Thursday, April 5, 2012
You know, when you think about it…two years doesn’t seem like a long time when you consider a whole life-span! And like I already mentioned, I certainly didn’t anticipate the depth of the relationships that would develop during my time here. I have been blessed with being part of the YFC South Africa family and my church family and that the Lord has used me as a vessel of shining His light in this community. What a privilege!
During my time here, I’ve seen clients at Options Care Centre change their minds from having an abortion to choosing life. I’ve seen teenage girls who’ve learned to value themselves and understand what real love is, and say no to premarital sex and peer pressure. I’ve seen teen moms turn their lives around when they thought there was no hope. And I’ve seen teenage boys resist peer pressure and say no when offered drugs or alcohol at a party. I trust the Lord is changing lives in the George community!
Just before I left SA, one of my friends and ministry partners, Anne-Wein, and I went on a final outreach to a little town about two hours away called Calitzdorp. Chantelle and Shelden started YFC in this little farming community around the same time I moved to South Africa. Anne-Wien and I stayed out there a few days to help out, as both Chantelle and Shelden were getting ready to go on leave for the birth of their first child. So exciting! This experience helped me reflect on all I learned during my time in South Africa. My favourite part was working with Anne-Wien and Chantelle to create a pattern for sewing a purse which will kick-start the Hope Centre’s first income-generating project. Wow, what an amazing picture of God’s love pouring out into the lives of others.
So, through both the good and challenging times here in George, I am sure of one thing, “…The moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along…He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” -Romans 8:26,27.
One of my biggest blessings over the past two and a half years, has been my community of support back home…for your thoughts, prayers, financial support, encouragement and all the other countless ways that you’ve helped to sustain me in the work God has called me to. I am forever grateful!
Blessings and love….
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Well, I hope by reading this post you’ll be up to speed with the latest here in SA in no time…
So here are the exciting things that have been going on!!! :)
It’s with mixed emotions that I share with you that my time here is winding down. My two year term in George, South Africa, ends on December 20. Can you believe it?! The past two years have flown by! I have learned and grown so much since I joined Youth for Christ and have been stretched immensely.
At Options Care Centre, I have embraced the opportunity to counsel young women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies. One of my highlights over the past two years was ministering to Teen Moms in the Thembalethu township, an underprivileged community of George. Just last week, we surprised the girls with a fun trip to the beach as a break from our standard teen mom’s curriculum. It is hard to believe that these young moms, who live only 15 minutes from the beach, had not been there in years. They all had a wonderful time! Over the past two years, in addition to counselling, I’ve also loved going into schools and teaching lessons on sexual integrity, and doing weekly visits to the local hospital to assist with breast feeding support. What a privilege it is to help young Mom’s re-discover their dreams, encourage teens to make good decisions, assist new moms and their babies…and most importantly connect each client’s story to the gospel message. It’s been awesome!
At York High School, I’ve served as a youth counsellor and leader of the Peer Education Program. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year’s camps, our drug outreach project, and most of all meeting with the grade 9 and 10 Peer Educators on a weekly basis. One thing I treasure is the trust that’s been built with the students. This has allowed me to really dig deep into challenging topics like boundaries in dating, peer pressure, and self esteem. It’s also helped me to more effectively counsel and mentor the students I walked with last year. It makes a world of a difference when I minister from a posture of understanding each student’s story and knowing how to love and care for them accordingly.
Over the past two years, ministering at York High has overflowed into helping lead the Youth on Friday evenings at my church. Quite a few York High students attend my youth group and it just happened that last term’s focus was on dating and relationships-similar to what we’d been focusing on at York High. So, I was asked with my recently married friend Marize to teach on Biblical boundaries in dating to the girls. Our hope was to help the girls explore what God teaches in the Bible about relationships, and based on this, teach them how to protect their hearts and bodies for marriage. I have been so blessed to work in the lives of youth both at Options and at York High and even watch a handful of these kids grow and mature spiritually in my church community.
So, my heart is sad with the idea of leaving in just two months, but I find joy in knowing that the Lord already has a plan to move forward with each one of these kids and He will provide for them long after I’m gone. :) Praise God, they are in good hands!
