Friday, February 29, 2008

Advanced Standing and Other business

Today, I interviewed with GVSU for their Advanced Standing Masters Program. I would get my Masters done in a year, but for the next year I wont have a life. Staring in May I would take an 18 credit load and that would continue for the next year. I am unsure of this is possible, but if accepted I am up for the challenge.

My internship at Godwin Height is starting to pick up the pace and I find myself enjoying it a lot more then I did the past few weeks! I am starting to work with kids on my own and I love it!

On another note Rachel lost for the districts in the Spelling Bee competition, but she was a good sport about it. We all have been sick with the crud that is going around, but we're all starting to feel better!

Today I thought about how busy I have been that I realized I really miss Africa... A LOT.. I would like to go back ASAP. This is a picture of me working in Cape Town with a pre-school classroom in an informal township. Aren't they so cute?

Monday, February 25, 2008

weight of the world rests on my shoulders

The one thing that I can honestly say that I loved about living at school was the fact that I did not have to deal with issues at home. I know why people move out of their house so young because they do not want to deal with the frustrations from their parents. One thing that I have not missed is feeling like I have to do and fix every problem that arises at home. I wish I was at school sometimes, so I did not have to deal with it. I don't like to complain, but I needed to vent that off!!

Today I recieved the coolest thing in the mail. My Uncle Dana sent me a Turish puzzle box from Turkey! It was so neat. We had to figure out how to get the key out of the box as well as finding the hole for the key to go in. Rachel and I had a blast trying to figure out the little box! It was really neat!

In other news a little girl asked me last week if I was pregnant! That made me feel great! I told myself if someone ever asked that I would lose the weight.. So, that is what I am working on.. Pregnant? Really???

This is a picture of what a house looks like on the inside. Not that big.. It's generally one bedroom and maybe a bathroom. Most houses do not have bathrooms..

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Best of Tonight

This week has proved itself to be absoutely nuts.
Between snow storms, being sick, Child Protective Services trainning, Work and crazy kids I have found myself completely worn out. I can barely work on my parents party, let alone transfer over 100 numbers onto a new cell phone because apparently my phone was damaged when I brought it to Africa. It was due to the high elevation... It's been a week!! Is Spring Break coming soon? I am ready for a vacation!!

Another Africa story..
Talking about nuts.. How about driving in a foreign county on the opposite side of teh road? Well, my professor decided he was up for the challenge! He decided to drive a bunch of crazy girls to Pieterzsburg. As we entered the city his driving proved that he was a true American who could not drive on the opposite side without hitting things. We finally hit a curb where our hub cab went flying off. Dana was very brave and jumped out of the van to chase after it. She ended up getting it and we tried so hard to not laugh when she jumped back in, but we couldn't contain ourselves!! Here we our with the hub cab!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

This Beautiful Mess

This week has been crazy busy. With an internship that goes from 8-4, the snow and working I barely have enough time to sleep. It is only going to get crazier.. I also need to start running, but I am running through a time barrier... I may end up doing the 5k race because I am having a hard time trainning.

I just recieved a call from GVSU and I am going to interview for the Advanced Standing Masters Program on Friday Feb 29th!!
Prayers are needed.
Now on to a story about my trip. I don't have one, but here is a picture to enjoy.
They say a picture is worth a 1000 words.. I hope this one is!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

On the Edge of the World!!

Today, I am feeling quite discouraged. I am feeling discouraged about my grad applications. I am feeling that maybe I should have applied to more places as I have not heard from any schools. I still have the opportunity to apply to UofM. I feel discouraged. I feel discouraged about my internship. Currently, I am not really enjoying myself or the work I am doing. I am wondering if I have spent four years in a major that I am not called for? I love doing many social work things and have spent a lot of time in different field settings, so I feel like Social work is a good fit for me, yet I still feel discouraged... Maybe it's the weather or maybe it's the uncertainity of life that makes me discouraged, stress and anxious. My sister has been sick lately, so that makes me discouraged. My dad is hating his job, which makes me more discouraged. I am discouraged about the future. When you see the walls crumbling it is easy to have a discouraging day...

Well, now that I wrote a nice depressing entry lets get to something good...
Here is another Africa story..

