Monday, July 7, 2014

My Jesus


I was recently blessed to be invited to start leading another woman’s Bible study group here in South Africa. From the very first, the pastor's wife (who is co-leading the group with me) and I sensed that God was powerfully at work amongst this group of ladies. Swazi women are usually very stoic and reticent to share stories of their painful pasts, though almost all of them had one. The very first day we were shocked and amazed as they, one-by-one, began pouring their hearts out and allowing Jehovah Rapha, the Lord our Healer, to begin healing their broken hearts. The very next meeting the following week had to be moved to the church because the group had more than doubled in size! The Holy Spirit moved mightily! Mrs. Jele (pictured here), the beautiful and passionate pastor's wife, spontaneously began sharing her testimony, including parts she'd never before shared. She was not the only one with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her courageous obedience to the prompting of the Spirit opened the door for three of the most profound salvation experiences I've ever been honored to witness. There was no soft music, no step-by-step Gospel message, no altar call. Just one woman sharing what Jesus has done in her life, and three lost women spontaneously asked to be found. They saw Jesus in my friend, and they wanted Him. And just that simply, we led them in a prayer to receive Him as Savior and Lord. Hallelujah!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pray Continually!


Pray continually. I Thessalonians 5:17

A friend from the US and I were just discussing doing menial labor. Even though in America we are privy to all the latest technology and gadgets to supposedly make our lives easier, there will always be dirty dishes and dirty laundry. In the rural communities in southern Africa, the realities are no different in that there is always dirty laundry and if one is blessed to have enough food to feed one's family, dirty dishes. Of course these tasks are more cumbersome when water has to be carried from afar, and that water might not be very clean or abundant, or even unavailable during a dry season or drought. And one's back might hurt a little more doing all the chores by hand. But the fact remains that almost all of us have work to do with our hands. I have come to appreciate those chores. Period. For me it is a time to pray! To lift others up in intercession, to listen to my Father's voice, to praise my King, to confess my trespasses and fears and sorrows, and to receive sweet release. I have encouraged the women I disciple to look on those tasks as a time of blessing, and not to waste them grumbling or resenting. Pray my sisters, pray!




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rita


As I shared in my last post, the racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity in South Africa is astounding. God continues to chisel away at my preconceived ideas of what ministry in Africa is supposed to be, and to sweetly but firmly call me to His plans day by day. My idea of my work here to share the love of Jesus in the impoverished black communities, and yes, that is the bulk of what we do. But of course we can and should serve Him anywhere, all the time, with every breath.

When we first moved here to South Africa two months ago, and literally while we were still unpacking, a fellow missionary friend asked me to come with her to visit an elderly friend of hers who was recovering from hip surgery. All sorts of ungodly thoughts flashed through my mind. “I have no time—we just moved in.” But she's white and privileged and my ministry is to the black and underprivileged.” You get the gist. My friend, Sandra, knew how to rope me in and told me this elderly woman had two dogs, and dog lover that I am, I succumbed, all for the wrong reasons.

Once we arrived, I was quickly charmed not only by the dogs, but also by Rita, the antithesis of an elderly invalid. She was feisty, hospitable, and in great physical condition except for her hip. Her nails were manicured, her short spiky hair had a spunky streak of color, and her legs put Sandra and I both to shame. Turns out she was a ballerina in her younger years.

Soon after that, there were complications from the hip surgery, and Rita was hospitalized two more times, and I visited her as often as I could, always coming away feeling ashamed with my attitude going in, essentially something like, “Sigh, I'll make the time to bless this needy woman with my selfless appearance.” I'd always walk away knowing I was the one who was blessed by her fabulous sense of humor and zest for life.

Things deteriorated very quickly and took us all by surprise. More complications, enough concern to make sure Jesus was Lord and Savior of her life, and soon thereafter, she left us, still full of spunk and vigor but with a body that just gave out.

My last, and probably only true gift to her was to have the honor of officiating at her memorial service. I was so blessed to be able to give tribute to a fabulous lady and cherished new friend. Rita, thank you for enriching my life so incredibly much in the short time we knew each other, and I can hardly wait to see you dancing on new legs on streets of gold, with all the dogs and animals you ever loved frolicking with you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All Nations Serve Him!


May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him ho has no helper. Psalms 72:11-12

We have been in South Africa a little over a month now and are experiencing a little foretaste of Jesus Kingdom here on Earth. Revelation 7:9 ...a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb....As Americans, we sometimes have a tendency to think our country is the only melting pot. But since we moved to Africa, we've met so many people from all over the world—China, England, Congo, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, Australia, Mozambique, Sweden, Denmark, Zambia, and the USA just to name the ones I can think of off the top of my head! And each of these people are here, either on a short term basis or living here as we are, as servants of the Most High God. It is so fun to hear all the different languages, often at the same dinner table, or as was the case recently, while putting up playground equipment for children in an impoverished community. An American donor sent money to our American missionary friends for the equipment, and our friends asked us if we'd like to come along for the fun, and so of course we said “yes!” Before the day was over, we had people from three different countries involved. Americans, Kenyans, and South Africans, speaking a jumble of three different languages, got the swing set and teeter totter assembled and in place, and together we watched as precious children who previously had no place to play come running. With huge smiles they began taking turns (with a little coaching!) joyously swinging higher and higher.





