Kelly

 

Kelly
Kelly, third to the right, at our Alpha Holy Spirit Day

“I thought I would never see you again!” were the words of the girl who came rushing across the parish hall to greet Wayne and me. She asked if we remembered her, and we did. She was one of the students who took our first Alpha course at Heathfield High that we led a couple of years ago. Her name was Kelly.

The three of us were visiting a local church for a youth service, and it was so great to run into Kelly again. Our young friend told us that she switched schools last year and was now attending a school that emphasised sports and athletics. She was a volleyball player. Kelly described to us how the Alpha course had touched her life and how she was inspired to lead a course at her new school. Her news pleased but astounded us. We had no idea.

Sometimes being a missionary is hard. I’m a product of my home culture, and we put a lot of emphasis on measurable outcomes. But in a ministry setting, it is often difficult to see measurable outcomes of one’s work. The bulk of our work in South Africa focuses on teaching and training, especially in the area of discipleship. We work on the provincial level and in local churches; sometimes we work in local schools. Some of the people we serve and train we never see again. How do we know that our work has been “successful,” for a lack of a better word? We don’t and that can be challenging.

So it is very encouraging when we meet a Kelly, who shares with us about how God has been working in her life and how she is now ministering to her peers. We can only pray and hope that there are many more Kelly’s out there that God has given us the privilege to serve who are now leading transformed lives and who are helping others to grow in their faith as well.

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The Skinny on JZ

Many of you may be aware of my Facebook post from last Friday in which I asked for prayers for South Africa. The country is going through a crisis, which came to head nearly two weeks ago when the president, Jacob Zuma, fired his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas. People were up in arms over the now infamous midnight “cabinet reshuffle,” and the Rand dived, ultimately leading South Africa into a “junk status” credit rating with the S&P and Fitch. Last week saw numerous protests and marches around the country; more are slated for today and the rest of the week and next week.

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But the crisis is more than a financial one. Zuma (younger people often call him “JZ”) has been the subject of numerous scandals, starting before he even became president. Among his most flagrant scandals are:

  • Being accused of rape while he served as a party leader of the ANC
  • Stating that people could be cured of HIV if they took a shower and/or ate beetroot
  • Spending more than $20 million in state funds on his private compound, Nkandla
  • Practicing unabashed nepotism and cronyism with his connection to the Gupta family being the most notorious. (This family has been accused of wielding so much power in the presidency that Zuma and their name have been merged into “Zupta.”)
  • Entering into an infamous nuclear deal with Russia
  • Firing the two finance ministers

The current crisis is very political and complex, and it may be difficult for those who do not live here to understand. South Africa has a parliamentary government, and the ANC is the party in power. This was the main party of the “Struggle,” the anti-apartheid movement. It was the party of Mandela and most of the freedom fighters, but most South Africans would agree that the ANC no longer reflects the dream and vision of Mandela, that it has become unashamedly corrupt and self-serving. Yet many people still support the ANC and Zuma.

Next Tuesday, 18 April, Parliament will hold a no-confidence debate into the President’s fitness to hold office. With the ANC being in power, it is unlikely that they will vote Zuma as being unfit; but miracles do happen.

Once again, I call for prayers for this country that has so much potential. It is a country of natural wealth and beauty, but its greatest asset is its people, who are warm, loving, innovative, creative and industrious. South Africa can be a global leader of good change. Let’s pray for good governance and justice, for the country’s leaders to have a heart for the people, especially for the poorest of the poor and the marginalised.

Rain

I’m not one for rain. I prefer sunshine and warmth. But when it started to rain this morning, joy filled my heart and in my head, I broke out in song:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him ye creatures here below. Praise him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

You see, we are having a very bad drought in South Africa. Our farmlands are dry; food prices are constantly going up. In Johannesburg, some schools have had to close due to the lack of water. The Eastern Cape is dry as a bone. In Cape Town, we have less than 100 days of water supply, and forest fires have been raging through our mountains.

Water is precious, so our hearts are full of joy for today’s rain. We give thanks to God.

Over Christmas break, I read the book The Circle Maker and found in it a refreshing look at prayer. The book starts by telling the story of an ancient prophet named Honi. When the Israelites were suffering from severe drought, he drew a circle around himself as he stood in the stand. Honi prayed for rain and refused to move from the circle until God sent rain. Honi was a bit audacious. When it started to sprinkle, he told Gold that wasn’t the type of rain they needed. When it started to rain hard, he told God that wasn’t the type of rain they needed. When it started to rain steadily and gently, he thanked the Lord for the rain, for providing for his people. Check out the story of Honi at http://www.thecirclemaker.com/watch

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Picture of the rain from my office window

Water is precious. Experts say that the next world war (let’s pray that it will never happen) will not be about oil, land, or ideology. It will be about water.

Please continue to pray for us in South Africa, as we need many more days of gentle, steady rain.

