Oct 9 2013

God Appointments; desperation + query + growing expectancy

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore… but have an expanded view of ‘God stuff’. So what are the odds? We’ve been traveling all over South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province for nearly three weeks. I got a FB notice that Nick and Betsy Hall Ledoux -sweet friends from Boone,NC and senior leadership on Samaritans Purse Mozambican staff- were planning on coming across the border to our area for a couple days. Sadly, we’d not been able to make contact. So, Becky and I are sitting at dinner -one of only two restaurant dinners we’d had all trip- when we hear our names called. The Ledoux walk up to our table and I am just gobsmacked! Nick & Betsy join us for dinner and we introduce them to dear South African friends accompanying us. Encouraging ‘God timing’ for all three couples and we sense the ‘weight’ of the moment. I’m excited to see what’s next in the flow from our meeting… I think God put this pizza time together. That same ‘weirdness’ has happened at least two other times in the last week. A South African couple we haven’t seen in ministry in nearly four years, friends who live on the other side of Swaziland from where we are visiting, walk up to us at the store. We find ourselves praying together before we part ways… again we all sense the ‘God appointment’ that is taking place. Becky was engaged in some pre-school teacher and children’s worker training last week – she’s good at that. At the end of the day I find myself talking to the Lord about how much we appreciate Becky’s early career in pre-school education -working in the ‘projects’ back when we were first married. The next day I got an email from the husband of Becky’s old housing projects pre-school boss, folks we have not had any contact from in over 30 years! Crazy. I am wondering how this all fits together… I have ‘faith’ that it does in some manner. Last week I asked God, “What are you doing here, Lord? Why have you brought us to Africa this time?” I was perplexed. Now I am expectant. Same circumstances. Different stance and perspective. Guess that’s part of faith. Sweeeet.


Sep 26 2013

“Get in the Game!” Rings Through the Bush

Guys love skits; meet Potiphar & flirty 'wife!We are exhaustedly exhilarated after our first two days of the Brothers For Life camp. Just stunning to see these 36 young guys begin to light up and really begin to break free of the bondages, histories, and pressures present in their lives.
The Brothers for Life Camp is being run on the YWAM 10,000 Homes base outside White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa, set deep in a forest of eucalyptus trees. Running from 6:30 a.m. until 9::30 p.m., the camp unites the guys through recreation, psycho-social, and spiritual activities. Serious work and serious fun.
Yesterday’s theme was on the reality of a loving, constant,and personal God. Today’s focus was on developing integrity and strength, and walking with Jesus.At day’s end, seven young guys chose to accept Jesus as Lord for the first time and some twenty re-committed their life to walking with him. It was amazing to see throughout the day how the “ambient culture” of the group grew stronger, more supportive, and more light-hearted. A lightness of heart soaked through the whole camp after team member Seamon Rice encouraged all the young men to “Get Back In The Game”


Sep 3 2013

Marko’s Story…. From this Summer’s BTP Tigres Summer Camp

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Sometime we need to change focus to see where real growth is taking place.

We were working with the Bradford Park teens when we first met Marco, a handsome, rather quite young teen with a sweet smile. Marko joined us for the last activities of the Coaching training, sitting in for some of the “My Story” exercises and for some of the Discovery Bible Study lessons on Freedom in Christ. As a new attendee Marco was quiet, polite and attentive; the other Latino teens obviously liked and respected him.

As the newly minted Coaches began to lead their small teams of primary aged campers, Marko quickly found his pace as a leader and encourager. It was in our first week of the BPT (Bradford Trailer Park) Tigres Camp 2013 that we became aware of the trauma that Marco was going through. Marco was one of three children living with his single mom. Two days before camp launched Marco’s mother had been thrown from a traveling car by her boyfriend, landing on her face and suffering traumatic injuries. The whole Park Latino community was in shock, but gathered around the family in support, caring for the kids as their mother spent weeks in a regional hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Marco just stoicallly plugged along in his Coach’s role at camp, glad for a reprieve from dealing with his home life. Then, as his little team was going through their daily rotation of Discovery Bible Study, Marko asked for prayer from Becky L and Suzy B, who were leading the study that day. Marco asked Jesus to come into his heart that day, setting down his burdens and asking Jesus to become Lord of his life. His team was deeply affected, fellow teens were impressed, and Marco stepped into a new life. We rejoiced, as we did with every one of the many young people who followed in Marco’s steps.

