Monday, November 28, 2022

My life has been forever changed!

 by Kimber Titus

As I sit here and reflect on my trip to South Africa, the following verse keeps coming to mind. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  

I was sitting in church on a summer day when they mentioned that mission trips to South Africa would resume in the fall. I thought to myself how cool it would be to go on a mission trip. I knew financially it would be a reach for me and I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind. Who was I kidding anyway? I had never been anywhere outside of the US and traveling 8,000 miles to a foreign country was way out of my comfort zone. A few weeks later I started having conversations with Cammy and Pastor Vicki. South Africa was weighing heavy on my heart, and I felt I was being called to serve. But why me? How would I cover the cost? How was I going to leave my family for 11 days? How would work survive without me? How would I fly 8,000 miles across an OCEAN when I had only ever flown 1,000 miles to Florida? How would I, an introvert, interact with people who might not even speak my language. I had so many unanswered questions, but I put my faith in God and waited to see what would happen.

I decided to start a GoFundMe and so many generous people donated, people who barely even knew me! This trip quicky became a reality and all the pieces started to fall in to place. I remember my nervousness as my husband dropped me off and I waited in the church lobby with people I hardly knew. We joined hands and our pastors started praying with us. I looked around the circle at the 14 other people who were traveling to South Africa and I suddenly felt a sense of calm wash over me. 

The next 11 days were a whirlwind. I remember sitting in church on our first day. I immediately felt a sense of belonging as I listened to the sermon, the birds chirping, and a rooster crowing, all in unison. From that moment I knew God was in control and he was the reason I was in South Africa! I had no idea what was in store for me, but I immediately put my trust in God. I knew right away that building houses was NOT the reason God had brought me to South Africa but I also knew he had a plan. So here goes! I felt nervous as we walked into the Mosaic Community Center for the Ma’s Superstars preschool prep program. I was directed to a small table with four little ones sitting at it. I wondered how I would communicate with these children who spoke no English. As if he could read my mind, the 3-year-old little boy sitting next to me put his hand up to give me a high five. From that moment I realized we all spoke the same language, LOVE! I also knew the reason God had brought me to South Africa. 

I will never forget the children at Ma’s Superstars, the preschool program, the after-school program, or the adults with special needs at Avodah. I will never forget visiting the moms in their homes, the tears they shed as they got to pick a donated a purse or the self-worth they felt when creating a vision board. I will remember the joy on the faces of the children at the carnival. I will remember the men I spoke to in prison and shared my personal story with. I will remember the closeness I felt to God during these interactions and how each one was special in its own way.

The most common thing people said to me before I left for South Africa was that I was going to change lives, but in reality, it is my life that has been forever changed!  I will never take for granted the life I have been given or the people who have been placed in my path. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Love God. Love Others.

by Cammy Brantzeg

"Sometimes you don't have to preach to people.  You just have to show them love."

Our group was at Drakenstein prison.  The prison chaplain Archie made this statement as we were getting ready to leave.  I pulled out one of the many folded pieces of paper in my pocket to quickly write what he said down.  I think this statement perfectly sums up our mission trip.  

We met with 18-24 (or 26) year old young men that were in prison.  At the beginning of our visit, we talked/prayed in front of a group of 30-50 young men sitting on benches in a cement room. One of the young men stood up as a spokesperson for the group.  He was very well spoken and thanked us for our visit.  He said something like they don't have anything to give us but they could sing for us.  I wish I had a picture or recording to share with you but the song was beautiful.  I had tears running down my face as they sang.  I didn't wipe them away because I wanted them to see how much their song moved me.  These trips are full of moments like this.  It feels like we are receiving much more than we give.

I don't always know what I am doing on these mission trips.  The beauty of that is that it allows me to lean on God and God always shows up.  I feel God calling me to love people on these trips.  I am not going to solve the daily challenges they face but I can tell them God loves them.  I can tell them that I am there because God has called me to be there.  Showing someone love seems so small but I am amazed that over time those small amounts of love add up.  

What does love look like in this situation is a good place to start when I don't know what to do.  Our group gave them a cross and a card with a Bible verse on it which I included the wording below.

