Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blessed 2015....Prayer Feedback

Happy final day of 2014!

We just wanted to shoot out a quick update to say Christopher and his family got a great flight deal through the help of missionary partners from Colorado Springs base on Christmas Eve day.  We as a family were also able to help them with some immediate needs this side by sending some Rand through, knowing how important it is to return to family with some form of gifts, and even moreso at Christmastime!  They are so appreciative of your prayers and some of you that expressed a desire to give towards them via us, we will sending a check for them to the Colorado base in January, as they process the family's support globally and will send a wire through to them. You can also give to them directly if you feel led to do so.  This base helps process support for many African missionary families, esp. in South Sudan.
So here are details in case anyone is led for future:
Donations can be sent to: YWAM Strategic Frontiers, 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 "Sud- Christopher and Hanan" to let us know how to use your gift.

To make a donation online, you can go to www.ywamsf.org.


Otherwise, we are so blessed to have spent Christmas with two of Thandi's sisters and a niece, and now have Mom with us fresh from her 33-hr. journey from the states:)  Busi was so excited to see her in the morning that she cried as they hugged.  And Elisha was in car/truck heaven as we celebrated his 2nd birthday on the 29th.  Even our niece Abigail Kutlwano calls her 'Grammy' and was all over her the two days we all got to be together.  Now we are planning our road trip to see some of the country we haven't yet, and visit some old friends along the way.  We will travel east through the entire Eastern Cape and into Kwa-Zulu Natal before resting a bit in Mpumalanga province to see Kruger Park for the first time.  We will then pass through Gauteng to see rest of family and church family in Jo'burg before heading back to Western Cape via Free State Province.  Pray for me to keep alert on the road and the kids not to go crazy!

Train Ministry:
Over the holidays I have been joining my gangster-turned-evangelist friend in outreach, including some time spent preaching on the crowded trains to town and back.  This morning was especially blessed as I brought along a Cameroonian student who shared his testimony of losing both his parents as a young boy and having no family to God's redemptive power in now giving him family all over the world through the Body of Christ.  I also preached about God's love for all nations and cultures, especially in this amazing country where so many nations have come from across Africa and the world, and that we need to seek to bring glory to God through honoring and serving one another within our cultural uniqueness.  We had amazing conversations with Muslims, Rastafarians and Jehovah's Witnesses as we boldly proclaimed in unity the need to follow the Truth, as Jesus spoke of himself (John 14:6), and could feel the Lord driving out the distractions of the enemy as we simply gave thanks for who He is to all mankind!

Christmas Hamper Feedback:
We gathered on the 23rd Dec.at Oom (Uncle) Edwin's house in Hillview, Lavender Hill.  This is the family that runs a soup kitchen out of their home every Tuesday afternoon, while still caring for their three children and Ouma (Grannie).  The latter half of this year I started going regularly and taking DTS students with. We would arrive a little early, help prepare the food and big pot of stew, while also greeting and chatting with everyone who was already lined up.  then we would pray together and challenge one of the students to give a brief word before heading out into the community to minister to others who didn't show up.  These are people who are really struggling to get through each day, so this ministry is meeting a huge need, including even helping these single moms, aunties and uncles and other guardians to get their children into school where it wouldn’t have been an option otherwise because of the high cost of school fees.  I have always loved the openness of the people in Cape Town to receive prayer and this community is no different, but the barriers to their spiritual growth are massive indeed, and we are believing as they go deeper into the Word of Truth they will be able to take back what the enemy has stolen.
So on the final meeting on the 23rd, the family got enough donations together so that we would help to make a special Christmas meal and gift distribution possible.  We also passed out Christmas hampers that blessed nearly 50 impoverished families, many of these families openly Muslim.  What a testimony of God’s love for all!  The kids each also got little packets of toys and sweets mixed together, and Elisha was happy to play Santa’s helper with me after passing heaping plates of food through the bedroom window (see pic).  It is so amazing to me that Edwin has no steady job/income and yet he and his wife have the faith to continue to give out and be light in the community enveloped in the darkness of drug addiction, gangsterism, domestic abuse and so on.   
I had said I would get a digital form of their End-of-Year Report attached but they had some trouble getting the email to me.  Yet, here is a rundown of some of the numbers over the past year:
- Around 1500 people got food weekly
- 20 Shack fire victims got clothing and furniture along with assistance to rebuild
- Several people created income by starting to bring recycling (Edwin gathers recycling on large scale and brings to scrap yards, something I am trying to get the base more involved in, as there is no body in place to collect recycling from you)
- 45 Christmas hampers handed out valued at R10,000

It has been a blessing to be involved with this family and many others coming from gang-related backgrounds in rough communities now spreading the hope that is in Christ Jesus alone....
We wish you all a blessed and even more purposeful 2015!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Greetings & Family Prayer Request

HI all and Merry Christmas!

As the days draw closer to the end of another year and we take time to meditate on why our God chose to send His only Son into this broken world, I am reminded again of what a privilege it is to live in such a diverse community, all testifying to the truth that Jesus is the Only One who unites all nations/peoples to the point where they take joy in serving and learning from one another.  Three times a week I get to play pick-up soccer matches with local guys who I have built relationships with over the years, and at any one time there are at least 10 nations represented.  I jokingly call our team (as we sometimes organize ourselves to play full matches against other clubs) the United Nations, though we are still praying to see that true unity in Christ for all who come.

