Saturday, December 19, 2009

Final Update [Important One] before arriving in Kenya for Christmas Goat Stew!


[Picture we got hiking near Table Mountain before my camera was stolen...but, thank God, I got another one coming]

Hamjambo wote (Hi everyone),
Greetings in our Lord Jesus. I really appreciate all of you that replied back to the last update and are making the effort to keep in touch. I know it is not easy, but it is so incredibly encouraging. I believe, at least in our first location, that we will be able to give out weekly updates as we report back to the base. But before we get there.....

There is much joy at this time for isipho wa Nkulunkulu khakhulu (a great gift of God).... Thandi and I just found out last week that she is now 8 weeks pregnant with our first child. While it was at first quite shocking news to us, we have individually and corporately sought God and known His peace about this child He is giving us. While we also don’t feel ready at this time to be parents, we do trust Him who is over all and in all (Rom. 11).
God has been challenging me to be more organized, so that He can show His power and care more in my life together with Thandeka. Therefore, I am asking you to see about supporting us in prayer for one day each week, with the end goal of having someone praying for us every calendar day of every month. So, if you are able to sort through your schedule, please respond to us at this email or iqembuwhitlock@gmail.com to tell us when you are able to pray. We really need this, though I will not likely get back to you about it until after this outreach and the students are graduated. Thanks so much...Siyabonga khakhulu!

Obviously a main prayer at this time is for Thandi and the baby. We are discussing options of her being with us the first month and then me taking her back to Nairobi to fly back and be with her family in Johannesburg, while I reconnect with the team to head north to the more dangerous but promised north. We know it will be difficult to be apart, but that bus/lorry ride/walk up will likely be too bumpy for her. Thank you for lifting us up in prayers. It is a great surprise to us, but after much prayer and discussion, we have peace from God that this timing is right and this will draw us further down the path He has called us to walk.

Outside of our immediate family concern and the DTS, Thandi and I have felt led to lend our projector to a Brazilian-Belgian couple who are going to YWAM Swaziland to pioneer the SBS (School of Biblical Studies) there for the next three months. It will prove very valuable to them as they conduct much of their teaching via Powerpoint, and can more effectively pass on the inductive Bible study method--i.e. Observation, INterpretation (meaning to the original hearer & reader, etc.) and Application--to the native Swazi students who will stay on to staff. It is so powerful because the students must arrive at a personal application of the Word, which is exactly as God intended for us. This drills into us who we are in Christ, to be more than conquerors in this world of evil and despair!

We will be getting reimbursed for the time they use it (since the bulb costs nearly as much as the projector itself), but are so glad to see it put to use rather than sitting in our closest for the next two months while we are on outreach. We look forward to taking it with us for ministering in the towns and villages of Sudan once we hear God on that.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Final Week: Team Dynamics and Preparation

Bwana Yesu asifiwe! Bwana asifiwe tena kanisa wa Mungu! (Praise the Lord Jesus! Praise the Lord again CHurch of God!)...

Soon I shall be re-entering into a land very dear to my heart--KENYA. However, this time will be the first with my wife at my side! HOw sweet it is to have someone constant in your life to refine you and teach you to love better.
While it was a bit of a process narrowing down why God was challenging Thandi and I to lead an outreach team to Kenya while still so young in marriage, we are more excited than ever to jump in with the team. A big part of this, of course, is the strong team dynamic we have built up thus far with the students. Truly, we cannot give out what we ourselves have not first received. And how much more powerful is our giving when done in unity! As it says in Psalm 133, it is there that the Almighty God of all creation commands a blessing--and, oh, how we want to be a blessing to all peoples and nations (tribes) he puts in our path!

This week has been filled with many practical activities to prepare the teams for various forms of culture shock and be on our guard for deceptions from the enemy. We shall go into battle triumphant because of who we are in Christ! (Ephesians 2...Actually, all of Ephesians drills this into the believer).

God bless all of you in unforeseen ways this Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Now in the 9th Week of DTS...God is growing us incredibly as a Body!

The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about what it means to "enter His rest" while still being actively engaged in His redemptive work. This may also relate to the topic of "actively waiting on God." King David is a prime example of this waiting on God for deliverance while still taking action to rule the kingdom given him, and even before being crowned king when he was being pursued by his worldly-minded predecessor, King Saul. Hebrews 4:1-3 also relates very specifically to this theme of resting in the promises of God. This has been incredibly relevant to Thandi and I in this time… As verse 2 says: “For we have also had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” In other words, we, as Christians, can receive all kinds of prophetic words and promises of God to us, but unless we actively believe that these promises will come to pass, they will remain covered for another individual or generation to uncover and birth into the physical world. As one of the guest speakers prayed out and imparted to us at the recent Nations 2 Nations Conference in Jeffrey’s Bay, “We shall no longer be prisoner to our potential!” The key to unlocking this prayer and ourselves being the answer to this prayer is stepping into God’s promises in faith, continually speaking them out, no matter the circumstances, in faith.

As the following commentary for Heb. 4:1-3 unravels (though in quite old and wordy English) for us the depths of this passages’ meaning, we see just why the gathering of those who believe in God’s promises (the Church) is so crucial:

"…not being mixed with faith in them that heard it; the Gospel is as food, and faith is the hand that receives it, and takes it, and tastes of it, and eats it, and concocts and digests it; and when this is the case, it is profitable and nourishing; but when it is otherwise, it is not. The Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, and five of Beza's ancient copies, and as many of Stephens's, with others, read, "they were not mixed" referring it not to the word, but to persons; and so read the Arabic and Ethiopic versions: and the sense is, that the generality of the Israelites did not join themselves in faith, in believing in God, to Caleb and Joshua; who hearkened to the Lord, and received and obeyed his word; and so the word became useless to them: there ought to be an union or conjunction of the saints, and the bond of this union is love; and the thing in which they unite is faith, believing in Christ, and the doctrine of faith, which is but one; and though the word may be profitable to others who are not in the communion of the saints; yet forsaking the assembly of the saints, and not constantly attending with them, or not mixing with them continually in public worship, is one reason of the unprofitable hearing of the word when it is preached to them."

