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Our First Day in South Africa… not at all what I expected!

Our First Day in South Africa... Not What I Expected!

Someone snapped this photo on the first day of our trip to South Africa and it aptly depicts how I was feeling when I got up.

It had been a hard morning…

  • I lost my really important bag with my medicine, supplements, glasses, and contacts at the airport. (They never found it and we can’t figure how or where it disappeared.)
  • I had been up for a few hours in the middle of the night with very cranky, jet-lagged kids.
  • I had tried to blow dry my hair and burned up the motor my blow dryer + flipped the breaker to a bunch of outlets.
  • I was tired, couldn’t see (because of not having contacts), and my head was throbbing because I didn’t have my allergy meds.

We finally all got out the door to our first destination and then Silas threw up.

Honestly, I was trying so hard to choose joy, but wondering if maybe we’d made a big mistake in coming to South Africa. I was so excited to be here, but it felt like everything was falling apart at the seams.

I decided that instead of being frustrated over things I couldn’t change or fix, I instead was just going to trust God and rest that He was going before me in this. And it was beautiful to see how the day ended up being so much better than I could have ever imagined!

Our First Day in South Africa

This was our first stop of the day. This picture might not look like much to you, but I could barely hold back tears when I walked into this workshop.

You see, when I was in South Africa in January, we had many discussions about the possibilities of helping the locals learn more marketable skills (most can’t think of jobs outside of being domestic workers or security guards or gardeners).

It was just a dream in January, now they have a real live work-working workshop, suppliers, trainees, and customers!!

And they have big, big visions of how this small operation might someday be a big scale operation making a huge difference in the lives of this very needy community!!

(This photo was taken just moments after Silas threw up all over the floor of this new workshop. Poor little guy!! Gratefully, we had plenty of wipes on hand + the South African equivalent of Gatorade and it wasn’t long before he was feeling as good as new! We think the time change and new foods just made his stomach out of sorts.)

Our First Day in South Africa

This is Peet. He is spear-heading the new wood-working shop. I wanted to stay and talk to him all day long!

I was so inspired and challenged by his passion, compassion, and vision. This wood-working shop is located in a very poor area of South Africa (Hammanskraal) and the long-term goal is to train and equip young entrepreneurs and provide a desperately-needed source of income for this community.

I wish you could have met Pete! He not only wants to teach South Africans craftsmanship, but he wants to help them develop a strong work ethic, a commitment to excellence, and an entrepreneurial spirit — three things that are not commonly taught or exemplified to the young people in this area.

As we left the shop, Pete handed me this beautiful tray that he had made especially for me. I was touched beyond words and cannot wait to display this new piece of South Africa in our home. It will serve as a constant reminder to me to pray for Pete and his family for God to richly bless their self-sacrificial efforts to make an impact in this community.

Next we went to Reagoboka. I’ll write a separate post about this whole experience after I get home because I don’t have enough wi-fi or time here to upload all the photos and write everything out right now, but suffice it to say, it was an absolutely incredible experience.

Our First Day in South Africa

There are no words to adequately describe the emotion that this picture and standing here invokes.

In January, we visited this center and I saw how all of these children were being taught out of a tiny little classroom. (They would rotate classes — one class at a time — in order to accommodate all of the children with the little space they had.)

The local chief had given them land for a new building and they had building plans, but there was no money, since every penny (rand) that this center receives from government grants goes to provide food and basic necessities for these children and the running of the center.

Each of you who bought a copy of Make Over Your Mornings the day it launched helped pay for the bricks and the concrete and the local labor and the classroom supplies to build this brand-new two-room classroom!!! And we got to unveil it to the teachers and children this week.

It. Was. Amazing!!! To think that all of us together are having a little part in making a BIG difference in this community of very vulnerable children — it’s surreal, humbling, and goose-bump-inducing.

THANK YOU for partnering with me to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this project!!! I wish you could have been there to share in the excitement and see and hear the gratitude they expressed to us.

