Monday, May 18, 2009

Thank God and the FDA

We're in the Atlanta airport now, breathing a sigh of relief - Mason Hicks was detained by customs with a bag full of mass quantities of medication (mostly for diabetes). The authorities wanted to confiscate our supplies (which are needed for the next mission) and treat us as drug importers. Mason did the right thing and led them to me. I gave them my medical license and papers, but they weren't sure what to do. They said only drug manufacturers can import mass quantities of drugs.

Many prayers and phone calls later, an FDA agent called me from Washington and ordered them on my cell phone to release us and all of our supplies. God is faithful yet again!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Thank you everyone for all your prayers: we are at the airport now, and everyone made it through security just fine. We are shopping in the airport until we board in a few hours. Some amazing answered prayers? The entire team is well; hundreds of people accepted Christ; over a thousand patients received medical/spiritual/dental/surgical/vision care; and all of us are closer to God, with a broader perspective on this world.
This morning we had a glorious mountaintop Sunday service in front of the cliffs - Josh and Jason preached, and we heard testimonies from Jess, Katie, Kelly, Tamara, David, and Brittany.
On the bus, your comments on this blog were read aloud to the amusement and embarrassment of all (we now know who "Sissy" and "little Weesie" is).

A the last moment we took a group pic in front of the cross. Now, we covet your prayers for a safe flight, clearing customs with all our medicine intact, and most of all that we will be able to continue the mission by sharing our experiences with those at home. See you tomorrow!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

a lot to think about

It's a little past midnight here - tomorrow we'll debrief, prepare our supplies to donate to local ministries (one of the orphan girls, Delsile, received a laptop!), and bounce down the ridiculous dirt road toward the airport.
In my mind is a stream of indelible images of malnourished bloated-bellied children whom I held in my hands and loved with my heart. The world has forgotten them but I never will: chalky-dry smiles, sneakers rotting off their feet, a stoic affect as I tell them they have AIDS...
I close my eyes and imagine Haley suturing an elderly woman's shoulder; Chad shaking his head as another child reveals a story of abuse; Epps holding a girls hand as they pray;

I have a lot to think about on the flight home.
This morning came in the middle of the night! While Badplaas was sleeping, we boarded our bus at 3:00am in order to make it to Kruger National Park by 6:00. We jumped on the safari tour jeeps, bundled in blankets and every bit of clothing we brought, and set out with spotlights and eager eyes to find the "big five." Although we didn't get to see the big five, we saw 3 of them, including Rhino, elephants, and buffalo. We also saw impala, kudu, giraffes, wildebeasts, vervet monkeys and baboons, jackals, warthogs, hyena, hippos, crocodiles, and zebras. Today was a success, minus the invisible lions.

Tonight was one of the most powerful nights of the trip. Several people shared their testimonies and several team members shared their experiences here in Africa. We have grown tremendously as a team, and as we spoke tonight, we talked about how we can bring what we've learned back to our everyday lives in the states. This experience has changed the way we think and act. God has moved in us and in the people of Africa. Tomorrow will be bittersweet as we pack up to leave Prayer Mountain and the new friends we've made. The trip has made a major impact on the entire team and I think we will all return home with a renewed sense of God's power and love in our lives.

We can't wait to see everyone when we return to Charleston on Monday. We love you and can't wait to see you!

ngizonibona mangi fika (See you when we get there! -zulu)

(Brandi, Amber, and Amanda)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sniping, Smuggling, and Star Gazing

“I’ll tell you one thing….they’re a load better than the bloke’s!”

The day after the men protected South Africa from the overpopulation of blesbok, the women decided to try their inexperienced hands at hunting. Jamie “One-Shot” Rudisill, Jessica “Sniper” Casmer, Kimberly Jones, Susan Gray, and Meg Maddox took down four impala and one blesbok with just 7 bullets. –MEG

News break: Church team smuggles drugs across border.

