Thursday, March 24, 2016

God answered our Prayers

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog.

God answered our Prayers

Refugees beating buckets and protesting.
Its been three months since my last blog and wow, a lot has happened.
Since December things got worse and worse. The refugees burnt and destroyed their camp site, creating an environment that they hoped would get the attention of any agency that could help them. They were abusive, destructive and for us, it became more and more stressful. There is no way I can describe how stressed and traumatized we became so I'm not going to bother. It was awful.
God answers desperate Prayer
 God wanted us to trust him, that it would not be by strength or power but by his spirit that the situation would be resolved.
So although we were doing everything physical and legally to defend ourselves, mostly we prayed.
I, my family, the group of refugees who were not protesting and our friends from all around the world stood together, physically and spiritually. We begged God for them to leave peacefully, to walk out. Not arrested, not evicted and not because the welfare removed their children.
On the 1st March, they did. They just walked out with no fuss or bother. They left for a meeting with the UN. Many of them thanked us for helping and apologized for the way they treated us.

Stressed or Stretched

There is no way to sugar coat it, we were left exhausted, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Some of the  refugees from the group that had been helping us were left behind,  We spent the next few days elated because the protesting group of refugees were gone,
Cleaning up after Refugees left
A peace descended on the farm. It was so strange to feel safe. The group who stayed,, mainly young men, got stuck into tidying up all the mess left behind, stopping only to praise God and thank Him for His faithfulness.
Rae and I were offered a few days at a beach cottage which we gratefully accepted. It was really only when we got there that we realized just how stressed we were.  We couldn't relax, but God in his wisdom sent rain so we were forced to sit, do nothing and eventually relax.
During the last eight months, Rae and I have been stretched beyond our limits again and again. Handling way more than we thought was humanly possible.

Rae posing for the media
And we didn't just manage, we didn't just cope, we thrived. We learnt to lean on God more, we learnt that we can trust each other completely. Its a scary revelation to realize that you are capable of way more than you thought you were.   

So what now?

Helping at Bridges of Hope for Children
We have a lot of potential.
We have the capacity and facilities to cater for large groups of people.
We have the ability to manage more than before.
We have our large family and our vision of Hope Farm being self sufficient and more importantly, self sustaining.
We have our large volunteer team that have a variety of skills and an incredible work ethic.
We have new relationship with our local community. 
We have the Grannies in the Embo community that still need our help to care for their vulnerable children.
We have a new, stronger faith in God. 
It feels like we have a huge opportunity here, to build on what we had before and create something truly amazing.
So we have started to improve Hope Farm, to help other ministries, to help the feeding scheme in our local communtiy and help the Grannies in Embo. While doing this we believe the Lord will rebuild the people God has sent us.

Our prayer needs.

Please continue to pray for the us. We have a lot to do.
1) Our water supply was damaged by the refugees. we need to repair the dam, replace some of the water line and get new water storage tanks.
2) We need to start some money making enterprises to pay back some debt we incurred over the past months and to keep caring for the people who have remained as volunteers.
3) We have a lot to do to make our farm sustainable to provide for more people.

And finally, please join us in thanking God that it ended successfully.
We mustn't forget that we got involved because 65 children were going to be removed from their parents. We prevented that. Yes, it was way more difficult than we envisaged and took way longer and cost us way more than we thought. BUT God came through. As HE always does.






Thursday, December 3, 2015

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down




I love music, nearly all music except possibly Jazz. I don't understand Jazz. I particularly like 80s music. One of my favourite things to do when I'm stressed is to take ordinary pop songs and change them into a worship song to God. Any love song, even some heavy metal can be made into a worship song to with a bit of poetic license.
The other day I found myself singing The Beatles song "Help". I don't really know why but it quickly became a desperate prayer to God. In case you are really young and don't know the lyrics.


"Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me, help me, help me-eeeoo

I sang the same verse over and over again. It just made sense to me. I don't want to walk on water any more, I want my feet on firm safe ground. I feel like I've been walking on water for five months now and I am tired. I knew the answer even as I was asking.
 NO, NOT YET. Carry on until the job is done.

