It has been about a week since I last wrote. A lot has happened the last few days so I will do my best to briefly tell about each event. I have divided this post into sections so that it is simple to follow, and if you need to take a break you can easily find where you left off.
Bride of Christ Church (Monday-Tuesday Night):
The last two days at the Bride of Christ Church went very well. Courtney spoke about the need for Christ followers to not just be churchgoers, but to go out and make disciples of the people in their communities. The people responded well to this challenge with shouts and tears. It was powerful. The last night was especially moving. Courtney finished up his speaking and began to bless the people. More tears fell. This time transitioned into singing and dancing, smiles and laughter. One by one the people came up to us and thanked us for being with them. It was a glorious time.
On the second night, Pastor Gordon asked me to share a little bit with the congregation. I wasn’t sure what exactly to say, but felt calm. I went up relaxed and challenged the people to not only hear and write, but to go and do what they have been learning. I mentioned that this is a daily choice we must make, and then I awkwardly handed over the mic to the next speaker. Even though the way I spoke was very relaxed and mellow the people responded with amens and shouts. One young man, the drummer and pastor’s son, called me Pastor Mike after the service that night. I loved spending time with the small group at Bride of Christ and hope to stay in touch with the connections that I made there.
On Tuesday during the day we met with Sinebhongo, the young man from the phone company that Courtney had been speaking to the last few weeks. We had lunch with him and asked some questions about what he wants to do with his life, and even spoke to him about his faith. Sinebhongo is very engaging so we had a great time talking with him. He mentioned that he is interested in going to college to study business management. He then went on to tell about some of his long term goals and dreams. We were able to encourage him, and Courtney is planning to help him more with the steps he must take to accomplish these goals.
After this Courtney began to ask Sinebhongo some questions about Christianity and faith. Courtney mentioned that just because people go to church that doesn’t mean that they are Christians. This was made plain and clear for the young man. I even mentioned how it took me some time to realize what it truly meant to follow Christ even through I grew up as the son of a pastor. In the end he understood that he was not actually following after Christ so Courtney prayed with him. The family continues to grow. I’m excited to stay in touch with Sinebhongo as he moves into a new and exciting stage of life. He has great potential and I know he will do great things. We are hoping to spend some more time with him before we leave Cape Town for Durban later this month.
Living Faith (Wednesday, Thursday Night):
On Wednesday and Thursday night Courtney spoke at Living Faith Community Church, which is just around the corner from where we are staying. Chris and Jeremy’s cousin is the pastor, Pastor Clive, and is the man that was joking with Courtney last weekend at the birthday celebration. The church was very welcoming.
Courtney spoke about leadership and worship the first night, and on the second night he spoke about disciple making. Again the people responded very well. It has been difficult at the last few churches because there really has not been adequate time to cover all of the material for each subject. It has been good, however, and I believe that the leadership in each church will take these ideas and continue to emphasize them. We are planning to go back to Clive’s church next week on Thursday so that Courtney can speak some more about mentoring.
Each session ended with tea and freshly made donuts. They were delicious, and I could have eaten a dozen or more, but I contained myself so that others could also partake. I look forward to consuming a few more of these tasty treats before I depart from Cape Town. Again I must mention just how wonderful the hospitality has been here in Africa. The people treat us so well, feeding us too much. It seems as if someone is always trying to either give us tea or something to munch on wherever we go. I would love to figure out how many gallons of tea I have consumed on this trip. It seems like I have at least two or three cups a day. Our hosts in every country have taken good care of us, and we are grateful every one of them.
Ministry in Capricorn:
This past week I have also been helping Chris with his before/after school program in Capricorn. Capricorn is a poor area also called a township or slum. Chris told me that there is 70% unemployment in Capricorn. The population is between 50-60,000 people, possibly even more, and Capricorn is not a large area. Houses are packed tightly together, sometimes there could be ten or more on a small plot of land. Families squeeze into their homes and just do their best to survive. There are a few shops and businesses within the township, but Chris told me that most of them are actually run by people from other African countries. The people have been corrupted by years of handouts and this way of life will take a lot of work to break away from.
This is why Chris has given up his normal job to make his ministry his main focus. On Monday to Friday, Chris wakes up around 5 in the morning to prepare two huge pots of oatmeal to serve to the children. He serves at a couple locations and nearly 200 people are fed. Chris does not only serve the food but also builds relationships with the people, and is working to empower the young ones to live a different life than is demonstrated by many of the adults in the township. One day we walked home from the ministry and it seemed as everyone we passed knew Chris and greeted him joyfully.
I joined Chris one morning to help serve the kids. It was a wonderful experience. When we left the house the sun was just beginning to rise above the mountains. The colorful sky made even the slums look beautiful. As we pulled up to the church where Chris bases a majority of his ministry, kids began to come from all directions to get some of the hot food. It is amazing to see how joyful the children are even though they basically have nothing. I have been in some poor areas before but nothing like this. The children have hope and I pray that the work that Chris is doing helps to empower the young to transform their community.
