Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blessed are the poor...

There are precious moments here when I know this is something to remember. I always think of blogging those moments but I very seldom actually write those blogs. So, I’m going to attempt to write one now. This may just turn out as random ramblings…but here goes.
Actually, first, I just want to share that yesterday the boys at Eagles Rising washed my car. Just out of the blue they offered. My car wasn’t even really dirty (which is good, that means they weren’t just at a point that they couldn’t handle having a dirty car around), it was truly just a thoughtful thing to do. Wow. Really blessed me. Back to my story…
I’ve really been seeking God about what are His ways. The Bible says that His ways are higher than our ways. That as far as heaven is from the earth, that is how much higher His ways are. But scripture also says that if we boast in anything, may it be that we know the ways of our God. So, His ways are so different and yet we should get to know them…get to know Him. I really want to know God’s ways. I’m increasingly aware that my ways are not His ways. And so this week I encountered something of God’s ways…
On Tuesday I taught a Kingdom of God class at ER….I have a whole other ramble about the revelance of Western curriculum in an African context, but I’ll save that for later….let me return to Kingdom of God class on Tuesday. We were talking about being citizens of the Kingdom of God meaning that we no longer live according to this world but according to God’s Kingdom. We looked at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 as being like a constitution of the Kingdom of God which declares how things operate in the Kingdom. So, we start to go verse by verse. I’ve done this before. I’ve studied out the meaning of each word in these verses. I’ve read books about them, sought revelation from God about it. I have spent years seeking after the fullness of the Beatitudes. And on Tuesday I’m sitting with these students from so-called disadvantaged communities in South Africa, who grew up in physical poverty, who have never had opportunity before to attempt “success”, who have not spent much time searching these particular scriptures just yet. Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”. Blessed – a word meaning supremely blessed and a condition deserving of congratulations. God says, you deserve congratulations when you are poor in spirit. And I asked the students what the word poor means. The students answer – to be disadvantaged, to not have, lack, to be nothing, worthless. They have been called poor many times, they know they are describing what the world thinks of them. These students do not need me to preach a sermon about poor in spirit, paint a picture for them, and convince them of what this means. They have lived this word “poor” and they know the world sees it as bad. For a moment I wondered how to cross the hurdle of talking about why a loving God would want anyone to feel this, to know what it is to be poor. How do I say that God does not desire that physical poverty in their lives but He does want us to know that we are poor spiritually? The greatest “shame” of their life has been that they are poor and now I am saying to them – God says if you want all of His Kingdom in your life then you will come to a place spiritually where you know you are disadvantaged, you spiritually do not have, your spirit is lacking, your spirit is found to be nothing and worthless without God. When you have truly found the truth of how poor your spirit is and you know that you are completely dependent on God for your spiritual survival then you will have the Kingdom of heaven fully evident in your life. And as I say these words I know that I actually know nothing. They know from a deep experience what is being said in this scripture, I have such a surface understanding of it.
Then, comes vs. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” I ask them what does it mean to hunger and thirst. It hurts, it physically hurts. I’ve heard the students’ stories about the pain of hunger before. How your body aches and hurts as the nutrients in your bones and muscles are depleted. It’s a physical and an emotional pain. Ultimately, one knows it can seriously damage your body and kill you. And that is how badly we must seek after and fight for righteousness. If you are really hungry and thirsty you will do anything to satisfy it for the sake of sheer survival. It is a matter of spiritual survival that we ache for righteousness and pursue it at all cost.
So, then comes Wednesday and the new Old Testament Survey class I am getting to teach. We are starting to explore Genesis and I started the class with watching the video “Indescribable” about how amazing the universe is as a creation of our God. One of these amazing students who was so involved in the previous Kingdom of God discussion just leaves during the video. I’m wondering where he has gone and why is he not in class. I head out of the room in search of him and find him in the prayer room sitting at the foot of a wooden cross that is in there. He’s on his face weeping because he is so overcome with the presence of God. This guy who the world looks at his life up until now and says he has been disadvantaged, he has been poor, he has struggled, and has not been seen as having much worth. But the Kingdom of heaven is his…he is poor in spirit and God rejoices in that. His life is changing. He will study and he will have a successful and influential career and he will put down roots in a home with a family. I think…I don’t know. I’m not sure that that is exactly what matters as I see him here in God’s presence. I think he is possibly the richest person I know right now. And a waive of realization comes that possibly I am the disadvantaged one. I come from the land of luke warm churches as described in Revelation when God says that the rich church is actually the poor one and they don’t even know it. But as I stand here seeing this student of mine weep, I know that I am poor spiritually in a way that I don’t even fully know. I just want to sit with these students and learn from them. In one moment God has made all the wisdom and theology and philosophies or years of study in my life into foolishness (according to 1 Corinthians). In what way does any wisdom acquired by us mere humans compare to this? We have no idea what wealth and success and a prosperous future really means to God. We have so many preconceived ideas and notions that cloud our vision. I’m not suggesting all our ideas are wrong or that we must entirely change the whole of everything in our lives. I’m not saying physical poverty is to be sought after. I’m just saying that God’s ways are not our ways. And right now I know that the first shall be last in the age to come. I know that on a spiritual level poverty and hunger are blessed conditions. I feel like my physical reality of having all my basic needs provided my whole life gives me a spiritual disadvantage. While these students have always been told they are disadvantaged, I look and see my own disadvantage. I see areas where I will never fully understand the depths of God until we are all fully in His presence one day. I am so thankful I did not grow up in poverty. I am so very thankful that I have not felt the absolute pain of unavoidable physical hunger. But I see how God is full of grace and mercy and He has designed things so that what was meant to be negative in these students’ lives, He now uses for their good and for them to know more of Him. What an amazing God! And in His goodness, He has made them my teacher today. Coming from the West we tend to think we have so much to teach and give others. God’s truth is that others have so much to teach and give us. Help us, Lord, to be humble and give us revelation of Your ways so that we can get beyond our own arrogance. Lord forgive our arrogance. We know so little.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

