Brent's Trip Update | Africa Part 6

Monday, June 16, 2014

So I am a little behind on the updates from my husbands trip to Africa. This one was hard for me to read. My Mamma's heart was broken into a million pieces a few weeks ago as I read this since it came out the day we all said goodbye and sent Josh off to new York to be with his Mom for the summer. I was a mess and while I was reading this update from Brent, Josh's Dad called and he was all a mess, which turned into a massive amount of tears and lots of time needing to pull it together, so I've set this one aside for a while. For those that don't know Josh man, he simply started out as a friend from school who has become a permanent member of our family over time, actually we've all sort of created this oddball family and it works for all of us. Josh goes to spend each summer in NYC with his Mom and the truth is, it's really hard for everyone who loves him, but we all make the best of it and look forward to when the little guy gets back here in August. I never thought in a million years each of us would wish away the summer, but those of us here in Greenville do, every year.
What I love about this whole post is knowing how full life can be when you open yourself fully to what is in front of you. When you erase lines and throw out the what ifs or the insecurities and you just live life with what is presented to you. Take care of your own house first and then reach out and pull folks in and allow yourself to be pulled in. You need to know that Brent has not always been Mr. Compassionate and we have not always been on the same page about such things. This post makes my heart explode with JOY because now we are a force to be reckoned with. Now our hearts are BOTH aligned and as a team we are loving well those God puts in front of us just like our makeshift family with Josh and his Dad. We just love because it feels right and it feels good and we all need each other. It takes a village! I love my neighbors and friends for the same reason. There is nothing we wouldn't do at the drop of a hat for one another. That isn't a narutal human instinct friends. That is a Holy Spirit moving in you thing. We are not that good or kind out of our own will because loving people is messy and dangerous and hard. It's way easier to confine yourself to what has always been or what you have always known. In our home we have chosen to engage some situations when it would have been much easier to let it be someone elses problem. We have chosen to love when we knew it would never fully heal. We choose to have our hearts broken on days like the day we had to say goodbye to Josh because we want to experience the fullness of Christ and when you reach for the people that are put in front of you that is a guarantee. God doesn't cross paths or put people around you or burden your heart till you can't sleep at night for no reason. He does it to change you, to grow you to unbelievably BLESS you, even in the mess. Hear that and believe it.
I hope you will be blessed by this post. I am so proud of this man of mine, for being humble and vulnerable enough to let God break His heart for people, not at all out of pity but out of true love of God and the understanding of what it looks like to love God and His people. We are all His people. We all have a brilliant gift for this world whether we happen to live in a slum in Africa, a million dollar house on the lake or a suburb in Simpsonville. We were created equally, to impact one another as equals and as children of the King. Erase the lines of division in your life, push fear out and let Him fully in.
From Brent Two weekends ago:
TEMBISA, is a large township situated to the north of Kempton Park on the East Rand, Gauteng, South Africa.  It was established in 1957 when Africans were resettled from Alexandra and other areas in Edenvale, Kempton Park, Midrand and Germistion.  I had the unique opportunity to visit all of those towns and they are very similar, but also very different. 
Tembisa is a word derived from the name Thembisa and is Zula meaning “promise.”  The black Africans of Johannesburg were remove, evicted and kicked-out of the city and the township became a beacon of hope and refuge for those that were suddenly homeless.  The original name of the informal settlement was “Thembisa.”  The government changed the spelling of the word because it just didn’t fit their language.  Go figure!

  

 
While in South Africa, I was able to visit with a family from my home church that has been relocated for work, the Eaton’s.  They welcomed me in after several days traveling from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.  But there was still more to see and do.  I asked if there was a way for us to see some of the places in need.  Roger had already mapped out a plan before my arrival and we were off.  Tembisa was the last full day for me in Africa. 
We can revisit some of the other townships and continue the journey thru Uganda next week.  I felt that this needed to be put out today for some reason. 
Last night, I tossed and turned, couldn’t rest because of a young man that has become part of our family that will be gone for the summer (Josh).  Dealing with that made me think about the day and night I spent in Tembisa, in a squatter village (informal settlement).
 

