Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Team - Video Wrapup

Since we've returned to the USA just under 4 weeks ago, 5 of the team members have given a short presentation to the FSBCS congregation over four Sunday mornings.  Today was the final presentation, and the following video was presented as a wrap-up to the trip:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 11 - Back in the USA!

Our day 11 on this incredible journey is our final day and will really be two days as we fly back home and gain back many hours and go back through the time zones to the US.  We are all so looking forward to seeing our families and loved ones that we miss so much and we are ready for this adventure to come to a close. 

The rain kept coming - showers of blessings in Pretoria
We woke on Tuesday to continued rain in Pretoria.  Since Sunday, it’s been raining off and on – mostly on – for 3 days straight and we are told this is very rare for the area as this is not a rainy season.  The benefit for us has been that even though this has been a “summer” trip into the southern hemisphere, we really have been quite comfortable and many times cool, so we are thankful for that.
As you can imagine, the day was spent packing and loading and transporting from Pretoria to Johannesburg and saying our final goodbyes to many new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ that we have met (or for some, renewed friendships).  In addition to those at Hope Baptist, this includes our very gracious hosts, Peter, Sunette and Levson, at the bed and breakfast inn where we stayed throughout our visit.  We also said goodbye to Katie’s friend Busi, who boarded a bus in Pretoria to begin her night-long journey back to Zimbabwe.  It was such a joy to have Busi and her sweet spirit join us these many days – she was such a blessing to us all.

Antoine & Mel with our host, Peter
We boarded the plane in Johannesburg on Tuesday evening around 8pm and strapped in for the longest ride of all – almost 17 hours from South Africa to Atlanta.  We have survived that and arrived in Atlanta and went through customs on Wednesday morning before 7AM.  We are writing this final post while en route (another 4 hours in the air) from Atlanta to wonderful Phoenix and will arrive just after 10:00AM Arizona time.
As we reflect on this trip, we are blessed by so many things and could write endless paragraphs about how God arranged things the way He wanted, or as we have said many times, given us Divine Appointments.  We are overwhelmed by the experience with the African people and our privilege to talk and pray with so many of them face to face.  We are delighted by the many decisions for Christ that were made this week and humbled by the protection he granted our team even in the midst of a scary situation while literally stuck in the middle of a wild game reserve – none of us saw that coming, but our Lord did and showed us His love yet again.

Keith in the Johannesburg airport saying goodbye to
Julius, Cintia, Emmanuel and Daniel
While this journey has come to a close, we hope that you do not stop praying as the journey of Hope Baptist Church in Pretoria is a work of God in progress.  Pray for Julius and Cintia and the leaders of HBC as they must now take on the monumental task of the followup of many hundreds of new connections that were made with the residents of Sunnyside this week.  Pray that they not lose heart and give them the strength they need to nurture and harvest those seeds that were planted.  Pray for the people of Sunnyside that were introduced to the ministry of Hope Baptist, and for those that were introduced to Jesus – pray that God is continually revealed to them and that lives are truly changed.  Pray for this team at First Southern as we return home and that we are forever changed by this experience – that we are reminded daily and apply the things we’ve been taught on this trip.  And finally, pray for future ministry teams that may make a similar journey in the future.  It is apparent that this is a long-standing and fruitful relationship with our “sister church” in Pretoria, South Africa!

Thanks so much for following along on this blog and we hope you have enjoyed “experiencing” this incredible journey along with us.  We mostly thank you for your prayer support, which was felt daily.  God Bless.

Here's the in-flight display at about 12 hours into the flight -- still
5 hours to go!

Mona, Katie & Mel riding the inter-terminal train in Atlanta while
we connect from the South Africa flight to our last leg -- home
to Phoenix!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 10 - All Creatures Of Our God And King

Clockwise from top left: Zebra, Impala, Giraffe & Wildebeest
What do 2 posts, 8 hippos & 1 winch have in common?.... Keep reading and you will find out!

With our week of ministry with Hope Baptist coming to a close on Sunday, we spent Monday at the Pilanesberg National Park & Game Reserve, in the rain for the most part making the roads a bit slippery. It is a huge game park (over 220 sq miles in area) where people either hire a driving tour or do a driving tour themselves. We chose to take our van into the park, with our faithful Emmanuel driving yet again, and had a lovely time...for the most part. We identified 10 different birds and 10 different larger animals including giraffe, kudu, rhino, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, vervet monkey and our favorite visitor of the day, hippo. Though we did not find elephant or lion as we drove, we were in awe of God's beautiful creation! The signs around the park make it clear that you should remain in your vehicle at all times, except in special safe areas that are usually encircled with electric fencing to keep the animals at bay.

We are reminded that this "park" can be a dangerous
place and the animals should be respected
Here's where it got interesting...

Towards the end of our tour we were driving over a small dam which created a small lake or watering hole on one side, when the front tire of our van slid to the side of the road and got stuck on a small log post sticking out of the ground. There were a number of posts in a row for the purpose of helping vehicles not fall off the side of the small embankment. Well, we tested them and they did their job in keeping us safe. But, we were stuck. So, we all unloaded and the 4 women watched (and videotaped) the 6 men as they all had different ideas as to what needed to be done. We were close to having the van free though it was still slippery close to the edge and the front left tire was precariously off the side of the road. After about 10 minutes of struggling with the van the women realized the watering hole was home to a "crush" of hippos. A smaller hippo became 

Our "friends" in the water gather and keep an eye on
the humans...
interested and swam our way which then brought the other 7 with him. At this point we knew we were not safe out of the van and all climbed back into the van. This is when we realized we had another situation. No one had cell phone service. For a few minutes we watched as the hippos gave us a show. They snorted and "barked" and blew water and showed off their enormous mouths! Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa -- not because they hunt people but because the bulls are so aggressive.

At any time during our "imprisonment" in the van we could hear short or long prayers being lifted up. God in his mercy not only kept the hippos in the water but allowed Pastor Julius to realize he had cell service for a brief time and he placed a call to the game park who then sent out "3 blokes" to help us out. 2 were professional hunters who came toting their rifles and one had a winch on his jeep which pulled us out with a bit of grunting and groaning. 

A Jeep, a winch and men with rifles...all helped us out
of a very sticky situation

So, what do these 3 things have in common? As we reflected back on the hour and a half long ordeal we think that at one point or another they all kept us safe. The posts kept the van safe from sliding off the embankment, the hippos got us back in the vehicle so we would be forced to wait for the ranger keeping the van safe (as well as from sliding further off) and the winch finally set us free from our predicament.

This is an example of your prayers' effectiveness. Even before, during and after you were praying for us, God knew what we would need, and that it would include 2 posts, 8 hippos and 1 winch!

Today was our last full day in South Africa.  Tomorrow will be packing up and beginning our long journey home.  We are ready!

Here are a few more pictures from today (click once on each to enlarge):

Katie, Antoine, Emmanuel, Julius and Kevin stop
and stretch their legs in the "safe" area

This is a Southern Red Bishop - a bird unique to Africa

Keith has a discussion (after we were back to safety) with
the game park staff that responded to our need for help

Like these baby warthogs, we will be exiting -- leaving South Africa
for home sweet home on Wednesday evening

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 9 - Sunday of Hope

The Hope Baptist praise team rehearses before
the beginning of the Sunday service
"Salibonani Linjani!" We greet you in Ndebele which is a commonly spoken language in South Africa. If you were in the First Southern Scottsdale worship service this morning, this is the way we finished our live video Skype session with the church. What fun for us to see the beginning of the service from our side of the computer.

Rain greeted us this morning in Pretoria and it was very heavy at times – the streets of Sunnyside were quieter than we have seen all week. We don't know why God chose to bring the rain on a day when we were expecting many new faces but, we know God is in control and the rain was in His plan. Morning worship will be a lasting memory as we sang and prayed with our Hope family. Mitch McDonald brought the message 

The rain fell in Pretoria and the faithful came to church anyway
encouraging us all to let our lights shine in the dark worlds we live in. No matter how dark the darkness is, light always penetrates. Pastor Julius recognized a number of police officers who had joined the service with police Bibles we had brought from the States. He also graciously recognized Pastor Francois Smit who is the pastor from the Dutch Reformed church whose building Hope Baptist uses. Hope Baptist Church would be a very different church without Pastor Francois. He has broken down many barriers and has a purposeful relationship with Pastor Julius.

We said many goodbyes today as we will not see many of the church members again during our time here. Katie's friend Busi says "Even though parting is painful we part so we can meet. If we don't meet again here we will meet in glory."