This picture is on top of Table Mountain. I am on the edge of the cliff as you can see. My professor was looking at my pictures and he said "good thing I wasn't there, please tell your parents that because I don't want to get in trouble." Sitting on the edge of a cliff was a thrill that I cannot explain. I was very unsure of how steady the rock was and after hearing that two people had died the day before we went up made me a bit nervous, but at this point in the day I was ready to face the world. Being on Table Top Mountain made me feel like I was invincible. It was a great feeling to see the world down below. We were so high in elevation that we were on the cloud line!! The clouds were eye level with us. The highest point at the mountain is 1085 meters. It was a such a neat experience....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I’ve changed the settings, so now everyone can post comments!!! Sorry, that was a problem for many of you readers!!
First, I would like to touch base on daily living items. Today, I started my internship at Godwin Heights, which is a lower income based school district that has many needs. I am already overwhelmed with all that I expected to accomplish there, my homework and then add a job and extra time to train for a race.. I know that within time I will figure out how it all fits in, but currently I am unsure.
Tonight Rachel (my 12 year old sister) had a choir concert and she even had a speaking part. She did a wonderful job! Also, on the 26th she goes on to regionals for the Spelling Bee!!!
Second, I have a couple of prayer requests. Drews cousin Nicki is (5-6months) pregnant and she fell last night. She ended up staying in the hospital for the night and I haven’t heard any updates, but if you could keep her in your prayers… Also, my Grandpa Taylor in Texas is very sick and needs some prayer. He is having a hard time swallowing and drinking regular liquids. He is all kinds of physical pain, so prayers for healing and restoration. My Grandma Taylor needs continual prayers for strength and encouragement to keep persevering. A final prayer would be a nice snow day tomorrow! I would enjoy that!!

Alright, as promised here is another story from Africa.

Our first weekend we attended a little church called Soweto Vineyard. Soweto is another informal township. Soweto Vineyard church is composed of many twenty members and our team made up half of the congregation that day. As the service ended, the pastor asked us if we would be willing to pray for the children. One by one children came up to us. We asked them for their name and what prayer requests they had. My first was this real little guy who I could barely understand, but he was cute. Second, I was greeted by this girl on my left( Hope is the one in the lime green) who is 14 years old. Her name was something long and beautiful that I forget, but her name meant hope. As I began asking her what she needed prayers for, this 14 year old teenager began spilling heart to me through tears. She told me that her dad was very sick and could not work. Her mom was without a job and could not find work. She was without schooling. She told me that for her to attend school, it would cost her $60 rand, which equates $8 in American money. How could a child be turned away from school at the cost of $8? I could not fathom this. Here in the United States you cannot even buy crayons, notebooks and pencils for under that. I did what any person who is human would do. I talked to the team of Vox to find out if it was okay for me to give her the money and they told me yes. They wanted us to be careful, so we were not just giving handouts that the people would depend on other Americans in the future. I became thankful real quick. A college education puts me at the top 1% in the world. We learn that stat over there. Going to college has been such a blessing and each day I continue to learn how blessed I am to receive a college education. God continues to show me how blessed I am.

Have a great night! Be blessed!!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~ Romans 15:13~

Monday, February 4, 2008

Seeing One's Self for the First Time

Today I want to post on many things. First, I wanted to share that I had a very interesting conversation professor that made me ponder what I am doing with my life. She knows my heart very well and knows that I really want to spend some time back in South Africa. My prof (Bonnie) told me to go for my dreams and never let them go. Last night I drove down to Spring Arbor and my best friends and I talked about our lives and where we want to go. I realize that sentence has a lot of “ANDS”, but I am okay with that. We are talking about skydiving in May. It would be a rush of a lifetime, but none the less we’re all about living up our dreams. As our conversation continued we began to talk about my adventures in South Africa and it became very clear to me that I am called back there at some point. I know that God will direct my footsteps, but I feel that I have too much passion and heartache for God just to leave it sitting there and not allowing me to be his hands and feet and do something about it.. We’ll see..

As I promised this would be a debrief of my Africa Adventures.. Here is another story and another picture. I hope this will speak to you in some way where ever you find yourself.

