Family Fun

Living Hope Church Family Fun Day     According to Oxford Dictionary : Fun- enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure

On July 4th , while our American friends and family were celebrating their freedom with BBQs and fireworks, we celebrated the freedom we have in Christ as a church family by coming together for Living Hope Church’s first (annual??) Family Fun Day. With a volleyball tournament, relay races, dancing, a singing competition and more we spent the day just enjoying one another and the bond we have because of Christ. A fun day indeed!!

Heather Drew and her girl band practice for the singing competition.

Heather Drew and her girl band practice for the singing competition.

Marissa with her BFF and other pals.

Marissa with her BFF and other pals.

The day was fun for the little ones, too!

The day was fun for the little ones, too!

Volleyball brought out the competitive side.

Volleyball brought out the competitive side of our otherwise very loving church family.

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Elijah is having fun on the inside 🙂

Red Salvakop reigned as volleyball champs.

Red Salvakop reigned as volleyball champs.

Living Hope Church family's first Fun Day

Living Hope Church’s first Fun Day family photo!

Park Outreach Every Monday late afternoons at Jacaranda Park, Sunnyside, Pretoria you will find a handful of Living Hope Church members playing volleyball or soccer with the intention of reaching out to the community to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Randy arrives early to set up the volleyball net and once the other Living Hopers arrive a friendly game is started, which inevitably attracts people walking by or those already sitting at the park to join in the game. After about an hour of game time, the players are gathered around to listen to a testimony or a gospel message, and scripture. Newcomers are invited to church on Sunday and contact information is taken for follow-up.

This weekly outreach is one of the simple ways the Living Hope Church is “going into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation”.

Mandela Day, July 18, 2015

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela 

 Mandela Day is an annual international day in honour of South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, his birthday. The day was established to encourage a global call for individuals to make an impact and transform the world through taking action “to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation and cultural diversity.”

11737974_844341765649944_5925341284823725026_n1Hope4Africa decided to turn Mandela Day into Nandela Day! Nan is the brand name for the popular baby formula here and on July 18, the 1Hope team hung out at local grocery stores speaking with customers about the Muphamuzi Baby Home and asking them for their support through the purchase of cans of Nan. Different 1 Hope members were at two different stores on the morning of July 18th and together through cash donations and donated formula cans we raised R7000 (approx. $600) for the babies being cared for at the baby home.

Speaking of which…two new little ones have been recently placed in our care:

Precious baby girl!

Precious baby girl!

Sweet Baby Boy

Sweet Baby Boy

Family Time Over Father’s Day weekend, our family enjoyed a quick time away to what is becoming an annual tradition to Kruger National Park. We came across all of the Big 5 with the exception of the very shy leopard, but we were able to catch sight of the even shyer cheetah! Our kids LOVE searching for animals in the African wild (from the safety of our car with windows closed) and we are so thankful for the fun and blessings of these adventures and time to be together as a family.

Cheetah!

Cheetah!

Even though we saw lots of them, we never tire of watching the elephants!

Even though we saw lots of them, we never tire of watching the elephants!

Two lionesses walking along the side of the road!

Two lionesses walking along the side of the road!

Our accommodations had some of the tamer animals roaming about.

Our accommodations had some of the tamer animals roaming about. Randy gets a kiss from this curious zebra.

Three years! The 20nd of this month marks the 3-year anniversary of our family boarding a plane at LAX bound to Johannesburg, South Africa. The intention was to serve with 1Hope for “a year” and return to our Orange County lives. But as we have said before and will say again, “The heart of man plans his ways, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

We are humbled, awed and so very thankful that God would allow the joy of us, His weak, broken sinful children, to participate in the work that He is doing in this world. We are also so thankful to all of you who have prayed, participated and partnered with us! The Body of Christ is truly an amazing, powerful tool in the Mighty Master’s hand bringing about His plans and purposes.

We do not know what the next three years will hold, but we are thankful to and put our trust in the One who does. We also cling to the amazing truth that for those who are in Christ, eternity with Him is promised.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11.

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There is one spot in the Kruger where it is safe for you to exit your vehicle because there is a ranger with a rifle standing guard.

The Light of the World

As the first frigid cold front from the south hit Pretoria, the temperature plunged from a balmy, pleasant 80oF/60oF to a chilly mid 50’s in the day and freezing temperatures at night.  With brick homes without insulation or central heating, during the day it is warmer outside than in and at night it is shivering cold no matter where you go!  We have learned to cope as native South Africans do: by bundling up and wearing what we, at one time, called winter outdoor clothing (coats, boots, scarves) indoors.

Winter in Pretoria! Our latest 1Hope4Africa Team Meeting

Winter in Pretoria!
Our latest 1Hope4Africa Team Meeting

Discipleship Opportunities: Living Hope Church takes seriously Christ’s final charge to his followers when he commanded, “Go and make disciples” and as result we are a church of disciples making disciples. It is the goal that every faithful attender be involved in a weekly “Gospel Community” (small group) as well as individual discipleship relationships where we learn and help others to grow in faith by following Christ in all aspects of daily life.   To that end, one major focus this year has been the launch of an official Ladies Ministry.

Our larger whole church Ladies Bible Study of about 20-25 ladies meets every other week in our home and these past few months Marda Mack has been teaching us how to study God’s Word and the importance of allowing this Word to have a true impact in our lives. That we would not walk away from it as merely hearers, but doers. During the other weeks, I have had the joy and privilege of leading a smaller group of ladies that live and/or work at the Muphamuzi Baby Home. My love and affection for these ladies has grown so much these months as I witnessed these sweet sisters’ deep love for Christ and the gospel and desire to make much of Him in their lives. Many of them struggle deeply with difficult issues and are often tempted to take matters into their own hands, but by God’s grace, they stand strong in their faith, learning to depend on the provision of their heavenly Father.

Small Group Ladies Bible Study is held every other week at the baby home.  Love these ladies!

