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Archive for April, 2014

The dancing tree

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Somehow on every spring season, there is at least a plant that I am attracted to, this time it’s the blossoming pink tree.

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Up close, one could see dainty and miniature ballerinas dressed up in dazzling pink tutus swaying with flair on the branches.

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Though I never desire to be a ballerina with puffy pink dance-ware, these fairy-like ballerinas do remind me of a ballet-like dance I learned recently at the Israeli folk dancing class.

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When the new dance was first introduced, I almost wanted to give up learning due to the many twisting and turning that caused my head spinning with dizziness.

But when the instructor mentioned that the dance is about a tree story, I suddenly become very alert, for I love anything related to trees. The instructor had turned my “mourning” into “dancing” mode^^

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The title of the dance is called “Ilan”, in Hebrews means “tree”.

When the choreographer first heard the song, he was instantly drawn by the captivating melody.

And when he learned about the parable behind the song, he was even more intrigued by the music. The parable is about how a blessing tree which blessed others, was being blessed extravagantly.

Since then, the song and the story had been dancing in the choreographer’s head and a year later, the dancer unleashed the music through all those swaying, twirling and arms stretching dance motions.

Here’s the story behind the dance.

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After I learned about the interpretation of his dance, I began to pay close attention to each of the movements.

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And now with my arms stretched out reminiscent of branches, I am imagining myself whirling gracefully with the ballerinas in pink tutu on a breezy spring day.

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Ilan by Elad Shtamer, the choreographer.

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On this Good Friday, we contemplated once again on Jesus sacrificial love for us on the cross.

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Our contemplation was based on the Seven Sayings of Jesus on the cross.
(Three sayings from the gospel of Luke;
Three from the gospel of John;
and one from both the gospel of Matthew and Mark.)

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Since pretzel is one of the food for lent. We started our session by listening to the captivating story of how the tradition of pretzel came about…. of how the monks in the monastery used their left-over dough from the bread baking… of how they thought of the idea to knead the dough into the shape of prayer posture of crossed arm over the shoulder, hence the famous pretzel snack.

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It was also said that monks rewarded children with pretzels when the young ones memorized their prayers. Pretzel comes from the word Pretiola — in Italian meaning little reward. After the interesting pretzel story, we prayed with our arms crossed over our shoulders in the form of “pretzel” and enjoyed this “lenten” pretzels.

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Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
Luke 23:34

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Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Luke 23:43

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Here’s your son, here’s your mother
John 19:26-27

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Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?
=My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34

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In this “darkest”station, we pondered how it felt like to be forsaken.

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I am thirsty.
John 19:28

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It is finished.
John 19:29-30

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Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.
Luke 23:46

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The children were intrigued by the old testament sacrificial ritual and had a better understanding of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us on the cross.

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After journeying through the Seven sayings, children paused to reflect on which saying of Jesus meant most to them.

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Children reflecting on family (yellow table represents warmth)
and “I am thirsty” (blue represents water).

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Of course, purple represents God’s kingdom.

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Children writing down their names and believing in Jesus promise of paradise!

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*The Bridge by William Ressler

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Ubukumkani

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The slogan for our mission was Ubukumkani, it’s Xhosa language, meaning “for the kingdom”.

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Before we headed out for the mission trip, our team had a feet washing ceremony (here’s Pastor Brad washing my feet), just like Jesus did with His disciples before the Passover (John 13).

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One of the major tasks that was assigned to our team was serving at this construction site overlooking the beautiful ocean shores where we served daily for two weeks.

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Quite a number of our team members are skillful with their trades and talents such as plumbing and piping.

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Along with the local builders, they were able to help transform a once vandalized mansion into a soon-to-be-visible Christian retreat center to be used by the adults, children and youth.

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It was pretty labor-intensive but the dream of seeing this amazing facility which will be put to use to its full potential is very exuberantly exciting.

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One of the tasks I enjoyed most was weeding in the field outside the building.

