Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Update

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to write and let you all know of a few updates and catch up on what has been happening here in Ohio.

I was originally scheduled to leave next Tuesday (yikes!) but there is no way that is happening yet! I debated between changing my tickets and just canceling them and eventually rebooking them - which would avoid going through all of this again if I still haven't raised enough support. However, it cost $50 to change - a one-time allowance - and would have cost $200 to cancel and rebook (presuming I could have found new tickets for the same price, on short notice). In light of this, I decided to just change the tickets for now, and if it doesn't happen, at least I'm only out $50.

All of which is to say, I am now planning on leaving January 19th, Lord willing. Two months seemed like a long time when I was originally planning my time at home, but now I know it will go by in the blink of an eye, especially over the busyness of the holidays. It will be so nice to be at home with my family this Christmas! I can't believe we've had snow already. It is so pretty when I'm inside. I love watching it fall and drinking hot cocoa and working on crafts. I do NOT like going outside in it, even to the mailbox! Ha ha!

I know I have informed many of you that I get 100% of the donations given through 1Hope (the link on the side of my blog). This has changed a little and they now take out 7% to cover administrative costs. It's good that it will be able to help them help us, and it really isn't much compared to what some ministries take out.

I am currently at 61% of my monthly funding. If you might be interested in supporting me, or if you know anyone who would like to hear more about our ministry, please contact me at abigailcaple@gmail.com. I'm so thankful for everyone in my life that has supported and partnered with me in this ministry so far!

Prayer requests

 - That God will lay on people's hearts a burden for orphan care

- That I will have wisdom to know how to best spend the rest of my time at home

- For the rest of my support to come in so I can return quickly to South Africa

- That I will trust in God's timing

- For God to raise up more foster parents in and around Pretoria!

Love to you all!

Auntie Abbie

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thoughts on foster care

I've been thinking a lot the last couple of days about the desperate need for more foster parents in general and in South Africa in particular.

With very few exceptions (extreme behavior issues would be one example), kids DO NOT belong in institutions. They belong in families.

I might sound a bit hypocritical when I also say that I work in a baby home. Regrettably, due to the way the process works in South Africa and the lack of families available, children often end up in a facility like ours for a while instead of going to a family right from the start (which would be the best option). We work very hard to have a low caregiver/baby ratio, keep babies with the same caregivers, and give them a very high standard of care. And most importantly of all, we work and do what we can to place babies in a family environment as soon as possible. It's not all up to us, indeed, in some cases none of it is up to us, but we do what we can to work with the social workers and the system in South Africa. We serve as a temporary landing place for babies while they find a permanent place. So that's why we aren't an orphanage and why we can't (and wouldn't want to) keep babies for years. We are technically a place of safety.

In SA, kids don't usually go into a foster home first thing - they go to a place of safety. Later on they are transferred to something more long-term if they need to remain in care. A family can be a place of safety, and later a foster home, but again - there aren't enough families to deal with the influx of kids who need homes. 

We CAN set up a baby home to be a place of safety. We CAN minister to birth moms, but we can't always fix their situations. Often they have given up their babies for reasons that go beyond not having enough money - a lot of times despite the support someone can provide externally, a birth mom still has to make her own choice to accept help and be responsible. We CAN provide information to families who want to foster and adopt. We CAN raise awareness about foster care. (We are hoping to do a conference this year!) We CAN pray, pray, pray. We CAN write blog posts that attempt to convince you that becoming a foster parent is a great idea! ;) What we CAN'T do is twist people's arms to get them to become foster families!

It takes a lot of strength to foster. It takes a lot of strength to adopt as well, but fostering presents a unique challenge in that you get attached to a child that you may or may not have to up. Sometimes you think you might keep them forever and at the last minute everything changes. Sometimes (like me) you KNOW you won't get to keep them forever, and know that is even for the best, and you STILL get attached and it's STILL hard. I have had a little one know me as Mama and stay with me and have had my heart break in two as I watched him leave, happy for him and grieving for myself at the same time. (I regret nothing.) I can still feel how so many of our babies felt in my arms. I think about them and wonder how they are doing and how big they have gotten. I haven't attached to all of them, but I have attached to a lot of them. It's different from working in a daycare because you know these babies don't have anyone, no mama to come get them at the end of the day, no one to call to come get them when they are sick, no anxious parent to hand them back to when they start crying. They are ours. I grow to love them in a special way, but I can only imagine how hard it must be to give up a child you were hoping to adopt and keep in your family forever.

