Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas in the warm


Spending Christmas in South Africa as a foreigner is great if it's a planned holiday or chance of a lifetime excursion. However, if your home is elsewhere and you end up staying in a foreign country because of circumstance, then the experience is somewhat different. Though intensely beautiful and such a privilege to be in the warm during the winter, those of us who are not from here, feel the distance from home and family even stronger during this season.

As my wife and I prepare the house for our guests on Christmas day (shopping, cleaning, sorting), we feel that twinge of pain that is felt by all those who cannot journey home for Christmas. It is somewhat compounded by the fact that my wife's grandma died earlier this year, and for the last 10 or so years, we always spent Christmas day with her family at 'gran's house' in the UK.  So, as we speak over Skype with those close relatives that usually join us, we are all feeling somewhat 'out of place' in our various locations.

However, today, as I sit with my coffee to plan the worship music for church on Sunday and for Christmas day, I notice an update to Chris Lautsbaugh's blog (a fellow YWAM colleague). This year his family was able to travel back to the States to see family. But with more than 20 years mission work under his belt, he has spent a fair few Christmas holidays on the mission field. Here are some of the tips that he had, and I think they're worth sharing for anyone who finds themselves away from home this Christmas:

1. Acknowledge Things Will Be Different
In order to succeed in celebrating, you have to be in the right frame of mind, or you start miserable. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking we can make a “mini-Britain” (or wherever you are from) Christmas on location.

2. Establish New Traditions
How does the nation you are in celebrate? Embracing a new custom can be one of the best parts of the season. South African’s celebrate with the braai. A braai is a  BBQ on steroids. It take most of the day while you slowly cook food and socialize. The main course is meat and more meat. Chicken is considered a vegetable. We started a tradition of cooking some nice meat, making a casual afternoon of relaxing and enjoying the company of some of our friends. We have also added a camping vacation to this season as Christmas falls over the kid’s summer school holidays.

3. Something Old, Something New
Find a tradition you can replicate in addition to new customs. We still find a Christmas tree, even though it makes the tree from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” look like a prize winner! Our kids make ornaments rather than pulling antiques out of storage.

4. Find Community
Don’t spend it alone. Let me say this again. Find someone to celebrate with. Self pity and mourning will creep in otherwise. Invite friends, others missionaries, or even some of your co-workers for a meal and fellowship.

5. Use Technology
You can still “attend” the gatherings back home with the increase in technology. As you tell the stories of your celebration, don’t be surprised if people at home are a bit jealous of the nice weather and fun you are having!

So, if you are discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep trying things till you embrace a new tradition. Whether you are home or abroad, invest the time it takes to make this celebration special.

All throughout the Bible, celebrations were times of remembrance. Israel needed to pause and takes stock; remembering who they were and what God had done for them. Don’t let a change in geography rob you or your family from creating memories. And of course, celebrate Jesus breaking into time and space, forever changing the planet.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The real Santa Claus

I'm so grateful to God that he believes in the written word. He created the world, then he got someone to write down exactly what happened. He sent his son to redeem mankind, then he got the witnesses to write it down. These written accounts enable us to get a clear picture of God's nature and character and gives us something to believe in and base our faith upon.

God very clearly wants us to know him and to reveal him to others who don't know him. This is such a joy and why I love my job so much.

I'm debating at the moment what to reveal to Joshua about Santa Claus or Father Christmas. The culture in many parts of the world is to celebrate this jolly fellow who is generous and gives out presents to good children. This story is also attached to mystical idea that he's still alive and travels the earth and is able to perform a miracle of visiting every child.

I thought I'd spend a bit of time reading the written account of the real St Nicholas, who lived in the 4th Century. What I see, if the records are true, are some amazing stories of provision and miracles. A real man of faith. It's no surprise that we've kept this figure 'alive' in our hearts, as he performed so many miracles, yet took no credit for himself. It was others that credited him, but in fact, he only told of how great God is.

There were times of famine, where, through prayer and intercession, Nicolas pleaded with God and harvests were multiplied. He had an amazing heart for the poor children and would bless continuously. He believed in the deity of Christ and defended his faith. He was a righteous man, devout in his discipline and walk with Christ and 'carried his cross' daily.

Yet what do we as society take from the stories? What do you teach your children about God's provision and guidance through obedience and faith? How many stories of God's compassion on the people do you see?

Adventure, excitement and make-believe is all part of a kid's life. I play with Joshua and all of his toys are not real, but 'make-believe'. It's part play, part educational (how to engage with others, how to take care of equipment etc). Each story I tell has to have a good moral undertone that would line up with scripture. We need to value truth.

I can see how this bastardisation of the story happened. It was probably in good faith that parents wanted to get their children to behave themselves, and to do that they needed a mechanism. Rather than "if you're bad, you won't get any Christmas presents", it's "if you're good, Santa Claus might visit and give you lots of presents", thereby offsetting the discipline to a third 'mystical' party who looks on you and decides if you've been good or not.

Current story of Santa Claus: Mystical figure who will give presents to children who are good.
Summary: behave yourself and you'll receive a gift.
Outworking: transactional faith by works. Ultimately selfish (if I am good, I will get what I want)

Original story: Faithful man of God serves God unconditionally, has a fulfilled life and was able to bless others, especially the poor and needy
Summary: Put God first, then serve others.
Outworking: selfless love that has no bounds.

I know which Santa Claus I'd rather teach about. So, as Joshua grows older, I'm not going to stop teaching about this saint that we all hold dearly to, but I'll tell him the true story, so that he's not 'trying to be good' with the aim to receive presents, but put others first before himself.



Thursday, 6 December 2012

Winding down for Christmas

In South Africa, Christmas starts appearing in shops in October (like in many countries), where they can't decide whether to put up tinsel and santas, or halloween stuff, or both! But what's different here compared to the UK, is that Christmas is right in the middle of the summer holidays. This has a profound affect on the church and missional community. Naturally many missionaries travel back home for this season, but others (including us this year) won't be leaving but staying. So, whilst the number in the church and Christian activities increase back home during December (the 'busy month'), things are winding down here, with the congregation thinning out and bit-by-bit people stop activities until the New Year.

