Mission trips begin to stretch you out of your comfort zone the moment you say YES, I am going! And, that continues on throughout the whole preparation process and each day you are on the trip. Today was the perfect example of that. We all attend and serve in our home churches on a regular basis. Today, though, we got to be stretched to attend not just 1 or 2, but 4 services! It was definitely a long day but we all gathered back together for dinner so very grateful for the chance to serve and worship God here in South Africa.
Our 1st 2 services were at Acts Church South Campus. After a spirit-filled and lively time of worship, Donna and Cindy performed their dance to Take Me to The King. Alison followed with a powerful message on birthing your dreams and not giving up! Many gave their life to the Lord and then the altar was opened for prayer. The altar filled with many people wanting prayer for discovering their God Dream and removing the hindrances in their lives that stand in the way of fulfilling God’s call on their life. Our team was able to pray with each one! We love being able to stand together in prayer and watch God touch the lives of so many!
Our 3rd service was at Acts Church North Campus. We were blessed again by the anointed Acts worship team. Pastor Sam delivered a powerful message on encountering the goodness of God and what can hinder us from experiencing that goodness. It was a very practical and powerful word!
After a short break, we headed out to our 4th and final service of the day. We were warmly greeted by Pastor McNeeley of AFM Church in the township of Rabie Ridge. The worship team began in Afrikaans and then sang the same songs in English so we could join in! We love hearing the different languages. It was evident God was moving from the very beginning. Each part of the service flowed well together. The songs that our dance teams performed to, coincided with CiCi’s testimony which led the Pastor to ask Nehemiah, one of the leaders from Acts to share his testimony which then led perfectly into Brian’s message. Makayla and Ashley both danced tonight. CiCi shared her testimony for the 1st time and really did an amazing job! She didn’t hold anything back and her story completely glorified God by demonstrating his redemption, amazing love and relentless pursuit of His children! Nehemiah also shared his story of how God rescued him at his worst and it was inspiring to hear how God has restored so much in his life! Brian then followed with a simple, practical, yet powerful message on God’s love. We could see many of the leaders and pastors taking notes. The altar was opened for prayer and many came to receive prayer for situations in their life. As always, God was moving mightily and everyone was touched and blessed by His presence.
We had a quick dinner of pizza, shared some laughs, stories and prayers with the leaders hosting us. Although we were all tired, we still lingered a little longer than usual. I think because we have it in the back of our mind that our time is coming to end here very soon. We are all ready to see our families of course, but this experience and the people we are serving alongside is so incredible we don’t want it to end just yet. But, after a few more hugs and good byes, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and get some rest for our fun day at the Lion Park tomorrow.
Please say a prayer for our team as we get on a plane tomorrow night and journey back to the USA.
We started our day with an early breakfast and headed to Acts Church to meet up with a group of people from the Acts of Love outreach team. This team actually heads out to do a Soup Kitchen at a park in a nearby township called Olievenhoutbosch every Saturday morning. But before they ever go minister to the people, they minister to God. We started with worship at the church and then prayed together, received instructions, and only after that were we ready to head out to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this township.It is here where they do worship, prayer, the Word, and give food to people who literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from. There was even a story of a woman that came and thanked the team because they gave her kids food that she couldn’t give them.
When we arrived at the park, there were already many children and mothers gathered waiting for us. We greeted them, set up and began to worship with them being led by worship leaders from Acts. As we sang and danced even more people came from the area. Makayla & Ashley both performed worship dances that really grabbed the children's attention, everyone was watching so intently. Donna then brought a word about discovering your dreams. After this we split the people up by young boys and girls and mothers. Each one received a hot meal and drink. Our team also had a great time praying for people and playing with the kids. A few kids fell asleep while our team held them as well. It’s was an amazing morning where we were able to help feed 384 people! Afterwards, we all grabbed trash bags and picked up all the trash littering the park. While most of this litter was there when we arrived, it wasn't left by our team or people we were serving, we always want to leave an area better than when we arrived so our team made quick work of picking everything up and leaving it looking all clean!
