Top 10 from the weekend

I noticed my post have become long – and since the next one or two may be long as well (I have them rumbling in my mind), here’s a shorter, ten point one for your to breeze through.

Since last Thursday, here are the top 10 things that have happened:

10.  I’ve eaten Bunny Chow twice.  Check out this post in case you didn’t catch what it is.

9.  I wrote notes on the eggs in our fridge for Katie.  You know, things like “Brrr, it’s cold in the fridge” and whatnot.

8.  We went to a market and saw twenty peacocks!  We also bought five books…

7.  We bought some ChocoRockerz cereal – basically CocoRoos.

6.  I finished reading the Divergent series!

5.  Listened to Michael Cassidy (a personal friend of Billy Graham and evangelist in South Africa) speak at RedPoint – twice.

4. Started one of the hardest puzzles I’ve ever done.  Katie’s working on the yellow birds.  I’m working on these pink/purple/white flowers that it are nearly impossible to fit together based on the image (because all the pieces have all those colors).  So, I have to resort to the shapes of the pieces.  I think I’ve put 20 or so pieces together in two hours or more of working – and it’s driving me a bit insane.

3.  We went to the African Art Center in Durban and learned about how this organization is helping artists make a living in KZN.

2.  I met more dopplegangers – this time Chelsea Falk and Professor David Fredrickson from Luther Seminary.

1. Visited Indawo yeThemba, a cluster-foster type organization in Ashburton, KZN.  I’ll post more on this place this week – I was very impressed by it.


PS – This photo was taken without any zoom…the peacock wandered less than three feet from me!



Seven Observations: Equip 2014

Last week we spent the latter half of the week at a conference called “Equip”, put on by NCMI.  These conferences have taken place in many countries around the globe over the past few decades, and there is a yearly one in South Africa.  This Equip was held in Hillcrest, about 10 minutes from our house without traffic and construction (note: there never was a time without traffic and construction).

About 1000 pastors, lay leaders, and lay people gathered for worship and to listen to speakers.  Here are my top seven observations from the conference:

1) Tim Hughes.

I now know who he is.  I’ve seen his name in songbooks and heard people talking about him – now I’ve seen and heard him live.  He wrote “Here I Am to Worship”, along with other songs.  He leads a worship band at Holy Trinity Brompton, UK – which is where the Alpha course comes from.

At one point he encouraged everyone to sing a new song to God – many in the gathering started singing the song he and the band just sang.  So he came to the mic again, and said to sing a new song, your own song.  There was mumbling and random singing for a few minutes – it was a very eerie sound to hear 1000+ people singing their own song.  Then he came back to the microphone and sang what I can only guess is a song he wrote on the spot.  It’s four lines long, and the rest of the band seemed to have no idea what was going on.  Even though I wrote all the words to the song down, I can’t find it anywhere online.  Either Google is broken, or it was a new song.  Here it is below:

“Lead us up the mountain,

Lead us up the mountain,

High into your presence,

Where your glory shines.”

2)  Volume is important to me.  

For me, higher volume does not encourage me to worship.  In fact, if music or speaking is too loud I can’t worship and can’t think.  I’ve talked with some people after the conference, and some have said that too loud isn’t good, and others have said that they like it because then people can’t hear them sing.  I put earplugs in, and could still hear everything the bands played.  I definitely think there is a “too loud” – and I don’t mind at all when my neighbor sings off-key (it may be because I probably am, too).  (Note: Tim Hughes & Co had their sound dialed in perfectly.)

3) White males.

The majority of speakers at the conference were white males, most of whom were over 40.  Of the seventeen speakers I counted (including panelists) four were women (three white, one black).  Of the thirteen male speakers, eleven were white.  In a country where 90% of the population is black, I expected and wanted to hear from more black pastors/speakers.  I also expected and wanted to hear from more women and their efforts in ministry (of the four female speakers, three were on the same panel, talking about what it is like to be pastor’s wives, not about ministry).  All of the “hosts” – those introducing speakers – were white males as well.

4) Singular verses.

One thing I noticed at the conference is that many speakers would pull out single verses to support their point.  Here’s an example: One speaker talked about increasing faith by referencing Mark 10:46, Hebrews 11:6, Mark 11:24, and Matthew 21:43 (the verses are below, in order):

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.”

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

This produces an instant cringe-factor for me – using singular verses means they are taken out of their context, and have a greater chance of being used to mean whatever the speaker wants and not what they say in their original context.  And I have no idea what this speaker was trying to communicate by linking these verses together.

5) The future.

Everyone was interested in it.  “Moving forward”, “Dream bigger”, “We’ve got to move”, “Young people have a critical role to play”, “What will happen in the next 20 years”, and finally, “There’s no future in our past.”

It was this last one that stuck out to me the most.

“There is no future in our past.”

My immediate thought was – “We have a future because of our past.”

He continued by saying the past is over, it’s done, at points it has failed, at others it has been ok – but it is over and done and we now live into and for the future and shouldn’t look to our past again.

That may work for some people (and may tie in with point 7 below), but it doesn’t work for me.  The past gave us our future – and frankly, many of the things we do now, and even the “simplistic” and “contemporary” worship services we do now are simply a contextualization of something that happened tens or hundreds of years ago.

I just can’t agree with the speaker that there is no future in our past.  Only looking to the past is not healthy in life, nor in the life of the Church.  We need both, I think – one foot rooted in the past and one stepping into the future.

6) The floor.

I love sitting on the floor – Equip convinced me again that I much prefer the floor to chairs.

7) Hope.

What is one of the keys to growing the church, to increasing numbers and depth of devotion?  Play to people’s hopes.

This is the most striking aspect that I observed at the conference- never explicitly said but hinted at throughout.  I kept trying to figure out why people were so transfixed with every new speaker, when I was only engaged by a few.  Then, upon reflecting on this question, it dawned on me; all the speakers played to people’s hopes – hopes for physical healing, larger congregations, deeper faith, etc…

This can be done in a negative way – and it often is.  Churches and other groups figure out what people want (money, stuff, love, etc), and promise them something, often with just a small input for a larger output.

I think this is one of the keys to this whole preaching business.  Preachers must play to people’s hopes, desires, wants, needs.  Not in a bad way, of course.  By “playing” I mean connecting.  How do you get someone to listen to you?  Talk about things important to them.  Connect.

What things are important to people?  Kids, Family, Housing, Food, Future, School, Employment, Love, Sports, Relaxation, Security, Community, Success, Organization, Health, Adventure, Feeling Valued, etc (not all for all people, of course).

Next, what are peoples’ hopes for these things?  Some might be: Healthy Kids, Quality Food, Secure Future, Affordable Housing, etc.

If we can figure out what is important to people, and what they hope for from these important things, then we can speak their language.  If we can speak people’s language, we can walk alongside them, we can recognize what they experience and what they hope for.

I have to wonder if part of the reason many people leave (or slowly stop going to) church is not because they don’t believe what the church believes, but because they are receiving their hope or a recognition of their hope from somewhere else.  The church may give or recognize some hope, but the society, or another church, or another organization, plays better to their hopes, dreams, desires, and needs than the church does.  I don’t have any research on that – it’s just a thought.  If people received their hope from church, if people at church recognized what they needed and what their desires were, would people come clamoring to church?

In church communities I’ve been a part of where the church focuses on the needs and dreams and desires of the people, people want to be there.  It may be anecdotal, or it may be a trend.

So I think this “playing to people’s hopes” for churches has two parts to it:

1) there must be connection between people’s real lives and what the church talks about.

I think someone can preach without connecting to people’s hopes on a conscious level.  But I think that if we do make these connections, then we make it easier for people to trust, to care, to come back, to listen.  I don’t think this is a game, even though I’ve used the “playing” language.  I think it is very serious stuff.

