31 December 2007

new years day in joburg

I tried to find a way to showcase New Years in South Africa.

This is as close as I got (from 1998). :)

So, ya...this is a clip from a U2 concert from Joburg in 1998. The song is called "New Years Day". See, New Years Day in Joburg.

30 December 2007

everything in its place

I was outside the other night, just staring at the African night sky. It is expansive. And so dark. In the middle of millions of people, there are still innumerable stars to see. It was really quieting. I sat and stared at the Big Dipper, then I watched a plane, a tiny white light, fly right through it.

There was beauty in the darkness that night. And the darkness is a scary thing around here. There has definitely been a rise in gun violence lately. We’re told that it’s always the case around the holidays. The holidays cause the desperate and the destitute to snap. And it is always in the darkness that these things seem to occur.

And, somehow, our house has been spared from any real drama. Our neighbors all have electric fences and attack dogs. They have infrared sensors and armed security. We have none of that stuff. And yet, we have never been robbed. There has been no home invasion. There has never a violent crime to speak of at the Mission House.

As I noticed my surroundings, I think I began to uncover the reasoning. Our yard is a mess. It is overgrown with weeds and vines and uncut grass. The house is more or less in shambles, with a rusting roof and broken doors. The pool in the back is a foul-smelling, rotting cesspool, a bacterial heaven.

Basically, it is obvious that whoever lives there doesn’t have anything worth stealing. The neighbor’s perfect lawn and house (and the attack dog) implies that there is value inside. And so they are targets. We are not.

We are safe precisely because of the undesirable conditions we live in.

Sometimes we long for the things that we don’t have. We regret things never done. We look back over decisions that seemed to have gone the wrong way. And we lose sight of the fact that everything, at that moment, is in its place. And that some of the greatest blessings may simply be the silent results of things unplanned.

That relationship that never quite worked out like we hoped it would. It led here.

That tragedy that we would have done anything to have avoided. It led here.

That decision that we were so unsure of. It led here.

And here, whether we know it or not, is exactly where we are supposed to be.

28 December 2007

bono and where god exists

As always, turn up your volume and just press play.

hope rises among the towers of the dying

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Welcome to downtown Johannesburg. Most of its 400,000 residents live in deteriorating, squalid, disease-infested, and crime-ridden towers.

Among them stands this image of the crucified Christ.

I have to wonder if they notice Him there.

I have to believe that He is their only hope, our only hope...

Hope amidst the suffering.

**photo by "lanolin" callahan

27 December 2007

christmas day running diary

The following is the running diary of our Christmas in Africa. It is (by far) the longest thing we have ever posted. Generally, the running diary is used to illuminate a common experience with humorous anecdotes and observations. Since you had nothing to do with this event, this may fail entirely. We'll just have to wait and see. Anyway, the day began early for church, after which we accompanied Beauty and her family on their annual Christmas Day Zoo trip. Settle in, get some coffee, and get reading - or just wait for us to post something decidedly shorter. Enjoy.


5:23am The phone begins to buzz and pulse and whirr and chrip. Apparently, I have been snoozing for awhile. I don’t know quite how the snooze works on the phone alarm. Sometimes, the buzzing and chirping returns after only a minute or two, while in other instances it never returns. I’m blaming the phone, the alarm clock. Just like you would.

Oh, the alarm clock. Is there a more maligned device on planet earth? I have never met the person who loves alarm clocks. No one ever calls to tell their friends about their great new alarm clock. Companies aren’t pouring dollars into alarm clock research. And alarm clocks all over the world are being slammed, cursed, and thrown against the wall as we speak.

Pixar (the people behind Finding Nemo and Toy Story) ought to do a movie on the life of an alarm clock. That is the only way people will ever have any sympathy for those hated instruments of vile torment.

All of this reminds me...we saw “Bee Movie” a couple of weeks back. This was the animated movie written by, directed by, and starring Jerry Seinfeld. He was the voice of the loveable honey bee, Barry Bee Benson. And, let me tell you something. I find myself having sympathy for bees. They land on my soda and I declare to the world that “This bee is only trying to make honey!! Honey that you and I selfishly steal and consume!!”

So, ya...

5:48am I realize that I cannot stop thinking about Dwight Schrute and bear attacks. Mainly Dwight Schrute, though...
(Michael Scott: What is the most inspiring thing I ever said to you?
Dwight Schrute: 'Don't be an idiot.' Changed my life. Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, 'would an idiot do that?' And if they would, I do not do that thing.)

6:20am We collect Tiffani and her dad from their hotel and head to church.

