Welcome to our Journey


The Porters are serving in South Africa as full-time missionaries with SIM! We encourage you to check back regularly to hear more about our journey to and our time in Cape Town, South Africa. Scroll down to read our updated posts. You can read our very first post HERE.


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That’s the God I serve! That’s my Jesus!

Each week I go into the communities to share devotions and talk with the HBCs (Home Based Carers), CCWs (Community Care Workers), and Support Group leaders. Last week we were working through the first chapter in the book of 1 John. The reminder of the simplicity of the Gospel was so important. We talked about who God is, what He has accomplished, why it’s important, and how closely we should aim to follow Jesus. Alternatively, our main campus devotion is working through characters in scripture and on Friday day we worked through Luke 10:13-17. It was where the crippled woman entered the synagogue and Jesus delivered her from a spirit of infirmity. I have found that the more we work through scripture, the more we see it in day to day life. Here is just one example.

In one of our communities our support group leaders spend the morning distributing prescription medications in the lobby of the local library and are therefore unable to attend the regular devotions of the HBCs and the CCWs. They use the library because there is a security guard and in this community it can be quite dangerous to have any drugs or medication for distribution without security. Living Hope does this in partnership with the local clinic/hospital for people within the community.  After the regular devotion I go over to the library to visit with Tracy and Janine to share some time and the devotion with these ladies. So much ministry happens here in the “in-between” moments. The people in the community (about 20-30 each morning) go and get medication for the week on a specific day of the week and although it is not seen as a specific support group, they share their lives and troubles with the ladies in the moments we have together. Many of the people that receive the medication are members of their support groups. There is a relational aspect to the distribution of medication that is not possible in a clinical environment as would be if they needed to get their medication in the clinic next door. This is a service that Living Hope does currently and it meets an important need in the community. So many little things happen in this time and they may seem little to some but there are big impact moments in this time where God meets with the hurting people in the community.

On Tuesday of last week I went to meet with Tracy and Janine as usual. As I walked in Ruth was sitting and talking with the ladies. Ruth is a client as well as a friend of the ladies with whom I work. Tracy got up, came over to me and quickly told me a little bit of her story while I was going in to the library to get a chair. When we went back over to talk with Ruth, it was obvious that although she would say there was nothing wrong, there was a weight to the way she was carrying herself. She was working in an unhealthy environment for her and it was consuming her to the point of sickness and to the detriment of her family. Tracy asked if I could pray for Ruth. We prayed together (Ruth, Tracy, Janine, and myself). As we prayed Tracy placed her hand upon Ruth’s shoulder. As we prayed, Tracy felt Ruth’s shoulders lift. When we finished praying, Ruth had a different face. She did not have the heaviness in her eyes and brow that she did when I arrived. Her tears were traded for a smile and a glimmer in her eye. She began talking about her boys and soccer and the excitement of them playing for a team that is impacting their lives. After Ruth left Tracy had amazing joy because she physically felt Ruth’s body be set free from this depressing and consuming burden and a spirit of peace replace it.

The woman in Luke 10 was suffering from a spirit of infirmity for 18 years. It says that she was hunched over and looking at the floor. She probably had grown accustomed to her condition and didn’t see that her situation was going to change. She went to the synagogue probably because it was her custom on the Sabbath. She didn’t necessarily go to the synagogue to be healed. Jesus saw the need in this woman which was far greater than what she went to the synagogue to experience.

Ruth came to the library to get medication. She came with one purpose and left with hope and a change in perspective. What she received was far greater than medication. She received healing; she received peace and understanding of what needed to be done. This week I went back to the library and Ruth was not there. Tracy and Janine were though. Tracy received a text from Ruth that morning that spoke of God’s faithfulness and that the situation she was in that was causing so much burden in her life was lifted. She said that from a week ago the weight that she had been carrying for so long and that had been causing her such strife was replaced with peace and assurance. The unhealthy work situation was resolved the next day and she was set free from the burden of her situation in order to pursue a job which provided better opportunity to provide for her boys. Tracy even today was still praising God that we were witness to this burden being lifted off a friend. We must pursue God in expectation that He is who He says He is, and that He does what He says He will do. 

