thankful: November 26-29

1. Two great hours of Bible study with Carlene.

2. A productive afternoon of school work.

3. Rest. Much needed rest.

1. Tutoring resumed today! So happy to spend time with the kids again!

2. Making upcycled Christmas cards and playing outside to celebrate the end of term.

3. Butternut soup with Amy.

4. Planning for Choose to Wait next week. It’s good to get the ball rolling, however slowly.

5. An unexpected opportunity to talk to John for a few minutes.

1. An absolutely gorgeous day. I’m so much happier, energetic and productive when the sun is shining!

2. Assembly this morning and the chance to share these truths: I have value; you have value; sex has value.

3. The ability to simply laugh when tutoring is canceled yet again because the students are not coming to school.

3. Taco night with guests.

1. Themba’s Camp Zion t-shirt–it put a huge smile on my face.

2. “What to do with your Thanksgiving”, an excellent sermon from Rankin Wilborne at Pacific Crossroads, our church in Los Angeles. You can (and should!) check it out here.

3. That Sunbury’s internet is capable of downloading a podcast, period! Living alone in a quiet house, I’ve been listening to many, many sermons.

4. This soup for dinner. After a smoothie and nuts and fruit all day, tonight called for a get-every-pan-in-the-kitchen-dirty sort of meal. So worth it!

Check out the recipe here at I’ve never been disappointed by anything on this site. 

5. That God is for me!

Siyabonga, Baba!

Thank you, Father. 
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” -Psalm 95:1-7
1. Great joy! The more I count blessings, the more I take notice of God’s grace in my life, the more fully I experience Him. I think this is, by far, my most thankful Thanksgiving. 
2. A perfectly baked squash dish, despite a finicky oven and limited ingredients. 
3. My tiny kitchen filled with the delicious aroma of roasting squash. 
4. The chance to share Thanksgiving with the men and women who work here from San Souci. 
5. That John has friends with which to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner today. 
6. The unexpected chance to talk to John, however briefly, because OUR INTERNET IS REPAIRED!
7. Thanksgiving dinner with 30 others, gathered not merely for the sake of preserving American tradition, but in celebration of the Lord’s goodness every day of our lives. Sometimes distance and a change of routine helps to remind us what holidays are really about. 
8. Hundreds of thanks shared and translated around the table.
9. Washing dishes with my Uncle Dick. Dishes are always more fun with other people. 
10. Prayers immediately answered. 
11. Pumpkin pie, of course.

ZEBS Graduation

The amaZioni are a passionate people.
The Zion movement has exploded over the past several years, traveling up the continent. With over 4,000 denominations, it is estimated that there are anywhere from 15-20 million amaZioni in Southern Africa today, and that number is ever-increasing. 
Unfortunately, most Zion churches are syncretistic. 
They combine what they know of the Bible with practices common to traditional African culture. They say that they love the Lord, but they also worship their ancestors. They claim Christ, yet they also practice witchcraft. They may attend church every Sunday and attend all night services, yet the pastor may not know or teach the Bible. They worship with joyful singing and rhythmic drums, but may interrupt the service to make sacrifices to appease their dead relatives. They hunger for the truth of God’s Word, yet have few resources to hear that Word taught. 
Enter ZEBS. 
Zion Evangelical Bible Schools are the heartbeat of the mission. Because of the connection ZEMA has with the history of the Zion movement, ZEMA missionaries are accepted among the amaZioni and able to bring the truth of God’s Word to a people desperately waiting to hear it.
As Khuba explains in his testimony, “ZEBS is needed because many people got lost…they love God, but they don’t understand.” 
ZEBS is a 4-year Bible program offered to pastors and church leaders. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It is this living Word that speaks to the students, that changes lives. As they encounter God’s truth, students grapple with the contradictions between their culture and Christianity. The goal is not to Westernize the amaZioni. The goal is rather to embrace them, gathering more worshippers from every nation, tribe, people and language (Revelation 7:9). The goal is to train the pastors and leaders so that they in turn can reach their own people with the truth of the Gospel. 
What started as two schools run by a few missionaries has grown to over sixty (yes, 60!) schools across Southern Africa today–and the requests keep coming! One of the things I love about this mission is that our missionaries never go anywhere they are not invited; rather, they are in high demand. They cannot keep up with the requests- what a wonderful problem to have! 
This past weekend, we celebrated another ZEBS graduation. I’m thankful for the dedication of the teachers, who travel great distances and sacrifice much sleep and drink far too much Coke in order to keep up with the demands. I’m thankful for the students who come- some traveling for days- to study the Bible. And I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness. He is so, so good! 
Here are a few snapshots from this year’s celebration: 
Preparing lunch for 300 people!

