Greetings! As we mentioned briefly in our most recent blog post (http://ntdirks.com/success-and-faithfulness/) we left for South Africa immediately after Christmas in order to spend the week around New Year with our colleagues in South Africa. We drove 10 hours down across the Botswana/South Africa border on a rare foggy morning where the hills and mountains disappeared into the low-lying clouds. We experienced the vast veldt as we drove, pine and eucalyptus forests, thunderstorms, beautiful villages on the sides of the hills and mountains along the Swaziland border, massive estuaries below towering cliffs as we approached the ocean, and shady avenues lined by acacia and palm trees as the sun set and we neared our first destination. Andrew and Karen Suderman and their two-year-old daughter, Samantha, are working in Pietermartizburg through Mennonite Church Canada Witness and are heading up the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (you can check out their website, http://anisa.org.za/). We spent a few days with them and a great Mennonite Central Committee couple at a backpacker’s camp near St. Lucia, on the Indian Ocean, where we went game viewing (a.k.a. “on safari”) at Hluhlue Game Reserve (feel free to pronounce that one out loud), and chilled on the beach at Cape Vidal, which is also a protected region with many wild animals.
Afterwards, we headed down the cost to Port Shepstone, where we had a week long retreat with our other colleagues working through Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Church USA Network. The four current members of the Radical Journey Team (Nat, Kristin, Abby and Anya) were there, a group of young adults doing mission work in various capacities in and around Pietermaritzburg for a year, as well as Joe and Anna Sawatzky (along with their young boys Isaac, Moses, Levi and Jesse) who are facilitating a Christian college in Mthata, also in South Africa, and the Hildebrants, who have been helping in a variety of ways around Pietermaritzburg for a number of months. We spent the week with worship, teaching sessions wonderfully led by a recently retired professor from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, playing and eating.
For the two of us it was wonderful to be able to connect with colleagues, as we have been on our own in Botswana. Just to be affirmed by like-minded people who have been serving for so much longer than ourselves, and who have experience relevant to what we are just beginning to go through, was refreshing and encouraging. We found ourselves almost wishing that we could be working down in South Africa, closer to all of them, and enjoying the beauty of that country. At the same time, by the end of the retreat we found ourselves ready to head back up to Botswana which was already beginning to feel more and more like home. Some of our pictures are from around Botswana, from the indigenous church services, hiking nearby Kgale Hill, and our first Christmas at our new home, and the rest are from our travels through South Africa. Please follow the link to our album: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.146184178873692.33497.100004463313945&type=1#!/media/set/?set=a.146184178873692.33497.100004463313945&type=1
Thanks for checking out our pictures, and thanks for all of the support from back home! And enjoy the snow for us.