I am so excited, as I have recently learned that I will have the opportunity to take part in a mission trip, in which we are partnering with Bridge for Hope International. Myself along with four others will be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa on November 5th to take part in the work being done there.

Mission trips in general, are always good but I am really excited about the opportunity that this one presents, as it offers, in addition to evangelical opportunities, the chance for me to utilize my computer skills to teach local students on how to use various software and other tools on their computers. And to know this is part of Bridge for Hope’s larger mission in “We exist to equip African individuals to be the catalyst of change in their society and to build sustainable communities together.” is very exciting.

I love the approach that Bridge for Hope is trying to implement and follow through with in the Cape Town community. Too many times I feel that we fall short with our “mission trips” by not providing the means or equipping those who live there to sustain long after the trip has ended. And for me, to know that I get to play a part in helping individuals to have the potential to better their quality of life is both humbling and exciting.

I have been in constant prayer about the upcoming trip – to be open to letting God use me and our team in whatever capacity is needed while we are there and beyond! Praying for those that we will be privileged, to not only meet, but work with and share a little of our life together. Praying for our team to have strength, wisdom, and patience for the spiritual battles that are sure to come as we make this journey. Praying for others who might read this or hear about our trip, to join in praying for us, as well as the folks who have committed to live in South Africa and work as part of Bridge for Hope International team.

Obviously, with any trip of this magnitude, there is a cost to get there and for each of us on the team the cost will be $2,400.00. I originally was compelled to say no to this opportunity because of the cost but I knew and know that I am called to make this journey. As I was working through whether or not to take this trip, I was convicted that even though every part of me knew this was something I was being called to do – that my initial response, concern was about the cost and not the mission.

Obedience is a funny thing. I am ok with obedience as long as it is convenient for me and doesn’t require me to put my faith to the test… So through prayer and council, I decided to have faith and take the journey. All I can say at this point is that ever since I committed to following God’s lead and saying yes to the trip, I have been overwhelmed with peace.

So today, October 10, I now find myself like a young child at Christmas who continually wakes up during the night just hoping that the time has come to see what’s under the tree. I now anxiously await November 5th so I (we) can begin our journey!

My plan is to post something here everyday until my return from South Africa so be looking for the updates if you are interested in sharing this journey. And I do hope that you will join in praying for us and Bridge for Hope.

Additionally, if you would like to help financially, you can mail your checks to Sugar Hill Church, 5091 Nelson Brogdon Blvd., Sugar Hill, GA 30518. Please make checks payable to Sugar Hill Church. If you wish to receive a tax credit, the memo line on check must be left blank. You can drop a note in the envelope designating who the funds are intended to support.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

South Africa Mission 11-4-12

I am so excited, as I have recently learned that I will have the opportunity to take part in a mission trip, in which we are partnering with Bridge for Hope International. Myself along with four others will be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa on November 5th to take part in the work being done there.

Mission trips in general, are always good but I am really excited about the opportunity that this one presents, as it offers, in addition to evangelical opportunities, the chance for me to utilize my computer skills to teach local students on how to use various software and other tools on their computers. And to know this is part of Bridge for Hope’s larger mission in “We exist to equip African individuals to be the catalyst of change in their society and to build sustainable communities together.” is very exciting.

I love the approach that Bridge for Hope is trying to implement and follow through with in the Cape Town community. Too many times I feel that we fall short with our “mission trips” by not providing the means or equipping those who live there to sustain long after the trip has ended. And for me, to know that I get to play a part in helping individuals to have the potential to better their quality of life is both humbling and exciting.

I have been in constant prayer about the upcoming trip – to be open to letting God use me and our team in whatever capacity is needed while we are there and beyond! Praying for those that we will be privileged, to not only meet, but work with and share a little of our life together. Praying for our team to have strength, wisdom, and patience for the spiritual battles that are sure to come as we make this journey. Praying for others who might read this or hear about our trip, to join in praying for us, as well as the folks who have committed to live in South Africa and work as part of Bridge for Hope International team.

Obviously, with any trip of this magnitude, there is a cost to get there and for each of us on the team the cost will be $2,400.00. I originally was compelled to say no to this opportunity because of the cost but I knew and know that I am called to make this journey. As I was working through whether or not to take this trip, I was convicted that even though every part of me knew this was something I was being called to do – that my initial response, concern was about the cost and not the mission.

