Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Necessity of Faith

On Monday we met with Pastor Philip at his church in Temba. I actually had the opportunity to spend the night with Philip and his family after our meeting. It was really good to catch up with him and to meet his family and get to know them a little bit.

I met Pastor Philip on my first trip to South Africa in December of 2003. I have corresponded with him every since, and he even stayed with me for a few days during a US visit back in 2006. His church, Ebenezer Bible Church, is located in the community of Temba. Temba is a more rural community roughly 35 minutes outside of Pretoria. It has a population of roughly 350,000. The church is in the process of building an orphan home in conjunction with African Leadership Development (a US based missions organization). When it is finished it will house 20 orphans. Temba like many other impoverished communities throughout South Africa has been heavily hit by HIV/Aids. During our time with Philip we focused our discussion on the spiritual dynamic within Temba (and other black communities there) - more specifically the stronghold of witchdoctors and ancestral worship. He described the reality that in some families, to accept Christ is to disrespect your ancestors - and that is taken very seriously. He also spoke in great detail on the impact of witch doctor's on peoples lives. He shared that when people are poor and when they are desperate the supposed healing and help that witchdoctors offer is very appealing. When I picture "witch doctors" I usually think of face paint, strange hair, and strange clothes. However, Pastor Philip shared how most times now they are in plain clothes, and have normal vocations such as teacher and principal. He emphasized both the use of psychological manipulation (FEAR) and the realty of a spiritual battle going on. The thing that encourage me the most about our conversation that day was his emphasis on injecting FAITH and HOPE into people's lives through the Word of God and prayer. Here is some of what he shared...

"God uses faith, the devil uses fear. Fear is the door for demonic activity. I have to teach much about Faith."

"The Name of Jesus is stronger than a witch doctor. I must teach people this Truth. It is my job to teach people that God is more powerful than the devil."

When discussing how he ministers to those who are sick and suffering from HIV/Aids...

"We don't console people to die. We provoke people to Faith. I don't say people will be healed but it is my duty to give them Hope."

"I don't pretend to have all of the answers. When I don't know what to say I say, 'let's pray' and God moves! We are depending on God's grace."

During my recent Montana trip this summer our theme was faith. We spent the whole week in Hebrews Chapter 11 - the hall of faith. We memorized Hebrews 11:1 and Hebrews 11:6. I was given an experiential education on faith during my 2 weeks in South Africa. These pastors and really all of our brothers and sisters in the churches here truly seek after and rely on God for MANY things. Philip echoed what Vincent and Gloria shared with us, "and God moves!" I have shared with several people lately that I have been challenged in my devotion time and in my readings to have a more exalted view of Christ and/or a loftier view of God. I have been quoting Tozer who states that "an exalted view of Christ will always lead to radical actions for Christ." It is evident that Pastor Philip, Pastor Vincent, Pastor Isaac and others here have this "exalted view of God." God is BIG to them (God IS big!). I pray that my faith would increase...

Hebrews 11:1 = Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6 = And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worship At The Powerhouse

Sunday morning we attended church at Powerhouse Church in Mamelodi. The service begins at 9am. We arrived a little bit late, and worship was in full swing. We were escorted to the front of the church as special guests (my dad and I as first time visitors). This particular Sunday was youth Sunday – so the praise band, praise team, worship dancers, and Scripture readers were all children and youth from the church. The worship here is such a celebration. One of the songs we sang was so powerful…
When the praises goes up, His glory comes down
I can’t even really describe the exuberant sound nor the emotion and passion with which people worship here. It was a huge blessing to be a part of. At times I would sing and then at times I would just listen to their singing with my hands raised. I even got pulled into the dancing, and I think I held my own:) Worshiping with my brothers and sisters here is something that I will always treasure. It is a reminder of how BIG the God we serve is. He is the God of All Nations.

After the time of worship, they recognized the first time visitors. They invited my dad and I to the front of the church to introduce ourselves and to share a little about where we were from. Pastor Vincent encouraged me to tell the church about what I do at Sunshine so I was able to share a little bit. One thing that struck me that morning, (that I shared with the congregation) is that in the past few weeks I have worshiped at Christ Bible Church in Chicago, Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church in Lawton, Springhill Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, Montana and now Powerhouse Church in Mamelodi. Four very different places, four very different cultures, four very different worship services and styles of worship, But ONE LORD who unites us all and who we all worship. My dad shared how welcome and at home he felt at the church and in Mamelodi, and how blessed he was by the worship. After we shared, the church extended their hands toward us and prayed a blessing over us. I felt so welcome, and as my dad shared “so at home.”

