Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The Parlotones are a local indie band, based in Johannesburg. This was my second time seeing them in concert (the first time being last year during my apprenticeship), and I had a blast.

Please note the enthusiastic fan in the front row... she provided much entertainment.

I might live here

I'm still thinking through details and decisions on housing. This one is a very real possibility. I just have to decide...

Updated: I am going to live here. Yay!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Prayer for Zimbabwe & South Africa

You may have seen the news reports about the violence that has been going on around South Africa, specifically in Gauteng (the province where I'm living). The worst of it is in and around Jo'burg, though there have been some incidents in townships around Pretoria as well. I've received a few emails asking about my safety. As far as things go for me personally, I am safe, and am not really a target for the violence that's been directed towards foreigners. The attacks have been directed at immigrants from other African countries, as poor and marginalized South Africans have grown more and more frustrated with a lack of employment, housing, and other basic necessities. As these basic needs have not been adequately met by the government, frustration has grown, and the blame is now being placed on immigrants for taking jobs and resources away from South Africans. The stories of angry mob violence are heartbreaking, but so is the situation that has led to this kind of violence.

Our community spent time in small groups this evening, looking through newspapers and praying about events both in South Africa and around the world. Two situations in particular were primary in our minds and hearts: the violence spreading in South Africa, and the conditions in Zimbabwe. If you're not familiar with what's going on in Zimbabwe, I encourage you to read the article that's linked here (written by one of the guys here after a visit to Harare last month). It's overwhelming to think of the immense pain and need in both of these situations.

Two weeks ago, during our Friday worship time, we joined together in a time of prayer for Zimbabwe. We each were given a card with "Zimbabwe" written on it, and were encouraged to write scriptures, words, phrases, dreams, and hopes for Zimbabwe on these cards. We shared with the group what we had written on our cards, and dreamed together of ways we could make a difference--reaching out to Zimbabwean refugees around Pretoria, taking people and resources to Zimbabwe, praying for the country and its people, and praying specifically for Robert Mugabe. Looking forward to Pentecost, we prayed for God's Spirit to be poured out on the country of Zimbabwe, for God's presence to be known and felt in that place. This was a powerful time, but difficult for me to really absorb. I'm not very good with broad political situations. Need on such a large scale is hard for me to grasp. It's when it becomes personal that these bigger situations really weigh on my heart.

Tonight in my small group, I had the opportunity to pray with our friend Manasseh, who's a refugee from Zimbabwe. He has a construction job just blocks away from Pangani and has grown to be good friends with Jody, one of the apprentices. Last weekend Manasseh was able to send money to Zimbabwe so that his wife could join him here in South Africa. She arrived on Tuesday, the day that the violent attacks against foreigners really escalated. She has been staying in a township outside Jo'burg, since there isn't a place for her to stay here in Pretoria North. Manasseh is afraid for his wife's safety, as well as his own. As we prayed together tonight, Manasseh broke down into tears. I sat there feeling helpless, with no words to offer other than to join my prayers with his own that God would intervene: to calm this violence, and to keep Manasseh and his family safe--both here in South Africa and back in Zimbabwe. Manasseh will be staying at Pangani for the next couple of weeks, and his wife will join him over the weekend.

Luc, who was on NieuCommunities staff until just a few months ago, is another friend who's on my heart at this time. Luc is a refugee from the Congo. He and his wife Petunia and their two daughters moved to Soshanguve, a nearby township, at the beginning of April. They are pioneering a team there with InnerChange, another division within CRM. Luc and Petunia have felt very strongly that God has called them to Soshanguve and to the people there, but because Luc is a foreigner, they have been afraid for his safety and the safety of their family. But even in this past week of violence, Luc and Petunia have found reassurance and reaffirmation from God as to their calling to Sosh.

Please join me in praying for these friends and their safety. Please also pray for peace and healing to come both in South Africa and in Zimbabwe. It's hard to know what to pray, or to believe that change will even come. But I know that through prayer, God not only changes the world, he also changes me. He changes my perspective and my heart. And perhaps it is that type of heart change that effects the most change in the world, as God uses his people to demonstrate his provision and care for those in need. Pray that I would be faithful in responding to this call.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Community garden

Apprentices working hard to clear a small plot for a vegetable garden here at Pangani. (I worked hard, too. Really.)

Housing search

Oh, for a place to live. I looked at several flats today. I'll need to move away from Pangani by mid-June, when the Reeds will arrive and need to move into the house where I'm staying now!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Baby baptism

My friend Evelyn and her family had a party to celebrate her baby's baptism. I drove out to Mabopane with Lizzy and Jody, armed with a list of phone numbers, very patchy directions, and Lizzy's vague knowledge of visiting there once before. After many stops to ask for directions, and about 20 minutes of circling Evelyn's neighborhood, we found her house.

It was a great afternoon to hang out with friends and catch up a bit. And, of course, to enjoy some African food. This was my first truly African meal since being back: samp (hominy) and beans, mabela, pumpkin, spinach, chicken, meat cooked in tomato sauce, chakalaka, cabbage...and I skipped the cow intestine, though Evelyn says it's her favorite.

Me with Evelyn and her son

Me and Hazel, hanging out at the party

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Here I am

Arrival in South Africa

I arrived safely in Pretoria on Wednesday, April 23rd, and it’s been amazing to be back! Right now I’m living at Pangani, in the 3-bedroom staff house on the property. When Sarah arrives (my fellow new staff member/apprentice from last year/writing project ministry partner/all around good buddy), we’ll both be staying here until we find an apartment together in the area. Right now, I’m enjoying having my “own” place again, though it’s a little strange to be rattling around in this house by myself!

Another Arrival

The morning of my second day here, my parents called with the news that my brother and sister-in-law welcomed their new son into the world just before midnight on April 23rd. Arriving 6 weeks early, Daniel David Hillaker weighed in at 4 lbs. 15 oz. I think it was a little sneaky of him to decide to arrive on the same calendar day as my arrival in South Africa.

Getting Settled

Over the past week and a half, I’ve been regaining my bearings, catching up with friends from last year, and getting acquainted with this year’s eight apprentices. They’re really a great group and I’ve enjoyed the initial getting-to-know-you conversations, as well as some deeper talks here and there. I’m beginning to explore and define my role on the staff team, and the part I’ll play this year in the apprenticeship program. It’s been good to attend the learning conversations, book discussions, and other community activities as I start to figure out the dynamics of this year’s community.

On Friday evenings this year, our community has a meal together, followed by a creative worship and prayer time. This in some ways replaces the Sunday braai we did regularly last year. We invite friends we’ve met in ministry or elsewhere to join us in sharing a meal and worshipping together. This past Friday, I got to jump in and help plan the worship time with one of the apprentices. It was great to spend time planning together and then leading the community in a time of worship focused on God’s character as revealed in creation.

Coming Attractions

In our curriculum this week, we’ll be finishing up the Submerging Posture—a time to focus on going deeper in our engagement with God, in our relationships with each other, and in really “submerging” into the community and culture around us. The apprentices head out on Tuesday to spend three days staying with the people or ministries where they have been serving or have felt led to serve. The following week will be their first week off, and then we’ll start into the Inviting Posture—the third curriculum unit of the year. I feel like the year’s been rushing on without me and I really need to catch up!

Some things to pray for if you are so inclined:
-That all the details of getting settled here (finding an apartment, buying a car, etc.) would go smoothly
-For me to be patient with myself as I get to know new people and figure out my role on the team and in the community
-That I would be intentional and take the initiative in building friendships with the apprentices
-That I would look to God’s leading as I explore my new responsibilities and start planning how to put my vision and dreams for ministry into action