God's Plans are Better

The other day it dawns on me how God has really done something great in South Africa the past couple of months, and what He has done is even greater than all the World Cup activities. The focus in South Africa right now is on the nations coming to South Africa for the World Cup. With WC there are 32 nations represented and almost 6 weeks worth of games are played.
Yet, before the nations came here for the WC, they first came for the Global Day of Prayer this year. GDOP began 10 years ago and is on Pentecost every year. No person planned that Pentecost Sunday 2010 would come before the WC and no man knew when GDOP began that 10 years later South Africa would be hosting the WC. God knew. He had a plan in action long ago.
Some amazing the GDOP people from over 90 nations came to pray. So, prior to the world's event of WC God first sent 3x as many nations to South Africa for prayer. In the WC one team will win. At the GDOP every nation here went home with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
GDOP may have seemed smaller than the WC, the whole world did not take as much of a notice of it, but I know that the spiritual impact of that day will resound for all eternity.
So, there you have it....God's plans for South Africa are even better than all the World Cup plans currently taking place. God is doing great things here. I am continually humbled and honored that He placed me here for such a time as this to be right in the middle of His great work at this time in this place. We serve an awesome God. We are loved by an awesome God. It is so wonderful to love Him in return and walk with Him!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Winter, the World Cup, and Vuvuzelas

I drove home today looking at the snow on the mountains that surround Cape Town. It is amazing to live here. I've never lived somewhere so naturally beautiful in all my life. I'm not sure exactly how far away these mountains are from Cape Town. Maybe a 45 minute drive, but you can see them clearly from the city. When there is snow on the mountains you know that it is cold in Cape Town. Today is the first day of winter with a great deal of snow on the mountains. It is cold and rainy in and around the city. Today the real winter rains finally started. I was wondering when winter was ever going to start here. It should have started a month ago. Partially I was wondering if we might make it all the way through the World Cup with without winter rain. No, tonight with a big game involving Italy being held here in Cape Town it is now officially winter.
But I'm actually enjoying it. There is something very unifying about being a "local" and knowing how to handle this rain - just enjoy and do your best to keep your feet and neck warm!

