Lily’s (First) Baptisms

Sunday, November 29, five young people at Lily of the Valley entered into the waters of baptism in obedience to the Lord, publicly acknowledging their love for Jesus.

Mike spoke about baptism in the worship service.



Then it was time to move from the church building to the pool for the baptisms to take place.





Our Pastor Nkululeko baptized the first four young people, and Mike baptized the fifth.

Scroll through the videos and photos below to celebrate with us:

020b Sihle 3


021b Siphendile 3


022 Lethiwe 1

                            “Leti” enters

022c Lethiwe 4



023a Kwanele 2



024a Philisiwe 2

024b Philisiwe 3


            The Congregation


026 Group

                                       Group Hallelujah


027c Celebrate





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Winter 2015 Highlights

It may seem strange for those in the northern hemisphere to read that title, but the months of June, July and August are the winter months here in South Africa.  Below we are including a few highlights from the past few months here at Lily of the Valley Children’s Village.

In July, the schools had  winter break, with three weeks off.  Lily was busy with the activity of kids and volunteers.  We had four teams from two different churches in the U.S. here to help out for four weeks.  There were  construction projects, and outings and other activities planned for the children.

construction team

Much needed renovations and updates done on one of the children’s houses by a church team from California. Photo Credit: Bridge Riddell

St Henry's Marist School

Volunteers from a local private school came for the day to do a variety of activities     with our kids. Photo Credit: Bridge Riddell


July Holiday Break

Fun games, dance, and face painting are some of the popular activities.

In July we attended our annual SIM South Africa Spiritual Life Conference (SLC).  This gives all the SIM workers in South Africa, who come from many places around the globe, to meet and fellowship, pray, and have a time in God’s word.  Worshiping with and getting to know others who are like minded in ministry, were some of our favorite parts of the conference.


SIM South Africa Director Siegfried Ngubane



Mike running projector for group & worship sessions. He also led a morning prayer session.


Taiwanese gentleman with ministry to isiZulu speakers leading us in a Zulu hymn for worship. The body of Christ-


Once school break was over, and we returned to our “normal” schedule, the day to day of our life here included things such as Lori continuing to help out in the preschool, helping with homework and other kids’ projects, fixing wheelchairs, and having a special overnight guest!

School project Help


nap mats

                        Nap mats Lori made to update the preschool

We Be Nappin Wednesday


Uncle Mike helps with project

                               Uncle Mike helps with a project

Wheel chair repair

“Baby M” had a chance to return for a weekend when a regular caregiver was not available for her house.  They arranged for her other housemates to be with the other caregivers, but who wants a baby??? …. Of course we welcomed the chance for a weekend guest!

Stacking Skills Sleep over



So far this year, Lily has seen four children adopted into forever families, and two more children will join their adoptive families in the coming weeks.  Though  it is bittersweet to say farewell, we are grateful to see these kids blessed with the permanence of family. With the exception of the Gospel, it is what they need most.



Farewell 2

Leaving Lily with her new mommy







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Preschool Happenings

We realize it’s been some time since we’ve posted here on our blog. Keep checking back, as we hope to add more soon!
Here’s what we’ve been up to over the past five months at Lily-

First up, the preschool. Lori’s role of early childhood advocate here at Lily has begun the important task of upgrading the physical space that is used for the preschool, (as well as looking into a curriculum to use for a more structured and consistent preschool program).  Cleaning, sorting, eliminating, organizing, and inventory has been a large part of this first step.   These photos were taken of the side room off the nursery which was being used for a “storage/catch all”. The goal was to clean it out and make it available for use directly for the preschool only.  

Here are some photos of the work in progress:

Cleaning into the corners….




