Thursday, February 26, 2009

our financial situation

When we left Vancouver in August, the Canadian dollar was nearly on par with the USD, gas prices were touching $1.50 a litre, and the Olympics seemed to be cheaper. When we return to Vancouver in April, Tim will be looking for a job during a time of economic uncertainty so please also pray that God will provide in a time of economic crisis.

We also would like to share with you our financial situation. When we were budgeting for our eight-month volunteer/missions trip to Africa, we estimated our costs as the following:

Travel expenses (airfare)


Preparation expenses


Daily expenses





Approx. TOTAL Requirements


We did in fact raise just over $9000, for which we were grateful. However, our expected expenditure of the trip has escalated to over $19,000 due to the following reasons:

· Cost of flights was higher than expected

· Most of our costs are in US dollars, so the rising US dollar has increased our Cdn costs.

· Our estimate of CIM daily expenses didn’t include health insurance, groceries or other miscellaneous items like internet and visa renewal

Travel expenses (airfare)


Preparation expenses


Daily expenses





Approx. TOTAL Requirements


*Note that these costs exclude the recreational travel which we did in between teaching assignments

We are hoping to raise an additional $5000 to cover this increase, and are asking you for your support. We chose to stay longer in Africa to provide a lasting impact to the young people here, but also because the fixed costs are so high. We made our effectiveness the top priority, and then tried to find the most cost-effective way to do it. For those who have been reading with us since the beginning, we hope that our experiences have opened up a part of the world that would otherwise be unfamiliar to you, and would be grateful for any additional support. For those who have just started to read, you may not have had the chance to contribute before, so we give you that opportunity now.

There are two ways you can contribute financially, and both will grant you a tax receipt. For the online-savvy, you may use your credit card to contribute at the SIM website: . You can also provide your credit card information over the phone if you prefer. Make sure you specify our names in the “Missionary Name” section of the online form.

Alternatively, you may also mail a cheque to CIM. Make the cheque out to “Chinese International Missions”. Make sure you write our names on the Memo field of the cheque.

Their mailing address is:

PO Box 97190

Richmond Main Post Office

Richmond, BC, Canada

V6X 8H3

Either way, let us know so that we can confirm with the organization that they’ve received your contribution (we do prefer you donate through SIM as we are more in need with that account). You can find out more about each organization in our blog entry here:

Thanks again for your support, we look forward to seeing all of you again when we return.

Tim and Dora

Sunday, February 22, 2009

hectic in South African means intense

Thank you all for your prayers and emails of encouragement. We sometimes have such hectic days that it is impossible to get through the day without your prayers of strength and wisdom of how to reach out to these children. Knowing that there’s a whole team of people praying for us really is encouraging.

Thank you for praying for the children, especially for the spiritual battles going on at the school. It seems that Satan is trying to discourage the teachers and children from God’s love Just this past Wednesday Dora had a really tough time with my grade 4/5 math class. The kids were misbehaving by talking, stealing books from each other, and beating each other. This lead to a three-hour detention because they still wouldn’t calm down. In fact, during that time, one of the boys, Tshitiso, who Dora has struggled with from the beginning of the year, bit another child. It truly was chaos. An American missionary who was visiting the school was also helping me in the room, as he stood by the door as a doorman and caught kids who tried to run away. The next day Dora talked to the class about behaviour in the classroom, respecting the teacher, and obedience/fearing God. One boy, Leofric mentioned something that has been disturbing me. He said that he doesn’t care because Satan already has him. Now this boy comes from a background where his parents worship their ancestors, and whose parents have told him that he is the chosen one, to be a king according to what the ancestors have told them. He’s a little spoiled and his younger brother is completely ignored and has no self confidence. Please pray especially for God to open the way to their heart, and to free them from Satan’s grasp.

The principal has also informed us that the local pastor has contacted her about Satanic worship activity in the Bopsfontain area where the kids come from. Please pray for God’s spiritual protection over the people in the community and school. We have heard that families are torn apart by family members being involved in this activity.

Tim is in the midst of converting math VHS tapes into video files for use on the Win98 computers. It’s a bit of a tedious job, splitting about fifteen 2.5 hour long videos into logical 30-minute segments. The children will eventually use these videos to follow along with a workbook. On Monday, he’ll begin teaching some of the children educational programs that he’s installed on the computers. He’s so far been patient with the computers...pray for that patience to extend to fidgety kids who are better at talking than listening.

We have also formed a friendship with one of the teachers at the school. Emilia has left her tattered country of Zimbabwe with her 5 year old daughter in hopes of finding a better life in South Africa. She came with no possessions, and hopes to get a work visa so that she can legally sponsor her 18 year old son over. She has already applied for the visa once, but was rejected. We’ve been praying regularly in the evenings with her, but she still fears for her son’s future; when she can bring him over to SA and how she can get the money to further his education. Please join us in praying for her physical needs.

