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.