I went to try and get my car fixed on the 3rd December, only to be told that "it's Christmas" and things are "too busy" to add any extra work on now. "It's not us," said the mechanic pridefully, "it's the suppliers. We can't get the parts, everyone's out of stock. Bring it back in January."
We work in a seaside location (Muizenberg) where many of the houses are let to missionaries and short term workers for 10 months of the year. Many YWAM families have to vacate their property for December and January to make room for the owners to come and holiday here. The YWAM campus will be closed from the 15th December for about three weeks. This means that there are several people who are left in somewhat limbo: in temporary accommodation and outside of the usual setup (no staff meetings, regular fellowship cancelled etc).

In that regard we've decided that a Christmas with just a toddler will be quite depressing. We're opening our house on the 25th December to friends who want to join us to make a wider 'family' Christmas celebration. It will be a different kind of Christmas than the usual, and may involve a barbecue, rather than a roast dinner, let's see!

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, may God guide you and comfort you and show you what it was He did by sending His Son to be our Saviour. A great reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

But why?

This is probably one of the most frustrating questions that a child can ask his/her parents. "But why mummy?!" comes from the 7 year old's mouth, as they seek to learn more about the world. Sometimes, for the child it might be that they've just learned the word and they've found that it can be used for anything and everything (more to the annoyance of the parents). Other times, they may be genuinely seeking the reasons why things are there. This is a frustrating question, therefore, not because we don't value our children's education and development, but because we often have not challenged ourselves on the questions that they're asking. The cop-out answer then comes "because I said it so. End of discussion."

David Hamilton is teaching us this week on God's view on leadership. Last night he gave a talk on the belief tree. The elements of the tree need to match-up in order for us to have integrity with our walk with God. This means that our worldview, beliefs, values, principle-based decisions/policies and actions need to all compliment each other, not contradict each other.

It can be seen as layers in alignment too:

Foundation/soil: Worldview - what we believe/assume is real
Roots: Beliefs - What we understand to be true
Trunk/body: Values - what we understand to be good
Branches: Principle-based decisions/policies - what we believe is right
Fruit: Actions - what we believe is wise to do

Each time a 'why' question is asked, it uncovers a layer in our belief tree. By answering honestly the question why, we verbalise and expose our own understanding and belief system at the different layers. This is a great excercise to do, to challenge ourselves and others.

For example: I lock my door to my house when I go out. [Action]

Why?
So that nobody else can get in [Principle-based Decision]

Why do you not want anyone else to get in?
I don't want the things in my house to be stolen. [Values - stewardship of resources]

Why don't you want your stuff to be stolen?
Because these are things that we need and God has given us these things to steward and care for. [Belief - everything is God's]

Why would someone steel the stuff God has given you to look after?
Because it has value and they want it for themselves. [worldview]

This can be done for any action that you do. As I look to do this, I'm discovering that many of my actions are not in alignment with the values and beliefs that we learn through a biblical worldview. A key way of identifying this, is to stop yourself when you answer "I know I should do x, y or z, but I don't". By asking these questions, children are subtly testing our belief and worldview system. If ours doesn't match-up with biblical principles for life, then we can either deny it and ignore the question, or seek to repent of our lack of integrity and seek to put ourselves back on track by changing our ways.

I can see that Slingshot is going to be a tough course!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Losing a YWAM family member

The loss of a fellow missionary is a hard one to face. As we learned this week on how to deal with crisis situations, we were able to reflect on the tragic loss of a missionary and her mother in a car accident. I think the feelings that we're all experiencing is well reflected in Ashley Diehl's blog post:

This event has caused many to look at their own life and see how fragile we are. Everyday drama and petty arguments fade away as we realize they mean nothing in comparison to a mother and daughter leaving this world without any warning.

People who have experienced loss of a close friend or a family member often question God and the gospel in light of these events. How do we truly counsel someone who is suffering with this amount of pain? I have failed many times in my attempts to put on a prayer “band aide” or offer a cliche statement to help someone suffering and in need. Often it is easier to not ask the tough questions.

I am beginning to learn the importance of walking with someone in times like these. Emotional healing takes a long time and leaves noticeable scars. 

See the full blog post at: www.diehlmissions.com

Friday, 26 October 2012

Being on the frontline


A lot of the work I do can be seen as one or two steps removed from the immediate ‘go forth and tell the world’. Yet God has clearly spoken to the team at AfriCom that we are on the frontline and for us not to see ourselves as a "back" or "supporting office". 

God is purposeful in his actions and he guides the work that we do as a family and that we do as a mission. Right now God is calling us to enter into a time of greater preparation when it comes to being prepared for eventualities which lead to trauma, such as kidnapping. It has been wonderful to spend a couple of days with some legends of the mission in South Africa and see how their humility and submission to Christ has led them to see areas of missing links in our armoury and a willingness to allow others to help change that. YWAM pioneered Member Care in Africa and is bringing it to the rest of the world. 

For many in the mission field, work focuses on a reactive response to a given situation. Take anti-trafficking work, for example, where they are stepping in to assist vulnerable people (mostly women and children) who have been exploited. There’s a past tense there. The big work that they have to do is bringing restoration, dignity and hope to people who have had their whole lives damaged by slavery. However, for us in the communications department, we often find ourselves working towards things that have not yet happened. As God leads us to prepare for eventualities, we do find ourselves hoping that such eventualities never actually happen, but know that God puts such preparation in place for a reason.

This week we’ve been learning how to deal with kidnapping scenarios, where if one of our members were to be kidnapped, what would we do? How would we react? And how to we limit or reduce the likelihood of death and/or serious injury?

It has been brought to our attention by highly trained professionals that YWAMers at a base level may not have an adequate awareness of such subjects, and, therefore, may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

For the past 50 years, YWAM missions have taken place across the globe. Campuses and bases have been established and we’ve seen great fruit. Statistically mission work falls into a very high risk area and the fact that very little trauma and incident has affected members across the continent of Africa is a testament to God’s amazing protection. However, it has been felt that this cover of protection is gradually lifting and God is calling us to be more aware and more prepared. More aware that the prince of darkness doesn’t want us to complete our mission and more aware that it was God’s protection and not our own abilities that has got us thus far.

Copyright © 2008
by James Dale Coldiron and Voice of the Watchman
This is a constant theme that has been coming up over the past few years: be aware and be prepared. There is a predicted growth of the mission over the next few years, but before that happens, we believe that God is putting in place measures to protect the value and purpose of YWAM in the African continent. We need not fear the Devil and his actions, but we need to be aware of his very real existence, so that we can adequately prepare ourselves physically and spiritually. Ephesians 6:10-18 talks about the Armour of God and it has been on our hearts for many years.

