Perspective(s)

Thank you for following along and graciously encouraging us is our mission to serve, encourage, and bless the people of South Africa. You’ve already had a chance to hear about the trip from Matthew and John’s perspectives, but there are 8 other people that you sent out who have experienced this trip in their own unique way. Here is a chance for you to hear about our trip from some different angles. Enjoy!

(But first, confession time. I broke John’s screen)

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I (Matthew) threw it on the ground. Whoops.

Now for the serious part:

From the Licatas: It has been an amazing trip.  I have to admit that I did a lot more manual labor than I expected, but in the end we had a dedication for the building we were working on and it reminded me how it was all for God’s glory.  It also reminded me the reason we came here.  I held a lot more babies than I had in a long time – not just for the baby home but for events that freed up some people to attend the activities that the church was putting on.  We even went on the campus of the University of Pretoria to witness to the students, which I found got easier the more I did  it.  However, the thing that will probably stay with me the most is the people I got to know, which is very easy here because everyone was so friendly.  The Living Hope Church is a model of what being one in Christ is all about, as there were people from different races, different countries, and different economic classes and yet you would never know it by the way they easily fellowshipped with one another.  It was a blessing to be able to go on this trip.

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From Bryan Bush: We had a fantastic trip!  We spent the week in worship with new and old friends in South Africa, we had fellowship that was a foretaste of heaven, and we worked hard and worked together with members of Living Hope Church.  The families of Living Hope Church have become very dear to me as this has now been the third time I have been blessed with the privilege of going to South Africa. I throughly enjoyed having Sarah accompany us on this trip, and I was thrilled to be with good friends as we served our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but for me, the highlight of the trip was observing how the rest of the team interacted with the team in South Africa. We quickly became one team serving and worshipping our one Lord Jesus. I have been privileged and filled with joy to serve alone side this team from Grace Church. Thank you all for your support for us, as we were able to represent the fellowship at Grace Church of Orange  to our brothers and sisters at Living Hope Church in South Africa.

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From Sarah Bush: Looking back over this trip, I can’t help but notice how God has changed my heart. The first time I traveled to South Africa on a missions trip in 2013, I did not want to go at all! Since then, I have been a part of 2 more teams that have had the opportunity to minister to the team in South Africa. At the start of this trip, I was not sure what role I would play. Most of the trip consisted of manual labor, baby holding, and sports playing, none of which I particularly enjoy. God does not call us to do what we enjoy and are comfortable with, but what brings HIM glory.  Although I was called upon to do some things I did not enjoy, I did love forming and continuing to build relationships with the ladies of Living Hope Church. One of the highlights of the trip for me was, spending time with the Clark’s and seeing how they live out the gospel in their everyday lives!

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From Rachel Weber: This trip was very different and yet very similar to the last trip that I made with the team going to South Africa two years ago. When I came last time, our team was quite large (17 people to be exact). This, although not a bad thing, made it difficult to be in the same places at the same time and made it difficult to find time to talk with the people of South Africa one-on-one. This time we had a smaller team which I felt helped in connecting us all with the people here. Having a smaller group also helped us in working closer as a team. When I met people last time, the relationships felt surface rather than deep due to limited one-on-one time. This time however, felt like visiting close relatives/family.This is what impacted me the most. The bond we share as believers was evident on this trip. From outreaches at the University, holding babies, performing manual labor, or making house calls to pray with people, everything was cohesive—a oneness about it. Their likemindedness and passion for the gospel was truly an encouragement to me as I am sure it was for the rest of the SA team.  I can only hope our SA family feels the same! Just as a family would do, the team as well as our SA family worked through schedule changes, weather delays, and other frustrations, knowing that all these “trials” would work together for God’s purposes. It truly was an amazing trip and the perfect team to go. Thank you all for your prayers and your support!

