Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Latest From Zim

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for me this week. We arrived safely in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, on Monday morning, although not without difficulty. One of our vehicles broke down near the border into Zim, and we also had to stop and sleep in our vehicles for a few hours on the way up to avoid driving on some treacherous roads at night. So, the trip took about 30 hours, instead of the 20 hours that we had planned, BUT we made it safely. God is good!

The past few days we have been training some young people in disciplemaking youth ministry and preparing them for the upcoming short-term mission. Tomorrow morning, we will traveling into squatter camp slum communities to continue spreading the Gospel to those who have never heard. Please pray for the 40+ young people from Zimbabwe who will join us in this ministry. Many of them are very nervous, as this is their first short-term missions experience. They are an incredible group of young people, and I have felt very blessed to connect with many of them. I believe that God wants to use them to advance His kingdom in mighty ways this week. Please pray that God would work!

Blessings from Zimbabwe,


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Well, "Road Trip: Part 2" starts tonight, as I'll be heading off on another 20+ hour drive to Harare, Zimbabwe. I wrote previously about our STeM (Short Term Equipping Missions) training this past July. Some of the guys from Zimbabwe who came for our STeM are going to be running their very own STeM this week, and I will be traveling up to Harare to assist them. Please pray for safe travels for myself and the six other J-Life staff members whom I'll be traveling with. I also ask that you pray that the Lord will provide me with an extra dose of energy this week. I couldn't tell you the last time I have slept in the same bed for 5 straight nights, and constantly living out of a suitcase has been wearing me down lately. Pray that God would use me on this trip in great ways and that He would be my strength! Thanks so much to all of you who have kept me in your prayers!

Home Sweet Home?

As we chased the sun through Botswana on our way back to South Africa, I had this overwhelming feeling like I was heading home. It's crazy what 8 months in a foreign country will do to you. Sometimes it's hard to even remember what life was like back in Indiana, and "home" starts looking a lot more like a farm out in the middle of nowhere in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Anyway, after traveling extensively across Southern Africa last week, it was nice to hit that border that said "Welcome to South Africa."

Team Namibia

Proof That The Gospel is Reaching the Ends of the Earth!!!

While driving through the Namib Desert, we ran into this peculiar little church. First of all, it's steeple has a striking resemblance to a witch's hat. As if that wasn't strange enough, the church is absolutely out in the middle of nowhere! We were told that their church services are attended weekly. Crazy...

Lots of Smiles

While in Namibia, we really had a two-fold purpose: 1) To connect with the J-Life leader in Namibia, Patrick; and 2) To connect with some local ministries in Namibia and encourage them in the work they are doing.

One afternoon, we were given an opportunity to spend time in a home for abused children. Our goal: to love these kids and get them to smile a lot! Here are some pics...

Sue pushing little Lorrian on the swing. Her story was heartbreaking. At just 3 years old, she has been raped by her cousin. Along with her 3 siblings, Lorrian has been placed in this home to protect her from her own family. Pray that God would heal this little child from all the emotional and physical trauma that she has faced at such an early age.

Kapanda is all smiles!

Lavernon and Kapanda loved getting their pictures taken!

Martin is having a great time on the swing!

Group picture with the kiddos.

More smiles.

Just the night before, this little girl was found alone and naked outside of a shebeen. She was rescued by workers at the children's home, where she will now grow up. Look at those big beautiful eyes. I think she's gonna have some attitude when she grows up, as this look seems to say, "What you lookin' at?!"

Me and the boys.

If you ever find yourself thinking of Africa, say a prayer for the children. AIDS has left millions of kids orphaned and homeless. Other kids, such as these, face abuse from the very people who should love them most. Pray that God would cover these kids with His love!


If you were to ask me to describe Namibia in one word, it would be this: SAND! The vast majority of Namibia is desert. The desert even covers the coastline, so that it's nearly impossible to tell where the desert stops and where the beach begins. Four days later, I'm still pulling sand out of my hair! But don't worry, it's not enough sand to make me get a haircut!

Beware of the sand! It's everywhere! Ahhh!!!

Desolate, yes, but there's some stark beauty in the desert.

On top of Dune 7, supposedly the largest, fastest moving dune in the world.

More sand...

...and then some more.

Striking a pose on top of Dune 7.

