bound by love | simba:samuel:john

love must be sincere. hate what is evil; cling to what is good. be devoted to one another in brotherly love. honor one another above yourselves. never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. share with God's people who are in need. practice hospitality.
romans 12:9-13

these brothers are not south african. they are zimbabweans, forced to move away from their homes, away from their families, their wives, their children....to collect the crumbs from under the south african table. their own country devastated by greed and corruption, they must work here in order to provide even a little for their families. and yet...these men are not held back by the potential of discouragement or injustice.

and they have every opportunity to be discouraged.

but they refuse to be trampled...to be overcome. they have something greater that has overcome that which fights against them. 

they understand the power of the Gospel.
they understand the strength that lies in community...in sharing brotherly love.

these brothers are mighty men of God...zealous for his kingdom and unwilling to compromise who they are in Jesus in order to gain worldly wealth or power. 

to be pitied is not their desire. instead, growing in spiritual fervor, they pray night and day for the reconciliation they have discovered in their own lives to be realized in their country. 

and so, in spite of their own affliction, these brothers pursue the Light of the Kingdom of God. meeting together daily...encouraging one another and others, and holding on to the hope they posess, expecting that this kingdom will reach their own country. because they understand...they know...what has been promised.

they know that the kingdom of God is space made for reconciliation.

and so they live with expectancy...believing that one day they will be reunited with their families and reconciliation will come to zimbabwe.


beauty for ashes | portia

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

isaiah 61:1-3

to anyone who first meets her...she is an orphan...an alien...a widow...and outcast. but spend time with her and all of those things disappear and are replaced with something new. on earth...portia is an orphan who came from zimbabwe to seek a better life. she raises her son, michael, by herself. but portia has learned something...this is not who she is.

she has been transformed...made new.

portia has begun to understand the abundant life she has in Jesus. and she has begun to see that he chooses for his work...the most unlikely of people. he values the ones who are seen as useless and unimportant...the ones who are voiceless. and he love the forgotten outcast. 

he loves portia.

jesus chose portia to be a part of His kingdom. He chose her to be his daughter. she is no longer an orphan but instead has a Father who is loving and will never leave her. and he gives good gifts. he has given portia the gifts of freedom and comfort. she has been adorned with royal robes and has been anointed with gladness.

he has crowned her with beauty.

and he has set her on the path to proclaim His goodness. to the one who was once voiceless...he has given a voice...a voice to proclaim His favor in her life and his love for all. portia has found freedom in jesus and in turn...he has chosen her to help bring that freedom to others...

...and to multiply His kingdom at the same time.


lost are found | stella

if a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? won't he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? and when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. when he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, 'rejoice with me because i have found my lost sheep.'

luke 15:4,5&6

looking into the eyes of this young zimbabwean woman, one would never know what she has had to endure. but in the winter of 2008, stella was lost and afraid...an alien in a country about which she knew very little.

stella...forced to flee her country because of the political and social unrest wreaking havoc on her people...arrived in south africa...


added to this was the weight she was carrying concerning the baby in her womb. unsure of what other options she had...stella contemplated suicide.

stella was lost.

but the arms of the good shepherd found her. she was found at her most desperate and lifeless place.  in her desperation...stella was met with...


and as a result...she found a Savior. and the response in both heaven and on earth was a celebration of great rejoicing. 

stella now beams with excitement...because she has been found...she has been rescued by the love of Jesus. it is a love that thrives on giving second...third...and fourth chances...

even to seventy times seven.

when the shepherd finds his sheep...he doesn't simply lead it back to the others...but he carries it...and rejoices all the way.  jesus is still carrying stella. he will continue to carry stella...and rejoice in the new life she has been given.

for though she was once lost...stella is now found.

man of peace | joseph

when you enter a house, first say, 'peace to this house.' if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. when you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'the Kingdom of God is near you.'

luke 10:5,6&8

when the peace of God comes to one who is ready to accept it...to have it rest upon them...the result of that peace will change one's life forever. joseph is a man who has experienced this peace...and he has been changed forever because of it.

left practically crippled by a near-deadly accident, the pain joseph carried reached far deeper than the bodily pain he was forced to endure ever day. disappointed and hurt by people, he resigned himself to being an angry, pained man...

