Thursday, September 2, 2010

Glorious Graduation!

Chris "hooding" Frans, the student who graduated top of their class...

Some of our current students singing...

Chris speaking to the graduates and telling them how proud he is of them!

Principal Chris leading the processional into the sanctuary. He is so official here!

Graduates posing before the ceremony began in front of one of the classrooms.

What a day of CELEBRATION!!! This was the very first graduation at GST NW where the students received an official Global University diploma...this was a monumental event. It is difficult to describe the amount of joy that was experienced; I think it was equal to the difficulties that were experienced by the guys that finally finished.

When Chris arrived at GST NW as the Registrar, he quickly uncovered a mountain of paperwork that revealed many problems. He realized that much of the work that the students that were currently there and that had attended in the recent past had done, was not done properly or at least was not recorded. So, he did his best to remedy the situation with the help of several GU missionaries. The school had experienced some extreme financial difficulties (like they had NONE) and so many parts of the school began to deteriorate. The school suffered physically and academically as a result of these financial hardships. Therefore, the students were the ones to suffer the consequences. They told us that they spent hours...6 to 8 at a time fasting and praying and crying out to the Lord for some sort of relief. They often went without food, electricity, and even water. The school became a target for robbery since there were no lights on campus and at one point the chairs, dishes, and stoves were stolen from the kitchen. The students went out and found these things and brought them back from the enemies' camp! When Chris told these committed guys that although they would have to do some extra work to remedy the academic issues, they would be able to finish, they began to cry and rejoice all at the same time. They told him, "Maruti (pastor), we had no hope, and now you have come and brought hope to us". These guys were dedicated; they stayed faithful through the most difficult of circumstances and were humble and had great attitudes. When I had the opportunity to stand on the stage and watch the different national church officials hand out their diplomas and Chris put their hood on their shoulders as they knelt before him, I sobbed. I was so proud to have been a part of their Bible School experience. Something that was hopeless and satan tried to keep them from, ended in the most positive and powerful way. What could have been disaester, became glorious...that is exactly what God does! He is so good! We didn't deserve to be a part of the solution, but we were more than honoured to have been. It only takes one day like this to motivate us to live through ANY struggle and fight hard for what we know God has called us to do. I will share a few of the graduates' testimonies sometime in the future so you can hear first hand what God is doing in their lives as they are now out serving him in full-time ministry all over South Africa and one student is in Zambia. Thank you to those of you who support us both in prayer and finances to be a part of this amazing school! No place we would rather be...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Picnic on the Mountain

Some of our friends that the
Lord has blessed us with who
went on a hike this beautiful
spring day with us up a mountain.

Ian and Benj on the
Big climb!

My cute babies...
who aren't babies anymore.

Getting into some more
serious climbing. There
wasn't a path so we just
forged our way...FUN!

All the kids ready for the
second half of the climb after
we finished lunch part way
up the mountain. A fun day
of climbing w/ the moms and
kids while the daddies were working.

Pictures from Weekend to be Remembered...

The complex where we stayed...there
were many small townhouse style places
in a row that formed a campus. We had
a LONG walk to the the meeting area.

My closest South African friend and my
roomie for the weekend, Jabu. Her husband
is a lecturer at the Bible School. They have lived
on campus and served the school for 40 years!
This was the traditional banquet and service.

The beautiful beach that we visited for about
30 minutes...we could see it in the distance
from where we stayed as well.

The infamous bus where I spent
36 hours last weekend and the
awesome ladies I rode with...

A couple ladies enjoying their
"snacks" on the bus which consisted
of chicken, mealie pap, spinach, and
a homemade bread called dumpling.

A Weekend to be Remembered...

