Thursday, December 14, 2006

Walter E. Sloan

Walter E. Sloan was my grandfather.
He was a wonderful man.
He loved his family like no other.
And was a dedicated Astros fan.

His children were important to him.
He was proud of all they did.
He gave needed support to them.
At 96 bowled better than a kid!

A world class traveler he became.
And saw many different places.
No two countries were the same.
Neither were the faces.

He took special care of his wife.
He became her eyes and ears.
When she got confused with life,
he would calm all her fears.

My granddad experienced so much,
in a century of changes galore.
He only changed, as such;
He loved his wife and family more!

Ok, as you can tell, I'm not much of a poet. I just wanted a way to remember my granddad who just passed away at 99 years old! I am thankful that he lived a full, healthy life and that I got to be a part of it for almost 42 years!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A "White" South African Wedding

You may be asking why I put the word "White" in the title of the post. Well, here in South Africa, there are 11 different official languages with 11 different cultures. Now, the white population, English and Afrikaans speaking people, have similar cultures. The wedding we attended this Saturday involved Afrikaans families, but English was the spoken language. And even though, white South Africans have a westernized world view, it is not United States view. There are differences...Thus, my post for today!
We were invited to the wedding of a fellow pastor's daughter. The first thing I noticed is that you are not escorted into the church (or chapel). The groom and several groomsmen were standing in the foyer, putting on their ties and jackets, and talking with the arriving guests. Also, it didn't matter on which side of their church you sat; their was no groom's side or bride's side. I asked a recently married friend if this was the norm. She told me that in some weddings of the wealthier people, they will escort women guests to their seats.
The parents and grandparents did come in right before the wedding started but were not seated as part of the ceremony. Although I do not know if this was normal, the church was not decorated with an abundance of flowers. There was one large floral arrangement at the front of the church. That's it!
The wedding ceremony began with the entrance of the Flower Girls. The Page Boy walked in along side the girls, but not holding the rings. He was the Page Boy, not the Ring Bearer. Much of the rest of the ceremony was like weddings in the States. The only other real difference was the signing of the "register." This ceremony took place at the end of the wedding, however, I was told by my friend that many do this in the middle. The bride and groom sat down at a table in front of the congregation and signed the register. The "register" is like the marriage certificate in the States. However, in South Africa, it must be signed by the bride and groom on the day of the wedding in front of the presiding minister.
At the end of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom left the church as we threw rose petals at them. But, the reception was still to come!
The reception was run by a Master of husband, Kurt! This, to me, was a great idea. He announced the arrival of the bride and groom to the reception. He directed everyone to begin eating their starter (appetizer). Then, he introduced the Best Man, father of the bride, and groom before they gave their speech and toast. He gave directions on how dinner was being served and when everyone had eaten, he introduced the cutting of the cake, throwing of the garter and bouquet and first dance by the bride and groom. Of course, my husband told a couple of funny stories along the way! Besides having a Master of Ceremonies, the reception held a few other differences from US weddings that I have attended. The cake was not tiered. There were layers, but they were arranged separately and on pedestals of different heights. And, there was no groom's cake. The cake was not served to the guests. Other desserts had been provided during the meal.
But...even though there were differences and this wedding was not as formal as weddings in the was beautiful! The bride was gorgeous, the ceremony perfect, the reception a delight!
May Megyn and Raymond enjoy their life together, centered in the love of Christ our Lord!! Blessings to you both!
(By the way...I did attend the wedding of one of our black pastors. Maybe, I'll enlighten you on that day soon!)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Teachable Moments

