Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Looking Ahead

When I look ahead one word comes to mind: Change!

  1. Change in status: In a little less then a month, I will be a married woman and on top of that be a pastor’s wife. While it at times in a little scary, I am thrilled with where God has brought me.

  1. Change in Location and Ministry: A little over a year ago, I spoke at a women’s retreat. I came home and told my mom that it was a church I would love to be part of. Little did I know that a year later God would call my future husband to be their pastor. We are excited to become part of Lynwood Baptist Church in Pretoria for many reasons. It is a small church of about 100 people that has been without a pastor for almost three years. The unique thing about this church is that it is a mix of color and race which is very unusual for a church in South Africa. We are thankful for the opportunity that God has given us to minister at this church.

In many ways, God has uniquely prepared this church to reach out with the message of salvation specifically and to reach the black community where the gospel is desperately needed. This is especially true given the mixture of traditional (ancestral) worship, the prevalence of witchcraft, the HIV crisis, and tremendous poverty in these communities. The church is eager to get involved where very few are willing to go. Several factors have helped to lay the foundation for this kind of ministry in the church.

· The church has been involved in a church plant in the township in the past and is open to being involved again in this with the added component of training and equipping pastors in that specific context.

· The previous pastor was a Zambian who helped to lay a wonderful foundation of interracial relationships within the church. (Please note that while this is not unusual in an American church context, it is in a South African church context.) The church is well integrated both in the congregation and on the leadership and this gives added credibility as we reach out .

· The church is already involved in a ministry to domestic workers and hosts a weekly service for them.

· The leadership is desiring to develop in its outreach ministry. We have had several conversations with the leadership within the church recently where they have indicated that they believe the church really needs to grow and develop in reaching out effectively to the black community.

Sybrand and I have spent a great deal of time thinking through and praying about my potential ministry in the church. There have been many opportunities presented to us. I will just share a few of them with you.

· God has already brought people from the township to our church that are great vehicles to take the gospel to this context and so have a tremendous impact for Christ in the townships. Many of you have often heard me talk about how the gospel is really the only solution to the crisis facing South Africa’s townships. Because of the make-up of the church, I have a unique opportunity to combine my desire to be involved in women’s ministry and my passion to reach our townships for Christ. We would love to see these women more fully integrated into the life of the church which must be done through building relationships with these women and, Lord willing, to disciple some of them equipping them for the task because of the potential to have a tremendous impact for Christ in the townships. We have discussed beginning with a Women’s Bible Study specifically for them. We are thinking of starting with an evangelistic study that they could bring their friends to which would serve as a way to help them begin to reach out to those around them.

Our prayer is that God would equip these women and help us, as a church, to develop avenues into the townships they live in where we could begin to develop mercy ministries. They can serve as a bridge into these spiritually dark communities. We really desire to see our church more actively involved in meeting the needs (spiritual and physical) of our townships. These women could help us lay the foundation for this. Please pray that God gives us wisdom as to the best way to do this.

· We have also been encouraged by the contact we have had with a missionary couple relocating to South Africa from where they have been serving in Germany. They are part of a work called Thandanani (http://www.thandanani.org/default.aspx). Thandanani, from a Zulu word meaning "love one another," is a ministry begun by Biblical Ministries Worldwide-South Africa to foster a church-planting movement in the rural villages of South Africa, villages shattered by the AIDS epidemic and struggling to cope with the orphans that the scourge is leaving behind. The ministry they are involved in could be a wonderful one to partner with as we begin to reach out to the townships in practical ways.

· Additionally, Sybrand and myself have been approached about the opportunity to become involved in the Christian school that uses our church property. They are in the process of re-evaluating the purpose of the school and are thinking of using the school as an outreach into the community by providing children with a solid Christ-centered education. These children would then be equipped to go back into their communities and reach them with the gospel of Christ. We are working on building some bridges with the school by teaching some Bible classes once a week. The school is a mixture of black and white students and we hope in these classes to help deal with some of the issues that they are facing in a daily basis including issues like racial tension, AIDs, sexual purity and how to stand for Christ in a pagan world. Potentially, especially given my background in education, there are many opportunities for ministry at the school.

· I have been asked to help some with the administrative work of Grace School of Ministry (The counseling training program my father has started.) which is modeled after the counseling program I administrated for many years at The Master’s College. This year, they have 60 students involved from all over Africa (whites and blacks) and even parts of Europe. It is a great way for me to use some of my previous experiences to help in the training of nationals- many of whom will minister in the poorest areas. Given it is a distance learning program, there has been a need for someone to help in the area of student contact. I will be involved in helping to encourage the students in their studies and providing help in keeping them on track with their studies and helping to answer questions that arise in the course of their studies. Additionally, I will be helping with some of the grading.

· If you are aware of anything that is happening in Southern Africa, you know that things are a mess. Just look at Zimbabwe for example. Many are fleeing to South Africa and we have a unique opportunity as we minister to them to potentially not only influence South Africa but all of Africa. Our church has many refugees from various parts of Africa. Many of these refugees desire to go back to their home countries. As they are equipped, they have the potential to go back and influence their countries for Christ. It is a tremendous opportunity for our church.

Please pray that God would give Sybrand and me much wisdom as we decide what is the best investment of our time for the sake of the kingdom. Our first priority is settling into church life at Lynwood and focusing on our ministry there. Please pray for us as we get to know the people and especially for Sybrand as he begins to shepherd them.

There are many possibilities and we do not want to neglect what we believe to be our first priority right now – the church. Figuring all of this out will take some time to figure out especially has we settle into ministry at a new church.

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