27 The man answered, “‘You must 
love the LORD your God with all your heart, 
all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ 
And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)

Uthando uThixo.  Uthando Abanye.
Love God.  Love Others.
Liefde God.  Liefde Ander.

We prayed for them.  We talked to them.  We sat with them and listen to their story.  We gave them hugs as we left.  Nothing we did will change these guys daily life.  They are still in prison.  They still have challenges ahead but hopefully our visit was a break from their daily routine.  I hope they felt God's love though us.  I hope that we were a light in their life for that moment in time that they might seek the light and love that comes from God after we leave.  

Our mission trip t-shirt had "Love God Love Others" on the back of it.  It was our theme for the trip and our group did an amazing job loving the people we came into contact with.  

Below are some pictures that will show you what love looked like on our trip..  I can't post pictures of kids faces on the internet so you will mostly see adults in these pictures but I think you will get the idea.  

Love looks like connecting groups of adults with disabilities in the US with a similar group in South Africa.  Karyn Ross helps lead a group in the US similar to Ma's for Wellington's Avodah group in SA.  Karyn took gifts to the Avodah group from the US group.  The wrapped package in the picture was a handmade gift from the Avodah group to Karyn's US group.  The love these two groups have for each other is so beautiful.  

Love looks like Hopewell Christin Preschool in the US sending down cards to encourage the SA preschool teachers.  One of the teachers showed me the red bracelet that Michele (HCP preschool director) sent as a gift and how it matched her red scarf.  The teacher was also wearing one of the HCP t-shirts that we took down this summer for them.  I think they said they wear the HCP t-shirts on Friday at the preschool.  

Love looks like Hopewell Christian Preschool collecting Colors of the World crayons, band aids and antibiotic ointment for the Ma's for Wellington programs for preschool age children in South Africa.  Everyone in SA loves these crayons and band aids!

Love looks like two churches (The Garden Church and New Life UMC) collecting purses and toiletries for us to take to South Africa with us.  

Love looks Paulette's church St. Daniels UMC collecting toiletries and packing make up bags for us to take on this trip.  So many people collected items and packed them for us to take on this trip.  

Love looks like hosting a gathering of the Mosaic mothers.  We had some snacks for them as they arrived and Lisa Cameron led them in an exercise to create a vision board showing what loving themselves looked like.  

The mothers were taken to a room to select a purse and pick out a makeup bag filled with toiletries for themselves.  The blessing of giving each of these ladies a purse and make up bag is hard to describe.  Some of the ladies were dancing as they selected their purses.  So much joy!

Love looks like hosting a carnival for the Mosaic after school program.  I worked with Yolande and Dipuo to come up with a plan.  Eileen Kahl is gifted in this area and stepped up and helped figure out minute to win it games for the kids to play.  Eileen also does face painting.  Most of our team had our faces painted before the kids arrived.  I took a picture of Tony, Seth and myself before the carnival started.

The carnival started out with a plan and then just turned into a time for the kids to do whatever they wanted and have fun.  We had popcorn and ice cream sundaes, a craft station, nail painting station and a water slide in addition to the minute to win it games.

The picture below is Yolande and Dipuo who run the Mosaic After School Program and the programs to support the Mosaic mothers.  They are amazing ladies who deserve some recognition for all they do.  

Love looks like building two modest brick houses.  This photo was taken on our last day in South Africa with the local builders.  In 2016, we started wearing name tags on the worksite so we would know their names and it has made a BIG difference.  I am sure they think we are crazy but I am pretty sure they loved it that we wanted to take a picture with them.  They are a part of our SA story.  Our lives only overlapped for a week but hopefully they saw the love that we had for them as we worked alongside them.

Love looks like Ma's for Wellington's Tannie Mammas praying over me before we left.  I stopped by their event on Monday morning to say a quick good-bye.  I handed out angel ornaments, lotion and lip balm to them during the week to thank them for all they do for their community.  These ladies are amazing and they surround me with their love and prayers as I lead groups to SA.  They wanted to take a group photo with me before I left.  I am in the back left of the center in the photo.  :-)

These ladies prayed for me before I left to return to the US.  The Ma's leaders know that leading these trips is not always easy for me but they surround me with their love and prayers.  This is what love looks like.  

