Friday, February 24, 2012

Life Skills - More than For Work & For Life But also For the Heart

My first two weeks of the Life Skills Course in the South African township of Philippi is complete, and now I have a chance to reflect and rest (kindof) before classes start up again! We have 28 young adult students learning in an experiential and reflective environment. During the first week they learned everything from trust, acceptance, self-esteem, forgiveness, how our qualities and values affect how we problem solve, how to work together in a business, managing people and activities, and time management. They are eager learners ready to change their lives! I am so excited and blessed to be part of their journey. 
Students participating in a class exercise
All Photos Here Credit: HAC Staff
 Where? Hope Africa's concentration is in the township of Philippi, about a 20-30 minute drive away from where I live (near Cape Town). This is an area with many townships, numbering from hundreds of thousands to possibly a million or more people. It's hard to find a specific number.
Who? Philippi's majority are from the Xhosa tribe, and so are most of our students - some of whom have moved in from across the country in the Eastern Cape (I am located in the Western Cape) and live with relatives or a parent(s) in order "to find better life," as many of my students have expressed with hopefulness. 
A student's story may consist of a broken family, a tin home with a leaky roof, teenage pregnancy, finding it hard to concentrate, even in elementary through high school, because of hunger - and lack of finances even to buy food - just many difficult circumstances... But others' stories may include loving dads, close relationships with their mothers, although many families live in small homes - laughter and love, hope beyond their circumstances, joy and peace found in God... 
These 28 students have taken a step towards HOPE. They have names difficult to pronounce for my foreign tongue, like "Vukuzenzele" (Vue - kue - zenn - zae - lae) - actually that's not a name that I know of, but each name sounds similar to that and like it has a hundred syllables. Some names include clicking sounds - something I am not experienced with. Hopefully, I'll be learning some Xhosa language soon!
When? Monday through Friday my team and I car pool to our classroom in Philippi. The computer training and Bible overview sessions begin soon.
Why? Classes go Deep. Interactive. Reflective. Because the deep stuff like our trust issues or our relationships and communication at home affect who we are and how we interact whether in our personal life or in our workplace environment.
How? To identify trust issues and learn to trust, we worked in groups. For example, a person had to lie on the ground as the group worked together to lift the person above their heads and return them safely to the ground again. Yes, I was the largest person in my group of small-sized girls - I practically held my breath the whole time, and my gymnastics training came in handy. And no, not for the dismount from above their heads (just kidding) but for holding my body tight and straight as a board!
Step 1: Get a good grip. Step 2: Lift.
Step 3: Don't drop! (and don't look down!)
My group and I lifting, lifting, lifting (and hopefully not dropping)!
On Monday the topic was communication. They were asked to reflect and discuss, "what is communication?," "hindrances to effective communication," and "how do we effectively communicate?" for each person and within a team (such as a business). This then led the class to look at communication at home/within their families and to identify and discuss how to work on/maintain communication in relationships. It was an emotional day as students addressed difficult relationships, such as with their fathers, and how the process of forgiveness is healthy for their hearts personally, even if the relationship cannot be resolved.

How can I pray?
Yes please - please pray!

  • For my students  - to share the deeper stuff and to take in all they can learn.
  • For my team - to learn all we can and for God to give us wisdom in how to guide our students.
  • For a family on my team - their little 16 month old boy has been having severe health issues (including emergency trips), especially in his lungs.
  • For a great roommate and apartment to come available SOON!

Thank you so much for your lives, love, prayers, and support. I love the little messages I've received from you - I carry you in my heart (that little ocean really does make you seem so far away). 

                                                             Blessings. Shannon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Life's Little & Larger Blessings - The Sweet & Sour - But It's a Pretty Sweet Start!

When I get to fly I get a little excited. I love to travel. and fly. and watch people in airports. and be anonymous. and the mystery, the intrigue of strangers.

Travel is Seasoned - Both Sweet and Sour. 
The sour can make the blessings sweeter, and both contribute to make memorable stories. (Note: If this post sounds in any way corny or dorky, it is. I am a dork. Embrace it.) Sour comes saying goodbyes to family and friends. Sweet goes hellos to South Africa's friends and experiences. Sour comes my heavy luggage. Sweet is that its makes weight, and I don't have to pay fees for my checked bags (and I get a workout)! My airplane seat reading light doesn't work - but my sweet neighbor likes to read a lot and shares hers with me. Sadly, that same seat is broken and won't recline for my 10 hour overnight flight to South Africa - but I SO appreciate a bed right now. Airplane food usually bites the dust, but I am so hungry I rave about the pasta. Sweet that I make all my flights (including my luggage) when I sometimes wait less than 10 minutes or another time run through Frankfurt airport to get there late and still make it!  Thank you, Lord, through the sweet and sour!

Unusual snow in Hamburg, Germany - the Rooftops (my fav pic).