By far the biggest pot of rice I’ve ever seen. You have to stir it with an oar! 
My Aunt Laurel updating contact information for soon-to-be ZEBS alumni.

The graduates lined up and ready.

A very full house. It felt like the walls were shaking!

It was fun to see the ladies take a break from the kitchen to get in on the dancing. Left to right: Monica, Ellen and Ntombifuthi. 

The procession begins! They dance into the hall.

Worship and testimonies.

1st, 2nd and 3rd year students receive their certificates.

The hooded graduates.

So much joy! 
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, 
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
 through all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” 
Ephesians 3:14-21

touching the heart of Africa

I am convinced that it is impossible not to like Khuba.
I welcomed the unexpected interruption on Friday when Khuba stopped by my house to say hello. We talked about the photos on my fridge, about family and travel, but mostly, we talked about ZEBS and the ministry to which Khuba has dedicated his life. 
Khuba is an amaZioni pastor and ZEBS teacher who has been working closely with Greg for many, many years now. I first met him during my last trip to South Africa and have enjoyed learning bits of his story.
In this video, you’ll hear his incredible testimony of how God brought him from death to life and from fear to freedom. You’ll also get a fantastic overview of amaZioni culture and the history and mission of ZEMA. 
I’m here because of stories like these- because our God is at work and I can’t help but want to be a part of it!

a week of thanks: November 14-21

Last week, Sunbury was hit by a lightning storm that took out, among many other things, our internet. Today, repairs were finally completed, allowing me to post a week’s worth of belated thanks. 
1. Impromptu girls movie nights. Carlene, Amy and I were all separately working at our computers when a massive lightning strike put an end to any productivity we had hoped for. Instead, we  got together and watched a movie on Amy’s laptop, which still had a full charge.

2. Safety in a pretty big storm. The lightning struck very, very close, possibly hitting the tower on top of my house. The blinding white flash and deafening crack were enough to make it feel like my heart stopped for a few seconds!

3. A change to spend some time getting to know Bobbie while running errands in town. We stopped to see this new oddity just down the road from Sunbury. How did anyone, in the middle of sugar cane fields, get a motor bike on top of a telephone pole? We have no idea.

4. That we worship the one true God. Today, Zandi, who works here at Sunbury, was explaining to us that her husband is training to become a sangoma (or witch doctor). Zandi is actually planning on starting ZEBS (Zion Evangelical Bible School) in January, so it will be interesting to see how she handles the collision of contradicting faith and culture. Without the Lord, wouldn’t it make sense to turn to the only “hope” you know? How scary and uncertain and confusing our lives would be without the hope of the gospel! Please pray!

5. Because of the students’ exams, tutoring has been canceled for the next two weeks. I’m not entirely sure what that will mean for my schedule yet, though I am disappointed that my time with the kids has, at the least, been cut in half. Still, I’m thankful that the change or failure of our plans comes as no surprise to God. I am reminded again to come before Him with open hands. 
1. The safe arrival of my Uncle Dick and Aunt Laurel (Carlene Seghers’ parents) who are here at Sunbury for the next six months.

2. The internet guys who were here ALL day working to restore our connection.

3. The simplicity of a shared meal.

1. Waking up to the sunrise.

2. A full, long, productive day taking care of fried routers and printers in Durban. The damage could always be worse! 

2. Cold coffee on hot drives.

3. Quiet, restful nights.

1. God’s divine appointments in my life- the way He can take a situation that seems at first a disappointment and turn it in to incredible blessing.