Foster care is hard. It's really hard. It's not what a lot of people envision their family to be. They want permanency, stability, certainty. Dealing with birth moms is hard. Dealing with social services is hard. Attaching to a child can sometimes be hard, especially if they are older. Maybe I'm not qualified to comment extensively on how hard this all is since I haven't officially done foster care, but I know it to be true, and I wouldn't want to sugarcoat it. There's a lot of happy, sweet, fluffy stuff about orphan care floating around out there, and even though plenty of people will assure you it isn't all fluff, sometimes I think that's what the church hears. Help babies! Rescue orphans! God adopted us! All great, but orphan care involves a lot of suffering and we can't forget that. We know that children come from hard places and we expect that suffering, but sometimes we might forget just how much we might suffer and grieve while carrying out God's call.

On the other hand, we can't fear suffering. (Well, ok, we can, and anyone with a brain probably doesn't like the idea much.) But we can't let that fear stop us from doing what God might ask us to do. He might ask you to say yes to adoption. (Maybe, maybe not, everyone has a different calling.) But He might also ask you to say yes to the "maybe yes, maybe no." He might ask you to let go of a beloved child who calls you "mama." He might ask you to persist through multiple court dates and waiting, waiting, waiting, and unexpected biological family, and visits with difficult birth moms, and to show them Christ's love when it is the last thing you want to do. You might be afraid of saying yes to the wrong thing and having to live with the consequences. That does happen. But you can still make the best decision you can knowing that God is sovereign over it.

There are many things He might ask you to say yes to when it comes to orphan care. He asked me to say yes to moving halfway across the planet, to finding a new family, to working in a baby home, to NOT being in a position to adopt right now, even though I would love to do so - even when I see kids in desperate need of families every day. He asks me to say goodbye a LOT. That isn't easy. But like I said, I regret nothing.

One of the hardest things is to know (and sometimes watch) kids go into institutions long-term because there are not enough families. I can trust God's sovereignty, but I can also do everything I can to help when it comes to recruiting people! Whether you are in the U.S. or South Africa, please take some time to pray about whether there might be something to which God is asking you to say yes.

And please...don't be afraid. God is so good, and so beautiful, and so sufficient, even in the midst of suffering. He will enable you to bear whatever burden He calls you to bear...He will give you the strength, and joy and love in unexpected places.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mirror Redo

More DIY projects! When I moved into my little room at the baby home. Joy and I inherited this (not so) lovely mirror. The edges were chipped, flecked, and in some cases broken off entirely. However, it was a mirror and we needed a mirror, so we had someone mount it on our bedroom door, which was basically the only free space. 

It was badly in need of some aesthetic help. So I went to Metro for supplies and went at it with my glue gun - the one with the world's shortest cord. Seriously, how do they even expect you to be able to use this?! 

I liked this sequined trim. I hot glued it all the way around the edge of the mirror - very simple.

It looked a lot better, but there was still the issue of that broken corner to deal with. I decided to cover it up with some fake flower/rosette things.

It's been a while since I did this project, but I think I glued the last scrap of sequin ribbon  to a cardboard square to build the corner poking out from behind the flowers - to at least create the illusion that the corner of the mirror still existed!

Finished product! 

I suppose it would have been easier to just buy a new mirror, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you have! And I like the sparkles.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thrifted Stools DIY

In the baby home, we had several old bar stools that were heaving a dying sigh. At least one of them wobbled so much anyone sitting on it sort of looked like they were dancing from all the side-to-side motion that went on! So when I found a few sturdy, inexpensive stools at a small local thrift shop, I snatched them up. (Delightful Treasures on the corner of 14th and Malan in Gezina, for any Pretorians who are reading this - check them out!)

One of them had a rip, so after a friend's suggestion, I decided to reupholster them.

I liked this tan chevron fabric that I found at Metro, the home and crafting store in town. It was a pretty simple process. I unscrewed the tops, pried out the staples holding the lining/covering fabric on the bottom, and covered the existing black leather (probably fake leather - I don't remember) with the fabric, fastening it down with my staple gun. I decided to cover the chairs with thin but strong clear plastic sheeting (also from Metro). It was a bit tricky getting the corners right, and they aren't perfect, but I don't think my mistakes are too noticeable. Then I stapled the underlining back on and a friend with a power screwdriver put the stools back together for me. This was my first project in South Africa and I didn't have any tools yet! 

I was quite happy with the result. They've held up well over the last year and a half, despite lots of use.

Our "dining room!"

Friday, October 28, 2016

Chicken Coop

I realized I never posted about my chicken coop, and I wanted to include it on my projects page, so I figured I'd put some pictures on here! Unfortunately I left my plans back in South Africa if I saved them at all - it was mostly just some scribbling on a piece of paper, and a lot of improvisation, as pallet boards are not all the same width. I will at least draw up a diagram with some measurements when I go back!

