Saturday, February 21, 2009

A message on suffering

I've never been consistent with journaling but from time to time, I get the urge, most likely from the Lord, to pen my thoughts. He obviously uses those spontaneous journaling moments sometime later to remind me of these little nuggets of truth He so graciously feeds me. This morning, I read a journal entry during my time in Zambia and felt lead to share. It was a message Kevin Rodgers gave and what God laid on my heart thereafter:

26 October 2008
Lusaka, Zamibia
Kevin Rodgers (Youth Pastor Kev)

1. Suffering matures us (James 1:2-4)

2. Suffering weans us from self-reliance (2 Corinthians 1:9)

3. Suffering is an evangelistic tool

4. Suffering increases our great reward

5. Suffering helps us minister to others

6. Suffering keeps down pride (2 Corinthians 12:7)

7. Suffering identifies us with Christ (Phillippians 3:10)

8. Suffering identifies us with our people

excerpt from my journal:

"This morning we started with a worship service after breakfast followed by a message from Kevin. Chris Nalls, Johanna and I led worship with five songs. Kevin gave one of the best messages about suffering and being a missionary I've ever heard. I began thinking about how suffering for Christ as a missionary goes farther than imprisonment, persecution or violence. There is so much emotional suffering we go through by leaving our families, our friends and the lives we've always known. He also talked about when we are hurt by those we've poured our lives into when they say or do something against us. Having a servant's heart and truly finding joy in doing things for those I love can often lead to feelings of being used, taken for granted or taken advantage of. Though these times are frustrating, I have to remind myself to do things for others because I desire to glorify God, not for my own gain..."

Today, I say rejoice in serving others and find joy in suffering for the glory of God, whatever that means for you. God is good, all the time...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Freedom Park Celebration

Over the weekend, I traveled to Rustenburg, South Africa, to hang out with my friend Paul. Rustenburg is about a two-hour drive from Joburg.

So Friday, Paul and I went to Freedom Park Secondary School where he ministers, to attend their achievement celebration and Valentine’s talent show. During the celebration they recognize those students who have excelled in each subject and grade.

It was encouraging to not only hear how well these students performed but also that the school was taking a day to publicly recognize these achievements. It certainly is a morale boost for the kids and an incentive for them to work hard and succeed in their education, encouraging them to become productive and responsible citizens (I think I borrowed that thought from the Boys & Girls Clubs mission statement – hey, that was my life for three years!).

It also touched my heart to hear the administrators encourage the students to be strong in their faith and seek to glorify God in their achievements and life. Though it is not a faith-based school, the leaders appeared to be believers and opened the doors of their school for Paul to share the gospel of Christ and disciple believers there. They even had a time of worship during the celebration!

After the celebration, festivities continued with a talent competition. These students love to dance and it shows! They are talented in hip hop but definitely add an African flavor to it. It was a fun afternoon watching these kids show off their moves and the fun they had doing their thing.

Here are a few photos from the day…

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Street ministry in downtown Johannesburg

Last night, I went with a group from Edenvale Baptist Church to give out bread and soup to those without homes who live on the streets of downtown Joburg. EBC partners with a ministry of the Central Methodist Church, located in the heart of the city.

We started at the church and I don't think I've ever seen a sight such as this in all my travels. There were literally hundreds, maybe even a couple of thousand people packed into the church. They are referred to as refugees, many from surrounding countries, but most from Zimbabwe. The every stairway, every inch of floor, every hallway was crowded with men, women, children and babies, all trying to find a place to stay indoors, seeking refuge from a chilly, rainy night.

As we made our way through the crowd, we passed a ventilator shaft in the hallway. I was shocked to see at least five people crammed into the small, narrow shaft in the wall. This was their home, among water heaters, eletrical panels and insulation.

We loaded the soup and bread and headed out to the city for the first of five stops. Those living on the streets know every Wednesday, the church group will be there to feed them. They don't line up, they don't fight, they don't beg. They know the Lord is providing them a meal and they are patient, knowing their meal will be hand delivered to them.

I visited with a man named Fred, who has been in Joburg for about six months, but calls Cape Town home. He came here to work but due to an injury and subsequent operation on his leg, he's been unable to work. He said he has no family in Joburg and no place to go. Fred seemed scared and unsure about his future. We gave him soup and bread and prayed with him. He sat down against the brick building under a small awning and seemed to enjoy his food. As we were leaving, I said my goodbye to Fred and he expressed his appreciation for the meal. I looked back as we drove past where Fred was sitting and he was gone, in an instant. My heart broke for him but I told him to have faith, that the Lord would take care of him, just as he had that night by providing a meal.

I would love to share this story through photos but sometimes, a camera is not appropriate in certain situations. Every person on the street and in the church has a story. If the Lord provides more opportunities for me to minister downtown, I hope to learn more about these precious people He loves so much.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Some great kids

Thursday mornings, I spend about four hours volunteering at Little Eden, a group home and non-profit organization for kids and adults with special needs. The residents range in age from three months to 58 years. Some kids were abandoned as babies while others have families who visit on weekends.

I help with the Yellow group comprised of about 26 kids who have severe mental disabilities. I think they are in the 10 - 12-year-old range but have the mental capacity of babies and are physically limited and confined to wheelchairs, unable to do much of anything for themselves.

We have music time for a bit and "dance" with them (pushing their wheelchairs in beat with the music), let them try musical instruments, help them with art projects and help feed them during tea time and lunch.

I'm really excited to have two of the Joburg Hands-On missionaries volunteering with me at Little Eden. Ryan, from Oklahoma, has worked at a camp for kids with special needs in the past and Jack, from Georgia, has staffed at Snowbird, a faith-based adventure camp. It was blessing to see these guys love on the kids and enjoy the time there. Ryan and Jack have already become good friends of mine and I'm looking forward to serving with them at Little Eden.

Thursdays are definitely the highlight of my week. I've always had a passion and love for kids with disabilities. My mom has worked in special education most of my life so I've always been around them. When I was a substitute teacher, I often subbed in special ed and any chance I had to volunteer at Special Olympics, I would.

I also remember as a portrait photographer, on days when I would be swamped and stressed with long lines of people, God would send in a family with a child who had some kind of disability that would totally change my mood. I got a boost of patience and took my time with them. I was always grateful for those kids and rejoiced in the blessing of the Lord sending them my way just at the right time.

Below are a few pictures from the school. Due to confidentiality, I can't post names or individual pictures of the kids.

Jack & Ryan with one of the kids