This is my first picture in Fine Town. Fine Town is an informal settlement (also know as slums or shacks) that the government does not acknowledge it’s existence. The people and children live in filth. They live in piles of trash and will often play in it because it is something fun. Here in the states we would never allow this on our streets, but the government does not care about these townships. As we entered this township, instantly we were greeted with smiles and hand waves. People were extremely excited to see us. As we headed out of the cars we were greeted by tons of children. This was my first time to be able to pull out the camera.. Instantly, I started shooting tons of photos of the cute kids when all of the sudden they started grabbing my camera. They grabbed my camera, so they could see themselves. Most of these kids have never seen themselves in a mirror let alone a camera. It was a really neat experience to be able to show them their picture.. They were tickled pink and would often laugh in excitement or point at the pictures of their friend and laugh. This picture speaks a 1000 words to me and more. Hear I am in the middle of a group of kids showing them a picture of themselves for the first time. It makes you stop and wonder how many times you’ve looked in the mirror and have hated what you’ve seen.. It changes your perception and mindset. I am very challenged by this thought. I hope you are too..

I love this story and thought it needed to be posted from the news!!

Good Samaritan helping accident victim's family

GRAND RAPIDS -- A man's own family tragedy may bring some light to a very dark time for another family.

Merida Mateo-Pablo, 14, died after falling out of her family's minivan at speeds of 70 mph along a local highway.

Now John Beck wants to help send her body back to her homeland of Guatemala for burial.

Beck knows something about hopelessness. His family last week buried his niece who was born prematurely. He put aside money to help with any expenses but the cost wasn't as great as he expected.

Then he saw Merida's story, learned she had been in the United States for just a year, heard her family's desire to send her body back to home, and knew what to do.

"I believe in my heart that God holds me accountable for if I can make the difference and if I don't...and I believe that if I can make the difference then I'm supposed to," he told 24 Hour News 8.

He contacted 24 Hour News 8, offering to pay the costs of Merida's burial and journey home.

"I saw the eyes of a young lady that was very much alive and very hopeful of the future. And as I see that it touches my inner being and saying, you know, that life has been good to me, and it's been good to a lot of us here in this country and a lot of us here in Michigan. When we see young people we know that is our future and their hopes are our hopes," he said.

He says he sees a need, is trying to meet that need, and that there is no other motive. Beck says no "thank you" is wanted; it's just simply a core value learned while growing up.

"The people of West Michigan know who they are and we don't do things because we want recognition or want someone to pat us on the back. We do it because it needs to be done and it's the right thing to do. And then we'll let God sort the rest of it out."

We don't yet know the full cost for the burial, but met with Merida's family who said there is an account set up at Fifth Third Bank in her name for anyone interested in helping with expenses. We then gave that information to Beck and put him in touch with her family.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Processing South Africa Part 1

Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to process my life. I have been in deep thought about who I am and where I am going. My trip to South Africa has presented a paradigm shift. The shift is unshakable and unmovable. I will not move, but rather sit on everything, question my life and continue to try to process my personal thoughts. I realize that the kingdom is at hand with all of this..... I am desperate to find out where God is taking me in the next part of my life. I am longing to find how God is going to teach me the hum the journey because I do not know the words yet, I need him to show me the kingdom. In order to help me process the journey I have decided stories matter. Living breathing humans have a story. Behind every smile and frown, there is a story that demands to be told. Over the next few months I have decided to tell the stories for those who are voiceless. Their stories will never be told, but since my voice has influene, my promise is that the stories will be told. These people matter. These people are the children of God who are called, who have purpose, who have a name, a story and a face...

My first story involves a beautiful little girl who is deeply loved by the creator. While on the streets in the township of Mphophomeni, I met this beautiful little girl with a smile that could light up the world. As I greeted her, I could see the pain behind her eyes, but she smiled and talked to me with confidence. Although, I do not remember her name, I remember our conversation. It went something like this... "You're a beautiful little girl who has a smile that grins from ear to ear". "Thankyou". I asked her what her name was and she told me. I then told her my name. I handed her some crayons and to my surprise, she thought it was food. I was astonished. I began to show her how you write with it, but she did not understand... Too bad Crayola does not know that, they would market it... As we continued in small talk, she said the most beautiful thing to say... "I love you"... I about lost it...I could not even say anything, but simply hug her for the fear of tears. It was the most beautiful moment. Here this little girl in Africa, who I assume to be an orphan in a township, says, “I love you.". My questions then became ... Whom does she live with that instills this type of confidence for her to boldly say this? Whom is the person teaching her love? Does she know the type of implications that type of statement means? Why could I not tell her that I loved her? Why did I feel completely empty as I walked away from something so precious? The thoughts still linger in my mind, but I will never forget the little girl who said the precious words of “I love you." I pray that someday I will meet her again, if not on earth, then in Heaven.