This is the "before" picture. The idea was to clear out the jungle and put the chicken coop and run on the left. I was really grateful that we had a gardener to help clear out all those plants! It took a long time as a number of them needed to be relocated rather than just destroyed.

Honestly, I think it took several weeks just to get it to look like this:

After I had drawn up a basic plan, I started assembling the frame (on the other side of the house, where there was more light to work in the evening). I used something kind of like 2x2's, only they weren't quite square, and the measurements were in millimeters. It looks flimsy, and at times I doubted my choice in materials, but they were a lot cheaper than 2x4's, and with reinforcement they are holding up just fine.

This was before I had my own power drill, so I borrowed from a friend. I had to replace so many of their drill bits! This was one of my first projects with a drill.

It's a mess. I am thankful for everyone at MBH that put up with it! This picture shows late one night after I had assembled the frame and the floor. My original plan was to line the floor with chicken wire so the poop would fall through, but that plan failed because I couldn't pull the wire taut enough. Turns out chicken poop is big and it would have just been a nasty mess (even more so because they like to hang out underneath the coop...picture lots of poop and shavings falling on their heads), so I'm glad I decided to go with the boards. It's easy enough to clean if I keep a layer of shavings on the floor. For a while I lined it with cardboard as well, but that became too much work.

At this point I enlisted our house dad to help me carry it to its final resting place before it became too heavy to move. Here it is with the back wall on!

Here I am putting up the sides. Note my adorable "helper" watching me work!

I didn't take too many pictures for a while, but here it is with the sides, roof, and entry door. It was so hard getting the top even before I nailed the roof on! Did I mention I cut everything for this coop with a hand saw? A power saw is the next item on my tool wish list!

I wanted to build a living roof on top to economize on space and keep the coop cool. The edge boards for that, and the wood for the frame, were the only pieces of lumber I bought. Before nailing the boards in place, I took a piece of thick, clear plastic (bought it at the fabric store - I think they use it for upholstery) and tacked it down around the edge of the roof. I made the nail holes in the overhang so water wouldn't leak into the inside of the coop. Then I put down an old towel in an attempt to keep the moisture in. It didn't work. Maybe if I had better soil and lived in a wetter climate I'd actually be able to grow something, but usually it is the driest of all my gardening spots. Except when it rains a lot. It does drain well (the water seeps out the front edge, through the towel so I don't lose dirt as well) - well enough to grow mushrooms, at times - but nothing I WANT to grow seems to grow there! I think I need to find a more water-retentive soil medium.

Also, I had the doors on by this stage. Because they are made from recycled, low-quality wood, they are not super-perfect AT ALL. When it rains, they swell and stay open a crack until they dry, and when they're REALLY dry, sometimes the latch can come open and once a chicken escaped...so now I wedge a piece of paracord into the latch hole to make sure it is tight. It's...rustic.

This is what it looked like when it was finished and filled with dirt.

All painted and pretty! The red paint was great to work with. The white paint was very cheap oil paint and took four coats to cover the wood. Those doors took up quite a few hours of my life, but I was quite happy with the results. The posts are L-shaped pallet wood brackets to cover the skinny 2x2 posts. Sometimes they weren't quite straight and I had to wedge in scrap wood and screw it all together to make it sturdy. The little ladder in the front came from who-knows-where - it's too short for a bunkbed! - and is just the right size to give me access to the roof.

I have chicken wire over the windows to keep the chickens from pecking at the flowers in the window boxes. My African friends think it's hilarious that my chickens have window boxes with flowers, but I love them - even if they don't retain moisture any better than the roof...

The side door latches so I can keep chickens out (when I'm cleaning) or in (when I was training them to go into the coop at night).

I used masking tape and a ruler to do these doors. This blog post was my inspiration!

This door was meant to give me access to the nesting boxes. Turns out it's way easier to just go in the front door!

After I removed the back rail, though, this door makes cleaning the nesting boxes much easier. Especially since all they like to do in the back box is poop.

I used an old branch from the yard as a roost. It looks cool, but honestly, I just didn't want to buy yet another piece of lumber!

I put a roof over the top of my nesting boxes. They need an enclosed space, so it's a good thing there is a roof, but this is my least favorite thing in the coop to clean. They get SO much poop on that thing and it's really hard to scrape off the wood. I can't put shavings on top because they would just fall off. So I generally line it with an old feed sack - I have to wedge it underneath the roof. It keeps it from getting too gross, I can scrape the poop off, and I change it out every so often. Kudos to Mama Linda for the idea of using a feed sack underneath the roost!

