Africa Stories

A 13 year vision comes to pass.
“I was 19. At the time I was attending a small church. Tiny would be more accurate. It was at a time when I was rethinking my life’s plans, and offering them to the Lord for His revision. That Sunday it was a powerful worship service. I was Praising God with my heart and soul and asking Him to tell me what He wanted from me and then a vision came to me. I could see these magnificent mountains. They were unlike any I had seen before. They were beautiful. I heard the Lord impress upon me, “Go to _______.” But the song was wrapping up. I couldn’t quite understand what the last part was. The vision of those mountains was permanently pressed in my brain. The name of the location was not. It was something around 3 syllables it started with an A. I was still excited. This had never happened before. After the service I raced home to search through our encyclopedias. (This was before the internet was so widely available.) The closest thing I could find as I poured through it page by page was a picture of some similar mountains near something called the Gulf of Aqabah. It was similar. I left it at that and then prayed for the Lord to prepare the way for when I would go. Fast forward 13 years. I am now 32 years old. I have since married, had 3 kids, served with the youth for over ten years now and still am yearning to go on an international Missions Trip. Through the years of studying people groups in College and doing 30 hour famines with teenagers in our church discovered I have a very deep seated yearning for Africa. I don’t share that with everyone, but my dear husband knows it.

I am 32 years old, it’s December and our Pastor after some time in prayer, reveals to us that the Lord has placed it on his heart to send 2 adults and 4 teens to Africa. My husband turns to me and says, “Well that’s you. This one is yours.” I was dumbstruck. I was scared, elated, nervous, and confused. Why now? I have 3 young children at home. I cannot imagine leaving them for 2 weeks. How in the world will we afford this? And yet all the while my soul is stirring. I can feel this thrill from 13 years of longing to go somewhere internationally for the Lord. I can hardly believe it.

Now fast forward to the morning of our arrival in George, South Africa.
Our campsite.

We have only one calling card to our name that our dear Missionary host, Jeff Holder, has purchased for us. We needed it to let our families know that we had arrived safely in South Africa. We were the only crew who did not have an International Cell Phone. We were just happy we made it there. At about 10am Uncle Jeff, as the South Africans call him loads us into his truck to take us up the mountain to a retreat center that has a phone that we can use our calling card on. Elizabeth and I hopped into the truck and with great anticipation we watched as we began the bumpy winding ride up the two track to the retreat center. As we reached the top I could not figure out which direction to look first. There was the ocean views across the mountain tops, there were the beautiful flowers that were blooming despite the cold weather. It was amazing. In the parking lot of the retreat center, as the haze of the morning was clearing, I looked the other direction. The landscape flattened out. It stretched beautifully in shades of browns and greens. Rolling up slowly into hills and then there they were, the mountains from my vision.

A vision that has not left my mind for the last 13 years. One that I had begun to doubt it would ever come to pass. That perhaps I had misjudged what the Lord was telling me then.  I mean 13 years had passed, but I had continued to pray for the Lord to prepare me. And there they were. I didn’t know what to say at first. I think I just stared. I couldn’t soak them in enough in those few moments.  I was so excited and giddy. I was in shock realizing that it had finally happened. I had arrived at a destination God had for ordained for me and revealed to me at the age of 19. That it wasn’t “Aqabah” that I was to go to it was “Africa”.  I wanted to cry. It all became clear then.  At first, I didn’t say anything to anyone about it. I found myself just teary eyed in general. Anything could set me off because I was just so overjoyed with praises and wonder for my Lord and His care for detail. I was in awe that he chose me to come here. And now thrilled to see what else might possibly be in store for all of us in South Africa. And the Lord as usual blew us away. Every day our team would drive past the Outeniqua Mountains and I would thank the Lord for what He has done for my life through the years. And for what He wanted to do that day in my mission site.

Our little team from Michigan.

