Homecomings

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We’re back.

After a shocking 28 hours of flying, a few days of unpacking and setting up house, a week of OM “retreat” to reconnect with missionaries from across Africa, and 3 days of communal prayer for the new year, we are now finally getting back into the swing of things!

About time, really.

It is exciting, albeit a little bit daunting, to be back at the OM ministry centre, trying to process just what the new (although, not quite so new anymore) year has in store for us. I always find it quite a big transition, Australia to South Africa – and vice versa – but I think that again I have now settled back into this other home. Herman is already completely swamped by work commitments (poor fellow), although he is now feeling quite optimistic and full of plans for the next few weeks. I am perhaps not quite so busy yet – our ministry is going through a bit of a transitional phase, so I think that right now we a riding on the calm before the storm… I’ll share more on this exciting development in a future post.

As for now, some quick “Been here, done thats” just to get us all back on the same page again:

  • Herman and I really enjoyed our last few weeks in Australia, reconnecting with everybody, connecting with each other, and taking full advantage of all that Bundy has to offer (we love Bargara!) Thanks to all of those we could meet up with, and share a meal with, during our time.
  • We got back to South Africa safely, though completely knackered. We spent the week with Dimakatso, who was pretty pleased to see us, even if a bit surprised when we turned up.
  • Spent a week at “Die Oog“, a really nice campsite, for five days of OM retreat. We do this once a year to catch up with all our fellow missionaries from different far-flung reaches of the continent. This year was especially exciting, as while we were away, OM has merged with another missions organisation, Pro Christo, which works in a number of countries throughout the heart of Africa. So, there were lots of new people to meet.
  • Herman has come up with some pretty novel responses to the now oft-repeated question “So, you two – how’s married life?” My favourite so far is “It’s great… how about yours?” We got a great response from that one!
  • We’ve spent the last week praying and fasting together as team for all that God has in store for the next year. God is doing some exciting things here, and it was great to be still and wait on Him.

So, now you are pretty much caught up! Hopefully, I’ll be a bit more diligent now with posting, and will be able this year to share some more insights about some of what the Lord is doing in South Africa.

Weddedness

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After a long and tiring search for somewhere to access the internet, Herman and I have finally discovered a wireless hotspot on the banks of the Burnett River, in the middle of a picnic spot in downtown Bundy (that is, as downtown as you can get in Bundy). Thanks Bundaberg City Council!

On Saturday the 11th of November, all the appropriate forms were signed, oaths uttered and speeches made. We are married! It was such a beautiful day, thanks to the many friends and family who helped us out, and joined us in celebration. It was special, too, to be able to reflect on how God has been at work in our lives, and just what the significance of the day is when we see marriage as a picture of Christ’s love for the church. I was joined by my Mum, Dad and Dad’s friend Donna from Australia, and we were also joined by Herman’s family, and our friends from South Africa. Flower Girl was a most excited little wedding attendant, enjoyed the food and compliments on her dress immensely, and was most despondent when she had to get changed afterwards. Please pray for us, and for Flower Girl, as we won’t see her again until the end of December, and we don’t know if she quite understands the whole situation. It’s a bit tough on all of us.

After three days in Graskop, Herman and I then flew to Australia, for a special ceremony in my church here in Bundy. What a party! Such an awesome way to celebrate again, with people who mean so much to us. We were able to spend another week holidaying in Bargara, and are now getting around to visit friends and family here, as well as taking a bit of a break.

Thank you for all your prayers in the lead up to our special day. We couldn’t have asked for a more memorable occasion!
I will try and keep this blog updated with our Aussie news, now that I know where to catch the wireless….

Eish…

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Eish. It’s a short little word, but contains so much meaning. Eish is the African equivalent for “Wow. Oh my hat. Golly. Gee Whizz. Crikey” all combined. Try it yourself now. It is a really good word. All together now, 1 – 2 – 3: Eish!

I’ve had a Eish kind of last couple of weeks (which explains why I haven’t posted for a while). In the middle of September I headed off for a 2-week OM course called the LMC, or leadership matters course. It was really excellently presented, with a lot of skills that will help me in the work that I am doing.