I ended up putting a net over the roof to keep hungry birds away.

The coop itself took a bit more work and required help from our 1Hope handyman, and the MBH gardener who is studying farming. I can build things, but I'm not very good at sinking fence poles, and I don't have the tools to drill into concrete. I did build the doors myself, and I helped assemble the coop, with a lot of zip ties, baling wire, and a staple gun. We put a roof over the coop to keep stray cats away.

Silly chickens would rather roost on the floor!

Happy chickens in the shade underneath the coop. I later got an automatic feeder and a waterer, and they are SUCH a time saver.

One of the biggest after-construction problems is that it looks like this after it rains:

Apparently we significantly disturbed the natural water flow of this corner of land when we removed the plants and smoothed out the area for the chicken coop. It does dissipate quickly, but it makes taking out the trash a very wet affair on days when it rains heavily. We do have a little brick path under all that water (actually, that is probably part of what makes that side lower) but no drain.

I love having chickens in the city! It's so much fun. They provide us with a lot of entertainment and many eggs.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Hello everyone!

So, as some of you know, the date of my planned return to South Africa is quickly approaching. I have tickets for November 29th - five weeks from tomorrow! I can't believe how quickly time has flown by.

Currently, I am only 42% funded when it comes to monthly support. That's a pretty good chunk of my goal and I'm so grateful to everyone who has helped to get me this far! To avoid a lot of struggles and financial headaches later, I really shouldn't go back until I am fully supported or at least very close to being fully supported. Unfortunately, unless there are a lot of last-minute people out there, I probably will have to change my tickets. I debated on just canceling them and re-booking when I have the funds, but changing them costs $50 + difference in ticket, and canceling costs $200 (although the rest of the amount would be refunded).

I would love to return quickly, although Christmas with my family would be nice too! It is hard to be so attached to two places. I've enjoyed my time at home very much, but I miss being busy with babies and being around my friends in SA.

I can change my ticket anytime before my departure date, but for my sanity, I've decided to give myself at least a two-week buffer. If my support is not raised by November 15th, I will change my tickets for sometime in January. If there is anyone out there interested in supporting me monthly, please talk to me as soon as possible! If you have more questions about the ministry, the organization I work for, my proposed budget, how on earth to navigate the donation website, etc, please feel free to contact me as I’m always glad to chat.

Love to you all!

Auntie Abbie

Baby T turned ONE this month! I need to get back so I can kiss his fat cheeks!

Monday, October 17, 2016

I'm just one person...

So, it's been a long journey for me over the last few years. It's hard to pinpoint where everything started. Was it when I read Kisses from Katie and thought, "Wow, it would be really awesome to go to Africa!"? Was it when I read blog posts from many different blogs and gradually became aware of the orphan crisis around the world - when I was moved to tears over children who were the weight of tiny babies, neglected in cribs? Who knows...but it resulted in several trips to Bulgaria and my moving indefinitely to South Africa.

Learning about orrphans and neglected/abandoned/vulnerable children worldwide changed me. I didn't know I could feel so deeply about someone on the other side of the world that I had never met. I remember one night I saw my little niece's picture - before I even knew her or her mother (my friend-to-be)  and thought of her growing up in a mental institution. I cried over my computer that night over the fact that no one wanted her and her time was running out to be adopted.

I read story after story like hers (although I connected with her the most deeply, for some reason). It's enough to wreck the world of a young 20-something who can't really do much to help, at least in the way of traveling overseas and snatching everyone up to come home and live with her. There was suffering going on every minute of every day, and what could I do to stop it? Very little - it would be like trying to empty the ocean with an eyedropper.

I traveled to Bulgaria. I saw children with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) who had heads the size of watermelons, relegated to their cribs to live out their short lives. I was mobbed by a crowd of preschoolers who just wanted someone to pay attention to them. I saw malnourished children and lonely orphanages. I saw people who probably didn't care, and a lot of people who did care but didn't know how to make things better or even have a good understanding of what that would mean. (Yes! We have a great orphanage! We take good care of the kids! We have all these resources! Yes, but you still aren't a family.) I walked the grounds of an orphanage infamous for its gross abuse and neglect of children. A friend and I circled it and prayed. I could sense spiritual oppression. The weight of the situation shook me as I gazed on stories upon stories of massive, Cold War era concrete block, and thought of all the little lives trapped inside - lives precious in the sight of God.