In the midst of enjoying being a "local" for the World Cup and having rain today, I was heart broken to read one of Yahoo's lead articles today. Yahoo is my home page on-line. Today I opened up an article on their home page about everyone's frustration with the vuvuzelas being blown at the World Cup games. I'm also tired of these plastic horns. Yesterday I read a balanced article criticizing the V and agreed with it. But, wow, this article on Yahoo today was harsh and the comments people made after it were worse. As Americans we really feel this "freedom" to say the most destructive things. Really, this type of interaction does not happen from other countries for the most part. While other countries may criticize, I don't usually hear them say such hateful and heartless things. And we Americans feel it is a freedom of one person to have the right to destroy others with our speech.

I'm loving the World Cup. I am so happy for South Africa and so proud of the nation for doing a great job pulling this all together. I'm especially loving a stretch of highway that I drive every has been under construction since I moved here. Then, on the day of the WC opening, this highway was complete. It is well done and I love driving on it. The infrastructure that has been built up here is fantastic. So much has been done is such a short amount of time. Things aren't perfect here but this nation has definitely risen to the occasion of the World Cup. To read comments like I saw today about the backwardness of this nation, about this still being the dark continent, and South Africa being to immature to handle the world stage for such an event where harsh. You may not like the sound of this plastic horn, but you can't judge a whole nation and an entire sporting event based on the use of a plastic horn during games. Come on Americans, we can be more constructive than this!

And for all those out there that don't like the vuvuzela....I so agree with you, but maybe its time we find some positive things to look at.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

May, the Most Amazing Month...Entry 2....real life Paul's

Now, for carrying on with stories from the past month. I wish I could describe to you all of the amazing things that God has done during this time, all the prayers He is busy answering at this moment in time. I tried to write some of it, it just does not sound right written out. Just suffice it all to say that God is amazing and He is revealing His glory in amazing ways right now in Cape Town. Again, I can say, it is such an honor to be here at this moment in time. I am so thankful for God's perfect timing that I was here in time to be prepared for this moment. Praise God!

In the midst of the Global Day of Prayer activities of this past month there was a special annointing oil given out to each person that attended the conference leading up to the Global Day of Prayer in Cape Town. Many nations were represented. A case of the oil was sent back to each nation there and a case mailed to strategic leaders in nations not present. This oil was at the heart of so much that God did during this time. You can read more about the oil on the website of the guy who brought it:

One thing I do want to share about is about a real life Paul that we had the honor of praying with during the pre-GDOP conference. Aaron came to the prayer room during one of the break times and asked for us to pray for his nation. I was leading prayer at the time and I had about 15 of the ER students in the prayer room with me. Aaron began to share about his nation: Eritrea. Christian gatherings are illegal there. He told us about the senior pastor of his church who is in prison right now while his wife and children are at home. Aaron told us how he was in prison for 2 years because of his faith. He developed health problems from his time in prison and ended up in a Middle Eastern country for health care. This is when he began planting churches among doctors and other professionals in Middle Eastern nations. He has planted churches in 6 nations at this point and he only began in 2004. He is 28 years old, has been a Christian for 12 years, and is full of more wisdom than most old men in the world. His English was not very good, so he spoke to us using the Bible most of the time. He would turn to me and give me a scripture reference, I would read the scripture out loud and it would say exactly what he intended to say. I wish I could show you a picture of Aaron, he was so amazing but that would be dangerous for him.
As we began to pray for him I could tell the ER students did not know how to begin. Finally, one student simply said, "God, how do I begin to pray. I am humbled by this man. There are no words. Thank you, God, for Aaron and for the mighty Christians in his nation." God poured out His Holy Spirit to guide our prayers and we had a dynamic time of prayer with Aaron. We were all so blessed. Then, Aaron said he had never been in a gathering this large of Christians because it is illegal and dangerous in the nations he works in (there were close to 20 of us in the prayer room). The ER students began to sing and Aaron asked if this is heaven. So humbling. The students sing like this every day, but it was a once in a life time privilege for Aaron. During Aaron's testimony he told us that he has suffered from beatings and imprisonments many times. As the students began to sing God reminded me of when Paul praised in prison and the doors opened. God showed me that the students' singing with Aaron was actually intercession. This praise was going before Aaron and breaking open prison doors before he even encounters them in some places. Wow!
We all really connected with Aaron. In talking to him we discovered he had been given a wonderful hotel room to stay in, but this feeling of family with us was so special for him. The director of ER felt that we should invite him to come stay with us on the ER farm. The next night Aaron came back home with all of us. He stayed on the farm with us for 3 days. What a blessing!
The first night our students were spiritually exhausted from the prayer room. They just wanted to play games and laugh. Aaron found himself in the middle of a fast paced game of Uno. I taught him how to play and he caught on quickly. We discovered that in the past 12 years he has not played any games, not even soccer, something he loves. So, the next day was a sabbath day/ break day for us. The students got Aaron out on the soccer field and played a good, long game with him. Aaron said he was having so much fun with us that he was already beginning to think of how hard it would be for him to go back to his mission field. I encouraged to not loose sight of what God has called him to, but to enjoy this moment of rest the Lord had sent his way. That was the saturday before the Global Day of Prayer.

