So much has happened in the last 40hrs since leaving Port Elizabeth at 6am yesterday. Al Prellar (friend and fellow elder to Oxygen Life Church) and I have driven over 600km across our beautiful Eastern Cape country side to visit pastors who lead churches which are either in partnership with us (and Four12 churches), or are in a process of becoming partners with us as we join hearts, minds and destinies in plundering hell and populating heaven in this region.
We have been challenged afresh with testimonies of God on the move in lives, with stories that are busting out with the goodness of God and which call us to MORE in God as they role off the sharers tongue. Here are 2 of them.
Today we met with a pastor called Ernest Booi and his wife Thandi, leaders of a church in a township outside of Queenstown. As we sat and got to know them and them us, we began to share each other's hearts and what it was that we find challenging as leaders in God's family. He began by saying in their area they have many challenges, such as poverty and the constant threat of the witch doctors who dislike them with a passion and who often attempt to thwart their efforts at spreading the gospel through various means. He then goes on to explain what he means by both these mentions: "10 years ago we were preaching in a remote rural area where both these 'challenges' were present. We had just had a baby boy who was 6months old, and while we were out preaching on a weekend he fell very ill on the Saturday. There were no clinics nearby and we had no money or transport whereby we could get into a town with adequate medical facilities that same night. By the Sunday morning, our son had died." He did not pause in his story, and yet for us it felt a bit like time stood still as the gravity of that statement sunk in. They lost their second born child while out in the "field." He proceeded to say, "those are some of the challenges we face, there are not many who want to go to those areas for reasons such as these. It is tough. Most pastors/preachers want to be in the city and not in the country side." What does one answer to that? We chose to be silent about our challenges, and decided to ask more questions and give encouragement. One of the lessons from this discussion as I sit here reflecting: Jesus is SO beautiful, that even after losing their son 10 years ago due to preaching the Gospel in remote areas, they are not only still doing it, but encouraging others to do the same!! Their course remains the same and their resolve unwavering. They have caught onto something about Jesus that is too good for them to hold onto any bitterness and anger toward God. They have by faith and through faith perceived the substance of God's goodness to them and the world.
Then we went on to see Jonothan King, the lead pastor of a church in the Cintsa region, East London. Of the many stories from his life which encouraged us in The Lord this one impacted me the most. He and his wife Tracey had 3 kids, that was until about 6 or so years ago when the police rocked up at their door holding a baby asking if they could please take this baby in as he was dropped off at the police station and they did not know what to do with him. They said, "okay" and fell in love with this little guy. This has now led to them having adopted three kids and currently fostering one child. Tracey, his wife, has since started a babies home (which is in their current home) and they presently have 13 babies in their own home. So, that means, they now have 19 children!!! From 3 to 19! All because of one! Needless to say, his story challenges me to the core. It challenges me on so many levels. For starters, again the question is, what are they seeing in God that causes them to be doing what they are doing with such resolve and joy in the face of the obvious challenges of having so vans babies and people in your immediate space every day of your life? Then I am reminded of the one thing that I am certain of is a constant in the kingdoms and that will not change... And that is...CHANGE! Change is inevitable! God can change our lives in a moment. He is Wild! You don't know what he has waiting for you tomorrow! Except that His constant assurance of all sufficient grace is there to equip you for what ever lies around the corner. His beauty is sufficient. We have everything we need for life and godliness wrapped up in His Son.
There have been many more stories shared over the last 40 or so hours, these are just two. Al and I have been talking in the car about them. All we can do is glorify God as we reflect, and thank him for the privilege of being included in the abundant life on offer through His name. We wrap up tomorrow with more guys to see and a 300km trip home, and go straight into a Braai with a bunch of new members joining our church, what a glorious inheritance we have in the saints! I am so thankful that we are linked with believers outside of the Oxygen Life, it is always mind blowing to see how busy God is, he is always at work. And it is always a reminder to be faithful in our part of His vineyard, because we too have a story to tell, and altogether our stories tell a massive story with the rest of creation, that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD AND EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT HE IS LORD OF ALL!