Small Group Ladies Bible Study is held every other week at the baby home. Love these ladies!

One such young lady is Debra who is the daughter of MBH caregiver Linda whose story I have written about here. Debra has come to South Africa from Zimbabwe to join her mother last fall. She is a quiet deep thinker with a wonderful smile that lights up her whole face when I can get her to flash one. She works very part time at the baby home and in our home once a week. She desperately desires to go to school in order to gain skills that would afford her the opportunity to work and help provide for her family. Of course, money is very limited and the income she and her mother bring in does not allow her to pursue her dream.

On her days with our family, Debra and I sit down at lunchtime and are reading through the Gospel of Mark. Debra always expresses a deep desire to reflect her Savior to the world and to grow in her dependence on Him. Recently, Debra shared with me that her older step-brothers set out to help her in her job search. In their opinion, their efforts were successful as Debra was offered a job as a waitress in a restaurant. The only difficulty was that this position required serving alcohol in a bar and having to work on Sundays. She was so conflicted and her brothers urged her to take the position, that she had “no choice, she must take the job”. But after much consideration, Debra firmly believed that as a follower of Christ, this position would not reflect her Savior, and although she was very tempted when the employer phoned her a few times, she refused the job. Contrary to her brother’s words, she did have a choice and she chose to trust in God’s provision rather than compromise her convictions. Please pray for Debra. The church she attended previously in Zimbabwe did not handle God’s Word accurately and she is eagerly studying the Bible with a new deeper understanding of the true gospel.

It is a joy and privilege to watch Debra grow in her faith!

It is a joy and privilege to watch Debra grow in her faith!

The Muphamuzi Baby Home celebrated its third year since its opening which equates to 34, 380 nappy (diaper) changes!

The precious faces of the little ones the Muphamuzi Baby Home these past three years!  Please pray that God would continue to provide for the running needs for the next three years and beyond!

The precious faces of the little ones the Muphamuzi Baby Home these past three years! Please pray that God would continue to provide for the running needs for the next three years and beyond!

GCO Interns – For four days in June, the MBH had the privilege of hosting three interns from our very own Grace Church of Orange. So fun to have these young ladies here sharing in the life and activity of our church as well as helping with the care of the babies at the baby home.

Clark Kids with Grace Church of Orange interns (from left to right): Alli Sciarra, Abbey Quinn, and Deborah Loo. So thankful for these ladies and their hearts to serve.

Clark Kids with Grace Church of Orange interns (from left to right): Alli Sciarra, Abbey Quinn, and Deborah Loo. So thankful for these ladies and their hearts to serve.

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African Bible Training Center– The classes for this two year course surveying the entire Bible has approximately 50 students attending every other Thursday, eager to understand more deeply God’s Word. This course is so necessary as false religious teachers abound in Africa with many self proclaimed “Apostles” using their influence and slight of hand “miracles” to prey on desperate followers yearning for a more comfortable life. Half of our class last Thursday was in the dark, but not because passages we were studying were particularly confusing, but because we were literally in the dark. Halfway through the class that evening the power went out. The demand for electricity in South Africa far outweighs its supply and this country is currently experiencing a power crisis. As of November of last year, in an effort to reduce demand, Eskom, the country’s electricity supplier, has scheduled daily rolling blackouts throughout the country known as “load shedding”. That evening the anticipated blackout occurred right on time.  We, however, were prepared and the class, was only briefly interrupted as we took a few minutes to turn on flashlights and bring out cell phones. The class continued and that evening we reviewed that Leviticus sets us up for the gospel by showing us God’s demand for holiness and Christ’s fulfillment of this demand by being the ultimate, “it is finished” sacrifice. We also learned that through the book of Numbers and all the censuses that were taken, God shows us that He is able to fulfill the promise he made to a childless Abraham who, gazing at the stars against a dark sky, believed God when He said these points of lights would represent the number of his future descendants.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.  John 8:12

In Christ Alone

I was born into a Christian family and have been hearing Bible stories since I was little. However, I never really understood who Jesus was for me until I was older. I’m not quite sure of the date, all I know, as Jonathan Edwards so perfectly put it, is that an ‘inward sweet sense’ washed over me, and I knew that I wanted Christ to be the centre of my life. A verse that has really spoken to me is Galatians 2:20, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I am so thankful that it is no longer I who live, but Christ, who lives in me! I am blessed beyond all measure that Christ gave himself up for Me, a sinner who can’t do any good in my own strength. I won’t stop sinning because I am saved. I still get frustrated when things don’t go exactly the way I want them to, but my Saviour is greater than my sin. And this I know with all my heart: “No power of hell, no scheme of man, shall ever pluck me from His hand. Until He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.”

-Julia’s baptism testimony, March 1, 2015

Despite a thunderstorm that brought a downpour of rain, on March 1st with hearts overflowing, we celebrated as our Julia Faith made a public profession of her faith in Christ Jesus through baptism along with three other sisters from Living Hope Church. The Apostle John put it well when he wrote in 3 John 1:4 , “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  Truly, as a parent, there is no greater joy!  Please pray for Julia as she has a lifetime ahead of walking with God and growing in her faith. DSC_0447DSC_0449DSC_0453

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Larissa, Nomatter, Julia and Gertrude just after their baptism. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Julia with her birthday buddy, Jensen Isaiah,  only hours old!

Julia with her birthday buddy, Jensen Isaiah, only hours old!

Our growing church  Julia celebrated her 15th birthday on March 14th and her birthday wish was to have a “Birthday Buddy”. Heather and Donovan Drew our co-workers and fellow missionaries were expecting their 3rd child who was due March 10th. God was kind to Julia and granted her birthday wish as Jensen Isaiah Drew entered the world on Pi Day (3.14.15).

