Category: South Africa

An Update from South Africa

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family across the world! The first week of December we held our third Christmas program here in the Garden Route. Three weeks before the program, with much excitement on our part, we started designing our invitations and practicing our songs nightly. Within the first day of sending out the invitations we received around six positive replies—then 10, then 20, then 30. Before we knew it, we had 100 people wanting to attend the program!
Given the Covid-19 restrictions and a crowd that size, our cafe/fellowship hall was not nearly large enough. The Christmas program would need to be an outdoor event. The only problem was that every weather forecast showed rain at the time the event was to start. But a weather forecast was not going to hold us back—we prayed and prayed.

On the day of the program everyone was readily lending a hand wherever they could. Six-year-old Emily Macfarlane carried plastic chairs from one end of the garden to the other, placing each one in direct sunlight to dry after some of the sisters had washed them. Sisters Sherry, Disney and Fay (our dearest grannies) cooked and cleaned and made hundreds of snacks to help feed the throng of people who were to arrive soon. Everyone had a part to play. The awe in our hearts resonated together with one another as we shared with others what The Great Composer is orchestrating in our lives.

As the program began, the wind that had been blowing hard throughout the day quieted into a gentle, cool breeze. It stayed that way until the last few chords of our last song rang out. Then the gentle breeze again picked up into a rushing wind accompanied by rain drops. Everyone scurried inside to enjoy a warm cup of coffee and delicious snacks. One guest told us that next year we best prepare to cater for 500 people!

Our Busy Season 

December was everything we expected and more: our hectic, but very blessed, season! We started off each Saturday with our market stalls absolutely filled to capacity with warm baked breads and fresh groceries. We just about sold out within the first few hours of the market being opened! All of our accommodation units were fully booked until after New Year. And with each passing day, the cafe got busier and busier! Sometimes as we get to the end of the day, close the doors and switch off the lights, someone says something like, “If we had any more meal orders or customers come in than we had today, I do not think we would be able to manage.” But sure enough the next day comes with more meal orders and customers with it, and by God’s grace we are able to manage! 

On December 23 we had a special Christmas farmer’s market for which we baked over 100 loaves of bread. We also took 50 processed chickens, fresh eggs, a trailer of fresh produce and a trailer of craft items. We are very grateful for the Lord’s provision!

A Time to Plant, a Time to Reap 

We took on the exciting task of harvesting and threshing our own tiny wheat patch in mid November! The patch of wheat amounted to nothing very impressive in quantity, but it certainly served as a good lesson on harvesting. We look forward to planting a much larger crop someday to harvest enough wheat to supply the needs of each family. 

We have also planted a large crop of mealies (corn) that are to be used as feed for our ducks and chickens and for us to enjoy deliciously roasted corn on the cob! Along with the mealies, we planted 1,000 runner beans and 800 bush beans. The summer heat is playing its part very well to help all the fruit and vegetables ripen. 

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family across the world! The first week of December we held our third Christmas program here in the Garden Route.

An Update from South Africa

Spring has arrived! The gardens are greening up, the vegetables are growing quicker, and the days are getting longer. The time has come to share our first harvest. 

On September 26 we hosted our first farm-to-table dinner at The Bakery. Because it was our first one, the dinner provided us with an opportunity to learn from many new situations. We milled our own flour for our breads and made our own pasta. We made a non-alcoholic cordial from kumquats, a fruit that we had never used before. From 500 grams (about a pound) of gooseberries, we produced a dessert drizzle that had to suffice for what seemed like 5,000 people, but in reality was only 30!

The preparations were great fun! We spent the week before the dinner collecting as much produce from all of our family gardens that our plants could provide. Our spinach patch was cared for and nurtured more than ever before. We even spoke to our gooseberry plants, our lettuces and all our herbs, encouraging them to grow quickly and to provide an abundant harvest. And they did! 

On the day of the dinner our little kitchen was overflowing with heaps of spinach and an excited (and a little nervous) kitchen crew! We had an attendance of around 30 people. Many of our guests stayed late into the night, reluctant to pull away from a delightful evening. 

One of our regular bakery customers, a single lady in her fifties, booked a stay with us for the week. She found herself undecided as to whether to attend the dinner, but finally convinced herself to try it. A smile stayed on her face throughout the whole evening. As we sang the words to the song “Lean on Me,” tears flowed from her eyes as she sang along. “If there is a load you have to bear that you can’t carry, well I’m right up the road, and I’ll share your load, if you’ll just call me.” All that she could say when she left that night was how happy she felt for deciding to attend! 

Readying the Glamping Tents 

Early Thursday morning on October 1, Sister Mariska’s car rolled out of the parking area with the light yellow, box-shaped trailer bouncing behind it. In the Bakery, Sister Jenna and some of the other sisters watched the car and trailer leave. Sister Jenna confided, “This is so exciting; I can’t wait until this afternoon!” 

Afternoon came, finally. We closed the Bakery as quickly as possible and raced up to the glamping tents. Sister Mariska had just returned from the town of George with the little trailer packed with furniture. At last the day had arrived when we could set up and decorate the glamping tents! 

Everyone helped wherever they could. We relocated a 5,000-liter (about 1,300 gallons) water tank from our main water source to the glamping sites. The tank, which we fill with well water, is the water source for the tents. A sense of accomplishment shone forth from each person’s face as we worked together to complete all of the jobs. 