6:34am We arrive at church to begin setting up for the Christmas service. I generally set up the sound while Stef and the gang begin to run-through songs. Tiff plays guitar on Christmas songs (don’t know how I got out of that one) so once sound is set up I can relax.

7:47am Thirteen minutes until the start of the service....Did you ever see Grizzly Man? Has there been a more tragic figure than Timothy Treadwell? A more confused individual? I don’t know. What I do know is that if you haven’t seen Grizzly Man...

8:08am While Stef and the group sing O Holy Night, Aria tugs on my finger and gives me the look that every parent knows: Her eyes scream out “Please hold me.” I pick her up and she immediately puts her head onto my shoulder, her body becoming completely limp. She is resting, comfortable in my arms. Stef belts out “...fall on your knees.” Her voice, this child, this day, this place...it is a magical moment.

8:52am My cousin Gregory responds to the altar call. Well, it isn’t the real Gregory, but it is the 2nd guy I have seen in my life that may or may not have been sharing DNA with Greg. The other guy went to UT when I did and was the most impassioned, rabid football fan I ever saw. He was the kind of fan that makes you uncomfortable because he is cheering so hard. He would cause a great deal of introspection actually, as his absurd behavior (“Come on!! Cheer, people!! This is it!! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!) would call into question what any of us are actually doing yelling for oversized men in tight pants as they attempt to advance a ball made from pig flesh into a demarcated area that is painted much like the face of Bizarro-Gregory.

10:19am After waiting for a vehicle to return for us, we begin our trek to the zoo, stopping first for snacks at Woolworths. For the record, we are rolling with Sweet Chili Potato Chips, raspberries, blackberries, litchis, and bottled water. We also bought peanut-butter and jam and a few loaves of bread. Now you know.

10:23am “We” (on our way to the zoo) includes me, Stef, Tiffani, Tiff’s Dad, Mom and Sister, Beauty and her kids, Abey, Fraser, and Aria.

10:45am Just before heading out, it is made clear that Aria needs to use the bathroom. We stop by the Mission House.

10:55am Arrive at zoo!! There aren’t a ton of cars here, causing me to question just how popular of an activity we are about to partake in. Did you know that you are not supposed to end sentences with prepositions? Like, look at my last sentence, ending in “in”. That’s improper.

11:23am We enter the zoo. It looks like an amalgamation of the Kiddie Park and a real zoo, upon first glance. That is only because they decided to put all of the children’s rides directly in front of the entrance gates. You know the old miniature-school-bus-on-the-tracks ride? It’s here, along with the rest of 1962 Americana. Weird.

11:31am First stop in the zoo is with the monkeys. The kids love the monkeys. We see chimps and orangutans first. Clever enough. The way that they use their hands makes me uncomfortable. The way that one adult chimp is clawing at the glass between him and me makes me more uncomfortable. He is pounding at it, obviously trying to reach beyond it. Mercifully, we move on.

11:43am We arrive at the silver-back gorilla enclosure. Beauty informs me that “Coco is lazy”, which immediately lowers any expectations I have for this area.

11:47am We resort to hanging over the wall and looking 20 feet down upon Coco, who is obviously bored out of his mind. He probably doesn’t like being called Coco either, as it is decidedly feminine.

11:49am I begin to feel uncomfortable staring at Coco, as he looks up at us and grunts, before curling up in the fetal position and laying his head onto the concrete floor that is somehow supposed to mimic his natural environment. This gorilla is easily twice the size of me, which gets me thinking that his brain has to be pretty big, too. His hands and feet are not unlike mine. And his actions are exactly what mine would be if I were imprisoned in the way he was. He looks like he’s given up. He should be out cracking heads and eating bananas. Instead...

11:52am I shake off this weird feeling and move on. I love the zoo. There are, however, some animals that I think know that they are trapped. These animals play on my conscience. Where is the snake house? That one always makes me feel better.

12:23pm I pretty much give up on the idea that I will make a children’s book out of the day. I intended to take photos of Aria enjoying the zoo and then turn the whole thing into a children’s book on Shutterfly. She does not want any part of this experiment. Are Soren and Sloane available for the same purpose in March?

12:46pm The turtle enclosure. You would think that nothing interesting can happen at the turtle enclosure. Giant, slow, shelled animals that eat grass... What could possibly draw a crowd to the turtles? I got an idea. What if one turtle decided to mount another turtle and force a “birds and bees” discussion on dozens of unsuspecting parents? Well, it is happening. Oh, is it happening. Slowly, mind you, but there is love in the air at the turtle enclosure.

1:00pm We are still at the zoo. Stef and I give each other the look that we normally give each other when we have had enough. Maybe it was the early wake-up (our third straight) or maybe it is all of the walking in the African summer sun, but we are fading fast. The Johannesburg Zoo is much bigger than the San Antonio Zoo. Much bigger. And it is hilly. And everything is spread out. Apparently, we are making our way to the lions.

