Sangoma Meets Jesus

Two long weeks had passed in anticipation. The excitement was so thick you could feel it in the air as the interns walked into Kya Sands. Short, quick conversations and prayers were had with many people we came across. Two hours later, we had one more hour on the field and I knew just how to spend it.

After being in the community for a year, you quickly learn the places to avoid and who is where. Just before we left last year someone mentioned to me a sangoma (witch doctor) that lived right off the main street. At the time, a mental note had been made to avoid the house. It was scary at the thought of opening myself up to demonic activity because of what I had been taught years ago.

After leaving South Africa last year, something in my spirit whispered next year would be different. While on break Life Church prophesied over this year for increased flow of the Spirit and if the Lord healed last year, there would be even more healings for 2014! Taking a hold of that prophecy and speaking into 2014, this year began to be declared one of more healings, breakthroughs, and deliverance than last year. I stood in faith for increased faith and deeper relationship with Christ.

 As we began to walk back through the community we stopped at the same house I had run in fear from last year. Determined to not only show the interns what they were up against in the community and minister to this woman, a translator was quickly found once we realized she didn’t speak English. As we made small talk she mentioned she was a “traditional healer”. When we told her (us) the Americans did not know what that was, we asked if she would like to show us. She happily invited us into the corner where she would sit her clients while taking to the ancestors to “discern” what was wrong with them.

Questions were asked to extract information for the interns who were still a little shocked this was real life. She showed us her certificates and told us how and what she exactly did. When most people become sangomas it is usually because they have a dream of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14b-15) or their family insists. When I asked her why she became a sangoma she told me it was because her grandfather’s spirit appeared to her and told her to become one. Later she told us any messages she “discerned” from the spirits were visions. When the question was asked if she believed in God and she said yes and then we asked if she believed the Bible was true she nodded her head. We shared the verse in (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5) where it explains the dead have no involvement with the present on earth. Nelly resisted a little and defended she did not dabble in those kind of things.

Like a light switch flipped on, God began to reveal the direction of the conversation was all wrong. We began to tell her of the one true spirit and what He did for her. As we told the story of the perfect man that God had sent, she was glued to the speaker, eyes fixed on me even though the translator was the one speaking her language. After the gospel was shared, she still was not entirely convinced. Our overpowering heart cry was for God to open up her eyes to see what was separating her from the Truth!

We told the story of Adam and Eve and how what looked like they weren’t anybody, separated them from God. As she heard about the snake, her eyes widened and her face fell when God told them they had to leave the garden. As I told her the plan God had and how he had sent his perfect son to die for her, she became more excited and drawn into the story.

We asked her questions to ensure she understood the story. She really connected with the story and began to tell us that she could now feel spirits fighting for her. “Pray for me that I would have a deeper desire for Christ and that he would show the True spirit.” As the group huddled around her, people began to come to her store to purchase things. She so passionately wanted prayer she did not stir to respond to the customers waiting at her shack. It was surprising because even the most earnest people we minister to answer their phone or talk to their friends while we talk with them.

What a divine connnection! So thankful for the amazing things God is doing in Africa!!

Fire in Kya Sands

We had been working for over a month looking for people that our summer teams had met and had ministry conversations with. We now

stood there at the top of the hill looking at where we once had weaved in out of, looking for shack numbers and people, left in ashes.

Some of our Bible study friends lost their homes, their clothes, their money, everything.

Many people lined up to register how much land they once held, where they home had once stood. I began to walk around the site along with these now homeless people. They already have so little and now even that is gone. Even though they had lost everything, they were all pulling together, attempting to rebuild and prod the process along as quickly as possible.

After the land had been cleared a large bulldozer drove in and started clearing the land, crushing everything in it’s path and demolishing whatever was left behind. All I could think about is how difficult it would be to watch where my home once was, any fond memory I had of where I lived was now being erased. These people are so used to suffering that they have become numb to the pain yet still find a way to be joyful in their circumstances. That was the most difficult thing for me to process through. The most unfathomable to me, consistently, is how the people who live in these informal settlements continue to find the positive in their difficult and uncomfortable situations.

Many of the people who live in these settlements are from a surrounding country in Africa. In December, most leave South Africa and travel home to spend a month or two before returning to find work. They save up the whole year (and sometimes years) for the expensive trek home. When Americans experience a house fire, they list off the expensive electronics and maybe the precious family photos they lost. These people were devastated at losing a pair of shoes or all their money that had kept in a tin can inside their shack.

When we found out that our friends had lost their homes, we decided that although we couldn’t help everyone who had lost their homes, we could help the ones we knew. Some of us interns along with Impact Africa staff came together and put together bags with soap, snacks, bottles, clothes, and blankets, along with a Bible for each mother. They were most excited about the Bibles and continued to thank us! Even though this fire happened at the beginning of the month when they had been attending our Bible study for only a few weeks, they still come and one of the women rides a bus from a separate community because she loves it so much. They all have homes and I am so thankful they are safe!!