Obedience is a funny thing. I am ok with obedience as long as it is convenient for me and doesn’t require me to put my faith to the test… So through prayer and council, I decided to have faith and take the journey. All I can say at this point is that ever since I committed to following God’s lead and saying yes to the trip, I have been overwhelmed with peace.

So today, October 10, I now find myself like a young child at Christmas who continually wakes up during the night just hoping that the time has come to see what’s under the tree. I now anxiously await November 5th so I (we) can begin our journey!

My plan is to post something here everyday until my return from South Africa so be looking for the updates if you are interested in sharing this journey. And I do hope that you will join in praying for us and Bridge for Hope.

Additionally, if you would like to help financially, you can mail your checks to Sugar Hill Church, 5091 Nelson Brogdon Blvd., Sugar Hill, GA 30518. Please make checks payable to Sugar Hill Church. If you wish to receive a tax credit, the memo line on check must be left blank. You can drop a note in the envelope designating who the funds are intended to support.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

2 Weeks and Counting

Wow, 2 weeks from today, I will be leaving for 10 days for what, is for me, the longest trip I have ever taken and what I am expecting to be, the most exciting. In preparation for the trip, I have been reading everything I can on Cape Town and the people that make up it’s population and in particular, the area we will be working, which is, The Cape Flats.

Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city and the second largest city, behind only Johannesburg in terms of population at nearly 4 million people. The Cape Flats make up the majority of the total population of Cape Town. Apartheid (racial segregation)was instituted in 1948 and shortly led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. As a result, formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. In 1965, one entire area of 60,000 homes was destroyed and most of it’s people moved to the area now known as the Cape Flats.

Due to Apartheid, South Africa was sent reeling into economic depression and racial dissension. Only in the last 10 to 15 years as the Cape Town area began it’s ascension back and unfortunately, it will take decades for this region to recover. But there is hope as tourism as helped the Country to start rebuilding it’s economy. Poverty, poor healthcare and education remain the most overwhelming obstacles to overcome for this region.

Bridge4Hope is working to help in all of these areas as their Mission is: We exist to equip African individuals to be the catalyst of change in their society and to build sustainable communities together. We aim to bring transformative solutions to poverty, suffering, and injustice through holistic community development by the means of education, healthcare, small business development, and church planting. We seek to change the world, one community at a time.

One of their courses – EPIC – recently kicked off a new session with 12 new students. You can read up on this here: http://b4hope.wordpress.com/category/epic-leadership-discipleship-school/ . When we are there in 2 weeks, we will have the opportunity to work with these young folks one on one and in group sessions. It’s very humbling to think that God would allow me the opportunity to travel half-way across the world and take part in helping young people there grow in their relationship with Christ!

My prayer today is this: that over the next 2 weeks, I would be diligent in studying God’s word and preparing myself in such a way, that I may be used by Him in whatever way required during my time in Cape Town!!

I anxiously await to meet the people of Cape Town and submerge myself into their culture and prayerfully hope that through Christ, our team, is able to assist these young people in strengthening their relationship with Christ, their families, and their community.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

I am asking you to go.

Hard to describe the mood I am in today. Realizing that I now have a little over a week to be fully prepared is starting to sink in a little. Our team is actually meeting tonight to go over our agenda, game plan for our time in Cape Town. I think after tonight I will be able to relax a little knowing that we have a game plan – see, it’s always better for me once I have a plan because then I can just starting working the plan, my checklist.

Our men’s Bible Study this morning was really good. We are methodically working our way through the book of Romans and today we were in chapter 4 – Abraham justified by faith. For me, it was a good reminder that above everything, I need to hold to my faith; faith that God loves me and only wants what is best for me – according to His purpose. Abraham demonstrated great faith in believing in the promises that God laid before him.

This was demonstrated by Abraham when God instructed him to offer his son as a sacrifice to God. I would like to think that I would have that kind of faith… but honestly, I mean, ok, let me get this straight God, I am to take my son whom you promised me and now return him to you? How does this exactly fulfill the other promise of making me the father of many nations? Those would be the questions I would have but for Abraham it was a simple matter of obedience – he knew God’s will and chose to follow.