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I loved the scent of this special tangy-lemongrass-like fragrant plants that filled the air; their pleasant smell was so therapeutic!

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Like many other medicinal herbal plants in South Africa, this plant is also used to help reduce diabetes. People usually boil the fragrant leaves and drink the bitter water that come from them.

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Our task was to uproot and clear the weeds to give room for these plants the space to breathe and bloom.

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Despite the strong famous howling Cape wind almost blowing us away, we were determined to stand firm on solid ground and clear most of the weeds from this plantation.

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The plants are usually in full bloom in the summer and are harvested for sale in large quantities to generate income for the future use of this new retreat center. Ubukumkani!

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While weeding in the field, we always had good company which we called our bodyguard: a dog.
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When we were out in the field, the dog would follow us and try to protect us from the crawling creatures in this arid field.
Whenever it sensed one of them crawling towards us, it would bark and chase the creature away so we could make a quick escape. What a kingdom dog!
When we took a break from working under the hot sun, it also lounged with us in the shade, so cute.

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Time flies and each of us are moving towards the next phase of ministry that God has called us to.

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Our team are thankful for a memorable and fruitful time we had serving together with the locals missionaries.

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For the Kingdom, Ubukumkani!

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Crèche

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A crèche is similar to the setting of a preschool and a daycare center.

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The children at the Crèche loved to learn and love to sing. They were great singers and their singing were electrifying. Their voices were more than angelic; they sounded just like a refreshing bubbling brook, soothing and pleasing to ears and soul. Those kids were born to sing!

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The first creche building in Khayelitsha was sponsored by the Consulate of Canada in South Africa through the initiation by missionary Pastor Young Ohm.

For the past fifteen years or so, Pastor Ohm had helped raised money from overseas to build the twenty-three Creches throughout the township of Khayelitsha.

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When enough fund was made available, Pastor Ohm would go to a particular community and asked if they would like to have a creche center for free to create jobs for the community and to bless the families in the communities.

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If the leaders welcomed the idea, they would carve out a piece of land for African Leadership to help build the center; and the construction of the creche was usually done through the partnership between the local hired builders and the short term mission team.

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Once the creche was set up, the missionary would present the Center to the community leaders.

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The latter would operate the Center on its own by hiring their own teachers and recruiting children from their own particular community.

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To networking and equipping the teachers with effective teaching, LOVE-a (Lily of the Valley Educare Association) program under African Leadership, sponsors a monthly on-going teachers enriching and fun training for all the teaching team from the twenty-three creche centers.

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On a weekly basis, African Leadership also provides nutritious hot meal program to some centers. Due to limited funding, only eleven out of the twenty-three centers received such meal program.

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Each week the missionary in charge of food distribution purchases a-week-long grocery supplies for the Preschool Center. The food usually includes rice, milk, chicken, sugar, canned fish, spices, potatoes, juice, fruits and vegetables.

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Since our organization has an on-going financial support towards the creche’s ministry, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see how various ministries are being carried out.

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The nice village we stayed in Transkei is graced with beautiful landscape, fresh air, stunning sunrise and aspiring children.

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Every morning we were awakened to the melodious synchronized orchestra of the farm creatures with crowing roosters, chirping birdies, oinking pigs, mooing cows and bleating sheep

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A few of us took advantage of this early morning call and joined the local children for their walk to school. These children have to spend two hours walking to and from school every day.

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As we journeyed with the children, we lift up our eyes to enjoy the beautiful handiwork of God —

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the fresh and cool morning air, tranquil mountain ranges, lush green pastures, meandering running creeks, and wide big eyes and grinning smiles of those children.

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We encouraged the children to enjoy God as they walk down this path to learning daily; to pray to God for wisdom in their studies; and for His protection over them at all times.

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Even though our visit was brief, the experiences of being able to walk with the school children as well as reflecting on Isaiah 57:15 were heart-warming.

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

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It somehow reminds me of the incident of the two disciples encountering the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, where they remembered that “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

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