Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Resolution and Renovation

This morning I was reading about the dream of King Solomon and the choice he made…he asked the Lord for wisdom.

I have been told many times that if you want to learn something well, teach it. Louise and I have been teaching clergy and lay folk in the Anglican Church in Southern Africa about how to make disciples. That, in itself, is a challenge. But this past week, we examined the character of the disciple-maker according to the character of the One we are meant to emulate…the One in whose footsteps we are meant to follow…the Lord Jesus Himself.

As we encouraged our trainees to examine their lives according to the life of Christ, I heard that still, small voice softly whispering in my ear. “Johann, are you living according to these priorities? Are you dependent on the leading and guiding of My Holy Spirit? Do you seek Me out in prayer as often as you could? Are you always obedient to Me? Is your life centred on My Word? Do you exalt Me in and through your life? Are you as relational as I am?”

I have been pondering these questions ever since, asking the Lord for wisdom as to how I am to respond to this conviction. Unlike so many Lenten resolutions that vanish like mist before the sun, I want this to be long lasting and deepening with time.

I tend to get so busy “doing the Lord’s work” that I miss the Lord Himself! The Lord Jesus knew full well what the disciples would have done had He not told them to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the Promise from the Father. Surely those long days and nights filled with prayer and supplication had an impact on their character…waiting, trusting, watching…all the while not knowing quite what to expect.

Louise and I have recently moved to the little village of Villiersdorp, about 2 hours drive from Cape Town. The reason for moving was, for the most part, financial as we simply could not afford the rent of the flat we were living in…not while we had a house to live in elsewhere! But now, I am beginning to see another angle to this move…Villiersdorp is a quiet hamlet…a place where one can wait on the Lord without disturbance.

Of course, we are far from idle! Shortly after we told our tenants that we would need our home and that they ought to find alternative accommodation, they had a mishap and nearly burned down our kitchen! Thankfully, we were insured and so renovations began almost immediately after we moved in. It is nearing completion as I write. But so much still needs to be done…some walls and parts of the ceiling are still black from smoke and need to be cleaned and repainted.

We are also hoping to get more involved with the local community, especially those less fortunate in the informal settlement above the village. Just how we are going to do this remains to be seen, but more than likely it will be with and through the local Anglican Church, St Augustine’s. Training continues and we will be travelling yet again in the beginning of March to teach Strategy.

Then, we will be winging our way over to the US of A, hopefully to see you!

We still have no definite speaking engagements, but trust that we will be hearing from you soon!

Pray with us for wisdom as we continue to wait on our Lord. Like our home, we too need renovation!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Report on Foundations Training in the Johannesburg Diocese: 23, 24 February 2018

The LEAD Program consists of four modules, namely Strategy which explores the method Jesus used to make disciples, Foundations which identifies six key priorities for disciple-makers based on Jesus own ministry priorities, Vision which focuses on helping leaders define their calling, grow in godly character traits and develop their own unique competencies as leaders, and lastly Multiplication which identifies different stages of Jesus’ ministry and examines how He grew an effective movement of disciple making which changed the world.

So far, we have only taught the first module…until now!

We were thrilled to be invited back to the Diocese of Johannesburg to teach those who had previously gone through the Strategy training all about the six key priorities outlined in Foundations. It was good to meet up again with some of our old trainees, but also to meet a few new folk who were trained by them! The whole idea of LEAD is to train those who will then train others…and we are seeing a few of the Dioceses doing this…one of which is the Diocese of Johannesburg.

There were 25 individuals present, although a few either did not make the first day or the second day due to prior commitments. That is always difficult when working with such active clergy and laity!

While one does not look for a pat on the back, it is always good to have some form of feedback. This is what we received from one participant:
“It was fantastic to have you guys with us! You are very special people and fun to be with. Thank you for your teaching and love for everyone up here. The training was superb! Well done for your first time.”

Please pray for our brethren in the Diocese of Johannesburg…they have a huge task and much opposition.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Report on Strategy Training in the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, Polokwane: 15, 16,17 February 2018

Louise and I flew up to Johannesburg on Wednesday, 14 February, to Johannesburg and then rented a car to drive up to Polokwane. We stayed with folk who have fast become really good friends, Luke and Jenny Pretorius. We enjoyed their amazing hospitality tremendously and were refreshed physically, mentally, and spiritually by the time we left.

We had a brief refresher training meeting with the trainers on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, 15 February, we drove down to a lovely Roman Catholic Retreat Centre called Mater Dei. After lunch, we started training more trainers for this Diocese. I had gone up to Polokwane last year to train a few selected folks in Strategy and they now helped us train both clergy and and a group of selected lay folk...36 in total. Other than one training in Johannesburg and one in Swaziland, we have not used local trainers at this level before…there were six trainers and therefor each one could take a section each. They were absolutely marvellous! A few of them were quite young and we had wondered how the elders in the group would react to their training, but they did so well that no one had any reason to complain!

This was also only the second time we have had a Bishop (and a Ma Bishop!) present during training and only the very first time one has stayed for the entire course! What a blessing!

We also followed a different schedule that turned out to be the best so far. Instead of trying to fit it all in in two days, we started the first day after lunch, had one full day, and another half day ending with Eucharist and then lunch. I love ending the training with the Eucharist…what better place to end than where we offer and present to the Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to Him!

This is a unique Diocese in so many ways…the church community is very integrated and it is not strange to have several languages sung during the course of one service. This made me think of the vision of St John in the Revelation: “I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation, and tribe, and people, and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb…and they were shouting with a great roar. ‘Salvation comes from our God Who sits on the throne, and form the Lamb!’”

Surely, a glimpse of heaven on earth…

Monday, February 19, 2018

No tension here...

Polokwane…the Capital city of the Limpopo Province in north-eastern South Africa. This is a beautiful part of the country with large flat-topped thorn trees, shrubbery, and various types of tall grasses set in a mountainous terrain with crags and cliffs galore. Unfortunately, it is also a troubled part of the country with high crime rates, muggings, random farm attacks and murders.

Attending the local Anglican Church here, however, is a breath of fresh air. All ethnic groups are included in the services and their voices rise together in harmony as they gather together to celebrate their unity in Jesus. There is no tension here…only love and mutual respect. This is surely a witness to the world…this is the way God intended for us to live…this is Christian living at its best…this is walking as Jesus walked.

Our training was done over three days at a tranquil Roman Catholic retreat centre in nestled in the heart of the bushveld. We had 6 trained trainees teach with us, which was wonderful. I had come up to Polokwane alone last year and had trained a few select folks…now they were training other clergy and leaders in the Diocese, and they did such a great job! We are so proud of them! The next step is for those who are newly trained to take the material and teach it to the leaders in their respective churches…once that training has been completed, those leaders can train each parishioner under their care.

Of course, each one is expected to be making their own disciples along the way as well, but judging by what they have already accomplished, this should not be hard…this is a motivated Diocese and their love for God and their follow human beings is evident and obvious.

May the Lord continue to rain down His blessings on Polokwane!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Help doing the "ask"...

I will never forget one of the first times I spoke at a fund raising gathering. We were still in the US at the time, trying to raise enough funds to be sent out by SAMS to Gambela, Ethiopia. I showed slides to help the folks understand a bit more about what it was were being called to do and where this would take place in the world. We had visited Gambela before and had a few photographs to show the scope of the ministry there.

After what I thought was a fairly good talk, a dear friend and sacrificial supporter, Julie Conlon smiled and said: "Thank you, Johann for all that information, can we help you?"

I not done the "ask", as it is known in some missionary circles and Julie was helping me get over myself and spell out our needs.

I thought I had done a pretty good job with our latest prayer letter and blog post. But Julie is still in the business of helping me and her response to our Facebook post is classic. Clearly, Julie thought I had not done the "ask" she wrote:

"I would like to challenge all supporters in a most loving way to pray about increasing your support to Johann and Louise as they pour our their lives in South Africa and surrounding areas. The amount or percentage of the increase is up to you and the Lord. We have seen His faithfulness in the missionary efforts of Johann and Louise and in their individual lives as well. As we stretch ourselves financially for the spread of the kingdom of God, He will show Himself faithful to us as well. Spend time praying and then listening to what God wants you to do. Many blessings to you in the Name of the King of Kings!"

The only thing I could possibly add is simply this: Please, help us find new supporters. Gossip about us and this ministry in the Province of Southern Africa. Trying to get the word out into new circles is nearly impossible from across the ocean. We NEED your help. Please.

Thanks Julie for helping me (once again) to do the "ask"...