This also reminds me of Swahili proverb (mthali) that says Mwomba Mungu hachoki (He who seeks God never tires). The implication is that God continuously fuels (gives grace to) the person who seeks Him consistently. This encourages me greatly and should encourage every believer of the risen Christ that we need not fall into the trap of striving to live righteously and being a ‘good’ or even ‘obedient’ Christian.



The photos above show the final evening of our Nations 2 Nations week in Jeffreys Bay, an 8-hour drive east of Cape Town. We joined with several other DTSs from around the country and region, including Swaziland (a small kingdom and independent nation on the border of Mozambique), and received much impartation of God's heart for ALL nations, including our own. I was struck once again with just how deep God's love is for all peoples (ethne) and His strong desire for their cultural practices to be redeemed so that He may be known personally by them!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Preping for Outreach to Western Kenya...

Hamjambo watu wangu (Greetings my people)...

Esh, it feels good to get back to speaking the East African language of Kiswahili (a trade language that formed from the Arabs mixing with the local Bantu dialects). Though Thandi and I didn't really see it coming, we are seeing God challenging us to take a team to a nation that has become apart of me in many ways.

Thandi and I are growing increasingly excited/expectant about leading one of the four 10-week outreaches our school will be taking. The locations we settled upon after much group prayer and then prayer together as leaders are Thailand, India, Kenya and South Africa/Swaziland. We will be leading the Kenya team after feeling a call to that country because of increased contacts with some brothers in the refugee camps near the Somali border. However, we have since found out that that region is still very insecure at this time, especially for a team of foreigners to go in, largely because the Somali jihadist group known as al-Shabbab (‘the youth’ in Arabic) have been known to cross the border to recruit and have also kidnapped/killed Westerners. I have long known the danger for Westerners in and around southern Somalia, but still believe there will be a time God calls us to go there and pray over the land and people.

For outreach, we are planning to target Kakamega first (just north of Kisimu), and then up past Lodwar and maybe to Loki:


Our team makeup is one American (me), one German, one Swede, one Kenyan and three South Africans, thus 7 in total. While there is still some time before we head off (around Christmastime), we shall have many times to intentionally meet and wait on God to see that His heart purpose is accomplished for us as a team. We are particularly praying into the possibility of travelling up the western edge of Kenya and up to the border of Sudan, maybe even working in another major refugee camp called Kakuma, where many of the Sudanese Lost Boys found refuge in before being placed in the USA and other countries. We will keep you posted on what God speaks to us as a team about this, and the reality is likely that we will have to gauge where we are at in the battle once in Kenya.

This past week has been some amazing teaching on God’s grace that is so much bigger than any effort man can make on his own strength to live a righteous life. What really stuck out for me was the costliness of sin and that sin is the most powerful force in this world either than the incarnate Christ. The reality is the believer is declared righteous (Romans 4:24) upon placing their faith in Christ, and this will always be the case. We will be overwhelmed by sin (destructive habits) unless we place our trust in the Lord who created us for life in Him, for there is no other.
This coming week everyone is excited to be travelling to another YWAM campus in the Eastern Cape province, about an 8-hour drive east along the coast in a small surfing town called Jeffrey’s Bay. The reason for going is to join with several other DTSs and missionaries to celebrate God’s heart for the nations in an annual event called Nations 2 Nations (n2n.org), which seeks to celebrate nations and how God redeems elements of every tribe and people group to worship Him in our diversity. Thandi has been to one of these events before, but I am not sure what to fully expect. I do know we are sleeping in tents, and will have plenty of time for fellowship around volleyball, food and cultural expressions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

September Muizenberg DTS Well Under Way...

A rough glance at the students and classroom:


We are now on our 3rd week of the Discipleship Training School (DTS) here at our home base in South Africa, discussing all about relationships. This is a topic that digs up a lot of things in people's past and makes students aware of areas that still need healing before they can move on in their journey with Christ Jesus. We are 28 students and 3 full-time staff from 11 different nations.

Two of our students, Jo from Switzerland and Mashadi from South Africa, were baptized in the 2nd week of school in the nearby Atlantic Ocean:


Meditated on John 6 this morning, after assigning the students their first memory verse, but God led me in worship to meditate specifically on Hebrews 9:14; this was after a theme of unworthiness was coming through in the class… “how much more will the blood of Christ…purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God”… It is when I am seeking to live rightly on my own strength and I fail that I believe in the lie that I am unworthy to be called God’s child (John 1:12). What makes me worthy is that faith in Christ, who alone holds the authority to make His followers worthy of God’s grace and favor. We are free from dead works therefore…
If we do not believe God has made us new, how can we have any authority or persevering passion to make His character and redemptive work known to others?

Thandi and I have been privileged to lead one of the small groups with two other newly-married couples, and it has been completely new for me. Just speaking for myself as a new husband, this group has aided me in changing my way of thinking about life together with my wife, altering my mindset to look to the interests of my wife before my own. It is no longer just me following hard after Christ’s heart for the tribes, but God, in His overriding wisdom, has seen fit to unite me wholeheartedly to another human being whom He has designed to fulfill me and His calling on my life. And the same, I know, goes for Thandeka. I know that our union will at least double my effectiveness in long-term missions building and discipling believers in South Sudan and beyond.