That night we were scheduled to pray at the GDOP venue from 6pm - midnight. Aaron joined us for this time of prayer, also. He contributed so much. Again communicating with us through scriptures, he lead us in much of the prayer time.
Then, came the actual GDOP day here in Cape Town. Wow! Amazing! So many nations were represented here. It was powerful. I wept through most of the event just realizing how God has used Africa, and most specificly South Africa, to have such a great impact on the world. I was at the first GDOP in Cape Town in 2001 and here I was back in Cape Town for the 10th anniversary. God has been so good to me!
Before the event began we gathered as intercessors to pray for Graham Power, the man who obeyed God to start this whole thing. He then asked us to go into the speakers' room and pray over the speakers who would be taking part in the day. Before we even got to the speakers' room, Cindy Jacobs came to us and asked for prayer. Then, we went to the speakers' room. These mighty men and women of God humbly allowed us to pray for them one by one. I first prayed with the dynamic leaders from Nigeria who walk in so much Godly authority. It was overwhelming to pray for them. Then, I prayed for a pastor from Jacksonville, FL who will host the TV broadcast of the Global Day of Prayer in 2011. (Every year GodTV bases the TV broadcast in a different nation. Last year it was Hong Kong. The year before it was Jerusalem. Next year it will be based in the US for the first time). Bishop Vaughn Mclaughlin will host next year and I got to pray for him and pray for next year's event with him! (Check it out at Wow! I was so humbled and God's presence was so heavy. I felt as if I might not be able to stand and I just kept weeping...really through most of the day.
God is really doing great things in the earth right now. Don't miss it!!!!! Spend some time with Him, in the Bible, and listening to His heart beat. Now, is a time in history that we are all blessed to be here for. Don't get too distracted with all the wars and rumors of wars and natural disasters. Keep your eye on the King, keep your candle burning, He will come in the night to fetch his bride, at a time when we least expect Him. Don't be caught unaware. Keep your oil burning!

One last comment about Aaron. He was extremely humble. On the Global Day of Prayer I was in charge of coordinating the intercessors. When asked what he needed to do, Aaron was told to just stay by me and help with what I needed help with. So, he humbly did. I was embarrassed to ask him to do a few practical things for me, but he went and ran a couple of errands for me. I apologized for asking him to run errands. He said, "It is a great honor to serve you. I have heard you pray and I know you are a mighty one of the Kingdom." Wow! The greatest compliment I've ever received and possibly the most humbling moment of my life.
And on Monday, as fast as he showed up in our lives, Aaron left suddenly for the airport to fly back to his home. I think God was protecting his heart from being distracted from his call. So, God whisked him away quickly. I can't wait to speak to him again in the life to come!

And all this is just a glimpse of the most amazing month of my life!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 World Cup - 1 Day to Kick-Off

The 2010 World Cup kicks off in 1 day. I'm so excited and so glad I'm here in South Africa right now!!!

