God’s ‘great adventure’ for Debbie and me in South Africa is coming to a close. We leave this afternoon for home. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen our children and the 8 grandchildren so we will be really glad to return. However, it will be sad to leave our new SA friends and especially the Academy students that we’ve mentored and shared so much of our lives.
One of our new friends is Kyle Ray. Kyle is an American who loves the Lord and is serving as a missionary in SA. Kyle, also loves basketball. In fact, his ministry is sharing his faith with others using basketball as a vehicle to connect. Our Academy boys also love basketball as a result of Kyle’s influence. Since the Academy did not have a basketball court, Kyle made arrangements for them to play at one of the few courts found in SA.
So our boys travelled two days per week over to the local prison to play on their court. Kyle also arranged a coach for our boys. One of the inmates, Ricardo, who recently became a christian, agreed to coach! So, we’ve got a coach, but not really a regular place to play.
After a few conversations with Kyle, it was decided that Bridges Academy should have their own court. We undertook the project. In the states, you would simply lay the asphalt and then purchase the posts, frames, backboards and rims and then hire someone to install. In SA it is a little more difficult. There are no basketball court contractors nor any realistically priced court equipment available to purchase. So, we went about finding someone to help us fabricate our own. We finally found a local trade school whose shop teacher was willing to take on the project as a class assignment for his students. It took a bit longer, but they completed the job including fabricating the poles, backboard frame and the hoops. They are sturdy and the welding job is excellent.
The installation from placing the poles and lining the court was left for us to do. Fortunately, we have Phil Hocking, who engineered the entire installation. We now have a basketball court for the students!
When you view this video, you’ll see why our effort was so worthwhile:
Every camp and young person’s retreat likes to end with singing and sharing at a bonfire. The children gather around and have a great time reflecting about what has occurred at camp. We wanted to build a proper firepit area so that Bridges Retreat could provide for that same type experience.
We debated about placing the firepit in certain areas of the property, it’s size and seating capacity. We came up with a plan and then built a beautifully paved circular area. Here’s a video showing the completed project and a couple of the Academy students thoughts about having a bonfire themselves:
The company responsible for the firepit is owned by a young man named Morne Jordaan. Morne’s team also constructed our roads and parking areas. He’s been working on-site for about three months so we’ve become good friends. I have asked him to share some thoughts about our project with you. Here’s Morne:
Saturday was Caregiver’s Day at the Academy. Each of our Academy students invited their cargiver from their home township to the school. Many of the visitors were the student’s ‘grannies’ or aunts as well as some brothers and sisters.
It was a day that our students were excitedly anticipating. It was also a sad and dissappointing day for others as no one from their home came to visit. Debbie spent most of the morning consoling girls that had no one step from the bus that should have contained a visitor for them but did not.
The caregivers were given tours of the Academy and the Retreat Centre. The students, dressed in their school uniforms, proudly showed them the dorm and class rooms as well as the surrounding property. Several of the caregivers shared how grateful they were to Bridges of Hope that the children were given this opportunity to receive a Christian based education.
Here’s a video of the crowd gathered:
Caregiver’s Day was also a day for us to stop working on our projects and reflect upon our six months being in South Africa on this ‘Great Adventure.’ God has called us here to improve the property so that the Retreat Centre can be a viable business that can sustain itself and provide income for Bridges various ministries. We’ve worked on completing that task. However. it’s the children that we will remember. They touch your heart in so many ways. We continue to pray that each will make the most of the opportunity that they have been given. Each has the potential to make a positive change for their home and for South Africa. Here’s a video of the kids singing as Caregiver’s Day comes to a close.
Today a group of High School students arrived at the Bridges Retreat Centre.
When the 50 students and their counselors arrived for the weekend retreat everything looked great for their three day stay.
However, prior to their arrival a lot of preparation takes place. Debbie has a huge ‘to do’ list for everyone here (she does the same thing to me at home!). First, all the lansdcaping needs like grass cutting and trimming were handled by James.
The soccer field was cut and lined by the facilities manager, Wade. All the bedding, linen, and housekeeping chores were done by Catherine, the centre’s housekeeper. Phil made a trip to Agri-Mart to pick up the necessary supplies. Lydia made a guest instruction list for all of the kitchen appliances. Bill cleaned the pool and the backyard patio area. Debbie managed all that was going on and did a million other little things that make the centre feel welcoming.