Psalm 16:8-11, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;  my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
The day started like most, breakfast around the table with the Eaton’s and their five children, praying, devotion and school work.  But today did not turn out to be any ordinary day.  We didn’t carry much with us because of the crime rate and fear of the unknown in the township.  It has a reputation of being violent and not so friendly after dark.  Well, we were there during the day and walking through the township after dark. 
Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous.” 
Our first stop was to meet a local missionary from the church in Kempton Park, his name is Donavan.  He is from the local area, has a family and see’s over two informal churches.  The local pastor was gunned down while his son was watching, over what I would consider a misunderstanding. I will get to that in a moment. 
The way people act and refer to people with less education, housing, clothing and medical care drives me nuts.  Why?  We always stereotype people based off color, religion, creeds, economical status and gender.  Why?  Because we think it keeps us safe.  The point of the matter is that it only separates us from what we are supposed to do doing; fulfilling the “Great Commission!” 
 
James tells us, “Religion that is pure and good before God the Father is to help children who have no parents and to care for women whose husbands have died who have troubles.  Pure religion is also to keep yourself clean from the sinful things of the world, James 1:27 (NLT).”
I have seen this play out and work in Simpsonville, Greenville, Belize and all over Africa.  I saw a tremendous pouring out to help ones neighbor and love them with Christ-like love in Tembisa.  They poured out their love and gave us their blessings in every house, squatter home and lean-to that we were invited into.  I can say with certainty that they made you feel welcomed in the most horrific, inhumane place that a first world citizen would turn their nose up at with all the smell of diesel fuel in the air, feces along fence rows, raw untreated sewage and stagnant water runoff forming a mud slick in the middle of the pathways, and half naked un-bathed children running around.  It was not only a beautiful sight to behold the love, happiness and joy they expressed in the midst of having “NOTHING” but also a humbling experience.  They have nothing and want for nothing.  Maybe they would like a new wash pot, pair of shoes or just another change of clothing, but they are not trying to keep up with the Jones’. 
 
What IF: “We would just take care of what is in front of us?”  What IF: “We loved our neighbors and genuinely cared for them?”  What IF: “Jesus comes back as a homeless man to test us or sends an angel to see if we walk-the-talk?”
We visited several families from different income statuses in the township and went back to Donavan’s home.  He asked us if one of us would lead the church service and Roger agreed, but Donavan had a different plan, he said, “no.”  I want Brent to lead us tonight.  My heart sank a little.  I didn’t even have my Bible in the village, it was back at the Eaton’s home.  Roger pulls out the New Testament, “Sharing Jesus without Fear.”  If you have ever seen one of these, it is not set up for a study Bible nor does it give you any references to bring a sermon on the spot.  I began to pray "let this be about you God not about me and let your words be spoken through me".  I got a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and began making notes and writing verses as I reflected about my time in Africa and how they were teaching and training me to be a better person and how to be more Christ-like.
 
We drove around a bit more, I’m not really sure where we went or the streets we turned down.  I was in my own little world with my God and we were planning on what I was to deliver that evening.  We had dinner at Donavan’s and I gave my testimony (I believe that will be my last Africa post) because I need to walk-the-talk and lead by example of sharing my story because someone needs to hear it. 
So, we are off down some sketchy side road, bumps, red dirt and trash everywhere.  We make one sharp turn and stop in the middle of a steep hill on a street overlooking the township.  The sun is setting and white people are not “suppose to” be there after dark.  Oh well, we were!  We walked down the street with slick mud spots, fires burning plastic and whatever else they could throw in them, children playing in the darkness, smells of food arising all around us and multitudes people starring us down at every step.  We moved on, turned another corner and after stepping over, on and around razor wire, concertina wire and what seemed to be traps we arrived at a shack with a logging chain and padlock on it; it was their church, there meeting place to worship the true God, there place of refuge from everything outside in the streets.  It was not air-conditioned, it didn’t even have power.  But, they brought out their best.  The two foldout tables were in rough shape, but they put a white linen cloth over them.  The chairs were not padded; they were broken, foldout, lawn chairs, benches, whatever they could find to sit in or on.  The tables had one candle on each of them and their faces that night glowed with love and a desire to hear and learn more about our God from a white American. 
This is what I learned. They hear it from others like them and from family, but for someone to travel halfway around the world to share the same message in a different tongue makes people hear it.  Strange? Yes!  Sad but true. 
 