1:09pm The giraffes are pretty lame. In the wild, they are majestic creatures foraging gracefully. In the zoo, not so much. Beauty seems to love the Johannesburg giraffes, though, mainly because of their 2-foot long, dangling black tongues. She can’t stop laughing.

1:17pm Passing the zebra enclosure (on the way to the lions, I am assured) a female zebra starts charging at the fence, where zoo visitors are walking. We realize that she is protecting a baby zebra behind her. Naturally, I begin trying to look threatening and she charges harder and harder. Remember, there is only a chain-link fence between us. Am I the same guy who was fighting back tears over Coco? Do zebras have feelings? I don’t know anymore. I am delirious.

(Side note: A tiger escaped at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas and killed one guy before maiming his friends. Now, even if the zebra had escaped, I don’t think a funeral would have been in order, but it does give me a little to think about. Animals revolting...? I am definitely delirious.)

1:40pm Lions. Laying on rocks.

2:07pm We can see a polar bear head. That’s all he’ll show us. Let down. I bet Grizzly Man could goad him out of the hole. Then again, polar bears and African summer probably isn’t what nature intended, so we’re lucky to get his head I guess.

2:14pm Cheetahs!! Cheetahs are my favorite animals. Pretty much always have been. Faster, more precise, and smaller than the other “big cats”, cheetahs are the best. This one is laying in the tall grass. Why do zoos have tall grass? Does that help me see the animal? I watch him laying there for about 10 minutes before I give up an look for a place to refill our water bottle. I am opening the tap to fill the bottle when Stef shouts, “Kyle, he’s moving – he’s walking – hurry, he’s beautiful – hurry – wait – oh, nevermind, he laid back down.”

Yep. Some guys have all the luck.

2:25pm Stef gets licked by a deer.

2:26pm We arrive at the seal enclosure just before feeding time. There has been talk of this all day. Getting over all of my questions about the water that the seals are kept in and the size of their enclosure, I begin preparing for the feeding.

2:30pm The feeding begins. And the seals swim and eat fish. Somehow, I expected more. What? I don’t know. But couldn’t the seals investigate a crime or slide around with people in wetsuits for awhile? IS it too much to ask that all seals perform just like the ones at Sea World? Aria enjoys it anyway.

Sea World is another interesting place, isn’t it? I mean, dolphins are pretty scary creatures. At least at Sea World they let them jump and flip and show off a little bit. It has to fight the boredom better than laying next to the same rope swing every day for 15 years. Who knows how smart dolphins are, anyway? I have to think that they are at least as smart as the smartest monkeys/apes. Who would win in a fight between a gorilla and a dolphin, all things being equal? Tough call.

I am reminded of a memorable episode of The Simpsons where dolphins attacked and took over Springfield. It isn’t that far-fetched people. Let’s move on.

2:51pm After the forgettable seal-feeding, Stef and I head out to the car to make peanut-butter and jam sandwiches for everyone for Christmas lunch. Enjoy your Honeybaked hams, people. We’re having peanut butter.

I once worked at HoneyBaked Ham over Christmas. That was ridiculous. Nothing like using a blowtorch to crystallize some sugar on the outside of a run-of the-mill ham only to charge three times what HEB charges. We all should have been arrested.

3:12pm Just realized that the only bear I saw was the polar bear, and even then I just saw the head. I don’t know how I messed that one up.

3:49pm Everyone finally piles back into the van and we begin the short trip home. We drop off Beauty and the kids and head towards the Mission House.

4:46pm At the Mission House. Stef and I begin to discuss our dinner options, decide to go on a fact-finding mission and return to the Mission House with only one option to place before the group.

5:17pm We arrive at Nando’s for Christmas dinner. Nando’s is like the South African version of El Pollo Loco. It is also the only place that is open. I have a quarter chicken, fries, and a Coke. Stef has the same.

6:08pm Utterly exhausted we drop off the Tyler family at their hotel.

7:17pm We find our way into bed, relaxing, reading, and recounting the day. We saw 1/8th of a bear, some turtle-action, and some great kids have a fantastic day at the zoo. We ate peanut butter and jam and then El Pollo Loco. We enjoyed it more than we’re letting on.

This was definitely not the Christmas from our childhood. And I guess it wasn’t meant to be a storybook Christmas, either. It was, however, a Christmas that we will never (ever) forget.

24 December 2007

video from south africa (proof of our existence)

This is video of the time we spent with the team from Grace Point in November.**

This might just give you a real idea at what life looks like around here. Just press play. It's that easy... (Make sure your volume is up on your computer and feel free to share the video with whomever - email it around the world.)

