28 June 2007

believe// week7

I was so blessed by church on Sunday. Former APU campus pastor Chris Brown had been visiting our ministry & on Sunday he gave the sermon at one of the churches in the township. He reminded us that our God is the same God of the New Testament. We just need to believe. Often we fail to actually believe the prayers we pray. And so then, what’s the point? As our hearts are shaped after God’s then so will our prayers be, so why should we not believe God will answer when we call upon him?

We must believe.

But how do I believe God has everything in control when I spent all Monday cleaning up an old age home where grandfathers and grandmothers had been forgotten by their loved ones. How do I believe in the love of Christ when Tuesday I heard about our 15-year-old friend who sits on the street and begs only to make $7 a day? How am I supposed to believe in the sovereignty of God on Wednesday when I held a child who literally had rot on his head because he isn’t able to shower weekly? And how do I believe in God’s mercy when I laid hands on a lady this morning who is dying of AIDS?

When circumstances around us seem to say that God isn’t listening, where do we find our belief?

I’ve come to find it in the body of Christ. I believe God loves when I see a young white South African embrace a colored grandmother whose abandonment by her son has turned her bitter. I believe God understands when I hear the words of wisdom a middle aged American shares with his small group of guys each week. I believe God provides when I speak with a woman with no food of her own makes soup for those dying of AIDS. I believe God is gracious when I hold precious children alongside my black South African brother.

For those of you who know me well, to consider the church as a reason for my belief is monumental. But here in South Africa I’m learning what it means to live in true community; a community that is the face of Jesus to its neighbors. And that is all the more reason to believe.

Prayer requests:
* We have a youth outreach that I've been planning alongside Lubabalo, another young guy on staff. On Tuesday night, we will be showing the Jesus film in Xhosa and then we'll be doing a follow up on Wednesday where we'll have some soccer games, crafts, small groups & a short message. We're hoping to attract youth 15 and older in order to grow our small group discipleship program. There is also a local youth group coming to join us. It's primarily white teens who have never been in the township of Mbekweni. So this will be a big outreach to them as well. Please be praying that out of this God will touch the lives of many young people; black, brown & white.
* Also, Blommie, the short term staff leader, is still awaiting surgery. Because of bronchitis her doctor has held off on her surgery. She is now waiting 2 more weeks until an available spot. This will take her out of our whole season of short term teams. I know it's been tough on her. Please keep her & her health in your prayers.

(thank you)

24 June 2007

victory// week6

I think as I continue to ask God to mold my heart after his, I am feeling deeper than ever. I’m basking in the joy of the Lord at the sound of 60 kids reciting his Word. And I am despairing at the losses of others.

This past week has been a time of loss for people in Paarl. Last weekend a white Afrikaner girl died in a tragic motor accident. The car slammed into a pillar and she was killed immediately. Her death took place in the same spot where her father, a friend of the ministry, had prayed the week before against all the accidents lately that have been killing young people in Paarl. Please keep her family in your prayers.

That same weekend a shack in Paarl East, a community we work in, caught on fire next to a 3-story apartment building. The fire spread up all 3 flights, forcing people to jump out the windows, landing through the roofs of surrounding shacks, which meant unaffordable hospital visits for many. Trapped inside was a 4-year-old girl, who suffocated. In addition, there were two separate shack fires this week in Mbekweni, the other community we work in. 10 or so families lost their homes. Each week, my eyes are opened more to the realities of life here and my heart aches. God knows how many conversations we’ve had about the “unfairness” of life.

But here’s what makes this all beautiful. I was in the community center on Thursday playing with a precious 18-month-old girl and talking with her drunken unmarried mother. I sat there feeling broken for these people. But then a chorus of beautiful voices interrupted my thoughts of hopelessness. One of the girls small groups started singing, “In Jesus I am a victory.” The blood of Jesus has made each of us victories. No matter our circumstances, we will overcome. Isaiah 40:31 says, “those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not grow weary.”

Later that day as I sat on the curb next to children eating the soup we had just passed out, I was reminded that at the end of the day, God has the victory. No matter how bleak things look, we have a hope and peace in the Lord that is unexplainable, A line of one of my favorite worship songs says, “we believe that God is bigger than the air I breathe… and God will save the day and all will say my Glorious.”

