Sunday, July 12, 2015

Speaking in Other Tongues

I am fascinated with languages. Here in South Africa, where there are 11 official languages, almost everyone is fluent in two or three languages, with some working knowledge of still others. Almost all conversations are sprinkled with some words from one tongue and some words from another, and people flow smoothly between languages without even realizing it.

Recently, a couple of incidents amused me with their complexity! The first was at our Moms In Prayer International conference. One of my friends who is from Lesotho and is fluent in Sotho as well as English and Swati was testifying to a group of women from many different language groups. She asked our other friend, who is from Zimbabwe, and fluent in Shona, English, and Swati, to translate for her. Neither woman was speaking in her native tongue; Matshepo spoke in Swati while Vimbai translated into English. Brilliant!

The second incident happened when we were in Zimbabwe for the first time. I was thoroughly enjoying the company of a young woman named Gratitude who was working at our hotel. She was teaching me some basic words and phrases in her native tongue, Shona. Gratitude also spoke fluent English. Then she discovered that I know some Spanish. Apparently she is also trying to learn Spanish, so I said I'd help her. It turns out that she has a friend from Hungary, who is currently living in Belgium, who speaks fluent Spanish and was teaching her via text messages. So, here I was, an American living in South Africa, visiting Zimbabwe, learning Shona and teaching Spanish to a young girl who was texting her Hungarian friend in Belgium. Convoluted, confusing, cross-cultural delight!

All of this got me thinking about what the Bible has to say about languages. In Genesis we have the story of the tower of Babel, where humans in their pride try to reach the heavens, and God causes them to speak in diverse languages to confound their plans, and then He scatters them throughout the earth.

AND THEN JESUS CHRIST CAME, followed by the Holy Spirit. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:4

It seems to me that the message of Jesus' life-giving death on the cross and His climactic resurrection, is such a paramount, imperative message that God made a way for the language barrier to be bridged, through His all-powerful Spirit.

I yearn for the day when "...at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every TONGUE confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-11



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Here I Am Lord, Send Me

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Some days I grow weary. The steady, ceaseless reports of death after death here in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly from HIV/AIDS, or from lack of access to decent medical care, may just be statistics to some. But for those of us who minister here, these are real faces and real people we know and love. We cry with the families left behind.

Wednesday was one of those days. The first woman to arrive for our morning Bible study in one of the villages almost immediately began her teary-eyed tale of her adult-age grandson who was dying and not expected to make it through they day. He would be leaving behind a small three-year-old son.

Then we received a phone call from one of our members saying it will be awhile before she can join us again because she is substitute teaching for a teacher who just died. I was already sick at heart before it was time to ask for prayer requests, and my interpreter also asked for prayer for her middle-aged father who is very sick and needing a miracle to live. We all cried together and prayed together for each situation, clinging to the hope that our compassionate God does hear our prayers.

After the morning Bible study and lunch in the car, we went to the community we serve in the afternoon. First we visited Elvis, a 94-year-old man living alone. Our weekly visits with food and treats make only a small dent in the loneliness and need in the waning life of this frail grandfather, whose own family neglects him horribly.

And then we received the news that one of the members of our afternoon Bible study group would not be able to attend because she was helping down the road with a family of four children, ages 10 years, 7 years, 4 years, and 9 months, whose mother had just passed away and whose fathers are not around.

I normally try to post “upbeat” messages, but sometimes the pain and the burden I feel spills over. I do not have the answers, but I know God does. And these situations propel me forward, day after day, with the urgency of sharing the love of Jesus.

And our compassionate God does hear our prayers. And He does encourage me.

This same day, one woman who has only recently started attending one of our groups and who frankly came with a bad attitude, was sharing in siSwati with some of the others, not realizing I could understand most of what she was saying. The gist was that in the short time since she's been attending our Bible study, she's realized that there is a difference between a church-goer and a Christian, and that now she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Yes!

“Here I am Lord, send me.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Hiding Place

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
Psalm 119:114
As I was waiting for the ladies who attend our regular afternoon Bible study session in small rural church on a hillside, I noticed with some trepidation the dark clouds rolling in. My husband and I were about an hour away from home, and still had to travel over dirt roads, through hostile townships, before it got dark.
My misgivings gave way as I greeted each precious eager face and hugged each weary body while the ladies trouped in having walked a ways to reach our meeting destination. Due to the obviously encroaching storm, I asked them if they wanted to continue or just go home before the rain began. These dear ones are so hungry for God's Word that they insisted I began teaching, so I started in on the story of Jezebel, a suitably dark story that seemed to match the rapidly increasing darkness outside.
It wasn't long before strong winds began gusting through the windows, which have no panes, so we were defenseless against the onslaught. I was ready to give up, but my resourceful sisters simply picked up their battered plastic chairs and moved them away from the windows to a more sheltered area of the small room. We resolutely carried on. Then the rains began. We knew immediately because the roof is made of corrugated metal, and the noise was deafening. And we were all getting wet from the many holes where the metal pieces did not completely meet.
Once again, I thought to myself, “Surely they will give up now and I can get home to my nice safe house.” I suggested we close quickly in prayer and continue with the lesson the following week. One particularly strong and sassy granny pointed to the “door” (just the large open hole where a door might someday be) at the tempest, and said, “Where will you go?” I certainly saw her wisdom—it was not prudent to venture outside even a step at that moment! So we moved our chairs as closely together as possible so we could hear each other shout, and to avoid the worst of the incessantly dripping from above us.
As I surrendered my will (yet again!) to the Lord's, I began to relish the adventure, and the joy of persevering against difficult odds, to share God's precious and holy Word together. And hallelujah we finished! And we had a lively and wonderful discussion, and a time of heartfelt prayer afterward. By the time we adjourned, the rain had slowed to a trickle, the thunder was just a distant booming, and the winds had died down to a gentle breeze. What a priceless reminder that He is with us through the storm, and that being in the center of His will is the very safest place to be, no matter the external circumstances.
Yes, John and I made it safely home before a glorious sunset!







Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fire in the belly


Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Luke 6:29

I have recently become aware of a treasure of an African parable. Ostensibly, I minister to women here in South Africa through Bible studies and prayer groups, but the reality is I learn far more from them than they learn from me. In one of our groups we were discussing how to handle it when someone hurts us, when one of the ladies shared this powerful illustration commonly taught in their culture.

The analogy is that turning the other cheek, or overlooking an offense, is akin to swallowing a very hot chile pepper that burns all the way down into your stomach. It is painful, but there, in the fire in your belly, is where the glory of God resides.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

My South African sisters humble me with their obedience in forgiveness. Following the sacrificial example of their hero, Nelson Mandela, they have forgiven decades of the horrors of Apartheid here in South Africa. More than that, though, they follow the example of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who when being crucified on the cross to save us from our sins, lovingly said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
May the fire burn in my belly for your glory my Lord.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Press Forward


Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.
Hosea 6:3

Typically I prefer warm fuzzy mammals from the animal kingdom, but the ungainly, aptly but repugnantly named dung beetle has gained my admiration. Its sheer size caught my eye the first time I saw one bumbling around the home of my hostess. In it's own grotesque way, it's kind of cute. What really won me over though was spending one afternoon waiting (always waiting here in Africa!) for others to finish their business and stumbling across a determined dung beetle rolling it's ball of dung uphill, over rocks, and finally depositing the precious load where apparently my little friend thought it belonged.

We sing a song in church with the lyrics, “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.” I could just imagine the tencious creature humming the lyrics in mumbly beetle language under it's breath as it toiled away under the hot African sun. God gave us His beautiful creation to lead us to and teach us about Him. I am thankful for the unattractive but instructive dung beetle.

How much more have I learned from my beautiful African brothers and sisters. “Chubekele phambili” means “press forward” in siSwati. I have been so humbled, so convicted, and so blessed as I witness them pursuing the Lord, and trusing Him, over many mountains and through many trials. Help me Lord to uncomplaininly, trustingly, faithfully follow their shining example as we all follow YOUR example pressing forward with your cross towards Golgotha, and then to eternal glory.
 

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Shelter in the Storm


For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble....Psalm 27:5a

I grew up in West Texas and thus weathered many fearsome, awe-inspiring thunderstorms. I must say, though, that even those were tame in comparison to what we experience here in our little corner of southern Africa.

A couple of days ago I ceased all labor to hold my terrified and shivering little dachshund mix in my lap during one such storm. To be honest, I was feeling much the same—not because of the storm outside my window, but because of the internal one raging in my mind and heart. I felt bombarded from all directions with needs of others demanding my attention, and the feelings of inadequacy began to weigh me down. I knew I desperately needed time away with my Father, to rest in His arms.

While I was sitting there pondering these things and crying out to my Abba, He gave me a precious gift—a simple reminder that He is my shelter and He will always take care of me. I watched as a lone bird who had obviously been caught in the storm finally found refuge in a short but leafy bush in front of my window. As I continued to watch through the storm, he remained securely lodged somewhere in the bowels of the leaves where I couldn't see him at all. But as soon as the sun reappeared, he flew safely away to do whatever he was supposed to be doing that afternoon.

Yes my Lord, you are my shelter in the storm—always, no matter what. When I am weak; you are my strength and my fortress and my strong tower, and you will never leave me nor forsake me. As you cared for that little brown bird, you care for me--only much more so, more than I can imagine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Words Are Not Enough


When you are leaving elderly sick parents behind for a year and all you have to give are hugs and tears

When a friend pours her heart out to you about the trauma of caring for a depressed and addicted child

When a young relative's health has failed and she is in chronic pain and perpetual poverty

When a friend suddenly becomes a widow after over 40 years of a happy marriage

When someone you are discipling turns away from God

When a ministry partner's only living relative dies at a young age due to AIDS


And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. “I, I am he who comforted you....” Isaiah 51:11-12a

When anxiety was deep within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalms 94:19

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion, “says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

...”Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, an death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3b-4