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.

 

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!

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.

Foreign

Not long ago, I completed a Rooted in Jesus Junior conference, the first one that I have overseen in a rural diocese. I was in a Xhosa speaking community. For the first time in many months, perhaps all year, I haven’t felt so foreign than I did during that conference. The people struggled to understand me. I struggled to understand them–their English, their protocol, their (extreme) concept of “African time.”

The translator took liberties translating me. My sentences were brief, but she would take several minutes to translate them and embellish what I was saying. That I knew. Nothing ever started on time. We always started at least an hour late, but it was amazing how we caught up with the time, rarely going over our ending time by ten minutes.

For the most part, I do just fine in Cape Town. The culture there is Western enough to make adapting somewhat easy, but I struggle in the rural communities.

At one time, early in the conference, I asked myself, “God, why am I here? Am I getting through or just wasting everyone’s time? I think my being here is a mistake.” I felt God calling to my mind one of the scripture passages I teach on the course, Jeremiah 1:4-8 (NIV), which is about the call of Jeremiah:

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

I felt God saying to me, don’t say that you can’t speak because you are a foreigner. I have appointed you to be here before you were even born. I will give you the words to say.

After this, nothing miraculous happened. I didn’t instantly start speaking Xhosa. The translator continued to take liberties. I didn’t have any warm and fuzzy feelings that everything would be ok, but I tried with the Lord’s help to trust that God was working behind the scenes, in ways I didn’t know or couldn’t see. I could trust God to transcend our language and cultural differences. It was a test of trust, to be sure!

Mthatha RinJ Junior Delegates

At the end of the conference, several people shared testimonies about how the conference has changed their understanding of their view of children and their understanding of discipling children. Here are some:

  • “I used to think only one of my Sunday School children could pray. Now I know that they all can pray.”
  • “I used to think that the Holy Spirit was only for adults. Now I know that the Holy Spirit is for everyone.”
  • “I used to be bitter towards my youngest child because his father left me because he was born. I used to beat him. I now understand that God loves my child, that he is special to God, and that I should love him too. God has put love in my heart for my child.”

I give thanks to our God who transcends all languages and cultures, helping us to understand one another and binding us in love.

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.

Mom and Dad in Cape Town!

with my GtC (work) family
with my GtC (work) family

Nearly two weeks ago, my parents touched down in Cape Town, and we have been having the best time together. It’s a delight to show them my city and to give them a taste of my new home. They have seen things ranging from the iconic and historic sites of Table Mountain and Robben Island to the local Pick n’ Pay and Food Lovers Market, two grocery stores where I shop. I treated them to fish and chips at Kalky’s, a colourful eatery in Kalk Bay; and Mom has fallen in love with our local South African “regular” tea, Five Roses.

Yet what is most special about my parents’ visit, besides our just being together, is that they are meeting and spending time with my South African family. It has been a blessing and a joy to introduce them to my new friends and to introduce my friends to my parents. My friends have rolled out the red carpet for my parents, and I am truly grateful.

The Parents with my "Strand Family"
The Parents with my “Strand Family”

Mom and Dad are amazed at the South African hospitality, and it makes them feel so much better knowing the lovely people with whom I work and hang out. I am amazed at the wonderful community in which God has placed me, all within less than six months.

Mom and Dad Relaxing at Estelle's and my Birthday Party
Mom and Dad Relaxing at Estelle’s and my Birthday Party

It is truly special for me to see family from both of my homes come together.