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