That’s a serious faith!! To willingly choose to follow God’s will when it doesn’t make sense and comes at great price or at least an inconvenience to us, takes discipline and a desire to truly want to please God. I’m not there yet but I am working on it.

This trip represents for me another step in my faith walk with Christ. I can give so many reasons why this trip doesn’t make sense for me to go. But as I go through the reasons why I think I shouldn’t go, I hear the Spirit telling me but I am asking you to go. But what about….I am asking you to go. I understand but what about….I am asking you to go. But Lord, what if…… I am asking you to go.

So…..I will go!

Peace and thanks for reading!

Too Much to Do

So this time next week, we will be deboarding our plane about to begin our journey. I am feeling overwhelmed at the moment. Everything seems amplified at the moment: family life is hectic, work is hectic and I now have 4 days left to get ready for my trip to South Africa. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of everything and forget to keep first things first!

It’s amazing how easy I tend to let life overwhelm me instead of just taking a deep breath and relaxing a little bit. Being a type A personality doesn’t help in this regard as my natural tendency is to have everything planned out and accounted for – knowing exactly how things are going to unfold, including any potential problems and if the problems do come up, knowing exactly how to handle them. And typically I find that the things that usually send me into a tailspin are things that when I really look at the importance of them – aren’t really that important.

Funny huh? Not really, at least while your in the midst of sorting through everything. So today, as I was sensing that feeling of impending doom coming over me, I was able to pause, take a breath and seek solace in God’s word. For me, I find solace as I listen to various praise and worship songs.

Anytime I hear MercyMe singing  – I can only imagine, I have to stop, if only for a minute and let the words wash over me – “surrounded by glory, what will my heart feel, will I dance for you Jesus, or in awe of you be still. Will I stand in your presence, to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah or will I be able to speak at all? Or maybe Kari Jobe singing “Revelation Song” as she sings – “Worthy is the lamb who was slain, holy, holy, holy is He! Sing a new song, to Him who sits on heaven’s mercy seat! Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!! With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings, you are my everything and I will adore you!!”

Or another MercyMe song – Word of God Speak – the opening lyrics serve as a reminder for me, to what – first things first ought to be. “I’m finding myself, at a loss for words, And the funny thing is, it’s okay. The last thing I need is to be heard but to hear what you would say. Word of God speak, would you pour down like rain, washing my eyes to see Your majesty. To be still and know that You’re in this place. Please let me stay and rest in Your Holiness.”

Another one that helps me keep things in perspective is Chris Tomlin’s – Jesus Messiah!! All of these songs serve as a reminder of Christ’s love for me and in Him, I can find peace, joy, and hope!  Other songs remind me of what it is, that above everything else, I am called to do – Lifesong by Casting Crowns is just one of these. Still others remind me of what God has already brought me through – one such song is Decemberadio’s – Find You Waiting!

These are just some of the songs that bring comfort to me when I find myself in need of refreshing my spirit. Ultimately, the Bible is the place to find solace but sometimes you are just not able to take time to read – that’s when I am so thankful to have these songs to get me through until I can read His Word again.

Would love to hear what songs you all like to listen to or what things help to bring solace back to your world.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

Getting Excited

so, 4 days and counting! To say I am getting excited about the upcoming trip to South Africa is an understatement to say the least. Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jimmie Warren as we began discussing what topics we wanted to cover next week during our time to teach at the Bridge 4 Hope center. They offer various programs for their students and one of these is called EPIC.  Their current group of students going through this will actually graduate on the Monday right before we leave to come back home. It will be such a great honor to see their ceremony and then to be able to watch how God uses them in the years to come.

Our team, which I am so grateful to be a part of,  will have the opportunity to take part in teaching these students over a two day period next Thursday and Friday at the Bridge4Hope campus. On Thursday, we are going to cover evangelism, studying techniques, leadership and other topics as well as giving our personal testimonies. And then on Friday, we will split the students up as Jimmie and I will teach the young men on being Godly men of Christ while Faith and Mandy will teach the young ladies about prayer and faith.

