Secrets of a Missionary

Mission work is supposed to be about the people we are serving.  However, as a lifelong missionary, let me let you in on a secret:  most missions’ work being done in the world is more about the missionary than the mission field.   After most short-term mission trips, our greatest hope is that the individual missionary is changed and has a shift in perspective that helps him or her to know that life is not about creature comforts, but about a life in service to others.  Sometimes that happens and we rejoice; other times that doesn’t happen and we mourn.  Ironically, hundreds of people go to the field to help the poor and needy, and the leaders of those groups silently hope for the same thing:  Lord, let the poor and the needy help these people!

It is not easy to attenuate the thinking that we have so much to offer in order to see what we are actually gaining by the grace of the people we are serving.  It is even more difficult at times for us to figure out how to serve them.  At best, missionaries can give too much, leading the people to develop a sense of entitlement.  It is easy to become welfare for an entire community, and then become frustrated when they come to us with their every need and desire.  We can serve in such a way where we become just a resource for meeting a need.  At worst, missionaries can start to treat the people we’re supposed to serve like they are the servants and begin to patronize them.  We can act like we are better than they are, and that we know the will of God for them even when we are not so sure of God’s will for ourselves.  We can act upon a false confidence and treat people like we are not all beloved children of God.

Mission work is about building individuals, families, churches and communities.  We encourage individuals to have an authentic, mature relationship with Jesus as a foundation for life and family.  Families that are now centered on Christ can come together to establish churches that are stable and focused on the faith and encouraging one another.  These churches can develop and influence communities that celebrate Christ and live by Biblical values and principles.  We, then, have a system whereby the missionary can effect change and build the nation one community and individual at a time.  I have learned that by having this type of personal interaction, we can know exactly when to give and how to give so that it does more good than harm in the end.  We have discovered how to help community members look to the Lord and each other as “first responders” to their needs, and not to us as the “wealthy foreigners”.

Missionaries should also allow people the opportunity to give!  This is the place missionaries fail most often.  When we treat people as if they have nothing to give; they give nothing.  Then, it becomes the habit of people to think that what they have to give is not worth having.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and oh, how people love you when you are grateful for what they give you.  It is the story of the widow’s mite.  The Lord blesses and esteems their giving.  As missionaries, we should too!  People who are poor still have much to give – to each other, to us, and to the church.  Let them.  Honor them by receiving with a grateful heart.  Because the real secret is  we are just as needy and poor as they are!


God Loves South Africa

I love South Africa – the people, the topography, the various cultures, the animals and yes, even the odors.  I love it all! It greets me like a faithful friend as soon as I step off the plane, and welcomes me like a local.  As a local, I like nothing more than to have my American family, friends and colleagues visit and catch the same love for South Africa as I have.  This is the first year in the past 15 years that I have not stepped foot in South Africa.   I miss it.  I ache for it, and I believe it misses me.  However, this year has been a rebuilding and transition year for both the ministry and me.  Adapting to a new way of doing things is never easy for anyone involved, but what has eased the ache of transition, are the missionaries who have come to support the work.

First, our longtime friend and ministry partner, Michelle Smith returned to South Africa in January for six months to minister in various local and continental churches and work with our students.  Michelle is like a local herself and is always welcomed with open arms by the people.  She and Michael navigated the students in the first few months of the year. Together, they settled them into school, lead weekly home cell meetings, and ensured that the program moved forward seamlessly.

Next, Marshall Grant, whose entire family moved to South Africa, arrived to scout out the land, begin leadership training sessions for local pastors, and supported Michael in continuing the program and working with the students to further ensure their success.  I believe that Marshall’s transition to South Africa was complete when his family arrived in June.  As a team, they are able to serve the people of South Africa both by helping us and developing programs and initiatives of their own.

In September, we were blessed to have a mother of our church, Mother Claire Carter fulfill a longtime dream by coming to work and serve in South Africa.  She was welcomed into the community with all of the respect and honor due to her as a mother in the faith.  While in South Africa, she served the women in the township, preached at the local church, taught our students, and did a daily prayer walk through the town!  South Africa captured her heart as much as it captured mine, and she is determined to return to once again serve and pray for the people.