This morning I was privileged (through the faithful prison ministry of a former student on the DTS I staffed earlier this year) to be able to share at a very unique Christmas program at South Africa's most infamous prison, Pollsmoor.  What a blessing it is to be able to go and speak hope to those who think there is none left for them, and see that glimmer of reality which is sparked by Truth once again finding His way back in to their hearts and minds and calling them out to see there is still a way forward to true life and purpose!  I was initially a bit intimidated to be just mingling in the common yard among so many youths 18-25 year olds, covered in their numbers tattoos (26,27 or 28, check history of South African gangs if you want to know more) and just looking dangerous, but soon enough greetings took place with some and then deeper conversations came out of that.  I was able towards the end, after we took most of the time individually praying, listening and sharing with them, to share from Romans 8:28, stating that God has called them into a relationship where they can love Him and those around them, but it all flows from them first receiving His love and continues in receiving it.  Receiving and walking in God's love is not only the foundation of our faith but is our ongoing goal!  It is not about the good I try to do but about allowing God's goodness, through the Spirit of Grace, to flow through me and redeem.  I got to talk personally with strong believers, Muslims who truly thought the Koran was written before the Bible and lovingly share with them the contrary and speaking prophetically over them, as well as just praying and declaring the victory of Jesus over the work of the enemy in their lives.  I really loved the time, and hope to be able to go back soon, as long as I will be able to get a permit again.

FAMILY PRAYER REQUEST:

I have attached the vision of an amazing family we have gotten to know since God brought them to South Africa last December for further training, and we would highly appreciate it if you could read over it and pray about possibly giving towards their financial need of flying the family back to South Sudan ASAP.  We have been able to give a bit here and there, but I know God is personally challenging me for a greater freewill offering, and have been sharing and praying with Thandi what that looks like.  This is the same couple I mentioned on another update about going to re-pioneer the work in Wau, northern part of South Sudan, and I can say they are the real deal.  The wife is from Nuba mountains and has lost most of her family over the years of government-sponsored bombing and village raiding campaigns, but she is sold out for building the Kingdom of God among the ashes with her husband, and they have such a gentle authority about them.  Their family picture is attached.  Just let me know if you feel led to give any specific amount to them that I can pass on, as we also are asking the Lord.

OUR CHRISTMAS:

Yesterday, Busi and I bought 100 bars of Sunlight soap to be able to play a part in the 100 Christmas parcels our family friends will be distributing to needy families during Christmas, as I mentioned in our last update.  We also plan to be around for distribution and praying for the people into the new year, listening to their hopes and aspirations.  I will get an update from the family with all the statistics of community improvement through the simple soup kitchen ministry they started in Lavender Hill three years ago, which we have now been able to support through bringing students to serve and just be with the people.

The Whitlock clan is all very excited for Grammy (Mama Whitlock, or 'Mama Kristin', as most African cultures would call her, naming her after her eldest child) to be coming just after Christmas and the day before Elisha's 2nd birthday.  As it may be our last Christmas with Thandi's family for many years we were planning to drive up there again to be with them, but then decided we will be able to see them on the way back from a cross-country road trip we will be doing with Grammy in January before Busi's preschool begins again. Oh ja, we forgot  to say that Busi did wonderful in both her drama presentations as well as the Christmas play.  She sung the loudest and most clearly 'Silent Night' in Slovakian, and the teachers joked that she sings Slovakian more clearly than the Slovakian student:)  
Anyhow, Grammy is excited to be able to see Gogo (Thandi's mom) and her sisters in Joburg on the road trip we will be taking up to Kruger Park (something we had to see before moving from SA). Now, we are also looking forward to having some of Thandi's family come down and join us for Christmas in Cape Town, and know they won't be disappointed!

Lastly, we as Frontier Missions were able to join with our base in commissioning a wonderful couple, Markus and Evie, to be living among a people in the Middle East this last week.  They will be learning Arabic and the culture of the people, and seek different roads of building relationships and the community for the long-term.  We have been working with them for a number of years now, and we plan to keep in touch and support of one another, even as we seek for Muizenberg base to forge stronger ties to those they send out long-term, especially to the Frontier regions among the last and least-reached peoples.

Many thanks again as you continue to battle and declare the Lord's Kingdom come in full this Christmas season!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

October/November Update--Happy Thanksgiving!

Sanibonani abangane bethu (Greetings to all of our friends) and Happy Thanksgiving,

We trust you are well and growing in knowledge of and obedience to our worthy Lord Jesus as you gear up for another festive/busy season.  We have a number of things to update you on, but can just begin with a big praise to God for all His intimate care and purpose for us as a family, and pray He is doing the same for you who are learning what it is to truly trust Him.

Since the last week of October Thandi has been full-time in a course run by an offshoot ministry of our YWAM base called Bethesda House: Healing for Body, Soul and Spirit.  Here is her update:

We are on now on our 5th week of the six-week Leading by the Spirit Course (LBSC) and I’m struggling to put into words what God has done. It has always been a battle for me to walk fully in the calling that God has for me, especially in our inheritance that God has for us in South Sudan.  Well, I’m happy to announce that I no longer live by fear of death!  It’s been an awesome journey of God setting me free of that as well as breaking a lot of the fear of man in my life.

Another thing God has been doing in this time is helping me to embrace my emotions and operate in my strength of Empathy for His purposes to be fulfilled in and through me.
I actually became aware of my need to engage with my emotions before the course started through doing Strengthfinderswith Bryan, in which Empathy came up as my top strength, and having a friend of ours in the mission coach us.  I saw that I was not operating in empathy towards others because my other strengths were dominating and telling me not to risk getting hurt again.  Now, through the LBSC, I have been set free to engage with my emotions, knowing they are from God and He wants to use them in my relationship with Him, with others, as well as bringing understanding between others in reading the spiritual atmosphere.  Overall, the course is very intensive with long hours and digging deep into our past to break generational curses, receive and learning to impart  inner healing and many other dynamics of what Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.  I am so grateful to be able to do this course and that we have the flexibility for Bryan to be with the kids more (he just ends up taking them along on ministryJ), and he among others have really noticed me coming alive.

