Why Madagascar?

Salama, bonjour, good day everyone!

Many people have been asking for more details about my recent mission trip to Madagascar, so I decided to write a blog series about my experiences. I hope you will enjoy these stories over the weeks to come.

Stewart Wicker, President and Mission Director of SAMS – USA, which is our mission agency, contacted Father Trevor Pearce, the Director of Growing the Church (GtC) and our boss in South Africa, about a possible mission trip to Madagascar. Father Trevor then contacted Nicole and me since we were in the USA on furlough. We were fortunate to be able to speak to Bishop Todd (Bishop of Toliara, Madagascar), who had requested the mission, in person at our SAMS Retreat and the New Wineskins Global Missions Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Bishop Todd and his wife Patsy are SAMS missionaries like the two of us. Growing the Church was happy to assist with this mission because mission engagement is one of the main principals of GtC, and special emphasis was placed on people to form teams and to go on mission before our International Anglicans Ablaze Conference, as mission engagement played a focal role in the conference.

img_2110When Nicole and I returned to Cape Town, we had less than four months to prepare the mission. But within a matter of weeks, a team of six was being formed. Each team member brought unique skills and gifts, and we were thrilled that our best and brightest were going to serve our sister diocese in this way. Our team consisted of Nkosinathi Landingwe, Rethabile Mabusela, Neil Adams, Ryan Baatjies, Zrano Bam, and me. Bishop Todd wanted us to serve at his diocesan youth conference, and we were invited to assist in the areas of teaching, speaking, preaching, ministry and cultivating community and fellowship through games.

For me to be an instrument and effective missionary, I had to leave my comfort zone, dscn0143humble myself and enter God’s zone. The only way to do this was to leave South Africa and to venture out. In my case, God led me to the island known as Madagascar. On this mission, I had to learn how to allow God’s spirit to guide, guard and infuse my whole being. This was not an easy task, since I was on a completely unknown island to me, not being able to speak the language or understand the culture. I had to place my trust in God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. When I left home, I took along a new pair of training shoes that my wonderful wife had bought me as a gift. I did not want to take them at first; but with a nudge from my wife, I felt the urge to take them along and I did. Little did I know what God had in store for me and the rest of the team. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. I shall connect the dots a bit later so that you may see the awesome wonder and sense of humour of God.

–Wayne Curtis
#Madagascar4Jesus blog series: 1

 

Advertisements

Anglicans Ablaze 2016

A month ago, the International Anglicans Ablaze Conference was in full swing. It’s hard to believe that this big conference, for which we have been planning for so long, is now over.

The conference is the largest gathering of Anglicans in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. We had 1500 delegates who came from inside and outside the Province. They came from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, the U.S. and several other countries. Wayne and I, with invaluable help from a great team of youth leaders, oversaw the youth track of the conference. We had 350 young people in attendance, and there was standing room only in the youth venue. The young people’s response to the conference was amazing; we kept hearing young people say that this conference really dealt with relevant issues, things they face now. For example, we had topics on sex, gangsterism and drugs besides the traditional topics of prayer, discipleship and leadership. A lot of our youth live in drug-infested environments and gang-riddled areas. The couple who talked about sex gave the best talk on sex that I have ever heard and really created a safe environment for the young people to ask difficult questions. I think God really healed a lot of brokenness during that time, as many young people felt comfortable talking about some of their painful experiences and came up for special prayer.

The Anglican Communion News Service made a couple of videos about the conference that we would like to share with you. We hope you will enjoy them.

 

Stirrings of the Holy Spirit

Recently, through scripture and events in my life, I feel as though God has been speaking to me about the stirring of the Holy Spirit.ID-10020880

A few weeks ago, I started reading the Book of Ezra and was struck how God “stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus” (Ezra 1:1, NRSV) to have the Temple of the Lord rebuilt and how certain Israelite tribes, “everyone whose spirit God had stirred” (Ezra 1:5, NRSV), had responded to the call to rebuild the Temple. Cyrus wasn’t even an Israelite; he was the king of Persia, which was occupying Israel at the time.

I couldn’t help but think of Wayne and his mission team to Madagascar. The Holy Spirit stirred the Bishop of Toliara’s heart to request a South African team to assist them during their youth conference, and the Spirit stirred the hearts of six Capetonian youth leaders to answer this call. Plus, the Spirit stirred the hearts of countless donors to make this trip possible for the South African team.