The last few weeks have been particularly difficult with tensions rising, pressure on us increasing. Donations have decreased dramatically and our resources are all but finished.
Our refugee guests have been with us for five months now. We feel like we have given all we have to give and we are no closer to a solution than when we started.
Immediately after my last blog our visitors had a a huge internal argument and split into two groups that want nothing to do with each other. The conflict was over their leadership but has affected every part of trying to care for them. Making it all way more difficult.
The one group wants government to take responsibility and move them together to a refugee camp or to a third country. At this stage this is still highly unlikely to happen. Although we feel they are making some bad decisions, we also feel like this group is more vulnerable than ever and we have to continue offering our home as a safe refuge.
This group is also the group that has the most children. So, added to the stress of being prosecuted for having people on our farm, the people themselves are disillusioned and don't want to be here. The sad truth is they simply don't have anywhere to go.


The other group are a very different story. They have decided to do everything they can to improve themselves by learning skills, doing courses and building a resume of skills. They are wanting to leave the farm with a  reference that will help them in the future.
They have joined us as volunteers and are helping on the farm, building walls, planting veg and helping in every way they can.


A few days ago we had an important visitor and we needed the farm to look good. Everyone worked  the entire week and the whole weekend  to get the farm ready, sacrificially giving to help and bless us.


This last weekend we invited the whole top group to our Sabbath dinner. We had no money and no way of providing the food for 70 people but God came through for us and we had a wonderful evening together.

And back to my Beatles song.
"Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?"

So where is God when its tough?. We know He is completely in control. but how are we supposed to respond to impossibly difficult situations. We have to respond with faith, with perseverance, with determination to do what is right in spite of the circumstances. The lesson we are meant to learn is not just to be obedient but to be content, joyful,and most of all consistent in love.
I realize that its in hardship that I see what type of person I would be without Jesus.
And then I start singing Nickelback "How you remind me"
This is how you remind me
This is how you remind me of what I really am
 And so I pray
Thank you Lord that you are in control, I do appreciate you being round. Help me to continue to walk on water and see your miracles, to do the impossible. You are my rock and my salvation . I know you will help me. You have always been faithful. I know you won't leave me or forsake me now.

Thank you for reading my blog, for being a part of our life. Please continue to pray for us.
God bless
Andrew

Sunday, October 18, 2015

We have a village

Hello Everyone and welcome to my blog

Recently Rae posted this message on her Facebook page, I thought I should copy and paste it as a reminder of what we are doing and why.

Today I woke up feeling like I need to clarify the position of the refugees who are guests on my property. 
There are 138 people. 66 are children between 0 and 18 years. They are all from Burundi or the Democratic Republic of Congo. They all have legal status in South Africa as asylum seekers or refugees. They fled violence in their country of birth and are unable to return. 
When the violent attacks on foreigners started again in April this year they fled to the refugee camps the government provided.
They were all in the refugee camp in Chatsworth when it closed at the end of June this year. The United Nations along with the South African government offered them money to help them reintegrate into their communities or a new community which they could not accept.
The group, which is mainly families with a few individuals, no longer want to live in South Africa. They are looking for another country to settle in where they will be safe.
After the camp closed and all shelter and support was removed the group remained together on the open ground where the camp had been for three days.
On Friday they were illegally arrested, placed in police cells and most of their children were moved to a children's home.
Access to Justice provided a lawyer and legal advice over the weekend.
On Monday they were told they were not being charged. They were released after giving Hope Farm as their residential address as the magistrate needed the parents to have an address when he returned the children.
SAPS provided people carriers and Metro Police escorted the group to Hope Farm on Monday night.
They have been on Hope Farm since that day. They do not go out unless they need medical attention or to update their papers at Home Affairs. They depend on donations for food and supplies. They are living in tents, use a makeshift kitchen, portable toilets and buckets for washing.
The local municipality and a few neighbours want them to leave and are putting pressure on Hope Farm to evict them.
Access to Justice is representing them as individuals and as a group and is looking for a country for each family and single person.
I'm hoping this clears up any misconceptions about illegal immigrants, harbouring criminals or secret agendas.
On a personal note they have become friends and many are like family. We do life together in all its beautiful messiness. And I'm loving it.