Pastor Vincent preached out of Luke 15, the parable of the lost sheep. He emphasized in many different ways with various illustrations that the sheep that was lost was VERY VALUABLE to the shepherd. He added that not only was the lost sheep valuable, but each sheep is created for a purpose. He reminded us that we are all valuable to God. He created us and we are of great value to Him. And for those of us who are saved or found, we were saved for a purpose. Our lives should then reflect the mission for which God saved us.

Pastor Vincent then got very practical. He stated that there are many children living near the church who are not going to school because they cannot afford the uniform. He added that some of them once they have purchased the uniform have no way to clean the uniform or iron the uniform, and thus don’t go to school. He further explained that the church needs to start a laundry and ironing business so that families can come to the church to wash and iron their clothes, so that their kids can then go to school. He then took it a step further! He said that they needed wash machines, irons, detergent, and peoples time to make this work. He asked who was willing to donate either machines/materials or their time. It was amazing. Hands started going up all over the sanctuary as people called out what they were willing to donate. There was no hesitation. Pastor Vincent then shared that recently he had visited an elderly woman’s home who lived with a crippled relative of hers. The two of them lived there alone. He stated that the house was very dirty and that they often went long periods without food. As a church they are going to visit the woman’s home, clean it, and take them food. He made it clear that after they had shown them the love of Christ, they would tell them the message of Christ. He exclaimed that “this is what the Church does, this is what we are to do as Christians.” I have never witnessed such a powerful message followed by such practical/sacrificial obedience. It was a clear reminder that we must “be the church” in our communities and neighborhoods.

I am convinced more than ever that the church in the States and the church in Africa needs each other. We need to collaborate with one another, learn from one another, celebrate our cultural distinctness and unity in Christ together. However, I am also convinced that the church in Africa can teach us much about what it means to “be the church.” I pray that we (the US church) would be teachable.

Revelation 5:9 = And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”

Monday, August 25, 2008


I just thought I would share various things that people have stated here that have impacted me...

Pastor Sollly who teaches HIV/Aids prevention and education classes within public schools often warns young people of the negative influence that their peers can have on their lifestyle decisions. He tells them that PEERS stands for, "People who Encourage, Evilness, Rudeness, and Stupidity." He also stated that when it comes to the HIV/Aids epidemic in South Africa, "parliament has many questions, but the Church has the answer!"

In our time together with Pastor Vincent and his wife Gloria, I have often here them describe a tough situation/circumstance and then state, "and then we prayed and fasted AND GOD..." It is evident in their life and ministry that they wholeheartedly seek the Lord and cry out to Him through much fasting and prayer. (Isn't this the pattern we see in the early church in the book of Acts? Hmm) God is at work in incredible ways in their church and community! As Lecrae says, "I've seen it with my own two." In their 5 year existence of their church they have seen witchdoctors lives' transformed by the power of the gospel, miraculous healings, and radical acts of love and sacrifice done by their members. If you ask them about it, they will give all the glory to God!

During the service yesterday, Pastor Vincent encouraged and exhorted his people to "be the Church" in the community. He stated that when "God gives us a mission, He always gives us the provision!"

Last night we attended the evening service at Hatfield Christian Centre. They had a guest preacher there from the UK. He preached at both services there yesterday and is going to be the speaker at a young adult retreat they are doing this coming weekend. In reference to the retreat he exclaimed, "We are going to rattle the cages of darkness this weekend!" He further explained that he is anticipating God to move in a powerful way in people's lives, setting them free.

In that same service we were exhorted to be "people carriers" - from the example in Mark 2 in which a group of friends did whatever it took to get their sick friend to Jesus. They carried him on a mat and lifted him through the roof. The speaker exhorted us to not be "pew sitters" but to be "people carriers."

Stay tuned for a entry coming on the service at Powerhouse yesterday...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What do you see?

Sleeping OR Praying?

Serious nap OR intense intercession?