Yesterday, I was reading my Bible in Mark, chapter 4. I got to the part where Jesus is inside a home and some said to him that his mother and brothers were outside wanting to see him. Jesus' reply was to ask, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" His reply to this rhetorical question was, "Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
I always thought this was a rude way to reply to his mother and brothers until I got to thinking about what was not recorded in the Bible and the situation Jesus was in. He was surrounded by people and busy teaching them. He did not get up and go outside and ask that rhetorical question. His mother and brothers could not have heard him. He used this moment, the statement about his family to teach those around him something new. He saw this instant as a "teachable moment" and he couldn't pass it up! (I always like to believe that afterwards, Jesus goes out to see his family or he invites them in with him.)
How many "teachable moments" have I passed up? How many have I taken? A friend of mine took an opportunity to share God's fatherly love with her grandson as they were talking about finding Nemo. Her grandson made the observation that Nemo's dad went to great lengths to find Nemo. My friend replied that God goes to great lengths to bring us to him, because of His great love for us! Wow! Would I have thought of that?
Tonight, I had my opportunity. Ruth Anne received one of those chain know the ones...they start out with "Fw:Fw:Fw:" in the subject line and end with "send this to ten of your best friends." Well, this one told of people who died because they didn't forward it on and ended with "if you don't send it to ten people in 3 hours after reading this, you will die." What is a 13 year old to think? In Ruth Anne's words it "freaked" her out! She didn't want to send the rubbish to her friends, yet it put the fear of dying in her. She said to me, "I want to trust God. But it's so hard. I don't want to die." I took that opportunity to share with her about Abraham. I told her it took many years for him to develop trust that even though God asked him to sacrifice his only son (from Sarah), Isaac, God had a plan! And God did! He stopped Abraham before killing Isaac and provided a ram for him to sacrifice instead! Abraham had faith! But, that faith was developed over time. Abraham made mistakes along the way. His faith gave out on several occasions. Ours will, as well. I told Ruth Anne that this was just one step in her walk of faith with God. She found a verse 8 in Psalm 4 that says, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." I encouraged her to take a step of faith. Trust God in this verse. Lie down and sleep, trusting Him to keep you safe...and alive!
It was a great moment with my precious daughter. How I look forward to more teachable moments like this, with both my daughter and my son! I pray that I would not miss others that God gives me!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

For the Love of Riding

Horses! I just love them! My parents bought a ranch when I was 13 and my dad and I would ride for pleasure. I really didn't know what I was doing, but loved being outdoors on a beautiful animal!

When we moved to South Africa, Ruth Anne made friends with a girl that rode horses. Ruth Anne was 8 at the time and fell in love with horses and riding...I think she comes by that naturally! Three years later, my dad bought her a pony, named Ivy. She rides beautifully and competes in dressage.

Now, I've started riding Ivy. Yes...I am very short and fit nicely on Ivy! But, really, Ruth Anne has been gracious enough to share her pony with me! I am having the best time. Ivy is a great pony and I am learning so much from our instructor, Sheba. I actually competed in my first "Fun Day" dressage competition...and came in 1st place!!

This picture shows me getting ready to enter the dressage arena and getting final instructions from my daughter, Ruth Anne.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Visitors from Home

I love South Africa. I love where I live, Joburg. But, I am still a foreigner. We have made some really good friends here, but I still miss church family! Church people have always formed my closest family since I can remember. Here in Joburg, that is not the case. Even among missionaries, something is different (maybe it's us!). I think it is because, in the States, you see people at church more often than once a week. You develop close friendships when you see each other and work together often. Missionaries don't have the luxury of seeing each other very often. Although, some are able to form close relationships despite the distance.
All that to say, I absolutely love it when teams from the States come to visit and help us with our ministry! In fact, I'm sitting here eating a bowl of "grits" right now! It is instant grits...But it still tastes like home! We had two teams with us in July and August. One was from our home church, The Summit, in North Carolina. The other was a team from Mississippi.
One of the most wonderful things about teams is that you not only see old friends again, but those on the team you didn't know before become new friends. Family has come to see us in South Africa!
I just want to take this chance to say "thank you" to the Summit Church and Church of the Highlands for making these past two months exciting, fun and memorable. And, I want you all to know that your ministry with us in invaluable. You are able to do things that Kurt and I can't do alone! You all have touched many lives, children and adults, while you were here working with us. I don't have the words to say "thank you" adequately. But, know this, you are so appreciated and loved! God has used you here in a mighty way! Thank you, also, for blessing us personally with a part of "home."

Just a note...Thinking about close friendships...How do you develop a close relationship with God? It is the same principle. Spend time with God. The more time, the closer the relationship with Him will be! He love us! He wants us to spend time with Him. He wants to be close to us!

