Yesterday I took some time to make a Lebkuchenhaus with my little boys.
We have summer holidays here in South Africa. Nevertheless I want them to grow up with some of the German Christmas traditions I so cherish.
While the English do have something they call gingerbread it is not even close to true Lebkuchen. And we don’t really enjoy that burning ginger taste. Lebkuchen dough is made with honey and many spices and has to rest a few days before baking.
So yesterday we took the dough I prepared earlier from the fridge and started baking, decorating and assembling this little house.
While I go through length to preserve some true German Christmas tradition, Germany this year shocked me with throwing out these reminders of Christ in order to not offend Muslim migrants. Schools and Kindergartens were asked to refrain from singing Christmas carols and some Christmas markets were renamed into Winter market.
Cutting out the house shapes
Icing the roof.
Can we eat it now? Please?
Last night there was an attack on a German Christmas market. 12 people were killed and 48 injured.
Why is Christmas, the story of a little baby boy being born as Gods promise for the salvation of mankind, so offensive to some? Why are Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere persecuted and killed for their faith?
Why do a nations leaders opt to repurpose Christmas instead of sharing this story of Gods humble decision to dwell amongst us as a child?
The forces of darkness can’t tolerate the messengers of light. Christmas always came at a price. We can ignore the persecution of Christians in the middle east until persecution is at our own doorstep or chose to help answer protest.
While Muslim nations forbid Christmas celebrations, German officials have congratulated Muslim immigrants to their religious holidays and then proceeded to repurpose Christmas markets as oriental bazaars and winter markets. Instead of teaching immigrants about Christianity and the values that made the European countries so attractive to migrants in the first place, German kids had to endure compulsory visits to mosques this year. There was very little resistance from churches, in fact leaders of state financed churches rose up to claim Allah and the God of the bible are the same. Christian refugees who often flee serious persecution in Muslim nations are being assaulted in Germany, the country they came to for safety. By Muslims, who are treated with utter cultural sensibility.
Jesus came as a baby in the middle of persecution. Romans where pressing His people hard for taxes, the religious clergy had no answers, the Edomite king Herod slaughtered thousands of babies trying to kill Jesus and only angelic visitations provided Joseph with the necessary insight to bring his family into safety.
Since then, Christians have always been on the receiving end of persecution for what they believe. Although the message is one of love.
His kingdom is not one of Earthly power and manipulation. Those who seek earthly fame will always hate those who proclaim eternal life.
God is just. I pray that Germany will reach out and preach the gospel to all those seeking shelter and refuge from the pain they tried to escape. I also pray that the country will not throw its pearls down the drain but conserve their Christian heritage and not tolerate persecution of Christianity within their borders.
‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?” Acts 7:49
Prepare your heart as a dwelling place for the Lord.
It is just so amazing! The dream becoming finally a printed reality, a few days before my husband’s birthday.
Lots and lots of work and more than 2 decades of full-time ministry experience in the pastoral and prophetic went into this practical handbook on how to learn to pick up the things God wants to communicate to His people. This book covers dreams, vision, angels and so much more. Just so happy it became a reality. How boring is Christianity when there is only a one-way talk happening: the church talks to God and does not know how to listen for an answer … enjoy! Available on amazon as paperback or kindle version. Yippeh!!!!
A must-have handbook on how to tune into the voice of God!
When you live in South Africa, chances are that you are barely making it through your month.
That’s why at month end the supermarkets are overcrowded with people who received their pay and can buy some food again. I was not used to this from my former life in Germany. I now earn a fraction of what I brought home monthly in Germany. Medical costs are high – my son needed his teeth fixed and it actually cost more than what I get in a month.
As pastors of a big community church in the poorest of all SA provinces, we deal with so many crises that it sometimes seems like climbing a never ending mountain. We had to bury a lot of young people recently due to crime and traffic accidents.
Working for a church means to be the crisis center of a community. And a church in a poor community in the poorest province has very limited funds, so you end up paying a lot out of your own pocket. A new T-shirt for your child or some shoes for a needy sister? I hope some of you can relate when I write that one becomes a little hesitant to get involved in new things. I am not one of the south Africans driving around with a flashy car spending my mornings in gyms and glitzy malls. Wouldn’t mind, but there is real life happening to real people and i don’t want to play the violin while the titanic is busy sinking. I’d rather be tossing more people onto the life boats, if you know what i mean.
