South Africa - 9 (Journal Day 4)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Today we had a very early start because we had a lot of ground to cover on our ministry schedule. Not only was breakfast early, it was unusual. Since I am more of a "nightowl," I am not a real breakfast eater unless I am on vacation and can eat around 10:00 in the morning! Just give me coffee and lots of cream, and I’m good to go! After I’m awake a bit, I’ll eat some fruit and yogurt – that’s how I roll at home. So when I walked into the breakfast area today and saw all that meat and smelled that fish, I just got really queasy. There was ham and bacon, sausages and some fish. I knew I needed to just get some coffee and excuse myself, so I walked around a bit and enjoyed the sounds of the morning...namely this HUGE bird cage above filled with parakeets!  They sounded so delightful!

After a little while, Pastor David from the Boikhutsu Shanty Town was coming to pick us up. We were scheduled to visit an aids hospice and a public health clinic.  As I reflect back now over my day, deep down I wonder if I was just a little anxious about visiting the clinic and the hospice, and my queasy stomach was not the strange breakfast after all…


On our way back to the shanty village, Pastor David (he is originally from Botswana and spoke “Swana”) told us we would need to wait in the car until he got permission for us to visit the people at the clinic. We waited for about 30 minutes and he came back and told us we could not sing, but we could share. My husband Gary gave a gloriously simple presentation of the Good News of Jesus Christ! Gary would say a sentence or two, then Pastor David would interpret – and back and forth they would go.  I.loved.it. After Gary finished he turned to me and asked me to share. I could hardly wait, I was not nervous at all.  Since my husband had shared with the people that the most important decision they would ever make is to accept Christ’s death on the cross as payment for their sins, I just picked right up there and told them, “I made that decision! I decided to follow Jesus!”  I told them they were beautiful, and they smiled and clapped! I told them I loved them, and they smiled and clapped! Then I told them Jesus loved them so much He gave His very life, and they were so excited. I told them about my sister Jean that died in a car accident when she was only 25 years old. I told them that I still miss her very much all these years later. Then I asked them, “But do you know what? I WILL see her again one day because she made that DECISION too!” They really seemed to understand – I pray with all my heart they did. It was simple and real and personal – and that’s what I wanted to be to them – simple, real, and personal. I loved having the interpreter translate my English into their native language.
After we left the public health clinic, we drove about one-half mile down the road to an aids hospice. We walked into an old cinder block building surrounded by razor barbed wire. We entered right into a little makeshift kitchen with a little wooden table in the center. Two young African women were working at a sink cutting up spinach, potatoes, and cabbage to cook. They never said a word to us, they just kept preparing those vegetables. There were seven patients sitting around the table, some in wheelchairs, and some just sitting in old chairs. Pastor David asked me to sing a song. I sang three verses of Amazing Grace a cappella. Pastor David interpreted for our friend, John Kubia - who shared from John 14. After Mr. Kubia finished, he asked if anyone wanted to go to that place that Jesus had prepared for them, and three feeble hands were raised. I was so overcome I could hardly stand up. On my way out, I looked up in time to see a young girl lying in a bed that was in a room right off that little kitchen. She must have been too sick to get up, but she had been listening from her bed. Our eyes met and I looked at her and smiled and waved. She gave a weak smile and then turned her head back to the wall. I went outside and bawled like a baby.

As we were leaving the clinic, two African men approached. They wanted to know what we were doing, so we told them. They laughed, but something did not seem right about them. It was hollow laughter. They were wearing badges on their shirts that were purple with big stars and the letters ZCC on them. I asked the local pastor what the badges meant. He explained that it is a cult called the Zion Christian Church, a mixture of ancestral tribal worship, cultic practices, and a wee bit of “truth.” He said it came out of the lack of discipleship after the early missionaries would come through and evangelize the Africans. The evangelism was great, but then they would leave and no biblical training would occur, so the people would revert back to what they knew and mix it up with some of what they had learned. He said the ZCC had a church in the Shanty Town too – and they were growing rapidly.  The battle is ever constant...

