Thursday, February 23, 2012

God working in Reunion Township

One of my favorite activities here in South Africa is sharing the Word of God with interested students.  One of my most interested students, and a young brother I truly enjoy mentoring is Siphiwe.  He came to us through the missionary activities at a hospital almost two years ago.  Siphiwe has been growing steadily in his Bible studies, working at the BEC, and in his skills in sharing with others.

Siphiwe's "Back-Story" is very interesting and boils down to growing up in a township where he regularly attended a local Bible study group, though he himself wasn't one of those who followed the teachings so much.  When he heard our teachings he was able to receive them and he became very urgent in his pursuit of Biblical understanding.  One of the first results of this, after his baptism, was that his Bible class teachers in the township wanted to know about his conversion and what it was that had caused such a radical change in his life!  They asked him to lead a Bible class with their students in the township, about 45 kids in all.  Wow, what an opportunity.  For about a year and a half he's been leading the course with the God's Master Plan teaching material (8 classes), followed up by a graduation,and then proceeded to the "Learn Your Bible" series (22 Lesson) that is about to conclude in 2 weeks (we'll have a new graduation pic soon ;-).  

But wait, this isn't all…In addition to the structured bible courses, the kids really enjoy hearing prepared classwork, so I have had the privilege of sharing many different classes with them, geared around helping them learn about the Bible.  It’s a  great combination because most of my classes contain verses and concepts that very specifically reinforce the God’s Master Plan course and the Learn Your Bible Courses.  Over the last year I’ve had the privilege of talking to them about God’s plan revealed in Genesis (a 5 session class), Man’s role in God’s plan, our future hope, God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, David, all revealed in Christ and fulfilled through him.  I’ve had the privilege of addressing what Baptism is all about, to address the wrong teachings about tithing, the sabbath, of course replaced with teachings in line with the Biblical Model.  I’ve had the privilege of teaching a class regarding God’s expectations for us in our Lives.  And again I find that with all of the teaching I’ve been privileged to do, I’m probably learning more than the class is, even collectively.  It is amazing how God works in us to reveal Himself and show us the way as we seek to help others.

As a result of Siphiwe’s weekly teachings, the hosting family, the Manzini's, have become convinced of the teachings we've shared.  Mamma Manzini (the mother of the family) has even paid her way to the Family Bible Conference in 2011 and was "blown-away" at the teachings and the fellowship that we enjoyed.  She has been constantly "On Fire" with sharing our classroom teachings and her enthusiasm for our classes ever since.  Her husband Babba Manzini (yes, father of the family) has committed to attending our next year Bible Conference as well, and they've both stated their intent to have all their kids there as well.  How exciting is that?

The Reunion Bible study group can become so much more, with God’s involvement.  We have the potential for home-church and ultimately a community centre church there in reunion, God Willing.  Our current near-term plans are to continue with the next set of classes, and to provide bussing on a monthly basis, rotating these young adults to our several ecclesias, once a month.  Our whole hope and desire is to see this community coalesce into a new young vibrant ecclesia here in South Africa!  With God, all things are possible!

The next Reunion group update will include pictures from our free bible give-away to 33 of our students who currently don’t possess a Bible.  Additionally, the whole group will be receiving their certificates for completing the “Learn Your Bible” 22 lessons course.  This is a momentous day for these young adults, and I can’t wait to share with you once it is finished.

One Spiritual lesson I experience from all of this?  As a spiritual farmer sowing seed, don’t pay too much attention to where your seed will land - with your eyes, you will be unable to see where the good soil is.  Let God ensure that the seed falls on the right soil and He can make it grow!  But still, we MUST sow!  No-one would have picked Siphiwe as the soil with whom the seed would grow, but now the seed has grown and is producing fruit in abundance, and we aren’t even at the Harvest yet!  Praise be to God!I request that all of you who have read this note could stop and spare 2 minutes to pray for the Reunion class, that God would continue to work His miracles there, to grow his Family that we might see His glory increased!
Thank you.  Cam Beeler

Monday, February 13, 2012

They kept coming.