Monday, June 26, 2006


I hate to brag...ok...don't hate it so much, especially when it is necessary! Last week, we took some youth from our organization ice skating. Josh, our 4 year old, and Ruth Anne, our 13 year old, went along. This was Josh's first time ever to skate. The first lap around the rink, Ruth Anne and I each held one of Josh's hands. Then, the next 3 or 4 laps, I held one hand and he held the side with the other. Then, he didn't want my help..."I do it myself," I was told. He kept trying to let go of the side and by the end of the 7th lap he was skating on his own! He skated by himself for the next hour! The rink was fairly empty, so he had plenty of space to practice.
Well, the youth wanted to go back skating one more time. So off we went this week. Josh was very excited. Friday, was the last day of school for the local children, so the mall and the rink were crowded. But, that didn't bother Josh. He held on to the sides for one lap, then off he went on his own! By the end of the two hours, he was making it around 3 or more times without falling! Other kids there were really amazed at him. They would give him the "thumbs up" every time they went by!
I am so amazed at Josh's gross motor skills. He learned to ride a bike all by himself, he hits a pitched tennis ball with a bat (when his short attention span is still looking at the ball), he kicks a soccer ball harder than any 3-4 year old that I've noticed, and he can ice skate. Oh, he also does front flips on our trampoline (since he was 2)! I don't know what God's plan is for him, but He has really gifted him!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Little Blessings...Big Blessings

When we arrived on the western side of Joburg, South Africa, we added 3 to a group of about 13 missionaries. For the next four years, our numbers changed some but stayed close to 10. But, things change drastically at the end of 2005! We added Josh to our family, but all the missionaries working with us left! We were down to just our family of 4!
Our wonderful sending agency provides us with a house and one car. But, as the only mission family left, we were going to need an extra car in case of emergencies (work/school conflict, car problems, accidents...). So we decided to purchase another car. One of our short-term missionaries who finished with our organization and stayed in South Africa to work, was leaving to return to the States. We bought her car before she left.
The car needed some minor work done. That was fine. However, petrol (gas) prices were rising and I was feeling that the car was beginning to require more money per month than we had budgeted for. Then, about a month ago, the car started making a really weird sound by the driver's side front wheel (for those of you in the States, the driver's side is on the right). Well, the strange sound came and went, so in my "how cars work" ignorance, I ignored the sound. But, things got worse. It became almost impossible to put the car in reverse without grinding the gears something horrible. Then, it did become put the car in reverse! I had to turn off the engine to do it. And, on top of that, it was starting to grind when putting it into 1st and 2nd gear. Oh! I knew my car was in big trouble! I just knew our bank balance was in bigger trouble! Transmission - I did know that word and the sound of it rang BIG BUCKS!
But, it was so terrible to drive and I knew the longer I waited the worse it would get. So, I took it to the garage.
Now, the previous owner had used this garage and I had used it for the minor repairs when I bought the car. So they knew the car fairly well. I left the car on Monday morning. All day dollars signs kept flashing through my mind. I prayed many times that God would help provide and would help us stand by our "no drive" policy when we used up our budgeted money for the month. I just knew that would mean going a month without driving.
By 1 pm, I got the call. The car was ready and the mechanic wanted to talk to me. I was nervous. Did we make the right decision in buying a car? Did we really know God was leading us to buy it or did we jump in without His ok? Would this repair take all our savings?
My husband and I arrived at the garage and the mechanic came out to talk with us. He said he couldn't find the water leak I've been having problems with, but would do a thorough check next week. He also said that I may need to have the breaks checked soon. Then, he stopped talking! What about the gears? What was the problem? I thought. Thankfully, my husband voiced my questions. Oh...he said...they just needed some adjustments. NO Charge!
Really? No charge? Adjustments? What does that mean? WOW!!! Isn't God good? He sends us people who know a lot more than me to help us. Good people that we can trust and that will treat us right. God knew we didn't have the money. He provided a mechanic that would make adjustments and not even charge us for his time! Thank you! Thank You, God. Thank you, WP Motors!
My car is working wonderfully. I'm still monitoring the water leak...but it is not a bad leak and I do know how to fill it with water when it gets low.
To some, this may seem like a little blessing, but for me (know-nothing about cars), it is a huge blessing!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