Love looks like a group of friends and strangers all being called to go on a mission trip to South Africa.  People with the courage to step out in faith and trust God's plan.  People who were willing to be vulnerable.  Go into unexpected situations.  Pray for strangers.  Hug prisoners.  Lay bricks.  Talk to each other about what they were seeing and feeling.  Step up and use their gifts.  Love unconditionally.

At an information meeting in August, someone asked us what the goal of the mission trip was.  I think they were expecting us to say it was building a house or something else tangible.  I think for me it is to build relationships that will change who I am.  

I don't know when those moments will happen.  I wasn't expecting a song in prison to bring me to tears.  I wasn't expecting a minute to win it game with pencils to connect me to the kids playing it.  I wasn't expecting the selection of a purse and make up bag to be so meaningful.  I wasn't expecting a conversation about the reason for Christmas to bond me to the teens I was talking to and to my own son Seth.  It is all unexpected but it happens on every trip I take to SA.

The time spent with each mission trip team member and all the conversations in our big group and smaller groups all change me.  We are each on our own journey.  Through this trip our lives are changed forever and we are linked together though our shared experiences.  I loved everyone on our mission trip team and I am forever changed by their insights, life experiences and love.  

"Sometimes you don't have to preach to people.  You just have to show them love."
Love God.  Love Others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Leaving a part of you behind...

by Karyn Ross

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius 

My husband gave me a journal for my trip with this inscribed on the front. When I left the US for South Africa I felt torn, I was leaving part of my heart behind. I asked myself…is it possible to go somewhere with your whole heart and also leave a part of your heart behind?

During my short time here I formed bonds I didn’t think were possible. I was worried that the different culture as well as the language barrier, would prevent meaningful authentic connections. That was most certainly not the case. We connected through interpreters, sign language, laughter, hugs, smiles and most of all our shared love for Jesus. 

One moment I will never forget was sitting down at a little table in a child sized  chair with a little girl. She was theee years old, I speak English and she spoke only Afrikaans. On the table was a small piece of cloth. I picked it up and began to fold it into different shapes, a square, a triangle then a rectangle. After each one she took it from my hand and painstakingly copied each one, smiling at me each time it was finished. Then the magic happened, she picked up the rectangle and gently squeezing it at both ends put it up to her eye. I peeked through the opposite end and I can’t explain what happened next but it was amazing. All I could see was her tiny eye at the other end and she in turn saw mine. Just like that we were connected. 

My son told me to make sure not to miss the small things on this trip and boy was he right. A simple moment shared, an unspoken bond formed that I will not soon forget. 

“The eyes are the window to your soul.”
William Shakespeare  

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, you will be full of darkness.
Matthew 6:22-24

I have seen firsthand that lamps are burning bright here in South Africa.  So although I am sad to leave this beautiful country and my new friends, I leave with a full heart, and an answer to my question. Yes. Yes I do believe you can go somewhere with your whole heart and also leave a part of your heart behind. I have done it twice in eleven days. 🌎 💖

“You never really leave a place you love, you take part of it with you, leaving part of you behind.” Anonymous 

Saturday, November 19, 2022


by Karyn Ross

While preparing my heart and mind for this trip, abundance was not something I was expecting to find on this journey. I could not have been more wrong. Abundance is overflowing here but not in the sense others might define it. We have been here six days and I am still continually amazed by these incredible people we have been blessed to come to know. They have very little in the way of resources and there is tremendous need and many difficult circumstances they must endure. Despite all of it they keep going. 

Since arriving in this beautiful country, I have seen abundance through their eyes. Their joy is abundant, their love for each other and for us is abundant, and perhaps most inspiring to me their steadfast faith and hope is abundant. I spoke with many of them about this and this is what they told me. “It is Jesus, this is where our love and strength come from…we do it all to glorify God…we trust in the Lord and His plan, this is what gives us hope.” 

Another moment that really impacted me was during my time at Avodah, a community with individuals that have special needs. Here they are safe, they are loved and they have fellowship together and grow their faith. Here the trust is abundant the sharing, the helping and the abundance of absolute pure joy is a gift to witness! 