Jimmie and I are going use an outline developed from a recent study that we both had the opportunity to teach at our Sugar Hill Church called Kingdom Man that Dr. Tony Evans put together. Not sure if we can cover everything as the study is so rich with scripture, stories and practical application but I pray that however much we are able to give them, would be something that are to build on for a lifetime!! I am just amazed and humbled that God would allow us the opportunity to travel half way around the world and teach young people for two days as they near completing their program!

Jimmie will also have the privilege of preaching on Sunday the 11th while were there. I am excited for him and can’t wait to be part of that service with what I am sure will be a host new life-long friends! And really, as I think about it, it is really cool that we will get the chance to meet a lot of our brothers and sisters in Christ as a result of this trip! I think it’s easy to forget that for those of us who are Christ followers, that we have this huge family of brothers and sisters in our neighborhood, community, state, country and around the world. Would the world be a different place if we, believers, would treat each other like family? I’d like to think so! Anyway, sorry about that as I have strayed off topic.

While I’m thinking about it, thanks to all you for your prayers for me and our team as we prepare to leave and hope you will continue to pray for us when we are there. I would also like to publicly thank those who have given financial support to help make this trip possible.

I’m reminded of a couple of verses from 1 Peter 4:7-11  – The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

Peace and thanks for reading!!

 

A City, A People, A Love of Both

Cape Town, South Africa has captured my heart!! I pray to return often. It’s beauty is unlike anything I have ever seen. With it’s oceans, Atlantic to the west and Indian to the south, you find some of the most astounding shades of blue seen anywhere. The ocean has always reminded me of God’s power and as the waves crash endlessly against the shore line, I draw the comparison of that to God’s unending grace and mercy for us.

In addition to that, there is what seems to be one continuous mountain range that circles the entire area. And in doing so, provides a 360 degree, panoramic back drop for any direction one find themselves looking in. Mountains remind me of God’s majesty, His ownership of all things. Table mountain is just an incredible example of God’s creation as it sits towering high above the city. It gets it’s name because at the top, it is as flat as a table. During the day the clouds will take place their place along the top creating a covering for the mountain and this somehow makes Table mountain appear even more formidable.

These two ingredients create what to me, has to be one of the most beautiful cities in all the world!! As I would sit and gaze out from the balcony of the small cafe – Empire, with the sun already taken it’s place in the eastern sky, I was reminded daily of God’s glory. To be both amazed and humbled at the same time is a rare thing for me but that’s the best way I can describe the sheer beauty of Cape Town.

The incredible thing about South Africa and all it’s beauty is that it doesn’t even come close to beauty found within it’s people – at least, those I met!! Within the various townships that make up Cape Town you will find an estimated population of 5 to 10 million people living in shocking poverty. On average, these people make about 6 dollars a week. I spend about that much every time I have a Venti size drink from Starbucks.

In spite of this, I had the great fortune to meet a collection of young people, who despite their circumstance, exemplify God’s grace, love, hope, joy, humility and peace!! Their lives reflect a beauty so rarely seen in a world that today seems so selfish, petty, dark and bitter.

I will share more about my experiences in the posts to come and hopefully, somehow convey enough in my words that will allow you, like me, to fall in love with both a city and it’s people!!

Peace and thanks for reading!

Peaceful, Easy Feeling – 11/5

The following was written on the plane ride home from Paris to Atlanta.

Monday was a hard day with trying to get last minute details worked out for my time away while anxiously awaiting 3 pm to arrive so we could leave for the airport. I spent a lot of the morning listening to MercyMe and Kari Jobe worship songs. Kari’s Revelation song is one of those songs that gets to me no matter how often I hear it.

I was thinking about what lay ahead and was most excited about getting the opportunity to work with young people between the ages of 18 to 28, in their environment. I was also excited about seeing South Africa for the first time as I have always heard how beautiful it was. I have always enjoyed traveling, seeing new things and meeting new people. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures – meeting new people but one I think too many people take for granted.

I was more than a little anxious about this trip even though I have traveled out of the country on several occasions before. I have never shared this publicly before but I seem to suffer from a condition from which I am not sure what it’s called or even if there is a name for it but I call it US Separation anxiety. The symptoms are thus: as soon as I step foot on the ground in another country I begin to suffer something like an anxiety attack. Nothing full blown or anything but just an overwhelming, uneasy feeling that resides within me until I am able to once again put my feet on US soil.