The Spirit stirred the heart of one of our SAMS donors to send Wayne and me an article from Weavings, which gave a refreshing new take on Romans 12:1-2 (the passage about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit). Romans 12:1-2 just happens to be the theme at the youth conference in Madagascar. How timely to receive such an article that will provide spiritual nourishment to the mission team who has gone to serve.

And just over the weekend, the Holy Spirit moved on Wayne’s heart to go to an ATM in a certain suburb. He was planning to go to another suburb to use the ATM and to pick up some flowers for me, but he felt a prompting to go to the suburb of Plumstead. While he was queuing for the ATM, a little boy was playing on the railings outside the bank and fell off, knocking his head on the concrete. Wayne is a first-aider and was able to patch up the little boy’s gashing wound. He then drove the boy and his father to a local hospital for medical care. Wayne never got around to giving me flowers that day, but I didn’t care. Having a husband who is so sensitive to the Holy Spirit surpasses a conservatory of flowers any day.

You may say that all of these instances are “coincidences,” but I like to think of them as stirrings of the Holy Spirit, which indeed they are.

I, as so many others, oftentimes forget how God is at work in the world, often in the simplest ways.

#Madagascar4Jesus

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a few weeks’ time, Wayne, along with five youth leaders, will be traveling to Madagascar on mission. The team will be serving at the Diocese of Toliara’s youth conference in the areas of teaching, speaking, preaching, ministry and cultivating community and fellowship through games.

Each team member brings unique skills and gifts, and it has been a blessing and a joy (and hard work!) to help plan this mission. The team members are Neil Adams, Ryan Baatjies, Zrano Bam, Wayne Curtis, Nkosinathi Landingwe, and Rethabile Mabusela. The mission team has named themselves: #Madagascar4Jesus. The conference theme is Romans 12:1, “To offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” Neil, Zrano and Rethabile will be expounding on the theme each day. Wayne and Nkosinathi will be talking about the “Challenge of Globalisation in Relation to Christianity,” and Ryan will be preaching at the cathedral.

We know that this team is going to a blessing to the young people at the conference and that they will receive numerous blessings as well. I have no doubt that a special bond will be formed between the South African team and the Malagasy youth leaders and youth. I believe it will be a life-changing experience for them all.

The team is eager to serve, and each member has been hard at work over the past few months to raise the support needed to go on this mission trip. For Wayne, we hosted at church two “Movie Nights” in which we showed the movie War Room and sold pizzas. We also hosted “Wayne’s House Party” in which FuzionGrooves (a DJ and singer from church) provided the music. We also teamed up with the Amici de Lumine Youth Choir to hold an afternoon of choral music fundraiser. Wayne and I have been so amazed at the support he has received from church members, friends and family, who truly believe in this mission. God has really provided for us, and we are truly grateful.

The team will be traveling to Toliara, which is the southern part of the country. It consists of one of the poorest and most unreached places on earth. The people of Toliara have numerous struggles, but many of them find hope in the diocese’s holistic ministry of evangelism, education and economic development. We are grateful that Wayne and the other five youth leaders have the opportunity to go be with and to serve their brothers and sisters in Toliara. Please keep the team in your prayers—safe journey, good health, sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit, etc.—as they prepare to leave.

 

The Addict in My Church

As we plan for the International Anglicans Ablaze Conference in October, we are having seminars and consultations that deal with several topics that the conference will cover. One such topic is the scourge of substance abuse, and Wayne and I had the pleasure to attend and help host the consultation on substance abuse that Dr. Graham Bressick’s led on Saturday.

If you live in South Africa, no doubt you are aware of how drug abuse is affecting our communities. There are probably few of us who have not been affected in some way. In Cape Town, drug dealing and gangsterism go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the violence is so bad that schools and hospitals have to close down due to gang violence. Last week in Plumstead, a couple of young men were arrested for selling drugs to primary school children who attend school just off the Main Road. Driving at night through Wynberg one can often see the exchange of drugs. Last year, just outside my office window, I saw a woman doing drugs in her car. Many of the youth with whom we work have parents who are addicts. It is all around us.

I think it’s great that we as the Anglican Church are finally addressing this tough issue. So many families are affected, and they don’t know how to cope. We who are their friends feel powerless to help them.