I was their guest for lunch and as I looked around the tables at each of their faces I knew this may be the only meal they would have that day. Two of them volunteered to serve and they came and put my plate down first, before all of their friends, unprompted by their leaders. It was a feeling I have a hard time putting into words. I was there to serve them and yet they chose to serve me. After lunch, before saying our goodbyes, they presented me with handmade gifts to take back to my group in Pennsylvania, a group of individuals that also have challenges both physically and intellectually. The have become close, they have gotten to know each other and we share through the leaders and we have bridged the 8000 miles. The Holy Spirit is flowing through us all and that is our connection. These gifts are all the more special because I watched them make them, with hands that are stiff and contorted, with difficulty understanding and many other challenges but they are the most beautiful gifts because they were made with love. 

I have received other gifts as well, the gift of songs, of hugs, of small tokens of their appreciation, of time spent drinking coffee and sharing stories together. I have received so much more than I have given. Abundance, they have it and embrace it every single day. Faith, Hope and Love live here. I think it is best summed up in the words of one of the beautiful women I had the honor of getting to know during my time here…God gives. I share. God gives again.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

God's Character

 by Kim Kuhlman

God is everywhere. God is faithful. God doesn’t waste anything. God never changes. God loves you. God is good.  These are among the statements about God’s character that I have heard spoken this week.  

I have of course heard these true statements before, but what I am learning from the children, the moms/grandmoms, the prisoners, the volunteers, the Mosaic staff, etc. here in South Africa, is that a person doesn’t have to repeat the above statements during trials like a mantra……trying to convince themselves…….You live it… believe it with your heart and soul as it is based on a true relationship with the one true God of the universe.  

How full of amazing grace and full of freedom and joy that relationship is.  It also answers all those questions, right?  Questions like how can a woman living in poverty who has trauma in her past open one arm to take in a foster child and raise the other arm to praise God with sincere joy on her lips?  The question of why was that child born with a handicap and a hard road in life – yet they sing “This is the day the Lord has made”?  A question like how in the world can a prisoner sing and play instruments to the glory of God…..singing their hearts out of “Amazing Grace” in a room in the prison? 

The answer is that they understand that God’s love is not proven to us by our circumstances……God’s love for us was already proven to us by the cross.  The answer is that God’s love for them never changes.  The answer is that no one can take God’s love away from them. The answer is that God’s love is in that prison. 

To sum it up, the answer is that their Hope, Love, and JOY comes from the Lord!  That is not like “happiness” which we pursue in earthly things and never manage to obtain, not at all like “happiness” that goes up and down with our circumstances and never lasts.  It is the TRUE JOY, hope and contentment that comes from knowing Jesus and leaning on Him no matter what the circumstances.  The TRUE HOPE that comes from reveling in the fact that you are a child of God and He’s got this… plan B needed…..God already had plan A before we were born!  

My grandpop’s favorite verses…..Lamentations 3:22 and 23:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  The are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

“God has plans, not problems.  There is no panic in heaven.” – Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Unexpected Connections

by Eileen Kahl 

Why am I here? It's something I've been wondering about. Deciding to come on the trip during this time of the year was very difficult for me. As a teacher, I had preferred to come in June when I was off, but Dave convinced me to see if I could get the time off to come with him. And low and behold I got the time off. It's wasn't without a lot of stress and preparing. Working until 2am on lesson plans the night before, back into school at 6am to make the last few copies before the substitute arrived and the students, then finally back home to pack. Yes, I'm a professional procrastinator. By 1pm, I was ready by still feeling the excitement, now my anxiety was flying. Ugh. 

As we arrived at Hopewell, everyone was excited. Greeting and hugging each other. Several asked me, if I was excited and looking forward to the trip. Honestly, I still wasn't. They told me I'll feel differently once we're there and doing things. 

Now, what you need to know about me is that I'm not a very religious person. I was born Catholic and converted to Judaism. My views on God are that he/ she is what we created to help us explain the unexplainable, the beginning of everything. I don't believe that my life is predestined. I have free will to choose my path. I believe God has many names to different people, but in the end, it's the same God. The one who created everything. 