After the Soup Kitchen, we headed back to the church for a light lunch and then went back to the hotel to get ready for the CELEBRATION dinner. The Celebration dinner has become a tradition for our team here in South Africa. We get together with everyone from the church that we’ve worked with and have a very nice meal and fellowship time. The kids of the pastors tend to do something fun for us and this year they had an awesome game organized where they called each person up individually and asked us the South African word for an American word. Example: What is the word they use for trash.. and the answer is rubbish. That was fun but the best part of it was that when they called the team member up, they did something that related to that team member. For instance Cindy is a nurse, so they acted hurt, played an ambulance sound and said something like, can someone call Cindy to help. It was very creative and kind and really amazed us that the children had really paid attention to each of us all week to know such unique and individual things about every person on our team! Each person got a South African key chain from the kids with a handwritten note.
After the kids were finished with the amazingly creative game, we all ate dinner and then exchanged gifts with one another. It is always great to fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ around the world and the ones here sure do hold a special place in our hearts. We are very grateful for everything they do for their community and for our team.
They really are changing the world, one person at a time, through acts of love.
Today we were blessed to have Peter D. Fin, Pastor of Acts Christian Church - Midrand, South Africa - and our host, join us during our daily devotion. There he shared his testimony of how he came to know Christ and subsequently took over pastoring Acts Christian Church after his father’s retirement. The first official order of our day was to take a short drive to Acts South Campus. We prayed for South Africa and the protest that was taking place today. Thousands of South Africans gathered at strategic locations throughout the city to demonstrate against President Jacob Zuma’s dismissal of the finance minister that has fueled concerns over government corruption. We also prayed for our country - the United States - as we launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria in response to what it believes was a chemical attack that killed more than 100 people.
Our next stop was a visit to the Bodirammago Old Age Foundation. Once we arrived at the facility we each adopted one of the 18 residents and shared our story of international mission work and our association with Acts Church. The center director shared their structure and the services they offer the residents. Not all the residents were necessarily elderly. There were also language barriers, however the language of smile and the power of love are universal. They were entertained with a spiritual dance performed by CrossPoint ministries teams Donna and Cindy. And finally, we prayed and blessed them with gifts from toiletries and other soft items such as scarfs, etc. We did not leave before giving honor and praise to the caregivers.
We were served a hearty and healthy lunch at ACTS Church South campus, then we headed out on a shopping spree to Cambanos Curio Center. They had a wide selection of souvenirs and gifts. Many of us bought back many bags of gifts for our family, friends, and supporters.
Last but certainly not least was our evening service at The Living Word Worship Center. This center holds services under a tent and has a congregation of about 300 members. They are also currently construction a new sanctuary next door that will seat approximately 1500 members. They have spirited leadership and poised for tremendous growth. Our mission’s leader Alison heard from the Lord that many people were going to be healed tonight. She had several specific issues that she mentioned and people that were dealing with that issue stood up to receive prayer. We prayed for each of person until they were touched and healed by God and their pain or issue disappeared! Praise God for his healing!! Of course, our ministry members Donna and Cindy also blessed the congregation with a dance to the song Thy will be done. The service culminated with a powerful sermon from Dawn Moyer on “Facing your Giants” and reminded us that we can overcome anything with God on our side. The church leaders were most gracious and thankful for our visit and were very pleased that we were in their midst. They took up a generous offering for our missions group and after much coaxing, CrossPoint leaders were able to convince them that it was God’s will that we return the money to them to aid with their building fund so that they would be able to grow and add children to his kingdom.
After such a spirit filled message we returned to Acts and filled our physical bodies with a meal of shepherd’s pie, salad and delightful desserts.