Sometimes, it is very easy to be discouraged, having little or no experience or formal education in the ministry that I am involved in. OM is, by definition, a movement for people of “all walks of life” (many missions agencies require that you have a bible college degree to be a part), which is a great thing actually – there are a lot of young people in the organisation, lots of new ideas, a very fluid structure, and many opportunities to be “on the edge” of what God is doing. Still, it can be difficult a times to be presented with such a great need (Many unsaved people dying of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and all the related issues that go with that) and still have no idea where to begin.

A friend said to me when I joined OM, “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called”. I have checked, and this is presented quite clearly in the Bible. So, for me, this course was a real “Jethro” time – Moses had a lot of enthusiasm, anointing and passion, certainly, but he also benefited from some wise counsel and empowering from his Father-in-law.

Now that I am back in Pretoria, and itching for a chance to use some of my new skills… I am slowly winding down with work, and getting ready for a wedding. Eish! It’s a busy time, but a good time! Mum arrived the other day, and we have enjoyed our “girl time” together. It is great having her here. 8 days until Herman and I are married, and it is so cool to see how the Lord continues to bless us and give us peace in this new direction to our lives. Please be praying for us as we get ready all our last minute bits and pieces. Also, please help us to pray for Flower Girl – we have tried to explain to her that we are going away for some time, but the wedding will be the last time we see her for 2 months, and it might be a bit hard to say good-bye (probably more for me and Herman than her!). We hope the Lord’s peace will be with her while we are gone, and that she will not feel we have abandoned her.

…And then it is off to Australia. I probably won’t be able to post again until then, so for those of you in Aussie land, we look forward to seeing you! I will try and post some wedding pictures on the website and keep it more up to date when we get back to Australia. In the meantime, “Salagahle(stay well!)”

Wait

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If there is one thing I have gotten good at whilst in Africa, it would be waiting.

I have had plenty of opportunities to learn this valuable skill. There are those times that I am in eager expectation for a package in the mail, but have to remind myself that the South African postal service has taken upon itself the duty of helping us to improve our patience. I recall waiting once with my Mum in a queue for the one ATM in a town in Botswana, while the security guard slowly demonstrated to about 100 new recruits to the army how to use their debit card. The torturous N1 highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg has taught me to wait, as has the simple phrase “Now now”, which in South Africa can mean anything from “Sometime in the next 5 minutes” to “Sometime in the next 5 months”.

So if I am learning to wait in people, why is it so hard to wait on God, and His timing?

Nearly two years ago, God gave me an idea. I was praying about how we could reach more people with information about HIV/AIDS, and the hope they can have in Christ, when I came up with the brilliant notion of using radio. I got right to work, doing my research and preparing project proposals to send out to all the radio stations in Pretoria, waiting for a positive response from one of them.

Nothing.

Not to be discouraged, I kept praying; I was recording a voice over for an OM video at a Christian radio station one time, when when of the technicians heard me specking and decided I had a voice for radio (perhaps a face for radio too??). She made me do an audition piece on the spot, and said they would call me. Maybe this would be my foot in the door! I waited.

Nothing.

Sure enough, God opened another opportunity for me. I literally bumped into a DJ from another radio station one day, who promised to share my proposal with the guys at the Top. This resulted in a five minute interview on the radio one evening. That was it. I was so disappointed. This was not what God had shown me!

That was a year ago. I told God that I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what I must do next, and couldn’t he please show me what to do, because I was completely bamboozled. Until then, I would wait. Actually, I guess I kind of had given up on waiting, because a few weeks ago, after months sitting on the corner of my desk in readiness, I finally shoved my radio proposal on my bookshelf. I’m not really a woman of much faith.

And then today Nico, my boss, walks into my office, and tells me he bumped into someone who works with Transworld Radio (another missions agency), who are busy working on HIV/AIDS programs for Africa. Wouldn’t I like to drop them an email?

God works in amazing ways. Maybe nothing will come out of this. Maybe actually something will. I’ll do my best to keep up my end of the responsibilities, and then I’ll leave the rest up to God. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep waiting.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act” Psalm 37:7

Hungry

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It’s interesting the people you meet in transit. I often make a point of asking God to set up “divine appointments” in the airport, plane or train that I am passing through (not always, though. Sometimes I am too selfish and greedy: “Dear God, thank you that for the next 10 hours I can catch up on my movies”). It’s cool the way God can use “I’m Belinda, from Australia but living in South Africa, working with a missions agency and people with AIDS” to begin some pretty stimulating discussions.

