Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Prayer Requests for Zimbabwe

As time draws near to depart for the beautiful land and people of Zimbabwe, I admittedly have felt an increasing sense of uneasiness about a smooth entry into this nation of political turmoil and fear. Any officials under Mugabe will be very suspicious of me being a foreign journalist at this crucial time before the final election runoff where Mugabe will do everything he can to keep shameful information from leaking out to the international community. Because of this I have requested the brother I am visiting me to write an official looking letter of invitation to stay with his family and work with the community. Thank you all for prayers for safety and God’s favor, but even more that I may be a vessel for God’s encouragement to come and bring the people great hope and eternal perspective in the midst of suffering. In addition, please pray for my connection in Bulawayo on the way to Mutare. I have been advised by leadership here not to do any ministry explicitly with the YWAM base there because of the authorities shutting down many NGOs with international connections. Pray for that base to continue on in the same perseverance our Lord exemplified on his journey to the cross for a much greater purpose than His own life.
Our Lord Jesus still has a great call upon the nation and people of Zimbabwe, the former "bread basket of Africa". I look forward to sharing the results of the trip with you when I return to Jo'burg around 4-5 July (Pray also for that return and possible stop at World Vision base at border to check on projects my home church are investing in for the Kingdom)

Picture at bottom: A very recent, yet nearly expired Zimbabwe fifty million dollar bill (the rate is so fickle that I cannot find any way to find out how much that is in USD; not much though) I acquired from a Shona brother here at the base: issued in April 2008 and expiring on June 30, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hiking Beautiful Table Mountain (on one of those rare sunny days)

A view of Lion's Head and the cable car from the top. Not exactly my favorite hike because of the sheer number of tourists and close proximity to Cape Town, but still gorgeous with some of the world's most unique vegetation--known as the Fynbos as a collective, it is the world's smallest (endemic to the Western Cape) and arguably richest of the six floral kingdoms.

Trying to find the way up, but also just enjoying getting out of the classroom

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Visiting Refugees in Cape Town church

Top: Two brothers (not by blood) originally from Malawi and DRC(Congo) displaced from their new lives with dreams for a better future seemingly shattered
Bottom: Thomas, a Burundian who has been in exile since the age of 1 in various African countries, and I discussing in the tent set up by a local church of Cape Town in response to the recent outbreak of violence towards African refugees in South Africa

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Left: Thandeka and yours truly at the YWAM Muizenberg base, going out for my birthday last month
Some YWAMers going to a SIM missions video presentation of "God Grew Tired of Us" about the lives of some of the Sudanese Lost Boys who settled in America and are now seeking to help rebuild their nation; the Sudanese brother to my left, Jason, is attending a local Bible College in Muizenberg and we meet regularly to pray for God's will to be done in Sudan

Trip to Zimbabwe & Prayer Report on Xenophobia

Sawubona abantu bonke (I see all of you OR Hello everybody),

Wow, I can’t believe June is already here. But that is the way life seems to go when you are in the right place and doing what God has called you to in a particular season. I apologize and warn you in advance that this update may be a bit lengthy because I have been writing you for the past two weeks.
I know it may sound cliché, but I am discovering just how much of a privilege I have to study the Word of God freely and intensely in these three months back in South Africa. The three month Biblical Studies Core Course (SBS) began in early April and will finish on June 27th. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it all the way to the end since I already made plans to visit a brother in eastern Zimbabwe on June 20th. So I am now working overtime to try and get all the assigned books done beforehand, including the hefty Deuteronomy (which should be interesting). I have also had the incredible privilege to study the word alongside my girlfriend, a South African Zulu named Thandeka, who I met last year as we both were on staff, her the DTS and myself the Church Planting course. So I have also included a picture of her, and hope to share more with you later about how our visions line up.

I thank God for confirming in my heart and mind that this is a crucial school to be apart of to be able to help introduce to South Sudan, where there is such great need to be guided by truth as they seek the way ahead for themselves and their nation. I believe this is more what Sudan, being a nation starting at the base foundation level, needs right now to develop aright and be able to know how to usher in God’s Kingdom in every sphere of society as they come into their own with continued peace and stability. This is not to say that my involvement in the Church Planting school was a waste, for I learned many valuable things about cross-cultural leadership, particularly in the latter three months on outreach, but that I don’t see it fitting into the growth of the church of Sudan into full maturity at this point in its history. Church leaders grow immediately suspicious when you tell them you are apart of a church planting school, and with good reason. They have been taught by missionaries more than anything to beware of false doctrines seeping into the Body of Christ in their community, and are more interested at building their own congregations. On the other hand, I do believe church planting has a place in every nation at all times because the gospel of Christ must go out. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t sense the call to bring in teams of foreigners to plant the churches, but work alongside and train up those ministers from within to plant these churches among the unreached. I have discussed with my school leader, who has become a very unique and dear friend of mine, and still very much intend to keep in touch with him as he looks to develop the training here with a focus for neighboring Mozambique over the next few years.

Immediately after the school ends, even before graduation, I will head for a short outreach to Zimbabwe to visit a past student named Believe (who I wrote about before our outreach to Sudan) and observe some of the small-scale farming schemes he is implementing near the eastern city of Mutare (to possibly help introduce in central Sudan). Please pray for my safe arrival across the border, for no problems getting the tourist Visa. I will be crossing into Zim on a night bus on June 21st, and hope to be there a couple weeks before heading back to South Africa to fly out back to the states for some months in August. The world, and South Africa in particular, is still waiting anxiously for the official results of the recent elections that everyone predicted would be controversial and drawn-out, and has proven to be.
The final election run-off is set for June 27th, and let us join for prayer in that going smoothly with minimal corrupt police interference/beatings so that the people may truly be able to choose their leadership for a better future. The Zimbabweans I have come to know have an incredible spirit in the midst of so much suffering at the hands of their negligent government, and we just need to pray they don’t lose hope in such a time as this, but know the God of redemption is still working in their midst. I also hope to stop by the border town of Beitbridge on the way back, where my home church, Birchwood Presbyterian, has a number of children they are supporting through World Vision and plans to help with a water project.