2) the church must offer some sort of hope in those situations, some actualization of their dream, some fulfillment of their need or desire, or at the very least, recognition.

I think the Church often does a pretty good job of the first one – at churches we can “hook” people with food, community, events, etc.  But I think we struggle with the second one.  How do we do it?

We can give people good programs, kid’s ministry, choir, elder activities, and such.  But that’s not the hope of the church.

The Church achieves the second one by recognizing and stating that there is brokenness in the world, and that God recognized that, too, and came to Earth and lived and died among us.  The hope the Church must offer is that the one who created everything realizes what we humans are going through and cares.  That’s the hope we have.  I think we struggle in sharing our hope, sometimes.

(As a personal aside, I have been sitting here for two hours now trying to come up with a longer explanation, one that started with the church and explored that and then moved on to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  But finally it has clicked in my mind today that the Church and God cannot be separated in that sentence, for God works through the Church to make God known, and the Church only exists because of God.  And so the two must be in the same sentence, not separated by paragraphs of my babbling.)

And if the hope that God cares what’s going on to us doesn’t work with people, we can offer people the hope that we do care, and that we will walk alongside them, continually showing them we believe God cares, and let the Spirit work in their lives along the way.

If we can show people that we, in the Church, recognize that we know people are constantly searching and can’t find the panacea for their troubles – eventually we can point them to God, who understands even better than we ever will.

The gospel message – that God loves us and came and died and rose so we can be in relationship with God – gives us lasting hope.  This message acknowledges that what we experience now is not perfect, but that there is hope in an imperfect world.

In order to catch people’s attention, we have to pay attention to them.  We have to learn what they find important, and what their hopes are for these things.  And then we have to recognize that the world isn’t perfect, and speak our hope in Jesus into their lives.

(I tried to make it more complicated than that with hundreds of extra words of babbling.  I don’t think it is.)

There it is – the top seven things I took from the conference.

I’m in the midst of looking at the names and descriptions of God, descriptions of people, and action words used in the songs at the conference.  Preaching doesn’t just happen in the sermon, but in all aspects of worship and daily life.  How we portray God in songs shows a lot about theology, and it sometimes delivers messages a whole lot easier than a preacher speaking for 10, 25, or 40 minutes.  So I’m diving into that – I’ll report as soon as I’ve finished.


Battle of the Dialects

So, the impetus for tonight’s post is that I’m staying awake until I fall asleep. I tried to be sleepy about an hour ago, but it just didn’t take. So, here I am on my couch at 11:30pm with my husband all tucked away in bed trying to think of things that I can do until I (hopefully) fall asleep at some point tonight. It occurred to me that I haven’t’ posted my list of things about Africa for the week. Here we go. This week will be a lesson on words.

1) Words. You don’t realize how different a dialect of the same language is until everybody else where you are understands what a robot is and you are left nodding your head pretending that you, too, see mechanical humans wandering the streets directing traffic. Later you will find out that a robot is a stoplight. Why didn’t you say that in the first place?

2) Just now. If I told you something was going to happen “just now” or that I was going to see you “just now”, people in America would assume that I was standing right in front of them and we were having a conversation. Not so here. Here, the phrase “see you just now” could mean that you will see said person anytime from 10 minutes from then to a reunion at the pearly gates, postmortem.

3) There are also many British-isms including the beloved nappies, not diapers; prams, not strollers; boot, not trunk and many other favorites of the British Isles.

4) Bakki (I htink I spelled that right). It’s a pick-up truck and it is pronounced “Bucky”, like the badger.

5) Flapjacks. You may say that you know what these are. You may even say that you know what a crumpet is. But, did you know that crumpets are pancakes and pancakes are crepes and crepes are flapjacks. but flapjacks are not pancakes, they are crepes, which is to say that they are pancakes. Confused yet? Me too.

