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Monday, April 30, 2012

Things That I've Learned...

Since moving to The Village one month ago, I've had the opportunity to learn many new things.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, rather something of a collection of highlights.  Let's go...

Lesson #1:  We need to rotate our foodstuffs on a more regular basis.  When we moved to South Africa in 2008 we reached a point during packing where you just stop organizing and begin cramming things into boxes.  Apparently, one of those things that was crammed was a half-eaten jar of bacon bits.  Unbeknownst to us, those bacon bits had expired in 2006.  I'm happy to report that synthetic bacon, specifically Betty Crocker's Baco's brand bits, continue to make every bite better even 6 years past the expiration.  And I would be willing to bet they actually contain a greater nutritional value now than they did then.

Lesson #2:  My children are not as intelligent as we would like to believe.  The other morning Amber and I awakened to overhear an argument betwixt Meredith (age 6) and Drake (age 3).
Meredith:  "I can't hear you"
Drake:  "I'm not listening"
Meredith:  "I can't hear you"
Drake:  "I'm not listening"

Meredith:  "I can't hear you"
Drake:  "I'm not listening"
...and so on and so on for several minutes.


Lesson #3:  God bless America.  We've had lots of adventures, or more accurately, misadventures with various agencies of the republic in which we reside.  We had to renew 3 of our family's passports and in order to do so we had to travel to the US Consulate in Johannesburg.  We'll just summarize by saying we have a much greater appreciation for working with people who actually know what the job is they are supposed to be doing.




Lesson #4:  Do not, for any reason, urinate on or near a beehive.  Recently we've been working on team housing.  Team housing is on the other side of The Village from our house.  And sometimes during the course of an average day it becomes necessary to answer nature's call.  In an effort to maintain the American efficiency referenced above I've discovered a nice, private corner of the property behind one of the containers, thereby avoiding the long walk to and from my personal commode.  And I must point out that I've been using this private corner long before the killer African bees decided to build their hive there.  But possession is nine-tenths ownership, and I've made the decision that by reason of their possession those bees may now own this parcel of ground.  Also, I was the recipient of their unpleasant reception.  
FYI - God created bees to target the eyes of their antagonists and this isn't the first lesson I've had on the subject.

Lesson #5:  Life and ministry are exponentially easier now.  I'm sure there will come a day when we are tired of children or staff knocking on our door all hours of the day and night.  But so far we've seen it both as a privilege and a blessing.  Even simple things like children's Bible study are so much better.  For instance, the children wanted to know where Abraham lived and where his servant had to travel to fetch Rebecca.  And since we were able to have the study in our house I had quick and easy access to a Middle East map.  Amber has been hosting children almost every afternoon for some craft, project or other.  Hopefully our presence has helped lighten the load for Brian and Lois, as they had been doing many of these things alone for about a year now.  And that takes us to Lesson Six.

Lesson #6:  It's going to be tough to leave.  Meredith and Monica spend almost every available minute together.  Drake enjoys playing with Liam and the other kids.  Amber loves the chance she gets to invest in the kids life that she missed out on for the last couple years.  And I've enjoyed the privilege of working with our houseparents on a more personal basis.  We're really anticipating our return to the States in a couple weeks.  But we'll miss the children and the ministry here for the 3 months we are back.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Following Jesus

Last Sunday we had the privilege to experience one of the greatest blessings of ministry.  Two of our children chose to follow the Lord in believer's baptism.  JT, about whom you've read several times on this post, and Dieketseng, who has been part of our ministry for a long time now.  For the purpose of clarification, JT doesn't actually live at The Village.  He came into our lives through an outreach we did at a local high school.  Dieketseng has lived at The Village for about a year now, and we've been actively ministering in her life since she came to live with Brian and Lois Niehoff in 2006.

Before I allow JT and Dieketseng to share in their own words why they wanted to be baptized, I want to make sure everyone knows what we're talking about.  Historically, during Bible times, baptism was practiced in order to publicly identify with someone or with their message.  That is why Jesus' cousin John was baptizing people before Jesus ever began His own public ministry.  Scripture is clear that Jesus alone and His atoning work on the cross merits our access to a righteous standing before God.  Therefore, we don't baptize everyone, because baptizing someone who has never believed doesn't accomplish anything.  Simply put, the act of baptism is a public statement by an individual who has come to Christ for forgiveness of sins, and an identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.  They are testifying before the world that they are a follower of Jesus and intend to continue to walk in Him.  If you'd like to discuss this further, please shoot me an email at lotool@restoringhopeint.org.


Dieketseng first approached me about baptism a few years ago, but we put it off to ensure she knew the serious nature of that decision.  She again brought it to my attention several months back, but we didn't feel she was ready.  Finally, sometime in January this year the evidence seemed to catch up to her desire.

JT had made a profession of salvation in 2008.  We make it a point to educate newly professing believers on the topic of baptism, but I refuse to push anyone toward that decision.  If that profession proves to be genuine, the individual will come to that conclusion through the Holy Spirit prompting.  He'll do a much better job than we ever could.  That prompting came to JT in January this year.  He called me one night to inform me it was time that I baptize him.  I spent almost an hour on the phone with him that night and it was clear he was ready.





I approached Pastor Joshua Bolaji, our pastor at Welkom Baptist Church.  He agreed to hold the service at the church, and based on our relationship with both he asked me to perform the ceremony.  What a privilege!  I've baptized people before, but this is the first time I've been able to baptize someone that came to the Lord under our ministry.  Believe it or not, I made it through the entire thing without shedding a tear.  In fact, I didn't even have that irritating lump in my throat once!