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From Rick Weber:
The trip to South Africa was awesome on so many levels.  Our team, although small accomplished much.  We cleaned and painted the Muphamuzi Baby Home, helped build a car port, cleaned out yard debris, laid brick, poured cement, put up drywall, planted flowers and shrubs, and resod a lawn.  This was hard menial work, but was very fulfilling and helped unify our team. We all felt good about this because it not only helped our Christian brothers and sisters, but we truly did all for the glory of God.  I was blessed to get to know our team on a more personal level. It was also a blessing to get to know more personally the Clarks, Macks and de Wits.  One of my highlights of the trip was traveling to Solvekop and meeting the people of that neighborhood.  They were all so hospitable!  They invited us into their homes and we shared testimonies, sang worship songs and prayed—what a blessing!  What was interesting to me was how similar their lives were to us.  Their testimonies of how they accepted Christ into their hearts were very similar to testimonies you might hear at home.  Their day-to-day life struggles (finding a job, supporting their families, etc.) were very similar to what we deal with at home.   We could encourage each other to lay all our burdens at Jesus feet.  What I found to be such an awesome is that we can travel halfway across the world and find like minded Bible believing Christians who love the Lord so much, that we can worship and sing and although we are in a completely different  cultural setting we are all one in Christ!

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From Doris Weber:
As our team is returning from our trip to South Africa, I can tell you we have felt your prayers. Thank you for all your support in sending us.  As I reflect on the many things learned, and there were MANY, I would like to focus on just one: food. As we have traveled it has been a great opportunity to “taste” the culture of South Africa. Our hosts treated us to many varieties of their foods, but as I observed, the food they were most satisfied with was the food of God’s Word.  They were seriously hungry for God’s truth.  Pastor Josh Mack challenged them to KNOW the word of God so they would not follow false teaching. This got me to thinking about “spiritual nutrition”. It has become “the thing” to read labels to make sure what we place in our bodies are “healthy” for us; glutton free, lactose free, free range, organic. How many of us think about the spiritual food we feed ourselves? It is so easy to be “fed” spiritually, but what type of “food” are you putting in your spiritual body? Are you just getting the “milk” of the word or are you developing to receive the “meat” of the word, or maybe you are just starving from lack of food. I think many of us believers have a true eating disorder when it comes to spiritual food.  When it comes to digging into God’s word or even reading daily from the Bible we are too busy or just plain forget.  Do we settle for “empty calorie” foods that appear in positive thinking? I may forget one meal, but be sure I will not forget two in a day let alone skip a whole day without eating, and yet how many times will a day or two go by without feeding my spirit with the Word of God.  I observed my South African brother’s and sister’s put a priority on their spiritual food.  They were willing to do the hard work of studying God’s word, prioritizing it in their daily lives, encouraging each other to live what they learned, and they were excited to share the good news of Jesus Christ. When I have eaten something amazingly tasty I love to share it with someone so they can enjoy the flavor as well.  Shouldn’t we be doing that with the gospel? How marvelous and amazing is our salvation, do I share this with anyone? The first Saturday we were in SA we were able to help with a conference in sharing the gospel.  We were also privileged to learn alongside.  We were given an amazing tool, a book Josh Mack had written, “The Best Story Ever”. This little booklet put the gospel into very easy to understand terms and it was a short read as well. We were given the opportunity to put into practice what we learned by going to the University in Pretoria. We went out in groups and shared the gospel and gave people the book. The two people my group talked to were surprisingly open. It made me realize there are probably more people open to hearing but I need to use opportunities that come. I need to be more intentional with sharing the gospel (the delectable food) God has allowed me to taste. What a blessing this mission trip has been.