Finally, we were blessed to have my pastors and godparents, Bishop Garland and Eileen Hunt, come to South Africa!  Although only there for a short time, they ministered at four churches, came to our ministry in South Africa and travelled throughout the Western and Eastern Cape evangelizing and ministering to people who were hungry for a Word from the Lord.

So, although I was gone for the entire year, the work and ministry to the people of South Africa continued and flourished.  God sent others to hold up the people, to minister to those in need, and to represent His vast care for them.  I may have been missed, but the Lord made sure that there was never any lack felt amongst them.  Although our ministry is still in the midst of transition, the Lord continues to show Himself faithful and to retain all the glory which is due His greatness!  Amen!


Kindness and Community

When I first arrived in South Africa, I initially worked in a large children’s afterschool program called Kids Explosion.  Every Friday afternoon, the rest of the staff and I would feed and teach the Bible to about 500 children from ages 5 to 16.  I remember standing in front of the room, boys at my right-hand and girls at my left, quizzing them on everything from memory scriptures to Bible stories.  As a reward, I had a bag of lollipops to give to those blessed enough to answer my questions correctly.  Sadly, I did not give away many lollipops.   I never really thought much about it.  Then, one afternoon, I hung around outside and saw one little boy place his well-earned lollipop on the ground, crush it, and give out all of the tiny pieces to at least 15 children hovering around him.

I was floored.  I knew how hard it was for him to earn that lollipop, and to give out the pieces showed a kindness and generosity of spirit that I rarely see in Americans even today.  I think about that scene often, and I ask myself am I giving away my most prized possessions to those around me?  Am I thinking more of myself and my own needs or the needs of others?  Then, I wonder if you can “teach” that type of attitude?  I see it over and over again in this impoverished community.  I have seen children wear shoes on alternating days so that they can share them with others who don’t have any.  I’ve purchased clothes for one child only to see parts of that outfit (shirt, pants, socks, coat, shoes) on four different children.  I want to be frustrated, but inside, I just smile.

In America, I am challenged convincing a child to deny themselves any form of pleasure to give to someone else in obvious need.  Sometimes, even adults choke on the words, “thank you”, and recently, even common politeness is done away with because of differing opinions.  We as a society are not only selfish with our resources; we are becoming mean-spirited with our words.   Somehow, it is easier for us to eviscerate others than to love them.  Yet, ironically, in a community rife with a variety of issues large and small, they express graciousness and generosity.  Somehow, they have figured out how to see each other and desire to help each other in the spirit of true community.  These lessons are not just willed into being when they become adults; they are nurtured and practiced while they’re children.  In America, we have every resource, but struggle to teach and train our children not be entitled and self-consumed.  We are not sure how to train our children to see others in the face of their own needs.  I know that I have many lessons that I want to teach the people and children of South Africa, but this is one lesson that I would love for them to teach us.


Watching Them Grow

I have worked in Africa for over 15 years.  When I think about what I have accomplished, I feel like I just arrived yesterday.  When I reflect on the lessons that I have learned, it seems as if I have been in Africa for a lifetime. My life is peppered with the struggles, mistakes, and grace that living in a culture different from your own can bring.  However, I am never reminded so much of my age as when I meet with and see my former students.  When I first arrived in South Africa in 2001, I was confident and ready to take over the world!  I figured I could make my impression on South Africa in a few years, then move on to bigger and better adventures.  I did not understand then that South Africa had a lifetime of lessons still to teach me and more gifts to give than I could carry with both hands.  I’m glad that I stayed around to learn those lessons and to receive those gifts.  I doubt that I could have learned them any other way.

What is most surprising is that although time seems to stand still for me personally, I see its passage most in the development of our former students.  I can hardly contain my pride as I watch them become teachers, lawyers, mothers, fathers, pharmacists, carpenters, and the list goes on.  When I come across them around town and they tell me of their own adventures and the ways that they are going to take over the world, I cannot help but bristle with pride.  Pride, not because of any particular mark that I made in their lives, but in knowing that the Lord could bring a rather unremarkable girl to a small village in the middle of nowhere to witness what only He can do in the lives of those who seek Him.

I still stand in awe of Him.  I see the Lord in the faces of these new adults as they talk to me about how differently they are bringing up their own children.  I hear His voice when they speak about how they still love and serve Him.  I’m humbled by His grace when they confess their wrong thoughts and actions as if we are still teacher and student and reference a Bible lesson I once taught them so long ago.  Yet, all in all, I know that they are the ones who are going to change this country.  Perhaps not in the one great revival I had hoped for, but certainly in the incremental changes that comes with being a witness in their own right.  They are defeating the demons of alcoholism, racism, and sexual immorality that plagued their parents.  The battle to create a Kingdom culture in their communities is a difficult one filled with bumps, pitfalls, and pain alongside success and victory, but it is a fight that they are still waging.  I am honored to have served them.  I am privileged to see what they have become.  I am grateful that the Lord allowed me to walk beside them in their journey.  To God be the glory!


Religious Revelations

home cell 1

Okay! I don’t think that I have ever admitted this in my life.  In my defense, I don’t think I really knew it, but here goes.  I love religion.  I do.  I love the rules.  I love the simplicity.  I love the “this is right and that is wrong” of it.  I love the absolute “this is good” and horrific “this is bad.”  It takes the guess work out of life, puts rails on it, and tells you if you go this way everything is going to work out, but if you go that way then doom, death, destruction.  Simple!  Easy! To the point!

For most of my life, I have lived and breathed religion.  As a child, that was great.  I didn’t have to deal with issues that were too complex for my mind to grapple with.  I just really needed to know what to do to make my parents and God happy with me.  As an adult, this simple love relationship I have with religion began to fall apart.  My own confused half-humanistic  and half-Biblical theist viewpoint caused contradictory behaviors and ideas that wrestled against the religion of my youth.  I began to ask the logical question:  “Why?” along with the bigger questions of “What is life about?” and “What am I supposed to be doing here?”

Fortunately, I grappled with these challenges in college when everyone else was also in some version of confusion.  However, as an adult who is guiding the next generation of South African leaders, I force them to face the comforts of religion and push back at questions of why and what is the point?  Last week, at our weekly meeting with our high school students, I asked them why did Jesus die?  I smiled as they all responded like the well-trained children they are: For my sins!  “Really?” I said, “What’s the problem with sin? Why is that such a big deal?”  My smile widened as the usually loud room was blanketed in silence.  No one knew.  Although I love the fact that they had the “right” answer; religion stole from them the reason why.

Unfortunately, the real problem with religion is that it gives you pat answers without forcing you to engage with the problem.  You have a ready-made answer without your brain ever having to fully ask a question.  Why can’t we have sex before marriage?  What’s wrong with drinking alcohol and doing drugs if it relieves my pain? Why can’t I steal if my family really needs something? Don’t I have the right to do whatever I have to do to take care of my family?  These are the questions that my students ask because they never fully got an answer to the ultimate question:  What is the big deal with sin, anyway?

It ultimately boils down to this every time:  “Why can’t I just live as I want and apologize later?”  The answer is clear.  Sin separates us from God.  Jesus had to die for our sins not so that we could go to heaven (nice side benefit!), but so that we could re-engage in relationship with God.  We are not dissatisfied because we are not wealthy enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or powerful enough.  We think that if we can just get a bit more then we are going to reach a point of satisfaction.  That never happens.  The truth is we were created to worship our Creator.  Nothing satisfies us more than that, and nothing ever can.  We search for fulfillment by committing sins; yet, it is that very thing that steals satisfaction and joy from us.  Sin causes separation from God, and being close to Him is really what life is all about.  Religion answers this question by saying simply don’t sin because God does not like it.  That is great for a season, but it cannot sustain young people who must face questions of sin every day.  Religion alone confuses things.  It leads us into right doing, but not necessarily into right being.  Religion still turns the focus on us, but the focus should always be on the King.  Nothing is more important than He is.