And that’s what I’m learning this week; God’s glory prevails. Amidst the depravity of this world, God is there. And day-by-day, I’m learning to sing praises of victory to my Glorious.



17 June 2007

to pour out// week5


Well winter is here and in full effect. We’ve had a few deceitful sunny moments, but rain, wind and cold have become the norm these past two weeks. And as much as I enjoy rain, it’s hard on my soul because I think of my dear friends who aren’t sleeping under a leak-free roof. The dampness of my own flat only amplifies the hardships of the precious people of Mbekweni and Paarl East. It’s a tiring realization, but one I hope I never come immune to.

This past week has been busy as we are preparing for our first team of 5 coming in a week. So I have been occupied with meeting with staff in charge of different parts of the ministry to compile a schedule for this next team as well as the upcoming 2 teams in July. And due to a recent development, I will be especially busy. At the end of this week Blommie, who in charge of the short term teams on the South African side, and hence my “boss”, found out that she has a huge mass near her colon which needs to be removed. Her surgery will be next Monday. Recovery time is 4 to 6 weeks, which means I will be taking over for her along with Gary, who overseas the short term trips. This surgery is a pretty big thing and I know she is nervous. Please keep her in your prayers.

While my intern duties have kept me engaged, I’m still blessed by time spent in the communities. I’ll share some stories from Wednesday. A few weeks ago, my friend Khanti had asked if we could get together because he had some things on his mind. Khanti is bright Xhosa boy finishing his senior year of high school at a prestigious school here in Paarl. He has been involved in teaching dance classes at the community center and has been in leadership at his church as well as a part of the Western Cape national debate team. Now Khanti and I go back to my second trip. During that trip we had been up at camp where he was challenged in his own beliefs. After many tearful conversations he made some great decisions in regards to his Christian faith. Since then we’ve been in touch and it’s always a joy to see his bright smile. So this Wednesday he met me at the ministry coffee shop. As I listened, he began to pour out his heart. He’s feeling the weight of his community’s problems and is crumbling under the expectations set upon him. And all this is taking a toll on his faith. So he has asked to meet with me on a weekly basis to just be there to listen and offer him support. I am so excited about this opportunity. I love this boy dearly and am honored to have the chance to pour into his life.

The rest of Wednesday was equally as blessed. I went to the Lukhanyo community center and got to play with all the precious children. And the small groups are going really well. Debra, one of the MCM staffers that leads the group I’ve been sitting in on, has asked me to help her teach. I’m very excited to get involved. After small groups we invited all the small group leaders back to the coffee shop for dinner and some discipleship training time. I love spending time with these leaders. Many of them I know from the same time I meant Khanti. Three of the girls were in my small group at camp. It’s been so cool to watch them grow in the Lord and be able to, again, pour into their lives.

So the Lord is continually at work here in Paarl. I am constantly amazed by his sovereignty. I am welcoming the opportunities to pour into these beautiful communities. And I am amazed at how God continues to fill me as I pour out.
Thank you all for you prayer support. I am blessed by it!

When saying your prayers…
o Wisdom: Khanti & I will be meeting every Tuesday afternoon. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will give me the discernment to know when to speak and what to say.
o Stillness: It is easy to get caught up in the ministry without making time to just enjoy the Lord’s presence. During this season of my life, I am earnestly seeking God’s next step for my life. Being still is essential in discerning his calling.
o Health: This cold weather is making it difficult for me to stay well!
o Blommie: For a smooth surgery and quick and thorough recovery.

Hope this finds you well and enjoying warm weather. Be in touch soon!

12 June 2007

harsh realities// week4

Well it’s definitely time for an update! I can’t believe I’m already on week 5 of my stay here. I’ll do my best to recapture some moments from this past week. As I’m writing this, the rain continues to pour down. It’s been hitting pretty heavy during the past week, causing some unfortunate flooding in the townships as well as up at the MCM farm. I know the farmers in the area are welcoming the nourishment to their fields but I can’t help but think about all those whose homes are slipping and sliding in the mud at the moment.

As the rain continues to fall, I am reminded of a harsh reality I saw this past week while serving soup at one of the community centers. My heart broke as I watched the under 5-year-old children head home with their soup. They were practically wading through puddles as fast as possible to avoid getting too much water in their soup bowls. I stood at the door, putting the hoods of their thin sweatshirts over their heads as they walked out with their hands full with their soup. I was almost in tears by the time we left. It’s moments like that when I am overwhelmed by the physical needs of this world. I hold on to the promise of the place our Lord is preparing for us where there is no suffering.

