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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

madrap wisdom #6

we busy ourselves so we can get time to quiet ourselves. it seems a little backwards to me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

words can never...

How do I explain my life when it is made up of emotion rather than action, moments rather than events. I can never explain the emotion when a 19 year old boy, previously thief, is released from a year in prison, having been raped, beaten, tortured, comes out and gives you a big hug, smiles from ear to ear and says, “Lets go for a Wimpy burger!”, immediately putting a CD into the car’s CD player pumping track #8, a song about the rappers mommy who stood by him.

When a 20 year old, previously drug lord, sits at a table with knife and fork in his hands, as clumsy as if he’s using chop sticks, (because he’s never eaten with a knife and fork before nor at a dining room table) and after finishing his meal says to the host in his strong coloured accent “Thank you for having us for dinner, the food was lovely”.

Sitting with a mother in her treasured one bedroom flat while she’s telling you about the change she’s seen in her son’s life, a previous druggie and gangster, and through that the whole household has changed with him.

A previous gangster and fighter makes a phone call and nervously, yet bravely, discusses the beginnings of an art career, the phone call being a huge achievement, taking ownership over his future even bigger.

How do I explain my life… words can never

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

all I know

Speak of which you do not know,
This thing you call my home.
There’s something I hear in your tone,
This land you say; Is so.

Two lies and a truth in your case,
That’s what you know.
Don’t you see it’s what they sow,
Of a land that is my place.

Two truths and a lie, a case more real,
Let me show you how.
Come listen with your feet,
Come see with your heart,
Come hear with your eyes,
Then you will see the truths I appeal.

Two truths you ask? Curious to learn.
Dimmed by your cloud of disbelief,
It’s impossible to make it brief.
Slow down, come listen with a heart that will yearn.

The lie you so quickly believed,
Is one of desperation and oppression.
It makes you feel better about your position.
Empty promises from a land that pretends to grieve.

And the truths you ask?
We have the truth that time allows,
Which for you finds itself used,
Rushed beyond and abused.
With time; happiness and love follows.

Freedom is a word that too,
Is beaten up and chained.
The truth in freedom that we gained,
Is to live and be as you.

This land you say; Is so
This land I say; Is all I know.
… It’s all I have to show.

Friday, October 15, 2010

branding - from within

On the ‘Old Boys’ LifeXchange camp this weekend we spent most of our sit-down sessions brainstorming “Branding”. We wanted to try find solutions from within, from ‘the horses mouth’ so to speak, as well as learn what the expectations are as LifeXchange members. The outcome was very interesting! After discussing what they felt or thought when seeing brandnames like Nike, Coca-cola we asked them what they felt and thought when they saw the LifeXchange brand. And this is what they said…..

From the inside LifeXchange members want to see:
LifeXchange become financially stable,
To have a LifeXchange office/house where they as members can come “hang out”, play pool, play games, have their classes and for it to be ‘their space’,
They want membership to be exclusive and not just for everybody,
They want to feel LifeXchange pride in who they are and what the brand means,
They want to “stand out” from the rest.

From the outside LifeXchange members want the public to see:
Members of LifeXchange having bright futures,
Members that are well disciplined, educated and trustworthy,
Members that have good leadership skills and are talented, but that’s not all.....

Lastly, we spoke about the publicity of the lives of our ‘youth-at-risk’. We discussed how if a person has reached point “B” and has become a world renowned artist, has travelled the world and has his own studio, it’s an interesting read, but that it only brings value when you talk about point “A” - where he was when he started - sitting on the street corner, unable to read or write or tell one day apart from the next because of his drugged-up stupor! Only then does the story of point “B” become alive; extraordinary, amazing, outstanding, significant, noteworthy, astounding, remarkable, incredible, astonishing…..all the possible words you can think of to describe the life change that has happened.

Because of this, it becomes appropriate to speak of point “A” (with consent) even when that person is still AT point “A”. But, only because we have seen that point “B” is possible, through the success of other members, and so this becomes a story that the public can read and hear about, they can follow their journey and give support knowing that point “A” will reach point “B”

Have we started tapping into our solution to the “Branding” issue?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the "branding" issue

by Cobus:
Archaeologists suggest that branding dates back 5000 years! There is evidence that in 3000 BC the Babylonians were already branding certain products. The branding of cattle and livestock dates back 2000 BC and as far back as 1300 BC, potter’s marks were used on pottery and porcelain in China, Greece, Rome and India.

