Healed beggars and other delightfully compelling acts of God that people can’t ignore.

HEALED BEGGARSI’m still thinking about that shriveled, old, beggar. That moment when Peter stretched out his hand, helped the man to his feet, and the thin, crooked legs became strong and the twisted angles straightened, and even though the man was still as thin as a rail, he gasped with astonishment and slowly, shakily at first took a few steps, then laughed, and took a few more steps, then gave a little hop, then laughed some more.

And a crowd started to gather. And murmurs rushed through them, like the rustling of leaves, “Is that him? Isn’t that the beggar? Can he really walk? Is that him?” And the beggar shouts, “Yes, it’s me!” And he runs, and laughs again, still so astonished that it’s really his own legs holding him up. “I’m healed!” he calls out, and then he repeats himself, jumping on each word for emphasis. “I! (Jump) Am! (Jump) Healed!” (Jump, jump, jump!) And then he sees Peter and John over by Solomon’s colonnade, and rushes over to them, now eye level (now no longer looking up at them) and he gives them a huge sweaty, smelly hug, and starts blubbering with joy and won’t let go.

 

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Snapshot: Voting Day in South Africa

thumbs up

I voted twice in the states. Once by mail, when I was in college, and once in person when I was in Texas, for something more local. We hopped in the car, drove to a local school, and crossed some names (or filled in squares?! I don’t remember). It took 5 minutes and was over. They say that in South Africa, more than 75% of the population voted, and in the USA, that number dropped below 60% in the last election.

Maybe it’s because voting in the USA is old and boring. Here, it’s still a bit of a celebration.

It started the night before, an ecumenical prayer meeting with all the Hilton churches. Rather than praying “for our white standard of living to be protected” (as the leader said), “tonight we are going to pray for what’s on God’s heart. That our country will be just, will be a place of peace, of shalom, a place where the orphan and immigrant are cared for.” Hallelujah. (My cynical self didn’t see that one coming).

Being unable to vote myself, I volunteered to help pour free tea and coffee at our local voting station (which was our church). People had to stand in line for about 20 minutes until they were at the front and able to vote. There were old people, and young people (yes, “born frees” were voting, they’re not as cynical as the press makes them out to be!), the elderly were guided to the front of the line by IEC officials, so they didn’t have to wait. People chatted to each other. There were two policemen sitting in the parking lot, ready to help if there was any trouble. There wasn’t. Overall, the IEC reported that intimidation levels were down from the previous election. (Perhaps that’s another difference with the states. Here the IEC voting officials are trained in things like, ‘You’re here to help people vote, you’re not a peace keeper. If there’s any trouble, hit the deck or call the policemen’).

It was a public school holiday. There was a buzz of excitement in the air. Unlike the USA, there’s not 3 years of polling before the voting day, so you don’t really know the outcome until after you vote.

There’s not much that unites us all in this mish-mash country of race, culture and language. But voting day—that’s a day we all have in common.

making mark

The guy weighing my bananas at the grocery store usually says hello. Today when I greeted him, he continued our conversation, “Have you voted yet?” he asked. “No, not yet,” (I didn’t want to explain I couldn’t vote at all, actually). “Have you voted?” I asked. “Not yet, I am going after work. The voting station near my house will be open until 9pm,” he said excitedly.

voting ballot

It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, if you’re the one buying the bananas or working a 10 hour shift at the grocery store. Everyone has to go line up and wait. Everyone gets a chance to make their cross on the long, colorful ballot paper (which includes the faces and logos of candidates, and not just their names, so that those who can’t read are still able to vote). Everyone gets the permanent black mark on their thumb. Everyone smiles in acknowledgement when shaking hands, or handing over groceries, or picking something up later in the day. The unspoken Ah. You have the mark, too. You voted.

We’re connected.

