Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2009 Trip Blog

It's official. I'm closing out the blog from the 2008 trip and looking forward to the coming year.

2008 was an amazing year as you can see by many of the stories and posts. I'm honored to be a part of such an amazing ministry. Thank you to everyone who made these trips possible and to all the new relationships we established during 2008.
-- Wood

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bev's Story

Our wonderful trip leaders did their best to prepare us for our time in Sweet Home… the shanty town in Cape Flats that Rock Harbor is supporting. They described the filth, squalor, poverty and disease (40% HIV/AIDS). They described the hopelessness, 75% unemployment, severe alcoholism, children orphaned by or infected with HIV/AIDS…they described the danger and violence and the injustice, no utilities, running water, schools, paved roads or health clinics…a population seemingly ignored by the S. African government. Our team made our plans, prepped our materials and prayed…but I was not prepared.

I was ready to feel horror, anger, sorrow…but completely caught off guard by the love and joy that exploded in my heart. We were hoping to have 40 kids, young children identified by the wonderful local ministry partners (the CHES) as having the deepest needs---OVC’s, orphans and vulnerable children…instead we had 150. Our plans changed minute by minute as small, beautiful, barefooted kids filed in to our VBS one after the next until we had a huge crowd…one our crafts supplies could not accommodate…but the love of Christ from pouring from each team member did. Oh these kids were so excited we were there and though they didn’t speak English communication just was not a problem. They were precious, filled with joy and jumped wildly into each activity. 9 team members, and five CHE’s to 150 kids…every arm and lap overflowed with children.

My mother’s eyes locked on to one special little guy. He was one of the youngest (maybe two), and seemed to have wandered in alone. He was standing still and looking lost in the happy chaos of the games and crafts. He did not look happy. I picked him up and he tilted his beautiful face back to look at me. I have no idea what he thought (these children rarely if ever see a white person)…but one thing I knew, he was a sick little boy. He had a fever and I could feel the rattling infection in his lungs. His nose was running and he was exhausted. His little pants were wet with urine. The wonderful and fulfilling demands of our time didn’t allow me to go sit and rock him to sleep as I would have wanted to. I held him through the games, directing a play, and telling those little ones so dear to Christ, the story of a great King, who came from the greatest most glorious riches and power to be born in the dirt and filth of a barn, so that we could know and love His Father, and have all eternity with Him. My little buddy stayed quietly and contentedly in my arms, until it came time to line up for a half,(yes we only packed enough food for 70 children) a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, he hungrily ate his half, and then our camp was over and that little, sick, barefooted toddler walked off alone. After the children left, our team walked in the rain (how appropriate), to the home of one of the CHES whose son had just committed suicide so that we could pray with her. On this walk, through the squalor, in the rain…I began to process and my prayer was simply “Lord, what is this joy? I should be bawling, overwhelmed by the suffering, angry, full of despair…numb at least…but love, joy…how? Why? What is this Lord???”

God’s voice and answer came to me the next day, in the gentle, quiet way God usually speaks to me. Staring at an amazing, South African horizon the Holy Spirit reminded me of Matthew 25:37 ‘Lord, when did you we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ In my mind, somehow, I had always translated that verse in a way that said…”whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, it is LIKE you did it to me. How wrong. In Sweet home, handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cuddling that little boy in my arms, I was with Christ, feeding Him, visiting Him, loving Him DIRECTLY and that was my joy. My time in S. Africa and was truly the one of the most powerful and real ways that I have ever experienced the love, joy and fullness of life that I have longed for and too often missed as a Christian.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wood's Story

As on every Africa trip I've been on God has a way of using my skills in unexpected ways. We knew ahead of time that we would be teaching a few classes at the new Bridges Of Hope High School. Having taught a number of Computer Science classes at Chapman and Concordia I expected to teach a couple of computer classes, but had no idea on the level of the students or the equipment. So I planned a couple of topics of varying levels, but not much detail. Of course, the computer teacher quit the day before we arrived and I ended up teaching a lot of computer classes over the two weeks were were there.

During tutoring time I connected with a 10th grade student who was challenging himself and me with some hard math problems. I could tell he was gifted so I started to talk with him about some computer math. Four months earlier he had been living as an orphan in one of the poorest townships I have ever been in. He had never used a computer before coming to the Academy and still wasn't very familiar with them, but as we continued I could tell he had a raw talent for computers. Over the next several weeks I worked with him and note that over my 20 years of experience in the computer industry I have only met three other people who had the amount of pure talent he had.