I wasn't old enough to adopt children from overseas. Now I'm old enough and I'm still not in a situation where I'm able to do so. Even if I could take several children and give them a family, the sheer overwhelming nature of the crisis felt like it was swallowing me up. Yes, adoption changes the world of each child. But what about all the others?

I've seen more since then. I've seen how, often, children struggle to transition into families, and I grieve for what their early lives did to them. I've seen mothers give babies up, make empty promises, and I've battled anger and unforgiveness. I've visited a group home and seen a once flourishing little girl who has forgotten how to talk and been deemed "unadoptable" - seen how she sits in a wheelchair all day and can only receive visits once a month because it "spoils" her.

I've wondered - is it better to not break through that barrier, sometimes? Is it worse to open her eyes to love if it hurts worse afterwards? Is there a better solution? Can anything be done?

Knowing is a burden. When you know, you care, and when you care, you hurt. I wrestled with this hurt for several years - the hurt, and my general helplessness.

And I'm learning to trust. It's a gradual process. Living overseas and working at the baby home helps tremendously to combat the choking feeling of everyone is suffering and I can't do anything! But still...orphan care is wrought with suffering. Although I grieve over the orphans across the globe, the ones I don't know, the ones who are neglected and not fat and happy and well-loved and generally headed for families, like our babies are...the cases close to home hurt too.

I texted my friend on a particularly rough day at the baby home. There had been unexpected developments in the case of a little one who was as dear to me as my own child. I couldn't handle this, emotionally.

How do you do this? How are you so tough?

You don't need to be tough. You just need to trust that God is sovereign.

Very simple, and a truth I already knew, but one she knew I needed to hear again. And I realized - there aren't only two options when it comes to suffering in orphan care: be tough and emotionally capable of handling this, or fall apart over the pain of it all.

I was never meant to bear the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I don't need to be tough enough and capable enough and clever enough to come up with a solution to rescue every child in need.

I don't need to be a constant emotional wreck when I look at the grief and horror in the world, because it's not my job to fix it.

That's not saying that grief doesn't have a time and a place. I look back, and know I would cry over those situations all over again.

But world, your weight of sin and death and pain is not mine to bear. I have a God who is working out His perfect plan. I have a God who has called me to lay down my life to care for others, and I will joyfully do it...whatever it looks like over the years to come. I will not stem the tide of grief in this hard world. I am one small person. But I will trust my God. I will fulfill the small piece of work He has for me. And I will follow Him where He leads.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to Donate

So I've gotten some questions about how to donate - it's kind of hard to find my name on the 1Hope website, so I thought I'd do a quick blog post with screenshots to explain.

UPDATE: They have updated the site and it is now much more user friendly! (Thanks 1Hope USA, it looks great!)

This is the page that you go to when you click on the thermometer in the right-hand column of this blog. First it asks you the amount you would like to donate - there are a few suggested donation amounts, or you can input a custom amount in that section. Second, it asks you if you want to donate to a specific ministry. If you click the down arrow, you will see my name - click on that.

Note: There is another girl named Abi. I'm sure she'd love to get donations too, but I'm "MBH Caregiver Abbie Caple."

After that, it allows you to select if you would like to give one time, or annually, quarterly or monthly.

From then on the form is pretty self-explanatory. If this electronic stuff is too much for you, you can send a paper check to 1Hope Ministries International/1 League #60277/Irvine, CA 92602 (USA). Just make sure to put "Abbie Caple" in the memo.

Thanks to everyone who is helping me to get back to South Africa! For more information on what I do, check out the "About Me" page or look back through some old blog posts.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Two years ago, I wrote this post, and I thought it would be fun to do an similar post with new lists.

Please note that things are not listed, even when it would be applicable, in order of importance. ;) That's too much work. Haha!

As someone who travels back and forth between two different cultures, I'm in the unique position to experience the (often slightly amusing) misconceptions these cultures have about each other! Often times these are just innocent people who lack information, but sometimes it still seems funny after being there.

Five Stereotypical Things People Say/Ask About South Africa:

1. Africa's a country, right?

No. It's a continent with, according to Google, 54 countries. I was a bit confused and thought up until this point there were 52, but I did memorize where each one was, at one point.

2. Does Pretoria have dirt roads?

No. I haven't found any yet, anyway.

3. Are there wild animals running around?

No. Although we did hear about this incident, it was a lion that escaped from a game reserve or zoo or something and didn't really have anything to do with this being wild, adventurous Africa. Oh, and then there are my friends who live up north next to a game reserve and the elephants keep getting through the fence and bothering their fruit trees...all of this is undermining my point though...if you walk down the street you will NOT see wild animals! You will barely even see roadkill except for the occasional cat. We do have a fair amount of stray cats, and one Yorkie that keeps getting loose from the neighbor's yard. Oh, and once one of my chickens escaped. Does that count?

