Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thanksgiving/Christmas Update

Seasons Greetings Y'all!

Happy belated Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas to all… As we are in this season of Advent, I am reminded what Jesus came to usher in for all who would believe and carry on seeking Him and His Kingdom.  The Apostle Peter captures the pursuit of God/holiness well in 2 Peter 1:3-8, as he breaks down what spiritual growth looks like to keep from being ineffective in the service the Lord has called us to.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…”  We are truly living in tough times where it is crucial we stand on the only firm foundation of His Word and watch that we don’t let our spiritual lives slip.  One of my prayers has been, ‘May our children realize Jesus has so much more to give them than Santa, grandparents or anyone else can!’:)

We did not get out an update soon enough to let you know we have been blessed to be able to come up to Bellingham for Christmas break, and we apologize for that.  The grandparents could not accept us being in the US and not coming up for break, and it has been fun to hear the cries of both Busi and Elisha every morning, "Granddad, Grandded...Grammie, Grammie!"  We were greatly saddened to hear about our dear friend and long-time pastor Bud Lee's passing back in late October.  Both Thandi and I were mourning afresh as we entered back through BPC's doors and didn't see his smiling face, though we know he was a great blessing to many throughout his life of faithful service.
We will unfortunately not make it back to Birchwood church this trip, as we are spending Christmas down with my sister’s family and seeing friends in Seattle, but will be having Christmas cards distributed this next Sunday to everyone at Birchwood.  For those of you I could not get hard copies made, I have attached the card in digital format.  A Korean staff friend back in Tyler did the photos for us.

Update on Thandi’s Visa/school
We have also been late in telling you about our decision to apply for permanent residency for Thandi (ie. green card) for her to be eligible for citizenship down the road.  This was a hard decision to make, knowing God has called us to be in Africa, and specifically South Sudan for the long run.  But, as we prayed since arriving back in June and saw her 6-month deadline closing in soon, we felt peace that getting in a position to be able to apply for US citizenship was the wisest choice.  We also have felt peace that the YWAM Tyler community (along with the Lifepoint local church we have been plugging into) is a place for further refining and equipping for us as a family before being launched out into our destiny.  Having submitted all the forms/documents back in November, God amazingly orchestrated her biometrics/fingerprints appointment at USCIS in Dallas for the afternoon before we were flying out to Seattle…I couldn’t have organized the time more perfectly myself!  We were already going that day to spend the night with some friends, as our flight was so early the next morning.  Prayers are appreciated that the process will not be delayed in any way, so that we can begin the 2.5 years needed to be documented in the US to be eligible for her citizenship.

While we are enjoying time with family and catching up with friends, Thandi is being kept very busy with a 6-pg Take-home test and a 40pg teaching seminar based of what she has learned thus far that will both be due when back on the 3rd.  Prayers are appreciated in this as well!  She is really enjoying the program, getting great teaching experience, and is being challenged in many ways.  Check her picture with her 4th grade class as well as teaching practice with classmates.

Thanksgiving in the Crescent City
We were incredibly blessed to be able to spend our Thanksgiving break in New Orleans with a childhood friend of mine, Ray Spees, and his wife, giving us their studio apartment in a great location to stay at (the majority of pics below). We also travelled with our friend Michael from Papua New Guinea, whom I have been working with on maintenance.  He let us know how great it was to spend Thanksgiving with a family, and not have to stay back alone at the base, and he really loves Busi and Elisha.  During our time there, we had opportunity to reach out to people from many different countries, which just made me nostalgic for the inner city outreaches I would take part in back in Cape Town.  I was surprised to meet many Israelis and Palestinians along with the Ethiopians and other nations, and we especially had a good time chatting with some Palestinian Muslims who ran a local grocery mart, as they made some amazing ‘Po-Boy’ sub sandwiches!  Shariff (see pic), the one I had the most congenial relationship with at the Louisiana Discount Mart, asked me one day as Michael and I came in, “How did you two end up getting together?  I mean, with you from one side of the globe, and he from the other.”  
I simply pointed up and replied, “Allah bess (Only God).  And, specifically, our pursuit of God in how He has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, of whom al-Quran even says is still alive and will come again.”
Shariff was quick to respond, “Yeah man, religion is a beautiful thing…” to which I was equally quick to respond, “Actually I think it is quite clear from current events and throughout history, religion can become quite an ugly thing.  Rather, God is a beautiful God and longs for every man and nation to know Him personally.” 
1 Timothy 2:3-4 states clearly, “God our Savior desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”  We also spoke of the world’s bias and concern for only those close to them culturally (with the recent example of the Paris terror attacks making the West feel so vulnerable again, while in several other countries are repeated terror victims yet don’t even raise eyebrows), but that this does not reflect the way God sees the nations.  He loves every culture/ethne, and has a place for all of them in His ever-increasing Kingdom.  I pray for Shariff and many youth like him, who are rarely given the opportunity to hear truth and then respond to it without fear from family, friends, etc.

