Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve in Mokhotlong

My next door neighbor is feisty and fun.  She's 80 years old and spends all day on her front porch.  She is in better health now than she was five years ago, and she manages to get around pretty well with her walker.  Occasionally I see her walking to other neighbors' houses and it still surprises me.  The first couple of years we lived here, I never saw her leave her yard.  Her property is quite the thoroughfare and she enjoys watching lots of foot traffic go by her porch.  Everyone knows her and stops to visit for a while.  That's something I love about Africa.  No one misses an opportunity to visit.  No one is in that big of a hurry.

Her children don't live nearby so she has a live-in helper.  The son of her helper is Kyle and Ellee's best pal, Detay.  I often go over there and sit to chat with her.  She's a retired school teacher and she speaks fluent English.  Sometimes it seems she doesn't totally understand me.  She completely understands what I am saying.  But there is no doubt her 80 years in Africa and my 26 years, well, all over the place have been very different.  Our perspectives are different, but we find common ground to talk about.  She loves to talk politics and farming.  I know very little about either.

It isn't uncommon for me to bake a big batch of goodies and take them to her and our other neighbors.  Around Thanksgiving, I baked a huge spread of muffins and took a variety for her to try.  It was then that she asked me if she could gather the ingredients for me to bake muffins for her relatives who were coming into town for Christmas.  Of course I agreed, but then totally forgot about it.  

Yesterday a boy who rents a room from her came in my yard to ask what ingredients I needed.  After a few seconds of hunting through my memory to figure out what he was talking about, I remembered our agreement.  So I gathered up my favorite cookbooks and went to her front porch to see which kind of muffins she was wanting.  We decided on one of my favorite recipes.  I wrote out a list of ingredients, all of which you can now get in Mokhotlong thanks to our new grocery store!  

This morning Detay brought the ingredients to my door and I whipped up four and a half dozen to take back to her.  She was really excited to see them, especially since the recipe made more than I thought it would.  So she's got a whole pile of muffins to give to family and friends.  

It truly is better to give than to receive.  Even in the small things.

Tomorrow we will enjoy Christmas dinner with the World Race team who are here on outreach, along with our neighbors, Ntsimane and his family (Joy's family).  Ntsimane was adamant that we have traditional American turkey.  He found one while he was in South Africa a couple weeks ago and brought it home for me to cook.  The mission guys are grilling a sheep and the lot of us are bringing various side dishes.  It won't be quite the same as a candlelit Christmas dinner by the fire.... unless the electricity goes out.  But it'll be fun anyhow and I'm glad we have friends who are like family we can celebrate with tomorrow.  

Wishing our friends and family all over the world a very Merry Christmas! 


Saturday, December 17, 2016

MaMopeli's Sweet Shop

Many thanks to all of you who expressed such interest in MaMopeli's business venture.  She received quite a few donations and we were able to put together a nice sweet shop which opened this week!

Last weekend was a total whirlwind.  After running around all over the place in and around Durban, we managed to put together the supplies she wanted with the exception of a glass fridge.  Although we did find a few, they were just cost prohibitive.  Nevertheless, she came up with another plan.  She contacted a young guy locally who builds glass displays and we walked all over Mokhotlong gathering the supplies -- metal poles, glass glue, etc.  We found her a cabinet with a sink which she can use to store her supplies as well as wash her dishes.  That was such an exciting find!  We bought her a nice table and six chairs for the sitting area.  And over the weekend, the guy built her the display case.  Her borrowed fridge is in place and her new stove should be connected to the electricity by the end of this weekend.  For now, she's using my small but functional toaster oven.

All day Monday, she and I worked in my kitchen preparing loads of goodies to stock her shelves.  We made over 200 cookies, 50 muffins, 15 cupcakes and 3 cakes.  She opened for business on Tuesday.   So far business has been good and she is encouraged.  Also she received news that the rent for the shop went down by 25% so she was thrilled about that!  We have been battling colds all week, so I haven't been able to do some of the things I want to do for her.  I'm planning to print up flyers she can hand out and/or post around town to raise awareness about what she is selling.  Once her oven is connected, she also plans to start selling pizzas.  I know, that doesn't exactly fall into the sweet category, but she's convinced they will sell because there is only one other place in town selling pizzas.

A sign for her store is still a necessity.  She is looking into that.  And she wants to try more recipes and see what else might be quick sellers.  Currently she is selling chocolate cake by the slice, chocolate cupcakes, ginger cookies, oatmeal cookies, chocolate chip cookies and vanilla muffins.  To drink she is offering homemade ginger soda because it is summer.  In the winter she plans to offer tea and coffee.  If you have any other fabulous recipes which are inexpensive to make, feel free to share them with me!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Coordinating dresses from Lollee!