Last week, on a rainy night, we got to see firsthand the thousands of Zimbabwean refugees who stayed at the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg. It was shoulder to shoulder with people, some laying on the ground trying to sleep, others sitting on the stairs keeping themselves entertained with a small portable TV and a DVD player. They smiled at us, some shaking our hands as we walked through the crowded hallways to gather food to take to the homeless people who preferred sleeping on the streets. They told us that they have fled a country whose inflation rate is in the millions of percent, where unemployment is 90% and hospitals have been closed. Cholera has claimed the lives of over 3000 people. The infamous President Robert Mugabe has is driving the country into the ground while he himself lives in relative luxury. It was incredible to see how one man's neglect and selfishness could be responsible for so much despair and desperation for millions.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Children: the battle between flesh and spirit

I feel definitely challenged in my teaching profession. After each day’s end, I’m not sure whether to celebrate the survival of another day or the small success of another child’s heightened understanding of mathematics, or rack my brains for what I’ve forgotten about best practice that I learned in university. I’ve been teaching two split 4/5 and 6/7 math classes, but it actually feels like I’m teaching three. The 4/5 class consists of students who can actually keep up with the BC grade 3 curriculum, and half who are new students into the school, who are either new to English, or went to a school that didn’t teach them anything (and I’m not exaggerating here…I heard that a public school in our area didn’t have enough teachers last year, so students simply sat and learned nothing). The 6/7 class is thankfully a bit more homogenous, so I can actually teach the same lesson and have most understand.

The issue goes a bit deeper than the classroom, as I’m slowly learning. Many of the children come from a culture and families where the parents (most of whom are single parents) don’t value or care for their child. In the African cultures we’ve encountered so far (including in Ghana), once a couple gets married, it’s expected that the women will have a baby right away. It’s the norm, and it’s every woman’s desire –to have the ability to conceive. One of the first questions I got asked once any black woman found out I was married, was whether I had a child. When I answered no, and moreover, to their alarm, that I didn’t want a child yet, they couldn’t understand why. This belief has resulted in problems of premarital sex, and babies born out of wedlock, just so the women can prove to the man that she is able to conceive, and therefore has met the qualifications of a good woman.

After the child is born, he/she may be treated like a commodity that would allow the parents to receive a monthly payment from the government. The families are poor, so he/she may get two meals a day if lucky, and left unsupervised most of the time, actually, he/she would either be supervising a younger sibling, or playing on the streets with other unsupervised children. What about love? “What does that feel like?” a child may wonder.

A scarier discovery, that children are taught by their fathers that love is sex. Sexual abuse is not uncommon in black families of the townships and squatter camps. It stems from the belief that one of the father’s roles is to teach their child, or their child’s friend what and how to have sex.

According to 2006 statistics, 30% of South Africa’s population has AIDS. A grade 5 child in my class has AIDS. She has to take pills twice a day, at exactly the same times, or her condition worsens until she is no more. I’m really not supposed to talk about it, as any terminal diseases are not spoken about in schools here. In fact, the governing board of education discourages that kind of talk.

Because of the poor condition of life for black folk, the Aurora primary school is a little piece of heaven for the children. All the teachers are here on a voluntary basis, as any funds collected from school fees or donations go directly to benefit the children. Meals are provided three times a day, quality education from teachers who care, and a warm bed to sleep in during the week.

However, there is never enough love to go around. I’ve started working with the most needy kids in the school, those who have failed a grade, those who don’t have much English, those who are struggling academically, and (I think) those who have learning disabilities. I’ve only seen some of them once or twice, but every time they spy me walking in their vicinity, eager eyes and open arms are usually result in hugs that leave them smiling.

Sometimes at the end of the day, I wonder whether anything I’ve done has made any difference at all. Sometimes, I feel even being there to give a hug, and seeing their face brighten, has made it all worthwhile. I hang onto the thought that somehow, the love shown through my actions, and the words of encouragement may bring them one step closer to experiencing God.

More recent and urgent news:

Just this past week, the intermediate students (grade 4 -7) were caught playing a deadly game of strangling each other called “dreaming.” This involved about 20 students who thought it would be a challenge to strangle each other and see who could tolerate it the longest as a show of strength. The police were immediately called in to deal with the situation and to show the children the seriousness of their crime. We learned from the police that what this act is classified as an entry level initiative into Satanic worship, and is against the law in South Africa.

The principal had warned us of spiritual attacks occurring on the school during our orientation, but I didn’t expect it to be this vigorous. The school is the only place where these children will ever hear about the word of God, and Satan is unhappy with what is happening.

Please pray especially for the safety and salvation of the children of Aurora primary school, for the teachers to have the wisdom and patience to touch the hearts of these children so that they can be won over for God’s kingdom.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The computers that Tim is tasked with getting to work. Mostly dusty Win98 machines. Hello again, Network Neighborhood.
Monday morning, the boarding students return from their weekend at home, excited to see their classmates. The teacher struggles to maintain their attention.
Here, Dora is teaching Math to her students. You're a lucky bunch to see this rare moment when everyone is actually looking down at their desks rather than talking to each other.
Many students require extra help. Dora's going over ABCs with some of the Grade 2s.
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You can almost see Mufasa coming out of the clouds. And the observant among you would be able to pause your VCR (yes, when Lion King was released, it was with VHS) to find a certain word that Disney's animators hid in one frame of the clouds.

The nice thing about the rain in Africa is that it usually comes in the form of dramatic thunder and lightning storms. None of that weak drizzle like we get in YVR. Africa announces wetness with big violent sneezes. Vancouver's rain is like the drippy three year old who wants to hold your hand.

The Enya song isn't the first song that comes to mind, mainly because it's a little too uplifting.

Songs that do come to mind:

Blame it on the Rain: In Ghana, people stay at home as if they were afraid of melting in the downpour. Rain was a common reason our classrooms were empty.
Rain, Feel It On my Fingertips: One doesn't need to put one's hand outside to know about the humidity in Africa. The titter tatter on the tin roofs produces enough volume to drown out the teacher, and our bedroom at the school is equipped with a natural sprinkler system (a leak).
Summer Rain: Yup, it's summer here, and the wetness does evaporate as quickly as the wind pushes the clouds away. Makes the rain tolerable as a "dry rain".
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