 Our New Home We are so thankful that God has provided us with an amazing home here in Pretoria and our deepest desire is that it will be used for His purposes and glory. We are blessed to be living in community, sharing our property with our co-workers and dear friends.  Andre and Karlien DeWit and their two adorable children have made their home in the one-bedroom flat adjoining our home.

More often than not we are fortunate enough to get a daily visit from these two (Kara, age 3, and Ben Dewit, age 1)

More often than not we are fortunate enough to get a daily visit from these two (Kara, age 2, and Ben Dewit, age 1)

Living Hope Church has been praying for years to have its own facility, but for now, as we continue to rent our current facility,we are so happy that our home can be utilized for different church events such as communion service and Ladies Bible Study.

Our first hosting of the Living Hope's monthly communion meal

Our first hosting of the Living Hope’s monthly communion meal

Living Hope Ladies Bible Study meets in our home twice a month.  This last gathering was a celebration of our sister Lerato's upcoming birth as she was showered with love and gifts.  Can you guess which one she is?

Living Hope Ladies Bible Study meets in our home twice a month. This last gathering was a celebration of our sister Lerato’s upcoming birth as she was showered with love and gifts. Can you guess which one she is?

Last month we were also privileged to once again host Mary-Kate Martin director of Hosea’s Heart (a ministry in Swaziland) and her interns for a long weekend as they travelled to  Pretoria for some very needed rest and relaxation.

Hosea's Heart Missionaries and Muphamuzi Baby Home interns out for a hike  in the nature reserve just outside Pretoria.  University of South Africa in the background.

Hosea’s Heart Missionaries and Muphamuzi Baby Home interns out for a hike in the nature reserve just outside Pretoria. University of South Africa in the background.

 Resurrection Sunday – What incredible joy it is to gather as the body of Christ on Easter Sunday and celebrate the risen Christ.  A foretaste of what is yet to come because of Christ’s victory over sin and death. We had two services: an Easter Dinner the Saturday before and our Resurrection Sunday service.  In order that we, as a church family, could include Baby Home caregivers and interns, the babies from MBH joined us for both church services.

Celebrating Easter Saturday as a family in Christ!

Celebrating Easter Saturday as a family in Christ!

Guess which are the twins girls?  Baby J on the far right, was just welcomed by his forever family this week.  Although he will be missed, we are so thankful that God has placed him in his family.

Baby Home babies join us for our Easter services! Guess which two are the new twins girls? Baby J on the far right, was just welcomed by his forever family. Although he will be missed, we are so thankful that God has placed him in his family.

This little guy (with caregiver Joy) recently had surgery to repair a birth defect that made it difficult for him to breath and eat.  Thank God, he has recovered well and is now eating and growing!

This little guy (with caregiver Joy) recently had surgery to repair a birth defect that made it difficult for him to breath and eat. Thank God, he has recovered well and is now eating and growing!

Sweet Baby K just celebrated her first birthday.  (With Mama Linda and Marda Mack)

Sweet Baby K just celebrated her first birthday and will soon be placed with her forever family! (With Mama Linda and Marda Mack)

There in the ground, His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious Day

Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ

Hiking in the breathtaking Drakensberg Mountains gives us a glimpse of our Creator's majesty and glory!

We enjoyed a quick “holiday” hiking in the breathtaking Drakensberg Mountains. A glimpse of our Creator’s majesty and glory!

Settling In

We have been settling in to our new life in Pretoria, South Africa for just over one month, but it has been incredibly filled with the things of life (a week of jet lag, four weeks of kitchen construction, a couple bouts of the stomach flu, a trip to the emergency room for a concussion, unpacking our things from our shipping container and lots of new ministry opportunities) that it seems as if we have been here for several months.

Before we go into anything else, we must report a wonderful answer to prayer.   I will let Newton Chilingulo, Mission Malawi pastor, tell you in his own words from his most recent special update:

As most of you are already aware, we have been asking you to pray with us for the adoption of our baby girl. It has been a very frustrating, lengthy journey that has taken almost three years. We faced delays and government bureaucracy not to mention inefficiencies of some government officers. The process delayed our move to Malawi. BUT GOD! We are delighted to let you know that your prayers have been answered. The adoption is FINALISED. TETELESTAI. HALLELUJAH!…

I went to the Registrar and received the registered adoption order that says “According to the provisions of Section 242 of the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005), your adopted child is now for all purposes regarded as your child as if born to you and you are now for all purposes regarded as the parent of the adopted child”. SOLI DEO GLORIA! 

Newton and Vanessa with Chisomo. (formerly "Aya".  Chisomo means "Grace")

Newton and Vanessa with Chisomo. (formerly “Aya”. Chisomo means “Grace”)

Chisomo with Elijah and Sammy in our backyard.

Chisomo with Elijah and Sammy in our backyard.

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The Clarks with the Chilingulos before they head back to Malawi.

New Ministries Launched In 2015, Living Hope Church/1Hope4Africa has launched three new ministries:

Ladies Bible Study – Our prayer for the ladies of Living Hope Church comes from Ephesians 3:16-19): “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ladies Bible Studies are meeting weekly alternating between a large group and smaller groups.

Living Hope Church's first official Ladies Ministry

Living Hope Church’s first official Ladies Ministry

Nursery and Pre-School Sunday School – In the past, mothers of young children found themselves sitting on the lawn just outside the church building during the Sunday service trying to catch a bit of the sermon in order to not disrupt Pastor Josh’s message. But with the launch of our new Children’s Sunday School, these mothers are now able to relax and enjoy the church service knowing their children are lovingly cared for.

Living Hope Church's "Nursery" on a Sunday morning

Living Hope Church’s “Nursery” on a Sunday morning

Preschool Sunday School

Preschool Sunday School

ABTC web1hAfrican Bible Training Centre  (yes, “center” is spell that way here) – During 2015-16, 1Hope4Africa will be teaching a foundational course on an overview of the entire Bible.

The purpose of this foundational course is to help students understand how the Bible works and what the Bible is about so that they will benefit from it and be able to explain the purpose of the Bible to others.  Both Randy and I are taking this course and learning so much.

