Monday, March 7, 2016

God at Work

Proverbs 16:9 "A man's heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps."

We are nearing the end of the first quarter of 2016, and I have only now started to see a bit of what our glorious Father's plan is for us this year. 
The verse I quoted above, Prov 16:9, has been very practically illustrated for me in my and Michael's lives these last few months. 
Near the end of 2015, when we knew that we might very well not receive WCF sponsorship for 2016, it was very difficult for us to "get our heads around" the idea of not continuing the projects we had then been working on for 4 years. 
It became a time of intense reflection on and evaluation of all of the different projects we were involved in, as we knew that even if we both had to find conventional employment again we would still continue with as many of the projects as we could find time to. As such we prioritized the projects that had grown the most in terms of relationships built as that is, for us, is the link between outreach and effective preaching. 
It was also quite a testing time as we were both tentatively job hunting in a country with an exceptionally high unemployment rate – as well as an affirmative action policy that makes it almost impossible for a white man to find work. 
To come back to our Proverbs verse – "a man's heart devises his way". In our minds a reasonable solution to our dilemma was that Michael would find full time work with a salary that at least matched our current sponsorship, and I would remain at home to home school our daughters and then try to continue with the Crèche Teacher Training courses and the Skills Training Academy for Community Kids (STACK Classes) as best I could. 
We worked really hard at making this happen – Michael went for several interviews with no success, and even I applied for a job, which I could have taken, except that it would have meant either uprooting our family and moving away from all our support structure, or spending close on 4 dangerous hours a day in travel time with my two young daughters. 
We and our family (relatives as well as brothers & sisters in Christ) spent many hours in prayer, praying that our Father would indeed "direct our steps" and while we were waiting, help us to continue in faith. 
And direct our steps He did! 
In Oct/Nov last year we received confirmation that at least I would continue receiving sponsorship from WCF. I then also started a small home-based Montessori preschool (as I would be home schooling my daughters anyway) in the mornings. Shortly thereafter Michael found half-day work as a tutor at a home school assistance centre (Crossroads Christian Academy), although his salary was less than his sponsorship amount. This meant that we would still need to find another source of employment to cover our needs.  A month or so later we learnt that he too would receive WCF sponsorship for this year – the amount sponsored exactly covering the shortfall in his salary! 
As an aside – I do not believe in "coincidence". In Afrikaans the word for coincidence is "toevallig" which directly translates to "then the light fell" and for me that is God's light highlighting His work in our lives. 
As the projects we had prioritized as the most necessary to continue all ran over the weekend or in the afternoons the fact that both Michael's work and my preschool was half day meant that we could continue all of them. 
Of course it is only when one looks back that you really see how our magnificent God was creating a much bigger picture – one that only He was able to see at the time, and even now, one that we  only manage to understand in part. 
As wonderful as it was that we were able to meet our needs financially as well as continuing our outreach & preaching work this was just the beginning of His bountiful blessings.
The first "extended" blessing was that as the preschool I started had more enrolments I was able to provide one of our Youth members, who is currently studying the Montessori Method, with both gainful employment as well as valuable classroom experience time.  
Another way that our "work" has benefitted our outreach efforts is that in setting up and running a preschool myself I have come into contact with several key persons that are able to also assist the teachers we are training in the Crèche Course with legalizing their preschools. I am also able to speak to them from more recent experiences and provide examples which reinforce the lessons we provide. 
The next blessing we discovered during our first STACK Project Class. At these classes we first do our best to assist any of the children there with any projects & assignments they need help with, and also try to help them if they have work that they do not understand. We then do activities that develop various skillsets with them. Last year we found it really hard to effectively assist them with especially the math work that they struggled with, as we ourselves hadn't done that kind of math in about 10 years! 
This year however, Michael is teaching this very math as part of his work at Crossroads Christian Academy! As such he knows exactly what they are busy learning & need to learn next, and can offer them really effective tutorship. This is the same for all of the subjects and grades that he teaches, and has added much value to our STACK Classes!
We have already had instances of members of the youth group stopping by the Adieu Centre, even on Saturdays, with a question, and leaving with a much more confident step!
A little further on in Proverbs 19:21 we read: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."
Looking to the rest of the year, we have many hopes, plans & dreams for the projects we are working in as well as the individuals we are continuing to build relationships with. I hope to soon also share the more practical details and photographs of our projects with you. 
I can now, however, look back and know with absolute certainty that as long as we continue to seek our Father's guidance and trust that He is actively working in every detail of our lives, His purpose, immeasurable greater than ours, will prevail.
Michael and Lilandi Furstenburg