Every time I witness a wedding I am reminded of the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the church. Before heading into the field we had the opportunity to witness a beautiful covenant ceremony of marriage for a precious couple from Acts Church. As believers, we are Christ’s bride and the scripture says for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church and he is the Savior of the body. Ephesians 5:23
In contrast to the celebration of love in a beautiful decorated setting we saw yet another demonstration of love at New Jerusalem Children’s Home as the caregivers cared for approximately 80 children ranging from ages 2-18 in a small space. Makayla, our youngest mission member – only 16 - performed a drama routine to Kirk Franklin’s “Now Behold the Lamb”. These children were captivated as Makayla demonstrated through movement God’s loved for us and how he sent his son to die for us. Imagine these lyrics: Born into sin so that I may live again, the precious lamb of God.
We played soccer with the children and the missionaries spent one on one time with the children. As I walked around I was in awe of how God used our team to minister to every child. Some were playing soccer with the kids, the younger children were combing the hair of some of the women on the team while the older team members held and nurtured the toddlers. Ashley taught dances to the teenage girls and the girls reciprocated by teaching our young adults Shadonasty and Ta-teona how to do a traditional Zulu dance. The teenagers then wanted to know what life was like in the United States. Our young adults began telling them of what their day was like. The South African and the American youths then begin to teach each other their slang words. I could hear the giggles typical when young ladies get together. These moments of fun then turned to ministry as we connected with the children and begin praying for them and teaching them God’s word. Dawn shared her testimony and gave an awesome message about God’s love and when she gave the altar call many raised their hands requesting salvation including some of the adult caregivers. We ended a time with these bright and beautiful children by allowing each to select gifts from a display we had set up on the playground.
During our ride back to our hotel we visited one of Alison and Chuck’s friends - Pastor Leon DuPreez, who is in the latter stage of opening a new church – Encounter Church - in the suburbs of Johannesburg. As we left the poverty and townships near the orphanage and headed out to Encounter I remembered thinking Dorothy we are no longer in Kansas because the landscape changed drastically - tin homes to mansions - dirt roads to paved roads - and shopping centers. It was refreshing to see growth and prosperity in Johannesburg as we previewed the big, gorgeous new sanctuary of Pastor DuPreez. It was also a time of celebration as it was Pastor DuPreez’s wife and Shane his sound person’s birthdays – they are twins. We ended our time with Pastor DuPreez praying for our protection and God’s to use us for serving the people of South Africa.
We then ventured to downtown Johannesburg another contrast to the rural areas of townships we had been visiting. I am that person who always give money to people who are at the corners with signs “homeless need help”. I have organized 5k runs to support homeless shelter, clothing drives, toiletries drive but talking to the homeless face to face was one of the most amazing evangelical experiences of my lifetime. We joined with Hillbrow Street Ministry to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take out to the homeless under the viaduct in downtown Joburg. Patricia and Nigel had lived in a similar suburb like we had visited early only to leave it all behind to move closer to their target ministry area. They run a tutoring center in a building in the heart of downtown. If you can imagine downtown in a big city with tall building in a tight space, flashing screens advertising like Times Square, and the street sounds of honking vehicles and music, that is downtown Johannesburg. We were trained by Patricia and Nigel on how to, effectively as is possible given the circumstances, minister to the homeless. We arrived a under a bridge just as the rain started. The smells of urine, dirt and grime and the odor of pot, was a bit alarming but we were reminded that we were there to do God’s work without judgement. We divided into groups and began to connect with the people on the streets. Most of the people we talked with were receptive to God’s word and our prayers. Many had been on the streets for years and it was apparent that having someone come out to talk to them was inspiring.
After we debriefed we discussed the various reasons why people would be trapped in homelessness for years and just like in the states there are many reasons that contribute to the plight, government inefficiencies, mental issues, despair, substance abuse issue, etc. We know that with God all things are possible and with our prayers we trust we made a difference with the homelessness in JoBurg. I was challenged by this experience to not just give money but to go to the streets and talk to the homeless see what their story is, pray with them and let them know that God loves them and their life can change with trusting him.