"I Do Myself"

"I do myself." I hear that quite a lot from my 4 year old, Joshuwa. He is in the stage where he wants to try everything himself, from getting dressed to putting on his seatbelt to working the DVD player (help!). About the only thing he doesn't want to "do myself" is clean up his toys! He also gets quite frustrated when we forget to let him or he just can't quite do himself.
Yesterday, two friends from across the street came over to play. One is 5 and the other is 3. Josh has a battery-powered car, another riding toy you work by pushing with your feet, and a bicycle that we took the training wheels off because they were always coming loose.
When I looked out the window, the 5 year old was on Josh's bike, Josh was on the riding toy, and the 3 year old on the car. They were having a great time! When they tired of that, they came in to play until the 2 boys' grandfather came to fetch them.
That evening, Josh tells me, "My friend rode my bicycle by himself. I ride myself, too." Well, I thought, "Ok...sure, Josh tried to ride. I'm sure he fell and then let his friend ride again."
Today, my husband, Kurt, came inside with Josh saying, "Let's show Mom what you can do." I was a little nervous because Josh can already do flips on the trampoline and jumped off the monkey bars of our swingset. But, being the good Mom that I am (?), I went outside, praying Josh would not break a leg while I was watching.
What did he do? He got on his little bicycle, pushed off with both feet, then put them on the peddles and rode that bicycle around the yard! I was amazed! By watching his friend yesterday, he taught himself how to ride his bicycle!!
I am still amazed!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I finally got my towels washed this week! Actually, I washed them yesterday! After they finished washing, I decided (as I normally do) to hang them up on the line outside to dry. Joburg has perfect weather for hanging clothes out to dry: sunny and low humidity. But, when I went outside to hang the towels, my lungs filled with smoke! The smell was aweful! Josh, my 4 year old, was holding his nose, asking, "What is that smell, Mommy. It stinks!"
What was that smell? A "veld fire." What is a "veld fire?" Well, it is a field on fire! During May and June, veld fires are an all too common experience around Joburg and other areas of South Africa. Because the weather is so dry during the winter, many grassy areas are set on fire to prevent "accidental" burns that could get out of control. Also, burnings help replenish the ground and kill insects , so the grass usually grows back greener when the rains come in late September or October.
Needless to say, the towels didn't get hung up that day! In fact, I forgot all about them in the wash and had to rewash them and hang them today!
Ruth Anne, my daughter in grade 7, came home with a graded exam from her Natural Science class. She had missed the question, "South Africa has four distinct seasons" by answering "false." So, that means the teacher thought it was true...South Africa has four distinct seasons! Well, I love South Africa, but I had to break it to them. They do NOT have four "distinct" seasons. Maybe two...warm and cold. However, I will give them credit; they do have some trees whose leaves change color and fall when the weather becomes cold. And, I might give them credit for another season..."veld fire" season!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Today, I'm sitting at my computer, wrapped up in a blanket and drinking hot tea! Why? You might be asking. Because it is FREEZING in my house. Ok, Ok...reality. I know it is not 0 degrees C (32 F), but it is really cold! It did get down to freezing last night, actually below freezing. Yes, Africa (at least this part) is cold! But it is now quite nice outside. So, why am I wrapped up and drinking a hot beverage? The houses in South Africa don't have central heating (or central air, for that matter). Most houses are built of brick and cement so there is no place to hide pipes and vents. In fact, plumbing pipes are put on the outside of the houses. And, our house, being older, has these special bricks with small holes they put in over doors and windows! Being the good Americans that we are, we've covered these "special" bricks with contact paper! We use gas heaters for big rooms and electric heaters for smaller rooms (like the bathrooms). But, gas can get expensive! Since the winter of 2001, the price of gas has doubled! So we try to conserve and only use heaters at night.
What are some ways to get warm? Well, do what I'm doing...wrap up and drink hot tea or coffee all day (some people even drink hot water!). Or, you can go outside and stand in the sun! Yep, in Joburg, winter is the dry season and there are many day where there is not a cloud in the sky! The temperature goes up 10 degrees from the shade to the sun! My face can get quite a tan in the winter!
So, today, enjoy your central air conditioning or heating. And, if you visit South Africa in the winter (May-Sept), bring warm clothes...especially warm pajamas!