Today we had an amazing opportunity to journey to Swaziland! We smuggled our medicine and all of our team members through customs and immigration without being searched. This was definitely an answer to our prayers! We partnered with Children’s Cup ( today to provide medical care to several communities in Swaziland. Children’s Cup was founded 18 years ago to help orphans in the community and now has 22 locations in Swaziland alone, along with over 100 in Zimbabwe. Healing Place Church of Baton Rouge, LA, a sister church to Seacoast, has a satellite campus in Swaziland that has partnered with Children’s Cup. They provide food, basic education, life skills training, and basic medical care for the orphans at their many “care points.” Forty-three percent of the population of Swaziland is HIV+, making it the highest rate in the world. This organization has reached out to the children orphaned by this epidemic. We had two different clinic sites where we saw over 350 patients, many of whom were orphans, and nearly 100 people gave their lives to the Lord. God has surely blessed our team with so much, and it was amazing to pour out our blessings on these communities.

Michael Overcash, our resident astrophysicist, enlightened us tonight with stellar knowledge (pun intended). We laid under the stars and gazed at Anteres, Saturn, Scorpio, Leo, Virgo, the Southern Cross, the Milky Way, black holes, and a few stellar shooting stars. We guarantee that we’ll never be able to point out these stellar stars to anybody again. Michael also brought a few light sabers for us to point out the stellar stars; clearly some people never grow up!

Today we saw our last African patients. It was definitely bittersweet. We feel like we’ve made a huge impact on the lives of the people here, but the blessings they have given us are far greater than we could have ever imagined.

Thanks to everybody who is praying for us. We can’t wait to share our stories when we return. Ya might wanna keep prayin…safari time tomorrow. And we hear the lions are hungry.

[Amber, Amanda, Brittany]

Our last day in Badplaas

This is actually the blog from yesterday (thursday), but South Africa is not too internet-friendly , so we're a bit slow in uploading. We're heading out now to go look at the Milky Way (no big deal), but we promise to write again tonight about our amazing trip to Swaziland today!

We’re too exhausted for creativity tonight, but Heaven has a few more Impala and Blesboak tonight. Girls hunted. Killed animals. Blood was shed.

Today was our last clinic in Badplaas today, so we saw every possible patient we could. When we showed up at 8am, there was already a line out the door. There were a lot of tough situations, but God’s face shined with each smile as people accepted Christ. It was amazing!

Pastors Josh Surratt and Jason Metcalf concluded their two day pastor’s workshop, where pastors were encouraged in their ministry. We were able to empathize with the struggles of our calling, pray with each other, and bless the South African pastors with encouragement for their ministry.

We’ve encountered some intense spiritual warfare each day in the clinic. There are many cults in the area that pose as churches, claiming to be Christians while worshiping other gods and people. We’ve had the opportunity to lead several members of these churches into the real truth of the Gospel and teach them about the one true God. Members of these cults wear bracelets to identify themselves as a part of that “church”. Today, we were able to literally “break those chains” as we cut off their bracelets after being led to the real Truth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why are there so many people on our team?

We have a HUGE team. There are so many of us because we have so many areas to serve. We prepare patients for meeting with "The Great Physician," God. We minister to children and show them love and attention that they may not receive everyday. We have ministered to the pastors here by providing an opportunity to speak with other ministers in the community and from the United States. In the clinic, we have provided dentistry and optometry. We prescribe medicines in our "pharmacy," and do minor surgeries. There are so many roles in the clinic, that without a large team, we would never be able to accomplish the things that we do.~ Amber

Today, I had to tell my first patient that she is HIV positive. She was concerned about her baby because she is currently breastfeeding. The situation seemed hopeless but at the end of the day, she accepted Christ. Through an interpreter, we told her that her body may be sick but she now has eternity with God and is healed from her sickness in sin. I realized that we may have to tell our patients bad news but in the end, telling them about Jesus makes it all worthwhile.~ Brandi

