Friday, January 31, 2014
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? James 2:14-16 My husband and I live very frugally compared to the standards in which we were raised in the affluent USA. Yet one of the things we wrestle with is having enough food to eat, electricity (most of the time), and running water (most of the time!) while living and serving amidst brothers and sisters who do not.
This was especially poignant to us this past Thanksgiving, which we celebrated with other American missionaries here in southern Africa. We were blessed with a typical and abundant feast at a long table in our friends' lovely dining room. Our friends also happen to distribute food donations to communities that are in dire need. The irony did not escape us that in the very same dining room where we gorged, in the corner were high stacks of boxes prominently labeled "Feed My Starving Children." The events of the day continued to unfold in a similarly ironic manner.
Most of us live in rural areas and being in a "real" city with modern conveniences is quite a rare treat, we decided to splurge further and go see a movie in a "real" movie theater. One of the "Hunger Games" series was out, so off we excitedly rushed to a "real" mall. We all enjoyed this uncommon time of escape and relaxation, but ruefully talked afterward about how unsettled we all felt watching a movie, named "Hunger Games" with the major theme of "haves and have nots" in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet the truth that continues to become more and more crystal clear to us is that the real hunger is not for daily bread, but for Daily Bread. We pray that the hearts of those who "have" will be continue to be opened to the great and yawning need here for bread and for the Bread of Life.
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." John 21:15
Monday, December 30, 2013
Reconciliation is a word God has been putting on my heart and in my path a lot recently. Of course it is one of the main themes of the Bible, with many times of foreshadowing in the Old Testament (think Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Naomi and her kin). Maybe the most famous parable in the New Testament of reconciliation is that of the prodigal son. Reconciliation finds its source, its very essence, ultimately in the Trinity: the Father giving His only son so that we might be reconciled to Him, the Person of Jesus Christ and His perfect, sacrificial death on the cross, the Holy Spirit raising Jesus from the dead.
Nelson Mandela's death was an opportunity for many to reflect on the concept of reconciliation as his very life in later years exemplified forgiveness and restoration and unity.
I have a friend who just had to give the go-ahead for his mother to be taken off life-support. God has used this painful time in his life to reconcile his father and him after years of a broken relationship. Most of us can remember times when similar things have happened in our own lives or those of our families and friends.
One of the great joys of our mission work in Swaziland has been leading many to reconciliation with the Father as they accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. With the highest rate of both HIV/AIDS and TB in the world, there is no shortage of those excited to hear the Gospel.
We are thankful to be able to continue in this work, but God is calling us to a new and exciting work as well, just across the border in the country of South Africa (Mandela's homeland). SA proudly claims their title of the “Rainbow Nation” and indeed, great strides have been made for unity among the races. But a HUGE divide still exists—in many hearts and in physical reality. Only God can bring the necessary healing to hearts after years of racial ugliness. Only God can really enable those who are still living lives of extreme poverty and disease in the townships to begin to prosper and thrive as their white fellow South Africans do.
But God calls and uses people, and we are humbled that He has called us to be part of this work. We will be moving to SA in early 2014. Our work in Swaziland will continue through the locals with our oversight, but we will also be doing the same work in SA with the added component of allowing God to use us in new ways to bring about His work of reconciliation!
Monday, December 9, 2013
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Jesus Christ speaks here of sacrificial love.
For us, this has been a month of being immersed in, filled with, and overwhelmed by examples of sacrificial love.
God has called us to leave our beloved Swaziland to move to Nelspruit, South Africa to serve. I am eager to go wherever He calls, yet there is a price to be paid as my heart feels like it is being ripped apart as I say goodbye over and over to friends (really, sisters and brothers) here. I feel my pain; I feel their pain as my clothing literally becomes saturated with our mutual tears as we cling together sobbing.
In the midst of all this, we grieve the loss of Nelson Mandela, a man celebrated worldwide for his many acts of sacrificial love.
What astounds us, humbles us, and renders us speechless, however, is the outpouring of gifts from those who cannot afford to even feed themselves or their families. One group of “my” ladies from a Bible study we hold in a village simply called “Section 19” gave a going away party for us. These women live in mud huts with no electricity, and no clean drinking water, and subsist almost entirely on corn meal. Their entire community was ravaged last weekend by a huge storm that hit our area and many homes were severely damaged.