And Now my Blog




People are extremely resilient and can recover from almost anything BUT they need some things in place to help.
1) They need the trauma to stop and to be physically and emotionally safe.
2) They need to have consistency through routine.
3) They need time and opportunities to process the trauma through a therapy of their choice. 
4) They need to be able to maintain responsibility for their lives while healing happens. 
So far we have managed to give everyone a safe place, have set up routines, are working on the trauma therapy and encouraging each person to take responsibility for themselves as far as possible. Time is our struggle as we continue to look for a longer term solution and continue to face pressure to evict.
The Routine
Our day starts early with transporting people to hospitals, clinics, doctors and Home Affairs.
Then school starts with praise and worship in our lounge or in the outside room. Little children worshiping Jesus despite the hardships they face.  Our bedroom has been divided in two to make space for an office. Rae teaches the class ones and twos in our "office". We now have a full time volunteer teacher that teaches middle school in the building named Celia (central eating, living, internet area)  and we have an early childhood development class for preschoolers. In our dining room the high schoolers continue their education with the help of a part time volunteer from Hillcrest. 


The adults are busy cooking, cleaning and working in the fields, learning to grow their own food. Late afternoon we have English lessons for the adults 


And in the evenings we have trauma release exercise classes also run by a volunteer. People are volunteering counseling, education and many other activities to make my visitors feel important and loved. 

On the weekend there are movie nights for parents, young adults and children and on Sunday a church service. 
Here is a photo of the ladies celebrating getting a slab of chocolate each.


This Sunday we had the excitement of a baby born on the farm.
The mother went to hospital on Friday and was supposed to have another few weeks until the baby was due. She went into labour on Sunday!
Rae had already decided on a course of action that did not include delivering the baby herself in the lounge. SACAN dispatched an ambulance and with a minimum of fuss the baby was born in the ambulance on our driveway. A perfect baby girl. John and his wife have honoured us by naming the baby Rae.


There will always be difficulties and people that oppose what we are doing. Last week our dam was sabotaged, draining out all our water.
Those of you that have followed this blog for a while will know how devastating this is, especially now with crops to water and so many people needing to wash. I called everyone to a meeting and they have agreed to use water even more sparingly.. We have repaired the damage and are now waiting for rain to return what we have lost.
Personal Note
As you can probably gather from the above list of activities we are very busy. The farm, our home, is a hive of activity, and we are loving it. Yes it is tiring. Yes it is stressful and unrelenting but we genuinely care and are determined to be part of whatever process is necessary to find a solution.
We feel like this is a life changing event for us. We are busy registering an NPO called Every Life Matters because we believe that every life matters to God and we are called to care.    

We now appreciate just how complex the situation is and its going to take way longer than we initially anticipated to find a long term home for our guests so we are having to look at ways to improve everyone's living conditions to make sure everyone stays healthy. We want everyone to concentrate on healing and moving forward. 


In case you wish to help and want to know what we need, I have included a list of needs and what I am working on:
1)To fence the veg fields to protect them from the animals.
2)To collect, filter and reuse all gray water. ( I need a pump, some pipes and filters)
3)Work out a way of fencing and protecting our water supply from further attack. (I probably need to increase our boundary fence to cross the river).
4) Registration fees to register the grade 11 and 12 students on GED. 
5) To purchase and upgrade tents so that all families have their own tents and appropriate living space.
6) We need an additional vehicle to help transport people to hospitals, clinics and home affairs.
7) Laptop computers (solar power means we can't run PCs) that can connect to the internet so we can facilitate online courses and schooling. 
8) Our other daily needs are basics like food, toiletries and school supplies.


