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]

PRAYER/PRAISE:
  •  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#

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