In other news, we found out that our DRC (Congolese) neighbor we had just met a few days prior (when he came by to check on our place after I had severely burned some popcorn--I used the wrong oil) had his wife in the hospital after a C-section was performed on her to deliver the baby girl. While the baby was healthy, the wife got a bad infection and had been in the hospital for nearly two weeks.
We have since visited them and helped out with supper to see the mother and baby back home and healthy. What an answer to prayer! I hope to get a photo of this family soon enough. They are quite literally the only other tenants in our building we have met that are under 50 years old.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Praying for the Roots of Africa's Conflicts


Victims of the LRA attacks have said that they will often attack on Sunday mornings, as the villagers are gathering to churches like the Roman Catholic one below (I took the photo in South Sudan while staffing there; it was during this time that the LRA had crossed into Sudan for the first time then)


In an article entitled "Fear level rises as LRA rebels return", the public once again becomes aware of one of the longest and most gruesome ongoing conflicts in the world. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8259039.stm]

It is so sad to receive news (which is very often quite late in this part of the world) once again of the notoriously scattered and decentralized Lord's Resistance Army now regathering its forces in the Central African Republic, terrorizing rural villages all the way from its original headquarters in north Uganda.

Let us keep in prayer to halt this spiritual carnage of the enemy that has manifested itself in the physical for many generations now. I believe a major part in getting to the roots of Africa's conflicts has to do with addressing the false worldview and culture of fear/submission the majority of peoples grow up in. It is well known that Joseph Kony and his field commanders in the LRA and other 'rebels without a cause' receive power to allude national armies and continue in their destructive agenda from demons and forces of darkness. There is a covenant they knowingly make with the demonic world which enables the devil to use them to "steal, kill and destroy" in exchange for access to supernatural powers. People, including Christians, still live in fear of these demonic powers to this day, despite being preached to about Jesus overcoming the power of the evil one. These terrible conflicts continue to rage on in large part because Christians in rural Africa largely are not aware of their authority in Christ Jesus. How else can you explain church services being repeatedly broken up and many believers being killed without knowing why? As believers, all over the world, we must know we are daily in an intense spiritual battle, and yet the Spirit is always waiting, willing to show His power as the Lord of Hosts leading on His angelic infantry...
Let us intercede on behalf of these defenseless ones who have only received a partial Gospel, boldly approaching the throne of grace, uniting our prayers with the Great Intercessor, Jesus Himself. For there is no power greater on the face of this earth than the living out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:4). Let us pray for light of this Truth to be shed in the darkness of these regions, for wherever true light shines, the darkness must flee...Let us pray for the Lord's warriors to rise up in their authority in Christ Jesus, the Victorious One, to cut at the root the schemes of the evil one.

More reflections on this later...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Praying for Possible Outreach to Penetrate the Unreached in the Horn of Africa...


Two days ago I came across this online article that gives a great history of the ongoing civil conflict in what the outside world knows as Somalia since its disintegration in 1991. It is entitled "Somalia: Who is Fighting Whom"
http://allafrica.com/stories/200909020835.html
As you can see from the basic map above, in recent years Somalia, though just as ethnically united as ever, has split up along ideological lines into three fairly distinct regions. Without a doubt, the remaining Somalia of the south is still the most chaotic and violent, with a continued outflow of refugees over the border into neighboring Kenya. It is in this region of NE Kenya that the UNHCR has seen it necessary to set up a network of camps to meet the basic needs of the increasing refugees. It is also this region that Thandeka and I are praying about taking a portion of the next DTS to in December of this year. While 90% of the refugees are Somali nationals, there are also a number of Ethiopians and Sudanese mixed in who I know meet together for fellowship and Bible study on a regular basis.

This is an exciting possibility for us as a new couple, especially since it is on the doorstep of our long-term vision of discipling southern Sudanese to reach the unreached specifically in the Horn of Africa region. We are expecting 30 students, including 2 married couples and a Kenyan brother, which will be one of the largest YWAM Muizenberg has had in many years! We are full of expectation for what God has in store for us as a Body and through individual revelation of WHo He is.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It is such a blessing to have family where you are at...




As many have been asking, the next DTS at our base (we run four a year back-to-back) that Thandi and I will be staffing commences on 27th September, and will follow the theme of Identity and Freedom in CHrist alone based off of Galatians 5. We have really enjoyed the time away from base to get settled in, but will now start full-time with staff training next Monday.

THe photos above are of Merlyn and Mario Milhomem, a Brazilian couple who were the first ones we officially hosted in our new flat! The four of us sitting down on the sofa is in our nice and spacious living room. [We even had all the September schools staff over for a dinner because we seem to have the most space, which Thandi loves.] They are also newlyweds and co-lead a base in Goiania, central Brazil. [You can see their own blog at http://merlynandmariomilhomem.blogspot.com/ with many more pictures of Africa than ours, even though they have just been here a month:] I knew Mario from when I first came to Muizenberg in 2006, whereby we both were the first students in the newly-pioneered School of Cross-Cultural Strategic Missions (SCCSM). While I am not still directly involved in that school, it will be running again at the same time as the Discipleship School Thandi and I will be staffing, and I am very grateful for the foundational principles and training I received to be better equipped to pioneer ministries in a frontiers context, reaching out to undiscipled and even unengaged people groups. But now I am getting off the point of this specific blog. Forgive me.

As the title hints at, we were so blessed by our local YWAM family and local friends this past Saturday night when one of them organized a Housewarming Party for Thandi and I. We were thrilled to have so many come that it was literally a challenge to move from one person to the next, fellowshipping together. We were blessed not only with their presence and prayers, but many also came with desserts and house items we were still very much in need of. We thank the Lord for HIs faithfulness in our lives through those He has placed around us, both near and far off.