2. Hot-from-the-dryer laundry (and neighbors who let me use their dryer, particularly on rainy days when my nifty laundry tree isn’t an option).

3. Dinner and coffee with friends.

1. This reminder from James 1: 26-27
    “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Sobering.

2. Any chance to “talk” to John. I’m thankful that God cares about even the little details and answers prayers about quickly passing lightning storms and cooperative (albeit terrible, which really makes the cooperative part all the more impressive) internet connections.

3. Lively games and fellowship with the Seghers family and my Uncle Dick and Aunt Laurel.

1. Freshly baked muffins that make my kitchen smell wonderful.

2. Being able to finally finish calendars for ZEBS with minimal frustration!

3. Precious time each day with Carlene.

4. Homemade happy chicken soup for chilly, quiet evenings.

5. For unique demonstrations of God’s creativity.

Almost missed this guy.

Baby gecko

This palm-sized spider was, thankfully, very dead. 

1. Mornings that begin with God’s Word and coffee. Every morning should start like this.
2. Sunshine! It seems so very rare lately.
3. The opportunity to serve by organizing Sunbury’s library. Vuvuzelas, anyone?

I came across a bunch of very old, illustrated children’s songs, including this gem from the fifties. Fitting, don’t you think?

3. The truth of Philippians 1:6 which says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God isn’t finished with us. He is working good in us. Sanctification is a process.

1. For families I miss dearly.

2. For a morning “away” in Ballito to run errands and restock my kitchen.

3. For comfort in a foreign country. I could feel at home here.

4. For simple pleasures, like the discovery of free range eggs and poppyseeds at the grocery store.

5. Running into familiar faces unexpectedly, especially when you’re the foreigner with very few potential connections in the first place. 

6. Friendly conversations with the checkers at the grocery store. 

7. For homemade pizzas and the community of brothers and sisters who gather each Wednesday evening to share a meal. 

8. For my mom’s willingness to help with an online order I couldn’t place myself. Birthday shopping: check! 

9. Perpetually muddy feet. 

10. The smell of fresh basil. 

thankful: 11.13.12

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances,
 for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Today I am thankful for: 
1. My giant brick of a study Bible. People in other parts of the world would do just about anything to have unrestricted access to this book. I should be more grateful. 
2. The religious freedom we still have in America. 
3.  Rain that held off long enough to get through both tutoring sessions. 
The storm rolling in. 
4. The joy of kids who love to read. I so enjoy having to tell the children that yes, it’s really time to stop reading now and no, we don’t have time for one more story because I really don’t want them to walk home in a downpour. They love books and I love that they love books. 
Sphelele and Lihlethemba
5. The joy of reconnecting with the same children I tutored in 2011. Zinhle, for one, has grown up from a shy, quiet, pretty serious little girl into the sweetest, talkative, thoughtful young lady—or slightly older little girl! I’ve said so many goodbyes that I thought would be forever, or at least this side of heaven. What a blessing to meet again much sooner!
 I’m in deep trouble, falling in love all over again. I don’t want to think about the goodbyes to come. 
Saying goodbye to Zinhle in May 2011. 
Sweet Zinhle today. 

thankful: 11.12.11

Today’s thanks:

1. A great night’s sleep that ended with the sunrise. 
2. The constant song of birds. 
3. Morning tea with Carlene. I’m thankful for the wonderful friendship we’ve been able to share.  
4. That the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. I appreciated this reminder from Ann Voskamp: 
“God’s mercies are new every morning–not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you. It’s right there in the sky every morning: Every sunrise proves the burn of His passionate heart. 
The car can fail today and the kids and the dog and the fire detector and the dishwasher and the doctor and the whole free democratic world and its entire economic system but the mercies of God cannot and will not fail and His faithfulness is not merely great–it is unwavering. 
And the God who so loved this cracked world that He gave, He hasn’t ever stopped giving, and He won’t stop giving today and it’s His very mercy that gets us from one moment to the next and we’re all walking around in an atmosphere of brazen affection.” 
5. The sweet smell of beeswax candles. 
6. Monkeys that didn’t make it into my house! I heard their distinct grunting and rounded the corner of my living room to meet a pair of curious eyes staring right back at me through my open window. Mind you, the windows here don’t have screens or bars. Thirty seconds more and I’m convinced he would’ve been waltzing into my kitchen or through my open front door, for that matter.
7. That time is passing quickly. I’m not eager to leave South Africa, but I am ready to wake up next to my husband each morning and cook meals for more than one. 
8. That we, most likely, have a place to make our home in Mississippi. 
9. Connections that John has already made in Mississippi. We’ve been praying for solid Christian friends who share our life situation and it seems God is already answering that prayer! 

