During the first week, all four teams worked and learned together. They did drama classes and dance rehearsals as one team. One team, Ikageng, is the group that stays on the campground for the year and facilitates for groups coming in. Change Agents is a team that does drama and dance in Zulu. They work in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province, which is where almost everyone is of the Zulu culture and speaks Zulu. iThemba, Zulu for Hope, is the team that goes to Germany. They consist of 3 smaller teams that will travel separately once they are in the country. Finally, the team that Khanyisa is training is called Buyela, which means Return. This team will travel around the whole country of South Africa and possibly other southern countries. Each of these teams has a different program that they present and a different audience to capture.


Mel and I didn’t have a rehearsal for one of the dance sessions, but a dance workshop with three of the teams. We based it on the class that Ballet Magnificat! did with us on the Expression weekend. We first talked about the fruits of the spirit. We had found Bible stories that represented each fruit and split the kids into 9 groups. Each group had to dance their story without rehearsing. Mel chose a different song for each group and they were so heartfelt.

For dance and drama rehearsals, the teams have separated and Buyela has been working on our own dances for the production. We are using all original music except for a Michael Jackson song or two. Mel has been so excited about the one song that she’s been working on it since before we left Tallahassee. The team learned the first part of it today. The main character in the story is trying to make a life choice; does he give in to peer pressure to party and be loose like his friends (and his father), taking the risk of contracting AIDS, OR does he do what his heart says and be pure, honoring the memory of his mother who died of AIDS. The song works so perfectly with the confusion and tension that this character, Mpho, is dealing with. The lyrics say “Everyone’s taking control of me/feels like the world’s got a hold on me/ I’m so confused will you show to me/you’ll be there for me.” The team learns so quickly! It still amazes me how they want to rehearse the dance “one more time” before going to supper. The last section they learned today places Mpho center stage with the other 11 people in a semi-circle around him. The guy playing Mpho has such intensity in his face. His eyes cry out with MJ’s voice for someone to tell him the right choice, someone to be there for him. Our team manager, Blessing, Michael Mel and I cried when we saw the dance. And this is only the first half! The team members don’t even know what the production is about at this point and THEY were crying! This play will be so powerful. Please pray with us that the LORD will go before us and prepare our hearts and bodies for the emotional strain we will endure which comes naturally with a topic so intimate as the love of a father.

Michael was able to do some research with the group, asking about their experience with HIV/AIDS. He asked questions like -How would you react if someone close to you told you said they had AIDS? -Have you ever known anyone who suffered with AIDS? -What do people expect when they go to a bar or to a party? We must know the way young people think and speak if we Americans are going to direct a play about teenagers in South Africa.

We just gave our team the script tonight. They read through about half of it together and we will read the rest tomorrow night.. They all said the script sounds awesome and they can’t wait to get started. Michael is busy writing more scenes, cutting the longer scenes and placing the songs within the dialogue. Now that we have a solid idea of who will play each character, I am getting more excited and inspired. Our group is unbelievably talented and eager to get started. I pray for humble spirits and for unselfishness as the weeks go on. This production is technically a musical, with a few live songs, loads of dancing and passionate acting.
 
We are training a team named Buyela, a Zulu word meaning Return. The names of all the YfC teams use Zulu words because Zulu is one of the most common languages in South Africa.

There are so many different contexts in which to consider Buyela. Let’s start first with the country of South Africa. As you probably know, there is a pandemic of AIDS killing the young people of this country. Where does this problem start? We believe it starts with the family. There is a vicious cycle of fatherless children who grow up and become fathers who leave, or women who marry men who will leave. If we can change the HEARTS of men to return to their sons and daughters, their family, the cycle will begin to disintegrate.

We’ve been told that YfC South Africa has lately been the black sheep of the entire YfC organization. They received funding from the SA government who began to decide what YfC participated in. YfC SA even changed their mission statement, removing the name of God completely. Their mission was to equip young people with information about AIDS and do testing. This year, YfC will return to their roots. They are putting their focus back on God and we believe that this production is part of a mandate from the LORD to return to Him.

Our goal is to see families restored and united. We want to see parent-child and child-parent relationships revived as in MalachI 4:6 “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” We desire a return to family as God intended.

YfC SA as a whole has returned to at commitment to four key points, and these are the foundation of team training.
-Godliness in Lifestyle
-Devotion to God’s Word and Prayer
-Passion for Sharing the Love of Christ
-Commitment to Social Involvement
 
After Youth Week the six of us were almost alone on the campground. Just a few of the YfC staff have been around this week. Thursday (tomorrow) starts our leadership training and we are so glad to finally have a set schedule! The team members who will be trained are arriving Sunday night to begin classes on Monday.



The six of us were moved from our rooms yesterday because the staff was worried about Mel. She’s gotten over 30 bug bites in just  a week, some from mosquitoes, spiders and probably some ants. The four grown-ups packed up our two rooms and moved to two slightly larger rooms, which will give Alana and Isabel a lot more space to place inside. The rooms are on the other side of the same house we‘ve been staying in.