Thank You!/Testimonies
This holiday season is providing many opportunities to give, sowing into people's needs and the ministries they are doing to meet others needs. This would not be possible for us to do in obedience to God's prompting without your amazing support to us as a family...thank you so much for enabling us to sow into others lives! 
I would especially like to highlight two ministries we have been able to continue to sow into back in Cape Town.  This is with our dear friends Edwin and his family ministering with the soup kitchen out of their home, and their friend Ashley who is really taking Holy Spirit fire to the gang-ridden streets in the area by running regular open-air worship sessions.  Please see the pictures of him and his team (he is in the hat), and of some of their outreach.  Ashley has been keeping me closely updated as God has given him a team of young men to continue the work that seems so daunting.  One of his new team members includes a former Muslim who has radically had his life changed and is now being discipled by Ashley in the ways of God.  I recently sent Ashley notes I received from a speaker who does church planting among a particular unreached people group on Luke 10, as I really see the demographic of gang bosses Ashley is targeting as an unreached part of society, for which the existing church has very little idea how to reach out to.  I salute Ashley for acting in obedience to the Lord and living out passionately the grace he has received in his own life, longing so much for others growing up in very difficult circumstances to enjoy.

Lastly, I just received a very encouraging testimony from an Ethiopian brother named Yared who has been faithfully obeying the Lord in reaching out to university students across his country, and is now in SE Asia in partnership with several different pastors to see the gospel be preached.  Here is his last update to me:

Hey Bryan how are you. do you Know I am in Cambodia now?... yes it has been three days.
I have been very busy. My host has just drive 7 Hours to take me to famous hindu and budha temple in asia.i went there to pray. after my visit to this temple i led one budhist to the lord. his name is 
Koy. As i was having boat safari in a river near by,i was led to speak to him about jesus. I asked him first if he have heard a name called JESUS christ. he said he had never heard this name before.i said say jesus christ. he said it and Then i told him the Jesus story.the presence of God was heavy .he was been ministered joy of the Lord. i asked hi what he feels when he calls the name and the story JOY he said with excitement. and then I led him on the sinners prayer.i told him to look for a Bible and continue to know about jesus more.He is a second year university student but drives boat on part -time base that was my day. today I am In Phnom Penh.we drive back 7 hour again.
God bless for your 
support.  It bears fruit. tomorrow i will start preaching every night.
Bryan,i always see you as one of my own nationality,seriously.
God bless you brother for standing with me

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September Update

A month and a half on and we are adjusting to life here in East Texas.  Other than the ubiquitous “fire ants” and getting used to things being so spread apart, we are really enjoying our new community.  It is even easier here to get sucked into a YWAM-only bubble with people living so far apart (I really miss Muizenberg in this, along with the pick-up soccer games), but we have been blessed to be attending a church not too far away called Lifepoint Fellowship Church [http://www.lifepointfc.com/about-us/, can check a video of Pastor Steve with his Texan drawl:].  In our small group on Wednesday nights (while the kids are in a pretty amazing program that over half of the church body is involved in) we are going through David Platt’s book on what Jesus really means when he says, “Follow me.”  It is causing us to honestly ask to whom are we pouring our lives into (ie. Discipling), and whom are we allowing to pour themselves in to us (being disciple by)?  Another challenging question posed to us has been: “Do I think of my relationship with Jesus in terms of what’s in it for me, or what’s in it for Him?”

Thandi has really been enjoying Teachers for the Nations, in spite of the busy schedule and large amount of homework.  Other than what she brings as a Zulu South African, they have Brasilians, Koreans, Americans, a Chinese, Papuan (PNG), and a Ghanaian.  She has now started interning with teachers in the afternoon at the neighboring Christian Heritage School that Busi attends from 8:30-2:30.  I get to join her school for an hour every Tuesday to go through “Growing Kids God’s Way” video teaching and discussion, which has been amazing for us as a family.

Here is one area God has been challenging her on in her own words:

“One thing that has really been tough on me has been the fact that I still have to do work duties, even after an already full day.  I know it is required by every student in a YWAM school, but I felt this was unfairly taking away time with my kids and Bryan, for when I finish it is already dinner time and sometimes Bryan has soccer to coach.  I kept at it with a pretty bad attitude for the first couple weeks, but then knew I needed to take it to God and hear what He had to say.  He helped me see how this service was not to my staff or even the school, but to Him directly.   And He also reminded me that some of the bathrooms I am cleaning are being used by Busi, the precious energetic daughter He has given me, and what a blessing it is for her to attend such a Christ-centered school that daily teaches the Word of God.  I have repented of my bad attitude, and God has given me so much more joy in doing these duties, even when feeling so physically drained at the end of the day.”