New Year

One of the best things about living in South Africa is that the country virtually shuts down during the Christmas season. Not only is it the holidays, but it is also our big summer vacation. Many people are off for the three-four weeks, including us at Growing the Church. For Americans, who struggle to get off for two weeks during the year, a month-long holiday is a treasure.

I thoroughly enjoyed my leave. I spent most of the time reading and sleeping, two of my favourite things. We had such a hectic year; the rest did me wonders.

I love to read, and I read these books over the break:

  • The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. A new friend recommended this book to me, andcircle-maker it was a godsend, giving me a fresh new look on prayer. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs new energy breathed into his/ her prayer life.
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. It was the second time I read this book, and I loved it, depressing as it was. Yes, I still love my classics. The nerd is still in me.
  • Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev. I love the Russians, but I have never before read Turgenev. I will definitely be reading him again.
  • Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. I had to get in at least one Dickens’ novel. This was little-dorritsuch a good book, and I did shed some tears while reading it. If you don’t feel like reading the tome (although I would recommend it), the BBC produced a wonderful version of the book a few years ago. It stars Claire Foy, who is getting a lot of recognition for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown. Check out the book and the movie at Amazon. And if you haven’t watched The Crown, start that series today.

So, we’re back at work. It’s a new year and a new start. Come on 2017!

A Lesson in Takkies

Sunday 28th August: Throughout our stay and especially after our Eucharist service on the 28th, we gave various small gifts (e.g.–t-shirts, South African beanies, sweets, games, takkies{sneakers}) to the young people; and I had the nudge that I was supposed to give my training shoes to someone who really needed them. I told one of my teammates, Nkosinathi, that I felt that God was nudging me to give my training shoes to someone who really needed them, but I was not sure how my wife, Nicole, would feel about my giving away a gift she had given me. But Nkosinathi said that I should follow my heart and explain to Nicole when I got back home.

Earlier during our stay, when we had just arrived, another pair of training shoes was donated to a young person; but they were trying to find someone whose foot size matched the shoes so that that person could have them. The days passed, but I still didn’t feel that I had found the right person to whom to give the takkies. Then one day I felt that the person was nearby. I looked around and saw a boy crying. I asked one of the locals to ask the boy while he was crying. I dscn1845was told that he was crying because we would be leaving soon; other youth had received small gifts and he had nothing to remember us by. I asked if he had any takkies and was told that he didn’t have any because they were too expensive; it would take his parents two-three years for them to save up to afford a pair of takkies. To this family, of course, having food to eat was far more important than takkies, so the boy walked around barefoot. I then went to him, giving him a pair of socks and the takkies to try on. He went inside his home to change (he lived near the conference site), and guess what? They fitted as snug as a bug, as though they were meant for him. He hugged me and the smile on his face was so big; if it wasn’t for his ears, the smile would have gone right around his face. I then knew that the takkies were meant for him. I then gave him a short and long sleeve t-shirt to wear. How could I have missed this boy?! He had so willingly helped us carry our buckets of water, luggage, or any other goods during our stay. God has a funny sense of humour; the young person for whom the takkies were meant was right under my nose, and I didn’t notice it.

The people in Toliara were extremely welcoming, nice and prepared to share whatever little they had with us. This was truly an emotional, heart-warming and humble feeling. The many things that we take for granted in everyday life they just didn’t have. The amazing thing was that they were content with what little they had and yet praised God with hymns of praise and dance, sometimes until the early hours of the morning. There is a phenomenal commitment to God here, and I pray that they will never let go of it. I am truly grateful and blessed for the time I spent in Madagascar, and I can honestly say that I didn’t want to leave that God-enriched, humble place. I can’t wait to go back on the next mission trip.

#Madagascar4Jesus blog series: 4
Wayne Curtis

The Youth Conference

Thursday 25th August 2016: Devotions at the cathedral began at 06:00 sharp, so our wake-up call at 04:00 was via the rooster/cock, 04:15 was via the turkeys and 04:30 was via the ducks; so we were definitely awake to fetch our bucket of water so that we could have our early morning splash with cold water. The view of the cathedral with the early morning sunrise was spectacular. It was amazing to see the cathedral already packed with enthusiastic youth when we arrived.

The theme of the conference was Romans 12: 1-2.
“Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” Good News Translation (GNT)

During one of our sessions, an altar call was made and an invitation given to everyone there who was prepared to offer him/herself to be a living sacrifice for God. It was wonderful to see all the young people (approximately 170) who either came to faith or who img_2126made a rededication to their faith. Glory to God! The sessions were quite an eye-opener, and we were learning a lot just by engaging with the people. The feedback and how well we were received by the youth was amazing; and thanks to God the Almighty, things were looking up.