Also, y’all: I’m just so madly in love with this country that my heart just might burst. The needs are so great, but there is so much hope and so many amazing opportunities for us to make a difference!

Our First Day in South Africa

This photo was my favorite from the first day.

My boy, Silas, was very nervous about this trip. He doesn’t do new or change or different very well. He’s shy. He introverted. And he would usually prefer to be right next to his mama when we’re in unfamiliar situations.

So when I looked over and saw this, my mama heart just about broke in two. These boys put their arms around Silas, held hands with him, and embraced him — like they knew he was awkward and shy and they wanted to make sure he felt welcome and one of them. It was beyond beautiful.

By the way, Lisa-Jo’s parents, whom we were staying with that night, were so, so amazing to not only help me track down contacts from an eye doctor here, but also the meds I needed (that was an interesting experience — Googling, talking to the pharmacist at the drug store, and having our pharmacist and doctor friends here help us figure out what would be comparable to what). I am so grateful — and it was so amazing to see the different ways that God provided so that I could get what I needed so I could function well on this trip!

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  • Tamara says:

    Beautiful building. Beautiful children. Beautiful possibilities. Amazing God.

  • Victoria says:

    Awesome pictures and stories. I am looking forward to your return and hearing more.

  • Jenni says:

    That must have been so so hard. I lost my one pair of contacts in New York once (I didn’t put them in the storage try at night but instead accidentally on the nightstand and one dried out) and had to spend the last day of my trip visionless, and it was sooooo frustrating! When I first went overseas to live for a year, they lost one of my two suitcases permanently too, and while it had a lot of my stuff, thankfully it didn’t have things like my contacts!

    I love that picture of Silas! This will be such a great memory for your entire family, and how exciting it is to see the schoolroom too!

  • Leah says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share. What a wonderful experience to be able to share with your children. It motivates me to one day do the same (we often tell our 1-year-old how one day we will do a safari in Africa, not that he has any clue what that means!). And I love the idea of having it be a mission trip. You are truly making a difference in the lives of these children. I hope we can one day do the same!

  • Sheris says:

    Thank you for sharing! I will offer up to our Lord my annoyances today in union with yours for the work being done in South Africa!

  • Megan says:

    What a roller coaster of a first day! The shop sounds like an interesting venture. When I read your comment that most people in the area “can’t think of jobs outside of being domestic workers or security guards or gardeners” I thought of how this represents yet another aspect of the terrible legacy of colonialism and then apartheid in South Africa. When Europeans arrived on the scene they began forcing black Africans from their agricultural roots and ultimately restricted them to very few forms of work (primarily the service positions you describe). That young people in the area have a work ethic that looks different from ours and that they do not seem to have a strong sense of entrepreneurialism is likely connected to this legacy of economic exclusion. Well done to Pete and his team for working to welcome this community into broader economic participation!

    • Katie says:

      Thank you; I was coming on here to say the same thing! The brutal legacy of colonialism and apartheid has eliminated economic possibilities for generations of black South Africans. They don’t have a different work ethic than we do; they have suffered unimaginable brutality, oppression, and dehumanization, and are still working to overcome hardships most of us can’t even begin to imagine.

      • YES! This is so true and so sad! And I’m so, so thrilled with the creative ways Take Action Ministry is seeking to help the young people overcome these hardships so that they can be empowered and inspired to live up to their amazing potential!

    • Antonella says:

      Well said Megan!
      Kudos to Pete and Crystal for nourishing an entrepreneurial spirit so needed in Africa: changing the world for the better!

  • Denise says:

    So glad Lisa Jo’s parents could help you get what you needed! Love the pics! Can we maybe get a guest post from Jesse? I’d love to hear his perspective!

  • Charlena says:

    What a heartwarming post! This brought tears to my eyes! By choosing joy, joy came to you. What a wonderful reminder!

  • Asheritah says:

    What a beautiful ending to the day. So glad you were able to get contacts and meds. Can’t wait to hear more!