Ellee is turning three and a half tomorrow.  I loved baby Ellee.  I loved toddler Ellee.  I even loved two-year-old-stubborn-as-a-mule Ellee.  But goodness knows I love three-year-old Ellee.  She's still feisty, that's for sure.  But she's my friend now, too.

Last year

This year

Whenever I am in the kitchen, she's sitting on the counter waiting to help.  I try to let her help with whatever she can.  She loves to stir and butter and flip things.  She grabs necessary ingredients from the fridge and cabinets.  And she loves to set the table.  I'm guessing it won't be long before I can just turn the kitchen duty over to her.  She even does the dishes!

The girl loves pink.  When given a choice, she will pick pink every single time.  Pink shirt.  Pink socks.  Pink cup.  Pink crayon.  Pink candy.  Pink everything.  She also loves books.  If I would sit still long enough to read her ten books in a row, she'd gladly listen.  I do read her books, but not as many as I should.  She loves to help me clean.  If I hand her a rag, she will wipe down anything in sight.  Sometimes she helps with the laundry and the other day she even told me she'd cleaned the toilet so I didn't have to.  I wasn't terribly thrilled about that one (gross), but I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

Every week we have Sunday Night Sleepover at our house.  It's something Jonathan started years ago with Kyle, before Ellee was even born.  Now that Ellee is old enough, she's joining in the fun.  After I put Sadie to sleep in her crib, we all enjoy a movie and a snack in a tent Jonathan builds in the living room.  Then at some point, Ellee remembers how much she loves to take foot baths and reminds me that it's time for ours.  We pull out my foot spa and read books while we soak our feet.  She loves to paint her toe nails, pink of course.  She used to sleep in the tent with Jonathan and Kyle, but now she sleeps with me.  She loves to snuggle up close in my bed and stroke my face.  She tells me she loves me and that I am her friend.  I sing her lullabies and we pray and within a minute, she's fast asleep.

Certainly my favorite part about three and a half year old Ellee is her love for her baby doll.  She takes such gentle care of her little dolly, who has been named a whole string of names.  I'm not clear on her current name.  Oh well, I just call her Dolly anyway.  Ellee dresses her every morning and changes her cloth diaper.  Sometimes she breastfeeds her and other times she bottle feeds her.  I like her no-nonsense, relaxed style.  Baby is hungry - just get the job done.  Wherever Ellee goes, Dolly goes along with her.  Occasionally Ellee will forget to take her along and come back to get her before continuing to play at the neighbors'.  She tucks Dolly in for her naps; she teaches her school while I teach Kyle; she has even been known to set her a place at the table.  Before bed every night, Ellee changes her doll into the one outfit she's dubbed the pajamas.  While Daddy or I fix her silky blonde locks, she carefully dresses Dolly for bed and then slips her into the tiny sleep sack my mom made for her.  More doll clothes are on order from Lollee for Christmas.  Ellee is going to be so excited!

The very night I found out Ellee was a girl, I began dreaming of what kind of little friend I would have in her.  She's far exceeded my dreams.  I look forward to growing with her and being a friend to her like my mom has been to me.  Sure, sometimes I have to assert my mom status and keep her in line.  But a lot of the time, we just get to get along and have fun together.  For that I am so thankful.  It's obvious that she is beautiful on the outside.  I am blessed to be able to witness her inner beauty as well.  My prayers for her cover a wide range of things, but mostly I pray that she grows up to be a strong woman who loves the Lord.  I adore this girl!

New bed!

I hope she never loses her spunk!


Friday, November 18, 2016

No More No Water

It is a big day!  Today is the day we have water!  We now have 2,500 liters of water at our disposal.  All day.  Every day.  It doesn't matter if Mokhotlong turns off the water.  It doesn't matter if they decide the water supply needs cleaning without warning.  It doesn't matter!  We have water!

Months ago friends of ours in South Africa wrote to ask if we needed any plumbing jobs done.  Mokhotlong isn't just crawling with handymen.  If something needs doing, you're most likely on your own figuring it out.  We really appreciated the offer!  After so much drought and so many water outages last year, we had already decided we wanted to install a reserve tank upon our return.  Having a helping hand in that installation was very welcome!

So our friends came up to scout things out a few weeks ago and we mapped a plan to getting the tank in place.  It was decided we'd put the tank on top of the outhouse to create pressure from gravity.  The irony wasn't lost on me.  We are using the outhouse so that we don't have to use the outhouse.  We then ordered the tank through a local furniture store so they could bring it up the mountains on their giant truck.  We set a date to get the thing hooked up and today it happened.