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Women at the Well ReTREAT August 2015

Ever wondered why it is called a women's reTREAT? I discovered the answer during our annual "Women at the Well" Weekend in the Drakensberg at the beginning of August! The weekend was attended by sisters from the Kempton Park, Soweto and Aphiwe ecclesias, a few unbaptized friends as well as visiting sisters Deb Lea, Judy MacKinnon & Jeanne Ploetz.
Jeanne, Judy and Deb
The venue itself is a treat both in terms of luxurious comfort and visual splendour; not to mention the plentiful and delicious homemade meals prepared by the owner herself.
The sisters of the organizing ecclesia's (this year it was the Gauteng ecclesia's) took it upon themselves to make or have made several small gifts which were distributed throughout the weekend, such as traditional edible treats, small cushions, tissue holders, bracelets, bath soaps, key rings and mugs. We also gifted each sister a copy of the DVD "Faith in the Face of Adversity". 
One of the gifts was a DIY beaded sugar spoon. 
All of the above pales in the face of the biggest TREAT of all though – which was the deeply meaningful and encouraging studies presented by our dearly loved sister Deb Lea. The theme of her studies was "God's Spirit in Me"; focusing especially on the characteristics Paul shares in Colossians 3. The sisters enjoyed the combination of "teacher-led" studies as well as small group discussions and feedback. The small group discussions also helped the sisters from various ecclesias, and even countries, get to know each other better. 

 On the Saturday afternoon we took most of the sisters on a short road trip into the heart of the Central Drakensberg. This was a huge treat as it was the first time many of them had seen this incredible sight. These magnificent peaks are truly a testament to the creative might of our Father, and one cannot help but remember David's psalms about "looking up to the mountains".
We were blessed with a "God-moment" during our journey to the venue, which I would like to again share and praise Him for. When we started out on Friday morning we were battling a vicious cross-wind, which literally seemed to yank the steering wheels out of our hands at times. Knowing that we had to traverse a very busy and dangerous mountain pass, the drivers were all silently praying for the wind to die down. We stopped at a petrol station/rest stop just before the pass for lunch, got back into our vehicles and immediately realized that we were no longer fighting to stay on the road! God had answered our prayers!
The sisters returned home physically tired (staying up chatting until 2am does that to a person) but emotionally and spiritually fulfilled and energized, already discussing plans for next year's reTREAT – which we will God Willing be advertising internationally. Looking forward to seeing everyone there – if not sooner in the Kingdom!
With love in Christ

Lilandi Furstenburg (on behalf of the Gauteng sisters)
Another treat was receiving the group photo during the weekend so that each sister could sign it to create a lovely keepsake of our time together. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Volunteers making a difference

One of the main contributing factors to the continued preaching pastoral and outreach activities we experience is the flow of volunteers that make their way to South Africa. Having the Adieu Center as an accommodation center is the major reason why we are able to be blessed with many volunteers coming to South Africa and give so selflessly of their time and talents.
Since January this year (2015) we were privileged to have the following volunteers visit us and help us in our work:
  1. Bro. Steve Pitt-Francis (UK)
  2. Sister Elouise Caudry (Australia)
  3. Bro. Kam Sandhu (UK)
  4. Sister Briony Kemp (UK)
  5. Bro Josh Bullock (UK)
  6. Phoebe Martin (Australia)
All the volunteers integrated well with our ecclesia preaching and outreach activities.
Bro. Steve Pitt Francis gave excellent exhortations at the Kempton Park - , Aphiwe and Congolese ecclesias. He was also very good in teaching the youth various skills and spiritual concepts and lessons through a very well prepared series of talks entitled "3D learning." We were blessed with him leaving us all his course materials for use in the future.



It was also great to have Steve's insight into matters pertaining to the youth as well as his help in having a preliminary  baptism interview with Keletso.
Sister Eloise did great work and was happy to help with whatever work we threw at her. She is very flexible and did a variety of work, some of which was out of her comfort zone but she did very well. Having to give a Sunday school class on a balcony at the Congolese ecclesia is not easy but we were very impressed with how well she handled it.

She was also very good with the Sunday school children at the Kempton Park ecclesia and continued supporting them when they attended the STACK (Skills Training Academy for Community Kids) project on Tuesday afternoons. It was great that Eloise joined us for a second 3 day visit on her way back to Australia after she was in Durban for a while. Eloise showed a lot of endurance on one particular day when she sorted out a huge load of knitted squares we received from brothers and sisters in the USA a while ago. The squares form part of the SNUGGLES project and are given to Gogos (grand mothers) in the Township who stich them together to make blankets for the needy.



