People often say that Amor is about building houses. And that is true. But we believe it is about even more than that - it is about building relationships.
Last month, members of our team traveled to South Africa for our yearly South Africa Mission Trip. They were each asked to write about different topics pertaining to their experience there, but in the end they all had a similar theme - it was about relationships.
Here are excerpts from three of our team members as they share about the relationships that were built and maintained while they were in South Africa.
Scott Congdon – Founder and CEO
One of the best parts of my trip to South Africa was spending some time with one of the pastors on our Ministry Planning Board – Pastor Wouter. I asked what it means to him to have Amor come and work alongside him in Delmas. This is what he said…
“It’s a huge privilege to have you guys here in South Africa working together with us. I think, to see white faces in a black township working together with us in South Africa, it really has set an example to people in other communities of what they should do and how they should interact with people around them so that they can reach out to the poorest people.
“It's so nice to see people behind me, over fifty people who are working, people from South Africa coming to join us. It's because they've got an opportunity. You guys gave us the opportunity to come and work here, to be here to build these houses so they can participate in this. This is really impacting to not only this community in Delmas, but also a few other communities in South Africa as well.
“What we appreciate about Amor is how you work closely with the churches and the pastors. This way we can reach out to some of the congregation members, see them, and see where their needs are. They stay in shacks, in poor conditions. It is bitterly cold in the winter; it’s utterly hot in the summer.
“To have a house built like this, in just a week…it’s just amazing. Thank you for being here! Thank you that you are willing to spend your time, your energy, your effort here and your money here. We appreciate that. We want to invite you back. We will always make room for Amor and have you here. And we would also like to see how it grows and how our relationship, the pastors in Delmas, the churches in Delmas, and Amor, and the people around us – how we can grow our relationship further and further. And so we can see how many more people can we serve.
“The things that we do, hopefully, other cities, other towns will see what we are doing and will duplicate that a well. So, thank you for setting an example, a small example with us for other people to reconcile and bless the poorest of the poor in South Africa as well.”
From LaDonna Barron – Mission Experience Manager
Connection, is the word that describes my second trip to South Africa. Building on relationships, old and new. I connected with two groups I served with in Mexico. I also connect with our new "group" of one, Sarah. We roomed together. It was a great sharing our adventures from the day with each other.
We stayed once again at Ebenezer Farm, which has new managers. Daniel, Gloria and baby Daniel are so lovely and very gracious. Always checking to see if our needs were being met, which they were. I also had time to reconnect with the kitchen staff and build on relationships. Dina and I practiced more Spanish words, which she began learning last year. Christina once again cooked up amazing dishes for us. I found out that Christina used to come to the Farm with her mom when she was little; it was her mom that taught her to cook.
In the community of Botleng, I connected again with the daycare which hosted two weeks of children's outreach last year. Rosie, one of the teachers shared that the children in the neighborhood would walk by and ask when we were coming back. This excitement grew this year's outreach to 300 even faster. It was great to see the murals we painted all decorated with children's names and birth dates.
A very special reconnection was with Pastor Noma. She added tiles to make this amazing geometric pattern on the front of her home that was built last year. She uses half of her home for church meetings throughout the week. You can feel the richness of hospitality. I spent a lot of time with Pastor Noma this year, learning more of her story and experiencing her loving heart.
The connection that impacted me most was seeing how God uses this Amor trip to bring together two rich cultures that are also so diverse. After years of separation this trip offers a way for black and white South Africans to serve alongside each other. Where black and white alike are standing walls, mixing plaster side by side, holding ladders for each other. White South Africans who would never enter a township, now coming back day after day to be part of a home going up. Black South Africans opening up their homes to strangers, who now seem like old friends. Amor has given the people of the small farming community an excuse to connect with one another, to learn, work alongside and grow with each other. We even had visitors from other communities traveling to take part in this opportunity to make a difference
Connections are powerful and life changing. And it is beautiful to see them happening through each Amor trip to South Africa.