 We have the 100th annual East Texas Fair running right now in this “City of Roses” (apparently Texas doesn’t acknowledge Portland’s claim to this title).  We were able to go with a long-time Bangladeshi friend of mine who I first met while staffing in South Sudan and he was on one of his first outreaches.  It has been amazing to get some time with him before he heads back into the field (Tyler is his home base), and hear all the Lord has done through his incredible faith and loving obedience (including helping those he has discipled to start over 30 churches underground in Afghanistan!).  He was such a blessing to us in this month together, welcoming us and truly loving and spoiling our children.  There is another Bangladeshi staff out at the Ranch base, and he told us recently how much of a VIP James is back home, which amazed us even more at his humility and heart for the lost.  His father was killed by Muslims when he was young, but  instead of allowing bitterness and hatred for Muslims to seep into his heart, he has chosen to love them deeply and consequently been given great spiritual authority to see many come to Christ…how amazing to think though that all believers have that potential to walk in that authority that is ours in Christ Jesus (John 17; Eph 1), if we truly believe and step out in obedience!

Both Busisiwe and Elisha are doing great.  The long days in class are hard for Busi, but they have multiple recess times and starting from next week she will be seeing me in the library.  Elisha is being watched over by an amazing Brasilian volunteer, along with a Ghanian brother and sister and Korean girl (see pic—the nations in Preschool!).  He also just started going on the toilet sometimes.  Praise God!  Also see pic:)

A typical week for me includes primary duties of maintenance work around the school, soccer field and housing units (see pic of Workmates from Papua New Guinea and Brasil), one day a week in the school library (been cleaning and logging in new books now, but soon receiving classes of elementary students to read them stories and creative activities to encourage reading) and at least three days a week coaching and discipling the junior high soccer team along with a Brasilian brother.  Just tonight we had a long away game and arrived back late.  It took long for all the parents to pick up their kids, and two of them couldn’t get their parents on the phone.  So I offered to take them home.  One of the students is from a Mexican background and struggles with the strict way CHS is run, having been expelled last year and already suspended this year.  I have been asking God for an opportunity to speak more into his life, and that came tonight, in the form of what at first seemed like an inconvenience, having to drop off kids after 8pm that I felt their parents should have picked up. After all, I’m not getting paid for any of this!  But God arrested that attitude in me, and gave me such compassion for this hardened young man.  I pray the relationship will continue to the point where this young brother will encounter Jesus’ love for Himself and not just say he’s heard it all before.

Blessings and thanks for reading/praying with us!

p.s. Let's not grow weary in interceding for the globes ongoing conflict zones, epecially with recent escalations in Syria/Iraqi region

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Update from Tyler, Texas (Three weeks on)

“Welcome to Texas y’all!”  That has been the general greeting over these first few days of arriving on campus of YWAM Tyler, Dayspring.  To clarify, YWAM has two campuses in this area, and we are living in a staff trailer at the one just to the west of the city and across the road from the local airport.  The main, much larger campus is at Twin Oaks Ranch about a 25 minute drive through county roads from us.  It works great for us and such a blessing they could make space for us here at Dayspring, as schools for both Busi and Thandi are right next door.

It was another fairly epic road trip we were able to enjoy on our way here, including stopping for two nights at the YWAM Colorado Springs base, where we got to meet up with a solid family who were in north Sudan for some time before they were kicked out with nearly all other Westerners by the government back in 2013.  My father and mother joined us up to this point (we initially met up with them in Idaho on the 2nd night, after we had gone ahead to spend the night and visit some friends in Portland), and we got to have some great time exploring the very unique Garden of the Gods park just down the road from the base, along with a great day in Yellowstone park before that.  The kids really bonded with both Grammie and Granddad in the time we got to be with them since arriving in late June.  On the day we parted ways they headed back to Bellingham via Salt Lake City, and we carried on to spend our final night of the trip in Amarillo, TX (home of the ‘free’ 72 oz steak, which I was tempted to go for but didn’t;).  Thank you for those who remembered to pray for our safety on this trip, as we were quite loaded down with luggage (all our belongings) and hit some pretty hectic weather along the way.  God really watched over both our cars.

Thank you also for those of you who set some time aside to lift up a prayer for our daughter Busi in this time of transition.  She did her thing on the testing day of the 13th, and we were told they are happy to accept her into the Kindergarten level, which they call “Reading” class here at Christian Heritage School.  Therefore, we have high hopes she will learn to read in this year, and are also told she will have some Spanish lessons!  It helps that we have teachers and neighboring families in the complex from Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Brasil (Portuguese is similar, and most of them also speak Spanish:).  And, of course, many South Koreans here for the school Thandi is doing as well as the School of the Bible that starts at the same time later this week.

I got to know some of the parents more this last Saturday during a required work day to help to get the school ready for classes to start on Monday.  It’s been a little while since I’ve had a full 9-5 manual work day under a hot sun, and it felt good!  (albeit a little sore:)…On Sunday night we headed to the sister YWAM campus at Twin Oak Ranch for the weekly Family Night, which is akin to what we knew as Base/Community Worship at our previous base.  We are looking forward to connecting with some more families that side, as well as getting Elisha into the Preschool there at least 2-3 mornings a week while I network/serve with the Strategic Frontiers staff and possibly work with a Brasilian brother in the base garden.

