We are home!

We arrived yesterday a.m. in Atlanta.  All 14 team members and all baggage.

I regret that this blog was not able to keep you as up to date as we had planned.  The internet issues made it difficult to make any posts.

So if you are reading this, I hate that your eagerness to find out what happened was hampered.  You were wanting to see what God was doing or know how to pray – and hear about results!  Well do not fear, God was working and all your prayers were answered!!!!!

We started the trip with a broken window.  Theifs tried to steal our joy, like satan tries to steal ours!  We would not let that joy be squashed or discouragement to set in.

To tell you all the stories would take more than a blog entry, but here are a few:

1.  The Jesus Film – on a very cold Sunday night, many came out to watch and listen about Christ.  In the front row, a group of young male teens were extrememly attentive – even telling everyone to “Shhhhh” at points so they could hear.  At the end, they prayed to receive Christ.  To some, this may not seem like much – but to those familiar with this region of Africa, seeing men step up and show interest in Christianity is HUGE!

2.  A discipleship program that started on Monday with only a few, grew to 5 on Monday and then peaked at 16.  These numbers don’t seem staggering by anymeans, but for us, it was INCREDIBLE.  Nothing like this has ever been done!  They returned, learned, and grew in their faith!  With God’s divine hand, we met members of Youth for Christ who will now take over the discipleship!!!!

3.  Mama Maria!!!  This women we shared with last year and she accepted Christ and within 4 days, shut down her bar and began proclaiming Christ to her community.  The former bar owner gave up her entire way of life for a new life in Christ.  She has turned the former bar to the church – which is now “My Father’s House Baptist Church.”  We met there!  She opened her home to the Bible study!  Her face beamed of joy.  Those of us on the trip have seen a life transformed!  She has taken up the call – and is now serving.  She even joined the discipleship program – and knew many of the answers.  What a blessing to see this sweat lady!

4.  A little boy with a deformity of his arms.  There is a little boy I have seen and talked with for the past 3 years.  He captured my heart 3 years ago, and now he has captured another team members, Penny’s.  On one of our field days, she saw him crying on the sidelines.  After asking him what was wrong, he could only point.  He led her to a group of boys who were playing ball.  These boys rejected him and said, “But he has no arms – he can not play!”  Penny’s “mama bear” came out and she defended the helpless!  She played baseball with him – and each time he hit the ball – a smile of joy was on his face.  They played and played and played – bringing in some other children who would accept his disability.  She taught him to throw a frisbee.  She fed him his lunch.  She gave him his drink.  What was that boy thinking?  We may never really know – but I am sure he saw the compassion and carring nature of Christ in Penny’s service to him.

5.  A little chubby toddler came one day, Joey’s little friend.  Joey played with him and then helped him with lunch.  His mother was their, watching Joey, and smiling.  When the day ended she picked up her child and headed home.  I ran over and gave her a children’s Xhosa Bible and and adult Xhosa Bible and invited them back.  They showed up the next morning!  Not just for the games and lunch, but the mom for Bible study – and that day she prayed to receive Christ!!!  Joey showed compassion on that little boy and the mom saw something different about us and came back to learn more – and left with Jesus!

6.  The last soccer outreach, when all ended, we could see on a the front stoop of a dark wooden shack a mom and son.  He was sitting next to her closely, like any boy would to get close to his mama.  As they were snuggling on the front porch, she was reading him his Afrikaan’s children’s Bible – and she was smiling.  I walked up and asked if I could please get a picture.  She said yes, and went back to reading the Bible – realizing, without words, that the picture I wanted was that mom and son reading the Bible, not their faces.  She realized that a picture like that would be proof to what we are doing is not in vain – but impacting people.  The Word of God is active and moving in that community.  All those copies are now in the hands of whom He desired to have them!

7.  Selfishly, I had the joy of watching my 10 year old son.  I loved seeing him run and play with the children.  His willingness to find the one’s that had no one to play with and start kicking a soccer ball, invite into the ruby game, hand over a kite to fly, toss a frisbee, or play cricket!  Then, to watch him stand up and share the Gospel!  He did it with boldness, confidence, and articulated it clearly!  The lesson’s he learned were priceless – no school could ever teach.  Our conversations of what he learned are rich!  I will forgo listing these, are those are his words and still being refined in his mind.  But please pray for him that these lessons will never be forgotten!

