sharron told us about a little boy in the hospital with meningitis.  Has he recovered and is he back with his friends at Kwasa?
  • Before our “walkabout” in Vukuzenzele, Sharron (with Sese as interpreter) introduced us to a young widow who told us how much Kwasa means to her and her children.  She was very shy and didn’t want to show us her shack.
  • Conditions in Vukuzenzele were no better than when we visited 2.5 years ago.  There are still just five or six common taps to provide water for the 15,000 residents.  There is no sewer system.  There is no electricity, so most cook with propane.  Some have generators.
  • The new wing at Kwasa, made possible by a grant from the Comis Foundation, is wonderful.  It houses the library (where the older children do their homework when they come after school), rest rooms, and a kitchen.  Dan put his carpentry skills to good use one day, putting up doors on several stalls in the rest rooms.
  • I spent a lot of time in Gill’s class of 30 six year olds (“The Frogs”).  In the morning when the bowls of porridge were handed out, each child had to state the color of the bowl and say “thank you.”  Not one had to be prompted or reminded what to say.  They came back for second helpings until all the porridge was gone.  They ate without uttering a sound, so intent were they on their food. 
  • Some highlights from our visit to Strubenvale Primary School:  Lisa’s talk during the Assembly, telling the children (Grades 1-3) about the importance of our gifts and how we use them; visiting the classrooms of Given and Tshepiso; and seeing the computer lab (they learn Power Point in Grade 3!).
  • The condition of the 30 year old Kwasa school bus was very sad.  The driver has to use a wrench to open the door to let the children in and out because the handle broke.  Sharron said it would cost 300 rand to repair the handle, about $30.  The bus broke down toward the end of the week, so many children (especially the younger ones) couldn’t get to Kwasa.  I wonder how long it took to get it running again?  It’s an amazing sight, watching 32 small children pile into that old VW bus!
  • Our accommodations may not have been luxurious, but how fortunate we were to be able to shower at the end of a hot, dusty day at Kwasa or on the road.  It made me appreciate what the older Kwasa children have to do to look so scrubbed in their Strubenvale Primary School uniforms.
  • During the soccer match, I chatted with Allen Barton, principal at Strubenvale.  I was curious about the religious content of the Assembly we attended, since Strubenvale is a public school.  He said he has been able to keep the hymns and prayers because 98.4% of the parents said they wanted them.  The school has no Muslim students, the Hindus didn’t object, and the 7th Day Adventists decided that their children would join the Assembly in time for the awards and announcements.
  • Rev. Lynn Coull took us to see other parts of the Diocese of the Highveld.  In Rooikoppen informal settlement, I was one of four or five from our group who visited a woman who is caring for her 14 year old granddaughter who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.  Lynn brought several bags of groceries for her.  The girl’s mother died and her father abused her, so the girl and her 11 year old brother came to live with their “Granny.”  Like many of the shacks we visited, it had just two rooms, but the kitchen was more spacious than most.  It was immaculate and the stainless steel pots were perfectly arranged on a shelf.
  • Shukuma Primary School is a township school for children of Rooikoppen.  We visited the kindergarten (“Grade R”) class.  The children had no tables, chairs, or books.  The weather was very warm, yet many of the children were wearing sweaters.  What a contrast to Kwasa, where the children have so much more.
  • Kopanang, a women’s cooperative that produces embroidery and beadwork, has grown tremendously since we visited it in February 2004.  It was a joy to see it thriving! 

Brian

I wonder where Brian is today. Who is Brian, you might ask? He is a small 4-5 year old boy I met at the Kwasa Centre in South Africa two weeks ago. Of course, I met scores of little African children during the three days spent at the Centre. Brian stood out because he was quet and seemingly detached from his surroundings. I couldn’t connect with him.

For example, unlike most of the children we met, Brian was reluctant to look at me or take my hand. When we handed out stuffed animals one day, Brian didn’t react when I gave him his present ( a large and smiling bulldog). He did not respond to his teacher’s instructions and didn’t sing or recite with his fellow students. He took his two meals each day without enthusiasm.

Could he hear? Was he autistic? Had he been traumatized?  Was he afraid of these white church folks who had invaded his school for  a few days? Fortunately and not suprisingly, the staff knew about him and was lining him up for an examination. I was relieved to learn that he was going to get help.

If I am fortunate enough to return to South Africa, I will look for Brian, for I pray for him daily and always ask God to look over him. He has changed my life, even though I am fast approaching the age of 71. One is never too old to ache for those in need.

Thank you, St. John’s, for making this life-changing trip possible.

Fred Webber

Group Picture and National Anthem

Below is a group pic!  Also, for those that went on the trip (and those that didn’t), you might enjoy the translation to the South African National Anthem in the video below.  Everywhere we went, children always loved to sing this song for us, and they voices were gorgeous.

-Jeff

 

A few of my memories from our trip to South Africa (by Kaye Davis):

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.

-Kaye Davis

 

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.