This past week has been getting a lot of logistical and accommodation things sorted, including checking if our car insurance covers our windshield that unfortunately cracked on the way over (even before the two hectic hailstorms we got caught in around Colorado Springs) and acquiring a used washing machine in good working condition.  Also hope to get some good family time in exploring what the area has to offer before Thandi hits the grind with the school on the 27th.

There are needs in Busi’s school, which is essentially taught by full-time missionaries, in the area of a Phys.Ed teacher (yes, I know Mom, Dad and Sis;) as well as Librarian (more time with booksJ).  It will be hard for me to get time for the PE position, as it is for the kid’s breaktimes in the mornings and I am already helping with maintenance on campus with an uncle from Brasil and a brother from Papua New Guinea, but there would be more flexibility in helping out with the library once I get trained on the system from the last volunteer.

·         Being a blessing to our neighbors, including one boy whose mother teaches at the school, but is divorced from his father; he needs positive male role models, and we have already been kicking the soccer ball around in the evenings when it cools off
·         That I will be able to get involved with some ministries while Thandi attends school, and still be there for the kids in afternoons; possibly at least one morning a week for prison ministry with a Brasilian cowboy, as well as helping coach the school’s soccer team among maintenance duties…
·         Getting some additional vaccines required for Busi at the school with the local Dept. of Health this week (diff. requirements from South Africa, but want to take the opportunity to also fill in any vaccines Elisha may be missing)
·         Clarity and favor on our submission for beginning Thandi’s application to extend her visa; we are still not sure if it is best to go for the Green Card (as we have heard you  can’t be out of the US for longer than six months while being processed), or just apply to change status on Visa; pray for God to give us a specific official to guide us through the process
·         Praise God most things in our trailer home are working well, esp the A/C!
·         Thank God for health on the whole family, even as we adjust to this new climate (Texas heat and the ubiquitous fire ants!)

Thanks all for reading and keeping us in your prayers.  Let’s keep the conversation of building the Lord’s Kingdom going!

Much love,
The Whitlocks

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Off to YWAM Tyler, Texas....

Hello dear friends and partners in the Kingdom,

We had actually written out half an update before leaving our beloved Cape Town, but never actually sent anything out.  I apologize about that, and am grateful we were still able to meet up with so many of our support team at Birchwood Pres. as well as others around WA state.  We are, however, missing dearly many friends and family back in South Africa, and the reality that we have essentially moved from South Africa (planning to head to South Sudan from here) is really sinking in for Thandi and making for quite a difficult transition.  We thank God that the ministries we were leading or involved in back in Cape Town are being carried on by other laborers with the same heart to see people’s lives truly transformed by following Jesus, and not just seeing converts adding on another mantra to their life.  Here is what our home base in YWAM Muizenberg wrote for us when they prayed to commission us out…
Bryan & Thandi & Family: We are saying good-bye to these guys and we will be so sad to see them go as they have been so part of our community.  Bryan and his family have brought to our community a passion for unreached people and hard places.  This family has brought to our community the grounding and the grassroots that we so desperately need.  We will have a whole in our community even though we are excited to be a platform to send people out, this is the bitter sweet part of bring YWAM Muizenberg. They have a heart to stay connected with this base and to one day receive teams.  Thandi will be doing a 9month school in YWAM Taylor to be more equipped as a teacher before going to Sudan. Brian will be taking care of the kids and plugging with the strategic missions guys over there. And then off to Sudan when ever the Lord leads them!

We are grateful they are not sending us off, but out, that we can remain connected to this base at the foot of Africa for future partnerships in seeing God’s Kingdom built through the precious, creative peoples across Africa.  I plan to give updates of how specific co-laborers we worked with are carrying on in the Great Commission in our next update, as well as some of the testimonies God surprised us with right up to the time of our leaving.  But for now we just need to clearly get the news out of what is next for us!

The beautiful summertime has passed so fast here in WA state, and we are literally leaving this morning for the long drive to YWAM Tyler, Texas.  We are stretching it out over six nights to make it enjoyable, and I have even managed to talk Thandi into camping one night in Yellowstone on the wayJ.  That is where we will actually meet up with my parents (who have graciously hosted us this past month and a half), and they will join us in checking out YWAM Strategic Frontiers base at Colorado Springs for a couple days, where we hope to network with friends and just enjoy the area.  From there, they will head back north while we carry on to the great Lone Star State.  It has been great to be able to share with a couple of your small groups in more detail about what Thandi’s school is about and what I hope to be doing with the Strategic Missions staff team and personal research, but any of you that would look to know more, please write back to us personally!  In case you missed before, the website for the Teachers for the Nations school is:http://ds.nelwel.com/tfn/.  The Christian Heritage School mentioned is what Busi will be attending and Thandi will be doing practical work with them in afternoons.  We leave a bit early for Busi to get tested to go into the Kindergarten, prayers are appreciated for that on the 13th!  We also have a mobile number in the States now: 360-389-6772

Speaking of Busi, she just turned 5, and I don’t think I sent out the edited cut of the Education promo video Busi helped out in, so enjoy!....
Also, here is a very well-made documentary focusing in on Lavender Hill, Cape Town, which is where the community we want to continue to partner with, Hillview, is located.  I highly recommend checking it out just for a better understanding of the tension that is modern-day South Africa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoMl_G6rL9k We have been giving towards our friends Edwin and Angela, who run a soup kitchen from their garage, and now have committed to see ten new children going to school in this next school year.