8.  They got it!  The children got it!  After day 4, this group of unchurched children learned the material – they could recite the 7 days of creation, knew God made us, understood the reality of sin, the need for a Savior, what it meant to be “saved” by confession and belief, us being made clean through the blood of Christ, the restoration of our relationship with God, and the promise of Heaven.  They got it!  We even started hearing the children sharing with each other, and us, the Gospel bracelets.  We were making fishermen!  Pray that what they learned will continue to be shared in the township.

So, these are 8 stories – a very few number, but will wet your appetite to grab one of us when you see us to ask, “Tell me more.” Many always ask me to give them statistics:  how many attended, how many prayed to receive Christ, what was the growth . . . . and I can not answer you.  To be honest, this trip has always been about evangelism and relationships.  We were busy doing what called asked us to do:  Go, Tell, and Disciple – that numbers was not our focus.  The impact of this trip will only be known on the other side of this life.  When we get to eternity I know I will hear stories about what happened in Knysna with the 2013 Team.

Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for your interest.

Planting and Praying

Today was our last day in the township. A bittersweet time to say the least. It has been a week that is difficult to put into words. I’m sure that sounds like “mission trip” talk, but it is so true. As mentioned in a previous email, the paradox of this area is something you just can’t comprehend until you see it. And even then, it is still difficult.

We have had an incredible time sharing the Gospel with children, teens, adults – basically anyone who would give us a few minutes of their time! Today was a recap (for the younger kids) of what they have learned during the week at our VBS. We have shared about the seven days of creation, the fall of man, and the plan of salvation. And they get it! They were able to tell us about each of the seven days and go through the plan of salvation using the bracelet. Perfectly! Many of them have heard the Gospel numerous times throughout the week and it is certainly staying in their minds. The older ones have been in a discipleship lesson during the mornings. This gathering grew every day with the number attending. And to know that there is now a church that can continue with these efforts is such a blessing.

There is no doubt that lives have been changed here. The question is, whose lives have been changed more? Theirs or ours? We have planted many seeds these last several days and will now pray for water. All the while claiming Isaiah 55:11 – so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

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Wednesday in Africa

Again, sorry for the delay in posting, we have had internet problems. It seems in South Africa it is common to buy a preset number of MB of data per month and as Americans we have used up a months worth of data in the first two days!

Onto the mission – “making disciples and multiplying disciple makers.” Our days have been busy, but incredibly structured (thanks to our fearless leader) – we have conducted VBS at the church and bible study in the Shabeen Queen’s (former bar owner who turned her bar into a church) living room. We have had many opportunities to touch the hearts of the children through the VBS activities and to teach discipleship to the older children. The afternoons have involved playing soccer on various fields in the township. No matter the location, within minutes of rolling out the soccer balls hundreds of children appear from the houses/shacks – this has led to many opportunities to share the Word to these beautiful people.

Knysna is a study in contrasts – the oceanfront city with its physical beauty and the township with the squatter shacks and government housing, which although lacking in physical beauty, makes up for it in the beautiful hearts of the children. We have had many opportunities to touch the hearts of the children, but the reality is they have touched our hearts many times more. It is clear that God is working in South Africa and it has been a privilege to be a part of it.

A Bountiful Sunday!

Apologies for the delayed updates! We have had a few issues with the Internet, but hey, “This is Africa”! Hopefully we’re back up and running and we have some catching up to do!

Sunday was a wonderful day of worship with Lane bringing an incredible message at two churches. Two different messages, might I add! He preached in a Baptist church in town then in the Xhosa church in the township. For those of you that have been following the mission in Knysna, the township church was formerly a bar. The church is now officially The Father’s House Baptist Church – what an amazing story of transformation!

Sunday evening was the first event we were all anticipating. The showing of the Jesus Film. As we were setting up, we certainly drew a crowd. The night was very cold, but we estimated that more than 100 attended the showing. We ended up showing the shorter children’s version since it was such a cold evening. Many watched intently, but the highlight was hearing a teenage boy “shhh” others around him. This was a wonderful tool to introduce many to the love of Christ. Several prayed to receive Christ following the movie. Please pray that we will water those seeds throughout this week. Thank you for covering this in prayer

