Nov 29, 2010

All work and no play make Nicole a busy girl...

All work and no play make Nicole a very busy girl! It has been a busy first month here at Door of Hope and I have been LOVING it. It's funny how quickly one house and 21 babies can become your whole world when you have limited access to the outside world. The 5 of us international volunteers have become a fast family and fit into a regular routine of working and living together. We enjoy each other's company and spend our evenings watching movies, playing games and talking. One of the girls, Leonie, headed back home to Holland just last night. We were very sad to see her go and will miss her terribly! In preparation for her homecoming we were able to fit in something new for us: a road trip to Durban last weekend and a visit to a local Lion Park and a little place called Monte Casino this weekend. Let the good times roll...

In order to get ourselves to Durban (7 hours away from Jo-berg on the Eastern Coast of Africa) we had to hire ourselves a car. Kate, the Director here at DOH, was able to find us a reasonable rate for a itty-bitty blue 4-door chevrolet. We decided to rent the car for a month while the board works on finding a car for me to purchase come the end of December. We got the car 2 days before our trip to Durban and I had a chance to drive it around town for a few minutes before we left for our adventure. Seeing as I am the only volunteer over the age of 25 I am the sole driver of our little blue car that we have named "Mr. Shue". Those of you who know me well know that driving isn't my favorite thing to do in the world and driving 7 hours on the wrong side of the road to a town I've never been to had me feeling just a bit anxious. We decided that Jess (from New Zealand) should sit up front and help direct me because she's the only one of us who actually regularly drives on the left-hand side of the road. Between the two of us we made it the 7 long hours to Durban. When we finally arrived I was BEAT but the hostel where we stayed in Durban was so beautiful and homey after a 20 minute rest I was feeling relaxed and ready to enjoy our time.

We rented two private rooms at the hostel which was walking distance to the beach. After a good night's sleep we headed out to find breakfast and ended up at this little second hand bookstore where we had toasted sandwiches, muffins and coffee for breakfast before heading to Warner Beach to swim and soak up some sun through the clouds. After we found lunch at a nearby mall I dropped off the girls for horseback riding on the beach while I had a nice coffee date with Jesus (there were only 4 spots available so I got to sit and enjoy coffee and journal and read which I love!). They had a grand time riding in the rain and after I picked them up we headed to a nearby pub for dinner. It was so wonderful to just relax and enjoy one another. It has been such an adventure getting to know each other and sorting through all of the culture differences and languages (fringe vs. bangs, vs. flip flops, what-what vs. come again?). So many of our conversations revolve around how we say things or do things in our own countries. The trip also afforded me some wonderful opportunities to speak to the girls about their relationships with the Lord and found ways to encourage and be encouraged in our faiths.

After a yummy breakfast and stopping at a little market to get some gifts, rested and happy we headed back to Jo-berg on Tuesday afternoon. We got into the city just after dusk and proceeded to get horribly and significantly lost. After driving in the dark and the rain on unlit and poorly marked highways we finally got ahold of Lindsay and Ferdi and Ferdi was able to help us get on the right track once again. We made a few more wrong turns, paid two unnecessary tolls and FINALLY made it back home. I just kept telling myself "Don't cry, you won't be able to see any better crying!" But we made it home safe and sound and all in all it was a wonderful, worthwhile time away.

We hit the ground running working for the rest of the week and then on Saturday (Leonie's last full day with us) we set out on a local adventure to visit the Lion Park and a local hot spot called Monte Casino. It only took us about an half an hour to get to both places, the sun was out and we were happy to have the day to just play! At the Lion Park we were able to drive around a nature preserve and view lions, zebras, these buffalo looking animals and bunches of birds enjoying their mornings. We then had the chance to pet and play with lion cubs and feed ostriches and giraffes! We had such a fun time laughing and enjoying the animals. After grabbing a quick snack we then headed to a Monte Casino. Monte Casino is the large casino in town where we had a nice dinner, did some shopping and took some really fun pictures. The highlight for me was being able to have my first Starbucks' Carmel Macchiato since I left the US. The best part was that the very night before I had told Lisa "It's going to be a shame when we get up tomorrow morning and all I'm going to want is a Carmel Macchiato from Starbucks!" and lo and behold that's exactly what I found! It was like a special little (and extremely frivolous) gift from God for me. After wandering around the Casino for a few hours we headed home and then Hannah, Clair and I went and saw the new Harry Potter movie which was a fun treat!