My kids and I are still working on seeking out the more complicated answers behind religious questions and that is going to take time to decompress.  However, I think they walked away from our rip roaring discussion with this: We have to truly worship God if we want to have any hope of true happiness.  I’ll take it.


Setting A Standard

klc kids workingA few weeks ago an article came out on the front page of the monthly newspaper.  Much to our surprise the kid featured on the front was one of the students we know at the high school.  Wow!  Michael grabbed the paper and started reading the article; then, he threw the paper down in disgust.  The article was about another organization that had a math contest to see who could do the most multiplication tables in a minute.  This 14-year old, 8th grade Coloured boy won because he could do 34.  It made the front page of the local paper.  A local Coloured boy could do 34 single-digit multiplication problems in a minute.

Michael was indignant for quite a while.  He began ranting about how our 5th graders are required to do at least 40 problems in a minute; how we were the first group in the area to even do math minutes; and how we should be getting more publicity for the work we do.  It was quite a rant!  I was upset also, but for a vastly different reason.  First, why would something like this make it into the local paper?  It was embarrassing.  With drugs ravaging our townships, I understood the desire to want to promote something positive, but this was quite a stretch.  Second, how could anyone think that this was front page material?  Then, it dawned on me.  It is not amazing that a kid can do single-digit multiplication.  It is amazing that a kid whose skin color is not white can do single-digit multiplication.  It is so amazing in this town that it is worthy of the front page of the paper.  No white kids were a part of the contest because it would have been unfair.  White kids can obviously outdo a child of color in a test of intellect.

To me this article and its pretend accolades further expose the racism that is still prevalent in South African culture today.  My students and other children of color do not typically have the academic background of their white counterparts mostly because they don’t have their wealth.  Their parents cannot afford for their children to go to school with current books, highly-skilled teachers, and adequate supplies.  Our students are not exposed to anything that could be considered academically rigorous until they pass through our Learning Center doors.  In their regular classes, they are taught to write neatly, but rarely do they have to use their minds to process information and come up with their own conclusions.  Even after 15 years, we are still fighting with teachers about the proper way to divide so that the students consistently get the right answer!

All of this is true, but it is due to a lack of exposure not a lack of ability.  Some white South Africans still think that children with darker skin do not have the intellect to process information, and that is why they do so poorly in white schools when given the opportunity to go there.  I am here to testify that this is not the case.  Students given the opportunity to go to a school of higher learning with greater standards cannot compete without the proper academic foundation.  First, a child’s foundation has to be right, then it can be built upon.  But, to praise a child in the 8th grade for doing 3rd grade work is not the right kind of encouragement; it is demeaning at best.  Someone has to give children of color tasks that are difficult, expect them to do it correctly, then praise good work and critique the bad.  This is the basic formula for any learning.  However, lowering the standard and claiming that easy work is difficult is insulting.

We are here to raise the standard.  One reason we want to start our own school is because we believe in these students.  They are children like the rest.  They have strong qualities and weak ones and need the thoughtful direction of the adults around them to grow in their strengths and build from their weaknesses.  We don’t believe in fair being equal; however, we do believe in giving children the opportunity to try.  Please pray with us that we will be able to build a school that will set the standard and serve as a model for what can be done in education in South Africa.


Roxzane’s Story

RoxzaneThis year, we have asked out students to write their stories.  We are going to periodically post them for you to hear from them in their own voice. They want to be heard!  For some, we have changed their names to offer them some degree of anonymity.  Thus, we have noted these stories with an asterisk (*).   For others, they do not mind you knowing who they are and the struggles they have endured in becoming who God has ordained them to be.  You will hear from students in various phases of our program.   The grade levels are evident in their writing, but we did not want to take away from the authenticity of  them explaining themselves in their own words.  This is Roxzane’s story.

When I was in grade 1, I was very lazy, I did not want to do my work.  I thought that school was for playing and meeting friends; so, I let other kids do my work for me. When I was in grade 3, I decided to be better than the other children. I knew that I could do my own work and I really wanted to try.  I studied harder and to my surprise, I became better and better. I was so happy!  My mom and dad were also happy with my improvement and they were so proud of me.

When I was in grade 1 I felt like I didn’t want to go to school. I was at home a lot of times, but when I was in grade 2, my mind became bigger and better.  I was still wasn’t in school very much, but I did learned and listen even if I wasn’t in school.  I didn’t want to go to school, but I still wanted to learn.

If I wasn’t in school I would ask someone who was in school what they did. Then, I would do it too. When I showed up for school the next day, the teacher would ask me where I got the work. I would tell her I got it from my friend and she would ask me if I copied and I would say no. Then I would say she just told me what work to do. Then the teacher was very happy with me, and she gave me a gold star.  I loved getting gold stars! Then, the other children would be mad because they did not get a gold star and I would put the gold star at the front of my head. I would walk around the school and the children would ask where I got the gold star, and I would tell them about my work that I did in class. Then at the end of the school year, I will pass and go to the next grade and I would also do well and it was like that every day and year. I passed every grade.

Then, an amazing thing happened!  My teachers told me that I should try to be in the Learning Center.  The Learning Center is only for the kids who are the most clever.  I never thought that I could do it!  I took the test.  I was surprised when I passed.  Then, I was nervous.  I had to interview to get in.  I never did an interview before.  So, I went to talk to Michael and Ms. Terblanche.  It wasn’t so scary.  They asked me questions about myself and my work.  Then, I waited, and waited, and waited.  Finally, Michael called me from my class and I was in!  It felt good like wearing 100 gold stars on my forehead!

Now that I am in, the work is hard, but it is making me smarter.  One day, I will make my teachers, my parents, and everyone proud of me because I will reach my goals if I keep working hard.


Changes

kids in town 2

I have always been a justice crusader.  If there was a fight for doing what was right, I was first in line.  I guess that is what made it easier for me to come to South Africa than it would be for most.  Now that I have been here for over fourteen years, I realize that what I thought would take me a year to accomplish has taken much, much longer. And now, the rules of engagement have changed.  Somehow, I feel that I am living in Animal Farm, and I don’t like it. Here’s what I mean:

  1. When I first arrived in South Africa, Kurland Village was a forgotten township on top of a mountain far from the closest town and any aid societies reach. As far as I knew there was the school, one Belgian girl and us.  Now, this township is teeming with aid.  Aid workers are everywhere – at the school, in the community and on the streets.  There are Americans, Germans, Belgians, and South Africans all ready to lend an opinion and a helping hand to those in need.  Some people might think that this is a great development.  I don’t.  Unfortunately, while the help is great, it is not the kind that actually helps.  Instead, it has fostered an entitlement mentality in parents who used to be grateful, and other options for kids who don’t really want to work that hard.  I mean why do we have to work when all of these aid workers will come fix my government-sponsored house, educate my lazy children, and feed my family after I have spent all my money on liquor?  So, although more options for aid are available to the people who live in the village, rarely is the decay of alcoholism, fatherlessness, sexual promiscuity, and violence corrected.  In fact, the progress we made against these foes in our early years seems to be in decline in the midst of all this new assistance.

 

  1. We used to be able to point to the white boarding school in town as a beacon of educational hope and academic rigor. We drove our students by teaching them on Saturdays, taking away vacation days, and challenging them to learn two years’ worth of lessons in one.  It might sound cruel to your average American, but our students were grateful because when they finally made it to boarding school they were more than prepared.  Yes, they still had to work hard, but they had the foundation that they needed to succeed.  Now, our students go to boarding school after spending several arduous years with us learning Math, Science, English, History and the Bible, and are bored.  They no longer feel challenged.  Instead of them rejoicing for the break, they become depressed.  Children who are brilliant and score well on all testing inside and out of our program have a hard time managing the lack of challenge at the best boarding school in our area.  For the first time ever, we had a student not pass their matriculation exam.  It’s terrible that any of our students would not pass, but for her, it was tragic. This student, who scored the highest score of any student on our entrance exam while still in the fourth grade, could not manage to pass her matriculation test and had her teachers convinced that she was mentally challenged.

 

  1. The school where our program is housed decided to free itself of its eighth and ninth graders. I was told that they were a behavior problem.  So, now, instead of the average child in our community dropping out of school after the ninth grade, they drop out after seventh.  Thus, instead of being told to settle down in class, they are roaming the streets of the town with nothing to occupy their time, brains and life.  At the same time, the boarding school in our town, which has increasing numbers of black and colored students, decided to comply with the South African government and LOWER their standards.  If you don’t have to teach the majority of students math, why do it?  Instead, they send children to consumer studies which I call lessons in becoming a housekeeper.  No one has to go to school to learn that; my students can learn “Intro to Housekeeping” hanging out in the township. Sadly, even with these lower standards, the average child in the township cannot pass their matriculation exams which means that they cannot go to college.  So, they are stuck right back in the township where they came from.  The cycle is successfully unbroken and no progress is made!

 

  1. Somewhere along the line, my students discovered television. With it, they discovered covetousness, jealousy, false ideals of beauty, and social mores that work against community and family.  With it, they lost the desire to learn just for the sake of learning, the ability to read, concentration and focus, creativity and the ability to dream of an attainable future.  When I first came to South Africa, boys wanted to be soccer stars and some girls wanted to be singers, but most of the children wanted to be things that would help their community like teacher, builder, doctor, lawyer, police officer.  Now, more than ever, they all have one goal: to be famous.  They want to be famous more than they want to be useful to their greater communities.  I know that there is a wave of people who think that giving every child in a developing nation an iPad and allowing them to watch “educational programming” would solve all academic issues.  Well, I am here to declare that too much media clearly muddles the mind.

 

I know that all is not lost.  My students still have the flashes of brilliance that I long to see.  Their attitudes, although in need of the occasional fine tuning, are still open and loving.  We are constantly blessed by the fact that they still fight to get into our programs and are willing to embrace the difficult tasks we place before them.  However, more than all of that, they show an increasing love for Jesus and willingness to do things His way that warms me.  So, in the midst of all of this challenge, our desire to inoculate them against this so called progress seems to be working, a bit too slowly for my taste, but working nevertheless.  We do know that the answer lies in getting them out of their current environment, and we are working on that.  However, in the meantime, we are still justice fighters and we will not stop until the battle is won.


Thandie’s Story*

not too happy2

This year, we have asked out students to write their stories.  We are going to periodically post them for you to hear from them in their own voice. They want to be heard!  For some, we have changed their names to offer them some degree of anonymity.  Thus, we have noted these stories with an asterisk (*).   For others, they do not mind you knowing who they are and the struggles they have endured in becoming who God has ordained them to be.  You will hear from students in various phases of our program.   The grade levels are evident in their writing, but we did not want to take away from the authenticity of  them explaining themselves in their own words.  This is Thandie’s story*.

This is the story of a little girl who was devastated by her parents’ separation.  She was raised by a drinking single parent, her mother, and a father who was almost never there for her. That’s my life.

When I was a teenager everything in my life turned from bad to worse. During my second year at Wittedrift High School while I was doing grade11, I started to do things I never thought I would do. I didn’t realize that I was digging my own grave.

Nothing was right in my life. I left my best friends because we started fighting.  As with every group of friends one of us had to be the leader, and I was tired of living in her shadow.  Two new girls came to our school that year and they had no friends at all.  I was more than willing to join them because they had the money and popularity that I longed for.  They had everything I ever wished for and that was more than enough to draw my attention. I had rich friends now and that was all that mattered. They paid for the cigarettes and alcohol, and I was more than happy. It was us against the world.

While the fun increased, my grades started dropping.  I didn’t care. I was having a great time! We were smoking in the school’s bathroom and drinking at school functions. We had friends with cars who took us anywhere for free. Everything was too good to be true. We were living the good life.

That was my own way of forgetting about everything that happened in my life –My suicide attempt, the separation of my parents, the men in my mother’s life and all the violence that came with them. Everything was my fault. I thought committing suicide would be better for everyone. I thought that it wouldn’t make a difference if I was gone because no one noticed me anyway. No one could see the pain that I was feeling. I just had to take the blame. Wasn’t I a mistake, anyway?  No one had time for me and I just had to do it.  Everyone was too busy with their own broken lives to notice that mine was also reaching a breaking point.

After all that drama in my life,  I dealt with more drama. Things were now way more than worse. In my matric year I was kicked out of the Learning Center because of changing the subjects that they believed I needed. I was furious and sad at the same time. I was their responsibility; at least, that was what I thought. It was now time for my parents to do their job. They had to pay my school fees on their own. My mother could afford my school fees if only she drank less and wasn’t in debt. But, she wouldn’t. What else could go wrong in my life? Why was I being punished? I started asking myself questions that I couldn’t answer. I needed answers.

One day I decided to make a change in my life. A good change. A spiritual change. I felt a need for God. I just had to turn to him for comfort and answers. I needed to be uplifted; so that, I could live a better life. It was time for a new life. I’ve been through so much, but it was time to put all that behind me. It was time to move on, and with the help of the Lord I could learn to forgive and forget. I had to break the cycle. As time went on my mindset changed. I grew mentally and spiritually. I learned how to make the right choices so that we don’t have to be caught up with consequences. My self-image was once broken but I had a choice. I could either rebuild it or keep it broken. With the help of the Lord and my spiritual leaders, I chose to rebuild it.  My life is still not perfect, but I have hope that it will only grow from here.


New Year, Continuing Vision

Children Fun

The new year typically brings a feeling of anticipation and renewal to the hearts and minds of most people. The team at Goshen International is no different. 2015 marks the beginning of the 15th year of our service in and love for South Africa. In that time, we have watched the Lord move in the lives of many people and establish us as a place of refuge for those we reach.

15 years ago, I was sitting in a church conference when my dad stopped in the middle of his message to say these words: “I’m sending my daughter to South Africa.” Those who know me well know that those words did not settle easily on my heart. However, after yielding to the voice of the Lord speaking through him, I planned my trip and charted my course, and a few months later I landed in Cape Town, South Africa. After some awesome moments in ministry while traveling with Sigi and David Oblander, my heart settled in a little village near Plettenberg Bay.

I was invited by a local woman to come help her for a year to feed and minister to abandoned children in Kurland Village. While doing that, I did what I always do—I looked for needs to be filled. After my now infamous conversation with the youth who were insecure about their futures, I decided to start the Kurland Learning Center. That decision not only altered the course of my life, but also the lives of the many children we have reached through the years.

From that faithful step so many years ago, we have taught and mentored a number of students through the Learning Center. In that time, more than 400 students have been a part of the academic program. More than half of those qualified to attend the college preparatory high school where we send students to build a foundation for university. Essentially all of the students successfully graduated from high school, and about 30% of those have gone on to a university, college, or skill school. The remainder went straight into the work force. We have worked with each student from the time they started with us in elementary school throughout their educational career, whether that ended at the secondary or tertiary level.

We have also been blessed to reach hundreds of other children through teen churches and home cells, after-school programs, and other community enrichment activities. We have built, supported, and influenced people while training community members, teaching abstinence and Christ-like character, and affecting the overall quality of education in the area.

We are humbled by the success we have seen, and as we start the new year we look to the Lord for new ways to provide more and better opportunities for these children. We are hoping to remodel the Learning Center as many things have become worn or dated after 15 years. We want to recruit new staff members and volunteers to further the mission. We are increasing our efforts to raise awareness and funding for our own permanent school, Goshen Preparatory Academy, to greater serve the students of South Africa. In all of these endeavors, we need the prayers and support of our partners.

As always, we thank you for walking with us and supporting us through this journey.  We love you and hope that we can walk together for yet another 15 years.