Saturday, August 15, 2009

In 6 Days God did what?!

On the 7th day, God rested. But you better believe he did a whole lot of creating and work the 6 days before that!

I have one week exactly. And on the 7th day, I shall rest (if you can call more than24 hours of travel time restful…). But until then, I have a lot more to do. Primarily, I think it’s going to be a lot of witnessing the Lord’s mighty work. And I am more than okay with that!

One major prayer request/awesome thing that God is doing – If you have been reading my blog, you might remember that God did an incredible thing, allowing me to start up a Wednesday morning directed prayer time for all the kids (During staff devotions/prayer). And now, as I prepare to leave, I have the privilege to pass it along to the 12th grade girls to lead. And I cannot tell you how exciting this is! I am so excited for the leadership it will require, the power of God they will witness, the unity it will intensify among them. As I type this, the 6 of them are meeting to discuss this Wednesday’s prayer time (I am having them lead once before I go so that if they want advice or help in any way, I am here). I ask that you would prayer for them as they take on this first step of intentional leadership. Pray that God would give them a vision for what he wants that time to look like. Pray that He would fill them with excitement and anticipation for what he is going to do through this ministry. And pray that He would just pour himself out on those girls but also on the entire school as they gather to pray on Wednesdays. I am so excited to get to watch them this Wednesday!

I am beginning to feel a sense of closure as my time here comes to an end. And yet the other day, it hit me that I am also excited to discover why God is having me leave this place. He does not slack during the transitions. He specifically chose August 22 for me to leave, in order that I might continue down the path he has for me.

I have no idea how to end this time, though. No idea how to close this part of my life. Rarely do I feel like I am using my gifts this much, like I have the opportunity to pour out so continually without ever running out of the Lord's gracious supply. I already know that I will miss these kids and this place so much. I was praying just yesterday that I would be able to see all of these faces in heaven.

Pray with passion and fervor these last several days, warriors. Pray for God's continued hand on these children. Pray that God would gently beckon some who are hesitant. Pray that he would tear others from the claws of the enemy. Pray that He would intervene in mighty and powerful ways - for the sake of his own name. That He might be glorified as majestic and wonderful and awesome.
Pray also that I would be able to drink it all in. Pray that I would not grow weary or slow down for the end of this journey. Pray that I might run all the way to the finish line, that I might be able to say I fought until the end.

6 Days. He created the whole universe.
6 Days. O God, let me see that kind of wonder!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Power of Incense

As my time begins slipping away, too quickly some days, too slowly others, I know that God has never once stopped working.  It’s just that sometimes, I have a tendency to forget J.


Last night, I had discipleship group with the grade 8/9 girls.  Honestly, I was frustrated, feeling as though I was being completely unproductive in everything I was doing, asking God, “Am I being fruitful at all?  Is my work worth anything?”

Our lesson was on Joshua 4, where God directs Joshua to gather 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan river, to set up a memorial in order that they might remember – and their children to know – that God is mighty, powerful, and faithful.  We talked about the importance of spiritual memory, so that even when we are feeling as though life is too hard or having a difficult time remembering that God is good, we can look back on those times where God was big and incredible and praise him and worship him still.


I had the girls spend 15 or so minutes just journaling, writing down as many things as they could remember about what God has done in their lives.  We were creating a type of “memorial,” just a written one instead of stone.  And of course I did the same, but I decided to do it solely with what God has done since I have been here.  Well!  I can tell you for certain that God HAS been working, he HAS used me, he IS faithful. 

Even when I asked, “God, but I don’t think I’m being fruitful,” He said to me, “Remain in me, and my words remain in you…and you WILL bear MUCH fruit.”  That’s a promise.


And then this morning, we had our Wednesday morning prayer meeting.  Because I am leaving in less than two weeks, I really wanted some of the grade 12 girls to take over and lead it, so I spoke to them yesterday about that possibility.  All but one volunteered.  And O I am so excited for them!  It is such a great chance for them to be spiritual leaders here, without too much pressure being put on them. I would like for them to try and lead next week so that I can help them plan and debrief it.  So already, I was so encouraged and excited.

This morning’s prayer time was, for the first time, open to the boys – and optional.  All the girls came, and several of the boys joined as well.  And I was sitting this morning, praying with them, watching them pray, it all of a sudden hit me – if this was even the only mark I left on this place, it has been well worth the journey. 