Within the week, Maro was gone. His family made a move across the country to the West Coast, relocating to allow for his mother’s recovery. All the campers and all the families in Bradford Park are missing Marco and his family; we don’t know if or when we’ll see them again.

But we are so thankful that we had the opportunity to work with Marco, to invest in a small way in his positive impact upon the smaller children, to laugh and play with him, and to see him call upon Jesus to change his life and carry him through dire circumstances. God is not going to quit on Marco.

DSCF1228Willie coaching (3)

Teen Coaches beginning to step up into manhood, caring for others

 

At times we all question whether our actions and ministries have an impact. And then a Marco comes along in God-timed seasons. And human hunger intersects with God’s merciful touch. God is not going to leave Marco alone, but will carry him through these days of trial into a new life with Him.
And to us, the hustle and bustle of camp is all worth while. God’s Spirit is moving and we get to come along. And we are renewed.


May 29 2013

When ‘following’ becomes just ‘learning’.

Reading through some old journal notes from Africa I am realizing that I have allowed myself to fall into the slumber of comfort (yes, even as the economy has been troubled) that permeates the majority culture of the Western/Northern world. This posting is a bit of a confession that I have too often become a ‘worrier’, a man who has sacrificed the wildness of godly dreams at the alter of the reasonable, a man who lets the ‘natural order’ of what I see with my eye trump the true truth that I know lies above, behind, and within the visual.

Africans have no trouble believing in the supernatural. They see the spiritual in all that surrounds them. Perhaps not with

Perfect? No. But no abandoned. Young brothers of Daantjie.

Perfect? No. But no abandoned. Young brothers of Daantjie.

clarity, but they carry an awareness of life and matters ‘beyond the veil’ that I my educated man can easily dismiss. Residual animism permeates African culture and at its core it worships false gods. That does not mean that the ‘false’ is ‘dead’ or ‘non-existent’, just that they are not ‘true’ gods. The American spiritual consciousness does not have much room for demons and gods. Science and our latent deep desire to remain undisturbed partner to keep demons and God at arms length; the former we treat with clueless confusion as though we’ve  just awakening from an over-long nap, the latter we carve the majesty from by assigning Him the leftover squeezings from our mighty Science. Yet we still want Him, we want a dreamy kind of benevolently powerful god who administers justice to others and mercy to us. And we have brought this housebroken sissy god into our houses.

I am tired of the fascade, weary of the bumper stickers, fed up with the self-diagnostic, self-medicating pap that I prescribe  myself in lieu of the fearful wonder of the real. God, help me to walk like the man -the Adam- you designed me to be. God, you are good in all your ways (isn’t Jesus the evidence of that?), but that doesn’t mean you are ‘safe’. The same should apply to all your sons and daughters.

And so I ramble on.

But I am rambling toward God. And so we bend the knee of the little Meniscus ministry.


May 14 2013

When ‘local’ becomes ‘missional’ & God’s heart moves our hands

There are a people wandering, looking for the living God, and yearning to travel with Him.

There are a people wandering, looking for the living God, and yearning to travel with Him.

I am excited about the coming days. Winter’s finally gone and Spring has sprung.

The Board of Meniscus Inc has pushed us out of the nest; no longer can we approach the direction and vision of our work as though it can be a hobby or a part-time passion. It’s time to make ‘the main thing the main thing’ with Meniscus. I have been charged and challenged to take the next half-year of 2013 to hone our work and dedicate my full energies to our call.

Before I really hone and craft the work and mission into meaningful words – before I might wordsmith some of the passion

Our teams women -sisters, mothers- pray over ex-gang members, speaking prophetic words of restoration & healing. Psycho-social & spiritual truths.

Our teams women -sisters, mothers- pray over ex-gang members, speaking prophetic words of restoration & healing. Psycho-social & spiritual truths.

away- I just want to declare that my heart-prayers to God are that His Kingdom would come and His will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven – most especially in the advancing of a people who love him with all their hearts, are secure in their identity as His beloved, and who are empowered and emboldened to see His presence advance among the under-served and under-resourced.  I pray to help equip people hungry for healthy community, secure enough to try out new ‘gifts’, devoted to walking with a living Jesus, and seeking to serve. I think God is waiting for the opportunity to work wonders among his children and his creation, that He is just waiting for callouses to form on our hands as we invest in helping others.

I am committed to see a discipleship school grow, missional communities reproduce, and the poor, infirm,broken, least and last ministered to so that they themselves advance God’s Kingdom as they overcome… not by their own main strength, but by the power of God’s present Spirit.  I yearn to see missional communities -practical,passionate, and miracle expectant- impact every broken place and culture, and I have the immediate faith to see that happen in southern Africa and in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I have seen it begin to unfold already among some amazing friends in both Africa & America.

These are the things I can give my life to – as Jesus leads- for the next season of my life.

Does this strike a chord with anyone out there? Thanks for bearing with my stream of consciousness writing. Thanks for letting me get personal.
Let’s go.


Apr 26 2013

Beyond beginnings. New Strength.

We came out of our Meniscus Inc Board meeting last week with an palpable sense of His presence in our midst, a renewed sense of direction in our work, and an excitement at what the next season holds for us.

New strength for change and impact. For the first time since our founding in 2006, Meniscus Inc will have full-time staff -both in Africa and North America- dedicated to seeing God’s restorative power established in our communities, our cultures, and our personal lives. I will be working for MeniscusInc from our base in North Carolina and Benele M. will be working from Nelspruit, South Africa.  We are so very aware that the core truths of effective community development and personal transformation  span across the world and are both simple and powerful.

As we follow Jesus into serving under-resourced and struggling communities and we work to equip disciples for the ‘overcoming’ life, we are reminded of our roles.

Everyone plays an important role… MeniscusInc is named after such a small part of the human body – a small slip of cartilage in the knee- yet it plays a vital role in the functioning of the body. So it is for MeniscusInc and the Body of Christ, “…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the part that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour… that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.”     1Corinthians 12.        We seek to honor all as we follow Jesus, we seek to establish a culture of active faith, convinced that God can use all of us to advance the Kingdom of God in justice and mercy. We can all carry the love and power of Christ in living overcoming lives.

We carry this presence of Jesus in some pretty funky looking ways, truly

We carry the glory in some unconventional ways! Coffee & the Kingdom!

We carry the glory in some unconventional ways! Coffee & the Kingdom!

carrying his glory in ‘jars of clay’. The little photo that’s attached is a picture of this; a common old mason jar is no fancy specialized travel mug, but it sure can still carry the wonderful brew of a rich cup of coffee – a wonderful provision as Becky and I traveled across northern California recently.

We want to thank you for your prayers and your partnership as we have carried the Gospel and practical, hands-on theology into North America and Southern Africa. Our confidence is this – the best is yet to come. Our prayer and assurance is this – that He who began a good work in you is being faithful to complete it!


Dec 29 2012

Links to Friends & Partners in Aid, Development & Ministry

Here is a ‘listening’ link to some great stories from Africa. Take a few minutes and hear of the supernatural work God is doing in these three people; Eric, Jenn, and Ben share of their experiences in southern Africa, beginning at the 17 minute mark of the streaming audio. “We went on mission, and that was important. We also were the mission, God changing us.” TheHeart, http://www.theheart.us/podcast/PastCommentary_theExperiment_Part3.mp3

Here are some links to like-minded friends and partners in ministry:

Becky L and a young sister having fun with the "Girls who say 'No'!"

Becky L and a young sister having fun with the "Girls who say 'No'!"

The Heart – church community done simple, in Boone NC -www.theHeart.us,

Mamkhulu – Women in Africa impacting a new generation -www.Mamkhulu.org,

Emoyeni – African & American partners caring for the most vulnerable – www.Emoyeni.org,

Project Purpose – bringing safety, hope, and freedom from the sex trade to the “street princesses” and their hurting children of Mozambique -wwww.globeintl.org/missionaries/magill-katie, www.project-handsofgrace.webs.com, www.project-handsofgrace.webs.com

Sojourners Simple Church Network - a network of simple church/house churches based in Raleigh, NC - sojournersnc.org

a new way of walking -stepping out of the gangsta life.

a new way of walking -stepping out of the gangsta life.