The Zimbabwean brother touching the custom-fit coffee table/dresser he fashioned to give our new apartment some homemade African style. He sells his items at the local Sunday flea market alongside many other Africans. The majority of shopkeepers here, however, are Cape Coloureds with a Muslim background which we are seeking to reach through building relationships, doing face painting, etc. Every Sunday a group of us go from the base for the whole day. Amazingly, almost every Sunday is indeed sunny here![You can see our car, Esmeralda, in the background, which, at that time, was suffering with a complete pancha (flat tire) from something I drove over.]

Monday, August 24, 2009

The month of Ramadan is upon us--Praying for Muslims

Let's be in prayer for our Muslim brothers and sisters to KNOW the Author of man's salvation in this month:

Dates for Ramadan 2009 (or 1430) are 22 August - 20 September.
The first evening of Ramadan
In many places around the world Muslims will be looking to the heavens this evening. They will be interested in knowing if they will be able to see the crescent moon. If it is visible this will be the signal for the beginning of the month of Ramadan. (In most countries religious authorities will make a proclamation concerning the beginning of Ramadan). No fasting will take place till tomorrow morning. Muslims will rise early to eat their breakfast before the day begins. Afterwards they will not have anything else to eat or drink till nightfall. This will be their daily experience during the next 30 days.

Fasting - Ramazan
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the religion of Islam and one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. Abstinence from earthly pleasures and curbing evil intentions and desires is regarded as an act of obedience and submission to God as well as an atonement for sins, errors, and mistakes. Called Ramadan (or Ramazan), Muslims fast during this holy month from the moment when it first starts to get light until sunset. Muslims fast as an act of faith and worship towards Allah, seeking to suppress their desires and increase their spiritual piety. Fasting together as a worldwide community - Ummah - affirms the brotherhood and equality of man before Allah.


The Meaning of Ramadan [pretty interesting origins to pray into]
The name Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word ramida or ar-ramad, denoting intense scorching heat and dryness, especially the ground. From the same word there is ramdaa, meaning ’sunbaked sand’ and the famous proverb Kal Mustajeer minar ramadaa binnar – ‘to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.’ Some say it is so called because Ramadan scorches out the sins with good deeds, as the sun burns the ground.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting Settled in.....



Well, due to popular demand, here are a few photos from the big day in Johannesburg. I will also get some of our amazing honeymoon in Mauritius, though neither of us are feeling well right now and so the last thing we want to do is get on the computer.

Although this past month was very stressful and tense at times, the Lord enabled Thandi and I to keep perspective up to the wedding day and as we now begin our new life together. The wedding day was indeed beautiful, noticeably warmer than the previous winter days. We both want to thank our churches, mine back home in Bellingham, WA and hers in Lenasia (with her pastor masterfully orchestrating the ceremony), for their ongoing prayers through this union of two very different families and cultures. It was a privilege to host my family (parents+sister+niece) as well as my best man, who all were very flexible throughout. It was great to have them first in Cape Town to see where we have been working out of and enjoy some of the natural beauty.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

News on Sudan and....Wedding Preparations

SEEKING TO BRING SCHOOL OF BIBLICAL STUDIES TO SUDAN:
Over the past few years in YWAM Sudan, numerous staff members have gained a heart to bring the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) to Sudan. This nine-month YWAM school equips students to study the Bible inductively and draw out eternal truths for themselves and their people. There is a huge need for this in Sudan due to the lack of discipleship in the churches and wrong teachings being spread. One of the staff in southern Sudan has completed an SBS in Uganda. We now have three members of staff in northern Sudan who would like to travel to Egypt to take part in this course. The hope is that we could start at least one SBS in Sudan in the next few years and maybe two. The one in northern Sudan would need to be done completely in Arabic as that is what the people read and write, while in southern Sudan it would need to be done in English.


The cost for travel and the nine-month school in Egypt is around $2000 US. These Sudanese students would take part in the school in Egypt with the plan of starting in the school in Sudan in the future. Pray that God would make a way for these three to take part in the school. Also ask God to use the SBS as a tool to build up the Body of Christ in Sudan so they can be a greater blessing to their people. If you would like to give to this project, donations can be sent to: Sudanese Strategic Alliance, PO BOX 60579, Colorado Springs, CO 80960. Please make checks payable to "YWAM" and do not write "Sudan" anywhere on the check. Enclose a note that states "Sudan- SBS" so we can know what the money is designated for. Or you can go online to www.ywamcolorado.com to make a donation.

Some of you from my homechurch may remember me sharing about the SBS and part of my heart in helping introduce it to the church in Sudan when I shared about my vision back in September 2008 (I emphasize some of you). Thandeka and I both felt led during our separate outreaches to do the SBS-Core Course offered at YWAM Muizenberg last year, and it was a great experience full of revelations from the Lord. We actually just had our nine-month school graduate last week.
Let us pray together for these Sudanese students to complete this course, and for how God will coordinate YWAMers from all over to pioneer this school in Sudan.


++++++++++++++++++++
News and Current Issues
++++++++++++++++++++
1. South Sudan fighting sparks fears of wider conflict


NASIR, Sudan (AFP) — Thick lines of sweat run down the face of Peter Gatwech as he clutches the dressing around the bullet hole in his belly. "I was hit by the guns of the soldiers when we were fighting," said the 24-year old cattle keeper from the Jikany branch of the Nuer people, his voice quivering with pain. The young man is one of 33 wounded from the latest round of vicious fighting in southern Sudan who have received treatment in the hospital in Nasir, an impoverished town of mud and thatch huts in Upper Nile state.


"They were sending supplies to the Luo, and we had to stop them," he added, referring to a rival Nuer people whose lands border Jikany territory. Gatwech was with several hundred armed Jikany men who launched an attack in mid-June on a river convoy of 30 barges carrying United Nations food aid, killing at least 40 of the 150 southern soldiers acting as its escort. At least three boats were sunk and over 700 tons of grain and other supplies for the UN's World Food Program were looted.