At Aphiwe we have a memorial and message meeting from 10-11am followed by CYC from 11-12pm. We started the day with 18 youngsters and 7 baptized members - and then the youngsters kept coming. Throughout the meeting they would arrive - sit down - get up to fetch a Bible - sit down - and then struggle to find a quote and page and page to find 1 Corinthians (discover they were in 1 Chronicles - and then the paging starts again) or even worse still find something obscure like 1 John. Today we ended up with 62 youngsters - all eager to learn ; eager to find every quote and have a turn to read; listening avidly; responding carefully. CYC followed straight after the memorial - no-one wanted to take a break.

Otilia and Yvonne have the challenge of teaching the little ones (ages 7 to 9). And I say a challenge as that is exactly what having a variety of ages; languages; cultural backgrounds; and religious exposure presents to you. Eric has the privilege of teaching the 10 to 12 year olds and he is following the Junior Correspondence Course (JCC) program with them. He has been very brave in offering to help out with these youngsters (as he was only baptized in September) - and working through the JCC will increase his own knowledge and spiritual understanding - while at the same time give the children a structured learning program and good background of the Bible. Leona leads the 13 to 15 year olds and the classes are dealing with doctrines through a series called "Doctor Doctor I am sick" - with Christ being the master physician and our 'illness' being sin. Lucas has the 16 and up group and either answers specific questions raised or giving good background and outlines of the Bible; different books and different people. A very very busy 2 hours each Sunday.

Many of the CYC could not go on the youth camp last year due to finances - but this year each child is being encouraged to bring R25 to church each month so that by the end of November they would have saved enough to attend the youth camp. In the past we used to relent and let some children who had not saved enough attend the camp - but last year the financial pressure would have been too much - so we had to stand very firm by our resolve and turn away a few hopeful faces. As difficult as it was to do this - it actually seems to had the desired effect in encouraging the children to save pro-actively already for the camp.

What has also been encouraging is that at least 80% of our CYC members attend Bible Class on a Tuesday night - giving us a turnout of between 40 to 50 people at Bible Class. Quite the vibe. The children also realized how much they have benefitted by attending Sunday School on a regular basis when at a games evening on Friday night the regular CYC attendees of more than 2 years now won the Biblical quiz without much of a challenge from other newcomers.

So from having kids come because "Mom said I must come to Sunday School to learn how to speak English" to others who have come to share their studies on Job or on Suffering - by the time they leave they have devoured 2kg of sugar; 1 kg of coffee; 40 teabags; had 2 hours of praise, worship and Biblical instruction and successfully worn-out 5 CYC teachers. But who is complaining? We realize that many ecclessia's no longer have Sunday School groups - and to be surrounded by such energy, enthusiasm and commitment just makes the day worthwhile.

With abiding love 
Kempton Park Ignite2020 team

What a wonderful Sunday it has been!

There was great joy this Sunday afternoon as three new Congolese brethren were baptized at the home of Bro. Mickey Scheepers after giving good confessions of their faith. We were all humbled by the way God's word has again been powerful in renewing their minds to believe the Gospel message and respond to the call to become part of the body of true believers who are awaiting the return of Jesus to set up his Kingdom.
Our new brethren are Bro. Ramazinni Emena, Bro. John Kiza and Bro. Ebengo Pelele and it was a privilege to break bread with them and give them the right hand of fellowship soon after their baptisms. The Congolese ecclesia in Pretoria is growing steadily with about 6 more students attending the meetings regularly. It is very rewarding to see the joy they share and how the brethren are also very involved in teaching the new students.

Ramazini getting baptised

Ebengo being baptised

John Kiza's baptism

Bro. John Kiza

Bro. Ramazini Emane and his wife Salinga

Bro. Ebengo Pelele

The growing Congolese ecclesia in Pretoria with students, Sister Karen Scheepers, bro. and sister Michael  and Lilandi Scheepers, sister Lauren Ghent.