Our sessions were great, and the Holy Spirit was working with and through us to fulfil our purpose here in Madagascar. We gave thanks for God’s goodness because we had the opportunity to help people implement God’s teachings in their daily lives. We felt led to pray John 14:26 for these young people, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (NIV). We prayed for God to send down the Holy Spirit to take initiative and to assist the young leaders, as they had quite a major challenge concerning the way forward after the conference. We prayed for them to find the courage to take their ministry and teaching to the next level and to develop themselves in every aspect of their lives spiritually, personally, academically, family life, etc.

In the afternoon, I gave a talk on the impact of globalisation and the church. I had various interpreters, and I felt that the young people were not getting the message that I was dscn0559trying to convey. I started to panic, but then it hit me: Why am I worried? God is in control. I calmed down and prayed a silent prayer, asking God to send someone to assist me with the translation. Then Revd Victor Osoro walked into the room; he was the best translator at the conference, and he immediately stepped in to assist me. I was able to proceed confidently with my talk, focusing on the positive ways that globalisation has affected the church.

Interesting things were happening.

Friday 26th August: We had a successful and blessed games evening with all team members doing different games with different youth and switching in-between with the various groups and games. We ended at 10:54pm, but the youth continued to praise God with songs of praise.

Saturday 27th August: We had a touching and revealing experience today. By praying for the Holy Spirit, we were so spot on because Bishop Todd was speaking about the importance of the Holy Spirit in the morning Bible study, which was wonderful. We all had an experience where we prayed for the youth, laying hands on them. All of us could feel

the presence of the Holy Spirit. Many people were extremely emotional and that was why we continued to pray for the Holy Spirit to come down and fill us, flood us, help us, fill them. Everyone was in a reviving and accepting mode for the Holy Spirit.

There were some soccer matches held later in the day on an open veld, which our South dscn0862African youth would not even consider to play on. The pitch was uneven ground with holes, and goats would often cross the field. The youth were playing full ball running around barefoot; the match was fantastic. The youth back home would be able to learn a thing or two about what they take for granted at home and how the youth here make do with what they have and with what God has given them.

#Madagascar4Jesus blog series: 3
Wayne Curtis

Getting There

The flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg went off well; breakfast on the plane wasn’t too bad. The flight from Johannesburg to Antananarivo also went well, although two of the flight attendants were not in the least bit friendly or helpful; so one of our team members, Nkosinathi, did not have a complete meal to eat.

23rd August 2016: We landed safely at Antananarivo airport. Hotel transportation had not yet arrived, so we went looking for assistance regarding transportation. The people around the airport were only too happy to assist us but wanted dollar payment for any assistance given. Neil and I went to the airport police services to ask for assistance in contacting the hotel. The police officer was kind enough to help and was able to contact the hotel. He then escorted us to the taxi rank and spoke to one of the drivers, at which time our transportation from the Auberge Du Cheval Blanc Hotel arrived. The officer then informed us about a monetary thank you that was required for the assistance he had given us. We arrived safely at the hotel, booked in at reception and went to our rooms. Rethabile needed to get a few items from a pharmacy; so after asking the front desk for directions, we went on a walkabout to find a pharmacy and to get to know the town. The 15-min walk turned into a 2km-walk, but this also afforded us the opportunity to experience the city in its raw form. The people travel on the right-hand side of the road, just like the Americans. A stall merchant, which made business selling meat, had his produce in front of his stall, hanging on hooks in all its finery with the flies and other insects flying around. The mincemeat on the counter was in the form of a mountain.

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On 24th August 2016: When we arrived at the Toliara airport, we were welcomed– Salama/Bonjour–by Bishop Todd McGregor, Revd. Victor Osoro, Zafilahy Christian and Haja Randrianavalona and so began our wonderful journey in Madagascar. Everyone on the team was excited, and we received a tour of the compound at which the conference would take place. The people were extremely welcoming and nice. The Diocese of Toliara had young people coming from four deaneries (archdeaconries) on the island. The total number of young people attending was approximately 170; they came from these deaneries: Morondava (23), Fort Dauphin (30), Katedraly (57) and Toliara (60). Sleeping arrangements were divided with the five men in two bunk rooms sharing; Rethabile stayed with the bishop and his wife. For the youth, there was a dorm for the girls and a dorm for the boys. The bathrooms were outside and away from the rooms–but not too far. Quite a few of the young people had travelled as long as four days to attend the youth conference. This spoke volumes to me as we often see back home in South Africa many young people as well as adults not attending church services/youth because of … a little rainy weather, it’s a bit cold and windy outside, we went out to party last night and now are too tired to attend–these are but a few of the many reasons they tell themselves. Here we had solid commitment from young people who traveled for long periods of time over rough terrain just to attend a youth conference. They were more than eager and happy to go through this ordeal to have the privilege of attending the conference. Such enthusiasm was amazing.

Wayne Curtis
#Madagascar4Jesus blog series: 2