4. Your babies look so clean! And they have nice clothes!

Yes. We bathe them! We wash their clothes. And I sneakily go through and donate all the clothing that is ripped/stained/"expired"(looks like it was from 1990)/otherwise abused by babies. We have incredible amounts of clothing in the garage that have been donated to us, so I can pick out cute little wardrobes for each baby. Sometimes their outfits don't always, in my opinion, match, but different strokes for different folks...=) Also, people in general don't wear ripped, holey clothing like you see in National Geographic pictures of Africa. Not everyone has a lot, but they do their best to look nice just like you and me. We don't live in a rural village in the midst of desperate poverty - it does exist, just not for every family. And poverty often looks different than you would expect.

5. Who needs a car! Couldn't you get a bicycle/golf cart? I bet you would save a lot of money!

I suppose I would save a lot of money but I also wouldn't be able to get anywhere or give anyone rides. Public transportation either a.) isn't particularly safe for a white girl (taxis) or b.) doesn't go everywhere I need to go (bus). And biking in Pretoria traffic? My brave friend Emily managed but I'm not as street smart and also more likely to fall over and get run over by a taxi. And I'm pretty sure anyone crazy enough to drive a golf cart would either die/get run off the road.

This was the time I got stuck in taxi traffic in town during rush hour...not for the faint of heart. I don't think I'd even been driving that long, maybe a few weeks?

But while all of you Africans are sitting over there chuckling at the Americans (they think it's soooo funny and I always get asked, "Did you think there would be lions in the streets? Ha ha ha!"), it goes both ways!

Five Stereotypical Things People Say When They Find Out I'm American 

(Usually as soon as I open my mouth)

1. Ooo! Are you from Los Angeles? Or New York?

You realize there's an entire country in between those cities, right? Although admittedly the film industry doesn't seem to understand that either.

2. Take me back with you!

Sometimes cute if you know me (like if you're one of my girlfriends and want to stow away in my luggage). Just weird if you're a random store clerk.

3. Is there wifi EVERYWHERE in America?

Ok, ok, I was only asked this once, but it was too good not to include. We have wifi lots of places. But it doesn't just float through the air like magical glitter dust...someone has to pay for it!

4. Everyone is rich in America!

Ok, not usually said outright, but tends to be assumed. It's true that in general we do have a higher standard of living. But we have poor people too. And things cost more than you would think. And we have to buy things you wouldn't realize (like health insurance). And yes, most of us own cars but unless you're in a big city, we don't really have public transportation so if we want to get to our job we have to figure out a way to get a car. So yes, we are very blessed, but the movies don't show you the whole picture and sometimes things are a bit different than you would think. Kind of like all the photos of starving children in Africa wearing rags for clothing. True, but not the whole picture.

5. What is your staple food?

I guess this one is the OPPOSITE of a stereotype, actually. We don't have one, although if you visited us you might be confused and think it is cheese. No, really, I know it's hard to grasp, but WE DON'T HAVE A STAPLE FOOD. And no, we don't feel hungry all the time because we don't have a staple food. Really.

Five Reasons I'm Excited About My Time Home

1. Friends and family! Visiting people! Traveling to visit people! Enough said.

2. Food! Taco Bell. I had Taco Bell for lunch and supper the other day, no lie. Donuts. Salvage stores. Berries. Double Stuff oreos. Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies. Salty tortilla chips with Ranch dressing. Lucky Charms. Hot Dog Shoppe. The Garbage Can Cookout. Etc.

3. Buying things I need. Actually finding cute shoes in my size. Getting an external DVD drive for $12 instead of $50. Thrift stores. Shopping for gifts for my friends back in SA. Going to Walmart.

4. Seasons. Fall is cool. I haven't seen the leaves turn since 2013. I might get to see snow (although that's about all I want to do, see it, not walk in it, drive in it, or otherwise be out in it).

5. Thanksgiving. I'm so happy to be home for it!

Five Reasons I'm Excited to Go Back

1. My family is there. No, not my biological family, my other family.

2. Babies. Especially one chubby little guy who just learned to blow kisses...if he's still there in November.

3. Christmas! Yes, it would be fun to be home for Christmas, but this year won't be my first Christmas away (that was last year). I'm excited to continue and start new traditions, and we're going to deck the baby home out with decorations...at least whatever we can find. Last year I hardly decorated at all, just a few things in my room. I'm going to bake with my coworkers, buy a hamster for my friend's boys, and take a big box of stuff back for people.