Last weekend I went to the national Women's Ministry conference. It is held every year the first weekend in August, which is the beginning of "Women's Month" in South Africa. This was the second time that I attended this event and both times I was the only white woman there. It was held in Port Elizabeth, which is a port city along the southern coast of the country. I chose to ride a bus that several of the churches in the Northwest province came together and hired for transport to PE because it was cheaper than flying and I knew that I would have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with these precious ladies. Also, it means a lot to the nationals for me to just "live like they do", so I went with them and "did it their way" for the weekend. The trip was extremely took 17.5 hours to get there, but much of the trip was through the night. We sang, talked, laughed, ate (the Africans are serious, they pack chicken and rice or mealie pap, and homemade bread instead of just snacks!), a little bit of sleeping, and even praying. It was quite the adventure. There are so many stories that I could share from a long weekend like this. But, I just want to share a few highlights or impressions. First, the African ladies are "hardcore"! They kept a grueling schedule...I had to push myself to keep up. We had basically been up all night and travelled until late in the afternoon. The first meeting on the agenda was a prayer meeting from 6 pm- midnight to kick off the weekend! I almost passed out when I read the program...SIX hours??? When I was that tired??? But, I freshened up and put my skirt on and off I went. I thought, I will just put my head down when I pray if I am tired. Well, there was no such thing...there was singing and dancing and worshipping the Lord for the first few hours with periods of prayer in between. Then intense warfare prayer for the rest of the time. The woman who was leading the prayer said, "We must bathe this weekend in prayer if we want anything to be accomplished that is lasting in our lives". I thought, "Wow! How powerful". Needless to say, I was tired, but I enjoyed an incredible time of prayer. These women know how to pray!! The second thing that really made an impression was that the women are so abandoned and sold out to their Lord in worship. It doesn't matter who is leading worship, or what song is being sung, and not even how tired they are; when the worship begins, they are worshipping Him with their whole bodies. The little old ladies who struggled to stand and walk were still doing whatever they could to wiggle their little bodies, even if they were sitting, and dancing in response to their love for the Lord. It challenged me and motivated me to offer myself as a sacrifice to the Lord in worship...even after 4 hours! They never tired or praising their Savior. The weekend was SO tiring, but it was worth every moment. I so enjoyed getting to know these women better and meeting new ladies as well. There were times when my American self reared its ugly head and got frustrated that we stood in line for 3 hours to get served our lunch; but, overall it was a time that I will look back on and thank the Lord for the opportunity to be spilled out and spent for Him. What a privilege it is to serve Him and be touched by Him. I was motivated more than ever to learn their was so frustrating to have talking and laughing erupting all around me and have no clue what was going on! Pray that I can learn this language and QUICKLY!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grayce's Choral Performance

Grayce singing her little heart out!
We are so proud of how well our
kids have acclaimated to their new
home and school. They really
love it here, praise the Lord!

Grayce performed with her school choir
at our mall on Saturday to represent
Selly Park in an Education Expo;
she did awesome!!

God Knows it All

God knows where we are and exactly what our needs are, even more than we understand our own needs. For that alone, He is worthy of our praise! A couple of weeks ago, I had an incredible encounter with God that I feel compelled to share. It was one of those worship services where I was paralyzed by God's presence; God isolated me from my surroundings so that it was just me and Him. It was an intimate experience and it felt like time stood still. I couldn't feel my children all around me and I didn't care that mascara filled tears ran down my face because I was being touched by my living and mighty God. I was so moved that I wasn't able to sing with my mouth, but my heart was rejoicing and worshipping.
There is nothing more precious than a "God moment" like this. Often when the Holy Spirit touches me in that way, it is because He is preparing me to do something for Him. So, I asked Him what He wanted me to do or say and I was ready to obey. But, the word He spoke was that He was simply pouring out His love on me. Wow! What a God we serve...He allowed me this experience because He loves me and wanted to show me it in a special way that morning. I tend to be a "doer"; so I aways look for what God is wanting me to DO. But, today, I was able to drink in His spirit and allow Him to love on me, just because. All He wanted was for me to love Him in reply.
I realized that I often am so busy doing that I fail to just enjoy and love my Jesus. I was so overwhelmed and thankful that God knew what I needed and then met that need without me ever asking Him. My family had been gathered together in my favorite vacation place, Sebago Lake, Maine. I fought the temptation to give in to sadness and the Lord helped me to have a great week. But, that morning, God filled me up with an abundance so that I felt renewed; He took away any loneliness that I may have been feeling. There is no need that God will not matter where you are or what you are feeling, God sees you and is ready to aid you. I love serving Jesus.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sad Saturday