**video by ryan "lanolin" callahan

have you got a minute? (of christmas, candlelight, and gun blasts)

Have you got a minute?

- Apparently, in South Africa, a “candlelight service” just means “a service with no lights on”. We had a “candlelight service” on the night of the 23rd and there were no candles provided. And no one seemed to expect any. So, I am left to believe that “candlelight” simply means “dark”. Now you know.

- To give you an idea of the way things sometimes go around here, I want to share a story...

A few weeks ago, Pastor Willie got this brainstorm that we should put together a “living manger” where people could have their pictures taken as Mary or Joseph or a sheep (as a family) and leave a donation for the church in the meantime. So, I got to work on a flyer to promote the event. Stef helped to organize all of the costumes. And then together we managed to hang a 40 x 30 drop-cloth depicting a cartoonish manger scene as the backdrop.

We send the flyers out to be printed (for free – Willie’s connection) and they come back badly misprinted; all 1000 of them. Apparently, we are going to be doing a “LIVING MANAGER SCENE” which sounds like the title of a Patrick Lencioni work. We also noticed that the church address was entirely incorrect. What can you do? Welcome to Africa. We handed out all of them anyway. (I half expected a swath of young professionals to arrive for a managerial seminar.)

The day rolls around when we are going to be doing this living manger scene and, strangely, Willie fails to mention it in his morning announcements to the congregation. Then, he again neglects the announcement in the evening service.

Then, as people are leaving after the evening service, Stef tells me, “Willie said we’re not going to do the living manger thing.”

Simple as that.


- I am writing this on Christmas Eve. It is 8am. A gunshot just rang out pretty close to the Mission House, maybe 5 or 6 houses down. I wish it startled me. But after the experience we had a couple of nights ago, I am not so easily spooked.

Two nights ago, we were drifting off to sleep around 11pm when two gun blasts shook the house. I mean, we hear gun shots, but none ever as close as these. If someone wasn’t in our yard, it certainly sounded like they were climbing the fence. (We later found out that the shots came from the alley directly behind the house - and there was a noisy mugging in the same alley two nights later which woke up a significant portion of the house.)

I grasped for Stef, who was pretty much in “quiet shock” mode. We listened intently and heard nothing more. No screams. No rustling. Nothing. Then, thirty seconds later, another shot a little further away (about like the one we heard this morning). Then, another fifteen seconds and a last, more distant blast rang out. Quiet returned. Slowly, we drifted off to sleep, much closer together than we usually lie.

We probably hadn’t heard a gunshot in a couple of weeks before this last spate of ammunitive exploits.

All we can do is laugh. I imagine the Charlie Brown Christmas music playing in the background as these gun battles rage in the streets. Ah, Christmas time in Joburg...

- I made up the word “ammunitive.”

- Would you believe that Feliz Navidad is a beloved Christmas song here? Well, ya, it is. Willie even forced us to sing it at the end of our Christmas Carol (by candlelight) service. Weird.

That’s all for now...Merry Christmas. Happy Festivus. Enjoy your holidays.

23 December 2007

the nativity

simpsons nativity

hello kitty nativity

rubber ducks nativity

charlie brown nativity

17th century french nativity

hollywood's nativity

No matter what your idea of the nativity is, remember that when baby Yeshua was laid in a feeding trough in a stinking cave in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem, literally "House of Bread"), the LORD was foreshadowing that his son would truly be the "Bread of Life" for us.

(love you brother)

21 December 2007

"merry christmas" or "home affairs redeems itself" or "we can now return to our regularly scheduled blog posts about boring books and hungry kids"

The conversation went something like this:

Home Affairs Home Office Representative: Good day, Home Affairs.
Kyle: Um, I am an American citizen I have a situation that I need some clarity on.
K: I am facing a situation where I am going to be in South Africa illegally – that is, my visa extension is only good through February and I don’t fly out until March 6th.
HAHOR: Hmm, that’s really no problem.
K: Really?
HAHOR: Really. You’ll just be assessed a fine of R1500 as you leave the country in March. When you pay that fine, you will be welcome to return to South Africa any time you like and you will not have any problems leaving the country. If you choose not to pay, you will simply not be allowed back into the country until that fine is paid. No big deal, though.
K: So that’s it? Being illegal doesn’t mean I will be in jail or kept from leaving in March?
HAHOR: Nope. Just a simple fine.
K: Great.
HAHOR: You have nothing to worry about. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.
K: Thanks.
HAHOR: I’ll even pay the fine for you!! Have a nice day.