...left to die lonely and afraid of what was next.

but then the kingdom of God broke into Joseph's life in the most dramatic of ways. peace was offered to joseph and it remained on him.  he accepted it...and believed...even for a faint moment...that being healed was possible. that faint flicker of hope was enough room for the kingdom of God to break into his life...and as a result...joseph was healed.

his spine was healed.
his neck was healed.
his head was healed.
his heart was healed.

at the age of 62...joseph is a new creation who's identity is now in Christ.  he no longer lives by the ways of the kingdom of this world, but he is a joy-filled prince dwelling in the safety of the kingdom of God. that is what happens when the kingdom comes to people...

it comes with the life-giving peace of Jesus that is accompanied with overwhelming joy. 

when peace came to joseph, he did not run from it...

he accepted it.

and for this man of peace...it has transformed him completely. 


pure spotless bride | vovo

the Lord will hold you in his hands for all to see- a splendid crown in the hand of God. never again will you be called 'the forsaken city' or 'the deserted land.' your name will be 'the city of god's delight' and 'the bride of God.' for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride.

isaiah 62:3&4

the wetland area of masiphumelele is a forgotten place. it is a place where the poorest of the poor in this township are forced to live, to fend for themselves.  this is a place of sadness, of desolation, filled with people who are seemingly left on their own.

vovo lives in the wetlands.

vovo's life was once thought to be forgotten, desolate...wasted. the virus that lives in her body reminded her of the way she had been abused, taken advantage of and then quickly abandoned.

alone. forsaken. damaged. hidden.

but this is no longer the case. vovo is a story of hope. for the Bridegroom himself has extended his hand to her. and she has grasped firmly to the One who has never turned away from her but has loved for for exactly who she is. she has been claimed by the one who has taken all of her blemishes and washed all of her stains. she is the delight of the Lord, the bride of God. she has been made new.

it is true, the kingdom of God has come to vovo. she has been married to the ruler of that kingdom. her sadness has turned to praise. she is beautiful in the sight of her husband, Jesus. she now rejoices because of how he has changed her...how he has given her a new name...

beloved. pure. spotless. bride.

|photo by chelsea gentry|

kingdom | stories

as the sun sets on our time here in cape town, i a reminded of many stories.  in fact, i think the telling of stories has played a significant part in our time here.

i have become increasingly aware of the place stories have in the kingdom of God. they are important to the King...and he shows us this through his own God story.  he...in fact...has written and continues to write an incredible story of


and those who accept his invitation are suddenly swept into the telling of this gripping tale. and as lost sheep are found and prodigals return home...not only do they become part of the larger God-story...

but they also bring with them a smaller...but still very important story of their own.

i came to africa with my story...my own personal story of 


and through my time here...i have told that story.  and others have told their stories to me.
some are very sad stories...ones that have very little hope...they are missing something. other stories are very different from mine and yet...at the heart...they have the same plot change...the same very important plot change.  and what comes from telling this kind of story is powerful. 

jesus is in these stories...his presence is written all through the words. 

as we have been meeting people...making disciples...planting simple house churches...

we have encouraged those who have been changed...to tell their stories...not to hold back. 
and what has come from this is an array of responses.  

but one thing is for certain...when we tell our stories of


one response is guaranteed.

Christ is glorified...he is worshipped.  

and that is enough.

becuase he is the ultimate story-teller and and so he will ultimately do the rest.  

and so i will continue to tell my story...even after leaving this beautiful country...and i will tell the stories of those i have met. i will stand for them...i will speak for them where they cannot speak. i will tell of their stories of


and i will tell of how they have changed.  i will tell of Jesus in their lives. i will tell of his kingdom breaking forth.

and He will do the rest.


today | joseph

today...i met with him for one of the last times [for now].

today...it was just he and i...one on one.

today...we shared with joy about what we see in each other.

today...we laughed at how people can't believe it when they see the pictures of his baptism.

today...he rejoiced because peace has come to him...has come to his house.

today...he thanked Jesus for touching his body...for touching he heart.

today...you couldn't wipe the smile off of his face.

today...he told me how he wants others to know Jesus like he knows him.

today...he said he was sad to see me go.

today...he knows it is the right and obedient thing.

today...he told me how he wants to ride the train so he can tell the person next to him about what jesus has done in him...because that is what changes people.

today...i smiled when i heard this...knowing that we hadn't talked about my last post and he surely hadn't read it [he has no computer].

today...i am convinced that His love that rescued the earth lives in him.

today...i am overcome with thankfulness...because...

today...he knows.


kingdom | movement

yesterday i rode the train and went to a market. and while engaging in both of these activities, i was thoroughly engrossed in the sounds...the interactions...the people...the culture that was so evident in both of these things...