Today business is branding! The mere mention of brand names like Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple brings to mind images, experiences and emotions connected to these brands. We either buy, or do not buy based on branding. But how do you use the same brand to reach two completely different markets, achieving two completely different outcomes?

One of LifeXchange’s successes is the way we market ourselves in high risk areas. We are not known as a rehabilitation centre, a program for troubled kids, or a youth-at-risk intervention organization, but rather as an extreme sport and adventure organization selecting young people with huge potential. Our brand is non-threatening to gangsters, drug addicts and the uneducated, and has a reputation as the organisation to be in. In the public sphere however we market ourselves as a youth-at-risk intervention organization working with some of the world’s most broken and lost young people. This is the reality of what we do and whom we target in order to achieve our goal; making a broken young person whole again.

Our problem: Selling the same brand to two different groups of people does not seem sustainable. Whenever there is an article in a newspaper or magazine about our intervention approach and the words ‘youth-at-risk’ occur we pray that none of our young people will read it. Yet, we want to be known to the public as an organisation that is specialising in high-risk youth intervention, leaders in our field, excellent in what we do, trustworthy and sustainable. But, in the communities we work with we want to be known as an adventure organization that recruits young people with talent and helps them turn their life stories into success stories.

So how would you do it? This is a request to please give us your advice, guidance and opinion our double-edged problem. Looking forward to hearing your touch of brilliance on this topic!

Monday, September 13, 2010

madrap wisdom #2

though not as comfortable, life is simpler and clearer when we have less.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

in south africa

In South Africa it’s sensible to back-up your laptop, not in case your computer crashes but in case it gets stolen. In the past 3 months, between me and my two sisters, we’ve been robbed 10 times: 2 laptops, 2 passports, 6 cell phones, 3 wallets, 2 bicycles and that’s not mentioning my sister’s boyfriend who had his entire office building cleaned out, my friend’s sister’s throat slit and an old lady down the road shoved into the boot of a car. Sorry for being a bit brash, but these are not uncommon stories for South Africans.

During the past two weeks all public service workers across the country have been on strike. Without indulging in discussions on the why’s and why not’s for the strike; it has left us with no fuel at petrol stations and in our hospitals many adults, children and little babies have been left to die. Our teachers are also on strike, leaving our youth unable to go to school, including those in Grade 12 who were meant to write their last mid-semester exams this week which determines their future careers, bursaries and placement in universities. And for those who’ve refused to strike they have been physically attacked and the buildings have been vandalised with chairs through windows.

Currently South Africa has just passed a law of ‘Protection of Information’ limiting the media on how much can be released to the national and international public. The ANC (our current governmental party) Youth League have “fight, produce, learn” as their slogan and dance in the streets shouting “Kill the Boer”, meaning white person. Seeing their members dancing in military camo’s makes anyone nervous because these above two statements are significant incidences that occurred in countries like Zimbabwe before their drastic downfall began!

This is just a drop in the ocean of our country’s problems. It sheds light as to why South Africans have been fleeing the country since 1994 and why those who remain are constantly negative about our future. But you can’t help yourself from asking, “Will we go the same way?” Some say we already are. Are we?

Imagine that we all, and I mean ALL, for one moment, believed positively in the future of South Africa? Would we still go the same way?

Below are some interesting, thought provoking pics and links

Friday, August 27, 2010

paint away the pain

This weekend my sisters came to visit. To give the context, I live in Ocean View, a township that is the worst area in the South Peninsula and where the majority of our LifeXchange guys stay. The Flats, where the worst of Ocean View live, is just around the corner. From my years working in the area and from the individuals that I’ve grown close to, I know the true stories that are true behind these walls. Stories of abuse, rape, murder, fatherlessness, and the home of criminals, drunkards, gangsters, drug merchants.. and that which I know is only a small part of what there is to tell.

I anticipated my sisters to be taken aback by the harsh reality of what they saw, by the obvious poverty, drugs and disease that hangs around The Flats like thick city smog. But the pain of these lives had been painted over in a fresh coat of crayfish pink; masking the scars of graffiti, of dirt, of dilapidation, covering up the deep turmoil of lives lost in injustice, and leaving only a hint of the slum that it really is. Looking out the car window of my Pocket Rocket, their response was, “oh, this place doesn’t look so bad!”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

why do you never drop us?

