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.

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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.

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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.

Surprised by Mama

When the taxi rolled away, I saw her standing there–this typical Xhosa mama with a cap on her head, supported by crutches because she had only one leg, with her blanket neatly packed on one side and her bag of belongings on the other side. My heart sank as I thought, Oh, no. Is this one of the trainee trainers for our conference? This lady doesn’t look she can be a trainer. Can she can grasp the material? Can she lead?

mama LucyAs the conference went on, I had to repent, as Mama Lucy taught me a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. First of all, she was the first one of our trainee trainers to volunteer to lead a workshop. Second of all, she grasped the material, studied it, and prepared it, conveying it well to others. Third of all, she had a compassionate heart. She noticed the newcomers and reminded me to give them their material. She spoke up for those who were confused or who didn’t know how to express the questions they had.

In African tradition, we address older ladies as “mama.” It’s a sign of honour, respect, affection, and a sort of recognition that they are “mamas” to us all. Mama Lucy has six biological children, and I am sure she is a wonderful mama to them all; but she taught her American daughter a lesson that she won’t forget anytime soon. Thank you, Mama Lucy.

Back to School

Got questions? Search for answers--our marketing campaign at the school. We posted red question marks throughout the school.
“Got questions? Search for answers”–our marketing campaign at the school. We posted red question marks throughout the school.

Tomorrow, I will begin working at a local high school for the next six weeks. I have been coordinating a Youth Alpha course for the students, and the course kicks off tomorrow afternoon.

The high school isn’t far from where I live. It’s located in what we Americans would call a “working class” neighbourhood, but most of the students come from the townships. Many come from extremely disadvantaged communities, riddled by gang violence, substance abuse, and impoverished conditions. The school has 900 students, 25 teachers, one principal, and a handful of support staff. In an American city, I think such a school wouldn’t exist because of the lack of staffing.

Yet, despite the school’s being under-resourced, you don’t get the feeling of hopelessness20140326_085330 you often sense when you visit an American inner-city school. You don’t have to go through airport-like security to enter the school, graffiti isn’t on the walls, and the students are very respectful. You can tell that the teachers truly care about their students and are trying their best to provide them with quality education. I feel so uplifted every time I visit the school. Attending some classes—English, Afrikaans, and maths— at the high school, in order to get a better feel for the school, has been one of the highlights of my year.

Months ago, the principal of the high school approached Growing the Church with a request for help. In his words, he felt like the school was meeting the academic needs of the students but not their spiritual needs. (Wow—can you imagine this happening in an American school?) At the end of last year, I started to put together a team from local churches, and we decided the best place to start was with the Youth Alpha course.

20140326_084225Please pray for us. Please pray for the students, the facilitators, and the caterer for the course. We are stepping out on faith, as we only have a little funding for the course; but we know that the Lord will provide. Please pray that hearts will be opened to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

I’m excited about this opportunity to serve the students at the school. I know that many lives are going to be changed, including my own.

Zululand

Some clergy present Psalm 139 in song.
Some clergy present Psalm 139 in song.
Holy space we created to pray for the children in our care.
holy space we created to pray for the children in our care

Zulu Huts

This is my last night in the Diocese of Zululand. Gordon, a priest friend of mine, and I have been leading a conference for the diocese’s clergy school. Gordon was presenting Fresh Expressions of Church, and I was introducing Rooted in Jesus Junior. We were thrilled and humbled that the bishop had invited us to come, but neither one of us knew what to expect.

Zululand is beautiful—big rolling lush hills, little huts and villages dotted along the road, cows mooing in the distance. The rolling hills and greenery remind me of Tennessee; I feel at home.

But even more beautiful than the scenery are the clergy of this diocese. They have welcomed my friend and I with opened arms. The worship has been moving, exuberant, and holy. They seem to enjoy being here, being together.

I have framed my talks around our role as Christian adults to disciple children. I feel as though the Church as a whole has fallen short of this God-given responsibility. We underestimate children; but in God’s kingdom, they are of great value and God desires to use them now. They don’t have to wait until they grow up to be used by God. God wants them to play an active role in the Church today.

