Ok, I’m going to TRY and summarize a wonderful mission trip to South Africa! Ready? Here we go!
We left Pierrepont on Monday, May 26th and arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday. There were 16 of us from here and we joined up with Ronel, who was our fearless leader for the next 15 days! She is a bundle of energy and such an encourager! We went to the Ellel South Africa base in Pretoria called Shere House for a lovely lunch and to settle in for the night. They were so hospitable and welcoming! We went to a place called Farm Inn for a little mini-safari type thing and saw a bunch of BIG cats who thankfully were behind fencing. We were allowed to drive through the herbivores though and that was fun. Wednesday morning, we were prayed over and sent out by the team. After a quick stop at the Parliament buildings in Pretoria and a viewing of a 10 meter tall statue of Nelson Mandela (school kids were there on a field trip and they were dancing around the statue singing…it was very cute! Not at all “shrine-ish” just honoring a national hero. We heard lots of stories about life under apartheid and WOW…such a different South Africa just 20 years ago!) We headed south to an area called Bergville in the Southern Drakensburg Mountains. We stayed at the YWAM (Youth with a Mission) base there for 4 nights. I was a bit giddy to be able to be on a YWAM base again!
Our “official” ministry began on Thursday, May 29th. I was able to be a part of the first small team that headed out that morning to a primary school. There they have a church holiday called Ascension Day. We were asked to do a school assembly to start their day off. We met together the night before to seek the Lord for guidance…”tell us Lord, the significance of Your ascension” We found 3 precious points in the Word and came up with a 20 minute teaching/drama. 360 precious faces smiled and listened. What a blessing this morning was for us and I’m confident that God’s Word was scattered like seeds in their hearts. We hugged probably 180 kids on their way out the door to their classes! We all piled in our bus that afternoon to go do a program with some children in an orphanage but communication faltered and lines were crossed and it just didn’t happen. I felt bad for the rest of my team because by this point they were VERY eager to DO something. We were taught to be flexible though, so we prayed with the pastor we were with and trusted God that His plan was occurring! That night we did an Ascension Day service at a church. David preached, 2 team members shared testimonies; prayer ministry occurred… it was good! This pastor was so amazing. He reminded me of my dad, this big man with a teddy bear heart. He pastors two congregations there and works with other pastors as well. We saw so much unity amongst the churches. What a blessing!
Friday and Saturday, we did a 2 day Arise Conference with much teaching and prayer ministry. We also fit in a Christian Club meeting with some local children and a youth event one evening. I was very proud of my teammates for taking on the teaching – Forgiveness and Freedom from Bitterness, Inner Healing and Emotional Wholeness (I taught that!), Freedom from Fear, Lordship, Belief Systems: The Truth about Lies, Healing from Accident and Trauma, and Restoration. It was quite a conference! This was a mostly Zulu crowd, but also some Afrikaners, and a few Indian or white English. Our Zulu translators were wonderful! Many people shared testimonies at the end of what the Lord had done in their lives over the course of the two days. David was able to pray for a pastor, and that is always such a special privilege! I was able to pray with a missionary and I know that God was really there in that divine appointment as well.
Sunday morning, June 1st, our team spread out among 7 churches in the Bergville area. We were invited to each of these churches and in some we did the whole service, while in others we went to simply share a testimony and be a guest. That afternoon, we traveled up further into the mountains for a 2 night stay in a lovely place called The Cavern. This was a treat! A large extended Christian family owns several resorts and cabins and adventure places, etc. Ronel usually books a place for the team to stay in one of their camps, but this year there was no availability. The owners of The Cavern decided to bless us with a 2 night all-meals-included stay at their resort for the same “mission budget” price we would have paid for cabins. Can I just say how very thankful and blessed David and I felt? It was like a little mini vacation for the 2 of us! Our team did a ministry service at The Cavern Sunday night. Monday morning until lunch, we went to 2 primary schools to do programs and then to a preschool/crèche (nursery). Those little kiddies were just adorable. We had to check David’s pockets when we left to make sure he hadn’t snuck any in. We had the afternoon off to relax in the lovely Drakensburg Mts.
