Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Village

I spent last week in a very rural village about 2 hours from where i've been living. It was an excellent time! I really got to experience the traditional Zulu culture in it's entirety. Well, probably not everything. Here are a few of my experiences in a very summarized manner:

lived in a mud house
slept on the ground
ate traditional food
attended a traditional funeral
experienced traditional life in Zulu land
learned much about the culture
ate more food
preached to a church
discipled believers
shared the Gospel of Jesus to non-believers
took many, many pictures
learned more of the Zulu language
ate still more food
hiked on the hills and in the valleys
observed how a Zulu fishes
rock-hopped across a river
walked across a legit swinging bridge that people use daily
took more pictures
groaned with the discomfort from eating too much
played soccer barefoot
encountered and battled ancestor worship first hand
spoke boldly against it
prayer walked
prayed over people who were oppressed by demons
and ate more food.

There is much more, but i cannot remember it all. I was quite blessed to have that week. God knew i really needed to get away from civilization for a bit, and He took care of me. It was nice also as I have been reading so much over the past two months, and last week was the time where i was to speak the things i had learned. That was nice.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the week was simply the fact that Josh and i lived with blacks. Since South Africa is still so segregated, it was a huge deal that two white guys would actually want to go and live with the black people. They were so honored to have us there and they felt very blessed. i felt equally blessed to be a part of tearing down the ridiculous dividing walls of racism and segregation. The Zulu are beautiful people and i really enjoyed living with them in their traditional environment. Yes, i actually miss that small village a lot. It was very hard to leave that beautiful place with such hospitable people. I do hope God allows me the opportunity to set my eyes on that village again, with its rolling hills and steep valleys! I did take many pictures, and i hope to get a couple up soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

. . . do you still wish you asked?

Many of you have asked what God has been teaching me since i have been here. i appreciate your desire to be a part of my life in such a way. Unfortunately i am not able to answer you in detail for 2 reasons. First, i have very limited time on the internet. Second, i do not believe that the internet servers have the capability of handling the entirety of the things the God is teaching me were i to put them on the internet. That said i would like to share one quick thing... and preach a bit of a sermon.

In 1 Thes. 4 i found something very interesting. Paul is writing to the gathering of believers in Jesus in Thessalonica. In chapter 4 he instructs them in how to live holy lives so that God will be glorified. The only instruction that he gave them in this is that they should completely avoid sexual immorality and lust. That's it. There is no more instruction besides this. Of all the things that Paul could have instructed them in, he chose that one. Why? Why does he see that as the most important or critical thing? Maybe it is that important to God!

If you find yourself in sexual sin (and you can find a definition of this in the Bible) while at the same time claim to be a follower of Jesus, maybe you should rethink something... or everything. Maybe God is really serious about keeping your body clean. If you have received salvation through Jesus Christ, then your body is the place where God resides. If you involve your body in a sexual or lustful act, they you are inevitably involving God your Creator in that very act. Not only does He see it, but you actually involve Him in that act. If you find this offensive, you may want to consider 1 Cor. 6:15-20. If you find yourself offended, then you are offended by the Word of God. If you feel convicted, you are convicted by the Spirit of God who lives in you.

Please, whore God out no longer. Please, rape God no more!

God did not save us so that we may continue to sin. He saved us so that we would no longer do the things that kill us and displease Him. I hope this post finds you clear of any unrepentant sexual offense before God... because He is that serious about it, as you too should be.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hell has Frozen; Pigs have Flown; Snow is on the Dark Continent

When i packed for this trip to South Africa, i packed for equator-like temperatures. Apparently i knew nothing about Africa, but i have learned very quickly. Two days ago i learned that snow falls on this continent. Well, i knew that Mt. Kilimanjaro gets snowfall, but apparently once a decade it snows in South Africa as well. Yes it freaking snowed in Africa. God blessed me in allowing me to see snow in Africa!!!

Saturday morning it was in the upper 30's (degrees F) and i noticed white blobs falling with the rain. The snow lasted about 5 minutes and was barely visible to the eye. As the day wore on the temperature only got colder and the rain continued making for a very dismal day! About four in the afternoon it began to snow, and it was no wimpy snow! Snow flakes the size of golf balls fell for about 20 - 30 minutes. None of it stuck to the ground where i live (which is at a high altitude), but about 300 or 400 feet above on the mountain behind our house there seemed to be about 2 inches. I later went up the road about a mile where i could see the Drakensburg mountain range. It was glorious! I haven't seen anything that jagged and snow-covered since my days in Colorado Springs. It was beautiful and restoring to the eyes and soul!!

Well, there's not much more to say, except that two days later it is about 75 degrees F and sunny. The snow has melted now, but i did get some pictures.