6) Sometimes the accents are so thick that you actually think they are actually speaking a different language to you. So, you say something brilliant like, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak German, could you say that in English” and they will respond with “I was speaking English, I was introducing myself. That’s my name” And then you feel ridiculous for the rest of the day. Not that that has happened yet…

7) Braai. This is a grill. And if you are braaiing, you are, in fact grilling or BBQing. It took me quite a while to figure out what they were saying when they said that. Then I saw a brand new braai in the garage with the packaging still on it, and all was made clear…or at least I knew what they were saying. The do, as it turns out, have bratwurst here. Yay German influences!

8) Cres(h). It’s a pre-school. Or a primary school. But only for the younger ages, as far as I can tell. I haven’t quite figured out the transition or language of the education system yet. When I do, I may have to update this. But it is a different language, to be sure.

9) Along the same lines, Graduation from high school here is called Matriculation or Matrick for short…I think.

10) Baseball is called cricket here and football is called rugby and soccer is called football. Yes, I know they are sports in their own right. I just thought it was funny and it helps me make connections. I will learn the rules of at least one of these sports by the time I leave South Africa.

Well, I think that’s about enough nonsense for the night. I apologize for any spelling errors. I can’t really see the letters on the screen, my eyes are so dry. However, I’m still not sleepy.

Anyway, I guess I’ll see you just now.

Much love!


The Dangers of Saying You’re a Preacher

What are the dangers of saying you are a preacher?  Someone might ask you to preach.  Also, someone might ask you to teach.

(To round out the top five dangers of saying you’re a preacher, the other three are that someone will explain in detail why they haven’t made it to church lately, ask you endless questions about God, and attempt to debate with you that God does not exist.)

Sunday morning, 8am.  Katie and I went to a German Lutheran church, Church of the Redeemer, in Hillcrest, KZN.  The service ended a little after 9am, and since we had some time before we needed to meet someone, we decided to stay for coffee and tea after the service.

After talking with multiple parishioners, and for at least the 100th time explaining how we arrived in KZN (pronounced Kay-Zed-En), the pastor spotted us and introduced himself.  He, too, asked what we were doing here – I told him, and he started to talk a little about his life.  When he was a young man he wanted to go to seminary – but finances kept him from doing so.  Instead, he went to work in the mines.  Clearly his current work and his past job were linked in his mind, as he asked the question – “How do you preach the Gospel to someone working 16 or 18 hours a day, six days a week?  They don’t want to go to church on Sunday – they just want to rest.”  It’s a question I’ve wondered about too.  And no doubt there is no one answer, no perfect formula.  But I think it’s a question that every pastor needs to struggle with – how do you reach people who are so exhausted from the week that doing one more thing- even just a one hour activity – is too much?  How do you reach the miner, the sweatshop worker, the familial caregiver?

He provided at least one answer to this question – an answer that worked in his context and may work in others: You have to walk with them, and live with them.

We continued to talk about his life – how he went to seminary in Pietermaritzburg, was a pastor of youth in the area for twenty years, retired, and now has come out of retirement to serve this church for 2014 (the next pastor is lined up, it appears, and will start at the beginning of the year).

And suddenly he asked, “So, do you want to preach here?”  I was taken aback.  We met only about 10 minutes ago – and I’m not even sure he knew my last name at that point.  I think I just introduced myself as “Will”.  In my surprise I heard myself agree, and we talked about a day that would work well – second and fourth Sundays were out of the question, as I don’t speak any German.  Finally we settled on the third Sunday of November, preaching on whatever text I want.

So there it is, danger #1 – tell a pastor you’re a preacher and they’ll put you on the calendar.

We left the church, bound for RedPoint to meet a German missionary.  We met him, and chatted for more than an hour about what he and his wife are doing in he country.  They have been sent by their church in Germany to South Africa to work with the Zionist churches.  As he explained it, a  Zionist church in Chicago sent missionaries to South Africa many years ago.  After just a few years, the missionaries were called back to Chicago, but the mission starts they created continued.  Over the years, the original Zionist mission starts began to add back in some ancestor worship and other non-Christian aspects to their services, sometimes becoming quite dark and demonic.