I read Revelation 8:3-5 to them this morning, the verses which describe our prayers rising up to heaven as incense and then being hurled again to the earth as lightning, thunder, and earthquakes, and I tried to emphasize how powerful prayer really is.  I have been praying that God would answer their prayers visibly – and give them eyes to see it – so that they might be encouraged and strengthened, to pray without ceasing all the days of their life.

I have been able to see the power of my prayers - and of yours - here already, and I know that it will not stop.  Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Weaker than David

I have been feeling my weaknesses this week.  A lot.  I have been noticing how very very weak I am, and how very very often I am struck down.  But somehow the enemy is not taking my hope.

I was taking a walk yesterday, talking to God, and I said, "You know what God?  I feel like I'm this little 5 year old kid fighting against a 100-year trained expert swordsman, and all he has to do is barely touch me with one finger, and I fall over.  But then I just jump right back up with all the energy and excitement in the world, exclaiming, 'You can't beat me!  I'm gonna win, I'm gonna win!'  And yet I look like a fool because it just keeps happening.  He keeps pushing me on over with no more than a tap."
Well, sweetheart, that's what you are.  Remember David and Goliath?
"Okay, God, but David actually defeated Goliath.  I'm not defeating him."
No, but it only takes one stone - the right one in the right place - and he will go down.
"So what am I supposed to do for now?  Because I kind of feel like an idiot just jumping up again and again."
Don't stop, don't lose hope.  Keep doing it.  One of these days, he will go down.

I don't know if that makes sense to you, but it brought me just enough strength to do it all over again today.  I'll just keep on believing God, keep on fighting, even with what little strength and training and ability I have.   In my weakness, his power is made perfect.  O, I need that to show up and be BIG right now.

2 weeks left.  And I am feeling worn down most days.  But I have been asking for at least one piece of hope to be revealed each and every day.  And I know that he is faithful, firm to the end.  So I shall be too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Declare His Faithfulness

Let me just boast in the Lord for a minute here.

I have thought several times since I've been here, "Man, I wish I could share my story with these girls."  But I don't know when exactly or how, so I have just let it be.  I'll share some things here and there with my devotion group or with one of my small groups, but that has been the extent of it.  
This morning, the Rock Harbor church team (they are here for 2 weeks helping in one of the townships and teaching some classes at the academy) led the Sunday morning service.  At one point, they had people stationed throughout the room if you wanted prayer...and my heart started speeding up and I started getting warm and I felt strength start draining out of my body.  Again, God?  What are you up to this time?  So I walked over to one of the girls and asked if I could pray with her.  "Anything specific?"  "Nope."  *Smile awkwardly* Well, at least not that I know of yet.  And then right after we finished praying, they opened up the floor for anyone who wanted to share a part of their testimony.  One of the grade 12 girls got up and shared hers- and it was beautiful and powerful.  And then my heart starting RACING, I began sweating, and nearly all the strength was now gone from my body.  Okay, God, I get it.  But I have NO IDEA what I am going to say up there.  
That's okay.  Just obey.  I'll give you the words...I always do.
 So one girl from the team shared briefly, and then I walked on up to the front, frankly telling them that I wasn't sure what God wanted me to say yet, but I was going to be obedient, so we were all going to find out together!
I ended up sharing the parts of my story which are closest to my heart, yet I typically choose very carefully who hears them.  I shared about making poor decisions in a past relationship which eventually covered me in SHAME for years. And I shared about how I then tried to nourish my aching soul with food.  And I shared about the freedom and victory God has given me, yet also how I have voluntarily turned back to it since.  How the temptations are still there, and it is a daily battle, one I plan on winning.  We all just must drop our chains.  A dear friend once described it to me like this: we are chained down by sin, until Christ comes and breaks us free.  But then we just stand there, holding onto our broken chains, crying for help and for freedom.  We actually hold onto shackles that are not actually holding onto us.
 I have already set you free!  Drop your chains and run!
It is for freedom Christ has set you free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 6:1
And I shared about how beautiful life is living in freedom, in the redemption of God's grace.  The absolute beauty of freedom.
Believe me when I tell you that I was not planning on sharing all of that, at least not with the entire school plus some of the staff plus an entire church team.  But you know what?  O it felt so good to share!  It felt so good to stand before a crowd and declare his faithfulness.  O proclaim it to the rooftops - God is faithful!  And God redeems.  And God longs for all of us to be free.