Both Tracy and Janine asked if I write all the things down that happen while I’m there with them. There have been moments like this nearly every week over these past few months there in the lobby of the library where God has been present and evident in tangible ways. God is moving within that community and it is a privilege to witness it. Sometimes when God is moving, the enemy does not like it and will do what he can to thwart that movement. (We have had those moments as well.) The Living God will not be held down. In the poverty and adversity, there is resilience and there is an expectation that God will be bigger than the circumstances and He will provide for every need. He can and will do immeasurably more than we can hope for or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) We must dream big because we have a big God. To quote Tracy, “That’s the God I serve! That’s my Jesus! Hallelujah!”

The Past Speaks to the Present

Over the past several months I have been working through the book of Hebrews. In devotions we have been working through one chapter a week by reading and dissecting the text to discuss the elements which impacted us. Some weeks there has been very little interaction amongst the workers and the text but other weeks it has been quite amazing to see how God moves through and in us as we interact with multiple cultures, personalities and life situations. It’s a beautiful thing to watch revelation take place in the soul of a person.

The journey through Hebrews was coming to an end and I had been preparing to begin the next book in our scriptural journey and I had a plan to change over to one of Paul’s letters. There was a whisper in my heart that led me to put that plan on hold for something else.

Hebrews 11:4 speaks of Abel. It says, ”And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” For some reason this statement made me stop. Have you ever had those voices of your past come up? People that you have not spoken to in a long while but something they said or did left a memory that impacts you today even though it was long ago, and for a long time forgotten. It speaks of legacy, it speaks of impact and it speaks of the things that are brought to the forefront of your thoughts. Those people may or may not be dead physically, they are though removed from your everyday life for one reason or another. God still can use those who have been a part of your life for a season. I’ve heard it called “the voices of your life”.

At home, Ellen and I were looking for something, so I went to a closet to look for it. In my search through some bags I searched a backpack I used for school on a daily basis while teaching. I found this little, torn, and wrinkled piece of paper in a pocket. I was not going to take this situation without taking heed of the fact that God speaks through His word whether it is in a brand new bible, one tattooed with highlighter and pen, the spoken word, or a tattered piece of notebook paper.

image1 image2Several years ago I was teaching in a health class. I don’t remember the topic of the day but I believe part of it included a story from my life that was evidence of the fact that the things that take place in our lives, whether good or bad, have an impact on us and what we do with the results of those events. These things will sometimes influence how we move forward in life. At the end of this class, one student walked up to me and on this day as with many other days she said thank you. After saying thank you she placed a piece of paper on my bible that I had left on the front table as she passed. I only got the chance to look at it a little later in the day. The paper had James 1:2-5…12 written out. Through the study of Hebrews I had several struggles and challenges with sickness, injury and life situations that often felt like the trials were relentlessly one after the other. The day I finished working through Hebrews 11 was the day I found that piece of paper.

The plan was to enter the writings of Paul. This note however made me rethink the plan. Upon finishing the book of Hebrews, we began studying through the book of James, and it has been a great journey.

There are things and people that you impact along the way and there are those who impact you who never even knew the profound impact they have. Often it is seen in the little things. It may be the origami frog with a little writing on it that encourages you in your day, the note left on the chalk board at the end of a school year thanking you, a conversation about a boy and a stuffed animal, the meeting for no other reason but conversation, or the scripture verse left for you to find later. Speak life into people today. You never know when the words you use will trigger movement in another person. Will your presence in their life draw them toward Jesus? You may never know, but that should not deter you from acting and speaking in a way that gives them that chance… even if it is years after they leave your presence. If someone was that to you, would you consider sharing? Encourage them by seeking them out and letting them know that God used them to impact you. They may need that encouragement to persevere too.

Happy Anniversary!

Can you believe we’ve been in South Africa for a year?!

We spent a lovely evening out to dinner as a family to celebrate our one year anniversary (early March). It has caused us to think back on our first year here in Cape Town and we realized that a proper family update is in order! So, here it goes!