John, Phanus, and I decided to race down the dune. Phanus got going a little too quickly and totally bit the dust...literally.

It was a race to the finish, until I pushed John down and claimed first place. Have I ever mentioned that I'm REALLY competitive?

Road Trip!

On Wednesday night, I left with a group of 10 people from Acts Family Church for the road trip of all road trips. Our destination: Namibia. Our ETA: 22 hours after departure. We were to travel, by car, from South Africa, through the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, and on through the Namib Desert of Namibia, all the way to the coastal town of Walvis Bay, Namibia, which was located on the Atlantic Ocean. And so, our long journey began...

Our first stop: Botswana!

I'm not gonna lie, there was absolutely nothing to see in Botswana except for the dry Kalahari Desert. By the end of our trip, Botswana was synonymous with BORING!

We finally reached the border of Namibia...

...which was apparently proud to be "Cattle Country"!

But, again, we found ourselves riding into more desert, this time the Namib Desert. We passed the time counting warthogs that we spotted on the side of the road. Overall, we spotted 49 warthogs! It was a long trip--three countries in one day--and we were all relieved when we finally reached our destination.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taming the Beast!

On our way home from STeM, we stopped in Extension 23 for some "Ekota"--basically the greasiest, most awesome sandwich in history. Across the street from the snack shop, I noticed this huge, crazy-looking dog tied up next to a house. Now, one thing I've come to realize is that most Africans from the township are terrified of dogs, especially big dogs. That's why most houses have dogs--they're like a living security system. So, I told a couple guys on our team that I wanted to go pet the dog. They looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind. Again, I told them that I was seriously going to go pet the dog, to which I added like any five-year-old would, "What will you give me if I do?" My buddy from Zimbabwe, Tich, said, "I'll give you one of my kidneys if you pet that dog." Well, I'm still way too competitive to turn down a bet, especially for a free kidney!

Here are the results...

He sure looked fierce! He reminded me of "The Beast" from the classic movie The Sandlot.

But on this fateful day, "The Beast" was tamed!

When I got back to the car, Tick looked stunned. He assured me that if I was ever short a kidney, he was my man! To which I replied, "I've always wanted a third kidney! I'll take it now!"

A bet's a bet, right?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You Look Like Jesus and $%@#

During my first 6 months in South Africa, I touched a basketball exactly zero times. Soccer is definitely the sport of choice around here, along with rugby and cricket. The few times that I had ever even seen anyone playing basketball, I was pretty sure that they didn't know what they were doing.

During our STeM trip to inner-city JoBurg, we walked to a nearby park where we had planned to run a dance clinic as an outreach to local kids. Now, dancing was clearly a gift for a few members of our team, but this white boy (that's me!) was not one of them. So while our dance outreach began, my eyes kept wandering over to the basketball courts, where I saw some pretty decent games going on. In one of those moments where you know the Spirit of God is speaking to you, I realized that I just might be able to better connect with the guys on the basketball court, rather than the dance floor.

So I jogged over to see what was up on the courts. I immediately jumped in to play some 2-on-2. One of the guys was wearing an Indiana Pacers shirt, which I just thought was hilarious. Anytime he messed up, I'd say, "You better take that Indiana shirt off! That's not how we play in Indiana!" And anytime he hit a nice shot, I'd let him know that he was making Indiana proud. It was in this setting that the following conversation ocurred between me and one of the other guys:

Kamal: Are you a Christian?

Me: Why do you ask?
(The question caught me off guard. I had not shared about my faith with these guys yet. For all they knew, I was just some random Joe Schmoe off the street. I was kind of excited though, figuring that maybe he had noticed something "different" about me).

Kamal: Well, you look like Jesus and $%@#...

I almost busted up laughing on the spot. First of all, I wanted to laugh because just seconds before I had been feeling proud, thinking that these guys must have seen some Christ-like feature in me that made them see that I was a Christian. I was humbled to find out that that Christ-like feature was my long, dark hair and overgrown beard! And second, I wanted to laugh because in my 24+ years of living I had never heard "Jesus" and that word used in the same sentence. (I won't tell you what word he used, but it has four letters and my mom would wash my mouth out with soap if I ever said it!)