Last Saturday I attended the funeral for Maserame, a 14 year old girl that died the previous Saturday after a car hit and killed her and left her on the side of the road to be found much later. I met Maserame at Agnes' house through her feeding program. She lived several km's from Agnes' tucked back in the bush. There used to be several very large farms that were owned and run by the Afrikaans. Now that Apartheid has fallen, the black SA's have moved onto this vacated land and have established little shack "compound" looking areas that sometimes several families occupy. It is desperately poor as most of the people don't have jobs and their daily goal is simply survival. This is the area that Agnes' heart bleeds for and the place that Maserame unfortunately had to call home. She was unfairly plucked from life prematurely, but I wonder if it wasn't God's mercy to remove her from the very difficult life that she was living. It wasn't just the poverty that she has escaped, but the daily abuse.
The funeral was slated to begin at 7 am on a very cold (upper 30's) morning. I was amazed at the contrast of the beauty of the sunrise as it peaked up from behind the mountains to the living conditions of this family. The funeral began late as we waited for all the children from the school to arrive on the bus that the school hired. It was very unorganized; in fact Chelsea and I set up the chairs in the tent where the service took place and prepared the "room". I offered to take pictures because they usually hire a photographer at funerals as we would a wedding (I know a bit weird) and the family did not have the means to do that. One of the teachers was considerate enough to sit between Chelsea and me to interpret throughout the whole service. The service was similar to what we would have in America with family and friends sharing words, the reading of the obituary, singing (random people will just lead out in song at appropriate times, this is not arranged ahead of time...also the children from the school sang a few songs), a message from the pastor, and closing comments. The one thing that is interesting that they do differently is that they read all the cards and messages that were sent to the family with all the flowers, etc. I was impressed with the number of remembrances that were there considering most of the people have so little that it would be a great sacrifice to buy something like that. This service lasted a couple hours and then we proceeded to the Cemetery for the burial. Most of the people that attended the funeral didn't have a car, so everyone piled in to the few vehicles available as well as the bus with the kids. We passed the spot on the road where Maserame lost her life on the way to the cemetery and then we wound through very rough dirt roads until we located the little tent they had set up in the middle of the field. This was what I would describe as the "potter's field"...there were not any head stones, just piles of dirt with a little homemade sign to mark the grave. Many people gathered here for this service...several more than had been at the house earlier. The pastor shared a few words of encouragement and then they lowered the casket into the ground and proceeded to have the family members throw some dirt on it. Then, as part of SA culture, the men took turns shoveling dirt until they literally buried the casket while we all sang song after song. (took about 30 minutes) Many of the family members wailed and were extremely emotional during this time which was difficult to witness. Finally, they ended with a few more words and a prayer of committal. We went back to the house where a meal was prepared to serve to all of the 100's of people. It is expected of the family to provide a dinner for everyone which is an incredible burden on the family trying to mourn. This family could not serve a meal because they had no money. So, Agnes went to the school and spoke with the principal and arranged for a meal to be prepared and served between their joint efforts. This family would not have to be shamed as a result. Seriously, she is the perfect example of a sacrificial servant. Everyone lined up and got their food and sat all over outside eating and talking while they soaked up the warmth of the sun. At this point, Chelsea became very sick to her stomach and so we had to leave. I took some ladies home on the way by and we left. I have to say that it was very difficult for me to go home (6 hours later) and enjoy sitting in the comfort of my home after spending time with that family that is in the most desperate of circumstances. I have to trust the Lord and just be obedient when He says to give...I know I can't make it all better, but if I can just do something to make even a minuscule dent, I can find a small sense of comfort in that. Please pray for this family and for this area that God would turn the difficulties into victories! This is a glimpse into what I get the privilege of doing...not always easy, but very important in sharing life with the people that we desperately love. I have included a slide show above with some of the pictures of this day.