Relationships and religion in this area are based on power – and many don’t care where the power comes from.  So they will utilize whatever power is available, sometimes having all-night services that are quite demonic, he related.  His job in this area is to work with the Zionist church leaders for four years at a time, teaching them the Bible.  It sounds as though they do a few of these a month – some all day workshops on Saturdays, some night classes.  At the end of the four years they will receive a certificate from the Zionist group in Chicago – this is apparently a big deal for the leaders here.  There is the great hope that in those four years they have learned more from the Bible and have come to see that demonic worship is not what Christ is about.

This missionary wants to take us to a day-time service, but we would need to be invited.  Even if we are, he said that the service will be very toned down from what they usually do so that they seem more “mainline” Christian.  If there is the chance to go to a night-time service, he’ll take us, too.  He said his first reaction when he went was to try and stop them from calling demons and associating with them – but he learned that if he were to do that, he could jeopardize the bond and relationship he is building with them.  So in the hope of building stronger relationships over the long run, he had to sit quietly and let things he doesn’t agree with happen.

Sometimes, it appears, you have to invest time and life with people – even if you don’t agree with what they do.  Living with them through the experience could allow you to have a deeper and more lasting impact on their lives.  But at the same time, that will not work in every situation.

Then he asked if we wanted to attend one of the sessions on October 25.  And if we were attending, then I could teach or Katie and I could teach one of the lessons.  I said we would think about it – I didn’t know what the sessions were on.  But I know we’ll go, and I’m feeling moved to try teaching.

Danger #2 – tell a someone you are a preacher and they’ll ask you to teach.

Sunday, midday.  The missionaries said they needed to get their kids home, and Katie and I needed to go find some lunch.

So there it is, our Sunday morning.

What is one thing I learned about how to preach in a changing culture?  Sometimes, you simply cannot preach.  At least not at first – at least not until you’ve built rapport and the people know that you care and you’re there to stay.

Beep. Beep. Boop…..the system is down

Seriously! What does a person have to do to get a little internet around here?

Well, obviously, we’ve been able to find it at certain junctures in our stay here otherwise we would not be able to post here. However, it’s been a bit of a struggle to get a permanent line into our house. Finally, after much hoop jumping and unusable passwords and wrong information and miscommunication and lost deposits and…stuff, a technician from the internet company came out to our flat yesterday and “installed our internet”. And by “Installed our internet” what I really mean to say is plugged in a phone line and left a new router on our table for us to install.

Will worked in an IT office, so this didn’t initially appear that it would be a problem to do it ourselves. Will has installed many a router. Piece-o-cake. So, I left him to it and took a bath to get out of his hair. It turned out that the setup requires us to have a computer with a CD drive, which neither our tablet nor our Chromebook have. Again, this didn’t appear to be too much of an inconvenience since we could probably borrow a laptop for an hour or so from our host family so that we could install the internet software and set up the connection. We decided that would be a problem for today, so we went to bed, assuming we would figure it out today.

So, this morning, after returning from the church, we borrowed the laptop and made our merry way up to our cottage to once again attempt to set up our internet. You guessed it, it didn’t work. During the setup process, the program told us that it wasn’t connecting. Like any wise person would do when he/she has exhausted their abilities at knowing what is going on, Will called tech support. They, kindly, informed us that the CD and the installation guide included with the router were completely useless and we shouldn’t use them to try and set up the wireless in our house. “Oh!” I thought “Well, that totally makes sense because of course you wouldn’t want to use the supplies included with the package that say “installation” on them to help you install anything.” Right? Hmmm…But the best part is that they don’t know why it’s not working either.

Being at our wits end with it, we decided to sit down for a spot of tea and some crumpets (and yes, that’s totally what we did. We’re eating normal food and calling it British). After that wonderful distraction, we went back to work. And by “we” went back to work, I mean that Will is currently on the phone again trying to fix our problems with yet another IT person (I think we’re on 6 or something like that today) and I am blogging about it, borrowing internet from our host family. Hopefully we get internet in time to skype with my family tomorrow!

