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!!!

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.

Sunday in South Africa!

Hello from Pretoria!  Your usual blog author is hard at work studying, or whatever you do when you take school “online,” so I’m guest-authoring a blog post for him.

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Live from the Bloggers Studio in the de Wits’ living room!

Whether your church is two miles from your home or, for us, 10,332 miles, praise God if you spent your Sunday in worship!  Would it surprise you if I told you we went literally halfway around the world and didn’t go to church this morning?  It’s only because in Pretoria they go to church in the afternoon.  This morning, after a blessedly restful night, we visited Safari’s home—Safari is a math professor at UNISA (the biggest distance learning facility in South Africa) and an elder-in-training at Living Hope Church.  He’s from the Congo, and he has a small building out in the back yard.  We might call it a log cabin or a backhouse, but they call it a Wendy.  I was not able to order a spicy chicken sandwich there, but as a consolation we were served an authentic Congolese meal by Safari’s family.

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This is Julia holding a fish’s head.  Authentically Congolese.  I did not eat this.

The Wendy in the back yard is our main weekly project.  It’s in an almost-finished state, but it needs electricity, drywall, landscape work, and other amenities.  Basically, it needs as much work as we can do to it in three or four days, with our goal to be that Living Hope church uses it as a Biblical Counseling Center.  Property ownership is a challenge here—Living Hope Church rents a facility for their service and for some of their children and adult ministries. (Matthew’s post yesterday was about a training program held at a facility the church rented for a day.  Also that kid I was holding hands with yesterday, he’s never said a word to me.)  They don’t have a permanent building to hold classes, to serve as a library, or to do Biblical counseling, unless they just use the pastor’s home or an elder’s home.

The need for a venue for Biblical counseling is pressing in a way we might not have understood before coming here.  Some of the men and women who need counseling here live in what we would consider abject poverty—shacks with barely a roof cramped together in communities where people live five or six (or more) to a room.  But even the South Africans who can rent apartments (they call them flats) don’t always rent the entire unit.  Instead, they’ll rent one bedroom and three or four people will live in that bedroom, and then they’ll divide up the living room (and not like “Hey Brian don’t use my stuff,” they’ll use curtains to section it off) and sometimes people will live there, in the living room.  So, the end result is that if someone from Living Hope wants to do in-home counseling with a church member, that counseling might be held two feet away from the bed of a stranger.  Or, awkwardly, a church member might need advice or counsel about a challenging relationship (such as when I need counseling dealing with Brian Zuniga) and that person might live behind an adjacent curtain.

So that’s where we’ll spend the bulk of the week doing manual labor.  I keep reflecting on how this team took the wrong Bishop with them, my dad being the most gifted jack-of-all-trades carpenter I know.  Fortunately there are many gifted hands here, perhaps they’ll cover for my physical ineptitude.

I mentioned church today, and it was wonderful.  The songs were a mix of familiar and unfamiliar (Alex Valencia take note: they did a stirring rendition of Lion of Judah—I’ll need to hear the Grace version ASAP), but the overall tone and tenor of the worship would have been familiar to any of you who attend Grace every week.  Joshua Mack preached on Colossians, the worship team led us in praise and the reading of the Bible, and Andre de Wit (our host patriarch) discussed church announcements.  It was warm and welcoming and fun, and would have been just like home except if all of you who go to Grace were South African and your currency was a bit weaker and had Nelson Mandela on it.

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This is the best picture we could find of short notice of the worship team.  It’s not even the whole worship team.  But this is where they sang.

The most stirring thing about church for me personally was seeing South Africans of all races sitting together and worshipping God together.  Our worship team of Cambria, Natasha, Patricia, Rudi, Hamilton, McKenna, and Julia represent South Africa in the perfect way: one is from Zambia, one is from Durban, SA (the second-largest Indian population trailing only India), three originally from America, and two from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Can you guess the races just from the names?  (I won’t give you the answers because it doesn’t matter, but if you guessed McKenna sounded awfully like a white girl’s name, you’re right.)

I’d like to say “that’s South Africa in a nutshell,” but that would be too idealistic.  That togetherness and unity is what life with Christ should be like, and it’s certainly what some people wish South Africa were like, but in fact South Africa is a country still suffering terribly from the aftereffects of apartheid.  I can’t provide a description a good enough description of the legacy or effects of the separateness between whites and the rest of South Africa, but suffice it to say that race relations here are still depressingly ordered along racial lines.  The juxtaposition between wealth and poverty is so, so striking, I can hardly describe it.  On a ten minute walk to the grocery store with Andre, I saw a truck with seven men riding the back, two or three young men selling various and sundry items for what appeared to be basically their daily income, and a beggar or two.  Most of the poor here, and everybody I just described, are black.  Usually, when you see a white person here in Pretoria, they’re driving a nice car, spending money at the stores (which are all very nice), and generally keeping to themselves.  But poverty alone isn’t the biggest issue.  As Andre described one of the effects of apartheid to me:

A big problem is this: that I’m 31 years old.  If I see a 50 year old black South African, he’ll greet me by saying “hey boss.”  I’m not his boss. I don’t deserve that respect.  I should respect him.  But that happens in our culture, and it’s sad.

As Andre described it, they want Living Hope to be a small taste of what togetherness and unity in Christ looks like.  Pray for that, please.  It may take generations, but finding dignity through Christ is so important here, because this is not a culture that emphasizes self-worth to black South Africans.

(Also, since my entire knowledge of South Africa is based essentially on a couple days of looking around, I obviously really don’t know very much.  Take my observations with a giant grain of pink Himalayan salt, and dig in to a Wikipedia article for a potentially accurate discussion of the political and economic problems here.)

Our evening was spent at a communion service at the Clarks’ home.  I mostly spent the fellowship time kicking a soccer ball awkwardly with several exceedingly talented local guys who, charitably, did not comment on how foolish I was.  I quickly grabbed the volleyball and regained a measure of dignity.  There’s a volleyball tournament coming up on Thursday.  If Matthew and I don’t lead our team to victory, perhaps don’t let us come home?

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Outside the Clarks’ home, enjoying a meal together before communion.  Ladies first.

Thanks for reading!  Matthew will be back tomorrow, I assume, so if this blog post was just a little too filled with references to Brian Zuniga for you, don’t worry—it’s just a guest post.  It’s 11:00 AM where you are and 8:00 pm for me.  Goodnight!

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True story: a few minutes after this picture was taken, this kid held down a beat while Matthew played guitar and I sang Wonderwall.