For the complete article, please visit: AFP


This is the latest in a series of deadly incidents throughout southern Sudan. Some observers say it is just tribal rivalries boiling over again. Others accuse the Government of Sudan of arming certain groups to create instability ahead of elections next year. Most of these conflicts are taking place in a region of Sudan where most people call themselves Christians. Pray that pastors and churches will take a leading role in living out forgiveness and reconciliation.



Sudanese Strategic Alliance
sudanese@ywamsf.org
www.ywamsudan.org

The above update was for last week. On the homefront here in South Africa, Thandi and I (along with lovely Rebecca, one of her bridesmaids from Switzerland) are excited to be receiving my best man, Joel (fresh, or rather dirty, off a backpacking trip around South America), and my two parents and sister. My supportive sister, Kristin, will also be coming with her adorable daughter, Emma, who will also be our little flower girl. It is a challenge getting accomodation and furniture all sorted with our new place, but the Lord is in control and we surrender each day to Him.
I look forward to updating you all after the wedding and honeymoon! God bless you to be a blessing wherever you are--He has a great purpose in it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Football is Life......





Well, not really, but I can sure feel the fever of it here in Cape Town as preparations for hosting World Cup continue on. And, if I was still in Jozi, you can be sure it would be intensified by 10x!
The Lord has been blessing me to take part in two of my favorite things of late:
(1) Football (soccer) and (2) in a cross-cultural context

Above is a photo of me with some of the Congolese brothers living communally in Muizenberg. It is the final day of the tournament, but we did not make it since we were forced to forfeit a morning game due to lack of players in time.

The second one is at the soccer fields just outside the informal settlement (township) of Masiphumulele (meaning 'Together we succeed'). I played with a church team from there our base has partnered with a bit for ministry. The community has a great battle with alcoholism and has recently seen a lot of rioting and burning of people's homes as the population is stretched to the limit. The township is haphazardly built right up against the federal land of Table Mountain National Park.

Psalm 2:8 (ESV)-- Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Umdlalo khakhulu [Big Game]: USA vs. Brazil TOnight!

Well, the mighty US of A has shocked the football (soccer) world in advancing to the finals of the 2009 FIFA Confederations CUp, here in lovely South Africa...
After two brutal defeats against Italy (3-1) and Brazil (3-0) in the first round, our boys in red, white and blue showed the stamina of America and fought back to beat Egypt (the champions of Africa) incredibly 3-0, and then, even more incredibly, Espana (the champions of Europe and coming in ranked No.1 in the world) 2-0.
Unfortunately, it seems the team of referees have had to meet a certain quota in issuing red cards to Team USA (they have had one nearly every match), pulling it out when a cautionary yellow card was plenty to still keep control of the match and for the degree of foul committed. As a result, the US goes into the match with the Samba Kings (Brazil) missing one of their starting mid-fielders on a lame foul at the end of last match. But America will not let that be an excuse!

It has been great surrounded by soccer fans here in South Africa (South Africans themselves have to the best fans in the world w/their costumes and vuvuzelas, i.e. local plastic trumpets that are incredibly loud and in the process of being banned--fat chance, for they cheer on any nation with equal fervor; they simply love to be at the game!). I know the World Cup will be about 10x the excitement next year, even if I won't be able to see a match live. It will still be great orchestrating ministry with teams coming from many nations, and seeing matches on big screens in public squares.
For more on Confed. Cup (like what it is) visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/internationals/8088226.stm

In other news, Thandeka is still back at home in Joburg, finalizing preparations for the wedding (though I talk with her nearly every night, and are helping things along). I have signed a year-lease for our apartment, and she will be coming to Cape Town briefly on July 5th to help set up the place and receive my family before driving back up for the wedding. Exciting times filled with many changes, and I thank God for His limitless grace!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

ENJOYING FULL IMMERSION BACK IN THE SOUTHERN CAPE COMMUNITY...



Here is Ricardo at the near-local community clinic in the process of getting all his rings and forms of bondage removed; (2) Just some of the wires/rings bloodily removed

It has been hectic (I need to find the Zulu equivalent of these fitting word) since arriving in Muizenberg, realizing all that must still be arranged before the family arrives while also desiring to reconnect with brothers of various walks/dispositions in the community, and finalizing where Thandi and I will be placed in the Discipleship Training Department on staff. On top of this, I have been spending time in the nearby township of Capricorn, a very impoverished and drug-addicted community from which the majority of criminals operating in Muizenberg come from.

One of the brothers I have renewed contact with is Jason Gbagaza, the one Sudanese in the area studying across town at George Whitfield Bible College, and who has also been crippled with polio from a young age. He was a guy my team met with a bit in preparation for our outreach last year to Malakal, even though he is from a vastly different region of South Sudan than we were heading. He still knew some Juba Arabic songs (the nearly universally accepted trade language in the south) and is simply a wise man of God all around, no matter what culture you are speaking and ministering into. He really understands the truth that Jesus is supracultural (above all kingdoms and societies of man), but nevertheless glorified through the diversity of them. Therefore, I will continue to seek him out when our schedules allow, to share together and pray for the needs around us and the plans of God in Sudan long-term. He is also in the process (though a little longer-term) of paying the dowry for his wife-to-be, and the price is incredibly double that of mine! IN his native Azande culture (on the border regions of Sudan/Dem. Rep. of Congo), he must also carry the cost of all relatives coming in, feeding them for days and then sending them back to their villages. He doesn't know how he will do it, but he knows God was faithful in the past and continues to be for all those who call on His victorous Name.

