Life Got Wild, but Here is What’s Been Going On!

Hello supporters,

I apologize for the absence.  I have been crazy busy.  I am just going to give a good overview of the past month and a half.  First, I went on the mission I do annually in Plettenburg Bay.  We run a VBS type vibe there, so basically I got to do teen ministry for 3 weeks.  This year, we had lots of crazy stories about Jesus revealing himself to people who previously weren’t believers.  The craziest occasion was one night around a campfire where we had a night of worship and songs with the teens.  My friend, Francois, felt led to go and speak with a teen standing off to the side looking unsure.  Francois went up to him and within 20 minutes, this full grown teen who was a self-proclaimed atheist, was in tears and had experienced Jesus’ love for the first time.  Instances like this happened often throughout the trip, which was a huge blessing.  Then, on Christmas morning we always hold a service for the campsite to come and enjoy, but this year the heavens opened and the rain fell.  As a team of 25, we huddled in a big tent and all vowed to pray and sing songs of praise until the rain stopped.  As we sang, the rain came harder and harder, and water was gathering in the tent and was nearing being up to our ankles.  Fast forward one hour of worship and prayer later, and the skies are clear and we are about to start our service.  God is so cool because of how he reveals himself in crazy, new ways every day.  In turn, the service brought 10 people to the Lord, young and old.  As a team, we refused to give up on the service, and as a result, 10 people got saved.  God is cool, never forget that.

After Plettenburg, I got to meet up with my mom and sister, which was exactly what I needed.  Coming off a long and hard mission trip as well as being away from home for 4 months made me ready to see them.  We got to travel around Cape town, the Garden Route (Highway alongside the coast), and The Kruger National Park, which was insane.  The time I got to spend with them was priceless, as it recharged my morale heading into the final stretch of the trip.

After the family left, I fell back into a regular ministry schedule.  This semester is exciting, and although I only have 4 weeks left until I get home, I am very excited and optimistic for what God has to show my youth group and myself this next month.

I will be posting again this weekend with more updates on the life at youth and what God has been doing in the lives of our kids.  Thank you all for understanding my disappearance, but I am alive and thriving!  God is good, never forget it!

Trip into the 2nd Poorest Township in SA…Expectations vs. Reality

Expectations:

Have you ever wondered what the people on the islands in the Indian Ocean think?  There are still dozens of tribes and islands that have still yet to be explored, which is a crazy thought to us, right?  We are taught from a young age that the Age of Exploration ended long, long ago, yet new groups of people are being reached very frequently.  I am currently in a small forgotten town in the middle of the Free State, which is the central province of South Africa.  These people are here for one reason though, and it truly broke my heart when I first heard it.  Years ago, a dam was constructed here in order to feed power to Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, two of the largest cities in South Africa.  The company which built it needed cheap labor, so they built a township

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Grabbing a picture with this little guy while playing soccer

directly adjacent to the construction site and relocated thousands of workers.  The damn was built, and all was fine and dandy, but the construction company just left the people in the township there to live permanently.  This has created a vicious cycle of poverty here, which in turn has affected thousands of lives in a very negative way.  At Oviston, the township we are working in, there is a sky-high percentage of young teen pregnancy, AIDS, and food deprivation.  I have been forewarned, even as someone who has done lots of work in townships, that it will break my heart drastically.  Although I feel prepared, I knowingly am headed into a place that the government would rather people not know existed. 

Another heads up given to me was by Charl, my mentor.  He told me to be prepared to be hung on and climbed on like a jungle gym all day.  He explained that this is mainly due to the lack of male influence in the township, mainly due to the AIDS issue.  Men that live to 40 are seen as old to these people, which is crazy because a lot of young parents are 40.  It is not a long life whatsoever, and it is supported by the negligence of the government.

