Grandma Karen Berger, is one very brave and gentle lady who had the courage to brave many unknowns to spend 3 months serving God in a short-term ministry here at Bethesda. All children, including orphans and vulnerable children, need different kinds of people to be involved in their lives – including Grandmas. We encourage people to prayerfully consider stepping out of the comfort of their own lives to be challenged personally and to benefit the lives of others. A short term ministry at Bethesda is a great opportunity to do that.  Enjoy her story!

As a seventy-one-year-old I applied for a 3-month internship at Bethesda Outreach Children’s Village. I was retired, a widow and a grandmother yet I was eager to see what God had planned for me. I’ve chosen 2 verses (paraphrased by me): Galatians 6:10 “When we have the opportunity to help someone, we should do it.”  And, Psalms 121:5-8 “The Lord is like a shade tree at my right hand.  The sun won’t harm me during the day and the moon won’t harm me during the night…. the Lord will watch over my life – no matter where I go – both now and forever!”  I was accepted to be a “grandma” at Bethesda and participate in all activities that I could.

These seventy-one years have given me lots of blessings yet this is one of the best! I’ve known of Bethesda Outreach for some time; however, to be on campus showed me that not only do the children need our prayers (their lives have experienced so many difficulties and hardship at such young ages), but prayers and support are also needed for the houseparents, teachers, and administrators of the campus. One of my favorite times of the day was to help with homework. Usually, the children did not actually need the help so much as a quiet space and a little encouragement. We would end our time together with a biscuit (cookie) and a chance to visit while coloring or playing on my iPad. I held a “Grandma Karen Camp” for four-year olds two days a week. I loved seeing them return week after week with the black construction paper “Bible” books I had made for them and hearing them recite the songs and verses. I attended a Bible Study for older girls and was so blessed with their study and application of Scripture. We too, had fun times together making paper boxes and Oreo Truffles.

A highlight of each week was the Wednesday morning times with the moms. They have chosen and dedicated their lives to be imitators of God’s love. Not only do they care for their homes, laundry and meals; but they care for the spiritual lives of these children. To quote one of the moms, “If I don’t show them Jesus, who will?”  To hear these moms gather for Bible study and prayer times together was such a boon to my week.

My family would tell you I know enough about technology to sometimes be dangerous! However, I was so pleased to be able to find a recipe to substitute melted chocolate chips, find out how to make play dough and find numerous YouTube videos of Bible stories and songs!  An absolute favorite feature of the internet was Google hangouts with my grandchildren who were some 10,000 miles away.

During my first week while helping to substitute in a JCA classroom, one of the Grade R (Kindergarten) boys asked how long I would stay in South Africa and I explained the limitation of the 3-month visitor visa. A few moments later he returned to my desk to ask, “Will you ever return to us?”  I wasn’t sure of my answer at that time but it is now an emphatic “YES!”