Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where in the world...

Is anyone out there still trying to figure out what exactly I’m doing here and where exactly I am?

Coooome on… Tell the truth.

It’s taken me a week here to get a little bit of an idea.

My team and I have spent our first full week here together adjusting, learning the who’s and what’s, having a little fun together and preparing for an adventure ahead.

We’ve all been sick and are hoping that’s out of our systems now! Please keep our health in your prayers – this is tick season and we’ve already made one trip to the hospital with tick bite fever. (Lizzie is doing fine now, and we are all smiling today as we get ready for church in the community.)

I would like to fill in the gaps and questions you might have about exactly where I am and what I am doing – after all, with your prayers, encouragement, financial support, and by following along, this is your trip too.

I am participating in a Discipleship Training School (DTS) focused on compassion through a huge missions organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). In DTS, our team of 15 will be in a training program for the first 3 months. Speakers will come in from who-knows-where to spend a week at a time with us and deliver lectures. We will have at least one time each week to participate in intercessory prayer, which means praying on behalf of others and seeking to understand the heart of God for a person’s life. We will participate in community outreach 2 - 4 times a week. (That’s the part that we are all soooo ready to get started… and the part that makes the cutest pictures.) Community outreach means we go work alongside community leaders in three communities where Ten Thousand Homes is supporting community leaders that are working with orphans and vulnerable children. We will participate in feeding programs and spend some time loving on those sweet babies. We begin our community outreach tomorrow, and I look forward to telling you more. We made quick visits to the communities this week and got to talk to and play with some of the kids. (My favorite moments in Africa, by far.)

After three months of DTS, our team will depart together for two months of outreach. We don’t know where we will go yet (our leaders are making some final decisions), but conditions will probably not be as “posh” as our current standard of living. We will spend those two months fully invested in ministry – overflowing the compassion of Christ unto others. The outreach program will end on June 6.

I am staying at YWAM’s base, a place called Ten Thousand Homes in a town called White River in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. (We are about 20 minutes from Kruger Park – pictures of that coming soon – and close to both the Swaziland and Mozambique borders.

The work that Ten Thousand Homes does and the way they approach ministry had a huge impact on my decision to come and the interactions I had in preparing to come here. I will be working with Ten Thousand Homes during community outreach and Bay Area Community Church will come in August to serve here. I know this is already long, but, please people, stay tuned. This is good stuff.

Ten Thousand Homes believes in ordinary people creating a movement to provide, protect and restore orphans and vulnerable children. The hands-on part is primarily building community care centers to provide safety, refuge, care, cleanliness and discipleship. In extreme cases, they build homes for orphaned children. The vision started with the number 10,000. When they first got started, about 3 years ago, Ten Thousand Homes worked with another organization to build 3 homes. They built 3 more last year. One is being built now by a team of DTS students from Orlando that came here for their outreach, and there is funding for 2 more. (Bring it on, BACC!)

During an orientation meeting this week, I got a big dose of perspective shift. (The first of many, I’m sure.) So often Americans come in and think they’ve got to come “fix” a problem or “take care” of Africans who don’t have the means they do. Micheal, one of the American founders of Ten Thousand Homes, said this week that he believes Americans will not be the ones to change the orphan crisis. There will be a movement of African people – African orphans will change the crisis. He believes it’s our job to come alongside them, to go with God, and support His work to make the difference. Ten Thousand Homes is inviting churches and ordinary people all over the world to get involved.

God uses the people you least expect – the least of these. We come over with so many skills, and these skills are important and should be used for God’s glory. But we should come with the right perspective. We aren’t here to make change. We are here to be a part of the change God is doing.

God has been teaching me that the way He created me was to look for people’s inherent worth, value and beauty – and then to CELEBRATE it! Rejoice and sharpen the giftings in each other so that we will be encouraged to use our giftings and to maximize them. How could there be an uncared for orphan anywhere in the world if we were all using the gifts we were given for the glory of God? He wants to protect, care for and delight in His children.

I am seeking to catch a glimpse of the hope for Africa, and am honored to get to encourage and walk alongside Africans on the path to restoration. I am looking for hope. Giving hope. We all need hope. And hope creates change.

“But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33

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