Sangoma Meets Jesus

Missions

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!!

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“God Hears”

Missions

As I walked through the streets, looking for someone to talk to I spot a young man sitting outside, having just come home from school. I stepped out in faith and went to go talk to him. We talked about school, friends, and family, I quickly learned this sixteen year old boy’s father was not in the picture and his mother was often working, leaving him to take care of his younger siblings. I told him of how I had often watched my younger siblings, caring for them as well. We talked about the different churches he had been to and I listened as he expressed his dislike for some of the churches – cult churches unbeknownst to him.

He walked inside his shack, showing me his and his little brother’s room and where his mother and sister slept. I asked if I could help him wash the dishes he was starting on and he agreed. I had learned early on he could read English and was excited to have this unique opportunity of telling this young boy about Jesus, who could understand even more! I contrasted the dish soap to how Jesus cleaned our hearts. He became intrigued and wanted to know more. I began to tell him the gospel story, from Genesis to Jesus laying his life down, we washed and talked, his expression changing throughout. After I had finished telling him about how Jesus had laid his life down he looked at me with tears in his eyes. “How does that make you feel, Ishmael?” I asked. “I just keep thinking of all the bad things I have done.” He replied. To be honest, I had not even respected the response. I looked down at the time, seeing I only had 15 precious minutes left with this young man. “Lord, if you only had fifteen minutes with this one whom you love so much, what you tell him?” I showed Ishmael John 5:24, telling him of how God did not come to make us feel bad, but to save us. “Good things can’t save us,” I tell Ishmael, “It says in Matthew 7:21 that when we die and go to heaven we will see God. Many people will say look at all the good things we did for you! But God will say, get away from me, I never knew you. The only way we get to God is through Jesus.” I flipped over to Romans 10:9-10, and let the truth sink into this young man’s heart. “I want to believe in Jesus.” Ishmael adamantly told me. My heart soared!

After he accepted Christ we talked about how Jesus killed sin on the cross. It has no power over us! I shared how earlier that day it had been difficult, but I prayed for God to give me strength to come to the community and share. “God gave me strength just so I could talk to you! God gives you strength, too.

I left the shack that day, knowing his life was changed and excited to be able to give him a gospel of John, leaving something for him to read and begin his walk with the Lord. Please be in prayer for this young man. He has the potential to have such an influence over his friends, family, and neighbors. I look forward to catching up with him again soon and am praying the Lord continue to move in His life!

He Brings Hope to the Hopeless

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions

On a windy, cloudy day in Kya Sands, most people are huddled around fires or in their shacks staying warm. Our team walks in between the alley ways looking for an open shack or anyone for that matter. As we stand in front of a shack, looking to see if anyone is there, we notice they are all locked. While we discuss where we should go next, a woman approaches and greets us. She introduces herself as Marciah and we learn more of her life. Her four daughters are back at home; oldest is 16 and part of a Muslim church. She shares her disappointment and prayers for her daughter. We relate life with her, me sharing of my two younger sisters and family in America, the difficulty of being away. “But I call my mom and I feel better.” Marciah, the thirty-eight year old woman, tells me.

I ask if she lives with her family and she tells me she lives by herself. I was a little surprised because very rarely will you find a woman in a squatter camp living on her own. If she’s not living with a sister or mother, she usually lives with a boyfriend or husband. “My boyfriend died on October 26 last year.” She solemnly states. Once again, my heart is pulled for this woman. So many times you’ll hear of difficult situations occurring in a squatter camp, of death and sickness, unthinkable realities hit you like a tidal wave. These situations, as terrible as they are, have become the norm in hopeless desperation to cope.

She tells of visiting her children for holiday and the joy of being able to spend time with her little ones. We learn of the church she attends and she shares even more about her life. She invites us inside her house, unlocking the door and motioning for us to come closer. She shows us the places her families once lived before they moved back home, leaving her by herself. I ask Marcia if she likes to be by herself or with others. She tells me she likes to be with others but it is difficult because her neighbors come home late, through the emphasis in her eyes I can see the loneliness. As if a wall had come down, she opened up and spoke softly of her deceased boyfriend. “He committed suicide here.” She tells me. Rather than tugging at my heart, it broke right in two hearing this. “I am so sorry, Maricah.” I try to console her in the best way I know, sympathy and a listening ear. She continued, “He hung himself. He didn’t even leave a note.” Trying to still wrap my head about the pain she must be feeling I ask another question. “You found him hanging?”

