As promised, here are the highlights from the 2nd half of 2015. If you missed the first half post, check it out here.
We had the Close of Service Retreat with the YAGM. This is always such an interesting retreat. The YAGM are exhausted and grieving as they have just left their communities and yet it is a ripe time for reflection and being together. We do a variety of activities in the retreat, including helping them begin to gather their thoughts on how they will tell of their experiences once they are home. It is holy time as they are in limbo land between one home and the next. This year, we were mostly in Pietermaritzburg. But we also traveled to the Drakensburg to do some hiking in gorgeous mountains.
The kids enjoy the stream while the YAGM are on a more intense hike
One last photo at the airport
In preparation for the new YAGM group, our family explored some places in Durban, including the beach.
Evidence that Durban is one of the busiest ports in Africa (ship on the horizon)
It was also a “normal time” with field hockey for Isaac (he’s the goalie):
And soccer for Sophia (she’s also the goalie although after this game decided she preferred a different position):
And then at the end of the month, things got a bit crazy for me. The new YAGM group was already gathered in Chicago as they had just had their orientation with 70+ other YAGM going to serve around the world. But the work/volunteer permits hadn’t yet come through for the SA group. So I hopped onto a plane and joined them in Chicago for some Out-of-Country In-Country Orientation.
Children’s dictionaries for the various languages they’d experience. Since they couldn’t start orientation by hearing those languages, I thought they should at least see them.
I met the new YAGM in Johannesburg when their permits finally came through. We spent about a week together finishing up our In-Country Orientation.
YAGM arrival! (One more arrived a few days later)
Then, our family headed out on a vacation during the kids’ term break. We returned to much-loved Cape Town. We also visited the Cedarberg Mountains and the West Coast National Park. See Jon’s blog post here for a special focus on the Rooibos Tea we learned about on our trip.
At the top of Table Mountain
At West Coast National Park
The YAGM came to Pietermaritzburg for a first retreat and some language training. I even joined in for the 20-hour language training.
Graduation from our 20-hour language courses, along with our instructors.
Worship at the seminary (The Lutheran Theological Institute)
The early Thanksgiving feast cooked by the group
And the kids’ school was part of a choir concert in the amazing Town Hall.
And we celebrated Halloween with our American friends who are here for a year. No carving pumpkins this year so we used melons. We all had to adapt our pumpkin carving knowledge but it certainly worked out.
I traveled the country and visited the YAGM in their sites. It is such a privilege to get to experience the diversity of the country, engage with our church companions, and witness the YAGM adapting to their new contexts. While no one picture can sum it all up, here is the only one I’m in.
A selfie of myself (left), YAGM volunteer Abby (right), and worker at the Lutheran church ministry for children (center)
At the end of the month, we had several extra events for end-of-the-year activities. In particular this year were several events as Isaac was finishing Grade 7 and thus would need to move to a different school for high school. (His primary school only has a girls’ high school).
At the Leaver’s Chapel where the Grade 7s said goodby to the school.
School ended for the year at the beginning of December and summer vacation began.
Isaac with classmates on the last day of school.
Sophia with her Grade 5 teacher on the last day of school.
The end of Primary School for Isaac was a change for both kids as they really loved being at the same school together. We’ll keep you posted as to how the new school is going.
Once school was out, we were visited by dear family friends, Jim and Carolyn Tonneson. We went on a couple day safari together and also spent time together in Pietermaritzburg. They also traveled in South Africa before coming to visit us.
We saw many wonderful things. This nursing toddler rhino was definitely a highlight.
After worship at an area ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa) congregation.
For the rest of December, we enjoyed family and rest time. We have spent a lot of time in the last couple of years coming and going. For this holiday time, we needed to stay put.
Christmas Eve selfie
One of many games of Catan that were enjoyed over the break
At the end of the year, we were (and continue to be) grateful for health, friends, family, and the opportunity to live, serve, and be transformed in South Africa.