The Tower of Babel – KSV (Kya Sands Version)

miss sue babel

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

South Africa Team: My Little Children

tyler“My little children” is an endearing phrase found on several occasions in scripture. 1 John 3:18 and Galatians 4:19 serve as two examples. To this very day, my heart takes comfort in the children’s song, ‘Jesus Loves Me’.  How wonderful are the words, ”Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong.” 

Our NHIM South Africa Team provided me with a picture that I will take into eternity. Tyler, a powerful young man on our team, was carrying a small girl on his shoulder. She was one of the little ones from Kya Sands (a squatter’s camp), where we were working.  He was so big and strong, and she was so small and weak. It was obvious, she felt safe and secure in his arms.

I am so glad the heavenly Father considers us His ‘little children’. I have experienced His strength and care across my lifetime. From my earliest memories even until now in my old age, I have felt secure in His strong arms. The words of Isaiah 46:4 are especially dear to me as the infirmities of old age beset me: “And even to your old age I am He, and even to hoary hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear: even I will carry, and deliver you.” 

My friends, I pray that you are this very moment, like the little girl in the picture, safe in His sheltering arms. Just for a minute, let the burdens and concerns of the day fade away. Take comfort in the words of the beautiful gospel song, “Sheltered In The Arms Of God”: 

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.
They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.
I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,
The dark clouds rise, 
They don’t bother me;
For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God.
He walks with me, and naught of earth shall harm me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

Soon I shall hear the call from heaven’s portal,
“Come home my child,
It’s the last mile you must trod.”
I’ll fall asleep and wake in God’s sweet heaven
Sheltered safe within the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,
The dark clouds rise, 
They don’t bother me;
For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God.
He walks with me, and naught of earth shall harm me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

~ Brother Roy

South Africa Team: Ryan’s Heart


Ryan helps a little girl into new shoes

At the end of May, my wife Sue and I had the privilege of taking a group of Asbury University students to South Africa on a mission trip. (The team is back home in the states now, but Sue and I are staying on for a couple of weeks with our daughter, Lori, who lives in Johannesburg.)  Lori developed a remarkable agenda for us to follow. The schedule provided the team the maximum opportunity to engage the culture, the people, and the challenges of ministry in that context.

Lori is part of a group of women from her church that works in Kya Sands squatter’s camp. This sprawling slum defies description.  The poverty and human deprivation is overwhelming. The women offer compassionate ministry to preschool children and some slightly older children who do not go to school. A new part of the ministry is education for the mothers of the children. The NHIM team was in South Africa at the beginning of their winter season to observe this vital ministry and help as they could. The temperature often drops into the upper 30’s and low 40’s at night. The tiny shacks where the children live offer little, if any, protection against the numbing cold.


Excited children in the Kya Sands camp receive their new clothes

One of the projects the NHIM team assisted with was securing warm clothing for the children. The items were to accompany previously purchased warm blankets. Each child was to receive a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, a sock cap, and a pair of shoes. It was quite an experience for the team to shop in unfamiliar places, compare prices, and try to purchase the ‘best’ on a limited budget (approximately $15 to $18 per child).  As the team set about this difficult task, the sobering reality of systemic poverty and limited resources stirred them. Each team member was given the names and sizes of several children. The information seemed to personalize the task for our team.

Each team member took the responsibility seriously. For them it was a labor of love. Time and space will not permit me to share the experiences of each team member. I have selected one of the young men as representative of all of the team.  Ryan was particularly meticulous. He seemed to examine each stitch. He was very careful to ensure the colors and patterns matched. He took a long time in completing his ‘personal labor of love’. As my daughter and I tried to move the process along, something like “let’s get going” was spoken. Ryan simply and resolutely said, “I don’t want to give a child anything I wouldn’t want to wear myself.”

I was deeply moved. He got ‘it’! Across the years, I had prepared for so many mission trips when well-meaning people brought me things to take to needy people on the ‘field’. Too often these things were worn out or broken. Threadbare and frayed clothing seemed to be the order of the day. Things they would not dress their own children in and that should have been thrown away were somehow deemed good enough for ‘those poor children’.