After many bucket baths, many days of saving flushes for only necessary flush occasions (pew), many sinks full of dishes and lots of hand laundry, we now have water which will run whether the water from Mokhotlong is on or off.  I am so relieved!  Who knew water could be such an exciting thing?

What the tub looks like after five people take a spit bath.  Don't drain it!  You can scoop and dump it into the back of the toilet for a flush!

Won't miss this!

I'll spare you the picture of Jono in the bucket bath.  

Wait, no I won't.  Here it is....

The tank was installed under close supervision from the boss, Sadie.

Co-supervisor, the neighbors' name-less dog.

Thanks, guys!  Your kindness won't soon be forgotten!


Sunday, November 6, 2016


When we first arrived in Mokhotlong, it was immediately recommended to me if I wished to hire someone to help with my housekeeping, I should hire Mme MaMopeli.  During the first two years we lived here, I struggled with hiring anyone to do "my" work.  I was fully capable of cleaning my own home and I figured, because most people here have to care for their own things, why should I be privileged enough to have someone do it for me?  It wasn't a case of not being able to afford help; labor here is unbelievably inexpensive.  Painfully so.  I was just stubborn and thought I was doing the right thing at the time.

Over time, we developed a friendship with MaMopeli.  She has a reputation of being a great cook and was quickly hired to do the catering for the quarterly TEE conferences.  She didn't speak English well at the time, but began taking English classes offered at her church some time ago.  Her English has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years!  Communication became easier for us.  Around that time, I was reminded of how desperate she was for a steady job.  So, early last year I decided to hire MaMopeli to come weekly to clean our house.  The day she came to tour the house and learn where I kept cleaning supplies, etc., was the day I found out I was expecting.  I had two weeks sick-free before my health plummeted.  I was relieved that she had already learned the ropes before I was incapacitated by pregnancy sickness.  It quickly became obvious that we needed help more than once a week.  She began coming twice weekly to help keep the house together while I puked all day long.  It is no exaggeration to say she kept this place functioning while I was so bad off.

One day during that time we arrived home from a doctor's visit in South Africa.  When we entered the house we found that some raw chicken juice had leaked out of the fridge and was totally rotten.  The house smelled worse than you can imagine.  Having such a weak stomach at the time, I simply could not deal with it.  MaMopeli happened to come by and she painstakingly cleaned up that disgusting mess without a single complaint.  It brings tears to my eyes;  she has been a Godsend.

Finally the sickness passed and my parents came to visit.  During a walk through town one day, my mom and I were discussing Mokhotlong and it's lack of innovation.  Sure, there are some unique businesses sprinkled around.  But by and large the stores and roadside shops all sell essentially the same thing.  Aside from cleaning for us, the payment for which could hardly provide for a family of five, MaMopeli has a secondhand clothing shop.  To say that her store struggles would be an understatement.  My mom and I dreamed up the idea of a sweet shop.  There is nothing sweet to buy here in Mokhotlong besides prepackaged wafers at the markets.  A few days later, I approached MaMopeli and asked if she would be interested in opening a sweet shop if we helped her get started and taught her what we knew.  She enthusiastically agreed.

Before my mom left, we went through GAME, Walmart's close cousin, and gathered things like muffin tins, baking sheets, oven mitts and cake pans.  MaMopeli's home has no electricity and she did not own a stove.  My parents gifted her with a small gas stove so she could bake goods in her own home and sell them at her shop.  Her secondhand clothes store began doubling as MaMopeli's Sweet Shop.  We tested cookie recipes and muffin recipes and I tried to teach her what little I knew about decorating cakes.  Word began to spread and she was soon hand-delivering cakes to friends in town.

These are poor quality but they are the ones I have of her delivering her first cake!  Her artistic ability has improved greatly over the past year!  

I have been so impressed by her determination.  Nothing holds this lady back!  After baking a batch of cookies or muffins, she would pack them up and take them to the taxi rank, bank, post office and other government offices to offer them for sale!  Rather than wait for customers to come to her, she was busy walking all over Mokhotlong spreading the word of her new business endeavor.  We printed up fliers of simple cakes which she could make for special occasions and she posted them around town.

Recently she decided to reserve a shop in a new building being built.  She wants to open a genuine sweet shop.  She wants to sell cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, bars and muffins and coffee and tea.  It is a convenient location because it is near the main street and close to the taxi rank.  It will also offer electricity so she won't have to use my kitchen to store her supplies.  She generates muffins and cookies out of her own home.  However, I have a large kitchen with lots of work space, so she always bakes and ices her cakes over here.