so different and yet so similar. and by the end of the day, it was clear that i had been seeing word pictures...flashes of truth...challenge...in both of them.  and as has been a familiar trend these days...i was once again reminded of the power of the kingdom of God.

but first...the train.  

boarding at fish hoek station onto a crowded train car...i was struck first by our invasion into the all african hue of people.  we were, in fact, the only white people in this car...four of probably only a handful on the whole train.  most white people don't ride the train...they don't have to...and many are afraid to anyhow.  once again...i was reminded of the divide between privilege and necessity...the wide chasm resultant of the still-lingering dust of apartheid.  

i sat next to a man dressed in fancy clothes...a buttoned shirt and trousers.  he was holding his small daughter...one in a twined pair. he smiled at me as he sat next to me...

the other one's there...he pointed to a woman holding his other daugher, the other half of the twined pair...their twins...he said, smiling again.

they are beautiful little ones...and i tell him so.

the train is community.  the train is people...all moving in one direction...if only for a short time.  the train is opportunity...realized...and seized by many.  as passengers exit...rubbing shoulders with those who will take their place...sit where they just had been...


a blind man with a battery-powered keyboard steps onto the train...led by a man in a white shirt...hand on his shoulder. he acts as the eyes.  as the shepherd.  as the business manager. he directs the blind man to the back of the car...and they wait for the train to lurch forward again. 
we are a captive audience...

and so the blind man begins to play the keys...and sings.

then sings my soul...my savior god to thee...how great thou art

a curious thing begins to happen...the fancy man begins to sing along...quietly at first...then progressively louder.  the woman with the hat on sitting across from me does the same.

as his friend sings...the man in white, donation cup in hand, leads the other forward...shoes shuffling under them...until they reach the front of the car and the train reaches the next station.  the man stops singing...and as the doors open...they quickly disappear from the car...running to the next car to do the same.

the train squeals and begins to move forward again...new faces replacing once-familiar ones.
we move forward in silence again.

at the next stop...in the midst of the furious transition of passengers...something similar...

a man with a black shirt with colorful embroidery helps another blind passenger onto our car...she is a woman...and her hands are empty...except for a small, white, tin cup. her instrument is her voice...and she begins to sing as the train begins to move.

the blood of jesus...the blood of jesus...the blood of jesus...it will never lose its power.

as she sings, the sound of coins splashing the bottom of that tin cup begins to resonate in the train car...almost on beat with her song.  one...two...and then another...and another.  woman place their coin in her cup...children...ask their fathers for a coin in order to contribute to the woman's song.

she shuffles her feet and changes her tune...

the name of jesus...the name of jesus...the name of jesus...it will never lose it's power.

and the clanging encourages the song until we reach the next station...and then just like the first man...the woman abruptly ends her song...the doors open...and she disappears. 

it is quiet again...and we continue our journey. 

a child refuses to sit still by his mother and so the man down the row looks after him...gently tickling him...gaining great joy from the electric laughter that emerges from the boys belly.  two woman laugh as they realize they have missed their stop...the old man with one good eye sits quietly across from me...waiting patiently for his stop...lips pursed into a frown...the young man at the front of the car with the kanye west-white sunglasses listens to music on his phone...letting the one he boarded with listen in.

and so this shifting and ever-changing community continues on...all of us moving in the same direction...with the same motion...if not for a stop or two...until we arrive at our stop and we exit into a quiet station and the train moves on...and the community continues on without us.
the four us walked from the station to the market...a clear contrast from our experience on the train...still clearly community...but it takes a very different form...and has a different face...

a white face.

the market...a wonderful...rich...display of organic produce, food and drink, and art smelled of flavorful enjoyment and full stomachs and it rang of care-free laughter, folksy musicianship and joy.  

we sat down under a tent with table made of old doors and seats constructed of yellow produce crates and worn planks...strangers intermingling as they enjoyed good food, cold cider, and warm company.  i sat next to a boisterous white-haired and wrinkled english woman...her cheeks sunk in and a cigarette clenched between her frail lips.  she was here on holiday and she was having a blast.  

we talked about everything american...obama...the economic crisis...american philanthropy...

and then she asked me why i was here...and for so long...for i must be living the free-spirited life of sight-seeing, cheap living and drinking and youthful irresponsibility.  

so your here until your money runs out, huh? 


no? so why then?

we work here in one of the townships.  we like to tell people how much Jesus loves them...and we have been able to plant some churches as well as a result of people realizing this love.