The Most beautiful people I have ever met.
The kaleidoscope of colors and shapes was breath taking. People spoke of being color blind on this trip. I understood what they were trying to say, but deep down I felt they were minimalizing the wonders and beauties of God’s creative hands. Here we were 60 of us or so. All the shades of the rainbow. It was beautiful. Within only a few hours time we were sharing deep pains, great joys, lifting each other up in prayer. We called each other family, but even there it didn’t describe what the Holy Spirit was doing in that room. It was so much more. At least from the broken and dysfunctional families most came from family did not describe what was happening. This was an act of the Lord. Born out of His design and the flames fanned by the prayers laid out ahead of this trip. His beautiful creation was meeting together in harmony. I was in absolute awe. I would sit back and watch them, these teens and twenty some things from all different backgrounds, and ethnicities from across the world and wonder was this what the best days of the early church were like? Where each soul was loved, where if one had a need, the others jumped forward to care for it. I am so grateful to have experienced a beautiful glimpse of heaven, where every color and every shape will worship as one. Giving glory to the one, who is worthy of honor, glory, and power for all eternity.

A Divine Appointment.

It was dark out. The scent of wood fires burning as they gave the streets a soft glow.  I was walking with 2 of our students trying to round up and invite more teens to the youth rally that would be beginning within the hour in Mossel Baai.  We would walk while  singing and praising the Lord. Monre was with us and if you have ever met him you know that he never ever stops praising the Lord. He gives new meaning to “Let every breath praise the Lord.”  Sometimes the doors remained closed and sometimes they would open for us, as we wandered the tiered streets in the community we had labored in all week. It was a Saturday night and we could see the evidence of the drugs and alcohol running rampant with the youth. As we rounded another corner we came upon another group of young women gathered around a bonfire drinking. While Adam and I watched and prayed Monre spoke to them in both English and Afrikaans inviting them to the rally. While the girls laughed at the invite I noticed another young lady. She was standing back from the rest of the crew. She was very pregnant. Monre turned his attention to her and invited her to join us. She looked at her belly. She shook her head and laughed a bit. I am not sure what was going through her mind, but it seemed like she was saying, “Do you not see I am pregnant here? You don’t want me there.” He tried one more time and she reacted the same. I could not take my eyes from her. As the group turned to go I felt God nudge me forward and he gave me the impression he was not done here. I was to go and speak with her. So I walked over hoping she would understand me. “Hallo,” I said “Are you sure you do not want to go to the rally? It will be great!” She chuckled and again looked at her belly. She stepped back while looking away and then her eyes again rested on her belly. She gave me a timid smile and shook her head. I then realized what I was to talk to her about. We began discussing her pregnancy and how far a long she was. Whether she had names picked out for her baby and so on. As the conversation started to run dry I again invited her to the rally. Again she responded the same as before. This time though I asked her if there was anything I could pray for. She then changed her stance. She quickly glanced to the other girls around the fire drinking and told me, “Ja, but you must come in.” I was so in shock that as she turned to go I just stared at the gate in front of me. You see all of the homes are surrounded by fences, sometimes barbed or razor wire. No one had ever let me past the gates of these fences. She turned when she realized I was pretty clumsily fiddling with it, still in shock at the invite. Finally, I was in and followed her into the home. She quickly took me to a side room and that was when I noticed that I had some support. Vanessa, another Leader, had come up during our conversation outside and been praying. I turned to the young lady and asked her what I could be in prayer for? She then began to explain the complications that had occurred with her first birth. All problems I had experienced during the birth of my first child as well. We shared back and forth and I was able to tell her of what the Lord had done with my second birth. How different it had been. We then prayed for her, for her baby, and the birth itself. One last time I asked her to come to the rally and she shyly looked down and shook her head. I asked if I could give her a hug and then we parted. God kept her close to my heart the rest of the evening.

Later that evening the rally had been going for about a half an hour. I was standing out in the chilly night with a teen who was trying to sober up from getting drunk earlier. We were discussing some of her hurts and pains in her home life. People had been going in and out of the rally all evening so I had quit paying attention to who was coming up to the church. This time I felt the Lord nudge me to look up. And there she was. The girl I had prayed with earlier. I quickly gave her a hug and thanked her for coming. Later at the closing of the Rally there was a flood at the altar as the people and teens there came forward in mass with God’s call upon their hearts. Praise God. It was an amazing evening to see Him at work. It was a privilege to be used by Him. God has these apointments scheduled for all of us, if we will only be ready and listen.

