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.  

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