Katie poses with some of the smiling members
of Hope Baptist, including her long-time friend
Busi who joined us from Zimbabwe

This afternoon has given us a much needed rest. After our Skype session with the congregation all 8 of us, Busi included, sat around a table and each shared a song that reflected our personal times here, along with a way God spoke to each of us during the past 9 days. None of us would have guessed the way God would have shown up in each of our lives. While we came to see how we might be a light to the African people, we were doubly blessed and know that the Lord allowed us to experience this trip for our own edification as well.  God is a personal God to all of us, smiling down -- we are the ones He desperately loves.
Tomorrow we will get up very early for a drive to a wild game preserve where we will see more of God’s creation and His creatures for our last full day here in South Africa.

Here are more pictures from today (click once on each to enlarge):

Pastor Mitch gives a short sermon on being light
in a dark world

Pastor Julius and sister Keni Matthews present special
 Bibles to Pretoria police officers in recognition
of their service.


Pastor Julius recognizes Pastor Francois Smit (right) for his
significant support of Hope Baptist Church and Keith
prepares to present a Bible to Francois.


The visiting Arizona team is recognized during the service.  The men
are given wooden Africa carvings and the women were lovingly
draped with South African flags.


The team gathers on Sunday evening in South Africa --
but Sunday morning in Scottsdale -- for a Skype session
with the Scottsdale congregation.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 8 - Saturday Training, Shopping & Sights

The ladies of HBC and other churches join with Mona, Katie,
Mel & Busi to learn of effective Children's Ministry techniques
Where has the week gone!?! Can you believe we have been here a week? Nope, us either. Today began with a training for Children's Ministry workers and potential church planters. Mitch & Mona McDonald led their respective groups. Mel & Katie helped with the children's workers session and had a wonderful time with 8 other women, representing 4 different churches. Mona brought a great lesson on the different learning styles of children and the circle of learning, making sure the children have experienced what they need to in order to apply & practice a truth from Scripture. Mitch led a number of men in great conversation regarding future church plants -- Pastor Julius has a vision for 5 new church planters by the end of 2014.

During a walking tour of Pretoria, Keith buys an ear of corn from
a street vendor and Antoine tries on a new hat

Not everyone had an “assignment” this morning, so some of the team got to hit the streets of Pretoria to experience a little more “up close and personal” view of the city.  Kevin, Antoine & Keith (along with Emmanuel who you’ll read about next) put in about a 4 mile round trip on foot from the campus of Hope Baptist to Church Square (a famous center of Pretoria) and back.  They experienced a lot of new sights, sounds and smells and gained a new appreciation for Pretoria and its people.  Later in the afternoon, the entire team got the chance to go to an open-air market to do a little shopping, since we have had entirely full days prior to today and have not had such an opportunity. 

Antoine with our faithful driver, Emmanuel,
who has become a good friend during this week
We need to mention someone who has been incredibly helpful to us and has made our trip much more than it could have been. Emmanuel has been our personal chauffeur all week, driving our rented van from where we’re staying to the church and back and all over Pretoria to find food or show us a new sight or wherever the team needed to go. He has taken off working as a driver of his "truck for hire" service in order to transport us. What an example of true servant-leadership. He is also the Evangelism Director with Hope Baptist Church. He was with the team of volunteers all week sharing openly the love of God! He has laughed with us on too many occasions and patiently answered questions as we seek to understand cultural differences. He is the brother we never knew we had, but now are so glad God introduced us to him! Thank you Emmanuel for loving us (and keeping us safe through the sometimes crazy streets of Pretoria)!

We head to bed tonight in anticipation of a great day tomorrow at Hope Baptist Church as we get to experience our second Sunday worship service of this trip.  We do not know what God has in store, but with the incredible week of sharing with hundreds upon hundreds of people that didn’t previously know about Hope Baptist Church, we can only imagine!
Here are a few more pictures from today (click once on each image to enlarge):

David and Jean-Claude do a little music practice
in preparation for tomorrow's big service

Here's a common mode of transportation for little
ones on mama's back in Pretoria

Here's a woman working on some bead creations
while we were out at the market doing

some shopping

Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 7 - Glasses Campaign Comes To A Close

Keith and Antoine get tables and chairs set in place for our
final day of glasses distribution
"Thank you" are two simple words that hold so many meanings for us today. We heard this phrase over and over as we led people to Christ and prayed with people in need of jobs and family situations. Thank you was said from the volunteers as we closed up the "glasses campaign" for the week. And our hearts burst with thanks back to them for allowing us the opportunity to participate. We say thank you to God for calling us to come and for using us! What a week it has been with over 1,000 people exposed to the Gospel - a seed planted, watered, harvested or grown - all happening from these last five days. We also were able to say "Thank you" for the two meals provided to us by the church members today. What fun we had sitting with the people we have worked alongside all week deepening relationships and encouraging one another. Thank you also to those of you in America who gave the almost 2,000 pairs of glasses we brought over! Thank you also for praying and helping make this trip so effective!

Kevin with the young man who called himself "Blessings" - he
lost both his father and mother and lives on the streets of Pretoria,
yet he promised he would come to church this Sunday
One thing that has been evident as we share the Gospel is that so many people say they do not know if they are going to heaven but once we have led them through the verses, they realize they have actually made this decision and DO know for sure. Some may just be saying yes to say yes but others it appears have made the decision in the past but have not been trained or taught. "Thank you" Hope Baptist Church for being a light to the community of Sunnyside in the way of training/discipleship of the believers in what and why we believe what we believe.

If you have noticed while you have read the past blogs we are a team, and many of the volunteers have HOPE shirts with the "O" being the continent of Africa. These have been quite the conversation starters. As Mel Anderson says, when people ask about them it's easy to share the Gospel.

Mitch McDonald experienced a different kind of ministry today as he had to take a trip to the dentist for a cracked tooth. God put him there to share with literally all of the office staff and everyone in the waiting room. Who knows why God orchestrates this type of "bad luck" during a trip like this, but even so, we can say "Thank you" for the plan at work that we do not see.

Here are a few more pictures from today (click once on each to enlarge):

There are a lot of smiles in Africa!

Our friend Busi from Zimbabwe who we have adopted into our
team always seems to attract children

Some local hairdressers offered to help
Katie with her braids

Assistant Pastor Daniel is in charge of the BBQ grill
for our Friday celebration dinner

Cintia, Christine & Funke are ready to serve the celebration
dinner meal

The volunteers and our FSBCS team gathers for the
celebration dinner at Hope Baptist

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 6 - The Harvest Is Plenty

Our Thursday started on an incredible note, as we arrived on campus at Hope Baptist to continue another
Mona shares with Robin
day of sharing the Gospel with those that would come to receive free glasses and sunglasses.  Our friend Rigobert (whom you met yesterday in our Day 5 post) was already there and he had brought a young lady whose eyes were filled with tears.  He waved to Kevin and invited him to come and meet "Robin."  Kevin learned that Rigobert had just met Robin that very morning as they waited at a bus stop and ended up sharing a taxi ride into town -- where he felt led to talk to her about Jesus.  Kevin then waved Mona into the picture and she shared the gospel with Robin who was so very willing and ready to accept the Lord into her life and she did just that with several of the team surrounding her.  The prayer that she prayed on her own and the words that came from her mouth were truly inspired and she seemed to fully understand the change that was taking place in her life at that moment.  She was the happiest
Robin happily shows off her new Bible and her new birthday!
young lady that you can imagine and Mona gave her one of the "Fisherman's Bible" New Testaments that we have been using to share the Gospel.  Mona suggested she write her name and her "born again" birthday (today!) on the front page of the Bible so she will always remember.  Robin said she will be at Hope Baptist on Sunday, so pray with us that she follows through on that so she can continue to be surrounded by believers as she is such a new Christian.

And that, our friends, is just ONE story from today that occurred even before we opened the front gate to the church!  Once the gate was opened, people continued to stream through that gate and were at times lined up 10 or 12 deep as they came for the free glasses and the chance to find out what excitement was happening at the church at the end of the street!

The line (or "queue" as they say here in South Africa)
to speak to a volunteer was often quite long.
A lady named Judith sat with Katie. She said she prayed a lot and that is how she would get to heaven. After being led through verses on salvation she realized she had never made that decision. She prayed and then Katie prayed. She opened her eyes in amazement and said, "When you pray for me I see light." She had not experienced this before. Katie encouraged her that that was God telling her she had made the right decision.  Speaking of decisions, there were SEVERAL other decisions for Christ made today as God continues to bless this little church in a mighty way!

We've also had many people either looking for or not having a church. Maybe they have found their family coming to Hope Baptist! Pastor Julius is expecting a BIG Sunday. We figured the church building could possible hold about 400-500 but it seems like a good motto for Africa would be "There's always room for one more!" We wait in anticipation to see how many God brings.