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From Alyssa Celano:
First of all, thank you so much for all of your support and prayers throughout this time we had in South Africa. What an amazing place to have the opportunity to minister to. From evangelism at a local university, to working more than I ever knew I could (pick axes are heavy!), there were so many ways we were stretched and used as a team. However, more importantly, I was surprised at how much God works through our relationships with others, even 10,000 miles away. There were so many different sorts of people I met: ones with crazy testimonies, and others similar to a lot of us in that we grew up in the church. Yet, all these people loved the Lord in a visible, tangible way. A lot of South Africa is pretty well developed, and quite frankly looks like California. But there are parts that are exactly like we hear: “poor.” But we fail to hear the details about the joy that even the mother and her 4 children who are living in a single bedroom have because of Christ. Their church is so joyful. The Clarks, Macks, and De Wits are so joyful. Everyone in Christ there, seem to always have joyful hearts. In the same topic of joy, I learned a pretty valuable lesson from the little ones. I spent quite a lot of time with the babies of the Muphamuzi baby home, and each child seemed to smile and get excited about me as if I was their mother. While I was holding a boy I grew very fond of, I realized that he looks at me the way he would look at his mama if she was around. The way babies look at their parents is something so special to see. And the babies at the baby home don’t have that safe parent to look to and feel that way with, so they see people that give them the love and attention they need and look at them in that very same way. So I’m holding this little boy who can’t speak, crawl, or even sit up on his own, however I see the joy he has when he sees me and the other caregivers. This is the joy we should feel when we look to our Father in heaven, a joy that is incomprehensible, because we have a Father who loves and cares for us more than we could ever know. There are so many little ways that God revealed himself to me there, and so many ways He showed the beauty of all the nations. But what I most desire as we depart is to find complete and unconditional joy in Jesus, all. the. time. (Would you please pray for me as I am feeling led to intern at the baby home, as well as serve in South Africa indefinitely? Thank you!)

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Our flight back to LAX is boarding at this very moment. Thank you for coming along with us on this incredible journey. See you soon, family.

Love,
-SA2016

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“Team”

We had a nice opportunity to sleep in just a little bit this morning, after which we had a delicious breakfast at the de Wit’s (once again, that is not including the single ladies). Even the little times of fellowship here have been so sweet. Our time of chatting over morning coffee and throughout breakfast was such a joy. It is amazing to see how the gospel of Christ unifies regardless of background, culture, or status. Speaking of unity, that is what Tom shared about this morning. Specifically, unity through humility. Our team had wonderful insights into what humility is and what it isn’t, but ultimately we all came back to the word of God.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

-Philippians 2:5-7

After devotions, we went back to Safari’s to meet up with the single ladies and finish up most of the projects we had been working on. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish all of the drywalling on the inside of the Wendy. However, one of the blessings of working on things here in South Africa is that there is no shortage of willing laborers. Even though we weren’t able to finish everything up, the work will be completed soon. Randy, Andre, and the Living Hope Church body are so skilled and willing to serve, they set a great example of hard work and diligence.

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Some of ladies got to help with the drywall!
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So much progress! New grass, new plants, and a relocated trampoline!

Thankfully, we aren’t here just to “do” things, but it is still rewarding to be able to look back over the past week and see the things that God has accomplished through us. Looking at relationships we’ve built, friendships we’ve rekindled, and projects we’ve taken part in; it is clear that God has been graciously watching over this trip and sovereignly working through this team.

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Here’s a “team” picture… Kinda.

To be honest, that is not even our whole team. While you may have only sent out a team of ten, you have been supporting, encouraging, and praying for a team that is much much larger. You have spent the past week encouraging us, and that ‘us’ has continued to grow. The Clarks, the de Wits, the Macks, and the whole Living Hope Church have become part of this team. Thank you for supporting us and giving us this opportunity. Please pray that we would use our very last day here in the best way possible for the glory of God.

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Another partial team picture from the amazing restaurant we went to!

After some hard work, we went shopping at a crazy, barter your way around market with a bunch of little shops. It was a lot of fun, but a little too stressful for some of our team members. After that, we went to a restaurant to enjoy our last dinner with this big “team” that has continued to grow and grow. Oh yeah, we got to eat Crocodile, Ostrich, Lamb, and a variety of special sides. It was exciting, but more exciting than any of that was just being together  with these brothers and sisters that we have grown to know and love so dearly.

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We are sad to go, but excited to be home and reunited with you all!
God’s blessing and peace be with you!

Love,
-SA2016

Fun Day!!

Sorry about the late post–it was a loooong day.

This morning, we (minus the single ladies who are living at the Mack’s) woke up and had breakfast and devotional (together–it was sweet). What a joy to be able to look at the word, and see the truth within it throughout this trip. God’s word is good, and being able to see that, know that, and feel that is just such a blessing and joy!

We met up with the (single) ladies shortly after and got to set up for the all church ‘Fun Day!’

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We had the whole rugby field to ourselves, so we had a soccer field and a volleyball court right next to each other.