OK.  I admit, I had a little help with mopping one day from a young friend who needed some... shall we say... discipline.  But we found a way to keep our spirits up in the midst of the "muck".
OK. I admit, I had a little help with mopping one day from a young friend who needed some… shall we say… discipline. But we found a way to keep our spirits up in the midst of the “muck”.
preschool in progress
Cleaner and sorted. A diaper changing station in the works. But still room for improvement….
Next step: washing toys....
Next step: washing toys….
Sorting by type
…And sorting by type
Ma Pretty instructing the kids about the new toy organization and their part in helping to keep things tidy and in their proper bin.
Ma Pretty instructing the kids about the new toy organization and their part in helping to keep things tidy and in their proper bin.
A bit more sorted....
A bit more sorted….
Making progress....
Making progress….

There are still goals to meet, such as a replacing the rug, and creating more storage “cubbies”.  We’re also considering ways to arrange the nap mats up off the floor. Moving the rack of dress up clothes in the photo above to the side room,  allows us to utilize the chalkboard that is behind the rack. Soon we will  give the chalkboard a fresh coat of chalkboard paint, it will be ready for little hands to create away and improve their fine motor and creative skills! Come back to this blog to check for further updates and photos as we continue to make improvements on the preschool.  Until then, be sure it’s not all work and no play.

Below are some photos and videos of all the preschool fun we’ve been having lately!

Sewing cards to work on those fine motor skills.
Sewing cards to work on those fine motor skills.
Scissor practice.  Such concentration!
Scissor practice. Such concentration!


Simple activities like this (pull the clothespin through the lid hole) are helping  to increase focus, and fine motor skills.
Simple activities like this (pull the clothespin through the lid hole) are helping to increase focus, and fine motor skills.











Tummy time is important too!
Tummy time is important too!

Socializing gives opportunity for fun and building positive character traits……

Birthday fun

Birthday fun

Learning to get along with each other

Learning to get along with each other




Outdoor exercise!


Dress up fun

Dress up fun

Photo Credit: Nikki Hamm










Sandbox fun

Sandbox fun






Sandbox drumming and dancing

Outdoor large muscle play

Outdoor large muscle play

Snack time

Snack time

And let’s not forget simple silliness:

Silly hide-n-seek

Silly hide-n-seek



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Resurrection 2015 Reflections

As we come into Resurrection Sunday, we stand in awe of the grace of our Lord.
There is no way to express the gratitude we feel in our hearts for all He has done.  We simply owe Him our lives.

“Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You”

We are grateful for all of you and your part along with us in the work here at Lily of the Valley in South Africa  As you listen to the song in the video link below, we pray God will bless you afresh with the abundant joy that is His grace and sacrifice.

” But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Galatians 6:14

“All I Have is Christ” – Sovereign Grace Praise – copyright 2008

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Back at Lily – March 2015

 January 25, we began our second term with SIM at Lily of the Valley.  Part of the process of arriving back in South Africa, was saying good – bye.  We are thankful for our time in the States, and the many ways we were supported and loved.  Counting our six months of stateside blessings includes:

Welcome home and grad party

Use of home given graciously

Use of vehicles

Folks taking us out for a meal or having us over to their homes for dinner

Monetary gift for Lori from ladies group

Many people approaching us to begin monthly support

Two new churches on board with regular support

Time with family

People gave us money designated for personal needs

Travel safety

Meeting new friends serving all around the world

Keeping vigil for Fed Ex deliveries for us

Putting up a Christmas tree for us

Two iPhones passed along to us


Supportive family members for our daughters to live with

Enjoying the beauty of Colorado and Maine

We are grateful for each of you that ministered to us in these and countless other ways, as we were renewed and refreshed for the hard work of saying goodbye.

Saying goodbye in Texas

Saying goodbye kids in Texas


Mom and Dad

Saying goodbye to Lori’s parents in Maine

Airport 1

Saying goodbye to kids in Maine

After our journey of over 24 hours, we arrived safe and sound to be met by Bridge and Hilary Riddell at the airport in Durban. Upon our arrival at the gate at Lily, we saw one little boy waiting to meet us. Soon, we were surrounded by a mob of kids as they noticed we were back!




