The life theologic – Returns

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So, outreach is over, DTS has finished and I’ve arrived safely back in the land of reliable internet and chocolate Hobnobs.  I have to admit it is a little bizarre to be back.  The houses are warm on the inside, the sun doesn’t go down until 9:30pm and it seems to be permanently raining.  One good thing you can say for the weather is that it makes it amazingly green here.  I’ve never seen quite the same shade of green as the English countryside anywhere else in the world, and I’ve been to quite a few places now.  It’s one of the things I miss the most when I’m away, along with the food, and the people of course.

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I’ve been back for a grand total of 3 days, and seem to have spent most of that time unpacking, doing laundry and attempting to wade through the bureaucracy surrounding  South African temporary residency laws.  Even with all the paperwork to keep me busy, I’m still missing my Media Village family.  It’s hard to spend every waking moment with a group of people for 5 long months and not miss them when they’re gone.  We were warned about this, and I’ve decided to be pro-active about it, so, with the sadly diminished remains of my welcome home chocolate cake by my side, now seems like the time to look back over the last 2 months of outreach and to begin to tell our stories.

Our time on outreach in White River and Dondo has been extraordinary, exhausting, surprising, challenging and completely life changing.  We were privileged to take part in dozens of ministry areas, spending our time teaching, babysitting, painting churches and pre-schools, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick in their homes, ministering to children and youth, preaching, performing, ministering to prostitutes and drug addicts on the streets of Nelspruit, and sharing the gospel in unreached areas of rural Mozambique.  As you can imagine, both the scenery and the lifestyle were a bit different to what we had experienced in Cape Town.

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In many ways our experience of outreach was out of the ordinary.  The favourable reception that we received wherever we went, and large events that we took part in, meant that over the 6 weeks that we were serving, we reached over 15,000 people, prayed with and ministered to over 10,000, saw thousands give their lives to the Lord, and witnessed hundreds of healings.  God was so good.  Wherever we went we were witnesses to His amazing love and goodness.  We saw the lame walk, the blind see and the mute speak.  The numbers we were privileged to serve were huge, but even if just one person had heard the gospel and been saved, the whole journey would have been worth it, all 6,844 kilometres of it (we’re pro’s at coaches, minibus taxis and chapas now).

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There are so many wonderful stories and amazing testimonies from this time, and I’m hoping to share a few with you over the next few weeks, as they deserve to be told properly, but for now all I will say is that there is nothing that my God cannot do.  The changes that have been wrought in our lives through seeing God’s unwavering faithfulness have been wonderful.  We will never be the same, and neither will the lives of those we encountered.  And what’s even better is that it wasn’t our doing, but God’s.  We are just a group of young people that wanted to spend more time with God and see His kingdom grow.  We’re nothing special.  In the eyes of the world we don’t count for much – only 3 out of 15 have a University education, only 6 are over the age of 21, and none of us has any money, yet God did incredible things through us.  It just goes to show that He can and does use anyone that is willing to say ‘your will be done, Father, not mine’.

That certainly is an encouraging thought.

 

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The life theologic – Transitioning

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It feels like it’s all happened in the blink of an eye, but somehow we’ve reached week twelve of the DTS and have moved from lectures to full time outreach preparation. Over the last eleven weeks we have been taught by lecturers from 6 different nations, covering topics as diverse as relationships, hearing God’s voice, worship, the bible, the Holy Spirit, destiny, the father heart of God, and cross cultural communication. All this has left our brains somewhat saturated, so it’s nice to spend some time looking outwards at what we can bring to our outreach. The good news is that our entire team will be able to go! One week before we had to pay for the coach tickets, we were ZAR 30,000 (about £1700) short. By the grace of God, within the week we raised the full amount from generous donations, sponsored runs, bake sales and fundraising at the Cape Town carnival. We are so blessed to be able to take the full contingent with us, and God has already given us an amazing testimony of His provision to share when we get there.

Mozam 2Our plans have changed slightly due to some concerns about the safety of the road between Maputo and Dondo, and us not wanting to get caught up in political warfare, so we’re now going to be splitting our time 50/50 between White River and Dondo, travelling up to Mozambique through Zimbabwe. This really is the long way around, and means hours and hours on several coaches, but we think it will be worth it. It’s exciting to get to see some of Zimbabwe too, even if it is just from the window of the coach. The base at Dondo is very under-staffed, so we have an opportunity to really make a difference there both with the children’s work, and by working on construction projects in the community. In White River, the main areas of ministry are going to be working in jails and among prostitutes, as well as children’s work, so much of our time is being spent rehearsing dramas and practising making friendship bracelets and face painting, along with daily Portuguese classes.

Outreach is supposed to be a time not only for putting what we learned in the lectures into practice, but also for stretching ourselves and growing in our giftings. This trip will certainly do that. Even compared to when we started the DTS, I have seen amazing amounts of growth in those around me, and in myself, but we are hoping for even more over the next 2 months. What I can say for certain is that we are all now ruined for the ordinary.

Internet access is unlikely to happen, and I won’t be able to post updates, so I’ll give the main prayer points now. We are really praying that the journeys will go smoothly, the border crossings will be pain free, and that we all stay healthy, because food-borne illnesses and malaria are real dangers. As for the communities we are going into, our main prayer is that we can love those that we meet in the best way possible, whatever that may look like.

Here’s to 2 amazing locations, and about 5 days of coach travel. See you on the other side … hopefully.