O, Lord give us Ryan’s heart. Help us to see that “what we have done to the least of the Lord’s children we have done unto Him”  (Matthew 25:40).

~ Brother Roy

Sad News from Kya Sands

10944376_1569695026604278_921775643271970204_nIt has been a hard Tuesday morning. I am feeling sad, frustrated and just plain mad! For the past year I have been volunteering in a preschool ministry of our church at Kya Sands (a squatter’s camp/informal settlement) here in South Africa. We have met under a tree, beside an illegal garbage dump where children have to cross about a 4-foot-wide open sewage ditch to come to us. Not ideal conditions, but we had our space for our “school under the tree”.

This morning when we arrived after a 6-week break for Christmas and summer holiday, we were horrified and heartbroken to see that our place, our school under the tree, had been covered – actually buried with enormous mounds or rubbish. While we never had safe or ideal conditions, today it is a huge health hazard (burning rubbish and dead rats everywhere), and there is absolutely no way to meet or work with kids there.




Our church is working to secure land where a proper preschool can be built; however, that has been in process for a couple of years (nothing gets done quickly here!), and even when approved, it will take time before we can meet there.

I am trying hard to rest in this verse, Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you says The Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Hard to realize at this moment, but I know HE has plans for Kya Sands far beyond what I could ever imagine.

~ Lori Lauter Wright
NHIM Board Member

Kya Sands Catastrophe

kya little girlFollowing God’s path for our lives has led Rich and me across a 9,000-mile journey from Crestwood, Kentucky, to Johannesburg, South Africa … an amazing and beautiful country in which we daily encounter the faces of those living in desperate conditions.  Since moving here last January, I have had the great privilege of working in a special ministry alongside exceptional women from our church, Bryanston Bible Church (BBC).  We meet weekly with small children, ages approximately 3-8, in Kya Sands squatter’s camp (a slum area).  These children live in extreme poverty in crudely constructed shacks made of tin and other discarded building materials that provide only meager shelter.  Our deep desire is to be in some small way, the hands and feet of Jesus … providing lots of love and hugs, food, physical activity to increase hand/eye coordination and basic language instruction.

The "classroom" under the tree

The “classroom” under the tree

The children eagerly meet us each Tuesday morning in a small open area at the edge of the camp in our outdoor “classroom under the tree”.  An open sewage ditch about 5 feet deep is a major obstacle for the small children to cross as they come to our “classroom” among the piles of rubbish and debris.  A large burned out area of grass off to the side is the bathroom … open for all to see … no privacy … no proper toilet facilities.

Ben Wright helps a child across the ditch

Ben Wright helps a child across the ditch

The "bathroom"

The “bathroom”

Miss Sue singing "Jesus Loves Me" with 4-year-old Kenny

Miss Sue singing “Jesus Loves Me” with 4-year-old Kenny

The tragic Kya Sands fire

The tragic Kya Sands fire

As if life was not hard enough for these precious children and their families, a few weeks ago a tragic fire roared through parts of Kya where many of our children live.  Over 750 shacks were destroyed and more than 3,500 people were left homeless, having lost everything.  NHIM has joined with some of my former colleagues at Crestwood Elementary (Oldham County, Kentucky) and donors from BBC to provide much needed assistance.  When I asked the ladies what they needed, the response was just 3 simple items … a small kerosene stove to cook on, a pot to make pap in (the staple starch in South Africa – think thick grits) and a large bucket with a lid, as the ladies must carry water a considerable distance.  While these items seem simple to us, they represent life to these families.  In addition to these desperately needed items, we have also been able to provide plastic plates and cups, silverware, blankets, towels, clothing and toiletries.

Fire victims and donated relief supplies

Fire victims and donated relief supplies

Even though the fire has long since been extinguished, the emotional scars on an already disenfranchised people will take time, prayers and the loving kindness of Christian people to heal. Please, pray and help as you can … you can be a part of the healing process.  “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40 (ESV) 

~ Lori Lauter Wright, NHIM Board Member