And of course, we made sure to see baby “M” right away!

Since arriving, we have merged into the schedule at Lily with our roles and responsibilities.  Mike has jumped right back in as village manager; overseeing the staff and kids at Lily, handing out the monthly pocket money, addressing discipline issues, and attending meetings with staff (and more meetings…).

Mike leading weekly assembly.

Mike leading weekly assembly.

Pocket money day.

Pocket money day.

Lori is beginning to observe the preschool kids’ individual developmental assessments, and organize systematic activities for them to help them acquire the skills they need. She is also beginning the process of sorting and cleaning the current preschool room to give it a much needed updating.

One night a week, we host a Bible study in our home for onsite staff and volunteers at Lily.  It is an encouraging time in the word together.

bible study

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers.  We are blessed by your support in ministry.





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Going Back to Lily

Wow! We’ve been in the States away from Lily of the Valley in South Africa for five months already. As we celebrate Christmas and anticipate the beginning of 2015, we look forward to our return to Lily.
Below we are attempting to answer some of the more “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) that may be in your minds regarding our return to South Africa.

1) Where are Ellie and Eden?  How/what are they doing now?  Will they be going back with you?

They are doing well, settling into life in the States since their high school graduation, and will not be going back to SA with us.  (although we wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted to visit Lily again sometime). They each have jobs and are looking into what their education plans will be. Ellie is staying with an aunt, and Eden with our oldest daughter, Kaleena; so it’s good that they will be with family once Mike and Lori return to SA.





 2) Will you do the same things at Lily as you did before? What will your roles/responsibilities be when you return?

Mike will be returning to the role of “Village Manager”.  (When we use the term “village” we are referring to the property at Lily that has the childrens’ homes).  He will be involved in direct oversight of the care of the children (think dad to 100+ kids), as well as leadership and development of staff and volunteers.

Lori plans to be involved with the preschool age children, helping to track and facilitate their early childhood development.





3) When do you go back?

We have been given the “green light” from SIM to make our travel plans!
Although we would have liked to return before Christmas, we are now making plans to return in January.  We had some medical appointments to accomplish and follow up with.  We are currently in the process of applying for our travel visas and hope to hear that we have been approved. If there are no complications or delays in regards to these things, we will be leaving on flights scheduled for January 10th. We pray the holiday closures at government offices will not interfere with our timing, however we can change our tickets if we have to.

4) Do you still have financial support left to raise before you go back?

Praise God that we are currently 93% funded!  We appreciate each and every person who has been partnering with us in this Kingdom work. Already 66 families, and five churches, have stepped out in faith as senders. That’s a lot of people, and it’s beautiful to see that God has united so many around a work that is close to His heart; caring for the orphan. Each financial sender is giving as the Lord has led them to give; doing the part God has given them. Each is contributing to what God is doing at Lily of the Valley. We’re excited to be part of what God is doing; and to be doing it in partnership with God’s people. You can be part of it too. The outstanding portion of our needed monthly support is only $500!  Five more who are willing to make a faith promise of $100/month will meet that need.  No amount is too small.  Please pray about your part in ministry with us at Lily of the Valley Children’s Village. Perhaps God is leading you to partner with us in missions through a monthly gift. For online giving, use the giving button below. When you do, you will have the option to set up a recurring monthly gift. This is the easiest and most cost effective way to support an SIM missionary.

Donate Now 2


We’re going back to Lily, want to come?



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When We’re Not at Lily – Part 3


Mission Training International

Our time at Mission Training International has come to a close.  We spent four weeks at their training campus in beautiful Palmer Lake, Colorado.  Being surrounded by mountains and the beauty of God’s creation was a perfect setting to be encouraged to “develop the practical skills and attitudes that will successfully take you through the challenging and rewarding process of being interwoven with another culture” through their COMPASS program. *


Garden of the Gods


Our first two weeks focused on “tools and techniques necessary to learn a new language more quickly”, and provided “… both a background understanding of how to best learn a new language- including 30 proven techniques – and a solid foundation in phonetics (hearing and producing different sounds)”*


Language Learning Session

Language Learning Session

Tok Pisin (pidgin English) session.