African Bible Training Centre- We will be getting an overview of the entire Bible during the next two years.

African Bible Training Centre- We will be getting an overview of the entire Bible during the next two years.

The Muphamuzi Baby Home internship Program continues and currently 1Hope is hosting two interns. Hannah Hochsmann, a sweet God-loving 19 year-old from Germany, who flew in on our same flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, will be serving at the baby home until April.

Hannah is 2nd from the left.

Hannah is 2nd from the left.

Alli Sciarra (eldest daughter of Mike Sicarra who pastors our sending church, Grace Church of Orange) has been here since the middle of January. When Alli’s spring plans for graduate school did not work out, she decided she would like to use the time to serve in some way. Her brother suggested the baby home, but her first response was not in favor of this amazing life-changing option as babies are not really “her thing”. However, as she prayed and read through 1Hope4Africa’s website, the idea began to grow on her. When she told her parents about the possibility, her mother said, “The Baby Home? You know that means you will be working with …babies?” But the Lord put in Alli an excitement about joining our ministry for four months and she has valiantly been caring for our four little ones currently at the baby home. In the weeks that she has been serving here, God has been graciously teaching her what it means to sacrificially give of time and service and she is has genuinely grown to love the babies.

MBH Caregiver, Patricia, and intern, Alli Sciarra, doing their "thing"

MBH Caregiver, Patricia, and intern, Alli Sciarra, doing their “thing”

The Muphamuzi Baby Home internship program is vital to the success of 1Hope’s endeavor to care for vulnerable babies. The interns help keep the running cost of the home down while maintaining a high standard of care. We are thankful for both girls who are currently with us and are praying for God to continue to provide young ladies willing to serve Christ in this way. For more information click here.

Last Friday, the 13th was our “lucky” day. At about 6:45 am, without the promised “we will let you know when it is on it’s way” phone call, our shipping container with our belongings and ministry donations that we packed and sent off in December of last year, arrived. From Long Beach it sailed to San Francisco, then crossed the Pacific Ocean to Hong Kong where it transferred vessels, then down to the port city of Durban, South Africa and finally, to our front door in Pretoria.  We were given four hours to unload, but with the help of a construction crew from Germany who are here currently working with 1Hope on a building project , the entire contents of the 40 foot container were unloaded in an hour and a half! We are so grateful that God graciously provided for us in this way and allowed our belongings to follow us to South Africa.  We give praise to God, from whom all blessings flow, for what He has accomplished in our lives to bring us to this place and point in our lives.

SURPRISE!  Early morning arrival of our shipping container!

SURPRISE! Early morning arrival of our shipping container!

Donations of baby supplies were loaded into our van to be taken directly to the baby home.

Donations of baby supplies were loaded up to be taken directly to the baby home.

The empty container with the help of our German friends!

Container is emptied in record time with the help of our German friends!

“Christians never say goodbye” – C.S. Lewis

Tomorrow our family of seven will board an airplane to travel across the world back to Pretoria, South Africa.  We have been in the U.S. for three months and, by God’s grace,  have used the time to accomplish many tasks:

After going through all our “stuff”, we held a couple of Garage Sales.DSC_0630

We collected baby home supplies and books for a church library.DSC_0676

We packed up a shipping container with belongings and donations which is now somewhere at sea.DSC_0682

We had passports and visas renewedDSC_0169

And had several friend and family reunions.Putt-puttDSC_0660

And now ready or not, South Africa, here we come.  We are so thankful for what we have waiting on that side:  an amazing community of fellow believers to work alongside for the cause of Christ, a new home to settle into, a church family to love and pour into.  However, as excited as we are about resuming our life and ministry in South Africa, I do NOT do well with saying goodbye. Like… Not. At. All. (Did you know that the word “goodbye” is a contraction for “God be with ye”?)

I read an article title, “Gospel People Say Goodbye”  by Jared Musgrove, from the Village Church blog, awhile ago which I would like to repost here because it reflects my sentiment well.

We are a church that is saying goodbye with much more frequency. To some good brothers and sisters. It’s never easy. Especially when you are seeing godly people in your life go.

Some of us are better at goodbyes than others.

Some are quick to say goodbye. Rip off the Band-Aid. Fare thee well. That’s life.

Others say goodbye several times, intended or not. Like saying “good night” before you both realize you’re actually headed toward the same elevator, this may or may not be a gift of anything but awkwardness.

Then there’s the couched-in-familiarity “see ya later” final greeting, both of you pausing for a moment after you say it, realizing that, well, you probably won’t.

We are all somewhat clumsy with our farewells. Probably because they reintroduce us all over again to the fact that we are not in ultimate control of our lives or of anyone else’s.

Yet, saying goodbye is the way of the sending church.

In my own heart, I’m very prone to want to keep my community to myself and not share them. And the book of Acts presses me on this preference.

A few years ago, I got to Acts in my Bible reading plan and, though I didn’t go in looking for this, what was revealed to me was a repeating pattern: As Christ is building His church, He brings His people together in groups for a time, for seasons, to accomplish kingdom work.

Some stay together to nurture the work. Others are called out to start still other works.

Two thousand years later, this is still the ebb and flow of healthy Christian community.

Godly people hold one another with an open hand. What God showed me in Acts caused me to consider anew the Great Commission of Christ in Matthew 28. By His Word, He gently began to pry my tightly closed fist open, me screaming all the way, “These are my friends, God. This is who I need with me to follow you. They speak into my life. We’ve been through a lot together. I’m not letting them go.”

In His grace to me, He began leading these people out of my proximity. This continues today for me, and I’d guess for you, too. He still leads friends away to other kingdom works. He’s growing me to be quicker to say, “O God, these brothers and sisters don’t belong to me. I’m not the master of their days; Jesus is.”