Yesterday, I started off the day trying to help with the build and became quickly useless due to my hand injury. Still not feeling the excitement. Then, we went to meet some of the moms. I was awe struck by each and every one of them. They were heroes in my eyes. Taking care and providing for others with what little they had. Yet, they still believed in God and his love. Often, identifying it as Jesus's love. Did it bother me? No. Did it stop me from participating in praying for them and with them? No. God loves us all. By the last visit, I was moved to tears and just wanted to save them all. Knowing it was impossible. 

Today, we started at the preschool. It was wonderful and enjoyable. Then we went to Avaodah. To visit with the young adults with disabilities. Why did I choose this option? I felt everyone loves being around the little kiddos, but many shy away from those with disabilities. It can make you feel uncomfortable, but it was in my realm. So off I went.  While they were introducing the young adults, one introduction stood out, Joshua, who is deaf and mute.

Something lit up in me and I wanted to know more about him. Talk to him. I had a small connection to deafness because my daughter is deaf but can hear with the help of cochlear implants. We were singing and the young adults were drumming along. I observed Joshua. He of course could not hear anything, but he tried his best. He observed the others and matched their rhythm, plus added some of his own. I spoke with Stefanie and explained my connection. Then, I suggested that Joshua hold the speaker with the bass turned up. Stephanie's reaction was priceless. She said this is awesome, please share with us anything you know. We're trying to figure things out and how to make him feel more included. Next, I showed another person about Google Live Transcribe. It's an app that can transcribe everything while you're talking even when there are other sounds around and it does Afrikaans. How cool is that? We discussed the possibility of having a tablet just for him to use there to allow him to access the conversations and possibly adding a picture talking app so he can communicate with them. 

This interaction made my day. So far its the best part of my trip. I felt I was able to truly make a difference. Maybe it was God's work.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Work Day 1

 by Cammy Brantzeg

I forgot to ask someone to blog tonight so I decided that I would just write one myself.  

The sun was shining with a few clouds in the sky.  The temperature was in the high 80s today.  

We started off our day joining the Mosaic devotion at the Mosaic community center where all three Mosaic sites and one Mosaic partner organization Zoomed in.  Carien shared a devotion and each site provided an update for what they did the past week and what they were planning on doing the upcoming week.  It was nice to see the employees for all the locations.  I took a moment to thank them for doing what they do everyday for the Mosaic children and mothers.  Our mission trip teams pop in for a week or two each year to help out but they are supporting the mothers and children each and every day.

It was a hot day to be out in the sun building the houses.  Everyone in our group was building this morning except me.  This is the worksite before our group started.  Our group with some local workers will build two modest brick houses for two Mosaic families to move into.

I went to the Mosaic community center to try to work out some of the details for later in the week.  I was also able to stop by and join the Ma's for Wellington prayer group that meets on Monday.  It was so nice to see the ladies!  

We ate our lunch at the Mosaic community center around noon.  Meyer Conradie (co-founder of Mosaic with his wife Louise) joined our group for lunch and shared how Mosaic was started and described Mosaic and their programs to our group.  

After lunch, half of our group went back to the building site to continue to build the houses and half of our group went to visit some of the Ma's for Wellington Tannie (Auntie) Mammas with Cornel.  We visited four ladies and learned more about them and what they do for their families and their community.  We also prayed with them and gave them small gifts to encourage them like the angel ornaments, colored scripture cards and encouragement cards written by friends in the US from St. Daniels UMC.  The ladies appreciated our prayers and the time we spent visiting them.  I forgot to take a picture at one of the houses.  :-)

After visiting, we returned to the building site.  The bricks we are using for this house are bigger than they have been in the past so the walls seem to be going up fast!  

For dinner we ate at the guesthouse and had Stephanie, Cornel and Salome join us to talk about Ma's for Wellington and how it started.  Cornel talked about her prison ministry.  Our group will have the opportunity to join Cornel to visit Drakenstein prison on Thursday.  

I need to sign off.  South Africa has load shedding where the power goes off for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  It starts at 10 pm tonight until 12:30.  I have 8 minutes to post this blog before that happens.  :-)

My life has been forever changed!

 by Kimber Titus As I sit here and reflect on my trip to South Africa, the following verse keeps coming to mind. Philippians 4:13 I can do a...