Yet three days later, these precious women pooled their meager resources and gave us a party neither of us will ever forget. They bought gifts, wrapping paper (toilet paper is a rare luxury for them), and food. They had an entire planned program with a master of ceremonies, speeches, singing, the gift presentation, and what was a very special feast. They continued to pour out their hearts of gratitude for “all we have done for them.” Oh, that there was some way I could make them understand that they have done SO much more for us.
God has so transformed their hearts with His outpouring of love that it is spilling over to others in extreme generosity. We know they will “do without” because of what they've done for us. But, as a fellow missionary pointed out to me when I tearfully reported the story, their rewards in Heaven will be great. And I for one will be joyously standing on the sidelines, cheering and clapping, as they receive their crowns to place at our Lord's feet.
Monday, November 11, 2013
I love Swaziland. I love the Swazi people. I love the ministry here. But I love my God more. Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. He is my greatest treasure, and He is calling us to follow Him, once again leaving behind ones we love. We will be moving to Nelspruit, South Africa, sometime in early 2014. Thankfully we will get to come back to Swaziland and visit often as Nelspruit is just across the border. Thankfully, the population we'll be ministering to is very similar to the one we are leaving, as the boundary between the countries is an arbitrary one, and the people group is the same on both sides. Still, this hurts—I feel like a part of my heart is being ripped out. The goodbyes are painful. Matthew 16:24 ...If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. The cross in the picture is a simple one, made for me by our Swazi son Phinda. I've used it several times for skits. The cross on which Jesus was crucified was a simple one. I choose to follow Him.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
A few months ago we were sharing at a small home church in the U.S. about all that God is doing here in Swaziland. There was a young boy (maybe 10 years old?) in attendance, listening raptly as we described not only the challenges here including poverty, but also how God has been teaching us about true giving through the generosity of those we serve, though they have so very little. At the end of our talk, the boy rushed up to me with his own, very nice, shoes in his hands and thrusted them at me, begging me to take them to some boy his age in need here in Africa. Of course, I felt I needed to clear this wonderful generosity first through his grandma, a friend of mine, who had brought him. She readily agreed without a moment's hesitation. I had the joy of being able to give the shoes to another wonderful young boy, the child of a friend of mine here in Swaziland. I truly am not sure who was the
most blessed of us all. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Monday, September 2, 2013
I am blessed to be on a worship team with some amazing young people. I often write about women and children, but this time I'm going to write about the young men on our team. They give me so much hope for the future of their countries. The represent the best of the best. They stand firm, and against the crowd, as gentlemen who treat young women as treasured sisters rather than objects for sex and abuse. They are standard bearers for God's Truth against a culture that mixes Christianity with ancestor worship and other evils. They obey and respect their parents and others in authority over them; they laugh and persevere in the face of hardship; they work hard in school and sports and on their jobs and studying God's Word and developing themselves as musicians of excellence. They know better than to fall prey to the snares of alcohol and drugs in which so many of their peers are entrapped. They refuse to judge one another by the color of their skin. They call me “Mom” and make me laugh with their antics. I am blessed, and I have hope for the future of Swaziland and South Africa.
Monday, August 12, 2013
I don't even have a photo. It was one of those poignant moments captured only in my memory. It was a cold winter day here in Swaziland. I was hosting a team from Johannesburg who were here to serve in some of the poor rural villages where we minister. In one day, this team transformed at care point where impoverished children get 2 hot meals a day into a beautiful and vibrant place. They painted flowers and happy faces and sweet verses all over the walls in vibrant colors. I was sitting on a cold, hard bench when a little girl, about two years old, crawled onto my lap. I noticed that she, like most of the kids at the care point, had no shoes or warm clothes. She was dressed in an adorable but filthy little dress, but nothing else. Her little bare legs and feet were freezing, so I cuddled her as best as I could and massaged her cold limbs. She promptly fell asleep on my lap, a precious bundle hopefully feeling warm and safe for a few moments. I learned that she is an orphan and lives with her granny. Granny has to spend her days working in the fields trying to make ends meet and must leave her tiny granddaughter unattended. One of the women working with the team managed to get some donated shoes for the child and I was able to deliver them today, two days later. Jesus cares.