Our day ended late at around midnight - although we were tired, we were refreshed by the fact that we had touched lives and advanced the kingdom of God.
Matthew 25:40 - Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Our morning started early with a great breakfast and plenty of coffee! We are just past the half-way mark of the trip and coffee is definitely a requirement when your day is to begin at 6:15AM. We had about an hour and half drive to Boksburg Correctional Facility, a men’s juvenile detention center. We pulled into the facility at about 9AM, with only our passports and the word of God hidden in our hearts. We couldn’t take anything else in with us. We were scheduled to meet with a group of about 150 young men ranging in age from 17-21 years old. A few volunteers from Acts Church and Scarlet Thread, a prison ministry Acts partners with, were with us as well. One of these was Trevor Sampson, a well-known Christian musician. He was allowed to take his music equipment in and opened our meeting with several praise and worship songs. Before that, however, the men wanted to entertain us! They started with one who recited an inspiring poem, titled “Second Chances”. Then 2 different groups performed traditional Zulu dances. They were powerful, larger than life and so fun to watch! Our ministry time started with Brian sharing his testimony of how 1 bad decision eventually led to one terrible thing after another happening, and even though at the time he didn’t think it would lead to such destruction, he eventually lost everything. But several years later, 1 good decision to accept Jesus as his Savior eventually led to one amazing thing after another happening and God has completely restored everything and more that he lost! He shared with the men that at any time they could stop, decide to put the past behind them and make that 1 good decision to follow Jesus to get their life on the right track. Chuck followed up with a powerful message on forgiveness, how we must release those who have hurt us in order to be free for God to work in our lives. Alison ended the time of sharing with an anointed and scripture filled word from God that offered the young men the opportunity to turn their lives over to Jesus. At the end, almost every single man in the room accepted Christ into their hearts! It was truly a powerful moment to witness change in their eyes as they said yes to Christ!
Our break time in the afternoon was a bit longer today, which we all used in different ways. Some of our team worked to organize the remaining gifts and supplies that we will take with us at the ministry events we have for the rest of the week. Some of us worked on updating this blog! Some of us took advantage of the time study the word, look over their messages for later in the week, spend quiet time with God and some simply rested. It was a nice afternoon to slow down for a bit!
After another yummy dinner at Acts Church, we headed to Divine Worship Center, a church in the nearby township of Rabie Ridge. This church meets in a permanent tent structure and we visited them the last time our team was here. We were excited for them as we pulled into the gravel parking lot to see a permanent building being constructed! Steel beams were up and the foundation was being prepared! God is expanding their tent-stakes and territory! We began with energetic worship and a welcome from the Pastor. Cindy shared her personal testimony of a challenging time in her marriage that God used to reveal to her that she was putting her husband in the place of worship that God should have been in her heart. God used that time to prune away those things that were not of Him in her marriage and now her marriage is strong and is centered on Jesus! Ashley performed lovely worship dance to the song “What a Beautiful Name”, by Hillsong.
Today we saw people in physical captivity and spiritual captivity. And for both the answer is still the same, Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you are behind prison walls, held captive by fear or sickness or even held captive by a demonic spirit; it doesn’t matter if you are in South Africa or in the United States – the answer is still the same, Jesus.
Whom the Son sets free is free indeed! (John 8:36)
Blessings come full circle!!!
One thing that has been in abundance during our South African Missions trip is that as we set out to serve others, we in turn are being shown God’s love by the people of South Africa and this was really manifested on Day 5.
The day started off with a few of the team members ministering to their physical body by completing cross fit circuit training in the beautiful setting of gardens on the hotel grounds. We were blessed to have one of the host families Vijy and Walter’s personal trainer, Larry, come out to conduct the training. Since our bodies are the temple of God it is fitting that we nurture our bodies in addition to our spirits. After an intense workout, we joined the rest of our team for breakfast in the hotel’s dining room and our morning team devotion.