Even in the community of my own family—my wife and my son—I must recognize Jesus commands their destinies. “God, they are not mine to do with and to direct as I please. Under your leadership I will lead them, but Lord, you have your way with them.”

Truth is, godly people hold one another with an open hand. Godly people who are about the gospel say goodbye often, confident in our union together as the family of God and confident that we will celebrate again. We WILL see one another again at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will be with God together. For all time.

But now, just for a little while, we have little time to waste. The Great Commission overrides any attempts to build our own little castle of community we want to rule over. God is so much greater. We’re called to hold one another with an open hand. This is the legacy of disciple-making into which the first disciples were called—a call that still resounds.

It still resounds.

We are part of an ages-old, ongoing, epic work of the Creator God, Whose image we bear, who is transforming us still by His work in Christ through our Christian community. It says something about who we are as the body of Christ that we have said many gospel goodbyes. Christians living rightly consistently say goodbye.

No one in our lives is with us constantly, save for the Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit.

It is in this that we trust, as we say our goodbyes with great hope.

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Our citizenship is in heaven…

Early October we were greeted by the familiar friendly faces of the pastors of Grace Church of Orange as our family landed at LAX travel-weary, but thankful.  We have been in California for about one month and will be here through the middle of January.  We have hit the ground running:  sharing the vision of 1Hope ministries at various venues,

Sharing 1Hope at an Orange County Orphan Care Summit.

Sharing 1Hope at an Orange County Orphan Care Summit.

soaking in time with beloved friends and family,

Spending time with beloved Papa!

Spending time with beloved Papa!

sorting and sorting and more sorting as we sort through all the belongings we have had in storage for the past couple of years.

Elijah finds a long lost favorite toy!

Elijah finds a long lost favorite toy!

A few weeks into our time here, Hamilton, our fellow brother and friend from Living Hope Church in Pretoria was in California on a business trip and we had the privilege of showing him around for a day:

South African, Hamilton, receives the In N Out experience for the first time!

South African, Hamilton, receives the In N Out experience for the first time!

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California Coast!

The month before departing South Africa was also a whirlwind for us.  We moved from our rental into our new home in Pretoria, unpacked as many boxes as possible and then said good bye to our dear friends and ministry partners.

Our "moving in" ritual, Randy carrying Susan over the threshold.

Our “moving in” ritual, Randy carrying Susan over the threshold.

Fellow 1Hope family. Karlien DeWit (right) and Marda Mack

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Randy with Andre DeWit, Josh Mack and Alan Lester

Our new Pretoria home is a wonderful gift and blessing from God.  On the property is a one bedroom flat (apartment) which has so many possibilities for ministry.  But for the next year or two our dear friends and ministry partners, Andre and Karlien DeWit have moved in with their two beautiful children.  Andre is Director of Operations for 1Hope4Africa and Karlien serves as the ministry’s attorney.  Truly a gracious gift to be living in gospel community with this precious family!

We are also thankful that our side of the house is not sitting empty while we are away, but currently is being occupied by two 1Hope missionaries and a Living Hope Church family.

We cannot express how thankful we are for this new home, it is our prayer that God would use it for His purposes to bring Him glory and further His kingdom.

Our new house, a "good and perfect gift from above" (James 1:17)

Our new house, a “good and perfect gift from above” (James 1:17)

dsc_0240Muphamuzi Baby Home Virtual Baby Shower One of our main projects for us here in the States is to go through our belongings to determine what to sell/give away and what to take with us back to South Africa.  We will be loading a shipping container with what we have decided to take with us on the 1st of December.  But a portion of that container is reserved for donations for the Muphamuzi Baby Home and other parts of the ministry.  The first Sunday in November, many churches host an Orphan Care Sunday to bring an awareness of the need and call to care for these vulnerable children.  You can be a part! Click Here to find out how!  But please hurry as we need to get it all sorted and loaded soon!! As of today here is what we have collected so far:

MBH Baby Shower!!

MBH Baby Shower!!

Prayer Requests We would appreciate your prayers for us during this very busy time:

  • That we can get through all the details of packing up the shipping container with our belongings and donations. God has provided graciously for most of this shipping cost, but we still have a little more to go. Please pray for His sovereign provision in this.
  • That we would make wonderful memories as we visit with friends and family while we are here.
  • For all the other details that need to be taken care of during our visit.
  • That others would partner with us through prayer and support.

As we have loved being with beloved friends and family here, but are truly missing cherished ones in South Africa, we have been reflecting on how our hearts and home are very much in two different places.  This has the potential to be quite confusing,  but we take much joy and comfort in realizing that:

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:20

Faithful

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! Matthew 25:21

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Jannie Combrink, November, 1948-Augus,t 2014 All of Living Hope Church will miss this dear brother, but rejoice that he has made it to his eternal home!

On August 12, a faithful brother and member of Living Hope Church was called to his eternal home and is now sharing in his master’s happiness! Quiet, gentle 65 year-old Jannie was a man who though he had very little by the world’s standards, was rich in his love for the gospel.  One of our favorite stories of Jannie is how he suffered a stroke one day, and was out the next day evangelizing in the park with a mission team.  He grew weak and tired easily, so he sat on a park bench to watch and pray.  Jannie had a tremendous impact on many lives as he humbly and lovingly served those whom God put in his path. Several young men stood up at the memorial service to testify how Jannie had ministered and discipled them. He was nothing less than a father to these men.

One such young man is Ally whose life story shows our Lord as Rescuer and Redeemer from darkness and evil.   Ally is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and at age 15 was forcibly taken from his family and home to be trained to serve with rebel armies in the jungle. He spent six terrible months in the jungle and then, through the help of his family, Ally was able to escape. For his safety, he fled his home country. After several months and making his way through Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, staying in refugee camps and taking odd jobs along the way, Ally finally found himself in Pretoria, South Africa and attending our very own Living Hope Church.