I do not know what all God did with my story this morning.  I do know that one staff member and one Rock Harbor team member approached me and told me that God had spoken to them through my story.  Hallelujah.  And I know my God, that he is so much bigger than I can imagine.  So I know that he spoke to more than just two.  I know that this morning was also for me.  And also for him - for his glory to be proclaimed yet again.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Day after day, all throughout my life, I have been increasingly amazed at the blessings of the Lord, at his mercy and grace.  He has brought me on journeys all over the world, yet uses them to teach me such seemingly small things about him, about life, about myself.

As I think over this past week, I have surely seen progress with the kids.  I have watched certain faces completely enraptured as the Holy Spirit speaks passionately through me about why God lets bad things happen, why he lets us be tempted, suffer, and be lonely.  I have seen their glimpses of understanding and revelation as I explain the powerful concept of redemption.  I have watched the excitement and squeals of amazement and joy as I recount stories of miraculous healings I have witnessed.  

Of course there have also been frustrations.  After all, "the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing," no matter how many times I try to convince them otherwise.  And as Jenni describes it, we are "stirring the pot" right now and all the junk is floating to the surface.  For the first year and a half of the school, the kids were not challenged much spiritually.  But since the Bible classes and discipleship program have both started, those who were not serious about their faith, who were sliding by as "good kids" are no longer able to fade into the crowd.  This has caused some problems, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Kids who used to be "good kids" have begun acting out, and kids who used to act out have begun to rise up.  As Jenni put it, the wheat has to be separated from the tares eventually.  Might as well do it sooner rather than later.  Pray for this separation process.  And pray that those who have floated for so long will be challenged enough that they fall to their knees.

Certainly this week has been about ministry and the kids, just as every other week has been.

And yet this week somehow has seemed to be more about me and what God is working on in my heart, my life, my relationship with him.  
Samantha, it's time to get rid of this.  It's time to give it up.  It's time to get this mountain under your feet.  It's time to take a step up in your confidence in hearing my voice.  It's time to let your love for me overflow, unhindered.  And let's start working on this, too, while we're at it.
I have been reflecting on who I really am and what my life is really about.  Where are my priorities, really?  How much longer am I going to let the enemy claim victory over certain parts of my life?  When am I going to just surrender it, all over again?

Something I have learned in all the trips I have taken is that location is absolutely meaningless when it comes to lives being changed.  That's all God, and he is constant.  So I must praise him that he is continuing to refine me like silver and gold.  I praise him that he is continuing to draw me closer to him.  And I praise him that he will continue to work even after I leave this place.  He is not finished with me yet.  Glory to his name!  I certainly hope he isn't!

Please be praying for me and my relationship with the Lord and my refining process.  Pray that as I learn and grow, I would overflow onto the kids and staff members each and every day.  Pray for the encouragement of the full-time staff.  And continue to pray for HOPE.  We know that God is working, and we will press on in faith, but it sure helps to see some fruit and some glimmers every once in a while!

Thank you all so much for faithfully reading my blog.  You have no idea what it means to me to have people praying, encouraging, and supporting me.  I pray that the Lord would continue to bless each one of your lives, and that you would allow yourself to fall into him, trusting his plan for your life, one step at a time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Table Mountain Photos

1. I didn't really feel as strong as that picture might lead you to believe.  I'm pretty sure Caleb, the other short term American volunteer, was trying to see how much he could make us want to die.  
2. I know that this is now the 3rd post in 2 days, but my computer won't let me upload photos to facebook, and I figured that people want to see them.  Hope you don't mind!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Just to Give You A Visual

Mimitha, Yanga, and Azile.  My Grade 8/9 small group.

Declare His Faithfulness

I promised that I would write solely about God’s amazing works.  So here we go.