Meanwhile, only a few countries away there are thousands of people dying of ebola and a few kilometers away there are people dying of starvation. Clearly, life is really hard for us. (Please tell me you know that was written in jest. Nobody here gets my sense of humor and would think I am being serious)


(this is literally the first time I have hash-tagged anything ever. I feel like I have joined the 21st century now…and that I should probably go wash it off)

Anyway, that’s enough blathering from me.

Love and miss you!


10,000 a month – and counting…

It is crazy for me to think it has been three weeks since I have posted.  It’s even crazier to think of all the things we have experienced in those three weeks.

I’ll start with the two orphanages we have visited: LIV Village and Lily of the Valley.

Multiple times it has been quoted to me that in South Africa about 10,000 children per month become orphans.  Ten thousand per month, every month.  That’s enough to fill most sports stadiums in the States in less than a year – some in fewer than six months.  It is a direly pressing problem South Africa is facing.  It’s a cultural shift, and social issue, that has repercussions for today’s society and the coming ten, twenty, even fifty years.

But how has this happened?  It clearly did not start on any one specific day.  Here are some of the things I have heard have led to this: HIV/AIDS, apartheid, the government, and traditional familial culture.  (Please hear that I am simply trying to shed light, not place blame on any one group or person.)

HIV/AIDS has killed many people, leaving children without parents, and at times any family to speak of.  As children can be born infected, they are sometimes not taken in by family members because of their diagnosis.

The apartheid connection is somewhat more subtle.  During that era, men often when away from where their wives and families were to work in the mines.  The hope was to send money home to their families to care for the children – but this did not always happen.  The money was sometimes spent instead on alcohol and prostitution, which meant that some men had two families – one they left to find work, and one they created once they arrived on the job.  If the money was not flowing back to the first family, the mother often needed to get a job to pay for food and other bills.  That meant she was away from the family for 10-18 hours a day.  With poor public transportation, some people spend much of their day in transit to and from work, paying a large amount of their daily wage on transit.  So whether or not it was an intended consequence, apartheid broke up families, created multiple sets of families, and pulled parents away from their children.  Over the years this set up a mindset for some that parents are not present in a family – at least one, if not both.

The government, I have heard, pays little attention to the township areas.  I have heard it over and again from people in the communities, schools, and churches.  A couple nights ago a TV commercial stated “some people think Soweto is the only township the government cares about”.  The ad went on to say this was not true – but clearly the idea is out there, if not a fact as well.

Some traditional familial cultures in South Africa (the Zulu culture is the one I have heard most about around the Durban area), do not expect the man to be present in the household.  A man can have a child, and then pay the mother a couple thousand rand and not have to visit the child or mother ever again.  In addition to this, fathers can require dowries that take five, ten, or fifteen years (yes, fifteen!) for a man to accumulate.  Sometimes an engaged couple will have a kid before the dowry is paid – and then the man might not want to stick around to pay the large sum of the dowry.


One of the orphanages we visited was named “Lily of the Valley”. It is located on a hill up the road from Pinetown and Durban, nearly to Pietermaritzberg.  After turning off the main highway, the road twists and turns up and down hills, with no guard rails and tight turns.  A smattering of houses, a school, and some other buildings dot the way.  Taxis stop in the middle of the road, schoolchildren walk in the street, and the occasional cow or herd of goats rip up the small bits of green that have managed to hang on in an area which has received very little rain all winter.

The paved road ends, and the dirt and gravel road stretches straight across the top of the hill, past large greenhouses, another school, then down the hill to the right.  Small houses arranged around two open areas appear.  We met one of the staff members in a small trailer (or possibly a narrow shipping container?), who took us on a brief tour of the housing area.

