Thursday, August 14, 2014

Getting there

"I can't believe I'm going to Africa!!!!!" -me, on the Flyaway to the airport.

Our plane was scheduled to leave LAX with our team of 10 at 4:40 p.m., but it ended up leaving closer to 7 p.m. with only nine of us on board.

This may sound like a major dilemma, but God had total control and worked everything out. The delay wasn't a big deal because our layover in Dubai was supposed to be nine hours long, so we didn't miss our connecting flight.

As for the missing person, Jenny had a minor medical emergency, but because Julie is a doctor and was able to arrange for her practice partner to examine Jenny and make sure everything was okay, she was able to catch the same flight, just a day later.

Let me introduce you to the team before I continue mentioning faceless names. I don't have one of Jenny from the first day, so you will see her soon.
From left to right: Naomi, Julie, Katie, Krystin
Dawnielle, Jon, me, Naomi, Jenna, Krystin
Clay, Matt scratching his nose, and Jon

So we were off, with a 16 hour flight, a six hour layover and another eight hour flight before we stepped off the plane in South Africa late Friday morning. After nearly 40 hours of travel and waiting in airports, a quick stop in Dubai where seven of the team members took a tour around the city while Julie and I hung out at the hotel and took showers, we were pretty worn out. 
Julie and me eating at the buffet in our Dubai hotel

Pastors Andre and Darryl picked us up at the airport in two vans and took us to their “conference center,” where we were staying. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were blown away by our accommodations. Maranatha Community Church in Kempton Park owns this incredible property similar to many retreat centers that I have stayed in over the years with different church camps.

There is a row of cabin-type rooms, some with two beds and some with four, and each has its own bathroom including a shower with lots of hot water. They had made a bed in each of the rooms so that we could all have our own, which is nice, since I was up later than everyone else each night writing and going through pictures. Having my own room gave me the freedom to do that without keeping anyone awake. The guys all decided to stay together in one room, and I shared a wall with them, so I heard a lot of laughing going on.

Just outside the rooms is a nice lawn, and on the other side of that is the long driveway from the gate to the main building that includes the kitchen, dining rooms and rooms for other activities and meetings. Beyond the driveway is a beautiful fountain, behind which are tennis courts and a large field with a fire pit. Also on the property are a few houses where the property caretakers and cooks live. We had the privilege of being served each day by “Auntie Pat” and Rosie, who are sweet women.

Upon our arrival, we got to eat lunch right away, and then we got situated in our rooms and rested a bit before Darryl picked us up again to take us to ride the speed train to Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. We walked around the mall there and had dinner and got to know Darryl. 
Darryl, Clay and Matt

Matt Jones, animatedly taking a picture for another group

Our conversations while waiting for the train ranged from placentas to workouts, with some breaking out into song thrown in for good measure.  I knew at that moment that we wouldn't have any dull moments on this trip.

A big part of what we did on this trip was build relationships and witness different things that they do at Maranatha that we might want to incorporate at Bel Air. We want to learn from each other in order to grow more and be more effective for Christ.

This relationship-centered stuff is right up my alley!