Tok Pisin (pidgin English) session.

Our class times were filled with group sessions of practicing “mimicking” a new language as we heard it, as well as participating in the actual projects and activities we can take with us to use in language learning through our everyday interactions once back in South Africa.  We got to literally stretch our mouths and tongues to learn how to make the phonetic sounds that English speakers may not be use to making, as well as to learn of the sounds we English speakers make but don’t even realize we do. Oh… and we did much of this practice with a hand held mirror before our faces to be sure we were getting tongue/mouth placement just right!

We also split up into smaller language groups that met with language helpers to give us a variety of real time practice in the language learning tools that we were learning about.  Lori’s group was with a Russian speaker, and Mike was learning Hindi.  These small group times gave us practical experience with the games, activities, and projects that we can use when we return to South Africa to learn Zulu on our own initiative.  In fact, one of the most important encouragements we received through this language learning portion of our training was that we need to take ownership of our language learning.

Russian group

Russian Group

To read more about Lori’s take on the language learning premises, click here:

Pray for us, that we will be diligent in this and utilize the tools we’ve been given.

“Father, find me faithful to steward this new information well”.

  The second half of our time at MTI was spent on cross cultural training.  Some of the modules we experienced touched on the topics of managing stress, embracing rest and keeping the Sabbath, conflict resolution styles, the various stages of transition of exiting home culture and entering new culture, values awareness, hellos & goodbyes, and grief and loss.

Transitioning through "chaos"

Transitioning through “chaos”

We learned much about ourselves, our classmates, and our spouses during these activities and interactions, but most importantly, we learned much about our Father God, and His heart of compassion for those He calls His own.  Jesus experienced all this and so much more as He left His home, His culture and family (the Father) to meet us where we are; and that represented huge costs and sacrifice for Him in terms of His comfort and His glory.  Therefore, the sacrifices we make to meet people in their cultures are relatively small – but also imitate Jesus’ sacrifice for all peoples.

We not only participated in “class time” but also small “growth groups” where we interacted on a more personal level with others in our community at MTI, as well as meeting weekly with a coach who counseled and listened to us a couple as we processed all we were learning.  And there was ample time in our schedules to meet informally during “down time” in the evenings and weekends to get to know each other better.  The beautiful outdoors beckoned us for times of rest, relaxation, personal reflection, and recreation.  And there were many little kids attending along with their families to give us smiles and laughter through the days.

Lori sharing smiles with a little friend

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods


Summit of Pikes Peak

Summit of Pikes Peak

It was an especially uplifting time to meet together each morning for praise and worship through song.  We will miss the 39 adults and 21 kids that we met and interacted with over those four weeks.  We trust God to protect and use them well in all they do as they step out in obedience to His call to show His grace to the 17 countries we will be going to.



Take away Quotes from our time at COMPASS:

“That you are talking is more important than what you are talking about” – David McClure (in context of language learning).

“Live the life of language before learning the law of language”.  – Dwight Gradin

“We need to stop and rest so our souls can catch up to our bodies” (Cherokees on Trail of Tears).

“Die to even the beauty of your own culture”



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When We’re Not at Lily – Part 2

Our time back to the U.S. this summer has brought us good times with friends and family, and times to reconnect with ministry partners.  Which means… lots of travel: We flew from Durban, South Africa – to connect to Johannesburg.  While there, we happen to meet up with a friend. Elizabeth was also flying out at the same time and we saw her across from our check in counter!, and had a few minutes to say a quick hello/good bye.  This dear woman was there to meet us when we arrived in South Africa back in Oct. 2013, so it was fitting to see her as we headed off the end of July.