 

According to everyone who has done this trip before (I am writing this section the night before), these kids are amazed by the simplest things.  It is mainly due to the lack of exposure to the outside world and the subpar education provided in Oviston.  Most of the kids we will work with are illiterate and have a language barrier in their way.  The main language here if Afrikaans, which is common in South Africa, yes, but English is a necessary skill towards making out of poverty.  In this country, English is absolutely crucial to the workplace, but these poor kids are never even given a chance to learn it.

Our plan is to give backpacks and small amounts of food to the kids of the township.  As hard as it is to swallow, we have to give the kids

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The Beautiful Sunset in the Free State

little amounts of food at a time.  They are so malnourished that a large quantity of food could cause them to vomit and react poorly to the over-intake.  We have planned accordingly, however, as our schedule has food spread out lightly through the day.  We are also giving them backpacks with school supplies that the congregation of the church raised.  We needed roughly 150 of them to have one for each kid.  As of Tuesday, we were sitting about 95 short, which was a few days away from a disaster.  Through prayer, however, God provided and gave us another 150 on top of the ones we already had, allowing us to find other ministries to use the supplies in.  God has blessed this trip beyond any expectations I could have set, and I am so ready to dive in head first tomorrow morning!  I will write part II tomorrow night, recapping the experience and comparing my expectations to the reality.

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First time making S’mores!

Reality:

It was somewhat what I expected.  The town was seriously so impoverished….it was truly insane.  These people are totally stranded and think that there is no life beyond their small town.  There is lots of interbreeding, causing some genetic issues in some kids, as well as lots of drinking during pregnancy, causing other various defects.  The kids were the happiest kids I have ever seen, though.  They just wanted to hug and run around and be with us.  Especially as a guy, the little boys were like magnets to us.  Most of them have grown up in a home without a father, so attention from an older male is rare for them.  They just wanted to be on our shoulders or in our arms…which was heartbreaking when we left because they refused to let go.  The whole trip broke my heart, but in a good way. It gave so much perspective about what I have and how lucky I was being born into the situation that I was.  These kids are taught to fend for themselves once they can walk…I am 20 and still rely on the advice and support of my mom.  It just makes me grateful.  Here are some pictures from the day and a half of ministry…words can’t describe it.

Life Update

Hey everyone!  I know what you are thinking, “Where in the world has this child gone”….well, I’ve been busy these past few weeks.  First, I went to East London, which is on the coast of South Africa, to visit a friend and just unwind a little in preparation for a long and stressful summer (I know, seasons are backwards…so summer is November-January).  I went down and experienced a new culture (a much, much slower one) in the Eastern Cape.  I got to experience a new type of worship and give myself more perspective on the Kingdom of God as a whole.  The church I visited in East London was a charismatic church, which I was yet to experience at the time of my first visit.  It was a lot different than I am used to back home in the States.  I experienced going through a “fire tunnel,” which was quite an interesting experience.  It was basically a tunnel of humans laying hands and praying over you to invoke a response from God – very interesting.

Through all of it, I came to the ultimate conclusion that it doesn’t matter how you worship.  As long as they are worshipping Jesus, people will do what the please and worship freely.  So, the times when I silently judged a person screaming in the back of a room during a song, God revealed to me that I was becoming like the Pharisees and need to be better about accepting other forms of worship.  I don’t necessarily agree with their form of worship and won’t practice charismatic responses myself, but I accept that Jesus loves any form of worship that brings glory and honor to Him.

This week we have had to hit the ground running.  God provided me with lots of rest last week, and now I am ready to put my head down in this season of ministry and give it all I have.  We have the Plettenburg Bay Mission trip coming up in early December, which I am on the leadership team for.  As a third year staffer, I have found that I have a lot more responsibility in the planning process, which is a blessing because this trip has meant so much to me in past years.  We have a lot of things to still figure out and questions that we are awaiting God to answer, but we are filled with hope and excitement to be back, doing God’s work.