The whole event was pretty much what it sounds like–a “fun” day. Volleyball, soccer, mini-games, a singing competition. It was amazing. The really fun part about it was that the whole day was one big competition. Every tournament, game, and activity was a part of the big tournament as a whole. And each team was actually a Gospel Community (Grace Orange people read: Home Group)! It was so neat to see groups of people who are involved in each other’s lives playing, competing, and singing together. What a joy!

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We also got to help with childcare! (Shoutout to the ladies who spent a lot of their day holding babies and loving on the kiddos!)

If we’re honest, the real highlight for us Americans was the volleyball tournament. John has pretty much been trash talking about our volleyball skills since day 1, so we had a lot of hype to live up to. Thankfully, we succeeded in making out of pool play and into the championship rounds. Our semi-final game was against the Tuks Gospel Community (that somehow recruited some extra help to beat the Americans). We won! On to the championship match against the defending champions: Salvakop!

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Tom was our secret weapon. In case you didn’t know, he’s got a stellar serve. 
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Doris was a pretty serious referee. 
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Jk. She was just staring at Rick the whole time. 

 

In all seriousness though, today was a beautiful day in which we had the privilege of having fun with the body of Christ. Sometimes it’s the simple times of fun and good conversations that remind us what a joy it is to be a believer. Who else could travel across the world and immediately be welcomed with open arms and receptive hearts like this? What an amazing scene from heaven that we get to be a part of for all of eternity in the future. God is so good.

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A few highlights from the slideshow:
•Someone stole an angel’s voice and put it in Marissa Clark.
•African soccer is a bit (okay a lot) different than the American variety.
•Did we win the volleyball tournament? You’ll have to ask John.

Our time is almost up here, and it’s so bittersweet. We knew we couldn’t stay forever, but there’s something about being here that makes you never want to leave. The constant ministry, the body of believers, and the beautiful culture; they all kind of grab onto you and tell you not to leave. In these last few days, would you lift us up in prayer? We want to be the best guests possible, even in these last few day. We want to finish the work, but physically and spiritually, that God has for us here. Would you join us in praying that we would be able to do that with joy and love, for the sake of Christ and not ourselves?

We love you, and we can’t wait to be home with all of you. We have so many more tales to share, and we hope that you’re excited to hear them. God is good, we are grateful.

Love,
-SA2016

 

Personal.

The past 35 hours have been pretty rough.

I don’t generally like to blog about myself, but since my condition has been an object of prayer over the past few days, it ought to be an object of praise today! As John graciously mentioned in another post, I don’t really like to take breaks; unfortunately that was part of the problem.

The combination of a long day’s work on Monday, coupled with a little bit of jet-lag, working on the blog, and wrapping up some school assignments, Monday night came a little later than it should have. When I woke up Tuesday, I could feel it in my throat. Just that little bit of discomfort that was a telling sign of what was to come. The gracious moms here in South Africa and on this team were quick to offer remedies, drugs, and teas. At no point in the past day and a half did I feel forgotten or left behind.

Tuesday was another long day of work that, for me at least, concluded with an escort back to the house and a quick placement in bed. I’ve slept in four hour spurts for pretty much the entire day and a half, and finally upon waking up at 3:30 this morning, I’m feeling ready to go! A little scratchy in the throat still, but my head is finally feeling back to normal, along with my temperature, praise God!

I guess my primary reason for sharing any of this is to give an update and to say thank you. But I have to thank you for more than just your prayers. When I woke up at 3:30 last night, I was able to read John’s post about the day and see his specific inquiry for prayers on my behalf. When I looked at the GCO bulletin board, and the number of texts and messages that I had received, I was moved almost to tears. I came here to South Africa expecting to be my normal, healthy self throughout the trip. The thought of sickness never really crossed my mind before leaving. However, God has been so graciously reminding me and revealing to me that His church is here for me.

I know so many young people, friends of mine, who have left the church. It pains me to think about them, even right now, I can think of many who I thought would never walk away from the faith. I remember hearing Matthew Holbrook talk about how people get stupider when they go to college, and it breaks my heart to realize just how correct he was. I also remember reading statistics about people leaving the faith after highschool. “We won’t fit into that” I thought. “We’re Grace Church of Orange. We love the word, we have some of the best teachers in the world, we won’t be a part of that statistic.” Boy was I wrong.