Later in the week, two of our couples spent a night in each of the tents to ensure that everything was as it should be before we marketed the accommodations.

Changing with the Seasons 

Springtime also brings with it a deeper cultivating in each of our hearts as we dig deeper and uproot more entangled roots. Then through our shared struggles and pain, we join closer together to sow seeds that will bear fruit again. In the last few weeks some visitors have asked us what defines our community. One aspect is the daily life itself. A life that allows us to struggle together, work together, cry together, laugh together and grow together. Amid all of that is the knowing that you are never alone. 

October 4 was the day that Brother Adi turned 21 years old. A couple of weeks prior to his birthday, a small group of young people got together and started practicing a few songs to sing for him. We felt a little daunted at this because for the last five years he has been our music leader and teacher! From our first practice we realized that the songs would be great fun, but we really needed God’s help and blessing! 

We celebrated his birthday with some close friends and visitors as well as with all of the community. 

Throughout the whole day we looked back on how far God has brought us and rejoiced in His changes that each of us felt within! What a victorious day it was for us all. 

Carl, one of our visitors, marveled at the sound and beauty of the guitar that Brother Adi had constructed while in Texas. Carl started playing a song that we all quickly recognized. Suddenly all of the different circles of conversation broke up as we all joined together and sang: “How great is our God. Sing with me, how great is our God. And all will see how great, how great is our God.” The music throughout the evening blessed us all. 

Preparing for Holiday Vacationers 

December is generally a hectic month for us. The Western Cape is a very popular tourist attraction for the Christmas season, which for us occurs in summer. People from all over the world flood in for the holidays. So we are gearing up and preparing for what could be called a month-long fair! We will be working on many crafts, songs and baking. 

December is also our time for sowing crops. We intend to plant all of our corn as a community crop. We will also sow some summer pasture with a variety of grasses, such as teff, to use as cow feed. 

An Update from South Africa

The rhythm of life around the world was thrown off beat when COVID-19 appeared. The virus shattered the normalcy of living for many people. But the rhythm of life within our community maintained a melody. The singing of birds, quacking of ducks and beating of goats and sheep resounds in their early morning songs and late evening humming. As pleasing as the melody sounded, we felt it lacked some mooing. 

Pomegranate and Lily Join Us 

One evening before lockdown restricted travel, the squeak of a trailer rolling through the bottom gate caught our attention. We had been working all day to clear ground on which to build a milking shed.

At the sound of the approaching vehicle and trailer, excitement spread from person to person. Suddenly, all rakes, spades, hoes, forks, axes and chainsaws were abandoned as we rushed to meet our new residents. Pomegranate and Lily, our new dairy cows, had arrived! 

The cows were scarcely unloaded before we were ready with buckets. Many of us took our first try at milking. Within minutes, we were straining and measuring the first two liters of milk to be produced on our land. It was an exciting beginning to milk production! (Pomegranate and Lily have also added their mooing to the melody.)

Bakery Business Booms 

During lockdown, Heritage Bakery offered a food delivery service for our surrounding area. The service really helped to propel the success of the bakery. The success continued after lockdown restrictions eased. Customers could then enter the premises to enjoy a cup of coffee or a tasty meal. Soon we found ourselves busier than ever. Every week brings an increase of hungry patrons. 

Customers have noticed the increase, also. One of our regulars told us, “After weeks of coming here, I was able to park my car where I wanted; I could sit at which table I chose. I arrived this morning and had to hunt to find a parking space! I can’t believe that so many businesses are shutting down or really struggling because of COVID- 19, but here is your little shop thriving!” 

Another customer mentioned that “I am so excited to have found this hidden gem! I want to bring all of my friends here to show them.” 

Many patrons exclaim within the first few minutes of entering the bakery how grateful they are to have discovered us. One lady explained that she had heard of us during her visit to Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, just a few weeks prior. 

Increasingly, the bakery is serving to showcase the wholeness of our community life. 

An Unexpected Gift of Wool

A number of weeks ago, a woman arrived at the bakery with a huge sack of wool from pure Karoo sheep. She informed us that it had been given to her a couple of years ago. She insisted that we smell the wild, unwashed wool, an odor that apparently she liked. (We did, but to us it just smelled old and dirty!) The lady graciously gave us the whole sack. 

The full excitement of what we had received came after we washed the wool and it was almost dry. One of our younger sisters picked up a piece and said, “Look, it is fluffy like wool is supposed to be!” 

We carded our first batch last week, which ended up looking like rusty-orange felt, tatty and old. 

“Hey, Mom, take a look at this,” Brother Josh said, holding the woolly creation against his chin as if it were a long beard.

“Well, all I can say is do not despise the day of small beginnings,” Sister Gaylin said, laughing. 

Our enthusiasm for working with the wool increased as we washed and carded our second amount. This batch produced wool worthy of the spinning wheel! 

Glamping Tents Get New Locations 

During the past two weeks, we have been working to relocate two of our glamping tents. We needed to move the tents to an area where they are less susceptible to weather damage and farther from traffic noise. While some were busy with construction, others cleared paths and parking areas around the tents. 

South Africa is easing lockdown by moving to Level 2 restrictions, which allow us to offer our rentals again. Our main project at the moment is to relocate and set up the glamping tents.