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Reports: South Africa

I’ve always had a heart from Africa and this year the Lord provided financial blessing for me to finally get there and experience it for myself.  Sitting in the airport, getting to know ‘the guys’ over a bagel and a cup of chai, planes came and went, whilst our gate remained closed.  With a connection in Istanbul to make I found myself asking Father to spare us from travel disruptions – I was up for the perfect trip and I knew just how I wanted it to flow.  “Do you trust me?” He asked.  I just had to smile to myself and say, “yes”.  Because I do, I really do and I was truly expectant for our time in Africa, but – you know – I didn’t want my agenda to slip before we’d even left the country.  

 

Despite our initial delay, we did not miss our connection and arrived comfortably in Johannesburg on the morning of Thursday 20thSeptember.  Nick – our host – and a friend of his were waiting for us.  Nick and his lovely wife Debbie and their family have now emigrated to England where Nick has joined the team at Aldershot, they truly blessed us during our stay in their home.

 

People describe South Africa as the land of two extremes and I could see why.  A vast open landscape, then plots of houses densely packed.  A dry desert-like landscape with red scorched soils yet patches of lush greenery and beautiful flowers after the first rains of the season the previous week.  Open roads and traffic jams in parallel.  Incredible wealth and poverty back-to-back.  Hot and dry one day, cold and wet the next.  And the warmth and friendliness of those we met juxtaposed to walled and barbed-wire gardens, flaunting ‘Armed Response’ signs.  I felt safe and happy to finally be here.

 

The purpose of our trip to Johannesburg was to support and encourage a church in the township of Kagiso known as Lighthouse International Ministries.  The local pastor is called Dan.  We were to support them through outreach work and encourage them through teaching and fellowship.  Our first night with Dan and his church was deeply moving.  Wow, do they know how to hold a worship celebration!  For one reason or another we were a little late arriving at the church and the celebration was in full flow.  Needless to say it didn’t take us long to get settled in.  They have built their church building themselves and it holds maybe 300 people seated.  They have a strong and tangible passion for the Lord and a bold vision to match it.  On this first night, Tim spoke words of encouragement and expectation for the church and for our visit.  Closing with words of knowledge, approximately 6 people came forward for prayer for an array of bad backs, hips and breathing difficulties.

 

Our first outreach campaign was to a neighbourhood known as Green Hostel after the green coloured working mans hostel sited there.  The reality of my first ever trip of this type started to sink in.  I was hugely excited although I hadn’t a clue what to expect or what to do.  So what did I do?  Enjoyed the worship celebration and awaited opportunities to chat to people about why we were there.  The ‘green’ (for want of a better word) where we were to hold our outreach event was littered with broken glass and the grass was parched.  We were in a neighbourhood that was very much middle-class and as the worship celebration got underway the crowd barely grew; my lesson in learning God’s way, in letting Him lead was well and truly underway. As the Casting Crown’s song goes: ‘Jesus is the only way to God, but we are not the only way to Jesus’; the vast crowds and the miracles I had come all this way to see did not materialise - but I learnt a lot.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing some traditional Zulu dancing with a couple of local lads and listening to Tim’s talk. We saw three people ask Jesus into their lives that day – and that was a truly amazing sight!  Stephen and I approached a young man on the edge of the field who we suspected had been praying.  He was a new Christian, from a local church, who had come upon us by chance whilst cycling past.  He was a joy to chat to.  We prayed together and encouraged him with a word of edification from the Lord on his progress.  The following day started with the Sunday morning service followed by part two of the outreach campaign at Green Hostel.  During the morning service, a large number of people came for prayer; they literally stretched from one wall to the other, the full width of the building.  There were many healings and our expectations for the afternoon’s campaign increased further.