The major takeaway I took from Saturday’s seminar was what Dr. Bressick’s called the ID-100357963eight strengths of churches. Summarizing from an American minister’s book (unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the book or author), Dr. Bressick said that churches provide these strengths for people:

  • Accompany (companionship)
  • Convene
  • Connect
  • Stories (a place to tell our stories)
  • Sanctuary (a place to be safe)
  • Receive blessing
  • Prayer
  • Endure

Of course, this is the ideal church, the Church at its best, where the addict is welcomed. But I wonder how much our numbers would swell in our individual parishes if we did just that. I wonder how many people—members or newcomers or passersby—actually feel safe in their church. If our churches were truly a safe place where young and old, rich and poor, addict and sober could feel loved and accepted, be offered prayer, feel truly connected and a sense of companionship with friends to endure, I wonder how much that we as the Church could be changing lives and the world.

 

–Art credit: hyena reality, freedigitalphotos.net

Returning Home

It’s hard to believe that we are heading back home soon. The time has flown by quickly. We have had a great time on our furlough and look forward to serving together as a missionary couple. Here are some of our experiences and highlights on furlough.

  • Wayne’s first trip to NYCDSCN7951
  • Wayne’s first snow
  • DSCN8110Wayne masters driving on the right side of the road.
  • Taking walks with Mom and Dad
  • Spending quality time with donors and supporters
  • Sharing our stories from the field with others
  • Meeting my bestie’s husband
  • Visiting Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum
  • Enjoying special friend time
  • Sharing in parish life again at my home church, St. George’s
  • Meeting a ton of new parishioners at St. George’s
  • Attending the SAMS missionary retreatIMG_1686
  • Wayne experiences his first Super Bowl and March Madness
  • Making my first pecan pie
  • Having random conversations with little brother
  • Hanging out with little sis
  • Chilling with big brother and getting spoiled by him
  • Playing and cuddling with my fur-nephew
  • Discovering Cook-Out Burgers (I could float back to Cape Town.)
  • Eating biscuits, sausage, and bacon (Once again, I could float back home.)

I’m looking forward to getting back home, although I’m sad to leave my family and friends here. When I’m in Cape Town, I miss my family and friends in the States. When I’m in Tennessee, I miss my family and friends in South Africa. It’s the tension but beauty of living cross-culturally and having two homes.

Important Note:
We are running short on what we need for our monthly support. If you would like to SAMS 2 smallpartner with us in ministry by making a one-time donation or by making a pledge, please visit
https://secure-q.net/Donations/SAMS/3296

We thank you in advance for your generosity!

Joey’s Prayer

American Flag ID-10047802Our time in the States has been a whirlwind—family time, friend time, meeting with current donors, meeting with potential new donors, raising awareness of our ministry, building relationships, and making time for rest, relaxation and fun. This has been our experience of our first missionary furlough. Unfortunately, our time has been sorely lacking on the rest and relaxation front, and I feel as though we are also falling short of having quality time with family and friends. It has been a balancing act, and I don’t think we have mastered the act; and now it is nearly time to return home.

Despite the busy pace of our time, it has been wonderful being Stateside; and we have loved every bit of time we have spent with family, friends and supporters. We have received much encouragement from everyone who is a part of our lives and that has flowed into our spiritual and emotional reserves, preparing us for the next leg of our ministry, one as a missionary couple.

There have been so many highlights, and there are many stories to share. I keep thinking about one, though, that I want to share with you. Not long ago, Wayne and I had the privilege to spend time with the youth at our church, St. George’s. After our presentation, when we were talking with several of the young people, a young man came up to me. He told me that he remembered my speaking to the youth before I left for Cape Town more than three years ago. He asked me if I remembered; I replied “yes.” He told me that he still had my prayer card that I handed to the youth (I didn’t remember the prayer cards.) and that he had posted it up in his room and has been praying for me every since. I couldn’t believe this–that this teenage boy remembered me and had been praying for me for the past three years! I nearly had tears in my eyes; it was one of the sweetest things I have heard. I know many people are praying for us, but to be reminded that more people than we realize are praying for us was extremely encouraging. Plus, Wayne and I work with young people in South Africa and knowing that this young man in the States is praying for us and our work with his South African counterparts is special to us in so many ways.

We are grateful for Joey’s prayer, and we ask that you join him in his prayer for us, especially as we prepare to go back to the field next month.