4. Food. Someday I'll find a magical Food World where everything I like will be on the same continent. I got an intense craving for a mango in the middle of the night last night. And it's fun to have so many meals with people.

5. Meaning, purpose, and structure to my life: Ok, I KNOW I have the first two at home, even if I feel a bit aimless sometimes. But I love my job. You wouldn't think I would have to remind myself to enjoy 3 months off, but sometimes I do! 

Five Things I'd Love for the Baby Home

(This is my personal list - money for caregiver salaries, electricity, formula, and diapers always tops the official MBH list. This is definitely not an officially sanctioned list as I'm pretty sure EVERYTHING takes priority over baby bow ties.)

1. Two new drying racks. They get used 7 days a week and I've had to resurrect the old ones more times than I can count. This one is my favorite. I have one for my own personal use and even though they're quite a bit more than other models, they are incredibly sturdy. Available to buy in South Africa for about $32 USD. I don't think they've bought any more since I've been gone, but I'm not sure. 

2. Bottle bands to slip over Avent bottles, personalized with "MBH" - so we don't lose them at church. 

3. Sock Ons. Although there HAS to be a cheaper place to buy them. They are these little things that hold socks on. Our babies are exceptionally skilled at kicking socks and shoes off and it's hard to keep their toes warm in the winter!

4. Adorable dress clothes, especially for baby boys. I don't really have space to take a ton of baby clothes back, but I dream of dressing our boys in little white button down shirts with bow ties and suspenders....<3 <3 <3 

5. C batteries. Used to power our swings, but we only have them when they are donated to us. Not so necessary with older babies, but a lifesaver with newborns!

Five Hardest Things About Support Raising

1. Asking people for money. 

2. Waiting.

3. Not feeling like I can do anything to move the process forward.

4. Talking to people at churches I don't know very well.

5. Pestering people. "Did you ask this person if I can speak? Did you figure out a date?" 

Five Fun Things About Support Raising

1. Doing things like designing a prayer card and writing blog posts.

2. Speaking. No, really, it's cool, at least after I get the first time over with. It's fun to tell stories and I like to talk about what I love.

3. Having a break from the insanity of daily life and a chance to catch up on things.

4. Watching God provide.

5. Visiting lots of people!

Five Highlights of My Last Term in SA

1. Caring for all the babies but especially baby B! Easily the best part of my year.

2. Making new friends - new 1Hope staff, new church members...those moments when you are like, "instant best friend!"

3. Getting to know old friends better.

4. Really finding my place in the world and at MBH and realizing that I'm happy here.

5. Chickens. I had always wanted them!

Five Unusual Things I Ate Since the Last List

1. Chicken livers. Didn't gag, not a fan.

2. Beef liver. Same. I guess this isn't "unusual." My mom eats it. But it goes outside the bounds of "things I normally consume."

3. Peanut butter with stewed greens. Definitely gagged. Sorry, guys.

4. Chicken feet. The outside is ok, the inside doesn't resemble anything I would like to swallow, but it's a popular dish!

5. Crocodile. It's ok, kind of rubbery, and totally grossed my African friends out!

Five Favorite Foods from South Africa

1. Fresh mangoes

2. Pap with all of the soups mixed together at communion. Especially that beef stew with red sauce.

3. Samoosas. Still a favorite. It's kind of like a little Hot Pocket, Indian style.

4. Meat pies. I get cravings for these at the weirdest times.

5. Grenadilla (passionfruit) pop/soda.

Five Funny Moments

1. That time I saw a beggar whose sign read "Jeraff stolen by ninjas need money for karate lessons." He'd apparently stolen a bunch of local retirement home posters, cut the giraffes out, and pasted them to his sign.

2. This story (since which my driving has improved):

"Mama Linda is the best to drive with because nothing ever scares her about my driving. And I mean nothing. Even plenty of things that should.

Today I was following cars around a right turn, without noticing that they'd been turning on a green arrow (I thought we had a green light and opposing traffic had a red one). The green arrow was no longer there. I get halfway across the intersection and notice the line of cars has started to move. They do see me - they're all blaring their horns at me - so I'm not too worried about impending doom. At this point, I figure it's better to plow forward quickly rather than attempt to back up.
Mama Linda: You have confidence. Is better.
Me: Uh, auntie, I think that's called stupidity, not confidence.
Mama: You are a good driver. 
At least she believes in me. The rest of you can just pray for me."

3. Signs in general. Like the Prophetic Supermarket or the Buy Fish/Get a Surgery Combo.

4. That time my chicken got loose in the retirement community and the older (possibly senile) lady wouldn't let me into her backyard to catch it because "oh no! It's fine!"

