Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas far from family

When you grew up with cold weather Christmas festivities, it's hard to adjust to a warm weather one. Even though I've been in South Africa for 6 years now, it still doesn't feel right to don shorts and t-shirt and have a braai (barbecue) on Christmas day!

This year we had a friend, Beccie George, who was bridesmaid at our wedding and has been a friend of ours since university days.

Having a new visitor is wonderful, because it's a good excuse to do all the tourist things in the city which we wouldn't normally do. Oftentimes, with the busy-ness of every day life, it's easy to forget that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Each time we get a visitor, they comment on how blessed we are and then we often take a step back and look around us and realise how right they are. Beccie was a wonderful gift to have with us as she helped with the kids and is just a very fun-loving easy-going person to be around. It wasn't the same as having Christmas with family, but we had some great laughs along the way.

Skype had to be our form of being with family this year, which isn't quite the same, but it's an amazing way of staying in touch when there's such a big distance between us and the grandparents.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Tools for evangelism

In my job I get to meet some wonderful people, doing amazing things. Many of the people I meet are unsung heroes, working behind the scenes to fulfil a calling God placed on their hearts and lives. Sometimes I meet whole organisations that don't shout about what they're doing, just quietly get on with it. Once such organisation is Christian Vision. Known as CV, this group, founded in the UK, has the task of helping us share the gospel using media and communications (hoorah!). They have developed many tools that use social media and the web to help churches and individual Christians in their journey to fulfilling the Great Commission. One of their latest projects is YesHeIs.com which is a databank of videos sharing how people have been touched by the love of Jesus. It's a tool for Christians who are serious about evangelism to use. Rather than just sharing it 'on their facebook wall' as is the most common way of using social media, users are encouraged to share the video directly with friends and contacts.

Part of the process is that the person receiving the video will not only see the video, but they will get a chance to respond/react to the video and 'do' something about it in their own lives. This tool enables people to hear the gospel directly. It's such a wonderful and powerful tool that I wholly endorse and think that there should be more initiatives like this! May God guide and bless those that work for CV and help many come to faith through these wonderful resources.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Spinning for Freedom!

This weekend saw us 'spinning for freedom' at a local mall here in Cape Town. The event, which has become an annual tradition of S-Cape (the safe house for girls rescued from human trafficking), is an 8-hour spinathon.

Laid out in the middle of the shopping mall were 20 exercise bikes with a spinning instructor up front, egging on the participants. Every hour the teams change over so that throughout the day there is a constant buzz of the wheels.




The safe house which is run by S-Cape cannot publicize its location, for security reasons. Therefore to help raise funds and awareness of the work of the home, activities like the spinathon are held. Passers by could see videos, hear stories of the girls and and engage with the fight against modern-day slavery.

Whilst Becky wasn't spinning she was out there engaging with the shoppers and encouraging them to donate.

Although exhausting for the participants, many of whom are not avid gym members(!), it was worthwhile to be out there, shedding light on this dark problem. I'm proud to say that my team, Team Pete, completed the task and raised our ZAR 1500 contribution towards this worthy cause. Now I'm back at work on Monday and feeling delicate as my legs ache from the intense workout!

Even Joshua, who couldn't reach the seat, had a go at spinning, giving it a good 10-minutes with his boundless energy!


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Working with integrity

Reading Steve Moody's blog* today made me think of what it is to serve in missions. As iron sharpens iron, we are meant to be willing to challenge one another and break down the barriers that cause us to pretend "all is Ok". Steve referred to it as wearing make up which covers the blemishes but never actually heals or changes anything underneath. It's been like that since the fall: we have to somehow cover ourselves out of shame.

Right now, I am taking a greater role in mentoring staff at the Youth With A Mission campus here in South Africa. At the same time, I'm also being mentored by one of our elders. Verbally processing our disappointments, fears, shame and other areas of darkness in our lives with trusted believers gives us the ability to break it down and recognise that we cannot do this without Christ who strengthens us. It pushes us to lay everything down at the Cross and submit to Him. The longer I'm in missions, the more I realise that it's not about me, but about He who sent me, trained me, equipped me, and went before me. But as I shared with my mentee, things can get messy and difficult when we ask each other the difficult questions. It is a risk - a potential damaging of reputation and friendship. Yet a vital step in order to be more like Him.

Therefore, we've got to remember that the first and foremost person to be honest with is Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. Steve sums it up nicely even he concludes with the difference between preserving reputation (=worldly) and preserving integrity (=godly). He also quotes Psalm 139:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.