I have set up a new bank account. Here are the details

                                                                      Every Life Matters



Bank Account details:  First National Bank ( FNB )

Account name:       Everylifematters
Account number:  62565717950
Branch code: 221526
Swift Code :  FIRNZAJJ.
OR you can use my PayPal account should you prefer.

Thank you so much for reading our blog, being part of our lives and helping to make a real difference in peoples lives.


And to end, because we are so proud and because you can never have too many cute baby photos......

                                                    Permission to publish given by Dad  







Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog

Our visitors have now been with us for two months. The local municipality gave us a deadline which has come and gone and no-one has yet come up with a solution. Our guests have nowhere to go and that is exactly the purpose of Hope Farm. Our ministry has always been to children that have nowhere to go and these children of God genuinely have nowhere to go.
We believe God has a plan for our guests. We believe He has called us and all believers to help the foreigner, to help the least amongst us. So although it seems impossible, we are determined to carry on caring and hosting our guests until a permanent home is found.
Please watch this clip from our local news
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfBtmBFX8VQ&feature=share

 We have been busier than ever before, more stressed than ever before. We have been told that it is called hypervigilance. A constant state of expecting the worst to happen and being unable to relax.
Farming
Hope Farm has a way of relaxing you and bringing you back to earth. While we have been busy with politicians, reporters, the media, threats from local municipality and the day to day stresses of caring for an extra 138 people, some things at the farm have carried on as normal.
For example; A sick rooster called Roost decided to move into the house for a period of rest and recuperation. There was no way of getting him out the house, wherever we put him he just came back and sat under the kitchen table looking sad until he eventually got better and moved back to his coop.
A friend bought Rae a pig.A strange present but  great company for Pigpig. She seems to have fitted in to the menagerie.
Our chickens have started laying properly so the children are able to fetch eggs every day.
We have also carried on with our chickens so our freezer is full of our own home grown chickens.


......With God
Throughout this whole experience we have felt like we are doing exactly what God want us to do. We have been daily encouraged to stand firm and be courageous. We firmly believe that God has a plan for our guests and will find a home for them. We are going to carry on in obedience and care for our guests as long as God requires.
2 Chronicles 20 vs 15-17 has sustained us during this time.
......And a large farmily
Having an extra 138 people calling you mom and dad is an all encompassing task. Every minute of every day is spent doing, planning or talking about the practicalities of feeding, housing and educating so many people.
Rae has expanded her home school to include an extra 64 children. Although we cant manage all day, Rae is doing as much as she can and a few hours a day are spent doing basic education.





The adults have decided to help me on the farm.We have started a massive clean up operation to remove all alien plants and plant as many indigenous trees as possible.
They are also clearing a field to plant their own vegetables. I am hoping to teach them as much as I can about living a self sufficient life style and equally importantly, I believe that  working the ground is excellent therapy.

Personal Note
When we invited our guests to our farm, we didn't know anything about them. It was 100% faith that guided us. Now however we have lived with them for two months. We have formed friendships, been through stuff together. Got to know them, especially the children. We have witnessed the extent of xenophobia first hand and it is shocking and appalling. They are lovely peace loving folk and they don't deserve to die. I am now convinced that that is what will happen to a number of them if we aren't able to see this through to a suitable solution being found. We initially set up a temporary camp but now need to make longer term plans. I need to upgrade the accommodation, the ablutions, the cooking facilities.We need to provide for the education needs, medical needs and the transport to clinics hospitals and home affairs. The medical issues are huge with many of the adults suffering with PTSD and some of them have chronic illnesses that have not been adequately treated. We are endeavoring to get treatment, even if we have to use private medical facilities.
Prayer and Appeal
Please pray that God shows us a suitable home for each family where they will be safe.
That we have the courage and conviction to fight against the injustices and xenophobic attitude that prevails in our beautiful country.
And financially, this is way bigger than anything we have done before and way more than we can do on our own. As always our support comes from our friends, family and individuals that care.
Thank you so so much to everyone that has already contributed and helped us care.