5. That time when Lu and I pretended to be flight attendants and were a general public nuisance.

I think that's all for today!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My time at home

So I've gotten a lot of questions about my time at home and ministry in South Africa, and I thought I'd do my best to answer them here for those of you who are wondering.

Do I miss the babies?

Yes. A lot. I've watched this video probably a dozen times. My Sunday work buddy sent it to me.

That being said, all this QUIET is a rare occurrence in my life!

Am I going back? Or do I want to go somewhere else next time?

I am absolutely planning on it. (At least half my possessions are over there now.) I'm not on a short term trip anymore. I'm committed to this specific ministry and at this point I'm as likely to decide to go somewhere else as I was to decide to leave home for Africa in the first place (read: no one has their entire future planned, but not very likely). This is my job now. Also, I really like this place and these people and this thing I'm doing, so, there is that. =)

How long am I planning on staying?

Officially, until my visa runs out in May 2018. But, I just can't see myself leaving then! I'm desiring to stay on indefinitely. Like I said, no one has the future entirely planned out but I love it at MBH and, as I've already mentioned, most of my stuff is there. Ha ha.

When am I going back?

Lord willing, November 29th (Tuesday after Thanksgiving.) Yes, I have my tickets. Was it a good idea to buy them ahead of time? Maybe, maybe not. I guess we'll see.

Am I getting a job while I am home?

No, because this trip is primarily to raise monthly support and visit with friends and family. I'm only home for 3 months (who wants to hire someone for 3 months?) and I'm going to be doing quite a bit of traveling. I'm picking up the odd job or two when I get the chance, and I'm happy to crochet something for you (Etsy - Abbie's Happy Heads or the same on Facebook). I'm also hoping to volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center.

How does support raising work?

Last time I raised support for a year - so I needed a specific total dollar amount that would stretch over the whole year. This time, my goal is to raise long-term support - i.e. support that will allow me to stay as long as God has me here. I'm looking for supporters to partner with me on a monthly basis. Of course, I have been very blessed to receive some one-time gifts as well - they help me with some larger expenses/purchases (like flights, repairs to my room, etc) that are sometimes difficult to squeeze out of a monthly budget.

Why do you need more this time?

There are added expenses, the older I get (like not being on my family's insurance anymore and needing to buy health insurance) and the longer I stay somewhere (car repairs, savings, etc.) Exchange rates fluctuate (so sometimes I get more or less in the currency that I use in South Africa, even if the dollar amount stays the same). There is a potential that some supporters just won't be able to support me anymore at some point, and it's just better to have a small cushion when I am looking at things longer term.

What are you doing while you are home?

Well, when I'm not working on support raising, or traveling/visiting people, I try to occupy my time with things that a.) I don't have time to or can't do in South Africa and/or b.) will make my life easier when I get back. So I'm practicing musical instruments, working on learning the local language that many of my friends speak (Shona), cleaning out and getting rid of a lot of my stuff in my parents' house, shopping for all the things on my "buy in the USA" list, using up my fabric stash to sew baby quilts for the multitude of showers/birthday parties at Living Hope, exercising, writing blog posts, thrift shopping with my mom, eating Taco Bell, and sometimes enjoying evening TV binges. ;) Sometimes I'm a little bored (*gasp!* I haven't been able to say that in years!) as support raising is a funny beast - you work and work and prep and send out letters and speak and wait and wait. But it's good to have some time at home. 

Speaking of home, which place do I see as "home" now?

To which question I quote the old hymn, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through..." Seriously though, don't make me pick. Haha. Your old childhood home is generally always "home,"  but I've pretty much made a life for myself in South Africa, and I love it. Yes, I do miss you all. I always welcome visitors. =)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Upcoming speaking dates

Hi all!

I will be speaking at Fowler Community Church (about working at Muphamuzi Baby Home) on Sunday, September 25th (service starts at 10 am). For those who would like to come but can't make it, I will also be speaking at the same place on Friday the 30th at 7 pm (finger foods/cookies to follow).

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Little Princess

Sweet baby R has been the only girl at the baby home all year! She has more pink clothing than one child could ever wear.

Sweet dreams, Princess!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Many Faces of Baby T

Little T usually gives you a blank stare when you try to take his picture. But if you catch him at the right time, he has a whole range of expressions!

Of course you do get the typical stone-faced expression (sometimes with a bit of a smirk)...

Cheesy smiles...

Sweet smiles...

Surprised faces...

Sad, "stop taking my picture!" and "don't pull my ears!" faces...

And LOTS and LOTS of silly faces!

We love you, Baby T!