We have had several outreaches between the lectures/classtime to practice growing in the prophetic, praying for healing, and so on, and this last Friday I was able to take it into the youth group Bryan and I meet with in the Xhosa community of Mfuleni.  This is the same group I have been giving updates on where I am co-leading with a local youth leader the Cherish manual on sexual purity and identity in Christ (which we are still carrying on slowly but surely), while Bryan meets with the guys to speak on similar issues.  Well, this last Friday we felt to stay together and began the time with a nice fellowship/ celebration of life around snacks.  It was cool to see these youths who don’t have much all contributing a small part to make it come together instead of relying on us to provide everything.  From there, I explained some of what I have been learning in the LBSC and would like to have them join Bryan and I in putting it into practice on one another, by the Spirit that is in each of us.  We then prayed for the seven youth present one at a time and just trusted God to minister to them with specific words.  We were so excited to see the youth not only experience God’s love ministering directly to them and a lot of breakthrough in tears, but it was largely through their fellow youth who really engaged with what God wanted to do!  Many of the girls received deep healing in the area of the Father’s love, and others just  in walking out who God made them to be.  Bryan and I came away so blessed, and they all thanked us for our obedience in facilitating the time. 

Lavender Hill Ministry:
Since our last update about the Discovery Bible Study I started with some youth on Tuesday nights, there has been a lot of hard work invested in these guys with some disappointing results.  We have come to the point where we don’t want it to be us chasing them down to meet, but waiting for them to initiate if it is something they really want.  We know it is a strong spiritual warfare going on in their hearts and neighborhood, so we continue to pray, but also ask God to give them the hunger for Him they need to rise above their situations and truly seek Him out.  We trust they have tasted His goodness through our times in the Word, but have moved on to another part of the community where I have been going earlier on Tuesdays to help serve at a soup kitchen my friend runs out of his home (see pic).  We will as a family help his family delivering Christmas parcels to the community and help fundraise for this.  This has been easier to take along students to also minister, and we are building a lot of solid relationships and able to speak into many lives, both nominal Christians and Muslims, as this neighborhood is about 50/50.  I have been taking the kids along with while Thandi is in the course and it is always amazing to see how they open up opportunities to share and draw people.  My friends in the community then take us around to people’s homes for another two hours.
I am currently discipling one youth named Brandon who goes by the nickname ‘Brakes’ because he doesn’t do anything slow.  He is still involved with the Funkies as a gunman (I haven’t asked how many people he has killed) but wants out as he recently got married and wants to have children.  I see such a softness in his heart and his wife is good for him, but it honestly will take a miracle for him to break free from this gang.  But our God can make a way!

I have been working with a brother who previously lived in Lavender Hill, but has relocated across the highway to Retreat.  Last Friday night he (Ashley) invited me to join him and some others in a Prayer March.  It turned out to be one of the coldest nights in many months, but we were warm in the Spirit, as we sang worship/deliverance songs in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa and marched to every corner tying up red ribbons, prophetically taking back the land and people for God's Kingdom.  It is another community taken over by gangsterism and the drug trade that is killing the youth, but there was so much hope as we cried out to God and proclaimed His authority.  He kept reminding me that He is these people's greatest desire, truly He is the desire of all nations! (Haggai 2:7).  The next day Ashley told me that through that 2-hour act of obedience, two souls came into the Kingdom of Light!  

Downtown Ministry:
I have been taking a couple staff colleagues every Thursday downtown via the train, and it has been bearing some real fruit, especially in the informal settlement next to Bo Kaap known as The Kraal (literally where cattle are kept—see pics).  This is a community of primarily drug dealers and all-around down n outers—just the kind of people Jesus loves to hang out with!  There is actually a Southern Sudanese Dinka named Eric who has lived there in a shack for several years and made friends with all the locals, and Dachung and I have been discipling him and encouraging him in reaching out to his Muslim neighbors of Cape Malay origin.  We are also helping him acquire a work permit, as he is a qualified engineer among other things. 
A really cool story from our first visit there over a month ago was our encounter with a seriously disturbed lady who lives in an old rusty container at the edge of the community.  As we were talking to Eric and some of his neighbors, she was yelling curses and insults at us from a distance.  The people just told us she was mad and to stay away from her.  It really seemed she was demon-possessed, and the people warned us she would send her vicious dogs on us if we approached her.  But Silvan, a Swiss brother visiting and ministering with us for a couple months, and I felt we needed to try and talk to her.  Thus, praying under our breath in tongues we slowly approached and the people looked on with dread.  We could see the discomfort and hatred on her face as we came closer, even as she warned us not to.  But we kept praying and kept coming until we came around to the entrance to her container and then out of sight from the others by a full clothesline.  To make a long story short, we found out she is actually a believer (most of the inhabitants in the Kraal are cultural muslims) and was tired of everyone making her the outcast.  They would even make up things about her when the police came around searching for drugs, etc.  We gently helped her to see that her responding in kind to them with insults and curses was the exact opposite of what Jesus would have her do by His Spirit.  It was not a mistake God placed her among these broken people, and He wants to use her to show how real His love and goodness is to them.  Patricia allowed us to pray for her and her children (single mom), even repenting to God with us and asking Him to help her live by His Spirit.  We ended by hugging her as the tears flowed, and we really couldn’t believe this was the same woman who a moment ago was yelling curses at us!  It was awesome how God silenced the two dogs as well.
The following week we returned to have Patricia actually greet us with a smile.  She still is struggling to open herself to her neighbors and interact, but we know God is doing a great work of restoration within her heart first.

It has been great meeting with different friends from different nations and asking God to speak through us to them, almost all from deeply Muslim backgrounds.  Last week I felt led to give a copy of the Wolof NT (Senegal) I had been holding and asking God to whom to give to you to my friend Khadim and it was so cool to see how excited he was to be reading about Nabi Isa in his own mother tongue.  I will be following up with him, and really pray that the Lord ministers personally to him as he overcomes his cultural fear of the Bible and asks God to speak.