We left the clinic and went back to our room to rest and get ready to attend the services at the Lichtenburg Dutch Reform Church tonight. After our very early start this morning, it felt good to rest a while. We have adjusted well to the six-hour time difference!

This picture below is of two pews in the very back of the church with little signs that translate to "Mothers with Children."  This is where the mothers and small children had to sit! This was the precursor to our present-day nursery. Mothers and children sat in the back and close to the door for quick exits in case they disturbed the congregation or preaching! What a thought...

The Dutch Reform Church was different. This one in Lichtenburg  was a beautiful old building from 1885, and still even had a belfry. The banner over the pulpit area "God is Teenwoordig" means "God is Present" in the Afrikaans language.

I enjoyed walking around and looking at everything while Gary was talking to the pastor and sound man. During the worship time the congregation sang in the Afrikaans language, and if we recognized the melody of the song, we sang in English. That was so neat to me. I thought of the reference in scripture to every tribe and tongue! During the actual service, Gary and I both sang. The people were receptive, but I’m not quite sure they knew what to make of us! These crazy Americans... It was almost like we were too loud or something, or that our joy in worship was something they were not familiar with. Dr. Harold Peasley of Multi Ministries preached an awesome message on the Second Coming of Christ and then gave a gospel invitation – something they do NOT have in their church. He did a wonderful job explaining the importance of a public profession, and three adult men came forward – nothing short of a miracle of God!  When we left it was so very cold outside, but my spirit was so refreshed to see these men appear to hear and grasp the Gospel of Christ for the very first time!

I can’t wait until tomorrow because we are going to have some free time and will be going to the animal reserve in Pileansburg Park. I am praying that God will not disappoint and that I will see lots of African animals!

It was a very emotional day...seeing the aids hospice and people dying from disease, then to go to the church and see grown adults being saved from another sickness..."sin sickness!"  Amen? Amen!

Love to all,
Jan





South Africa - 8 (Journal Day 3)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today was the longest day of my life and filled with the most varied experiences I’ve ever had in my life to this point. I am very serious! Pastor John from Multi Ministries was due to pick us up around 10:00 this morning. We were going to go to the Multi Ministries offices for our briefing of the upcoming week concerning the mission points and all we have scheduled to do.

Before he arrived, we had a very nice breakfast at the Golden Crest. Dolly served us. She is South African and is of Zulu descent. She works for Chris and Francine, who own and manage the lodge. She loved my husband immediately and sort of “catered” to him. I talked way too fast for her, and most of the time she just looked at me with a puzzled expression. Gary had to remind me to slow down while talking to her. My excitement prevailed, I just don’t know much about slowing down – whether here in South Africa or at home.

The breakfast was amazing - we had eggs, ham, toast, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, and something else – grilled tomatoes that accompanied the eggs. Gary loved that, and I feel sure I will be bringing that South African tradition home with us. My favorite thing was a fruit called granadilla. It is very tropical and very delicious. They told me that ‘granadilla’ is the South African word for passion fruit. I don’t know if that is true, but it is wonderful. It was divine, and I also had granadilla juice. I know that we have a lot ahead of us, but right now I do not feel like we are on a “mission trip.” The accommodations are not fancy by any means, but they are nice, and we’ve had food to eat.

We enjoyed seeing the Multi Ministries offices and meeting all the staff. Dr. Peasley and his wife Antoinette were so kind. I had gifts for Antoinette and the administrative assistant, Barbara. I took them women’s ministry tote bags from my church filled with books and goodies. We just happened to be there when one of the volunteers was having a birthday, so they all stopped for “tea.” Tea is everything there – not coffee! I felt right at home there and realized that birthdays are celebrated the same way everywhere – with food and friends!

It is late winter in South Africa, and cold! It actually felt good to us after leaving the heat and humidity of middle Georgia, but they insisted we have jackets. So after our meeting we went to a sort of department store and found a fleece jacket for me. It was almost 45 Rand, which equaled about $5.00 in our money. Unbelievable!