These images are from the Cape Town airport. I went today to drop a friend off. It is crazy there. They have done so many updates it feels like a whole new airport. It is even completely different from how it was when I flew to Europe in April. This picture with the "1" is of a count down point at the airport that I have been watching since I came just to visit in May 2008. It started out with something like 600 days to kick off. I'm back and forth to the airport a lot and so I've watched it count down over the past year and few months since I moved here. Today it was so cool to see it say 1 day left!!

South Africa has the longest national anthem in the world and we are about to get to hear it all the time!!! I love it. Here it is:
Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa South Afrika – South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.


The isiXhosa and isiZulu of the first stanza, the Sesotho of the second stanza and the Afrikaans of the third stanza translate into English as follows:

Lord, bless Africa
May her spirit rise high up
Hear thou our prayers
Lord bless us.

Lord, bless Africa
Banish wars and strife
Lord, bless our nation
Of South Africa.

Ringing out from our blue heavens
From our deep seas breaking round
Over everlasting mountains
Where the echoing crags resound ...

You can listen to the anthem at this website:

The official song for the 2010 Soccer World Cup is "Waka, Waka" an old African song originating in Cameroon. The new version is sung by Shakira and is a blast. Check it out at this website:
The website also shows the lyrics. There is a South African group called Freshly Ground singing on this song, also. They are a great local group here!

Anyway, as all the comercials say right now....Soccer fever...."Can you feel it? It is here!"

May, the Most Amazing Month....Entry 1

I can’t believe May was only one month. I feel like I have lived a lifetime this past month. I’ve drastically neglected my blog during this time so I’ll do my best to give a re-cap. Hang in there…this may be long but if you can capture even just a small glimpse of what I’ve experienced this month then I think it will be worth it.
Here goes…
One important thing to note is that the yearly prayer event called Global Day of Prayer actually began in Cape Town in 2001, so this year marked the 10th anniversary. Therefore, Transformation Africa, the ministry that has developed out of all of this made a decision to make the 10th year a time of celebration with a conference before GDOP and an invitation to people to come from around the world to join us here in Cape Town.
The man who obeyed God and started GDOP was simply a business man in those early days who got saved and made a choice to radically obey Jesus. Today his businesses have literally built half of the infrastructure of the nation of South Africa and God has used him to do so many great ministry works in this nation as well as overseas. One of the great things he has done was to encourage two ladies in Somerset West, South Africa to pray about using some property he owns near Sir Lowry’s Pass Village to glorify God and make a difference for the nation. Today, Eagles Rising Training Center exists because of this. If you don’t know, ER is where I serve part-time in official hours and where my prayers, love, emotions, and spare time also go. I love this ministry!!
The ER students were asked to be a part of the GDOP conference this year. They always help in various ways with activities being done by GDOP and its founder. Usually they serve as greeters, parking attendants, etc. This year God chose to set them in a different place. This year they were asked to be in the prayer room at the conference which was designated as the “ministry prayer room” or the room where people should go to receive prayer. There was also a second prayer room where intercessors prayed over the conference and people could go to spend time in prayer themselves. I actually got to be one of the prayer leaders in this second prayer room. The prayer leaders in this room rotated out ever 4 hours.
Between ER’s prayer room and the intercession room I spent a lot of hours, basically the full day each day in prayer and it was great!!!!
But let me go back in time just a bit. During the time when we were preparing for the conference I was staying on the ER farm with a team from Lubbock Christian University who came to do leadership and teambuilding exercises with the students. They were a fantastic team!!! They served continually, preparing meals and covering prayer room time slots on the farm so that staff could be free to also receive teachings from the two professors who came. This team really blessed my socks off. And even though they kept me up every night and I was so exhausted I struggled to function properly….I really, really enjoyed laughing with the girls on the team. They brought so much joy to me.
But I was staying on the farm with them (meaning that I slept there with the team and was there with them 24/7) during the time when we were preparing for the conference. One night during the week leading up to the conference I landed in the ER prayer room with the students. ER has a 24/7 prayer room. The staff pray in slots through the day and the students pray through the night hours. The girls pray one night and the boys the next, then they are up and ready for their classes each day. These students are really amazing and so dedicated to God!!! One night we were all in the prayer room together. We needed to end at 9pm for the students to get ready for bed. Just before 9pm I said to them lets spend the last 5 minutes praising God and declaring His names. They began to praise. These students can pray!!! If I had told them we were going to declare the names of God for the next hour they would have done it for an hour, but I said 5 minutes and being told 5 minutes they would normally stop at the end of 5 minutes. But on this night they didn’t stop, they kept going. There seemed to be no way of reigning things in. The students have powerful voices and I do not have the voice capacity to speak over them. I went to the student praying at the loudest voice and asked him to pray to close us up. He said okay but I could tell he was then praying about how God wanted him to close the time. He came back and asked if he could end with a song. I said okay but it just wasn’t time for the song. I was concerned about the noise level of the students because of our neighbor and about them being up too late but I heard so clearly God say to me, “Don’t you dare interrupt what I am doing.” So I stepped back and simply waited for the one student to close us in prayer when the time came. The students kept declaring the names of God and praying. They grew more and more intense, louder and louder. Then, different ones were dropping to their knees and falling on their faces before God. And these young people (ages 18 – 22) just kept going and going. And going and going. And I was just thanking God that I could be in that place at that time, right in the midst of His visitation. The presence of God was so tangible, so thick.
Then before the one student could begin the song to close us up, another one on his knees spontaneously began to pour out before God the song, “I surrender all, all to Jesus, I surrender all.” That song carried on for some time. Then, 30 minutes after our time was up this amazing praise time came to and end as the students began to share scriptures God had given to them about unity and breaking dividing walls. We ended the time with the decision to re-join in the prayer room the next morning, shoes off as a sign of the holy ground we were standing on.
What a moment in time!
Okay, this really is turning out long….I’ll share my next story in another blog entry tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed this one!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Turning 21 in South Africa is a very big deal!