New House Church in Philippi:
I have joined my Sotho/Xhosa colleague in helping start a house fellowship in the Xhosa community of Philippi in between Lavender Hill and Mfuleni.  This was also started with the help/availability of Silvan who has since gone back to Switzerland, and it is pretty amazing to see how hungry the people are for the genuine gospel of grace, and to learn how to live it out…so often in these communities churches have been planted everywhere, but they still preach a gospel of works and people go only to be seen going but with hidden condemnation and feeling like they never measure up to God’s standard.  Just yesterday we had a DBS where we went through the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, and it was awesome to see the revelation flowing that we can only love others and ourselves by first learning to love God.  And we can only love God by first receiving (and continuing to receive) His incredible, unconditional love for us!  Lorraine, whose home we meet in, will facilitate the time next week and has also mentioned wanting to get baptized.  She was really touched from our first meeting, as we simply asked the Father to speak His love and purpose over her….So much joy and redemption He is bringing, and we just ask Him to multiply it!

New Plans for Next Year:
Lastly, for now, we found out from some friends who had previously staffed at YWAM Tyler, Texas base that they have a 9-month program called Teachers for the Nations (TFN), which essentially covers Foundations in Education curriculum plus more.  See http://ds.nelwel.com/tfn/teachers-for-the-nations-2/.  As we looked it over and prayed, we really have peace that this is the right place for our family to go to next for equipping for both Thandi and I.  We are still putting in the application, after already finishing the one for Kona, but are sure we will get accepted and God will provide what is needed for this season.  They also have a good school for missionary kids as well as local children that both Busi and Elisha could attend.  I am still praying if I will do the whole course with Thandi and seek out other training in the area of Business as Mission, but either way, it will be a great base to be apart of, knowing they send a lot of people to the Frontiers, and Sudan in particular.  The school doesn't start until August rather than April, so we are hoping to get a flight in late June to spend some time in WA state before heading there.  I never thought I would live in Texas!:)

Ok, that is all for now.  As usual, I know we have left some stuff out but will do best to get out shorter, more regular updates to remedy that!  The kids are doing great, and we keep speak healing over Elisha’s airways, as he still tends to tighten up and breathe quickly when getting any kind of small sickness.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER UPDATE

God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
            God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
            Professor night lectures each evening.
Their words aren't heard, their voices aren't recorded, 
But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
God makes a huge dome for the sun - a superdome! 
The morning sun's a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed,
the daybreaking sun an athlete racing to the tape. 
That's how God's Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith. 
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. 
The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. 
God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee.                                                                                                   --Psalm 19:1-7 (The Message)

This passage really resonated for us as we reflected back on our ten days in the historic land of Eg.ypt, especially travelling through the country during the holy month of Ramadhan, and praying that as hearts are seeking to draw closer to God they are receiving more of His truth that sets free. 
We know this update is long overdue and we apologize for being quiet since our return from Eg.ypt, but it has really been a challenge to get our thoughts together based on what the Lord has us involved in.  We will be getting out a more detailed report of our time encouraging the outreach team in Eg.ypt, including the many challenges we faced in just getting our return flights home:( The time with the team was very encouraging and rewarding as we listened to how much they had grown personally already.  Thandi and I really enjoyed the day we were able to worship and fellowship with the team at their place on Elephantine Island in the River Nile (look it up, very beautiful), and then take time to give each of the six members words, pictures and prophecies we received for them in the time we had prayed leading up to the trip and on the train ride south. 

For now, we have been processing a lot and were busy helping wrap up the April DTS while also being able to have Thandi’s sister, Nelisiwe, visit us for two weeks.  We hope we encouraged her, as her presence always does for us.  Oh, and Busi turned 4! (see MuizPlay pic).  We also just had a packed but incredibly rich At-home Week with our over 200 staff that gathered to hear from God from all over the city.  It is always so amazing to have a such a culturally diverse community coming together with a genuine hunger to be in the Lord’s presence and seek Him together as to the new things He is calling us to join Him in.  It truly is a taste of heaven as more sounds of the nations are released and we learn to serve and edify the Body God has called us to be apart of—what a privilege to build His Kingdom together!

TIME FOR CHANGE…
Since the beginning of the year, however, both Thandi and I felt God saying that our time in South Africa has come to an end, though we were really struggling to hear God for what the next step is for us as a family.  However, since doing the short course just before April on our strengths, spiritual gifts, and passions, we felt we wanted to help pursue Thandi’s passion for healthy families and seeing Bible-based education as the foundation to that.  She has recently applied for the Foundations in Education [http://www.uofnkona.edu/training/foundations-in-education/] course in the largest Y.WAM base, Kona, Hawaii for April 2015.  The course is only three months, but there are options to stay on for Thandi’s practical, and I would be looking to do some kind of internship study while simultaneously networking for our long-term vision in South Sudan and the region.  There is a school we are applying for Busi to attend on campus as well, and it is supposed to be very good.  It is exciting to think that this course focuses on developing an educational foundation based on a Biblical worldview that can be run in a non-biblical context, such as a Muslim-dominated nation or animistic culture.  Needless to say, it will be a huge transition for us.  Though we knew this day was coming, it is not going to be any easier.  We sense God is challenging us to sell or give away nearly all and start afresh as a family (with exception to my library, which I am planning on distributing among some friends who enjoy books just as much as I do, one of which is an Ethiopian brother named Niftalem who is planning to start a café/bookshop as an outreach tool downtown for whom I will donate some of my books to help him get that startedJ). 

As far as the next step after the training/equipping time in Kona, we are not sure at this point, but I am following up contacts of mine in Ethiopia and nearby regions, as we desire to be close to South Sudan while still be equipped to enter fully into our ministries there.  We trust that perhaps we can serve the vision of another family, even if in another mission organization, and gain valuable insight and growth for our own calling.  We appreciate prayer for hearing God in this, especially if He is opening the door for us to go into South Sudan earlier than expected, such as joining a Sudanese family that will soon be going to re-pioneer the base in Wau, northern South Sudan, where I had previously gone on a scouting trip.  While certain parts of the war-torn country are still tense and facing crisis (Ethiopia now hosts the most refugees of any country after fresh floods of Sudanese fleeing the fighting in the east), Wau is quite stable and anxious to develop its potential.