It was just one of those classic moments that made me realize that Jesus meets us where we are at--whether that is an I-grew-up-in-a-Christian-home-and-accepted-Jesus-at-the-age-of-4 kind of guy like me, or a you-look-like-Jesus-and-$%@# kind of guy who is still on the journey of finding his Creator. Jesus wants to know us both better. Jesus is passionately pursuing us both!

It was in that moment that I knew that the Spirit had spoken to me, that I was in the right place. It was cool that God used one of my first but forgotten loves, basketball, to speak into the lives of these guys. I was able to earn their respect on the court, and, more importantly, I earned their respect off the court. Over the course of a couple days, I got to know some of the guys and was able to speak some truth into their lives. I was able to share with them who God is in my life and what He's done for us through Jesus. It was a blessing to be used by God, and it was a lot of fun because I got to play basketball in the process!

It was also on those same courts that I was able to build a friendship with M'Easy. This guy is a natural leader and a wizard on the basketball court. He could certainly play some college ball in the States. We had quite a few intense games together!

Enjoy the pics...

STeM: Part 3


One of the best parts about short-term missions are the relationships that are built within the community where you are ministering. I was able to really connect with a young guy from Mozambique named Manuel. I met Manuel, or M'Easy as he likes to be called, at a park where he was dominating some other guys in basketball. We connected through basketball and quickly became friends. Manuel then began to hang out with our group daily, coming to our youth services at the church, working at an orphanage with us, and really digging into ministry with us. One of my highlights of the trip was the relationship that I was able to build with Manuel over just a few days, and it has been great to stay connected with him since we left the community. I'm hoping to head back to Joburg again soon to hang out with M'Easy and keep up the friendship that has been started.

Adrienne, M'Easy, and me chillin' at an orphanage in Berea.

I was also lucky enough to make a "little friend" while I was in Berea. Meet my little buddy, M'Pho!


I'll be leaving tonight on a short-term mission to Namibia with a group from my home church here in South Africa, Acts Family Church. For those of you unfamiliar with African geography, Namibia is located on the northwest border of South Africa. We will be spending a lot of time working with children in orphanages and schools while we are there. We will also be connecting with and encouraging the J-Life leaders in Namibia. Please be in prayer for our 20+ hour drive today and tomorrow, as well as for the ministry that God has prepared for us to do during our week in Namibia. Thanks so much for your prayer and support!

STeM: Part 2

My roles during STeM were three-fold: 1) I assembled a band and led the times of corporate worship for the trainees; 2) Adrienne and I taught several worship workshops throughout the training; and 3) Adrienne and I led a team into inner-city JoBurg for a five-day ministry practical.

Ministry Practical

My group was placed to work alongside a local church in Berea, near the infamous Hillbrow area, one of the roughest neighborhoods in JoBurg. We stepped out on faith, expecting to be used by God and expecting great things from God.

So we hit the streets of JoBurg, trained and ready to take advantage of any ministry opportunities God put in our path. And God had big plans for us that week!

It was a school holiday that week, and we found the local parks filled with kids. We played games for hours with the kids, performed dramas, and ultimately shared the Good News of Jesus with them. What an opportunity to share God's love!

What I also discovered shortly into the mission was that we had a professional dancer in our midst! Seriously, Tawanda is the best hip-hop dancer I have ever seen. He coaches the top ranked dance crew back in his home country of Zimbabwe. Not only that, but he loves Jesus and he loves kids! So, we put him to work in the parks, teaching dances to young people as we blared hip-hop music from our boom-box. Here, Tawanda (front right) is teaching some local kids how to bust some moves.

Overall, it was a great week with a great team! We had such a diverse team, each with unique gifts and talents that God used for His glory! One young teenager, Wesley (back row, 2nd from left in the above picture), received Christ during the STeM training. Just a few days later, during our mission, he led another young person to Christ! In follow-up since STeM, I've discovered that Wesley has become an incredible servant and leader in his youth group back home. It's amazing what God can do in one young life who is passionate and sold out for Him!