On a serious note, Allan and Annie have updated there Africa Revolution blog. Annie's latest entry is very challenging and encouraging.

Also, Nate & Rebeccah have an amazing blog/web site called "Mamelodi Stories" through which they highlight stories of the way God is at work in Mamelodi.

I will be including a blog update as well on our day worshiping at the Powerhouse this morning and then at Hatfield Christian Centre this evening. It has been a great day in the Lord. I greatly appreciate those of you who have been lifting our trip up in prayer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Some Choice Foods

Those of you who know me well know that I love food, and that I get excited about meal time. So I thought I would give a short update on a couple of different food items that I have tasted and thoroughly enjoyed while being here.

1) The McDonald's here have a sandwich called the McFeast (picture coming). It had two beef patties, cheese, mayonnaise, and bbq sauce. It was moist, and seasoned just right! They also have a "mega-mac" Big Mac which is essentially double the size of an ordinary Big Mac. I hope to return to McDonald's at least one more time to try that one.

2) Pap (pronounced pup) - It is a corn meal type substance that is served with many different types of meals. I had it with chicken and beef the first time and then chicken and pork the second time. Each time it has been special! Traditionally it is eaten with your hands and you can use it to "sop up" gravy, beans, dressing, etc. It is pretty much a nice combination with anything you put it with. I have to give a shout out to Vincent's wife Gloria for the pap last night at dinner!

3) Boerwors (farmer's sausage) - It is similar to a bratwurst, but not quite the same. Allan took me for one today. You can put various sauces on it and it is eaten in a hot dog bun. I put chili sauce on mine. It was just right. For those of you of Dutch descent (Pete Blodgett), "boer" is a term that means farmer here - the word is Afrikaans.

4) Nando's - It is a South African chicken restaurant chain. You can order the chicken with various degrees of spiciness. You can also douse them with "peri-peri sauce." The fries also come with "peri peri chili" seasoning on them. Pretty much everything on the menu is bangin'. I may bring a chain location back to Chicago.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Dreams of Young People...

This evening we attended the youth service at Pastor Vincent's church in Mamelodi, the Empowerment Church. There were roughly 20-25 teenagers there. It was a blessing to be there. We began with a time of worship (w/some dancing...and yes I danced...quite well I think:)). The worship here is off the chain...can't even really describe it. After the time of worship the youth leader read Psalm 91 out loud and then highlighted a few verses. She then gave my dad and I a chance to introduce ourselves and then had Allan say a few words. Allan told the group of youth that he (and the rest of us here with Africa Revolution) really want to listen and hear from them - their dreams, their struggles, etc.

I was really blessed (we all were) as they shared with us. Their dreams included being a... film writer highlighting the positive aspects & struggles of life in Mamelodi, dance choreographer, preacher, businessman, counselor to young people, radio person. All of them shared their desire to see the young people of the church be a powerful witness in Mamelodi and in South Africa as a whole. In fact 4-5 of them gave short sermons, full of Scripture, exhorting and encouraging each other to be bold witnesses in Christ in both word and deed. One young man reminded us to "not be selfish with the gospel." Prior to closing out the time in prayer, I had the opportunity to encourage the young people to commit their dreams to the Lord, to write them down, to share them with people who will help them get there, and to not let anyone discourage or negatively persuade them from what God has put in them to do. (To often we as adults snuff out the dreams of young people with statements such as, "you won't make any money doing that," "you should think about doing this," "that's to dangerous," etc.)

As I sat there listening to the youth I was reminded of a statement that I have heard Pastor Harvey Carey (of Detroit MI) say on a couple of different occasions. He says that real youth ministry is about "youth doing ministry." My initial impression is that the young people of Mamelodi get this, and really desire to serve and reach out to their peers and the community with the gospel.