CURRENT MINISTRY/TESTIMONIES:
In our remaining six months, we will be getting some good transition coaching from a solid friend that has been in missions for several years with his family, Thandi will be doing a powerful six-week course called Leading by the Spirit [http://ywammuizenberg.org/training
/leading-by-the-spirit-course/] with the primary goal of growing in confidence in the gifts God has given her, while continuing with her Cherish girls on God’s call to purity in Mfuleni, and I will continue with outreach/relationship building/simple church among various unreached people groups that God has brought into the beautiful mix that is Cape Town. 
I have been able to start up a new DBS (Discovery Bible Study) with some young men from Lavender Hill, a notorious Cape Flats community wracked with hard drug abuse and gang violence on a near daily basis, alongside a born-again gangster with a passion for reaching youth in the area.  We have been gathering with 3-4 youths from the community every Tuesday night, though it has not always been smooth, sometimes not even able being able to drive into Stone Court where they are staying because bullets are flying.  In the past five days alone, four young people have been murdered.  Even when we are unable to pick up the youths, I still gather with Ashley, Nazeem (both locals), Jacque (new staff from Eastern Cape) and now Silvan (Swiss visiting for a couple months) to pray for God’s Kingdom to come in power to this shattered existence.  God impressed on me the story of Lazarus in our last prayer time, and I was filled with so much faith that He is able and desiring to call out long-dead people to be His Kingdom warriors in this community.
It is a great rarity to find a functioning family unit amongst Lavender Hill’s nearly 35,000 people (see Demographic map of Cape Town attached), and even when there are families with both parents who are Christians, they often follow mere religion and are thus unable to pass onto their children the ability to navigate their way out of such an oppressive environment.  
That is why we are praying for a multiplication of these simple Bible-based fellowships that can reach kids who would never feel comfortable going into one of the mainstream churches.  It has been encouraging to hear some of their application statements in obedience to the Bible story/passage we go through, including treating their women better, helping out at home, and not reacting when others curse at or insult them.  One of our guys named Justin has actually been stabbed in the mouth because he is a talkative fellow, though our time in the Word has helped him to humble himself and rather search for ways to serve his family and neighbors.  Another youth named Christo, fresh out of rehab, expressed how he truly wants to find out who he is and is taking the Lord’s Word to him very seriously.  His cousin recently testified to me how surprised she was when he did not react to guys insulting him when he would normally talk back even worse to them.  This is truly revolutionary in such a rough neighborhood as this when turning the other cheek could be read as a sign of weakness and get you killed!

Every Thursday I am continuing to go with whoever will join me on the train downtown, and follow-up with relationships I have built.  Most of these friends come from staunch Mu.slim backgrounds/nations where to leave that system is unthinkable.  But Holy Spirit is regularly providing opportunities to plant seeds of truth and ways to share that I can are relevant to their situations.  Truly He desires all men to know Him as He truly is!  I have been going regularly with my Ethiopian brother Niftalem, who was with us at the Kids Camp in July and serves with another mission organization called All Nations, and I love how God uses him to speak truth to these friends in a nonthreatening, respectful way. Just last week, we were closing our time of prayer in the old Methodist Church centrally located in town when we noticed a man walking around the church with a pure white kofia (muslim cap) on.  We felt to approach him, while another brother stayed to intercede, just to introduce ourselves and not let him go from a church without even being greeted!  As I was asking him where in Cape Town he stays, we simultaneously recognized each other, as this was the drug lord who gave me a ride home in his BMW at over 200km/hr when my bike had been stolen in Overcome.  He actually stays at the edge of Lavender Hill and his son is the primary leader of one of the larger gangs in the whole of the Cape Flats!  He shared with us that he had been diagnosed with prostrate cancer and was waiting to go for his scan nearby.  He consented when we asked if we could pray for him, and what followed was an intense time of simply speaking God’s love over him and the Lord desiring to commune with his whole heart.  Niftalem and I could see Holy Spirit was touching him, though when we said “Amen” it was like he suddenly snapped back to reality and was on his way.  We know such people who have been doing the enemy’s work for years and years build up hardened hearts, but we also know our God is able to turn the heart of stone to a heart of flesh!  We also have an invite to come visit Kasim in the community anytime, though will be praying for the right time.

SEEKING TO SERVE IN THE LOCAL CHURCH…
Since returning from Eg.ypt we have been regularly attending a small fellowship called Hope City Church that meets in a café in Muizenberg.  I love being apart of a community of faith outside the YWAM bubble that is still in walking distance, and Thandi is really enjoying the communion as well as getting involved in the childcare/Sunday School programs.  The pastor and his wife just moved here from London, though he is South African and she is half-Lebanese.  They and another family in the church raise Pit Bulls as well (yes, the dogs that bite and don’t let go) and I am helping them organize an event where these dogs compete against each other in various events, in an effort to get them away from the typical fighting they are raised for.  Pit Bulls are very common dogs in the poorer Cape Flats communities, including Lavender Hill, so I am looking forward to this as an outreach tool.  It has also been a blessing to join a Wed. night small group as we go through the teaching series “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” together—it has been very enlightening for Thandi and I to say the least!  We still stay connected to friends in the Overcome church that burned down, and I try to get out there once in a while to help with the rebuilding efforts, glad to see they are enclosing one section for a kitchen and kids area.
We are also continuing to meet with our good friends Sbusiso and Nelly for home church Thursday suppers, and we are supporting them as they prepare to say their life vows on October 31st.  I will be one of the groomsmen while Thandi is helping organize a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff.  Lastly, we are also looking to fit in a local course for TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) that gives missionaries a discount here in Cape Town, and could prove very beneficial as a tool and means of some income in the future.  
Thanks for reading if you made it this far, and many blessings as you continue to bless us as a family for the sake of Lord’s Name being made known among the nations!