After yesterday’s talks, several priests have come up to me at various times, saying how they have been challenged to reach out more to children, to truly disciple them. Others said that they had many children in their churches, so many that they didn’t know what to do with them; and they felt like their Sunday school teachers had not been invested in properly to teach the children. They were going to make a priority shift, investing more in the training of teachers.

One priest shared about how many boys, who lived near the church, would play soccer on the lawn of his parsonage. This had annoyed him, he admitted, but now he saw this as an opportunity to disciple the boys—and to let them continue to have fun playing soccer. What better place for these boys to be than playing soccer on church grounds? he reflected.

Although I would love for every Zululand parish to use Rooted in Jesus Junior, I feel as though my mission on this trip has been accomplished—to help clergy develop a new mindset regarding ministry to children and to help them understand the importance of discipling our children.

A Phone of My Own

I’m waffling over whether to click “publish” or not. Dare I—or not? I’m a bit embarrassed to publish this post; but as I said from the beginning, my blog will reflect my experiences of living cross-culturally. I won’t gloss over difficult situations or paint things in a rose-colored lens. Yet what I have written about is very first world. Even if my American and South African friends can’t relate, I think they will respect my honesty; and I know they will love me all the same, so here goes…

Budget Man puts the squeeze on iPhone. It didn't work.
Budget Man puts the squeeze on iPhone.

Ever since I arrived in Cape Town, I have been borrowing my boss’s spare mobile phone. It was time for me to get my own phone, and I had my heart set on the iPhone 5. Earlier this year, a local carrier had a good deal for the iPhone 5; but I hadn’t been in the country long enough to have all the required paperwork to get the phone on contract. Months later, when I did have the paperwork, the deal had ended and the iPhone 5 was way out of my budget. Ok. I thought. I’ll get the iPhone 4s. Well, it was still out of my budget, but I tried my best to justify it: It will sync with my laptop and tablet. I love the iPhone; I’m familiar with it. I can use several apps to stay in touch with my family. I need it to stay in touch with my family.

I spent several weeks researching all types of smart phones and looking at several local carriers, trying to find the best deal. I crunched numbers, trying to squeeze the iPhone 4s in my budget. I agonised over whether or not to purchase the phone or to buy a certain android phone, which was in my budget. (Gasp—I can’t go droid!) I was fretting about what to do. Finally, I accepted that I couldn’t afford the iPhone, and I began to pout. A week ago, when I was having a pouty conversation with God, I felt God say to me, Get a grip. You are whining over stepping down from a Mercedes to a BMW, whereas most people are still riding along in a horse and buggy.

Ouch, God. That hurt. But God got my attention. Over the next few days, I did a lot of soul searching. I realized, as ridiculous as it sounds, I had a lot of my identity tied up in Apple. I love Macs, and I am an “Apple person;” but somewhere along the way, my admiration for this product line became a way in which I defined myself and that wasn’t good.

Wrestling with my phone dilemma brought me face-to-face with the core of my problem; in many respects, I have been trying to hold on to the lifestyle I had in the States—and that’s impossible. South Africa is not the USA, and I make a fraction of what I earned at my old job in the States. And even if I could create a mini-USA lifestyle bubble for myself, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do, especially as a missionary.

But it’s hard. I feel the tension of going from a first-world country to a developing one. At times the tension is in the background; other times, it is at the forefront–but the tension is always there. I guess it is a part of living cross-culturally. It’s a challenge to know what to hold on to and what to let go. I’m embarrassed that it was so difficult for me to let go of something so trivial as a phone, but it was hard. On the flipside, some things are worth holding on to. Recently, I have come to terms that I need to join a gym, as it isn’t safe for me to go on walks by myself and as public tennis courts are non-existence. Physical health is vital to my emotional, mental, and spiritual health; and I am feeling the lack of exercise from which my body is suffering. This is the most unfit I have been in my adult life. Being fit is something worth holding on to; but the phone, I had to let go—and that’s OK. Steve Jobs would understand.

*Image created by Idea go, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net