  And finally here is a link to an international journalists report.

http://m.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2015/0914/Challenging-anti-foreign-violence-South-African-farm-offers-haven-to-migrants


Sunday, July 19, 2015

God loves and cares for everyone. Every life matters.

Dear Friends and supporters

There are times in your life where you have to do what is right regardless of,... well just regardless. There are times where you have to truly believe that God is sovereign,and as James 1:22 says: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Two weeks ago, we had just such a defining moment.
We have been following the xenophobic attacks and the plight of foreigners in South Africa for sometime but have not been involved. Rae felt God had told her not to get involved and that we would be needed at "The End"
Two weeks ago we heard that the refugee camps were closed down and that the refugees that refused to leave were arrested and their children removed.
Here we are at court
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvcrVfiQfQc

The charges where dropped, the children returned. Somehow they were all loaded into buses and police trucks and with a metro police escort, sirens wailing intermittently and lights flashing, we drove through rush hour traffic and headed for home.
The next day was a  "media frenzy" (for us anyway). With TV stations
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=DpG0ODXm4NY&app=desktop
and lots and lots of newspapers
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/KZN-family-a-beacon-of-hope-for-displaced-foreigners-20150708

Eventually the fuss died down and we were left alone to start organizing and arranging accommodation, feeding, water, ablutions and a million other things that are needed for so many people. We have offered that they can stay on our farm while they discuss their options with the lawyers. Unfortunately because of zoning ( we are zoned for agriculture) they can only stay a couple of months and then they have to make the incredibly difficult decision on where to go because they truly have nowhere to go.

Over the past two weeks we have heard story after story of the most heartbreaking evil that people are capable of against their fellow man. From their horrific stories of war in Burundi and Congo to the horrors of xenophobia in South Africa. I have cried more in the past two weeks for these people than in fifteen years of caring for others.

Please Pray
We are praying that God will heal them while they are on the farm, do the impossible and find a place where these people will be welcome and can live in peace.
Isaiah 58. please read and believe that God will restore these broken walls.
Please also pray that Gods provision of food and resources continue as this is way more than we can do on our own.

Volunteers and Help

Our volunteer camp is ready so if anyone wishes to come and spend time  with our visitors in the next few months please contact us. We need people to help with school, counselling, entertaining children, sports and exercise, transport to doctors and clinics and art therapy with children and adults among other things.

When I get time I will write the full testimony of how God went before us and the amazing things that have happened since we invited this group of people to stay.

Thanks for reading and being part of our life.





.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Winter blog

Dear friends and readers

I am writing this while suffering from the common cold, Also known as man flu. This ailment is way worse than the feeble flu that women get. I know this because when Rae is sick she carries on caring for the family and doing everything that needs doing. I need everyone to know that I am dying and that every task is as sacrificial as that captain that held the bridge at the end of Saving Private Ryan.
This has slowed down the frenetic work rate on the farm as I "look after myself" and "take it easy"
and generally be a miserable wimp.

However, our country has some problems.

Xenophobia has raised its ugly head again, children need feeding and caring for and our farm has to be ready to meet the needs so complete rest is impossible. We have to keep moving forward.
We are also in the middle of a really bad drought.

Farming

I read today that we are having the worst drought since '92. This is disastrous for us with our tiny little stream.It is only June and it generally doesn't rain until September or even October. Our river stopped flowing in May and the dam was already low. We were praying fervently for rain and a few nights ago God answered our prayers with 10 minutes of hail. Whoever said God makes sense? The next morning the river had started running again, the dam filled up a bit and we are ok for the immediate future. I need to learn that God knows best and answers prayers according to His plan, not mine.

Because of the lack of water, there is not much I can grow. I have covered our kitchen gardens in plastic to keep in moisture and all my farming efforts are now to prepare for September when we can plant. This year we are going bigger than ever before. I have begun preparing actual fields to plant on a way bigger scale than anything I have tried before.





