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South Africa Mission Trip - A Parent Journal

On Friday morning, April 2, 2010, a group of 7 students and their parents, accompanied by Fr. Augustine Tran, ventured across the Atlantic Ocean on a life-changing mission trip to South Africa. The students included Zach Kloss, Thomas and Kate McCormick, Caitlin and Charlotte Hodges, Sean Damaska and James Rose. They arrived in Johannesburg Saturday evening, eager but tired after their long plane ride.

On Easter morning, they attended Mass at St. Joseph’s where Fr. Tran was a concelebrant. Fr. Tran explained to the presiding priest that he was from Atlanta with a group on a mission trip. At the end of Mass, the priest introduced Fr. Tran as being from Alaska! After Mass, the group went to an orphanage of 16 children. There they performed many tasks which included cleaning and organizing the home to assist their caretaker. The children were very enthusiastic to have so many visitors from far away. They sang and danced to show their appreciation. The BT students played with the children and showered them with attention. A good time was had by all!

Each morning, the day began with Mass by Fr. Tran and ended with a daily reflection and prayer. On Monday morning, the Mass was said outdoors in beautiful surroundings, complete with impalas running by. From here the group traveled to a nursing home where most of the residents rarely receive visitors. They couldn’t believe that visitors coming all the way from America would want to stop by and spend time with them. Some of the patients needed fed for lunch, where others just wanted to engage in simple conversation. Again, the mission group was treated to more heart-warming songs by the residents.

The BT students were wonderful in their outreach to these often forgotten elderly patients. After spending several hours with these wonderful people, the group headed to the next location which was the Olive Mission. This was a community outreach center with significant needs. It currently serves 266 children who are either abused,orphaned or vulnerable due to the HIV crisis which is gripping the country. Many of the children here either have HIV themselves, or have lost a parent(s) due to the disease. Severe poverty is a way of life and many of the kids receive their only meal of the day here. It is run by an extremely energetic and loving staff.

Again, the group was greeted with African songs and dance and were asked to join in as well. The BT students pitched right in and played games with the many children who were craving attention. The mission group, seeing some of their needs, was then able to provide them with things such as soccer balls, Frisbees, sidewalk chalk, and face paints. The children reveled in all the attention. Fr. Tran was an instant hit when he demonstrated to them his marital arts skills.

A bond was therefore established between the Olive Mission and the BT mission group. For the remaining of the week, the group returned for subsequent visits to the various locations in their jurisdiction. Besides engaging the children with play and camaraderie, another aspect involved home visits to the sickest of those stricken with HIV. These patients lived in formal and informal settlements, much like squatter camps. Many had no electricity, running water or toilet facilities. The patients received some food and medical supplies if necessary. The visit always ended in hand holding and prayer, often in Zulu. Some of the visitors even learned a few new words in the Zulu language! The BT missionaries were always warmly received and many new unforgettable friendships were forged.

The mission group undoubtedly received so much more on this trip than they were able to give. The people they encountered will forever remain in their thoughts as well as in their hearts.