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.