As college came, faith seemed to disappear. Eyes that once shined so bright with the glory of the gospel were now darkened by ‘intellectualism’ and ‘alternative lifestyles’. Why does that all come to mind now? How does any of that have anything to do with me being sick in Africa? There is one thought that keeps ringing in my mind: Just as the church has prayed for me continually throughout the past day and a half…

The church has kept me in the faith.

That is not meant in any way to diminish God’s glorious keeping of His saints nor to undermine the supremacy of Christ in the church. No, that is simply to say “God, by His grace, has used the body at Grace Church of Orange to keep me in the faith.” It’s not of my own goodness, will, or intellect that I’ve been drawn back to repentance in seasons of disobedience. No, it is the grace of God, the faithful preaching of the Word, and real-life relationships that I have with so many of you that helped to keep me on track and pursuing Christ.

I am feeling so much better physically. Even now, I’m up, showered, and so excited for the day to start… and it’s only 5:30.

More importantly though, I’m feeling so loved and cared for by both my teammates, and the whole body of believers at Grace Church of Orange. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the constant support and encouragement I have received from the church. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers. Please, keep praying for our team as we take part in Living Hope Church’s Fun Day! Please pray that God would use us to encourage the church and to be a blessing to the body here in South Africa.

Thank you, thank you, thank God.
-Matthew

“My God is so big! So strong and so mighty!
There’s nothing my God cannot do!”

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Feeling much more like this as of this morning. Thanks for praying!!!

Super Tuesday!

Hello again from South Africa!  Your regular blogger Matthew has worked himself sick — literally.  He needs your prayers to get back on his feet, but I gave him Tylenol Cold & Sinus and some cough drops.  It’s 9:00 pm and we’re all as tired as we’ve been at any time on the trip so far — including our jet lagged arrival — because we put in our first full day’s worth of manual labor at Safari’s home. We have another day (or more) of work to do at the house, but here’s the non-fast-food Wendy update:

  • We took a giant brush pile from the back yard to the local dump.
  • We dug up a back yard full of rocks.
  • We planted fifteen or so plants in the back yard and lined the beds with the rocks we dug up.
  • We dug a trench between the house and the Wendy (remember, the Wendy is the back house that will become the Biblical Counseling Center) to lay an electrical conduit.
  • We cut down part of a tree and sawed the resulting logs into firewood.
  • We did a fair amount of raking.
  • We dug up a clothes line and sawed the metal pole holding it into the ground.
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Randy Clark cuts down a tree.
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Rick Weber builds a wall.

And it was all totally worth it!  Except now Matthew is sick.  Our team has been remarkably together on this trip, so I can’t pick out a “heart and soul” out of fairness to all the personalities on the trip you’ve read about through Matthew’s blogging.  But, even if we can’t pick out a “heart” or a “soul,” we can certainly pick out a muscle.

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Haul the fallen tree?  Matthew’s got it.

You know the expression “many hands make light work?”  I guess that’s true in a big group project, but it’s also true that when there are nine or twelve or fifteen guys all working in a back yard, not every single guy has to give 100% all the time.  You look around the yard, and everybody’s hard at work, and sometimes you just take a breath and think “I could use five minutes off right now.”  (If my team is reading this, DON’T LIE YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!  It isn’t just me … right guys?  Right?  Whatever.)  We’re working out of love for the glory of God, and nobody judges anybody’s energy level, and it’s fine… except Matthew never, ever takes a break.  Dig a trench?  Matthew is swinging the pickaxe.  Tear up a driveway?  Matthew is wheeling the bricks.  Plant a garden?  Matthew is digging the holes.  I don’t think he’s taken a true moment “for himself” at anyone’s expense for the entire trip.

Here’s the ultimate Matthew story, for me.  On Monday we went to the baby home and dug some holes to install a carport in the back yard.  Most of the team went in the house, but Matthew and I, as the resident “youngest guys” on the trip, I guess, stayed outside to dig holes.  So, I started working on one of the six holes we needed, struggling my way through some roots and bricks, and got it about halfway as deep as it needed to be.  Meanwhile Matthew digs three holes.  After a few moments, he comes over to my hole to see how I’m doing, and very genuinely says “oh man, that’s tough.  There’s roots everywhere.”

“I know, right?”  I take a short break.

A few grunts later, my hole is finished  and Matthew is swinging away like John Henry on Hole 5.  What a guy.

Matthew is a man of many talents.  His devotional this morning led us in a discussion of faith and the meaning of faith, with respect to the discussion about faith in Hebrews 11.  Does Matthew, like it says in Hebrews 11:6, believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek him?  Judging by his work ethic, I’d say so.  And, with guitar at the ready and a singing voice honed by the Ma Academy of Arts, Matthew is quick to lead our team in worship and to solicit and pray the favorite songs of the people we meet and serve.

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I got another rather humbling sense of Matthew’s charm at dinner tonight.  Matthew went to bed early, and suddenly in the Clark’s home I was surrounded by all the Mack, Clark, and de Wit kids at once!  What on earth, I thought?  Why the sudden burst of popularity?

Ohhhh… it’s because Matthew’s not here.  One of the Mack girls explained that Levi (the youngest) loves me “this much.” (It was about an inch.)  Then she widened her hands to show me how much Levi loved Matthew!  What a guy.  (It was a lot more.)  Also one of them ran up and gave me some type of homemade creation out of beads–it was very pretty–but it was for Matthew.  (Shoutout to Bayley though who made me a J out of beads.  I liked it.)

In other GCO in SA news, we were actually separated by gender today as the women on our team went back to the baby home for cleaning projects.  I only heard bits and pieces of how that went, because none of the women on our trip really want to talk to me, but I think they finished a ton of work early in the day and spent a lot of quality time with the babies, which they enjoyed.

After the labor, we went to a local university in Pretoria and basically approached bystanders on the campus to ask if we could talk to them about God, Jesus, church, or really any spiritual subject they were willing to broach. (Or, in Christian jargon, we “did some campus outreach.”)  I was exceedingly uncomfortable with the concept–I know how little I like to be bothered by strangers, and I know how disconcerting and sometimes insulting it can be to be basically accosted by strangers about the deep questions of life.  I did not look forward to it at all, and it was probably one of the most challenging, uncomfortable experiences of my spiritual life, ever.  But it turned out to be surprisingly easy, mostly because “being American” (and also being loud, silly, and quick to make a joke) is unique in Pretoria.  I don’t know how I would fare on an American college campus, but once I had a reason to make conversation with the local students here, I found great freedom in just asking them personal questions about God and sharing what I believed with them.  I have four first names of students on my phone — four new people to pray for!  No on-the-spot conversions to report, but God’s timing is perfect and incomprehensible, so mine is not to question why.

Our outreach wasn’t done alone.  We paired up with a local believer and member of Living Hope Church.  Fortunately I’ve made fast friends with Antony, the only South African who loves basketball, and we walked the campus together.  Antony is from Malawi and we’ve peppered each other with questions about what life is like in the countries we come from.  He’s also a good example of the togetherness of Living Hope Church.  All week, every day we’ve been here, different church members keep popping up to help.  At any given moment at the baby home, the Safari’s, or the Clarks, any number of people show up to help us.  Tonight, before we went to the campus and after we sang Amazing Grace, Safari prayed:

Thank you God for encouraging us.  Sometimes we get discouraged.  Thank you O Lord God for sending these believers from all around the world to us to show us that you are alive in this world.

What a moment.  How do you respond to something like that?  One of my secret fears on this trip is that the money spent on getting me here could have been converted into Rand and spent on insulation, drywall, baby formula, or a table saw — something that the church could just put to work in a tangible way.  But I suppose God is using my friendship with Antony, my service with Safari, and my presence in South Africa to his glory.

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Antony captured.  He’s studying theology.  Not in this picture.

I say “I” but of course I mean all of us.  Among Matthew’s many talents is a blogging inclusiveness that highlights more than just “what John was thinking as he did some stuff today.”  If you’ve missed that, pray for Matthew’s speedy recovery!  Actually pray for that right away, either way.

Tomorrow we go back for another round of hard work at the Safari’s.  Pray for the recovery of our bodies and for the renewing of our approach to hard work.  You could also pray for Ben, Charity, and Nakiwe at the University of Pretoria.  See you tomorrow!