Thursday, March 13, 2014

Feet


Since our move to the country of South Africa almost two weeks ago, I've made many observations as people often do when placed in a new environment. We are now living in a modern city as opposed to the very rural area where we resided for three and one half years in Swaziland. We are almost startled to have so many conveniences again at the tips of our fingers.

I think what continues to capture my amazement, though, is that my feet always look clean. For over three years, my feet were always covered in the beautiful reddish brown dirt of Swaziland. Yes, I showered regularly, but the moment I stepped outside, the clay-like dirt began to cling to my feet. Here, we walk on concrete, and my feet are back to their normal flesh color. To tell you the truth, I kind of miss the dirt!

While pondering this whole feet thing (lots of time to think while unpacking and getting our very old rental house in liveable condition) I was also reminiscing about “my” beloved ladies in Swaziland. In my (granted, rather biased!) opinion, sub-Saharan African women are some of the strongest women in the world. And their feet show it! These women walk miles and miles (okay, kilometers and kilometers) daily.

One of the first things we noticed on our arrival in our new and lovely neighborhood was the dozens of housekeepers all trudging on tired feet to the bus stop after a hard day's labor. South Africa has come a long, long way in the past two decades, but racial inequality is still readily evident. These long-suffering housekeepers are all black, and all work in homes of whites. They work in clean houses because they keep them that way, and walk on concrete because they have jobs. Their feet are relatively clean compared to their rural neighbors in Swaziland, but I'm sure every bit as tired.

The Bible has many, many references to feet. Quite a few refer to the hospitable practice of helping guests to wash their tired and filthy feet. One of the most beautiful examples of humility and agape love in the whole Bible is when Jesus washes the disciples' feet.

It brings my heart joy to read the promises in the Bible about the feet of believers. It brings me joy to know that because of the price Jesus' paid (including allowing His feet to be pierced) someday all these precious women who believe on Him will have pristine clean feet! And that even now, God cares for their swollen, calloused feet.

He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. 2 Samuel 22:34 and Psalm 18:33

You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. 2 Samuel 22:37 and Psalm 18:36

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:2



Friday, January 31, 2014

Hunger Games




What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? James 2:14-16
 
My husband and I live very frugally compared to the standards in which we were raised in the affluent USA. Yet one of the things we wrestle with is having enough food to eat, electricity (most of the time), and running water (most of the time!) while living and serving amidst brothers and sisters who do not.

This was especially poignant to us this past Thanksgiving, which we celebrated with other American missionaries here in southern Africa. We were blessed with a typical and abundant feast at a long table in our friends' lovely dining room. Our friends also happen to distribute food donations to communities that are in dire need. The irony did not escape us that in the very same dining room where we gorged, in the corner were high stacks of boxes prominently labeled "Feed My Starving Children." The events of the day continued to unfold in a similarly ironic manner.
Most of us live in rural areas and being in a "real" city with modern conveniences is quite a rare treat, we decided to splurge further and go see a movie in a "real" movie theater. One of the "Hunger Games" series was out, so off we excitedly rushed to a "real" mall. We all enjoyed this uncommon time of escape and relaxation, but ruefully talked afterward about how unsettled we all felt watching a movie, named "Hunger Games" with the major theme of "haves and have nots" in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet the truth that continues to become more and more crystal clear to us is that the real hunger is not for daily bread, but for Daily Bread. We pray that the hearts of those who "have" will be continue to be opened to the great and yawning need here for bread and for the Bread of Life.
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." John 21:15

Monday, December 30, 2013

RECONCILIATION


Reconciliation is a word God has been putting on my heart and in my path a lot recently. Of course it is one of the main themes of the Bible, with many times of foreshadowing in the Old Testament (think Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Naomi and her kin). Maybe the most famous parable in the New Testament of reconciliation is that of the prodigal son. Reconciliation finds its source, its very essence, ultimately in the Trinity: the Father giving His only son so that we might be reconciled to Him, the Person of Jesus Christ and His perfect, sacrificial death on the cross, the Holy Spirit raising Jesus from the dead.

Nelson Mandela's death was an opportunity for many to reflect on the concept of reconciliation as his very life in later years exemplified forgiveness and restoration and unity.

I have a friend who just had to give the go-ahead for his mother to be taken off life-support. God has used this painful time in his life to reconcile his father and him after years of a broken relationship. Most of us can remember times when similar things have happened in our own lives or those of our families and friends.

One of the great joys of our mission work in Swaziland has been leading many to reconciliation with the Father as they accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. With the highest rate of both HIV/AIDS and TB in the world, there is no shortage of those excited to hear the Gospel.

We are thankful to be able to continue in this work, but God is calling us to a new and exciting work as well, just across the border in the country of South Africa (Mandela's homeland). SA proudly claims their title of the “Rainbow Nation” and indeed, great strides have been made for unity among the races. But a HUGE divide still exists—in many hearts and in physical reality. Only God can bring the necessary healing to hearts after years of racial ugliness. Only God can really enable those who are still living lives of extreme poverty and disease in the townships to begin to prosper and thrive as their white fellow South Africans do.

But God calls and uses people, and we are humbled that He has called us to be part of this work. We will be moving to SA in early 2014. Our work in Swaziland will continue through the locals with our oversight, but we will also be doing the same work in SA with the added component of allowing God to use us in new ways to bring about His work of reconciliation!