you plant churches? i didn't know churches grew.

and then the subject was dropped and we moved on to the AIDS crisis, aparteid and the overall condition of the country she was visiting.  

we eventually said goodbye and moved on...she, seemingly unaffected by the conversation we had just had.  but it isn't important whether she was convinced by the church-planting movement i've just told her about...or that she wasn't moved to tears by her sinfulness that came streaming out in a series of confessions all in an instance that culminated in a powerful transformation of heart and life causing her to be an evangelist for the rest of her life.

yes, life change is important...and i would have rejoiced had the conversation moved to that point...certainly i would...

but i think for just a second...for just a little while during her lunch at the old biscuit mill market...this brash brit experienced just a bit of what the kingdom of God is about...and in that instance...was met by the name of Jesus...

which is powerful in and of itself. 

which leads me to all of the thoughts that have been circulating through my mind over the past couple weeks and which were once again revealed through my experiences in these two very different experiences yesterday...

that these two communities...no matter how different they are from one another...and believe me...they are very different...will always be the same in the simple concept of community.  And so because of that...they both stand as birthing places for the kingdom of God.  Jesus understood this when he brought the kingdom...understood it because community is part of him...part of the essence of Christ...and so it is part of the kingdom.  and so without even realizing it...these people have already started to incorporate themselves into one of the main aspects of the kingdom.  

and while the woman at the lunch table was not quite aware of its presence...she in fact was participating in the kingdom by conversing with me over a meal...communion...if you will...

and in her unawareness that the church is grown...planted...nurtured...she may not understand that now...but she might...someday...i pray she will...

and then she will know.

and she has heard the name of jesus spoken to her...and she has heard that he loves her...just like he loves the people in masiphumelele where we work...and loves the people on the train...

which leads me back to the train...and the woman singing with beauty that the blood of jesus will never lose its power...and in the same way...that the name of jesus will never lose its power. 

which led me to wonder...does she know this?  does she really know what profound truth she was proclaiming as she shuffled through the train car...tin cup extended to her audience?

and if she did know the power that is in that name...and in that blood...whould she sing it differently?  would there be passion in her voice?  or if she really believed it...would she be afraid to share it...to speak it out with unction in fear that it would no longer be simply business as usual meant to put food on her table...but it would mean that she would really have to make a choice about how she was going to live?

and as i heard her sing about the powerful blood of Jesus and the strong name of Jesus...and thought about how it has changed me...how he has changed me...and how i have seen him...quite visibly actually...change so many now...how should i respond?  how do others on the train listening to this song...knowing the change in their hearts...respond?

is my life different?  is there passion in my lives? and since i believe it...am i afraid to share it...to speak it out with unction in fear that my life would no longer be simply business as usual meant to put me in good standing with "the man upstairs"? or has it meant that i have had to make a choice about how i am meant to live...how i am meant to speak the name of jesus...how i am meant to understand and live in the kingdom of God?  

and so i thought...if i were not the only one on this train thinking these thoughts...and if i were not the only one who wanted to really wanted to show the power of Jesus' name...and if there were others like me who had been ushered into the kingdom of God through the blood of Jesus that will never lose its power...and we realized how it had drastically changed our lives...

what would that train car have looked like?  what would it have sounded like?  and what would have happened as a result of the community taking place as we all went in the same direction for a short time? 

i think it would have looked a lot like the kingdom.  perhaps very small...and faint...but i think it would be there...and it would be moving.  and it would be going along with people as they got off at their stop...and it would be infecting wherever they went from there...spreading itself beyond what me could imagine.  

which is why i told the funny little british woman about me...that i align myself with jesus. he is why i am here in cape town...that is why i told her.

because she will go back to england...having had a simple encounter and seeming meaningless interaction with Jesus...and just might change because of it.  and with that change...will carry with her a story...and an authority...wherever she goes.

and they have trains in england...lots of them...and taxis and buses and airplanes...all with people doing simple community...traveling in the same direction...

if only for a short time.

but for some...it might make a lasting difference. 


kingdom | reconciliation

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not country men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."
2 Corinthians 5:17-19

i have been wrestling with this whole thing called reconciliation. i have been really trying to think upon the nature reconciliation in and of itself.

i have been searching for reconciliation in and through the people, things, and actions around me...reconciliation in its purest form.

and so then i begin to ask...what is reconciliation...in its purest form?

in its simplest sense, reconciliation is simply the restoration of relationship.