Friday, February 10, 2012

End of Year Sunday School Celebrations

At the end of each year we try to host a prize giving and celebration for our Sunday School students.  In the past we've had donations from all over the world to treat these township youngsters.  This year we discussed at our weekly mission planning meeting  how we didn't have any funds to do these celebrations for Lamontville, Clermont and Marianhill.  We decided to go home and pray about it.  Soon after, we received a donation from a former volunteer's ecclesia and another from a couple in Australia at the same time - the exact amount to do 40 gift packs for Clermont and Lamontville and send the Marianhill kids on an outing.

On Sunday we had a nice celebration in Clermont - we gave out food parcels to the regular attendees and chocolate slabs thanking those who had been so dedicated to running soup kitchen, teaching classes, etc.  We were worried that we would not have enough, but there were exactly 40 children to receive the gift mugs.  They were so excited to receive their soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, candy and small toy in a mug.   It was very special to the children as this volunteer had worked with them for the past 2 years and it was coming from her family's ecclesia.  

The Mariannhill Sunday school were transported to a special outing on the beach including a lovely picnic lunch and swimming.  The remainder of the funds were used to buy clothes for 3 needy Sunday school students.  A great day was enjoyed thanks to the blessing of a timely donation!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Westville Church hosts outreach day at Happy's School for the Disabled

At the end of September 2011, we organized an outreach day for Westville ecclesia at 'Happy's" school for the disabled.  It was exciting to see how young and old were involved in the planning and service of the day.  The JYC kids at Westville spent Friday evening making gift packs for the Happy's kids.  Each family brought sweets and we packed them in with a few other special treats to give out as prizes for our game day that we were planning.  The kids split up into groups to organize the game they would host - bean bag toss, face painting, shooting hoops, ring toss, soccer kick out and more!  Posters were made, teams organized and they were ready for the day.

The convoy of about 40 left Westville on Sunday morning and headed over to Umlazi.  We were blessed to have a few of our International Joyful Joyful P2P team arrive early to help us with the Praise and Worship session.  While we were singing praises, a team was preparing popcorn and juice for all the students.  Then it was off to the games for the kids and to tackle repair projects for the adults.

We were so excited to see new people on our outreach day, those that had not come before to the township projects - and it was so encouraging to see how we all were touched by the joy of these kids.  After each round of a game, they would receive a sticker, then could cash in their stickers for prizes.  The Westville Sunday school students were amazed at what the kids could do - in spite of their disabilities - they were quite successful in getting the ball in the hoop and playing the games.

The adults had a breaking of bread service and some of the older Happy's students (they range in age from 8-24) wanted to sing their song for us.  This group of men were phenomenal in their talent.  We were so blessed to hear their music.  It was touching to break bread in such a humble and downtrodden setting  yet to feel that you were top of the world in the people that surrounded you.

Then it was off to work.  Repairs were done on doors, walls, gutters and rooms cleaned and bigger projects assessed for future work.  The joyful joyful P2P team returned the next week to complete some of these bigger projects and had a musical praise session with them as well.

We are always touched by the kids at Happy's - how they brighten up your day - and the joy  and excitement they feel just seeing us arrive to visit.  There are so many in need of hugs and physical touch - the love of Jesus in action.  I personally cannot wait to see these precious children jumping and leaping and praising God when Christ returns.

Sunday in Clermont

Today as I drove into the township there was a buzz of activity.  As I passed by the usually
 empty World Cup soccer practice stadium, I could hear a local pastor shouting out his
 encouragements to his congregation on the loudspeaker. The ladies were crossing over the
 street to the water pump to do their washing.  The children were playing in the street
 with the bread loaf packages filled with air -instant soccer balls.  The little Down's
 Syndrome boy was standing waving to us with a huge grin on his face. That was about
 all he had on - as usual.   I had not seen him in a month or so and he had grown taller.
 As we walked up the dirt hill I saw children shoveling up the rubbish into the front
 part of an old tube tv.  I wondered if they were doing this to clean up the neighborhood
 or if they just enjoyed having something to do.  Either way, the place was getting
 cleaned up which was a rare sight!  As I rounded the corner behind the house, I saw
one of the neighborhood boys about 11 years old scrubbing the stairs that lead up to
the toilet.  Wow, two sets of children cleaning today.

