Surprised by Grace…

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As I look out the window and watch Port Elizabeth fade into the distance I am overwhelmed by so many emotions.  Sadness seems to be the primary one as I type this through tear filled eyes. Why am I so sad? Is it the ending, the country, the people…all of the above? On the plane ride over to South Africa I was counting the days until I would be home again, planning to get my student teaching done and get out of this unknown place. It is amazing how things change, amazing how the Lord always has his own agenda to work into our lives.  He sure knew what He was doing, He had so much more planned for my time here in South Africa.

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Grace is defined as the Lord’s undeserved favor in our lives, but it is so much more than that.  It is seeing His love for me despite my faults and shortcomings.  It is waking up each day and seeing His beauty in everything.  Do I understand this…I don’t know that I ever will this side of heaven.  However, as I think back to the past three months and my time here in PE I am overwhelmed by the Lord’s provision by His abounding grace in my life.  It is hard to put into words all that He has done this summer, He knew all along but I doubted…why? Do I think He who created the universe isn’t big enough to be Lord over my life? My trust is so small, but it is safe to trust in Him who gave His life for mine. He who loved me knowing who I really am.  This is Grace. 

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I see this as I say goodbye to everyone at Covenant Grace, as Khaya, Greg, Jess, Ang, and Don see us off before our flight.  I prayed for a church that would preach from the Bible, one that I could at least attend a couple times this summer…and look at what He gave me! What an absolute blessing Covenant Grace was during my time here in PE.  This wonderful community that willingly welcomed Lindsay and me in…two random American girls.  We came with nothing to offer, pretty needy, lonely, clueless, and carless…and what we got in return…amazing grace.  Isn’t this our standing before the Lord…needy, clueless, helpless, lonely…and in return He gives us Christ. He gives us true life in exchange for our sad state, halleluiah what a Savior! I think what I found so amazing about Covenant Grace is that they showed us Christ by living out their faith in community. By no means perfectly but as we have been learning about the early church “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common… And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47) So to all of our South African family, thank you! Thank you for your love and care, your hospitality and encouragement, your acceptance and community, and everything you did to welcome us in.  I hope and pray the Lord has it in his plans for us to reunite soon, but until then keep running hard after Him and loving others as Christ has loved us!

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There are so many ways the Lord showed up in my life this summer and so many reasons I have to be thankful.  Providing Lindsay as a life line, sister, and friend was so amazing and another clear picture of His provision.  Mrs. Cloete and the students of room 3 who allowed me into their lives and changed mine as we together allowed the Lord to work in and through us. I will never forget these wonderful memories and amazing opportunity to experience life through the lens of another country!

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 I never could have guessed how much my life would be impacted and changed through little ole PE. Everyone asked why in the world I was going there- if you have to go to South Africa you at least should be placed in Cape Town or somewhere everyone knows right?! No, if I could answer those people now I would say, “I am going to be surprised by grace- going to discover how big and wonderful our God is and I am going to be forever changed by this wonderful place called Port Elizabeth!” 

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Bittersweet Goodbyes

Well the goodbyes have started and are quickly coming to a close.  It is amazing how many amazing friends we have made these past three months and how hard it is to say goodbye.  I am so thankful for my time here in Port Elizabeth and will never forget the wonderful memories and people that made this time so special!Image

For Mary Stuart’s last night we finally made it to Stanley Street, which is a cute little street with restaurants and bars that people have been telling us about all summer. We ended up getting some pizza at Charlies Superstar and enjoyed a fun night out! It was crazy to think about all the fun things we did this summer and how we didn’t even know each other in the beginning. Image

Friday morning Lindsay and I woke up to watch the sunrise and enjoyed breakfast down by the pier. What a beautiful morning it was and was nice to spend some time reflecting on all that the Lord has taught us this summer and the amazing times we have had! ImageFriday evening we attended our last Braai at Greg and Wendy’s house. It was a perfect South African ending and I am so grateful for the friends we have made at Covenant Grace and how well they loved and cared for us this summer. It is definitely sad to leave such a great church and great friends but I am excited to keep up with them and hear all that the Lord is doing in and through them!