In Africa it goes like this: if you have once helped, you will be always responsible to help. Somehow helping creates the impression you have got a money making donkey in your backyard somewhere. We had many people who we helped, showing up again and again demanding more and more things, not understanding that my sons also must eat.
But the Lord Jesus challenges us to never close our hearts, we need to trust Him to replenish what was given.
Out of that call to love, we dared once more to go and check out people who might be in need. You know, when it comes to children, you just have to throw caution into the wind and get ready to help.
So today I have been on the road to Thohoyandou, the former capital of Venda in the Limpopo province.
Africa runs at a very different pace (hurry up and wait).
This Special Needs School has been all the time on my mind though, and after being in contact with the headmaster and some people who wanted to help, I was pushing my husband and finally today we got to go!
I want to share some impressions and pictures with you.
I pray and hope my words can reach your heart and those of some people able to support.
The school was founded under the old Afrikaans regime, a huge complex with great facilities – in theory.
It is immediately evident upon arriving at the school that the gardens are landscaped and the offices comfortable.
Apart from the front, the back buildings are starting to show signs of neglect and disrepair.
At the moment, the TSS is home to 360 visually and hearing impaired children as well as physically disabled children and children with various degrees of mental disabilities who are schooled in 3 separate complexes at the school.
The Principal, Mr. Maluma, received us sitting at his desk.
He informed us that this is a government school. The government build the school in the 1970s. The different buildings on the vast complex are big and solid. But it is obvious that for a long time no repairs have been done.
The Deputy Principle of TSS Mr. Msrabu was so kind to lead us around the school premises.
This is the main building where the staff offices are.
Please read my report carefully. It is easy to come in, judge and criticize. I really do not want to do that. I am sure the staff of such an institution is really weary of people with a camera throwing some bags of cookies around and thinking they are saving the world.
It is hard to serve at any place and not get accustomed to all the wrongs over the years so much so that you get comfortable and stop saving the world, though.
The way leading to the teaching and housing area of the visually impaired. You are looking at classrooms.
Classrooms around a courtyard.
Dorm room for 7-12 year old girls. Everything was clean except for a strong smell of urine due to the bedwetting problems of many children.
Mr. Maluma kept stressing the fact that they need waterproof mattresses.
I really wish the government would provide the funds to renovate the dorm rooms and add some cheer and deco to them.
Another dorm room.
Stairway to the first floor where there are more bedrooms. I was sad to notice the total absence of decorations.
The cafeteria for the blind.
The facilities were all very neat and clean. Although to me the bedrooms are totally drab and sad, I am aware that many learners are from backgrounds where they probably never even had a bed of their own and also not three meals a day. That is much, and it is too little at the same time.
Roof of the kitchen
The government pays the school R17 (about 2 USD) per child per day for food. The parents pay a fee of 1400 ZAR, about 160 USD, per year as a school fee.
As I said it is a government school, the principal and staff are paid by the government. There is no extra initiative to repair the school and purchase any extras out of the private pocket. The government seems to have no funding available to upgrade the cafeteria. The chairs and tables are so worn. I pray we will meet somebody with enough funds and a hart to change this!
The library and resource room. The materials where basically 20 years old or older.
Kids are between grade K (in South Africa it is called grade R) and grade 7.
The severity of their disability differs greatly.
A great number of Albino children (lacking normal pigmentation) whose eyesight is usually seriously impaired, often up to 80%, but who are otherwise fine, are in these special needs classes. To me it was astonishing that they were not wearing any glasses. I do not know enough of the customs in their villages to be able to judge if they are actually better off at this school. I personally felt that the environment in the classrooms was careless and unengaged.
The children were definitely bored as this was not the appropriate place of schooling for those with Albinism.
The classrooms lack teaching materials especially for the little ones.
The kids live at the school but do not have any personal belongings. There are no decorations and also no special materials to teach blind kids. In most classrooms the children were asleep on their desks.
There were Braille typewriters in the class but the teacher said she does not know how to use them.
These typewriters are the only way that blind children can write.
The manager had never heard of Braille and was amazed when I showed him that you can type dots that form an alphabet.
The teachers said it is too difficult for her, she is new. She has been working there since 2010.
I see the effort in teachign the children academic skills. It would be nice if some fun franchises such as Kindermusik could be sponsored to come in and support the teachers.
