10 days I have been in Muizenberg, South Africa and each day has been a gift, exposing revolutionary perspectives on life that continue to make me aware of the truth that God’s character is beyond description. We can use anthropomorphic language in hopes of expressing who He is but I have realized that even this does not do Him justice. This is why an experiential knowledge of God is so vital to our faith. During my time here with YWAM God has guided me out of religion and in to relationship. With religion ideas and knowledge are founded in the mind but in relationship these lessons are made true through experience.
Upon arrival we had one day of orientation that provided some time to transition. That night a few of us went with the base leader of Muizenberg to play soccer with some locals. When we arrived at the field I almost could not believe the scenery. Behind the soccer field was a backdrop of mountains which began their ascent in to the skies only about a twenty minute walk away. Behind us was a river that would empty out in to the ocean which was only a ten minute walk away. To compliment the amazing scenery and make our time of soccer even more enjoyable were the group of guys we were playing with. A sense of community and friendship is felt from introductions. The manner in which the majority of South Africans, that I have met, interact with people in is of sincere openness. There is a vivid warmth that inhabits so many of the people I have conversed with. This warmth has been especially appreciated during the times of our train ministry.
Train ministry is an attempt to bring the news of Jesus to the people commuting between Cape Town and the suburbs of Cape Town. (I say suburbs but they are far from any suburbs I have experienced around Chicago) Between two cars our teams is divided. We have about three to five minutes between each stop to share with the people in the car about a personal testimony or a short message that has had a personal impact. When one person is speaking the others are talking to individuals on the train. Our focus is to be vessels for Christ’s love, allowing God to draw them close to Himself. The train ministry was initially challenging for us as a group because of the unfamiliar area of publicly speaking on trains to a culture that is immensely different from what any of us have grown up in. What has encouraged us all to push through the awkwardness surrounding our inexperience is the desire to see people touched by God. What puts a smile on my face every time I think about it is the almost incomprehensible truth that God desires to use us. Imperfect humans who are capable of messing up on a daily basis are desired for service by God. Haha, simply unbelievable…with this mindset I move away from the misconception that I am making a sacrifice to serve God and in to the FACT that it is a privilege to serve Him.
New pictures, More in other sets
Leaving Carlisle Sunday morning we ventured six hours to the southwestern portion of England entering Wales. We spent the entire last week in Cardiff with three other DTS programs from England and a school of evangelism, which is also run through YWAM. 80 of us inhabited a local church and there was a strong feeling of community even though none of us new each other that well. I believe it’s this sense of community rooted in love for God that He so desires for our lives. Community that is established in relationship with Him is so unique and that experience alone would have made the week but God had so much more in store.
A man named Yon Nichols spoke throughout the week but he made it clear that our time was going to be focused on sharing what we say we believe. The intentions of the week were to take what we say we believe and do it. I have stated with my lips that I want to love God, surrender my soul to Him and to allow His will to be done in my life. But rarely in my past have I given Him that opportunity. So the challenge I faced was to take the time in our schedule for ministry and hit the streets. Street Evangelism….prior to this week I had a lot of doubts about this practice. My biggest struggle with street evangelism was not establishing my identity in Christ and holding on to this fear of man. Having both of those present have an impacting effect on me, these traits silence me. When I asked myself why I don’t share my beliefs in God with others, I would always come to the conclusion that I was afraid of how people would perceive me. There were to things that struck my heart in the early stages of the week that motivated me. The first was a result of a video blog by an atheist. He made the statement,”ïf you truly believe in a heaven and a hell how much do you have to hate someone in order not to tell them.” Another factor that pushed me was the living experience that I have had with God’s love and how it has changed me. I began to desire to share my experience with others and be a voice for Christ’s love.