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Last Day at Herbert Hurd :(

Wow, this day came so fast I really don’t know where the time has gone! Today was pretty hard and very emotional saying goodbye to my students at Mrs. Cloete.  I made a video as a present for Mrs. Cloete and the class with pictures and videos from the past three months.  I knew that Mrs. Cloete would cry and possibly me but I did not expect the students to get so upset.  After a few minutes of the video two students burst out in tears followed by half of the class.  Mrs. Cloete tried to talk to them and tell them this was a happy time but then she quickly got choked up and had to stop.  I think because of all this emotion I was able to keep it together knowing I couldn’t cry or the whole class would end up in tears.  I talked to all of them and explained how we can be thankful for our time together and that we still would keep in touch. Whew it was hard.  In attempt to lighten the mood I then gave the students certificates/ superlatives that I made for them. This was fun getting to encourage the students and highlight a positive for each of the kids. They were so excited to receive these and had fun listening to all of their classmates awards!

Mrs. Cloete asked the students to bring in things that reminded them of South Africa to share with the class or for me to take back to America. Well after 6 milk tarts, four packages of billtong, homemade kooksisters, rusks, 8 chocolate bars, and many other fun presents this was the result…

Saying the final goodbye was definitely hard as it isn’t a see you later, but a nice knowing you goodbye although I feel the Lord has prepared me for this the past week.  One little girl, Zeta, who received the Best Sense of Humor award left saying, “I will miss you but someday in the future I will make you laugh again!” Talk about a tear jerker! I also was asked when I was getting married and if they could be the flower girls in my wedding…sure why not?! As well as many requests to come back to America with me.  They definitely are a sweet group of kids.  I don’t think the reality has really set in for me yet but I am going to miss this class and Mrs. Cloete. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!

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The Countdown Begins…

I cannot believe we are headed into our last week of teaching in the coming week!  It really is crazy how fast the time here has gone, as it always does.  As I reflect on this summer and the time I have had here in Port Elizabeth I am so extremely thankful for this opportunity to live abroad.  It has not only grown and changed me as a teacher but also as a person.  I don’t think I will realize how much I have changed from this experience until well into the future but I leave here confident it is what the Lord had for my summer.  He knows what He is doing!

A few highlights from this past week:

Lindsay and I led the school assembly on Wednesday morning.  It was quite entertaining as we tried to spice things up a little bit and call the students up on stage for a Chicken relay race.  This consisted of 3 teams of students that had to put a ball in between their legs and waddle to the other end while flapping their arms and bawking like a chicken.  When they made it to the other end they had to squat over a bucket and drop their “egg” into the bucket.  It was pretty entertaining and went well with our Olympic themed lesson on teamwork.

My students have now realized I am leaving and have started telling me how much they will miss me and how I can’t leave.  Some of them still haven’t quite figured out what it means for me to be from America and seem to think I can just come visit for a weekend, but they have been sweet and are going to make it hard to leave!

And finally for the fun part…At school on Friday we were interrupted with a message from the Headmaster that students and staff must use the toliets (that is what they refer to restrooms as here) sparingly and that you should only flush if necessary. He was trying to be discrete.  So for the rest of the day we were required to use buckets of water to fill up the toliets in order to flush.  Come to find out, the two main water pipes in Port Elizabeth had burst due to all the rain we have been having.  Unlike America which would have backups and there would be no interruption of water, South Africa went into crisis mode.  The newspapers have said that it may take up to a week to fix and many parts of the city will be without any water.  No water. At all. Hmmm…this could present a problem.  We came home and filled a few pots with water before our taps stopped working completely and then ran to the Pick N Pay to stock up on the bottled water.  So the adventure has begun, washing our face with bottled water, flushing the toliets only when necessary with the one bucket of water we have, and showering isn’t really an option at this point.  This may get interesting!