 

Isn’t it truly wonderful how God works?  Sunday afternoon back on the green, some of the residents of Green Hostel expressed their displeasure at our return.  Pastor Dan obviously wanted to understand their concerns.  Primarily, they were feeling left out and abandoned, they wanted to be personally advised and invited to the celebration.  Amazingly, by the end of our time there, these same men had said to Dan “you must come back soon, we want a church too”.  A potential conflict turned into a time of blessing and an opening to return and preach the Good News.  Meanwhile, the celebration on the green was in full flow and the crowd was a little larger than the previous day.  Of personal significance was seeing a lady healed of an arthritic ankle.  I’d heard of miracles and have the faith and willingness to pray for such healings, but this was an eye opener.  In speaking directly to the ankle, I saw God’s grace as Tim demonstrated the authority placed in us as children of the Living God.  One reason that this particularly struck me was the initial, very apparent look of disbelief in the woman’s eyes as she was asked to stand.  Her expression changed swiftly to one of ‘could this be?’ and then happiness as revelation of her healing sunk in.  A few minutes later, I looked around to see where the lady had gone and she was over with the worship band – dancing!  As they say in South Africa: Somebody Praise God!  (To which you respond in a very, very loud voice – AMEN!)  There has been a lot of teaching out of Aldershot’s King’s Centre this year on getting out of your comfort zone and ‘No limits, no boundaries’. For me, leaving the country helped to show me where my (seemingly invisible) boundaries were.  I say seemingly invisible boundaries because I evidently wasn’t aware of where mine were.  Please let me encourage you: firstly, find them (and if you can’t find them ask God, He’ll show you where they are) and then ask Him for some more help, and step over them.  It’s a whole new world.

 

South Africa wasn’t all work.  We enjoyed a mini-safari, a day out with Nick and Debbie, Dan and (his wife) Pinkie and also a day to the ‘Cradle of Humankind’.  I should tell you about the cheek bone that they called Mrs Ples and the other famous hominid discovered in this area called Little Foot, but as a scientist all that doesn’t excite me and I’d rather tell you about my strange lunch time sickness.  Yes, the caves were all very interesting.  As were the lessons on the evolution of humankind from apes and, then, hominids and the discussions with the tour guides when they asked why we were visiting South Africa!  But at lunchtime, after only half of my toasted sandwich and cup of fresh coffee, I felt distinctly ill.  Off my food and drink, Tim noticed I was not looking too good and said, “We’ll pray for you”.  Slap.  Over came the loving hands of Tim and Derek in the middle of the restaurant, whilst around us the waitress went about her business and people continued with their lunches.  I felt a sharp pinch in my stomach and then total release.  Within a minute I was once again enjoying my food.  I am grateful that they didn’t feel the need to wait until we were outside or back in the car to pray for me, they exercised their faith boldly, with confidence and assurance.  And I again grew stronger in my understanding.  

 

Wednesday night, at about three in the morning, I was awoken by an angel.  Smaller than you’d expect, dark haired and with a cold, wet nose, the family dog (named Angel) was looking for some one to let her out into the garden!

 

Our second outreach campaign was to the shantytown of Vlakfontein.  Seasonally extreme weather conditions ensured the first night was a wash out and the second a black out – no electricity meant no lighting and no PA!  My trip of expectation was not working out the way I had expected.  The third and final day however was delightful.  After two uneventful nights, a good crowd gathered and we enjoyed great worship and another heart-felt talk.  I understand that some 21 adults and 10 youngsters came to know Jesus that afternoon and with a home group already established in that place we know Dan’s church is well placed to give them all the support they need.  

 

To close, I leave you with a poem I wrote in South Africa.  The love of Jesus for each and everyone one of us is truly incredible, but discovering that is really only the beginning.  Once united, He longs to reveal to us our destiny in Him and the amazing life that He has prepared for us here on earth.  Learning more of God, of the Father’s heart, learning more of His love and of how to submit to His better ways, and watching His grace in action (in many more ways than I’ve had space to relate here) have taught me many things, least of all that faith is for living everyday.  If you must go aboard to meet God, then I can whole-heartedly recommend it, but wherever you go to meet Him, let Him change your life, as He desires.

 

You made me

Dust am I,

star dust, a twinkle in Daddies eye.

Dust am I,

on the soles of others.

 

Power and beauty,

you knew my destiny.

You formed me, in power

and beauty.

 

In my mother womb,

blood and water.

Kneed this being,

dust, and spirit.

 

You made me,

a part of You.

You made me,

to love.

 

Growing up, blind,

I caused you to cry.

What can I successfully do

without You?

 

You wanted me

to be a part of You.

Joy and celebration,

when our spirits wed.

 

Dust and spirit

You mend my holes.

Completing my life,

You make me.

 

           by Kieron Doick

Meeting God in the land of two extremes