Photo above used by Permission. © Thrive Africa

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 12

Today was our last day of fellowship evangelism as well as our last day of ministry. The next two days will be spent going out on safaris before we leave late on Thursday evening. We spent the day planting gardens, talking with families, and giving Bibles to those families we met with. Bibles are readily available to us and in our language so we take for granted being able to read and study this book. As we give out Bibles in Sesotho we watch faces light up and people so thankful to finally have a Bible of their own to read. Dr. Keyes reminded each of us that these people continue to believe and have faith without having a Bible to study. This was definitely a humbling moment. One of the teams gave a Bible to a family who is trying to open a small food store. They also bought food from this the family and gave her money for food tomorrow and also eternal food. The stories are so many and we will return with a new outlook on life and what life ultimately means.

As we return each day to the Thrive Africa campus and share stories about our day we cannot but praise God. Dr. Keyes told us a story from the beginning of last week that showed again how God is working. One of the Thrive Africa coaches approached him with an issue. He said that when he read the Bible he would immediately forget what he read and lose his hearing for a few days afterward. Dr. Keyes met with him during lunch the next day and told him to write what he was reading and then read what he wrote to help him remember. He also did an inner healing session with him. He had him close his eyes and find a safe place which was a church. He then had the coach imagine the presence of God in this place which was light where no dark could be. The young man returned and reported to Dr. Keyes that he had been reading his Bible and was no longer having issues. God is using us for His work and we are continuing to be blessed with each encounter we have.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 11

Today we returned to the same area to continue fellowship evangelism. We spent the morning talking and building relationships with those who were at the houses we stopped at. One group spent the morning in a daycare where there were over 50 children and only two workers because three workers had failed to show for work. They enjoyed their time playing with the children and talking with the daycare workers. We planted several gardens for different families as we built the relationship and saw the need.

One group spent their afternoon talking with a young man about his brothers nightmares and how his family was dealing with it. The young man's mother is a Sangoma (shaman), and the family had been sacrificing animals to their ancestors to appease them. This team had a long discussion with the young man about how the Besotho tend to pray to God through their ancestors and how this is not needed. They tried to help him understand that it would not be giving up his traditions to begin speaking to God directly instead of through his ancestors.

Another team met with a young man who is disabled due to mental illness that he is required to take medication. The team planted a garden for him and his family. He reported that while the team was there his mind had quieted. This team also met with a grandmother who was 70. She was overjoyed to see the team and talk with them. She said visitors are always invited in and treated as if they were Jesus just in case one time they might be.

These examples and more are teaching us many things and helping us to see and appreciate life in new ways. We continuously see God not only in our beautiful surroundings but also in the beautiful people we are spending time with.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 10

Today we went to the church we are based out of for fellowship evangelism in Qwaqwa. We enjoyed another wonderful time of worship and time in the Word with the Besotho people. We returned to the campus and spent our time resting, taking walks, and enjoying our day off. It was wonderful to get some time to rest and recuperate from a long week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 9

Today we had a more relaxed day. A Compassion Fatigue presentation was given to the Thrive Africa interns with small groups afterwards and we went to a hospital in Harrismith. The time with the interns was short but we were given an opportunity to help them process some of the experiences they have had during their time here and encourage them to take care of themselves and one another as they finish their last two weeks of internship.

The hospital we visited had around 20 patients but this gave us many varied experiences. We broke up into three groups due to only having three interpreters and went to different wards. The group who went to the maternity ward visited with women who had just had their babies and also with two women who were having difficult pregnancies. Another team went into a ward that was designated the tuberculosis ward and talked with the women there. Two men in the team helped one woman get up so she could use the bathroom then helped her back to bed. They prayed with some of the women and reported that their countenances were raised and they seemed to be given hope even while being so close to death.

Another team went into the men's ward and talked with a man who reported having AIDS and tuberculosis. He was angry and bitter over having these diseases and refused to be prayed for. The women's ward provided opportunity to provide not only words and prayer but just presence to individuals who had not had visitors. The children's ward had a one-year-old boy who had tuberculosis and had been in the hospital for a couple of months and was expected to spend several more. His mother was with him but they had not had visitors in some time.

The contrasts in the patients were great as the teams moved through the wards and saw new life and then life that is being ravaged by disease. The one thing seen in all the wards in some of the patients was hope even though many of them were nearing death. Again the team was given a new look at life and what God is doing in this country and this area. It should be noted here that this is a country that has a 25 percent AIDS rate with many having already died and others nearing death due to this disease.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 8

Today we went into Qwa Qwa, broke up into four teams of four, and did friendship evangelism in the homes of people. The people are for the most part very receptive and willing to talk and share with us. We went to four different homes and had very different yet similar experiences as we spent time with the families. Some of us were in what would be considered middle class homes and others were in tin shanties.

The group that spent time with the family in the tin shanty discovered a family who loved and served God even through their severe poverty. The time spent there was described as having church. The team returned in the afternoon and planted spinach for the family. They also gave a Bible written in Sesotho, which was received as a treasure. This team returned energized and moved by the severe poverty that they saw.

Another team spent time with a family that was wealthy in material needs yet very bankrupt in needs of the heart. They talked with the oldest daughter for some time, which gave her an outlet to release the heavy burden she carried. She and her husband are separated and she desires to finish her education which he does not want. She refuses to be controlled or live with him while he drinks. She has not been able to share this with others and she was finally given an avenue to release her burden which has left her extremely stressed and depressed. This team also gave a Bible to this woman and she said that she had been given medicine.

One of the other teams did children's church with around 40 children. They played games, told a Bible story, and just enjoyed two hours with these children. The children love to play and spend time with the teams. They even followed the team back to the bus to say goodbye.

God could be seen in a variety of experiences, and we each knew we were with the family that God directed us to. To provide such gifts as Bibles and a listening ear left us as blessed as the families we talked with. I think we also returned with a new perspective on life and what true treasures are.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 7

Today we worked with the grade 11 and 12 students of the Mampoi school in Qwa Qwa. They recently lost their headmaster unexpectedly to a heart attack. This man was a mentor, father, leader, encourager, disciplinarian, and math and physical science teacher to around 450 students. His unexpected death has left these students in shock and denial over the loss of this man. He has helped them to excel and to become the second best school in South Africa and working towards the first.

Two Grief and Loss presentations were given today by Dr. Reese, one for the students and the other for the teachers. There were over 300 students in attendance and after the first presentation the students were broken into groups of around 20-23 and each team member worked with the students using the SICM model to help debrief them. After the groups, there was some individual counseling as time allowed. The stories team members returned with after working with these groups were profound and moving. The students were able to see and understand that what they were feeling and experiencing was normal for them and they were able to find ways to help them work through their grief together.

God used an interruption in our schedule to touch many lives today, and the team returned to the campus tired yet excited about how He used each one of us. Our day ended with snow during dinner and a Thrive Africa church service on the campus. I think we are all awed at what God has done not only today but through this whole week as we have worked with each group. The stories continue to come in about what God is doing in each group and how He is moving through this community. We look forward to our last week here as we do some more training and also friendship evangelism in the villages.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 6

Today we returned to the school to work with the Thrive Africa coaches. We focused on helping them refine their active listening skills, and a presentation was given on Sexual Abuse. The day began by working in dyads with a coach and role-playing and talked with them about paraphrasing, asking open questions, and identifying the feelings. We have found that the coaches use many of these skills already, and we helped them to work on those skills that needed more refining.

In this area a women or child is sexually abused every minute. The rates are extremely high in this area and due to the culture, many of the incidents are kept within the family and not reported. The presentation was broken up into segments and small groups discussed the many issues that arise after sexual abuse has occurred. The issue of sexual abuse can be a very traumatic and complex issue, and the small groups helped the coaches and the team to break down the concepts and better understand them.

The team has been tired after each day but we are each excited about what is occurring with each group we work with. Working with the school suffering from the loss of their headmaster tomorrow is what we have been specifically trained to do, and we can see how God is taking our skills and putting them to His use.