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Broken Glass

We arrived safely in Knysna this morning to a very brisk wind! Cold, but very excited and thankful to be here. We took a quick tour of the Knysna area then headed to the township to meet Penny and Ella. The school children are on holiday so we had many encounters as we walked around the township. We made a stop in the library where there was a group of older kids gathered around a table. Lane did not hesitate to join this group and begin sharing the Gospel using the salvation bracelet (which he gave to each of them). The next stop was a newly built hospital/clinic. We decided to run in, but the visit was cut short by the sound of breaking glass. We ran out to our van to see the passenger side window shattered. Completely shattered with a large rock beside the tiny pieces of glass. A camera case was stolen along with Ella’s purse. What a horrible incident to an otherwise perfect day. A distraction that was obviously going to take some time to deal with. But a distraction that led to a time of planting seeds. While we were waiting on the police, Barb took advantage of the captive audience (of kids) to share the Gospel with them! Yes, all things working together for good. All things working to glorify Him. A distraction that initially robbed us of joy became one of our best opportunities. A broken window? So what. We will not let Satan rob us of the joy of open doors with one broken window!

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Africa Bound!

We arrived safely in Atlanta with answered prayers. All of our check-in went smoothly; our luggage was the correct weight and most importantly the Jesus Film made it through without a hitch! Praise God! Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for safe travels, that we will be able to rest and be ready to be used in a mighty way!

Eight Days and Counting

The 2013 Knysna Team will have feet on the ground in South Africa in just 8 days! This has been quite an incredible time of watching God weave this team together in a way that only He could. We are all excited to get there and see what He has planned for us. We would ask that you pray for the following:

  • For our team to remain healthy in these upcoming days and during the entire trip.
  • For our travel (packing, baggage weights, flight, ground travel) to go smoothly and safely.
  • Pray for each team member to be able to tie up the many loose ends that need to be dealt with before we leave.
  • Please pray for the hearts of the people that are there in Knysna; that they will be open to hear the wonderful news of Christ as we witness to them.
  • Pray for the children of Knysna and those in the foster home.
  • Please pray for our family members that will be here at home.
  • Above all, pray that in all we do, we will make much of our Lord and Savior!

We are very excited to get there and would love for you to see us off! We’ll be leaving the church on Wednesday, September 18 at 12 noon.  Thank you in advance for your prayers!

Your 2013 Knysna Team -

Chris & Jonathan Apostol  |  Joey Allen  |  Dave Anderson  |  Chad Asplund  |  Tom Brinson  |  Barb, Bob, & Brian Denham  |  Calvin Gunby

Danny Hobbs  |  Lane Lowery  |  Penny Oates  |  Teresa Pritchett

Upcoming Mission Trip Dates: September 18-29, 2013

Knysna 2013

Mission trip for 2013: A team of 14 will be in Knysna, South Africa from September 18-29th from Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia.

Friday

Today was bittersweet. We spent our final morning sharing and playing with the children in the township. During the afternoon we took Ella and her kids to an elephant preserve and then to experience the beauty of the Indian Ocean.

We are genuinely captured by the children. We have built lasting relationships with the people of the township. We are burdened for their souls and for their plight. We are amazed by the faith of Penny and Ella and Lynn, the team that makes up Emzini Tours. We are humbled by Mark’s servant’s heart, without whom construction efforts could not have been accomplished. We are challenged to keep up with Dawn’s tenacious spirit, “C’mon man!” We encouraged by the dedication of Amy. We are confident that God will use the faithful witness that remains in the township. We are committed to pray for the movement of God’s Spirit.

We love South Africa because God loves South Africa.

Wednesday and Thursday

It is evident that if lasting change is going to take place in the township, Xhosa men must be saved and discipled to grow in their faith.

There is an absence of godly men in the township.

One might also correctly say, there is an absence of men in the township. Particularly an absence of middle aged men. We encounter some single men in their early to mid-twenties but the majority of young men we meet are in the 13-21 year old age bracket. These young men are wandering, guided mostly by one another. This is a crucial life stage when young men need mentoring and nurturing by an older male figure, unfortunately these young men are receiving negative influences.

  • Alcoholism and drug use is rampant in the township. It was said to us that a Xhosa man takes great pride in passing his alcohol addiction on to his sons.
  • Sexual abuse and rape is a reality for most women in the township. Some as young as 3 years old! It is quite common for 11, 12, and 13 year old girls to be pregnant.
  • HIV/AIDS affects many households in the township.

But there is hope in Christ. Christ is changing the futures of Xhosa men. There are two young men who exhibit great potential to impact the township for the gospel: Thando and Bongi. Both have worked with us in various ways over the course of the last week and we are greatly indebted to their service. These men have been impacted by the gospel and are growing and being discipled in their faith.

What will God do through these faithful men? Pray for the men of the township. Pray that God will raise up strong, godly men and through their faithfulness real spiritual change will take place.

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