Before we thought we were moving, we planned on being in this same room for another full week. We all thought it would be best if we cleaned out our rooms and sprayed some bug spray to be safe. The guys even mopped the floors!
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We had all of our mattresses and pillows and comforters and rugs outside so that our rooms could get squeaky clean.
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Sunday night, a few more of the team leaders arrived! They are the leaders who will go with the international iThemba teams to Germany and Spain. This is our dining hall where we have all our meals together.
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The windows through which the monkeys watch with jealousy as we eat our food. Not joking. I didn’t have my camera for that time but there will be some monkey pictures soon.
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Another house on the camp ground. It’s an interesting round building with a thatch roof.
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Another view of the house. It's two separates places, with a door for the upstairs and a door for the down stairs. Some of the windows on the downstairs are ground-level,and snakes could get in if you leave the windows open. No thank you!
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Three bungalows. These are the only dormitories shaped like this on the grounds. They sleep four to six people each.
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A closer look at the bungalows.
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The tabernacle is where all the services were held during Youth Week. It was formerly known as the Afrodome. Not sure why.
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And these are The Stairs. The lovely, lovely stairs. 37 steps - I counted. We will become good friends with these stairs in the next couple of months. Our rooms are up the stairs and classes will be held in some of the multi-purpose rooms downstairs and our meals will probably be served in the cafeteria down here as well. At least my legs will be toned!
 
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January 2nd, a week after arriving in Cape Town, we found ourselves at the airport again (newly renovated, by the way, to accommodate for the FIFA World Cup!). This time, we were heading to Johannesburg for Youth Week and Team Training. The band who would be doing worship at the youth camp was taking the same flight as us. We got to meet all of them and we FINALLY met Rolf, YfC SA National Director, his wife Lizzie and their kids, Kyle, Tenille and Mkhail. The two and a half hour flight on Mango airline was over quickly enough, and Vivian from the Youth for Christ Training Centre was there to pick everyone up. We filled two vans, about thirty people. Michael and Stan mostly talked with Emilio on the way to the YfC camp. He is the Cape Town director of YfC with his wife Claudine. They invited us to their home for supper the first day we met them! It won’t be until March when training is over.

Youth Week started on January 3rd, but almost 600 kids were already there the night before! Our group from Cape Town got there in time for dinner and the dining rooms were packed with people. This camp is not only for South Africans, but kids from all over southern Africa. There were people from Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and even from Germany and Netherlands. In total, there were about 900 campers. There was another group from America of 25 adults who were counselors for the week. Michael helped a couple of them with their Acting and Film class, and the kids had a blast. They did hilarious improv and wrote their own movies to be filmed the next day in class. Michael didn’t make it to the second class, however. He got a nasty stomach ache with cramping and a fever, and ended up going to the doctor. The verdict was that the change from succulent steak braais every night to mass produced camp food caused a war in his intestines. He got three prescription medications to take for about a week. The doctor visit and prescriptions cost 570 Rand, which converts to just over $75 U.S. Not a bad deal. And he felt better in three days. Michael said he was glad it was him and not me feeling so sick. How sweet!
Each night of camp we all attended a worship service. The band we flew up with led the songs and each night there was a different speaker. An American pastor named Rob Mallan was the main guest but Rolf spoke one night as well.

The theme of this year’s Youth Week was The Ultimate Goal, so the sermons encouraged the students to set an ultimate goal and making steps to achieving it. One of the main topics for the speakers was absent or inattentive parents. They talked about forgiving your parents and many of the kids made that their Ultimate Goal. On the last night of camp, students were allowed to go on stage and give testimonies to the congregation. Many kids had either forgiven their dad for leaving them or made a goal to contact their father. It was heartwarming to see kids making decisions that will keep them from holding grudges that will only hurt themselves, especially if they don’t even know the person they are angry with.

During the day, all the kids were involved in sports teams. They played soccer, netball and football among other games. The teams were decided by what region of the country you came from; inlands, coastals, cities and outside SA. Each group, made up of hundreds of kids, came up with a name, wrote a war cry and created a dance to perform in front of everyone else.
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Coastal Chaos - coastals
The names and cheers and war cries were judged and given points going toward a total at the end of the week.
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Exodus for Christ - inlands
All were judged on participation, excitement and creativity.
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Urban Giants - cities
Each team painted a banner with their name.
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Southern Salad - southern Africa
I was told by a friend who visited SA for a soccer camp that the kids here are so excited to participate in sports and group activities. This performance from all the teams definitely proved that for me. Everyone shouted their loudest and danced their hardest. It was so much fun to watch. By the end of Youth Week, Urban Giants had the most points.

This week wasn’t all about sports and competitions. The evening services focused on young people and their relationship with their fathers. YfC SA as an organization is returning it’s focus to family. We believe that the Lord can stop the tragic cycle of fatherless families. The leaders interviewed several of the Youth Weekers asking about their relationships with their fathers, and most of them had only negative things to say. I believe that forgiving their fathers, even if they don’t know him, will free them from anger and allow them to love more. The services led to many of the students either making a choice to work on forgiving their father, or forgiving altogether. There were about 50 young people who stood on the stage the last night of Youth Week and told the crowd that they decided to forgive their fathers. It was heartwarming to know that these people were really going home changed, and their lives will be different this year.