SOOOO Hello everyone! Its Adam, this is the first time you will be hearing from me! Kevin just stepped in the room and asked us to blog a paragraph each about our experiences on Tuesday. First of all I want you all to know how incredible this trip has been so far for our team. We are seeing God move in every way this week and its humbling to know that we can be a little piece of his work in South Africa. Tuesday was very powerful, we started the day with an 8:30 AM wake up and a FANTASTIC breakfast from Aaron. We traveled to one of the local villages that Orchard works in to visit a couple of the sick patients in the community. We started by visiting some elderly patients that we laid hands on in prayer. In our walks down the dust and dirt ridden paths we came across a young boy that we later found out couldn’t walk, speak or comprehend anything seven months ago. This boy changed my life, he was walking and yelling and smiling at us and his presences was only something God could have produced. The look in his eyes was something I had never seen before, he had been healed by God and knew it. Such an incredible moment in this trip to be able to see Gods works in a little boys life and then to pray over him for healing in the future! We left the village for lunch and then headed right back out the door to the soccer fields. The way we have set up the camp is that each of us are a coach for a certain group of kids, this allows for a lot of connection from player to coach. It has been very hard to talk to them due our lack of their language and visa versa but we didn’t let the stop the building of relationships. I got down on the ground during one of the half times of the games we play against the other teams and coached and started drawing soccer “stuff” in the dirt. They connected to it and I knew I had found that break through that would excel the team building and coach to player relationships for the rest of the week. This was HUGE!!!! I really got close to my team last night and couldn’t be more excited for what is to come. We are blessed to be able to come back to a mission house full of people just as crazy and energetic as we are! Orchard has some great missionaries down here and we had the opportunity last night to connect with Joshua, the missions director, till one in the morning. It will be a night I will never forget, we talked about topic from how red Connor’s hair is to how diverse the cultures are here in South Africa! This has been a trip full of Gods light shining around this group and the people of South Africa, I love these people and can’t express how humbled I am to be a small part of Gods mission for this country.
Hey readers it is I, Connor. I want to share with you some of my thoughts on todays activities. The first thing we did was visit the Madutle Village preschool today. Which was awesome, the children were just as smart and intelligent as the children at the preschool in Top Village. It shows me that Papa Joe is progressing with all of the villages not just focusing on one of them. Secondly we visited patients in Modutle Village. Visiting these patients was incredible. Being able to pray for them and hearing their stories of how God has worked in their lives is amazing. Lastly I have to point out that Pete, their local coach, is doing an awesome job with the younger guys by doing the drills that we do. I’m so glad that he is learning just as much as they are. I know the kids are in good hands when we leave and the program will continue to improve. We plan to further his knowledge by leaving him with a couple of books and binders on coaching. They will contain drills, techniques, and philosophies about the game of soccer. By doing this we will be able to give them a good direction to help themselves when we leave.
Aaron here! This is what I gathered from Tuesday HOPE you get it! As Tuesday afternoon rolled around a heavy realizations began to set it… The very words on our Orchard missions shirts “restoring hope” at times seemed like a joke. What do these people have to hope for? It took three days but this extremely complex problem has no quick fixes. Orchard Africa exists now to establish survival, stability and sustainability. At first Orchard saw a need to simply supply their needs like food and shelter, this was their beginning. Obviously since then their vision and mission has evolved to tackle much bigger issues. An example now of their complex goal is this… Instead of feeding the man a fish or even teaching a man to fish… Teaching a man how to teach another man to fish is where it’s at! This idea is what can turn around villages and the HIV / AIDS pandemic. It is an extremely slow process but it is what is sustainable! Walking around the villages you would realize that there is a generational gap. You have all of these children that we have been serving and loving all week and then all of the 20s 30s and 40s are missing. So here we are left with a huge problem of the old raising the very young… What is to happen when the old are gone? My main struggle at the end of the day was that I wanted these people to experience the hopes that I get to. So I asked Josh (Orchard: Africa’s Mission Director)… “What is it that these people hope for?” As he helped me flush out my thoughts from the day, my very Americanized dreams, hopes, and experiences that I want these people to be able to also experience came down to this… We need to help them realize their choices in life! At home we have choices. We can restore hope or establish hope here if we can make them realize that they have the power to choose. My struggles from the day were very Americanized. But I needed to also understand that my hope culturally will never exactly match up to what these children will hope for. Simply culturally it doesn’t work like that… South Africa and these villages will never be Baltimore Ohio or Ashland Kentucky. As we are here we seek to encourage these people to make choices that will feed back into their communities and that every decision counts. The more good decisions made the more hope! I can’t say enough about the villages I have encountered that care so much for others and the way they take care of their neighbors! We can learn from that!
Hey guys its Alex! Our day started out amazing once again with visiting another preschool. I do not think it could ever get old walking into a room and have 40 beautiful kids light up with smiles and laughter and come running over for hugs. Hearing them sing, laugh, and watching them dance and smile is amazing. Seeing Gods love is so easy in a room full of kids. We were all so blessed to be there. Once we left we got to walk around the village and meet with a couple of ladies and one young boy that are all sick. We all got to lay hands on each of them and pray for their health and healing. I felt privileged to have met each of those amazing people. A funny story about our team today happened right before dinner. Josh, the leader of our mission group, yelled back to our room that it was time for dinner. Us, being obnoxious soccer players, all ran out of our room yelling and screaming random stuff not knowing there was two Orchard Africa board members standing in the dinning room. It got even more awkward when I asked them if they were the ones who catered dinner. Josh later told us that he was going to surprise us with guests coming over for dinner. Talk about awkward, but we all laugh about it now!
It has been a privilege to lead these four men on this trip. I’ve challenged them to do some things they were very uncomfortable with, but they have fully relied on God to carry them through. Our message of The Gospel has been so successful in that it is appealing to the people we meet because the message of grace is most apparent. The people see Jesus in these four men! – Kevin
“Beginning empty handed and alone, frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them.” – Gene Edwards
On Monday morning, the guys and I were able to meet the Orchard Africa staff that works in the local villages full time. These are people who grew up here in South Africa; they work hard to serve the villages everyday. The team was overall very impressed by this wonderful group of people. We were able to meet the deputy of Top Village, who is the high leader of the village we are running the soccer camp in. He is an elderly man who battles sickness and could barely walk. Yet, he finds a way to ride his bike through the village and lead the village in a caring, Godly manner. This is not usual Mafikeng custom; elders usually relax and are taken care of. But this deputy was different, he continued to put the needs of others first. Everyone around him had such a high respect for this man.
After we met the on-site staff, we had an HIV/AIDS orientation. I know the soccer team learned a lot about how this virus really affects the body and the Mafikeng community as a whole. We really appreciated receiving education about the group of people we were going to be working with. It not only helped us to understand how we could help them better, but helped us to see these “sick” people for who they really are: people.
We then headed over to Top and visited the preschool. The team mentioned several times to me that this as something they’d never forget. The children’s laughter and smiles show that God is alive! They were so amazing and joyful and it brought us pure happiness to be able to spend some time with them. My favorite part was looking around at my burly, tough, manly-man soccer team and see them being so gentle and genuinely compassionate to these little children of God. Their girlfriends, wives, and mothers should be proud
That afternoon we were finally able to begin the soccer camp! The team and I had planned thoroughly on how to run the most efficient camp, including scheduling and drills. But for those of you who have been on a mission trip before, you know that no plans are definite! As soon as we arrived there were many more children than we expected, especially of younger age. I was very pleased with my team to see them stay relaxed and calm as we quickly put a game plan together to run an additional camp for younger children before our scheduled camp for high school boys. We were in for more than we anticipated, but doing two camps instead of one ended up being a major blessing, as we felt privileged to work with the younger kids.
I was able to give a talk to the boys about potential, and the story of how David became King. The team and I want the boys to know that we believe they can accomplish anything through Jesus Christ, and that God does not look on the outside, but in the heart! Although preaching with a translator is very different from what I’m used to, I loved being able to share Christ’s love to these boys.
Every night the last thing the boys get to do is play games called, “Street Soccer” which are small-sided competitions that encourage fun and a chance to show their skills. Each of the four coach’s that came with me on the trip were assigned a team of boys to coach. Once the teams were assigned, each coach huddled with their team and decided a team name, as well as get to know one another. These Top Village boys became so excited knowing they would get to go by the names of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United; teams they had only heard about, yet celebrated so colorfully. I quickly watched the language barrier disappear as Connor, Alex, Aaron, and Adam bonded with their teams, communicating with the love of a soccer ball.
The sun began to set and it was time for camp to be over. As we called everyone in for a huddle, the boys began a chant that escalated in volume and ended with, “1, 2, 3, Top Village!” Another magical moment was in the books.
In Matthew 14:22-33, we find the story of Jesus walking on water. The men on the boat were scared, but Jesus calmed them by identifying himself. Well, calmed everyone except Peter. Peter approached Jesus boldly asking to walk out onto the water with Him. But we know that Peter began to sink in his fears and doubts. Peter knew in order to walk on water he needed Jesus; otherwise it just wasn’t possible. As we are here in Africa, we are facing uncomfortable scary “storms” daily. Meeting new people, loving on the sick, trying to understand customs and not do anything disrespectful, and a huge language barrier just to name a few. Peter could have continued to walk on water the entire way to Jesus. He got his time to shine but he choked. This soccer team does not want to sink in our own fears, but to approach Him boldly and take on the challenges and fears we face. We know we will not be successful in our mission without an inclusion of Christ. As we move on into the week, this passage has set the tone for what’s to come: our complete faith relying on God to do the work.
“Faith grows when we confront our fears, fear rules when we forget our faith!”
I recently heard Jon Acuff speak and he gave these words: “We don’t have to be ready, because we have a ready God.”
When the idea of a soccer trip to Africa was brought into conversation, my heart skipped a beat imagining the opportunity. Then excitement turned into chaotic stress when I found out the trip would have to be planned in four months. Four months!? How could that ever be coordinated?
God has a history of using the most unlikely situations and people so that He can show up in a big way. My team of young men have already begun to learn this, and will continue to learn our potential told in Ephesians 2:10. This adventure is only beginning; we haven’t even left the States, and already God has used so many of YOU to make this trip happen. Work schedules, school schedules, fundraising, and willing bodies have all created problems deterring this trip in which God has responded, “I got this.”
As the team and I finally board an airplane to begin this adventure, this mission, to fulfill our calling given to us in Matthew 28:18-20, there are several things I ask you to pray over the team:
Safety. This almost goes unspoken with the uneasiness of being in a foreign land, and traveling such great distances. Pray for our safety and smooth travels.
To be partners. The team’s flurry of daily activity will surely alter the daily flow of life in the village we are serving. Pray that we will be partners to the people and the ministry that is already in place in South Africa. Pray for the team in that we will be able to combine the resources available in country with the resources we bring. We want to motivate people to help others.
To be a good example. Your example affects people more than just what you say. Pray for the team to not only be preaching God’s love, but also showing God’s love.
To build relationships. Pray for opportunities for the team to spend valuable time with locals. Our mission is sustainable change, and that change will only come through time and relationships. Pray for those the team interacts with. Even though they might not understand each other, those moments could end up being worth the whole trip.
To those partnering with us from all over the country: Thank you all for your generous giving and your time in prayer! Your partnership and prayers make a difference.
To my team: As we make final physical and mental preparations, the unknowns of a mission’s trip will begin to creep in and create doubt making the road ahead seem unclear. I’ll end this first blog entry the way I started it, with a quote from Jon Acuff:
“Many of the adventures you go on will not make sense to other people because the outcome is unknown. But journeys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, they’re errands. And you were created to do more than just run errands.”
We may never think we are ready for God’s calling, but that’s ok; because He is. Following God is not about knowing stuff, it’s about doing stuff.
All of us live our lives according to values. The values we hold to, determine what we believe, what we think, how we act and what priorities we have. Values may differ from person to person, because different people place different emphasis on different things. However, the things people emphasize and give priority to, will generally reveal what values they have.
What about God? Does he have priorities? Are there some things in our lives to which He would give more emphasis than others? Would it help us if we understood what some of these might be?
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (emphasis added)
“This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast about this: THAT HE UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME.”
This passage indicates that understanding and knowing God is more important than wisdom, strength or riches. It’s not so much an issue of right or wrong, good or bad. It’s an issue of what is more important – on what does God place higher value?
Here are some of my thoughts about things on which God places higher emphasis:
- God places higher value on changing us than on charming us
God is good and God does good. As much as He desires to pour gifts blessings and good things into our lives, He desires more to shape and change our lives. What He does in us is more important than what He does for us. Instead of just seeking experiences with God that will charm us, should we not rather seek encounters with God that will change us?
- God places higher value on us being good than feeling good
Modern society teaches us to behave in ways that make us feel good. If everybody is doing it and it makes us feel good, then it must be OK. We measure our morals and standards against those of other people, and it makes us feel good when we are ‘not as bad as’ or ‘better than’ the next person. The Bible says “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). God desires that we be like Him, not just better than someone else.
- God places higher value on us being a blessing than receiving a blessing
The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Jesus’ example was to serve, rather than be served. God’s promise to Abraham was, “…. I will bless you………and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) What if, instead of exercising faith for God to bless us, we exercised faith to be a channel of blessing to somebody else.
- God places higher value on us being relevant than on being religious
People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. The Bible puts it this way; “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:14-17) It may be the religious thing to say to people, ‘I will pray for you, God bless you,’ but it’s the relevant thing to do something about their practical needs.
- God places higher value on helping us than on hurting us
God is not against you. He is for you. He is not an enemy who is out to get you. He is a Father who loves you unconditionally. Rather than running from God, let us run to Him – to seek His help and enjoy His love.
“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed….the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…..He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him…..as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:6-13)
Reflections from Africa
God calls some to go next door with a plate of brownies. God calls others to go to Phoenix to worship with broken men praying for recovery. And God calls those who love Him, to go and mentor teens on a youth mission trip to California. God even calls some to go to South Africa to be his love to the impoverished. Where is God calling you?
“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8b
Now when I see offerings in the plate, I see food for a hungry child, or a quilt for a dying AIDS patient.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…..” John 3:16
As we marched through Top Village, I asked Papa Joe (the local Pastor) where do you find hope as you minister to the sick and dying? “I feel encouraged and hopeful when I share God’s love and people receive Jesus. I know they are going to heaven. I feel I am doing God’s will and I feel good. I feel bad when I am not able to reach some and they do not know Jesus.”
We stand with Papa Joe on the edge of a wind swept cemetery – white rocks piled two feet high over the graves of loved ones, many of whom died far too young because of the AIDS epidemic – and he says, “white people coming so far to see us encourages people in their suffering. It has a way of further breaking down the walls of Apartheid. It is very good.”
We meet with Pastor Patrick, the Pastor of Madutle village. He says to a few of us around the table, “you don’t know what it means for you to come here, just your presence makes the kids and people feel validated and important. Madutle was a village without hope but when people come from across the world the government takes notice and now, we are starting to get services – a school and maybe a clinic. You are like the Samaritan’s who bring the care of God. Writing a check, the feeding stations are important, but what is more important is that you come and you care. It means so much.”
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individual members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
He took 11 people from Arizona to be ministers of His grace to those in need so far away. I think – who me? Who us? Such is the grace and wonder of God!!! Pastor John RLC