Eloise and Steve organising the STACK kids to make up food parcels.

Eloise and Steve organising the STACK kids to make up food parcels.
 Bro Kam Chandu had a similar schedule in which he visited us for 4 weeks, then went to help in Durban and stayed with us again for a few days on his way back to the UK. Kam also did a lot of work with and for us. His DIY skills came in very handy at a time we needed it much. We remain in awe as to how God always send us the right people at the right time. Kam was instrumental (together with Bro Hendri Viljoen) in adding another toilet/shower room to the Adieu center. This was much needed because of the Kempton Park ecclesia Sunday School (which gathers at the Adieu center on Sundays) has doubled in numbers! The addition of the extra toilet/shower has brought a huge relief to the logistics on a Sunday and will be VERY useful in the future when we have bigger volunteers groups staying over.

Bro Kam helping with the Tuesday Feeding Scheme
Bro Kam helping with the Tuesday Feeding Scheme

Kam also did a LOT of much needed repair and maintenance work at the Aphiwe, Adieu and Tsweloppelo community centers as well as a Caravan. The Caravan was used to help a young couple in desperate need with accommodation at Adieu for one month. The couple attended our meeting and showed an interest in the Gospel message. Kam did some wonderful work in building a relationship with them giving them sound council on two lengthy conversations he had with them. They have since found a place to stay and we will see if their interest in the Gospel remains.



Sister Briony Kemp brought her own cheerful personality and skills to our projects and it was great to have her enthusiasm and positivity spill over onto the youth and Sunday School children. See did a great job with the youth at the Youth Bible Study weekend that was organized by Bro Michael and Sister Lilandi. She also did a lot of work with the preparation work for the Youth Weekend. The Sunday School kids also enjoyed interacting with her during the STACK afternoons she helped with.

briony 2

briony 1

Josh and Phoebe also made a huge impact with their visit. They help a great deal with the Youth Study week and were very good at building relationships with all the youth.


The youth camp was a huge success with Josh and Phoebe making the work loader much lighter and adding valuable input with the study sessions

The youth camp was a huge success with Josh and Phoebe making the work loader much lighter and adding valuable input with the study sessions 
Phoebe really connected with the young people very well.
Phoebe really connected with the young people very well.
 We have heard from both Bro. Kam and sister Briony that they plan to return to South Africa to do more volunteer work. It is very rewarding for us to find that many of the volunteers return for a second and sometimes even a third visit to continue to support the ongoing work and sometime even continue and develop work/projects that they started. It is a great privilege and pleasure to be a first "port" of entry for these brothers and sisters and mostly their "port" of exit as well.
Another highlight this year is that the Aphiwe Yout Group have started their own preaching initiative. Under the leadership of Brother Ronald Msomi a group of about seven of them dish out leaflets arounf the Aphiwe community Center area on Friday afternoons and invite passers by to join us for the Baptism classes we have on Friday afternoons. It is wonderful to see them going into the streets with such enthusiasm. Keletso (one of the group) has asked to be baptised and we are in the process of preparing him for an interview.




The Adieu center remains invaluable as a venue for Bible Study days, Youth programs, the STACK (Skills Training Academy for Community Kids) project, Kempton Park ecclesia and Sunday School meetings and various other preaching development initiatives. The meeting room at Adieu center was re-painted and it looks very nice with the verse painted on the wall.

meeting room

The growth in the Kempton Park ecclesia Sunday School has been wonderful. The numbers doubled since January and this is mainly because of the synergy between the Sunday School and the STACK (Skills Training Academy for Community Kids) that we run at the Adieu center every Tuesday afternoon.
Our meeting room is pretty full most Sundays
Our meeting room is pretty full most Sundays

Sunday School is brimming with lots of Joy singing and quality teaching.
Sunday School is brimming with lots of Joy singing and quality teaching.

Sunday School-002

It is an amazing blessing to serve as caretakers, meet so many brothers and sisters, be part of the organizing of so many events and experiencing the joy of so many that we manage to touch and teach through our outreach work.