PRAYER REQUESTS….
·        -  Continued health for Busi and Elisha (we have had to go to ER twice in past couple months for Eli because he gets a very rapid heartbeat due to his airways closing up when he gets sick; we last had to put him on one of those masks that he can breathe some steroid mix in to calm down and doctor said could easily develop into asthma, but we have prayed and warred over him and believe God has healed him!)
·       -  Balanced life, especially as we get ready for Thandi to be a full-time student again for a season
·        - Ongoing fruit in the lives of Cherish girls Thandi meets with
·        -  Multiplication of and regular meetings for DBS in Lavender Hill; protection by the blood of Jesus and the Word to penetrate deep into the youth’s hearts and minds
·        -  More testimonies of God touching the nations in downtown Cape Town
·       -   Grace in this transition period and that we may bring to completion well what God still has for us in South Africa
·        -  Increased persecution of believers around the world, particularly strength for those in Iraq and Syria

Thursday, June 26, 2014

May/June Update...Frontiers DTS off for Outreach!

This last week saw the end of the Frontiers DTS lecture phase, and the students taking off in four different teams to Thailand, Egypt, Uganda/S.Sudan and the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It has been great as a Frontier Missions Dept. to support the school and really bring God’s heart for the unreached peoples in earnest to these first-time students of mission, culminating in running the Kairos course for two weeks at the end.  Originally, I had been asked to do the pastoral visit for the team in Uganda and be able to check on the work across the border in the mountains of South Sudan that we helped with back in 2012, but more recently the school leader, our colleague Dachung, decided to join them.  In addition, Thandi and I have been praying and really felt peace to fill the need for a pastoral visit to the Egypt team while also utilizing the trip as a  time to pray for our future in this region.  We know our time in Muizenberg is coming to an end, though are still involved in some ministry and equipping ourselves with the incredible community of faith God has brought together here.  We are currently seeking God on where exactly we will move to next as a family, and appreciate your prayers for guidance in this and all the pieces coming together.
With the pastoral visit being only around ten days long and quite expensive, we felt peace to leave the kids behind if suitable arrangements could be made.  We have close family friends in Joburg that we trust entirely who have agreed to help us in this and we are looking to fly them down with their two boys the day before we leave.  The dates that work best are July 15-25, so that we arrive back just before Busi’s birthday on the 27th.  We will fly into Cairo and then directly take a train south to Aswan, where the team is focusing on the Nubian peoples through prior contacts made.  We are really excited for this opportunity, and trust God to reveal much in this time.
The financial need is quite large with flight tickets around R20,000 ($2000) for the two of us, and then travel expenses once in country.  We are also looking at about another $1000 to help our friends come down to stay with Busi and Elisha and help cover expenses while we are away.   You can still give through Birchwood Presbyterian church if you feel led to help cover some of these costs, or go through the Paypal link on our website: www.whitlocks4africa.com.

We also want to update you about our neighboring community of Capricorn and Overcome, where we have been building relationships with people (both South Africans and foreigners) for years now.  Thandi has built relationships with ladies as she always does her hair there, and acquires clients for them when new female students come through:)  Since the end of last month, however, there has been a wave of deadly violence between taxi drivers and now some of the local gangs have gotten involved.  In one week alone at least 10 people were shot dead, and the main highway we use every morning to carpool Busi and her friends to school was part of where they were shooting at each other!  (http://ewn.co.za/2014/05/23/CPT-Taxi-violence-Learners-missing-school-and-exams)
Things have settled down now thankfully, but this still needs a lot of prayer and intentional/Spirit-led outreach into these communities.  Pray for those we (and other missionaries) have invested in would take ownership over the spiritual forces of darkness controlling their community, and experience victory in their prayers and the fruits of the Kingdom being manifested.  It has been happening in pockets, and I am very encouraged by some believers like Ashley I have been working with who literally go into the community every free minute  they have to evangelize and share their testimonies of being set free from drugs, prison and the gang life.  I have also been taking the DTS students into Lavender Hill with the help of a co-staff from the area, including the Village Care Centre where we got to know the children coming from broken homes, both Muslim and Christian, and ministered to the youth and adult staff.  The clip shows one of the boys praying for our students as they were still preparing to head for outreach:

Here is another update from Thandi in her Cherish girls group out at the eastern edge of Cape Town, about a 40 minute drive from us, where we go every other Friday:
“It has not been ideal in terms of the consistency of gathering together in the Xhosa community of Mfuleni, but it has been amazing to see the core of the five girls faces light up as they truly get the truths of what God thinks about them.  The fact that they are not mistakes just really needs to be accepted and embraced by them, and this comes by seeing their loving Father has created them for intimacy with Himself and then with other people as they discover who they are in Him.
God is really breaking them in their worldview, challenging them in how He intends relationships to be.  They are also recognizing they have a responsibility to forge good relationships even when they have been hurt.  Every time we meet we recap what they learned from the last session and how they have been applying it, and then bring a new lesson that brings in fresh and powerful truth.  What has been most amazing is that when a new girl shows up, I am not the one that has to catch them up but the core girls all speak up and share what we have been learning!  Please keep praying for the young women in this community who face all forms of abuses, that they would not succumb to a victim mentality or orphan spirit but rise up into the beautiful women God has created them to be.  Pray also that some of the girls will follow through on the challenge to start their own Cherish groups.”

Ramadhan is starting sometime this weekend (once the next full moon appears), and we are seeing God doing many incredible things in the lives of Muslims as more and more people obediently and passionately pray for them to encounter Jesus in a personal way.  Once again this is the website to get prayer materials from and God will surely bless you as you ask Him how to pray for Muslims all around the world in this opportune time where their hearts are more open than ever: http://www.30-days.net/resources/download/

THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU ALL TO CONTINUE TO BE A BLESSING!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen! [April Update]

Happy Easter!  What a blessing it is to once again reflect on Jesus not only resurrecting Himself but being the “resurrection and life” for all who believe in Him (Jn. 11:25).  We are in utter disbelief at how fast this year is rolling by, but so grateful to see God’s hand growing us closer together as a family and re-affirming His purpose to us.  Among other things, we were so blessed to have friends of ours lead us in an alignment course called PIN Code [http://www.themaximizegroup.com/maximize-mentoring.html] the week before the Frontiers Discipleship Training School started (last week of March) for us to really stop and look back to know where He has us going now.