This last week, Herman also had one of these divine appointments. On his way back from meetings in Denmark, he met a guy called Mark. Mark is a South African, living in Luxembourg and working with the world bank, and the two blokes got to chatting about life. Herman mentioned that he worked for a missions agency, which Mark found interesting. Apparently, he found it so interesting that he asked for Herman’s phone number, and called later in the week to set up a meeting.

Herman let me tag along with him (what a great fellow he is!), and it was really awesome to see what God is doing in Marks life (I doubt he even realises it at the moment). He asked us all the questions about what we do (How did you get involved in missions? What is the point? How do you earn a living?) as well as stuff in general (what is the answer to crime in South Africa? How do you prevent HIV/AIDS? Can people really change the way that they live?). We were able to share the truth about what Christ has done for and in us, and although he mightn’t have necessarily agreed with all we said, he seemed pretty open to listen at least. Two days later, he turned up at our OM offices to have a look around, and ask more questions.

I share this as a request for prayer. Please be praying for Mark. He seems so hungry for the truth. Please pray that God would increase his hunger, and that as he returns back to his family in Luxembourg, he would continue to go out and look for answers.

“When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord”
Jeremiah 29:13 – 14

Swaziland

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A lot of stuff has happened since my last post in….. June. Oops. Maybe I’ll just update you on the most recent events.

Last week we went to share 3 days of teachings at the OM training base. For six months, young people (and not so young people) receive instruction and practical help to start equipping them for service on the mission field. We were able to deliver information about HIV and AIDS, ministry to people who are affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, and the Hope we can communicate to those who are suffering. The sessions seemed to be well received, and we were personally challenged by the enthusiasm of the 20 students.

The teaching was especially important for the students, as they have now headed up to Swaziland (a landlocked country bordering South Africa), for their first practical outreach experience, where they will be doing home-based care with an existing HIV/AIDS ministry.

The population of Swaziland is currently 947,000.  Of the 947,000, there are 95,000 AIDS orphans, children who have been left parentless because of AIDS.  It is projected that, by 2015, the population of the country will have dropped to 800,000 and the number of AIDS orphans will have increased to 250,000.  If something is not done to stop the spread of AIDS in Swaziland and it keeps growing at the pace it is today, the entire Swazi population is projected to be wiped out completely by 2040. 

The ministry for these guys in Swaziland will be intense, especially considering the ministry in Swaziland doesn't even have the most basic first-aid equipment. These guys are out doing first-aid to some of the most ill people they will ever meet, and they will probably not even have as much as a thermometer, bandages or the most basic medication.

Please pray for the training team during their outreach in Swaziland, and the people of Swaziland


Happenings

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A quick update, before jumping in the car in a few minutes. I haven’t managed to write a post for the last week, but here are a few snippets from the last week, and some predictions about the next:

  • Over the weekend I, and a few other people with OM here, visited two churches to do presentations. On Saturday we did an HIV talk with young people in a tent-church in Hammanskraal, and on the Sunday we shared a missions presentation in another church near Johannesburg. It is great to see the African church being mobilised for missions.
  • We got lost on the way home from the church on Sunday, and I was able to observe some very interesting church names on the way home. Township church names can be very descriptive. My favourite was “Church of the African Martyrs” (did you know that the original meaning of the word martyr is witness? Should we have a “Church of the Bundaberg Martyrs”?) Another runner up was the Princess Worship Centre…. interesting. Just as a side note, the most interesting church name I have seen in Africa was the – get this – First Catholic Apostolic Jerusalem Church of Zion of South Africa.
  • Monday was a public holiday in South Africa, so Herman, Dimakatso and I rocked up to the zoo, and observed African animals in their not-so-native habitats.
  • Tuesday we arrived back at OM to discover we had a break in over the long weekend, and had 6 computers, along with other things, stolen. We also had a power surge which destroyed a few more computers and printers, and a car from the base was vandalised. Yesterday another OMer’s car was stolen, along with a boot-full of groceries. We are reminded that this is not a war against flesh and blood – I need to be more diligent in my prayers.
  • Wednesday a few of us went to Rustenburg to check out the work of a doctor in some informal settlements, and see how we can support him in what he is doing. Once again my heart is broken for the people of South Africa. I’ll put some photos on here later.
  • Other than that, it’s all been pretty routine, really!

