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

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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

 

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.

 

Universities in Turmoil

If you live outside of South Africa, you are probably not aware of the crisis at our universities. A little more than a year ago, university students started to protest, demanding no increase (or a very slight increase at worse) for the 2017 academic school year. Their rallying cry was #feesmustfall. At first, the protests were peaceful and limited to a handful of universities, but then some troublemakers got involved. A few months down the line, the protests turned violent. Now there are protests at all of the major universities in the country and at many of our minor ones. The students are demanding free tertiary education. Their protests have turned incredibly violent over the past few months and have escalated during the past two-three weeks. University buildings, including resident halls (dormitories), have been burned down; classes have been canceled; faculty cars have been set alight. Last week, at one of our universities in Cape Town, three security guards nearly died when the building they were in was set on fire. At another one of our universities, some students took a faculty member hostage. At Wits University in Johannesburg, some of the scenes between students and police/ security guards look like a battle zone. Yesterday, students marched on Parliament in Cape Town. The protest turned violent.student-protest

There are no winners in this crisis. Many people who were sympathetic to the students’ cause are no longer, due to the violent turn of the protests. The situation is complex, and many of the students are demanding more things besides free tertiary education. Personally, I think a lot of their demands and the ethos of their movement have roots in the injustice and racism of the past and of the current times. There are two sides to every story, but I think most South Africans would agree that the protests have gotten out of control. The violence is not justified and is only hurting the students’ cause, education as a whole and the country at large. Everyone living in South Africa is affected. There are no winners.

Wayne and I have several young friends either at university or who are preparing to attend universities who are affected by the turmoil. Please pray for our young friends, and please join us in prayer for the following:

  • All tertiary students and those preparing to begin university in 2017 (The South African academic year runs from January to December.) Please pray for their families as well.
  • Protesting students: For them to protest peacefully and for them to hold accountable those who are not. Please pray for their safety as well.
  • Police and security guards who have been called in. For them not to use excessive force. For their safety as well.
  • Faculty and all staff at the universities: Pray for their safety and welfare and peace of mind. For wisdom about going forward.
  • Prayers for all parties involved, including the government: For them to listen to one another, for wisdom on all sides and for a fair solution to be formed.

At our recent Anglicans Ablaze conference, one of the sessions was “Quo Vadis South Africa?”—meaning, where are you going, South Africa? In many ways, the country is at a crossroads. There are so many major things going on, things to either make or break this country in the future. The student protests are a major player at this crossroads. Prayer changes things. Thank you for joining us in prayer for our students and universities and for all of those who are involved.

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

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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