Prayer of the Saints: Those of you who know me well know my heart for prayer.  So when I came here, I discovered that the staff used to pray together regularly and then stopped after the schedule was complicated several weeks in a row.  After talking with Susan Wadley (co-founder of Bridges of Hope ministry) about how I wished they all prayed together, she encouraged me that maybe I would be used by God to help start that up again.  We prayed about it together, and then I continued praying.  Praying that God would lay the same thing on the staffs’ hearts and would give me an opportunity to make the suggestion, if it was his will.  Then one day, Jenni walked up to me and asked if Caleb and I would take all of the kids for devotions the next morning.  Just the two of us?  All of the kids?  Well, if need be, then okay.  She said that she decided that the staff needed to be praying together more, so they were going to do it every Wednesday morning, starting the next day.  WHOA.  Okay God, this is really cool that you laid it on her heart, too, but what about me?  I wanted to be a part of it!!

Clearly not his will.  Okay, God, now what?  Now I have 25 girls, ages ranging from 10-20, English levels every place on the spectrum.  What do you say to that range of girls?  I prayed, nothing.  I prayed more, nothing.  I went to sleep.  Woke up Wednesday morning at 6:15, praying.  “Pray.”  Um, yeah, God, I’m doing that.  “Pray.”


So I arrived at the school at 7:25, had the girls divide themselves into tables 4-5 girls each, a youngest girl and an oldest girl at every table.  Then we did 30 minutes of directed prayer.  It was beautiful.  Thanksgiving, Scripture reading, Intercessions, and Supplications. 

I am going to continue to do that every week, and I pray that God would continue it even after I leave.  I really do believe that this is his will.  He took my heart for prayer, that I could play a role in allowing both the staff and all the girls to spend that time in corporate prayer.


Prayer Request:  Pray for guidance in how to best use those 30 minutes every Wednesday morning.  Pray for God’s mighty answers to those prayers, that the girls and staff may see prayer’s power. 


God speaks:  One of my favorite things about spending time with God is the fact that he talks back to me.  So as I have been taking my 8/9 grade small group through Joshua, we discussed this last week (last night, actually) that we must learn to listen to what God has to say to us if we want to grow in our relationships with him.  Additionally, my devotional group (8/9 and 2 10th grade girls) is going through Hebrews, so of course we must deal with “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  So I keep reminding them that God DOES talk to us – we just have to be listening and then pray for the ability to discern his voice from others. 

So this morning, after devotional group, Mimitha came up to me with a huge smile on her face.  She said that the other day she was praying and she thought she heard “Give us clean hands.”  She said at first she just thought maybe the song was coming into her head, but then when she kept praying, she heard it several more times, repeated again and again.  BEAMING, she said she’s pretty sure it was God.

I, now also beaming, told her to pray and ask God to tell her what it means.

You all, I cannot even tell you what a huge blessing this was for me.  This is why I am here.  I want to leave only the marks of hearts and lives more fully Christ’s.  I want to leave and know that I am leaving behind more disciples of Christ, people who are more deeply rooted and established and more IN LOVE with their God.  There are few things I would rather have heard.


Prayer Request: Pray for discernment and wisdom for us all as we seek the Lord’s voice to us.  Pray for Mimitha as she is seeking with her whole heart.  Pray that God would bless her desire to know him more completely and intimately.  Pray for the rest of the girls, too, that a hunger would grow in them to know the Living God.


O I could just go on, but I know most of you don’t block out an hour just to sit and read my blog.  J Rejoice and praise the Lord with me.  He is filling me with his joy and patience and peace and endurance.  I continue to ask him for just one piece of hope every day, no matter what else might happen. Please pray the same.  Oh, how I pray he is delighting each one of you with such joy as you witness his power and glory all throughout the earth!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two Battlegrounds

Well, I am quite tired at the moment, and usually when I am tired, everything seems much worse than it actually is.  So I pray that God would give me the words to accurately describe what is happening.

Life and ministry are both good.  I am learning, growing, being challenged and stretched every single day.  I am blessed beyond comprehension everywhere I look.  And I am continually affirmed that this is exactly where the Lord wants me, and he desires for me to pursue my relationship with him deeper still - and he will take care of the fruit of my work.

That being said, I seem to find myself struggling in two battles.

Battle #1: 
The grade 6/7's are sweet and adorable.  They listen intently (for the most part), participate however they are asked, love listening to stories, and answer whatever questions you pose - whether or not they really understand what you are asking.  They are ready to take in whatever you tell them.  It has been a joy to teach them Bible and read them stories about Jesus.  Most of them have never heard any of it before!  It is new and exciting, full of unexpected twists and turns, complete with some of the most interesting characters.  
BUT they have little concept of what in the world it all means.  They are full of questions, although most are painfully unrelated to the topic at hand (of course, that's quite typical for children).  What they have been exposed to and taught includes: Jesus died on the cross, that dead ancestors guide and protect you if you worship them [and taunt and attack you if you don't], and God is coming to earth in 2010!  And sometimes I sit back and think, Lord,  I cannot even begin to sort out all that they have been taught.  I cannot even begin to explain to them what it means that Jesus is their Savior.  I just can't do it!  
No, you can't.  You just plant the seeds.
I think it is just difficult at times to actually believe that I am making a difference, that I am not just reading them stories that mean the world to me-and very little to them.
Faith like a child, Samantha.  You don't need to understand how it works.

Battle #2: 
The Grade 8/9's are quite the bunch, very typical for their age.  For the most part they are wonderful if you get them alone.  They love to play games [when they think they're cool] and to have conversations [if they think it's cool] and to hang out with you [as long as you're cool]. But when they are all together, they just don't seem to care about anything.  We sit in a circle in class, I ask a question or pose a scenario, and one or two students will respond.  Every time.  It is all very relevant to their lives - and of course, very important - but they are all much too cool and uninterested.  Okay God, what about here?  Am I just wasting my time with these kids?

I was talking to Brittany, one of the teachers here, and she said that one of the questions they were asked in missionary training was this:
If you were promised that during the entire extent of your ministry, every single word you spoke would fall on deaf ears, would you still go - just because the Lord told you to?  Would you go solely out of obedience?
This is something the Lord has challenged me with before, and I have come to my conviction-filled, resting-in-his-strength-alone "yes!" 

Pray for my obedience and faithfulness as I serve the Lord.  Pray for my encouragement and strength.  Pray for hearts and minds to be opened, for souls to be stung with the power and conviction of His Truth and Word.  Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray.

God is doing such amazing things here.  I will write again soon, solely to declare his wondrous deeds.  Today is just a day of exhaustion.  
Thank you all for your faithfulness to the Lord, in your diligence of lifting up the Lord's work in prayer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photos: A Window into My Life

Here are some pictures for you.  I hope you enjoy getting visuals into my life!

Bridges Academy.  Right in the middle of the mountains. :-) 

Thandile.  The tiniest little gr6 girl ever.  Zameka.  Full of personality (but almost no English).
This is the path I take when I want to go on a walk by myself.  All through a vineyard.

Nontando.  Cute as a button and holding a real live crocodile!

Asemahle.  She looks like she's about to cry, but I promise you she's laughing.  And adorable.

Nelisiwe on my side.  Giggly girl.  Sinoxolo on my lap.  Quiet, sweet, and beautiful.

All the grade 6/7s. They don't quite know how to smile for a picture...we're working on it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Hope Is Built on Nothing Small

It is difficult for words to express how beautiful the Lord is, how beautiful this place is, how beautifully his face has been shining upon me.

I was taking a walk yesterday, praying for the Lord to move in mighty ways, praying for their healing, praying for his love to wash away their pain.  Smiles, bright minds, and games cannot mask the scars behind some of their eyes.  I see some of the kids acting out and all I want to do is hold them and let them cry out their pain.  I see others standing in the background, hesitant and uncertain, and all I want to do is grab their faces and tell them how much God loves them and how beautiful they really are.
As I was walking through the vineyards, I looked up to the skies-blue, blue skies peeking through thick clouds.  "God, why don't these kids have blue skies?" I cried.
They do.
He spoke so clearly into my heart.
Hope.  I have such hope for these kids.  I know that God is in this place, I know he is working in HUGE ways, even by my story alone testifying to his handiwork.  I know that the Lord is big enough to soften each one of their hearts, to open up their eyes to see the reality and power of the gospel.  I want so badly for them to embrace his truth and let him HEAL them.  So God, I know you are here, but where are all the wonders? (as asked by Gideon)

And he reminded me that he is doing so much that I cannot yet see.  He is always working.  But then I must also remember that these kids have to choose him, too.  They have to accept it.  O Lord, no!  Where is the hope in that?  And very quickly I am reminded that the first generation never saw the Promised Land.  BUT: their children did.  Maybe it isn't all going to be in this generation.  My prayer: Lord, make this a group of Joshua and Caleb's!