So, on December 20th I’ll be getting on a plane and heading back to the US! I’m coming home for a missionary furlough which is a three-month period required by Youth for Christ. It involves a time of transition and mission debrief that will help me adjust to re-entry into the States. I also hope to start figuring out my next step as God leads. Some of the possibilities I’m looking into are continuing with Youth for Christ South Africa or in another part of the world, going to grad school, or remaining in the United States and finding a job there. For now, I’m staying focused on my work in George.
Throughout the re-entry process I’ll be sure to keep you posted! During this upcoming season I am asking my current support team to consider continuing to support me as prayer and financial partners at least through mid-March 2012. I trust that these three months will allow me sufficient time to come home, re-adjust, and start discovering how God is leading in the next chapter of my life and ministry.
Friday, April 29, 2011
First, babies…babies…babies. And when you have babies, you need baby supplies. So once I got back to SA after the holidays I decided to take on some sewing projects. My first project was to make a breast feeding pillow-I have seen these used many many times during my years of babysitting in the States.
The ultimate goal is for the ladies who are part of the income generating sewing project at Options Care Centre to take this pattern and make it for new Moms at Options to purchase…here’s what they look like…
Things are going strong at Options Care Centre. I am so blessed to have a steady flow of clients coming into the centre. As a counsellor I am primarily focusing on the teen and young adult clients and their boyfriends/husbands. It’s really been a privilege to work in their lives. Here’s a picture of the Options morning devotional and prayer time. It’s a great way to get the day started right!
Another HUGE highlight of the past few months was my parent’s visit to SA :). It was SO awesome. My Dad had multiple opportunities to help out at Options…he cleaned out ceiling lights, fixed curtains in the counselling rooms, cleared out the garden so it could be used a meeting place for counsellors and clients, replaced a toilet seat and even fixed the water heater. He was hard at work and everyone at Options really appreciated all he did!
Now over to the Schools Team at York High School. My parents also had a chance to visit York High and attend one of the sessions as well as an outreach to a local children’s home. My parents really enjoyed hearing about the Peer Education program first hand from the third year Peer Educators….and the Peer Educators had a blast asking my parents questions about the States too! After two and a half years of Peer Education, here’s how the Peer Educators describe the program in their own words, ““Peer Education is a place where people (young adults) are taught to be true, honest and Godly in all actions. It educates us about morals, modern community issues to be addressed, boundaries and our own strengths. IT HELPS US TO LEARN ABOUT OURSELVES AND EDUCATE OUR PEERS THEREBY CREATING A BRIGHTER, SAFER FUTURE.” Wow :).
Another event with the Peer Education Program was a street collection we did at a local grocery store to collect funds for the Youth for Christ George office. The kids did SUCH a great job greeting shoppers, telling them about YFC and the schools program and we made quite a bit of money!
My parents also had the opportunity to accompany my second year Peer Educators on their outreach to a local children’s home. Again, the Peer Educators amazed me with how they put the program together….we did everything from skipping rope, fun group games, singing, face painting, and even playing soccer with the boys outside in the rain :). It was a blast!
While my parents were here we spent half the time working with the YFC ministries so my parents could see first hand what I do and then we spent the second half travelling, relaxing, having fun and enjoying some REALLY great food ;)
One evening Marion and I decided to make my parents a traditional South African Braai at our flat :). It was awesome…my parents had springbok vorsh for the first time ever! They loved it!
Continuing on the vorsh trend, I took my parents to the Sedgefield Market on Saturday morning where we sampled a variety of SA foods and also tried out the breakfast vorsh rolls…my Dad was so excited, after loving the vorsh we had at the braai. Vorsh, scrambled eggs, and tomato sauce on a roll for breakfast….YUM!
My heart is filled with thankfulness….
So overall, it’s been a really busy but fun time back here in George for year two. I feel much more settled, and George is starting to feel a bit more like home :)…which I’m super thankful for. I’m glad that I took the advice of the YFC leadership to serve in SA for two years and not just my original idea of one. I’ve learned that it takes just about a year to get settled-physically and emotionally-and although I served during year one, the most effective (less distracted) serving the community here in SA started in year two after my foundation was laid down.