I mentioned this to the principal of the Academy and she said I should mention this to Mama Lulu the organization leader in the Phillipe township. She told me that this one student was originally not accepted into the Academy because he had started to become involved in one of the gangs. He had come to Mama Lulu and told her he knew his life would be over if he couldn't get into the Academy. He knew the gang life was a short one, but he didn't have a lot of options. Her exact words, "Praise God!". I could tell this was a difficult decision they had faced and prayerfully took a chance on this student. To have seen God's hand in this transformation and to see such big results in only a few months was awe inspiring. I've continued to keep in touch and feel blessed to have had this opportunity to share some of the knowledge God has given me over the years. Africa is always an amazing experience.

-- Wood

Friday, February 6, 2009

Neliswa's Story (by Heather)

Neliswa, a 17 year-old girl (orphaned) from the township of Phillipi in South Africa, was chosen to be one of the first 30 students at the Bridges of Hope Academy - a boarding school for orphans. She is quite a young lady and will certainly be a leader in her community and to the ends of the earth for her Savior. She was one of our campers at the 2008 Christmas Camp our Rock Harbor team put on for these kids. Our message theme was "Sons and Daughters of the King" The messages we delivered each night and focused on throughout the days were Behold (a Savior is born, the King of Kings), Believe (Have courage to believe in Jesus as your Savior and live for Him); Beloved (a Father's Love); Bejeweled (Blessing of each young Prince and Princess) and Battling (giving the tools to walk the narrow road).

On the last night of camp we had a talent contest and Neliswa wrote this poem and read it to us with passion, I couldn't have been more blessed by her words (English is a bit broken but most beautiful as it was originally written):

It Was a Good Timing
It was a good timing for
You and I to be here,
For me to be saved
For you and I to know
That there's hope.
As we sing, the Lord is
Mighty to Save.

It was a good timing for us
To be saved so that we can tell them that,
Them that tell that
On Christmas day the savior
Is born for me and you, for
Everyone worldwide

It was written that 2008 will be
The greatest year, for you and I to say God reigns forever.
For you and I to be here in Franschoeck
To praise God.

You and I from different places but we have
Something common which is in Christ Jesus
Our awesome God.
You and I are the children of the king
Let us voice out and be heard
Because It is a good timing.
It a good timing to know that
God loves us and that He is our father.
~By Neliswa

-- Heather

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shannon's Story

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Serving the Lord and giving to others is such an honor. I feel so blessed to have traveled to Africa twice, during the three and a half years that I have been a Christian. Both times have made a huge impact on my life, and opened my eyes to how amazing our God is. These three verses stick out in my mind when I look back on my trip to Cape Town. One day in particular really brings these verses to life. After a long week at the Summer camp, our team had a chance to go and serve in the town of Sweet Home, a township of thousands of people who have close to nothing. Our goal that day was to have a Vacation Bible study for local children. When the kids arrived I kept asking God, " What can I do for them?" and so kindly and gently as He always does just replied" Just Be with them." I think sometimes as short term missionaries we want to do it all.... bring them to Christ, end their poverty, teach them skills to succeed, and so on. God continued to tug at my heart and tell me that I didn;t have to do it all, just being there was enough. So that's what I decided to do. Most of these kids didn't speak English, so talking as a form of communication wouldn't work. I wanted so badly to tell them that I loved them and God loves them even more, but didn;t know how. I learned very quickly that non verbal communication is sometimes better and more useful then words. When I would hug these kid I could actually feel their poor little bodies loosen up, it was like they had never been hugged or touched like that before. I also noticed that when I would smile at them, their whole souls would light up and I could see the love of God in their eyes. My heart soften so much with each child that I encountered. These verses continued to come to mind, because they are the meek and poor in spirit, but God moves through them just as much as He does me. These children expected nothing from me, they didn't beg or cry, they were perfectly content with the only thing I had for them and that was my love. I think I realized that day how real He is.... He allowed me to sit in the dirt and praise Him with children who have nothing and feel His presence stronger then I ever had before. I believe with all of my heart that He was there that day sitting with us. I pray that these children realize that they are the ones that He speaks of in the Bible. He doesn't love them less because of what they have or dont have. I was moved by His presence that day, and know that my life was forever changed that rainy day sitting in the dirt with those kids. I hope that one day I see all of those children in Heaven so I can thank them for showing me how to love.