Since last Friday when our base met for worship and then went out in groups to various surrounding communities in the southern Cape peninsula to evangelize, my heart has grown for the nearby township of Capricorn. This began basically as a squatter camp with illegal cable connections and such, and now has addresses painted outside the brick (and various other materials) homes, though the conditions remain dire, with drugs at the core.
Early in the week I prodded along Pastor Fabule (from Nigeria) and Gershom (Zambia) to follow-up on the urgent medical attention one of the boys from Capricorn needs for his witchcraft-covered fingers. This boy, Ricardo, is actually a young man, but has so abused his body that he is still quite small. It has really been a lesson in the commitment and sacrifice required for working and seeking to make any kind of impact in drug-addicted communities whose whole motive in life is to get the next high and escape the pain of reality. One of the major strategies must be to reach whole families (and not only one individual at a time), for this is the intial area of influence (along with gangs) in these young boy's lives.
We have visited the home of Ricardo (w/many far-reaching relatives under one roof) several times now, sharing the Gospel, praying and helping with small things. They know what we stand for, and so can still come upon them hiding the whiskey if we come by at an unexpected time. This is an unfortunate reality in these broken communities where jobs are scarce and many spiritual strongholds are firmly in place.

The pictures of Ricardo show him at the clinic Gershom and I took him to for the remaining rings and bonds to be removed. This took a couple days/trips due to Ricardo running off after we left him. This was a real struggle where we had at least 8 staff helping us hold him down to see every last form of physical bondage removed (with it, a spiritual power as well). It was great to hear Ricardo thanking the doctors/nurses and afterwards and yelling "Hallelujah! I will never again put rings on!" just after he had been screaming for us to stop the pain. I told him repeatedly that there must be pain to endure for freedom to come, and it also allowed the message of Christ to hit home, what He has already freely done for us. He has gained the victory over sin for us, and we need not bow to these forces of evil!
So now Ricardo is back with the family, noticeably happier, though we'll be needing to take him Monday again to get his gauze changed and wounds cleaned. But the struggle is not over. This last time he even succeeded in running away when he found out the clinic wanted to transfer him to the hospital for observation and further questioning. This was orders of the psychiatrist, who said the drugs and oppression has made him not fully sane. Please join us in praying for him to see full deliverance. He also does not clean himself properly and routinely eats things off the ground and out of waste bins. As he said before gettng the rings removed, "I don't know myself, but I want to know myself again." Our prayer is that he would be free to discover who he really is and called to be in Christ Jesus, our Redeemer and good Shepherd. Ricardo is only one boy among many in this community who don't know themselves, coming out of broken families and without direction in life. The temptation to engage in drugs (and particularly crystal meth, known locally by the street name 'tik') is just too much. But we know change is coming, thanks be God!

On another note, I was asked earlier in the week to be apart of a big youth gathering on National Youth Day June 16th, where I will sit in as one of the only foreign judges on the panel. This day commemorates the courage and spirit of South African youth who rebelled non-violently against apartheid in the townships (particularly in Soweto) back in the 80s and were killed. Many of the best gospel choirs and dance groups from all around Cape Town will be performing, including some of the guys I attended my School of Biblical Studies (SBS) with last year here at the base. But you can be sure in my first time as a judge I will not be showing any partiality:)


Ricardo back home after the multiple operations on his hands and ears; there were also cloth bonds on his ankles and torso we broke in Jesus' Name

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All is Well (and Hectic) in EGoli (Johannesburg)

Hello all,

I am writing a brief update to let you know I have made it safely back to beautiful South Africa, the Rainbow Nation! Despite a little bout with the swine flu on the way (not really), I was still able to meet up with a former colleague in Frankfurt before continuing onto my lovely bride-to-be.

It has now been almost a week, and a very hectic one indeed. After much bargaining, God has blessed Thandi and I with a bright green '97 Nissan Sentra in fairly good condition. It has been essential for all the running around to arrange wedding details, and we are so grateful to all the support we received to enable us to buy one. We must now be good stewards to be able to resale after our two years with the YWAM Muizenberg base.

After some work to be done on the vehicle to make it roadworthy for the long trip south, I will drive alone to Cape Town to begin staffing at the base once again and setting up living arrangements for us after the wedding. I also will be able to receive my family and best man in Cape Town in early July before we make the drive back up to Jozi ('Egoli' in Zulu, which means 'place of gold') for the wedding.

We appreciate your prayers for my drive south and I will for sure update further with pictures upon arrival at the base. Thandi sends her love and appreciates prayers for not stressing too much! (She is really doing well, actually, and we even drove to the countryside venue this last Saturday to confirm our booking.)

God bless you all and love to hear any comments!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Be the duck"....


My Dad and his paddling buddy racing in the African Queen (check out the pitiful African design)

I thought it was about time I had a little more catchy title to one of these blogposts. The waters of Lake Whatcom have warmed up enough that I was finally able to get out with my father on his new double surf-ski (racing kayak) made in and sent from South Africa, appropriately dubbed the "African Queen" by him and his paddling buddy here in Bellingham. It's pretty cool that my dad will be able to paddle the Great White shark-infested waters of False Bay and around Cape Town when the fam comes over for the wedding. In fact, where I will return to staff and live in YWAM Muizenberg, the little seaside town of Fish Hoek which serves as headquarters for world-class surf-skiers is only a couple train stations away.

Paddling really increased my respect for my father in how easy he makes it look. After only about 5 minutes of going at it, striving to keep in sync with his strokes, I was dog-tired! But I persevered (with his encouragement), and we had a great 1-hour paddle, without dumping in the lake once! Even so, I was glad to have the wet-suit because I was constantly getting splashed and sitting in a good-sized puddle. I am thrilled to get so much use out of the suit, which I bought off Ebay for the sole purpose of surfing when I get back to the Cape's frigid waters.

Ok, so how does all this relate to the title of this post? I'll tell you. When we did hit some rough waters and some waves coming at us from the side, my dad instinctively called back to me, "Be the duck!" After some initial confusion, I caught the sense of what he was saying (though I was a bit surprised my Dad was so down with all the hip paddling lingo). When you observe a duck floating on the water, when a wave comes, they simply roll with them and don't struggle to keep their balance or head above the water. The same rule must hold true with us.