Everyday in Badplass brings new challenges, new adventures, and new service projects to our team's ministry. In addition to our team's ministers sharing their leadership skills, the medical education team working with local health providers, several of our team members were asked by local wildlife managers to help in an unusual, but much needed service to Badplass. Over the years wildlife managers in the area have done such a great job preserving the natural beauty of their bush and wild game that they are overpopulated and threatening the "natural progression" of the species. Today, Pastor "slayer" Josh Surratt, Chad "steady hand" Robinson, and myself, Mason "Sniper"Hicks, had the AWESOME opportunity to cull an overpopulated herd of blesbok, a wild bush animal similar to an antelope. We were personally invited, by local game officials, to join them on a hunt in the African bush. Josh, Chad, and I each took one blesbok with a long rifle. After the hunt, we donated the meat (over 350 lbs.) to a local food shelter. It is estimated that these animals will feed over 100 hungry families in the local community. In addition to fulfilling a local wildlife need, we sucessfully completed one more mission for the village of Badplass. Not to mention, make our friends and family really jealous! Wish you all could see how beautiful this place is! God is truly working here; through nature, through us, and through the local people!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One year later..........

A testimony to God's plan by Meg Maddox - South Africa team member '08 & '09-

One year ago God started working on my heart and calling me to be a dentist. Today I pulled my first wisdom tooth, fixed a little boy with meseodents (an extra front tooth), pulled countless molars, and even worked my way through breaking my first, and fortunately only, tooth. I think God knew my limits and blessed the day with beautiful whole teeth coming out the rest of the time. I just wanted to share with you how God worked on my heart, and used this trip not only to bless the patients but also to change my entire future. I'm sure all of your loved ones are being shaped by God right now, and I can't wait to see the fruit of these changes.

One year ago I sat on a plywood bed on Prayer Mountain, desperately trying to make a cell phone work so I could call my brother, Matt, and congratulate him for graduating from dental school. I missed his graduation to go half way around the world and follow a call to serve God laid on my heart. I have zero medical training and feared I would not be much help, but I trusted God and boarded the plane anyway. After 17 dialing attempts the call miraculously went through. I talked in length with my brother that night about the desperate need for dental care in this community, and how much it broke my heart not to be able to give that to them. Of course I never had myself in mind, frankly I thought teeth were pretty boring. I thought God wanted me to talk him, or some other dentist into coming here. But God had very different plans.

I returned to the states with a broken heart and a clear vision of a need that needed to be filled, but remained blind to who would be filling that need. One week later I found myself in a dental office on a shadowing appointment my brother set up. He talked me into spending one day with a dentist just to rule out the possibility that it was me God was calling. I was nervous, knew nothing about dentistry and had no idea what to expect. But I guess God's will wouldn't be as exciting if we knew all His plans. After what turned out to be one of the best days I've ever spent with a professional; again God used my brother as a tool to keep me moving. Running an errand with him, we ran into a dentist who was leaving for a dental mission trip to Haiti in 10 days. Out of nowhere, having never met me before, he offered to pay my way if I would just show up at the airport. Doors were opening, so I shut my eyes, said "God, I'm trusting you." and started moving forward. It has been 365 days since God first started working on me, and today with the help of our amazing dentist Chris, I know without a shadow of doubt that I've found God's plan for my life. Nothing can replace the feeling of knowing you're doing what you were created to do. One year ago, I said yes to getting on a plane to South Africa and my future was rocked. This year 37 of us said yes to that same request, and I know God has big things in store for all of us. Here's to the next 365 days!

God Bless!

Meg Maddox

To cry or not to cry...that is the question

Today was a tough day for our team. We arrived to the clinic and the line of people was already out the door. We saw over 200 patients in 7 hours today. We also started doing more HIV testing and were met with mixed blessings. It was difficult to tell so many people they had HIV but rewarding to know that without us testing them, they probably would have never known, never sought treatment, and continued to fuel the epidemic. It was also rewarding to be able to offer them some hope, both in the free HIV medicine available in Africa, and by sharing with them the healing powers of Our Healer. We are blessed to call 20 members of the community new brothers and sisters in Christ. YAY GOD! A few of our team members made a house call to a young man in the community who was too weak to walk. After visiting with him and his family, we soon realized he was dying of AIDS. Though we were not able to offer him much medical help, we were able to minister spiritual healing to him and his family. Though today was a tough day emotionally, we know that God was glorified and people were healed.

