South Africa Team Testimony: Guilt vs. Conviction

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I think that the biggest lesson that I have learned from my trip to South Africa was that I should not feel guilty for what I have. One of the topics that we talked about multiple times during our trip was guilt. It is easy for us to go to the townships and walk inside their shacks that house 5 people and are no bigger than my bathroom and feel guilty that our bathrooms are nicer than the entire place that they live. Feeling guilty about what we have is what leads us to giving some money to the homeless person on the street or giving handouts to people who do not have what we do. While this is not bad on its own, the reason that we do it is to ease our guilt. We cannot just give handouts in order to ease our guilty conscience.

Instead of feeling guilty, we should feel convicted. We did not choose to be born in America instead of in South Africa in a township. We do not need to feel guilty about who we are because of genetics or geography, because we had no hand in choosing that. When we feel convicted instead of guilty, we take action that will impact more people than handouts will. And honestly, people do not need more handouts. The best thing that we can do for those who live in poverty is to provide them with resources and skills so that they can make a living themselves. One small example of this is to plant a garden in a township and then task one of the villagers who is willing to tend it. This way, the villager is taking responsibility and now has a way to provide food and/or an income for their family.

This really impacted me and reminded me that guilt and shame are not things that we, as Christians, should hold on to. As is written in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

~ Rachel VanLaningham

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I Was Hungry

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Kya Sands Slum

My daughter and son-in-law, Lori and Rich, recently led an NHIM mission team to South Africa. They spent time visiting families in some tiny shacks in the sprawling slums where they are working. These areas, like Soweto and Kya Sands were made infamous during the days of Apartheid and Mandela. Since Mandela’s era, progress has been painfully slow in addressing the grinding poverty in these areas. For many who struggle to survive in these places, there is no running water, no electricity, no sewage and meager shelter. There is mainly a panorama of shacks, garbage, rats, and deprivation.

Returning from one of those desperate communities to the place where the team was staying, members were emotionally spent and in ‘shock’ at what they had witnessed. Some team members were asked what had made the greatest impression on them. One of the young men gave a moving response. The team had taken food to families where they were working. He said in one of the homes they had visited a man told him, “Having food here is not a right, it’s a privilege”.

While a short term mission team can do little to remedy the overall situation, they still have an extremely important ministry. They offer people the knowledge that someone knows, cares, and prays for them. The temporary relief the team can provide lifts spirits and the message of the Savior’s love gives a long term hope.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Its better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. The South Africa team was busy lighting small candles in these dark places. We need to know that as Jesus was welcoming believers into heaven, He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in I needed clothes and you clothed me…” (Matthew 25:35-36, NIV). Believers then asked when had they ever ministered to Jesus in that way. He said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV). What a privilege to be able to minister to the Savior in such a way.

Prayer: Lord, may the ‘least of these’ hear you say, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1, NIV). And may we who are able be your presence to them.

~ Brother Roy

Blankets? I’ve Got This!

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Lori displays some of the blankets headed for South Africa

One of the joys of serving the Lord is that ‘momentwhen you realize, once again, the Lord is walking ahead of you. To put it in modern vernacular, you hear Him say, “I’ve got this.” Let me share one such moment.

Lori and Rich, my daughter and son-in-law, are leading a NHIM mission team to South Africa. They lived in Johannesburg for over three years. During that time, they worked with a vibrant New Testament Church which is committed to serving people in the name of Christ, especially the poorest of the poor. The church will be assisting and working beside the NHIM team as they engage in ministry there. Preparations for the team have included much prayer, team meetings, arrangements for transportation, ground cost, etc.  They knew that the expenses of the trip would be sizable, but believed the spiritual rewards of this ministry would be more than worth the investment.

As preparations were proceeding, my daughter came to me and asked if NHIM might have enough funds available to help buy some blankets for the smaller children who live in Kya Sands Squatter’s Camp. Lori had worked with the children while living there. A part of the NHIM’s team itinerary will be working in this demoralized slum while in Johannesburg. I promised her that we would make every effort to raise the money for the blankets.