So, without further ado, here are the brief version testimonies of JT and Diekeseng:

Teboho Jakuja:  I always knew there was, there is, and there always will be God, but I just didn’t know who He was.  In 2008 I met Uncle Louie and he told us about Jesus and who He really is.  In our Bible study we learned Romans 10:13 “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

We also learned John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name.  I believed and accepted Jesus as my personal Savior on December 31, 2008.  That day I became a new creation.
  
I want to be baptized because the Scripture says that those who believe are to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I believe, so I want to be baptized.

Dieketseng Karreebos:  One day we went to Reahola Church.  Pastor Ernest was preaching about the gospel.  There were two twins who were visiting us for awhile from America.  After church we had lunch and we started to have a conversation about what we learned in church.  Then I heard the gospel but I didn’t take it seriously.

So one of the twins asked if we had accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Then she went and prayed with me but I still lived my own life.  Awhile after that Uncle Lou asked if we knew John 3:16.  I didn’t know.  That night I still didn’t understand.  I read it over and over again until I understood what it talked about. 

I received Jesus that day and my life started to change because now Christ lives in my heart.
  
I want to be baptized because I want to obey God and show people that I love Him.









Monday, April 9, 2012

Rosie

In late February we had a new arrival at The Village.  Sonti Rose is 13 years old and was in grade 7 at Aurora Primary School, one of the better public schools here in town.  She had been living with her grandmother, but the granny just grew too frail to be able to care for her.

Rosie's situation is unique from any other we've dealt with.  According to what we have been told, her mother was educated, employed, and relatively affluent.  This gave Rose some advantages that none of our other children have enjoyed.  Although living in Thabong, Rose was able to attend Aurora School in town because her mother could afford transportation.  She came with plenty of nice clothing, her English is fantastic, and she carries herself differently (for better and worse) than other children from less advantaged backgrounds.  In fact, just the other day she and I had this conversation:
Rose:  "I would like to have my birthday at the casino this year"
Louis:  "Excuse me?"
Rose:  "Last year I had my birthday at Spur (a nice restaurant in town) and this year I would like to have it at the casino."
Louis:  "So you're turning 18 this year?"
Rose:  "No, but they have a place for children to have parties so we can have it there."
Louis:  "How much does it cost?"
Rose:  "Maybe R2,000?"  (roughly $250)
Louis:  "Rose, I've never even had a birthday party that cost R400 ($50), so I don't think you're going to get a party like that.  That's not the way we do things."
Rose:  "Can we talk about it again later."
Louis:  "Sure, but I don't think that will change anything."

You might ask why she is living here if she comes from such a relatively privileged environment.  The problem was that in addition to her affluence her mother was also promiscuous.  It calls to mind the warning of Proverbs 5:9-11.  The man (or in this case, the woman) who chooses an immoral lifestyle will lose any sort of wealth they have accumulated.  Once Rose's mother became ill they lost everything.  That is how she ended up living with her elderly grandmother.

The fact that Rose comes from a different background hasn't seemed to greatly affect her transition to The Village.  Her housemother, Mama Selina, actually worked with Rose when she was in preschool at the creche Rose attended.  When Rosie arrived at The Village the first day they recognized each other and embraced warmly.  (That is a testament to the type of woman that Selina is, because you wouldn't see that type of reunion with most people, as few in the childcare industry have any real affection for the children.  Usually it is just a job for those people.)  There was one day early on when Rose came to me complaining that Monica, our 8 year old resident cutie-pie.  According to Rose, Monica wasn't showing her the respect she thinks she deserves as Monica's "elder".  A quick conversation pointing out  to Rose that she is a child, not a staff member sorted that out.  Other than that, our few minor bumps in the road have been nothing more than you would expect with any child.

It became evident the first week at Bible Study that Rose has been exposed to the Gospel on some levels.  She knew all the answers to most of the Bible stories.  She knows who Jesus is.  But the religion she comes from is one that has taught her to follow certain rules in addition to Jesus.  And we know the Bible teaches that the cross of Christ is sufficient.  To this point, Rose hasn't personalized the salvation offered by Christ, but we are confident that God has mighty plans for her.

Please pray for Rose as she continues her transition to The Village, for our houseparents and staff as we work to shepherd her heart into the things of the Lord, and most of all for her to enter into a relationship with God and with His Son.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Decorative Paving

Clearly grayish tan is too boring for paving stones on a driveway.  So our children along with The Village children took it upon themselves to redecorate the Niehoffs driveway.  It took them all day and a whole bucket of chalk, but they stuck with it and completed about 1/5th of the driveway...then they asked for more chalk.  I'm proud of them for their diligence, in addition to the creativity.





Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We've Moved!

For anyone wondering about the dearth of information recently available on this site, I apologize.  We have been finishing the second staff house at The Village.  I am happy to announce that as of March 31st our family is now occupying said staff house.  Thanks to everyone who gave financially, to all the teams who helped with the work, and especially to Brian and Lois for their help with the house and all the other things they do to keep this project running.  In just the few short days we've lived here it has become very evident that this relocation will be a great assistance to our ministry with The Village children and staff.

I will make every effort to post additional information in the coming weeks.  Of course, I'm not sure that we'll be slowing down all that much.  With our planned return to the U.S. coming in less than 6 weeks there is still a lot on the To Do list.  We need to help finish the construction of team housing, we need to finalize the schedule and details of our time "home", in addition to carrying on the ministry.  I get to preach 3 times in the next 11 days, including the Good Friday service, Easter Sunday, and our Baptism Service on the 15th.

Please keep us all in prayer as we work to complete all these things before May 14th.