After our meeting we set out with Dr. Peasley for crusades in the Northwest Territory, one of the provinces of South Africa. We were going to Lichtenburg, which was about 3 hours away. We saw the wide open farmland and countryside of South Africa. Even though brown and barren, it was beautiful.

We stopped to visit with the Pastor and some people from a Dutch Reform Church there in Lichtenburg. We had hot tea, Rooibos Tea to be exact, a red tea grown only in South Africa. (I have seen it at Publix and Kroger before, had no idea it is ONLY grown in South Africa.) We met another associate of Dr. Peasley, his name is Pastor Errol Wesson, and he is from Capetown, South Africa. He was there to help with the crusades in the Northwest Territories. The old church was beautiful, but was having some difficulty as a result of having two pastors. Gary and I were going to be singing in the services there, and I am wondering how we will be received.

After our visit with the people from the Dutch Reform Church, we were taken to another B&B, this one called Melvill. It had a strong Dutch influence and was quite old. There are 13 official languages and Afrikaans is the one spoken by many of the people we see. It sounds Dutch or German. It is a mixture of both the Dutch and Portuguese influences mingled with the African tribes migrating south. Most everyone is bilingual.

We settled in our room and then John Kubia from our home church came by! He was so glad to see us and we were glad to see him! (He had stayed over after another group from our church went to Kariba, Zimbabwe back in July.)

John told us about the plans to minister in a tent church in a shanty town called Boikhutsu tonight, and that is just what we did. I have no doubts at all that we are on a mission trip after tonight. I have never seen such in my life. A local pastor from the shanty town, Pastor John, picked us up. We walked door to door among the shanty shacks and invited the people to come to the tent for church tonight. There were children everywhere – they were filthy with snotty noses and rotten teeth. Most had no shoes on and it was very cold. Women were rummaging through huge trash heaps for scraps of food. I was OVERWHELMED at what I saw. Old dogs and chickens were running around – women were outside cooking in pots over fires.

This picture above touched the gardener in me. Look at this attempt to have flowers and a sense of life in such bleak surroundings.  Oh, I just wept and prayed for the gardener here. 

These little boys were full of joy.  The one on the left had a plastic bread bag on his head for warmth.  That old soccer ball he was clutching for dear life was flat and dented.  They followed me the entire time we visited and ministered in their shanty village.

This little girl was so sad.  She attempted a little smile, but she had an awareness about her as if she knew her plight more than the others.  She was a prisoner of poverty, and much more than that little bamboo fence was holding her hostage...



The children were so precious – they LOVED having their pictures taken and would just squeal in delight at their own reflection on the little screen. They followed me around like I was the Pied Piper.

The tent church was the most unique time of worship I have ever experienced. When we entered the tent with only one light bulb hanging in the center – the people were singing as loudly as they could and dancing and clapping so happily. This went on for about an hour, and then I sang “Jesus the One and Only.” My husband sang the old hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Brother John shared a message about Jesus walking the water and about keeping our eyes on Him in the storms of life. Storms? These people never come out of a storm – they are hungry and cold and pitiful – but they didn’t seem to know all that.

They just sang and worshipped and at least 7 indicated that they had received Christ during the time of prayer at the end of the service. I thought about them walking back to those shanty shacks in the cold dark night.

During the service, one of the pastors that was attending the tent church sang a song. Try to grasp these words:

“When I think of all the Lord has done, I will never complain again.
No, no, no, no, I will never complain again.

Oh my soul above – never complain again? May it be true of me Lord, for I have complained about some mighty insignificant things. But after what I saw today, I know with all my heart that I have nothing to ever complain about again – for as long as I live.