Ally and Elijah

Ally and Elijah

Ally is now twenty years old and in his last year of high school.   He recalls his first Sunday at Living Hope hearing Pastor Josh preach about growing in the truth of the word of God. He says that on that same day, he told the friend who invited him to Living Hope that this was the church he has been searching for; a church that truly cares for one another and has a heart for the lost.   Ally has a dream of finishing school, pursuing a career, and one day returning to his family when there is peace in his country. In the meantime he places his hope and trust in Christ alone and depends on Him to provide. Ally’s dramatic story is a reminder of the truth scripture so clearly points out – We are all in need of a Rescuer and Redeemer:

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Back in RSA  Our dear friends and fellow ministry partners, the Mack family and Andre DeWit returned safe and sound from their U.S. visit.

The Mack Family - all together again

The Mack Family – all together again

Mission Malawi Update– We are thankful and praise God that Newton, Vanessa and baby Aya have arrived in Linlongwe, Malawi and are DSC_0113beginning a new chapter of their long anticipated life and ministry! They will be there for five months and will then need to return to (hopefully, finally) complete the paperwork for their daughter’s adoption.

Swazi Connection  Since our visit to Swaziland in June, God has provided us with the opportunity to build relationships with the founder and director of Hosea’s Heart, Mary-Kate Martin and her interns who are ministering in a home for sexually-abused girls in Swaziland.  They have come to visit us for the weekend a couple of times and we have enjoyed hosting these special ladies as they take a needed retreat from their very demanding ministry.

Vanessa and Susan with Hosea's Heart ladies

Vanessa and Susan with Hosea’s Heart ladies

Clark Family News August marks the two-year mark for our family arriving in South Africa. When we first arrived in 2012, I truly believed that our time here was temporary; that we would return to resume our lives in Orange, California. But somehow, through God’s loving, gracious, gentle leading, we have come to realize that His will for our family is right here in South Africa. The reality of this has hit home last month as our house in Orange County, California went on the market, quickly sold and all our possessions were moved into storage! (Thank you so much, Grace Church of Orange and our dear friend and faithful realtor, Mark Donaldson!!) So strange  that all this could happen to our “stuff” while we are on the other side of the world!

As roots of our “old” life are being pulled up, we are laying down roots in another land. Through God’s generous provision, the sale of our house has allowed us to purchase one here in Pretoria, which we will be moving into at the end of this month! The house has so much opportunity for ministry/hospitality and we pray that God will use it for his kingdom purposes and that it would be a blessing for all who enter.

Just as we move into our new home, in the beginning of October, we will pack up to travel back to the OC where we will be for three months in order to “take care of business” that enables a long-term move. We would so appreciate your prayers in many areas of our lives as we anticipate the next six months being very busy:

  • For our move at the end of the month to go smoothly (it is amazing how much a family of seven can accumulate in two years)
  • Preparation/packing to return to the U.S. and a safe journey
  • For all the details that need to be seen to while in the U.S. – obtaining a new visa, going through all our possession that are in storage, securing a container to ship some of our things and donations for the ministry over etc..
  • A joy-filled holiday season with family and friends. We are so excited to see many of you!
  • That many others will join our team through prayer and support

Eish!  (They say this term a lot here and it has somehow snuck in and stuck! Eish!) It all seems too big for us, but we are relieved and thankful that our God who is so much bigger is ABLE:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:20-21

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Striving Side by Side

DSC_0445Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.   Phil 1:27

July has been very busy for the Clarks, yet filled with such blessing as we have met many new friends who have given time, resources and even their lives for the sake of others and the gospel.

Swaziland Our family had the opportunity to travel 5 hours east to the tiny African country of Swaziland, which is almost completely surrounded by South Africa except for Mozambique to the east. As one of Africa’s smallest nations (roughly the size of the state of New Jersey), Swazi is ruled by decree of the king and is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchs. It is a developing country with a very small economy and many Swazis live in chronic poverty with 2/3 of the population living on less than a dollar a day. This small nation has been devastated by HIV/Aids and has the highest rate of infection in the world as well as one of the lowest life expectancies (50 years old).

We were in Manzini and it took us only 30 minutes to drive half way across the country.

We were in Manzini and it took us only 30 minutes to drive half way across the country.

1511693_528197227299231_1833759717_nMy dear sister and her husband (Jocelyn and Mark) lead a team of 15 (Hope for Swazi) from their church, Hope Chapel. The team’s purpose was to bring the encouragement and the hope that can only be found in our Lord Jesus Christ to the lost and hurting of this tiny African nation. We had the privilege of joining the team for a few days and were blessed by the heroes we met  who have given their lives to obey Christ’s call to care for the least of these and advance His kingdom.

logo-squareMary-Kate Martin is the founder and director of Hosea’s Heart, whose mission is to “empower the girls of Swaziland to achieve freedom from sexual abuse and hope for a better future by serving their physical, emotional and spiritual needs through a holistic, restorative process.” Mary-Kate first came to Swazi in 2008 on a short-term mission trip through Adventures in Mission. She has been back every year since and has finally given her life to serve the young hurting girls of Swazi and moved there indefinitely. She has opened a home, a place of refuge and safety for these girls and we had the privilege of visiting with Mary-Kate and her beloved girls!DSC_0292

Each girl received a Bible in their first language of siSwati.

Each girl received a Bible in their first language of siSwati.

Mary-Kate has written a book that she prays will one day be published. The book focuses on Mary-Kate’s relentless love and pursuit for Tenele, a precious young lady who was lost in a lifestyle of deep darkness filled with abuse, neglect, rape and prostitution. As Mary-Kate met many girls like Tenele, she became determined (although discouraged by many) to claim this neglected harvest for the Lord. Mary-Kate met Tenele on her first visit to Swazi in 2008, and because of Mary-Kate’s fierce love and determination, Tenele and her two beautiful children currently live in Hope for Life, the home that was opened in 2013 for sexually abused young girls.