Lily of the Valley was started about twenty years ago by Anglicans as a hospice home for children with HIV.  As drugs and treatment became more available, and the children began to live longer, the vision and mission of Lily began to change.  Soon instead of being hospice-oriented, they were functioning more like cluster foster care for orphans.

Today, about 110 children call Lily home.  The majority have HIV.  All are orphans.  Some, especially young girls, have been taking care of their siblings for years before they arrive – even though they may be only ten or twelve years old.  Girls and boys are separated in the houses, which are overseen by a House Mother, who comes in at night to stay with the kids and then goes back to her own family during the day.

Teens stay in another set of houses – girls in one, boys in another.  In these houses they learn to take care of a household, do chores, and learn how to manage money.

All the children go to school during the day.  Once they have passed high school (or turn 21, at the latest) they can no longer legally stay at Lily and the government checks for their care end.  Lily works to place them with extended family or to find them a job and living place in the community.

How is an operation like this funded?  Some money comes in for each of the kids from the government, and some from donations from individuals or organizations.  A fair amount of funding comes from the large hydroponic tomato greenhouses on the top of the hill.  Two tomato seedlings are planted in a small bag of soil, and nutrients and water are constantly pumped into them.  Thousands and thousands of tomato plants are producing about 2,000 kg (4400 pounds) of tomatoes every day.  These are then sold to a local distributor after being packaged at Lily.


The other orphanage we toured was LIV Village. It is probably the best known of any orphan care program in South Africa. LIV  is the dream of a former South African cricketer named Tich Smith.  Tich heard about how many children became orphans every month – and felt God was calling him to help do something about it, with a very specific vision.  So he brought together members of the community, business leaders, church members, and government officials for a fundraising day in Durban just four or five years ago.  At the event, he pitched his idea: a village of 500-1000 orphans living together, cared for by mothers from the area, who attend school and church within their village, learning skills, growing strong, and providing jobs for those in the village.  The idea caught on like wildfire, and it raised millions of rands that day.

The original set of houses was built around an open area – but this proved expensive, and they have adopted a more straight-row housing approach now.  About 130 kids now live at the village, attending school, church, Sunday school, the doctor, dentist, social workers, physical therapists, and computer labs all on site.  A house mother lives at the village with six to eight kids, receiving a small salary and time off each week to go into the town nearby.  The number of kids is growing – and the infrastructure is in place already to receive them.

The Village has invested in a cleaning company and a chicken egg company, earning money through both of them. (In addition, South Africa has a program called BBBEE, in which companies earn points/ratings for supporting organizations that work with underprivileged blacks.  It’s a complicated system to understand from the outside, I’ve found, but as an example, companies that buy and sell LIVeggs receive a higher rating, and other companies will want to do business with them because they look better in the ratings.)

LIV is building a 1500-2000 seat chapel so that the village, volunteers, and surrounding town can all worship together.

But Tich’s goal does not stop with this one village.  He wants to see hundreds of these villages all over South Africa, providing safe spaces for children, work for communities, and a brighter future for the country.  There are 10,000 children a month who become orphans.  The need is great – and so is the vision. Whoever says that one person cannot change the world has never met Tich Smith.


We’ll be exploring the phenomenon of orphans in South Africa more – hopefully at LIV, Lily, and other places, as it is one of the greatest social changes South Africa is facing, and will face, in the future.  For someone like Tich, you can’t preach the gospel without showing the gospel through word and deed in great measure.  It takes a lot of people, life changes (like Tich and his wife moving into the village), and energy to make a place like LIV happen – but with that effort comes the opportunity to preach the gospel to hundreds of people, in the village and out, in business, in government, and the communities.  For a place like Lily, the changing health of the HIV orphans forced their mission to change, and without a doubt, changed how they preach the gospel.  No longer were they preaching to kids they knew would die before adulthood – but now to kids who could thrive into adulthood, and turn around and impact a future generation of kids.

That’s all for this post – more soon (and much sooner than three weeks, I promise)!