Sunday 28 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:

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. 

Saturday 20 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.

Thursday 18 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?

Monday 15 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

Sunday 14 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.

Friday 12 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.