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Friday, February 24, 2012

Jobs for Everyone

For this latest update you'll have to hearken back with me to June of 2011.  This is when we were in the midst of constructing the second children's house.  We had the blessing of being joined by several young, energetic people, all of whom happen to be related to us in one form or another.

My sisters Rosina and Michelle were digging a trench for our water and electric lines.  Apparently they got a little carried away because they dug right into an alleged sink hole.  I'm suspecting they just got carried away and kept right on digging.  It's really no wonder they look so tired.




In any event, we thought we had fixed the sink hole, but lo and behold, a couple months back it reappeared, nearly swallowing our sidewalk in the process and preventing us from cutting the grass.  Papa Revival spent some time fixing it a couple days ago, but this reminded me to post some of the pictures.




And although my sisters had some trouble digging a hole properly, there were several jobs we found for which their skills suited them nicely.  And for anyone who thinks I'm unabashedly cruel, you must know my cruelty stems only from the deepest of affection for both Rosina and Michelle.  I'm just reminded of the proverb "Never send a Rosina to do a Despicable Tim's job."

Jobs at which Rosina and Michelle are uniquely qualified:

Scraping cement off the cement.

Caring for children and/or napping.

Again with the napping.


Ok, so they lost this job after about 5 minutes.  But they gave it the ol' college try.

Preparing deliciousness for us to eat...as long as Drake was there to supervise and as long as they weren't required to remember to put an egg in the brownies.

Helping Meredith bake.

Shaving their legs.
Painting.

Observing.

Holding the water bottles.

I affirm my sincerest love for my favorite sister Rosina and my favorite new sister-in-law Michelle.  We wish you were both here with us right now and we look forward to seeing you this summer, if only to develop more material.




Thursday, February 23, 2012

Garden

Our garden has been going strong for a couple months now.  We're just entering the end of the main growing season, so a few of the plants have begun to die off.  But the last few months have provided some budget relief as well as some healthy organic additions to the children's diets.  It has also helped teach the children some life skills and responsibility.



A special thanks to Brian for getting the garden going, and also to Bob Niehoff for establishing the well-ordered variety that it has been producing.

As an additional update, you may remember we undertook a ministry to plant two gardens for needy people in the township.  You can read up on that HERE.  The first family's garden produced no fruit at all, because no real effort was put forth by them an it was never truly nurtured.  Zachariah's family only received butternut squash from all the various seeds that we planted.  He said the birds ate the rest of the seeds.


Scripture gives us several references to gardening, farming, planting, watering, etc...  Most notable among those references is the Parable of the Sower.  The seed planted in that parable produced many different outcomes, reflecting spiritual seed planted in an individual's life.  Jesus made the point in Matt. 13:11 "to you (the disciples) it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted."  We know that we can plant, we can water, but it is God who gives spiritual increase in someone's life.

In a way, each of these gardens pictures something of the heart of each family.  

With the first family, we had an initial suspicion that there was no real spiritual hunger, just a "what's-in-it-for-me" attitude.  Part of the reason for planting the garden for them was to help reveal to us the issue of their heart.  Luke's account makes more specific reference to the type of soil in which seeds are planted.  Here the doctor records Jesus' emphasis that some soil is hard and the seed is trampled or snatched away immediately.  In working with this family we get the sense that their heart condition is one of hardness.  I have shared the gospel with them but have seen no fruit whatsoever.  With their garden, we planted it for them but no fruit was produced whatsoever.  Without Jesus doing a regenerating work in our heart, there will never be any life in us (Eph 2:5).

With the second family, we have poured much into their lives.  This garden was just another in a list of ministries to them.  And there are times when we see a bit of promising fruit.  Zachariah is a man who knows his scripture but struggles to implement it in his life.  God knows the heart.  We trust in Him to do whatever work He sees best.  Our prayer is that the seed planted in Zachariah's family isn't going to be choked out by weeds or wither because of pour roots.  Our confidence is this "...The Lord knows those who are His..." (II Tim 2:19).