but I still want to know what it looks like in its purest form.

and i have struggled and struggled to find it...to see it in the things i have been desperately praying for...

searching to see it take place in the lives of those who have been torn from their homelands...

searching to see it take place in the lives of those who once watched as their homes were bulldozed to the ground...just beacause they were not white...houses bulldozed to make room for "white" homes that never ended up begin built...because a "colored" once lived on that land...

searching to see it take place in the lives of those who have been handed one violent blow after another by the virus that now rules their once young and vibrant body...

and the list goes on...

and not just here in South Africa.  

there is a world that is starving for reconciliation with something...someone...somewhere...

and they don't even have any idea what it is.  

some people can't reconcile the choices they have made with the consequences they are left to endure because they have been made out of sinful waywardness.  others can't seem to reconcile the color of their own skin with that of their neighbors.  still others can't seem to reconcile the war waging inside them...the battle of voices barraging them

your not good enough
you have no value
just give up
you have no voice

these are real things...real people...

and they are hungry



for reconciliation.  and they don't know where to get it from. 

and once again...and i'm not surprised in the least by this...and it always comes back to this...

that the purest form of reconciliation is

the kingdom of God itself. 


but absolutely magnificently.

reconciliation...in its purest form...the same reconciliation Jesus brought to earth...comes when truth is revealed.  when truth is brought to light...movement happens...change occurs. 

but the enemy of truth is fear.  fear is often what keeps reconciliation from happening.  it is fear that keeps the one tormented by his hidden sin from confessing and being set free.  it was fear that blinded the eyes of so many "whites" who persecuted the innocent...split families in two...destroyed homes...and changes nations.  It is fear that causes her to hide inside the empty shell of a body...and forces her to accept the voices raging inside of her.  it is fear of judgement...of stigma...that keeps the ill one from stepping forward to "be well."  

fear hates reconciliation.

but truth conquers fear.

and reconciling truth opens us and sets us free.

and reconciliation will not be neat...it will not be simple. 

the kingdom of God is founded on truth...surrounding the love of a Savior who reconciled his people to himself through his death and resurrection...

the kingdom of God is...simply put...space made for reconciliation...

and those who have accepted the invitation into this kingdom are given the chance to actively participate in it...to participate in the work of it...to participate in the reconciliation process. 

in fact...i believe it is true...that we are always working for or against each other.  none of us is a neutral life. we are either bringing someone a step closer or a step further away from the Kingdom.  

reconciliation brings us a step closer.

reconciliation broadens one's kingdom perspective.  all in one moment of true and honest reconciliation...one mends the broken relationship with man and with God.  and i think that when seen through the lens of the Kingdom...it is worship...true and honest worship. (matthew 5).

because when reconciliation is found in its truest and purest form...it is found in love.  it is found in the memory of truth with compassion.  it is found in the violent rage of a loves so deep...so perfect...that it not only frightens fear...but casts it out...completely.  

the kingdom of God is love.  and if i desire to see reconciliation happen in the messes of this life...i must love...unconditionally...in relationship with others.

and that means understanding the love of God...

and understanding God himself.

because i think that understanding the nature of who God is ultimately informs our mission of love. if we can grasp something of this partnership with God, then it will inform the way that we understand mission...our relationships with others...

and in this way...the very nature of God is reconciled...because he is relational in himself.
so i ask this question...

what does my action tell people about the God i believe in...and the reconciliation his kingdom brings?

i think that when i sit in the margins...when i pay attention to the ones who are forgotten...when i simply sit an listen to the ones who are not given a voice...when i love the unloved...

it screams of who our God is...a God who says...

i am for you.

i love you.

and i want to reconcile you to myself...

because you are that important.

reconciliation will not come through organization.  it will not come because of millions of dollars dumped into the continent of Africa. it will not come from a $7oo billion economic bailout.  it will not come from just sitting around a talking about how great it would be.

but it will come through the movement of the Spirit bringing the kingdom of God to a shack in Masiphumelele...and through a threshold in Grand Rapids, Michigan...and to a college dorm room in the middle of the night...

and it will come through you and i sharing our own stories of reconciliation...always pointing to the one who...in love...reconciles lost and hurting people to himself...

just because he loves us.

i want to be someone who converses in reconciliation.  who will not simply make a declaration and then let others do the work...but i will accept the invitation to go out in shalom to a people who need reconciling...because we are created to God in a shalome-like way.

so with that i say...

accept the invitation.
carry on.


