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

Advertisements

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

 

Keeping It Real

One Junior group delves into scripture (All Saints Belhar, Cape Town)
One Junior group delves into scripture (All Saints Belhar, Cape Town)

One thing the Rooted in Jesus Junior programme does is encourage children to memorise scripture. The idea is that the Word of God gets off the page and takes root in the child’s heart. Memorising the memory verse is a key element of the Junior programme, and it is one that I like.

Another group's Memory Verse Corner
Another group’s Memory Verse Corner

As a child, I hated to memorise scripture. I used to think, Why do I need to memorise this verse? I have a Bible, or I could ask Mom and Dad. However, the few scripture verses I did memorise as a child have come to mind at times when I really needed them, and I know it was the Holy Spirit using these verses to minister to me. I regret not memorising more scripture, so I can appreciate the importance the Junior programme places on the memory verse; and I strongly encourage Junior leaders not to skimp on this but to make sure each child memorises the verses.

Mom and Dad modeled the importance of knowing scripture and of having devotional time with God. When I was growing up, before school each day, we would have a short time of prayer together as a family, and each week we would have a family devotional time. I hate to admit it; but at the time, I didn’t really value these times together. I was always rushing before school to get ready on time and could have used the extra minute or two. Our family devotional time didn’t take much time, but it seemed to cut into my evening routine. However, I did think it was kind of cool that we had this weekly time together as a family.

Now as an adult, I realise how formational to me were these dedicated times of prayer and scripture reading together as a family. I realise how powerful it was for my parents to pray over me and my siblings each day before we went to school; those prayers of protection, guidance, and wisdom went a long way—more than I will ever know.

When I have a family of my own, I plan to carry on these two traditions of family prayer and devotional time. I plan to teach my children the importance of reading and memorising scripture, as we do it together, keeping it real.

Praying Pains

Back-in-the-day: Dad & Nicole
Back-in-the-day: Dad & Nicole

It was my dad who taught me to pray. When I was little, Dad and I would kneel beside my bed and pray together, Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. God bless, Mommie, Daddy, Phillip, (the twins, when they came along), Grandma, Auntie, Benji (my pet rabbit), Spot (my dog), and a host of other animals and things on my child’s mind. I remember feeling like such a big girl when Dad taught me the Lord’s Prayer.

When I became a teenager, prayer became something I did at church or with my family. Occasionally, I would pray on my own—when I needed something from God. I did not find much meaning in prayer, although my parents modeled a lifestyle of prayer for me.

As a young adult, prayer confused me: How to pray? Does God really hear me? Why should I pray if God knows what is on my mind anyway? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? At times, prayer made me angry. Why pray, when God doesn’t listen—or even worse, doesn’t care?

In my early 30’s, I went through some bad relationships and some awful break-ups. I was angry. Was I doomed to have a broken-heart? Why didn’t God do something? Didn’t he care? I was annoyed with well-meaning people who tried to make me feel better with comments, such as: God knows what is best for you. Don’t worry, God has the perfect man for you at the perfect time. Maybe God wants you to focus on him right now. Make God the center of your life.

Those comments seem to discount my pain. I was hurting. Where was God in the midst of my pain? Then over the years, three people said some simple things that caught my attention:

Robin, my friend and former boss, assured me that God feels my pain and cries with me. God, my Creator and God, feels my pain and cries with me too? He is present in my pain? Wow. Now this is something to which I can relate, something onto which I can latch.

Fr. Leigh, my rector, said in one of his sermons that God was not despondent to our pain. Seriously, I thought—is that true? God truly cares about my pain? He emphasizes with me?

My friend Agatha once said in a passing conversation (I think with someone else, not me) that she prays to God and expects him to respond—why not? It was like I heard her comment in my mind, saying, Duh. If I pray, why wouldn’t I expect God to answer? She wasn’t saying that God would answer our prayers always with an affirmative but that God would answer our prayers, that we would always get a response. (My mom used to tell me this, but I never listened her. It took a person from outside the family to get this truth across to me.)

Now I am on the other side of young adulthood. Prayer is still a mystery to me. I still don’t get it or fully understand it, but it has become an integral part of who I am. I thank my dad for teaching me how to pray, my parents for modeling prayer for me, and my friends and priest for revealing some important elements of prayer to me.

Childhood Reflections

Over the past two months, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my early life. During Lent, I spoke at my church on the discipleship of children. It was my first such talk on this topic, and I drew a lot from my personal experience as a child.

Palm Sunday: Church of the Good Shepherd
Palm Sunday: Church of the Good Shepherd

When I first moved to South Africa, my role at Growing the Church was to be the youth coordinator, but it quickly evolved into doing children’s ministry as well, as I ultimately became responsible for Rooted in Jesus Junior (a small-group discipleship course for children) in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Over the past two years, this has reshaped my attitude towards children and ministry to them.

I am by no means an expert in this area, and I believe that the church in both my countries has fallen short in the discipleship of children. But in reality, discipleship begins at home. I believe that the church should play a secondary role in a child’s faith formation, reinforcing and building upon what a child is already learning at home about God and about living life as a follower of Christ.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to blog about some of my faith experiences as a child and how they have shaped me into the person I am today. I think this will help me to process my reflections and, hopefully, will inspire readers along the way.