Today I leave again for the Limpopo, where again we will be sharing with youth, in churches, at farms, and this time, in the mines! Please pray with us as we try to communicate the truth about HIV/AIDS, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Slumber

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I had a real “wake up call” this morning.

No pun intended.

I was reading through Matthew 26:36 – 48 this morning. It was not an accident; this was something that the Lord had really convicted me of yesterday. I think it is easy to get the impression that people in missions, or full time ministry, have their relationship with the Lord all sorted out. They are completely “on fire” spiritually; enthusiastic about the kingdom and being used by the Lord to do great things. This is actually not necessarily the case. It is easy to slip into a routine, “working for the Lord”, despite the fact that you don’t happen to be working with the Lord anymore. It’s easy to let your spiritual side slip slowly off to sleep, thinking you have everything under control…You being the operative word there.

Jesus asked Peter, James and John to come and pray with Him, as he wrestled with the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. It was a night so agonising for the Lord that he literally sweated drops of blood. And what did his three closest friends do to help Him in His distress?

They slept.

Sometimes it is easier to just drift into mediocrity than it is to really battle in prayer, the work of the Lord, or even in our relationship with Him. I don’t mean to say that these three men didn’t want to help Jesus out; Jesus said to them that “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Perhaps, like me, they wanted to strive for closeness to God, but it was easier to obey the desires of their flesh: a little bit of shut-eye, distance from all of the problems in the world, a degree of comfort. Maybe they, like I, forgot that even if their own spirit wasn’t “willing” enough to combat the flesh, their is another Spirit (with a capital S) that we can call on to help us come to the Father.

While the disciples slept, those who came to arrest Jesus were also making their way into the garden. It was just a matter of time before these three disciples would run away from their Lord, and Peter would even deny Him. Trouble, temptation and sin doesn’t always make a point of announcing themselves to us. They slip into our lives while we are unaware. Peter later acknowledged, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) I become lazy, drop my spiritual defences, fold my hands for a nap, and put myself into a very dangerous position.

So – I had my wake-up call this morning. It’s time I get really serious about coming back to the Lord in prayer, serious study of His word, and contemplation of who He is. I need to wake up. God rang the buzzer for me last night – it’s up to me to throw back the blankets and meet Him each day.

It is easy to get so caught up in the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord part of that equation completely. Thanks for letting me be accountable to you all (those who I know who are reading these posts). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Thank-you for your prayers. Please do feel free to check up on me and see that I am being diligent in keeping those Spiritual eyes from dozing.

“And what I say to you, I say to all – Stay awake” Mark 13:37

A Call to Prayer

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Although I’m not sure what is being reported in other countries, I expect most people are at least aware of the terrible atrocities that have been committed towards foreigners in South Africa in the last few weeks. Most recent statistics indicate that more than 56 people have been killed in the violence, and at least 80 000 people displaced from their homes. This afternoon, a group of OM leaders went to one of the makeshift refugee camps to assess how OM can be involved in relief work. The camp was designed for 200 people; there are at least 1300 people now living there.

I recieved this email the other day, and thought it would be of interest to people reading this blog:

It is with an aching heart and a sense of shock that we watched in the news media the terrible violence against foreigners in our communities these past two weeks. We have been ripped in our hearts and have slunk to God’s throne of grace with our corporate confession and repentance to plead with Him to stretch out His almighty hand to bring to an end this diabolic mass hysteria and cruel atrocities. We thank God for the relative calm that has returned after seeing burning bodies, homes and shelters scar our news images. However, the pain is not over for a long time. There are grieving and embittered strangers who have fled hastily across our borders to their own nearby countries, where they also will not be readily integrated. They need our sincere prayers. There are still thousands of uprooted people in church buildings, community centres, tents and temporary shelters who had to flee after they had lost everything. They have nowhere to go; no means of providing food themselves; in many cases no warm clothes and blankets – they are strangers among us and in need.

God taught his own people, Israel, never to oppress or wrong a stranger.(Ex 22:21 23:9,12 Lev 19:33,34 Deut 10:18,19 14:29 24:17-19 26:12,13 29:19 Ezek 22:7,29 Zac 7:9,10). The motivation was that Abraham and Moses, and indeed the whole nation in slavery, had been strangers at a time. (Gen 15:13 23:4 Ex 2:22) Even David saw himself as a stranger (1Chron 29:15) while Job chose to open his home to strangers. (31:32) God included the stranger, who lived among His people, in His paschal provision (Ex 12:19, 48, 49) and with the giving of the Law He included the stranger, alongside the orphaned, in His directions for justice to be exercised. (Ex 20:10 Deut 5:14 16:11-13) And when Jesus gave His message in Matthew 25 He identified Himself with the stranger and called on His disciples to love and care for such people. (Mat 25:35,43) From this overwhelming flood of revelational testimony the necessity of an open heart and hand toward the stranger in your gates is nothing short of an absolute truth that calls for our obedient response.

That is the basis of this call to prayer for traumatised and suffering strangers in our land. But even more than that: to also give in an organised manner towards the care and feeding of these people in your region. Find out where churches or communities are caring for these uprooted people and offer to help. Let our shepherds and ministers provide leadership. Find out where the need is, what the need entails, and how the need can be met.

Finally, the spiritual need of our own people, who have been demonised by this violence inside, need to be addressed. There are many in our communities who are sitting upon an acrid taste of guilt and reproach. Many others , especially the younger ones, have been badly traumatised by what they observed and by what they were passively drawn into. These are inner wounds than can stick with one for a lifetime. Pray for healing and restoration of our sick and wounded communities.

Do go to Daniel’s prayer (9:3-14) in which he identifies with the sins of his nation, and let us apply that prayer to our South African situation and do likewise.

Your brother in Christ

Reverend Richard M Verreynne

What’s in a name?

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I met Prisca a couple of months ago, at a craft market here in Pretoria. I was looking for gifts to bring home to family and friends in Australia, and happened to see the little beaded angels Prisca had made. I needed a fairly large quantity of them, and Prisca only had a few at the time, but she said that if I needed more, I could put in an order. It seemed like a pretty good idea to me, so I told her the number that I needed, and asked if I could give her half of the money as an intial deposit, and pay the rest when I came to collect the dolls.

Prisca was shocked. “Would you really trust me with the money?” she asked. It didn’t seem like such a big deal to me, but apparently it was for her. This little act of respect opened up a door of friendship for us, and we would catch up with each other every so often at the craft market and have a bit of a chat. She was pregnant at the time, so of course, like real girls, we would also talk about babies! I was surprised that after only a few conversations, Prisca was telling people I was her best friend.

Prisca is from Zimbabwe. There are an estimated 2 to 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa. Some of them are legal immigrants, but many are not. With the situation as it is in Zimbabwe at the moment, many more refugees than ever before are slipping across the border to have a shot at a better life in South Africa (I know one lady who swam across a crocodile infested river, with her baby tied to her back!).

However, South Africa isn’t aways a place of safety for these people. After a few initial acts of violence a week ago, xenophobic violence against Zimbabweans and other foreigners has escalated and claimed 23 lives. 13000 people have had to flee their homes for safety. Some parts of South Africa have begun to look like war-zones, and many people fear that the the problem is going to worsen before it goes away. Perhaps it is not surprising then, that people like Prisca, so far way from family and friends in their homeland, and then met with such hostility in their new home, may feel a little isolated at times and cling to any offer of friendship extended to them.

Prisca phoned me the other day to say that she had delivered a healthy aby girl. Guess what she named her?

Belinda!

How hilarious. I have a little Zimbabwean baby named after me!

Both Mum and little baby Belinda were doing well when I went to visit today. We have decided to try and catch up every Tuesday. I think she is struggling a bit, at home with the baby all day, in as tiny, dirty room in a flat she shares with ten other people. Her husband called on the phone in the middlke of my visit, just to say how much it meant to him that I would visit his wife. Please pray with me for this family, that he would protect them in light of all of the violence going on in South Africa at the moment, and also that I would be able to effectively communicate to them about Jesus, the friend who is “closer than a brother”.

“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.”
Leviticus 19:33 – 34