AfriCom – as the communications team for Africa – is part of the Field Service Team. This may be seen as a supporting role for missions. Yet God has told us that we are ‘on the front line’ for mission work. Gradually, the details of this position are being revealed to us and God is giving us the tools to be able to do the work he has prepared for us.

The challenge for us now is to work on getting ourselves prepared without allowing any sense of fear to enter in. Increased awareness can, if not managed correctly, lead to a crippling fear where we are unable to do the mission that God has called us to do. The only way we can be fearless in our work is if we yoke ourselves to Christ and have a deep understanding and knowledge that his blood was shed for us and that we do not act in our own strength but his.

When we know that, the preparation turns from fear into excitement as we look – not to our own fight – but rather to how Jesus will be standing for us to victory. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Trusting in His faithfulness

I write this blog post from my sick bed. Yet again I have been struck down by the latest thing that's going round! Becky with her amazing immune system has once again avoided the vommitting virus that's hit Muizenberg. To compound matters, Joshua has post immunisation sickness which has hit him pretty hard this time.

The question came to mind as I lay writhing with stomach cramps waiting for the next sick to come up: why does God allow this? I cried out a few times to God: why? and please heal! Yet God did not take away my pain, or comfort me in the way I wanted.

When you get sick, instinct takes precedence  All thoughts of others go out of the window. People, generally, become very selfish when their body is attacked in this way. We cling on to those around us who can care for us and make demands that we would never make otherwise - "I need water", "don't talk to me now". "where are you, I need a painkiller". I found myself saying these very same things. Becky, whose patience goes beyond what most people's tolerance levels would, was an angel. Quietly supporting me, whilst taking care of Joshua, she did a sterling job of keeping the house together with two dependants crying out for help.

I don't know why God allows those serving him to suffer. Why are there missionaries with HIV/AIDS? Why do missionary families sometimes suffer miscarriage and infant death? Why do some missionaries have to leave the mission field early because of lack of finances?

It's not something I have an easy straightforward answer to. But I come back to the a belief that God is who He says he is, and I can trust Him. From that foundation, I feel quite within my relationship boundaries to cry out and ask him these questions, without doubting for a minute his goodness, mercy and everlasting love. It may seem like a paradox to those onlookers who do not have a relationship with Jesus, but it goes to the very core of our faith. Faith is only tested by our ability to hold onto the truth of who God is when our circumstances don't reflect that goodness (in our minds). I trust God is good, his mercy is everlasting and his love knows no bounds. And I will declare his truth for my life even when I am in agony, grieving or just hurting.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Language barrier

Working cross culturally to build communications is not easy in missions, but add language difficulties into the mix and it becomes a whole extra hurdle to overcome. Even English language speakers have difficulty understanding each other sometimes and it can lead to embarrassing confusion. South African English has its own nuances that differ from the British, whether it's the term robot meaning traffic light, or the term just now meaning some point in the future, being an English speaker doesn't always mean you'll be fully understood, or fully understand what is being communicated. Subtle differences in the use of the words  can lead to embarrassing mis-communication among speakers of the same language.

Within the mission world, there are three languages that dominate sub-Saharan Africa: English, French and Portuguese. Sadly, there isn't a huge cross-over between these three within the continent and a lot of the connections and relationships are limited to historic links to former colonies or language family countries. Websites (including AfriCom's at the moment), are seldom produced in multiple languages and many of us lack the skills and abilities to field queries in multiple languages.

Yet, right now, we feel as a team led to build connections with Francophone Africa, whilst maintaining our relationship with Portuguese speaking countries too. We deliberately produce Djembe (our flagship magazine) in three languages to bring a bit of cross polination, but it's not enough, really.

I'm currently faced with this conundrum: do I look to staff my weaknesses and recruit French and Portuguese speaking staff, or do I look to learn these languages myself? Or both?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Understanding better how to parent

On a glorious sunny spring Sunday in Cape Town, Becky and I met with friends who live in Sea Point - a beautiful resort between Cape Town city centre and Signal Hill. After a wonderful walk along the promenade to soak in the much-awaited sunshine (it feels like it's been a long winter!), we enjoyed English tea and a chat about anything that came up.

As we discussed various things, the topic of raising children came up. Our friends had just been to an adoption conference, run by Arise, where they learned about the 'ins' and 'outs' of adopting children in South Africa. We shared with them about our own journey, and how we long to adopt, but know that as volunteers in South Africa, it has become impossible for us.

However, there was so much to learn from the adoption process that we can apply to the raising of our own children. As Joshua didn't come with an instruction book, I want to limit the amount of counselling he's going to need as a result of my mistakes as a parent. One of the tools that Arise uses to highlight the challenges of adopting a child is the Wall of Needs. This is a basic building blocks diagram of what is perceived that a child would need in order to have a stable upbringing. The thought is, is that every child adopted has some of these vital building blocks missing and therefore will need extra care, over and above other children within the family to compensate for that loss. "The Wall is a graphic illustration of how unmet physical and emotional needs early in life affect children’s later development, requiring different parenting techniques and support for adoptive parents." Taken from Adoption UK
building blocks for a healthy child
The Wall of a healthy child looks something like this.
(I didn't come up with this, but can't find a reference for who did!














However, as I scanned through the diagram, I found myself analysing whether Joshua was afforded these building blocks. I also looked through each one and started thinking about areas that I hadn't given enough attention to. To compound the situation, the discussion shifted on to the challenges faced in later life by any one of these blocks either missing, or inadequately addressed.
I long to be a good, God-fearing, father to Joshua, so wherever I can get help (within reason), I try and grab it with both hands. And learn through the process, repenting of my failure so far. This thought process brought to mind the film, Courageous, in which a group of guys learn that their 'best intentions' as fathers wasn't good enough for what God had called them to be. I went and re-read The Resolution from the film, where they declared some truths that they would hold each other to. My declaration today is that I will try to step into this role and be the father that God is calling me to be. 

In case you wondered, this is the resolution. Let me know if you agree...

I DO solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.
I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.
I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honour her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.
I WILL train them to honour authority and live responsibly.
I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.
I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.
I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.
I WILL seek to honour God, be faithful to His church, obey His Word, and do His will.
I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfil this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. ---Joshua 24:15

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The sacrifices that we must make

Today we hosted a party to celebrate a first birthday -- a child of one of the Nigerian missionary family working here in South Africa. As we, as a YWAM 'family' gathered to wish this little boy all the best, there was definitely a sense of longing for extended (blood related) family to be present at such an occasion. Stepping into mission is more than just moving away from your comfort zone. It means moving away from close family who love and care for you.