“We came home and he had locked it from the inside,” she said. “I knocked and knocked but no one would answer the door. We had to break part of the door and crawl through.” As she told the story, I mentally walked through the process, experiencing the stress and exhaustion after a long day’s work, not being able to enter the only place that could be labeled your oasis, crawling through the door to find someone so close to you, had killed themselves. “I couldn’t sleep or stay here.” She tells us. “All I could picture was that was where he died. I would think I saw him when I woke up at night. So many people told me to get counseling. But I told them I could counsel myself.” Marciah continued to tell of getting counseling and how she was okay now. I could still see the oppression over her life, the heaviness that burdened her whether she knew it or not. I began to relate to her, through circumstances I had gone through with friends. I told her of how I felt when I found out the people I was close to told me of how close they had come to suicide and the questions I asked myself. “How could I have noticed? Why was I not there for them?” She agreed with me and I asked if she had a bible.

She took her Bible out, excited to show me. I see her bookmark is in Psalms and I ask if she likes the book. “I must be honest; I did not read my Bible while I was on holiday.” She admits to me. I nod my head and tell her of my new found love for Psalms. As I flip to show her where I have been reading, I read her 55:1-8,9b,11b,16 and ending with v22 “Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you.

She soaked it all in. She agreed to start attending our bible studies and is so excited to be able to see people and talk to them about God! I am so excited to journey with Marcia. Please be praying with me for healing, peace, and deliverance in her life.

Recently, I’ve had to rely on the Lord for his provision. I am still fundraising while in South Africa to fully fund the year. Trusting in His timing is not easy, especially when deadlines fly by as you’re out in the shacks and in the office, day by day. Just as I encouraged Marciah with Psalms, it has been encouraging me especially in this season of life.

 “But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. (v20-22) We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name..Lord, our hope is in you alone.”

Psalm 33:18

If you would like to donate follow this link. The donation information is towards the bottom of the page. Thank you for your prayers and partnership in reaching those who are hopeless and broken in South Africa!

The Refining Flame

Challenge & Revelation

After so quickly finishing the book of Hosea I read the next book, Joel, just as hungrily. My soul cried out as I read the words on the page.

1:19 “The fire has consumed the wilderness pastures and the flames have burned up our trees!”

He is our only source! He took the nothing I had and burned it, only to replace with something better. No other place of rest is better than His.

2:3 “Fire burns in front of them and flames follow after them.”

Burn away all my impurities, Lord.

“Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden.”

He takes us away for a purpose, only to lead us to something better.

2:4b “They charge forward like warhorses.”

Ready for warfare, fasting is a time of intercession; in our physical weakness he makes us spiritually strong.

2:12b-13 “Give me your hearts. Come with fasting…Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God. For He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”

He wants your heart, longs to know your every desire. Don’t always deal with things outwardly, look at where God has been working on you. He does not want to hurt us or be an evil father! All he wants to do is talk to you!

2:19,26 “Look! I am sending you…enough to satisfy your needs. Once again you will have all the food you want, and you will praise the Lord your God, who does these miracles for you.

Every day I’ve been hungry and He fills me with His words and with His grace. When I’m physically hungry He fills me as well. It really is a miracle!

Hosea has become my favorite book in the Bible (up to date). The restoration and love He pours out on Israel, even after deserting Him, is inspiring.

The Lord has shown me so much and I wish I could share even more but with the whirlwind of a surprise trip to Botswana its taking me a little longer to show you all God has been showing me. Next time I have internet I’ll be sure to tell you all about Botswana and the amazing time we had over there!

Lots of Love,

Ashley

His Relentless Love

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates

The fast is going so well! Here is all God has been showing me the past couple of days:

Hosea 11:4 “I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.”

The Lord is literally plowing up the ground of my heart while I seek Him. This verse I clung to, just as I held onto His love. So many Christians hold hope in His love and kindness. What would you do if you had nothing to hold onto? Many people literally have nothing. Those in the squatter camps don’t even have a job to provide for themselves. What a place of desperation. I can only image being that desolate. We hold onto his grace, his kindness, his love. That is what gets me through my day, knowing He is beside me at all times giving me wisdom and guidance. But what if I didn’t have that?

Hosea 11:8-11 “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you..or demolish you? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. For I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy. For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return…I will bring them home again,” says the Lord.”

12:6 “So now come back to your God. Act with love and justice and always depend on Him.”

13:5-6 “I took care of you in the wilderness in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and satisfied, you became proud and forgot me.”

