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!

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

Live For Yourself

Sad fact of life is that people disappoint you.  Stuff happens, situations change…but there is always a constant.  Before you click away from this because it is clear that I can go onto a long rant about how “God is a constant” (which he is), just hear me out.  

When people disappoint us, God challenges us to seek shelter with him.  God literally pulls us back into his arms when distractions lure us away.  We have to live with our own happiness and the joy that stems from our relationship with God.

I had someone exit my life recently and it has made me reflect on my relationship with God.  Let’s call this person X.  X appeared in my life as quickly as she exited.  X took an interest in my past, heard my story, and decided it wasn’t her cup of tea.  It stinks, but after investing all the time and trust into that relationship, I can’t help but wonder where my relationship with God might be if I had invested more time into that relationship instead of with Him. Lesson is, never let God fade into the background. He always finds his way back into the center of your life….and only because He loves you that much.

Although I’ll certainly miss having X in my life, I think it is fair to say that God does everything for a greater good and a higher purpose that we can’t even comprehend.  As I urge myself everyday when I roll out of bed, and now I urge you: Wake up in the morning and decide to follow Jesus.  Trust in Him, invest in Him, and fall in love with Him.  

In other news, Atlanta was in the path of Hurricane Irma yesterday, one of the largest hurricanes to wreak havoc on the east coast in recent history.  As it pummeled its way through the Caribbean, the southern US braced itself for a beating.  Keep Houston, Florida and the rest of the areas afftected in your prayers, as they are looking at a long rebuild ahead.

God willing and assuming Irma cooperates, I leave for South Africa THIS evening for 8 months. Please please PLEASE keep me in your prayers for my time there to make the impact God intends and that my travels are safe! Please continue to follow my blog and follow my journey!

Where I’ve Been…

Hello all,

I know some of you must be thinking, where has Grayson been?  Well, since my last blog post (the one regarding my hospital visit) I have been very busy. After a few weeks of recovering from surgery, I started to really prep for my trip.

It all started when I realized that I was mistaken about the ease of getting a visa.  I had heard from several people and I had studied the South African website and was under the impression that it was an easy process that required very little documentation since I am just going as a “tourist.”  However, I soon found out that I was severely mistaken.  The application and gathering of all the paperwork actually required a staggering amount of hours and energy, all capped off by a long journey up the east coast to Washington DC which I made last week.  Where it gets interesting; however, is when I arrived at the South African consulate in DC.  Once there, I quickly found out that the word “Intern”, even “UNPAID, VOLUNTEER intern” is not a fan favorite.  The man saw a letter that was included in my documentation that he didn’t like, and without hesitation told me that there was no way I was receiving a visa.  I sat and tried to “sweet-talk” him for roughly a half hour before realizing I had exhausted all efforts to persuade him. I am usually quite persuasive, but no luck this time.

As I left the building, I was filled with anger and disappointment.  I had driven 12 hours alone to get the Visa and was denied because of a single piece of paper. It seems so pointless to deny me this.  I decided, however, to take this as a learning experience and ask what good can come from this experience rather than why did this happen.  Not everything always works out the way you plan it, so you have to take the hand you are dealt and learn and grow from it.  

After really thinking it through and talking with my mom about the good lessons that were coming from this tough experience, I had peace. God made it clear to me  that he was in control of the situation as he has been with the rest of this trip.  We have another plan for getting the visa, so we are back on track and nothing but God will stop me from going on this trip! I learned a lot from this experience including the need to do more thorough research next time, but really good experiences came out of my trip as I got to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and grandparents in Richmond which was an unexpected blessing. Also, I took the longest solo car ride to this date. Another step in my journey of life…

Thank you all so much for keeping up with me, I am back to posting regularly now that this stressful two week period of my life is over! My flight to SA is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12 so I will touch base before I go and once I am settled there. Please pray that the rest of my prep time goes smoothly and that God continues to prepare my heart for my mission in South Africa.

Hospital Visits…..

Last week God threw another challenge in front of me.  I woke up early last Tuesday morning with sharp pains on my lower right side.  I immediately was pretty sure what it was, and it made me angry.  I got my mom and we decided to go to the urgent care.  As I had feared, they sent me to Piedmont Hospital with what seemed to be Appendicitis… man, it really hurt…
I went to the ER and was admitted, had a CT scan, and ended up being admitted into the hospital fairly quickly.  The doctors looked a bit puzzled, which is never a good sign and I soon learned that the main concern for the surgeon was the excessive swelling in my abdomen including areas around my appendix.  By this time, it is already almost Tuesday night. They wanted to observe and try some antibiotics. I had to spend that night in the hospital, but woke up the next day optimistic that I would be going home.  To my disappointment, I thought the same the next day.  Finally on Thursday, I woke up to some good news.  The antibiotic treatments I had been receiving had begun to work and had reduced the swelling enough to do an exploratory laparoscopic surgery to check to see if it was appendicitis or something more serious. I know a lot of people were praying it was just appendicitis. Thank the Lord that was what it was and they took it out and I was out of there in no time. I was home really before I knew it  and the anesthesia did its job!
Throughout the whole thing, I really just had to rely on God.  With my trip coming up and all that preparations it requires, this was the last thing I needed.  I was trying to work some more before the trip and get a lot of things done to prepare, and this just slowed that down. God has really shown me the way, though. This could have happened as so many different times – when I was coaching the kids this summer at swimming, when we were in the middle of moving, when my mom was traveling, when I was already in South Africa, so I am really grateful for God’s timing.  My trip may be delayed slightly to give enough time to heal (more about that soon), but other than that, I am unscathed.  God is a good God and I am so glad to be on the road to recovery!

 

Thanks for your continued prayers…

Trying To Figure Out the Ministry

6/19/17

I wanted to update everyone on what I’ve been up to since I left Ole Miss after just one semester:

As a “trial period”, I decided that during the 7 months I had at home I would involve myself in ministry, as well as work full-time.  I spoke with the youth minister at my childhood church and asked him to introduce me to the ministry.  He gave me the opportunity to serve as a volunteer  with the youth program and it has opened my eyes to a whole new sense of joy that can’t truly be explained.  A mission trip is an experience packed into weeks that you cherish and remember and are great, but getting to share the gospel consistently with students who are just a few years younger than me has allowed my faith to constantly grow alongside theirs.  Spending the whole weekend with the students for DNOW (Disciple Now) was another huge growth experience.

I was asked to volunteer at Vacation Bible School and I got to lead the 6th graders. It was a challenging, but worthwhile experience.  It really allowed me to work with an age that I had yet to do all that much with, so it was great to get that experience.  It was also super rewarding to see the curtains drop and the lights turn on in the kids’ heads as we introduced Jesus to them.

While serving at the church, I also had the opportunity to work at Chick-fil-A doing lunch deliveries. Wow, that place knows how to spread joy.  Is it sometimes slightly a little much, sure, but seriously those people are awesome to be with every day.  I met some really cool people doing that both inside and outside Chick-fil-A. It really let me surround myself with good people and see the good in so many situations.

The choice I made to leave Ole Miss was bold…and many people questioned it.  Some still do.  But God is making the way clear for me.  I am called to South Africa at this stage in my life.  What about after that?  Well, I’m not sure yet, probably finish school, but God is cool and his plan is a whole lot bigger than mine so I’m just along for the ride!  Questions have been answered and stars have finally fallen in line and my trip is beginning to take shape.  I am so blessed, thank God.

GB