We Westerners are beginning to grasp this concept of "When Helping Hurts."  Oftentimes we want to come in and throw money and supplies at a problem which can't be fixed by those things.  To the best of our understanding, the most beneficial thing we can do to help the developing world is to teach them to "fish for themselves."  In short, rather than handing a starving person a basket of fish which would feed him for only a few days, we ought to be teaching him to fish which would feed him for the rest of his life!  In a world full of handouts and little initiative, let's encourage and aid those who are working hard to better their families and their local economies!  What I am saying is this, sometimes to get off the ground, struggling business endeavors need a push in the right direction.  One of our friends runs a sewing studio here in Mokhotlong.  She is so busy she can barely keep up.  Do you know how she got started?  Donated sewing machines from mission teams who came to Mokhotlong.  She now employs a number of other people!  Our close national colleague operates a computer training program out of an office nearby.  Want to know how he got started?  Donated computers from believers in South Africa.

If you desire to see MaMopeli's business grow and flourish, would you consider donating towards her startup costs?  She has never asked me for a loan or an advance.  She works hard for her money!  She hasn't asked me to advocate on her behalf.  She hasn't ever asked me for anything!  But I know her financial situation and how difficult or even impossible it will be for her to set up the shop she is envisioning out of her own proceeds.  And I know our Western financial situation and how easy it would be for many of us to help in a small way!  She is seeking to buy a couple small tables and chairs, a refrigerator display case and an electric stove.  If you would like to bless someone this holiday season, please consider blessing this innovated, determined, hard-working lady by helping her start a unique business in Mokhotlong.  Please message me for giving details if you are interested.  Oh, and with three teenagers in her house, she's expecting a baby next month!  I can hardly wait to see her decorating cakes with a baby on her back.  Well, her baby that is.... she already works with my baby on her back!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Look into the Past & 200th Post Give~Away!

Over the past nearly seven years, I've journaled 200 posts on this blog about my life, travels, ministry, interests and family.  I enjoy going back and reading about my life years ago, as memories fade and experience blurs together.  Some things stand out in my mind.  There have been many monumental moments that have brought me to where I am today.  But many things need refreshing.

I think back to my first post.  For a long time, I could not look back at 19 year old me and see a kid.  Now I can.  Goodness I was young.  Living in Mexico taught me so much.  It molded me so much.  It prepared me for more than I could have ever imagined.  I am so thankful we had that foundation for our marriage.  We owned nearly nothing.  It was just the two of us.  We saw a lot of things which influenced our desires for our future.  Because of that time, we were able to settle into our plan to be nomads and not get bogged down by stuff.  We saw ministry being done by the local church and we loved it.  We caught the vision for training up replacements and leaving the work to the local people.  That was monumental in leading us to where we are now.

During our transition from Mexico to Africa, we were able to live nearby my folks.  After marrying so young, it felt like we were on borrowed time living close together again.  I don't regret marrying when I did.  I was ready.  But it was such a treat to be back near my family for those two years.  My parents adopted my youngest brother during that time, and I will always cherish being able to build a relationship with him before moving far away again.  Being near them helped us conquer support raising for Africa.  They also lent me a much needed hand during my crazy sick pregnant days with Ellee.

I've welcomed all three of my babies, Kyle, Ellee, and Sadie Kate, onto this blog.  I've journaled pregnancy highs and lows.  Recently as I was chatting with a group of South Africans who were here for a visit, I realized how often I start by saying, "When I was pregnant with ____."  I've been pregnant a lot over the past seven years.  It hasn't all been easy, that's for sure, but it's all been worth it.  As any mother knows, the journey to children, whether it be through pregnancy and childbirth or through adoption, is a refining one.

Moving to Africa has changed me forever.  It is now a part of who I am.  Wherever the Lord leads us from here, I know I will always cherish these rural years which have smoothed my edges.  They have stretched me beyond what I thought I could handle.  Some days are so long and hard.  Some days are so exciting and rewarding.  Some things I see differently now.  Other things I want to change but cannot.  It is such a different world here.  At the same time, people are still the same.  They have great joys and great sorrows, of which we share both.  We laugh often and we cry at times.  We exchange stories and points of view.  I have so much to learn from people who have walked different roads than I.  Some are cautious of outsiders while others are interested and welcoming.  We have been grafted into the family here in our little corner of Mokhotlong and, in many ways, it feels like home.  I see the Church more clearly now.  We are a body.  We may not agree on every last thing.  We certainly don't all come from the same backgrounds.  But there is a sense of family when we meet a fellow believer.  I've met Christians from more countries than I can remember; I cherish knowing I'll see them all again one day.