They opened up the service with singing of worship hymns in Zulu and Swahili.  I didn’t understand the words but understood the music.  Hum Hum Huuuum Hum, How Great Thou Art!  The music and the tone is so undeniable that it matters not the place, the culture or the language.  Music breaks all the rules and worship is one of God’s greatest gifts that we take for granted. 
Psalm 100: 1-5, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Next there was a prayer in Zulu.  Remember the young man earlier in the story, the one that saw his father (the pastor) murdered?  Well, he speaks several languages and was my interpreter for the night.  He prayed and he sang and his story is this:
He was angry and was going to take revenge on the men that he knew and knew where they lived and his mother stopped him.  He now said, “If I ever see the guys that killed my father, I’m going to tell them about Jesus.”  What kind of a testimony is that?  I don’t know that I am brave enough to be able to do that.  He is on fire for the “One True King.” 


I prayed and asked God to lead us and thanked Him for the opportunity that I had to be there in Tembisa to share.  I’m not really sure what I said or any logical order of how it came out.  I rarely referenced the sheet of paper and when I did the dim candle light and me without my glasses didn’t help.  Maybe, God was telling me to rely totally on Him, that He had my back and would give me the words and scripture to give the people.


Here’s the overview: 
Love. God is love and He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  The people of Africa truly do this.
Have a heart of servitude. “Jesus was the disciple’s feet and became the lowest possible servant in the house by washing their feet.”  This was the job for the lowest servant, there was nothing worse and His example shows us to treat everyone as an equal.  The people of Africa are doing this. No matter what home you are invited into, you are greeted and offered a meal or drink. They have NOTHING, but give everything freely and humbly. 
Compassion. They love beyond measure. My wife talks about: Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” 
They do “more” with “less.”  These two verses came to mind in the meeting, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
and “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.  
Abundant Life. They have abundant life in the midst of nothing.  They live life to the FULL!  What IF: “We lived every day, to the FULL?”
The “Great Commission!” Once again they are doing it.  They have a church of about 20 people and bought Bibles for people in Tanzania. 
They taught me so much on this trip and then we come home to whining about the temperature in the church, or there’s no food in the pantry and it’s stocked to the max, or clean running water.  And the, they didn’t get my order right, not going to get into that today.  But there will come a day that I will blast everyone, mainly myself about “First World Problems” verses “Things That Really Matter.” (It may even be a series)
Back to the story, the young man inspired everyone and translated like a professional.  At the end, they did something that was unique and again something I think that we should do.  We have been taught to pray about everything. 
Philippians 4:6-7, “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
They broke off into three to four person groups; children included and prayed their hearts out for me, my family and everything in the United States.  They prayed for blessings and wisdom. They didn’t pray for food, water or happiness, they prayed for things that break God’s heart and they prayed for at least thirty minutes.  I can tell you that is what church is supposed to look like.  Where you are, with what you have and giving it “all” back to Him!

By-the-way, the squatter camps that are supposed to be so bad and violent, the ones that have no police, formal justice system, yes those,  they live in PEACE!  They lock their doors, but put the key on top of the door while everyone’s looking and they have only had one theft.  What are we doing wrong, here? 
GO-BE-DO! 
Love and Blessings for a happy weekend.
Brent
  

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