Prayer is all I can ask for right now, though.  There are a lot of moving parts in my life currently, and I just need to lean into God a little more and rely on Him to provide for me.  Your support means the world to me, and I promise I will start to write more again!  God bless!

 

G

My Culture Shock

I am changing the pace a little for this blog entry.  I want to talk a little more about my everyday life and the experiences I have everyday.  I decided tonight, while walking to the store to buy some groceries, how easily I let things go over my head nowadays. I have been here for a month and 5 days at this point, and I am entirely acclimated. The time zone, slang phrases, and the entire car being opposite to what I am used to are all now parts of my everyday life. Those are not the only everyday adjustments which have become my new normal.  

The extreme homelessness found here and living amongst it has entirely changed my prespective. No, I am not living in a township or scraping by day to day for food, but that is exactly my point. I live in a compound in a guest house. Outside the compound, people sleep on the sidewalks at night. Homelessness enveloped this country decades ago and has enslaved the greater population for far too long. Back in America, you have to go into town, generally, to see a homeless person, yet here I look outside my gate and can hear them wandering the streets at night. And now, having been here for a month and change, I just have gotten used to it.  

Second difference … Being a white American in America means that I fall into the majority. I don’t stand out physically, I don’t sound different than others like me, I fit in. Here, I am a novelty. Everyone wants to hear about our president and political situation, what I miss most about the States, and why so many words we say sound different (such as aluninium or caramel). It is odd to be asked the same questions by someone new every day, yet such a missions blessing. It is a foot in the door, so to speak, to get to know someone. All that being said, it is still a culture shock to essentially stick out.

Lastly, and to lighten the mood, the smallest, yet most insignificant detail that has eaten me alive the first month. Altitude. Johannesburg, South Africa sits approximetly 6000 ft. (1828 m for all my non-Americans) above sea level. Im not sure who has visited Denver, but the mile high city leaves you short for breath….and that is only 5200 ft above. The climate is amazing, which makes up for the extreme lack of Oxygen, but even the shortest walks can still wind me. Small detail that probably doesnt hold much value, but what the heck someone may want to know a small detail about my life.

I hope you will keep reading and following my journey! I plan to start doing more daily updates that just explain my day and what opportunities the Lord provided me to further His kingdom!  

58 Kids Find Jesus

Last week I had the opportunity to work at a school called HeronBridge Christian College.  Although college means after high school in America, it means primary school and high school.  We were called on by the kids ministry at my church, Bryanston Bible Church, to help run and lead a Vacation Bible School type camp. Specifically, we were with the 1st-5th graders, which is a crowd that I am new to in the ministry.  As a swim coach back home, however, I am well equipped to work with children and communicate things on their knowledge level.  God uses your strengths, I guess.  Anyways, we had a good first assembly with loud music, crazy costumes, and excessive dance moves.  The kids were apprehensive to get involved on Monday, but I knew that God was preparing to move mountains.  On Tuesday we met with the grades individually for 30 minutes a group.  We had the kids pastor, Taryn, deliver a message about David and Goliath, and then broke into small groups to go through questions and hear feedback.  Kids began to open up slightly, with some prying, of course.

Wednesday was where fatigue started to catch up.  HeronBridge is about 45 minutes north of where I stay, so to beat traffic and meet up with Charl to catch a ride, I was leaving my house around 6 AM every day.  Wednesday was the day God started to win hearts over, however.  Kids began to talk about their feelings and their issues.  It was heartbreaking to hear their struggles with self-love, identity, and family issues.  It just seems as if they are too young to deal with life issues this big.  We saw Jesus take the stress away from these kids when they truly understood how big Jesus is.

On Thursday, we had a closing assembly and shared the full story of Jesus and his awesome sacrifice.  Eyes opened during the process, and not only by the kids.  Teachers’ hearts were softened as well as they say kids with a child-like faith give it all to Jesus during worship.  At the end 58 kids lined up to accept Jesus into their hearts and asked for prayer.

