Thursday, October 20, 2011

In the Garden...

A morning spent traveling to Bethlehem and Jerusalem... Although Israel's landscapes and skylines have drastically changed since the first century, one thing hasn't... dirty feet! You can be sure that if you're wearing flip flops or sandals in this country, you will have to come home and wash your feet!!!

As the wind blows the dust across the country from side to side, you can't help but ponder on the moment Jesus washed the disciples' feet and what an honor that was.

On top of the Mount of Olives, you stand and look out to a perfect view of the sealed Eastern Gate and rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus will return and split that Gate open! Come, Lord Jesus, come... We walked to the Garden of Gethsemane and sang about the blood of Jesus knowing that our story as believers doesn't end with His blood on the cross, but His resurrection!

Leia Mais…

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beginning with the End...

Today, we began our day at the place where we, believers, know it will all end... Tel Megiddo, known to us as Armageddon. This hill overlooks the Valley of Jezreel, a fertile land in between Mount Carmel and the Jordan Valley. There are several cities on top of mountains that overlook onto this valley, Nazareth being one of them. Just imagine, Jesus grew up having a clear view of this valley and knew His final return would be here as well.

Then, we went to Capernaum. Here, Jesus began His ministry after having been baptized by John the Baptist. This is where, He stayed with Peter and healed the paralytic after he was lowered into the house. Jesus forgave the man's sins while the Pharisees and teachers questioned him for having that authority. Then, Jesus asked them, "which is easier to say, 'your sins are forgiven' or 'get up and walk?'" Then, He told him to pick up his mat and walk. Have you ever wanted something from Jesus so badly that it was easier for Him to forgive your sins than to grant you the healing you needed?

Upon the Mount of Beatitudes, we read Matthew 5-7 before heading down for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee as we imagined Jesus calming the storm or telling Peter to cast his net on the other side. I assure you, none of us walked on water, although it was tempting to try when we put our feet in.

The Lord has been good to us. We are thankful for His love and provision as we continue to seek Him. Blessed are the pure at heart for they shall see the face of God...

Leia Mais…

Israel Day 1 - Antipatris

Antipatris was a city built by Herod the Great and named in honor of his father... This city served as a fortress and major strategic points in battles between the Egyptians, Israelites and Philistines in the Bronze and Iron Age, until it fell into ruin prior to Herod's rebuilding. The city was destroyed by an earthquake but that doesn't mean that 2000 year old roads wouldn't still be there, does it??? Cause they are...

From Exodus to Peter, many of the ruins and the roads have withheld the battles of man and the battles of natural disaster which is a perfect comparison to the withholding of our lives in God's hands. Not to mention, the glory or demise of one era was the foundation of another era. Ruins are constantly built upon because of their secure foundation.

How much of that is true in our lives? No matter the battles our lives endure, a firm foundation in Him will only leave ruins that people will stand in awe of and come from thousands of miles away to see... And others in the family of God get to constantly build on top of. Sing this with us... "The church's one foundation is Jesus..."

Leia Mais…

Thursday, October 13, 2011

South Africa Wrap-Up

We are all back in the States now, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on what happened the last two weeks...

First, after we finished the Holiday Clubs on Friday we still weren't finished. On Saturday, part of our team headed back to the U.S. But the other half stayed for a few days to do more things in Cape Town. We spent Saturday morning and lunch with the Life Skills Educators and local volunteers who worked at each of the locations during the week. We all played paintball. It was so much fun! It was my first time (and may other's as well) to play paintball. Our BBC friend, Joey Lankford also played with us and was ruthless! I have bruises to prove it!
Despite the pain it was a blast of a way to end the time with the folks who work year-round with Living Hope. We had lunch together and spend more time visiting together.

Then the 10 of us who stayed the extra time were able to other things throughout the weekend to see more of South Africa. David and Jaina were able to do separate overnight stays in one of the townships. I know that was a neat experience for them to hang out with families who live in the communities in which we worked all week.

In looking back over this mission journey, I continue to be amazed at what God does when people make themselves available to be used by Him. Our team of 19 was a mixture of folks from different life stages, backgrounds and careers. Some had traveled extensively and for some this was the first time out of the country. Yet, God used each one in a unique way to build His Kingdom.
I am very thankful for the servant attitude by the team members. We really had no issues with personality conflicts, complaining, someone not doing their part and some of the other issues that can happen when you have this many people serving and living together for two weeks. Also, I feel they really served the Life Skills Educators in each community. Our team's role in the setting with Living Hope is not to go in an "run the show." Rather it is to come in with resources and support to help the folks who work there all year do the job. This was done well by each team and I hope that lasting relationships were formed between our folks and the Life Skills Educators.
We know of at least 8 children and teens who professed Christ as Lord and Savior during the week. Please pray that more come to know Him in the weeks to follow as the Life Skills Educators resume regular Kid's Clubs each week and follow up on the Holiday Club experience.
I am grateful for being able to be in South Africa for a fourth time and to be a part of God's work there. This year one of the main things that I learned is the value of commitment and consistency in relationships. It takes time to establish trust with folks (especially when you only show up 1-2 weeks a year). There are pretty distinct racial lines in South Africa--even with apartheid gone. For four years I have worked in a "black" Xhosa-speaking community. This white girl is about as far from a black Xhosa person as there can be. : ) But somewhere along the four years of our teams being there, God has done something. On Thursday night we had "family night" in our community where the children shared with their family members what they learned during the week. At one point, the Living Hope team leader shared a word of thanks to our team for being their for the week. She told the congreation (all Xhosa folks) about our BBC team and said, "they are white but they understand us." It was at that moment that I better realized that God had broken through racial and cultural lines and used two very different groups of Christ-followers to proclaim His message of truth and salvation to this community!