As Steve says: It assumes an attitude that does not work to preserve reputation but to preserve integrity.  It assumes that we will make mistakes, that we will go astray.  Such an attitude is the basis upon which forgiveness operates and the foundation of our reconciliation with God.

*Steve is the pastor of the wonderful Stopsley Baptist Church in Luton. He is often thought-provoking in his sermons. He is partly the reason why I am serving in missions today!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

What's behind the lens

When it comes to presenting a story, we can easily be influenced by the story teller. Sometimes that's easy to spot other times it can be a while lot more subtle. An experiment was carried out recently to explore the way in which photographers take portraits.

Once they get to know the story behind the person, it heavily influences how they take the photographs, giving them a great deal of power on how they present that person to the audience.

This shows us the great power that the media has on our opinions and our paradigms. This is especially true for famous people whom we have never met but invariably have an opinion about, usually based on what we've been told, or in many cases shown through edited videos and images.

It challenged me about the photographs and videos I select to present to others our work and the great power reach of us hold in this realm know of mass communication.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Grizelda

My friend Grizelda was trafficked at 18. We met at the trafficking conference last year. She shares her story to raise awareness and empower others. She's so brave and I really admire her courage in being able to share her story to strangers. I'm privileged to know her!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Circle 18: Communicating with Integrity

As I prepare to send out the latest edition of Djembe - a magazine to serve the YWAM staff in Africa, I am also looking to launch Circle 18 in my local area. This is not an initiative from me, but a vision cast a few months ago by people within the mission that want to see a maturing of our approach to communications. Circle 18 is, in fact, a simple way of re-thinking communication globally. I am not abandoning AfriCom, rather looking to mature it and push it into something that it needs to become. To understand why the move away from having an Africa Communications office towards a Circle 18 'gathering', I have to unpack a bit of history for you...

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has always been broad structured and decentralised. In fact, it's a value that was set out from the beginning. It's in our DNA. The principle is that we are a global family of ministries held together by shared purpose, vision, values and relationship.  Yet at times we have formed into a grove that isn't ours. A grove that suggests we are a single organisation that is centrally co-ordinated. That grove took more shape during the past 20 years since we started adopting titles within our operating locations and global gatherings. These were business titles, which included chairman and director. But our foundations aren't based on such a structure. An international director within a decentralised movement has little power to direct and so (as was often the case) becomes frustrated and ends up facing burnout and exhaustion.

But this was never the heart of what makes YWAM what it is. The heart of YWAM is laid out in the book, Is that Really You, God, where the founder, Loren Cunningham explains the beginnings of this missions movement. Here's a summary that can be found on ywam.org

It all began with a vision. In June of 1956, Loren Cunningham, a 20-year-old student from the United States, spent a part of his summer break in Nassau, Bahamas touring with a singing group. One night after a busy day, Loren had an unusual experience. “I lay down on the bed,” he recalled, “doubled the pillow under my head and opened my Bible, routinely asking God to speak into my mind. What happened next was far from routine. Suddenly, I was looking up at a map of the world. Only the map was alive, moving! I sat up. I shook my head, rubbed my eyes. It was a mental movie. I could see all the continents. Waves were crashing onto the shores. Each went onto a continent, then receded, then came up further until it covered the continent completely. I caught my breath. Then, as I watched, the scene changed. The waves became young people–kids my age and even younger–covering the continents. They were talking to people on the street corners and outside bars. They were going house to house. They were preaching. ‘Was that really you, Lord?’ I wondered, still staring at the wall, amazed. Young people–kids really–going out as missionaries! What an idea! And I thought ‘Why did God give me this vision?’”

The true director of YWAM is, and always will be, Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who gave Loren the vision and Jesus who laid out the Great Commission. Anything that takes us away from that will cause us difficulties. Therefore God has been speaking to us, as a mission, over the past few years to repent. That has been manifest in a step away from the corporate and into a missions mindset. He called all the directors to lay down their titles and positions and trust God for the next step. It was a bold move, but a necessary one.

Now that we have no field directors, no chairman, no president, we are starting to see God step in and take his place as our leader. Former directors are now becoming elders, and conveners. Rather than international meetings to lay out the way forward, we are having global gatherings that spend the majority of time in worship and prayer. Elders are not there to direct, but to advise, chastise and champion young people who are being encouraged to trust in the Lord as their guide, rather than look to a corporate for the directions. A releasing is happening on a major scale and many are rising up to do many new things to fulfil the gospel calling, as laid out in Matthew 28.

