Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Taking Jesus to the uttermost ends of the Earth

As we load up the Cruiser with the supplies and equipment, we work hard to get all of the team into the single vehicle that will carry us into the distant village. This is both one of the most difficult yet enjoyable parts of our work here. The discomfort of sitting on broken benches and holding equipment and bags on our laps is overshadowed by the enjoyment of singing, fellowship, and friendly chatter among the group. We are praying hard for God to provide another vehicle for Wheresoever Ministries, as having a single truck is really hampering the plans laid down for outreach. Meanwhile, we pack ourselves in like sardines and hit the road - or cowpath - with joy.

The night ministry is quite interesting. The people here love music and dancing so the local team hooks up loud-speakers and lights and begin exuberant worship and dancing. This always draws a large crowd - averaging about 300 the last couple of nights. They introduce the crowd to the concept that worshipping God is enjoyable and not drudgery. Often the entire crowd is clapping and dancing along with the team.

Once they've gathered around and enjoyed worship - which in actual fact is spiritual warfare for the beginning of the preaching - there is usually a testimony that comes on, followed by a message of God's love for the people. At the end, to keep their interest and drive home the point, there is usually a skit. Last night, we watched a rather creative interpretation of the Prodigal son story, which had the crowd laughing and clapping enthusiastically.

At the end, many men, women, and children came forward to give their lives for Jesus. And, of course, that is why we are here. That is how we can bear with the transport problems, the change of food and hygiene habits, the lack of our own western comforts - these are but temporary sacrifices for an eternal gain.
Pray for us to be safe in the vehicles, to maintain good health, and to hear from the Holy Spirit as we move around Mozambique in the next several days. Your prayer support and intercession is vital to the work that we do here. We are merely the spear-point. You are the shaft of the spear as God thrusts it into the nation of Mozambique.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Orphans and Preaching in the Bush

We drove precariously through the narrow cow-lane up into the hills towards the village clearing. The battered old Land Cruiser wheezed and groaned as it picked over the rocks and through the deep ruts and holes in the dry red dirt. The vehicle was packed to over-flowing with people and equipment for the outdoor evangelism service we would start when we arrive in the remote village.

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.
Pray for God's provision for this. Also, please continue to pray that our team would be effective in bringing God’s message of love and salvation to the people of Mozambique.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mozambique at Last!

Steve Estes and Charles met with Steve Konzman and Bill Moore at Johannesburg Airport Friday morning, Sept. 24th, while Ron Elmore caught his flight back to the US. The new team flew on together to Lilongwe, Malawi. Upon arrival Friday afternoon, we gathered together all of our checked luggage (supplies for Wheresoever Ministries) and went through customs with no problem, by God’s protection.

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.

We spent a wonderful time driving to the border of Mozambique. The border crossing was interesting, as we had to exit at one border and walk across a “no-man’s land” to the next border. We re-loaded ourselves into the vehicle and began driving when suddenly our customs paperwork went flying out of the driver’s window. It was now about 7:30 p.m. and fully dark – this was the darkness of an African wilderness, not of a city or town street. With our small flashlights, we searched the side of the highway under the blanket of stars sweeping overhead. God lead us to finding the documents in the brush, we sped away and finally arrived at the team base.

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.
Our hope and prayer is that God will make Himself known to those He brings us into contact with and that we’ll be obedient to follow His direction. Please continue to pray for us as we travel around the province and proclaim His name in this nation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Swaziland, farewell

Our final day in Swaziland has been a joy. We headed out towards Nsoko, where Adventures in Missions (AIM) has their Anchor Center. On the way, we stopped at Matata and bought some supplies. We arrived at the Carepoint and met with Eric and Matt, American missionaries stationed here. They helped us as we carried the supplies and four mattresses to the tiny shack where the four boys that Ron and Ann Marie Elmore sponsor live.

What a wonderful experience to see the boys as their eyes lighted up upon seeing 4 mattresses. They were quite excited to realize that they'd be sleeping on real mattresses for the first time. They knew we'd be coming today and had taken care to clean and sweep up the little 10x10 hut. In addition to the mattresses, Ron delivered some extra special treats like fruit and eggs that they don't often get to eat.

We leave Swaziland with confidence that we will keep the command of God to "look after widows and orphans." Hope Chapel does this now in our own community, but we are looking forward to seeing how God will lead us to serve the "least of these" halfway around the world.

Tomorrow, we head out to Johannesburg, South Africa. We'll stay overnight with some friends there and then Ron Elmore will fly back to Raleigh while Steve Estes and Charles meet up with Bill Moore and Steve Konzman at the airport. From there we'll fly together to Malawi to join up with Danny & Lindy Bravo of Wheresoever Ministries. We'll be spending about 2 weeks working with them in Mozambique.

Please pray for our team as we begin work in Mozambique. We want to see the Lord glorified and His name spread among the people there. Thank you for your faithfulness in prayer and support.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Carepoints and more Carepoints!

It seems we are finally rested enough to get through our jet-lag. The time difference is only 6 hours, but after flying for about 19 hours, that adds up. We were rested this morning when we left for Mpaka, a town east of Manzini. The carepoint there has a kitchen area, storage, latrine, water, church facility and a playground. The children there, however, are not sponsored for food or schooling. We found this little girl there with her mother.

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.

Progress on some of the sponsored carepoints has been, according to Ron and Steve, remarkable. Some of the 5 places we visited had newly built fences and kitchens, and other signs of progress. The children still are fed, but the extra facilities make it easier for the Gogos to care for them during rainy season.

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

Swaziland - AIM & Nsoko

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

Flexibility is Key!!

When going on a mission of any kind, the first rule is: Flexibility is key! Don't expect your expectations to come about as planned, but be pleasantly suprised when they do. When they don't, look around and see what God is doing...He may have a plan that you were unaware of.

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

Lessons Learned Along the Way: The Mission Trip Phenomenon

Lessons Learned Along the Way: The Mission Trip Phenomenon: "I have a love-hate relationship with mission trips – at least the ones that my husband takes 2 or 3 times a year. I love that he is fulfilli..."

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.

Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.