This leaves me pondering a few questions...
  • What if we empowered young people to use their gifts for the kingdom?
  • What if we encouraged young people to live missionally in their communities--their schools, on their sports teams, in their families?
  • What if we truly believed in young people?
Unfortunately, I think we often believe, whether consciously or not, that young believers have been given a mini-version of the Holy Spirit. But the fact is, that's just NOT BIBLICAL! I don't believe, as many will say, that the youth are the church of tomorrow--they are the church of TODAY! I've seen too many young people act out on faith and do great things for God to believe otherwise. Be encouraged, God is raising up a generation of world changers!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

STeM (Short Term Equipping Missions): Part 1

In my experience, there are two distinctly different kinds of short-term missions experiences. There are those experiences that train, equip, and challenge students greatly in their Christian walks and in how they view the world, and there are those missions experiences that offer great emotional moments, without much real evidence of life change in students. I mean, most of us probably know someone who has been on a short-term mission, come back home, and literally never been the same, their lives radically caught on fire for Christ. Honestly, my current life path is a direct result of a work God began in my life during a short-term mission to Ecuador in the summer of 2002. At the same time, we can probably all identify students who have been on a short-term mission, come home, and immediately reverted back to their old lifestyles. My friend and former professor, Terry Linhart, offers some incredible insight into this phenomenon in this article. The point is, simply doing short-term missions is not a guaranteed factor in life change.

Most of my July was spent doing short-term missions work. J-Life hosted a training event called "STeM," which stands for "Short Term Equipping Missions." You'll probably notice immediately, even from the name, that there is a specific focus in what we are trying to accomplish. At J-Life, it is never our goal to run a one-time program that leaves students and young leaders going home with not much more than a bunch of warm fuzzies inside. Here, short-term missions is done differently, and I've learned a lot from J-Life's STeM model.

What does it look like?

Well, we ran two STeMs this July. Both teams, each with about 60 young leaders, came to Camp Eden at separate times for 4 days of intense training on short-term missions. Throughout this training, they were coached in the purpose of the mission, as well as essentially trained and equipped on how to run their own short-term mission back with their youth groups. Throughout the training, it was made clear that one had not officially completed the STeM training until they had run their own short-term mission back in their communities.

After four days of training, the groups were sent out into several communities for five days of short-term missions work. This was the practical part of the training, as they had to put into practice what they had learned over the course of the training. Finally, the teams all came back to Camp Eden for a day of reflection and debriefing of the mission.

What's so great about this model?

The thing I like about this model is that in no way does it assume consumption on the part of the young Christian leader. Throughout the training, there is no loop hole to allow a student to think that the mission is about having a great one-time experience, where ministering to "the least of these" can simply be checked off a list and then forgotten. Essential to the training is the idea of a missional lifestyle, and each young trainee is called out to lead others in their own communities in such missional living.


The results really speak for themselves. I just received word from one of the STeM trainees who recently passed the training on to her youth and led them on a mission to Swaziland. Later this month, I will be heading to Zimbabwe to assist some of the STeM trainees from Zim with their own STeM in their home community in Harare. By investing in 120 leaders for two weeks during STeM, it appears that the missional lifestyle and the importance of leading others in missions has taken root. There will surely be many more stories like these to come throughout the year.

And in fact, there is much more that I have to share about STeM, but for now I'll leave you with a few pictures.

STeM was a great time of connecting with old friends like Lance, Shegz, Christian, and Justin...

...and also a great time to make LOTS of new friends!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Trip to Durban

Throughout my time in South Africa thus far, the Durban/Pietermaritzburg area has become one of my favorite places to visit. As if Durban's warm climate and beautiful beaches on the Indian Ocean weren't enough to make me love it down there, I've also got close friends from the U.S. living down there, not to mention some good friends working on J-Life ministry teams in churches there. All that to say, I love that place! So, I made sure Adrienne got a chance to experience it while she was here. We spent ten days down there, staying with our friends Josh and Jamie and their family in Pietermaritzburg, while also often making the one-hour commute to Durban to spend time with the J-Life teams...and, of course, sneak in a couple trips to the beach! Enjoy the pics.

Mthobisi, Josh, and I proudly waving our American flags, as the U.S. Soccer Team made a great run at the Confederations Cup Championship in South Africa. (The U.S. lost to Brazil in the final).

Hangin' with a few of the Quarandillo kiddos:
Jordyn, Haley, and Raja.

Adrienne and me at the beach in Durban.

Hiking to a waterfall at Cumberland Nature Reserve.

More hiking at Cumberland.