As I saw our local supermarket trying to decide whether to put up Halloween promotions, or Christmas decorations, it made me reflect that both these celebrated dates have a special place in my heart (31st Oct is my birthday and 25th December is Jesus' birthday!). This year, Christmas will be the first family gathering for us without any extended family to join us. We will miss spending time with our parents and Joshua's uncles and aunts very much.

The obedience that comes with serving in mission means that you take such sacrifices and accept them. Knowing that you're serving a higher purpose and goal is enough to give you the motivation to 'press on to the higher goal'. It also means that you cherish the telephone conversations, emails, letters and parcels that come from friends 'back home' dearly.

May God continue to guide us as we serve him in missions.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Paradigm shift

It was wonderful tonight at the community night at YWAM Muizenberg where we heard scriptures read that followed Jesus life, from prophesy through birth and teaching, to death, resurrection and ascension. Then the coming of the Holy Spirit. The basics of the gospel, really, taking seriously his death and what the blood of Christ means to us, and the great act of Love that God gave to us.

We slip so easily back into selfish ways. But the blood of Jesus on the cross is a truly humbling reality that every Christian has to face. Having bread and wine present at the last supper, Jesus gave us such a powerful symbol by which to remember this incredible act of love and obedience. Jesus didn't stay on the cross, but by God's amazing and glorious power, he rose from the dead.

I've been reflecting this week on how I can so easily sin when I take my eyes off Jesus. I find myself fearing financial provision. I become lazy and stubborn in so many facets of my life. I reject truth in so many ways through my actions of unbelief. But returning to Jesus' teaching and his public display of true love cuts straight through that selfishness and brings me to my knees to repent of my waywardness.

I entitled this blog entry Paradigm Shift because it's something that God's doing in my ministry right now. He's showing me how to really embrace the YWAM value of First Do, then Teach. There are so many things that God is calling us to change in terms of communications in Africa, but he's focusing right now on our team and how we should live out the principles that we wish to impart. This is no mean feat and I think it will take us a significant time to deepen our understanding of our role within the mission and then practice doing effective communication, with a servant heart, right here on our doorstep in Cape Town before we can really be effective in the rest of Africa.

My hope and prayer right now is that AfriCom can step into that over the next few months, taking time to note what we're learning in the process, so that as we develop projects in various different parts of Africa. We are building people up for Kingdom work, by displaying God's grace and teaching in our lives rather than lecturing them on good theory. The best display and foundation for this principle comes from the blood of Jesus.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Being part of a family

This week we have been gathering with our friends at YWAM Muizenberg. Each year, this base gets together in September to mark the beginning of the year. As AfriCom also works out of Cape Town, we were invited to celebrate with them.

It's a time for worship, celebration, confession, repentance, renewal. Spring time in South Africa is a great season to do this. Every year feels like a fresh boost to our mission and this year was no exception. As the staff gathered, we prayed for one another. Last year was a focus was on bringing unity. We were brought together and declared together that we were all part of one body. This year, we built on that to face each other and see, now that we are one, look at ways in which we can serve one another.

I usually use the blog as a place for reflection rather than update, so here goes:

When a gathering happens, God has a way of putting his signature on it. It's easy to get caught up in the crowd and buzz and veer away from Him and His purposes. Orderly worship can easily turn into chaos.

Some of his characteristics:
- He will always glorify himself
- He is who is he says he is
- We are who he says we are.
- We are fallen sinners, worthy of damnation
- If we, confess and repent, he will forgive us and take us into his fold.

So, however the gathering of believers goes, if it contains contrite hearts, true repentance, joy and unity, you know that you're onto the right thing.

The testimonies that were shared during this time, not only humbled us but showed of God's great glory, power and provision. It was a great privilege to be part of this gathering and hope others were blessed by it too.



Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Spring is in the air

It's September in Cape Town, which is in the opposite end of the year to the northern hemisphere where the nights are starting to draw in, and autumn is getting underway with the glorious browns and greens of the leaves falling from the trees. No, for us in Muizenberg, spring is definitely in the air. You can feel it, as there is a general lightening of the mood and feeling that we can put away hot water bottles and blankets, and keep doors and windows open. Gradually coats are being shed and the sandals are being dusted off, ready for summer.

For us, it's still a stressful time of balancing mission work, family work and financial (and logistical) demands, both from here and back home in England.

Spring is also the season when YWAM Muizenberg kicks off its year. It starts with a three day retreat, known as 'at home week', where we gather to meet the new staff and share where we feel God is calling us. And God is growing the staff number wanting to do missions here. This year we've all been encouraged to study the book of Ephesians. I've been trying to read it every day, to absorb some of the many things that the letter covers. Reading the whole of Ephesians (it's not that long!) over and over has given me a new insight into Paul's heart for the church in Ephesus and some of the timeless truths he was trying to get across.
Sitting out by the beach at lunchtime, (rather than huddled inside under a blanket as it has been in previous weeks), I was able to see how this could be great time for new beginnings: for AfriCom as we take on new staff and build new projects and connections, for us personally as we seek to take on new tenants in our house in England (please pray we can do this!), for Joshua as he has moved very quickly from walking to now running around and discovering all sorts of new things, and for Justice ACTs as they move the ladies from the current house to a new safe house (albeit temporary).

Let's see how this next season hold out and where we will be heading. Winter time is a hard time to write newsletters and updates. But spring holds much hope and much to share about His faithfulness. We are always grateful for the ongoing prayers of friends and family who sustain us here as we seek to serve God in Africa.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Taking God at his word

It's a cold Monday in August and none of us feel like being in the cold South African office, working unpaid and trying to figure out daily what we need to do to fulfil His calling. And how to raise the money to do it. My prayer today as I walked to work was 'give me the strength to face today, Lord, and I will serve you.' What was special about today? What did I have to face?

The answer: nothing.

It's not that we have nothing to do, per se. Far from it in fact, there's lots that we have planned and sometimes the difficulty is knowing where to start. However, the nothing refers to no major, earth shattering event that we have to face. The day-to-day work of longterm missions can be draining and thankless. There isn't even the added perk of a pay cheque at the end of the month.

The truth is: we have many miracle moments in YWAM. We have many many times when God meets us. Daily God speaks to us; but that doesn't make it any easier to follow. I think all of us have moments where we feel we can't go on, or we just can't face it.