Just before the high schoolers arrived, we took the following videos so that you could see what the kids saw upon arrival:
Of course, after five minutes of the kids running through the buildings, chaos resulted. On Monday, we’ll start with the clean up to get ready for the next weekend retreat.
We’ve spent the last 5 weeks in major construction here at the Bridges of Hope Retreat Centre.
So much has been done and so quickly that we are sure that God’s hand has been in this project in a major way!
We’ve also had amazing contractors who’ve worked long and hard in helping us meet our deadline.
Some of the major changes are in the kitchen and dining areas.
Let’s hear Deb explain:
Now we’ll move into the dining room:
Here’s the outside dining area:
We’re ready for our first retreat. They are a group from a Dutch Reformed church in Cape Town. We feel certain that the facilities will be used in a way that lives may be changed as a result of this camping experience
Today we picked another load of pears from the 27 pear trees on the Bridges property. The first picking earned enough Rand to have 8 bicycles repaired. Today’s second picking wasn’t quite as large, but we’re hoping that it will provide money for the purchase of a couple more bikes.
Here’s a video that was taken a couple weeks ago when we completed the roadway and had just received the first bikes back from the repair store. For many of our students that was the first opportunity to ride.
Yesterday, I took the following video. Here, you’ll see that we received more bikes back from repair and that our bike/walking path that goes around the entire property has been completed. You will also notice that our children are fast learners. They have really learned to ride quite well!
Tonight, Debbie and Lydia will have ‘movie night’ with the Academy students. Phil and I are going to our first Rugby match. The South Africans really love their ’sport’ so it should be a great experience.
Thanks for you prayers and support.
Our time on the ‘Great Adventure’ here in South Africa is flying by. We’re now in the second half of our second three month stay. Our first three months were spent planning the various property improvement needs and we are now in the middle of implementing all the plans. Our contractors who you met in our last blog have been great. They feel like part of the family!
We’re also doing much of the work ourselves. Debbie (and friends) has done so much with the overall decor items like paint and pictures. Bill is overseeing the construction and helping to build many items.
To date, the pool, bathrooms, dining hall and kitchen (awaiting equipment) are finished. We’re still working on the patio cover, outside dining area, built-in braai ( bar-b-que), basketball court, barn as well as many other projects. Next week, we have a series of interviews with prospective retreat centre directors. Please pray that God leads us to the best candidate for the job.
It’s not all work. We still find time to enjoy ourselves as you can see from this video…
The Academy building and Boys Dorm building were completed about 18 months ago. However, the parking lots and farm roads on the property were not completed due to lack of funding. Debbie and I were tasked with completing those surfaces. This ‘infra structure’ job has taken about 2/3’s of our original budget. The road and bike/walking path are about 600 meters in length. That’s a lot of surface to cover!
We’ve run into the normal challenges like hitting underground water lines, troubles with the material quality and equipment breakdowns. Our contractors, Morne and Dirk just take it all in stride and are comitted to getting a quality job completed.
Both have become good friends and Dirk has grown to love his American coffee each morning (2 sugars and a little cream!)
GTR Construction is doing the interior remodeling of the Bridges Retreat Center. Gordon has sorted through many questions and change orders with an unbelievably positive ‘can do’ attitude. His crew has completed the bathroom remodel, the dining room and when the equipment arrives, the kitchen. All look great.
Next, GTR will be rebuilding the barn and a brick Braai (barbeque) area. Here’s Gordon:
We’ve been gone from the states for a month today.
Our total time here on our ‘great adventure’ is now 4 months with two more to go.
It’s been an amazing time that Debbie and I have encountered. God has allowed us to be available in so many ways and in so many opportunities that we could not have imagined. Today, I taught an 18 year old student the basics of swimming. As an orphan he had not had the opportunity to learn something so basic that we just take for granted in the states. Tomorrow will bring even more opportunities to be used by God in ways we’ve not imagined. It’s exciting just to wake up to see what the next challenge might be!
Yet, we’re still focused on our goals to improve the physical plant here at the Bridges Retreat Centre. We’ve got the road and parking contractors making good progress and the general contractor is moving ahead of schedule on the kitchen, dining hall and bathroom. We have run into a few challenges along the way. The final basketball court proposals came in over budget and we’ve run into some plumbing issues that were certainly not expected. We’re just working through those items and know that all will work out.
Today is a day of celebration as our first project has been completed. The swimming pool refurbishment was a strong priority. Our Academy children love the pool and it’s a must for every retreat centre to have a nice swinning pool.
Our Academy children went swimming today…….Here’s what the first day of swimming looked like: