Thursday, February 1, 2018

Missed Opportunities and God’s Grace

Well, I found our blog again!   I have thought about it many times and seem to never get to updating it.... well, let me say it a little better ... I never took the time to just sit down and start typing.   Laziness and avoidance!   So, it’s a new year and I would like get this blog active again. 

Mainly because: 
1 - it is really the only way I record important things going on that I don’t want to forget
2 - to share with you the things we are so blessed to be apart of living & serving here in South Africa & Mozambique
3 - To give ALL Glory to God for all He is at work doing in and through our family as we live to serve Him 

my life 
His Purpose
our journey

In order to really explain what has been going on I need to back up and give a brief explanation.   Well, more detailed than brief but if you know me I can’t help it!

When we moved here to serve with Samaria Mission in 2009, I knew that Mark would be going in to Moz each month to teach the pastors and leaders from the churches in the area the mission works with.   I was excited for him.   He is a great teacher and we were living here serving together.   I got to help with the planning, grocery shopping and meal prep for him to go.  All areas that are my comfort zone.  I like, well I should really say, I love planning and organinzing.   I have grown a lot in the area of cooking too, especially adjusting to living in a different country with different food and cooking for a lot more people than just my family of four.  That is a whole other subject and many years of being scared in the outreach kitchen tent, lots of help and encouragement from Sharyn and Gena AND lots of prayer as I prepared each meal.

Ok, back to this thought burning on my mind for months now ... 

As the years went by, circumstances around us and in the mission were always changing as God brought new people to serve with Samaria Mission and He moved some people away and even called my friend, Jill, home to be with Him.   As a mission staff, we desire to serve The Lord, share the Gospel, disciple and encourage those we work with to GO and serve, share The Gospel and disciple those in their community so they can come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  

As the years went on, many opportunities to teach increased.  You see, when we first moved here Mark would go to Moz and I would stay home with the kids, homeschool and be mom.   Then in 2012, the Lord sent Julia here to help Luke with homeschooling.  This did free me up to be able to travel with Mark and the staff to Mozambique and even to Zimbabwe.   I loved going with Mark.   As time went on, Debbie and then also Jill joined the mission staff and they both had a heart for teaching the women in Mozambique.  I was so happy for both of them and the fact that God brought gifted teachers to teach the women.   As time went on, Debbie moved back to the States and Sharyn then decided to continue teaching the women in the Xikumbane training hub.   God had also called Jill home and I knew that someone needed to teach the women in the Dumela/Mbuzi hub and I don’t remember all the details but I said I would do it but I didn’t have “peace” about the timing of when to start it.  

The women in that hub had already been sitting in with the men’s teaching under Mark, Brad and Member and in my mind it didn’t make sense to pull them from that just yet (I didn’t see that as an excuse at the time but just a timing thing and waiting on the “perfect” time).  I continued to travel with Mark and the guys to Moz but didn’t teach.   I also would say things like, well the dynamics are different in this hub as when the river is high we can’t cross to Dumela and not all the wives living on the Dumela side would cross the river to come to training in Mbuzi so rather wait until we are back in Dumela before we start teaching the ladies there etc, etc etc.... You see in my mind, I was willing but just waiting on God to provided the opportunity to begin.   Years went by and I continued to get more responsibilities with outreaches and preparations for teams to come etc.   Remember, planning /organizing is my comfort zone, it doesn’t come without stress and a lot of times feeling like I can’t do it but pressing in to the Lord and with His help I would get it done.    

Meanwhile, we had also been going to teach a Bible Study in Mentz at Meriams house.  Oops, I said “we” but really Mark was the teacher.  I was happy in my role to get the pictures copied for their books and hold any pictures Mark needed for teaching.   Oh and when he had to be gone for Moz we simply canceled because the teacher would be gone.  Until one day, we shared that the next week Mark would be in Moz so we would not meet and Meriam said, “NO, we want the whole chicken” still trying to figure out how Mark and I make a whole chicken but basically what she meant is that I can teach when Mark is not there.   So, at that moment I said ok and although I was scared to death  I began to prepare to teach the next lesson.   Oh, and guess what it was .... Genesis Chapter 3 and as one commentary I read was basically saying if you don’t understand Genesis 3, you miss the point of the Bible ... sin entered the world and God needed to send a Deliverer to redeem His people.    Of all the lessons, that was to be my first lesson!  But God, through His grace, love and mercy carried me through it and I grew.    It was a highlight for me as I experienced God working through me that day as I was scared to death to teach.  Since, then I do teach when Mark is not able to make it.  It is not me, but Christ who does it!   

Fast forward to 2017 ... Chantel was getting settled in her knew role and she began to have a heart for teaching the women.  This was great!    I told her I would be happy to work with her.   She would take the lead and set up what to teach and I would come alongside her and we could trade off every other month so that one of us would be home with kids from both families and the other one could teach.   So, as it got closer to time for my month, I was swamped with outreach planning and prep and in my mind I thought well, this will give Chantel extra time with the women and to establish how she would like for the teaching to go and I could stay and watch all the kids and continue to work on the planning and prepping for outreaches.   I felt like that extra week of work on the planning would help me and she would have extra time in the bush.   At the time, it seemed like it was the right thing to do.  There I was with an opportunity to go and teach the women and there I sat with plenty of excuses (but keep in mind, I didn’t see it at the time as excuses just valid reasons to not go and it seemed ok).   

Outreaches came and the decision was made to hold a training while we were in Mbuzi with the CBC team.  This gave Chantel another opportunity to teach the women and Debs (a friend and team member) was able to assist Chantel in the teaching.  I was able to go and sit in on the teaching one afternoon so I could see how they taught.  This way I would be able to carry on with what they had taught when I did go in to teach in the months to come.   The Lord is always at work in and through all of us.   You see, Chantel desired to teach the women but the Lord was also showing her that she is in a season of being a new wife and mom and that He was calling her to stay in Polokwane for this time and minister to her family.     

I knew that I needed to continue with the teaching that she had begun in the beginning of 2017.   I began to prepare for the training that would happen at the beginning of October.   One morning in my quiet time, I found a recent sermon preached by Brian Hutchinson at PaulAnn.   The title was God Cares for The One from Acts 8:26-40.   

For me that day, God was showing me that He had given me many opportunities in life to step out and serve Him.   I had many opportunities that I had a choice to take or not take.    I was reminded in that sermon that God will still choose to use me even when I choose to avoid opportunities.   As I listened to that sermon, I thought back to all the reasons why I hadn’t taught the ladies in Moz.   Remember, in my mind in those moments they were valid reasons but now looking back I see I just used them as excuses to avoid the opportunities God had for me.  I made excuses because I was afraid.  Afraid, of saying the wrong thing, afraid of teaching something wrong, afraid of the huge responsibility of teaching, afraid of failing and the list can go on and on.   Fear ruled and I gave in to that fear (like so many other times) instead of trusting in God to carry me through the tasks (opportunities) He had for me.  

Brain talked about obedience, being surrendered to God, knowing God’s way was always better.   He shared that the word surrender means, “to chose to stop resisting.”   Too many times we picture surrender in a negative way, to give up, throw in the towel, etc.    Instead I need to see surrender as the act of holding on tight to God and go where He leads and not just giving up.   Was I willing to surrender to God and obey and trust Him when He gives me opportunities?  OR was I going to yet again, give into fear of man, fear of failure, fear of whatever .... ?  So that day on my Lapa, I sat there with NO MORE excuses (even though at the time in the past they were legitimate reasons in my mind).   I told the Lord I was sorry for not trusting Him and taking the many opportunities He had given me.  Later that day, I shared what The Lord was doing in my life with Chantel and she shared what the Lord was doing in her life when it came to this season of being a wife and mom.   It was encouraging to me see The Lord was busy working this all out even when I was blind to it.   

Well in October, I went back to Moz for training with Mark but this time I was ready to teach the women (although still very scared but I had peace knowing that God was the One doing this I just needed to be willing.)  I carried on from where Chantel had left off and the time together with the women went well.    November came and we had our annual Pastors conference and it was decided that the men and women would stay together for the teaching as the topics were needed for both.  Sharyn and I attended the conference but I will admit I was thankful that we didn’t have to teach.  You see, that fear is still so strong in me.   

Well, that brings us to this past week in January when Mark and I traveled to Dumela for training.    I had studied and prepared for the teaching, still scared but had more peace and I knew God would do this if I just trusted Him.   He sent 35 women to the teaching!   They sat there on the ground on Wednesday morning, under a Lapa that is leaning with a thatch (grass) roof that is very thin, in temperatures over 105F and soaked in the Word of God.  These ladies are hungry for The Word.   Samaria Mission’s desire is to teach The Word to the leaders in the church so they will go back to their local church and village and teach their people and share The Gospel.   As I taught, with sweat dripping down my back, I was overwhelmed with God’s grace, His mercy and His love for me.  That in all my years of dragging my feet, disobeying and even finding peace in legitimate excuses, He still chose to use me in teaching these women.   I was teaching them and yet at the same time repenting of my disobedience and overwhelmed with His love in that moment.   I really can not describe that moment!   Even as I type this, trying to record for me what The Lord has been doing in me, these written words seem so short!   But it’s enough to help remind me that all I need to do is surrender, choose to stop resisting, hold on to God and go where He leads, obey Him and trust Him to do the work in and through me!   