All that the Father has given to His Son will come.  It is not for us to ask Why? or Whom?, rather to love Him by loving His task of Going into all the world and making disciples.  We have learned truly in this ministry that the call of God on individuals is not "Say this prayer and repeat after me."  Instead His call is to discipleship.  I do not and never will advocate that our acts of service or obedience to Him will merit us eternal life.  But one cannot have the life He gives without that life overflowing in acts of service and obedience.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Faith without works is dead.

Our garden at The Village plays a significant role in this scriptural picture as well.  The seeds of God's Word are being planted into the hearts of the children He brings us.  But if we fail in His command to MAKE DISCIPLES then we fail altogether.  Making disciples is not scaring people with the reality of hell and convincing them to say a prayer to get their free ticket to Heaven.  Making disciples involves real effort - blood, sweat and tears.  Bob will tell you what it means to labor in the heat of the African sun to get a bit of fruit from seeds that have been planted.  Just as a seed must die in order for the new life programmed by God within it to sprout, so our new spiritual life is a work of God.  And for that seed to grow to fruit-bearing maturity a loving hand must protect it from the weeds and predators, must direct it into the right path, must water it.  

While salvation is entirely a work of God, there must be an element of faith on our part.  I don't pretend to fully understand it all, but I know from His revealed Word that we as humans are held responsible for our actions, for our response.  Pray earnestly together with us for these seeds to take root and yield a crop a hundredfold.

"Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls."  James 1:21


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Heat Wave

This has been a hot, hot year.  December, January, and February have gotten to the point where it's so hot I've lost my appetite.  The dogs just lay around all day.  And our kids look for alternative ways to keep cool.  Here is one way Drake has found to be cool.  And make no mistake, Cool runs in the family.







Sunday, February 19, 2012

Staff Transitions

In addition to visitors, January saw a lot of staff transition at Restoring Hope Village.  Without getting into the unnecessary details, I'll share some of the challenges we faced.

December 18th we learned that one of our housemothers had a death in her family.  Due to some unusual circumstances we granted her extended leave of 11 days.  Those 11 days came and went and Mama Lizzar didn't return.  We attempted to contact her by phone for several days without any success.  Finally on the 18th day of her absence Lois called and Lizzar answered her phone.  She said she was still coming back from the funeral and would return to work the next day.  Then three more days passed before she returned to Restoring Hope Village.  During those three days we were again unable to reach her by phone.

When we asked about the unexpected absence and the lack of communication she didn't have much to say other than that she thought we would understand.  During her absence we were put in a pretty difficult position, both to fill in for her as well as to explain to the children why their housemother would be away and leave us with no idea as to what was happening or why.  We don't know that it caused them great concern, but if I was to put myself in their position it certainly wouldn't have communicated love and security to me.

Because this issue was in violation of her contract we had to put Lizzar on suspension.  During this time we held a hearing to determine the facts of what took place and why.  At this hearing no new information was revealed.  A couple days after this hearing took place Lizzar resigned.

Meanwhile, we had another staff issue to deal with.  Ironically enough, this was the same day Lizzar decided to return to The Village after her extended absence.  On January 9th one of the older girls brought us a very serious matter.  Mama Melita, in the presence of most of the children, had made a very reckless statement.  In some jurisdictions her comment was serious enough to be considered a criminal offense.  The statement itself had no basis in truth, but was heard and testified to by 6 of the children.  Following South African employment law we held a hearing to determine the truth of the event in question.  Initially Melita denied making the statement, but eventually said that she may have said it in jest and the children misinterpreted.  Regardless, it was essential that we terminate her relationship with Restoring Hope Village.

This being the same day Lizzar began her suspension we were faced with a shortage of caregivers.  Amber and I took the two boys, Kamohelo and Tumi, into our home.  Selina, formerly our relief housemother, stepped in to care for all the girls.  There seemed to be a change in spirit around The Village after that.  And it was a change for the better.  Selina has exhibited a very sweet and cooperative heart and genuinely seems to care for the wellbeing of the children.

Meanwhile we began a search for new caregivers.  We initially interviewed a couple named Vincent and Ntabiseng.  While being extremely impressed by them, it was clear that they were overqualified (if that can be true for the Lord's work).  I say overqualified in that we wouldn't be able to provide the salary that they would need and that their skills are such that they wouldn't be content longterm to serve simply as houseparents.  However, Vincent recommended a seminary classmate, Revival, and his wife Phelisa.

We promptly interviewed Revival and Phelisa and were impressed greatly with their hearts for the Lord.  Revival graduated from Christ Seminary in Polokwane, which is affiliated with John Macarthur's Master's Seminary.  Phelisa has some minor medical training, which would allow her to be like a nurse's aide or something along those lines.  She is fluent in Afrikaans, and since the children must take that in school and none of us speak it, that is a great asset.  

Between Revival & Phelisa and Selina it seems we finally have found individuals who see this as more than a job.  Even in previous ministry we only found one housemother who approached her work this way, and God led her into another aspect of ministry altogether.  Please, please pray for these caregivers, as their job is a difficult one.  And they have to work with the four of us as well, so they need some extra prayer!

Even though the issues with our previous housemothers caused lots of extra work and hassle on our parts, we can see the hand of our Father even in this.  Pastor Joshua Bolaji, our leader at Welkom Baptist Church, preached a few weeks back about the crippled woman who touch Jesus' garment.  He made the point that Jesus not only knew who had touched Him but had actually planned it.  Although that interruption must have cause Jairus great concern (because Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus' daughter), that very interruption was planned for God's glory.  It provided a teaching moment for the disciples, allowed Jesus to display His Holy Spirit power in raising Jairus' daughter from the dead, and showed Jesus intimate personal love for individuals.

I hate interruptions.  But my God not only allows them but plans them for His honor and glory.  We have yet to see the full implications of this series of interruptions, but we are excited to see how Jesus uses this to draw our beautiful children to Himself.  Praise God for His omniscient provision!



P.S.  Another point Pastor Joshua made from that sermon:  Many people press around Jesus...few touch Him.  Are you one of those making a show of following Jesus, but have no real, intimate, personal relationship with Him?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Todd and Tom Lust

Whew!

January was a busy month.  I'll try to catch you up on the goings-on here at Restoring Hope Village over the next few posts.

Bob and Susan Niehoff, Brian's parents, left at the end of January and the same day they flew out we were joined by Tom Lust and his brother Todd.  This was Tom's 6th trip to South Africa with us, and Todd's first.  Tom is one of the hardest workers we have ever had here and he is all about getting things done.

From Left: Tom Lust and Todd Lust


During their trip the two T's spent most of their time upgrading our fence security.  God blessed us two years ago with a great deal on cement wall fencing, but one problem with that type of fence is that it is actually easier to get over than it's cheap chain link counterpart.  Now that we have lot's of children security becomes a bigger issue.  In fact, at the end of December we had a threat from a father whose son we were caring for.  Brian and Lois also lost several outdoor chairs to theft one night.  So it was important for us to make this upgrade on the fence.

The upgrade is electrical in nature, specifically that any potential breaker-inner by touching the fence would receive a significant charge of negative and positive electrons coursing from said fence, through the body, and into the ground.  A secondary benefit is that any break in the current will also trigger an alarm.  This alarm alerts us, alerts our gratis armed security company (CHUBB), and hopefully deters the potential crime.

Tom is an electrician by trade, and Todd is an Iowa farmer.  So both have lots of experience with electricity and electric fences.  Their efforts saved us a whole truckload of time.  It also provided a need here.  During their work time they also had a great chance to get to know some of the kids.  Kamohelo in particular loves to help us guys as we work, and they had a chance to invest in his life as well.

Big thanks to Tom and Todd Lust for their help here at Restoring Hope Village.

P.S.  Their first Sunday here in Welkom coincided with my first opportunity to preach at our new church. My passage was 1 Peter 4:1-6, a significant portion of which emphasizes our former lives as unbelievers as being characterized by lust.  And having two Lusts sitting in the audience was a challenge.  I couldn't make eye contact with Tom because I knew he would do something to make me laugh, and that wasn't really an appropriate laughing portion of the message.  Just one more challenge of ministry:-)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recent Events

For about the past two weeks we have been hosting one of my best friends.  Josh Daggett and I became very close in college, mainly because he was my point guard and any big man knows the guards will never pass you the ball unless you are extra nice to them...you know, chasing their rebounds all over the court, setting good screens, doing all the dirty work.

Josh and I spent a lot of time together and hopefully he can say that I have challenged his spiritual walk as much as he has challenged mine.  Speaking candidly, I have to confess that both Amber and I have been in some serious need of spiritual refreshment recently and Josh has truly provided that.

Instead of blatantly plagiarizing his blog, as I have been known to do, I will instead just post the link.  That way you can be updated on the latest goings on.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Quotes

It's been a long time since I've done one of these posts, but there have been a couple good ones the past week.  There are actually a few more that I meant to share but forgot to write them down so they're probably gone forever now.  Kids say some pretty funny things.

We have enrolled Meredith in a Karate class.  It gives her some structure outside "Dad and Mom".  It gives her some interaction with other children.  And hopefully teaches her some valuable skills.  She is already as strong as an ox.  The other night after I picked her up from class she shared the following information with me.
Meredith:  "There were a couple new kids in my class today.  They are kind of fat, but I would never tell them that.  I would say to them 'you are skinny with quite a bit of fat on you.'"

Every Tuesday night we have Bible Study with the kids at The Village.  We've made it all the way to Abraham.  This past week we did some review and I asked the kids some questions.  Lerato and I had this exchange:
Louis:  "What was Abraham's nephew's name?"
Lerato:  "alot"

You might remember Teboho Agustinus Jakuja, or JT, from such posts as Bursaries or Bursary Update.  He has since gone on to study on a full-ride academic scholarship at the University of the North West.  He has had a hard time finding a good church, and unfortunately it's not just as simple as looking up a certain denomination.  Since his town is over 2 hours from here I haven't really been able to help with the church hunt.  He has contacted us periodically for guidance.  For instance, he was faithfully attending one church until the pastor told him he hadn't yet received the Holy Spirit because he wasn't speaking in tongues.  JT pointed out to the pastor that I Corinthians tells us that not everyone receives the same gift and that tongues are governed by some very strict guidelines.  Since he didn't agree with that church's doctrine and since he honestly seemed to know more Scripture than the pastor he decided that wasn't a good place to be.  Similar things have come up with a couple other churches he has attended.
Now, I'm never one to push someone for a decision on spiritual matters.  I believe my job is to share the truth, educate and counsel.  The Holy Spirit will do the prompting to action.  So I've shared with these boys what baptism is, but we have waited for them to come to us.  Thus the following message from JT.
JT (via text message):  "Hi Uncle Louie, I'm in Potchefstroom (another city) now and I need something from you.  I want to be baptized so please tell me when is a right time for you. 2 God be the glory in Jesus name."
P.S.  I spoke with JT via phone and interviewed him.  He obviously knows what his salvation is and means, and he knows exactly what baptism is.  Now we're just working to arrange a date for him to take this awesome step in his spiritual life.

JT's cousin, Napo David Jakuja, or DJ is a very close friend of ours.  He also came to know the Lord through the same Bible Studies as JT.  DJ was a bit older than the other guys and really had some struggles finding a scholarship (or bursary) for furthering his studies.  Last year God graciously provided some funds for him to go to school to pursue a degree in social work.  But he knew that was a one-year gift.  That meant he needed to perform well enough academically so that his marks would merit a bursary of his own.  Last week he called me and shared this:
DJ (via phone call):  "I wanted to tell you I received a full bursary to study social work this year.  Please let the people who have helped me know that I am thankful for their help.  They have given me an opportunity to change my life and I know that."http://otoolsa.blogspot.com/2009/04/bursary-update.html