Doug and Josiah on a recent hike

Doug and Josiah on a recent hike

Most of Doug’s time is spent at Living Hope where he is busy with several things. The first thing Doug established when he began at Living Hope was a prayer walk around the main campus. He stops at several specific places to pray for each of the ministries of the organization and their satellite campuses. One of Doug’s main roles is to help with the devotional life of the health care workers in the different communities. There are multiple campuses and three days a week each campus works through the same series of devotions in the mornings. He spends each day going to the different communities and leading or helping to lead devotions. Each community is on a specific day of the week so that routine is consistent from week to week. It’s been exciting to be a part of what God is doing in each of the communities (each in very different ways) and how He answers prayer. Typically after devotions are finished he will head back to the main campus where he will continue working on devotions for another day to come. Another of his roles is keeping track and updating prayer needs and praises from each of the communities. It’s amazing to watch God answer prayer as the days and weeks go by. Another element of Doug’s role is the staff newsletter that has been started since we’ve been here. This is to keep staff aware of upcoming training days, visiting teams, staff birthdays and any other information that might be helpful and important to the staff on all the campuses. These things as well as building relationships and talking and praying with staff members are what keep Doug busy on a typical day.

Doug has also enjoyed connecting with a fellow missionary. They have been keeping each other accountable and praying for one another through each week. They schedule biweekly times to pray for each other and what’s on their hearts.

Doug has also enjoyed getting back into running. After many months of injury prior to moving to South Africa, he has since joined a running club and trained and run several races. After running a hilly ten mile race in September (on his birthday), he started looking into more races and decided to train for “The world’s most beautiful marathon”: The Two Oceans (Ultra) Marathon (56K). Training included running two additional marathons, which happened to be right here in our neighborhood! Finally, along with 11,000 other runners, on Easter Saturday he ran the Two Oceans Marathon. It was a great race and he is wondering what is the next adventure. Meanwhile, he enjoys meeting up with his running club on Thursday mornings at the beach and Saturdays at our local park run. This is a great time to get to know other runners in our community.


Ellen and Josiah above the clouds

Ellen and Josiah above the clouds

Ellen is keeping busy with the two boys! Nathaniel started preschool (more on that later), so she is enjoying more personal time with Josiah in the mornings. It’s been so fun to watch his personality grow and flourish. The boys have allowed Ellen to be a part of several extracurricular activities. Almost every Tuesday morning mom’s from all over our community gather together to “do life” together. It’s a wonderful time to connect with each other, allow our children to play and interact together, and have adult conversation! Ellen has made some great connections there and is really enjoying the friendships that she’s building. Additionally, she has enjoyed scheduling several extra play dates with these friends and she and the boys have truly enjoyed the time they’ve been able to spend together.

Several weeks ago, through our church, Ellen joined a ladies Bible Study and is working her way through the ten week study. It’s been such a joy to gather with other women and study God’s Word together, growing closer as women in the process. It has also been a wonderful way to meet new people in the church.

Ellen continues to work every Wednesday at Living Hope. She completes weekly patient chart audits. This task used to take an entire day or two at the end of the month (with 30+ charts), but now, with weekly auditing, she only has about 5-10 charts at a time. This has not only allowed more time for other things, but has also enabled her to interact more with staff and patients, which she has enjoyed. The rest of Ellen’s time at Living Hope can be spent doing any number of things, but recently it has involved reviewing and updating policies and procedures which is a large task, but one that has been rewarding and mentally stimulating. Mid way through the year, Ellen and the health care centre manager sat down and talked about implementing inservice training for staff on a weekly basis. With that in mind, and training days to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays (to cover both shifts), Ellen started working half days on Tuesday afternoons as well as all day Wednesday. This has worked out well with Doug’s schedule, so that he can be home with the boys in the afternoons. Trainings are going fairly well (it’s taken a few months to work out the kinks) and we recently welcomed another volunteer to our team, who is helping us with the training materials!


At the beach!

At the beach!

Nathaniel turned FIVE in February! He loves to run and play any kind of sport! Several months ago we joined our community’s Saturday park run. This is a free community event, happening every Saturday morning, with a measured and timed 5k (and 2k) route. This has been such a joy for Nathaniel. He loves to run the 2k and improve upon his time. As a family, we’ve really enjoyed meeting other families in our community and getting exercise! In addition to the weekly park runs, Nathaniel has run two official 5k races (one being 5.6k!). He loves the challenge and is proud that he has run the entire way (as are we!). He is only five, but he is already starting his collection of finisher medals!

Nathaniel started preschool in January (schools run year round here, beginning in January). He has loved the routine and making new friends. It has also been a great way to meet other families in our area and coming this second term, we are looking forward to having friends over.

Both boys have been taking swimming lessons this year and they are loving it! Nathaniel learned how to swim in just 4 sessions and hasn’t looked back. He loves diving for things on the bottom of the pool and jumping into the deep end. He can even swim from one side of the pool to the other without taking a breath (must be his runner’s lungs!).


Being silly in a homemade boat!

Being silly in a homemade boat!

Josiah adores his older brother and copies everything Nathaniel does. It has been so fun to watch the relationship between these two boys grow stronger. They are starting to have lots (maybe too much) fun together! Josiah turned TWO in November and has a vibrant personality! He loves to do silly things and always has an opinion. He also has a tender heart towards others and will often share toys and food with friends.

Recently Josiah has started swimming on his own (for short times) during his lessons and absolutely loves the water! His favorite part of swim lessons is jumping off the side into the water. He is always sad when his lesson is over.

Some of his favorite activities are reading (especially finding Goldbug in Richard Scarry books), eating snacks, visiting the penguins, jumping, building blocks, stickers, and the beach! This past week he started potty training too!

The day before the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon - Ellen, Josiah and Nathaniel ran fun runs!

The day before the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon – Ellen, Josiah and Nathaniel ran fun runs!

We are looking forward to this next year ahead to see what God will teach us and how He will use us! We are glad you are on this journey with us. We’d love to hear your family updates too!

The Power of Prayer

It’s time to conclude our six word series! Sorry for the long break between words five and six, but we have saved the “best for last”. Our sixth word is prayer. Oh how important this has been!

First of all, we are carried day to day (even moment by moment) by your prayers. It is such an encouragement to know that people are praying for us, with us, and for our communities (both Living Hope and our local area). Thank you so much! It literally means the world to us that you are praying for us. We couldn’t be here without you.

Secondly, God has been teaching us newer and bolder ways to pray in recent days. We’ve been impressed with the importance of intentionality in prayer, no matter the request. We also have been challenged to open ourselves up to hear the Spirit’s leading in our prayers. It has been such an incredible journey that has made a difference in our own lives (and those around us). We thought you’d enjoy 3 short stories about the power of prayer.

Story 1: The Traffic Registry (aka the dreaded DMV!)

In December I (Doug) applied to get a traffic registry number so that our cars can be registered in our name. When I submitted my paperwork I was told it should take about a week. A week passed and there was no word back. This is not uncommon to wait longer than expected. I waited another week and returned. When I went in I was told that my request had been denied. The man who told me this news looked through the paperwork and found no reason why my request should have been denied and that he would resubmit it with a clarification note.

Fast forward 6 weeks. I went in again to figure out what was going on because six weeks with no explanation was a long time. I went back in and the woman I spoke with this time looked at my paperwork and said that I won’t be able to get the paperwork completed simply because of the wording in my Visa (even though it is clearly explained). She then gave me a phone number to call the western Provincial government office of public works and transportation. It took several people to finally get to the right person. The woman on the other end of the line asked me to retrieve several pieces of information from the traffic registry office here in Fish Hoek. I began to feel like I was being run around, however I obliged and went back to the office and asked for the information she was requesting. They didn’t have it. In the time all this was transpiring we were praying very specific prayers about this paperwork. Unfortunately my eyes were not seeing the abilities of God and I began to get discouraged. The woman at the desk came back from talking with her supervisor and asked me to step aside because the supervisor was dealing with another issue and would be with me shortly. Several minutes passed and the supervisor came out with my passport and registry certificate in hand, said “here it is” and handed it to me.

Story 2: The bed

A few months ago, a homeless gentleman that had been receiving treatment in the Health Care Centre, had to be discharged without a permanent place to stay. In over a year of staying at the Health Care Centre, his situation had not been resolved, and his future was very uncertain. After sending him to another local hospital, it was brought to the attention of the staff that there was a space available in a long-term program for people with similar circumstances.  We were overjoyed to learn that someone would be offering our client care for the rest of his life. The only caveat was that the patient needed to provide his own bed to be brought to the facility. As a man without an income, our staff wondered how were we going to be able to help?

We remembered that there was a single bed recently donated to Living Hope, and that it would be a perfect allocation for our patient. However, when the staff went looking for this bed, it was gone. There was no trace of the bed anywhere.

We then turned to a local social media group where we found a bed being sold for R200 (about $13 USD). This showed that there was a possible solution. The owner initially responded with a confirmation that the Health Care Centre was the first to respond to the advertisement and therefore they had first option to buy to the bed. Throughout the afternoon, continual efforts were made to contact the owner again with no answer. Had he chosen to sell it to someone else? Did he change his mind on selling it? Why is he not answering any of our communications?  We were holding onto faith, hoping that in the face of a challenge, God would provide a solution.

We waited all day for the response from the owner and early in the evening, we prayed that the problem would be sorted out immediately. No more than five minutes after we prayed, communication with the owner was re-established and the delivery of the bed was organized for the next day. Staff members anxiously waited all night long, praying that the situation would work out for the patient.  First thing in the morning the driver went to fetch the bed and we found out that the owner had decided to donate the bed to our patient, allowing us to send our friend on his way to his new home with all of his needs provided for. We praise God for His faithfulness and His provision in this situation!

Story 3: Wherever the Spirit leads!

On each day of the week I (Doug) travel to different communities to be a part of their devotions. Although the week is consistent and each community expects to see me on a certain day of the week, I am not present at each place on a daily basis. I am not always aware of conversations that take place in devotions on other days. This particular day I was planning on using a devotion from the Minor Prophets, but when I sat down to join in on the devotion with the community health care workers I asked a question. “So, do we want to go to the New or Old Testament?” The response I received from three of the carers was, “Wherever the Spirit leads!” I paused and because of all that had gone on in the past couple of weeks with the nudging of the Spirit to pray specifically I felt a need to put my devotion from the prophets on the shelf and open up Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3.

Proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel and working through the mystery does not change things about the mystery. Some things, this side of heaven will remain a mystery and that is what faith is about.  God far surpasses our understanding of the Gospel itself. The fact that the Gospel is the Word of God gives it life. We sometimes attempt to put it in a box until it stops moving. This discussion led to talking about the church and the fact that its foundation is Jesus Christ. It is not denominations, not individual pastors, nor para-church organizations. It is Christ alone.

They informed me that this subject was one that caused strife and some misunderstanding between co-workers late in the previous week.  In a “wherever the Spirit leads” kind of moment, we sat in awe and wonder of How God moves and breathes life into His people through the Word.

This continued for the next three weeks – although I had prepared specific devotions for our time together in this community, each time I arrived God impressed upon my heart something completely different. And each time I found out afterwards that the change in devotion was exactly what these workers needed to hear.

Prayer is so important! Will you join us in thanking God for His work in our lives, especially as we seek to draw closer to him and know Him better? And please keep praying for us! Here are a few ways:

  • Pray that we would be used by God in our ministry roles. Pray that God would direct us in ways that we can be most useful.
  • Pray that God would continue to provide financial supporters – and praise God for his faithfulness.
  • Pray for our family as we continue serving our community. Pray that we grow together with Jesus as the center and that we love each other well.

We are excited to see how the Spirit leads in the coming weeks!

