Next level of trust

In these months leading up to motherhood, I find myself challenged by the need to put my child into God’s care. I have become used to trusting my life into God’s hands and going where He sends me regardless of personal fears or worldly opinions. It has become much harder since becoming pregnant. Now I have to trust another into His care.

It’s only natural to want to protect our children. It is also a godly principle to care for the ones He places under our protection. Yet we are still called to faithful obedience – despite any fear or concerns. We are not wittingly to put our family in danger, but what if God sends us to a risky place or tells us to go where we’d rather not with a family? I have always admired the obedience and faith of friends who have had such a call as a family, and have said I would go likewise if He called my family. But practice is harder than theory.

My first taste of this new barrier to obedience was a ministry trip to Rwanda. Glenn and I both felt peace about the trip and felt it was from God. At first that was enough, but then the fears and doubt began to creep in: What about malaria? What about Zika virus? What about typhoid? (I feel safer on Rwandan roads then South African so that wasn’t a fear!).

I began to doubt whether I was making the right decision. What if something happens? How could I possibly defend God sending me somewhere my child was at risk? I began fearing for God’s reputation as much as my own! I know well enough that the One who sends us is faithful, but that doesn’t always mean physical protection – just consider the original readers of Hebrews, one of the very books I was going up to teach. Those believers were at risk of torturous death for their beliefs – as were the lives of their children – and yet the author challenged them to look to Christ and persevere. Hmmm.

Ministering with baby

Ministering with baby

I have been and returned from Rwanda safely. My time there was a wonderful period of fellowship, catching up with friends, and teaching the Word of God. The teachings definitely took more out of me with my little one inside, but were very rewarding. It was a blessing to be back in that environment.

This is definitely a new season, and I know that this will likely be an on-going lesson as I learn to not only trust myself to God, but my family too. I am sure the next time He sends me to minister where I have fears for my child I will face the exact same doubts, but I pray that I will have the courage to walk in continual obedience.

Bible students completing a group activity

Bible students completing a group activity

Please see: http://www.sbsinternational.org/ for more information about the SBS.

Please see: http://www.ywamrwanda.com/ for more information about the Kigali YWAM base.

A ministry bringing change

Quite a few of you know about my involvement with the Congo Project and co-founding Redefined Ministries International. My role has been changing with them the last few months – stepping out of the administrative role, but remaining on the Australian board. Still, many of you who are new friends might not know about this work so I want to bring this ministry to attention again here. I’m also including the link to their site. Please also like them on Facebook.

Jalasiga locals during church worship

The longer I’m involved with the people of Jalasiga, DRC, the more I am inspired and encouraged by them. I am also so proud of what the Redefined ground team are achieving. It is a new season for me stepping back a bit, but I’m loving that even more. It’s nice to be able to see the exciting updates without the behind-the-scenes stress, financial concerns, logistical issues, and so forth.

Here’s just a few things that are happening in Jalasiga and Mahagi thanks to Redefined Ministries International and their partners:

  • Birthing project, to promote safe births and decrease the high rate of infant mortality.
  • Medical clinic built and now operating in a rural area. This clinic is also reaching out the community with health education programs, including girls’ education and support groups focusing on menstrual hygiene.
  • Distributions of eye glasses, birthing kits and reusable cloth menstrual pads to improve regional health.
  • Agricultural training to promote sustainable farming and best practise.
  • Working with farmers to work towards fair prices in crop sales.
Distribution of birthing kits

Distribution of birthing kits

The next big project being worked on is:

  •  Commencement of a vocational training program for women that will also impact on health care – the program will focus on sewing reusable cloth menstrual pads.

If you like what they’re doing, please get behind the ministry. One way you can support this ministry, whilst also learning more about the people and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is to buy a copy of my book: “Congolese Grandpa; A Life of War, Work and Worship”. All author proceeds go back to the people of the Congo.

Congolese Grandpa; the book I wrote for the ministry about a local

Crying for my nation

Tonight I ask you to do something a little different with me. Tonight I ask that we pray together.

Tonight I decided that it is time I call South Africa home. I wasn’t born here, but it has become my land. I have hesitated to claim it as my nation until now. I suppose as a foreigner with no ‘worldly’ roots here (no property, permanent job, etc) I haven’t felt like I have the right to a claim. It is therefore interesting that it is now – when it is facing a dark hour – that my heart won’t let me distance myself from it or its pain.