Even with this new found revelation there was still one barrier that held me back. It was an internal struggle with establishing the effectiveness of street evangelism. I would discount this form of loving others because of the brief interaction, thinking it would not make much a difference in a persons life. As I look back, there is so much wrong with that thought process. If I perceive street evangelism with the objective to convert people to Christianity then I have it entirely wrong. Street evangelism is the active statement of surrendering my own comforts to God. It is a demonstration of our desire to be servants for Christ. Our motivation is not to earn God’s love but to respond to His love. It should be a natural reaction to give others the opportunity to be blessed as we have been blessed by Christ’s love.
With this in mind, I always remind myself, God being God, He has no need for us but He gives us the privelege of serving Him and make Him known. Our purpose here on earth is to just receive the divine love of our Heavenly Father and to be givers of this divine love. This is what I believe street evangelism is all about, stepping outside our own comfort zones to love others. I was humbled last week to see God take my small amount of courage and strengthen my faith by blessing the conversations I had with strangers. Last week was a very impacting on my outlook of life.
"When we judge we lose the ability to love."
Recently I have been grinding through ideas and attempting to gain conclusions. The usual result is a somewhat weak conclusion and a lot more questions. What I have been questioning recently is this idea of God choosing us or do we choose God? My thoughts lead me to establish what I truly believe to be an ideal loving relationship. In determining this I believe to have a genuine relationship both individuals would have to choose each other. The giver of love would never wish to receive a response if it was not genuine. Based on this idea I believe, at this point in time, God gives us choice out of His love. This is evident in the very beginning with Adam and Eve.
In the garden was the choice between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. Without choice we as humans would never be able to have a genuine relationship with God. God implemented an enormous risk with the creation of humankind, the risk of humans not choosing relationship with Him. When life throws situations in our paths I believe we have the option to make a godly decision and an ungodly decision. When we make ungodly decisions a part of us dies and that negative decision empowers the enemy. If we continue to be faced with a similar situation and continue to make the ungodly decision the enemy gains influence in that area of our lives. After awhile the enemy can have such as strong hold on that specific circumstance that we begin to give up the ability to make a godly decision and an ungodly decision, becoming one sided. I’m currently attempting to create an analogy and all I can think of is this, after high school soccer was over I no longer had any real physical activity in my life. At this point I had the option to run and stay physically fit or fill my time with other activities. Each day I was faced with the option and each day I choose to sit around. The more I abstained from physical activity the more difficult it became to make the decision of going out on a run. Not only did I become so comfortable in my sedentary lifestyle, my physical well being diminished. A month or two in to this lifestyle the question of exercising never even entered my mind. In the same way, I believe that if we constantly make ungodly decisions we can become slaves to certain lifestyles and lose sight of God.
What I am trying to convey is that God has a hope for us, a vision for us. In life we are faced with options. The choice that brings life or the choice that brings death. Closing thought, the speaker referenced this idea of looking at the public bus transportation for input to our lives. On the front of buses are the destination, you not only have to make the decision to get on the bus but you also have to make the decision to stay on the bus. If we stay in relationship with God we will accomplish the great desires He has for us but we have to constantly choose to stay in relationship with Him.
"What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do."
We have been spending this whole week looking at the Abrahamic Covenant which is first established in Genesis 12. With the idea of being blessed comes the privelege of blessing others. We look at this covenant as defining our purpose as Christians. I have begun to ask myself the question, “to what capacity am I fulfilling this honor to bless others with the love of Christ?” and I realize that I can be making much larger strides in impacting the world.
I walk by a building everyday that is the home of some type of organization, I don’t know what they do, but they have a sign on their building that has the logo, “IMPact, improvement through action”. As Christians this motto should be reflective in our lives, we need to be improving the world through action. What is special about this is that whatever positive action taken is beneficial. Whether it is doing small acts of servitude to bring glory to God, getting involved with a local youth group, reaching out to the refugees in your town, or spreading awareness about social injustice. Whatever it is, make an impact in your world. We have the opportunity to change our environment in a way that brings attention to our incredibly gracious God. He has given us, as humans, the privelege to work with Him in expanding His kingdom and the more I think about it the more I realize how foolish I would be not to participate.