One of the biggest differences between last year and this year is getting grounded in an awesome church community and for that I am most thankful. I have grown so much in this community, learned a lot about myself and strengthened my walk with God. We just finished a three month study on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood based on a John Piper Desiring God teaching called, “What’s the Difference”. If you get a chance, you should check out the book…it’s amazing, and great for a small group study!
Alright…well I think that’s the update for now. Thank you so much for your prayers and support during this time in SA :). Remember, if you’d like to receive my supporter updates in the mail which go into more detail and include specific prayer requests, just send your address to email@example.com and I’ll add you to the list :)
Blessings and Love
Friday, February 25, 2011
Well it’s been a while since I’ve last updated things. To bring you up to date…I travelled back to Northern VA to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with my friends and family…we had a phenomenal time! And New Years was an extra. I was supposed to leave the States right after Christmas but I came down with bronchitis the day I was supposed to fly out which delayed me 2 weeks. It was ok though, I returned the rental car I had and got to spend some real good quality time at home with my parents :).
During my first two weeks home my South African roommate Marion joined me. She’d never been to the States before so it was really cool to see my familiar world through her eyes. We toured Washington DC with my Mom-we even got to see an IMAX 3D movie on the beauty of SA :), went hiking, visited some of my favourite coffee shops and restaurants, spent a lot of time just chilling and hanging out with my fam and travelled down to Charlottesville to visit my sister and her husband…
While I was home I also spent lots of time with my friends and supporters. We shared meals together….most of all, I enjoyed hearing about what’s been going on in their lives over the past year. Katie and I had a chance to travel out to the mountains for some really special catching up time and I had a fun time of sharing and encouraging during a brunch with my small group girls. I am so thankful for everyone’s help and support…I was really taken care of while I was home!So now I’m back in South Africa :)…and I’m noticing that things are pretty different from last year around this time! I had quite a transition to get through last year…moving to SA not knowing exactly what to expect, living with a family for three months who I hadn’t met before, buying a car, learning how to drive manual transmission, learning how to drive on the left (not right i.e. correct ;) ) side of the road, finding and renting a flat, finding a roommate, managing my finances from overseas-thanks Dad for all your help, finding a church and getting settled in to friend group (that should be at the top of the list). Looking back I think…dang, that was intense!
You know the chorus to the old hymn… “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”…
Yup, I GET IT!...I get it. Many times last year I felt like I was sinking fast with all the changes going on around me, a new culture, a new ministry, trying to get settled…this was not the semi-conductor engineering work I was used to! One of the biggest challenges was finding my identity in SA. No one knew me from Eve…so I had to pretty much re-establish myself. What I learned is that regardless of our circumstances and where we are in life, our identity is found in Christ. He knows our hearts…even when others don’t understand. Praise the Lord. What a relief it was to come back for year two knowing that this set of challenges were behind me.
So, this year I’m beginning to understand what it’s like to fully concentrate on the ministries that God’s called me to here. I’m working Mondays and Tuesdays at Options Care Centre focusing on teenage pregnancy testing and counselling and then Wednesdays and Thursdays at York High School both counselling and working with the Peer Education Program (same as last year). So far, so good!
I first trained and shadowed pregnancy counsellors at Options and last week I had my first client. This week I saw another two clients wanting pregnancy tests and struggling to know what to do if the test comes back positive. It’s important to talk to the client about the options she has if she’s pregnant (parenting, foster care, adoption, and abortion). At Options we don’t try to persuade or tell the clients what decision to make but we ask questions starting with…do you know what options you have if you find out you are pregnant?...Can you tell me what you know about these options? I usually end up going through a booklet called “Undecided.” The booklet goes through each option in detail so the client can make an informed decision. We talk about setting boundaries in dating relationships emphasizing that if your boyfriend really loves you-he will respect the boundaries you set, and when the client believes in God we talk about true love-what God says about sex…why He says it…and does she buy it? Regardless of the decision the client makes, Options offers support moving forward and we will make contact with the client to follow-up and see how she’s doing and how else we can help.