So now, I was about to go half way around the world for 9 days – all the while wondering if I was going to make it without freaking out. And not be able to focus on the work at hand. The flight over was uneventful outside of the turbulence we experienced the first couple of hours. I didn’t experience any weird feelings and was able to get some much needed rest.

As we approached Cape Town, I could feel the uneasyness beginning to creep into my thoughts. Instead of trying to calm myself down, I simply began praying that God would affirm the trip in my spirit and remove the uncomfortable feeling I was having. In that same instance, I felt God’s peace envelope my spirit and it is with me now has I write this some 9 days later and 5 hours from landing back in Atlanta.

I know some of you have felt God’s calling/prompting to take a mission trip and for whatever reason, you haven’t quite made it yet. I hope this will be an encouragement to you and just know that God is greater than any perceived or real problem/issue you may face!!

Peace and thanks for reading!!

Setting the Scene – 11/7

Arriving at night time in Cape Town really helped to not get keyed up for the week ahead. Being dark and all, it was hard to see anything versus arriving in the day time and having the opportunity to see all the sights, watching people living life. I think it would have kicked the adrenaline in overdrive with anticipation, wanting to get started right away. Maybe it’s just me but by us arriving at night it helped me to stay calm and actually get a little sleep that first night.

I am not a morning person and for me to be up and about before 7 is a very rare thing. I woke at a little after 6 and was thankful that I did not feel the least bit tired or dragging as I typically do most morning. Jimmie had gotten up even earlier than me and had decided to venture out to see what the breakfast scene was like around our location. I decided to make some coffee and study God’s word in preparation for my short teaching time on Thursday with the EPIC students.

Arriving at the lodge the night before we had no way of knowing that the Indian Ocean laid just a couple of good 3 woods away from our front door. I love the water, always have and so being able to look out my window and see the ocean first thing in the morning was a sweet song to my soul each morning and a great way to start every day! The seaside community we were staying in is called Muizenberg and is a surfer’s paradise. There would always be dozens of surfers in the water by 6 am or so getting an early jump on the waves. Truly was an incredible way to start each morning.

Terry Hilliard and his son, Jeremy, arrived at our place around 9 am to give us a complete rundown of their ministry, Bridge 4 Hope, a brief history lesson on South Africa as well as setting expectations and the agenda for the week. We were able to get a better understanding of what Apartheid had done to the South African nation and the devastation it brought on most of it’s population. It’s been 20 years since it ended but the effects are still very much evident as you drive around Cape Town and see the disparity between the haves and have not’s. I will cover that in more detail in a future post. For now, I will just say it’s a travesty of the human spirit and I was once again shocked at how cruel we can be to one another.

We then went for a short walking tour around Muizenberg. It was once a thriving Jewish community but now only remnants remain. The buildings and atmosphere definitely have an European feel to them. As I said, this is a surfer’s paradise, so there are a handful of different surf shops located within the main area or boardwalk as it were of Muizenberg. Several fine clothes shops and specialty stores are sprinkled in as well, creating a quaint little area for the tourist to check out. For me, the coolest part about this area was all the different waterfront cafe’s and such. My favorite of these was a place called Empire Cafe. Although it was small, it featured a balcony area that had big windows that opened up to a spectacular view of the beach and Indian Ocean! And just to add a little flare, there was a train track about halfway between the cafe and the beach.

When we had finished the walking tour we made our way back to the lodge so that we could pack up and head out to Beautiful Gate in Philipi. Beautiful Gate is an orphanage that partners with Bridge 4 Hope by allowing them to rent space at their location. As we loaded up the van for the ride out, I was thankful that God had allowed me the opportunity to come to Cape Town and was getting excited to see what was in store for the remainder of our time in this most beautiful of settings.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

A Most Beautiful Drive – 11/7

Wednesday morning and we find ourselves driving along Beach Rd., which is literally a hundred yards or so from the Indian Ocean. It’s mile after mile of beach, sand dunes, clear blue water with 3 to 5 foot waves crashing every 3 to 4 seconds. I am not even going to try and describe how incredible the beauty of this was but to say – how anybody could ever drive this stretch of road and not think of our Creator is beyond me.