On Tuesday and Thursday I also joined Chris for his after school ministry. When we arrived the children were waiting for us and helped us in any way that they could. They set up the tables and chairs, and set the table for mealtime. I played with some of the younger kids before everyone arrived to eat. It was so much fun having the little ones chase me around the room, laughing and smiling the whole time. After we served everyone food we had the teens stick around so I could get to know them. There were about ten teens that stuck around, mainly boys. I introduced myself and shared a little of my story with them. After this I encouraged them by sharing that they are more than just poor people. I mentioned how we are all created in the image of God and we are all his children no matter where we come from. I told them to not let titles such as poor or young hold them back, but to live above these titles and pursue great things. They all have potential it is just a matter of what they decide to do with their lives. After I shared I let them ask questions about anything and we had a fun time together.
On Thursday I returned and was supposed to teach some of the kids how to play the drums. Unfortunately the bass drum pedal was broken. This is key piece of the drum set so it was hard to do anything with it. I tried to use this as a lesson for the kids about teamwork, and even though I was rambling my words eventually made sense. With this I created an activity on the spot to help emphasize some of the points I made. I had each child take a drum and we made a beat together. It was incredible. There was a lot of joy during this activity. I plan to return next week for a day or two to spend a little more time with the teens, possibly doing some drumming or just hanging out with them.
These times have been rewarding, but challenging for me. One day when I was with Chris we heard that a girl that comes to his program had skipped school for the last two weeks. Chris was not pleased with this, especially because the parents could care less. He had taken on the responsibility of the parents to push the kids to go to school and to study. We walked over to the girl’s home, which was crammed in among a number of other shacks. The stench was horrific and it was hard to see the emptiness of the home. Chris spoke sternly and lovingly with the young girl, asking her why she was not going to school. He discovered that it was only because she did not have the pants for her uniform. Chris told her that he would help her out but she had to promise to return to school.
I am grateful that I have been able to observe the life in the townships of South Africa, and this isn’t even one of the worst ones. As difficult as it was to see the living conditions of the people, there is a glimmer of hope that comes from servants like Chris. The biggest problem is that there aren’t many people out there who are willing to make big sacrifices to help those in need, or even to make the small sacrifice of giving up a little time to help people like Chris with their ministries. This is a major problem all around the world, and one of the main points Courtney has been addressing in his teachings. We all need to be challenged by this.
Day with the Burgstahlers:
Yesterday was so refreshing for me. We spent the day with a missionary family from Indiana, who recently moved to Cape Town. The Burgstahlers are a wonderful family, and they were great hosts for the day. We have a few mutual friends back in Indiana, and my parents have spent time with them as well. It was fun telling stories and talking about life back home with them. This was exactly what I needed and has given me a boost of energy that will help me on the second half of this trip.
In the late morning, Steve, Gayle, and Micah Burgstahler came and picked us up from Chris’s home. They took us to the Cape Town waterfront where we visited some shops, ate some fish and chips, and enjoyed the magnificent sights. It was a beautiful day yesterday, hardly a cloud in the sky. It was one of those days that you don’t even think about the weather because the conditions are so perfect.
After exploring the waterfront for a while we headed downtown to a craft market. As we browsed the different shops the owners would quickly come up to us and try to sell us whatever we were looking at. They would begin to go into great detail about their product and the unbeatable price, even though many of the vendors were selling the same items. It was entertaining. We met one man from Senegal who was running a shop, who was around 6’8”. Abdu was very gentle and kind so we did most of our shopping at his stand.
After the market we traveled over to the Burgstahler’s home where we ate dinner and learned some more about their ministry and hopes for the future. We had to eat quickly because Steve wanted us to join him at one of his ministries. The ministry is in a rehab center. Most of the people who came were young men between 20 and 30 years old. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but soon after we began I was deeply moved. Steve began the time with singing. The men danced and sang with great passion, something we have not seen much of here in Africa. Most of the time the people singing and dancing are women. The sound of their voices nearly brought me to tears. After singing a few songs Steve invited Courtney to come share. In this time Courtney shared his story and it was extremely powerful. The young men were very responsive and focused; some were even crying by the end. Many people came up to Courtney after the session and thanked him for sharing his story. It was a perfect ending to a great day.
Today we are resting, and Courtney will begin his teaching again tomorrow morning. This next week Courtney will be teaching at a church Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and then we will return to Living Faith on Thursday for another session. I will be with Chris at least one more time this week to help in Capricorn. On Wednesday we are hoping to get together with the Burgstahlers again, and possibly a few others that we met. On Friday Courtney’s mentees from Durban are coming over, and we will be with them for a week until we all head over to Durban on the 25th of September.
I can’t believe that we have been living in Cape Town for 3 weeks now, and that the trip is halfway over. This second half of the journey will be filled with many more opportunities and learning experiences. We really only have about four weeks of ministry left, and then we head up to the UK for two weeks. The days seem to go by so fast now, and our time here will be over before we know it. I am excited to return back to Indiana to reunite with friends and family, but I know I will miss Africa. I have met so many magnificent people and experienced excellent hospitality, all of which will be difficult to leave behind. Thanks for your support and allowing me to go on this 3-month journey across Africa. Keep sending the encouraging messages and feel free to ask questions as well. The Internet is still very limited so I will do my best to stay in touch. I’m hoping that I can post some pictures soon! I heard that the place we are staying in a week has Wi-Fi so it is possible that I will be able to put up some pictures during that time. Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement!