Vugani’s Struggle

As many readers already know, I am a documentary photographer. And while it was a pleasure to teach and develop courses in the Powerhouse’s skills development center, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t carve out some time to do some serious documentary work. There were many many stories I could have told, but what struck me most and seemed to be internationally important were the scores of Zimbabwean immigrants living in Mamelodi. Xenophobic attacks headlined world news around the beginning of 2008, and it seemed these foreigners (and neighbors) were being painted as the enemy. Yet as I got a chance to know many different Zimbabweans during our time in Mamelodi, I couldn’t help but be encouraged by their strong faith in the Lord to sustain and deliver them out of their dire circumstances where they struggled to survive just like their South African brothers and sisters. The photos below show just one of the many touching families and individuals we got to know. I personally learned a great deal from Vugani as a pastor and friend. You may view the photos below, or for a larger view (with full screen option) view them in the image gallery. Please note that some names have been changed in order to protect their identity.

In summary, the following relates Vugani’s struggle: Vugani managed a bakery back in Zimbabwe and made a good living. As the Zimbabwean dollar inflated rapidly and harsh political persecution set in, he left with his wife and two of his children were forced to cross the border, looking for a better life on the other side. Settling in Mamelodi, which exists in one of the wealthiest provinces of South Africa, he and his family are no longer starving, but are hardly living the good life they had imagined. With only his daughter’s income from washing dishes, Vugani and his wife Zanele must look outside their circumstances to find hope and strength.

Written by Nathan

Just In Time for Christmas: Cape Town Pano

Scratching your head about that one-of-kind Christmas gift you are having trouble finding?

To help fund the printing and framing of a 12-print black-and-white exhibit we recently developed for Africa Revolution, we are selling a limited number of large format panoramic prints of Table Mountain in Cape Town.

The print itself measures almost six feet in length and is a beautiful snapshot Nate took at sunset from the summit of Lion’s Head Mountain (as seen in shadow in the print) of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles. These prints were produced in South Africa and come to you rolled up, ready to frame. A beautiful Christmas gift, supporting a good cause!

Visit the AR Store to make your tax-deductible donation and receive this print in time for Christmas.

lionshead-blog

Written by Rebecca

MADE IN AFRICA

mia-onesey-frame-webWell, we made a little something in Africa… That’s right, we’re pregnant! God blessed us with this discovery the day before we left Mamelodi, which was very special as the month before, the news that “a child—the child you have been praying for—is coming” was prophesied by two of our friends in the township. Plus, the timing of finding this out right before we left meant that we were able to share this news in person with a few close friends in Mamelodi before departing South Africa. What could have been very sad goodbyes were instead very joyful! We are now at 13 weeks, due early March, 2010.

While in Europe, Nate and I made this little onesie as our way of announcing the news to family members and friends once back in the States. It’s been fun to casually say to folks, “Hey, we brought back a little something from Africa to share with you” and have them open a nicely wrapped, but oddly small little present, finding inside this onesie our newborn will soon wear. Needless to say, it’s meant some exciting reunions with some very special people.

We praise God for this news and for the wonderful gift He’s creating in my belly. Thanks for your prayers as we anticipate the day we will meet this precious little person!

mia-frame-web

The following—the Blessings for Obedience God gives the Isrealites—was read to us by our dear friend Zanele, shortly before she shared the prophesy of a child coming:

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”—

Written by Rebecca

28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (ESV)

Departure Day…

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. —

Today we say our final goodbyes, then head to the airport to fly out tonight to Switzerland via Qatar.

Together, an immense sense of joy and the kind of hurting sadness that wells tears in my eyes every time I say goodbye to someone have marked our final few days here. Right now, I am at a loss; I simply don’t have the right words to express what it’s been like to exchange goodbyes to our loved ones in the township. Suffice to say it has been very hard and deeply meaningful. Perhaps I’ll have more articulate words once I have had more of a chance to reflect, but for now, as the African sun has turned today’s rainy morning bright, I appreciate the sentiments of a dear friend of ours from home: “Travel safely and well—letting the tears fall like rain on the parched soil. Beauty will blossom because of this.”

Thank you for your prayers as we travel to Swiss L’Abri, where we look forward to taking some time to process this incredible year in Africa, and then on to Aix-en-Provence and Paris, France. Arrival in the U.S.: July 9.

And please note: our physically leaving South Africa by no means marks an end to Mamelodi Stories. There are many posts we have “in the queue” to share—stories, photos, reflections—and as Lord’s work continues here, we intend to share it. So please stay tuned!

The ticker below updates automatically.

Written by Rebecca

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (ESV)

Guest Post: Megan Clarke on Zim Day

The two weeks that we recently spent serving and learning in Mamelodi proved to be two of the most well-spent, most obviously God-ordained weeks of the past year of my life. I was faced with the endearing joy that is so prevalent in the Powerhouse Church, and it made me face the lack of joy and belief in my own life. I got dirty working alongside people who sacrifice quite a bit to love their neighbors. I felt like I was jerked back awake from my tired distractedness in order to remember all of the ways my heart really does long to love those around me. Both our hands and our hearts were kept very busy throughout these two weeks.

For me, the most powerful day spent in the township was our Zimbabwe Day. Zimbabwe has suffered much over the past years, from political tyranny and persecution to the recent collapse of their economy. Many highly-education and qualified Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa to look for work in order to send food and resources home to their families. However, many of them have been met with discrimination and even violence as some in South Africa view them only as more competition for too few jobs.

Get Adobe Flash player

On Zim Day, the Zimbabwean refugees in the community were invited to spend a day at the Powerhouse praying and sharing their stories as well as receiving food and clothing. We spent the morning sharing stories, praying together, singing together and passing around some of the cutest babies I have ever seen. We had lunch together, and afterward, we had a “thrift shop” of sorts where people could exchange tickets we gave them for clothing for themselves and their families to prepare for the upcoming winter. The Vision Trip team had come with hundreds of pounds of donated clothing and medicine packed in our suitcases, given by many generous people back home. It was a fun day, and it was a joy to be able to meet some very real needs. More dear to my heart, though, were the people I was able to meet and the stories I was able to hear from each of them. This was a day not about an “issue” that we read about on the news, but about our neighbors—our brothers and sisters—and the chance to know them and to love one another.

It is one thing to hear about the Zimbabwean crisis on the news. It is quite another to hear these people’s stories about risking their lives to cross into South Africa, driven by desperation to feed and clothe the children that they had no choice but to leave behind. They shared about struggles to find work and about how much they feel alienated in this new place. We heard over and over how much each of them long to be able to someday return home. I was surprised to be brought to the verge of tears over and over that day as the reality of each different situation sank in.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.—

Yet once again, I was surprised by joy. As we had come to expect in Mamelodi, at the most unassuming moments, the day’s agenda would happily be put on hold as the room erupted into an impromptu singing and dancing celebration, praising God for His goodness and power. You didn’t need to understand their language to know what they were singing. Or to join in and sing along…

Throughout our day together, my mind kept being drawn to the verse in Hebrews (11:13-14) that describes God’s people as aliens and strangers in this world. My heart ached as I got to know these people who had been driven from their homes. And yet I felt a joy and peace much stronger than any of these circumstances, as I witnessed these people who hope in God’s promise of a home where we truly will belong. Every single one of us in that room were equally strangers in a place that is not our home. I was reminded that even when our circumstances and doubts make the path ahead seem almost impossible, there is joy found in God’s promise of an eternity where He will wipe every tear from our eyes, where we will finally know as we are known and where we will truly be at home. And that joy of the Lord will be our strength.

i cry out for this world to be comfortable
to be fair, to be just, to be good
or maybe just to be easy
if You’re real, it would be what it should
this deep ache for mercy makes my heart heavy, heavy
when i’m quiet it makes my heart sing
this reminder that i don’t belong
also promises i will go home
there’s a promise that i will see home.

Megan Clarke is based in Carrboro, NC, with a background in social work, particularly working to combat homelessness. She recently returned from traveling for three months in Asia, exploring and volunteering. She will be beginning a master’s program at UNC Chapel-Hill in August to study Public Health, focusing on Health Behavior and Health Education. You can read more about her travels online at Battered Suitcases. You also can read about her random musings, for better or for worse, at her other blog, Becoming Real…if she would ever find the time to update it.

Written by Megan Clarke

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. (ESV)

Guest Post: Rebekah McInnis On Engaging In Spiritual Warfare

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.—

People say that traveling abroad changes a person, that traveling gives one a better, more rounded and realistic view of life. For two weeks spanning the end of May and beginning of June, 2009, I had the privilege of going to Mamelodi on what most people would call a mission trip. Our team, however, called it a Vision Trip, one in which we were not defined by what we did so much as what we learned. While there are many things I learned on this trip (many of which I am still processing), one day in particular, and one lesson that spanned many days, stands out the most clearly in my mind.

This clear memory of a day occurred on Thursday, May 28. Our team divided into several mini teams who joined various members of the Powerhouse as they went from house to house delivering boxes of food to those who needed it, and praying for the people because they needed that, too. I was part of the team who accompanied Nkele as she made her rounds.

Get Adobe Flash player

Nkele needs an introduction. She is a beautiful and strong woman of God, one for whom I have great respect. She is tender-hearted and soft-spoken, but tells it like it is. God has turned her past, one tormented by devil possession and traditional healing, into something beautiful. He has given her the eyes and the heart to see the spiritual realm. Her insight and perception into spiritual matters, and her obvious heart for people, combined with her natural leadership abilities, is a wonder to observe. God’s grace and transformative abilities are magnificent!

The first house Nkele led us to was a house in which two blind gogos, or grannies, reside. One had been a traditional healer, or a witch doctor, who claimed to want to belong to Christ. Her fears held her back, though; she was holding onto the medicines, potions and amulets of her practice, afraid that if she destroyed them, her ancestors would come and kill her. In South Africa, ancestor worship is common practice and binds people in fear. This woman was no exception. She claimed Christ as Lord, but could not believe that He is the only God, the only one powerful enough to protect her from her fears. Nkele graciously pointed out the flaws in the woman’s thinking, reminding her that God is the only powerful god, and that He could set her free.

While the woman allowed us to pray for her and to hug her, she still held onto those fears, as far as I know. Her witchcraft wares still reside in one room of her house. While we were there, we observed that the rest of the house had been cleaned (thanks to the Campus Outreach/Powerhouse team), but that the room where these objects were kept was a literal stinking mess—the gogo had refused to allow this room to be cleaned. The smell emanating from this room was horrific, making it difficult to breathe. A deep part of me realized that it bears the stench of demons. We entered it, upon the suggestion of one of the team members, and prayed over this room. We prayed that the demons would be bound and cast out in Christ’s name, that the woman would be set free, that the wiles of the devil would not prosper, that God would redeem this place. We prayed for the stench of evil filth to be replaced with the pure, fresh air of salvation and grace. We claimed God’s sovereignty over the Evil One. Our simultaneous prayers lasted for several minutes and were followed by a worship song. All of us had tears streaming down our faces, shaken by the obvious fear and blinding—both physical and spiritual—of the woman, and by the power of God in this place in spite of the evil. By the time we finished, the stench in the room had diminished somewhat, and Nkele nodded, announcing that, “God is at work in this place.”

Never have I been one to believe in the spiritual realm so literally. Somehow, the fighting of demons seemed to me to be some hazy story enacted in the faint otherworld. This day, then, really helped me to understand that the spiritual realm is not something far away, but is here, inside and around us. It helped me understand what it means to actively claim God’s power and promises, to put on the armor of God, to engage in spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare does not entail simply going about our business, avoiding anything that resembles evil; it means getting out of our holy citadel where we congregate in pious fear. It means engaging the enemy, seeking it out, calling evil what it is; and facing those demons with boldness, in Christ’s name. It also means blessing God as we worship in claiming His truth and goodness as the overcomer of all evil. It is our job to join the angels in spiritual battle, as part of God’s holy army.

This day overwhelmed me both spiritually and emotionally. This realization of my job as part of God’s army stuns me still. I am ashamed of my laziness in the spiritual realm, of my lack of a joyful, bold and active prayer life. Prayer warriors do not just hide in closets and mumble rote prayers; they engage others—people, angels, demons, God—with bold statements of God’s power and sovereignty, with rigorous claiming of God’s promises, with the pouring forth of truth we find in Scripture. This can be spontaneous, in the middle of a normal conversation or in response to someone’s complaint or ailment. But it must be done, and done boldly. With God on our side, we have nothing to fear, for what can anyone do against us?

Has this trip changed me? Yes, it has changed my outlook on my purpose as a Warrior Daughter of God. It has given me perspective and a desire to be bold in Christ. I went to South Africa, not to do, but to learn; and God filled the empty cup of my heart. May He show Himself faithful, as He is, to perform the good work within me, and to fight the holy fight through me. With God, all things are possible!

Rebekah McInnis lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her two cats and dog. She “makes her living” as an administrative assistant for Carolina Outreach, but desires to help women discover free life in Christ as her true living. When she feels the urge, she writes random thoughts on her blog, Belonging.

Written by Rebekah McInnis

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

Vision Trip 2009: Experiencing A Taste of God’s Goodness in Mamelodi

vision-team-powerhouse

For two weeks in late May/early June, 19 individuals from our home churches in North Carolina (our church: Grace Community Church) and Atlanta (Will’s church: Atlanta Westside Presbyterian) experienced a taste of what life is like in Mamelodi, South Africa, in service alongside our brothers and sisters at the Powerhouse Church.

Simply put: the trip was incredible. Admittedly, we are still processing what it means to have had friends from home here, seeing and experiencing for themselves many of the wonderful aspects of what we’ve loved about this year, namely the celebratory joy, emboldened faith and genuine community that we daily find alive among our friends at the Powerhouse; but I think we can speak for the Vision Trip team and say that what they experienced was both encouraging and equally challenging to their (and our) understanding of living out the greatest commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor.