This weekend I was reading the first few chapters of Exodus where Moses was being commanded by God to go and tell Pharoah to 'let my people go'. Moses was telling God that he couldn't do the impossible and God was reminding him that He can do the impossible!

Right now, I know that God has called me into missions, to serve him and to trust him. To trust him dispite what I see and know; to trust him, even when it seems impossible. God has spoken clearly that I can trust his promises and he will not leave me.

But in the middle of winter, on a Monday morning, it can be hard to find the energy to see the sunshine behind the clouds.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Trusting in God's promises

Rainbow over Muizenberg mountain
that I noticed during my prayer walk this week. 

Dear friends in the blogosphrere: I'm back!

Please forgive me for being absent for a couple of months. For me (Peter), personally, this year so far has been tough. There are a lot of lessons I’m learning in how to keep going in longterm mission work.

Missions is not easily defined and not easy to quantify. We know certain things - either things that we've decided upon, like where we are working physically (i.e. South Africa) and, maybe, where we are going next - and things God's guided us in, such as working with YWAM Communications and anti-trafficking work. We also know the big picture of our calling. But sometimes our circumstances just don’t make sense at the time when we have to face them; sometimes we strive and our projects fail. Sometimes people fail us. Missions is made up of people, fallible humans with whom God chooses to partner. I heard one wise person once say: you're ready and wise enough to have children when you're in your 60s, but you're just too old to do it physically! This apt statement had me thinking. God chooses to get us to be parents before most of us are ready. And he's put me in leadership way before I feel ready to be here. And it's not just because I'm in YWAM - it's a clear calling from God to step out in faith and trust him.

My journey with AfriCom has been one of adventure, excitement and victory. But there have been times of disappointment, disillusionment and frustration. What I expected to happen (especially with new staff joining and the roles they would play) just didn't. And what I thought would be impossible (often with the fulfilment of certain financial commitments) were very much provided for.

Probably the hardest thing I've had to process this year is the anticipated recruitment of staff and assisting them develop roles within the organisation and the reality that most have not joined and the one that did was unable to stay (for reasons beyond her control). Yet God’s promised us that He will grow the team. How do I match up God's promise to the reality in which I live? I know that God's promises are conditional and thankfully he gives us the conditions. Thankfully so far I have met those conditions (for me it is simple: remain in me). God has met with me several times to confirm this message and the fact that he is pleased with my steadfast faith in him despite my circumstances.

I feel that it's in that trusting him (despite what we see around us) that we really see God's glory shine. Right now I am putting a great deal of trust in his faithfulness because I know that the reality of my own limitations and the situation I find myself won't achieve what he has promised. Therefore I would be foolish not to lean on him right now!

Just this week a trusted friend came to me and told me that during his prayer times, he had a message: "Pete, you can trust God's promises." he said. "Right now the most important thing is to remain in him."

Harder said than done, I can promise you, but here goes: I am going to strive to remain in him and trust in his promises and guidance.

I will let you know how I get on. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Do you have a biblical worldview?


This question was posed by the speaker tonight at a gathering of YWAMers from around Southern Africa. He identified how easy it is for us to have a restricted socio-economic worldview which often stems from our childhood – how we were brought up; how our parents view the world. How do we view finances and our resources that we have to hand? And what is God’s view? He used the Lord’s Prayer as a focal point, particularly: Hallowed be Your Name; Your Kingdom Come.
It was very thought provoking – one of those messages that gets you really thinking.
He encouraged us to step away from that type of thinking. What if our socio-economic worldview were to change? What if we were to see God’s presence in our lives as a type of embassy? An embassy – no matter what country you’re in – is a safe haven for any citizen that it represents. The laws, rules and regulations in that premesis are of that country. This is what, according to the speaker, we really should mean when we pray: Your Kingdom Come –  i.e. bring your embassy (protection) to this place. Let us be under Your authority and Your rules here. This left me wondering what is my socio-economic worldview? How do I restrict myself to my upbringing and my knowledge of the world? Do I really allow God to be my protector and guide? And how do we get a biblical worldview?

I suppose that I have to ask God to reveal my limitations to me and look to change when He does. I have a feeling it’s a gradual process because there’s so much that shapes us from how we were brought up. I’m not sure of any specific examples of my mentality that I have, but I’m sure over time, God will reveal them to me!

For a bit of entertainment, here are some stereotypes of socio-economic worldview on buying a necklass:
Poverty mentality
“We can’t afford Jewellery, let alone a necklass!"

Middle class mentality
“Darling I bought this designer necklass, it was 30% off, you know!”

Wealth mentality
“This necklass was exclusively handcrafted by a native American tribe 200 years ago. It’s the only one of its kind, you know”

Monday, 7 May 2012

Be still and know

After an amazing few days with the leaders of the YWAM locations across Southern Africa it was time to join the rest of the staff for a regional conference at a spa in Worcester (just two hours drive from us). During these past few days we have wrestled with our past as a mission in this region, and learned more about God's heart for YWAM. As we shared our hearts on what we felt our roles were within YWAM using the metaphor of family (brothers, mothers, grandparent etc), we began to see that it is not easy to define ourselves. We also felt there were a lack of those who saw themselves as 'father figures' in our region.
Tonight Ian Muir - the Scottish founding father of YWAM in South Africa - gave the opening speech. In it we heard a powerful message of the importance of listening to God. He called on us to 'Be still and know..." (Psalm 46:10) because if we don't we will not (necessarily) be able to be obedient to what he's calling us to do. "In our busy lives with smart phones and mobile phones, with iPhones and iPods, it is increasingly difficult to quieten ourselves to be still ... in conferences - like this one - where schedules and timetables are pushed in importance, we can miss what God is calling us to be". 
It was fitting, therefore, after the word from Ian, for the delegates of the conference, led by Diane Vermooten of YWAM Media Village, to pay tribute through gifts and song, for the example that Ian has been to YWAM in this part of the world. He has gone before us, he has endured the hardship and paid the price for obedience, so that we can do the work we're called to do. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Djembe magazine: out now!


It gives me great pleasure to introduce the latest edition of AfriCom’s Djembe magazine. This is a publication of YWAM AfriCom.

As one of the most versatile drums in Africa, the djembe was originally used to gather people together, create inspirational rhythms and to help tell stories. Djembe, therefore, seemed a fitting title for an YWAM magazine designed to connect like-minded people across Africa and in which we can share encouraging stories and lessons learned.

