Monthly Archives: December 2010

Bethany House: Children in Crisis

The Bethany House children overflow with love to give. They come from unhappy, often tragic home environments. Some have lost their parents. Some have been removed from their parents. Some have been abandoned by their parents.

But each child yearns to love and be loved.

My heart overflows for them. Spending time with the Bethany House kids during our time here with my daughter Steph in South Africa has been a tremendous blessing. I love seeing how much they love Steph. The moment they see her, the kids chant her name and run to her for hugs. We’ve been privileged to benefit from the hug-fest ourselves. My oldest daughter Carol and I have been squeezed and fought over. We have chocolate fingerprints on our clothes. The kids run for our laps each time we sit down. I’ve learned to carry two kids at a time, as others wrap themselves around my legs. Though we’ve only been here a short time, we already have favorites. We can’t help ourselves.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will forever be highlights for me. Our impromptu Christmas Eve dance party with the older girls of Bethany House was such a blast. We twirled and giggled. What a crazy fun evening. Christmas Day morning, we attended church with the Bethany House kids, followed by a delightful picnic Braai (BBQ) in Bethany House Gert and Antoinette Jonker‘s backyard. Children everywhere!

I really can’t remember a more wonderful Christmas with my daughters! It wasn’t about gifts, but relationships. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birthday than to be surrounded by children from ages three months to 18 years.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Sadly, I can’t take pictures of the kids. I could put them at risk by posting their pictures online. Some have been removed from dangerous situations and their location must remain unknown — for their own safety. Our world is full of children in crisis. We just don’t want to think about the horror some of them face. And yet, they are so resilient. They blossom with counseling, attention, and love.

I wish you could see the joy in their faces. Your hearts would melt!

It’s SO hard for me NOT to take pictures of the Bethany House kids. I want to share them with you, and also take home memories with me. Today, for instance, I played Cricket for the first time. I really really don’t get the game, but I tried. I played soccer with the boys the other night. Now that I think of it, perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t have photographic evidence of how badly I play their games.

We only have one full day left in sunny South Africa before flying back home to winter in DC. I’m heartbroken to leave Steph, but I know she’s in good hands. She’s made wonderful friendships with the Bethany House staff. The kids will hug her cares away, so that she won’t miss us as much when we leave. They’re glad she’s staying here in South Africa with them — though many have offered to stow away in our luggage for the return trip to America. If only I could fit them all in….

So, not only will we leave Steph, but also all the children we’ve grown to love here.

As we close out 2010 and look ahead to a new year, I hope you can all find a place in your heart for children in crisis. It won’t be hard for you to find them in your neighborhood, county, state, or even internationally, as with the Bethany House. You can contribute your time or your pocketbook, foster or adopt…or simply smile at children you encounter.

The world conspires to crush their spirits. Your smile alone can make a difference. Your action can save a life.

Blessings to you for a Happy New Year.

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Filed under Africa, Bethany House Trust

Cape Town: Visual Delight

We’ve spent the last week in Cape Town. What a great vacation for Steph. This is her first time away from the Bethany House since July.

We discovered the cute little Cafe Doppio Zero down the street from our hotel. Free wifi!!! What an amazing thing, when every other place else costs per MB. Since I tend to process pictures (major MB), Doppio Zero is our fav hangout. We’ve come every day since we found it. This is our last full day in Cape Town, so I wanted to share a few pics with you. The stories will come later as I have time to process.

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We fly home tomorrow to spend Christmas with the children of Bethany House in Johannesburg. My daughter volunteered my potato soup for Christmas Eve. I’m used to making it for the three of us, not 50+. I think we’ll be peeling potatoes for the entire day. But, what fun!

Merry Christmas to you all!

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Filed under Africa

Castles and Foundation Stones

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Henry David Thoreau

Karlstejn Castle outside Prague: home of the Holy Roman Empire.

Karlstejn Castle outside Prague: home of the Holy Roman Empire.

Debbie Weil came to NASA recently to interview me for a book she’s writing about Social Media and the over 50 crowd — and yes, I totally fit into her demographic. She asked how we’d been able to make such headway at NASA with a number of groundbreaking projects.

My answer: by doing all the hard work to put solid foundations in place to support them.