The Centre’s house mother affectionately referred to as “Mamma” and the girls were anxiously awaiting our visit. As we walked in each girl greeted us with hugs and smiles. What struck me was the total openness and freedom they displayed. We introduced ourselves and told them something special about ourselves and they introduced themselves and told us what they aspired to become as young women. The girls range from ages 11-18 aspire to be future politicians, lawyers, doctors, pilots, and forensic scientist and detectives among other professions. Chuck and Alison Lusted, the founders of CrossPoint Ministries, prayed for the girls while Donna and Cindy team members from Statesboro, GA performed a praise dance routine. Like most teenage girls in America these girls also love to dance. Our team member, Ashley, who is a dance teacher taught the girls a dance routine to Pharrell William’s “Happy”. The girls quickly learned the routine and adjusted it to their own personalities. Performing the routine really amplified their happiness and we could see them shine. They even performed one of their Country’s dance routine and taught us some of their “moves”. The girls graciously gave us a tour of their living quarters pointing out with pride their sleeping quarters; beds, study area, closets, etc. Although these girls share an open room with others they were so appreciative to have their own bed. After the tour, the girls reentered the main living area and to their surprise our team coordinators had set up a store for them to shop choosing from among the many gifts we brought for them. The team donated clothing, toiletries, jewelry, shoes, and toys among other items. Each girl was able to go around and shop to their hearts were content.
We ended our time with these mighty young women of God by praying for them individually. It was very obvious that Mamma, their caregiver, loves these girls and her calling is clearly to raise these girls to become purposeful and Godly women. While our goal was to minister to them, they actually ministered to us by showing and demonstrating that our circumstances don’t determine our joy but the Joy of the Lord is our strength.
After leaving the home Acts of Love ministry treated us to a traditional American lunch of barbeque chicken and French fries.
Moving along with our day, we returned to our hotel for a quick dinner and to refresh ourselves for our final destination for the evening. We were the guest at Royal House Church. Sarah Gaither, our fellow missionary, presented a powerful message on God’s faithfulness to the leaders of the church. Each team member then prayed individually for the church leaders. Our team ministers then answered questions from the church leaders and provided suggestions and strategies to help them grow their membership and develop their church leaders. We received an affectionate departure from the leaders and returned to our hotel knowing that we had sowed positive seeds in yet another ministry.
The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped
Today the Lord blessed us to wake up early and eat a delightful breakfast. We were encouraged by Mr. Dan with a wisdom-filled devotional on relationships and marriage. Next Ta’Teona gave her testimony about how a year ago she questioned God about what she was going through and decided to “fix” herself since she was a “counselor”. After many months of trying to fix herself she decided to be grateful for what she had and put her life in God’s hands. God has abundantly multiplied many things in her life including a new job with double her salary.
After our team morning devotion time, we traveled to Acts South campus to pick up our lunch a get the plan for our day. Next, we traveled to the Tembisa Hospital. We were guided by Ms. Mabel to Ward 21. Ward 21 is the children’s burn unit. There we were taken to a room with many children that had burns on their bodies. Some had burns that covered over 50% of their bodies. We prayed over the children that God would heal their precious bodies and gave them red teddy bears to bring smiles to their faces.
We took lots of pictures with the children. They sang songs for us and Donna and Cindy did a dance for them. Alison followed them by asking the children if they knew Jesus and if they wanted to accept Him into their hearts. There were several children that raised their hands and accepted Jesus into their hearts for the first time today. We gave the children the gifts that we brought and I had an opportunity to bless them with a copy of my book called I Love You in the Heart. Several of our team members took a group of the kids outside and played a fun game of futbol with them. As usual, we were all a little sad to leave but we are so grateful to have the opportunity to remind these precious children that God loves them so very much and has created them for a special purpose and has a great plan for their life!