I noticed that there was only one crafts class, all other craft classes such as sewing and wood work were closed down, although they could produce toys and the likes for the school. I hope the leadership will realize again that fundraising can and must come from within the school, and the nearby tourism due to the proximity of the Kruger National park would provide a great source of income if for example woodwork was to be sold.
Another challenge I noticed is that severely mentally ill children where together with learners who were only hearing impaired and obviously frustrated with the little education they were receiving.
Although the school is only up to grade 7, learners are often 20 years of age when they finish school due to the fact that up to the time they get to this school, they have not been given any education at all. Hearing impaired children have not learned to communicate even the simplest terms in sign language before. The teachers have to do a lot of hard ground work and are in over their heads.
These teens were all desperate for a hug and some praise for their samplers of their work.
One teacher, asked about the stimulation the children are receiving in the afternoons, told us they are only roaming about. No toys, no activities. I want to bring toys for each child, but I am told that the teachers are afraid that this will cause strive amongst the children. I understand that problem.
I can make simple Montessori-type teaching aids by myself for these children. I will try to get our people to help me purchase the materials needed to make those teaching aids myself.
But I would really need you to ask for some sponsors for waterproof mattresses, and anything else you can think of as well.
There is no visible application of modern educational materials. The teachers need to be taught to use computer programmes to teach vocabulary to the hearing impaired children.
This is a government school. But the braille typewriters stand unused because teachers are not knowledgeable about their use.
There is a computer room with about 16 computers in it and I am told the deaf children can never learn to operate a computer.
When I mention that there are loads of educational games available for cheap or even free online (like for example sorting a picture to match a word), the teachers in the class who are on their cell phones and the manager as well say they hear that for the first time.
Who can support us to be involved in helping??? It’s not just material needs. The children are sleeping their formative years away. So much could be done.
The kids were desperate for a hug and an appreciative word.
This little blind girl touched my heart with her beautiful song about the love of Jesus she was singing for us. I so hope to have the time soon again to go again and show the teachers how to use teaching aids.
What I can not do is to buy 360 standard mattresses with plastic covering.
The sad thing is that my skin colour is always putting me in the box of “rich and responsible for everything”. Which is not true – I had to even borrow a car to go there.
The classroom with a teacher I really enjoyed. She was trying to do the best for her grade 1 learners with whatever materials she had.
The teacher urgently needs some toys and learning materials. All she has are some plastic toys in two plastic buckets.
I can rally my friends to help get 360 stuffed toys so the kids do not have to sleep alone on a cold room.
I can make teaching aids.
I can get books and building blocks.
I can try to inspire the teachers to re-open the workshops so that students can produce goods to the benefit of all. (toys can be self made as well).
First things first: I really think best while I am walking, cycling, exercising. During the Salsa rhythms of my last Zumba work out I had this whole blog post figured out and now I am sitting in front of the laptop I am not so convinced I should let you in on my secret.
Unless you peaked at High School and it was all downhill from there, we all wish we could get a do-over of grade our passageway into adulthood aka high school, don’t we? If only we had known then what we know now!
I actually used to be this real sincere, high performing, hard working and slightly geeky girl that everyone would come to with their problems and nobody would take out on a date. (They were probably all too scared of my pastor dad. Oh yes there were all these church guys who’d come and ask MY DAD if they could take ME out – and because of that, I would always say no. Felt too much like a deal if you know what I am saying).
I just didn’t think that dating was important, at least not when you are 17 and about to start your life. I was convinced it’s all about learning, developing skills, finding your own path.
My siblings and I grew up in Eastern Germany. A lot of christians had to live “double lives” as the Stasi (secret service) was constantly after them. My mom and dad were leading a house church type of congregation besides their day jobs, and after the wall came down we were handed our very own KGB file revealing 24 people were signed up as spies collecting information about our family. The file is over 300 pages strong, so you can imagine we went through a couple of fun encounters.