Djembe magazine
Reporting the rhythms of YWAM Africa
Here at AfriCom, Djembe is used to communicate the awesome things God is doing in Africa through YWAM, to encourage and connect YWAM bases, ministries and missionaries across the continent with one another and with similar organizations, and to share valuable knowledge and skills.

This edition focuses on how YWAMers are bringing transformation to communities right across the continent through education and training. It’s really exciting to see how God is building His Kingdom across Africa and how YWAMers, have a key role to play.

Read how the YWAM Redeem school is bringing education and God’s love to children in the previously war-torn country of South Sudan; share in the celebration with YWAM’s Gideon Centre in Mali empowering people and restoring their God-given dignity through vocational training; and learn more about the keys to living the fruitful and meaningful lives God has called us to.

Physical copies are available for £2 each. Just email: djembe@ywamafricom.org with the number of copies you would like and we'll be in touch to arrange payment and shipping.

Or you can download view a copy of Djembe magazine here now

Monday, 2 April 2012

Analysing 2011

The end of year report can be something that you dread doing. It's a long process of analysing what has been achieved (and not achieved) over the year and being upfront and honest with those that engage with you. We're in the process of completing our first annual report, as we were officially commissioned to 'go' into longterm missions in December 2010 (even though we'd been in missions since January of that year. So, 2011 was our first year of the commitment of many churches and individuals who engage with us for our missionary journey. Therefore we want to show them what has been done with their support over this time. One of our learning curves, doing this report, has been remembering the details of what exactly we did each month. Sometimes, so much goes on, that after a year it's hard to pin down what we did when. Therefore, as a learning outcome, we have pledged to write a paragraph summary for the report each month, so that it's not this mammoth document to complete at the end of the year. Finances too were a lot more tricky that I anticipated. As our bank changed from paper statement to electronic format, I thought it would be really straightforward to analyse our financial status/money use. However, it was much much more tricky than that, as the bank in question (not naming it here) does not support Excel/Money/Quicken or anything - just viewing on screen. Added to that, any transactions older than three months are archived, where you have to literally click on each transaction to view the details. This was a very labour-intensive task! So, now, with the end of month summary, I'm going to be doing an end of month draw down from the bank for easier analysis. Yay!

Having said all that, it has been a great process. It has been really encouraging to see just how much we do and how much can be done in 12 months! It was hard in the end to limit each quarter to just three pages of text. We can see God's glory and how He has enabled us to achieve what we've been able to do in this time.

Our annual report is available from 10th April 2012 for anyone who wants it - please email report@ywamafricom.org to get your copy.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Going through a paradigm shift

How quickly we allow things to become our guides, rather than taking our leading from the voice of God and then using things for that purpose. I read a challenging and thought-provoking article this morning from a fellow YWAMer Daniel Norris entitled Taking back your timeDaniel highlights how we easily become a slave to technology, rather than letting it serve us and our God-given purposes. His sacrifice of his laptop has resulted in more quality time spent with his wife. Something I need to learn too.
It's amazing how this penetrates our ministry too. Even though we think that we are getting on the right track to where God is leading us in AfriCom, it is always good to ask others with a more objective perspective to challenge us - especially in the area of allowing tasks/things/technology to lead us. One of the newest members of staff, Susana, challenged us about how we appear to be a media agency, yet we claim that we're not.
As I was unpacking the vision of how AfriCom is a ministry of YWAM which aims to embrace the idea of Christ centred communication and that we need to allow Him to guide us in the actions/tasks that we do, Susana mentioned the importance of the language we use and how that affects how others view us. It also affects our approach and shows our worldview. She has noted that the terms we refer to in the tasks we do are generally media terms. As we look to productivity in meetings, many words like video, podcast, article, website, photograph are used when dealing with tasks. Then the relationships are put in a place that leads us to complete these tasks. She challenged us to rethink that mindset and look at how we can change it so that the media side of things serve us, rather than the other way around; that our focus when we meet people shouldn't be immediately 'where's the story?', rather 'what is God saying to us here?'. This is a great challenge, as it requires a paradigm shift in our approach to everything we do.
The vision that God has laid before AfriCom, includes building bridges between French and English speaking Africa, and developing a resource centre for missions. But this won't necessarily be achieved by writing some articles or raising awareness through our channels, though these will still be some of the tasks that the team will do. It goes much deeper than that. We are now tasked with embracing the vision that God has given us, but developing immediate tasks that take steps towards that vision. This doesn't fit nicely into a tick-box 'to do' list. Obedience in this way will mean walking in repentance of where we have found ourselves (i.e. serving the task, rather than God). Our first step of obedience is to go, travel into the field and meet those working on the ground. Then, ask God what His purposes are. Then we can build tasks from that, which may, or may not, include some kind of media output.
We have started this journey with our recent trip to Bangui, Central Africa Republic. It was a great time of deepening our understanding of central Africa and really listening to the people who work there. We are now regrouping and praying through our responsibility and actions that we need to take to fulfil what God wants us to do. This will take time and we know that if we are obedient to His call, it will bear fruit.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Learn as you go

The strange part of God equipping the called is that you end up walking a path which is a lot less firm than if all the preparation had been done before. If I had spent years in Africa, travelling the continent and learning the ways of the people; if I had been in YWAM for many years, working my way through different departments, learning and growing, then I would be much more equipped to do the job I am doing now. But God put me firmly in a position and a place where I feel like I am daily walking on water. Yet I struggle to step out and act on that.
For those who aren't used to such metaphorical language to describe how we are feeling and what we are going through, let me explain. Because I've got a firm foundation to stand on, I'm able to walk on water. Most of these metaphors are difficult to grasp and are often over-used. That's why we need to regularly unpack what we mean and use plain language (by the way, thank you to David Ker for his excellent blog entry on cohesion and coherence.)
So, here goes:
Prov. 3: 5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
I have to remind myself that my foundation for living, and what I am doing in life should not be based what I see around me - my physical surroundings, my financial circumstances, my emotional state, my health or my well being. Rather, the foundation lies on a promise that God makes to everyone who calls on him that they will be saved from eternal damnation and live a life that is purposeful and rich. So, that's the foundation: believing the promise. Then there's the walking on water bit. That is about doing things that God calls me to do, even if they don't make sense in a 'logical', or 'normal' way of doing things. An example of this is being played out right now by my colleague Beth who is currently in central Africa to meet and greet someone who has asked us for our support. As a team, we heard the call and knew it was from God. Without money or means, and without asking anyone for help, she was sponsored to travel there by someone who didn't know the calling. God made a way.
When I see such provision and guidance, I realise that, all too often, I do not personally allow these to enter into my life enough. I talk freely about firm foundations in Christ, and the need to step out in faith; to walk on water. But I struggle to do it, and therefore I don't always see the miraculous provision and guidance that is part and parcel of walking a life of faith. In my brokenness, my prayer for this week is that God would bring me back to that place where He is the one providing and I am the one trusting.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Be Still and Know

Prayer is so fruitful. If we did nothing else today, this time would not be wasted. Spending the first hour of the day in prayer gave us such an insight into God's way of doing things.