We are always depending on Him. Not just when we are desperate, not when we need him at a dire moment. Without the grace He supplies none of us would be where we are now. It was not our hard work that got our foot in the door to the position we are in now, it was God’s favor. He took care of us when we had nothing, nursed us to health and yet so many times we take what we need and walk away. We say we are where we are at now because of ourselves and what we did yet we would have nothing without Him. God still pursues after us and desires a relationship, though.

Hosea 14:4-5,7-8 “I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. I will be to Israel {Ashley} like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel {Ashley} will blossom like a lily; it will send roots deep into the soil. My people {Ashley} will again live under my shade, they {she} will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.”

All of us have strayed from God’s voice at one time or another. But God heals our hearts from the wounds we’ve incurred running from His sweet voice. He renews us and cultivates us as we grow and our response is becoming closer to Him. He takes us to that place of rest and answers our prayers. He cares for us, always supplying nourishment and tangible evidence that we’re growing in Him. Seeing where He is taking me in my relationship with Him is astounding. Every day He showers with more love than I can imagine. He supplies all my strength; He gives me the words to speak when I know nothing.  While fasting it can be hard when you don’t have very much to eat. The hardest part of this fast was being in the squatter camp having only juice and water that day with little strength. Your energy can become very low after trudging on the uneven ground, up and down steep hills, back and forth through the rows full of shacks, occasionally crossing a river to the other side, leaping from rock to rock. Thank you to all my supporters, friends, and family for your prayers and donations as well! There are so many testimonies I’m ecstatic to share the testimonies we’ve had already with you, they are coming, I promise!!

Who I Am in Him

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates

Last night God led me to Hosea. He not only broke down walls but healed my heart as well.

Hosea 2: 14-20 “I will win her back again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

He is jealous for me, eager to pull me away from all that distracts me from Him. Even something as simple as food can pull me from time with Him. This week he is leading me to a dry place where He can speak tenderly to me, telling me all His intimate secrets, like a Lover’s whisper.

I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.”

The very place that is dry and empty He will turn into an oasis, open to others to receive peace, healing, and restoration.

“{18-20} You can live unafraid in peace and safety. I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine.”

He supplies peace to relieve my stress and safety to battle all evil that may befall me. He will always be just, ruled with relentless love and compassion towards us. He is faithful – every promise He makes He keeps. I am His and just as He proudly proclaims it over me, I boast of my dad who never lets me down.

This morning He continued to work in me and open my eyes.

Hosea 6:6 “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

8:13b “to me their sacrifices are meaningless.”

What an amazing verse to meditate on all day. So many times people go on a fast and just sacrifice the food. They work on their self-discipline rather than their identity. Something we learned in leadership class today:

Character: our identity + our emotional security + our core values + self discipline

Our priorities should be in that order because we are human beings not human doings.

Identity: being before the Lord, becoming like Him.

Self-discipline: out of the overflow of my heart is connected to my doing.

God has been working on my identity in Him immensely. I’m beginning to know Him even better. After reading this verse I was challenged – God doesn’t want this to be a situation where I go without. He wants me to grow. A lot of times, when I’m hungry especially, I can be grouchy. The Lord really challenged me to walk in love even when I’m irritated, even when I’m overwhelmed, even when I will be hungry.

Strong in the Father

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates

Getting ready to start a juice fast with some of the girls this week and I’ve been diligently seeking the Lord on His will for this. He spoke to me and showed me nothing like I’ve seen before, just as He always does.

Daniel 9:3 “I turned to the Lord in fasting and in prayer..{20-25} As I was praying, Gabrielle…came swiftly to me. “Daniel, I have come to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given, and now I am here to tell you what it was for you are very precious to God. {10:11-12,17,19} You are very precious to God. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your god, your request has been heard in heaven. “How can someone like your servant talk to you, my Lord? My strength is gone and I can barely breathe.” Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “For you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As he spoke those words to me I suddenly felt very strong.”

Daniel knew his city was in danger of being destroyed and so he began to seriously intercede on their behalf. Fasting is a time of intercession and instead of ignoring his call, Daniel stepped up to the plate. God stepped behind his action and worked through his faith. The words Gabrielle gave to Daniel continually repeating how precious He was to God is so inspiring. What a reminder that every time we pray the Lord hears as well! “Your request has been heard in heaven.” God doesn’t ignore us, He listens to our words, takes note of every thought.