Ok, the last line was made up. But otherwise, that is how the debate over whether we would stay or go became decided.

And this is the poetry that moved my heart: “Nothing to worry about. Enjoy the rest of your holiday.”

Uh, ya. We pay $220 each to leave and we are respected US citizens welcome back to South Africa anytime (is someone - anyone - offering to pay to bring me to the World Cup here in 2010?).

So, thank you for your interest in that saga. We can all sleep easy now. See you in March.

We just like these photos...They don't have anything to do with this post.

*I thought using HAHOR as an abbreviation was funny. If you thought so too, we should have coffee sometime.**
**Or maybe we should just go grab some caramels. When you think about it, it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.

really resisting recommened reading only to regret the resistance and recommend it yourself

Has anyone ever recommended a book to you that you weren’t completely certain you wanted to read? Actually, you were completely certain that you weren’t all that interested.

And have you ever read that book, only to be surprised and inspired?

I am finishing Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels, which is the next book prescribed for the Leadership Class I am leading. Hybels seems like a nice enough guy. Pretty good speaker, interesting enough I suppose. But he isn’t a sexy choice. He doesn’t have anecdotal brilliance. He doesn’t have many gimmicks or hooks. As it turns out, he just has solid, thoughtful things to share – page after page.

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19 December 2007

sorting some things out

Stef and I went into the bathroom together tonight to brush our teeth before bed. We turned on the light to find enough roaches to start our own traveling circus.

And I began laughing.

First, I laughed because anytime I see a roach I silently thank God that it’s not a rat, which is entirely creepier.

Secondly, I laughed because we have heard some rumblings that people back home think we are silly or stupid or altogether selfish for staying here through March when our visas expire in February.

We have heard that we lack common sense, that we are sinful in staying past our welcome, and that we are shortsighted for not considering the future implications.

We have 88 sq ft of personal space.
We live with 10 other people (some of whom are not long out of prison) in a house infested with all kinds of crawling things.
We sit through frequent power outages.
We often take cold showers.
We have ZERO quiet intimacy.
We are unemployed, yet are still paying off our student loans – i.e. we are losing money by being here.
We miss our friends, family, and church – not to mention every amenity that America possesses which is lacking in the third world.

And yet, we hear little bits of sniping and criticism from home.

Trust me, nothing sounds better than sleeping in a warm bed, with no bugs, and waking to a breakfast taco and an environment free of gunshots. Nothing sounds better than the US.

And I started to get all self-righteous and quote Scripture and really put all of the quiet critics in their places. I was comparing us to the Apostle Paul and asking nasty rhetorical questions, and generally being sarcastic and ugly. Well, I deleted that part of the rant. And I need forgiveness for it. It was self-righteousness that bothered me and I was about to resort to it myself. I'm sorry.

Now, some people have been upfront and emailed us and those emails we are grateful for. People have offered possible solutions and ideas and other things that have given us food for thought and prompted us to continue to seek a resolution to the issues we face. To them, we say thank you.

To everyone else: If you have an opinion you would like to share, we are open to it. If you happen to overhear someone with an opinion, encourage them to share it with us, too. We are hopeful that everything will work it for the purpose God intended. And we are confident that we have yet to make a decision without loads of prayer and peace.

So, please email us personally (theburkholders@gmail.com).

And know this much: The entire situation is more complicated than you know. We are the ones on the ground here, which gives us a unique perspective as to how to resolve it. And our lives are the ones impacted by it all anyway.

We shared our story because we have shared everything so far. We hoped for a little sympathy, a lot of prayers, and an encouraging word or two. We got word from home that everybody either has a solution or a snide remark. That is not encouraging. It really just makes us sad. Please know that we are trying – with best intentions. If you want to add something to our efforts...just email us.

missing memorable days and donuts

One of the things that I remember most about my job at Firstmark Credit Union was the day that my boss got really excited about Krispy Kreme’s Whole Wheat Donuts.

He actually went to Krispy Kreme and bought a bunch so the staff could try them. I thought they tasted a little like maple syrup (not a bad thing) and then spent the rest of my day reading the company history on the Wikipedia and Googling news articles about the company’s fall from grace and subsequent stock crisis.

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I remember one day in my childhood, maybe in the winter of 1990. My brother took me to Dunkin Donuts at the corner of West Avenue and Jackson-Keller. It was cold. I think it was a Saturday morning. And some crusty, old guy walked into Dunkin Donuts, sat at the bar (isn’t that great – a bar at a donut shop) and told the woman behind the counter to get him “his usual”.

We laughed about that guy for awhile and then we talked about sports and ate donuts and drank chocolate milk together.