A Prayer for Our Communities

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still.
Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent.
I will not stop praying for her
Until her righteousness shines like the dawn,
And her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
The nations will see your righteousness.
World leaders will be blinded by your glory.
And you will be given a new name by the Lord's own mouth.
The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see-
a splended crown in the hand of God.
Never again will you be called "The Forsaken City" or
"The Desolate Land."
Your new name will be "The City of God's Delight" and
"The Bride of God," for the Lord delights in you
And will claim you as his bride.
Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem.
Just as a young man commits himself to his bride.
Then God will rejoice over you
As a bridegroom rejoiced over his bride.

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls;
They will pray day and night, continually.
Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.
Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work,
until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth.
The Lord has sworn to Jerusalem by his own strength;
"I will never again hand you over to your enemies.
Never again will foreign warriors come 
And take away your grain and new wine.
You raised the grain, and you will eat it,
Praising the Lord.
With the courtyards of the Temple,
You yourselves will drink the wine you have pressed."

Go out through the gates!
Prepare the highway for my people to return!
Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders;
raise a flag for all the nations to see.
The Lord has sent this message to every land:
"Tell the people of Israel,
'Look, your Savior is coming.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.'"
They will be called "The Holy People" and
"The People Redeemed by the Lord."
And Jerusalem will be known as "The Desirable Place" and 
"The City No Longer Forsaken."

Isaiah 62


man of peace

"when you enter a house, first say, 'peace to this house.' if a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you...

"when you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'the kingdom of God is near you.'"
Luke 10:5-9

i previously wrote about how my new friend, walter, strikes me as being a man of peace.  in fact, i would dare say that what transpired when i first visited him at his home is exactly what Jesus tells his disciples would happen when they were sent out to look for men [and women] of peace. not only were they proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of God but they were also imparting the peace of the Holy Spirit upon the homes of those who were ready to receive it. Jesus tells his disciples to search for men of peace...and to spend energy on these.

so it is with ministry here.  it has become clear that the words of Jesus in this instance [and as always] were particularly filled with wisdom...wisdom that can be easily applied to life in masiphumeleleh.  simply walking the streets of this bustling township...let alone engaging in conversation with those you meet...can be overwhelming. and if one aimlessly walks without direction...moving toward any and every person that is seen...it will be truly exhausting as well. and i have surely experienced this fleeting search for a listening ear.

and so i have taken to heeding the words of Jesus to his disciples...to go out...being led by the Spirit...to men [and women] of peace.  but i also wondered what this would really look like. what is a man of peace?  and how would i know that this man truly is just that...and not a peaceful ticking time bomb waiting to explode if anything goes wrong...which i have witnessed before...just ask the sbr folks (how's that for a shout out...what, what!).


but as i have been learning more about following the Holy Spirit to the man of peace and in turn seeing the kingdom of God unfold in his life and his home, God has brought one particular man into the picture to show me the potential Jesus was speaking about when he shared this task with his disciples. and the result has been complete joy and awe-inspired amazement.

the man i am speaking of is joseph.

when we met joseph, jonathan, willie and i were prayer walking.  that particular day, we prayed that God would set before our path...a man of peace.  at some point, a man who had clearly been drinking stopped us to say hello and ask us for some money.  we did not give him money but instead engaged in conversation with him.  where are you from? are you working? do you have kids? and then...where do you live in site 5?  turns out, he lives in the back of the wetlands...unvisited...and forgotten.

and so we asked him to show us where he lived so we could visit him again some time. reluctantly he showed us where he lived but refused to invite us in because he hadn't had time to clean.  we did not push...but instead asked him what we could pray about for him.  he told us that ever since an accident he had had where he was hit by a car while riding his bike...he has had severe back pain, headaches and was left permanently bent at the waist because of the pain. [we came to find out later that his accident was so severe that he was left in a coma...thought to be dead...and placed in a casket and brought to the morgue.  He woke up in the morgue after nearly a month in a coma.]

and so we prayed for him...we prayed for peace to come to his home...we prayed that the Kingdom of God would draw near to this new friend...and we prayed for his healing...a hand placed on his head...a hand on his spine...and a hand placed on his heart.

and we prayed in faith...that God would heal every part of joseph...and that he indeed would accept the peace that we were bringing. 

joseph told us to come back again...and so we did.

and when we visited just a couple days later...something was noticeably different.  it was not just joseph either...it was his household...it was his family...it was all different.

it was clear that joseph had something he wished to tell us. when we asked him what had happened he proceeded to tell us the following:

joseph could stand up straight
he could move his head as it was meant to move...with ease
his back was no longer in pain
he no longer had headaches
he stopped drinking 
he stopped smoking weed
his mind was clear
he wasn't yelling at his wife and kids
he would think before speaking when he was frustrated
he was not worried
he was sleeping at night

joseph had been healed

and he wanted to know how it happened.

Jesus did it.

and so we have been meeting with joseph and his family and anyone else joseph can get to come...twice a week...in a small...simple...house church.  and walter is helping to ease the language barrier for joseph's wife.  and walter has invited his neighbor.  

and we have been talking about the Kingdom of God and how it has come to each of us in dynamic and real ways.  and joseph can't stop smiling.  he said the other day...after he was sharing with us about how he has finally found a family...that he has a problem. he said:

"you see...i have a problem...i cry when i am happy."

and the tears of joy have hardly stopped for this 62 year old man of peace.

you see...i think that is what happens when the Kingdom of God comes upon a person with the life-giving peace of Jesus...we can't seem to escape the joy that accompanies it.  when peace came to joseph's house...he did not run from it...but he accepted it...

and in turn...it has changed his life.

while talking about john the baptist on wednesday of this week...joseph said with a grin on his face...i have been changed by jesus...so when are you gonna baptize me?

and so we had walter explain when...

because this sunday...we will be baptizing two men of peace...

walter and joseph.

and i pray that the peace that resides in both of their hearts through Jesus would pass from them to others as they begin to trust that the Lord would lead them...

...lead them to other men and women of peace.



the [anywhere] kingdom of God

i said it before and i will say it again...my heart is for the men living here...to raise them up into leaders for this community...leaders for the kingdom.  and God has provided men to do this with...zimbabwean men.

and while i am so thankful for this and these men have been taking incredible strides to learning this idea of simple church, this idea of community, and living lives that clearly emulate that the kingdom of God is indeed now.  but...

i have been fairly discouraged that there have not been any...and i mean any interactions with south african men.  it seemed as if there was a general disinterest in even carrying on a friendly conversation by any of these men...they just simply shut down...put up a wall...bam...end of conversation...goodbye.

and so i began praying that God would bring forth south african men who were men of peace (Luke 10:5-7 - will write on this later) and who were at least a little bit interested in even talking with me.  you see...it's great that our zim friends are so excited about loving the lost and bringing the gospel to the nations...but its just that...they will be leaving when things in zimbabwe are sorted out.  they will leave to go back to their homes...bringing with them the message of the gospel which they have learned...

and this is a good thing...

but that will leave masi with very few who know the same as these men...

and so i have been praying...a lot.

and God has answered my prayer...through a broken petrol gauge in Michelle and my yellow beetle we loving call "the colonel."  that's right, we never really know how much petrol we have left...life's an adventure here in every way...but i digress.

so one day, i was driving past the petrol station and at that moment...ran out of gas. so i walked to the station and a tall south african with kindness in his eyes and voice immediately asked me where my car was...which to this i sheepishly pointed down the road.  so without a second thought, he helped me push the colonel back to the station.  he filled the tank and told me to be careful.

the next time i came to fill up at that station, he came to the car...just to talk.  i found out that his name was walter and he lived in masi...and he had seen me walking around there and wondered what i was doing there...

this is when it gets good...

i told him that i was there to talk about jesus...to invite others to talk about him with me and to learn what it means to follow him.  assuming that the conversation would stop there...i asked him a question. but before i could get it out completely, he asked if i would come to his home and talk. 

the following thursday, jonathan and i went to his home...which is in a part of masi i had never been in...to chat with him.  while i was talking with walter, jonathan began talking with walter's neighbor...called tsepan.  without knowing it...we both asked these south african men if they wanted to join us to talk and learn about jesus...and they both answered immediately...


so we have been meeting with them regularly now...with an elderly man named joseph and his family.  we have been talking about jesus...listening to the stories of these men and women...and encouraging one another. 

and just yesterday...walter shared with us about how before we met him...he refused to go to church. his fiance tried and tried to get him to come but he always said he was not ready...he didn't trust the people in church.  but he shared with us yesterday how his heart has changed...how the Spirit is changing his heart...

he said:

since i met you guys...i am excited to read...to pray...to learn about God.  i don't have to wait until sunday to talk about God when i want to do it on sunday.  lately i can't seem to get enough of it.  i used to wake up and just wonder what i was going to to all day. now i know what i can do.  and i know you will come by and we can talk more...and if you don't...i can still go and visit joseph and talk with him.  we need to find more people to tell. 

and guess what...

he went back to Joseph's house today and talked about Jesus with him and helped around the house...without us.

and his fiance really can't believe her eyes.  and she smiles all the time now because of how walter now can't seem to get enough of his jesus.

and we will continue to meet together and pray for more south african men to join us.  

south african men of peace...

...like walter

who was caught when the kingdom of God broke forth at the petrol station of all places...

pretty cool, huh?


seek justice [forgiveness]

"learn to do right! seek justice, encourage the oppresses. defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."
isaiah 1:17

what does it mean to seek justice? 

i have been asking myself that question a lot lately...mostly because within the last two weeks or so...i have seen so many acts of injustice than i really can count.  

masiphumeleleh is a place filled with those who are oppressed...fatherless...widowed. it is a place plagued with injustice.  just recently one of the men who i have become friends with...d...a zimbabwean man confided in jeremiah and i that he had not been paid for the work that he had done completing a brick wall for a man in nearby fishhoek.  he was to be paid 1400 rand...the equivalent to $170...for a week's worth of work.  the man who contracted dennis to do the work also lives in fishhoek and promised to pay d his money upon completing the job...which he did. 
but he was not being paid.

so in living in obedience to this passage...d, jeremiah and i went to this man in masi and for nearly two and a half hours...we sought justice for d.  we reasoned with the man...he was shown to be lying...and yet...refused to pay d his money...which was rightly his...even after d suggested the man only pay him 800...then 600...then 400.

and the whole time the man refused...until d finally told the man that he would forgive him of his debt to him...that it was over...that d was finished seeking his payment...

and so he walked away...which is a big deal for d...

you see d is here in cape town away from his wife and infant daughter who are still in zimbabwe. he is here trying to beat the injustice that is overwhelming his home country right now...injustice that is resulting in thousands fleeing the country, going hungry...and even being killed. and so he is here trying to ear a simple man's wages here (minimum wage is less than $2 here) so that he can continue to care for his starving family.  

and yet...trying to escape one act of injustice has brought him face to face with yet another act of injustice here in south africa.

and i could tell story upon story like this...which is sad and sickening...and just plain wrong.

so i have been puzzled by what it really means to seek justice.  it is easy to give examples of how to encourage...how to defend and plead one's case...but how does one seek justice when it seems that the grip of injustice does not seem to even allow room for breakthrough.  is seeking justice simply shine light upon the lies of the man who refused to pay d and thus show his lack of integrity for others to see...or is it to declare d's honor through the way he speaks with his debtor?

or would it be the full payment of what is owed to d...to actually have the cash in hand?

i'm not sure i can fully answer that question...

but i can deduce something from this one example among many...and it comes in the truth of what follows this passage of scripture...in the passage that immediately follows...

"'come now, let us reason together,' says the LORD. 'though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (isaiah 1:18)

you see...part of seeking justice...part of encouraging and defending and pleading is first recognizing that we are all recipients of these things first before we are able to actually follow suit...

for in our own acts of injustice through our sinfulness...Jesus is the one who sought justice...the one who took our acts of injustice upon himself...he was the one pleading for us...or our lives...he covered our sinfulness...taking the scarlet red of sin and making it white as snow.  it is only through christ that we are even able to follow suit...seeking justice...encouraging...defending...and pleading.

and i know d knows this...which is why he was able to walk away...saying i am done...it is finshed...i have forgiven you your debt...

because he too has been forgiven his debt...

d has experienced forgiveness and through that forgiveness he was also able to seek justice...and jeremiah and i alongside of him...and show the face of Jesus in the midst of it...and i believe that that is the first step.  we must not lose heart and as a result lose the face of Christ...for justice would be lost in the process.

But Christ was made famous in that two and a half hour conversation...made famous by a man who knows the debt that was paid for him...the injustice that was wiped clean from his slate...the forgiveness he has received...and was able to forgive as well.

and so i think that is so much of what it is all about...

it's not about seeking justice for our own sake...or even for the sake of justice...and it certainly isn't about letting one's self be steam-rolled...

but it is about making Jesus look good...making him famous amongst those who are not only experiencing the injustice but also amongst those who are bringing the injustice.

so while i know that i still don't completely understand what it means...i will heed to the commands given to us in the best way that i can...

that Christ himself might bring true justice to the hearts of those who need it...

and be made famous as his kingdom grows.