“I know Jesus died, but why?”

I held a salvation card with a woman’s phone number but no house number. After calling her many times, learning she has a different name than the one noted, and finally finding her shack I was relieved to see someone at home that I could have a conversation with!

I started to talk to her and I learn she is in a completely different profile than I thought. I don’t know how to relate to her and begin to hesitantly share the gospel, praying God will show me an open door. All I was confident in was that God was telling me to push through this rough conversation.

After talking about her family back home I begin to ask what she knows of God. She explains she knows Jesus died for her. I ask, “Do you know why he died?” She shakes her head no.

I began to share the creation story of how Adam and Eve sinned and that’s why God sent His son. She nodded her head and understood. I brought out a Gospel of John and gave one to her. I opened it to John 4 (one of my favorite stories to share). Up until this point I had needed a translator to explain what I was saying but as I told the story she completely understood English – The Gospel Came Alive!

I continued to tell her about how Jesus (a single man from a different tribe) sat down with this single woman from a disliked tribe. He wanted to talk to her and offer her something so special, even though he knew all of the bad things she had done. He didn’t care about the bad things, he still loved her. Porciah was shocked at how much Jesus loved this woman and as I told her how much he loved her, her eyes grew even wider.

As I asked if she wanted to know Jesus more, she grew hesitant. “Give everything to someone I barely know?” I understood where she was thinking because I had thought the same thing just a year and a half ago. I reassured her she could learn more about Jesus in the book of John I gave her, told her where our Bible study was in her area, prayed for her, and left.

God has a plan for Porciah and so many other people in the communities we work in. I am so grateful that I listened to what God was telling me and she now knows why Jesus died for her and that it is not about what she does for him or the bad things she’s done in the past, because all He wants is her.

Transitional Seasons and Growing Pains

As many of you know, I’m in a transitional season of life as I make bigger life decisions and follow His voice. These past couple of weeks I have been asking questions like, “what is really my purpose in life?” and, “Is what I am doing even making a difference?”

As a young, single woman the question, “Am I wanted or needed?” has become a very big one. While it has been a subconscious struggle more recently the questions has come to the surface, paralyzing my emotions in a constant state of confusion and rejection. This weekend the Lord healed me by showing me how he has redeemed and restored me. He is the one continually pursuing me and interceding for me. He delights in me! A scripture that has ministered to me a lot is Isaiah 62:1-5.

“Because I love Zion,

I will not keep still.
Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem,
I cannot remain silent.
I will not stop praying for her
until her righteousness shines like the dawn,
and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
The nations will see your righteousness.
World leaders will be blinded by your glory.
And you will be given a new name
by the Lord’s own mouth.
The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see—
a splendid crown in the hand of God.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City”
or “The Desolate Land.”
Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight”
and “The Bride of God,”
for the Lord delights in you
and will claim you as his bride.”

One of the things we talked about in chapel this morning was the only thing you take from this earth to heaven is relationships. What a lie from the enemy that we are unwanted and lonely – destroying ministry moments and friendships that pulls us closer to the Father’s heart.

2 Corinthians 1:4

 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

You were created for His delight and as you grow in your intimacy, you want to shout His goodness from the rooftops! Hope this ministers to you and encourages you :)

Love in Christ,

Ashley

Team Season – Blasting Past!

This past week there was a team visiting from North Carolina. They were a blast to work with and because they were only here for a week we quickly jumped into ministry! One of the women from the team, Michelle, and I started talking with two women standing outside of their shacks. Both from Limpopo, we began to share life together. Mary claimed she knew God but as we delved deeper into explaining having a relationship with God she began to become quiet. I learned Elizabeth, the other woman had a son back home in Limpopo. “Elizabeth, how would you feel if a man came and tortured your family, killing them?” I asked. Elizabeth confidently replied, “I would be sad but I would survive.” “How would you feel if the man came back years later and said to you, ‘Elizabeth, I know I brutally hurt your family. Will you forgive me for hurting you? My heart is dying, I need a new one.. will you give your son’s heart to me so I can live?” After Elizabeth expressed the choice words she would share with him I nodded. “Of course we wouldn’t want him near us! He hurt us, why should we help him? Elizabeth, that’s what Jesus did for us. Even though we hurt His son and the bad things we did sent Jesus to die, God forgave us. Our words and decisions were the nails in his hands but God raised Jesus from the dead so we could know him.” Elizabeth gasped and sat back, taken back by what I had just expressed.