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I spent 18 months working at Starbucks. I cleaned toilets and catered to finicky suburbanites and their caffeine addictions. Everything that would make a person hate a company existed. I even snubbed the CEO when he visited our store.

Yet, one Sunday morning, Stef and I were returning home from a trip to Dallas and we stopped in Temple for a refueling. The car had plenty of gas. I needed something to prop open my eyelids. We stopped at Starbucks. I got a banana nut muffin and a way-too-complicated espresso drink. They were perfect. They staff was friendly. The bathroom was clean. And I felt somehow better as we drove away.

Gained a new appreciation for Starbucks and Stef. Haven’t had a muffin like that since.
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There are days that burn themselves into our memories for some reason or another. They are amalgamations of people and products and just times when everything seemed okay.

I have found myself thinking about donuts and espresso a lot recently.

I have decided that maybe I’m not craving donuts or coffee at all. Maybe I am just craving one of those days when everything (and everybody) seems to be okay.

17 December 2007


This is a short video set to a prayer (song) by U2. May it provoke thought or prayer or grief or joy...

And the actual live performance...

infestation and kyle, the human pesticide

We live in a big city – a city with 10 million humans bustling about. Ya, it’s Africa, but it is still the city. So, you wouldn’t expect a lot of crazy wildlife experiences with us.

Well, you’d be way off. With the arrival of summer (and the rainy season) we have had our share of run-ins with local, urban wildlife. No lions or rhinos, but we’ve come pretty close.

First off, there has been a biblical infusion of mosquitos into our area – and our room. These aren’t your typical mosquitos either. These are blood-sucking helicopters. Seriously.

Then, you have another variation of the flying pest, complete with stingers and creepy antennae.

And, who could leave out the mother of all household pests – the scorpion. Nothing like finding one of those in your shoe...

Luckily, I am pretty much the world’s toughest guy (insert polite laughter here). And, luckily, Stef has been armed with the camera to capture the recent action. With tongue firmly planted in the cheek, we hope you enjoy.

no fear in those eyes...just "tcb" - takin' care of business.
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the scorpion that i killed with my bare hands (and a pink tissue)...
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who is buzzing in whose ear now? huh?
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the flying predator that i killed with my bare hands...
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why am i putting the pest onto duct tape, you ask...
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obviously, the duct tape acts as a sort of pest-tomb on the wall...and why would i tape the pests to the wall, you ask...
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so that, along with my personal ferocity (see face), the other pests will know what happens when you mess with delirious american missionaries. (just a note: ignore the slightly less-fierce gwen stefani poster - my sister made that for a class at UT and we hung it because we like my sister and the poster is pretty impressive.)
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another world is possible: wall street jubilee money drop

Today is a public holiday in South Africa. So, we left a video for the substitute teacher to show you. A few crazy people, Acts 4, and a lot of love...

15 December 2007

be my guest

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"If you are 100% occupied, you are not charging enough rent."

Friday morning in the office, I came across an ancient paperback that looked like it might just be interesting. Saturday morning, I turned page 288 and realized that the book was finished.

“Be My Guest” by Conrad Hilton mesmerized me. It is the story of how a man from late 19th-century, rural New Mexico fought through the Great Depression to build one of the greatest hotel chains in the world.

Published in 1957, this charming little book is a simple chronicle of Hilton’s life. Apparently, there is still a copy of it in every Hilton Hotel room in the world, along with the Gideon Bible.

Now you know.

14 December 2007

a memorable first: "sheba!!"

Leaving behind all of our drama for a minute (scroll down to the next two posts to catch up), we wanted to give you a little window into one of the unforgettable moments from our time here.

A few weeks ago, when the Grace Point team was arriving, we decided to take our little Aria with us to the airport. Meet Aria

Remember that Aria had spent her whole life in the squatter camp up until about a month ago. Through an angel, she and her family moved into a little apartment not too long ago.

We thought it was time for another big step for Aria, this time in a trip to the airport. The Joburg airport has a pretty decent "Observation Deck" that overlooks the takeoffs and landings. So, we packed her in and found our way there and it was one of those things we will never forget.

Her eyes were enormous. She was mesmerized...for about 20 minutes. :) Then, she became a kid in a giant, new playroom. She started doing cartwheels and dancing and generally being the happiest child on the planet.

We captured some of it. And we only need to look at these to remind ourselves why we are here and why no amount of adversity will take us before it is time to go.


two ice creams? you know it!! we're at the airport!!
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looking serious...seriously model-riffic...
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smiling in front of some statues of some bronze dudes...
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"sheba" means "look"...
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13 December 2007

no matter the cost

Yesterday we told you how we are going to be illegal aliens by the time we leave this country.

