As so many of those we know are at home bundled up,wearing scarves and sweaters, sipping on cocoa, eagerly awaiting the glorious holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, we are approaching the same glorious seasons, sipping on tea and eating “biscuits” (cookies) in our tank tops, shorts, and sunscreen. Although things as we know them can change so dramatically, we are reminded that we still have reasons to be thankful, we are blessed with dear friends to call family in this far away place, and that Jesus is still our greatest gift. To God be the glory.
First, some pictures:
As a follow up to our chat about Taylor and plants and Jesus, let me share about the privilege I have of serving on the Family Strengthening team at Living Hope. Our team consists of just three ladies (“referral officers” they call us) that get the chance to connect families in need with resources available to them. If you take away legal rights, we essentially act as social workers intervening in the lives of families in crisis, referring them to child protective services, counseling, bereavement and art therapies, parental rehab programs, victim support, parenting workshops, and everything in between. We pray we can connect them with exactly what will reach them best.
In the mornings, I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with non-profits throughout the entire Valley, learning of services available, gaps that exist, methods of service, and a fuller perspective of present social problems. Community development comes most effectively when there is cohesion among these services. These organizations are working so hard and battling for the benefit of their people. I have the chance to act as the middle-man between all of these organizations to help create the most efficient means of service for the communities we assist. While I do a bit more sitting and bit more meeting than I would choose, I am thankful for the chance to glimpse the bigger picture and assess the greatest needs within this area. It is new for me to help empower those who are empowering, rather than dealing directly with the problem itself, but I am adapting and learning. Please pray for the non-profits here to find encouragement, to be filled with holy purpose, to experience rest in God’s peace, and to develop the most effective means of reaching their people. Pray for me as I learn, for wisdom as I organize, for patience with cultural differences, and for grace as I encourage. I am thankful that God gives blessings in abundance from what little we can give Him. Pray that I seek to give far more than I seek to get.
Many of our afternoons are spent walking through communities and visiting homes to follow up on concerning circumstances brought to our attention by community workers around us. Within this large spectrum of poverty, we see rape, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, orphans, child abuse, rejection, hunger, overcrowding, struggles to even keep going, and the heavy burden of silence bearing down the backs of hurting people. We partner with Living Hope’s kid clubs in the Masiphumele and Ocean View areas as our main source of concern, seeking to give aid to families where a previous relationship is already established. I consider it a huge blessing to work alongside Nandi and Juliana, two wonderful friends of mine with hearts that long for the rescue of souls in their communities. They each come from the respective communities in which they serve, giving them a great sense of understanding, respect of the people, and trusted relationships- all of which are necessities in a society where walls are built high and stigmas are feared. I have much to learn from their boldness, their prayers, their faith, their compassion, and their urgency to serve their own people. Please pray for their strength to continually be renewed, for their hearts to feel hope, and their love to be full. Please pray for me as I seek to establish relationships alongside of them.
In my classroom days, I was constantly taught to have a “strengths perspective” when doing social work. Look for the slightest glimmer of strength within a family, a child, a circumstance, and run full speed ahead towards healing. Such a perspective tries to hide from me here where there is great need and so little resources, so many questions and so few answers, a plentiful harvest and the workers so few. But praise God for the people that are here battling for Hope. While we desire to offer even the slightest relief from earthly struggles, we are fully aware that true Hope is found in Jesus and Jesus alone. He is Strength, Healer, Rescuer, Lover, Giver, and Father. Please join me in praying that we can aid in relieving the desperate needs of families as I feel was the example Jesus set, but pray even further that the Hope of Jesus can offer deliverance where we can’t. He can give power to overcome addiction. He can give worth to the rejected child. He can heal a tortured soul. He can give Life when death threatens to destroy. He is strength in weakness.
Pray that He writes His name over each step that we take. What a blessing it is to walk with Him down these streets. God is good…ALL the time.