Being still is not as easy as it looks. But it is vital if we are to fulfil what he has called us to do. The reality of the situation for AfriCom is that we do not have regular provision for our basic needs, let alone the projects we feel called to do. With such a reality, it's easy to get drawn into plans, projects and strategies.

As we prayed as a team this morning, rather than answering our need for provision, God told us to be still and know that I am your God. The passages of scripture we received from our time of prayer all confirmed this message. When we brought God our needs, we felt guided to Matthew 6:31-32 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’, For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

So, rather than having a clear answer as to where the money for our ministry will come from, we had a sense of assurance that we just need to trust him. As we continued to pray, we felt led to openly confess our lack of trust and fear of failure that had crept in and was distracting us from the original calling.

What we know is that we need to have that stillness that only comes from being under the assurance of God and therefore trusting him enough to not fear about provision or needs.

Pastor Victor, one of the many gifted teachers at our church, gave a message on Sunday about setting our eyes on the eternal goal and not on our earthly needs. This fits our situation so well. If we trust God totally for our current needs (and thereby not let it consume us) and instead work towards the eternal, we will not panic when things fall apart around us.

Being still, as my colleague, Susana reminded us, is not about being passive. It's about that preparation that God is calling us to, to anticipate the move of God in our lives and to seek him first. Once again it falls back to the two commandments that Jesus taught us: firstly Love God, then Love others. So by praying for provision means that we are abandoning the core calling that God has placed on our lives. His command is to Love Him first, then Love others. Our needs don't even come into the picture. And they don't need to, because he's already told us not to worry about that, that's already sorted!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

How long have you been in missions?

This question is posed more often than you'd think. Over time, this sense of pride kicks in to those of us that call ourselves 'missionaries' that we've 'survived' the long-run. When people pose that question to me, I avoid a straight answer, because it's not as simple as that. We've only been in YWAM for just over two years now, does that make us 'new missionaries'?
Since becoming a Christian in my teens and gradually learning what it is to be a follower of Christ, I have also  begun to learn that we are all in missions all the time. When I worked as a sub-editor for a publication in rural Berkshire, I was in missions just as much as I am now, except the mission field just looked different, that's all. When I look back, I remember praying fervently for my colleagues and seeking opportunities to pray for them and share with them about Jesus. It just so happens that now my calling from God has led me away from a salary and I have to rely on those who partner with us to support us. It's harder, more humbling and very different, but no less missions than where either Becky or I were before.
On that note, we are very grateful for the financial and prayer support that we get and know that many people who give to us, do so sacrificially. May the Lord bless you, keep you and sustain you.
It might sound like a cliché to say that, we're all in missions together but I think in a way, it's true. It needs unpacking a bit; it's easier for me to see what my mission is now than where I was working before, but reflecting back, missions has been a key element to my walk with Jesus for the best part of 15 years now.
I would love to encourage everyone and anyone who serves Christ reading this to really seek to understand what your role is in missions. Where has God led you to work, to live and to socialise? Because that's your mission field, until God leads you elsewhere. The Great Commission is not just for the 'professional Christians', but for all who call themselves a follower of Christ. I know the few of us that are on the 'mission field' cannot do this by ourselves!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Be my Valentine?

Back to firing from all cylinders, it's great to know that there is an army of friends praying for us in missions. Somehow, even though I haven't taken any time off work since my last blog post, I have renewed energy and vigour - this can only come from the Lord!

Added to that, my prayer life has significantly improved and I'm even spending more time reading my Bible ("you missionaries already read your Bible loads" I hear you say!)

Now to enjoy an evening with my valentine.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Second wind


Sometimes in missions we can face burnout. Sometimes we can feel like the world is upon us. Sometimes we just aren't sure of where we're going so we're like a sail that isn't anchored down in any way.

Since returning from England, there have been so many things to deal with and issues to sort out that I feel like my feet haven't touched the ground. We had a really busy time in the UK and I was hoping for a break when I returned to South Africa. No such luck. I feel like a sail that's blown here there and everywhere with no sense of grounding and direction. I feel there hasn't been time to catch-my-breath. Also, being struck down with food poisoning didn't help! Yet there is so much work that I still need to do and so much I need to step up to, to do what I'm called here to do. Yet I'm exhausted just thinking about.

Long drive
As I reflected on this during a drive home from a meeting on the other side of town today (about an hour away), the lack of radio in my car meant I had time to think! I really felt God giving me a second wind; that I should trust him during this time and just press in. That now isn't a time for sitting down and moaning, or whining, but now is a time for action. I believe that, though I'm tired, God will give me my second wind of energy -- just like you get when you're in a race and you feel exhausted in the first quarter and think "how am I ever going to finish", determination pushes you to jog/cycle/swim through that and then you get your second wind.

The person leading today's meeting brought a word of encouragement (and challenge) to us that fitted this nicely. He told us about God's miracles always being intertwined with the reality of the physical. God doesn't just clothe, heal, feed or bless for the sake of it. He works with people, in their circumstances and gave a (supernatural) helping hand, as they also did their part. The reflection was on the miracles that we see in the books of Kings, but could be applied to almost any miracle - from multiplying foods of various kinds to the parting of the Jordan - all were done in a context where men did the possible and God did the impossible.

I know that I know this, but do I really KNOW this?

Need to digest, sleep and look to get some quality quiet time in tomorrow. Then I can press on towards the higher goal.

Lord give me the energy, perseverance and wisdom to continue doing what You've called me to do.
Amen.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Measuring success

Well done, good and faithful servant.

These are words every Christian longs to hear. Success can be seen as a very loaded term as it is increadibly subjective. Yet we slip into measuring, rewarding and boasting success so easily and apply our world view to the measure. By doing so, what can be a great success for some is a dramatic disappointment for others and vice versa. Just take any football match, for example, it's only a success if your side wins!