I drove through Sweetwaters to drop off some boys from the iThemba running club after their race, and we drove past about 4 voting stations. Schools, churches, community halls. All with the blue and white “IEC VOTING STATION” signs tacked up outside, surrounded by a swath of campaign posters.

voting sign

And while you can’t “campaign” at a voting station, you can wear whatever you want. There were loads of people in bright yellow ANC shirts, and orange NFP shirts. There was singing and dancing. I had to slow down to weave between the flood of people who were coming home from work and walking to the stations to vote. Sure, it wasn’t like the epic photos from 1994, where the lines of people stretched on for miles. But seeing people streaming towards the voting stations still makes your heart beat a little faster.

My friend Thulani phoned me about 8 that night, “Can you hear it?” he shouted over the noise of singing and vuvuzelas in the background. “I’ve just voted for the first time. Everyone here at the voting station is singing and dancing! I’ve made my mark!”

We’ve made our mark.

And tomorrow at 6pm, when the official announcement is made, whatever people say about the party that wins, whatever problems we still face in our country, whatever steps we still have to take until we have a more free and more equitable democracyvoting day is a reminder of how far we’ve come.

(I know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Visit this website to learn about those who are advocating for more transparency in government.)

 

ISHIBOBO Holiday Club

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Fun with parachutes!

“What are some hopes and goals you’re setting for yourself as you go into this week?” Sizwe asked all the volunteers from Hilton and Pietermaritzburg gathered for Holiday Club Training this past Monday. As I’m now a “one-day-a-weeker” at the moment with iThemba, David and I were thrilled with the chance to get to help out with the 3-day ISHIBOBO Holiday Club in Sweetwaters. YAY! Playing with kids, my favorite! (*Ishibobo- a Zulu word for the soccer move when you kick a ball between someone else’s legs).

A few people shared really good things. Then there was that awkward pause and, because I can’t stand those, I tried to think of something quickly. “Um, I’d like to notice the kids on the edge who are shy or not really involved in the games and try and include them.” Woah. I impress myself sometimes with how fast I can think. That’s why I did so well in school. 🙂

I know I said that was my goal, but it’s sometimes fun to see how God holds you to what you say, even when you say it flippantly. When we got to our venue (iThemba ran the club simultaneously at two different venues this year), there were over 350 kids. Crazy. Fun. Exhausting. Did I say crazy?

The soccer-themed games worked really well, though and while it’s a challenge to get 350+ kids to sit and listen, they were pretty well-behaved for the messages about “being chosen for God’s team” and “following Jesus as our coach” and “using your gifts for God’s team.”

 

Kids sitting in their four groups to play a ball game

Kids sitting in their four groups to play a ball game

 

But God kept reminding me to “look out” for those on the edges. I guess I thought I would be like Jesus or something, noticing those being left out… you know, be a blessing and all that. But of course, the person sitting on the edge was more of a Jesus to me than I was to him.

I’ll call him “Sam”– he has cerebral palsy, so he can’t do the active games like all the other children can. He would come and sit next to me and help hold the camera, or give hi-fives to the kids who finished their relays. He attends a school down in Pietermaritzburg, so we only ever see him at Holiday Club events. I knew who he was, but I had never spent that much time with him. I’d heard from other volunteers and staff members about what a light he was to them, and now I’ve experienced it myself! His huge smile, and the way he brought out the best in the other kids was so inspiring. Kids would slow down to help him, or pause to give him a high-five, or wave hello as they ran past. Everyone knows him. Everyone smiles when they see him. And I got to spend 3 days hanging out with him.

I don’t know if Sam knows Jesus. I hope he does. But he really showed Jesus to me.

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Pray for the new Saturday Kids Club that is starting up at this Holiday Club Venue, where kids can come every week to hear about Jesus and have fun together! 

 

The Kingdom of God is Like…

So, I read about this activity on Kathy Escobar’s blog, in her post “The Kingdom of God is Like…” You should go check it out. 