The next day, I bumped into an old friend, Tommy Baker, in our local Wal-Mart. Across the years, Tommy and NHIM have worked together on several projects.  During the conversation, Tommy asked if I ever needed blankets in our ministry. I responded with an enthusiastic – YES! Through his contact with the Wal-Mart manager, he had just purchased some fleece coverlets at a remarkably low price. I asked Tommy, “How many blankets do you have?” He told me seven hundred.

Lori, Rich and the NHIM team now have all of the blankets they need. I am almost sure I heard the Lord say, “Relax, Brother Roy. I’ve got this!”

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

~ Brother Roy

New Hope News

cropped-nhim-logo-bigger.jpgIt has been a while since we have provided an update here on the website on New Hope’s many ministry activities.  Here are a few ways that the Lord is blessing New Hope in these days.

Over Asbury University’s Spring Break, a team of four students traveled through NHIM to Jamaica where they led devotions for preschoolers and built a home for a family in need.

During last month’s NHIM Board meeting, members voted to increase the expense account funds for David Spencer, our Director of Church Planting. David is driving 204 miles round-trip twice a week from his home at Bear Pen in Wolfe County to work with one of our church plants, Green Hill Community Church, in Harlan County. Green Hill is growing in numbers and spiritual knowledge under David’s leadership. Attendance on Easter Sunday was 70. From ground zero, when the church first opened, to 70 on Easter is a testimony to God’s love for those folks and David’s hard work. Within a few days of approving the increase for David, an unexpected check for $2,500 came in that will help cover the increase. Praise the Lord!

truckSeveral months ago the Abiding Hope Food Pantry truck ‘went home to be with Jesus’. The truck was old and tired and threw a rod through the block. Since then it has been a real struggle to get the food from God’s Pantry in Lexington to the food pantry at Bear Pen. Many of you have been praying with us about another truck. In the Lord’s timing, David and his son Eugene located a truck. The price was reasonable, and all we needed was the money. I called the gentleman who had sent us the money we were going to use to help increase David’s expenses account.  I asked him if it was all right to split the money and use half for David and the other half for down payment on the truck.  After a pause, he said to use the full amount he sent to help David. Then he said, “I’ll send you the money for buying the truck shortly.” That was another “Praise the Lord!” moment. As I was sharing this great news with the fellows I drink coffee with, one of the men asked if the truck was road worthy. I told him it was as far as I knew, except the front tires were badly worn. He pulled out his billfold and handed me a $100 bill to help with new tires.

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Green Hill Community Church

Pray for our upcoming Tent Revival in Harlan County. David will be holding an old fashioned tent revival later this spring a few miles from the Green Hill Community Church. The tent and folding chairs have been moved on-site. We are trusting that the Tent Revival will bring souls into the Kingdom and make people aware of the Green Hill Church. Prayer and fasting is helping prepare the way. Join us as we petition the Lord for revival.

I recently joined David in a meeting with a man who has been attending Green Hill Church for about a year. He has been a pastor and has preached extensively in the Harlan County area. This man has expressed interest in working with us in ministry and possibly becoming one of our pastors. Pray for wisdom as we explore partnerships such as these in our efforts to reach Eastern Kentucky with the Gospel.

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Kya Sands

My daughter Lori and my son-in-law Rich are leading a NHIM mission team to South Africa in May. As they were making preparations, Lori asked me if NHIM might be able to help buy some blankets for the small children in Kya Sands, a Squatter’s Camp (a terrible slum) at the edge of Johannesburg. Lori ministered there during the time she lived in Johannesburg. The next day, I ran into Tommy Baker, a dear Christian brother who had worked with NHIM on some previous projects. During our rambling conversation, he asked me if I could ever use some small blankets. I responded with a resounding – YES!  When I inquired about how many he had, he said, “700”. He had secured them from an overstock at Wal-Mart for one dollar apiece.  Can you believe it? The team has all the blankets the need and more.  Again, I want to humbly bow my head and say “Praise the Lord!”

~ Brother Roy

The Tower of Babel – KSV (Kya Sands Version)

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Miss Sue helps a Kya Sands child build his “Tower of Babel”

The Genesis account of the Tower of Babel is one of the best known of the ancient records of God’s early interaction with man. The lessons in this account are many and varied. I’ve often studied the scripture and the interpretations of numerous respected Bible commentators on this complex passage. If some of you, like me, have struggled with this account, you can imagine my interest in what I recently heard in Kya Sands Squatter Camp.  This sprawling slum is on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.  I had the privilege of leading a NHIM mission team of young adults to Kya.