Today was our last full day of clinic with our dentist, Chris. He's pulled half the teeth of Africa in 2 days. He's a machine. We were so thankful to have him on our team, even for a short time. Please pray for his safety as he returns to the States tomorrow.

Our children's ministry is quickly learning exceptional crowd control skills as the number of children coming to the clinic multiplies by the second. Their corralling skills definitely surpass
the best cowboy, but you'd be hard pressed to find a child without a smile on their face. God's love is being poured out on these precious children.

(Amanda and Brittany)

Monday, May 11, 2009

5am is time to go!

It's 5:45am here, and we're sweaty thanks to Jena leading Tae Bo for us... The moon is setting over the mountain and I can't resist one more slow photograph- everything I see in every direction reminds me of the immensity and grandeur of God. Today our task is sharing that with everyone, especially the Africans, whom God so dearly loves.

Clinic Day One!

Our first day of clinic was a HUGE success! We treated over 160 people today, many with serious medical issues. The entire team is exhausted, but rejuvenated by the smiles of the Badplass residents as we helped relieve their pains, treat their ailments, and best of all, prayed with them. Today alone, with the help of translators, our team, along with the guidance of our team's pastors, Josh and Jason, we were able to lead many people back to Christ and encouraged 20+ people to accept God as their ONE Lord and savior. We are looking forward to another successful day in the clinic tomorrow.

We were so thankful to have a dentist with us today. Chris made it to South Africa on Saturday night. He saw patients non-stop today, and we anticipate the same for the rest of his stay. He filled and extracted teeth flawlessly in less than ideal conditions. From small children to grandparents, the "dentist office" stayed busy all day.

In addition to the clinic, we had team members assisting the construction crew that are building a daycare for many of the children here. They worked a hard and sweaty job, mixing dirt, sand, and water together to make the walls of the building. With God's help, the daycare will be finished by the end of this week.

We are so happy all of you are following our blog. We enjoy reading the comments and sharing your thoughts with the rest of the team...keep them coming!

(Mason, Brandi, and Amber)

All Day Clinic

Good morning! It's 7am here and we've been up since 5am preparing physically and spiritually for the day. Sunrise was breathtaking. In minutes we'll be on our bus and bouncing to the clinic...By the time you read this in the morning it will be afternoon here, and we'll be 1/2-way thru our first "real" clinic for the locals. The most needy and most ill have been sought and brought to us. Please pray that we will be God's hands to bless and care for them, and that their hearts will be open to receive the Lord and all he has to offer them.
Thank you everyone for all your encouraging comments - keep them coming. The team members say it's "like getting mail at camp", and quite appreciated. God Bless,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Horses, Zebras, and Four Wheelers, OH MY!

We started our Sunday off at Pastor Selby's church in Badplass with dancing, singing, and congo lines! The spirit of the South Africans is second to none and definitely contagious, even for those of us with no rhythm. Josh, a Seacoast pastor and member of our team, had the honor of delivering the message and blessing the congregation with the same blessing that we hear every week at Seacoast. It was awesome to see God working through cultural and language barriers. We were in awe of their hospitality and immediately made to feel welcome and at home in their church.

Following church, we went to Adventura Resort where we had the option of riding horses or four wheelers ("quads") through the bush! We saw a plethora of wildlife...zebras, wildebeasts, elands, impala, and ant hills the size of a small child. It was breathtaking to be in the midst of God's creation. The tour guide's bandaged head made us a little leary, but we all survived with no major injuries.

We capped off the day with a hot meal with our new friends from the Cape...Cape Town and Cape Cod! Please pray for us tomorrow that we have the strength and endurance we need to make it through our first full clinic day.