Jesus often talks about what the Kingdom of God is like. He’s trying to explain things using everyday, ordinary examples (yeast working through dough, finding a coin, gardening, buried treasure). And in all of these “ordinary” life events, we see pictures of the surprising,

grace-filled,

upside-down,

unexpected,

mysterious yet ordinary Kingdom of God.

So the challenge that Kathy put out to people was to share a story, or a moment, from their own lives, that was a picture of the Kingdom of God. I was on staff devotions at iThemba today…so that’s what we did! And, in contrast to my rather gloomy previous post, this one is FULL of joy!

Here’s some of the examples that the iThemba team gave. These are real stories of things that have happened in the past, which we feel illustrate to us something about what the Kingdom of God is like.

So, we present:

kingdom of god

The kingdom of God is like 32 boxes of Easter eggs. Boxes donated by Sunday School kids at Christ Church for the kids in Sweetwaters. Easter eggs that they earned themselves by doing chores, but instead of keeping them for themselves, they generously gave them away.

DSCF3187The Kingdom of God is like eating a delicious meal without any disturbance. A feast. A place of perfect peace.

The Kingdom of God is like a smile on a child’s face. I see the Kingdom of God every time I walk into one of the creches (preschools) in Sweetwaters.

The Kingdom of God is like a smile on a child's face...

The Kingdom of God is like a smile on a child’s face…

The Kingdom of God is like someone who decides to give away everything they get for their birthday so that others can have a better life.

 

 

The Kingdom of God is like a home visit in Sweetwaters. The unexpected joy that lights up the kids faces when they see that you’ve really come to visit them. The sitting and listening to a Gogo’s long story, or just being with a child who has been through abuse. It’s hope showing up in tangible form.

-The Kingdom of God is like the joyful expectation of children waiting in long lines outside the gate for Jabulani Kids Club on a Saturday– they’ve been waiting long before we arrive.

 

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The Kingdom of God is like the big tree in-between Mashaka Highschool and Nobanda Primary. When I have to climb that steep, steep hill to get between Life Skills classes and Devotions at Assembly, I’m able to stop and take a rest under it’s shade. It’s big enough for everyone that’s with me to sit underneath and rest and refresh ourselves.

*(No picture, but imagine a hill that’s a 90 degree cliff, and you’re probably close to what that hill of terror is like!). 

The Kingdom of God is like Sizwe’s Life Group last week, where there were  Zulu teenage boys and their parents, Californian college students and English South Africans, all playing and laughing and learning together.

 

Sizwe's Life Group

 

The Kingdom of God is like a room full of South African businessmen who found the iThemba Kids Camp video online, bawled their eyes out while watching it, then were moved to donate some much needed equipment to iThemba.

 

 

The Kingdom of God is like the light in the children’s faces when I go to teach Life Skills, and I know that these kids who didn’t have anyone to talk to about what’s bothering them at home now have someone.

 

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The Kingdom of God is like a child who doesn’t have a Father, finding a father-figure in Sizwe, Thulani, Nathi and Syv. 

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What about you? Can you think of a moment or a story that “is like” the Kingdom of God from your own life?

How you can personally impact a teen from Sweetwaters

teens logo ideas

 

Yes, folks, it’s heading into that time of year again… CAMP TIME! Every year, iThemba takes 50 kids in June, and 50 teens in December to the beach for a 3-day camp. Here are a whole bunch of reasons why teens camp this December is so cool:

  • All of these teens are awesome. I mean, a lot of them are doing really awesome things with their lives, like working super hard in school so they can go to college, like chosing to make the right choice (even though its hard) when it comes to drugs, alcohol and premarital sex, like still taking their ARVs every single day, like picking up an extra job to help bring in some cash for their families, like looking after younger siblings, like volunteering on a Saturday to help with our Saturday kids clubs…and even if they’re not doing any of those things…they are still awesome.
  • Related to the point above, some of them have really stressful lives (way more stress than I ever had!) and a three day break where they can just be a teen, can goof off, can have someone else pour into them rather than always being the one to give out… that’s pretty cool.
  • Some of these kids/teens have never been to the beach before…and that makes sense if you live in Kansas, or Minnesota, but not if you live in Sweetwaters, where the beach is just an hour away.
  • Some of these teens have never begun a relationship with Jesus, and a 3-day camp might be the place that relationship begins.
  • Some of these teens know and love Jesus, but they’re slipping into complacency, or they’re worn out, or they feel like Jesus isn’t paying attention to them…a 3-day camp might be the revival that they need right now.
  • We have the BEST small group leaders EVER coming on this camp. We usually have great small group leaders, but our leaders this year are AMAZING. And I know for a fact that they will be constantly loving on these teens, constantly listening to them, constantly encouraging them, constantly showing Jesus to them… they’ll eat with them, sleep in the same dorms as them, do every single activity with them… they are going to be great.
  • It’s not one of those camps where you have a great time then *poof!* you go home and it’s all over. A lot of our small group leaders are iThemba staff. So this is one of those camps where your camp leader actually is working in your community and you can continually reconnect with them throughout the year. Real follow-up can happen!
  • We are going to have SO MUCH FUN. I admit, I am biased, since I worked with Thulani, Wendy and Bex on the programme, but I know, this is going to be a super FUN camp.

And I know you’re thinking right now… HOW CAN I SPONSOR EVERY TEEN?? Well, that’d be a little crazy. But go ahead if you want. 🙂 The teens pay a small amount towards the cost of camp, so sponsors from all over the world gather together to pay the full cost for the teens. This cost covers transport, all the activites and crafts, a Bible, a toiletry pack, meals… EVERYTHING. 

PLUS… you’ll get a photo of the teen you sponsor so you can remember to pray for them, and they’ll get a chance to write you a letter from camp.

Here’s how you can sponsor a teen. The cost is $90, or R700 or 60 pounds.

IN THE USA: Go to http://www.restorationhope.org and donate. Or click here. Make sure you put in a reference that it is for TEENS CAMP (you might have to put it under “General Donation” and send that info in a seperate email if they don’t give you that option). Or write a check made out to Restoration Hope, and enclose a note with your name, email/post address, and stating it’s for teens camp. If you’re really worried they won’t remember it’s for camp, you can always email me, and I’ll really, really make sure. 🙂

In the UK, use this link

IN RSA: You can do an EFT straight into our account:

iThemba Trust Sweetwaters, First National Bank, Bank Street Branch code 22 08 25, Cheque account number 62154 083 407, SWIFT code (international deposits) – FIRNZAJJ, Reference – Teens Camp and YOUR SURNAME

Just shoot me an email if you have any questions. Guys, I think this is one of the best ways you can use your money. For reals.

Total Restoration

1986_4833989420928_1097230342_nI try to stay positive about those in leadership in my birth country. I have been known to get very irritated at people (usually of the vanilla variety, like myself,) who moan about how our leadership is just going down-hill. Most of the time, the things they’re moaning about are for nothing. I’ll take pot-holes in the roads, and power-outages, and longer lines at government offices (and 100% of our population having the vote!) any day. I’d love to see more people complaining about the things that really matter–like protecting and educating our children. 

Lately, I’ve been frustrated. I’ve seen situations where people in leadership positions are not living as servant leaders, but just using their privilege to make their own lives easier. People who should be administering justice and just…well…aren’t. People who should be working to educate and empower their students and just…well…aren’t.

I can work around pot-holes and power-outages. But the fieldworkers can’t work around cases of abuse and rape without the help of people who are qualified to work within our existing governmental structures to bring justice to these kids. It is very painful to know that there are children being hurt, and no one who has the power cares enough to work until justice is done and those kids are safe.

