Thursday, March 24, 2011

A view of Manenberg

This is just a small glimpse of what Manenberg looks like.

These are houses that families live in. Many of them are built in the front and back yards of other famiy members. These houses may have up to 10 people living in them at one time.

As you walk the streets, you see many many children running around with no clothes or shoes on.

Their entertainment is all made up themselves. There are very few places for children to actually play safely. Actually, there are NO places for safe playing, due to the high rate of gang violence in Manenberg. At any point, gun fire may open up. Stats show that a very high number of deaths due to gang violence are those who are innocent young children, just caught in the middle.

God heals the broken hearted!

I realize it has been a little since I have blogged and I know some of you are probably going nuts because of that. I do apologize, but remember, I am in South Africa! AHH! Yes, it’s true I live in Africa! J Internet is a very privileged part of life here for many, including myself! J God has been doing amazing things though! That is an understatement actually. God is showing up in BIG ways! I have been recently challenged by a very close friend that we as Christians should be expected God to do BIG things and when we do that, we will not be surprised when He does show up; instead we will rejoice knowing that He was planning it the whole time! Let’s expect BIG things from the Creator of the universe, who loves us with a Father’s love.

Just to give you an idea of some of the things God is doing here in South Africa. I have been working with a girl who is recovering from a 7-8 year crystal meth addiction, was physically abused as a child by her father, quit school at grade 6, has been affiliated with gangs and many other struggles. Needless to say, this beautiful daughter created by God for a purpose has been through hell in her 20 years of living. Yes, some of the choices have been her responsibility but Satan has had a party with her up until now. She has recently surrendered her life to Christ and is being transformed! She has been clean now for about 3 months. At the time of our first meeting, there was no purpose in mind, there was no responsibilities that she was taking for herself, she was very selfish but God is breaking down those walls in her life. This past week, I have seen signs of the kingdom in this girl’s life! First of all, she and I have an incredible friendship building! She is very trusting with me. She is telling me stories now of her serving others around her. She is taking responsibility for things at home, like laundry and other things around the house. These are small things, but I am learning that they are huge and BIG God things! It is only through God’s grace that she is able to come out of the shell that she has been in for so long. It is because He loves unconditionally, no matter what we have done or will do. He and only HE can bind up the wounds and bring redemption to lives of devastation and hopelessness. Continue to pray for true redemption and restoration in this beautiful life.

So as good as the above situation is, God is doing SOO much in MY life! I haven’t really looked at my time here in South Africa as big of a learning curve for myself as it has been. I am seeing more and more reasons of why God brought me to South Africa for this point. I think one of the biggest reasons is yet to be completely unfolded. The healing process of my heart is beginning. I had the opportunity to share my testimony with about 25 colleagues this morning at the Warehouse. This is a group of people who genuinely care about those they work with and really love unconditionally. During my time of sharing I feel that God began for sure the healing process of my heart that He has been wanting to. I have some wounds and scars from my past and my upbringing that are not easy to deal with at times. God is teaching me how to love those who have never loved me. That’s not easy and I have to be honest that I haven’t always been up to letting him to that in my heart. Over the past two weeks, God has really began that process in my heart! It has been hard to open up and let God really pry and chisel away at the stones in my heart but I am seeing such peace and restoration in the moments that I allow that from Him. This morning was one of those moments. I feel while I was sharing parts of my story, God was healing my broken heart. I am so thankful for that truth and God’s faithfulness in His word in Ps 147:3- “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” God is binding up my wounds and healing my broken heart. I think for the first time in my life, I am actually allowing myself to see the brokenness in my heart, which allows God to heal it. Until I realize it is there, I don’t realize the need to be healed. I am seeing that now, through sharing my story this morning. I was brought to tears as I was sharing and moved in my heart that I indeed was broken over the things that I have been through. For so many years, I have put them aside. I have “claimed” that I dealt with them. Really, I have just hardened my heart and ignored the fact that it hurt. The moment that I allowed myself to be vulnerable, God stepped in! WHOA!! How great is His love and comfort! So, I say all of this to you for this reason. Thank you for your prayers in the work that I am doing with the girls in Manenberg but I also ask that you would pray for me specifically. Pray that I would continue to be open to God’s healing power and love! Pray that I would not stop it but instead allow God to fully heal the broken pieces of my heart!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to HIM be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen!”  

May GOD be glorified in YOU and in ME today! Expect BIG from God today!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What do you have in your hands now that God can use??

Satan has been trying to get to me believe his lies about not having anything to offer the people that I am working with here in Manenberg. It’s not easy to fight them off but God reminded me of some good stuff this morning at church.

If you think about the poverty and injustice in the world today, the church will ALWAYS be the “little boy with two small fish in front of a huge crowd.” It is a HUGE problem all across our world, even possibly next door to us. If we could have solved all the poverty and issues in our world, don’t you think it would have already been fixed? There is enough money and resources in the world today that could have been compiled together but it would not do anything but harm and produce dependency.

So…What is it going to take to alleviate the things going on in our world today? Drugs, gangs, violence, prostitution, poverty, unemployment, education, etc. When we start to look at all of the issues and the enormity of it, we can develop the attitude that “we can’t do anything to fix it.” We can just throw our hands up and ignore that they are real issues, which a lot of people do, or we can respond differently.

We can look at the issue and look at what we have and go from there. Listen to what John says in John 6, when one individual saw what he had and went from there. This is a very familiar story to us but read it, thinking about the question, What did the boy have?
     “ After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,  “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” John 6:1-14

So think about this story. 5000+ people are hungry, including Philip who has doubted that anything could be done. The only food that was available was 2 small fish and 5 loaves. You have probably 5000 families waiting to find food… This is enough food for maybe 2 families to share. This little boy could have taken the food and eaten it himself but instead, he gave what he had and let God do the rest! So often in our lives, including myself, we see that we only have very little so we just walk away thinking we can do nothing. I wonder what would happen if we would give that “little” to God. What would he do? This story is only mentioned in John’s gospel. It is told as a sign that God can do anything he wants to if we allow him. God wants to do miracles but I think a lot of times we don’t allow him to show up in our lives because we think we have to prepare first. Human effort gets us nowhere when it comes to things like this.

My prayer for you and for myself is that we would give the little and watch God do BIG things with it!! May we become confident in the power of God! Basically, let’s live a life that if God doesn’t show up and do something; we will look like a fool!!

I have been blown away in my time with some of the girls here in Manenberg when I have looked at the picture through the lens of God’s power rather than my own strength! I am seeing walls being broken down, hearts being healed of traumatic events in these girls lives, confidence being built, reconciliation being made. It’s such a beautiful picture, watching God put back together broken and torn hearts! J I am soo thankful that God decides to use me in the process!  

Continue to pray for these girls! May they see the true love of the Father! May they see the restoration and redemption that only He can bring and chase after it!