The life theologic – Outreach planning

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We’re now at the halfway point of our DTS, and finally have an outreach location!

During our times of prayer and intercession, we’ve been asking God to show us where He wants to use us for our outreach, and the overwhelming sense has been that God was showing us pictures describing Mozambique, right down to the colour of the earth there and the direction of the prevailing winds.  So, we’re going to follow where God leads, and will be heading to Mozambique to work in partnership with IRIS Ministries, an organisation that specialises in compassionate ministries.  We’re going to drive up through South Africa and spend a couple of weeks in White River before moving on to Maputo and Dondo.

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The fine details are still being worked out, but it’s good to have a confirmed location.  There are several different ministries that we will be able to help with at the IRIS bases: visiting prisons, serving in orphanages, teaching in schools, visiting in hospitals, and working with locals around a rubbish dump, so there should be plenty to keep us busy.

As a team, we’re just excited to go and serve the people there in any way that we can.  We’ve been busy sorting out vaccinations and visas, but also preparing testimonies and dramas to help us share God’s Word.  Over the next few weeks we’re also going to be trying to learn some useful phrases Portuguese and Sena, one of the main African languages around the Dondo area.

At the moment, the main prayer point would be finance, as there are a couple of people in our group that don’t yet have the money to go.  We’ve already witnessed God’s provision in amazing ways over the last 6 weeks, with people feeling prompted to give mobile phones and cameras away to bless others, only to immediately receive back the same or better from others.  This kind of generous giving and living by faith has made us realise that when you listen and obey God, He will always provide for you.

So, although we need finances, we’re not worried about them.  If God wants to use us to reach people in Mozambique, then He will make sure that we all get there.

The life theologic – Ek kan nie Afrikaans praat nie

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Two weeks of DTS have come and gone with so much to get used to and so many new people to meet that the time has been vanishing as if it were being sucked into a giant vortex.

We are a class of 16 students, 8 guys and 8 girls, which is nice as you don’t have to share a room with more than 2 other people.  We’re probably going to suffer on outreach because we’ve had it too easy, but at the moment I’m just enjoying the luxuries of space and extra time in bed that living with fewer people bring.  We’re worked hard, both in lectures and during our work duties (keeping the place clean and making sure everyone gets fed) but there’s enough free time for me to perfect my tree climbing skills.  Well, I say perfect …  really it’s just nice to be able to climb something without people telling you you’re setting a bad example for the children or worrying that you’re going to fall out.  I’m not sure that I’m actually improving at all.

Living in close quarters with people of many different nationalities has been a steep learning curve.  I was used to working in an international environment, but it seems like all of your individual peculiarities come out when you are living together, which makes for some amusing cultural clashes.  For instance, trying to eavesdrop on your roommate’s late night phone conversations (which is completely legitimate when they’re keeping you awake to make said phone call) is much harder when it’s in Afrikaans, but at least that’s a Germanic language and not an African one.  I can usually get the gist.

For over half of the group English is a second language, and I am constantly amazed by just how well they speak it.  It really puts my language skills to shame.  I’m attempting to rectify this by learning some Afrikaans, but have discovered that an inability to roll my ‘r’s is a major drawback.  Apparently, it makes my feeble attempts sound very ‘country’, which wasn’t really the effect I was going for.  My first phrase, apart from ‘lekker slaap’, was ‘ek kan nie Afrikaans praat nie’ (I don’t speak Afrikaans), but I’m afraid to say that I chickened out of my first opportunity to use it when asked for directions in the street and just played the tourist card.  Major language confidence fail.

Oh well, we can’t all be good at everything, and there is so much going on here that there is very little time for language learning.  So many awesome things have happened in just two weeks, that I know that God must have amazing things in store for the rest of the DTS.  We’re just getting ready to take the plunge …

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The life theologic – Gone going gone

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Tomorrow is the big day.  I’m flying off to South Africa, where I will be living and studying for the next 5 months, and I can’t think of a better way to start the new year.  I know that quite a few of you will be following this blog to keep up to date on how I’m getting on, so I thought I’d give you a bit of background on where I’m going and what I’m going to be doing.

I’m going to be taking part in a Discipleship Training School (DTS) run by a charity called YWAM (Youth With A Mission).   The purpose of DTS is to bring its students into a more intimate relationship with God.  It also gives them an opportunity to discover their passions and part in God’s purposes for the world. It is for those who long to follow Jesus in new ways with a different perspective.

The course is a full-time program and lasts five months.  It consists of two parts: a lecture phase and an outreach phase.  In the lecture phase, I’ll be learning more about God and His world through lectures, community living and practical training.  The outreach phase focuses on applying what we’ve learned in the classroom through a cross-cultural experience.

DTS is run at over 200 YWAM locations all over the world, each of which has a different focus.  I’m going to be doing mine at Media Village in Cape Town, which is a training school and a productions company.  They run a DTS with a focus on communications, and also provide training in new media, film and video production, radio and written communication.  The location for the outreach is still TBC, but will one or many of South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.

 

I can’t wait to get started learning more about myself and God’s plans for me, and learning better ways to communicate.  I know how privileged I am to be able to spend 5 months away from my normal life, and I fully intend to make the most of it.  I’ll be posting updates as often as I can, and would really appreciate any prayers or messages.

So, apart from having to do a fairly major clothes cull to get my suitcase under the weight limit, things have gone pretty smoothly so far.  Fingers crossed that the storms die down for the flights.