Monday, September 1, 2008

fierce blazes and dances of celebration

well, things are quite lively here. a few days ago we had the opportunity to go to a traditional Zulu engagement ceremony. it was phenomenal! there was all sorts of dancing, chanting and gift bringing. the ceremony lasted from around noon until late in the evening, though we left at 4. i took a lot of pictures and videos that i hope to post sometime when i figure out how to do it and remember my camera.
the ceremony took place deep in the village and we were the only white people there. this is quite revolutionary here in South Africa since there is still so much racial segregation in the rural areas. it was actually a great honor for the bride's family to have some white people in attendance. they were all eager to talk to us despite the language barrier... which made for some fun interactions.

something else that has been very interesting and has brought a lot of adventure and excitement to our lives are the forest fires. over the past week i bet i have seen at least 10 fires of the large nature. there have been two that have encroached on the property that we are living on, one of which we had to fight at about 9 pm on friday night. five of us put it out in about a half hour. after this josh and i chased the fire the other way with our cameras. we ran through a field with grass that was as tall as i so that we could get good pictures. i found out later that the field we ran through likely has a few cobras living in it. glad we didn't encounter any on our crazy trek!
apparently august is the windy month here and also one of the driest times too. often the small cooking fires in the villages can get away in the wind or a cigarette butt can land in the wrong place or "controlled" burns become uncontrollable. in any case, they create a lot of smoke and a nice orange glow at night. don't worry, i've been taking pictures of this too!! just last night i actually saw a large fire in town that had caught a big pine tree on fire. it was quite a sight, but i didn't have my camera at the time.

so, i've been fully immersed in the South African culture... and if it continues like this, i may never come back... haha. if i don't die that is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

home for a while

OK, so my chances to get the internet are rare! I have arrived in South Africa and am really enjoying it so far. My supervisors are great and i am getting along real nice with my roommate and working partner Josh. We are learning the Zulu language, which has proved to be very difficult! It is a very tonal language and utilizes oral "clicks." In the Zulu language the C, Q and X are said with a click. On top of that, the O's and E's and other letters are said differently which take some serious practice. Also there are often M's on the beginning of words, but these M's are not followed by a vowel, but a S or a P or something. It takes some work!

Other than the language, i believe i'm adjusting well. I'm learning to pray like my life depended on it... and it might, you never know. I've met some cool people. One of the natives that i work with has invited me to work out with him at night. We go behind his house and lift "weights." These weights are iron bars with concrete-filled paint buckets on the ends. It is so great and a great way to build relationships with the guy i work with and with the security guard. The security guard is also a native who is bashful to use the little english that he knows. You can pray for me as i get to know him. I do not think that he knows the truth of Jesus, and i believe that i will be able to share with him before i leave.

One thing that i have noticed since i have been here is that people are flat out eager to hear the truth concerning Jesus! i have never seen anything like it! people will ask many questions and listen without argument to what is being said. In western culture, people find it offensive to have the gospel "imposed" on them, but here people are often excited to hear something new and radical.

While i have seen some exciting things, i have seen some hard things as well. HIV is digging new graves everyday. Every week i get to hangout with 15-20 HIV positive orphans all under age 7. They are precious little guys and gals! Although these are cared for, there are hundreds more that have not been helped. This is truly heartbreaking! I have already seen huts run by children due to all relatives dying from HIV. What is worse is that the community doesn't surround them and help them, they surround them to rob them and rape them. It makes my blood boil. Pray for these kids and that we can bring them hope, the Hope of Glory.

each week i hang with many kids, which excites me. when i first came i thought i would be helping with a church plant and adult Bible studies, but i have found that i will be working a lot with kids. while this was not my first choice, the all knowing One planned for this and has blessed me with some wisdom and understanding from His Word concerning His righteous judgement in accordance with His grace. God has showed me through His word that the children are the opportunity for change in this community. i know this sounds cliche, but it is so true!! these kids have a very hard road ahead of them with or without the hope of Jesus, but if there is to be a change in the community, and if the HIV pandemic is to be halted, these kids need to be rescued from the lies that the culture is living by. God clearly showed me by His spirit this weekend that this is the message that we need to speak to these children. This is only a quick recap of some very deep stuff, and i hope to write more in depth later on since i believe it is something we all can consider no matter what culture we live in.

i ask that you pray that i will be given an outlet to teach the children this message in it's fullness and that i can do so with boldness and without fear of those in the community who hold to evil very tightly. This seems to me to be the only hope that can be offered to these kids. i hope to share the scripture passages with you later on when i have my Bible handy. i am very excited to see how God uses this, even if it is years after i leave and i never know about it.

The landscape is amazing here!! Tall, rolling hills and deep valleys are all i can see in any direction! You know i enjoy that! Mountains and the beach are both within a 2 hour drive too. Zulu means "heaven" and now i see why they call this the land of heaven. It really is nice here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

starting out

well, i will board a plane on July 31st and begin my 4 and a half month journey.  as of right now, about a week and a half from the day of departure, i still have not gotten my travel visas or my passport back from the travel agent.  if you wonder how you can pray for me, you can start with the passport issue.

as for now, i will not say on this blog where i am going until i find that is OK to share that information.  i hope that i will be able to share pictures and stories at some point, but i will have to wait on all of that.  i can share with you some of what i will be involved with though.  i will be helping educate new believers among the people that i will be living with.  the goal is to grow the new believers and assist them in becoming ministers of the truth themselves, so that they may join in singing the song of restoration to their people.

besides what i mentioned above, you may pray that i can quickly learn the culture, bond with the others i will be working with so that we may work together for the greater good, and that i will not rely on my own knowledge or power for anything but be confident as i walk the the spirit of truth.

sing with me

there are two songs that stand above all other melodies that i have heard sung: the anguished song of the oppressed, and the jubilant song of restoration. i have heard the song of Jesus and could not escape the truth of the love that he offers, and i have heard the cry of the hopeless, the unloved and the oppressed. i have come to understand that there is no solution, no help and no hope for these other than the love and rescue that Jesus sings over them, and over us all. Jesus seeks after those who are hopeless, misguided, confused, beaten, cast aside and unloved.  It is to them that the song of restoration is directed. i will join in singing the song of restoration to those who need to hear it, for it was once sung to me and continues to echo in my ears.