Map of South AfricaAdam and Lora Willard were US Peace Corps Volunteers in South Africa from July 2008 until November 2010.  While in South Africa they lived in a rural village known as Dumphries B, located in the northeastern Mpumalanga province and just a few kilometers from the fence of Kruger National Park.  Almost everyone in Dumphries B are members of the Shangaan tribe and spoke the xiTsonga/Shangaan language, which we also learned to communicate competently.  Many residents of Dumphries B were also refugees from political turmoil in Mozambique.

With Peace Corps South Africa, Lora and Adam were part of the School and Community Resources Project and worked for two primary schools in the area.  In Dumphries B was Mahlahluvana Primary School, and just 4-5 kilometers away in Dumphries A was Welani Primary School.  Our job was to assess the needs and resources of the schools and community and participate in developing them and strengthening the teachers and school staff in any way possible.

To that end, Lora engaged primarily in literacy projects.  She organized and created a library at both primary schools, trainedLora with the Book Club at Mahlahluvana children and teachers to run and manage the libraries, and created a curriculum for the library to be used school-wide on a weekly basis for every class.  She also started an after-school reading club at Mahlahluvana and developed a curriculum for teaching literacy to Grades 2 and 3 and trained those teachers in how to use it to improve the literacy rates of the learners (which were dismally low).

One major area of involvement for Adam was Information Technology.  He created a curriculum and did one-on-one training with all the teachers and staff at each school, teaching basic computer skills to most and advanced skills including maintenance and repair to a few.  He also did computer repair work (for free, as Peace Corps is an entirely non-profit job) for everyone who asked for it in about a 20-mile radius.  Near the end of his service, he set up a computer lab (with the help of Ulusaba and Emmaus Road Church) for teaching computer skills to the learners, at each primary school and the replacement Peace Corps Volunteer took up this work.

Adam also began an after-school Art Club at Mahlahluvana Primary School that he co-taught with another teacher.  With the Art Club, the kids did contests, painted murals at the school (including a giant world map and South African map), and eventually took a field trip to the capital city to visit art museums and professional sculptors.

World Cup Mural painting by Mahlahluvana Art ClubFinally, Adam was also heavily involved in helping the schools develop their local resources.  This particularly included helping solidify a partnership between the schools and a local private game lodge, Ulusaba.  Through this partnership, Ulusaba and their guests funded many projects for the schools including both libraries and computer labs, the Art Club murals and field trip, a playground and sports field for Mahlahluvana, and the publishing of a cultural yearbook created by the Grade 7 class with Adam.

We both immensely enjoyed our time in South Africa and even extended our time by 2 months more than our contracted date in order to properly finish up some of our projects.  The opportunity to live among and live as the rural South Africans and build deep and meaningful relationships with them and our co-workers was more rewarding than can ever be explained.  On top of that, we brought a wonderful souvenir back with us from South Africa, our son, Matimu!  His name actually means "History" in the Shangaan language.

All of the posts on this page are e-mail newsletters we sent out during our time in South Africa.  If you're just visiting this page but you'd like to receive similar and regular updates throughout our years in Madagascar, just send us a message with your e-mail address and we'll add you to the list.

If you'd like to see the photo-filled book we created with the 7th graders from Mahlahluvana, please click the cover here to download the .pdf.

It's really a fantastic piece of cross-cultural communication, as the 7th graders did their best to share their lives in the English language.  All of their writing has been preserved just as they wrote it, with pictures drawn by the kids and with photos of the authors in the middle of their daily activities.

Modern Shangaan Life: From a 7th Grade Perspective

Click here for the Modern Shangaan Life: From a 7th Grade Perspective, book in .pdf format

 

And if you'd like to read all of our articles / stories from South Africa in one printable .pdf document, then please click here and enjoy!

Thoughts from South Africa by Adam & Lora Willard

 

 Click here for an album of our best pictures from South Africa:

Click here for an album of our best South Africa photos

Click here for an album of our best South Africa photos!

 

 

A Cloud of Witnesses

…a scene of dust and blood, of body parts strewn haphazardly, some still twitching, disjointed, bleeding out. Not one piece is connected to another and thus the entire body, broken apart and moments from death, lies collapsed in the sand, unable to move, unable even to seek help.

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Merry Christmas!

Each and every one of us were foreigners to God’s Kingdom, to his lands, and with no hope of acceptance. So then God came to us, to our land. As one of us, he tore down the fences and the dividing walls that were built by our sin; and the effort killed him. But death couldn’t keep him and…

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David Immanuel Willard is Here!

David Immanuel Willard has made his grand entrance! Born on Dec 6th at 3:17 am in Pretoria, South Africa (7:17 pm Dec 5th, CST), weighing 7.6 lbs. and 21 in. long, he’s a sight to behold!

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South Africa & Tanzania 2013 Photos

We visited South Africa and Tanzania between April and June 2013, visiting the village where we used to be PCVs, some training in Tanzania, a safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, and visiting a missionary team in an Alagwa village in Tanzania. 124 photos

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Back and Forth

We stepped off the taxi, three of us this time, back in our village in South Africa.  We began...

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Transition to Madagascar Photos

Pictures from our move to Madagascar. They’re mostly from South Africa, in Pretoria, Dumphries, and Kruger, where we stopped for a few weeks along the way to visit friends and “family”. But the last 10-15 are from our arrival in Madagascar. 139 photos

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South Africa – Best Of Photos

These are a collection of our best photos from our time in Peace Corps South Africa, living in Dumphries in Mpumalanga province (near the border of Kruger), and working in the School and Community Resources Project. It was a great time, from July 2008 to November 2010. 513 photos.

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Ku Tsundzuka

Our time is up.  We extended a couple of months, but those are finished now too.  After nearly two...

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Video Introduction

Watch this video for an introduction to the Antakarana people and our work among them

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It's been some time since we've had an opportunity to speak with Nuckiline on the phone, but we were able to do that this morning. She shared some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that she's continued to translate some new Bible stories into Antakarana language and to share them with the discipleship group in Antanamazava. The Holy Spirit has led her to select stories based on the specific needs and circumstances of the members of the discipleship group there. As a result of translating and sharing the Jonah story with them, they've has taken a greater interest in sharing the Bible stories they've received with others they believe need to hear them - and now they have two men who've joined the discipleship group as regular members! Praise God for that, as it's long been a challenge to have men show consistent interest, and hopefully this will be an opportunity to have a broader impact in the local community and in villages further away (because in Antakarana culture, men are the ones who more often do the most frequent traveling).

The bad news is that a coronavirus variant has spread in Madagascar in the last few months and this "second wave" was worse than the first one. As a result the government has created much stricter travel and meeting lockdowns than previously. Not only that, but several people died as a result of covid in villages not far from Antanamazava (and several more from Ambilobe also). So Nuckiline wasn't able to visit them for the last few months, because of the risk of spreading this deadly disease during the time that it was spreading rapidly. However, the second wave of covid seems to have passed in their area by now, and the rainy season is also ending there (meaning the country roads and paths are easier to travel again), so Nuckiline is planning to go there and start visiting regularly again beginning next week.

Please pray that the group has been doing well and continuing to meet regularly amongst themselves over the last few months, even while Nuckiline was unable to visit and be with them. Pray that the stories they've received will have by now been passed to many more people in the area, and that many others will be feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, drawing them to follow Jesus and commit themselves to him. Please pray for continued good health for Nuckiline and her family, for her to have continued motivation and perseverance in this work, and for continued wisdom and discernment by the Holy Spirit to know how to lead these disciples into greater knowledge of and obedience to God - that they will multiply far beyond themselves and that it will result in many generations of Antakarana people (and beyond) following Jesus.
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This last year has been pretty tough on most people I know. We've had some tough times in our family too, including right now - trying to determine new careers and new lives here in the US (something we never planned on) and even by this point still being not at all sure how that's going to end up.

But that's one thing that's so amazing about this holiday today, Easter. It's the declaration that one man's defiance of the natural order of things: accepting a punishment he didn't deserve, submitting to a death he could've easily avoided, and demonstrating that death itself has no lasting hold over him - that this declaration applies not just to him but to *all* of us who find life and identity in him. Jesus did these things as a foretaste of what *all* of us can have in him.

Life is tough. Even the best of us are brought low by the natural decay inherent in this creation, and by the combined apathy and antipathy of others - no matter how hard we might struggle against it. The story of Jesus acknowledges that fully - there is no denial there. But Jesus has a different response than most of us would - instead of fighting against all this as if it's a struggle he could possibly win, he chooses to let it go, and let God his Father take the reigns and take the glory, and in so doing he defeats death and decay itself - not just for himself, but once and for all, and for all of us.

So in this tough life, and in this tough year that so many of us have experienced (and so many have had it harder than my family has), I take comfort that we're living with the continual hope of Easter. That Jesus's resurrection is a foretaste of what's to come. That death and decay has its moment (and so many of us are living in that moment right now), but it's only momentary. If we choose to be in Jesus, we can release our struggles to him, knowing that in him resurrection has the final say.

I hope that Easter this year can be a transition point to a gentler year, one with a renewed and more realized hope in each of our lives. I think we have at least a few reasons to expect that might happen. But even if that doesn't happen for all of us, or for any of us... at least let Easter remind us that these trials and these challenges will not have the final say; it's neither our responsibility nor in our strength to fully overcome these things ourselves. But in Jesus we *will* have resurrection. That much, at least, is already determined.
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We spoke briefly with Nuckiline this morning and she said things are still going well there with the discipleship group in Antanamazava! She said that tomorrow they'll be starting a new Bible story set, one that Nuckiline will be starting the translation for (into the Antakarana language) herself. We're excited to hear Nuckiline taking the initiative to move forward into the next stage of ongoing discipleship with the people there! We were also able to connect her with colleagues of ours that are doing similar work in eastern Madagascar, so they can visit and encourage one another.

After being in the US for several weeks now, it was so great to hear her voice and hear that things are going well!
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