Options also does an outreach called Mom-To-Mom. Every week a team of 3-4 counsellors travel to the George Hospital to help and train new Moms who are struggling with breastfeeding. I’m learning a lot…breastfeeding is not as easy as one may think. I look forward to carrying on with this outreach throughout this year.
At York High School, Ozzy and I are continuing our journey with the Peer Educators. Our first series of sessions were based on alcohol, dating and boundaries. This is important stuff to talk about with Valentines Day. As always, it’s awesome to have the opportunity to equip students to make good decisions and their enthusiasm makes facilitating sessions very fun :). Moving forward the Peer Educators are in the process of creating community projects so they can use the knowledge they’ve gained through Peer Education in a practical way. More on that in my next post :).
Hope you all are keeping well! :) And keep your eyes peeled for the next post
PS: If you are interested in getting even more info on the cool things going on here in SA please email your snail mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The snail mail updates come more frequently and have more detailed information and prayer requests :)
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Things have been really busy…and at the same time, REALLY fun. There’s been a great mixture of school events and fun times with friends-South Africa is starting to feel more like home :)
After the camps came to a close for the year, the YFC team from George got to meet up with the whole YFC Southern Africa region for a staff conference in Hermanus, SA. We had a blast. 10 countries were represented at this conference and we all brought our own flava :). Of course, my team from George decided that our flava was PARTAAY…since this year marks the 21st anniversary of YFC George. Pretty cool.
We enjoyed worship time together, learning together and meeting new people. After the week was over, we all went back home refreshed, renewed and excited to serve God through our ministries.
Then, all of a sudden, I got that feeling (you know that feeling) like someone was watching me. Oh, yes, and it was true. I had pulled my window curtains back just enough to let the morning sunlight shine through but to a little girl outside, that meant…Caitlin’s awake! As I opened my eyes to check out the window I nearly had a heart attack….there was Kimberly, the daughter of a woman who cleans the flat next door, who had crawled through the bushes and was now standing at my window. Well, it took me a second to wrap my head around what was going on. Anyway, I said something like, “Um Kimberly, what are you doing?...it’s 7AM on Saturday.” She replied, “Caitlin! I want to show you my marks from last term”….and she started pushing a piece of paper through my open window. Can you believe it. Mmmmkay, well I’m awake now.
To make a long story shorter I invited her in and we sat on the couch for an hour reading through all her marks and teacher comments. What appears inconvenient at first can turn into a blessing. It was so cool helping her read through her papers and congratulating her on her job well done in school. I’ll always remember this early morning surprise visit :)
The following week we ventured back into the schools for the last term of the school year. Our focus this term was on HIV/AIDS education and VCT-Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV. One of the events we had with the York High students was a visit to Options Care Center. They learned first hand what happens when a person receives VCT. While there we visited the Cardies. The Cardies are a group of women who are affected by HIV/AIDS and/or had unplanned pregnancies and take part in this income generating support group. The women make the cards, Options sells them at local markets and then the women use the money to support their families.
Tarryn, one of the first friends I made when I moved here to George is getting married! My roommate Marion and I along with our friend Andri threw Tarryn a set of bridal showers. They were so much fun! Good food, good fun and lots of laughs. I think Tarryn’s ready to get married now :)
This past Friday, we had our YFC end of the year recognition event….as always, the schools team was wild as ever, cheering everyone on and having a blast-it’s been awesome to work with them this year!
So there ya have it, the last few months in a nutshell :)
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I left my house this morning at 6:15AM to pick up my co-workers Vuvu and Roxanne from their homes before heading to the campsite (the three of us make a mean team!!). After picking up Roxanne, we got lost in the township called Thembalethu while trying to find where Vuvu was supposed to be meeting us. Finally, after a couple of turn-arounds and trying to avoid hitting the random cow and stray dogs wandering the dirt road we found her and made it on time to the campsite to set-up before the kids arrived.
As soon as we arrive at camp we begin setting up…having Vuvu and Roxy to work with is quite a blessing! They’ve really taught me a lot about working with youth…and just being plain silly and having fun!