Emails sent home from South Africa

First Masssive Email.....

Dear Friends and family,
South Africa is wonderful. The weather has been very warm. Today it was 95 and beautiful..
Last week we spent our time in Johannsburg and mostly do a lot of service work, which was by the far the best and most inspiring thing I have ever done.. We went on the streets and visited with families and children. The commercials on tv for sponoring children dont do enough justice to the shacks and trash that many of the kids live in. The hardest part for me is to see so many childern homeless. Jo-burg is the most violent and rape capital in the world, but I felt more safer there then USA. The people in Jo-burg all look out for one another.. In the event that I was to pick pocketed and I yelled help 20 men would go after whoever was trying to steal something. Today we witnessed a man steal a self phone from a woman here in Piietermaritzburg and a group of men went after him, got the phone back and then beat him.. Stealing here has a high punishment and some people are even stoned to death!!! I also spent some time last week working with AID orphans... The government here is South Africa is so corrupt and denies that HIV is the number one killer. It is very frustrating to see a government that does not care about its people.

Apartheid still exists here.. Although an Apartheid ended in 1991 you can see that racism still exists between whites and blacks. It is very much alive here in Pietermarizburg.. Many blacks don't like us here, but for once I see and feel racism.. It has been a very eye opening experience and one I often thing is still overlooked in the USA. Racism still exists, but being a white I am unaware of it, but here I am the minority...

We also visited a game park last week. We were able to see all kinds of animals out in the wild.. It was a neat experience to be on a safari and we saw 3 of the big 5... I have taken over 700 pictures.. Drew would be proud... and am not even done with one memory card yet.. All of have not gotten sick, so we have been very blessed... We are all doing great and we haven't killed one another yet... So, I guess that is good

I am missing the states.. I miss the food... I am not a big fan of the traditional African Food. I have eaten a bunch of weird stuff and I do not really enjoy it all that much.. I can't wait to get some starbucks too.. Here they dont have coffee.. Well, they have coffee, but only regular.. They don't have the good stuff like we do in the states.. Today we spent a lot of time in museums and in Art galleries... I am looking forward to the next leg of our trip. Prayers are necessary for safety and health.
I hope all of you are doing well and I look forward to seeing you in the states..
Take care
Love, Sarah

Second massive email....

Dear family and friends,
South Africa has been a wonderful experience. Yesterday, we went on top of table mountain, which is a huge tourism attraction here at Cape Town.. We were eye level with the clouds. We were supposed to go on Table mountain on Monday, but a girl in our group was very sick, so we ended up going on Tuesday. It was a good thing that we did go up on Tuesday because Monday night two people died and the power was also cut off, which stop the Gondola’s from going up, so about 500 people were stuck in mid air on a cable car from about 7:45 pm till midnight. It was very interesting to read the headlines on Tuesday morning and see that people were stuck up at Table Mountain. The Lord must have known and protected us from that situation because two people ended up having a heart attack due to the intense fear/ stress and the cold climate that is brought when your eye level with the clouds… Table Mountain was very beautiful and it was wonderful to see Cape Town as well as the Atlantic Ocean down below. Pictures don’t justify the beauty up there. Here is the website for ya’ll to take a look at..

Last night we went into a town ship (informal settlement) and passed out soup at Midnight to those who are homeless.. It was very interesting and sad at the same time to see the little kids in the pjs (at midnight) running out with a cup for soup as most of them have not eaten at all during the day. Most of them wont eat until Cecil ( the guide who took us) makes rounds again tonight.. My experiences in South Africa have made me realize how Blessed we are in America.
I will be back in the states Friday the 25th. Hope to talk to you all soon!
Take Care!!
Thanks for the prayers and support.
Love, Sarah