Steve Horrex – International Project Development
In all of our locations, our mission trips would not happen without the work of our vendors and our favorable relationships with them. That is especially true in South Africa, as we currently do not have any staff there year-round. We have to get our logistics figured out during pre-trips visits months before the trip and days before our participants arrive. Thankfully the relationships with our vendors help make that happen. Here are just a few examples of the ways our vendors have helped us in South Africa.
World Focus 1596: Joe van der Merwe and his company World Focus stepped up and helped us buy the majority of our material ahead of time when it was on sale months before the mission trip. He also helped find licensed electricians that volunteered their time to help us wire all three of the homes we were building. And when we needed volunteer labor to help pour the foundations he help recruit church members and even contacted a local ABSA Bank manager, Johan van der Merwe and convinced him to bring his staff over on a Saturday afternoon to help pour a foundation. Ever since we first met Joe he has made himself and his company available to help further our ministry and helped to smooth over or remove completely the challenges along the way as we learn the most effective way to serve in South Africa. What a blessing it was to meet so many wonderful people recruited by Joe and his local church as they serve together in their community of Botleng
Future House: Claudio Rossi, CEO, our wall panel material vender for the past 4 years, came to visit our worksite for the first time, and was so moved he started offering more discounts for his material along with providing technical house drawing for our SA House building manual.
Kruger Bus Company: Dawie Kruger CEO, Kruger Bus Company who we hired to transport our groups from the airport and back and also to the worksite each day, decided to come to our worksites when I had a question of a change to our original contract. The change was that one of our groups from Scotland missed their connection in London and came in a day later than planned. At a moment’s notice the following day Dawie and company worked out way to pick the group up when they arrived. Once he had the chance to see how we were serving in the community, he knew he had to also help and right there he say there will be no extra charges because he wants Kruger Bus Company to be part of what we are doing serving those in need in Botlang.
Maarchitect: Franco Airoldi, ever since meeting him in 2009 he and his company have donated their services to do our architectural house drawings, and to be available as our firm in South Africa representing us when applying for building permits. On this occasion Franco and his assistant Sid, were able to come to our work sites for the first time and see the work up close. They were so moved and proud of their involvement in our program that they continued to show their supporting to the ministry and volunteered to help us in some of the design aspects of our Cienega project in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Etana Business Insurance: Zuriel Naiker, the corporate Manager of Etana Insurance Company based in Johannesburg, found out from one of his employees, Shelly-AnnWhittaker, who was listening to Scott share on RainbowFM (a Christian radio station in Johannesburg), about how Amor was serving those in need in Delmas. Shelly-Ann was so excited about what was going on she contacted us through Rainbow FM and her company, Etana Insurance Company, donated the funds for the electrical supplies for the last two homes along with 6 ladders to help in the build. But that wasn’t enough, Zariel also volunteered eight of his staff and himself to come and help build for the day on Mandela Day (the celebration of Nelson Mandela's birthday). They also wanted to provide lunch for everyone on the all three work sites and ended up feeding a lot of the neighbors as well. When the day was done Zuriel was very excited of what was being done and wanted to be involved in future projects. He offered to share about Amor and the needs we were addressing in Delmas, to all his clients and give them, along with Etana, the opportunity to participate in the build next year. The plan is to pursue both corporate sponsorship and also to be involved in the actual build.
RainbowFM Christian Radio Station: Humphrey Birkenstock, CEO of Rainbow FM 90.7, has been a partner with Amor in South Africa from the very beginning. This year was no exception when Humphrey arrived at our Delmas/Botleng worksites for the day. Humphrey had Scott on the radio several times during our recent trip to South Africa sharing about the ministry and how we were serving in Delmas. From that opportunity to share on the radio we received the contact with Etana Insurance Company, which brought in great support both immediately and for the future. Humphrey also made time from his schedule to come out to the work sites in Delmas/Botleng to personally encourage our local pastors and report on what was being done
These three reports remind us of the good what that is being done by the Pastors with whom we work alongside, the business and community leaders in the areas, and the groups who commit to serving in this location year after year.
For more information on our South Africa mission trips visit www.amor.org.