Another harder moment in the week was driving by a graveyard this weekend. I was amazed at how many “fresh” graves there seemed to be. AIDS, poverty and crime continue to hack away at humanity here in South Africa. It’s a somber realization.

Although the harsh realities can be difficult to digest at times, be rest assured that I am thoroughly enjoying every moment here! I am beginning to make friends within the community and have begun the church hunt. Yesterday I went to a church that was completely in English- that was a first! And all of the MCM staff has welcomed me with open arms. I’ve found myself with a whole new extended family. I’m very grateful!

I have moved in my one room flat, which is on the property of one of the ministry member’s home. It’s very comfortable and I’m thankful to have my own space for a while! I will stay here until the teams arrive, and then I will live with them in the ministry house.

I’ve been busy putting my journalism skills to use here at the office. I’ve been editing the new MCM website so that should be up and running soon. I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s up! I’m also helping design some other informational media for the ministry and will soon create their first ever newspaper. I’m really enjoying applying my knowledge from classes and work at the newspaper.

Besides doing such work, I’m also starting to help prepare the schedules for the upcoming teams. We get our first team in about 10 days and from there on out we will be busy hosting teams from all over California. I’m definitely looking forward to that!

Well that’s the latest from this side of the world!

Here’s what you can be praying for:
o Health: I still have a lingering cough. I feel fine, but it’s just annoying!
o Focus: There is a lot to get done in the upcoming weeks and it’s easy to get into the “go, go, go” mentality. Pray that I will continue to move slow enough to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
o Friends: Being that I’m one of the youngest on staff, I’m hoping to make a few friends closer to my age. It’d be nice to have a few people to spend time with on the weekends who are under 30! So pray that the Lord will bring some godly people my age around.
o Ministry: Continue to keep all the MCM staff in your prayers & well as the people we are loving on!

gratitude, peace and love to all.

05 June 2007

speechless// a recap of the APU trip

When trying to describe the past three weeks with the APU team, I am at a loss of words. Continually throughout the trip I was left speechless. The utter beauty, alone, of this wonderful place is enough to silence any Chatty Cathy. Even at this moment, my jaw is dropped in awe of the scene outside my window. The sun is adamantly pushing through the clouds, causing tiny rainbows amongst the heavy mist. Being a lover of words, I am always reaching for a way to describe my experiences here in the most descriptive way possible. However, this year I think the lack of words describes my experience best.

With the role of leader and three previous trips lingering over my head, I am convinced that God needed to silence me in order to let my superb team experience the wonder of South Africa in their own ways. And God used beauty of his creation to quiet me; the toothless smile of a two-year-old boy waiting patiently for his bowl of soup, the orange streaks of sunlight hitting the purple mountains, the powerful voice of a worshiping mother.

And when I was silenced, I watched God move in all 12 of us in unique ways. Whether it was through praying for the sick, sharing life stories with teenagers, serving soup to young children, or worshipping God with a new approach, God revealed himself to each of us. Realizing how real God can be to so many different personalities added a whole new dimension to my faith. I’ve experienced the God of wonders, of grace, of sovereignty and of nations. But this trip I have experienced the God of pursuit. He passionately searched each of us out.

I am reminded of one night of prayer with our team. God’s presence was as thick as the morning marine layer over the San Francisco bay. After the prayer time, several of us sat together giddy over how present the Lord was. We joked that God must find our behavior so silly. He had revealed but one more facet of himself, yet we were so overwhelmed. I had seen another glimpse of our magnificent Lord and once again I was speechless.

So I thank each of you for your prayers for team unity, for safety, for willing hearts and for openness to the Holy Spirit. Many personal and corporate prayers were answered in our three weeks here.

As most of you are aware by now, my time in South Africa will continue through the summer and upcoming fall. I will intern with Monte Christo Ministries and then continue my studies here through APU. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend a season here and look forward to sharing stories when I return. I will be sure you keep you all informed of what the Lord continues to do during my time here.

Thank you all for playing a special role in my pursuit of the Lord’s calling on my life. The spiritual and physical support I continue to receive over the years has been deeply appreciated.

Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you.