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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten Things You Learn During an El Nino Induced Drought/Heatwave

10.  There's no such thing as a cool shower.
Our water pipes run either in the attic or along the outside walls of the house.  By time it reaches the shower head the water has warmed up to a nice luke-warmy temperature.

9.  It's nice to have friends with swimming pools.
The Heffners and Mphapuli's have generously allowed us to come swim at their houses.  We've got a little plastic pool in the back for the kiddos, but the water changes funny colors sometimes.  So, a refreshing dip in a proper pool is great!

8.  You bathe the kids in buckets.
Some places in South Africa already need to bring water in on trucks.  Other places have been put on strict water rations.  Our local government hasn't said a thing...not because we don't need the rations, but because a) They are short-sighted and inept & b) Everyone would disregard them anyway.  But in an effort to be environmentally, economically, socially and botanically responsible, we bathe Travis in a bucket and then use the water to keep our trees alive.

7.  The best way to stay cool is to soak your shirt in water.
As it evaporates, especially if you're using a fan, it keeps you nice and cool.  And if you're in bed, add wet socks to the equation and Bingo!, you're cool as a cucumber.  Only remember to wait a minute before putting your newly wet shirt back on, so as to allow the water you soaked it with to cool off, as it comes out of the pipes almost as steam.

6.  40 degrees Celsius is WAYYY hotter than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
40 degrees Celsius is equivalent to 104 Fahrenheit.  That's hot!  I don't care about the proverbial "dry heat!"  A family in our church are partners in a heating/cooling business.  Last week his instruments measured that it felt like 50 degrees Celsius in the sun, 43 in the shade.  That's 122 & 110 Fahrenheit, respectively.  Ouch!

5.  38 degrees Celsius in the house is hot!
Hence, the wet socks.  Our indoor high temp was 39 degrees.

4.  You look forward to the one day that week when the forecast calls for a high of only 97 degrees.
This week's forecast?  Highs in the upper 80's with chances of rain every day.  Woo-Hoo!!!  We'll keep praying this happens.  Yesterday was our first rain in a lonngggg time.  We got 1.5 inches according to the reports.  What a blessing that the dust is now mud!

3.  When the temperature drops to 86 degrees, the kids wrap up in blankets during family devotions.
I always wondered how Africans can wear winter coats, caps and gloves when its in the 60's.  I guess my kids are officially Africans now.

2.  Eggs hard-boil themselves.
It got so hot in the kitchen at camp that when we tried to use the left-over eggs we found out they had hard boiled.  Or mostly so, anyway.  So the dogs got a nice little mostly hard-boiled treat.


1.  There is no cool side of the pillow.
Do I really need to say anything about this?  If Stuart Scott lived in South Africa during El Nino his one-liners wouldn't make any sense.

Oh, and as a fun little post-script, we accidentally learned how to brew alcoholic sun tea.  Learned that the hard way.  That foam on the top?  That's because it's bubbling all on it's own.  So this jug is going down the drain.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Camp Counseling

This year at Unashamed we had several opportunities to share the Gospel.  Of course, all the teaching times have a gospel-centered focus.  But I'm talking about one-on-one opportunities, or in the case in question, 3 on 2 opportunities.

Many people have asked "How many decisions did you have?"  Well, for a whole lot of reasons, we don't know.

First, the Holy Spirit is the One who does the work of regeneration.  There is no "sinner's prayer".  There aren't any magic words to say that will give eternal life.  John 6 tells us that the Holy Spirit gives life to whomever He wishes.  I'm not saying we aren't held responsible for our response to God's call, but no one is born again because someone talks them into it.

I can guarantee that if you give me an hour in the township, I can get 100+ kids to say the "sinner's prayer."  But what makes me think those kids were truly regenerated?

Second, this culture very much desires to please, especially someone viewed as an elder.  In the States, if you were to invite someone to church, most likely you'd get some kind of excuse - "I already have a church"..."That's my day to sleep in"..."I have to wash my hair"...something along those lines.  Here they don't want to disappoint you, so instead many people will just lie.  Maybe they have good intentions, but ultimately they're not going to follow through, they just don't want to feel like they're letting you down.  So they'll just agree to come.  Which is somewhat ironic, because by making a commitment and then not following through, they're letting you down and giving you an excuse to be disappointed in them.  But I digress.

The upshot is, we are called to make disciples.  Followers of Jesus.  And when you observe the ministry of Jesus through the gospels, this process is relational.  Messy.  Tedious.  Long.  And above all, relational.

Therefore, much of our structure is aimed at developing the types of relationships rich in the gospel.

And one of the most encouraging things about camp this year was the relationships we've been able to develop.

The theme of Unashamed 2015 was Rise Up!  Based out of John 11, we studied the story of Lazarus from several different perspectives.  Ultimately, we see the story is less about us and more about Him.  I had the privilege of teaching two more informal study group sessions based on the lives of Joseph and Daniel - two young people who were raised up by God to lead...and who through their faithful lives rose to the occasion.

One of our staff girls, Honey, brought me three of her campers one afternoon.  They had come to her after the teaching on Daniel and asked "Should we give our lives to Jesus now, or should we wait so we can have some fun first?"  They wanted to talk to me and see what this whole "following Jesus" idea required.

We spoke for probably an hour or so.  It was a great conversation.  You know how it is when you have a meaningful conversation with more than one person.  You can usually tell who is with you and who isn't.  One of the girls didn't seem to get the point at all.  But the other two seemed very thoughtful and engaged in a sincere way.  I don't know at this point how they ultimately will respond. But I know they heard the gospel as clearly as I can present it.  And I know the Spirit is powerful in His work.

Please pray for these three young ladies.  Noma, Cynthia and for the life of me, I can't remember the third name.  Two of them have stayed in touch.  As this new school year starts we hope to have more opportunity to deepen these relationships.  Pray for open doors and that we may boldly speak forth the truth which has the power to change lives!

Oh, and a really cool post-script to the week of camp...the next week Tolu and I were doing some work and stopped by a local take-out place to grab some lunch.  As we were waiting for our order I was standing in front of a rack of various and sundry sauces - what can I say, I'm a condiments guy - when all of a sudden, this girl walks up beside me and awkwardly sticks her head in between me and my sauce rack.  

"Hey, Pastor Louie!" she says.
"Hi." I responded.
Uh-oh.  I didn't recognise her at all.

"I was at camp with you last week."
I replied, "Oh, yeah?  How did you like it?" 
"It was really good" she said.  "But you scared me."
Yikes!  She must be referring to the last night when I caught one of the boys standing halfway up the staircase to the girls' room.  I kind of got in his face a little bit.  You know, just to remind him that's not acceptable.  Ok, and I wanted to send a message to the other guys too.  And according to our staffers that message came through loud and clear.  That must be what she's talking about.

"What was it that scared you?" I said.
She replied, "Well, you said that we'll all meet God one day.  The question is whether we meet Him as Judge or as Father."
"And...?" I asked.
"Well, I'll meet Him as my Father."  
"What makes you think that?"
"Well, Jesus died on the cross for my sins, so if I obey Him for the rest of my life He'll let me go to Heaven."
"You're half right" I said.  "Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins because you never could obey Him.  Even now you can't obey Him perfectly."

That proceeded into an opportunity to clarify the gospel message for her.  The fact that Jesus paid it all, that we obey now not in order to earn God's favour, but because we love Him.  We only had a few minutes, but God continues to grant opportunities.  If only I would now open my eyes to see all the opportunities He lays before me!