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.

 

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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

A-Team

Recently, I worked with an amazing team of youth leaders to oversee the youth track of the Western Cape Anglicans Ablaze conference. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed working with such a wonderful group of folks. All of us had different skills and talents, bringing different gifts to the table. It was like God brought us together. We enjoyed being together—even our meetings were fun!

Eleven people served on this team, and together we planned and shaped the youth side of the conference. We had a marvelous array of speakers who spoke on everything from transformative discipleship to overcoming gangsterism. We had

St. Nicholas Band
St. Nicholas Band

two worship bands that provided the music, along with a Marimba band that was a huge hit too. Because we had a deep desire to help young people think differently about worship, we designed something called “creative worship stations,” in which we provided opportunities, facilitated by a leader or teacher in the field, for young people to explore worship through art, dance, spoken word and music.

More than 160 young people attended the conference, and I believe that everyone had a blessed time. I, unfortunately, missed the event because at the same time, I was overseeing another conference in Polokwane. Going into the planning of the youth track, I knew that I would miss the whole thing because I would be overseeing a Rooted in Jesus Junior training in which I needed to be present, being the primary trainer of this small-group discipleship programme for children.

11182299_585612958208301_722576631217646161_nI didn’t find it difficult to put so much work and effort into a conference that I could not attend, but I had wondered how I would feel about letting go of the work and planning and releasing my team into the oversight leadership of the conference. When I left for Polokwane two days before the Western Cape AA conference, I was a bit nervous, wondering how everything would go in Cape Town at the other conference. However, by the next day, I had such a sense of peace. I knew that my A-Team would be just fine. Actually, I knew that they would be brilliant, and I didn’t have a single worry about their leadership. They gave me such a gift to have this peace of mind. And with this gift, I was able to concentrate on my task at hand, the Rooted in Jesus Junior conference.

I am so grateful for my A-Team—for their ministries, for their passion for young people, and for the lessons they taught me about leadership; and I look forward to working with them in the future.

So here’s a big shout-out to my A-Team:
Amanda
Nigel
Wayne
Abigail
Havelyn
Brad
Auriel
Zoltan
Janice
Keegan
Henrietta

You guys are amazing and simply the best!

Helpless But Not Hopeless

I held her in my arms and let her cry. I didn’t know how to pray for her. I couldn’t find the words. I let her cry, and I cried with her.

Let’s call her LeThabo. At the Friday Night Youth Celebration at Anglicans Ablaze, we had a special time of ministry and prayer. I served on the ministry team. A young girl, probably around 15 or 16, came up to me for prayer. “My mother has HIV,” she whispered in my ear, “and we are poor. I’m scared.” And then she broke down in tears. How to pray for her? I thought. I was so overcome with, why, God, why? LeThabo’s story is so common here; she represents thousands upon thousands of South African young people. I prayed for her mom’s healing; I prayed for her and her siblings, but it felt fake. I was so angry. Then I could no longer find the words. We wept together, and I found myself saying to her, it’s OK to cry, just let it all out. God understands your pain and weeps with you.

I felt so helpless as I held LeThabo in my arms, but neither one of us was hopeless. I don’t understand why there is so much pain and suffering in South Africa and in the world. I don’t understand why teenagers, whose greatest concern should be their studies and who should be blossoming into life, have to bear so much pain and responsibility. It doesn’t seem fair; it’s not fair.

At the times when we can’t find the words to pray, we can weep with our sisters and brothers in their pain and trust that God hears our prayers of tears.

 

Trust in him at all times, you people;

pour out your hearts to him,

for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:8

 

The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

–Romans 8:26

 

 

 

Humility

Archbishop Justin He washed their feet. Narrow and wide; male and female; shades of brown, black, and white—12 pairs of teenage feet, he washed. The head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, got on his knees, gently taking up a pair of feet to wash. Then he blessed the bearer of the feet.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

I will never forget this day, when I had the absolute honour of overseeing the hosting of Archbishop Welby when he spoke to the youth at Anglicans Ablaze. His talk was real, vulnerable, relatable, encouraging. He spoke about how God used Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement over the young man Mark, who had deserted them on a mission, for good, helping to spread the Good News and how Paul later “re-commissioned” Mark, requesting his help on another mission. The archbishop tied this to our lives today, reminding us how God can use for good the mistakes we have made. Archbishop Welby also talked about how modern-day society, even himself at times, suffers from the “imposter syndrome”—the fear of having people know who we truly are on the inside, warts, fears, jealousies, muck, insecurities, desires, and all. If people really knew us, they wouldn’t like us.

Then, at the end of his talk, the archbishop washed 12 pairs of feet, demonstrating Christ’s love for his church. There was not a dryArchbishop Justin 2 eye in the room. You could feel God’s presence; it was the presence of love, nearly tangible, like a cloud. Archbishop Welby’s action was the act of love and a servant spirit. It was humility incarnate. I could sense God saying to us all, Go and do likewise.