Life has many privileges and blessings if you follow the leading of Christ. This week we had one of those God-blessed experiences because we said "yes" to having 7 young men from South Africa, ages 13 to mid-twenties stay overnight on our farm.
Our friends, Pastor Brent and Valerie Harwerth, are growing their Fort Morgan Berean church congregation through a variety of outreach ministries. Last night their church hosted a performance of the Kuyasa Kids from South Africa. These children are the singing and dancing ambassadors for Horizon International, whose tagline 'creating a world of hope for HIV/AIDS orphans' is ministering to thousands of precious children in 5 south African nations. Kayusa Kids tour the USA during spring break, to raise awareness of the plight of orphans in southern Africa (12 million orphaned by AIDS), and to encourage Christians to sponsor one child (or more) for $35/month. School is not free in Africa, and you need to have enough money to purchase a uniform to wear. Most families cannot afford decent food, let alone school uniforms. So, the sponsorship helps with school uniforms, supplies, and basic necessities. Outreach programs also provide what we would call extra-curricular activities, such as sports, performing arts (Kayusa Kids), and other enrichment activities, along with tutoring at community centers. It is a life-changing difference for the kids who are being discipled as Christians to become the leaders of the next generation of Africans. The choir travels to where they are invited, so your church should consider inviting them next year!
We attended the amazing performance, in the packed-out church. The children were talented and energetic as they performed both traditional songs and dances in the first half, and then moved many to tears and cheers with their second half act of worship songs. Jesus' name was declared and worshipped by children who know personally of His saving grace, and His mercy in their lives - bringing them hope in a very difficult world.
Last week I mentioned to Valerie that if they didn't have enough host families for the choir children, we would be happy to have a couple of girls come stay with us if the weather cooperated so our roads were passable. Well, God had something else in mind - and we were blessed in our following His lead, to do His will.
Apparently all of the host families wanted girls. Valerie asked if we would consider boys. Sure, we could put them up in our bunkhouse that sleeps 5. Well, there would be 7, including the choir director. Oh, okay, we'll figure something out.
Then the blizzard hit, and the temperatures dipped to zero. Our bunkhouse is not heated, and these young men were from southern Africa where they only see snow on the high mountains, their climate never being cold enough to have any where they live. Oh, okay, we'll figure something out.
The snow melted and the river of mud that is our driveway was impassable, let alone the 15 miles of dirt/mud roads until the blacktop on the way to town. Dangerous for our family, we wouldn't want to put other's in harm's way of slipping off the road into a ditch. Oh, okay, we'll figure something out.
As a host family, we were to bring the kids home with us after the concert, provide a bed, shower, and laundry service, fix breakfast, pack a sack lunch for them, returning them to the church by 8am! The night before the concert, I got the sack lunches ready. I was going to make peanut butter and jelly, but remembered I had several ziplock bags of frozen chopped up cooked turkey in the freezer. Along with celery and mayo and spices, it would make great turkey salad sandwiches. 7 plastic grocery bags containing napkin, 1 large turkey salad sandwich, 1 washed and wrapped apple, 1 plastic bag of 2 humongous handfuls of potato chips, and a fruit snack bar were packed, tied, loaded into a fresh trash bag, and put in the fridge. Done! Got four 1.5# packages of breakfast sausage out of the freezer, and located enough eggs to cook up for 15 hungry eaters. Set out 3 frozen unbaked danish pastry loaves to rise overnight. Went to bed early planning for a late night the next evening.
It froze that night, so in the morning Cary drove our 15 passenger van up the driveway to the road and parked it. We had our two all wheel drive Subarus at the house to use to get up the driveway. I made lunch for us, and changed 7 beds, getting out fresh towels. Thankfully the kids cleaned the whole house, while I headed into town by myself for a meeting, planning on Cary bringing our kids in the van and meeting at the church. I left mid-day as the frozen mud was thawing; it wasn't the worst it's every been, but it was close. Cary and our kids made it out too, but took an hour to get to town instead of 30 minutes.
We enjoyed the performance, selected a child's profile for our family to sponsor, then waited while all the choir kids got their bags, then loaded everyone and all their gear, including a drum, into our 2 vehicles. Before we left, we renegotiated the time to return them; 10:15 was fine. The 8am drop off time was for 'working parents'. Good, I thought. My 'workday' starts a lot earlier, but there was no way we were getting them back to the church by 8am!
The road was not frozen at 9pm as we headed home, so we slip- slided away, all the way to the farm, and down the driveway. The African boys were wide-eyed at the muddy travel, talking animatedly in English and their native tongue, except when it was really bad and silent prayers filled the car with absolute quiet.
We made it to the front door! Then began the long ordeal of getting everyone settled and to sleep. All of our kids relocated to the 2 downstairs bedrooms accessible through our master bedroom. We made available 7 beds for our guests, including 4 downstairs in the two rooms at the foot of the stairs. We instructed the young men that they could use the upstairs bath; towels and toiletries were all laid out on each freshly made bed. A couple of the boys wanted to share a bed because they felt safer that way. Okay, no problem (I'm thinking...1 less bed to change!). They had laundry that I said I would do during the night if they put it in the baskets I had set out. Okay, no problem. All our kids went to bed. Cary went to bottle feed Mikey the calf in his outside pen, Zane was in his pj's, and I had the kitchen organized for breakfast for 15. Zane asked if we had 7 disposable water bottles; we found 3, but I remembered we had 4 reusable ones stashed in an upper cabinet. He washed and filled them, then found a boy for each one. Good thinking Zane!