And the difficulty for us is that the possibility of being banned from this country, this place we love full of these people who are so much a part of our being, is very real. We haven't found definitive answers to our questions yet and we still have some more rocks to look under as we search for a solution to this problem. Yet, somehow, it is going to be OK...

I have been seeking leadership teaching from a mentor and the one thing that he has mentioned over and over again is to prepare for the costs of leading. He reminds me to be ready to face the reisitance that will come with digging in and fighting on the side of Truth.

Well, I cannot help but wonder if a cost of our time here may be that we aren't ever allowed back. And I can't help but become defiant in the face of that. The fact that we were able to come at all is in itself remarkable. And the difference that we hope to leave behind will be tangible. So, if the result is I can never return...then we will press on strongly, looking for the next dark place that needs light.

We will be here until March 6th, legally or illegally. And we will continue to invest in the people, grow with the community, and do everything we know to do to continue turning darkness into light...

...no matter the cost.

12 December 2007

a very bad day at the home affairs department

I waited in line another day at the South African Department of Home Affairs. Luckily, Stef was with me and the three hour march of pain went a little faster Tuesday than it did on Monday.

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The good news pretty much ended there. Once we were in front of the officers designated to rule on our visa extension applications, things went rapidly downhill.

They approved us through February 3rd, after which time we will be illegally in the country and, technically, illegal aliens.

They said that we cannot technically be on holiday here for more than 6 consecutive months. We would have to return to our country of origin (USA) and then reapply for an extension, which they may or may not grant.

We asked what would happen if we attempted to leave (flee) the country in March (as planned) if we were illegal. They let us know that we would be stopped at the immigration office and forced to pay a hefty fine. Otherwise, our 5 weeks of illegality would be largely nominal, largely inconsequential.

There was also a slim possibility that we could apply for another type of visa, which would cost us an enormous amount of money (more than a hefty fine) and an enormous amount of time. This option looks highly unlikely.

What hangs over all of this is the rumor that scofflaws (like us) who leave the country while illegal in status will be forever banned from re-entering the country.

We don’t really know what to think. We do know that God has a plan and a purpose and somehow everything will be worked out. In the mean time, we are looking into every solution possible and preparing our hearts for the idea that the costs of this trip (financial and otherwise) may get even greater.

Sigh. Pray and trust with us.

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11 December 2007

i was thinking today...

I was thinking today...

Christmas time is near, isn't it?

Charlie Brown is again dragging that pitiful tree into the picture.

Malls are again teeming with people looking to impress their loved ones, to communicate love through shiny wrapping and thoughtful gifts.

Families will drink hot chocolate together, open presents together, and worship together at candlelight services that honor the birth of their King.

We are thinking of all of that a little more often as Christmas draws closer. We are also thinking of the family of the infant that we buried on Monday. Christmas may not be so joyful for them. We are thinking of the dirty little squatter children, wondering what exactly Christmas looks like for them. We are thinking of the family and friends we love back home.

Stefani surely thinks of her sisters and wonders what December 25th without them will be like. I long to see the faces of my parents as their children and grandchildren open the gifts that they hope will bring joy and laughter. Stef longs for the comfort found in a parent. I long to wrestle with my only nephew. We think and wonder what it will all be like here without you.

We will likely spend the day quietly, just the two of us. We will pray for all of you before you wake up to see what has been left under the tree. We will pray for silly things, like cold weather, good food, and good company. We will pray for heavy things as well, health for those we know to be ailing and fullness for those we know to remain broken and empty. Then, selfishly, we will pray that you remember us on your day. We will pray that you might remember some of the stories we have passed on and that you might, in the midst of all of the excitement, utter a prayer for the people here who are so desperate for something better.

I was thinking today...

10 December 2007

of heavy hearts and index cards

We've had a pretty heavy day.

First, I spent three hours at the Home Affairs Department trying to get our visas renewed, only to be told that there may be a problem extending past February and that I would have to come back with Stefani anyway, as they wouldn't accept her extension form without her present.

Then, Stef played and sang for (and I managed sound for) the funeral of a stillborn infant.

We definitely hold quieted hearts today.

Still, "life can't be all heart attacks and brain surgery".

So, a little lighter fare today...

Check out this blog called "Indexed". It is simple. A graph on an index card makes a witty, occasionally inappropriate comment on the world at large.

It is worth 30 seconds of your time to take a peek. (Link below.)


07 December 2007

have you got a minute? (of thunderstorms, kindles, and ingesting lion king characters)

Have you got a minute?

Without a definitive subject to write about today, I thought I would just throw some random stuff at you to see what sticks.

- Thunderstorms here are ferocious. I mean, I thought a big Texas thunderstorm was as nasty as it could get. I was wrong.