·         - Being able to hear two Malawian brothers from Muslim backgrounds I have walked with over the years confess their faith in Christ Jesus and desire to follow Him…praise God for Jafta and Musa!
·        -  Breakthroughs in Lorraine’s house church in Phillippi (more on that to come)
·         - Being able to help support South African missionaries, and hearing reports back of how God used them to move in the opposite spirit of the xenophobic attacks against foreign Africans and bring true healing and understanding of God’s Spirit (more on that as well, from our brother Sizwe)
·         - Great times with family and friends and church family in Bellingham and Seattle areas
·        -  Amazing ongoing financial support and love from our church and supporters (including being blessed with a 2011 Rav4 in great condition!…thanks Loeppkys!)

·        -  Pray that we may network by the Spirit’s leading with others preparing to head for the Frontiers, and also widen our support base
·         - For Busi’s testing to enter Kindergarten on Aug. 13th
·         - Thandi to enter into the school strong and not be getting too homesick; that I may be the support she needs along with the Lord in this time, and we hear His voice about the future timing of things together

Much love in Christ, our hope of glory among all nations!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mar/April 2015 - Christ is Risen Indeed!

“Now God has us where he wants us [in Christ], with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.  Saving is all his idea, and all his work.  All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.  It’s God’s gift from start to finish!  We don’t play the major role.  If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!  No, we neither make nor save ourselves.  God does both the making and saving.  He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” 
--Apostle Paul, Epistle to the Ephesians, Ch. 2:7-10 (The Message)

Hello dear friends and family,

We are wishing a late happy Easter, trusting you had a special weekend celebrating with the global Body what Christ accomplished on our behalf, and praying you are growing in revelation of the authority we have to live life as God intended as followers of this risen Christ….we really enjoyed spending time with friends and considering together what the Cross means for us on a daily basis, as we seek to daily cultivate His presence in all we do.  The Lord highlighted the above passage for me during this season, that our identity in Christ enables us to not find our purpose and meaning in what we do (something I find myself often battling with) but in what Christ has done and continues to do (Jn. 17:26)!  We who are in Christ, by faith, are called to do the Father's works on this earth, growing His Kingdom of love and righteousness that the hearts of all men are longing for...and we have precious Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to do them as take our place within the Triune community of God!

I know we spoke the last time about updating you more regularly, yet here we are again nearly two months later!  It truly is unbelievable how fast time moves, and I am personally asking God to slow it down a bit [and help us prioritize] to make sure we exit well in the remaining two months we have in South Africa:)  
To make sure this update is not equally long as the last, I will mention a few highlights of recent and leave our next update for what we still have to do before our departure in mid-June...

Fires blaze across Cape Peninsula
Going even further back since our last update at end of February, soon after (from the end of February and into the first week of March) most of the mountains encompassing Table Mountain National Park around Cape Town were on fire (see some of the incredible pics I posted in our web album).  The final day of extinguishing the fires, more than a week after they first started, caused so much smoke in certain areas that it was very difficult to breathe and recorded temperatures of 102 degrees F! (the hottest in the Cape for several decades). Busi’s school is right near the foot of one the worst area’s because part of a pine tree plantation caught fire, so that final day with lots of chopper activity we had to pull her out early, as all the kids were coughing. When the fires raged very close to Muizenberg, I was up there on the front lines to see how to help but the workers did well to contain and keep from the homes on the cliffside going up in flames, though some properties were lost on the other side of the Cape peninsula and Tokai area. Through the whole week, only one life was lost, that of a helicopter captain in the deep south peninsula who crashed after complications which is the thought to be from the poor visibility.  They investigated for a long period and it seems the fires were started intentionally from several different points, one being right on Muizenberg mountain above us.  The landscape will not look the same for many months, and the parks department has restricted any hiking/activity on the trails until the rare fynbos flora has time to recover.

Seminar on “Experiencing the Word":
Another one of the privileges of serving full-time in missions (as opposed to engaging in missions as believers in another career) is having the flexibility in our schedules to be able to take time away for staff development and training to be better equipped and more effective in the field.  I just finished a 4-week seminar entitled ‘Experiencing the Word,’ which was all about engaging deeper with the Lord by hearing many different voices in the Body, both ancient and modern approaches to the Bible and God Himself.  It proved very life-giving, and we didn’t even have much time to go deeper within class the video material I posted a link of in our last update which was so enriching.  The latter half of the course included a two day Silence/Solitude retreat in a mountainous retreat center 1.5 hours away, where we had extended times away with God and came back to fellowship and share as a Body in the evening/mornings.