Many of the Sunday school children had already gathered to play at our door.  They were
 always there waiting, hoping that we would come.  I had been away for several weeks
and I felt like I was returning back to where I belonged.  I had missed being here and
 seeing these kids!  Eventually we had about 20 kids come to join us as Antonia began to
 sing the zulu hymns. She is a member of our church who owns the house in Clermont
where we meet.  After a few songs, she leads a prayer.  All the children have their
 hands folded and their eyes closed, except for little Kwanda.   He is always busy
and into something.  His sister who is about 10 is his caregiver.  His mom is not
around and there is an aunt in the neighborhood, but this 10 year old girl is the
mom.  I feel distinctly called in Clermont to focus on these little ones that seem
 "naughty."  To hug them, smile at them and recognize that they are full of life and
 zeal and have no one to direct where it should properly go.  I look around at the
children and what they are wearing.  Their clothes are tattered and too small.
 Kwanda has on pants and when they fall down I can see some semblance of
underwear- the top elastic waistband and the bottom part around his legs,
there is nothing there covering his bum in between.

Another little boy about 2 years comes in part way through the lesson.  He has a
 huge grin and seems very curious.   Immediately all the children start gagging
 and holding their noses because he stinks so bad.  Apparently he needs his
 nappy changed.  Antonia opens up the door to air out the room and we continue
on.  I am teaching the lesson of Jesus' first miracle, when he came to the wedding
 feast and turns the water to wine. We have appointed two children to be the bride
 and groom and all the other children pretend to be the guests.  They come one by
 one to wash their hands in a small tupperware container in water that has been
fetched from down the hill.  I ask them to imagine these are huge water pots that
 could hold the amount of water in a bathtub. They all sit back down and we tell
 them that they are at a big feast and there is an abundance of food everywhere.
We give them 2 biscuits(cookies) today and their eyes get big as they usually only
 get one.  And they usually have to wait until after class.  They eat and eat and as
 I expected, it becomes a big distraction to the lesson.  I tell them that at a
wedding feast people would be talking and laughing very loud and I ask them to do
 this.  They look at me as if I'm crazy!  I laugh and laugh and finally a few them
start smiling and one older, clever boy catches on and begins to laugh.  Once
we calm down the crowd then we tell them about how we have run out of wine!
 We ask if anyone knows how wine is made.  One boy says he has seen it on tv,
but cannot remember where it comes from.  I take a picture off of the wall of
a bunch of grapes and put it on the floor and stomp it - telling the kids that the
t is how you make wine.  They don't seem to believe me.  Out comes grape juice
I say.  Then you put it into a glass bottle and put a cork in it and then you wait
 and wait and wait, sometimes for years.  I pull out the memorial wine bottle and
 ask them to smell.  YUCK they say - doesn't smell like grape juice!  We talk about
t what a miracle it was for Jesus to have made wine not from grapes, but from water,
not in years, but in seconds and not just any wine, but the BEST wine that they had
 tasted!  How generous is our Lord Jesus!