Being honest here but as we were driving along, the reason for us being here was slipping from my mind. Terry then asked if we wanted to go up on one of the sand dunes and get a look at the different townships that made up this area of Cape Town. So as we climb up the sand dune facing the ocean, we (I) was unaware of what lay behind us. Following the end of this paragraph is a short clip from Terry Hilliard explaining the vision, purpose of their ministry as we look out on the communities they are trying to reach. But understand as you view this that the video doesn’t really show how densely populated this area truly is. It is roughly an area that is probably 45 miles by 30 to 40 miles.

I think Terry mentions that the area on the video represents an estimated 6 to 8 million people. I was convicted on the spot of how shallow a  Christ follower I can be!! It is much easier for me to turn 180 degrees and look out over God’s wonderful creation of the ocean, it’s waves and the sand dunes – sing the words of a worship song and feel like I am in touch with God. The hard part was turning and facing God’s wonderful creation of people and know that until that very moment I had never truly looked at God’s creation of people as I had His creation of the earth.

I pray that I never lose touch with the emotions I felt in that instant. Yes, I have cared about people and have for the most part, always done what I could to help anyone but for the first time, I felt I was seeing the beauty of people through God’s eyes – worshiping the Creator who created them and knowing that He was calling me to serve His creation. People.

In the next post I will introduce you to the wonderful people that make up Bridge4Hope, both students and staff!!

Peace and thanks for reading.

Meeting New Friends – 11/7/12

Three weeks ago I got my first opportunity to meet some incredible people and begin what I am sure will be lifelong friendships with all of them.

As we made our way into the township of Philipi, Terry wanted to give us the opportunity to taste some of the local cuisine. We stopped and had lunch at a place called Mzoli’s butchery. It is a meat lover’s paradise where you can choose anything from chicken, lamb, strips of beef and all kinds of sausages. When you walk into Mzoli’s, there is a front counter area where you select the meat you want to eat. They put your choices on a big platter, you pay for the meat and then take your platter to the back area where there is one of the biggest grills I have ever seen. It looks like something you would see at any SEC tailgaiting venue on Saturday afternoons. They use some kind of secret marinate for all their meat. What’s in the sauce? I have no idea but I will tell you, it is the best barbecue I have ever had – period.

After lunch, we finally made our way to Beautiful Gate. Beautiful Gate is a ministry that looks after the care and well-being of vulnerable children in the Lower Cross Roads area of Cape Town. Beautiful Gate has allowed Bridge 4 Hope to utilize some of their buildings in order for them to perform their ministry – which focuses on kids 18 to 28. You can learn more about both by clicking here – Beautiful Gate or Bridge4Hope.

The first person I was introduced to was Zimkhitha Mlata (Zimmie). This girl has one of the biggest and most infectious smiles I have ever seen. Have you ever met someone that instantly fills you with joy? Zimmie is like that, with her smile and unassuming nature, she simply exudes joy as she speaks and tells her story. Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to hear her complete story she was able to share enough to know that she has had to overcome a lot to get to where she is today.

We also had the opportunity to meet Thembelani, a young man, who like Zimmie has had to overcome a lot in his short life. There is no bitterness within him and although he hasn’t forgot about his past, his focus is on what lies ahead. His heart is to help make a difference in as many lives as he can going forward. To share with others, that there is hope and there is no obstacle that can’t be overcome.

Finally, we met Abongile, Bomikazi and Cheri as they played host and served us tea and biscuits. Again, 3 incredible young ladies, each with a humble spirit, bright smile and great stories to tell. I will share more about Abongile and Bomikazi in a later post but for now, I will just say – about all of these folks, is that it was so refreshing to see young people with such a hunger to learn and know Christ more intimately with each passing day. And then want to turn and share what they have learned with others!

As we pulled out of Beautiful Gate, I was so thankful that God had allowed me to come to South Africa. On this first day, I had the opportunity to see the beauty of God’s creation as I looked upon the ocean and mountains while being reminded to see the beauty in God’s greatest creation – His people. I had been given the incredible opportunity to meet some of these wonderful people and instantly form a lasting bond with each of them. And although they understood that the people from America were coming to share with and teach them – I knew and understood in that moment, that it was me (us), that would be the ones that would learn far more from them!!

Last thought – How much richer would my life be if I would simply take the time and be intentional about getting to know new people? I pray that God would open doors and that I would be bold and courageous enough to step out and do just that in the months ahead.