We want to pray with you and for you too! Please send us a message if there’s something specific we can be praying about. It is such a privilege to come to our Father on your behalf, so please let us know how we can be praying.

Our winter newsletter is out!

Just a reminder that our latest newsletter was sent out last week! If you didn’t have a chance to read it, you can here! In it, you’ll read:

  • An incredible story of God’s provision
  • How we are learning to rely on the Spirit’s leading
  • Updated prayer/praise points
  • Photos of the boys!

If you want to be added to our newsletter list to receive future news, please let us know!


Community*. What does this word mean to you?

In the wee hours of a Sunday morning in early December, the worst fire in the history of Masiphumelele broke out, taking with it over 1100 homes and displacing 5000 people. It was shocking and overwhelming. We arrived to church on Sunday morning oblivious to the magnitude of this disaster. We had heard whispers on social media that there was a fire (again) in Masi, but we really had no idea the impact until the leadership made an announcement and called for prayer. We stood there together, hearts joined as one, praying for our ‘community’.


This area is called “the wetlands” in Masi. About 80% of this area was burnt. You can see that the area where the houses used to be was reduced to just dirt.

I use the word ‘community’ loosely. There are so many communities to which we can belong. For instance, we have our family community (including our immediate family and stretching to far distance relatives). We are bonded together by blood. We are in relationship.

The rubble was bulldozed into piles to be carted away.

The rubble was bulldozed into piles to be carted away.

We are in community. Then, there is the community in which we live. Houses that are in close proximity to each other. Life paths that cross (frequently or infrequently). There is a bond. As dwellers we look out for each other. We are a community. Next, I think of our church community. Families that gather together from many different geographic areas and many different backgrounds and circumstances, yet we are one because of Christ. Then, finally, there is the wider community. The grouping of towns in an area creates a community. In our case, we consider ourselves part of “the valley” or the Southern Peninsula, which is made up of several towns. Just about everyone who lives in the valley identifies together as one community.

As we sat in our chairs during that Sunday morning, I could see that people were concerned. As a community, when one person suffers, everyone feels it. We sat there wondering what we could do. What do you do when so many people are affected, so many lives changed in an instant? The answer: community. You come together as one and work towards a common good.

In order for rebuilding to commence, the land had to be cleared.

In order for rebuilding to commence, the land had to be cleared.

Over the next few days, we watched true community happen. Living Hope became the drop off/sorting area. Within hours, the great hall was full of clothes, bedding, and food. By the next morning, someone had donated 1000 mattresses. Disaster Relief set up camp at Living Hope and coordinated everything. Starter buckets were assembled to give to each family in need. People donated goods, time, and money towards their fellow community members. It was incredible to watch! In just a few days, most everything was collected that was needed.

These are some of the buckets that were prepared for families with babies/toddlers. Along with other basic necessities, they included cans of formula. You can see, among all of the other donations, the piles of green mattresses in the background.

These are some of the buckets that were prepared for families with babies/toddlers. Along with other basic necessities, they included cans of formula. You can see, among all of the other donations, the piles of green mattresses in the background.

This is what community means to me. We’ve seen it over and over since we’ve landed on the ground here in South Africa. What an absolute blessing to be surrounded by people who care about each other. Pray that God’s light would shine bright in our community. Pray that those who don’t yet know Him would find Him. Imagine what a community could accomplish for His good when we all work together with a common purpose!


*This is our fifth word in our six word series of words that have impacted our recent lives.

The words of the day are…

IMG_5775Let’s continue on with our six words! Word number four: Language. It’s a funny thing isn’t it? We thought you’d like to know some of the differences in our day-to-day speech.