-- Shannon

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

News from Sweet Home

Lisa sent us this note today.

Oh, good news! The Sweet Home committee bought their first sewing machine with money they raised. There were many obstacles for them and they made it. They're so happy. So you can let your team know and thank everyone for praying.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lynne's Story

I hadn’t used a sewing machine in 15 years. But it would be like riding a bike, right? Once you learn it, you’ll remember the basics…hopefully. Before setting out for South Africa, Bridges of Hope staff asked if a couple of us would teach a group women from Sweet Home how to sew as they were starting a micro-business with hopes of selling their wares to others in the town.

What a day! Two of the six ladies knew how to sew and brought their machines, and arrived carrying them on their heads of course!

We even had an iron, ironing board and electricity! The new sewing machine of course broke down within the first hour, but the old Singer that you had to hand-crank stitched tirelessly. At the end of the day we had made jumpers and aprons and everyone left with something they could wear and use. Plus each woman could replicate what they had made to start the business. I taught some of the ladies how to make aprons.

They had never sewed before and couldn’t speak English too well. But we managed, and their smiles of pride as they wore what they had made was worth the trip for me!

-- Lynne

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lacie's Story

From the moment we stepped off the plane directly onto the tarmac in South Africa, I knew this was going to be the trip that would change my life. After loading up all of the many bags of donations that we brought from Orange County, we were on our way to the Academy.

The drive was beautiful. The hills were so green and the sky was so blue. It was amazing driving through such beauty and having to remind myself that I was on a mission trip. We pulled up to the Academy and it was like driving into this secluded bit of heaven. The grounds of the Academy were so beautiful and inviting. There was a huge soccer field and beyond it were the most amazing mountains I had ever seen. We quickly got settled and then got to work preparing for the kids to arrive.

All of the months of planning and preparation were unfolding as we eagerly anticipated what the kids would look like and how they would respond to us. The bus pulled up and slowly the kids start to come out. They looked shocked at the group of Americans forming a tunnel for them to walk under and cheering as they exited the bus. Their faces are beautiful and full of anxiety mixed with anticipation.

We welcomed them in and gave them name tags, and from that moment on, we were hooked! These amazing kids captured our hearts and showed us what it means to love others the way Christ loves us. Our team gave everything we had and more and left feeling much more full of the Holy Spirit than we ever could have imagined. Each laugh, each high five, each conversation and each hug was a small victory in our quest to unite two sets of people and become a family.

As the week went on, I was inspired by some of the kids stories, and prayerful about the ones who never spoke. I was hugged by a five year old for six days straight and after she left my heart ached to be hugged by her again. I went with anticipation of being fully used by God to "save" these kids, but they ended up saving me.

I returned to Orange County with a greater understanding of my purpose on earth and a willing and open heart to allow God to fully reign over my life and make me a complete vessel to be used by Him alone. This life is not my own and it took a group of kids in South Africa to remind me that life spreads far beyond Orange County and God works in lives of those with broken stories and painful pasts. I will forever be changed by this journey!

-- Lacie

Friday, January 30, 2009

USC Quarterback Shares His Experiences at Bridges Academy

Matt was on the December trip with his family and his story was written up yesterday.

Check out this website for the whole story...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Video from summer trip

Aaron made an amazing video from the summer trip and sent it around today. Powerful and amazing. Thanks, Aaron.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

July 2009 team signups

We are currently accepting applications for a trip in the summer.

Applications are due by February 1 and can be picked up at ROCKHarbor.

  • Trip Dates:: July 24th - August 9th
  • Approximate trip cost: $3500. You will be responsible for raising personal support in this amount through sending support letters and other creative ideas you come up with. The Leadership team will help you in the process and track your progress throughout our training period.
  • $400 non-refundable deposit is due upon being invited to go on the team
  • The trip will consist of, but not limited to, two main areas of ministry:
  • Community development in our adopted township called Sweet Home where we will teach spiritual, health, and business lessons with local leaders, do home visits and hold a VBS
  • Ministering to orphaned youth at an Academy through teaching academic classes, helping with homework, participating in sports and recreational activities, and building relationships
  • Training Dates & Times:
  • Sunday, March 8th
  • Sunday, March 22 (Team Social)
  • Sunday, April 5
  • Sunday, April 19
  • Sunday, May 17
  • Sunday, June 7
  • Friday, June 19 (Team Social)
  • Sunday, June 28
  • Sunday, May 3 (Serve day-8:30-3:00pm) Sunday, July 19
*All training sessions are mandatory and will take place from 11:00am to 2:00pm unless otherwise noted. Team social times are to be announced. Please take a look at every date and note that this is a very big time commitment, in and out of trainings.