One thing that really struck me is that when we speak of having our ‘Quiet Time’ with the Lord, this intimate relationship He calls us into and to cultivate is not solely between Him and us.  Though it is a private spiritual discipline to meet with our God, the repercussions are profoundly communal, and the time itself is communal as we interact with Father, Son (our Elder Brother) and Holy Spirit!  I was left with such a hunger for these times, where I have been dry the past couple years as I have struggled to set aside the time and made one excuse after another.  I could go on with so many other truths that sunk deeper for me, but will just talk about another practical way of having quiet time with God that I want to bring back into life, though with a few adjustments:

The Prayer of Examen (attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola)– taking the time to reflect back on the day and ask God what He was saying and showing me...
-Where was I aware of God’s presence and where was I not?
-What highlights? Low points?
-When did I love/sacrifice?
-Are there habits/patterns I am not fully aware of?  What is triggering them?

If all I am seeing is negativity and what I am falling short of, it is just a reflection of where my heart is and not God’s heart for me or of reality or truth…I must push through that initial stage of depression of my own shortcomings, and experience God’s heart.
I recognize I place too much emphasis on physically writing down my reflections on the day, and the sheer time that takes makes it inevitable that I fall behind in my reflections and struggle to truly commune with God in the present day, let alone the present moment!
-Learn to let go of all the things I should be doing better on, and choose to engage with God on what I am doing well, allowing Him to speak into that (without writing); only look to journal at the end of my Examen time with God, and allow His Word to enter into my innermost being and read my thoughts/intentions—just be with Jesus!

Recent Testimonies:
(1) I have been bringing a new group of DTS students into Hillview where my friend runs his soup kitchen, and it has opened some really great informal ministry times after the initial encouragement/sharing of the Word/breaking of bread (see pictures on Picasa album in the link at bottom).  It has been amazing to re-connect with Craig since he went to prison for copper cable theft back before Christmas.  He has repented of his shortcut ways and God has been opening doors for him to work honest jobs as an electrician and take care of his girlfriend and two kids.  We have been praying for the way to be opened for them to get married, and they already have permission to build onto their tiny, one-roomed shack.  He is so grateful for God's grace in his life and we have been going over the book of Ephesians together, as I encourage him to pray and take spiritual command over his family.  I really love his daugher Zarah, who for some reason calls me 'Uncle Simba':)

(2) It has been amazing to see over the past month an eruption of student protests around the central place of the Rhodes Statue on the University of Cape Town's campus.  This is because one of the primary things Thandi and her team prayed about in the Leading by the Spirit course back in October was the dismantling of Cecil Rhodes' spiritual legacy over the nations of southern Africa, knowing that he was involved in the freemasons and exercised profound influence on South Africa.  While it is an answer to prayer and what God is doing spiritually to restore this broken nation, it unfortunately has been seized upon by opportunists and highlighted the stark divisions still there between blacks and whites.  Here is an article for those interested: http://www.lawyerherald.com/articles/16595/20150410/statue-row-blots-mandelas-post-apartheid-vision-south-africa.htm

Thanks and love to all!
The Whitlock Clan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHHD8Xz0b4 [A video I uploaded showing some highlights of our Kairos week with Media Village DTS students]
PHOTOShttps://plus.google.com/photos/105737754937536261134/albums/6139539147689174193#photos/105737754937536261134/albums/6139539147689174193 [I believe you can request access if unable to view and will go straight to our email]

  •  Mamazala (Thandi’s mother) will be having three weeks with us in May; one thing God spoke to us about before leaving SA was to see her come to complete faith in Christ alone
  • Possibility of still being able to do TEFL course in May while looking after the kids (we were told the next one is in June, but are looking around still)
  • Good exit strategies with relationships/ministries around Cape Town; Thabo has been reporting growth with Lorraine’s house church/community outreach in Philippi, but he is trusting God for a small car to help with transport
  • Praise God we have some friends that have already signed over our lease into their name, and hopefully the rest of our stuff will sell smoothly!
  • The right buyer still needed for our Toyota minivan (we praying for an American family coming to serve, as we obviously need dollars more than RandsJ)
  • That we as a family would not miss anything God is speaking for us to do in midst of all the busyness of getting moving details in place and finalizing school plans in Texas

  • Xenophobic’ attacks against Africans in Durban will cease and not spread across the nation as they did back in 2008; strategies for God’s people as the true Ministers of Reconciliation with all the beautiful nations He has brought to South Africa (including the ongoing debate about statues representing oppression)
  • Peaceful and humane solution to Kenya’s troubled Dadaab refugee camp, that these hundreds of thousands of Somalis may be able to understand the Gospel and follow the God-man Jesus Christ in the midst of their turmoil/poverty

I included this last one as this region of NE Kenya and Somalia has long been on my heart, and even moreso after the recent massacre of 147 students in nearby Garissa town.  It has alarmed me to read the following, considering this is the world's largest refugee camp at over 600,000 people: 
"We have asked the UNHCR to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves," Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto.  "The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa," he said, referring to the university that was attacked on April 2.