Praise God for all that He did during October Holiday Club in 2011!

Leia Mais…

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 5: Connecting with L-I-F-E

Our final day of holiday club began with lots of sunshine and warm tempatures. I have been serving in the Overcome Heights township and most of our club is held outside. Before we even arrive the kids start coming and today at least 20 children were there to greet us. They were excited. Not only is it a beautiful Spring morning but they know us better after 4 days together. They know the songs we will sing. They know the motions to the songs, the bible stories, the crafts and fun games that are also going to be part of this final day. To top it off it's parents day at our site and they are eager for their families to come and see what they have been doing all week long.

Our Life Skill Educators immediately begin playing music and the outdoor games begin. Within 30 minutes there are 105 children playing, singing and being loved on by BBC folks and the LSE staff. There are 5 of us in all but we work together as a team and are each motivated by one goal: to connect these children to Jesus Christ.

Amy Carter, BBC Childrens Minister and our superb team leader prayed this scripture with us this week: Psalm 78:4b 'we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.' This is our goal; both American volunteer and South African Life Skill Educator.

The children are more enthusiastic today than any other day of the week. They sing in earnest and strive to remember each word and movement. They are eager to answer any questions the leaders ask and listen intently to the bible stories. It's the final day of this Big Apple Adventure and they know this.

This is my 5th year to serve in Cape Town with Living Hope. My 5th year to come with Brentwood Baptist to serve alongside Living Hope staff in their goal to break despair and offer hope to all in the name of Jesus. I continue to be called to this place because of the incredible evidence I see of the Holy Spirit changing lives both here in South Africa and also through the lives of those who come to serve.

I've worked in the same place all three years; with the same young adults who are the Life Skill Educators, most of who are in their early 20's. Their spiritual growth and increased confidence in their abilities to lead these children is a direct result of their commitment to the Lord.

Our entire group from Brentwood debriefs each evening and Friday nights are always my favorite. Each person is asked to share how they sense the Holy Spirit has worked in their lives through this week of service. It is powerful to be a first hand witness to what the Lord is doing in so many lives.

A mission trip experience is hard to describe in such a brief space. New friendships have begun, fellowship has been enjoyed, the beauty of a new country has been discovered. But most important children have been introduced to Jesus, teens have been challenged to commit to Jesus and adults are becoming sold out for Jesus. My invitation to anyone reading this blog is to please come experience it for yourself!

Leia Mais…

Day 4: Connecting with Others

Thursday was another full day for all of us here in South Africa. After spending the day with some fabulous children and teenagers in Masi, Oceanview, Overcome, Red Hill, and Capricorn, we invited the parents for a celebration night. These family nights are a great time to get to know the children more by meeting their families and seeing them share their gifts with everyone.

I was fortunate to get to see the Masi family night on Thursday night and then be a part of the Overcome celebration on Friday. Each of these times was a great time full of singing and dancing.

When my group entered the Masi family night, we were surrounded by happy children dancing around and enjoying time with their friends. The prayer that opened the night was heartwarming, and we felt welcomed and a part of their community throughout the evening. A great part of the night was seeing the parents get up and try the dances that their children had learned all week. The kids were cheering their parents on and trying to coach them on the motions. It was a fun time!

At both the Masi and Overcome family celebrations, the children showed off their songs and dances and impressed their parents with all that they had learned this week. A great moment in each of the celebrations for me was seeing the teenagers come forward and recite their memory verses for the group. Teens, who had been shy all week, came forward and proudly shared with everyone what they had learned about the gospel.

It was awesome to see children so proud of all that they had learned and we were glad to be a part of it all. After the Overcome celebration, several children came up to me and introduced their mothers to me. It was great to hear these parents say how happy their children had been all week and how much their children were enjoying the Big Apple Adventure with the white people! Spending time with these children has been a blessing, and it was an added bonus to get to know their families and watch them perform in their communities.

--Paige Stillwell

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 3: Connecting with Trust

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life."
One of the most familiar verses to Christians, but believe me it takes on a whole new dynamic when the words are set to a rap song. : ) Today was a great day of Holiday Clubs at all locations. More kids than Tuesday and lots of energy from staff and volunteers. We talked about Connecting with Trust and communicated about salvation through the story of Nicodemus and Jesus. We know of 17 children and teens who committed their lives to Christ today! We trust that the Gospel was clearly communicated and seeds were planted for many other kids. Pray for us as we still have two more days to keep the conversation going and see what God does.