Ashley, Elizabeth, Michelle, Mary

Michelle jumped into the conversation, “Mary, Elizabeth, I know you know about God, do you have a relationship with him? Have you ever said with your mouth that God was Lord over your life?” Both of them shook their heads, still in shock of the realization of all Christ has done for them. They both gave their lives to the Lord and were so excited! We took a Polaroid shot of us all four together, celebrating the day the turned their lives to Christ: August 6th, 2013.

There are many things that make me love living in South Africa but my most favorite is when the teams from America share their faith with those in South Africa and they give their lives to the Lord! Praise God for the hearts He softens and ministers to!

Yes, I’m Still in South Africa!

Hello friends and family!

Some of you may be joining in as a result of the articles written about me in the Beloit Daily Newspaper (and an article coming up in the Janesville Gazette as well!) Thanks for visiting the blog and reading about my story!

The past two months have been considerably hectic with many teams pouring in from all over the world but have grown me in so many ways! Seeing lives changed in the communities (and on the teams) is an extremely humbling experience as well as eye-opening. Watching others as they journey through the struggles of sharing their faith and relating to others has given me more of a passion to share and determination to encourage them as they dig deeper in their walk with God.

Towards the end of May I met a woman named Sharon living in the communities. She had a four year old daughter tied to her back and wove through shacks to bring me to her home. It was the smallest shack I had ever seen, fitting only a full sized bed and a cardboard box to stack her belongings on.

For a long while we sat and talked, she gladly opened up to me about what was going on, thankful for a listening ear. Staying with a “boyfriend” in order to have a roof over her and her daughter’s heads, she wakes up before the sun to collect garbage and hopes to turn it into the scrapyard in order to feed her and her daughter. Stuck in the thought process of only relying on herself in order to do anything, hearing about the gospel and what Jesus did for her was shocking.

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About a month after Sharon had been coming to Bible study regularly we were able to give Sharon a Bible. At first, she was scared to read it often because she didn’t want it to get dirty. It took a little bit of time but she began to read it and discovered the truth for herself. She used to talk about “cleaning herself” but now she is pointing out that because Jesus forgave us we should forgive others!

The other day I was talking to Sharon and she began to tell me that there are days she is tired and doesn’t want to go to Bible study but goes anyway; how even when she has a bad day she reads her Bible or prays she feels a peace. “Even if I have nobody to talk to, God is always listening. Even if I have nothing, God is always listening.”

This is the reason I’m here in South Africa. To change lives like this. To see God tangibly taking a hopeless situation and filling it with His life. This is what happens when you are motivated by the Love of God!

Testimonies From George, South Africa!

Victoria Bay

Sedgefield Community

Photo Credit: Cori Bridgeford

Knysna, South Africa is a beautiful place and I’m privileged to have traveled there. While it has many accommodations much more like America’s it still has squatter camps. These were not just any type of squatter camps. Shacks built on hills overlooking the grand homes closer to the beach, the mist of the ocean waves visible from their very front door. In the three and a half months I’ve been doing ministry in squatter camps I had never seen a community so desperate for God. The very first house we visited that week, God did a miracle. We met three women, sitting outside the door and we told them about the crusade. When we asked if we could pray for them, they led us to their mother who couldn’t walk. A frail old woman, named Sarah, lay curled up in her bed, muttering a few words to her daughter which she would translate to us. It had been thirteen years since she had walked. Sarah was in a lot of pain and had many medications trying to take it away. “I believe in Jesus.” She told us, “I believe He can heal me.” Excitedly we prayed for her, expecting the God of the Impossible to do a great miracle.

When we finished praying we asked if she felt any different and she said some of the pain was gone. She walked from her bedroom to the sitting area – a walk she had not made in 7 years! Two days later we stopped by again and were able to get to know the daughter, Sophie, better. She told us of how she took care of her mother Sarah and her son who was deaf and had a type of autism. With no job, she trusted the Lord for everything she had. Selflessly laying down her own needs for those of others, the stress on her face was evident. We began to pour into her the strength the Lord has for her, sharing scripture after scripture, her countenance had changed from burdened to joyful by the time we left!

The last night I saw Sophie at the crusade with a little girl who had been with us since the crusade had started earlier that week. We all knew her well, seeing her and playing with her so often. “This one is a soup-kitchen child.” Sophie told me, “I gave her a piece of bread.. I have my own problems!” While this woman had compassion she seemed quite irritated, still holding the little girl. When I asked where her parents were she responded saying the father was dead and the mother had disappeared. “Is she staying with you?” I asked. “No!” “Where does she stay then?” I asked. Sophie continued to talk about the soup kitchen and all I could think about was how this four year old girl had no family and was apparently getting food from the soup kitchens.

There are children who have no homes. Who don’t know where their family is or where their next meal is going to come from. This trip not only made me grow into the faith God gave me for his healing but opened my eyes to see the deeper reality that these people live in every day. Please be praying for the seeds sown in our times of ministry and that the Lord would continue  to work on their hearts!

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