For those interested in the recent violence against foreign Africans to be praying, here is a recent article: http://www.iol.co.za/ios/opinion/we-live-here-legally-say-foreigners-1.1847177 And another one about a book I have just started to read which traces the life of a Somali shopkeeper here in Cape Town: http://groundup.org.za/article/hope-and-hatred-south-africa-interview-jonny-steinberg_2764#

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jan/Feb 2015 Update

X-country January Road Trip:

We had hoped to get out an update before the end of January after we saw Mom off at the airport, but here we are now already at the first of March!
I am sure some of you in the Bellingham area and BPC have already heard (and seen the pictures) from Mom about our epic road trip across seven of South Africa’s nine beautiful provinces.  It was truly amazing to see the geographical diversity across this great nation, and I have attached a couple of my own to supplement.  The most exciting was definitely being forced to back up with two large bull elephants coming our way and with no apparent plans to get off the road anytime soon.  It got really exciting when the rest of the herd came crashing and trumpeting across the road behind us, though thankfully a couple cars back!  The first photos show some of this 11-day road trip including getting up close in Kruger…wish we could have captured the kids’ expressions!

Before we reached our main destination in Graskop, Mpumalanga just outside of Kruger Park and right around the corner from the famous “God’s Window”, we spent three nights on the road with friends and colleagues.  Our second night we were hosted by Pastor Martin who had come to our base to attend the Kairos course Thandi and I helped facilitate a year ago, and it was truly a blessing to visit his  church plant in  beautiful Lusikisiki at the edge of the Xhosa homeland of the Transkei.  The morning of the fourth day, after spending the night at the YWAM base in Durban, we were able to visit a good friend and former colleague of mine who is finally getting the help he needs to break fully from his troubled past at a very intensive rehab center.  It was amazing to see true hope for change in his eyes and demeanor, and a blessing to pray for him together with Thandi.  He was actually quite instrumental in seeing Thandi and I come together in a haphazard kind of way;) I thank God he is getting the close accountability he needs, and I continued to speak out what I always have since I first met him in 2006 about God wanting to use him for great things, especially to awaken the youth of South Africa to a great move of God.

We were also so blessed by our hosts of the guesthouse we stayed at in Graskop, who are a strong Christian family.  Personally, they ministered to me greatly in what it means to raise a God-fearing family in today’s world, and we were blessed to be able to pray for the father and younger son as they drove off to visit the dying grandfather in Pretoria. We actually found out about their place through one of our former DTS students who is now working with one of their elder sons in Christian filmmaking!  Lastly, we were able to pass through Joburg and spend some quality time with Thandi’s nuclear and extended family, while also sharing together in the church on Sunday.  Thandi testified about what God did in her during her LBSC and shared about what Identity in Christ really means, which I just followed up on by speaking of God’s everlasting love that spurs us onto love and enables to no longer be prisoners of fear.  We also got to reconnect with dear family friends who helped to host our 5-person family unit.  This is the same family who hosted my groomsmen and I the night before our wedding (see Fortuin Family pic)!

Back at Homefront:

The past month saw the passing of one of our close friends, a dear Sotho sister (from Lesotho) Thandi knew from her time serving at YWAM Worcester just inland over the mountains from Cape Town.  The circumstances surrounding her having a stroke at only age 32 are still not clear, and the death has brought a lot of questions from Thandi, especially regarding the two children that were left behind.  Thank God that He gives us His Holy Spirit to bring not only full understanding and truth, but blessed peace when we simply can’t understand (John 14:27; Phil. 4:7).  There have been other deaths and sicknesses of friends and former students that have been quite sudden, which we feel God is using to sharpen our focus on those who still have not surrendered their lives fully to the Lord.  We know our time remaining here is short, but we don’t want to leave any unfinished business behind that the Lord has specifically commissioned us for.  We appreciate prayers for attentiveness to the Spirit in this.

One of the challenges we are all feeling is loadshedding.  We are now on an official government program where the times change, but nearly everyday the electricity in our whole region goes out for two hours.  It is so true that we don’t miss the things we have until they are gone.  I remember staffing at the base in South Sudan and not taking long to get used to not having power (though they are all connected these days).  Most people being interviewed on the streets leading up to President’s equivalent of the State of the Union last month mentioned the need to do something about this electricity shortage, power having been nationalized into a single company called Eskom. The problem has its roots in the old Apartheid regime, but it is surprising more planning was not put into place to connect more of the country by now.

