Tony and Cammy Brantzeg hosted about 30 people for a decidedly nontraditional Thanksgiving dinner at a one-story, century-old farmhouse 8,000 miles from their Chester County home. On the menu: leg of lamb with mint sauce, beef curry, paptert (porridge pie), Malva pudding, cooked onion salad - a Turkey Day feast, South African-style.
The Brantzegs, their sons, ages 12 and 15, and most of their guests were members of Hopewell United Methodist Church in Downingtown who had flown about 20 hours to South Africa last weekend to finish a project years in the making.
They were in Wellington, 45 minutes northeast of Cape Town, to build two brick houses and put in place the last piece of a community center made of refurbished shipping containers.
The Thanksgiving celebration was a chance for the group, hard at work since Monday, to rest and recharge. Some South African and German volunteers joined the meal, for which the Brantzegs hired a local caterer.
"It's interesting - they know a lot about the United States, but we don't know much about their country," Tony Brantzeg said of South Africans. "They knew about Thanksgiving. They knew Donald Trump was elected."
All week, the group laid brick for the two homes, which will be occupied by two families who have taken in at least two orphans each.
The shipping container - painted, partitioned, and drywalled by Hopewell United members on their church lawn - was supposed to arrive by Friday but was held up at customs. Forty feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet high, filled with office chairs, filing cabinets, desks and other donated items, it is scheduled to arrive in Wellington by Tuesday morning.
The church members hope to apply the finishing touches to the container before they leave Thursday morning. They plan to install drywall on the ceiling, install cabinets and vinyl flooring, and cut out windows and doors. The container - the only one they rehabilitated in Downingtown and shipped - will join five others and be the final piece of the Mosaic Paarl Valley Community Center.
The group visited the unfinished center, where about 200 children ages 3 to 6 come for meals, games, singing and dancing.
When the center's volunteers found out that the final container would hold a kitchen, "they were just overwhelmingly thankful," Tony Brantzeg said. "They said, 'Nine years of praying and now it looks like it's going to come true.' "
The Hopewell United members have worked for years with Mosaic, a nonprofit in South Africa, to build houses and refurbish shipping containers. Mosaic also runs a "swop shop" at which children can trade recyclables they find strewed around the town for items such as soap, shoes and toys.
On Friday, about 150 children came to the shop. A year ago, the shop and the community center did not exist.
"It's pretty neat to see the progress," said Tony Brantzeg, whose family frequently volunteers in the region.
The Brantzegs plan to visit Wellington three to four times a year. Last March, they bought a house in town - scene of the Thanksgiving festivities - and are renting out part of it. On this trip, they brought family photos to hang on the walls, to make it feel like home.