Then one of the boys asked me - as I was heading downstairs to bed - if I had any meat he could eat. Okay, no problem. Well one by one, 6 boys wanted meat. One also wanted pasta and 'organic' vegetables. Okay, no problem. The director was in his room presumably asleep. So, back to the kitchen I headed. I had defrosted way to much sausage for breakfast, so made 7 sausage patties since I asked Zane if he wanted to eat with them and he of course said "YES"! I made pasta with sour cream as one of the boys mentioned it was his favorite dairy product. I heated up leftover pizza from our home school meeting the night before - thank you Jesus for leftovers! I cut up a nice round watermelon. They all sat down by 11:20pm and chowed down every last bite by midnight. I said goodnight, and figured I'd clean the kitchen in the morning.
Sleep, finally! I wake up every 2 hours every night anyway, so what was 3 loads of laundry to do in between? I got it all done, and the alarm woke me at 7:30am. I asked Cary to wake the kids to go feed animals while I made breakfast. He wisely went out to our storage and found 7 pairs of boots (we have every size stashed away for just such an occasion) and brought them to the house. I got out 7 extra fleece hats and 7 pairs of warm gloves - these I stash as I know my kids lose them right and left! I let the boys know that the hats were a gift if they wanted to keep one, but we needed the boots and gloves back. It took an hour to get everyone up and outfitted to head out for livestock feeding. Of particular interest were the rabbits - one boy had asked at 11pm the night before if he could go see the rabbits then. Sorry, there is no light in the rabbitry, so that was the one thing that couldn't be done.
It was quiet in the house for an hour during livestock feeding, so I made 20 sausage patties, 3 dozen scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese, pineapple/orange/banana fruit salad, baked 3 braided danish loaves, and stir-fried carrots and asparagus for the boys who said they love 'organic vegetables'. I looked in the fridge and we only had a quart of milk, so I made 15 cups of hot tea instead.
Suddenly there was a pounding on the front door. I opened it and saw an agitated small boy about the size of a 9 year old (though he was in fact 15) crying "Help, I'm freezing!" as he kicked off his boots. Inside one boot there was a huge chunk of wet snow that had soaked his thin socks. He ran to the bathroom and hopped in the tub with his feet under the hot running water. I asked him if he needed some dry socks? Yes! Okay, no problem. I found a spare pair of mine that were too small, and told him they were a gift. I put the wet ones in a baggie and said 'the next mom can do these in your laundry'. He grinned and quickly put them and his dry tennis shoes on.
One by one the young men came into the house talking non-stop about all the fun animals, and the snowball fight they just had. I pointed them to the food, and told them to sit at one of the 2 tables with our family members mixing things up so they could all visit while they ate.
Each one filled their plate, drank their tea, and then one asked for milk. Okay, no problem. I got out 7 of our smallest glasses and poured one for each. They gulped it down. Did we have any home-made yogurt? No, sorry, I didn't. I felt so bad - I wished I had a gallon of it - I will next week when we start milking our cow who just had a calf last week, but we wait 2 weeks before we start milking so baby can get lots of the good stuff. No problem they said - the food was wonderful, especially the meat! And the tea - what kind is it? Well, half the cups were Starbuck's brand, the other half Celestial Seasonings Blueberry. Would you like to take some back to Africa? Sure. So, Cary went and got several boxes out of our good stuff out of the storage to send with them.
I think 2 bites of banana were left of the fruit salad, 18 pieces of danish bread gone, veggies gone, eggs gone - the meat was definitely all gone! I did the dishes while they packed up their gear. It was now 10:15am, the time we were supposed to have had them back to town, and we were at least an hour behind schedule! We tried to hurry them out, but there was just too much laughter and chatter. Destiny suggested they all write their names down on a piece of paper, and their ages, so we could pray for them and maybe write to them. That took at least 10 minutes. I gave them a family photo with our mailing address. We said good-bye as Cary was repeating over and over 'we have GOT to go"! Destiny, wise woman in training, sent Jesse to look downstairs for anything 'left behind'. He found 3 sweatshirts, a coat, and mismatched socks. I remembered the lunches in the refrigerator, grabbed them and passed on to the choir director - such a neat guy! As they headed out to the cars for the venture up the mud river to the van, I thought 'thank God I made meat salad sandwiches instead of ppj!'
It was a wonderful, wild, energetic, touching, informative, precious 15 hour adventure that simply made our 'spring break' unforgettable. They were the most polite, sweet, Christian young men we have ever been around. What a complete blessing to us! What a privilege to host them, and to serve our merciful, benevolent, loving God in this easy and wonderful way! He has given us so much, and it was so fun to share! All the work is a faded memory as I am washing the sheets and towels, thanking the good Lord of running water and electricity!
It wasn't fancy, it wasn't perfect, it wasn't even well-planned, but it was God blessed! As I sit here writing this, thinking of caring for 15 people in our small, old farmhouse, I wondered to myself: How does Michelle Duggar do this every day for her whole life? And it was only 13 kids including ours! Well, bless her, and also Debra Ritter of Cornerstone Farms in Missouri who has adopted more than 20 kids! Wow, I thought getting beds ready and cooking 2 meals for 15 people was a lot of work - I have it easy. And, I am so glad the African boys visited our farm! No problem!
Please go to
to purchase music cds to help support orphans, and
www.horizoninternationalinc.com to support one or more orphans for just $35./month.