There was great joy on the 22nd of February when Cathrine Nyamasoka was baptised and became a sister in Christ. Cathrine is a friend of Bro. Itayi (our Recording brother) and he had been teaching her the Gospel for about a year now.

baptism cathrine-003

God be praised for his wonderful grace and love towards us all.
Your brother and sister in Christ's service
Lucas and Leona

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gauteng Youth Gathering – March 2015

Only those of us who have organized such an event can possibly understand the myriad of details and challenges that are involved. From finding a suitable venue, confirming dates, planning meals, activities and lessons, to the nitty-gritty of remembering to pack enough toilet paper - there are a lot of things that need to come together successfully for the event to be the experience that you want it to be for those attending. In South Africa the two biggest challenges we face when wanting to host any event, whether it is a day-long fraternal or week -long camp, are finances and transport. The youth that we want to have attend and benefit from such an event do not have either, and these two factors hugely influence the location, venue and duration of the event. 

These two factors, finances & transportation, were the two things that made it clear to us that "Youth Weeks" were no longer viable for our demographic. However we know how much the youth benefit from what is likely their only chance to "get out" of the squalor they live in every day. We also know that these camps provide them with a very real taste of the Kingdom to come, and as such these camps are an excellent source of encouragement as well as biblical education. 
With this in mind we (Hendri & Liezl Viljoen, Michael & myself) brainstormed ideas on how best to provide the youth with the benefits of a camp without the excessive costs we struggled to cover while hosting the youth week last year. We came up with the idea of hosting two "mini-camps" which we call "Youth Gatherings" - where we use a cheaper, closer venue and only stay over one night. Here follows the photographic report on the first such gathering of this year:   
With the much shorter time-frame we endeavoured to use the time we had as effectively as we could! We slotted in four "Praise & Worship" sessions along with four "Study Sessions" over the weekend. The studies were very practical and aimed at motivating us to live out our hope in Christ in a way that would inspire others to join us in our walk to the Kingdom.  
Digging into God's Word during the first study session on Saturday morning. 
We had two "Games Sessions" - one in the afternoon and another in the evening. We played outdoor games in the afternoon - with the "hands-free balloon relay" being the most entertaining to play and watch! 
Hands-free balloon relay underway - Keletso just lost his balloon! 
During the afternoon the youth were split into three teams and given the challenge of building a fort out of scrap wood, as well as painting a flag for their team. Our goal with this challenge was to keep everyone constructively occupied and ensure that everyone felt included at all times. We were very pleased at how well this worked as the guys learned some construction skills and the girls chatted away while painting their flags.  
Michael explaining the challenge to a slightly apprehensive group! 
The guys learning how to use a hammer and nails! 
At first the teams didn't have a very clear idea of where to begin when constructing a fort - so Michael & Hendri demonstrated by building one of their own. After that most of the teams quickly created some fort-like structures.  
Team "Strikas" in front of their fort. Each team had to create a name using at least one letter from each team member's name. Underneath their name it says "Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and one is gold".  
Team "Dragons" 
Team "Pirates"which they claim is just the shortened version of "Pyro-technics..."
Two of the studies were also "object lessons" about being the "salt of the earth" and a "light unto the world", the latter occurring later in the evening so as to be more effective! 
Each person received a candle to demonstrate how we should let our lights shine most effectively. 
The evening games session was a whole lot of fun! Much to the attendees' delight we played several brand new games - all of which were great fun to play and very entertaining to watch!  
This game requires the player to eat several food items and drink a soda as fast as they can - while their hands are taped around a ball! Here the twins are competing against each other! 
The classic "toilet paper mummy" game.  
This is an hilarious, fast paced, game. Players take turns rolling a dice; when you roll a 6 you have to dress in the clothes provided and try to eat as much of a chocolate bar using only a knife and fork before the next 6 is rolled.  
We ended the evening games session with a "fort war" which tested the strength of each team's fort. Once all the forts were destroyed we used the wood to build a massive bonfire, around which we incinerated marshmallows and drank hot chocolate while enjoying an impromptu praise session.   
The bonfire - those are adult males for scale.
We all left the gathering energized and encouraged spiritually, and with the happy assurance that this was a winning recipe! As such we have already committed to hosting another such weekend during the July holidays. 

Each attendee received a surprise gift - a T-shirt with a picture of a salt shaker and a lightbulb and the words "Be these" written underneath. 

This picture perfectly captured the energy and fun that characterized this weekend together! 
We would like to express our gratitude to the Many Seeds Ministries organization for providing the funding that made this incredibly special, memorable weekend possible. We also praise and glorify our heavenly Father for blessing this event - we know that we are only His labourers and we are privileged to play our part in spreading His Good News through such events.  
With love in Christ
 Michael &; Lilandi Furstenburg &; Hendri & Liezl Viljoen
Matt 5:16 "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."