My husband and I, personally understand the diversity of needs through our yearly mission trips to South Africa over the past twelve years.  We have witnessed first-hand the spread of AIDS/HIV, lack of clean water, hunger and increased unemployment. In 2007, Life Connection Ministries (LCM), a nonprofit organization developed by my husband and I to provide humanitarian aid to impoverished communities, was given a large parcel of land by the tribal government to establish an area called the Vulindlela village. It is located near the Wild Coast on the Eastern Cape border.

The LCM model is Spiritual Food, Natural Food and Economic Empowerment.

This site has clean water from a well for the community which we have drilled. We offer educational services, such as a preschool for the babies, and hydroponic greenhouse with pumped water to irrigate crops.  We have two buildings:  the first offers classes in basic computer to young adults and sewing for the women; the second building is used by the Health Department to hold monthly mobile clinic checkup and immunization. We took a flat portion of land and converted it into a soccer field that is used by the local community for recreation.

Remembering our Dear Son

Our project focus this year was dear to our hearts: Matthew, our son, was only 22 years old and in great health when he passed suddenly of an aortic dissection in December 2011. His life was short but we know that he loved and lived for God; he travelled to this same area bringing hope through God’ word.  Matthew RussellTo commemorate Matt’s dream we have set up the “Matthew E. Russell Foundation” that promotes literacy and libraries in schools around the world.  His dream was to finish his teaching degree and move to South Africa to teach in the local community where we ministered.  We were able to set up the first library in June, at the Ithongasi School. The library/media center contained books, Kindles (electronic readers) and computers that were equipped with thousands of eBooks.  We believe that the media technology side will create new interest and passion for reading, which in turn will compel higher education and learning.

Preparing the Empowerment Team Physically, Mentally and Spiritually

n addition, the 2012 team successfully went door to door canvassing the area praying in homes. We visited two large schools and presented the gospel message, held the third annual 5K run with 500 registered runners; each received a pair of running shoes.  We did three home projects for widows, two homes were painted on the exterior, the third home we installed a fence in the yard. The LCM site is also the location we erect three large tents on the property for our nightly meetings; thousands come each night.

We prepare team members during monthly meetings with discussion of projects and the ministry. Walking every day 1-2 miles for door to door ministry, if not able, we will strongly advise them to start an exercise regimen. We start early at 7 AM and end late at 10 PM, so you must get your rest each night. We provide two large meals, breakfast and dinner (served late afternoon) which are prepared and cooked fresh each day.  We offer fruit, nuts and cereal bars for snacks. This schedule challenges each team member to personally make adjustments to food and exercise where needed, so that they can be productive and stay healthy during the trip.

Empowerment__TeamIt is very important to study the culture before going to another country.  In the area we go to the Xhosa people who have a simple lifestyle that is also very primitive ….no running water in the homes, no electricity, cook outside on fire pit, and the main mode of transport is walking.  So we are constantly reminding the team how simple the local people’s lives are in comparison to our lives in the United States (U.S.). Another concern is the safety of the drinking water.  We include bottled water into our food cost so that we can allot 6 -8 bottles of water per day (12-16 cups) to each team member.   Food choices are very limited in comparison to the options we have here in the U.S.  Food is not processed, but basically eaten fresh from trees and gardens.

This trip ever year reminds me how blessed I am with a great church, health insurance, family that loves me, and a home with some comforts, but it is my relationship with God that compels me each year to return to help someone else which fills me with God’s joy.

And we know it gives us the strength to go thru anything….