Mary-Kate and Tenele

Mary-Kate and Tenele

I had the wonderful privilege of spending time with Tenele who was a bit shy with a rough exterior. But after breaking through it, I found a loving and lovable soul who desires a better life for her and her children. She asked that I would pray for her and her children. She dreams of finishing school and one day helping others because as she said to me “God has spared my life”. She also asked that I would pray that she would, “follow Jesus always”.   Please read more and pray for Mary-Kate, Tenele and all the young ladies at Mary-Kate’s blog: Not Forgotten.DSC_0268

Following the Hope for Swazi van in rural Swazi as we make our way to Peggy's orphanage.

Following the Hope for Swazi van in rural Swazi as we make our way to Peggy’s orphanage.

Father to the Fatherless…is God is His holy dwelling.  Ps. 68:5

 We also spent a day with Mama Peggy who, since 2006, has been opening her heart and home to the many orphans of Swazi. To find Peggy’s home we had to make our way slowly along dusty rugged roads to a very rural part of Swazi. The home had no electricity, and the water they used was what they could fetch with buckets from a muddy creek nearby. Eighteen children ages 1 to 21 live in the home that was quite worn out and in much disrepair. From all outward appearances, Peggy and her children have virtually nothing, but Peggy’s faith in the Living God and His provision for her and her children was so steadfast and real, that indeed, they have everything.   Her desire is to build a proper orphanage on this land, but still needs to give the “chief” of the land a cow. Once this transaction is completed, she told me she will then be able to have rights to the land that will allow her to begin building. She will call the orphanage “Setifeziwe” Orphanage and Charity Foundation which means “God’s promises are fulfilled”, because, as she told me, “It was His promise that I will have an orphanage”.DSC_0369 DSC_0393   DSC_0389DSC_037710517453_10152581008350242_13190005179551563_nMusa Ndzinisa is a faithful servant-hearted Swazi who loves the Lord Jesus and his country.  His dream is to start a non-profit, “Zero to Hero” where people (especially men) are empowered through education and the hope found in Christ to raise awareness and positively impact the serious issues facing his country.  He lead the team, driving daily to expose them to various ministries.

Our family also had the privilege of getting to know the MacLellan family who are missionaries in Swazi. They are originally from Mississippi and moved to Swazi at the beginning of this year so that Jim MacLellan may teach at Zion Bible College which trains Swazi pastors and church leaders who are often strong in African worship, but weak in Biblical knowledge.  This very dear and hospitable family graciously allowed us to stay in their guest flat while in Swazi.  They have eight children, three of whom became fast friends with ours!

MK's (Missionary Kids) have all the Fun!

MK’s (Missionary Kids) have all the Fun!

After a week in Swaziland, the Hope for Swazi team travelled to Pretoria for the last leg of their trip to spend time with babies at the Muphamuzi Baby Home and with our Living Hope Church family! We loved being with this team. It was obvious their hearts broke over the things that break His. Their passion and love overflowed.

Hope For Swazi team in our front yard!  It was a precious week with them and lives were transformed!

Hope For Swazi team in our front yard! It was a precious week with them and lives were transformed!

 

Time with Uncle Mark and Auntie Josie

Time with Uncle Mark and Auntie Josie

Friends from other sides of the world come together!  The beauty of the Body of Christ!

Friends from other sides of the world come together! The beauty of the Body of Christ!

Austin Family Visit  Also this month, we had a precious visit from dear friends. The Austin family stopped in a few days early on their way to a short-term mission trip also in Swaziland. We loved spending time with them as they joined in our lives. The fellowship together was short, but very sweet!

Austin family at the Muphamuzi Baby Home

Austin family at the Muphamuzi Baby Home

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Hiking with zebra and antelopes!

Reflecting on this past month, I am struck once again by the beauty of the Body of Christ. The cherished bonds that are instantly formed when you meet a fellow believer who, just a second ago, was a complete stranger, but is now a dear family member. What a gift it is (as the verse at the top of this post says) to, with one spirit and one mind, “strive side by side for the faith of the gospel”.

Neither are your ways, My ways

Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in South Africa, was formally established in 1926 to protect wildlife against uncontrolled hunting. It covers 20,000 sq km (7,722 sq mi, the size of the country of Wales) and is synomonus to the word “safari”. This month we had the opportunity to spend some time in this game reserve “hunting”(with binoculars only) for African animals roaming free in their natural habitat. We were able to spot four of the Big 5. No leopards.   Here is a sampling of our sightings:DSC_0091DSC_0072DSC_0035DSC_0080DSC_0046

 

This orphaned baby hyena on the side of the road was the kid's favorite sighting.  They named it (Jaquelina) and kept asking to take it home…Uh…..No!

This orphaned baby hyena on the side of the road was the kid’s favorite sighting. They named it (Jaquelina) and kept asking to take it home…Uh…..No!

DSC_0049From this last photo, it may look like we have gained a couple of children, but actually our beloved friends and fellow 1Hope team members, the Macks and Andre, have been in the U.S. visiting family and casting vision for the work that God is doing through 1Hope and Living Hope Church. Due to visa restrictions, two of their precious kiddos stayed behind and we have had the privilege of being their family this past month!

Part of the Mack family and Andre at an Angel game!

Part of the Mack family and Andre at an Angel game!

 

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Elijah and Lincoln Mack are best buddies 🙂

Mission Malawi Back in January of this year we shared that Newton and his family were commissioned by Living Hope Church to plant a church in their home country of Malawi. Their hope and prayer was to make the big move in February. Well… all we need to do is walk this life a bit to discover that our ways are not God’s ways:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”  Isaiah 55: 8-9

Newton and Vanessa are still here and we have had the privilege of sharing in their precious fellowship just a little longer. Right when it seemed that their daughter’s adoption would be finalized, a new form to complete the process was added. They quickly filed this form and were told it would take only three weeks to process. This was in early March. After their fourth visit to the National Office of Social Development without any success, Vanessa, understandably, was quite frustrated. However, after turning her heart and will over to the Lord, she is now at peace and determined to wait patiently on the Lord trusting that He is at work.