After the conference, the headmaster of HeronBridge reached out to our team and thanked us.  He said that he could tell a difference amongst his students.  He said he saw kids praying for eachother on the playground entirely unprompted.  Jesus really made Thursday his “Victory Day,” and I am so thankful that I witnessed it.

If you are struggling with faith or dealing with lots of different adversity, remember to look at Jesus through the eyes of a child.  His love is complex, yes, but it is also so simple.  He just wants your heart, so give it up.

More soon,

G

Missions Update

Have you ever felt as if God places people in the right place at the right time? A week or so back, I was blessed with the opportunity to work for a mission group called Bethesda Ministries.  Based out of Cincinnati, they specialize in placing foster children with perspective parents, foregoing the monotonous process of the government and assuring a perfect fit for both parties.  Just like children running home to a God that is perfect for them, these children get to run home to parents that love and care for them unconditionally for the first time.

These kids are given what should be automatically provided, yet not all parents feel the same.  Parents are supposed to be a constant, but some feel as if this expectation doesn’t apply to them.  Some parents feel as if they owe their kids nothing, yet that is the exact opposite.  A parent is supposed to teach the kid everything he knows, yet also be a disciplinary and pour every ounce of energy and love into them.  These kids were robbed of that experience, which saddens me and makes me realize where I would be without my parents.  It was an absolute blessing to be able to pour into these kids and give them hope that their family is coming soon.  These kids sometimes are not placed immediately because Bethesda waits until there is a perfect, compatible family available and ready to adopt. 

The ministry is such a cool outreach, as it allows kids to see the value in having a family, and sets them up with opportunities to achieve great things in life. This is much harder to do as an orphan in a township.  The two men that are the boots on the ground for Bethesda are both Americans.  They picked up their families and their entire lives to follow the call and serve God.  The area which they live is not the “first world” part of South Africa either, which makes their devotion to God even more impressive. 

Any donations to them are well appreciated and I have seen the fruits of their hard work and God’s blessing.  Their website is: https://bethesdaoutreach.org.  With the friendly currency exchange, even a small donation can go a LONG way in their ministry.  More updates and pictures coming soon!

First Few Days…

Due to the fact that I have been in a half-asleep state since I arrived, I am treating this post like a blog because I have sat down to write it twice!  So, here goes nothing!

Well, today was an eventful day.  My flight was 15 hours, so maybe saying the past few days has been eventful is a bit more appropriate.  Although the travel portion of this trip is always a bear, the end result is always worth it.  Flying in over Namibia, which is beautiful, and landing in my favorite country in the entire world (after the US) makes the journey and the months of preparation worth it.  The views on the flight in truly take my breath away, even though this isn’t my first rodeo!  Honestly, it is still sinking in that I am actually here.  My host home is absolutely amazing.  Bastiean and Ursula, my host family, have been amazing.  The accommodations are more than I could have ever asked for, proving the God always provides for His children.   

Turns out I fell asleep over my computer last night, so to continue, I have seen nothing other than God making my path clear and providing for me this week.  I woke up this morning and decided to get back into the routine of my devotions, something that fell off my schedule this summer.  This is a DIRECT quote from what I read this morning, and it still gives me goosebumps:

“Rest in Me, My Child.  This time devoted to Me is meant to be peaceful, not stressful.  You don’t have to perform in order to receive My love.  I have boundless, unconditional Love for you.  How it grieves me to see My children working for Love: trying harder and harder, yet never feeling good enough to be loved.”

That resonated with my after I read it because how much more applicable could a devotion possibly be? I felt as if God was communicating directly with me, and it has really reinvigorated me and given me a second wind.   The nerves that were beginning to control my emotions and attitude have seemed to fade into the background…God is good and God is big.  Let him lead you today, it’s the most freedom I’ve ever experienced.

More posts and pictures soon!  I get introduced to my church tonight, which is exciting!

GB