One Saturday while we were there we were invited to go with the other AIMers and their coordinators to a very special Xhosa celebration. Their housekeeper's son, Cry, was coming back from his rite of passage in the bush... it was a time of celebration as he left boyhood and became a man. He had spent an extremely hard 3 weeks in the bush that included not being able to drink water or eat salty foods for the first whole week. During his time in the bush he was also circumcised, with no anesthetics. We were all invited to the family's celebration, in fact, we were honored guests which was very humbling. We were greeted by all of them coming out and singing and dancing us into their homes... and the singing didn't hardly stop until we left! Cry was given many gifts since all his possesions were burned as a part of his transition. It was amazing to be a part of such an important African celebration.
We were able to go to several different parks in the Port Elizabeth area and see lots of animals. We saw giraffes, elephants, bok, wildebeest, baboons, monkeys, rhino, buffalo, lions, tigers, warthogs, tortoises, ostriches (baby ostriches in the picture to the left), etc.. etc. It was really amazing to see so many different animals out in the wild... and so close. For most of the animal reserves we were in the car driving through, but on one trip we got on horseback and went to see rhino, wildebeest, buffallo, and zebra. That was a neat experience because we were a lot closer and a little more vulnerable. We were also really blessed because we went at a time when there were baby animals everywhere. David had fun playing with lion cubs. We saw some that were just 3 days old, some that were about 3 weeks old, then played with some that were 9 months old. The 9 month old cubs were pretty big already and David did a good job of getting them excited and playful. So much so, in fact, that one of them bit him in the side and left a pretty good mark. He also had several rips in his shirt and scratches from them. The lion trainer kept warning David that they were wild, they weren't tame. The picture above is him playing with the cubs before they bit him.
Besides the game trips, we also were able to see about 6 whales playing in the water. I also saw dolphins and penguins for the first time, which was thoroughly enjoyable. I had asked to see a whale for Christmas... that's all I wanted and God was nice and gave me my wish! (See the picture of two whales to the right.)
Encouragement from the Christians
David, as we mentioned before, spoke at three different congregations while we were in South Africa. It was really nice to meet so many Christians and be encouraged by them and what they are doing down there. Some even invited us into their homes, fed us, and just took time to get to know us. We knew we could go there and be an encouragement to them, but we really walked away more encouraged by them. It's so neat to see how God is working all over the world, using His servants to be His light.
Christmas in South Africa
The day before we left was Christmas day... so we had Christmas for the first time in South Africa! It was summertime, so we enjoyed a sun-filled day and it felt a little more like home for David. The AIM coordinators, Ken and Judy Kendall-Ball had us and all the AIMers over to their place for Christmas breakfast, a time of opening presents, then later on that night for Christmas dinner. Judy did all the cooking for the day and it was fabulous, plus she sewed each of us a stocking and we all made sure each other's was filled. We had such a good time with each of them and were even able to play some games that evening. All of us were away from our families, but we were together and it was special!
So... moral of our blog post: go to South Africa if you get the chance. Yes, see all the animals, pet sharks, go bungee jumping, and even get mauled by lion... but make time to get to know the people as well. It was a trip we'll never forget and will cherish for a long time!!!