I am going through Joshua right now with one of my small groups, and I cannot even tell you how badly I want for them to be the ones who will really get it right.  Who will refuse to let anyone scare them or distract them or intimidate them from getting to their Promised Land-a true, deep relationship with the one and only Jesus Christ.

Continue praying for their eyes to be opened, for their hearts to be softened.  And pray for hope for the staff.  Pray that they would see very specific places where God's hand can be seen that would have continued encouragement to keep pressing on.

Continue praying for words as I teach the gospel to those with the English capability of very small children.  Pray that the power of God's word would manifest itself as we read and study it together.

[ I hope to get pictures up very soon.  I am so sorry that they are not up yet!  I have been taking them, and I so wish that you could see these precious kids for whom you are praying.  ]

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

I know that I have asked for you all to pray for wisdom for me, for the ability to explain to these kids the meaning of the gospel. And even more, for the Holy Spirit to open up their minds and hearts to understand what I most certainly can never explain. "The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing."

I thought that a good way for you all to understand why I am asking this and to give you more direction in prayer would be to write out some of their questions. I hope this brings smiles as well as a greater intentionality in your prayers.

When was God born?
Where are Cain and Abel now?
How can some people say that God is here and everywhere and then other people say he is coming back later?
Does God answer when everybody is praying?
Did God wrote the Bible in his own hands?
Was Satan God's son?
What did Adam and eve do when God said they must not come back to the garden?
When Adam and Even died, did God create two new people?
Jesus wasn't alive the same time Cain and Abel were?
Is Jesus coming back in 2010?
When did the world start? (We just talked about that, remember?  Genesis?) NO, I know that, but when did it start, like...1991?
If you are hungry and in pain here on earth, when you go to heaven, will you still be hungry?
If you go to heaven and then God says your name is not written down in the book and you have to go to hell, how do you get there?

Just a little view into the minds of these precious little girls.  Be praying for our time together, especially for the Holy Spirit to open up their minds to understand.  Apparently the Bible is really confusing!  And I can't make any of it make sense.  So please pray pray pray pray pray pray.  And then pray some more.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Beauty and the Hope

Driving into the Philippi township on Wednesday morning, I prayed that the Lord would allow me to see the beauty in the faces of the people. I want to see your beautiful face shining here. Show me which of these are your children, Lord.

Women walked up and down the streets, blankets wrapped tightly around their torsos, a baby hidden somewhere in the midst of the bundle. Children ran up and down the streets, full of the same glee as every other child on the face of this planet.
As we were standing around in a medical clinic, I suddenly heard the bursts of uncontrollable joy, attempts at communication from a mentally retarded girl in a wheelchair. Immediately my heart was drawn to her. We had no time to talk with any of the patients -- this was strictly a tour of the facilities. Yet as I walked past her on the way in and out, I could not resist reaching out and stroking her back both times. "This is my beloved." O the beauty of God.

There is no difference between us and them. Money is just so meaningless. We are all in pain, though in very different ways. But what difference does it make really, whether you live in a beautiful mansion or in a one room shack? Is there food? Shelter? LOVE? HOPE?
Don't mistake, I am not meaning to downplay their hardships. They suffer in ways we will never understand. Many people intentionally get sick and keep themselves that way in order that they will receive money from the government to buy enough food. Young girls prostitute themselves for warm clothes for themselves or family. 13 year olds are heads over their younger siblings.

There is great hardship. But there is also great beauty -- because the Lord is just as much there as he is in America. His presence is just as pervasive. His existence undeniable. His image is in every face on earth.

For them: Please pray for hope, and hope realized. Pray in particular for the kids here at the Academy. Pray for a deeper understanding of the power of the reality of the gospel. They know the story, they know the facts. But there is something so different in experiencing its power. So pray that, through my own words and actions and those of the other staff, as well as through whatever means he so chooses, God would reveal his true self to these kids.