This passage encouraged me so much in my decision to take part in my first week long fast. The times I’ve spent with the Lord so far have been so uplifting but I kept feeling a wall. There was something more. When one of the girls approached me telling me she was taking a week to fast and asking me to join, I knew this was what the Lord was telling me to do. After reading in Daniel the next day, it was set in stone. God can move in anyone. Fasting is not the only way to hear God better. For this season I feel this is what He has for me. Taking this time before we have a lot of teams come in and seeking Him on how to more effectively minister, its a time to set myself apart. I am very precious to God. He hears what I say and in my request, He sent an answer. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “For you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As he spoke those words to me I suddenly felt very strong.” He gives me the strength. Not just while I’m on the fast, but every day. He’s going to take care of me, all the time. 

SA sunset

Love the sunsets God designs for me 🙂

First Day of Ministry and God is moving!!

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions

Monday was the first day in the squatter camp, Msawawa. I was so excited to enter the squatter camp and minster to the people. As we began to have conversations with those who resided in the community, one of the interns quickly made connections and seemed to easily have conversations with them. I stood in the background snapping photos, feeling defeated. I wanted to interject in the conversation and share His love. That was all, I simply wanted to break mindsets and spread his peace and wisdom. All the courage it takes to live one day here drains me. I’m not homesick. I’m getting along with the girls in my house. The Lord has been giving revelation after revelation in my quiet times in the Word with Him. Why was I feeling bound by a spiritual rope?

As we left the squatter camp for lunch (our house is between five and ten miles away, making it easier to drive home for lunch and rest up) we began to talk about our favorite and worst parts of ministry so far. I didn’t feel the need to interject since I felt that I had barely made an impact on the day so far. It was slightly discouraging, being the fact that I have been here before and yet was left unsure of what to say, how to continue conversations, and effectively witness. I had the head knowledge, but I didn’t have the experience. We were all sitting around the table eating lunch together when suddenly the Lord pulled at my heart, “Seek me for the words to say. I will tell you what makes the biggest impact.” I sat there in the middle of eating my ham and cheese sandwich, heart’s jaw on the ground at this awesome word. “God, you are so right! I have been so focused on seeking you and forgot to ask you be a part of the biggest reason why I’m here!” We prayed before heading out for another 2 and a half hours of ministry and I encouraged my fellow interns. “Listen to what they have to say. They can be talking and go on so many rabbit trails but the important thing is to remember the big picture and bring it full circle. Let them be heard out. They’ll hear you out in return.” With that we locked up and loaded in the car.

I climbed out of the van with a fresh perspective and as we walked through Msawawa and joyfully greeted everyone I came in sight with, ready for God to move through me. The first man we talked to was restoring an old wicker table. With one eye gone from a fence post falling and removing it, old raggedy clothes, and many missing teeth, he was a sight.

But God had intention for us to talk to Him.

Sixty-three and very much present for apartheid, Cori (one of the second year interns) began to strike a conversation with him. As we find out he restores furniture for a living, a skill his father taught him while growing up, Cori and I immediately saw a connection to the gospel. Unsure if I should jump into telling Him God’s Word or continue to relationship build with the man, I left Cori continue to get to know him better. She then began to share the similarities of how God fixes our hearts, just as he fixes furniture – that when He fixes us, we come back a few years later with scratches and dents, asking Him to restore us.

Cori & the man

We then prayed for him for healing and a deep revelation and relationship with God, that He would spread the Word of God, as well as turn a deaf ear to false teaching. When we finished, another man called out to us at a shop next door. He asked us to pray for him and as we began to ask him questions he told of us how his back was in pain. The many children that surround in a squatter camp can be overwhelming. Another girl, about the age of 10 turns the corner with a pile of corn on top of her head and makes eye contact with me. She approaches me, asking what we are doing here. I tell her a little and the group calls me over to pray for the man with pain in his back. After we finish I turn to talk to the girl, {I later learn her name is Beautiful}. In my heart I feel she is supposed to take us to her mother, but I feel a hesitation. Am I being silly? I don’t want the rest of the group to think I’m being weird… Alexa (another intern!) speaks up and asks Beautiful to take us to her house. She quickly winds through the streets and alleyways, each house we pass we wonder if it could be this girl’s mother. When we finally arrive we see an exhausted, frail mother standing with a tiny baby in her arms. Her name is Edith and her two month old baby, Noise.