The course is broken into 5 parts as follows:
Code #1= Your Life story [LOOKING BACK]
Code #2= Life calling [LOOKING UP]
Code #3= Gift mix [LOOKING INSIDE]
Code #4= Life path (Build Vision Board for 5 years from now) [LOOKING FORWARD]
Code #5= Life stages (and working through transitions) [LOOKING AT NOW]

We did the week together with another couple we have grown close to whose daughter is Busi’s best friend.  It was really evident the timing for doing this together was from God, as God ministered to both us couples, not only individually but especially for how we can truly serve each other within our marriages and not let our spouse’s vision die.  For me, it was great leading into what is a very busy season with staffing a school, Thandi truly embracing why I am helping with this school that focuses on the unreached and giving the support I will need.  What was crucial for me was Code #5, as we already know a lot of our gifts and strengths but are struggling to activate them.  It was also pertinent as we prepare for a move next year but both sense the transition will not be anything like what we have been envisioning (more on that later:).  For Thandi, she puts it like this:

The course was amazing to reflect back on my life story, identifying the themes God has been threading (ie. Unconventional r/ships with Muslims) and reawakening in me the passion to be doing what God has created for me to do and brings life at the same time.  It has not been easy the past couple years to be ministering intentionally with raising the kids, though I know God has been using me in my friendships, but I really re-discovered my passion for young people and seeing them grow up in healthy families.  One way I am growing in impacting this area is through co-facilitating a Cherish accountability group (the training I helped organize a month ago) of about 15 ladies in a youth group in a Xhosa community.  Bryan meets the guys, who are only three, while I meet with the ladies to talk about self-respect, what God says about relationships/sex, etc.  I have really been amazed at how open and honest these youth are, and can sense this kind of thing is really missing in the discipleship of believers in the church.  We rely on the schools to teach these youths, but they give a man-centered rather than God-centered picture, and thus church youths are battling just as much as others.  It was great to also have Bryan’s Mom help with the kids while we officially kicked off the 8-week accountability course last week.

As many of you do know, Mom had a great time visiting us once again, and our friends/colleagues are always so impressed at how willing she is to just jump into whatever ministry or activity is going onJ  Thank you all for your prayer support for her throughout the trip.  Thank you also for your prayers and generous support for our adopted Church of the Nazarene in Overcome since the fire a few weeks back.  They have been nearly overwhelmed with donations from all directions, but will be using money sent from our supporters to extend the building on its existing foundation to include a kitchen/wash-up area and hopefully even a children’s play area.  I hope most of you were able to see pics I posted on my Facebook timeline.

PRAYER REQUESTS:
·         Keep both Busi and Elisha in prayer for health (I know you do already); Busi has been battling a nasty cough on and off, and Elisha an ear infection

·         YWAM Muizenberg’s Frontiers Dept. as we serve in the DTS and seek God for a long-term team, especially staff called to stay back and mobilize

·         Hearing God’s direction for us as a family as we know our time in Muizenberg is drawing to an end

·         Ongoing discipleship programs within Capricorn, Overcome and Lavender Hill; we are now taking some new students into the community and joining with existing youth groups and DBSs but have not been able to go further into Lavender Hill due to a lot of shooting from gang violence…
Below is a cool testimony from a time a couple months back:

I have been going weekly for a Discovery Bible Study with a group of local Xhosa and Coloured youths, but am trying to see how it can be adjusted to include some of the new DTS students now.  There have been some exciting breakthroughs, especially since God laid on my heart to bring at least 1-2 guys from Capricorn into the neighboring Overcome for ministry.  One guy from Capricorn who is really getting serious about laying down his life for Christ's sake named Sandro joined me and a visiting outreach team one day in Overcome, and it was amazing to hear afterwards as he testified going to Overcome was a big step to free him from fear of the area.  It turns out last time he had been there he was robbed by a group of young gang members, the very same youth I have been building relationships with and whom he had now prayed for!  What an amazing God we serve who honors the little steps of obedience we take in response to the truth that He desires (and has) the best way forward for us.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 Whitlock Family Update

Dear Friends and Family,

We are blessed to update you in the midst of a busy season in our lives.  We are consistently taking new opportunities to step out and share what we have received from our God even as He continues to pour in more, and we really are trusting this is only the start. And as far as material blessings go, I hope many of you saw my facebook post on Jan. 31st, in which we got our first spacious family car (see first pic) and my permanent residence permit came through after nearly two years, and I can now apply for a South African passport/ID.  For a guy like me that takes long to make big decisions, it was a day of shock but gratitude to God.  Before we get into the rest though....GO HAWKS!!!:)

Every year now we have on staff an American brother who hosts a Super Bowl party at his place.  Last year I had no interest in staying up all night to watch a couple teams I didn't give a hoot about battle it out.  But this year our beloved Hawks were in it.  My friend just happens to be from Lynnwood and a die-hard Hawks fan, so that made it even more enjoyable to see the pounding we gave Manning and the Broncos (though we did have to cheer silently with his son sleeping and halftime being around 3am:).  Pretty crazy to hear about how Seattle has been turned upside down following the big win!  So the quickest way to bring a city together and promote brotherhood is to win the Super Bowl!  Now we as a nation need to rally around our boys for the 2014 World Cup in Brasil, as they have a very tough group:)

Teaching/Church Connecting Opportunities:
This past week and the coming one I have been helping facilitate another Kairos course at our sister ministry Media Village in northern Cape Town, around 50km away.  They run a DTS entry course there once a year, and decided to incorporate the course into two weeks of their lecture phase (see pic of students doing drama before praying for the unreached Animist block).  This is actually the same format we will be doing in the April DTS that Thandi and I will be on support staff with, as it is a Frontiers-focused DTS.  Our colleague Dachung (who was our student in the Issore Church Plant outreach) will actually be leading the school, and we are very excited about the people God is bringing with a passion to reach the unreached!  This last week Dachung and I were able to visit one applying student who lives across town, an Ethiopian brother named Caleb.  He was encouraged by our talk and prayers, being surrounded by only religious people, and we were excited to have him join us in the next quarter (attached is a picture of Caleb with Dachung).
Next week I have been invited to come teach on Unreached peoples in a School of Frontier Missions on another base about 20hr bus journey from here.