I've made blog entries from five different countries : Mexico, America, Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa.  Over the past years, I've spent significant time in all those places.  These places which to me have been home for some time :





South Africa

To recognize my 200th post, I'd like to do a give away.  I haven't made the purchase yet, but I can promise it'll be something special.  It'll take a few weeks to get there after I mail it, so if the winner is in America, one can't expect to see anything real soon.  If you'd like to enter, please leave a comment on here or on Facebook saying something you have gleaned from reading this blog.  Maybe it's a story that impacted you or a recipe you use often.  Maybe it's something you've learned about cross-cultural living or missionary life.  Whatever it is, comment and I'll enter you into a drawing!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Happy Birthday Sadie Bug!

Happy.  It's the best way to describe my girl.  She is happy every day!  She is happy to watch her brother and sister play.  She is happy to go outside and play.  She is happy to sit inside and play.  She is happy to be held.  She's happy to crawl around!  She's just happy!

This year has flown.  She has been such a joy to have around, it hasn't felt long.  Every day has been delightful with her.  I'm serious!  She is so sweet it's just fun to have her here.  She is affectionately known around here as, "Say Say", "Sadie Bug", "Bug Bug" and "Sister."  The kids call her Say Say which is so cute!  They love having a little sister.

Ellee at the top, SK on the bottom - both on their first birthday!

Over the past month and a half, she's really increased what she'll eat.  For the longest time she was surviving off breastmilk and Cheerios.  Now she eats lots of things!  Her favorite food is pasta, hands down.  She eats more pasta than I think is good for her.  I have to make her stop and she cries about it.  She has four teeth and two more on the way in.  I see the very beginnings of molars back there, too.  She really does a number gumming food without many chompers.  I imagine she'll be ready for steak once those molars get through.  Teething hasn't been much of a battle, thankfully.  Breastfeeding, on the other hand, hasn't been as easy!  You'd think on the third kid, it would be.  But we've hit a few bumps in the road this year.  I had what felt like the makings of an infection a few weeks back.  After some anti-inflammatory meds, lots of heat and water, and many prayers, it went away.  Nevertheless, she's still nursing 6X a day and, while she isn't exactly a settled nurser, she does so love her baby milk.

She's sleeping on her own through the night finally.  She slept great the first six months of the life.  Then she discovered how to sit up on her own, and that was the end of her good sleeping.  When we got back to Africa, we did baby boot camp.  After a few rough nights, she gave up and realized she was going to have to sleep eventually.  It's been smooth sailing from there.  She sleeps twice during the day and 11-12 hours at night.

She doesn't really want anything to do with walking yet.  She's happy to crawl and she pulls up on everything.  She climbs up on things.  She just doesn't want to let go and stand alone or attempt any wobbly steps.  I'm ready for her to walk -- crawling clothes are so dirty all the time.  Going outside is difficult because there isn't much space that isn't rocky or soil.  But I'll have to be patient because walking is not something you can force!

In August, I took her to New York with my mom and me.  It was so special to spend a few days just with her.  She's a great side kick!  I put her in the sling and carried her all around and she loved it.  In a few weeks I'm taking her to the Lesotho Missionary Ladies retreat.  I'm looking forward to spending more quality time together.

I feel it deserves noting that she has traveled around the world in her first year of life!  When she was just a week old, she spent a morning at the Indian Ocean.  In April, she played in the Atlantic Ocean.  Then in July, she dipped her tiny toes in the Pacific Ocean.  I din't see her making it to the Arctic anytime soon, but three out of four ain't bad for a one year old!  She has more frequent flier miles than most adults I know!  She's a super traveler.

We started her birthday with a french toast breakfast.  I made a cake yesterday in honor of one of her favorite things -- sheep!  She loves to watch the herds go by our house every day.  Sometimes she sits out by the gate and watches them pass.  I hunted for a birthday gift for her while we were in South Africa last week, but came up short.  I couldn't find what I was looking for and didn't want to just waste money on something.  I'll keep hunting for a doll house for her for Christmas.  In the meantime, she'll have to just enjoy a toothbrush and toothpaste instead.  I know she will because she loves to brush her teeth.  She follows me around when I am brushing my teeth grunting and pointing and groaning for my toothbrush.  Now she has one of her own!

A recap of SK's first year :

On her true birthday

Passport photo

Snug as a bug in a rug

Cuddling with Joy

One month

Traveling to America -7 weeks old

Three months

Four months

Five months

Six months

Seven months

Eight months

Nine months

NY trip 

Ten months

Eleven months

12 months!

You are just the happiest, Sadie girl.  I love the way you smile with your tongue.  I love how much you love people!   I love every bit of you!  Happy first birthday!