Well the kids arrived in their busses around 9 and to start the camp off right, while one of the boys was walking to his tent…a monkey (no joke) ran up and grabbed the grocery bag of food right out of his hands. We warned the kids about the monkeys…but to be honest, I had no idea they were so bold! From there, the monkey ran up a tree with his new bag of goodies and then hopped onto the roof of the main building at the camp, got comfortable and chowed down. Oooh…I felt really bad for the boy who had his food stolen….he was pretty upset.
Everyone got settled into their sleeping areas, the boys in the tents and the girls in the dorms. Breakfast was served and then, when everyone’s tummies were full…the sessions started. My session comes first….I LOVE teaching the session on “Great Communication Skills.” The kids were entertained by my examples of good and bad body language, speaking too fast/too slow, and using gestures to get my point across etc. etc. We also played this cool puzzle game where a volunteer practices good/bad communication skills to put a 5 piece puzzle together. It’s hard…and the kids learn a lot!
The sessions continued throughout the remainder of the day with breaks in between to play games. Here’s a picture from one of the games…it’s a hoot! Everyone gets their own balloon which they secure to their ankle. When we say GO everyone runs around trying to pop each other’s balloons. It’s so fun to watch and the kids love it.
We ended the day with worship music and a session called My Story, and then the movie “A Walk to Remember”…if you haven’t seen it, you should.
Throughout high school I struggled with acceptance…aka-being cool and making sure people thought highly of me. When I went to college, it got even worse…I thought my identity was in the grades I got, the way I acted at parties, the friends I hung out with, the things I did on the weekend, the extracurricular activities I participated in (like soft ball-what?! - that was a stretch)….the list goes on and on. Now I was stressed out AND needed to find ways to calm myself down. Eventually I got totally BURNED OUT (literally fell apart) trying to please everyone! It was clearly a battle I could not win.
I almost had to drop out of school that year…my senior year of college. But a few simple words changed my life…”There’s gotta be more than this.” More than the tests, more than appearances and trying to please everyone.
Over the next few weeks I started my journey with God…which turned into months and now to years. “God!...I can’t do this on my own”
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
God doesn’t expect us to carry the world’s burdens on our own! I learned that once I decided in faith to turn my life over to the Lord…He is the only one I need to please. If I’m doing my very best and I still fail or I disappoint someone I know that God’s perfect love will carry me. That was a hard lesson to learn, but it changed my life.
So there ya have it….a day at camp. I really appreciate all your prayers over the past two months. The camp journey was a long one but well worth it. I think each Peer Educator left the camps feeling like they had learned something new about themselves…and I already got one testimony of a young lady who started reading her Bible again. She shared this verse with me:
“Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it’s own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:14.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I also love going to the sea because when I gaze out into the vast ocean my life somehow comes into perspective. There’s a huge ocean out there, full of creatures from microscopic phytoplankton to whales the size of school busses…some creatures haven’t even been discovered yet.
The sun and moon rise and set over all the creatures in and around the sea, the same way they do for me. To me, simply acknowledging this is comforting. When I’m going through a tough time, I find comfort in knowing that even though I’m in pain, and I’m hurting…the sun still rises and sets, the fish in the sea still carry on swimming, the waves crash and there is peace and harmony in God’s awesome orchestra which He calls creation.
A deer pants for flowing streams,
So pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
My tears have been my food day and night…
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
And why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God for I shall again praise him
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I remember you…
Deep calls to deep
And the roar of your waterfalls;
All your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
And at night his song is with me,
A prayer to the God of my life.
This morning I woke up, grabbed some tea and read Psalm 42. My soul thirsts for the Lord and to know Him better. But like the writers of this Psalm, there is turmoil between my feelings of abandonment and the truth that God is unchanging and always with me. I love how the writers remind us that even though our souls are weary, there IS hope in God and we can remember all the times in the past where His faithfulness was revealed to us. I cry out, “Come Lord Jesus Come” fill my weary soul and refresh me! And the powerful roar of His waterfalls deafen me, and His breakers wash over and overwhelm me with His presence. I am filled with His spirit and renewed again.