For some industries, success and failure are black and white (or used to be), such as in banking, for example, where a successful year would be measured by how the balance sheet looked (although that's probably a bad example, given the current climate!). For athletes the ultimate measure of success would probably be competing (and winning) an Olympic medal.

So what is success in mission? How is it measured and what should we celebrate it? Should we celebrate it at all?

As I travel and meet more and more people involved in full time Christian service I find that the measure of success varies greatly. The easiest way to see what people's view of success is, is to attend a few meetings. More often than not, the leader of the meeting will be abundantly clear by body language, tone of voice and message whether the message they are bringing is positive or negative. Also, positive/success messages are often celebrated with clapping and cheering.

Many will celebrate success by number of volunteers/staff working for the mission. Some will measure it by how the finances are looking. Others will mark it by the output (number of outreaches/schools/activities).

This week, as some of us in YWAM are gathering to chat about how we can serve those working as volunteers in Africa better. Many of us are starting to feel really feel challenged not to measure our success in any of the above ways. Rather, spend time asking God where he is leading us, and try to be obedient to what He calls us to do. Only when we have achieved this, can we speak about success. And, of course, when we do that, we can only give the glory to God, as He did the work for us, we just obeyed.

Walking in obedience sometimes means going into the hardest places with the least support and little-to-no recognition. It means humbling yourself and serving - raising others up, not yourself.

Yet despite all this, as I sit and listen to the stories of people who have given up everything to serve overseas, I see how God has given them the strength, ability and will power to complete the tasks He has set before them. I see how they are simply men and women living extraordinary lives because of the God they serve. I hear about many miracles and examples of provision and guidance in some incredibly difficult circumstances - yet these stories are told without cheering but rather a deep sense of joy and hope. What a God we serve that allows us to journey with him like this!

So, how will I know if I've been successful?

When my God says: well done good and faithful servant.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tie up loose ends

It's a strange thing to think of stepping off, or at least stepping away from the career ladder, to go and do voluntary service overseas. Some call us brave, others wonder how we're going to provide for our family, while others still question our wisdom in quitting paid jobs in the UK. Yet we know that it was a calling that we had to take.
However, when we first went out to South Africa, we weren't 100% sure what we would be doing and how long we would be there for. It was a step of faith in itself to even go. This meant, however, that there were many 'loose ends' that were left untied. One of these was our house. We bought a small house in the UK for us to live in, right at the peak/boom, and just before the credit crunch. Although that was a few years ago now, the market still hasn't recovered and our house is still in negative equity. Friends have been looking after the house while we've been away, and helping us towards the mortgage and bills. However, now that we're committing to a much longer time South Africa, we need to look to rent it out properly - which is not as easy-a-task as we had first anticipated! This past couple of weeks has been spent clearing, sorting/preparing the house for renters whilst meeting with prospective agents and contacting various services to take our names off council tax, water, gas, electricity, telephone, internet, tv etc.

Initially we booked our flights to return to SA for 3rd January, but due to complications with Joshua's visa, we had to move it back to the next available ticket with the same price/conditions - 22nd January. I'm so grateful for that extra time - much needed to get everything sorted here in the UK. Due to the wonders of the internet, I am able to work from 'home' (home being wherever I can get internet access!) during this time. It's not the same as being with the team in SA and I know there are many things that will be left piling up for me to take care of when I return. My prayer for today is that I will complete everything that I need to, to ensure good stewardship of what we have in the UK. Any loose ends are much harder to tie from such a long way away!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Lessons learned


Many of us have mini crises in our lives - often that is manifest through loss/injury/hurt of someone, but sometimes it can be slightly more removed from that - such as the losing of important documents whilst travelling. This can become an incredibly stressful event, even if nobody's life is in imminent danger. This happened to me this week when I was in London to collect Joshua's visa. The small bag that contained all our precious documents (marriage certificate, passports, birth certificates and important receipts) was with me no more. The worst part about it was I didn't notice that the smaller bag was missing until I was almost home because it was 'supposed' to be contained within the bigger rucksack I was carrying on my back. 

When such a crisis hits, many of us turn to prayer. As you would imagine, my experience started with panic. Anyone who has gone through the process of getting visas for their family to work overseas will know the expense and time and energy needed to replace any/all of them. I called my wife, Becky, immediately who worked hard at calming me down (though I could feel the tensions rising on the other end of the phone too). I was in Luton market at the moment I realised, getting my new mobile phone unlocked. I felt all-of-a-sudden claustrophobic and a tightening of my neck muscles. I asked the guy at the market stall to hold onto my phone for a bit whilst I take a walk. I went to the toilets, expecting to throw up, or something, but nothing. It was then that I turned to prayer. Not caring how I looked to others in the shopping centre bathroom, I started praying fervently to God for his help (I resisted dropping to my knees, but I did metaphorically). The first answer to prayer came immediately - it was in the form of an amazing sense of peace that came over me. My breathing returned to normal and I felt that somehow (though I didn't know at this stage how), everything would be ok. 

I began the painful process of retracing my steps back from Luton through every shop, back to the train station and back to London, making sure to pick up my newly unlocked phone in the process. Eyes focused on the floor, wishing somehow that it was lying somewhere nearby. As I gradually went through this painstaking process, a couple of glimmers of hope turned out to be false (including the train guard telling me that 'they've found a bag with passports in St Pancras'). Finally, in London, slowly tracing my steps back, I continue my prayer, which went something like: "Lord, my worship of you is not dependent on my circumstances. But please help me find this bag with all the documents in it." That is when the second answer to prayer came. I heard God say to me: "You prayed with such passion then, but why do you wait for a crisis to pray like this?". I felt thoroughly rebuked, but knew deep in my heart, the truth of it. Over the past couple of months, I have become so busy that my prayer life has reduced down to very simple, and often half-hearted quiet times. 
As I acknowledged this and pledged to turn around and spend more serious time in prayer, I received a phone call from my brother-in-law. He had been called by lost property at St Pancras station and told that the item that I was looking for had been found.And it was. All the documents in tact and collected. Back in my hands. I held onto that small back so tightly, never wishing to see it depart from my sight again!

I don't believe God took that bag from me, but I see how he used the situation to get my attention - for which I am so grateful. Now is the task of follow through. Quiet time is a must. Please Lord help me to spend more time with you.