It was only because of God’s call that I first came here on the back of the 2008 xenophobic attacks and His peace remains over me now. It is not fear that I feel, but sadness and grief. I have formed friendships with people from all the racial groups that make up this beautiful rainbow nation. I also have a host of friends here who, like me, were born abroad. They are beautiful people. Most of them know God and do not judge people by their nation of descent, or the colour of their skin, or their tribe. Yet it is not only their faces that come to my mind tonight as I pray and grieve. It is a mass of faces belonging to people I’ve never met, all the people residing in this nation.

Please join with me in prayer for these people and this nation:

Father, we thank you that you are sovereign over all the nations. We thank you that your Son has died for all people. Your kingdom is not bound by international borders. All men and women were made in your image. Please speak these truths to all those throughout South Africa.

Kill the flame of violence that has been stirred. First, statues were used as an excuse to excite the masses, and now African foreigners have become the target. The heart of man is dark, but you bring light. We ask that you shine your light on this land. Free those stirring up the hatred from their captivity to darkness. Break the chains that bind them and causing them to desire to inflict pain on others.

Protect the innocent. Comfort those who mourn. Grant your peace to those who know fear.

We also lift up the leaders, politicians and police force of this nation before you. We ask that you will be the One guiding their decision making. We ask that you will give them a spirit of boldness to do what is right. We ask that they will step up regardless of what the consquence might be to their career, power, or life. We pray for leaders bowing down under the weight of your Spirit, humbling seeking you will. We pray for protection over those sent to quell the violence.

Lord, we ask that you will redeem the past of this nation and put the hatred to death. Let this land see a new era of peace and freedom with leaders walking in fear of the Lord, and who care for the people and not their status, assests or personal power.   

In the power you have granted us and in the name of your beloved Son we ask these things. Amen.

Revelation 7:9-10 After these things, I looked, and there was a crowd so large that no one was able to count it! They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing in front of the throne and the lamb and were wearing white robes, with palm branches in their hands.They cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!”

7:13-17 “Who are these people wearing white robes,” one of the elders asked me, “and where did they come from?” I told him, “Sir, you know.” Then he told me, “These are the people who are coming out of the terrible suffering. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.That is why: “They are in front of the throne of God and worship him night and day in his Temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will never be hungry or thirsty again. Neither the sun nor its heat will ever beat down on them, because the lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs filled with the water of life, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Are we living in fearful times?

I’ve been in and out of South Africa since 2008 and yet this is the first time I’ve felt a large body of South Africans feeling uncomfortable about where the nation is heading. I’ve met ex-patriots now living oversees who have feared the worst – and understandably considering some of the events that led them to leave – but never before have I sat in on so many dinner-side discussions about the what ifs of a civil war.

Of course, one topic leads to another and starting on the likelihood of civil war quickly leads us to talking about the wider global atmosphere and the likelihood of the fall of the west – to China, Islam, the culture of immigrants and so forth.

It often gets bleak and heavy. I don’t like bleak and heavy. I understand the importance of being aware of what is happening nationally and globally, but I think of greater importance is what we do with our awareness. Do we leave it at talk and pondering? Do we take action? What action do we take?

I’d like to suggest three primary actions:

  • Let’s pray.

Let’s pray for the nations in turmoil. Let’s pray for minority groups – and yes, whites and especially white Christians are the minority in many countries. Let’s pray for nations at risk of civil war. Let’s pray for nations where concepts like civil liberty are a joke. Let’s pray for unity and boldness within the church. Let’s ask God for His purposes on the earth at this time and then pray for His will to be done.

  • Let’s go.

Not in the sense of running away, but rather in the sense of going to nations and places of conflict.

God says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

Only yesterday I was praying in church and had the image of a half-reaped field. Now I live in farming country, but I don’t have to be told that a half-reaped field is not going to bring me the best return possible for my investment of time and money. I’m going to work as hard as possible to bring in all that wheat. I’m going to hope for more labourers, but even if they don’t come, I’m going to work my butt off to get all that wheat in before it’s too late.

The harvest is plentiful. We are needed in the fields.

The harvest is plentiful. We are needed in the fields.