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Rainbow Fish!

This week I had my final observation by the Professor from Nelson Mandela University.  I decided to do a reading lesson that incorporated story elements as well as practicing the students’ retelling of the story. I chose the book The Rainbow Fish and was shocked to find out that not one student nor my teacher had ever even heard of the book.  The literature they have over here is so behind from children’s literature in the States and they mostly have the fairy-tale classics.  

I was able to use an online version of The Rainbow Fish to do a read aloud and the students absolutely loved it! We read it again today after they asked me all day to hear Rainbow Fish again! After reading the book and doing a mini lesson the students made Rainbow Fish booklets that required them to cut out the pictures and order them in the correct sequence: beginning, middle, and end.  They turned out really well!

Mrs. Cloete allowed me to teach again today and continue working with The Rainbow Fish. The students worked on retelling the story in their own words today and then they wrote about their favorite part. This was one of my favorites:

the rainbow fish.

the part that I liked the most is when the rainbow fish gave all his friends a scales. I chos this because that is What friends do. I Did not like when the rainbow fish sed no when the litle blue fish asked for one scale.

thank you ❤

The kids did really well with this project and I enjoyed being able to spend more than one day on the lesson. I think the kids would benefit from working on longer units instead of day to day lessons and then assessments but that is not how they like to do things around here. It feels good to be done with all of my observations and now I am working on finishing up all of my portfolios.

Excited to watch the Opening Ceremonies, South African style, tonight! Tomorrow we are have a South African/ American Thanksgiving dinner with our teachers. They are going to braai and cook a SA dessert and we are doing traditional Thanksgiving sides and pies. I think we have decided on sweet potato suflee with marshmallows on top, green beans, apple and pear crumble and some good southern biscuits. Lindsay’s teacher things the sweet potatoes sound disgusting…she has no idea what delightful treat she is in for! It should be a lot of fun!

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World’s Highest Bungee!

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This weekend was sadly probably our last big adventure in South Africa, but it definitely was good one to end on! Lindsay, Luke, and I went back to Storm’s River which is in the beautiful Tsitsikamma Mountains. We headed out on Saturday morning to make our 1pm bungee apointment.  Face Adrenaline is the site of the highest bungee in the world off the highest bridge in South Africa.  As you can see the bridge overlooks the mountains and ocean as well as, after a 216 meter drop, a lovely little river.  After watching a few people jump in the group ahead of us, one woman ending in tears after being pushed off because she didn’t want to jump, we made the nerve-racking walk out to the middle of the bridge.  I was the first of the three of us to go and after being tied in by my ankles and told after 1-2-3 bungee I was supposed to just jump and dive head first… I began to wonder what I had gotten myself in to.  IT WAS INCREDIBLE!! Free falling with absolute silence around you while surrounded by complete and breathtaking beauty, every second was worth it.  With that said, don’t worry I screamed for a good while and apparently very loud, but it was awesome!

ImageAfter completing to bungee jump we headed off to hike through the Tsitsikamma National Park and continued to enjoy some amazing views.  That night I had my first experience staying in a backpackers, but with only one other person there is wasn’t quite the full experience. We actually got a good night sleep which I imagine doesn’t always happen when the 20 bunk room is full.

The next morning we had an unexpected but almost as exciting adventure as the bungee when we went mountain biking.  After paying the equivalent of $10 and told to be back in 2 hours, we were given our bikes and helmets and off we went.  It didn’t take long for us to realize we got way more than we paid for and not quite what we were expecting.  It definitely was MOUNTAIN biking and as we went flying down the mountain over rock and bumps and lots of mud, we soon realized we would have to go back up the same way we came down. I don’t know that I have ever been so exhausted and sore from a 2 hour activity.  I gained a whole new respect for bikers.

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Walmer Township

On Friday I went with the Campus Crusade team that we have become friends with through our church to help out with the ministry taking place in the Walmer Township.  This is one of the biggest townships in Port Elizabeth and consists of miles and miles of shacks made with whatever can be found around town.