Another thing I was reminded of is that within the church (and really in most places) we don't listen to the young people enough. We need to allow their dreams to be heard. We need to listen to their fears, struggles, aspirations, etc. They need to know that we believe in them. Yes, we must equip them. Yes, we must teach them. But we also must empower them, and coach them, and help nurture their dreams. (The Bible is full of young people that were used greatly by God: David, Solomon, Timothy - to name a few.) I sat in a room full of tremendous Kingdom potential tonight. I can't help but think that the Lord is excited.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Everything You See Here Is A Miracle"

This morning we visited and toured a ministry located within the city limits of Pretoria called Pop-Up (which stands for people upliftment programme). Pastor Vincent and Allan had set up the meeting to begin to build with the CEO Marlene Freislich and the Pastor Alistair Westcott of Pop-Up to discuss future partnerships and to learn from one another. Pop-Up is connected with Doxa Deo church, which is an Afrikans mega-church with 6 campuses throughout the greater Pretoria metropolitan area. It is a Christ-centered, holistic outreach ministry that equips and empowers unemployed people from Pretoria and the surrounding area. One of the unique elements of the program is that the first week is a "life-transformation" class during which the gospel is presented and instructors walk participants through what a new identity in Christ means. This sets the tone for these one to 3 month vocational training/life skill classes that they offer. They shared that 60% of students who go through the courses give their life to Christ! They offer training in home management, computer skills, entrepreneurship, child care, home care, fork lift driving, catering, and probably a few others which I am forgetting. One thing that really struck me as Marlene and Pastor Alistair shared was how they celebrated what God was doing in and through Pop-Up in their lives, the instructors lives, and the lives of the students. As we toured the building and went into the various vocational training areas, Pastor Alistair commented several times that "everything you see is a miracle." Their enthusiasm for the Lord, people, and the work of the Lord was contagious, and all glory was given to God.
*Their Christ-exalting enthusiasm made think about how I give tours of Sunshine when groups come for a day or for a week. Do I(we) celebrate what GOD is doing? Hmm...

They have been able to secure corporate funding even though they are a faith-based non-profit. They can receive government and corporate funding as long as they don't discriminate in who participates, YET they can still remain be outspoken about their faith with all who come through their doors and who receive their training. Praise God for that!

Another thing that struck me today and yesterday is this. It is evident here that the black and coloured (that is the term here used for people of mixed race heritage) churches located in the townships need the white church (Afrikaans and British) often located in the city and suburbs here. However, what I don't think is as often recognized is that the white church here NEEDS the black and coloured church as well. The same is true in the states. We often talk about how the urban church needs the suburban church, but don't as often discuss how the suburban church needs the urban church. BOTH statements are true, but both statements aren't always recognized. The body of Christ is racially and culturally diverse and it is global, and we NEED each other. We are a powerful force when we partner through authentic, two-way relationships and collective efforts. I think this is one of the major challenges that the Church faces in the US and globally.

In the picture above L to R: Annie Grieg (Allan's wife), Pastor Alistair, Rebeccah (one of the AR interns), and Pastor Vincent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Images From South Africa