The VBS song for today was a rap to learn John 3:16 and the ABCs of becoming a Christian. The kids LOVED it! Rap is not my choice of music style but this particular song is so effective in helping them learn the Scripture that will hopefully be hidden in their heart forever.

We also had a special treat tonight with having the Lankford family join us for dinner. Many of you may know Joey and Courtney and their 4 children who moved to Cape Town almost a year ago. We have seen them several times and our "handyman" team is working with Joey every day at the Living Way campus. Tonight they shared about their God-journey of getting to Cape Town. Great encouragement and challenge from them to hear about they have trusted God to lead them to this place of ministry.

Please pray for Holiday Club on Thursday as most of our locations will have a "family night" in the evening. We really want to connect with the family members and let them know all the great things about God that the children have been learning.

Two days left to go!

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 2: Connect with Love

Team Overcome reporting today. Our story today was "A Woman responds in Love" (the woman washing Jesus' feet). Our team had the opportunity to experience a similar story. Melanie, Paige, and I showed up to our location this morning with a bit of a surprise. The community uses the area where we are working as the township trash collection and this was not cleaned up at all this morning. Without hesitation, Sandile, one of our Life Skill Educators (who works for Living Hope), grabbed a rake, trash bags, a pair of gloves, and we got to work. Melanie and Paige helped out with getting club started while Sandile and I played trash men for a couple of hours. I finally got around to asking Sandile if this was something he was supposed to be doing. He responded by saying the ladies who are paid to do this do not get paid enough, so he was going to do it for them. He said, "Dustin, I must take care of my community." At that moment, I realized our Bible story was being played out at Overcome. Like the woman washing Jesus' feet, Sandile responded in love and I'm so thankful to have been a part of this. Hundreds of other Overcome residents walking by the Living Hope location saw a Living Hope Life Skills Educator picking up their trash. The community knows Sandile and Living Hope are Christ followers, and Overcome got to see Christ at work when they walked by today. Also, the kids who know Sandile as a leader got to witness this servant action before they were taught the bible story about responding in Love!
We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19

Leia Mais…

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 1: Connecting With Faith

Start Spreadin' the News! The Big Apple Adventure has started in Cape Town!
Today we began the first day of "Holiday Club" (it's not called VBS here) in 5 different townships. Reports from all sites were great and things seemed to run smooth for both the morning children's clubs and afternoon teen clubs. For all 5 sites combined there were about 550 in attendance and we hope there are more on Tuesday (after they tell their friends about it!).
Today we helped the children and teens learn how to connect with FAITH through the story of the Roman Centurion who believed that Jesus could heal his servant. Each team helped explain what it means to have faith--to believe and trust in something even when you can't see it.

Also, the dynamic duo of a "handyman" team (Bill & Michael) got started on building a shed on the campus of Living Way. According to them, it was quite interesting to try and put posts in the ground without concrete and just use sand... : )

A fun little thing that happened for me (Amy) today in Masi. I was walking out of the location where we did our morning club and heard someone yell my name. It was children in the street with whom I had been with on previous mission journeys to Masi. They did not come to club today but will hopefully be there on Tuesday. One of them was even wearing an Outrigger Island t-shirt from the first time we did Holiday Club in 2008! For me, it was a little reminder from God of the impact that can happen with children even when you make a commitment to be with them for just one week out of a year!

Tuesday we will teaching about "Connecting with Love" through the story of a woman who showmed much love for Jesus. Please pray for the children to return and to bring friends with them and they will understand what God's great love is all about!

--Amy Carter

Leia Mais…

Sunday, October 2, 2011

South Africa VBS & Handyman

Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa!

The group of 20 arrived safely and dived right into our preparation for Vacation Bible Study. We have met, eaten and trained with the Life Skills Educators of Living Hope led by Danielle Schneider (former Brentwood Baptist member). She also gave us a tour of the Living Hope facilities. A small group visited the Living Way and helped Joey Lankford with ground maintenance and planted 768 tomato plants.

We have five teams who will branch out to five locations this week. We visited each location and prayed for the group members and the location. Today we were greeted by a group of precious children in the Township of Red Hill who could not get enough hugs or attention.

This morning (Sunday) we visited the King of Kings Baptist Church and got to hear Brentwood Baptist's Missions Minister, Scott Harris, preach! From here we drove over to the Masi Baptist Church and hear them worship in the language of Xhosa. We didn't understand of what they said but the Holy Spirit was alive and present.

This afternoon we travelled to the south western most tip of Africa--The Cape of Hope (and passed by baboons, ostriches and zebras) I was reminded that we are bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth!

Please pray for strength for us and that God would fill us so full of his love that it would spill over to each one of His children who attends.

Leia Mais…