UK Appleby Castle Knight. Copyright 2002 Beth Beck

UK Appleby Castle Knight. Copyright 2002 Beth Beck

Sometimes the best tool for breaking new ground is a pickax. Sometimes it involves diplomacy. Sometimes it requires creative negotiations. Most often it requires stubborn determination and an extremely thick skin. Body armor comes in handy too — for all the slings and arrows of opposition.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
and by opposing end them.” — Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Making dreams come true takes a good deal of sweat, blood and tears. Ask any entrepreneur how many hours he or she works, or how many ideas crashed and burned along the way.

Sometimes putting the legal, budget, and procurement processes in place to create a project seems to take longer than necessary. Yes, it usually does. That’s what Red Tape is all about. But the fact that we get anything through the federal bureaucracy at all can be nothing short of a miracle. So rejoice when we make it through to the other side. Cobbling together political will to make change happen can be exhausting as well, but it’s absolutely, positively essential for success of any new project.

Foundation building is grueling, hard work — whether it means digging deep into the rock, or building up stone by stone, block by block. Better the house built on rock than one built on shifting sand.

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 23-27

So whether you’re building solid foundations of character or projects, my hat’s off to you. I’ll be right there beside you, slugging it out to make this world a better place.

Here’s to castles in the air, and the foundations that keep them there!

 

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Filed under culture, federal government, Gov 2.0, LAUNCH, leadership, NASA, social media

Flying South for Winter

The temperature dropped to the mid 20’s here in the DC region today, with the wind chill factor registering in the teens. Brrrr. Biting cold. The heater in my house rarely gets over 64 degrees on cold days like this. As I pack for a Summer Christmas in South Africa with daughter Steph, I find the irony amusing.

Giraffes from Mike Boon's South African Game Reserve

Giraffes from Mike Boon's South African Game Reserve.

Note: For those who don’t know, my daughter Steph works with the Bethany House counseling school children who are victims of trauma. The stories the children tell her keep Steph awake at night. Part of our journey to South Africa is to encourage and uplift her, so that she can pour out her heart to the children who are hurting — damaged by unspeakable abuse and heart-breaking life experiences.

Here is a excerpt from Steph’s blog

Steph talks about her journey in her Blog

Now, let’s talk about our airline-imposed travel constraints:

Jet Blue allows one bag for the DC to NYC leg of the trip. South African Airways allows two.

Here’s what I need to take with me:

  • Steph’s summer clothes (she didn’t have room to take down with her in July  which is winter in South Africa),
  • gifts and goodies for the children of Bethany House,
  • Steph’s Birthday gifts (she turns 25 next week),
  • Christmas gifts for both daughters, and …last but not least…
  • my clothes.

Basically, I’m faced with an over-constrained equation. The only way to make this work –remove variables. Meaning, my clothes!

I spent yesterday trying on summer clothes in an EXTREMELY chilly house in my effort to edit down to the bare essentials for three weeks in Africa.

This little packing exercise got me thinking.

  • What about our space pioneers who pack for six month on Space Station — especially if travel means tucking three humans into a Russian Soyuz spacecraft? What do you take? What do you leave behind on Earth?
  • What was it like for early American pioneers leaving behind family treasures to load up a westward-bound covered wagon for the nine-month journey across mountain passes to uncertainty on the other side?
  • What about families who left Europe to start a new future across the ocean in the Americas?
  • What about refugees who flee violence or poverty or drought in countries around the world today?

The shacktowns in and around Johannesburg are filled with families who left everything behind to build a better life in South Africa. Take Portia, for instance….

We met Portia outside Johannesburg.

We met Portia outside Johannesburg.

My buddy Mike Boon introduced us to Portia last time we visited South Africa. Portia lives in a one room tin shack outside Johannesburg. She welcomed us into her home. No electricity. No plumbing. No running water. (The orange containers in the doorway are for transporting water, which she has to do every day.)

Squatter's Village outside Johannesburg

The shack village where Portia lives.

Yes, I’m spoiled. We live in a land of excess. I’m ashamed to admit my struggle over what NOT to take with me for a three-week trip.

Perhaps I should take a cue from the birds who fly south for the winter: Take nothing, find food and necessities along the way.

Matthew 6:26 comes to mind:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Last word: After hearing my tale of woe today, Adam and Ben of Jess3 called Jet Blue and discovered I can take an extra bag for only $30. I know. I know. I could have checked myself. Somehow that never made it to my to-do list. Now, I get to decide if it’s worth it to repack and add back my “excess” things.

So, do I fly south like a bird, or like an American?

At least I have a choice.

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Filed under Africa, Bethany House Trust, poverty