Throughout my life and currently selfishness is present, always wanting to be comfortable. Constantly I need to remind myself that I need to get over my own desires, die to myself and pick up the cross. God has given us life, lets not waste it on ourselves.
PICTURES SOOO FAR
Yesterday morning a bunch of us took a bus to the Lake District, specifically Lake Keswick. By bus, Lake Keswick is an hour long rollercoaster ride from Carlisle. It had its effects on some but fortunately no bags were needed. When we arrived we walked to the Tourist information center which was surrounded by a weekend market. Looking at the map of the lake we decided to take the trail that went around the entire lake, an eight mile adventure. The map said that it usually takes between five and six hours to complete but after fifteen minutes of being on the trail and witnessing how many stops we were making to take pictures I got a little nervous that we would not make our bus departure. After a brief discussion that we would focus on completing the trail and spend less time documenting our adventure we started picking up the pace. About an hour into the hike Willem and I were looking across the lake, focusing on a mountain that we could see little human like silhouttes at the top. Both agreeing that we wanted to be amongstthose silhouttes and realizing that not everyone would want to join us we seperated from the group. Looking back I regret leaving the group and I would have done things differently if I could go back. Unfortunately that is not possible and we hiked as if our masculinity rested on the the achievement of getting to the top of the mountain. (Or what those from Canada would call a hill) Standing at the beginning of where the ascent became extremely steep Willem and I both looked down. Willem in Converse All-Stars and Me in I-paths, we both acknowledged
our choice of footwear was not going to benefit us during this portion of the hike…..Only slipping a few times, we made it to the top and were amazed at the views surrounding us. I never would have guessed England could be as pretty as what I was viewing. Our descent was a slightly different story than what climbing up the mountain was like. It was during this time that our kicks began to hinder our abilities to make it safely down the slopes. By the time we made it down we were both covered in mud as a result of losing our footing, swinging our bodies in hope of keeping our balance and then trying to preserve as much dignity as we had left, picking ourselves up from the grass and mud. A very humbling but funny experience. We met up with our companions at the bus station just minutes before the bus left, so all in all it was a great day trip.
That trip marked the conclusion of the week of lectures focusing on relationships. I entered the week with a somewhat poor attitude. My fears were that the entire week would consist of the girls trying to figure guys out or what a healthy relationship looks like and what the boundaries are within relationships. Fortunately for me and my ignorant perspectives I was far off the mark. This last week has been incredibly interesting, I have learned a lot looking at the relationship God desires to have with us and relating that to how I should interact with others. Founding the opportunity for us to have a personal relationship with God is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout my life I have understood
why Jesus died on the cross and the significance of what was accomplished on a very superficial level. This week has opened my eyes to a more in depth understanding of this monumental event. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross has given us the opportunity to live without shame.
As I look back in my life God has blessed me with a very steady life in the sense that I have not experienced traumatically negative life changing events. I do not say this to lift myself up but to acknowledge that I can not comprehend an enduring sense of shame. But from some stories the lecturer shared about friends, I begin to see the binding power shame can have on someone. God does not desire us to walk through life with shame, he sent his son so that we could have a relationship with Him. Living in shame prevents us from having the desirable relationship that he wants with us. “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
From what I understand shame is so hard to deal with because to remove the shame it usually requires the interaction with another individual. This is where I believe we as Christians struggle, so many people have a burden that they feel cannot be shared for fear of the condemnation they might receive from the person they open up to. I need to constantly remind myself that Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save the world John 3:17. Although I am completely aware I have no capability of saving the world, I do strive to practice a portion of this verse. Living without an attitude of judgment seems like a great concept upstairs but living it out is an enormously challenging task. This task is an area in my life that I desire to strive for. I desire to live a life of love and although I know that I will fail many times in my life I will continue to persevere because my ability to love is only in proportion to my understanding of love. As I continue to grow in my relationship with God I know that my understanding of his love will for me will continue to grow, making me
more capable of loving others in a more significant way.