With Elizabeth and Ammi

With Elizabeth and Ammi in Oct 2013

Then began the longest leg of our journey (or so we thought) – by air non stop from Johannesburg to New York City.  We arrived in NY on a Tuesday morning, and then we made our way to fly again to Charlotte, NC to SIM USA for our brief time of interviews and visits with the staff there. We are grateful for the way that SIM USA home staff connected with us upon our arrival back to the States, and also for the care we observed them display as they handled the situation that was unfolding at the time  for the missionary from Liberia who was needing treatment for ebola.  We praise God for a sending organization that offers so much support and care for it’s members, and that is so committed to the gospel even during difficult situations when the cost can be high.SIM   When we left Charlotte, we intended to fly but the “stand by ” flights had no space available, so… road trip!!!  We rented a car and drove to Maine: IMG_1511 IMG_1514 IMG_1516 IMG_1517 IMG_1518


“Welcome to Maine”

Upon our arrival back to Hollis, Maine, we were welcomed by dear friends: arriving arriving 2 arriving 3     arriving 4

arriving 5

Thank you to our dear friend Lisa, who took these photos and got her hug after they were taken.

The next day was also a party to welcome us back and celebrate Ellie’s and Eden’s high school graduation: IMG_1526   IMG_0151 IMG_0152   IMG_1525   IMG_1524     IMG_1530   IMG_1528   E nd E Grad Mom and Dad Grads kiss IMG_1529 party 3 party We are so grateful for the support and warm welcome we have received from our home church, Hollis Center Baptist Church.  Thank you for blessing us!   We’ve been enjoying being in Maine and all that it has to offer:


Lori’s Birthday celebration


A trip to Delorme and seeing “Eartha”


Summer time in Maine



“Sherpa 1” and “Sherpa 2” – Hiking again

We have enjoyed visits with family: Lori’s parents and sister’s family, and speaking at churches here in Maine.  And seeing our older kids, Kaleb and Kaleena.  Our next time of travel took us to Houston to help Eden get settled in with Kaleena: IMG_1642


A girl has to have wheels.

A girl has to have wheels.

mani pedi

Lori’s birthday treat from Kaleena with her girls



Saying goodbye to Eden and Kaleena –


The new room mates

After returning to Maine from Houston, Ellie got herself settled in at her new home with Lori’s sister in Maine:


Wheels for Ellie

Ellie room

A cozy, welcoming room



Ellie with pumpkins

Fall fun with family

Our first trip as “empty nesters” took Mike and Lori off to visit family in New York, and visit a special place, Letchworth State Park:

Visiting Mike's family

Visiting Mike’s family




The bridge where Mike proposed to Lori in 1980







With summer coming to an end, our next adventure is for Mike and Lori to begin four weeks of cross cultural training at MTI in Colorado….. find out more in “part three” in our next blog entry…..

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When We’re Not at Lily – Part 1

Even when we are away from Lily, we are often thinking of the kids and the needs there.  There is much to do.  There are times we are away for spiritual renewal and connecting with other SIM missionaries. Such was the  annual SIM South Africa Spiritual Life Conference in July of this year, in Port Shepstone, South Africa:

Introducing at SLC 2014

Introducing Ourselves


New SIM South Africa

The New Members of SIM South Africa

mike lori region team

Strategy Session Planning our Region’s Presentation

Game show Lori

Lori hosting “TV game show” region presentation

SLC portrait 4

With the Riddells, Lily’s assistant managers.


Ellie in one of the group sessions


Lori obstacle

Outdoor Egg Obstacle Course


Eden and her group working diligently on their project

SLC 2014 Grp

The SIM South Africa team


There are times when we have been away for personal “R and R” (rest and relaxation) such as this time in July visiting the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa:



Our Lily co-workers and friends, Josh & Nix, who showed us around their beautiful country.

Our Lily co-workers and friends, Josh & Nix, who showed us around their beautiful country.








