Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Day at the Park

One of the things that the Director of the Mango Tree Centre tries to do when they have outreach teams come by is to take some of the disabled people for outings in the local area.  They take them to the beach or for a drive along the coast or to a cafe for a meal out or out to a park for a picnic.  They do this with the teams because often, they need the extra hands to help with all the wheelchairs and lifting and pushing and feeding.  And they normally have to bring 2 vans - just in case one of the disabled people has a health issue, they can then get them back to the Centre or home without having to take everyone back.  On this trip, J and I got to tag along and help out as we took three people t the park for a picnic.

That might sound so basic and simple to us but that is because we often take such things for granted.  We can hop in a car or on our bikes or a bus or train or simply walk and pretty much go anywhere we want, any time we want.  But not so for them.  First, none of the families have cars or vehicles - they just simply cannot afford it.  Second they don't have anyone who could drive them.  And third, it often takes so much work to get one of the disabled people ready for an outing that the families simply have a hard time doing it.  The 3 that we took out that day were actually relatively easy to get ready - they are all able to sit in a wheelchair.  But many of the others are bed-bound, so they would need a 'mobile bed' or they don't go at all.  Can you imagine being in bed your whole life?  So for most of them, they rarely go out of their house!

So these outings are a special treat for them - just to get out of the house and experience something different.  And you could see it on their faces as we sat at the park with them - they were looking around, gazing at the kids playing on the playground, watching the people walking by, hearing the waves on the nearby beach and the cars and the birds and the conversations around them - things that we take for granted!  Makes me really think - maybe I should be more grateful for the simpler things in life!

Here are a few photos of the day at the park - click on the photos to enlarge.


[caption id="attachment_1876" align="aligncenter" width="450"] We had a great time at the park with the whole gang.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1879" align="aligncenter" width="449"] One of the staff member brought his brand new guitar and sang a few worship songs - in Tongan![/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1877" align="aligncenter" width="444"] One of the special treats is to have a special meal with them. Often they are malnourished and so any extra food is a blessing for them!  J also got to help feed this man.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1878" align="aligncenter" width="449"] Often, it's just the little things that mean so much. Here we just go for a stroll around the park.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1880" align="aligncenter" width="446"] J said this was one of his favorite days - just to see the people so happy![/caption]

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Before and After...

One of the main reasons for this outreach to Tonga was to build a small house (more like a shed from our western perspective) for a family who has a blind child.  The Mango Tree Centre for Disabled People ministers to about 80 families who have severely disabled family members.  And this is one of those families.  Not only do they have a blind daughter, but this family lives in a tiny, run-down 'house' that is literally just a few boards and pieces of wood nailed together (see photos at bottom of post/article).  And there is no floor - the 'house' sits directly on dirt and is situated next to a small community rubbish dump/tip!  When it rains (and boy does it really rain in Tonga!) the house gets flooded and literally sits in 20-30 cm (8-10 inches) of water constantly.  Imagine what that dirt floor would be like with 20 cm of water sitting on it for days!  So you can see the need for this family to have a house that is out of the flood-waters and can stay dry!

So that is what part of the team did during the two weeks they were there - build a small, simple one room house that is on a 60 cm (24 inch) high concrete foundation that will definitely provide a dry home for this family.  Our church, Calvary Wellington and another church in northern NZ, Calvary Whangarei provided the funds for the building materials and the building team (all from CC Whangarei) devoted many loving hours into this house. During the days of building, we all had lots of opportunities to share the truth and love of Jesus with this family (we think they are Catholic or come from a Catholic background).  When the guys were painting the new house, I got a chance to share the gospel with the father.  I told him I love to see new houses being painted (his was painted white) because it reminds me of what Jesus does for us.

I told him - 'The new house with the new white paint job is clean - there are no dirt, stains or markings on the brand new paint.  It's super white and clean!'  Then I pointed to his old house and said - 'that house has lots of stains and dirt on it, doesn't it?  Can you see the difference?  That is what Jesus does with our sins (which are like dirty stains)!  The Bible says Jesus cleanses us white as snow, like your new house!  So every time you look at the new, clean, white walls of your new house, remember that Jesus died on the Cross to bring us forgiveness from our sins (the stains and dirt) and gives us a brand new life - clean and white!'  He was silent - I don't know if he could really understand that or accept that, but I know a seed has been planted.

And to top it all off, on our last day there, the family cooked a wonderful meal for us all as we celebrated not their new house, but their new HOME!

Here are a few photos so you can get an idea of what the old and new house is like...

[caption id="attachment_1849" align="aligncenter" width="371"] This is what they live next to - a rubbish dump / tip[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1852" align="aligncenter" width="369"] Old house - just a few boards and pieces of wood and tin nailed together.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1855" align="aligncenter" width="368"] This is their kitchen - they cook over an old tire and some wire mesh[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1857" align="aligncenter" width="383"] New house - dry and solid![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1858" align="aligncenter" width="400"] New paint job - white as snow![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1863" align="aligncenter" width="394"] Interior of the new house - 27 sq.m. (290 sq. ft.). It will be divided into 4 'rooms' with curtains to house 6-8 people.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1860" align="aligncenter" width="409"] Proud owners of a new home - father and daughter[/caption]


Friday, 9 November 2012

Servant's Heart

Well, we've been back for a week and a half now from Tonga and are getting settled back into life in New Zealand.  But there are so many memories and experiences that are engrained in our minds and hearts.  Our main purpose for the trip was to build the house for the family with the blind daughter and also to participate in the home visits and pastoral care of the disabled.  We stayed at the Mango Tree Centre for Disabled People which ministers to 80 families with disabled family members who live in the community around the Centre

Over the next couple of weeks, I will share some of the experiences so that you can get a taste of what life was like in Tonga for us during the week-long outreach.  In this post, I will start with what J experienced.  Actually I will let you just read what he wrote about the time in Tonga and what God was showing him.

While I was in Tonga I experienced the LORD working through me and the others around me, helping me and encouraging through the whole trip.  I felt like I had a real purpose, to serve the LORD.  The only things I gained while I was in Tonga were wisdom, friendship, and faithfulness.  I met some great people who showed love and affection to me.  The girl and her family who we built the house for were a great family, the girl we built the house for was blind, (but you wouldn’t know it) she was at a real disadvantage because of all the rocks and junk where she lived.  So when we built the house for her family, we built a ramp so that she could get into the house without hurting herself.  One of the most rewarding things while we were there was the looks on the family’s faces and their joy when we finished the house.  All in all I think the best thing while we were there was the feeling of serving.  - J -

A young man learning servanthood. :-)  He helped do a little painting on the new house and digging the pit for the sandbox and building the shelves.  And he went with us on all the home visits - he bought little balls and toys for the kids and helped to keep them entertained while the adults visited with the parents and the disabled family members.  Almost every home that we visited had kids so he was pretty busy!  He also played a lot with the director's 5-year-old son - who was only lonely because he is the only kid at the Centre for Disabled People.  Overall, it was a an experience he will never forget!