  • motherlovin3 says:

    What an amazing journey! You and South Africa have a special connection. Maybe it’s home for you or it was home in another life. It called you and you answered. That is beautiful! I hope we all find our home.

  • Kat says:

    This is WHY you are the ONLY online blog I read! Your servant heart and your family are just lovely. Profits of ANY company, in my opinion, should benefit the workers of the firm AND the most vulnerable of society, and I am so happy to be a tiny part of it. You have demand in me, create the supply in the future!

  • Sarah C says:

    What a special picture of Silas–definitely an unforgettable moment for your family.

    Boy i would be so terrified if I lost my glasses. I’m very close to blind without mine so I would have been freaking out. Glad you were able to find a solution!

  • Pat says:

    You have made me feel like I’m taking the trip with you and your family. Glad to hear your day turned out great despite a crappy start. Beautiful pictures.

  • Rachel says:

    Thank you for the updates, Crystal! I am so sorry to hear about the rough start to your first day in South Africa! But how exciting how your day turned around. Thank you for sharing about the opportunities that God is opening up through your family’s vision and investment. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip and what else God has in store! The faces of all those precious children in front of the school house . . . absolutely beautiful.

  • Gwen says:

    Wow this is so amazing. I will make sure to add you to our missionary prayer list. God bless you on the rest of your travels.

  • Such a touching experience. Thanks for sharing. You are always an encouragement to me.

  • This is so awesome! I’m so glad you got to do this project. 🙂 I know it had to be hard for you to take your family, but I’m o glad you did.

  • Good luck on your trip – glad to see you’re taking the challenges in the right spirit and hopefully, the rest of your trip will go smoothly.

    Really glad to hear you got your contacts and meds.

  • Kristen Golson says:

    Glad you are enjoying SA! When you have a chance, please find out if the school you mentioned above is familiar with E-pap. It is a porridge that has vitamins and minerals that makes a huge difference in the lives of the kids. It’s a thriving program here where I live, and my friend runs it locally. +/-$200 feeds a child for a year.

  • Jennifer says:

    Yay. That’s so awesome. I’m a tax practitioner. If you need me for SARS (South African Revenue Service) shout! God knows what he’s doing.

  • Kerry Hunt says:

    Wonderful, amazing story! I am choked up. I love this!

  • Kariane says:

    Wonderful! And I love that you took your kids. What a fantastic way to teach them about the planet on which we live. World Schooling is Fantastic!!

  • sandra says:

    Helping mankind is always a good thing but for me personally i think anyone able to put effort in to helping should do it in the U.S. We unfortunately have great needs here since our politicians waste so much of our money. Children, elderly and veterans have great needs. This is just my opinion. Love the website.

  • Amy F;) says:

    🙂 Lotsa prayers today:) Thank-you for sharing!

  • Rebecca says:

    Our prayers and thoughts are with you on this trip as your family impacts the lives of those in South Africa. Thank you for letting us see a tiny glimmer of what your family is experiencing. Praise God for your servant heart.

  • Tamboliya says:

    I am so sorry about all that happened to you. 🙁 I can relate in my own way: Many years ago my only pair of eyeglasses broke once at the beginning of a Girl Scout campout and so I was blind the entire time! I went on a hike but had to rely on some very compassionate girls to guide me as to where to go since everything was all blurry and I could not see where in the heck I was going! LOL It’s a good thing they helped me; otherwise, I might STILL be lost out there in the forest today!

    What’s even funnier is: that weekend I met all these really nice girls but had no idea what they looked like (since it was so blurry!) & so I didn’t find out what they looked like until they sent me pictures much later in their pen pal letters to keep in touch! LOL 😉 [Life turns out crazy sometimes, doesn’t it? LOL] 🙂

  • Tamboliya says:

    That photo of your son and the African boy putting his arm around him to welcome him and comfort him is SOOO sweet and endearing. How precious! I love the joyful smile on your son’s face. It is a great picture of Jesus’ love and of how His love knows no bounds/no boundaries. Thanks for sharing this; it was encouraging. 🙂

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