So, tonight has been an interesting night!
One of the Eagles Rising students had his 21st today. The 21st birthday in his culture group (Khoi or Colored) is a very big deal. I had one friend tell me that the 21st birthday is more hectic even than a wedding day. That's huge!

Now, this Eagles Rising student decided he really wanted to involve all of us from Eagles in his special day. I'm not sure how this happened, but I got asked to be the MC. I know it is an important day, so I would never say no to such a request. Though I have spent the past two weeks trying to convince him that this might not be his best plan ever since I have never been to a 21st before.

In the end I was the MC and also went to my first South African 21st birthday celebration in all the same night.
It was a big deal. There was a community center rented, over 160 people there, songs were sung, sermons were preached, words of encouragement were felt somewhat similar to a graduation ceremony.
All the while I'm the MC, but most of the people speaking in between my introductions were speaking in Afrikaans. So I was saying thank you for sharing to people when I actually had no clue what they just said (that was entertaining!)
But also bear in mind....I'm a white American. Sorry for the label....but that is just how its done here...labels based on color and culture all the time. But the reality is that I am a white, American. That means I'm used to calm, slow, orderly types of events. Now a 21st here is probably usually really loud and fast and hyper (that's what the student's mom told me anyway:) So, I'm not sure this kid got the same 21st he would have gotten from anyone else.
I was so uncertain as to what to do so I just took it slow and calm. Throughout the service, I just felt God say "slow and calm". It was only after everything was over that I discovered these things are usually fast and hyper.
Well, there you have it.....put a white girl from Texas on the stage with a mike and this time around they got slow and calm.
I hope he enjoyed it. That is the purpose of the day...that he enjoy it and God is glorified.

It really was quite an event and it was very nice and I gather it was nothing like a typical 21st around here!
I did get two from the students mom who said everyone enjoyed it and she is so proud of how she knows her neighbors are going to talk about it. I love that about South Africa!
The second compliment came from another one of the Eagles students. They have a saying, "you boxed it" when someone wraps things up nicely like in a beautiful box. Well, he said, "You didn't just box it, you contained it, you totally contained that thing." Well there you have it...beyond boxing it...and I only discovered what "boxing it" is a few weeks ago. I am so moving up in the world of teenager/young adult coolness :)