Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gauteng Youth Camp 2014

The youth camp, centered around the theme of the Kingdom, was a great success with 38 youth, 8 mentors and one baby (David Onwordi) attending. We all left eagerly anticipating the Kingdom of God on earth - and with very concrete kingdom visions to encourage us when life starts eroding our hope. We had youth and mentors from Kensington, Soweto, Yeoville, Aphiwe, Kempton Park, Boksburg, America, Australia, England and Isolation and their spirit was such that not one person felt excluded at any time. 
Besides the studies we also enjoyed a variety of indoor and outdoor games, swimming, hiking, treasure hunts, Hebrew dancing, praise sessions and a concert. The food was delicious and plentiful, the accommodation rustic, and the cold showers refreshing! I feel that this comment, overheard during the homeward journey, sums up how everyone felt at the end of the three days: "If camp was a boarding school, I would be so happy!"

Here are some photographs of the camp: 
One of the older youths main study sessions underway in the hall. Their studies were led by Michael Furstenburg, Josh Bullock (UK), and Solomon Onwordi.
The younger youth attended their main studies in the living room of the leaders' home. Their studies were led by Lilandi Furstenburg, Phoebe Nyria (Aus) & Michael Furstenburg. 
Besides the main study sessions we also split the group into 4 smaller groups for "mentor sessions" where they discussed more practical topics such as how to apologize correctly and how to properly and safely use social media. These sessions were also helpful for the leaders to pay more individual attention to each of the youth in their group and provide a safe space for more personal questions.  
Another of the "mentor sessions" underway. 
The afternoons were filled with lots of outdoor games - here they are playing a variation of dodgeball. 
Nothing was going to stop the kids from swimming! 
Tumi drying off after a dip in the pool.  
Another activity they all enjoyed was creating a handprint keepsake that we plan to send to a couple that were very influential in raising funds for the camp in Australia. Most of the kids commented on how they hadn't done anything like it since preschool! 
Following on a mentor session about how your words can both hurt or heal we had each attendee write their name on a page. During the rest of the camp everyone then wrote something positive about each other on their respective pages. The kids had fun writing on each others' pages and would often come and read what others had written for them. It was a very encouraging exercise that we will definitely repeat - next time we will have more durable cards and colorful pens! 
The girl in pink is Refilwe - it was her first time attending a youth camp. She is the granddaughter of the lady who runs the preschool at the Tswelopele Good News Center in Boksburg and has been attending Saturday Bible Club since it began in 2009.   
It was Chigozile's first youth camp too and he brought a delightfully playful spirit to all the activities. We look forward to seeing him more in the future! 
Beautiful sisters Nolwazi & Nobenguni (our youngest attendee at 10 years old, excluding baby David). 
The whole happy group! 
We are very thankful to our heavenly Father for so many prayers answered throughout the year - culminating in these beautifully encouraging three days where we were able to experience a little taste of the magic that will be eternity in the kingdom to come!
With love in Christ 
Michael & Lilandi Furstenburg & Hendri & Liezl Viljoen
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isa 55:12)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Biblical Read-a-Thon: Psalms

7 hours, 24 pies, 4 cakes, 3 quiches, 2 milktarts and several liters of juice later - 150 chapters (whole book of Psalms) DONE!! Ch 117 took 21 seconds and Ch 119 took 24 minutes - but together we did it! 
When the Aphiwe & Kempton Park Youth took up the challenge of reading the entire book of Psalms in one sitting we had no idea quite what to expect - and were delighted to find it one of the most rewarding and enjoyable activities we had undertaken thus far!