My dad and I arrived in South Africa on Monday afternoon at around 3:30pm local time. Alan took us to the house we were to stay at and we had dinner with he and his wife, and Nate & Rebeccah (the couple who is interning with Africa Revolution). This morning, after spending some time in the Word together, we headed to Mamelodi for the day. Mamelodi is a black township located just outside of the city of Pretoria. It is a community home to roughly 2 million people. You can check out more about Mamelodi at
Let me explain the four pictures that I have displayed above.
The picture on the top is a picture I took in a local cemetery that we drove through today. It is a picture of a mass grave. During apartheid the government would do mass hangings in the capital city of Pretoria, then transport the bodies in plastic bags in the back of trucks, and then finally dump the bodies in these mass graves. You could be hung for leading, organizing, or even participating in a demonstration/protest that fought for the liberation of the people under the apartheid regime. These hangings took place from the 50s to the 80s. It was very sobering to think about this very painful element of South African history. It is almost unbelievable to think that apartheid only ended in 1994. This particular cemetery (according to Pastor Vincent) is at or near capacity, with grave upon grave. Some people are now being buried on top of other's graves. Pastor Solomon and Pastor Vincent both made mention of the incredible numbers of funerals they are now performing as a result of the AIDs crisis.
The second picture is a picture of a group of senior citizens that gathers in the local YMCA in Mamelodi for a time of recreation and praise and worship together. Many of the women are grandmothers or "go-go's" as they are called here. There are 51 men and women in the group all together. There were just 15 or so women and 1 man there today due to the cooler weather. They hosted us there for a meal and sang several of their songs for us (they had a beautiful sound). They are preparing to travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town for various competitions for seniors. It was a precious picture.
The third picture is of Pastor Solomon (Solly) Mathibela. He works for the city government doing HIV/Aids Awareness & Prevention workshops/seminars in local schools, local churches, local health clinics, prisons, etc. He is also a pastor in the community. His passion for the people of the community and especially for those infected with HIV/Aids flowed out of him as he shared with us. He loves the Lord and loves people. He has been given favor to not only teach and raise awareness but to also share Christ in all of these various contexts. He has the opportunity to preach at a lot of funerals during which he shares the hope we can have in Christ as well as correcting peoples misconceptions in order to help eradicate the stigma attached to HIV/Aids. He encourages and educates those who are HIV positive - reminding them of the hope that they can live with in spite of their condition. I (and all of those with me) were very blessed by our time with Pastor Solomon. Hope oozed out of him in spite of what I'm sure often feels like a hopeless circumstance. I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
The final picture is my dad standing with Pastor Vincent Nyathi. Pastor Vincent pastors the Powerhouse Church (and/or Empowerment Center) in Mamelodi. He grew up in the community and felt called to start a church roughly 5 years ago. I have heard stories about what a "pastor of the community" Pastor Vincent was, but I experienced it first hand today. He knows his community and he loves his community. His church began a technology/computer center a few years ago. It has been invaluable in equipping people with skills and empowering people to get jobs. He wants each ministry of the church to be Christ centered. Many of the people who have come through the computer classes were not part of the church when they began taking classes, but have begun coming to the church before they graduate. Pastor Vincent is a great man of faith. He has trusted God to provide for he and his family's needs and has served the Lord faithfully in the work that he has called them to.
I am praising and thanking God for a great first day! I am still processing all that we saw and experienced today. Stay tuned for future updates...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Quick Warrior & Montana Update

After a VERY long day behind the wheel yesterday I made it home in the late evening last night. (Side note: for future van rentals, rent from Midway if at all possible!:)) It was a great trip. The guys did extremely well. We had some very interactive devotional times together focused on the concept of faith – Hebrews 11. All of the guys made it to the top of Mt. Sacajawea – overcoming fears and thoughts of “this is crazy!” They had great attitudes about camping in Yellowstone and even better attitudes about doing a 6 mile hike to Fairy Falls and Victory Geyser – both very beautiful sights. One of the most stretching aspects for some of the guys was the relational one – meeting so many new people. Justin and Jason both testified how this was stretching but how they really enjoyed it. All of our guys (and me) loved our host (Scot Smith - of Bridge Builder fame), and were all sure to get his phone number and address. He was very moved by the week as well as he shared with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat on Sunday morning. I will blog more about this trip, as it was very impactful to me as well.

Quick Warrior update: After we “shocked the world” with our first victory 37-35 on Tuesday July 22nd, we entered the tournament on Saturday (July 26th) as a “dark horse favorite.” In other words, nobody wanted to play the “buzzsaw” also known as the Sunshine Warriors. Due to some family travel and other circumstances we entered Saturday mornings tournament with only 6 players – 5 sophomores and 1 senior – all under 5’11”. However, we overcame our limited numbers and limited size with tenacious, ball-swarming defense and fast-paced, “basket attacking” offense. We outplayed Judson Baptist the entire game. Unfortunately, we ended up tied at the end of regulation. In overtime, we seemed to run out of gas and Judson pulled away. Next up…Uptown Baptist – a team we should have defeated during the regular season. I wanted this one bad, and so did the guys. We again outplayed them and out hustled them the entire game. We ended up pulling out a 6 point victory. Next up…South Shore United Methodist. After playing two Baptist teams earlier in the day it was nice to go head to head with “the Methodists from South Shore.” It was evident in the early minutes in this our third game of the morning, that the Warriors were running on fumes. We played sloppily and just couldn’t get anything going. We kept the game close, but they pulled away in the closing minutes. The guys felt good about their effort in the tournament and so did their coach. After the game we had our annual trip to Bacci’s Pizza for Chicago’s biggest pizza slice. We talked about competing in Breakthrough’s spring league. The Warriors will be back. Please keep praying with me that the guys on the team that don’t know Christ would come to know Him.