We learn more of each other, exchanging life and laughter we began to get into the deeper things of life. Edith shares she is trying to start her own business because her husband does not have a job. Families not having jobs are a common thing in the squatter camps so we elaborate on that for a moment. She wants to send her daughter to school but does not have enough money. We learn she is originally from Zimbabwe, where she married her first husband and gave birth to Beautiful. She then explains that when she moved here three years ago she remarried and now has another daughter. We ask why she moved from Zim and she tells that her husband was brutally murdered – six stab wounds by a screw driver in his skull and several kicks to the jaw, knocking most teeth out. “He lived ten days after”, she tells us. Edith continues to share that her first husband’s killer lives in a squatter camp not even 15 minutes’ drive from Msawawa. “Do you see him sometimes?” Cori asks. Edith nods and we’re all in shock as she begins to weep. We begin to comfort and pour God’s love on her and one by one, we start to pull out verses to edify her. Alexa, who has been missing her family and clinging to this verse personally, flips to Psalms 91. V2

“He alone is my refuge, my place of safety, he is my God, and I trust him. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 9 If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, 10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. 11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.”

Cori jumped in and shared (my personal favorite to hear her share) the story from EZ 16. It is the story of a woman who was left in a field to die as newborn. A man discovers her and sees how dirty and disgusting she is, yet believes in her potential. He takes her, nurses her back to health. Adopting her and giving her every desire of her heart, treating her like the princess she is.  She became vain in her beauty and began to give her body to men, prostituting herself to anyone who came along. 16:16 “You used the lovely things I gave you to make shrines for idols..” She went to sangomas and gambled, sacrificing to idols. Her father was so hurt that she did those things when her created her to be so much more. Yet he still loved her and wanted her to return to him, repent of what she had done.

Edith, Beautiful, & Cori

At the end of this story Edith began to sob again and began to tell of how she often felt God did not hear her prayers. “We are an answer to your prayers. We are here to tell you God hears you. He’s listening to everything you say.” Cori confirms.  I began to feel a pull to share this: “If Beautiful wanted a piece of bread, would you give her the bread she asked for?” Edith nodded and I continued, “Because she is your daughter, right? God is the same! You are His loved daughter, He wants to give everything He has to you! He hears what you say and has a perfect and great plan for you.” We embrace and all the team comes in to pray for her and her family. She repeatedly thanks us and asks us to visit next time we are there. We promise and take a deep breath as we walk onto the streets of Msawawa. God is so good. Never underestimate the little things.

If that little girl had not stayed to watch what was going on, we may not have been able to minister to Edith and her family and certainly change her life for eternity.

Sweet, South Africa

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions

Ladies and gentlemen, I have arrived and am so excited to be here!

I was unsure of what to expect housing wise but when we arrived at our home for the next 11 months, I was in awe. Nice rooms with their own bathroom and a pool in the backyard. We don’t have everything set up yet (we gather groceries on our own for the first time this Sunday!) but it is coming together really nicely. All the interns are getting along and enjoying the company of everyone. Last night we hit the sack early, about 10:45pm and yet I woke up at four in the morning! The mornings are gorgeous here, though (as is most of the weather because it’s summer currently!) Sitting outside and watching the sunrise while spending time in the Word felt so refreshing.

Maybe it was the peacefulness, maybe it was the early hour of the morning, or maybe it was the full-hearted pursuit of God and completing His will – but I had an amazing devos this morning!! As I opened various devotionals, God began to speak to me about praise. Praising God can move mountains – even city walls! {Joshua 6:1-5; 20-21} “And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants.” {Jeremiah 32:39} Praise creates hope. Psalm 145 (and the last couple of chapters) brags on God and revives your spirit. “But joyful are those who the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord God.” {Psalm 146:5} “The Lord’s delight is in..those who put their hope in His unfailing love!” {Psalm 147:11} Praise generates peace (Psalm 147) and it also reminds us of His goodness things you’ve come through –He brought you out of- (Psalm 103:2). My favorite is one later on: “Violence will disappear in your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there.” {Isaiah 60:18} Praise opens the gates to the kingdom of God – in church, in your home, in your car, and yes, even in another country. How awesome that we can praise God and exalt and He will open doors and grace us with His mercy every morning. Hallelujah!

Since the trip down here can be so strenuous, Impact Africa is breaking us in slowly with briefing and allowing us to gradually take everything in and adjust to life as an intern in South Africa. They took the interns to the first (of many) malls in South Africa and we purchased our phone with air time as well as participated in the third annual Pick N’ Pay Scavenger hunt! {Pick N’ Pay is the equivalent of our Walmart}. I didn’t win…but it was still rewarding to find a few different things that sound like one thing but are actually completely different! “Baby marrow” isn’t what you think it is…it’s actually zucchini!