God's provision - a huge donation of cakes, garlic rolls, quiches, tarts and pot pies to sustain us! 
These were our readers:
Keletso started us off with Psalm 1.
Sabelo has great difficulty with his eyesight but that didn't deter him from participating.
Michael stepped up to the plate for any chapters with more than 50 verses!
Taffi - between him & Sipho the others had to fight for a chance at the microphone. Their energy really drove the event.
Mokete. His reading ability is extremely poor so the others would scout ahead and assign any chapters with less than 5 verses to him!
Junior (the oldest of the Kempton park youth and a really lovely young gentleman eager for knowledge)
Siyabonga (which means "thank you" in Zulu)
Lilandi also taking on the longer chapters.
Happy who joined us after spending the whole morning at extra classes at school. The love for and excitement about God's Word that these children have is fantastic to be around!

Cherish - not yet able to read but she was an excellent little helper and "spirit-lifter"!

As we read we tabled the chapters and how long it took to read each one.

At this point - already a couple of hours in, it felt as though we had perhaps bitten off more than we could chew. Energy levels were dipping, readers weren't jumping up quite so quickly, eyes were glazing. However when we suggested that we only do 100 chapters it was unanimously decided that we would push on to the end. A life lesson in itself!
To keep ourselves occupied when not reading we had a side challenge going - to create a loomband that would stretch all the way around the Aphiwe Good News Center. Loombands are still very much a craze in South Africa and the kids were very excited to have access to a seemingly unlimited supply!
Lots of colors to choose from!
They kept their bibles close at hand so as to be ready for their next reading turn.
Relationships built and strengthened.
There are such beautiful friendships among these kids - we pray for these to last and provide a "God-based" support system as they face life as adults.
They made individual bracelets which we then joined together at the end of the event to create one long loomband.

This challenge too was met - at the end of the event we had created a loomband of 38 meters - more than sufficient to wrap around the Aphiwe Good News Center! Another life lesson - together we can achieve much more than when we try to do everything by ourselves!
It was a somewhat surreal, and incredibly uplifting experience - listening to the Bible being read for hours on end. We picked up on many "themes" and repetitions in especially the Psalms of David which you do not so readily see when reading them piecemeal. We concluded the read-a-thon by all reading Psalm 150 together - you can view the video of that Psalm on the Ignite2020 Facebook page. It really felt as though we had just completed a marathon - completely exhilarating!
150 chapters done!
The kids were already trying to decide which part of the bible we should do next! Spoiler alert - it will, God Willing, be the letters of Paul to the various ecclesias. Until then the Aphiwe/Kempton Park Youth would like to challenge all other youth groups (and even ecclesias!) to pick up their bibles and start reading!
With love in Christ
Michael & Lilandi Furstenburg
Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. (Jer 15:16)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sister Del Lea took Gauteng by storm.