I'd Rather Have Jesus,
Jan

South Africa - 7 (Journal Day 2)

Monday, August 17, 2009 Happy First Birthday to my little grandson – Zeke! One year ago today we were celebrating your long prayed-for arrival. I would have never dreamed that I would be on a plane headed to the very tip of the continent of South Africa one year later. I am so glad that we were able to be with you and celebrate your birthday this past Saturday before we left! Our flight landed at 5:30 p.m. South Africa time, but my body clock knew it was really 11:30 p.m. Georgia time! A pastor named John Grubbs picked us up at the Johannesburg airport. His accent was quite thick. Although he spoke English, we had to listen really really hard to understand him. The first thing we did was exchange some good old American cash for South African “rand.” The conversion was amazing. A bill of 20 Rand was worth about $2.50. We had no trouble going through customs and passport control. It was fun to get my passport stamped in South Africa! We walked and walked and walked to get to the car, but it felt great to be up and moving around and out of that cramped plane seat! Of course the first thing we noticed was that the steering wheel was on the right hand side in the passenger seat, and that the people drive on the left hand side of the road. It was quite nerve-wracking actually. Gary was in front of me in the “passenger seat,” which was actually the “driver’s seat” in the good old US of A. As Pastor John drove wildly and I mean wildly through the dark streets of that unknown city, I prayed to the Lord for safety and sang Chris Tomlin's "You're The God of This City." :) Pastor John took us to a place called the Golden Crest Lodge, where we would spend the night. South Africa has lots of “B & B’s” (Bed and Breakfast lodgings). They are not fancy like our Bed and Breakfast inns, but rather a good source of income for many people. The very first thing I noticed about Johannesburg was that every single house, restaurant, building, whatever---was behind razor wire, barbed wire, and electric fences or huge concrete fences. We went behind a gate, a garage door, and then the entire complex was surrounded by 5 rows of electric fence atop a big concrete wall. Crime is rampant and it is because nothing much is done about it. That was both sad and scary to me. The Golden Crest could accommodate about 12 people maximum. It was old, but very nice, and it was clean. We adjusted well to our surroundings and fell into bed asleep. I woke up a couple of times and tried not to dwell on how very far from home I really am. I thought about Zeke’s birthday and counted my blessings. I know that the safest place to be is in God’s will and that He has everything well under control, both on this continent and every other continent! He definitely has "The Whole World in His Hands!"

South Africa - 6 (Journal Day 1)

Sunday, August 16, 2009 We had a wonderful time of praise and worship at my home church this morning, Second Baptist. We went home after church for a quick lunch and to grab our suitcases and head to the big ATL. My youngest son Jonathan and his wife Erin drove us to the airport this afternoon. He is such a good son! Our flight left Atlanta, Georgia, USA, headed for Johannesburg, South Africa at 8:10 p.m. It was a non-stop flight and I praise God for that because if it stopped…we would have been over the Atlantic Ocean! The flight was long, long, long – 17 hours long. Our seats were toward the back of the plane in the very middle with a 3-seater section. I sat in the middle with my sweet man on my left and a very tall young man named Ty on my right. Ty was headed to South Africa as part of his doctoral dissertation work. He was from Washington state. His work sounded very heady and concerned proxy government negotiating…I told him we were going to sing and share about Jesus, and thought to myself that God would do all the negotiating by his Holy Spirit! Amen to that. We slept some on the long flight and that was great. Leaving at night also helped, as did the Ambien I took about 2:00 a.m. Thank you, Dr. Heaton! This was my first international flight, and I was pleased to discover that everyone had a little screen on the back of the seat right in front of them. You could choose from dozens of movies, TV shows, all types of music, and even a “flight-tracker” to keep up with the progress of the flight (which was basically a little plane icon over the OCEAN). I did not want to see that – but of course, my husband did… I watched several episodes of “24.” Thank you Jack Bauer for making me feel safe, secure, and proud to be an American. All in all, I was so blessed and pleased with the flight and my lack of a claustrophic fit of fear. I truly felt the prayers being lifted up for me and the peace of God surrounded my heart. I look so forward to all that God has in store for me the next 10 days.

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