Acts 8:26-27 “Now an angel of the Lord said to Phillip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.  This is a desert place.  And he rose and went ....”

Oh, that I would be more like Philip in those moments when God tells me to go and do, that I will just rise and go .... no questions asked, just trusting God and obeying and therefore being used in reaching the one He has for me in those moments.   





Sunday, April 23, 2017

What Have the Kids Been Up To?

The Lord has been growing Brit in many areas over the last few months.  We are so proud of how she continues to draw her strength from The Lord.  It is not easy being so far away from each other but it has been a joy to watch The Lord direct her path.  

Here are just a few highlights we would love to share with you... 

She has been given a job at the school's newspaper as a photographer.  Check out the latest edition of the paper here

Brit was asked to give her testimony during a fundraiser evening for the PaulAnn Mozambique Mission team.   We are thankful for technology that allows for us to be able to watch our girl give her testimony for the first time on the stage in front of a large group of people.   We praise The Lord for the work He has done and continues to do in her life.  You can watch her testimony here.  

This past weekend Brit went to Austin to shoot her first engagement photos for my cousin.   She is very excited about this opportunity and looking forward to shooting the wedding in October.  

 
 

It has been fun to watch Luke continue to grow into a young man.  He is a lot of fun to have around and very helpful around the house.  He continues to spend his time in school, working out at the gym, helping with jr. youth, participates in sr. youth.  He also helps with the sound team and the crèche team on a rotating basis.   Last month Kim had the boys build a catapult for school.  It was fun to watch Luke plan and build his catapult.   



 

 

 

This past month he was able to go on a hike with some of his friends in the Wokberg for two nights.  He always comes back with stories to tell.  This last time we heard about spiders and baboons!  

before they left for the hike

after two days in the mountains
 April 19th he had to have his tonsils out.  It's not a fun surgery when you are almost 17.  He is still recovering and dealing with the pain.  I am sure he is hoping the next few weeks will fly by so he can eat (more than toast and jello) and get back to the gym.  

on the way to the Operating Room



Saturday, April 22, 2017

April Training

Training was the week of April 4th - 7th.  Mark traveled with Member, Brad and Chantel to Mbuzi while the Vaughan's and Derricka and Stanford traveled on to Xikumbane.  Below are pics and updates they sent me from the bush.  I stayed in Polokwane with Luke and The Hixon kids.   This gives Chantel time to go in with Brad and teach the ladies as her time in Moz during outreaches will be limited because of the kids schooling.  This also allowed me to get a lot of work done towards our logistic planning for outreaches.   


Dumela/Mbuzi Hub

Because the Limpopo River is still high and flowing the training was held in Mbuzi.  Most of the pastors were able to take a boat and cross the river for training.  This is the first time this year we have been able to have training with this hub.  The river was too strong for them to safely cross the last two months.  


Wednesday was a busy day teaching and fellowshipping with the pastors and their wives.  Member started the men's teachings and taught on Jude 1:1-13... False teachers and how they make their way into church. Brad spent Wednesday afternoon as well as Thursday morning reviewing Lesson 3 in the Fundamentals of Faith focusing on Attributes of God.   Mark finished the teaching on Thursday with 2 Peter 1: 1-11 knowing and growing your faith in Christ.  

 

This is the first time in the Dumela/Mbuzi training hub that we are beginning teaching the women separate.   Chantel was excited to begin this new opportunity with the women.  She enjoyed getting to know them and studying God's Word together.  They went through  Fundamentals of Faith Lesson 1 which focuses on the Bible, why its not just another Book, what it is all about and why it is important.  The ladies have an understanding about the Books of the Bible and how to find verses.  They also spent time studying Psalm 23 and Psalm 39 as well as taking time to get to know each other.   During some of their discussions, the ladies had some questions regarding sin.  Chantel spent time going through The Gospel with them.  


They ended Wednesday evening with a church service where one of the local pastors preached.  


They enjoy their time with the pastors and their wives.  It was a great time of teaching, fellowship and spending time in the presence of The Lord. 


Thursday afternoon they distributed seeds to the pastors to take home and distribute between their church members in their various villages. 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  

Xikumbane Training Hub

The training is going well, and we are continuing in our teaching in Fundamentals of the Faith.  The men are currently learning about Prayer and the ladies are currently learning about Salvation.


Most of the men have been able to attend this session and the ladies have also been faithful in their attendance.


William gave the new teaching material out today and the church leaders are confident that they will be able to teach the introductory lessons before the teams  arrive.  They are very excited about having another resource in their own language.