The development of Circle 18 is to hopefully fall into line with where YWAM is right now. The principle is to have conveners (I am looking to convene a group in Cape Town) who will gather staff to pray, worship and seek wisdom in specific areas. We will ask for Him to speak into the area of communication and ask Him where we are going wrong. In AfriCom, whenever we have simply gathered, sought the Lord and trusted Him for his word for that season, we have seen much fruit. Often times when we have developed our own strategies, we have not seen the same level of success.

Please pray with us, as we take this bold step away from the corporate and into a time of trust and obedience.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Media campaign against trafficking.

Trafficking goes on in your neighbourhood. We like to think it doesn't, but it does. The rising of the deep web and the ease of access to all sorts of vice shows us that far from being wiped out, slavery still exists and is getting worse.

But most of us are totally unaware of the sheer number of people affected by trafficking. It's a hidden evil that is in every town and city in the world today.

The Media Campaign Against Human Trafficking (MeCAHT) is a conference, held in Simonstown, South Africa, designed to raise awareness of this issue and share resources and ideas to combat slavery through media. Becky went along to this conference where she was able to network with some prominent members of the anti-trafficking community. She also spoke on trafficking from Benin City, Nigeria (where she grew up) to Europe, where 80 per cent of the African human trafficking victims are from Benin City. Becky also shared about her trip to Nigeria a few years ago to raise awareness of trafficking.

At this conference last year, Becky met Tony (below) who is a Nigerian man who was trafficked to South Africa. He was promised a position as a soccer player and thought at the time that it was a dream-come-true, only to find upon arrival in Cape Town that he had been trafficked himself and was now expected to sell drugs and be a pimp. He was rescued by Anne and Alex Abok, YWAM colleagues and the founders of MeCAHT, who personally funded Tony to enable him to escape from his desperate situation. We are praying that Tony will be able to do a Discipleship Training School with YWAM in January 2016 and we're trying to fundraise for this.



Saturday, 24 October 2015

Arise Adoption conference

Arise Adoption Conference today was great! Lots of reminders and new information too. Thank you so much Steven Nicholson, you're doing amazing work!



This year’s conference covered topics from grief and loss, attachment disorder to racial identity, blended families and parenting older adopted children.

We can't wait for our journey to start!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Adoption: on God's heart

We have had adoption on our hearts for a long time now - before we even had children ourselves. Yet, it can be such a difficult process. We know of plenty of people who have adopted successfully and they have such a rich experience. We also know of people who have wanted, desperately to adopt, but been unable for a variety of reasons. We are currently the latter, where adoption is firmly in our intentions, but the opportunity so far has not arisen for us to pursue this fully. Thankfully, so far, we've not been turned down for adoption, as we have never officially applied to adopt, here in South Africa. We haven't because we know that we would not be able to, without a permanent residency status. We are therefore patiently waiting and praying for God to guide us in what to do next to bring us closer to adopting a child.

In my research into adoption, I noticed this infographic, courtesy of American Adoptions News who put together a list of some famous/successful people who have been adopted. This is so interesting. I had no idea all these celebrities were adopted!

I'm not saying that our adopted child will be the gifted one to achieve everything/anything. What I am saying is: adoption is a godly thing to do. It is a wonderful, self sacrificial thing to do for another human being. With two biological children, I am excited about increasing the Clemison herd. We don't know where, when or how they will come, but God knows our heart and knows we would love to have more children. Please keep praying with us that we can do this in His timing, under His authority, and in His way. Thank you!

The presence of children in the house has changed our lives. Neither of us knew much about children or childcare when we were first pregnant and it scared us quite a lot! We stocked our shelves with books about feeding, weaning, discipline etc. We subscribed to babycentre.co.uk so that we could get daily updates on 'what to do next'. Becky formed a mum's group to discuss parenting ideas. You name it, we tried it. And it wasn't easy. But somehow we did it (so far). We've fallen head-over-heals in love with our two little ones and can't imagine life without them. For me (Pete) it took a little time for the bond to happen. Not sure why, but I had to really invest time and effort in both children, when they came along, to develop a bond. I'm so glad I did. 

So, here goes on the next season, as we learn to teach our children the right way to live and look to continue serving God as missionaries, please pray that we can get the balance right! 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Celebrating 25 Years of YWAM Muizenberg

This week we gathered together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of YWAM Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa! God has been faithful over this quarter of a century and we enjoyed gathering with some of the original staff to celebrate his goodness and kindness towards us. There were over 300 people at the event, including the founders, Gerrit and Celeste Wolfaardt!