Another possible exciting contact made today was Mitch & Mona McDonald, Keith Matney and Pastor Julius, who met with a reach out organization in Pretoria that has a medical facility. They are interested in maybe beginning a pregnancy center outreach to Pretoria much like what Arizona Baptist Children Services runs in the Arizona pregnancy centers. Of course Mona is the best contact for them! 
So tomorrow will be our final day of distributing glasses and evengelizing in that way, and we so look forward to Sunday morning -- but let's not get ahead of ourselves and see what the Lord has in store for Friday and Saturday!
Here are more pictures from today (click once to enlarge each image):
Antoine, Mel, Mitch and Mona are
ready to start the day.
Although many are coming to seek the Lord at Hope Baptist,
we are reminded of poverty and homelessness that is ever
present, just a few steps from the church's front entrance.
Mimi from Hope Baptist and Keith from First
Southern Scottsdale -- working together

to further His kingdom!

Delilla from the country of Burundi -- and a member of
Hope Baptist -- displays her authentic West African
clothing, while her daugther Andrea squeezes in.
Four friends arrive after school and Busi takes them all on
at once!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 5 - More Outreach and Trash Pickup Event

Above, Samuel waves from the open gate and the people start coming for free
glasses and a chance to talk to the volunteers.  Terrence (lower left) has
been running the audio and playing music through the sound system
to attract the crowds, and Funke (lower right in red shirt, pronounced
FWEN-kay), an HBC member and volunteer speaks to one of the visitors.
Another day down. It's been a good day, profitable in sharing the Gospel. We have had a number of salvation decisions, even as the rain came down for a bit this morning and squeezed us ever closer under the blue and white tent -- but people came anyway. When we tell the people that the glasses are free or "mahala," some cannot believe it -- nothing is free. But yes! We are privileged to also tell them of the ultimate gift of eternal life that is truly free! 

After a morning of distributing many more glasses, we changed it up in the afternoon as we participated in a "clean up campaign" walking down the main street of Sunnyside in our green or red t-shirts that say HOPE and picked up trash in the midst of all the bustle of the city.  Pastor Julius was very excited for us to do this as he says it is very rare for anyone in Pretoria to volunteer to clean up for no pay. We got many side-ways glances and questions as to what we were doing, but we were proud to be able to point them to the church at the end of the street.  Kevin had spoken with one gentleman earlier in the day and when this man saw us picking up trash in the afternoon, he yelled in a lighhearted tone to Kevin, "American man!  What are you doing??"

Interested people from all walks of Pretoria come and fill every chair
under the tent.
The Hope Baptist Church volunteers that have joined us everyday are becoming so dear to our hearts. We would love to pack many in our suitcases when we come home. We have shared in laughter and tears. Much of the laughter comes from a young man named Rigobert, who grew up in the African country of Cameroon, but now lives in Pretoria. He has a great smile, very friendly and a man on fire for the Gospel -- not ashamed! Pastor Julius has told him that he is the "first on his list" for his 5 church planters he is seeking in 2014.

Tears of prayer came to us in the news yesterday afternoon about Musa, a son of a very dedicated couple from HBC, Paballo & Pinkie. He ate something at school which caused him to vomit immediately and pass out into a coma. The doctors at the hospital were not giving the parents a favorable report. Pastor Julius was afraid the boy would be fatal. Throughout the afternoon and evening we prayed as our group went out. What a miracle to hear today that the boy had regained consciousness and had even, beyond our belief, been sent home with his Grandma!

Here's the FSBCS team out for a bite of lunch, along with our African
friends Emmanuel and Busi who are helping immeasurably
Our new friend Busi (Katie's friend from Zimbabwe) has been an inspiration to all of us as we begin to fall in love with this gracious and humble spirit. She has no hesitation in sharing the Gospel along side us, breaking out in prayer (and song!) and is constantly giving God the credit for the miracles He does in our lives. This evening she gave a short singing concert to some on the team in two of the languages of Zimbabwe. The last song she shared told of the truth that man's love is measured, but God's love is endless.  We look forward to seeing more examples of His endless love as we continue to serve tomorrow.

Here are more pictures from today (click once to enlarge):

Two more visitors are happy to recieve new sunglasses!
As the rain fell for a time this morning, we squeezed tightly under
the tent, but the event continued -- later the sunshine would return
for our trash pickup event in the afternoon

The AZ team and the HBC volunteers join forces to
"Keep Pretoria Clean and Green"

Two of the adorable children of the hard-working volunteers and
members of Hope Baptist -- you can say "Awwwww..."