Or take for example the thousands of Matric (grade 12) students who can’t write their exams because these papers are being held back in negotiations between trade unions and the government. Or the fact that we have one of the largest education budgets in Africa, and one of the lowest literacy rates. Or that we have the biggest gap between the rich and the poor. Or that now according to the newest HSRC stats, Sweetwaters/Mpumuza has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world (50% of the population).

In our Bible study we’ve been going through Titus, which is all about the knowledge of the truth leading to godliness. People actually understanding how much God’s grace has done for them, and living their entire lives as acts of gracious service. Someone said, “If the church in South Africa would just do what it was meant to be doing, instead of sitting back wasting time arguing about useless things, everything would be different.”

Um. Yes and Amen.

I just finished “Walking with the Poor” by B. Myers (suggested to me by Baba Francis, from APU South Africa semester), and there were so many great things about this book. The book is about holistic community development. On the one side, there are many churches who are suspicious of community development, since it smells like “social gospel” to them, but on the other side, there are many community development groups suspicious of churches who are preying on poor people, giving them food to “recruit” more converts. This book speaks to both sides, emphasizing the structural, social, institutional side of sin, not just the individual, personal side of sin. Yes, we need to bring down sinful structures (like apartheid, like corruption), but we also need internal liberation from the sin of self-centeredness that causes us to exploit people in the first place. We need the whole story. If sin affects everything, we need the restoration of everything, personal and social.

I’m glad I get to work for an organization that is trying to do both! Pray with us that we will see real servant leaders rise up who are passionate about caring for the poor, abused, sick, and uneducated in our country! 

 Please also pray for Rachel and David who arrive this week to do media work for iThemba. We’re so thankful for the community of people who are sponsoring them to come out and help us expand the number of people iThemba can impact. 

Our Father

Sizwe shares a laugh with some of his Life Group boys. (He's in a very cold bucket  of water, because it was an object lesson on faith).

Sizwe shares a laugh with some of his Life Group boys. (He’s in a very cold bucket of water, because it was an object lesson on faith).

I just heard this morning that only 37% of children in South Africa live with both their father and mother. This means that over half of South African children are being raised by one parent, or aunties, or grandparents. On the one hand– wow, I am so thankful for all the grandparents and hard-working moms and aunties that are out there looking after South African children! I think we need to do all we can to encourage and support these carers, many of whom are very loving and sacrificial. On the other hand, since stats show in a one parent home children usually stay with their moms, my heart breaks that so many children won’t grow up knowing their fathers like I did.

Even when children know their fathers, it’s not always a positive relationship. In Life Skills classes a few weeks ago, the iThemba staff were teaching children about domestic violence, and many children explained they thought that it was the role of the father to beat his wives and children. Once an iThemba staff member noticed some regular attending children were absent from his Life Group. When he asked the other kids about it, they calmly told him, “Oh, they’re hiding from their alcoholic father who abuses them when he’s drunk, so they didn’t want to come today in case he found them. They’ll be back when it’s not so close to month-end (pay-day).”

I think because I had such a loving, caring father, stories like this are what make me so sad. When I pray the Lord’s Prayer and think of God as my father, I immediately associate him with my own loving, wise, and giving father. When I thought about dating and getting married, I had a pattern in my mind for how a good husband and father should treat women and children, and so I never even considered dating any creeps. I had the self-confidence that comes from knowing I had loving parents, and so I didn’t have a need to go out and prove my self-worth by being sexually active at a young age. By having a loving father I have been privileged compared to the majority of South Africans (especially the children in Sweetwaters).

I had the chance to share at my church’s Missions evening, and I shared a story that my co-worker Sizwe sometimes shares. He had made a visit to a new Life Group that Thulani was running, but the next week he wasn’t there. A child came up to Thulani and asked, “Where is my Father (Baba)?” Thulani didn’t know his father, and so was a little worried that maybe this boy’s father was missing, or maybe he should have remembered something from his home visit earlier in the week. But eventually it came out that the boy was talking about Sizwe, who had visited previously . Usually the term for someone Sizwe’s age would be uncle (malume). If a child was being very respectful, he would have called him “Baba Sizwe” (similar to “Mr. Sizwe”). But the fact he repeatedly referred to him just as Baba showed how desperate he was to have someone in his life he could call Dad. 