We finish up the lesson by coloring in a page about the story.  The kids are all over the
 floor coloring - there are no tables to use.  They enjoy it and take great detail to finish
 their work.  My 7 year old son is excited to be here and wants to serve up the juice.
 He used to complain every week we would come - it's dirty mom, they smell, I don't like
it here.  Now he comments that he's sad how torn their clothes are and wonders if they
have enough to eat today. At the break when they are playing he comes to get me because
 little Kwanda has fallen and hurt his nose.  "I didn't touch his blood mom, I came to get
 you."  They learn early here about the hardships of life that HIV brings.  Poor little
 Kwanda is there bleeding and I think, wow, I don't have any gloves either.  It's just a
little nose bleed, so I quickly get my hand sanitizer, kleenex and bandaid, which is
all the semblance of a first aid kit that I have on me.  Note to self, get a first aid kit
 and gloves for the car and the building.  I say a prayer asking God what I should do,
 then come around to help.  Antonia has already started cleaning him up. Once
 again the situation is resolved by God for me when I ask.  I say a prayer of thanks
 and think about this little boy and how there is no mom to kiss his hurts.  More
and more I want to be that person for him and all the children.

We get ready for our main church service.  The regulars show up and we have 6
including Cam and me.  He has brought Siphiwe, our teacher from the Bible
Education Centre to give the talk today.  Then 2 more visitors come in. The
 little boy with the stinky nappy decides to join us again.  He seems to have
been changed, so sitting by him is more pleasant.  He chooses the chair next
 to me and climbs up.  My son is sitting on my left coloring, so I give the other
boy some colors and he enjoys them.  I notice he has on 2 different shoes and
 that his hands are extremely dry and cracking- almost looking like an old
man's shriveled hands.  It makes me think about how fast aging comes to
those who are impoverished and neglected. He is surprisingly quiet through
the talk until he yells out Unkulunkulu!  Someone was reading a passage from
the Bible in zulu and said unkulunkulu, the zulu word for God.  Wow - He
was listening!  There goes God confirming my theory that children in the
service always pick up on something! One of the gogos (grannies) behind
 him whacks him on the head to be quiet.  Shame - I think - I love what
he yelled out! He eventually wanders back outside as our meeting draws
 to a close.  There are many songs, prayers and encouraging passages of
 scriptures read.  Most of our attendees have just returned from our
annual Bible conference so we are especially enthusiastic.

As we turn to welcome our visitors that have come in, I meet a lady with a
gorgeous baby girl on her back.  Emmanuel, one of the members, tells me
that she is the lady that lives next door whose husband is bedridden by
AIDS and that she is very sick from it.  They don't have money to feed
 the baby and have been giving her mealie meal (corn meal) in a bottle
with water.  There is a great misconception here that the mothers with
HIV cannot breastfeed their babies, so they go uneducated and in fear
 and aren't able to feed their babies properly.  As we gather around
her to assess her situation I am amazed at how big and heavy this
problem seems and then with all of us working together in multiple
languages, from multiple experiences, backgrounds, countries and
cultures, we are able to come to a good plan of action for her.
The other visitor that came today gives her 10 rand for taxi
 fare to the government social services office.  Cam has recently
worked with this office in another case and is able to save her
300 rand (3 days wages) for an unneeded taxi fare back to zululand.
I offer to get a food parcel and can of formula for her and Funo
offers to bring it back by and help her fill out the forms.  The neighbor
friend that attends her church originally found out her problem and
has been buying formula for her out of her much needed money.
When we leave there she is encouraged and relieved and not only
have we helped her for today, but she has a plan in place to get
help for the future.  Our new visitor now tells me she is a certified
HIV educator and wants to come back to this community and run classes.
All of this in about 10 minutes - my head is in a spin.

It is amazing when we see how so many things come together if we are
just willing to ask God to guide us.  As I was going into the store to buy
the formula, I run into a sister from another Durban meeting.  We
chat for a moment and I tell her about my amazing morning and she
generously offers up a donation to help with the baby's formula.  WOW -
God is definitely providing.   As I drive home I think about how much
being a part of Clermont has changed my life.  How I came here out
of a sense of duty to help them and how God has touched my heart
and the hearts of my children and brought us joy and peace from our
time spent here.  I think about the passages we read in church this
morning from Hebrews 13.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without
 knowing it.  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,
and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

I immediately think of the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:24 "But God
has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor
to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the
body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored,
every part rejoices with it. "

I rejoice in you Clermont - thank you for a God-filled day!