thankful: 11.10.12

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to enjoy Hluhluwe Game Reserve with Ryne and Amy and their friends Tarryn and Josh. We left at four in the morning and arrived home again after eight in the evening, but it was well worth it!

On Saturday, I gave thanks for:
1. Ryne, who drove ALL DAY! He also managed to spot things before anyone else. Impressive!

2. A super rare sighting of African painted dogs almost immediately upon arriving.

3. Safety on the road. We managed to change a flat without getting eaten or kicked out of the park for being out of the car. I’m also very thankful for safety on a very harrowing drive home again.

4. Dozens and dozens of elephants! I’m thankful that we made it through a herd of 30-40 without incident. 

5. Each unique display of God’s beauty and creativity.

weaver birds

birds relaxing on the zebra

gorgeous giraffes

nursing impala

We saw so many rhino! 

It was a great day!

thankful: 11.7.12

Today I am thankful because:

1. King Jesus is on the throne. Always.

2. Wednesday night is pizza night with the Sunbury family. I’m thankful to share life with these people, even for a short period of time.

3. Kids that make me smile. Today in the car:
    “Miss Kirsten, are you from North America or South America?”
    “North America,” I reply, “but I’ve been to South America before.” We talked about South America   for a few minutes before one girl in the back seat asked, “So, have you met Will Smith?”

4. I am unfairly blessed. Sometimes, this truth is especially difficult to swallow. Why was I born in the United States to a solid Christian family? Why is it that I have never gone a day of my life for want of food or clean water or acceptable clothing? Why are some born into prosperity and others into destitute poverty? Why is it that I have had every opportunity to tease out the questions and implications of my faith with every resource at my fingertips when thousands of amaZioni pastors are pleading for someone to come and teach them the Word of God? Or, what’s more, what about those who have never heard? Why me and not others?

The truth is, it is unfair. Any goodness, any blessing, anything except hell is unfair. It’s grace.

And so I am challenged to live by these words:

“Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.” 
-Ann Voskamp

thankful: 11.6.12

Today I am thankful for:

1. French pressed coffee and good conversations at the Bisher’s
2. The privilege of spending the afternoon with these guys:

 My Tuesday 4th-5th grade group. 

3. The joy of the children. They exhibit remarkable enthusiasm for something as ordinary as punctuation and get excited over the simplest things, like viewing photos of themselves or seeing monkeys (I’m glad I’m not the only one still a bit excited by animals regarded by most South Africans with about as much enthusiasm as a squirrel would render in the US). Last week, we had to stop everything we were doing to rush outside to watch the monkeys.

Oh, and the kids  LOVE to sit in the front seat of the baakie. “Miss, miss, isihlalo” is a request I receive at least twice from each child every day. We were on our way back to San Souci today when I realized that the child sitting in the front seat beside me wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. Now, it’s not like the kids in the back have any form of restraint whatsoever (apart from my reminder every day that they must sit still because the road is very bumpy), so it almost seemed silly to ask, but I suggested that she use the seat belt.

She had no idea what I was talking about. “Excuse me, miss? Seat belt?” I explained again, showing her my belt. She was still completely confused. I pulled over to help her and realized that getting to ride in the baakie at all is probably much more exciting than I could ever possibly understand.

Philasande, Zinhle and Lihlethemba walking home.

I am so blessed!