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Don’t let Doris Weber borrow your phone.
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This proves I did something.  Don’t hate me for my scarf, it was cold out there.

Monday.

~Short Story~
We went into this trip realizing that our plans were going to change at some point. Today just happened to be that point. We were initially planning on splitting up for the first part of the day, with the guys working at Safari’s house, and the girls doing some deep cleaning at the baby home. However, rain last night and this morning caused us to all head over to the baby home. It was a long day of hard work. From deep cleaning to digging holes, from caring for babies to painting; there was a lot to do. By God’s grace, we accomplished a lot physically, but much more importantly, we were able to encourage and (hopefully) be a blessing to the believers here in South Africa. We were invited for dinner by the folks from Silver Street (an apartment building where multiple church families happen to live). The hospitality that we have been shown here is such a humbling blessing. Once again, thank you so much for your prayers over this trip, God has been so so good to us.

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So much rain today in Pretoria
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Great food and even better conversations!

~Diving Deeper~
We got to “do stuff” today! From a human perspective, it would be easy to take pride in today. “Look at these great walls we painted!” “Look at how wonderful we are for taking care of orphans in a third-world country!” “Look at how many projects we’re doing!” On and on and on, it is so easy to fall prey to the mentality that what we “do” is king. If we hold enough babies, preach the gospel enough times, complete enough projects; we’ve made it!

We couldn’t be father from reality. Yes, projects are great. Yes, sharing love is an amazing blessing. Yes, evangelism pleases the Father.

[But]

This trip is not judged by how many things we do. This trip is not a success or a failure based on if we reach a certain number of salvations, or build a certain number of car ports. No, this trip is about seeking and loving Christ and letting everything else flow out of that love. There are some activities that we might participate in that may seem “productive”, but that’s not why we’re here. We want to make a difference, of course! If there is any opportunity to be helpful, we are ready, willing, and excited to do so!

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

We aren’t here just to “do” things. We are here to be little Christ’s who do everything and anything they can for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. We want to encourage the missionaries that are working here day after day, month after month, and year after year. We know that the differences that we can make in a week are minuscule in comparison to the impact that the long-termers have. And that’s not just okay, that’s amazing. God has given this generation of His church the glorious opportunity to send missionaries out–and to stay connected with them.

If there’s one thing that we want to come home with, it’s a lasting friendship with the missionaries and the other believers that are here. There is such an amazing body of believers that serve here in Pretoria, specifically at Living Hope Church and 1 Hope Ministries. However, the missionaries here are all in need of support from back home. One of the blessings of the time that we live in is that people thousands of miles away are simply a few keystrokes away through the use of email, texting, and social media. If any of the ministries or families we’ve mentioned have intrigued you and you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to ask!

http://1hope4africa.com

All that being said, we are still grateful that God allowed us to serve in a practical and visible way today. Here are some pictures that give a small snapshot into what we did.

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The ladies took shifts holding the precious babies that live in the Muphamuzi Baby Home!
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As you can probably tell, they were just begging to get to take a break and do the “fun” stuff
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John Painted. Andre literally couldn’t even.

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We are so grateful that we are here. We have already experienced such amazing things and trust that there is much more to come. Thank you for sending us and giving us this opportunity. We do not take it lightly. Please keep praying for us, especially that we would be energized and rejuvenated to continue the work. Pray that the gospel would be magnified through us. Pray that we would glorify God in everything, not just the “big stuff.” Again, thank you for sending us and being with us through prayer and support. We are grateful!

In Christ,
-#SA2016

~Team Member Shoutout~
Tom Licata has been such an example of humility and graciousness throughout our trip. We are so blessed to have such godly examples on our team. Tom is an elder at our church, a fantastic teacher of the Word of God, and a respected husband and father. Today as we were painting, there were a decent number of drips here and there which needed to be taken care of. While an elder of our church and on this team, Tom was willing to stoop down to clean up the little drips that all of us were making. Of course, he was helping to paint beyond just that, but the striking part was the way that he took the initiative, while physically and conceptually taking the lowest job that needed to be done. It was a testament to his Christ-like humility. What a blessing to have practical examples of humility all around us, and specifically in Tom.

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Tom and his wife, Judy. They rock.