Love and miss you!

(Amanda, Brittany, and Amber)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Believer's prayer

I was just reading in the book of Acts chapter 4. Peter and John were arrested and threatened by the priests not to speak any more about Jesus. After they were released They spoke to the people and said, "Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your Holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4: 29-30)

This is what I pray for our team as they minister and serve the people. How awesome is our God! Amen.


live from South Africa: First Blog from S.A. & 1st Clinic

Everyone on the team is well - we're a bit tired after getting to bed at 2am - our plane took a lovely detour back to Atlanta for paperwork:
Now we just finished our first clinic, which we set up in the church. We saw 70+ patients, with ailments such as diabetes, respiratory infections, skin diseases, AIDS, parasites, etc. We prayed with everyone, and networked with the local community. We made connections with the Bible College and are planning to do a prison outreach on Wednesday.
Praise God our dentist Chris Keenan arrived safely at prayer mountain about 1 hour ago. Tomorrow we will send Trevor to pick up Susan Gray from the airport.
Everyone on the team is well - please continue to pray for us - pray that we will bring lasting blessings from God to the people of Badplaas, and that we on the team will have hearts open to whatever God has in store for us.
<- Anthony and Annelise praying with patient via their interpreter

Safe in Mpumalanga

The team has arrived safe in South Africa with all of their luggage with them. They got to Prayer Mountain, the place they are staying, at about 1:30 SA Africa time. Thank you for all of your prayers, I know God is going to do huge things through this team!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

from Atlanta

Thank you SO much for your prayers! One of team members was sick yesterday with pneumonia and had to cancel her part in the mission... However, the churches all across America, and Erik Eskelund's Emoyeni group were asking for blessings and miracles - today Jamie is better, no fever, and she is with us! We are in Atlanta now, doing some more team training between flights. Josh Surratt just blessed us with an inspiring message, preparing us for journaling some great expectations for the Africans, God, and ourselves.
It's 5:18am, and in 3 hours we'll meet in the airport. We already have a prayer request: Jamie, one of our team members, has a mild pneumonia (flu test was negative) and will decide this morning if she joins us (with a mask) or stays home. Let's pray for God's Will and a clear decision.
Last night Seacoast Church brought us all on stage during the First Wednesday service and prayed for our team. We are ready.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

almost there!

In 36 hours we're gone! Today we are all asking our friends and family to subscribe to this blog, to join us by committing to pray for us every day May 7-18th. May God use our humble hands and resources to bring these wonderful people an immeasurable blessing of medical, surgical, and dental health; education and enlightenment; shelter for the wandering orphans; and relational and spiritual restoration. Thank you!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Today we had Mock Clinic - a simulation of the actual transformation of a cinder-block church into a medical/dental practice that will occur this week in Africa : Gabby Linder explained the inner workings, reminding us that God is the glue that holds it all together. Everyone rotated through stations for pharmacy, triage, medical providers, and optometry. Our dentist Chris Keenan drove up from Atlanta; some of last year's team came & helped train this year's...

We also finished packing 2,000 lbs of supplies we are bringing!

Monday, April 27, 2009

team meeting: medical training

Sunday we met for over 2 hours, preparing for practicing medicine in South Africa. We will not just treat diabetes and hypertension: we will test people for HIV, teach them about AIDS and help them get treatment, pray with them and counsel them, and connect them with a loving and caring network of Christians in their community.
We had some guests from Palmetto Medical Initiative and Mosaic Church attend the event. Here's some of our team after the meeting:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Team Rock Climbing & Camping trip

For a team-building exercise, we spent Sat/Sun at Crowders Mountain and Kings mountain, enjoying God's glorious greenery and rocky cliffs. Our posse bravely rappelled a 10+ story overhanging cliff, then climbed vertical rock faces and cracks. We ate by campfire and slept in tents. We got to know a little more about ourselves, each other, and God.