This week Monray (a LifeXchange member on his way to achieving great things), stood observing as the LifeXchange girls began to offer up feeble excuses for having dropped me in some way or other over the past week or so. With them walking away my parting words were ‘ I’ll be there just don’t drop me’. Once the girls were out of earshot Monray stepped forward and asked me with a look of confused amazement, “Mandy, why do you never drop US?” I looked at him, unable to give an answer off the cuff because the idea of it doesn’t even feature; it’s not even an option. “Do you understand what I’m asking?” he continued after I had not responded.

Later it hit me, what LifeXchange does is merely practise the example of discipleship that Jesus showed us and that this IS the gospel in action. We strive to love these young people unconditionally, to always be there, to never drop them or disappoint them, to see them for the beautiful person God created them as and not for what and where they’ve been in life. And if this is just an example of Jesus relationship with us, how much greater is His love! Our pasts are all ugly and yet he sees in us only beauty even though we still continue to drop Him, continue to mess up, continue to push Him away, deny His love yet He is ALWAYS THERE, unfailing and unfaltering. And why? Because the idea of the opposite doesn’t even exist!

It says constantly that those who know his name and trust in Him, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31v6, Joshua 1 v 5, Psalm 9 v 10, Psalm 37 v 28, Psalm 94 v 14, Isaiah 41v17, Isaiah 42v16
“For the LORD takes delight in his people Psalm” 149 v 4

Sunday, August 1, 2010

simple sillyness

Last week Saturday, 24th July, a group of ladies from Kommetjie Christian Church held a pamper party for the LifeXchange girls. So to keep them sober and off the heavy drugs I arranged a decoy, a Friday night movie night at my house.. only my house is in Ocean View, the same neighbourhood as theirs and just a stone’s throw away from the Friday night party. So more decoys were put in place to prevent them wandering off soon after they arrived.

The decoys consisted of a huge sit down meal at my house, some music and sober sillyness (such as sliding down the passage in our socks, breakdancing, piggy in the middle), then off to McDonald’s for ice creams and onto the late night movie at Blue Route mall. Most had not been to the cinema before and those who had, had only been because a LifeXchange mentor had taken them.
A big laugh for me was when we left the cinema and I turned around to see no-one following me. Eventually the girls walked out nonchalantly with arms loaded with popcorn and coke. They’d collected everybody in the cinema’s leftovers and were eating it happily, completely oblivious that this isn’t correct social behaviour. I just laughed, and fell in love with them even more.
Getting to bed at 3am and waking up at 6am was a toughy, but we all ‘made it to the church in time’! Phew! At last they were there, the hard work was over, I could finally relax.
The Pamper party was a blast! Starting with learning how to do our own facial, a foot massage, cooking demonstration by a renowned cook (who revealed her secret brownie recipe), a talk on correct eating and dinner etiquette, followed by a 3 course meal and ending with a talk on inner beauty.
But it’s hard to read the expressions and the body language from a culture that hasn’t learnt how, their faces seem to reflect a look of disinterest. Completely wrong! Rochelle commented, “it was the best weekend of my life”. Another girl, Chone, said, “I wish I could rewind till when we were sitting in the movies”. She also said something so simple, her highlight was the part where we just chatted (at 2am!!). It wasn’t anything significant, just normal girls talk. But I realised that it was different, normally the topic of conversation is on ‘other matters’, or they’re drunk or drugged. Chone is one of the quietest girls, it’s hard to get much out of her at the best of times, yet here she was going on and on about the weekend saying she wishes it had gone on until Sunday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

saving private ryan dilemma

by Cobus Oosthuizen
So I was in court today...again! Working with youth-at-risk often means that drug dealing spots, prisons and courts becomes one’s second office. Today I was once again showing my support to one of our LifeXchange girls who smacked the back of another ladies head with a brick and now has an assault case against her. She is why then do I support her? I call this the “Saving Private Ryan dilemma.”

Have you ever watched the (absolutely brilliant) movie Saving Private Ryan? Halfway through the movie a small group of soldiers from the US military who’s mission was to find Private Ryan, decides to take out a German bunker with a machine gun that can cause serious damage. After they have flanked the banker, a scene of shots being fired and hand grenades being thrown ends with the dust settling and the small group of soldiers surrounding their good friend and medic who had been shot. A dramatic seen of his last breaths are followed by a scene where the German who killed him is captured and forced to dig his own grave after which he would be executed. To the absolute horror of the group of US soldiers, a non-combatant, inexperienced, translator that joined the US squad for translating purposes convinced the captain that it would be wrong to kill the German soldier. Because keeping him captured would jeopardize their mission, the captain decides to let him go free. The last war scene of the movie ends with the same German, who rejoined his army, killing the captain...the very person who had given him his freedom.