First of all, while most everyone here speaks/understands English, it is not American English (it is British English), so we are getting used to a few new words:

  • boot/bonnet – trunk/hood of the car
  • swim costume (or “cozzie”) – bathing suit
  • flapjacks – pancakes (if we ask for a pancake here, we’ll get a crepe!)
  • nappy – diaper
  • petrol – gas for your car (“gas” is rather propane here)
  • trainers – sneakers
  • jumper – sweater
  • biscuits – cookies
  • pram/pushchair – stroller
  • lift – elevator

Now for some more “South African” words (many of these originate in the Afrikaans language):

  • Howzit – a very casual “how are you?”
  • braai (pronounced “br-eye”) – barbeque
  • boerewores (pronounced “bore-eh-vores”) – a type of sausage
  • bakkie (pronounced “buckie”) – pickup truck
  • lekker (pronounced “lek-ah”) – good or great. Often when asked how someone is doing, they’ll respond with “lekker!”
  • Shame – culturally used as an empathetic response. For instance, after hearing one’s misfortunes, it is appropriate to say, “shame”.
  • dankie (roughly pronounced “don-key”) – thank you

A few more words we commonly hear from the Xhosa speaking people:

  • molo – hello
  • unjani – how are you?
  • ndiphilile (pronounced “dia-p-lee-lay”) – I’m fine.
  • Mfundisi (pronounced “foon-deece”) – pastor/reverend

There are so many more words that we are getting used to and learning (and I’m sure we’ve miss-pronounced many of the above), but hopefully this gives you a small taste of words we use in our day-to-day conversations. We have been enjoying learning bits and pieces of new languages and look forward to becoming more closely acquainted with the many cultures we are surrounded with here in Fish Hoek.

Two Sides of the Street

Please accept our apologies for the long pause. We are back continuing on with our six words for our first six months! In this third post, Doug gives his thoughts on the word “contrast”.

From the outside, Cape Town is a big and beautiful city, stretching from far north of Table Mountain to the end of the southern peninsula (locals call it the ‘deep south’). Inside of vast Cape Town, one can experience and observe many different things. Often these pictures of life leave us feeling caught between two worlds. Here is an example from my personal experience:

One side of the street

One side of the street

One side of the street is a whitewashed wall with in ground sprinklers watering the beautifully groomed landscaping.  Behind this wall is a neighborhood of large homes with security guards at the entrance. People enter and leave in their luxury cars to go into the city to their work day. As you exit this community you come to a robot (traffic light). Right in front of you, across the main street, is a very different community.  There is a wire fence that only partially surrounds a property with discarded foil wrappers and broken glass lining the edges. Skinny dogs forage for anything that may look like an edible scrap. Houses are seemingly erected right on top of the other, with minimal yard space (if any). The security fences in some places are porous enough for people to walk through. Here there is a high level of poverty, gang violence, substance abuse, and crime. People get into trouble because many don’t have jobs. Many that do have jobs still struggle to put food on the table. Some are enticed by a life of crime, violence and drugs because it is sold as a solution to their hunger. Daily, one can watch hundreds of these community members exit their neighborhood on foot. They walk to work or spend the morning trying to bargain a ride.

The other side of the street

The other side of the street

These two communities are two different worlds. Very infrequently will those from the gated community cross the main road into the community that sits just meters away. Even though these next-door communities are a part of Cape Town, each community’s (or each person’s) “Cape Town” looks vastly different. Each and every one of us leads a different life. Our realities, while on paper may seem similar, are in fact so individual and unique. Each person’s reality is his or her own. What a humbling reminder!

The big elements in life here in Cape Town are a delicate topic. In fact, a few weeks ago, the pastor at our church said that, “if you want to hear a pin drop in church here in South Africa you bring up either the topic of money or race”. The divides and contrasts we see are often financial and racial. The dynamics are not easy to navigate.

IMG_4809Apartheid officially ended here in South Africa in 1994. It officially ended over 20 years ago. Although it has ended, this kind of cultural, racial, financial, and political situation does not just stop with life continuing on like it never happened. There are wounds here that are still open. There are others that have closed, but the scars remain, often painful to the touch. I broke my ankle while in college and to this day the nerves are very sensitive in that spot. There is no visible scar, but it is different than it was before. In fact although it has healed, I still feel some pain in it when the weather changes. I believe that when the “weather” (political, financial, or cultural) changes here, the scars in the society become tender once again. Here in South Africa the weather is always changing.