A couple weeks ago some friends of ours (the wife is actually helping Thandi learn to swim with weekly lessons now after T realized how much Busi and Eli love the water) that helped to co-found an amazing development organization here in Cape Town called Hope Africa Collective [check them out: http://hopeafrica.com/about-us/] asked us if Busi would be willing to say a few lines and be filmed running the beginning of the journey of education, promoting the right for all children to have access to a good education.  She did pretty good as a little actress as long as she knew there would be ice cream afterJ  Hope to get some edited clips soon to be able to post on our Youtube account.  Here is the latest one I posted of sharing the Word on the train New Year’s Eve day:

We are carrying on with a small house church in Philippi in the home of Lorraine, a mother of three who has experienced a lot of abuse in her life, but is determined to still be used by God and is very motivated in inviting her neighbors to join us every Wednesday.   It is interesting to draw comparisons with that first European church of the same name.  Paul in the letter to the Philippians is not shy in calling them not only to accept their suffering, but to rejoice in it. As Christians, we are not exempt from the suffering that’s inherent to human existence—but our faith gives us a different, and hopeful, perspective on suffering that other religions and philosophies cannot. Furthermore, persecution on account of the Christian faith is a powerful testament to our God and the suffering that Jesus Christ himself endured.  The few people we have joining have been very keen on seeking to love their neighbors and especially those who speak evil against them as we go through the book of John.  It is still Thabo and I going to facilitate, but last week we had both his girlfriend and Thandi join us with Elisha to hear what the people are sharing and also give their own input.  It is truly turning into a family, and Thabo is keen to carry it on after we have left!  We are trusting for Kingdom fruit in this community where violence and greed has become the norm (just last week another Somali shop was burned down and looted of all their goods), as more people not only hear the Word but seek to daily live it out.

I continue to go downtown on Thursdays to meet up with other missionaries for prayer and then “treasure hunting” around the city center.  I have recently been ministering with a Sudanese MBB Rasheed (now Matthew, he chose to make a clean break from Islam and felt this name fit as he did not hesitate) along with my Ethiopian brother Niftalem (see photo of both of them in Bo Kaap), and it is so amazing to see their boldness in sharing the gospel!  I am inspired to just go for it, for after we have spoken to the Lord and committed the time to Him, these souls are truly in His hands!  Just last week we met the new wife of another Sudanese who is very staunch in his Muslim faith, and she confessed she is a Christian to us and is praying for her new husband to receive revelation of Jesus!  She was so eager to talk to us and have us pray for her.
I also got to help take over 100 students downtown the week before during our Nations2Nations week.  This was a week where we had other bases from around South Africa joining us for worship and hearing more about the God of all nations, celebrating the diversity of His Kingdom and calling more to come into His family! (see pic of praying over giant world map, where I also got to pray and prophesy over a Congolese student concerning his troubled nation that has so much to offer).  It is so encouraging to see these young students just making themselves available to be used by God all over the city.  There were many testimonies of people they prayed for breaking into tears, confessing sins and wanting to repent, and just receiving the love of God!

Lastly, I have been partnering up with another YWAMer from Lavender Hill to visit youth groups in the area and to continue to encourage youths on the streets, asking the Lord to lead us to some that would want to meet on a regular basis.  We go out on Tuesdays after helping serve at the soup kitchen at Edwin and Angela’s house.  I am also excited this coming week to help out a Community library initiative I stumbled upon, and see how we can volunteer some time to make the place nice and donate some of our kids books as we prepare to leave.  Please keep Lavender Hill and Retreat communities in your prayers, as there have been nearly a dozen killings by gunshot just since the beginning of the year.  Remember, this is only a small corner of the gang/drug-infested Cape Flats.  I will also be joining back up with some prison ministry at Pollsmoor this week, which I am really looking forward to.

Looking Ahead:

We are still very much in a season of equipping ourselves with Thandi still following up with staff from her time in the LBSC and looking to practice her prophetic and other gifts more often with the Bethesda team, and now myself beginning a course on Spiritual Formation and Experiencing the Word March 16-April 10.  For any of you that may be interested, here is the website with lectures by Dr. Chris Hall that we must take notes on before the course begins.  Very challenging and thought-provoking: http://jonah.eastern.edu/classes/christian-spirituality/index.htmlEven before that course, I will be travelling to Media Village every day next week to help facilitate another Kairos course with the DTS there, and impart God’s heart for the unreached.
Thandi  and I are also planning to complete an English teaching course (TEFL) in May to be able to obtain certificates that would be recognized internationally and could be used as a strategic tool in South Sudan or other places in the future.

With that said, we are now officially booked to be arriving in Seattle by June 18th and look forward to being in Bellingham area for a month or so.  In that time, using money from selling our car here, we hope to get a used car and take the classic American road trip this time to the base where Thandi’s school will be in August: Tyler, Texas.  We hope to visit the Colorado Springs base on the way, the base that has been supporting much of the work and laborers with YWAM in Sudan, processing support for Christopher and Hanan in particular who I shared about at Christmastime.  Praise God they are back in South Sudan and we have been able to send some support to them through your generous giving to us, though their needs remain immense as the cost of renting a house in Wau where they are going to re-pioneer the work is very high.  Thank you for keeping them in prayer, along with the whole nation.

Forgive us again for such a long update…We will truly work to get the next update out with much fewer words and in less time!  Much love in Christ, the hope of glory for all nations…