Friday, 15 July 2011

Learning from the past

Picture: jeffrey james pacres
It has been said that to do well in the future you need to have a good understanding of the past. Our history shapes us in both good and bad ways and, without a deep revelation of where we come from, the bad parts of history have a way of repeating themselves. In the same way, our present decisions and actions have consequences for the shaping of the way things will be done in the future.
Technology has been both a blessing a curse for this. We are blogging/ discussing/ recording issues with each other more than we have ever before. But there is little-to-no structure in how we record what we are doing right now. Letters received used to be filed, recorded and responded to. But now, with email, most of us 'clear' our inbox when it gets too full, thereby deleting a section of our past, without (much) consideration for usefulness for others in the future. We are so abounding in information nowadays, most of us have little thought for what is good, or bad, and therefore no reference on what to keep or chuck.
One of the organisations I (Pete) once worked for was founded in 1701. They had an archive of minutes of decisions that were made for the past three hundred years. This awesome amount of information was neatly collected and categorised by an archivist who diligently kept us abreast of where we have come from.
Without the diligence of, let's say Paul or Luke, we would not have such a record of Jesus' life and teachings and ways that the early church learned to 'be' church.

As I take on leading the communications team for Africa (YWAM AfriCom), I am learning to understand that it is important that I take time to learn about what shaped this continent in terms of history, missions, politics and so on. As we talked and prayed as a team this morning about where we are heading, there was a realisation of how thin our personal/individual knowledge of this vast continent is. We have therefore made a pledge to one another to investigate more, listen more and read more, so that we have a good foundation on which to build our communications ministry. We are also writing a diary of the major things that we are praying about and big projects that we are planning, with notes on successes, failures (and the reasons for the failures), so that others can look upon what we have done well and what we have done badly!
For us as a family, we have started to journal in a similar way, so that, when our children grow up, they can look back and see the journey that brought us to Africa and develop a better understanding of who we are and where we, as a family, come from.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Trusting for breakthrough

Some say that missionaries spend a lot of time praying about money, while others don't pray enough. When we face the situation of 'being without' how do we respond?

Money is a strange, yet essential tool to enable us to live. Without cash we cannot pay our bills and, as such, become reliant on the state/handouts to stop us from starving and keep a roof over our heads.

So, when we ourselves face difficulties to finance ourselves and our ministry, what should we do? Where should we turn? A biblical principle behind this is that we need to keep reminding ourselves that we are not beggars, or a charity case – though our work is charitable, we are not in 'need of charity'. Rather we are working to serve others, and as such, we need to rely on friends to partner with us. In fact, it is a very healthy model to have that reliance on investors/partners, as it makes us accountable to the actions we choose to do.

Each quarter, we produce a budget which displays income vs. spending for those three months. It compares what we said we would do, to what we actually did. It's known as an accountability report, as we hold ourselves accountable to our investors who choose to partner with us in what we do: in prayer, in support and in physically helping us.

If money were to be no object, it would be very easy to lose track of your calling. There is nobody to go back to with a report to say: this is what I did with your hard earned cash; these are the results of your partnership with us; this is what can be and has been achieved.

Each of us goes through seasons of plenty and seasons of little. When we pray, it is easy to slip into the asking for finances for the bills we have to pay. But we are learning  not to ask for money for what we need, but guidance in what we are called to do. We have seen time and time again, that if we are obedient to God's calling on our lives, we see miracles happen. And when we see miracles happen, to whom can we give the glory?

So, when we have financial needs, though it is hard not to focus on the great need that we have to pay bills owed, we need to allow God to do the impossible.

OK... got to go, got some water to walk on!

Tough decisions

In Muizenberg there are plenty of people who have fallen below the poverty line and live on the streets. Each of them has complex stories of how they got there; very few of these people are easy to support. Throwing cash at the problem without strategic and prayerful thinking is a waste of time. The abundance of drugs and alcohol, added to abusive backgrounds has led so many being in a cycle of poverty that it's hard to find a way for them to escape. The Justice ACTs  S-Cape Home - a rescue centre for victims of human trafficking - this past couple of weeks has seen ladies who have a background of trafficking ending up back on the street, as they posed a danger to the staff working at the home. Grace extended to them was often spat back in the face of those who were there to help them. You'd think that supporting others to build a life for themselves after facing manipulation and trauma would be a rewarding job, but it's often thankless and seemlingly endless, as the abuse that has been inflicted on those we help often is more powerful an influence than the soft kind hand of a friend who just wants to help. The staff of the safe house often have to deal with lies, false accusations, manipulation, violence, depression and a whole host of other problems that come as a result of dealing with broken lives.