As a christian in East Germany you grow up very non-conformist. The whole country being into a kind of forced communism – believing in the good of socialism but not the government-imposed kind, you find yourself on the left hand side of the western world, politically speaking. The school system being completely atheist (a christian didn’t wear the communist youth organisation’s school uniform, didn’t get to participate in some things, could only finish grade ten as was denied access to grade 11 and 11 and, subsequently, university) made for a challenging childhood. We had a lot of christian friends as there were such strong bonds amongst believers throughout the country. Already as a 9 year old I had about 60 international pen pals. Most christian children I knew were the top performers of their schools. People were Christians out of conviction, not out of tradition. Christian kids would populate the excellent government music schools and do very well academically. Our school’s principal often called me into her office as a 12, 13 year old asking me to make my own personal decision to become a member of the communist youth organization “Pioniere” so that doors would open and a brilliant mind like mine could get a shot at university education. Too bad, the communist membership required reciting a code of honour pledging one’s soul to the great cause of communism. And as a christian child living between the world we had heard stories contradicting the propaganda taught at school. Christians being murdered in China, put into the gulag in Russia, tortured in North Korea. Not a cause one could pledge one’s heart to, no thank you. You learn to grow up very strong.
Like that history exam grade 6. To pass we had to proof that the Roman Empire eventually assimilated the Christian faith because it would even strengthen their ability to control the people, since the bible teaches the emperor is right, slavery is right, submission is required, the poor need to give their money, women are suppressed etc etc. Whereas of course nowadays, we can be free from the yoke of religion, democracy reigns.
What;s a 12 year old christian girl to do that loves her savior dearly. Exactly, write to write a very dualistic argumentation, yes, religion oppresses, no, Christianity was not meant to do that, yes, the state church helped the high and mighty along, no, true Christianity always stood for freeing the slaves and women’s equal rights. mouthful at that age.
I handed in my papers with fear and trembling. The day the exams came back, my history did not give me my papers in front of everybody (story of my life). Instead he called me to his desk after everybody had left, my papers marked 100%. He told me to not tell anybody, but that he really agrees with my view and that the government can try as they may, they will not take that away from the people. At home this little girl went on her knees praising God for this smooth rescue. Two years later this teacher was one of the hundreds of thousands of East Germans who had left everything behind and crossed Hungary’s “green border” to Austria to become a political refugee in West Germany. I remember the roll call one chilly morning after the summer 1989, the principal reading us the names of those who wouldn’t come back to teach since they had betrayed their fatherland. A few month later the principal and the communist youth leaders themselves were history, the Berlin Wall had fallen and members of the old guard were fired mercilessly.
Bottom line though: Our childhood was always that of outsiders, brilliant, creative, fun loving, but never mainstream. Like a Hippie amongst Yuppies, kind of.
So yes, me and my siblings do play well with others, but we do not enjoy commercialized, paint by numbers, well-adjusted living. My younger sisters are real stunners, super bright and amazingly beautiful and self-employed as artists, authors and musicians. My just as brilliant dark-humored little brother also prefers to work for himself.
I guess my parents managed to encourage us to do our own thing, develop our creativity, withstand the need to fit in and understand that we can ruse above. Thank You, mom and dad. Now why in the world I ended up as a pastor’s wife – the job that needs you to fit neatly into a very conservative role God only knows. Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
And while in Germany all Christians generally find their role more or less left of the government, keeping them in check, adding some creativity and street art to their causes, in the western world beyond Europe Christians are generally right winged conservatives…
I am learning to tread carefully but I am not giving up me. That’s for sure. I guess one reason God has placed me here is that South Africa is right now experiencing a window of opportunity like few other countries in the world ever had.
After Apardheid was dealt with we all know, without one another we can not do this. Everybody wants to see South Africa advance, and there is a wonderful vibe towards quality, performance, social reform and a bunch of issues like corruption and abuse are being addressed this moment.
Journalists are at the moment the driving force mobilizing the public, Active citicenship is a big buzzword.
Yeeha, and as a pastor I can be right there at the hub of people’s daily concerns and since I have made my peace that I will anyway never be mainstream acceptable, I do not mind throwing in my opinionated heart hoping to influence some good.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Albert Einstein
I can not, absolutely can not, do formal. Tested several times for an exceptionally high IQ (nothing to brag about when it comes with some serious other insecurities due to too much thinking) I do not see the point in making simple things complicated.
In Africa I see a lot of people communicating in a very formal, flamboyant way, especially in the African community. I believe, to mobilize the general public we have to put these difficult social, ethical, environmental etc issues down in very simple, common terms. (Unless you are desperate to proof how smart you are do that).
At university the professors would often turn to me to explain a complicated law or construct in a way that everybody would “get it”. Had fun using a ruler, a pen and an eraser to explain social reform. Never mind, that’s me, the almost geeky girl, in a nutshell.