Muslims are hungry for truth. New-ageists are hungry for truth. Buddhists, atheists, Jews, Mormons . . . so much hunger in their midst. Why are we believers afraid to go to them? Are we willing to speak out about our faith in our community, regardless of who is listening? Are we willing to invite our child’s Islamic friend over with his parents for dinner, or a play-date? Are we willing to go into the nations? Are we willing to lay down our lives if necessary so that one person may know of God’s love?

I honour those working for the Gospel amongst people of other faiths and religions, and particularly in nations where believers are persecuted.

  • Let’s love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 18a).

We were not saved to live lives of fear. We have the Spirit of God living within us. Let us walk boldly and confidently, serving the Lord. Many generations have already lived through difficult times. Many generations before us have fought the good fight. Many have laid down their lives for the Gospel. Let us not look up to these men and women in a form of hero-worship leading to idolatry. Let us rather follow their example and so become an example to the next generation to live through troubled times.

 “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 11:35b-38, 12:1-3).

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

Behind every Audience

I am currently on a teaching trip in East Africa and began discussing with a friend the benefits of a large class versus a smaller one. I will be here for 5 weeks, teaching on 2 Bible schools; one is in Uganda and the other in Rwanda; both have “only” 7 students. Taking public transport between the two bases costs about US$50 return and over 24 hours on the road. We were questioning whether it wouldn’t be better to have a “training hub” in the region to centralise teachers and really capatilise on visiting teachers that often only visit one base. We both come from training centers that average about 30 students per school.

However, we then began comparing our teachings before 30 and our ones before 7. When you have a class of 30 it is very hard to gage where the students are, who is following your teaching, when to remain on something and when to move on. When you have 7 you are able to have a discussion that involves everyone. You can see what the class is grasping and what needs further explaination. You also learn where they study and can continue incidental teaching (AND learning!) outside of the classroom during times of fellowship.

In addition to the practical side of knowing the class and thus presenting a better teaching, we also began thinking on our students. When you have a class of 7 you get to know all the students, quickly and intimately, both inside and outside of the class. You can encourage them and speak into their lives. And you get the unmeasurable privilege of hearing their stories. From thinking “is it worth being away from home for 5 weeks and reaching only 14 students?” you start seeing that, as my friend said: “behind every audience there is an audience”.

For example, one of the students I was teaching in Uganda – the youngest in the group at only 25 – is already ministering to whole schools of youth at a time as well as reaching pastors throughout his region. He is planning a pastor’s conference for his coming school holidays that will reach pastors into the hundreds. Another is planning an evangelism trip through multiple countries in the region after the school and yet another is a youth pastor. On the school in Rwanda, there is also many amazing students, including an influential businessman.

Of course, we already know its not about the numbers when we look at Christ who chose just 12 men to really invest deeply in and then send out and look how far and fast the Gospel spread in the years straight after His resurrection.

In today’s world it can be easy to get sucked into the numbers game and always long for ever bigger numbers in the audience, but we must remember that numbers don’t define success. Perhaps remembering that “there’s an audience behind every audience” will help you to remember this truth, just as it helped me.

Jinja students during a Leviticus class pair discussion

Jinja students during a Leviticus class communion application

 

A Living Conduit

I’m a doer and it has led me to wrestle with God many times over the years. I relate well to Jacob who spent his life wrestling with God and man; he had some amazing promises from God, but he always sought to fulfil them in his own strength. Can you relate with this? I am (slowly) getting better at releasing my goals and plans over to God, waiting on His timing and I’m going to share with you a couple of reasons why.

One thing that has helped met to trust in Him is seeing His faithfulness – time and time again! Journalling is a great way of acknowledging His faithfulness and being able to look back on it, and stand firm on past experience, when the future seems uncertain. But another help has recently come in the form of seeing myself as a living conduit. I have this image of being a conduit of electricity. God is the current; He only asks that I be available and obedient.

He has me serving in East Africa in two capacities. The first is with establishing an NGO in the DRCongo, which does community development. I feel like I strive and strive to make things happen and then He answers my prayers through a completely different channel – His ministry, His way and in His time. Now that I have seen this, I am starting to relax and just be the conduit – allowing Him to do the work. The second is with pioneering the School of Biblical Studies in Kigali, Rwanda. Since signing up to be the school leader, I have felt that God is doing the work. He has set the time, He has given me an incredible staff team, and now I must wait on Him to bring the students.