Am I the “translator,” that with my letters, my testimonies of good conduct, my advice and support let the German killers go free, just to kill again? I want to believe that everyone deserves a second chance, that the moment for that person on the stand might be the moment of change...or at least the moment where they realize that LifeXchange is committed for the long run. I want to believe that there is more to the story than what the spectator sees...that the German hated war, had his own family, was living in fear of Hitler, was doing his job… and had very little choice...

so is it my task to advocate for those who are guilty...what about the victim?

Please share your thoughts by commenting...

Monday, July 26, 2010


I’m learning what it means to love unconditionally.. it means no conditions, no circumstances, that will increase/decrease my love. We hear about unconditional love in the biblical context with reference to God’s love for us, and that is something that once we grasp is liberating to experience in our own personal lives, but it isn’t something that comes naturally to us with regards to other people. Yet offering that same unconditional love to others is so invigorating, I feel like its miraculous, that we really do only have that capability to love in such a manor because God shows us how.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

world cup is over and south africa falls silent

The neighbourhood sounds freakishly quiet, schools are back, the working world has returned, there are no kids playing in the streets, and.. I don’t hear vuvuzelas! It’s almost eerie.
Being one of the few South Africans who, prior to the world cup, was positive that South Africa could pull it off, even I was blown away at how adeptly South Africa hosted the world cup, like we’re regulars at this! I think Brazil should hire South Africa to run their world cup for them!
They estimate about 2 billion people were watching the world cup. That’s 4 billion eyes on South Africa, 20 billion fingers and toes jumping and clapping as they cheer! I swear I could feel the earth bounce when Ghana scored their goal in the quarterfinals. I’ve never seen such amazing unity in any nation than I have over these past 6 weeks. Businessmen and beggars have a common topic of discussion, who are you supporting and what do you think is going to happen in the next game??

A sad realisation of the world cup was how it really is a money making endeavour for FIFA. They don’t care much at all about the country it is being held in. Instead of promoting as much South African and African revenue as possible, they go with what earns them the most money. Can you believe that the ONLY official food company allowed in the stadium grounds was McDonalds - not Steers, not Nando’s, McDonalds! And the ONLY beer served in the grounds - not Castle, not Windhoek, Budweiser! Which you don’t even get in South Africa, period! Thanks FIFA for giving our visitors a real taste of.. America. (to my American readers, this is a stab a FIFA not America and plus having now been to America I know it has way better things to offer than McDonald’s burgers and Budweiser beer). The advertisements in the stadium are companies that we’ve never seen or even heard of. Many FIFA adverts are not even filmed in South Africa. This has been the most profitable world cup for FIFA, maybe because they didn’t pay the security contracts?? Hundreds of thousands of security folks were not even paid!! And when they protested, they promptly got fired, losing their jobs altogether.

But through it all, South Africa was amazing! When I was in the US, I remember writing about how awesome it was that Americans would have the US flag flying even from people’s homes and that I really liked this open display of pride for their country. I can now say that South Africa has achieved this in full glory. Not only have flags been raised in peoples back yards and across the gates of their homes, but flags are painted on faces, shirts, scarves, hats, converted 3D glasses J. Every item you buy has the SA flag on its packaging, every shop window has flags strung across it, people’s cars are dressed in flags in every way perceivable and my all time favourite was a quiet most unlikely haberdashery which had even taken the time to stack their wool balls in the window in the shape, size and colours of the South African flag. That made me really smile!

South African pride is hanging off every edge perceivable and it is tucked into every corner of our nation. How far we have come in 16years! We would never have seen and come to know this if it wasn’t for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. And no matter what might come in times ahead, we will always know and remember the unity, the flags, the faces of South Africa dancing side by side. May this be a platform for South Africa’s future.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

in abundance

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10 v 10 NKJV

To live life abundantly is not to have health and wealth, it is not prosperity and wordly gain. In contrary it is said we are to encounter persecution and times of suffering. We can fill our lives with all the excitement that life has to offer and still find life to be empty and unfulfilling. With knowing God and living fully for God there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20 v 31 NIV