Sweet Conversations
The older English gentleman sitting next to me on my LONG flight from Chicago to London was the grandfatherly type in the best sort of way. We chattered on about history and family history - he's researching his ancestry. Not only do I enjoy history which I studied at university, but I would love to research more of my family history someday - I wrote a paper on my Italian side at uni (as the British say university).

Sweet Stops.
Along with South Africa, one of my greatest prayers these past 2 years was to visit a dear friend (from YWAM Montana) in Germany. It so worked out I could take a longer layover for the same ticket price! As I was escaping from winter U.S.A. to warmer - summer - weather in South Africa, I found myself in one of the greatest cold fronts in Europe. Hamburg was at its coldest in years - "the event" was to venture out of the uncommonly frozen lake and slide around in our boots! I have a new appreciation for our personal cars in rural Montana as Hamburg transportation meant freezing walks to the bus, train, and subway stops! But blessings abounded including European history, international flava', encouragement, prayers, and the bond of friendship.

On my German stop for a coffee to warm up - it's bitterly cold out!

Sweet Starts.
And I'm off to a running start! Although a bit tired (from that stiff seat and left over jet lag), I was reunited with my friends, mentors, and founders of Hope Africa Collective. In my first full day "in country," the team and I set out for the township of Philippi, pronounced "Phill - i (short i sound) - ppe." I cleaned the office closet - normal stuff happens here too - and 30 students registered for the Life Skills course out of over 90 applicants! The team and I will be participating in the classes, building relationships, and learning how to teach these classes for the future! We have two dedicated, veteran teachers leading us. As the students learn job skills and both Christians and non-Christians join these courses, I love that under the surface they are learning Bible based values and being challenged personally. It is the hope for transformation to be from the heart (internal) to the external (living) and from individual to the community. I think that one of our leaders said it best that it is "presenting skills for them to live life to the fullest." (Note: Pics in South Africa coming soon.)

Sweet Prayers.
Classes begin Monday, February 13th! Please pray:
  • For all of our 30 students to show up Monday morning - open and willing to learn.
  • Prepare their hearts and minds.
  • Our teachers and team - to be sensitive to how God is working in the classroom.
  • Team bonding.
  • Peace and rest in the midst of 2 busy months - new classes, learning, training... (not to stress and increased capacity and memory).
  • Setting up the computer skills classroom - internet, electricity, computers, etc.
  • Housing for me - affordable and the right fit for place and roommate. Help me to "know."
  • Settling in - (cell phone - done today!) furnishings, food, and down the road - a car... And time to get things done.
  • Friendships.
  • Time with God. Renewal.

Hopefully, you are able to identify all the Sweet Praises I included in this post! Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support! Maybe I am in the first days of blissful, surreal beginnings, but I think that's okay. Reflecting on the good and the bad, the little and the larger blessings today is highlighting how truly great our God is! and I guess He's pretty sweet too.

Let me know: What is God highlighting in your life as Sweet and Sour lately, this week, today? How can you be thankful for the sweet and the sour? 

You are in my thoughts and prayers. I'd love to hear from you! 



Thursday, February 2, 2012

Praises & Prayers - Leavin' on a Jet Plane Tomorrow - Ack!

Dear Friends and Family,

I've had a lot to do to before leaving for South Africa (2011 taxes anyone?) tomorrow and big financial miracles to hope for! You know, it's amazing what I remembered at the last minute that I needed to do. But I have been so encouraged by you, my friends, as I prepare for this journey and epic change in my life. Thank you so much for your prayers and lovely e-mails. I love hearing from you. So let's start with the Praises and Thanking God for what He has done!

  • His Provision! Thank you so much for being part of His provision. I am on my way to monthly financial stability in South Africa and getting a car. More Miracles, Lord!
  • Sharing with Glendive Alliance Church was such a blessing! Thank you for adopting me in every time.
  • My bags may be too full for my flights back (now a prayer - that they are NOT overweight!). :)
  • Times with friends and family in the States - fellowship, food, fun, favorite memories...
  • Seeing my sister and her husband's newborn girl! This is my first niece, and I am so grateful.
  • Encouragement to my Heart, and God teaching me Hard but Worthy things about Him and about Me.
  • Even in the face of difficulties, He knows His plans for me!
  • God is Good!

And if you could please continue to Pray:
  • For a few more people to be led to partner with me in monthly support.
  • For continued donations for a car.
  • For safe travels to South Africa: safe roads to the airport, flights on time, and no lost bags!
  • For God to draw the people to the classes (starting with Life Skills, Computer Skills, and Biblical Training), For the teachers to be well-equipped and lead with wisdom and discernment, and For the students Hearts and Minds to be open to the Lord and learning.
  • For my missions team - to be led by God and to work together in unity.
  • For passion and discernment - in  my words and building new friendships with the African people.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and prayers!

In His Power and Name,

Shannon Mintz

"Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."

~ Philippians 4:14-20 ~