Micah Cox reports on the recent students and 20s trip to South Africa...
Being part of the Regions Beyond family and having a vibrant world vision, Emmanuel is a church that strongly values its relationships with other churches around the world as we seek to grow with them in our love for a God that knows no bounds.
It was with this in mind that a team of 14 students and 20s recently embarked on a two-week mission trip to South Africa and Lesotho, working closely alongside members of Dihlabeng Church in Clarens (amongst others) to demonstrate God’s love to local communities and youth groups, as well as deepening in our own foundations in Christ. We therefore returned last week not only full of praise for the ways in which we had seen God moving (and many they were!), but also with a wider sense of God’s mission, and having built relationships with those we met that will likely continue to flourish well beyond the trip (and, we pray, produce much fruit).
Here is a (fairly) brief summary of what we got up to. Although we would all love to talk to you in person about our own testimonies from the trip.
Having spent around 30 hours travelling from Heathrow, the team were able to spend the first evening of the trip settling into Clarens and meeting our host families, before an early start the following morning saw another 10 hour drive to Mtubatuba, where we spent several days ministering to, and building relationships with, a large group of young people from churches right across South Africa and Lesotho. It was here that many of us had our first experience of the energetic nature of South African churches – with much dancing ensuing (most of which we struggled to keep up with). One thing the struck us as a whole during this youth camp was the pure openness and hunger that the youth had for Jesus, many spending long periods of time in the main meetings just dwelling richly in God’s presence. It was a hunger that both challenged and inspired us in our own walks with God.
As well as having the opportunity to minister during these meetings, the team also led several games and activities at the camp whilst we were there. We were also privileged enough to step out in faith with the youth and join them in taking the Gospel to some of the nearby towns – greeting people and pointing them towards Jesus by praying into their lives and praying for healing. The openness of the youth themselves here was also reflected in those we met whilst doing this, with the majority of people we spoke to being happy to be prayed for and really engaging with us and our explanations for why we were there. It was great to be able to testify as to God’s love in these communities, and it strengthened our resolve to see God moving more powerfully back home in Durham as well.
Having attended a church in Mtubatuba on the Sunday morning, the team then returned to Clarens where, after a day of rest on the Monday, we spent the next two days within the town itself, continuing to work with members of Dihlabeng in various forms of outreach. Whilst a few team members led science workshops at the Nnete Foundation (an organisation run by the church to help local children struggling within the South African education system, by providing extra teaching to them and seeking to build them up individually as well in order to break the poverty cycle), the rest were involved in running games and actively reading Bible stories on a field in the centre of Clarens’ township for nearly 100 children. There was also the opportunity to join some inspirational woman from the church who make regular home visits to pray for and support some of the sick (and their families) in the township. On the second evening, we also travelled to the nearby town of Bethlehem, where we spent some time with members of the local church there and joined them as they visited some of the town’s homeless that night, providing them with hot soup and being able to pray for them.
During these days it was amazing seeing different members of the team using and growing in the gifts God has given them to support and bless those whom we met. God was also clearly at work amongst us, breaking our hearts for some of the suffering and injustice we were faced with. But at the same time we were reminded that he alone is in control, and we saw many examples of his light shining in some of these difficult situations.
Following this, the remainder of the week was spent with the church in a remote village in nearby Lesotho. Here the team was again split into several groups: some continuing home visits and praying for people in neighbouring villages, others helping with manual labour at the church and five of the guys even aiding with the church’s outreach into a new village (where there is hope to plant a new church in the near future). Although we were right on the border between Lesotho and South Africa, we saw many differences in the cultures and infrastructure (including the roads!) of the two countries. But again God was faithful to us in this beautiful nation, as we continued to impart and receive his blessings and build relationships with members of the church there. It was also great to be able to learn about the church we were staying at, and their vision for what God is doing in Lesotho, and his calling upon them as a community. Their trust in God and expectation for the future was inspiring.
For the final Sunday of the trip, team members then split into groups to visit four churches in Clarens and the surrounding towns (including the church in Lesotho). Here we were able to preach and share testimonies in the respective services (often with the aid of interpreters – an interesting experience in itself), as well as continuing to gain a greater sense of God’s heart for all nations and all people. It was an amazing reminder of how we are all united by the same God, whatever our background, but that he still cares enough to interact with us all as individuals at the same time.
For our last couple of days we then regrouped back in Clarens, spending some last time with our host families and others we had met during our visit, as well as reflecting on our trip as a team and encouraging one another the ways we had seen God moving in each other during the two weeks.
All in all, we had an unbelievable two weeks – as we continued to be blown away by the courage and dedication of those we met, and the love of the God we serve. But whilst we were all very sad to leave, we were encouraged by the knowledge that the God whom we encountered so incredibly in South Africa and Lesotho was the same God who returned home with us to the UK. Each of us came home having encountered God in new exciting ways, and having seen him move in ways we could never have imagined – encouraging us to continue our own personal walks with Jesus, and to draw others up alongside us as well. Our prayer now is that the individual work God started within each of us during the trip will continue over the rest of the summer, this next year and the rest of our lives, until it comes to completion (Philippians 1:6).
A big thank you to everyone who prayed for and supported us whilst we were on the trip, both here in the UK and out in South Africa and Lesotho. We were all amazed by the love and generosity you showed us, which helped to make this trip possible!