For more information, stop by the information tables after church, or send us an e-mail to the contact listed at the right of this page.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Goodbye - Last Day of Camp!

Sadly, today was already our last day with the kids here at Bridges of Hope. The time flew by and the goodbye was not easy, but we ended on a good note with a trip to Retanga Junction - the local amusement park near Cape Town. We surprised the kids this morning about the last day's events and the huge smiles on their faces were priceless! We had a blast on the rides - a lot of the kids rode a roller coaster for the first time. We didn't let a little rain down our spirits either. Saying goodbye to each kid was rough as we all made strong connections and bonds...we will definetly miss everyone very much!

Last night was amazing as well, we had a special dinner (spare ribs!) and individually served each kid and then held blessing ceremonies for the boys and girls separately. Each of our team members chose a kid or two and prayed about and then wrote a blessing for each of their lives. The ceremonies were so powerful and the kids very much appreciated it and were touched. It was so awesome to see how the Spirit moved through our team to speak to each of them and bless their lives.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Summer camp pictures

More Christmas pictures

Nativity Pictures

Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas from South Africa! What better way to celebrate the birthday of our Lord here with our new friends at Bridges of Hope halfway across the world. We started off this special day singing traditional Christmas carols with the kids and then put on a Nativity play (thanks to a Barkley family tradition!) while reading the real story straight from the Bible. A handful of brave kids helped act out the different parts, and really got into it! Then we surprised each kid by giving them gifts donated by Rock Harbor, including new bathing suits, CDs, makeup and cool bags! The kids loved everything and were so thankful and appreciative. The cards written by our August team were especially well received as each kid carefully read every note with a smile on their face. Swimming and slip n' slide fun followed and we will continue the day with more celebration, including a special dinner and birthday party for Jesus later tonight!

Monday, December 22, 2008


We just received a text message that the team arrived in Cape Town with all the luggage. Camp starts in 5 hours...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The trip begins

The whole team left for South Africa this afternoon. After a hectic morning getting all the bags (everyone was allowed three 50lbs bags) and people in cars we headed off to the airport. As they were leaving one car had a flat and we did a quick switch. Then leaving the neighborhood there was a small collision which caused a short delay but no visible damage to either car. Surprising since there was a distinct "crunch" heard in the vehicle in front of the two that collided.

After that the trip to the airport went very smoothly. A lot of (heavy) bags were moved from one location to another in a coordinated chaos of sorts. All the bags were checked in and the team headed into security after a group prayer to send the team off. The team will be flying directly to London where they will have a 6 hour layover, then another flight to Cape Town. All in all it was a very smooth trip to the airport.

The kids will be arriving for the summer camp the same day the team arrives so you may not see a lot of posts during their trip since they will be very very busy and hit the ground running at full speed. Please pray for team unity, protection, health and for the development of deep connections with the kids at the camp and people in the townships (Sweet Home, Philipe, Lower Crossroads, Samora, Franschhoek).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

His Warriors

I was praying the other day was asking God to reveal more to me about my purpose for this trip. The word warrior kept coming to mind. The last couple of days it has stayed in my heart and I finally realized what He meant by that. We are His warriors. Africa is our battle field, and the last few months have been a battle field as well. He wants us to spread His love to everyone not just the people of Cape Town. Every single letter that each one of us sent out asking for support was sharing our love for Him, and every dollar raised was for Him. The momentum has continued to build and now here we are a few weeks out from this life changing adventure, and the enemy is mad. We are God's warriors and it's time to go in with the full coat of armor on and fight for what we believe in. We can't let the enemy cause us to lose focus on what we are here to do. Each one of us is here for a reason, and I believe that our small group is going to change the world with love. I love you all and am so on fire for this trip.

Ephesians 6:13-18 Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness.15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.*16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.*17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.*