Pick N' Pay Scavenger Hunt!

Wouldn’t be a trip to South Africa without chicken feet! Notice my grossed out grimace.. and yes this color is just from being in the sun during the morning. It’s so intense!!

Yesterday was our first full day of training which included going to the communities walking through the creshes (daycare) and learning more about the Baby Safe (which I was SO excited about from the beginning!) The more I learn about the programs Impact Africa has, the more I partner with them. Impact Kids is set up so strategically by Michelle Franzen. Based on the statistics in South Africa, she has orchestrated a very effective system. South Africa estimates that 4.7 million of its people are totally illiterate and another 4.9 are functionally illitierate (meaning adults who left school before grade seven.) Three million households, almost eighteen million people live below the poverty line (set at an income of only $35 a month!) Research shows that up to half of an individuals capacity to learn has been established by the age of four. With that mindset, Impact Africa opened up a preschool from ages 2-6. Most African parents send their children off to first grade without any training beforehand. They don’t know how to sit still, their attention span is short, and they lack the motor skills to excel. Impact Kids is well rounded with separate classrooms for the 2-3 year olds, 4-5, and 6 (sometimes 7 depending upon their educational development.) From 8-1 they are being taught with play breaks and gym in between lessons, after 1 they have free time and the cresh turns into more of an afterschool care, making the most of their attention span. Every lesson incorporates Christian values, scripture memorization, bible stories, songs, etc. They go above and beyond the requirements of the Gauteng (how-tang) school system. The school has really taken off and even in the beginning of the year (most of the parents wait to send their children to school till the beginning of February) the creshes are almost at capacity!

Some of the gals and I have shared stories and already encouraged and challenged each other in our faith. We’re enjoying each other’s company. The second evening before dinner we all stood in a circle hitting the volleyball back and forth. There is such peace in the household and we all are meshing so well. After dinner my roommate and I spent some time together and prayed for each other as we begin to settle into our new home here in South Africa. Last night we went to a braai (barbeque) with the Impact Africa founders, Rich and Michelle Franzen. We played games, swam, and at the very end were able to Skype with our families! It was so nice to be able to talk to everyone! Once we arrived back at our home all the interns gathered to pray together for our ministry and unity as a team. All in all, I’m enjoying my time here (you know, in the two days that I’ve been living in South Africa.) I will update you soon on more things that we are doing and how we all grow, as well as stories of ministry (which are in the weeks to come!!) Thank you all for your support and prayers, they are much appreciated and they have (and continue to) made a difference!

Rule With Peace, Stand Against Strife.

Challenge & Revelation

A few days ago there were several times I encountered mothers with misbehaving kids. Both times I had to remind myself not to become irritated because the situations were beyond their control. One was a fairly new mom with a cranky two-year old. He didn’t want to eat and the circumstance resulted in her having to leave the restaurant. I’ve never had that happen to me, but I’m sure it’s humiliating. The second scene was a little different.

Kids at the table across from me were arguing about who was in charge. Their mom quietly entered the conversation, “those who are in charge, keep the peace.” The children fell silent realizing their argument amounted to nothing.

Way to go, mom.

Instead of yelling at them for arguing, one single thought brought silence. I was proud that she hadn’t added to the noise.

This week, the Lord is working on me with keeping the peace. Many times, I aggravate the situation with my words. I’ve never been one to hold my tongue, unless I didn’t know what to say. In a heated situation it can be hard sometimes. You want to throw something back in their face because you’re hurt and angry. But that never makes any situation better.

I woke up this morning to a verse a friend sent that really helped me.

James 4:1 {MSG}

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.”

Strife is partially wanting your own way and doing anything to get it. Peace isn’t not caring how things go, it’s being okay with how things turn out and trusting God that He is going to make good of every circumstance.

So how do we keep constant internal peace? Instead of letting every little thing get under your skin, you make a choice. Let His peace reign through you at all times. With the phrase “constant peace” my mind is taken to a verse I learned at a very young age.

Isaiah 26:3 {AMP}

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind {both it’s inclination and it’s character} is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on you, and hopes confidently in You.”

This verse is so straightforward that you can’t help but think, “Why didn’t I remember this in those stressful scenarios?”

The point is, every part of our being reflects the God we serve. With the distracting things that surround us, it may be hard to continually think on His Word and promises, but the more we let Him pour into us, the easier it gets.

Have a great week, guys. That’s all I have to say for now 🙂