Volunteers adding Value – Sister Deb Lea visits Johannesburg, South Africa. 
Over the course of the last few weeks we have been blessed with overlapping visits by Sisters Rachael Schaen & Deb Lea, both from the greater Cleveland area in Ohio. Both of these sisters were, we believe, literally a "God-send" in that their various skills, wisdom & experiences enabled them to add such incredible value to the many ongoing outreach & preaching programs & activities that we in Gauteng are responsible for. As Sister Rachael has already penned her thoughts and experiences herself I would like to just share some of the wonderful experiences we shared with Sister Deb - and perhaps elaborate on just how much of an impact her short visit (two weeks) had on the many lives she was able to touch. 
Jetlagged or not, Deb got straight to work in assisting myself, Rachael Schaen & Liezl Viljoen in presenting the Creche (Preschool) Teacher Training Course. We currently have three courses running - two at the Aphiwe Good News Center (presented by Leona Scheepers)  & one at the Tswelopele Good News Center - which meant that Deb would do  "back-to-back" sessions with the only time for lunch being in the car on her way to the next Center! Her many years of experience in the teaching field meant the attendees received valuable "tips" regarding their work with the children in their care, & we as presenters learned many new & better ways of sharing the information with the students!
Aphiwe Good News Center Creche Course: Explaining the importance of providing nutritious meals. 
Aphiwe Good News Center Creche Course 1 - we had to split the attendees into two courses so that everyone would fit! 
Tswelopele Good News Center Creche Course - explaining the importance of reading & sharing ways to make it both enjoyable & educational. 
As part of the CUDDLE Program we often host one-day seminars to the teachers that have completed the creche course, which focus on and provide more in-depth information about specific topics such as the "Praise & Participation for Positive Assessments" seminar that Rachael presented. Deb also presented such a seminar titled "PRESCHOOL BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: Teaching the right things at the right TIME". She also visited a school for mentally handicapped children where she showed the teachers how to use various Braingym exercises to increase the learning potential of their students. The teachers were very encouraged by the almost immediate results they could see in the children's listening and concentrating abilities & promised to continue with the exercises in future.
Continuing on the "outreach" front, the Homework Club kids greatly enjoyed the assistance & instruction Deb provided them with especially their math work. During her previous visit in 2013 she encouraged one of our students, Junior, to be more positive about his math skills - and he was very eager to show her how he has put those skills to work throughout the year she was away. We should never underestimate the power of a few encouraging words spoken in love.  
Homework Club - Tangram fun! 
On the "preaching" front Deb encouraged, enriched & enlightened so many - the members & youth at the Aphiwe Meeting, the members at the Kempton Park Meeting, the youth from the Yeoville Meeting, the kids at Saturday Bible Club, and the sisters from the Kempton Park & Johannesburg Meeting to mention just a few. Here are some of the bible classes that she presented: 
Over the two Saturdays that Deb was here she presented the Saturday Bible Club at the Tswelopele Good News Center. Using a book called Hope for the Flowers Deb shared with the children the imagery of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly - and how that applies to us spiritually. The kids loved the crafts that she had prepared for them as she was able to bring with her craft resources that are quite costly in South Africa. They made a caterpillar the first Saturday and both a craft butterfly and an edible butterfly the second Saturday.  
Saturday Bible Club - learning from the Scriptures. 
Saturday Bible Club - "Yellow" the caterpillar. 
Saturday Bible Club - Edible Butterflies and big smiles! 
Saturday Bible Club - spot Deb!
 On Wednesday mornings Deb led the sister's classes at either the Aphiwe Good News Center or at sister's homes. The sisters were encouraged through her object lesson on key ingredients for salvation and Godly living & the ladies at the Aphiwe Good News Center enjoyed the culminating activity of making their own chapattis! 
Aphiwe Good News Center Sisters Class - making Chapattis.  
Aphiwe Good News Center Sisters Class - making Chapattis - spiritual & physical education. 
The youth that attend the Preparing for Baptism class at the Aphiwe Good News Center also enjoyed the Chapatti ingredients object lesson as well as learning about the Jewish feasts - their origin, practicalities, New Testament application, as well as their possible prophetic applications. This was possibly the "deepest" study many of these youth members have engaged in and their active participation & keen concentration were proof of the value it held for them. Deb was also able to present this study at a Sisters Class which set a very high standard for the poor sister presenting the next one! 
The Aphiwe Youth learning about the Jewish Feast Days.
Perhaps the most ambitious of her undertakings was leading a Youth Study Day at the Aphiwe Good News Center, tackling some big issues including premarital sex, homosexuality, faithfulness in marriage, & Jesus' marriage - to mention a few! This was a marathon 5 hour study day - through God's grace Deb's voice stayed strong throughout. It was encouraging that the youth felt comfortable and safe enough to raise questions and participate in the discussions. There was much laughter, some tears, but by nightfall everyone left feeling encouraged & armed with useful decision making tools & tactics.  
Youth Study Day at the Aphiwe Good News Center - telling it as it is! 
Sister Deb both touched & taught many during her visit - changing each life through the power of God's Word & His love shown by the energy & compassion she brought to each new day. Even though it was with sadness that we bid her farewell we were encouraged by the idea that, God Willing, she will return next year - and bring along others wanting to work in His vineyard.
"He said to His disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields."" (Mat 9:37-38)

With love in Christ
Lilandi Furstenburg