For me: Pray for my strength through the week, the first one where I will be working consistently. Pray for wisdom in the words in which I speak- that they might be his and not my own. And I just have this feeling that he is going to show me what it looks like for his power to be made perfect in my weaknesses. So pray that my heart is prepared for that.
And PRAISE him for providing me with deep conversations already, and a genuine, deep relationship already. Praise him for keeping me safe, for giving me rest, for waking me up every morning. Praise him for giving me love for his children. And Praise him for his beautiful vision for these students, and for allowing me to take a part in it.

Hallelujah and Amen.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Promised Land

I recently listened to Beth Moore’s “Believing God for Your Promised Land” lecture. Your promised land is wherever you are in the center of God’s will for your life, where you are using the gifts he has given you, the place for which he has been preparing you.

Well, here I am. I know that I am exactly where God has called me to be, and there is such incredible assurance in that. I have had several conversations lately about how when you know you are where God wants you, the fear kind of just begins to melt away. Every struggle you face is well worth fighting, and every obstacle becomes more like an exciting adventure. Where is God going with this? Even when you don’t know, at least you know he’s going somewhere big!
And that is exactly what I have been challenged with for this summer. Pray BIG. Because my God is BIG. I have been praying big things for the kids, big things for the staff, big things for this school, for myself, even for my friends and family. And I ask you to do the same. I know God is going to do big things here—he told me starting my freshman year of high school that I would be working with orphans in Africa. If this was important enough to tell me 6 years in advance, he’s certainly got something big up his sleeve.

Praise the Lord for the incredible rest he has been giving me. Praise Him for the increased hunger and love for his word in me. Praise Him for blessing me with countless deep and genuine conversations – about him! Praise Him for what I know is yet to come.

Pray for these kids to have an increased awareness of who God is. Pray for the capacity to understand the gospel. Pray for the staff, myself included, to have words of wisdom to speak in order to help them understand. Pray for increased faith and increased awareness of his presence and his work. Pray for continued ease in learning names-and hearts (he already blessed me with the ability to learn all 19 names –not simple ones, mind you- in the first 4 days!).

And what I have been praying so much is that He would fill me – and all the other believers here – with his spirit and his presence to the uttermost, that we would overflow with Him…that the kids could see without a doubt the presence of the Lord in us, that they would have a better picture of Christ through us, and that their hunger would increase for him-a longing to know the one that we know, love, and serve.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Sun Rises in Franschhoek

Hello all! This is me (obviously...) standing in front of the house where I am living. I live right up those stairs in a loft-temporarily. I'll be moving in just a few short days.

What I've learned
-They have three different kinds of electical plugs-so you have to use an adaptor basically no matter what, but they are few and far between.
-"Pudding"is the general word for dessert...but pudding is still called pudding. ?

-They think it's freezing when it gets below 70...and yet even when it really is cold, they leave all their doors and windows open (while still complaining how cold it is...go figure).

What I've Got Coming up
-Spending time with the Psych team from Taylor this weekend--and SO excited about it. I definitely need a piece of home...even though I've only been here a couple of days. I'm already getting homesick...I guess I realy just need to be broken in slowly.
-We'll pick up about half of the kids on Monday morning and will spend the first week doing fun things with them, running a camp of sorts. I'll be working hard this week, since there are really only three of us working during that time.
-The following Monday is when school starts, but only about 2/3 of them will start that week. Everyone else comes the week after.

Where I have really seen God
-They have bought me a bunch of fresh fruit! And I didn't even ask...:-)
-The past day and a half, my "work"has been cooking...which I do at home for fun...ironic, isn't it?
-I've already had several really great conversations with some of the staff members about Church and God and his work in their lives, my life, and Bridges.
-Jenni and the rest of the Bridges staff has recently realized that they really want to spend more time focusing on the spiritual dimension of the kids' lives but aren't quite sure how to go about it...and at the same time an intern, Brittany, has come for a year with a passion to try to disciple these kids more deeply...and now I've come with my deep heart to see people's knowledge of God deepen, their understanding and love for him along with it. I was actually a little concerned about how I would do at a school when my focus is just not in academics.
-This place is absolutely beautiful! I am literally in the middle of wine farms in the middle of the mountains. It is spectacular.