Now, this is where another challenge comes in. I am waiting for Him to move. I feel His current flowing through me and I know that I am in the right location, but I cannot see the current, or the result of it. I want to receive student applications. I feel Him working, I’ve seen the staff sign up, but where are the students? I want to adjust my positioning. I am tempted to begin wrestling again, moving my angle in the hopes of picking up sight of the electric current. But why am I seeking a current when I can feel Him moving? Why do I want to readjust myself?

… Now a hope that can be observed is not really hope, for who hopes for what can be seen? But if we hope for what we do not yet observe, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, since we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words, and the one who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to God’s will. ( Romans 8:24-27)

If you, like me, are in a place of waiting on God, trust in these verses. If you know you are in the center of God’s will, if you can feel His current flowing, then stand firm. Do not be tempted to adjust your angle. Rather, rest in Him, seek time with Him, and allow the words of the Spirit to flow through you as you pray and intercede. Prayer is powerful. God is at work through your prayers. Though you cannot see Him moving now, trust Him to be at work. Take time to be with Him and acknowledge the feel of His current, even though it be unseen.

Electrical conduit

Hope as Children of God

My church recently started a great program called: “Your Church Needs You”. The aim of it is to encourage greater involvement from the congregation. I’m not talking more “doing” here, but rather more sharing. The focus is on sharing our talents and testimonies within services and this week my turn had come around again.

As usual, I left my preparations until the last minute and so I hadn’t given much thought to what I was going to share when I had a phone call from the week’s co-ordinator to ensure I was still right to go. He also mentioned the passage he would be sharing from and the topic of the children’s talk. Now it was the children’s talk that caught my attention. It was to contain a simple demonstration comparing two chicken eggs – one white egg and one black egg, but when cracked, their insides were the same.

Naturally, the co-ordinator thought, given my love for Africa and the time I’ve spent there, that I might want to flow on from the topic to the children. As it had also caught my attention, my thoughts began wandering in that direction. The only problem was that whenever I thought about something to say on the topic, I broke down in to tears.

What leads me to tears? I’ve been spending a lot of time in the history of the DRCongo as I complete research for a biography I am writing on an elderly Congolese man. The best descriptors I can come up with for the emotions this research has elicited in me are: “turmoil” and “overwhelmed”.

Africa has and is often portrayed as the “Dark Continent” and the DRC at its “Heart”. Unfortunately, European and Western input made it darker. When you read of the atrocities committed and being committed there it is hard to keep heart. It is hard to keep hope. When wrestling with they why question, some commentators have come to the conclusion that it must be the hearts of the Congolese people that are dark. This theory only made my heart grieve all the more for what the people there have suffered. And having met many Congolese I can say that their hearts are no darker than yours, or mine.

As I tried to process what I know of the Congo’s history, the hopelessness people feel for that nation, and what the Congolese are suffering still, my thoughts were continually drawn to the first three chapters in the book of Romans. In short: “No one is righteous, not even one”. But right at the end of these chapters we find hope: “by grace we are saved through faith”.

Genesis tells us that all men and women were created in the image of God. For this we all have intrinsic value. But we are also all fallen. Throughout history there have been atrocities committed – by people of all nations, colours, and tribes; by both men and women. Likewise, there have also been those who sought to live righteous lives.

Only faith in Christ brings salvation and, with it, the gift of the Holy Spirit. And what does the Spirit bring? Transformation. The Spirit transforms believers. He works righteousness and holiness within us. He also brings other gifts.

During the Advent season we’ve been lighting a new candle each week – love, hope, peace and joy. As I thought of the transformational power of God’s Word and Spirit, I also thought on these gifts that God gives to us who believe in Him. Australians are ‘blessed’ with a war-free nation, but not all Australians have peace in their heart. And not all those who are happy have joy, yet we can have joy in Christ even in the midst of deepest grief. Similarly, we can live in the midst of turmoil and have hope in a better future, knowing that God is able.

I don’t have any easy answers for the Congo, but I do have hope that God is at work in that nation and amongst its people. I know that both people in Australia and in the Congo are in equal need for Christ’s saving grace, as well as the hope, peace, love and joy that is found in Him.

As Australia Day approaches at the end of January, I do not want to celebrate my blessings as an Australian. Instead, I wish to focus on the blessing of being a child of God. We were all created in the image of God, but only those who accept Christ’s gift have obtained the right to be called Children of God. Truly, we who believe are the ones who are blessed, regardless of any hardship we might be facing.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:3-7)