Ellie meets a friend

Ellie meets a friend

Mike, Lori, Ellie and Eden at waterfall

Mike, Lori, Ellie and Eden at waterfall




Currently, we are spending time in the U.S., and we have been doing quite a bit of travelling. Our next post will continue with “part 2” of where we’ve been when we’re away from Lily…..

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“Hello, When Are You Leaving?”

  “My! People come and go so quickly here!” -Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz


The 8 year old took my hand as we walked together across the playground of Phase 2; the boys’ side of Lily of the Valley Children’s Village. He didn’t know my name yet, but had already decided to be my buddy. During this, our first encounter, he wanted the answer to one question, “How long will you stay?” He knows we’ll be leaving, because everyone leaves. There’s a lot of coming and going at Lily of the Valley. The children have grown accustomed to it, and many take what they can get where the attention of adults is concerned. He’ll eagerly make friends, but he’s already anticipating our leaving.

Enjoying lunch on Sports Day

Enjoying lunch on Sports Day

As I reflect on the past six months, I think about how far AJ* and I have come. He drops by my office after school, sometimes with exciting news about his day at school, sometimes just to hang out. But then, AJ stops at every office with an open door; I’m part of his regular routine; part of his constant search for love and belonging.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Emily*. Where AJ is everybody’s instant friend, Emily has never met a person that she’s not prepared to challenge. She customarily greets a newcomer by running past them, shouting a curse in isiZulu. She’s defiant, always ready to argue or fight, and doesn’t need anybody over the age of 12. But when she gets a time out, and she’s sitting with me in my office, I see a different side to Emily. She talks and talks; mostly about fighting, sure; but in spite of all her nine-year-old bravado, her fear and her desire to be loved quickly become obvious. She’s reaching out too; even while she pushes away. Emily has some strong and good qualities; she is smart and confident, is a natural leader, and has a strong sense of justice. When I tell her about her good qualities, the inner struggle is visible on her face. She’s eating up the compliments, but frightened to accept them at the same time.

Since before coming to South Africa last October, our desire has been to minister at Lily for the rest of our lives. That desire is driven by our belief that what the children here need most is permanence and commitment. The past seven months have shown us that we only had a hint of how profound that need really is. It eclipses everything else. Seven months in, we’re just beginning to get to know and understand these children, seven months on; the trust is just starting to grow. I suspect that many don’t really believe we’ll be coming back. And why should they? So many volunteers have come, loved them and left, and were never seen again. But I’m eager to get back; because I love this place and its children, because I see Jesus here, and his purpose for my life is here. I’m also eager to return because I want these children to see my commitment to them; I want the abandoned children at Lily of the Valley to know that they are not abandoned by God; or by me His servant.

When we return back ‘home’ to the US at the end of July, it will be to do several things. Ellie and Eden are both finishing high school in the next couple weeks and we will be bringing them back to start the next phase of their lives. Lori and I will be attending cross-culture training in Colorado for four weeks in the fall (9/22-10/18). And we will be seeking the remainder of our support so that Lori and I can return to South Africa as long-term missionaries. We now know better than ever how important that long-term commitment is.

Some of Lily's littlest ones at preschool

Some of Lily’s littlest ones at preschool

We are so thankful for all of you who have made our first term at Lily of the Valley possible. We are thankful to so many of you who have already made a commitment to partner with us on a long term basis so that we can make a permanent commitment to serve Christ by serving the children here. Please pray for us as we prepare to return to the US for a season. Pray that God will lead us to the remaining supporters that we need to return officially as long-term missionaries. And please put us in touch with anyone you know who might be interested in partnering in this work. We will be visiting with families and churches from mid August until September 21; and then again from October 19 until we have the necessary support and can return to Lily.

On Wednesdays, Mike hosts assembly with all the children in the village. Assembly is a time for lessons, announcements, and a devotional message from our pastor. This past week at assembly, we introduced our new Operations Manager to the children. Thula told a little bit about himself and then invited the children to ask a few questions. The very first question – “How long will you stay?”


* names have been changed

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