After a short rest, we were honored to be invited into Walter & Vijy’s home for dinner. Walter and his wife Viji are leaders at Acts Church and along with a few of their friends, prepared for us a delicious Indian dish with side salad and amazing desserts. The love and generosity of everyone at Acts is very overwhelming to us and we feel truly blessed by God to be here! We ended the evening with a powerful time of ministry in which our team was able to encourage, pray for and speak into the lives of all the Acts leaders there. We also took time to pray for our bus drivers who both prayed to receive salvation! Praise God for their new lives in Christ and for this special time of fellowship and refreshing!
Mission travel days can be eventful – even with the most detailed and thorough planning you’ll always have the opportunity to grow your faith, trust God more and stretch just a little more outside your comfort zone. Our trip to South Africa would prove to be no different! I won’t take too much time to lay out all the details of the bumps along the way but, after a delayed flight with a short connection (we made it), some concern with almost needing to check our carry-on luggage (thankfully, they let us slide through) and being notified at security that the 16 year old traveling with us needed a notarized affidavit from her parents (which we got & they made it through security in less than 45 minutes!), we were excited and praising God when all 18 members of our team settled into the 15 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg on Friday evening.
The picture above was taken Saturday night around 6pm (local Jo’burg time) when we arrived at Tambo International Airport, greeted by Ps. Peter, Ps. Collin and Ps. Walter from Acts Christian Church. Their team swiftly loaded all 40+ pieces of our luggage and drove us to the church to enjoy a delicious dinner. Afterwards, Alison took time to speak scripture over us and pray for us a team. We had a short team meeting to receive details and instructions for our 1st day of ministry before we turned in for the night to get some rest for Sunday! Most of the team woke up praising God for a good night’s sleep.
We enjoyed a good, hearty breakfast at our hotel’s dining area and set off for Sunday morning services at Tabernacle Church of God in the nearby township, Ivory Park. Our team was warmly welcomed and was honored to participate in several parts of the service. We helped with communion during both services and led the discipleship classes during the interim between the services. Alison Lusted brought a powerful word on God’s character, His enduring love for us and being fully reconciled and in relationship with Him using Zephaniah 3:17 as the foundational verse for the message. Between the 2 services, there were 70 people who surrendered or rededicated their life to Jesus! We praise God for those lives made new in Christ! Our team had the privilege of receiving and praying for many at the altar during ministry time after the preaching. We prayed for many to be healed, for women who desired a child, for hurting and broken hearts, for financial needs. As missionaries, what we quickly learn is that no matter where you live or how different you culture may seem, needs are the same everywhere! We go into a mission trip thinking we are going to be so different than those we come to serve in other countries, but soon realize that deep down we are all similar, with similar needs, desires and longings in our heart. Praise God for connecting us by His love to others all around the world!
Some lunch, a tiny bit of rest and off we go to our final service of the day. Acts Church hosted a Night of the Supernatural service, a time of worship, prayer and miracles! Ps. Peter taught a short message on why God does miracles and began to pray for people to receive healing, many people came up after the prayer to share a testimony of how God had healed them in an instant! Many were healed from chronic pain, several of them jumping up and down able move their joints, legs and bend completely over which they had be unable to do at all before prayer! Ps. Peter then prayed for people to be set free from addictions, to be set from the spirit of poverty and for marriages & families to be restored and made whole. It was a wonderful time to be in God’s powerful presence! We ended the service by praising God by singing an incredible song called Jubilee (Freedom Is In This Place) by the band New Wine – WE LOVED IT and the whole place was dancing – check it out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNEXv6q-Qus
Our 1st days have been jam packed and we have loved every minute! As you can see we’ve had many, many opportunities to praise God for His faithful love, favor and care and as we’ve praised His name, the blessings have continued to pour down. We are looking forward to a full and powerful week sharing the love & hope of Jesus everywhere we go! Keep us in your prayers!