I think it’s so cool that there are iThemba staff members like Sizwe, Thulani, Syv, Nathi and others that are walking life’s road with these kids on a daily basis, introducing them to our God the “Father of the Fatherless and defender of widows and orphans”, (Psalm 68:5) and giving them a living, breathing example of what a loving father can be like.

Join me by continuing to pray for these kids, and if you have been blessed by a father, or a “father figure” in your life, go give them a hug today! 

Asidlale–Siyazama Creche

Here’s a video I made to be sent out as a thank you to the people who help support Asidlale, our Early Childhood Education programme. I thought since I talk so much about these creches and kids, you might like to watch a 1min 30s clip of them. 🙂

Also, for those of you who are following this and are the praying kind– today is the start of 3 days of prayer and fasting for iThemba and the work in Sweetwaters. I have a prayer guide for the three days, just click here to view it: prayer guide August 2013.

Thank you for joining us in what God is doing in the community! 🙂

One Year

Mbubu mountain (also called Swartkop). This is the hill that is in the painting I use for my banner. :) It is the hill that overlooks all of Sweetwaters/Mpumuza

Mbubu mountain (also called Swartkop). This is the hill that is in the painting I use for my banner. 🙂 It is the hill that overlooks all of Sweetwaters/Mpumuza

I can’t believe that David and I have been here for one year already! It’s been a wonderful, exciting year–sometimes difficult, but always good. Here are some moments I have loved about being in South Africa and working with iThemba:

  • The moment when kids stopped excitedly waving and shouting “Mlungu, mlungu” (white person) when I drive through Sweetwaters, and instead shout, “Steph! Steph!
  • Also, that one time when I was at kids club and a new child said something about “her mlungu” (meaning me) and this other four-year old very primly said, “No, that’s not your mlungu, that’s Steph.”
  • Speaking of my name, I always enjoy people calling me “Steve” because they can’t pronounce Steph. And when iThemba staff call me Thandi, my Xhosa name, that makes me smile, too.
  • Every day that I get to drive in these beautiful rolling hills— whether they are green in summer or brown in winter, they are just amazing.
  • Finishing a project: Whether it’s the new volunteers manual and prezi, or writing a really good thank you note to a funder, or updating the iThemba blog…I love that feeling when I’m done with something and can be proud of what I made.
  • The first fifteen minutes of every day when people are all arriving at the office, laughing and chatting and finding out how everyone’s husbands, wives and babies are doing.
  • Any time I get to work with my buddies Thulani and Sizwe— they really are like the big brothers I always wanted, and they always are so encouraging and make me laugh. Their commitment to their work and to the kids is so inspiring. And also Wendy, Gugu, and Mashinini and…basically, all the iThemba staff are amazing!!
  • Worship on kids camp. Hearing all those kids singing is just…wow.
  • Hearing from “iThemba team alumni” who are now doing cool things with their lives, or hearing how working in South Africa with iThemba has changed them.
  • Seeing God working. Seeing hope planted. Seeing slow changes in people’s lives.
  • Seeing how God has provided every step of the way…I had 4 months of mono, David had 4 months with out a job, we had car-break downs… and yet it when we were going through it all, it didn’t seem to be a big deal. It’s more like looking back I’m astounded at how peacefully and joyfully we came through those challenges– and I know that is only because I was surrounded with the love and prayers from people like you all!
  • I love getting to tell people about iThemba, and just how cool what they are doing is. That is one of my favorite things.
  • I love that I can just be me. I often feel like I don’t quite “fit”– I didn’t feel like I “fit” in college, and sometimes now with my Hilton friends, I don’t feel like I “fit”– but when I’m hanging out with iThemba staff, playing with kids in Sweetwaters, getting to totally embarass myself doing silly dances, getting to sing with people who actually sing louder than I do– I just feel so comfy and so happy and so content.
  • I love that I can be a part of a group of people that I am so, so proud of. I love that I can go to work and KNOW that I am going to do something that will help bring Jesus love and hope to the kids in Sweetwaters, and kids lives really are being changed. I love that iThemba is not perfect, but is committed to growing better at doing community development right.