We, personally, have been serving with YWAM Muizenberg since January 2010.

Monday, 12 October 2015

MeCaht conference

This week Becky had the privilege to speak at an anti-trafficking conference. She addressed a group of professionals who gathered to discuss the issue of modern-day slavery at the Africa MeCaht (Media Campaign Against Human Trafficking) conference in SimonsTown. Becky described her upbringing in Benin City, Nigeria and how so many girls from that city now end up in forced labour and prostitution in Europe. One statistic is that 80 per cent of African human trafficking victims in Europe are from Edo State (Benin City). In most cases Juju (witchcraft) is usually involved in the process. This makes rescue and restoration more complicated.


It is great to see so many organisations gathering to work together on this issue. Trafficking is an international issue which affects all of us, but it is so hidden from the everyday lives of so many. Thanks to MeCaht and their hard work to put this issue on the table, we are hoping to see steps towards ending people trafficking. 

If you would like to know more about human trafficking in Nigeria, then do not hesitate to contact us.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Church outside

This past week has been Muizenberg festival, where cultural arts, crafts and activities are displayed at local coffee shops and halls. It's a time to celebrate the diversity of our community and see the creativity of the residents. We held church outside on this Sunday to 'be' part  of the community and welcome people walking in the street to come worship with us!


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Snail experience!

Becky writes:
I tried snails for the first time today. I thought it was about time I tried something new and different. But when they arrived I felt like I was on 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' and almost chickened out. Pete was laughing at me! So I managed to eat about half the portion (smothered in cheese, which helped) and was quite proud of myself. The sucker part was fine, it was the inside bit that creeped me out. I kept thinking of all those snails that my dad stomps on in the garden, and the slime. Well, that's another thing I can tick off from my 'strange and exotic foods' list!


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

At Home week

This week, staff working with YWAM Muizenberg stop working on their regular ministries and gather together for At Home week. This annual event is a chance for all the staff to meet with each other, worship and pray together. We hear updates from the different ministries and remind ourselves of the greater vision of the movement. It's a wonderful occasion. Most of us are far from our 'homes' and serving in often thankless work environments. The sense of family is a hard concept for many who have had to leave their parents and siblings to serve God here. There is much sacrifice involved in missions. The wonderful thing about At Home week is the ability to share some of our experiences, failures, joys etc with one another in a safe, loving environment.
There's also lots of food to eat that we all chip-in with one massive bring-and-share gathering! We love our brothers and sisters in YWAM and thank God for what he is doing with each one of them, here in Cape Town. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Back in South Africa

Thank you to all our friends and family for all your prayers and support whilst we were in the UK and Germany. It was so nice to see all of you and to have some fun whilst travelling. We slept in about 16 different beds and travelled many thousands of miles as we moved between bases. The children are tired and we are too. There wasn't much chance for a holiday whilst we were in the UK, so we're hoping to get a bit of time over Christmas when things get a bit quieter for the mission in SA during the summer holidays (December).

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Scary moment

What an eventful morning! Josh managed to lock himself and Hannah in the car! With the keys in the ignition and all windows closed we couldn't get in and Josh couldn't get out. He couldn't release his car seat straps or open the electric window. We failed to smash the window. The AA said it could take an hour so we called the Fire Brigade! They arrived quickly and were about to smash the window when the AA arrived and managed to get the door open! Yay for the AA. Both kids were quite upset especially Hannah who cried the whole time. But they've recovered now and all is well :)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Sunday Snapshot

It was so nice to share with the congregation at St Michael's, Warfield about our missionary work. We had a great time, sharing with all some of the stories about the girls we meet through the work of S-Cape Home - a refuge for survivors of human trafficking in South Africa. 


It was also a blessing to go to a pool party afterwards organised by one of the members of the congregation. Thank you St Michael's for your wonderful hospitality and welcoming attitude towards the travelling missionaries (us)!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Off to Germany

We're all really excited about spending the next 10 days in Germany seeing friends that we've not seen in a few years. This weekend we'll be coming along to the Paulus Gemeinde in Bremen, where we'll be sharing a few anecdotes of our work in South Africa.

We shared briefly at the main service, but saw a more intimate crowd at a special evening event where we were able to unpack more of what we're involved in, and our passion for missions. Thank you Paulus Gemeinde for being so welcoming to us.