I thank the good Lord for the great day we had, and will be writing next from the beautiful and promising nation of South Africa!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

South Africa Elections 2009



So I am all set to head back to South Africa on May 3 (though won't reach Jozi until the 5th, after a brief 13-hour layover in Frankfurt where I will be able to catch up with a former colleague in the Church Planting school who is now a full-time Youth Pastor). I have been blessed to see so many of you in this extended time back, and so grateful you could see what I see in my lovely fiance Thandeka as well:) The wedding invitation is still open to all (if you are really looking for a place to let go and dance into the night) in Lenasia, Johannesburg on July 25!

Second, yesterday marked the 4th democratic national election for the Republic of South Africa, and a very interesting one indeed since many of the first-time voters (and there are a lot) are the first generation not to have been raised at the height of apartheid and separate development policies that plagued the land for so long, and thus are not as necessarily inclined to support hands-down the liberating African National Congress party. The main opposition party is hewn from this ruling party and goes by the name of Cope (Congress of the People). I am not sure about the latter's leader, but know ANC's Zuma has been on trial for a number of charges and is thus very questionable (though he still holds a lot of loyalty). SO I encourage you all to check out hte results in the next couple of days, and keep praying for the nation to go forward into the destiny God has for it (incl. hosting the World Cup next year!)
South Sudan, still a semi-autonomous region in larger Sudan, will hold elections later this year, but many of the educated Sudanese of the diaspora are skeptical of there being any real change. THe real testing time will be at the end of the CPA interim government period in 2011. But be in prayer anyways, asking God for gracious intervention and progress to see His purposes envisioned by the leaders of this great land of promise!

Further Prayer Requests:
Thandi is currently visiting family in neighboring Mozambique (where she was born) and paying respects at her grandfather's grave (who passed away some years back, but she had not been able to go until now). Thank you for your prayers for her safety (as she is traveling alone), and to meet up with all God has for her.

I will be with Thandi and the family in Johannesburg for the first week or so, hoping to buy a used car with a good resale value, and then make my way down to Cape Town to begin working at the YWAM Muizenberg base once again and searching for a place we can stay for the next two years. I will be on general staff, but when Thandi comes after the wedding, we will both be in the Discipleship Training Department and focusing on the upcoming school.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Canyoneering in Zion/Death Valley National Parks




Firstly, let me praise God on this fine Easter Day filled with the everlasting hope of our Lord Jesus! He continues to prove himself faithful to me in very real ways...
After putting in my church bulletin a prayer request last week for favor with the SOuth African Consulate in LA to receive my 2-year Visa before my departure date on May 3, I came home on Friday just in time to receive a Fed-Ex with passport enclosed and everything as I prayed it to be! He is risen and alive indeed! I just pray to remain in His will, for my life truly belongs to Him.

So, as the title indicates, my father and I just returned with a great group of men from a week-long canyoneering/backpacking trip in Utah, Nevada and California. I knew it was going to be a physically stimulating trip as well as give me some quality time out in the wilderness with the Dad, but was not expecting to be so refined in so short a time by the godly men we went with. Below are a few pics from the trip, and I hope to post some more on Facebook soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Onto the American Southwest manana!!!



MOSAIC CANYON, DEATH VALLEY

Hey Everybody,

I have started a number of blog entries since my last one, but have failed to finish any one topic since they all seem to keep building on top of another with more recent events (such as the events rapidly escalating around the indictment of Sudan Pres. Omar al-Bashir). But is it our role as Christians to always be in the reactionary seat towards world events, or are we to speak out in the midst of them and partner with God in prayer to see change realized? I hope all can answer the latter....
And, yet, I struggle to put out intended posts in a timely fashion. Lord, help me. Thankfully, my lack of discipline in this does not bring the end of the world.

Anyhow, I am gonna get up this post because I will be out of the B'ham hometown for a week as I head down with my father and a gang of his buddies to brave the elements in the canyons of Zion National Park, Escalante and possibly even Death Valley, California (if the weather turns rough in southern Utah--it has definitely been a long, cold winter).

I plan on posting some photos of my canyoneering debut adventure when we return, and hope you will enjoy...and don't worry, I will exercise much caution so as not to put my bride-to-be in an awkward solo position at the altar. Speaking of Thandeka, isimomo sami (my beautiful girl), I want to wish her a relaxing, stress-free 27th b-day today!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Days of Prayer/Fasting for the Nation of Sudan


View of Malakal, south Sudan from central masjid (mosque), Mar.'08

I received this urgent call to prayer from YWAM contacts in Sudan working in various Christian iniatives in the country. Please read the following and pray as the Spirit leads. This truly is a crucial time for the nation.
After the photo is also recent news from Malakal, the key city I took our Church Planting/Intercession team to for three months last year....

1. Call to prayer and fasting- March 2nd-4th

We received this call to prayer and fasting a couple of days ago. People within Sudan and throughout the world are joining together to pray for this critical season in Sudan...


"Today Pre-Trial Chamber I announced that it would issue on Wednesday 4 March 2009 its decision concerning the Prosecution application of 14 July 2008 for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan. The decision will be made public by the normal way of a press release and publication on the Court’s website.


In Esther 4:12-17 we read that a national crisis was to happen and Esther called for a fast and the Sovereign God of the universe intervened.


Esther 4:16 "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."


We appeal to the Sudanese nation and friends of Sudan to stand with us in the gap at this time to intercede for deliverance and peace. This is the time that we call a fast of three days in which you can participate in seeking His face for our nation.