Jerusalem Ministries has a building right at the edge of the township and they allow children to come hang out after school to get fed and to hear about Jesus.  There can be anywhere form 20 kids to 300 that come each afternoon and the staff does their best to care for their needs physically and spiritually. Campus Crusades partnered up with this ministry for a week to help out and run a VBS type program.

I was able to go on Friday and help out and meet a bunch of the kids. We played games, sang songs, learned some African dances, fed the kids, and had a craft time. The students seemed to really enjoy the time we spent there, although most of them spoke only Xhosa fluently so communication was often hard. It was an awesome and eye opening experience that really puts in perspective what is important in life.

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Phonics Bingo! (Day 69)

Today we watched this during assembly with grades 1-3. Never give up was the lesson of the day. I am not sure if the students got anything out of it but almost every teacher ended up in tears by the end of it. I had seen it before but it gets me every time!

After assembly I taught a phonics lesson that ended with a game of bingo.  The students had been working on their bingo boards for a while and the bingo was to serve as a review of the words.  I quickly found that the students haven’t played bingo before when they started calling bingo after the first word was called. “But I found a word Ms. Kurdelmeier!” (Matthew) They make it hard to ignore their cute remarks.  After working through what it actually meant to get bingo we had a great time playing!

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Back to School (Day 67)

Monday morning came early and we were off to school again to finish off four more weeks.  It was great to see all of the students again and get back into the swing of things.  All of the students were anxious to share about what they did during the break and I quickly was filled in on every movie seen, tooth lost, birthday party and trip that was taken.  We had a share time, “In the News”, and gave every student a chance to get out their exciting stories. I wish I could retell some of the stories- six year olds are funny!

Sometimes I forget these students are six years old with all of the expectations put on them and such, but I am quickly reminded with the stories they tell and situations like the following.  While we were singing “In Christ Alone” to start the day, we had just finished the last line which is “In Christ alone my hope is found, here in the love of Christ I stand.” My teacher immediately followed with the question, “Where are we standing?” (correct answer= in the love of Christ); however, the answer from one little boy was, “I know I know, we are on the floor!” He was so positive that was the correct answer, I couldn’t help but laugh. These kids are entertaining for sure!

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Around the Cape in 13 days!

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 I was so thankful on Wednesday to wake up and see sunshine out of our window- time for Table Mountain! Luke (Lindsay’s boyfriend who flew in to Cape Town on Tuesday night), Lindsay, and I excitedly headed out to Table Mountain.  We weren’t really sure what we were in for but had heard it was a pretty tough climb.  Two hours later when we made it to the top, we all agreed this was true.

On our hike up we took the 3 km straight up route that was most common for hikers.  We climbed over rocks, bushes, and even waterfalls as we followed the path upwards.  It was a beautiful day and we passed many other hikers enjoying the day on our way up.  The view from the top was quite amazing and we could literally see the entire city including Robben Island, Cape Point, and the rest of the surrounding mountain ranges.  It was quite a drastic temperature drop at the top but we found a nice spot in the sun on top of the mountain to enjoy the picnic we had packed.

As we headed back down we decided to try a different route- India Venster.  From the look on the map it seemed like a longer route but one that was less steep, a little easier than the path we took up; however, ten minutes into the hike we came across a sign that said “WARNING: This is not an easy way down!”  Well, this could be fun!  We found the sign was right as we climbed down the face of the mountain, at times holding onto handles placed in the side of the mountain, but it was well worth it!

We spent a total of 5 hours hiking up and down Table Mountain and were definitely very tired when we got to the bottom, but it was an amazing hike! The views were beautiful everywhere you turned and we were so thankful for a day with nice weather!

We are now back in PE and getting ready to gear up for 4 more weeks of school.  As I reflect more on the past two weeks of traveling I will be posting more of the experience. For now I can say that is was an amazing few weeks of traveling and weeks that I will never forget!

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