Peace and thanks for reading

Friendships – 11/8/12

Before I get into the next chapter of my trip, here is a short, challenging post for your consideration.

I can’t really start or get into what happened Thursday and Friday without first mentioning Wednesday night. The plan was to come back to the lodge, study a bit and get to bed by midnight at least – see, that would be early for me as most nights I am usually up till 12:30 to 2:00 o’clock in the morning and up by 6 or 7. Well, that was obviously not what God had planned for me and apparently, Jimmie was not due any sleep either, as the two of us ended up talking till about 5:30 in the morning. Jimmie was able to get a couple of hours of sleep. I tried to sleep but woke at 6:15 to start the new day.

I won’t share what all we talked about but it’s amazing how much ground you can cover in a 5 to 6 hour conversation. I didn’t realize it then as we talked through the night but a lot of the things revealed to me over the next 2 days were actually discussed that night. Jimmie and I have known each other for about 5 years now but for me, I would say, that I really didn’t know Jimmie until that night. As were able to share stories about growing up, what our parents were like, and describe what our respective environments were like, we were able to gain a better understanding of the person sitting across from us.

Again, as we talked through the night I realized how often it was that I rarely took the time to really get to know someone on more than a superficial level. Obviously, it is not possible to develop and establish deep roots with everyone we meet but for those relationships, in which, we consider them friendships; I would challenge you to take a honest look at those and ask yourself, just how deep are those friendships, really?

Peace and thanks for reading!!

A True Worship Experience – 11/8

OK – so where were we? Sorry for the delay between posts but I promise to finish out this series this week.

After sleeping just an hour I was expecting to be in for a long day but as Jimmie and I made our way over to Empire Cafe, I was feeling really good and wide awake. I mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating – Empire Cafe is one of the bests cafe’s I have ever been in and it provided the perfect start to our mornings in Cape Town. As we ordered our drinks, we revisited our discussion from the night before and discussed our anticipation of what they day would bring.

For me, I had an expectation that this trip was going to be a special time for me – in what capacity, I had no clue but I was geeked up for this trip for well over a month. So, as I was drinking my 2nd cup of coffee americano, I found myself praying that I would just be open to experience the day with no preconceptions but simply enjoy the moment and allow it to be whatever it was to be. The plan was for us to leave our place by 8:30 so we could be at Beautiful Gate by 9:00am. That was the plan anyway..

We were unable to take the short route do to a road closing and what should have taken 20 minutes or so, ended up taking almost an hour for us to arrive. Typically, being 5 minutes late to anywhere really drives me nuts and here we were, almost 30 minutes late but everything was cool. Just excited to get the day rolling. As we made our way through the complex, we were just talking about this and that as we entered the building where we would be meeting with the Epic students. There is no way to describe what we heard as we begun ascending the stairs to the classroom, except it  sounded heavenly.

The students start their mornings with  a time of worship, to give thanks and honor God with song, prayer and yes, a little dancing. As we approached, the building was filled with music – soulful, straight to the heart type of music and as I entered the room and looked around, I was amazed to find that there were no instruments. The beautiful singing by these young people was so incredible, that really, it sounded like music but no, it was just their voices creating this wonderful experience.

What really got me, as we took part in this experience is how freely they expressed their worship. Outside of the three or four folks we had met the day before, we had not yet met any of the other students. It was so refreshing to see a group of people fully engaged and enjoying a truly marvelous time of worship. No one was concerned with what anyone else was doing, they were giving themselves over to the moment; this moment, this opportunity to offer their praise and worship back to their creator, their savior. This was the first of what would be two days of life changing events that took place within me.

Joy – it’s definition – the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. This time in worship was nothing short of pure joy as all of us gave ourselves over to the moment – giving thanks, through prayer, singing and dancing. I had to ask myself in that moment, how often had I cheated myself out of this feeling before, because I was more concerned about what others might think, instead of focusing on worshiping my creator, my savior?

I will cover more about Wednesday in the next post but I will end with this – as soon as we got back to the lodge where were staying, I went and grabbed my Ipod shuffle, put on my headphones and pulled up my worship playlist and Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” was the first song I heard. You can listen to it here. May I never again allow my worship to be influenced by what’s around me!!

