thankful: November 23-25

11.13.12

1. I’m thankful for a great assembly this morning where we talked about how God’s Word is the “Maker’s Manual” for our lives.

2. I’m thankful for lots and lots of dirty dishes, which means lots of people here for graduation this weekend.

3. I’m thankful for time in the kitchen with my Aunt Laurel and Carlene. What a blessing it is to travel to the other side of the world and have the opportunity to serve with family.

11.14.12

1. I’m thankful for the chance to be here for ZEBS graduation, which you can read more about here. What an awesome picture of God’s faithfulness in this ministry!

2. Dancing. I don’t dance, but I’m beginning to wish that I did, or think that maybe I should? Worship isn’t about how I feel. It’s not about me at all!

The Bible is full of dancing. There’s something about an outward, physical expression of joy before the Lord. When I watch the amaZioni dance, I witness their love for God.

Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

3. I’m thankful for the satisfaction of absolute exhaustion.

4. My Uncle Dick’s cookies.

5. Watching the first half of the first Christmas movie of the season with everyone here at Sunbury. The most climactic kiss of White Christmas was interrupted by a power outage, which we all thought was perfect.

6. The power outage also meant an early bedtime, which was much, much needed.

11.25.12

1. An awesome sermon this morning by Paul Esteves at Community Connection. The gospel, the true Christian life is not about rules; it’s about grace lavished upon your life. When you understand this grace, you will leave the old self. We are free; let us not continue to live as though we are enslaved to sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” – Colossians 3:5-10

2. Coffee and conversation with Uncle Dick, Aunt Laurel and Kyle at Zara’s, a cute little Greek cafe, after church.

3. Uncle Dick treating everyone to a delicious lunch.

4. Simple roasted vegetables.

5. The Piano Guys. The joy they experience through their music drives me to worship our Creator.

6. The other half of White Christmas. Any excuse to have popcorn again….especially stovetop popcorn.

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!

thankful: 11.4.12

1. Coffee and a walk on the beach with Amy before church.

2. The beauty and power of the ocean. Today was not the first time Amy and I have very nearly been taken out by an unexpected, enormous wave crashing onto the beach. Incidentally, we had just been joking about the last time we were unexpectedly drenched when it happened again. Needless to say, we went to church dripping and laughing!

3. A nice lunch and fellowship after church.

4. The Seghers’ dedication to this ministry. After a full weekend of ZEBS, Greg attended an all-night service and, running on just over 5 hours of sleep since Friday morning, still made it to a church meeting and lunch today.  I don’t know he does it, but I’m thankful that the Lord continues to sustain him.