The Blessings in being robbed….

“The money from our bank account is gone.” Those were jarring words that both Elizabeth, a parent volunteer and chaperone for this trip, and I received one morning on this trip. The words were passed to us through other teams on this trip that had internet access or texting. We did not have any of these things and now it seemed so daunting to learn that we had had our bank accounts completely wiped out and we had little to no access to communicate with the outside world.

Credit card scanners have become the new tool for thieves these days. We had only really made a couple of purchases the night we arrived. We arrived so late in Cape Town that the currency exchange was already closed. We were then hurried along to the food court for a couple of our teens were very hungry. Elizabeth and I purchased a hamburger for each teen using our bank cards. Our bank cards were handed back to us. The teens ate and off we went on our 5 ½ hour bus ride to our camp in George.

We had an amazing week serving with the South Africans and other teams from across the U.S.  It was an amazing week of seeing God move. Of watching our teams be pushed out of their comfort zones to be all things to all people so that some might know Christ Jesus as their savior. Then suddenly our lives came to a halting stop.

“The money from our bank account is gone.” The attacks from satan  so far on this trip had been through; record cold temps, tons of rain, our buses getting stuck in the mud, illnesses and more, but this, this was so personal.

Suddenly our families on tight budgets at home had no money for groceries or gas. We had no money except the cash we brought with us to provide for our team for the last few days there in S.A.  and the plane layovers on the 2 day trek home. And as silly as this may sound, we were all a bit depressed at not being able to buy the different souvenirs we had planned to for family or friends, or even ourselves. In particular, we had decided as a group that we really wanted one of the painted Ostrich eggs that Shane our trip coordinator had posted photos of on face book. These last concerns over frivolous items were silly I know, but there is a reason I mention them.

You see our entire I.W.C. team/family was amazing. They rallied and let us use their International cell phones to get messages back to our families in the States. To contact our banks and have them shut down the accounts. Our team gave us hugs and prayers. And we began to pray. That night was to be a rally in Mossel Baai. Elizabeth and I stopped and discussed it. This was an attack of the enemy, to get us to lose our focus on God’s plan and purpose for this mission. We began to pray, “Greater things are yet to come tonight Lord!”  And they did!  Elizabeth shared with me something beautiful that came to her as she sat in the mass of people and teenagers packed into the El Shaddai Baptist Church in Mossel Baai. As she watched almost every single one in the room go forward during the invitation at the end of the Rally in a flood towards the alter she said. “Jesus, if this is what it takes. Then you can take my money. Just take it.”  God moved in abundance that night. There is more to the story, but his outpouring did not just remain within the walls of the church. As on other nights He moved outside in the parking lots and streets of our Rally locations.

And even though we were robbed, what an amazing peace we had. God would take care of the details. Our Michigan team pooled our money together and we could tell that we would have enough to buy the necessary meals for the rest of the trip. The Alabama team offered to help us wherever we might come up short as well. We were in God’s family and things were fine. And then the Lord did the amazing. Remember those ostrich eggs that our team wanted to purchase so badly. The last day, we were all gathered together, and Shane, one our project coordinators, reveals to everyone this beautiful Ostrich Egg. It was black with gold flecks. It had a beautiful map of the U.S.A. on one side and on the other of fantastic map of Africa. At the top was the I.W.C. logo compass. He then told us that each one of us would receive one as a gift. I will admit it. I cried. God our father is so caring. He knows the desires of our hearts and He made our team’s day that we were being given a very special and beautiful ostrich egg free as a gift from the I.W.C. God is so amazing. Anything can happen when you follow Him. I guarantee you, it will never be boring. It will push you out of your comfort zone. It will be exciting. It will be hard at times. He will meet your every need. He will never let you down. He will guide you and protect you. He will do the impossible. The enemy will try and attack you, but it is nothing in comparison with our Lord and His ways. And He takes care of His children, even blessing them in ways they don’t always expect.

How did it all turn out?

Just fine. Our money has since been returned. The criminal apprehended. And the praise reports have continued to roll in even two months later of the work being continued in South Africa. What else would you expect from such an awesome God as ours?

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