Peace and thanks for reading!!

People are just people – 11/8/12

As we got into the teaching time with the students, you could sense their excitement in having new people come to share with them. As I looked around the room, all of them had their bibles out and were on the front edge of their seats and all eyes looking forward. Initially I was nervous as I opened up our study time but that quickly vanished as we read some scripture and I begin speaking about what we had just read. It was such a pleasure to be up in front of these guys as you could just tell they were trying to soak up every word and being very attentive. With this group it was very easy to stand and speak about the things of God.

After my piece, I turned it over to Jimmie and he led the rest of our study time and truly did a phenomenal job in the short time he had to extol his wisdom. Faith Bradbury joined Jimmie for a short segment and talked to the kids about different ways to share the story of Jesus. As she was leading this time, you could see the kids really come to life as this is what is near and dear to all of them. Unlike most Christians that I know here in the states and including myself, we don’t always seem to have the same drive, desire to tell others about the good news of Christ.

When you talk to these kids, there is a common thread intertwined within each of them. Although each have experienced turbulent childhoods they choose not to dwell there. When you talk to them individually, you can see that most of them come from a very dark time in their past – it’s in their eyes, their voice and you can just feel it but then, like a switch, as they begin talking about God, Jesus and Bridge 4 Hope, you see all the darkness, the pain just fade away and you realize there is an entirely different person standing in front of you.

This is what they haven’t forgotten – that when all seemed hopeless or that no one seemed to care, they were able to find hope and know that someone did love and care about them through Jesus Christ. And they understand, that there are countless others within their family, community, Cape Town, and across the world that feel the same way they did, so they take every opportunity that comes to tell others about Christ. They live Matthew 28:18-20 as they go about their daily routine of life.

After lunch, we all gathered back in the classroom to get our assignments from Asanda before heading out into the community to talk, listen, pray and tell others about Jesus. The excitement expressed by everyone was palpable as their was an expectation that good things were about to happen. My partners were two of the most incredible young ladies I have ever met – Abongile and Bomikazi. I was about to learn a lesson in what trust, courage and boldness really looks like and see, for the first time in a long time, how God can change lives if we would just be willing to live Matthew 28:18-20.

Going door to door is so far out of my comfort zone and is something I have rarely taken part in when given the chance in the past. As we walked to the community I was reminded of my prayer, that I would be open to follow and commit to whatever God wanted me to do, so here it is, something I wouldn’t choose to do but hey, were here, so let’s do this. As we approached the first house, I realized that I wasn’t really nervous, I was curious to see what would unfold. AB and Bom showed no nervousness, fear or even apprehension as they stuck their head in the first door and asked if it was ok to come in.

As I watched Bom engage the young lady in conversation, I was struck by the confidence she had and then noticed that AB was right behind her looking just as confident and ready to speak if need be. No tracks, no phamplets, just two people wanting to share a conversation with the folks they had just met. Although they were speaking in a language unfamiliar to me, I was amazed at how much of the conversation I was able to follow. As the conversation was winding down, AB asked a simple question – “do you know about Jesus?”. And although they said they did, they didn’t want to talk about it so Bom asked if it would be ok if we prayed for them and if there was anything specific we could pray for on their behalf.

I watched in amazement as house after house, these two ladies would engage the people in conversation and as they talked with them, I was able to watch their faces and noticed how intently focused they were on the task at hand. Nothing else mattered except what was before them and the desire they had to help people make a connection to Jesus.

Making our way from house to house, God was impressing on me on just how beautiful His creation of people truly is. 4 weeks later and I can still recall each and everyone that I met that afternoon. Seeing people through God’s eyes means that you see them through LOVE! And as I met these wonderful people, I saw beauty in each of them and my sole desire for each of them was that they would be open to hear about Christ and to know that He truly is somebody that loves and cares about them.

For AB and Bom, they had no idea of the impact they made on my life that day. They reminded me that day that I have no excuses for not sharing my story of what Christ has done in my life. To see how boldly, and courageously these young women were at their sharing their faith, renewed a sense of urgency within me and empowered me to know that God is faithful and that His word never returns void.

Not sure if I have 1 or 2 more posts left about our trip to South Africa but will definitely wrap up by week’s end.