Facilitating Small Groups/DBS (Discovery Bible Studies):
I am really excited to share on something God has laid on Thandi's heart to fully engage in this year, and the training she has organized for it is coming up this weekend.  Cherish small groups focus on sexual purity and self-esteem of young girls, something most churches here don't touch on [http://www.cherish.org.za/transform_community.htm]. Thandi has done so awesome in recruiting nearly 20 trainees, as she organized for the creator of the program to come down from Joburg to conduct the training!  This last Friday we visited a friend's youth group in a Xhosa township where Thandi shared on relationships off of 1 Corinthians 3:16 (Our body being a temple for God to dwell, and others to see His presence in us, just as the nations came to see the glory of the Temple in the OT).  It was very powerful to hear her share out of the pain of her father leaving her, the need to forgive, and the fact that God still has so much in store for her.  She had the girls break into small groups and facilitated the time with the leaders, while I took the guys along with our host/friend.  Thandi said the leader told her afterwards she had never heard the girls open up like that before, and she and one other girl will attend the training to take these intentional times of dealing with the past and moving forward with confidence in the Lord back into the township churches...how exciting is that! (see pics)

I have also been able to start a new DBS in Overcome with one of the guys I met with before and who has really turned his life around since we prayed and he has been clean from the drugs and gangs.  It has not been easy, but he is so hungry to learn more of the Word and walk in the power of God he says.  He is even applying by faith for a DTS!

Pray for Thandi and all the ladies attending the Cherish training to start a group of their own and run with it (Thandi will target our home church in Overcome).  Pray also for me and another brother from the states who is finishing his DTS (and is my one-on-one) who will join me to see this group of young guys stay committed to one another and to the Lord.  SO far we have three and trusting for two more guys to come regularly. After formal fellowship, we move onto lifting weights (pics to come:).

Lastly, we have recently started a house church with another cross-cultural couple, in which we will have dinner and fellowship with one another every Thursday, alternating between our homes.  It is essentially a DBS as well, though we really go deep on what God is saying to us and application for the week.  We have had two so far, and are loving what God is speaking to us and how it is drawing us closer together in our marriage.  (Pic shows Sbu and Thandi at Sbu's home in Masi township)

Ongoing Insecurity and Aid Needed in South Sudan:
Most recent articles are now reporting at least 10,000 have been killed and over half million uprooted, either internally (IDPs) or in neighboring countries as refugees.  As you may have seen in the last email update I passed on from YWAM South Sudan, the base I used to staff at is currently reaching out to a group of around 600 displaced and distraught Nuer in the area.  It is crazy how quickly the conflict has turned genocidal.  I am helping organize with the leader of an upcoming outreach to Uganda to work with YWAM Arua as they have started helping in these makeshift refugee camps with overwhelming needs, and hoping to be able to visit them in the middle of their outreach.  This is really a heartbreaking conflict (particularly with a massacre of the Dinkas in Bor town by the White Army Nuer soldiers repeating itself almost exactly like in 1991), exposing just how selfish and manipulative the leaders at the top are.  So many are rearmed and ready for war to take down the nation's first President and are not willing to wait for elections, which are only next year.  Thought this article was interesting about a drama theatre owner in Juba and his take on the current crisis: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/south-sudan-war-disrupts-a-theatre-inspires-a-dramatist/article16760007/
See also if interested on the complexities of the conflict without any clear solution in sight: http://allafrica.com/stories/201401300195.html?viewall=1

Please keep in prayer for South Sudan.  Pray also for my friend and rap artist Lam who is battling to raise support and help unite his country back to peace in Nairobi and all around the region.  He is really an inspiration to all the youth, and would love to work more with him in the future.  [This article from last month gives more about him and his current efforts: 
Thandi and I definitely are praying, even as we have postponed our planned visit to Juba and Yei base in March. We still sense God saying our time to move is end of 2015, but the question now rings out more than ever--where to exactly?  Considering the instability and shakiness of any ceasefire, we are leaning more towards northern Uganda, but still seeking to hear from God on it.  We appreciate your prayers for our family in this as well, as we ask God to allow us to play the role He has ordained for us in that region and among the peoples there to be able to enter into their Kingdom inheritance.

Praise God for delivering our brother Larry:
I recently received an unexpected update from my close friend Larry (we have staffed and led teams together, and he was even instrumental in Thandi and I first getting together:).  Listen to at least part of what he has to say and the deliverance he is now experiencing by the limitless grace of God...
Greetings champion!!!

It always gives me great joy to be able to write to you bryan wow!

I can only say all the glory to Him who sits on the throne, jesus be the center of it all...

 when I think of you my friend I can only think of the day I was sitting in that shack and you stepping in there with so much love and compassion, I saw jesus in you it brought tears to my eyes. you reminded me again of what christ did.. You never gave up on me, I don't know why I will never even know. I feel at times so guilty but then I have to remind myself guilt is not from God.. Thank you bryan for coming to my turf and really see where I am from.. That was my life, why I say that was my life I am willing to try again, but only this time I don't want to make jesus my saviour only, but lord.. All my life I knew him as saviour never have a made him lord... All my christian walk I've been struggling with addictions and only now I am willing to seek professional help.
As Thandi said, 'This is a really great email."  I last saw Larry before Christmas and he was full on back in the gang he grew up in, selling drugs on the street, and I honestly did not know if I would ever seem him again after that last conversation late at night in the streets outside Joburg.  Even now his life is threatened, as the gang he left wants him dead, but he needs to go back for a court case against him, trusting God will help him through.  He is now at a Christian rehab center in Kwazulu-Natal.  
 
Our prayer is that God would once again show His sufficient grace to stand in Larry's place and champion him into greater things for the sake of His Kingdom coming into broken people.