Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
We had just ministered to several orphans at a local church off the highway. We were so blessed to be able to deliver new t-shirts, soap, and notebooks to the children. They all live with a foster-family, but they are often overlooked when provisions are made within the families. The children listened closely when they heard the story about Cain and Abel and how God can give us strength to resist temptation to do wrong things. Danny and Lindy Bravo elicited roars of laughter when describing how the Azungu (white folks) had such a hard time flying all the way from America to see them in the little thatched-roof brick church. Several bright faces responded to the invitation to follow Jesus with their lives and hearts.
Now we were crowded with 17 of us in the rusty and dilapidated Land Cruiser, carefully trying to find a way up to the village high up in the hills. We had learned that the “traditional animal dancers” – those who worshipped animal spirits and strived to emulate animals themselves - were due to hold a ritual dance that night – in the same spot we had chosen to preach and teach! We prayed fervently that God would give us favor and that those who would be normally worshipping created beings would instead hear about the one true God who loved them more than any animal.
We set up the spot under two large trees. Unloading and starting the generator, we soon powered up a small soundboard, speakers, a keyboard, bright lights and microphones. Night had fallen and music and invitations over the loudspeakers drew locals out from the bush from the dark of the evening. Many had never been to church and didn’t know the traditional responses to shouts of Alleluia and praises to God that came from the local team as they began singing and dancing in worship to Jesus.
After much joyful worship and dancing, Charles shared a story of God’s love proven through creation and the sending of His own son to die for the lost and His resurrection to eternal life for all. Steve Konzman shared from his own testimony about how he found God in the midst of trouble. A drama emphasized the hold that sin has over us until we turn our lives over to Jesus. Finally, the invitation was given to those who would receive and many hands were raised as they prayed to ask Jesus to save them.
God is at work in these people – they are seeking and searching for deliverance from their spiritual bondage. Wheresoever Ministries is hard at work, bringing the Good News to those who have never heard. They are in need another vehicle, as our trip here has amply demonstrated.
Monday, September 27, 2010
We were then whisked away to the home of nearby friends that host missionaries in Malawi. We found immediate trouble in logistics as the main vehicle we were to use had to have the manual gear housing replaced. Easy enough, except that finding a replacement part proved to be difficult and, as of this writing, unaccomplished. Remembering our lessons in flexibility, on Saturday morning we switched to a different vehicle, piling on the supplies and piling in the missionaries.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke to roosters crowing, dogs barking, and children laughing outside the windows. We headed off to the church service, where several of the local Foursquare Churches had gathered for a bi-monthly fellowship. We had a wonderful time entering into worship with our brothers and sisters, dancing and singing into the morning. Charles and Bill gave a greeting to the congregation. Afterwards, the local leaders brought a short message and we entered into a time of prayer for healing and deliverance, in which each of the team was directly involved.
After a very late lunch, we walked over to the local prison – a squalid and unadorned cement block building with about 100 men crowded into a place designed for 40. We worshipped together with the men and then Steve Estes and Steve Konzman brought a message of hope for the men inside. Several declared their desire to follow Christ as they felt the tug of the Holy Spirit leading them.
The end of the evening was a time of relaxing and enjoying dinner with the local African team with whom we will be spending our days. We’ll drive out Monday to meet the orphans that Wheresoever has been providing for and afterwards to an evening crusade. This will be Tuesday's plan as well.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
We visited a few other carepoints as well, heading up into the mountains with Dennis to look at a brand-new carepoint – Ngungwane – which had just been built about 2 months ago. The view from the top of the mountains was beautiful, though the drive on the rocky dirt paths led to a few exciting moments wondering whether we should have rented a 4-wheel drive instead of a sedan.
We ended the day with a visit to Mpholi, where Pastor Bill had made a sweet friend last January. The good news is it seems there is a newly built kitchen ready for use there as well! If His people will listen, God will get the job done of taking care of these little ones – we must only be faithful to His command to do our part.