Without Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, there is no way to understand how these scars can be discovered, dealt with, and gotten past. Our prayer is that we are able to emulate Jesus and minister to those who are hurting and share the love of our heavenly Father in whatever circumstance. More often than not, we can (and need to) minister on both sides of the road!

Our summer news is out!

For most of you, today marks the first day of Autumn. Even though you are experiencing the close of summer, here in South Africa, we are celebrating summer’s arrival on our doorstep! In light of all of this, we’ve sent out our latest newsletter. You can read it here.

Here’s a few things you’ll read (in case your time is short):

  • Details on what we do each day (Doug as a chaplain and Ellen helping out in the health care centre)
  • We got a second car! Praise God!
  • We love to get mail (email or post)!
  • You are a blessing!
  • Fun pictures of the boys :)


Hot Topic

We are continuing our series of six words that have in some way defined our lives here in South Africa in the last six months. Our second word is ‘heat’.

We arrived late at night in early March. It just so happened to be one of the hottest days Cape Town has experienced in many years. In fact, close to midnight when we were getting settled at the SIM guesthouse, we found ourselves sweating. The days following continued to be warm, shocking our systems. When we left Maryland, there was ice on the ground.

The day we left Maryland - snow on the ground!

The day we left Maryland – snow on the ground!

Then there were the wildfires that Cape Town experienced in late February and early March. As our airplane rounded towards the city, the pilot made an announcement and those of us who could see out the windows, beheld the burning fires in the night. In the morning, we watch as ash fell constantly fell to the ground. It reminded us of snow. We have talked about the fires previously on this blog  and how the landscape was changed due to the worst wildfires in a decade. Many people had commented to us when we arrived at how marred the beautiful mountains were and they were extremely sad that we couldn’t see Cape Town in all it’s glory. However, God has shown us beauty amongst the ashes!

The morning after we arrived

The morning after we arrived

While the fires on the mountains have long since subsided (and slowly green is overtaking ash gray), fires in Masiphumelele have continued on, although on an infrequent basis. Since we’ve been here, there have been 2 major fires destroying many homes. While the destruction can be great, the rebuilding has happened so quickly. It has been such an encouragement to see community members come together to help each other in times of great need. Generally more fires break out during the winter months as people are struggling to stay warm.

Which brings us to the subject with has probably impacted us the most this winter: indoor heating (or lack thereof)! Winter here in Cape Town occurs from the months of June to September (thankfully, we are currently enjoying the birth of spring around us). And experienced Captonians will tell you to bundle up in layers. Often, on 60 degree days you’ll see people in puffy jackets and winter hats. This may seem a little strange to you until you’ve lived here. We often found ourselves happily dressed in a few layers if we were outside (especially in the sun), but as soon as we walked indoors (without central heating), the extra layers had to be added. In our case, two warm throw blankets, warm comforters on the beds, hot water bottles, hats, and space heaters provided the warmth we needed. In fact, when I think back to the days we were packing and sorting to come I am so thankful that we were advised to bring ‘winter clothes’. It’s also interesting to note that students are allowed (and encouraged) to bring blankets and hot water bottles to school during the winter months, so they will be warm in the classrooms (students here wear uniforms all year round and girls are required to wear skirts!).

The burnt landscape

The burnt landscape

We have two space heaters, for which we have been so thankful. One is run by gas (propane) and the other is electric. While we have been grateful for each one, they both have their downsides. The gas heater is the most child un-friendly system around. We’ve had to be diligent and careful if we had it running while the boys are around. However, it warms up a room in no time and doesn’t require electricity (especially wonderful to have during loadshedding!). The electric heater sucks away units of electricity faster than you can say ‘electricity’, however it kept the boys’ room warm during the cold winter nights.

We never thought that ‘heat’ would be one of the major things to mean so much to us during these first six months. We are thankful for warm days to come, for safety from the fires, and for creative ways to stay warm. We are also thankful that, despite colder temperatures, the sun (when it shines) is quite warm. Next, I suppose, we’ll be looking for ways to stay cool during the fast approaching summer months!