In the meantime, Newton has been using his time for kingdom advancement by preaching and teaching at several churches and conferences,  all the while trusting in God’s sovereignty over all things, even overworked government offices that are not as efficient as one would like them to be.   Also, he has been able to step into Living Hope Church leadership while the Macks have been away which has been a surprise gift and blessing for us!  Their attitude reflects that of their precious Savior: “Not my will, but yours be done” Please continue to pray for them as they wait and trust God for His perfect timing and will for their lives.DSC_0113

They have a new and revised plan. They have applied in faith for permission to travel with baby Aya and when the Mack’s return in August.  They will travel to Malawi for five months regardless of the status of the adoption to establish their home and explore church planting options.

Newton told us, “God has been teaching us patience and I believe we will need this patience as we church plant in Malawi. We do not expect things to be easy in Malawi”

Precious time with Newton, Vanessa and Baby (who, I guess, is not so much a baby anymore) Aya!

Precious time with Newton, Vanessa and Baby (who, I guess, is not so much a baby anymore) Aya!

 

Specific Prayer requests for the dear Chilingulo family:

  • Wisdom and God’s will for them as they pursue different options for church planting in Malawi. They will be exploring several options during their five month stay and as Newton said, they expect the road to be difficult.
  • Their adjustment and being able to truly establish Malawi as their home. They have both been away from the country for about twenty years and in most ways, it is very much like a foreign land.
  •  The form that they are waiting on to complete Aya’s adoption will come through quickly in order that they may proceed with adoption finalization.
  • Good health for all, especially Vanessa as her health continues to be a struggle.
  •  Evangelistic opportunities to build relationships and share the transforming power of the gospel.

 

 

Daily Life

 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  1Cor 10:31

As winter approaches here in Pretoria, the days grows shorter and there is a definite chill in the air. Our American minds start playing tricks on us and we begin anticipating the joyous season of our beloved holidays approaching…pumpkin pie, stuffed turkeys, Christmas decorations, music, shopping…but, oh wait, it’s May!  Ahhh, yes, we are in Africa!

Outside of the flip flop of the seasons, daily life here in South Africa for myself (Susan) does not look much different than what it would look like in the U.S.  Most of my days are filled with the ordinary tasks of managing our home and homeschooling the kids.

Home school

Home school

Play Time

Play Time

As I go through my days teaching lessons, correcting children, grading papers, hanging laundry, correcting children, washing dishes, making meals and correcting children, (you get the picture), I need to remind myself that that these seemingly ordinary daily tasks can be done “all to the glory of God”.  And that the Christian walk, even living as “missionaries” on the other side of the globe, is about being faithful in the small tasks of life.

Fridays are half-day home school days as we head over to Sunnyside Primary in the afternoon for Awana.

Mission team from Arkansas helping us out with AWANA

Mission team from Arkansas helping us out with AWANA

Randy’s days, on the other hand, look quite different than what they did in the U.S.   Although he is no longer tied to full-time employment, his schedule, none the less, is quite full and some of his tasks include weekly project work days at the Muphamuzi Baby Home, one-on one discipleship meetings, leading a Gospel Community (AKA small group), church leadership training meetings, and volunteering at a primary school (to name a few.)

Randy's Gospel Community from Salvakop (a refugee community in the inner-city)

Randy’s Gospel Community from Salvakop (a refugee community in the inner-city)

Randy with Ali, a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who he helps disciple.

Randy with Ali, a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whom he helps disciple.

We are so thankful to be part of a church family that takes serious the charge that, as Christians, we are entrusted with the truth of the gospel message of eternal life. The people of Living Hope Church truly have a desire to show this message as beautiful to the world. As a result, our favorite day of the week is Sunday when Randy can be found either on the Living Hope Church worship team:DSC_0620

or helping set up sound equipment:DSC_0012or driving to bring people who need rides to church.DSC_0067
Our church family also has a wonderful younger community:

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.and recently celebrated the baptism of four young ladies

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Recent Living Hope baptism– Always a joy to witness!

Bible Church of Little Rock 1Hope4Africa is very blessed to host short term mission teams a few times during the year.  This month we have been encouraged to have a team from The Bible Church of Little Rock, Arkansas come alongside Living Hope church and the 1Hope ministries. It was a sweet precious time. (They really do say “y’all” all the time!) Read more about their trip on their Arkansas to Africa FB page:

Mission Team from Arkansas came to serve with 1Hope this month

Thank you BCLR for sending us some of your finest! We pray that your time was fruitful and blessed!

Muphamuzi Baby Home Update The baby home is full and busy.  Just today (Memorial Day), one little one was placed in his forever family and another teeny tiny one (only 5 lbs at 2 months) was welcomed.

MBH is so and busy!  We are so thankful to be a part of this ministry!

Babies!! We are so thankful to be a part of this ministry!

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Newest Little One arrived today. Please pray for her!

DSC_0216Prayer Request  It is becoming more and more evident that the Clarks moving to South Africa was not just a one year or even two year assignment…but as we desire to obey the call to do “all to the glory of God”, we believe that for now, remaining in South Africa  will bring more Glory to His name than if we were to return to the U.S.  Therefore, we are making plans for a more permanent stay. Please pray for us as we plan to travel to  the U.S. in fall (where the cold air really does signify the coming of the holiday season) in order to take care of all the things we left behind when we believed we would be returning after a year.  There are many details that will need our attention and without knowing that God is with us and for us, it would all be quite overwhelming.

Now…HERE is something that we wouldn’t experience back in Orange County, California:

Zebras stopping to take a drink in the fountain at a park.

Zebras stopping to take a drink in the fountain at a park.

On Mother's Day.  One blessed Mama!

On Mother’s Day. One blessed Mama!