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Making difficult decisions

Our time in England has been a chance for us to catch up with friends and family and take some time away from our ministry to reflect on the work we've been doing and look to make some decisions about our future. We're excited about re-committing for another term and grateful for all the supporters who have journeyed with us as we serve with YWAM. There are some difficult decisions that we need to make in this season as we look to transition from medium to longterm service overseas. We're so grateful to VDM for their guidance through this process!

Friday, 20 March 2015

The need for discipleship

Discipleship is a strange term that we band about in Christian circles. It’s a kind of mentorship with a focus on drawing people closer to their relationship with God, rather than ploughing them with their own ideas. However, when discussing this outside of the mission environment, I prefer the term mentorship as a more accessible term.

I regularly mentor one or two students studying at the local Youth With A Mission (YWAM) campus, here in Muizenberg. We go out and have a coffee at a local haunt and have a catch-up. The difference is, rather than a friend, I am a mentor. This means that I have a certain aim with which I have the meeting and there are certain roles to perform, although the tone of the conversation remains relaxed and friendly. The purpose of each student receiving a mentor is to help them grow in what they are learning and directly apply some of the concepts, not just theoretically in their head, but practically in how they live their lives.

A mentor needs to be mentored
One key element to mentorship is that each mentor needs to be mentored themselves. I, myself, am mentored for about 2 hours every two weeks by a senior staff member who challenges me on areas in my life that he feels I need to grow in. There are some statistics that encourage me to pursue these small meetings and see the value in taking time with the individual.

OK, let’s  return to the term discipleship. If I have one person who disciples (or mentors) me and I in turn disciple (mentor) two others, meanwhile teaching each of them to invest in the lives of two others, within 31 years we would’ve reached a billion people! We cannot underestimate the importance of spending quality time with people and encouraging them to grow.

My learning curve this year is twofold: learning to listen better and learning to ask good questions. As I learn to listen more intently to my mentee and bring questions that deepen his understanding of concepts, I learn also to be comfortable in the silence that follows the impact of a good question. The question isn’t meant to stump the mentee, but make them stop briefly in their tracks and become more self aware of what they are sharing and how it is impacting them right now; allowing them to go deeper into what God is doing in their lives and how it impacts their circumstances and affects others around them.

Discipleship vs. mentorship
Discipleship is about listening: first to God, then to your mentee. It’s about walking alongside someone as they traverse the challenges of their life. It’s about saying: I care about you, where you are going and what you’re doing; I’m praying for you and I want the best for you.

People are valuable to God. The great commission is there and still hasn't been fulfilled. Jesus commanded us to go and disciple nations. 

Each individual is valuable to God and we must hold what they share with us as precious as we do our own lives. The impact a good mentor should never be underestimated. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Another sleepless night

After 7 months of disturbed sleep from having a newborn baby in the house, we were sleepless last night for a different reason: fire.


Muizenberg mountain - a mountain range just a few hundred meters from our front door was on fire. And not a small fire either. The night sky was lit up with an orange glow and the sound of crackling could be heard as the fynbos bush was burning. Yesterday fear struck the city as we watched it spread, out of control, to many parts of the mountain range in very difficult places to reach. Added to that was the fact that yesterday was the hottest day on record in Cape Town for over a hundred years!

There's a helplessness that you feel when you see such things, as roads are closed and traffic is gridlocked right down the peninsula. Helicopters were flying overhead dropping large bags of water which they'd scooped up from the Vlei (the lake just by our house). Joshua was super excited to see all the activity with fire engines continually passing, planes and helicopters all trying to tackle the blaze. He also showed great concern for the fire to be put out, grabbing our garden hose and pointing it at the mountain and demanding that I turn it on!

The community has been awesome throughout this time. The fire and rescue service has been blessed by countless gifts of food, ice, drinks and other offers of help. Residents have united together in a common cause: put out the blaze. Facebook has been a wash with dramatic images of the fire. It is quite a time to be living in Muizenberg. I don't think we'll ever forget this time.

On the one hand there's the desperation to put out the fire to stop it getting near any more houses (it has already raised a few to the ground), on the other hand the fires which happen every 5-10 years are essential for the rejuvenation of much of the flora and fauna that populate the mountain range. Table Mountain national park (which the range is also known as) has more types of  flower than the whole of England! Many of them need the heat of a fire to burst their seeds and spread.

Having said that, the local residents who have lived here for years say that they've never seen the fire so big and spread so fast as it has over the last couple of days. Please pray for this city to be able to pick itself up from this dramatic event which captured us all and to get back to 'normality'. But also pray for a continued growth in the community spirit that we've seen over the past few days - people serving and supporting one another. It was truly beautiful to see.