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It has stormed frequently recently and with these storms has often come hail. Apparently, this is quite common. I wondered if it was due to the altitude here (almost 6000 ft above sea level) so I checked the Wikipedia.

From the Wikipedia:
"Hail is also much more common along mountain ranges because mountains force horizontal winds upwards (known as orographic lifting), thereby intensifying the updrafts within thunderstorms and making hail more likely."

While not exactly a mountain range, Joburg is located near a large escarpment, so maybe that has something to do with it all.

Did you learn something? Did you look up “orographic lift”? You should.

(I had to take a geography class that dealt with meteorology and such things in order to graduate from UT…thought I’d share the boredom with you.)

- Christmas here is bizarre. People flock to the beaches, the cities empty as Africans return to “homelands” and the whole idea of decorating for Christmas in the summer is just strange.

You “northies” (remember, that’s my derogatory term for people from the Northern Hemisphere?) have it easy. You invented the commercial Christmas culture so it makes sense there. But alpine trees and garland and mistletoe doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the African summer.

No matter. People go just as nuts shopping here as they do there.

Try to keep the other half of the world in mind next time you commercialize a holiday, OK?

- Can I just say that the Kindle (oh, the Kindle) is the most intriguing product I have ever come across…

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I mean, this is the first time in history that I feel like a product was created for me. Seriously, I am the target audience. I am the early-adopter.

I am young and unafraid of technological things (except for robots like that maid from the Jetsons).

I am a huge reader. I probably read 20 books a year.

I often read many books simultaneously, which means that I either have to become Nostradamus for the day or I have to lug around 4 heavy books in case I should decide to read a different one.

I already buy all of my books on Amazon, so the Kindle offering them to me wirelessly (and cheaper) is a free bonus.

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What else can I say?

I will say this. Several people have joked about buying a Kindle for me. I laughed with them and dreamed of the day that such a thing might be possible for me. Well, one couple (I love you) wasn’t joking and actually bought it for me. So, now I just have to fill the thing up with books…although I don’t actually know when I will possess it – the Kindle sold out in 5 hours and they don’t even have an estimate on delivery of recently ordered units.

No problem. I will wait patiently.

- Did I mention that we watch Survivor here? Well, we do. Or should I say we did. Well, we caught almost every episode from Survivor: Cook Islands and we got all gussied up for the season finale a couple of weeks ago.

Well, that bombed royally.

The geniuses at SABC decided that I didn’t really need to know who won the show and they decided to air the jolly season premiere of “The Magic Cape Race” (a crummy local reality show) in its place.

So, we had to look up the winner on the internet, which was admittedly less thrilling than watching the ending play out in properly produced form.

- The Kaizer Chiefs won the Telkom Knockout, the richest soccer tournament in Africa. Now you know.

- World AIDS Day came and went and we heard next to nothing about it. That is probably not a good thing, being that we live in the capital of the pandemic.

There was a big concert here, with international artists and local talent attracting 45,000 people to Ellis Park for a day-long awareness-raising explosion of music. Of course, the impact that something like that will have on the long-term status of the disease in negligible.


- We are going to a place called Carnivore for lunch next Wednesday. Willie is taking the staff out for lunch for Christmas and we selected this crazy place. They have every exotic meat from Africa on Kenyan tribal spears and they come to your table and slice off chunks in a most delectable manner. Everything there tastes amazing and it is a truly unique African experience. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I’ve been a couple of times before and I must say that the chance to go back is always welcome. My personal favorite meats are the Warthog (Pumba!!!) and Zebra (tastes like thoroughbred)….least favorites are the Wildebeest (really tough beef) and Kudu sausage (ask Daniel Duce…sauseeeege).

That’s all for now.

Don’t you go changing.

06 December 2007

a true south african (from stef)

Hello…it’s Stef.

I wanted to share with you guys my fun hair experience!! (although it caused slight damage…oh well, it’s just hair!) So, I decided to get some corn-rows so I could become a true South African. My friend Jennelein did them and it took about 3 ½ hours. yikes, it seemed like forever! She is so sweet and patient! Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It was so funny seeing everyone’s reaction to it! I just thought that people looked at me funny when I was driving this huge van… (remember, only black men drive these vans and here I am a female and a while female at that!)…but man did they look at me funny when they saw me driving with corn-rows too!! hahaha Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I only left it in for about 5 days. (man, it itched!) Kyle and I had quite an interesting time trying to get them out, but this is what it left me looking like! I had never experienced such curly hair in my life! (I told Tiff I felt like her for a day!) It was fun.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Anywho, just thought I would share my experience and some photos with you!! Have a good laugh! Love you guys.

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