Lastly, I just want to thank everyone, once again, who has given, or is still giving, so that I can be out here and help iThemba. I don’t even know some of you personally, yet you have donated your money so that I can continue to assist iThemba in this work. Thank you for “running with me”.

This list does not include the wonderful times that we’ve had with family (both US family, and family here) the fun that David and I have had in our first year of marriage, our great small group and church, getting to eat avocados….it’s been fantastic! 

I love this picture of me and Nompilo. It was taken on the day she was helping me at Running Club. I blogged about it here: https://bridginghope.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/farther-together/

I love this picture of me and Nompilo. It was taken on the day she was helping me at Running Club. I blogged about it here: https://bridginghope.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/farther-together/

Skills

Rachel and David are coming to help iThemba. If you want to contribute to their fundraising, you can go to: http://www.gofundme.com/3jwf2w

Rachel and David are coming to help iThemba. If you want to contribute to their fundraising, you can go to: http://www.gofundme.com/3jwf2w

So, I want to tell you about some volunteers that are coming to iThemba that I am super excited about! Firstly, I’m excited because I know them– Rachel and David are two friends from Taylor University where I attended. Secondly, I’m excited because they are volunteering their awesome photography and video skills to iThemba. For two weeks they will shadow our staff, capturing images that we can use in the future.

Sometimes I think in the Christian community there is this idea that if you are going to go on a short-term missions trip the  purpose should be some form of evangelism so you can go back and tell your church how many souls you saved. (Maybe the same goes for long-term missionaries as well?) And while I think that evangelism is so, so important and I don’t want to undermine that, God has not given everyone that spiritual gift. Besides that, evangelism in a cross-cultural context is quite tricky, especially if you’re just there for two weeks. But that’s okay, because the whole world belongs to God and there are so many gifts and talents that God can use all over the world to share his good news. 

Rachel and David are only here for two weeks, but their contribution to the long-term sustainability of iThemba will be huge. By donating their time and their photography/video skills, they are going to leave behind images and videos that we can use in the coming years as we try to share the story of what God is doing through iThemba. These professional-looking images will be used in donor reports, in presentations to corporate funders, churches, individuals, on the website… and all of that will hopefully raise funds for more staff to join iThemba and more children can be reached.

Let’s be honest. If Rachel and David were just coming for two weeks to play with kids in Sweetwaters and tell them about Jesus, the biggest impact would probably be… on themselves. Your impact working cross-cultrually increases with the amount of time spent learning a culture and a language. You can’t learn enough to be super-effective in two weeks. So, you might have a life-changing experience seeing a foreign country for two weeks, but the actual impact made on the community would be quite small. But because Rachel and David are bringing their mad photography skills for these two weeks, the impact they are going to make on this community will continue on for years.

So I want to challenge you… do you have some skills you think aren’t “spiritual” enough to be used by God overseas (or in your own community)? Maybe you do finances (uh, I know plenty of organisations that need good bookkeepers), maybe you’re a graphic designer (ever consider volunteering your skills to put out a quarterly newsletter for a nonprofit?), maybe you work with computers (soooo much you could do for others with that skill)…. maybe you’re like my awesome mother-in-law who has the gift of organizing things, and you’re able to help missionaries overseas with basic admin tasks like sending out prayer letters.

“There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!'” – Abraham B. Kuyper

How about offering up your skills to God and seeing where he leads you?