Tomorrow, we’ll be heading back to Nsoko one last time and encouraging the missionaries there, as well as playing with the children. Swaziland is a hard country, but God is at work here. We want to bring hope to those who have none - our partnership with Adventures in Missions and Children’s HopeChest will enable those who have no bread to eat and be satisfied while they also hear about He who is the Bread of Life.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Our first full day in Swaziland. This photo is Dennis & Zwakele Brock, AIM missionaries. Dennis is from NY state and has been in Swaziland for 4 years. He met Zwakele in a local church and they married a couple of years ago. They are expecting their first child in late March. Hope Chapel is hoping to support them and their work here in Swaziland on an ongoing basis, if possible.
After 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived and spent Sunday night in the Tum’s George Hotel in Manzini, Swaziland. After breakfast, I, Ron, thought I had lost my wallet, but discovered it well-hidden in my room, much to the relief of the team – and an answer to prayer. Dennis and his wife gathered us together and on we went to Nsoko Swaziland, about an hour from where we are staying in Manzini. We stopped for lunch at a Game Preserve and met up with Jumbo, AIM’s director for Swaziland. We then went on to Nsoko and the anchor center for the carepoints in that region. We met the Peterson family who had just arrived for a 3-month stint working with the orphans at the Nsoko carepoints. Their story is inspirational – ask me about it sometime.
Finally it was time for my visit with the 4 boys Ann Marie and I sponsor. The boys live on the homestead of an elderly Gogo (grandmother). In this photo is the Gogo, and from the left, Mandla (11), Sibusiso (9), Cel-musa (5), Sanelo (10). This was my third visit to see the boys at their home and they were very excited to receive some t-shirts and a football. We spent a good time throwing the ball around and playing. After much too short a time, we left to go and look around a potential carepoint – Mbuthu. It is a bare-bones area, lacking in all basic necessities, but being a place of feeding for about 30 children.
We headed back to Manzini, ready to continue tomorrow with what God is bringing us. Tuesday we will be visiting an established carepoint – Tambini – where we hope to get a full picture of what our carepoint could be. Next we go Mpaka, which is unique in that it is a completed and built-out carepoint, but no children have been sponsored as of yet. Before the end of the day, we’ll head over to Mpholi to visit the children there – along with Pastor Bill’s sponsored child, Simongele.
Please keep us in your prayers as we finalize the carepoint selection. We have seen God at work already, and are confident that He is leading us as we go.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
We started our trip to Africa leaving RDU at a reasonable hour, everything packed, no problems with checked luggage. We arrived at Dulles and had a nice lunch waiting until our check-in time. Well, we arrived at our gate with a few hours to spare and discovered that, not only was our flight not on time, it had been cancelled until the next morning. That put our schedule behind by a day! If we hadn't been flexible, we would have lost it big-time.
The airline put us up at a hotel and we invited a few other stranded travellers to join us for dinner. Well, we ate with a couple of muslims from another African country and a young South African teenager returning home after working a summer camp. We had a wonderful time getting to know our new friends and a few questions were asked and answered. At the end of it all, we were invited to continue our discussions as we could. Could this have been a God moment, even before we left the USA?
My thoughts are this: Why do we believe that we must leave our own shores to be a witness to the world? The world comes to the USA everyday! International students, foreign tourists, legal and even illegal immigrants - they come to the USA and we are already here. Think about it.
Finally, we arrived a day late to Swaziland and we'll be heading out tomorrow to look over the Carepoints where we hope to begin sponsoring children. Keep us in prayer and let us give thanks for God's plans - even when we don't fully get them.
God is indeed good....all the time.
Your Hope Chapel Missions Team
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Swaziland - Nation in Need - From Lonely Planet: "Currently, Swaziland’s greatest challenge comes from the HIV/AIDS pandemic; the country has the world’s highest HIV infection rate (almost 39% for adults between 15 and 49 years of age), and life expectancy has fallen as a result from 58 to 33 years. It’s estimated that there are currently more than 70,000 AIDS orphans in the country, and by 2010 [that is NOW] one out of six people will be a child under 15 who has lost both parents."
Steve Estes, Ron Elmore and Charles are heading to Swaziland Africa on Saturday, September 17th. We go to secure a place - a Carepoint - for Hope Chapel to begin sponsorship of a small fraction of these 70,000 AIDS orphans. Please pray for us that God will give us favor and that the details of our commitment to the Carepoint will be worked out clearly.