My daughter lives in South Africa and was the in-country leader of the NHIM team. They worked alongside a group of dedicated women who minister in Kya on a regular basis. Their ministry focuses primarily on small children from about three to six years old. They were following a scriptural model of Jesus:  “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’  (Luke 18:15-17, ESV).

Many of the 11 recognized languages of South Africa (plus languages from several other countries) are spoken by the various groups who reside in Kya. This often leads to confusion. Pearl, one of the ladies on the ministry team, is a black South African who speaks Zulu, English, and several other tribal languages. She communicates with the children and with adult helpers in Zulu, because it is the dominant language. Many of the other languages are derivatives of Zulu.

NHIM team members with Kya Sands children
NHIM team members with Kya Sands children

I was fascinated by the way she approached the challenging account of Babel with the children. Again, following the pattern of Jesus, Pearl began the lesson with a story. (Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people. He always used stories to teach people,” Matthew 13:34, ICB). Utilizing other time-tested learning principles, she moved from the concrete to the abstract and also utilized hands-on experiences. The children were each given a paper plate which held several marshmallows and thin wafers. Alternately using a wafer and a marshmallow, the children were asked to build a tower as high as they could. The children excitedly began to build. They seemed determined to reach the sky. Some succeeded in getting four or five tiers high before their tower fell.

The children learned lessons from the Biblical account. And I enjoyed a marvelous review:

  • There are no short cuts to heaven. There is only one way to the Father.
  • There is no other foundation than Jesus upon which we can build our lives.
  • The inability to understand others leads to confusion, hostility, and division.
  • God takes a personal interest in what we are doing.
  • It is foolish to leave God out of our plans for the future.
  • When people are motivated by pride and arrogance, when they want to ‘make a name for themselves’, they invite disaster.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  (Luke 18:17 ESV)

~ Brother Roy

South Africa Team: Melanie’s Testimony

melanieWhat do you say after you return from a mission trip? Family and friends want to know how it was, what you saw, what kinds of things you did, and who you worked with. And I LOVE talking about it.

But how do you describe it? How do you talk about how uncomfortable it felt seeing the 8×8 tin shacks that house whole families when I purchased coasters and placemats as souvenirs to bring home to my apartment? How do you describe the heartbreak that comes with seeing beautiful, precious children in rags and mothers struggling to feed them? How do you tell about the prostitute you spent hours talking with on a city curb and how much you love her and wish you could fly across the world to sit on that curb with her again?

Forgive me if I stumble for words when we talk next and you ask me how it was. I will most certainly tell you that it was amazing… That I am blessed beyond measure that I got to experience South Africa and see how God is moving there. That I had no desire to come back. That I felt like I was fulfilling His call for me in real and tangible ways. But forgive me if I haven’t fully grasped how to verbalize such an experience yet.

The truth is that with every person who asks me about my trip, I want to respond, “Come with me next time and see for yourself. See how amazing it is to be in the center of His will, fulfilling His call to take the Gospel to all nations. Come experience this with me.” But I know that offer would be met with a series of varied reasons why each person couldn’t or shouldn’t do that. Work commitments, family, bills, LIFE all get it the way. I get that. But if you’re reading this and find yourself wanting something more than a Sunday morning routine of sitting in a pew, then I’ll extend this offer to you. Don’t just let me tell you about South Africa, or Malawi, or Appalachia, or Panama City, or Louisville, or any other mission field. Come with me and see it, feel it, DO IT yourself. Experience what it’s like to take time out of your life to devote yourself fully and wholeheartedly to the expansion of His kingdom. I promise you will not regret it, and you will be changed in ways you could never imagine.

A famous atheist (forgive me, I cannot for the life of me remember his name at the moment) once said that he loves when Christians share their faith. He pointed out that if you believe in something so fully and claim that it has SAVED YOUR LIFE, the most evil thing you could possibly do is sit back and not tell anyone about it. I completely agree. Love has a name and a face, y’all. Let’s take Him to the nations and love like He does.

~ Melanie Brison
South Africa Team Member