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Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Life & Times - Thabong Outreach

Wow!  The last couple weeks have been crazy.  With construction, ministries, and keeping the Lakeside team out of trouble we have had our hands full.  You've seen some of the construction pictures.  I'll be posting some of our successes and failures in trying to keep the team out of trouble.  But for now, I'm going to share about the three-day outreach we held in Thabong.

We've done outreaches in the townships before.  Frequently in the past we've been able to do door-to-door evangelism, and once in awhile when teams are here we organize something more like a Vacation Bible School.  But each time you do something you never know what might happen.

The initial inspiration for this ministry came from Zachariah, who wanted to set up some street preaching. Knowing the Lakeside team was on the way, we thought it would be good to use their skills.  So we combined Zachariah's idea for street preaching with a Vacation Bible School-type outreach.  Since we now have church meetings each Sunday in Thabong we had the added benefit of being able to provide follow-up opportunities for this type of ministry.

Zachariah chose a busy street corner.  The lot on the corner is occupied by a tin shack.  Living in this shack are 4 teenagers, all related and living alone.  All 4 profess to be believers.  They allowed us to set up a speaker and keyboard in their yard.  This was supposed to help us draw a crowd before we started preaching.  They also allowed us to use their electricity.  We had agreed to pay them R100 (about $12.00) which would way more than cover the cost of any electricity we used.  The first day we gave them half - R50.

Here is a little synopsis of the outreach:

Day One:  We arrived early to get set up and make sure everything was ready.  I had asked Zachariah to help arrange things, both to take some of the work off us and to see how he handled something like this.  After we got located and set up Zachariah then left as we started a soccer game to begin gathering some children.  Zachariah had recruited some help on the keyboard in the form of Thapelo.  Ironically enough, Thapelo is the cousin of one of the boys from our old Bible study.  Thapelo was a tremendous blessing, as he was our interpreter.  When Zachariah wasn't there, Thapelo was.  He willingly jumped in to help whenever asked and did a great job translating to the kids.  While I don't know Sotho, I know enough to tell he was bringing the Word to them.

Soccer didn't draw as big a crowd as we had hoped because kids kept coming and going.  We learned that next time we find a quite neighborhood street instead of a busy intersection.  Our upside might be lower, but we would have better control and access to an entire neighborhood, instead of so many curiosity seekers that would come to look and then leave.

After a Bible lesson on Jesus work we had scheduled crafts.  Unfortunately, many things didn't go as planned.  Each morning would be beautiful, but as soon as we arrived in Thabong the wind and dust would start to blow.  It seemed as if there weren't enough obstacles anyway so the adversary wanted to bring more.  This weather definitely kept some of the crowds away.

The first day we had about 35 people, probably 30 kids and 5 adults.  After the lesson Zachariah and Thapelo spent about 15 minutes singing Sotho songs and hoping to gather a larger crowd of adults.  None came.  Zachariah preached for about 20 minutes to the children who had stayed, and then we passed out flyers for them to take to their parents/caregivers about our church.

Day Two:  We started with a quick soccer game to get a few kids, then transitioned into dodgeball.  I can't say we were successful teaching them dodgeball, as they just tried to play catch back and forth.  But it kept them busy, happy, and most importantly drew some more.

After games we were going to start the lesson.  However, there was a little miscommunication within our little group and we handed out the balloons that were supposed to come after the lesson.  This was a terrible idea.  Mass chaos quickly ensued.  Children popped their balloons, lost them to the wind and tried chasing them, fought over them, etc, etc, etc...  We pretty much lost at least half of them for the rest of the day.  On a bright note, we had about 65 kids this day.  Grant preached using an illustration of kool-aid sprayed on a white shirt to show how sin affects our lives.  A second white shirt illustrated how Jesus cleanses us from sin.  Again Thapelo interpreted the Gospel message to the small crowd.

Day Three:  After again starting with games we realized the crowd was growing bigger on this day.  By time Bible lesson rolled around we were at 85+.  After the lesson I was able to preach using Wordless Book bracelets the team had brought.  Walking the children through each step was enjoyable.  There were two illustrations:  One, of a half jar of water which you pour food coloring into to illustrate sin, then pour bleach into the water which makes it clear again, showing what Christ does in our hearts.  The second was using a trick deck of cards in which it appears as a normal deck, then appears as if every card is the 2 of Hearts.  The point of this is that Jesus is all about our hearts as well.

After the preaching we handed out bracelets to everyone that could tell us what the colors represented.  By this time we probably had at least 130 people come, and those who hadn't been there for the lesson were being coached on the colors by those who had, just so they could get a bracelet too.  But if that's what it takes for the Gospel to be spread, then let's do what it takes, right?

As we were nearing the end an older gentleman came and explained that he trains some young men in boxing at an abandoned building nearby.  He asked if we could come speak to his boys.  Now, I'm not the most gifted evangelist, but when someone comes and asks if we would share the Gospel with his group, it's not too hard to know the answer is "YES".  We went and spent about 20 minutes sharing the same message with his guys, then giving each a bracelet as well.  By that time word had spread to the kids on the street and about 30 tracked us down.  It gives a much better understanding of what Jesus went through with the crowds following him just to see the miracles or eat the loaves and fishes.

With all the obstacles of weather, health, language, etc... the Lord was still able to bless.  The Sunday after our outreach our average attendance doubled to 66.  Only 2 new adults were there, but one of them was the boxing coach.  We praise God for His blessings on us, and pray that fruit would continue to be produced for His name.

P.S. - After the last day I went to pay the 4 teenagers the remaining R50 we had agreed on.  They weren't home because they were attending midweek services at their church.  I tracked them down to their church and offered them the R50.  They refused to take it, saying that we were there to do the Lord's work and that the first R50 would cover any of their expenses.  I actually put the R50 bill into one of the boy's hands, hoping they would acquiesce and take it.  He put it right back into my pocket.  Now this may not seem like a big thing, but let me make this clear.  In this culture, everyone has their hand out.  When we were giving out Wordless Book bracelets our crowd increased by about 40%.  People are out to get their own.  And here were 4 orphaned teenagers refusing the $6 I was trying to give them, money we had already agreed to pay.  I about wet my pants I was so shocked.  As I was leaving they said we could come back anytime and they would be happy to help us spread God's Word.
Small blessings can be such an encouragement.


  1. Wow!!! That's so exciting, Louie!! :)

  2. Praise the Lord for the gospel being spread! We're so thankful for your ministry there!

  3. What trouble? haha...

    The Thabong outreach was crazy and exciting. Something about being their in SA and Thabong in particular made God's working hands all the more evident to me!

  4. WOW!
    Won't it be great to see where those bracelets wind up. Now when you see them on people you can f/u or have another opportunity to tell the (His) story!