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Move to South Africa

Well, here is my second post...catching up to where we (my family and I) are today.
My husband had always wanted to teach baseball and share the gospel (sports evangelism) in Russia. In 1998, while we were living in North Carolina, he got an opportunity to go to Zimbabwe, Africa to teach baseball and lead Bible studies at a local school. When he returned from that trip, I knew something was different. During his time in Zimbabwe, he and the missionary there discussed possibilities for coming to Africa long-term.
Right then, I knew...or had a pretty good feeling...that God was leading us to Africa. I was anxious, but excited about it. We prayed and prayed and listen to God through His Word. Through it all, it became clear that God wanted us to go to Africa. We thought that he would take us to Zimbabwe. But He had other plans. There was no job for a sports evangelist in Zimbabwe, but there was one in South Africa. That is the one we answered!
We came to Joburg in October 2000 and have been here ever since. Our job has changed quite a bit. We started out teaching baseball at schools in areas where there was no church work. It helped us get into the community. We also taught life skills with other team members (missionaries working with us) at the local schools.
Now, we do mostly Bible studies and leadership training that will help start new churches. We are currently doing most of our work in Soweto and informal settlements (squatter camps). But, we have helped our Baptist partners in Joburg start a church in a nearby middle class neighborhood. It is an area that is growing rapidly!
When we came to Joburg, we brought one child with us, our daughter, Ruth Anne. In 2003, we adopted a boy, our son, Joshuwa. The children are very happy at their schools in Joburg. Josh is 4 now and VERY active. Ruth Anne is 13, loves riding horses and competes in dressage.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Story

I thought that for my first post I must catch you up on who I am by telling you my story. So here it is!
I was born in Houston, Texas to wonderful parents. I grew up in church. Actually, I went to church before I was born! I knew so much about the Bible. I knew most Bible stories. I knew who Jesus was and why he came to earth. By the time I was 7 years old, I knew Jesus had come to earth, was God's son, lived a perfect life, died in place of me for the forgiveness of my sins, and rose from the dead then ascended to heaven. I knew all this! But for some reason, I was a fearful child. I was fearful of many bites, breaking arms or legs, etc and especially dying and going to hell.
I knew many people at my church were being baptised. So I thought that if I got baptised I wouldn't go to hell. So sometime before my 8th birthday, I went to speak to my pastor. I remember telling him that I knew all about Jesus. So I was baptised.
But, that was where the problems began. I knew about Jesus in my head. But, I didn't really believe in my heart. When I became a teenager, fears began to take over me, especially the old fear of going to hell. I used to wake up in the middle of the night calling out to my parents just to make sure they hadn't been "raptured" and left me alone. I just knew I wasn't going with Jesus. I would also sit in the bathtub and make myself sick thinking about "forever." I would pray constantly that Jesus would let me into heaven.
Finally, one Sunday night at church when I was 18, a lady (and I will add that I had never seen her before or after that Sunday night) gave her testimony. Even though she was sharing her story...she was really sharing my story. All her thoughts and fears were mine! I knew things were not right.
By that Wednesday, I had gotten up the courage to call my youth pastor and told him all I had been going through. He told me that I hadn't taken what I knew in my head to my heart. I didn't really believe. That night, I realized, I did believe. I knew without a relationship with Jesus Christ, without truly trusting in his death on the cross and resurrection, without faith...I would die and be in hell. Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you WILL be saved." So over the phone with my youth pastor, I confessed to God that I did truly believe in Jesus, His Son, and all he did for me!
Wow! What a burden of fear was lifted from me! I was certain that heaven would be my home! It was very freeing!
Now, to this day, I know where I will be when I die. But, not only that, I know who is with me everyday. No matter what happens, good or bad, or what I do, good or bad, I know God loves me, forgives me and is right beside me! What an wonderful feeling!
You can also be sure of heaven. It is faith. It is not based on anything you have done or will do. It is based on what Jesus Christ did for you because of God's great love for you!
Next post, I will share how we got to South Africa!