Please pray with us for:


-Khartoum city. Isaiah 62: 6-7 "I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem (O Sudanese); they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem (Sudan) and makes her the praise of the earth."
-The president, ministers, premiers, members of Parliament, provincial authorities, mayors, advisors, ambassadors and government officials. When you know the names of these people, pray for them by name. "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." (Proverbs21:1) "Remove the wicked from the king's presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness." (Proverbs 25:5) Pray for the salvation of the leaders of Sudan...
-The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the north-south civil war in 2005. Please pray for the will of God and His kingdom to come as it is in heaven so it be on the earth regarding the CPA...
-The Darfur situation. Ephesians 1:18 "I pray that also the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints." Pray for that their eyes may be enlightened to see Jesus and their inheritance in Him. Pray for protection over the families, communities and cities in this time. They are our brothers and sisters. Pray for unity of the different faction leaders in Darfur and for peace and reconciliation among them.
-The country of Sudan as a whole. John17: 11b, 15 "… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name You gave Me- so that they may be one as We are one. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."
-Foreigners in the country. John14: 27 "Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Please also pray for their protection and safety as they continue faithfully in their work.


2. Fighting in Malakal

KHARTOUM (AFP) — Fighting in the key southern city of Malakal this week has killed some 50 people and left another 100 wounded, a UN official said on Friday.


"According to our estimates, drawn from on-the-ground observations and different sources, the violence has resulted in about 50 deaths and 100 wounded" among both combatants and the civilian population, the official said. Fighting erupted on Tuesday between former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which now runs south Sudan, and supporters of Gabriel Tang, a former militia leader who fought alongside the Sudanese army in the 1983-2005 civil war. The clashes lasted a day, and an official said the situation was "fairly quiet" on Friday.


Tang supporters, or Tangginyang, have been incorporated into Khartoum's regular forces, joining a mixed north-south unit patrolling areas that are still sensitive four years after the end of a war that caused two million deaths. Tang has been based in Khartoum since 2006, after clashes between his men and the former SPLA soldiers left more than 100 dead in Malakal. He returned this week to the town near the border between the northern and southern regions of Sudan.


Thankfully a family from YWAM trying to pioneer work in Malakal are currently in Khartoum. The town has repeatedly seen fighting since the signing of the peace agreement in 2005. The violence could spark a wider conflict in the country. Pray for the peace of this city and this central region of Sudan. Also ask God to comfort the families of those you died and those who have been wounded.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

African Nations Must not look to Obama for their Salvation

Reflecting recently on the ongoing civil feuds within several African nations at present, the seemingly endless fighting that begs for long-term solutions so that peace and the enduring spirit of the citizens can prevail, I have not lost any conviction that this peace lies solely within the peoples of these countries seeking God's will for their nation. African countries (such as Kenya) cannot continue to look to America as their Redeemer, especially so now with President Barack ("bless" in Arabic) Obama and what he has no doubt done for the black mindset in all the African diaspora.  The inauguration was a very moving and well-done event, for sure, but Obama will not be different than any other U.S. President in the area of seeking first the interests of America in foreign policy.

These thoughts (and they are by no means mine alone) have led me to remember the beginning of Steven Curtis Chapman's song Heaven in the Real World, where you hear a pastor saying over the din of news reports of violence and death:
"I feel demoralized by the decay I see around me...our hope is not in who governs us, what laws are passed, or what great things we do as a nation--our hope is in reality of Christ Jesus entering the hearts and minds of people."

When I read such articles as "Africa: Obama's Three Objectives for the Continent" and the more recent "Africa: Obama Inauguration Sparks Celebrations in Washington" (http://allafrica.com/stories/200901230892.html), I get wary about underdeveloped countries still very much infiltrated with corrupt officials at the top placing hopes for change in their own countries because of a minority like Obama making it to the most powerful/influential office in the world.  I am excited to see what new policies he carries forth onto the international scene, esp. in helping bring an end to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, but know that he will be no foreign nation's Savior [not even for his father's land of Kenya].  For a true Savior not only saves from the immediate trouble, but has future plans of joy and glory already in place.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Many Thanks/Siyabonga Khakhulu for our Engagement Reception at BPC, Bellingham!


Thandeka and I were overwhelmed with the loving support we received in abundance last night at our engagement reception. More than that, the evidence that God's glory was at the centre of it all. Held at my home church, Birchwood Presbyterian (http://bpchurch.org/), it was far more than we had expected. Much family and friends rallied together in the effort to keep it at a minimal cost, while still maintaining a high-class feel.


LEFT: Thandi and my everloving sister (as she always signs off herself in the numerous cards she has given me over the years), Kristin, showing off their near matching dresses before the big event. I am so blessed to have both of these strong women of God in my life.

We especially want to thank Steve and Julie Clarke for teaming up to make it a very entertaining and beautiful night, along with Steve Moore for providing centre piece arrangements and classy ID cards for each delectable dessert dish (which my church family generously provided in great variety).

From Janice Bethman helping to string up lights at the last-minute and the Kettmans making the coffee happen to late-comers happily putting up more tables and my Uncle Clifford coming all the way from Maryland to single-handedly clean up ALL the dishes, it was a night of African and American cultures fusing to the glory of God. And I believe that to the core of my heart. Not to mention the fact that I looked very 'smart' (as African English speakers commonly say it). I owe that to my brother-in-law, Jamey (from Team Blakely), giving me a pin-stripe suit right beforehand to make sure I at least looked like I knew what I was doing.


We realize many of you that support us could not make it, but we still cherish your prayers for our new life together as one, to be a witness to the nations of what God had in mind when he created the family. The challenges that are inherent in cross-cultural marriages gives that much more room for the Lord Jesus to shine through in what we cannot do on our own strength, and we are praying the traditional wedding will really honor Thandeka's family and give glory to the Lover of all cultures.

We really look forward to keeping in good communication with all of you, and pray the Lord's blessing (not what you think is 'blessings') in this new year to the glory of Our Father!