Recently members of our Hub community of students and 20s visited South Africa. One of the group, Katie, tells us how they got on...
In the book of Matthew we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations”, while as part of Regions Beyond we are committed to building relationships both nationally and internationally. In response a group of eight from our Students and 20s group headed to Clarens in South Africa to work with Dihlabeng church. Here is just a short summary of what we got up to:
After a long 40 hours travelling, we arrived in Clarens late Tuesday evening, where a family had cooked dinner that was waiting for us. Here we had our first South African meal of pap and chakalaka. It was a great opportunity for those of us who had been before to catch up with our friends and family, while those who were tasting their first South African meal met a number of friendly faces. Shortly after, we headed to our host families who we would be staying with for the next couple of weeks.
The next morning we woke up to see Clarens in the light, a small town surrounded by beautiful mountains. We all met at the Nnete Foundation which hosts a number of activities which mainly involves supporting children with their school work. We began by worshipping alongside some South African friends and praying that God would open our eyes to what he wants to show us over the next two weeks. We then met Tiban who was in desperate need of a shack and through prayer God had amazingly secured a piece of land for him that very morning. As a team we would build the shack over the next two days in order to provide Tiban a comfortable and safe shelter. We walked through the township, praying with anyone we passed for happiness, protection and healing and ended up at the Tiban’s new piece of land which we fenced off ready for tomorrow.
Later that day, Gareth then took us to an isolated farm village, where every week he and Tiban would visit to have their own church service involving some worship and Bible teaching. Ashaleigh shared her story with them and the challenge of sacrificial giving. We were amazed that even though this family are in an isolated location God still knows them deeply and continues to strengthen them.
Thursday morning we all met at Tiban’s land ready to build him a shack, which would be our project for the rest of the day. A few of the team, Katie, Ashaleigh and John went to visit ‘Silver Hope’ a bible study group for the elderly members of the Church. Katie shared her testimony while John taught about trusting in God with all your heart. Their highlight of their visit was meeting Francina, a woman who is 99 and few years ago had been raised from the dead!!
So so good, proving that the miracles of the Bible still happen today. The rest of the team continued to build Tiban’s shack that was completed in the afternoon ready for him to move in at the weekend. Praise God!
On Friday we were ready to run our sports camp for the children of the township, with over 180 children we played a number of games and activities, followed by John telling them about David and Goliath, reminding the children and us that God gives us our power. The afternoon involved the boys playing a football match alongside and against some people from Dihlabeng Church, although a great effort from all and a final score of 2-2, in true English fashion we sadly lost in penalties. In the evening we had our first braai (a South African BBQ with more meat that you could ever imagine), filled with great food and conversation. We got to hear from Jabu, who talked to us about the injustices he has previously faced from being a black South African. God was starting to 'break our hearts for what breaks His', learning that we need to listen to each other’s experiences to truly understand them, while relying on God that he has a plan for South Africa and similar nations.
Saturday, we woke up to a cold and drizzly morning, leading us to move the sports camp into the hall at Dihlabeng church. Despite the weather we were able to work with 70 children, all enthusiastic and willing to play the games and activities we put in place. We then shared the story of Jesus calming the storm, encouraging them to pray to God when they need help. The afternoon was spent preparing sermons for Sunday and an exciting game of mini golf. In the evening, we were able to join in with Dihlabeng’s youth service at a bonfire and worship night. Bekah and Tim shared their testimonies and we prayed with them that they would know their identity in God. We ended the day at the Highlander, a restaurant famous for their T-bone steaks.
On Sunday, we visited four different churches, Katie and Tim both preached at Foriesburg, Bekah shared at Dihlabeng with Ashaleigh, Luke preached in nearby Bethlehem with John, while Will and Micah crossed the border into Lesotho. It was great to have the opportunity to see and hear stories about how similar and different they all were and the work that God was doing. Sunday afternoon was filled with the World Cup Final, we were welcomed within different families, making the most of fellowship between different nations.
For the next few days we headed to a resort called Qwantani with 10 members of Dihlabeng church. We had four main teaching sessions, two were led by Durham and two were led by Dihlabeng. We were able to split into smaller groups to share our experiences and learn from each other. A lot of the team were struck by the amount of injustice that occurs throughout of Africa that we weren’t aware of, it was reassuring to be reminded that God has always known what is going on as he sees those who have been invisible to us, as well as the reminder that we cannot do anything without God! It was also a great time to encourage one another, while spend time as a fellowship through the wide variety of sports available and a beautiful walk around the reservoir on Tuesday afternoon. After a word from God, Gareth was keen for us to walk up the nearby mountain for sunrise on Wednesday morning. We went up expectant, worshipping him alongside the rising sun, learning that God has got amazing things planned.
As we arrived back to Clarens on Wednesday afternoon, we headed to the Nnete Foundation to help them with their maths and science, Ashaleigh shared her testimony while we learnt about the youths' motivation to achieve their potential at school.
Thursday morning saw an early start for most of the team, Katie and Luke went to Dihlabeng Christian School for the day, teaching and helping a range of classes from Grade 1 to Grade 7. Meanwhile, Will, Micah, Ashaleigh and Tim decided to trek up the nearby mount Horeb. In the afternoon, the team headed to Nnete Foundation to continue supporting some students with their school work.
Next, as a team alongside Stive, Ragka, Gareth and Yolanda from Dihlabeng, it was time for Lesotho. Despite a delay at the border the team were in good spirits driven by the continuous mountain views. God’s creation frequently left us in awe. We climbed to over 3,000m and came across Africa’s only ski resort ‘Afriski’, calling us to go “bum boarding” for our midway stop. We never thought we would see snow in July, let only go to a ski resort! After a couple of hours and a great snowball fight we continued driving through the mountains to Mokhotlong. We were greeted by a lovely couple Nsomani and Mametsolo at their house which they open up for mission groups like ourselves. Over another braai we learnt each other’s stories and our passions and prayed that we would see God move over the next two days in Lesotho.
On Saturday morning Nsomani asked if we would help him to move some rocks outside his mortuary. Although this activity seemed small, it will allow Nsomani to grow his business, helping more people in his community. God also used this opportunity to remind us of his power, as we struggled to move a boulder, God can easily move a mountain. After a feast for lunch, we headed to the local hospital and in small groups we were able to go around praying for a number of wards. Some groups saw whole bays giving their lives to Jesus, while others allowed us to prophesy over their lives. Despite the greatly challenge environment, God used us to bring peace and good news to a number of individuals. In the evening, Nsomani had invited a number of church leaders for dinner. We worshipped and prayed together and Gareth spoke about what God’s church looks like and how an effective ‘leadership’ can help to facilitate it, through promoting and helping people to use their God-given gifts.
On Sunday we headed to two different churches; Gareth preached at Harvesters while Micah shared at their church plant; Rainbow International Church and saw a lady give her life to Jesus. We enjoyed yet another great meal together before saying goodbye to our Basotho friends. We started our journey back down the mountains reflecting on everything God has taught us over the last two weeks. As we arrived back in Clarens, we enjoyed our “last supper” and shared what God had been teaching us each of us, while finishing with a thankful prayer to God.
As Monday arrived, we each said our goodbyes to our hosts and thanked them for their hospitality. We headed into school for an hour to read with some children before starting our 26-hour journey home. As we were on our way to Johannesburg, we knew that God was continuing his work in Clarens, by the news that Tiban (who we built the shack for) has got a new job! Praise God!
We are incredibly thankful for everyone we met and everything we did. God has deepened the relationships between Emmanuel and Dihlabeng Church, benefitting both communities in a number of ways. We will take home a number of messages, particularly the vision of God’s future church filled with every nation and language (Revelation 7:9) and our call to reach out to these communities.
We would like to thank every one for your ongoing and generous support through fundraising and your prayers. As well as those who were involved with organising the trip in the UK, South Africa and Lesotho, without you, this trip would not have been possible.