My Zim brother has also asked me to help pioneer a sports ministry with the youth, so I am looking to secure some more soccer balls and maybe even a basketball before departing. It has been great to keep up my skills and love for the game here in Muizenberg, where I play with a group of guys from various African countries (primarily DRC and Angola) every Mon. and Wed. I tell you, I get really disappointed if I have to miss one of these small-side sessions. I love the brotherhood that develops among athletes that train hard to develop their skills, and it is exciting to see the relationships that form out of just getting together to take a break from the daily grind. I shall be leaving Cape Town on June 20th which just happens to be World Refugee Day, a day I have come to celebrate every year since being in Africa because of all the lives of refugees God has brought me into. Here in Cape Town you can always find a great number of Zimbabwean refugees that have fled the economic, and now more political, depravity of their once thriving nation. They have to come all the way to Cape Town because it is only this Home Affairs office that deals with foreign ID cards for them to find work to support their families. I have had the opportunity with my school to go a few times to bring food to where these guys put up camp near the loading docks of Table Bay, and it is alarming just how hungry these people are. The Zimbabwean YWAMer from our base who heads up the ministry always has to make sure to walk to where the women are sitting under concrete shelters, or the ravenous men will inhale all the food. Sometimes you find the women telling you they haven’t eaten for a week. Which brings me to my next, and final, subject (I promise you).

The past couple weeks has seen tensions rise all across South Africa’s townships where several different African nations are represented. Many of you should have seen in the news by now the ‘xenophobia’ that has swept across the urban areas of the entire country like a plague of locusts. Refugees I have talked to (one who saw his own neighbor killed) who have been in foreign nations their entire lives say they have never seen anything like this. While on the surface it appears this is simply the poorest of the poor releasing all their anger and frustration over the years, where there are very tight living quarters and scare jobs available, it is important to get to the root of why so many Africans immigrate to this economic powerhouse in the region. It always seems to come back to poor leadership and distribution of natural resources in their home countries. Somalia, for a very stark example, has been without an effective central government since 1991 when the President was in fact the lead warlord among many and was taken out of power. Control for the government has been fought over between the clans of Somalis since then. Currently, the youth military wing, al-Shabab (meaning literally “the youth” in Arabic), has been causing all kinds of insecurity and UN reports that an average of 20,000 people are fleeing the capital Mogadishu every month. The internationally recognized interim President still cannot take the Parliament seat in the capital because of the repeated attempts on his life by Muslim extremists seeking to build the greater Somalia, including eastern Ethiopia, Northeastern Kenya, and Djbouti, by force.

Several of the African foreigners are now being helped by their governments back to their countries of residence, but this is not possible for Zimbabweans (among others) because of the political and economic turmoil their nation remains in. I had the chance last week to drive some students from our base to go and encourage some of these displaced foreigners where they have taken refuge in a megachurch of sorts called His People. They have responded to this crisis in an incredible way, setting up two large tents to house the men on one side of the church, and the women’s quarters on the other side (which I didn’t see). I have attached a few photos with some of the guys I had a chance to listen to and pray for, and also practice my Swahili with since most were from Burundi and eastern Congo. It’s hard to put into words what you hear from these people’s stories, but I can tell you it makes you want to be a journalist to get across all the stories to the world. Yet, at the same time, how much of a difference would that really make because of the sheer number of them, each with their own unique journeys of suffering? I realized the supreme importance of moving in simple love that God has shown to us, and being patient for when it is our place to give it out. One particular brother from Burundi named Thomas, who had been elected as a leader to represent Burundians when he arrived at the camp (and has been a refugee in various countries since the age of 1), asked me how he can encourage all these other brothers if he is not receiving encouragement himself. It was a plea for me to give him any kind of spiritual food that would nourish him to carry out his task to God’s glory. We had a wonderful talk together, lying on some mattresses and speaking some Kiswahili, and ended up both praying for one another in the end. I seriously didn’t want to leave, but had to get the others back to the base (it was 11pm). I hope to go back again, though am praying the temporary refuge will not have to be there for too long.

The big scare for South Africa now is the very real possibility that these temporary, makeshift shelters for the fleeing foreigners will become permanent segregated settlements sponsored by the UNHCR (IDP camps, if you will, like we see in Northern Uganda), thus reverting back to the apartheid of old. Any new foreigners then entering the country after this wave of violence settles down would settle in these camps, segregated from the native Africans. The truth is, as many South African friends grudgingly tell me, apartheid has not altogether vanished but is still very much apart of South African society and inherent in the people’s psyche. While Johannesburg has been most heavily affected w/ about 50 deaths, (and the parts of the city where foreigners are the majority native South Africans still fear to go), the several townships scattered around the Cape Flats have also been affected.
We have been praying a lot as a base and in our school against this wave of violence and hatred, but can see there is really need of a long-term solution. Seems like now there will be segregation of refugee populations around South Africa with the talk of UNHCR coming in to help the displaced. I know many here in Cape Town have too much fear to go back to their home communities, even though the locals are giving them their possessions back. Some have seen their friend’s eyes cut out or limbs hacked off or burned alive. I ask you to join this nation in prayer for a long-term solution to this outbreak, and also for the Lord to comfort and minister to the many displaced foreigners (literally tens of thousands). Thank you all for remaining strong in prayer and may the God of Creation and all nations continue to reveal His unfathomable character to you in your own place of ministry.

For His glory,