Tuesday, June 3rd, we headed down out of the mountains, traveling to the Durban area on the coast. We were once again greeted so warmly by the Ellel KZN (KwaZulu Natal) team and the owners of Le Paradis Lodge where we stayed for the next 6 nights. It sits right on the Indian Ocean…gorgeous view! We did a service at Le Paradis that night. Almost everyone stayed after the service for prayer ministry! It was great! God was really moving. David once again had the privilege of praying with a pastor! Wednesday was our only full day “off”. They try to schedule this in at the mid-point. Honestly, this was a tough day for me. I was walking on the beach, trying to relax but I just kept thinking about how much my kiddies love the beach and it made me miss them even more. When I was busy, I didn’t have time to think about it, but on our day off I sort-of felt sad.
Thursday, June 5th we spent the morning in a high school. What a blessing to be able to just share the Gospel with teens. We were told of a high suicide rate in the school, drug problems, many single moms, poverty, etc…so it was an honor to bring a message of hope! These towns we were in around Durban were mostly Indian populations. Under apartheid, they were lower than the low. Now they are not, but the outworking of generations of oppression is obvious. Some say that the church in South Africa is miles wide, but only about an inch deep. People seem to cling to Jesus, which is wonderful, but they struggle to know who they are in Him and what He has for them today, this side of Heaven! I do know that we were a source of encouragement to those who are a part of the Church and a message of hope to those still searching. After we left the high school, we did door to door evangelism. This is definitely out of my comfort zone! God was so faithful though! We split into small groups of 2 or 3. All of our stories were quite different from one another when it was all said and done! My group had the privilege of praying with a Christian lady who reminded me of my grandmother, Mimi. I know we left her with a lovely smile on her face. We also met a lady named Pam and her unbelieving husband and were able to pray with her (she hasn’t been in church in years) and hopefully open his eyes a bit more to the Gospel. They know the pastor right down the street and he is planning to follow up with them. We also met a deaf Hindu lady! That was interesting! David tried to communicate with her and it went pretty well considering she uses a different sign language. She definitely didn’t want him to pray for her! She kept telling us who her Christian neighbors were and that they would be happy for us to pray for them! I know this isn’t really funny, it’s sad, but I do have to admit that it struck me as funny. She was so nice and happy that we were visiting but just set firm in that she was a Hindu and we were trying to pray for the wrong person! May the Lord open her eyes… That night we did a church service.
Friday we went and ministered in a prison. Wow…what an opportunity! I simply can’t find the words. The men did the teaching/preaching/praying, God went before us. It was nothing like we expected. I’m not sure what we expected…maybe for it to be scary, intimidating, etc. We had the thought the night before as we were praying that really the inmates are like boys in prison clothes, grown up having made poor choices, but really just mostly fatherless boys on the inside. This is what we saw the night before and this is what we witnessed that morning in prison. They were respectful, listening, nodding their heads… It was a bit surreal. Our translator was an inmate. He’s a Christian and I have no idea what his story is but I’m certain that the Lord is using him mightily while he is behind bars and will do so when he is free! I was not the slightest bit scared. It was like we women were mostly invisible and God’s love was just pouring out of our guys as they ministered. I’d love to go again! Only under the same covering of prayer though! Here again, it was a clear example of God going ahead, preparing the ground, and us following in obedience. We had a team of intercessors outside of the prison and they prayed for us and for 2 guards who approached them! That night we did a youth meeting.
Ack…I’ve got to end this blog entry because it’s just way too long! Saturday, we did a one day Arise conference. Sunday, we scattered to 6 different churches. That afternoon, we drove to Hluhluwe Game Reserve and spent 2 nights there. Monday – SAFARI!! Much fun was had! Many animals were seen! Tuesday – begin our trek back to England, Wednesday – home again, hugs abounding…