I feel like the last week has really rounded out my experience here in South Africa. The perfect mix of working super hard and getting to enjoy the country and the girls I am serving alongside. Ever since I've arrived the Spirit has been bringing to my heart and mind where we are told in the gospels that Jesus came to serve and not be served. When we finally arrived in Durban I was exhausted and went immediately to our room to lie down. After a few minutes of asking the Lord to somehow make our time away restful and fun even with the stressor of being the only driver I turned to see a copy of the New Testament on our nightstand. After flipping through the Spanish and French translations I opened up to Matthew 20 and read:

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

I read it and just cried, repenting for feeling selfish and sorry for myself and ready to enjoy resting and serving all at once! I have been so thankful for the pressure-cooker of uncertainty that this adventure has afforded me thus far. I feel like I have had ample time to examine my heart in stressful and tiring situations and God has been so faithful in His kindness to me, leading me to repentance when a word or thought has run awry causing me to get distracted and off track for even a moment. I can only imagine what wild and crazy things He has in store for me here!

Thank you for your prayers and messages! Please continue to pray that the Father will have His way here at Door of Hope as we continue to seek His provision for funding and leading as the Leadership continues to shift around Staff and Babies. Please also pray that I would get over the little cold I've had since Friday. I would love to be well enough to work with the Small Babies tomorrow night. I love you all!

Here are some recent pictures and be sure to check out my facebook page for more of them at

The five of us girls in Durban

Leonie and I fawning over our newest baby boy!

Leonie and I at the Glen

Merry Christmas from DOH!

Me and a lion cub!!!

Me and our newest little man in the moby wrap getting some newborn cuddles

Checking out all of his newness up close!

Me and Leonie at Monte Casino!

Our house with our new blue car, Mr. Shue, locked up nice and safe!

Two of the big boys looking outside

Nov 17, 2010

This Is Africa!

This is Africa or “TIA” was a phrase introduced to me a few years ago, meaning that “crazy things happen here and no one really cares because it is Africa”. I have had plenty of opportunities to experience what TIA really means since I’ve blogged last. Mainly because our Internet server has been down for close to 3 weeks, and not just wireless for us volunteers, but Internet for the Office as well. Can you imagine a business office being without Internet for 3 days? Let alone 3 weeks?! This is Africa. I guess they’ve called many times per week and because there is only one Internet service provider here in Jo-berg they are not really in a hurry to work on their customer service reviews. Thankfully there is a mall nearby that has a place with WiFi and that is how I’m able to update my blog today. It cost money but it is worth it at this point for sure!

Two weeks ago I had a first: I visited my first South African Hospital with another volunteer and two babies in tow. Lisa and I had the day off and we were recruited to take two of our small babies to their appointments at the hospital. Lisa was assigned to a 8-week-old little boy who needed to get to his pre-op appointment for a tearing hernia that needs to be repaired. I was given responsibility of a 7 week old that needed to get another chest x-ray to help determine why he is breathing so fast and his chest sounds so rattley. All of the Staff were busy on various errands so Lisa (who has been here 3 weeks) and I (who just celebrated 1 week) were dropped off on the side of the road that leads to the hospital at 6:30am with vague directions (go to the “second block” and be sure to say “yes! This is my baby” for example) as to where to go and what to do with the precious cargo we held. Talk about an adventure!

Needless to say South African hospitals are very different than the hospitals I am used to visiting. For starters, to be sure that you will be seen on a day that you have an appointment, it is best to get to the hospital before 7:00am! Lisa and I managed to get to the right “block” and then we separated ways to wait in our respective waiting rooms. I was the first to arrive in mine, arriving before any technicians or receptionist. As the room began to fill up with sick babies and anxious mommies I began to get nervous. Would we be seen or because I am a white woman with a colored baby would I get turned away or sent the end of the list? It’s problematic to say that this baby is mine when the woman in front of me wants to know what my husband does and why I would ever leave the US to come to South Africa. I kept repeating the baby’s first and last name over and over in my head hoping that I would remember his African name correctly enough to hear it being called. As I waited I prayed for the woman who’s 8 month old must have been brought from her own hospital bed to come and be seen because she was still attached to an empty IV bag. This is Africa and for whatever reason they make you hoof it all over the hospital to get the care you need (IVs put in, MRIs, X-rays, ect…) rather than the doctors coming to you or even nurses taking you to the different areas. If you can be carried to the needed department, you are carried or if you are confined to your bed, your loved ones are the ones pushing you from department to department.