Project Hands of Grace - a South African grass-roots effort to bring economice empowerment and spiritual transformation to home-based orphanages and to  ’Grannies’- those who most often raise the children of the AIDS pandemic - project-handsofgrace.webs.com

Note; most of these ministries are small in size. It’s not that we are opposed to ‘big’, it’s just that we put a very high value on relation-based and effective ministries, something usually found in ‘small’ face-to-face dynamics.

Dec 22 2012

The November African Trip – Having Impact, Being Impacted

Such a great trip… so much more than we’d expected!
We were ‘on mission’ and it was rich… but we also ‘were the mission’ and God was so good to us all!

Here’s an overview of what we did:

Young Orphans Have a Special Day

Young Orphans Have a Special Day

Direct involvement with children, orphans, widows, the under-served and the under-resourced:

“Brothers for Life”- forty young gang members (age 16-26 yr.) looking to leave the street life. Mentoring, Bible studies, Prayer ministry, participated in their worship, discipling, built friendships & trust, counseled, small group ministry, spoke into their lives.
Litsemba Leadership Development Camp – twenty-five young men training for leadership in upcoming weeklong camp for primary school aged OVC ‘s.
“Girls Who Say No”- thirty primary & middle school aged girls addressing life challenges around issues of sexual integrity and character development. Providing women mentors who instill practical, spiritual truths, re-affirming to each child that they are precious, of great value, and hugely important to God. “We shared from our own lives and life lessons, speaking of Jesus’ goodness, love, and healing presence. We spent time with the girls, listening to the girls’ stories and praying with them. It was wonderful; it was powerful.”
“Outside the Box” Christmas Party – a day-long Christmas field day celebration provided to 100 OVC’s from Daanjtie. These children are participants in an ongoing feeding and discipleship program.                                      • Masoyi ‘Grannies’- grandmother caretakers for grandchildren. Learned of their stories, prayed with women, trained in income generation (scarf making). “This is the other side of the OVC story, viewing through the eyes of mothers who have lost their children to AIDS and are now raising their grandchildren. These are amazing women.”

· “Project Purpose” – coming alongside Katie Magill in her seasoned ministry to the ‘street princesses’ and their children in Maputo, Mozambique. Learning of the great work in the city and helping at the ‘safe zone’ home for children in the outlying Matolo area. Spending three days at the Project’s center; helping the staff, playing with the seventeen children living there, and bringing in needed clothes. It was powerful to see the impact of a ‘healthy touch’, ‘healthy men’, and loving prayer on these children.

The team also was able to help in providing tools and ministry in spiritual and psycho-social restoration and healing; hosting workshops on Children & Trauma, Compassion Fatigue, Issues in Trauma, Caring for Wounded Caregivers, Building Resilience, and Vicarious Traumatization. These seminars were provided by our great Canadian members, Sandra Robinson and Stewart Wakeman, both seasoned psychiatric and family counseling professionals well experienced in the African context. This couple also offered individual counseling services to traumatized children living in small group orphan homes.

The Litsemba Center Really Does Impart HOPE into the community

The Litsemba Center Really Does Impart HOPE into the community

Times of prayer, preaching, worship, teaching, and building friendships with groups and churches: “Working on Fire” fire-fighter training school, Surprise Sithole’s Nelspruit church, Kamagugu School for the Disabled, and Betor House.

Hammer and nail actions: renovation and rebuilding of the kitchen at the Litsemba Center in Daantjie.

Fostering the presence and mission of Jesus in our midst…
*It is great to have an impact, to have a sense of missional accomplishment. We had, we believe, such an experience.  *It is great to be impacted, to be aware that God has also used our trip to minister to us, to build us up as His mission field and as His ministers.    *In the coming days we will strive to be increasingly effective in our work in Africa –in aid, development and discipleship.   *We also seek to be increasingly faithful stewards of the fire and gifts that the Lord imparts to team members to bring back to our home ‘mission field’.  *We are so excited to see team members radically impacted by their short-term experience in Africa, and we will continue to hone this dimension of our work at MeniscusInc., ‘Equipping People for The Work of The Ministry; Serving, Equipping, Transforming’

The Power of the Testimony… A link to hearing three people; Eric, Jenn, and Ben share of their experiences in
The Power of Partnership… Links to like-minded friends and partners in ministry: www.reachout2africa.org, www.theHeart.us, www.Mamkhulu.org, www.Emoyeni.org, www.globeintl.org/missionaries/magill-katie, www.project-handsofgrace.webs.com, www.project-handsofgrace.webs.com


Nov 29 2012

Short-term team to South Africa & Mozambique. Of What Value?