In short, among the highlights of the two weeks were an impromptu dance party the night the Powerhouse hosted a welcome dinner, a day devoted to refurbishing homes belonging to widowed gogos (grannies) in the township, participating in the church’s feeding ministry/home visits to various hurting families throughout the community, a field trip to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, an all-day children’s party for 200-some eager Sunday School children, worship at the Powerhouse with everyone dressed in traditional tribal attire, a day celebrating and blessing refugees from Zimbabwe, prayer on the mountain, sightseeing in the beautiful province of Mpumalanga, sightings of the Big Five in Kruger National Park and meeting just-born Baby Nyathi. For the AR team, the success of each day felt like the fruition of many conversations and much planning; and for our friends at the Powerhouse, hosting the team, which constituted the largest group to visit the Powerhouse to date, proved very exciting and meaningful. For me and Nate, the trip was an answer to a request we first expressed more than a year-and-a-half ago: that our church would forgo sending care packages and instead send people in an effort to love us once abroad.

vision-team-museum

So, having said that, we just want to say thank you. Thank you so much to Grace Community Church for sending a bit of home to us here. The fact that you love us enough to so willingly send a team, and for your concerted prayers during the two weeks the team was here, means a great deal to us. Also, we know many people put in a lot of hard work in recent months to get the team here, and we’re really appreciative. Thank you, too, for everyone’s generous financial support—it served as such an encouragement to everyone’s faith that every penny needed was not only provided but exceeded, and we praise Jesus for this. Thank you to everyone who donated clothing and shoes for Zim Day (the collection of donations was overwhelming!); your generosity blessed so many people in need. Lastly, thank you keeping us all in prayer. Your recent prayers were met as God’s provision, protection and love were continually felt as the team was here—with the exception of a few people feeling sick now and then, we had no incident of major illness, theft, harm, accident or any other attacks from the enemy. We praise and give glory to our Father for so many reasons!

For our readers, over the next few days, we intend to feature entries authored by a few of our friends on the Chapel Hill team. Stay tuned, as I’m sure their reflections will be well-crafted and thought-provoking. In the meantime, check out Will’s blog for guest posts from a few of the Atlanta folks.

Lastly, if you are interested in the Scriptures the team studied during their two weeks here, we designed a schedule of morning devotions to align with each activity, project or field trip of the day. Everyone had the morning to individually mediate on the passages from Scripture, and on most days, we met together as a group to collectively discuss and pray. We prayed that the Lord would continually soften our hearts, so that our hearts would be prepared and able to receive what God was showing us in whatever we did each day. Throughout the week, He taught us more about His heart for those in darkness, the purpose behind His church and His sovereignty over the world. We learned more about the depths of God’s love for the poor and brokenhearted; more about God’s commands for His church to walk with those who are on the margins or who are hurt by injustice; and more from the example of brothers and sisters here who ask for and allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen them with courage to love their neighbors well.

Our continued prayers is that everyone came away from these two weeks understanding better the Lord in His perfect kindness, justice and righteousness, and eager to grapple with what that looks like applied to life back home.

Written by Rebecca

Introducing Vukosi Nyathi!

vukosi-nyathi At long last, Baby Nyathi is here! Vukosi (pronounce Bu-koh-see) Nyathi was born naturally without complication to Gloria and Vincent last Friday, June 5th, at 8:05 a.m. He weighed 2.98 kg (6.6 lbs) and measured 50 cm (19.7 in) in length.

June 6th was the final day our friends from Chapel Hill and Atlanta were here on the Vision Trip (stay tuned for photos, stories and reflections from their time here), and it was a day marked by something really special: we all got to meet tiny one-day-old Vukosi just before the team departed. Vincent and Gloria insisted that the team come meet and pray for him, which amazed us as they had just been discharged from the hospital. We swung by Mamelodi on the way to the airport and met the Nyathis in their driveway (as they found themselves locked out of the house!) and each took turns holding and admiring Vukosi. Before leaving, we surrounded parents and son and prayed, giving God thanks for Vukosi’s arrival, for the fact that he belongs to such wonderful and godly family and for the mighty purpose the Lord has for the tiny baby’s life. The name Vukosi means “Kingdom” in Shangaan, and by faith, we know that this baby will someday be a powerful warrior and champion for God’s kingdom.

Congratulations to Vincent, Gloria, Mandla and Busi on the arrival of the fifth member of their family!

Click here for photos Allan and Annie took of Vukosi and family on the day of his birth.

Written by Rebecca