Although Lisa’s appointment was supposed to be the longest, only after waiting for a half and hour or so, she showed up in my waiting room. Apparently the person who scheduled the appointment for her baby wrote the date down wrong so he wasn’t going to be able to be seen. She smartly rescheduled it all the while hoping that she wasn’t turned away because she was obviously a white woman with an obviously American accent! The technician arrived and thankfully I recognized the baby’s name the second time it was called. I followed the sweet technician into the x-ray room, strapped on heavy “don’t get radiation on your important parts” apron and then held down a sweet little man on a cold hospital bed so he could get his chest x-rayed. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be with my very own sick child because the feelings that welled up in my heart as I held down this crying, confused 7 week old I had only known for 3 hours smarted like he was my own. I hummed to him and shhhed him until we were through and then was escorted back to the waiting room to wait for the films to be ready for us to take back home.

Once we received the x-ray films we began the adventure of trying to get a ride back to Door of Hope. Lisa had her baby in his car seat and I had mine in the moby wrap along with 2 diaper bags, two bottle-warming bags, x-ray films in a huge envelope and a folder with all the other important paperwork for both babies. Neither of us have a cell phone that works here in South Africa but we didn’t have any Rand coins to use a pay phone. First Lisa tried to use her calling card but we didn’t have the right code to make an in-country call. We found a few rand but once we got a hold of our ride the call dropped after 10 seconds. Although we didn’t know it, it takes quite a few Rand to actually be able to make more than a 10 second call! This is Africa. We ran out of Rand trying to connect with the office so we had to go and purchase something at the market in the hospital to get change. Long story short, we got a hold of someone at the office and Kate (the director) was able to come and pick us up. When she arrived she only had toddler car seats so Lisa strapped in her baby in the back and I handed mine back to her “for safety” for her to hold as we rode home. Talk about an adventure! I’ve since been to the eye hospital and the Berea Hospital but I’ll save those adventures for another post.

All in all I’m doing wonderfully. Not having Internet has made me more homesick at times but also has brought into perspective how truly elite and privileged (dare I say spoiled?) I am with the life that exists for me in California. I am confessing to the Savior on a daily basis my self-indulgent mindset and asking Him to make my heart like His: seeking to serve rather than being served. The first verse of Kari Jobe’s song, “Singing Over Me,” sings:

When my wait is so long, When my tears are my song

With my hope nearly gone, You help me God

To believe with the faith, in this dry weary place

When You felt far away, You held me God

Oh, there is freedom in surrender oh, I know it!

Through these lyrics the Lord reminded me that He is near and that there is freedom in surrender. When I’ve felt like I was on the brink of exasperation or weariness or homesickness I’ve spoken out and confessed surrender and have been met with such sweet peace.

Thank you for praying for me! Please be praying that I remain well and strong to accomplish my shifts. We have strep throat, chicken pox and a stomach bug floating around our houses. Please be praying for wisdom for the Staff here at DOH, our budget is in somewhat of a crisis. Being a volunteer I’m not privy to all of the specific details but I know we are in need of supernatural provision. Lastly, we have a little girl in the hospital with Cystic Fibrosis, suffering from a chest infection that may prove to be fatal unless the Lord intervenes, please pray that she would be healed and home soon! Thank you so much. I miss you and pray for you often. All of my love!!!

P.S. One of my roommates also wanted to add her favorite T.I.A. moment: our toilet was replaced 3 weeks ago and other than the toilet bowl it is all made of plastic! Not surprisingly it has fallen apart piece by piece leaving us with a cracked (and pinching) toilet seat, a tank that we have to fill up by hand because it can't hold water and flush by sticking our hand into the tank and pulling up the plunger manually. So very Africa and hysterical!

Me and my favorite small baby!

The small baby room, we currently have 9 small babies.

One of my favorite big babies in his PJs!

A new baby that came through the baby bin, less than 24 hours old!

Laundry on the line... we don't have a dryer here!

The Journey of Surrender

It is a pretty spectacular thing: watching a family be born right in front of your eyes. To see years of prayers answered in a moment. ...