Specific Areas I would love your prayers
-Wisdom and clear vision--Jenni is putting me in charge of two Bible studies that meet twice a week for an hour each and one devotional group that meets for a half hour three times a week. This is wonderful, seeing as how this is essentially what I love to do most (not to mention what my major essentially IS), but I have no idea where the kids are or what they really need-and neither do the staff since this is new for them right now.
-Comfort and friendship--I am really missing people from home and would just love a place to "fit"here with the other staff members.
-Energy--this upcoming "camp week"sounds to be the epitome of exhausting to me. Games, activities, crafts...well it's camp, that's for sure.
-Continual growth--time to spend with the Lord, ears to hear his voice, a heart that never wants to stop pursuing him, reminders to be in constant prayer, etc.
-And always, the students and the Academy. As Jenni has expressed continually, she knows that all the academics and all the achievement will be worthless if they never follow Christ. Just pray pray pray pray pray.
Thank you all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Well On My Way

So, I am more than half done with the vacation part of the trip and am preparing more each day to start at Bridges. Only 4 days left!!!

I certainly do need prayer. Thank you abundantly for those of you who are already. I am at a point of feeling completely overwhelmed with confusion. What am I getting myself into? What if I am lonely all summer? What if I make an idiot of myself because I can't teach? And I already hurt just from missing home.

But, God has been so faithful. I have been able to rest, to sit in silence, to soak in the beauty of his creation. And the sun is shining.

I could tell you all about my trip so far, but I don't have the time--and that's not exactly what this blog is about!

Please pray for the reassurance of the Lord's presence with me.
Pray for courage and strength as I embark on this journey.
Pray for deep relationships to form quickly, to nourish my soul, and to make being away from those I love a little more bearable.

Thank you all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In Preparation

For those of you who don't know or remember the details, here is what my life is going to look like for the next few months:
I leave June 5 to fly to Cape Town, South Africa with my parents. We will then travel for a little over a week around SA and into Zambia to see Victoria Falls. Then on June 17, they will drive me over to Franschhoek, SA, where Bridges Academy is located. This is where I will be until August 22.

Bridges Academy is a Christian boarding school for orphans, born out of the umbrella ministry Bridges of Hope, which originally started with OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) and community development programs. The school is only a couple of years old, but it is steadily growing.

I will appreciate your prayers more than you know. Pray for the children, pray for the school and staff, and pray for me. My intention is to update this blog once a week for the duration of my time. I want you to know what is going on and how you can best pray.

I was reading through Nehemiah the other day, and as I was reading chapter 4, I was struck by all the parallels to my time as I prepare to go. Nehemiah has been leading a group of Israelites in the reconstruction of the city wall, and in chapter 4, Sanballat and Tobiah come to discourage them. Many of these lies are ones that I have been hearing, and I would really appreciate your prayers to fight on my behalf.

--"What are these feeble Jews doing?" -- "Samantha, you are so weak. Do you really think you can do anything of value? You don't have what it takes-no way. How could you ever think you have enough in you?"

--"Are they going to restore it for themselves?" -- "Are you certain you aren't doing this out of selfish motives? Who are you really working and serving for? Your time isn't going to benefit anyone else. And are you even sure you can do it alone?"

--"Can they offer sacrifices?"-- "You think you're honoring God, but the truth is that you're not even really giving him anything. You're probably not glorifying him like you should."

--"Can they finish it in a day?" -- "You're only going to be there for two and a half months. What can you really accomplish? Not much."

--"Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble, even the burned ones?" -- "You can't really do anything for them-their pasts have scarred them too much; the hurt and despair are too ingrained in society. The culture puts them at such a disadvantage-who are you to think you can make a difference? Do you really think you can do anything for kids who have endured so much hardship? You are powerless to do anything."

--"Even what they are building-if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!" -- "Even if it looks like you're accomplishing something, the minute any storm or difficulty arises, everything is going to crumble. Your work is not strong, not sturdy. You might as well not even try."

Please pray that I would be able to stand firm in the strength of the Lord, knowing that in his power, my weaknesses are made perfect. Pray for trust, for faith, and for an eager anticipation and hope as I look forward to what is coming and what the Lord is going to do.
Thank you all so much for your support, encouragement, and prayers. I don't know that I could do it without knowing that you are behind me.

"So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind and heart to work." (Nehemiah 4:6)

And then...
"We prayed to God, and because of them, we set up a guard against them day and night." (4:9)

Please be a part of my guard.