Success in South Africa

I was asked to lead a trip to Southpoint Church in Cape Town, South Africa in May to work with the Children’s staff, their volunteers and to put together a fun event for the children. Southpoint Church is a partner church of North Point Ministries. I already had a professional relationship with the Waumba Land and UpStreet Directors of this church since I work with the Strategic Partner Group, but NOW I also have new friends for life in Africa. SO, I said YES! Immediately.  This is not like me. Let me explain. I am spontaneous, but have never been out of the country.  Going all the way to South Africa on a VERY long flight was going to stretch me. However, when asked, I felt peaceful about serving the adults and children of South Africa and “YES” flew out of my mouth.
The weather in Cape Town was perfect!  It was their late fall/early winter season. Cool mornings, perfect afternoons and chilly evenings was the norm. We saw sunshine every day. We were told this was unusual. I like to think it was God shining down on us and blessing us with beautiful weather so we could see His creations (mountains, oceans, penguins, etc.) and have a KidVenture event partially outside!

I really want to share with you about the small team that went with me to Cape Town. I started praying about my team. God is so cool. He perfectly orchestrated the BEST group of ladies to be in the trenches with me.

Laura Flanagan works in Waumba Land with preschool-aged kids. She is on staff at Gwinnett Church and I have known her for years. She is a get-it-done leader. Her expertise in children’s environments and leading volunteers was so helpful. Laura hit a home run as a worship leader in Waumba. The kids will never forget her.

Jana Jackson is my next Waumba Land (preschool) rock star. Jana is truly one of the most creative people I know AND she is amazing with kids. She is a creative “genius” and helped with a JumpStart prop that will help them teach children the gospel presentation for years to come.
Denise Garner has been a Waumba Land volunteer at Browns Bridge Church for six years. She has a gift of teaching children and making everyone feel welcome. She also has the gift of keeping me (Tracy) organized! Denise now has many new friends. She truly was the hands and feet of Christ.
Meghan Johnson is a Special Needs volunteer at North Point. She has a giant heart for elementary-aged children and was the first to sign up for this trip. Watching Meghan roll up her sleeves and teach children brought tears to my eyes. She taught the leaders how to work with children.

Sarah Carroll works in UpStreet at Gwinnett Church. She is an amazing communicator and oozes passion for children. Sarah did the JumpStart presentation for the leaders to train them. I was so proud of her. She is fun, engaging and personable with everyone she met.
I (Tracy) have worked in both Waumba Land and UpStreet.  I love children of all ages and consider myself blessed to have had these ladies on my team.

Our primary goal of this trip was to connect relationally with the children’s staff and volunteers of SouthPoint Church. We wanted to leave them encouraged and equipped to take their children’s environment to the next level. We also wanted to help them with projects like organizing, creating better systems for their load-in/oad-out environment and trainings for their volunteers. The big thing we did while there was KidVenture (a fun event outside of Sunday morning where small group leader’s connect with the kids in their small group).

KidVenture was a big hit! The volunteers of Southpoint Church were so excited to help us prepare, set-up and make the event amazing. We had about 60 kids AND their parents show up to play fun games like Dizzy Bat, Bobbing for gum and Tug-of-War. Our goal was to teach the small group leaders how to connect (have a lot of fun) with the kids/parents of their small group beyond Sunday. We witnessed kids jumping on the backs of their teenage leaders (this is a win!) and small group leaders painting their faces and hair the color of their “team” and making memories. I heard a story about a boy who was in the middle of playing a game and heard a worship song that he recognized from UpStreet. He stopped playing the game and shared with his mom what the song was all about. Yes! This is a win too.

I learned so much from this trip.  Personally, my life has been changed. I love people—all people. I met so many beautiful people that it is hard for me to narrow it down. I truly could write a book. I want to share about my new friend, Ashley. I met her at the Braii (BBQ) on Friday night.  I am pretty outgoing. I went up to her and introduced myself and she very shyly said, “Hello.”  She didn’t look into my eyes and quickly walked away. Throughout the weekend, my team and I continued to talk to her and encourage her. She truly had a gift and was comfortable with the kids. We praised her for how awesome she was on Saturday with the kids and we all witnessed her opening up to us.

Sunday morning, Ashley came to church with six handmade necklaces. She made one for each of us. That would have been enough, BUT Ashley took the time to personalize each necklace. She handed them out and explained to each of us why she made our necklace the color she did. When she handed mine to me, I cried. I will never forget Ashley. Today, I am wearing my necklace and thinking of Ashley and all the new friends just like her that our team impacted. The truth is I came home different. For years, I have supported every person who sent me a support letter. I considered myself a “giver.” Donating to someone’s trip allows him or her to go and make a difference in the lives of girls like Ashley all around the world. Keep giving! However, after leaving the great USA, I am already praying bout my next trip! Giving is so important, but going and doing is now my heart. I have friends on another continent. I had the opportunity to see God’s beautiful creations (mountains, penguins, oceans) AND to see that not all is perfect. People are living in poverty. Digging in trash cans for food is not abnormal in many places of the world. Families living in shacks were all around us. There is still work to do! Like I said earlier… I am praying about where to go next. I know as the days and weeks go by, I will remember another great story. I am also praying that I never forget the amazing people I met in Cape Town, South Africa.

Tracy Stonecheck
Trip Leader, South Africa – May 2013