Back home to the USA, and a good nights sleep. So… how do we process intense experiences? In Africa, so much is intensified; team interaction & trust, open hearts seeking God, people desperate for God’s help, continuous needs for compassion and mercy provision, and endless opportunities to pray for others.

The ‘foreign’ context is different, but the people are people all over the world. Just a different veneer. Just a different veil over our needs. How do we take our African experience & apply to our American existence? We are changed… no doubt. The challenges of short-term missions teams are a two-edged sword; how to have an impact that is effective, serves the local long-term missions teams as a true ‘boost’ to their work, and have a ‘bang for the buck’ worth the expenses. The second edge to the sword? Most who take short-term trips will be within their own ‘mission field’ when they return home; how do we take Jesus’ radical growth in our lives in Africa and bring it home to keep aflame in us within the USA? We cannot recreate the intense wonder of the African experience, but we can mature as disciples and become radicalized in what we expect God to do here…  in and through us.

It is so easy to drift slowly back into the ‘normal’ life rhythms we walked in before our trip. Back to the old status quo. But that is not what we were made for. That is not what our Father stirred us up for.

More on the work we did in the next days. Gotta peal off the jet lag and step into my new normal.
The team get to help out with the great work of Project Purpose in Maputo Mozambique


Jul 20 2012

New African Partners help launch Play Therapy Program

Meet the New Partners…. Tendai and Vimbai Manyau

In our newest July newsletter we introduced an exciting new project that is beginni
ng at the Litsemba Center,”Walking with Wounded Children”. Launched by our partners, Emoyeni, it promises to be a wonderful compliment and ‘next step’ in ministering healing and restoration to the many orphans and sibling-head-of-household with whom the Litsemba partners work. Below is some background information on our new partners in ministry.

African Emoyeni partners; Mather-Pikes & Manyawus

African "Emoyeni" partners; Mather-Pikes & Manyawus

Our South African partner Darryl Mather-Pike of Emoyeni Ministries shares this, “Janine and I met Tendai and Vimbai Manyawu in 2010 and we soon became friends. As we journeyed together over the past 18 months, we have seen that they are sincere believers with true hearts to see the Kingdom of God established.

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, they met at Bible School. Both graduated from Faith World Bible College, Harare, Zimbabwe, with a Diploma in Pastoral Studies and a certificate in Christian Leadership. They served together as student pastors and Tendai later served as an associate pastor. They married in 2008 and in October of 2009 moved to South Africa where they have served in senior leadership positions in two churches.
Tendai’s passion is evangelism. He has seen the hand of the Lord in signs and wonders –blind eyes have opened, the deaf have heard and others have been healed of HIV/Aids. He also has a passion to train and equip others into healthy, supernatural faith as followers of Jesus. Since attending Lowveld Vineyard School of Ministry in Nelspruit, Tendai said, ‘ I now have a great passion to see people established in the truth. People don’t know the truth!’

Vimbai’s passion is for counseling. She loves children, young adults and women. She has worked as a Youth Pastor and a Sunday School teacher. She currently volunteers 3 days a week with Life Line, who have trained her to assist people who have experienced trauma, rape, stress, depression, attempted suicide and a host of other human problems. She has shared on these issues in school presentations and on the radio.

Janine and I really believe in this couple. They have the heart, the character and the skills to make a profound difference in people’s lives and we would love to partner with them in a more structured and intentional way and so do they.”
The Finances…
Meniscus is committed to providing the initial six months of ‘seed money’ for this project with $200.00 per month, supporting Vimbai working 3 afternoons per week from 1pm to 5pm and Tendai supporting discipleship at the Litsemba Center throughout the week.

South African townships Msogwaba & Daantjie

South African townships Msogwaba & Daantjie

Monthly expenses:
Transport: $30 (R250)

Stipend: $125 (R1000)
Tendai Transport: $25(R200)
Supplies: $20 (R160)

Total: $200 (R1600) per month
We’d really like to see this program develop and grow; your help can make this happen and become a sustained program in the Daantjie & Msogwaba communities.