Legacy of Love camp site.



We had our first group of volunteers and it was awesome. Although the campsite isn't completely finished, we accepted a group to come stay as a trial run to see how it would work. It worked brilliantly. We are just waiting for a few finishes and then we will have a grand opening and let everyone know we are ready.









Embo News
We are very sorry that our good friend Beauty passed away this last week. She was the wonderful lady that we helped with our last self sufficiency project. She has been involved in the project from the beginning and will be sadly missed. 

At the moment we are helping Beatrice. Last month we gave her chickens to lay eggs and this month we helped her to set up a shop in a container that we provided some time ago. We hope this will give her the income she needs to stand on her own.

My Children's Prayer list:
I try to start each day by reading the Bible to the children and then we pray together.
I keep a journal of what they pray for and I thought it might be nice to share with you what is on my childrens' hearts.
Dear Lord
Thank you for the sunny days so we can play outside. 
Thank you that we are adopted and have a nice family, thank you for our shocky fence that keeps baddies out. 
Thank you that we have a nice home and nice supper.
Please can you make it rain so that our grass is green and our dam fills up, please keep all the leaves on the tree so the garden is pretty.
Please look after the people in Syria that are being bombed and the white hat people that save them.(google it if you don't know about the White Hats)
Please look after the refugees in boats trying to get into Greece and help the refugees at Sharon's house. Please give us food and blankets to give to them.
Please make Tom's legs work so that he can walk.
Please give us money so we can have nice supper today and food to help the poor children.
Please also can all the orphans be adopted and please look after our rhinos and stop poaching.
I generally can't think of anything to add to this so we all say
AMEN. 


I want to say a huge thank you to everyone that has helped us over this last few months, For the friendships and emotional support, Prayers, food, equipment and the gifts of money. We as a family, are all extremely grateful.



And to end, a picture of the camp site. Ready and set up to save the world.

Sarah has pointed out that you can't "run"
 in the campsite. It's "ran", because it is past tents.

God bless and thanks for reading



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Campsite is ready

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog.

The campsite is just like we imagined it would be! It has been really exciting to work on and now we are praying for volunteers to come and stay to help with the work God has set before us and to provide an income.

Children News

For some time now, we have been trying to build a dedicated babies home to care for children that are adoptable. We have had so many delays including getting plans done for the local municipality and not having a money tree.  God has placed it on my heart again and again that we need to be ready.
Me not being ready didn't matter in the end. A baby needed a home so ready or not our home is once again filled with the excitement of having a new baby. This little guy is way to small for his age and has lots of catching up to do. His story is sadly familiar and we trust God will use us to give him the future he (and EVERY child) deserves. The children adore him instantly.

Our Legacy of Love Campsite

The tents are now ready and have turned out way better than we were hoping. We can't wait for God to send teams to help us. Here are some pictures of what we have done to give an idea of what we can now offer.



A central eating, living, internet area




The renovated barn (from the bottom of the garden).








We have been able to plant so many plants. The gardens are so beautiful and peaceful.
Most of the plants are donated in memory of the beloved daughter of a close neighbour to allow us to continue her love legacy.



And the campsite










We have ten large tents with two beds in each.
The whole campsite is off-grid so it is kind to the environment.



Inside our spacious and comfortable tents.....










We believe the whole experience is going to be amazing. For international volunteers to visit our beautiful country, spend time helping its people and leave the country better than they found it, and for local volunteers to live and work alongside us creating a love legacy of their own.

call (creating a love legacy)


In my last blog I shared about Beatrice and her challenges. So far we have been able to give her some egg laying chickens and a chicken ark. Already the family is enjoying the protein from home grown fresh eggs. Our next steps are to help her grow veggies and give her  solar power.





And to end on a light note with some free parenting advice.

Never, ever leave two year old twins unsupervised with chocolate yoghurt.

God bless and thanks for reading.

             every life matters