Monday, June 8, 2009

Frogs and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails

fFor a while now, Josh and Steve have been talking about starting a guys Bible study/ accountability group. There is not really anything out there that is just for young men, and it is a huge void in this community. A huge portion of children do not grow up knowing their fathers here, and are in desperate need of male role models. For those who do have strong role models and knowledge of what godly masculinity looks like, there are often few avenues in which to be honest and vulnerable about their struggles. On Saturday, they decided to have their first meeting, and unfortunately nobody showed up. Some had completely valid reasons, but we think a significant factor may have been scheduling it on Saturday mornings. At 7 am. For teenaged and young adult men. We are hoping that a time change might improve the outcome.

This past weekend (Wednesday-Monday), a group of youth and their pastor were here from Walvis Bay (when locals say it, it sounds like Wall-fuss By- here “v” is pronounced like “f,” and “w” is pronounced like “v”) to do a “crusade.” They came to our host family’s church (our host dad is a pastor), which takes place in a tent and has super-loud worship music (more about that in a future post). It’s a little more charismatic than most, probably more so than anyone reading this is used to. Josh and I grew up E-Free and Baptist, respectively, so we aren’t exactly Amish, but we aren’t what you’d likely call Pentecostal, either. However, we think it is a good thing to be stretched and challenged; we never want to grow complacent in how we worship or learn about God. Also, this church whole-heartedly believes Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and that’s what really matters, right?

Anyway, although there had been services at the church on Thursday and Friday nights, we weren’t able to go until Saturday. It was an experience unlike any we’ve ever had. The pastor who spoke had many interesting things to say, some of which we agreed with, and some of which we didn’t. One comment I found thought-provoking had to do with the role vision plays within the church. He said that having a vision leads to unity, unity leads to relationships, relationships lead to communication, communication leads to commitment, commitment leads to creativity, creativity leads to excellence, and excellence leads to influence. There are a lot of things I could mention, but I will just cut straight to what stretched me. Around 10pm or so (the service began at 7pm), the pastor who spoke ( who happens to be a senior pastor at the age of 24), began to pray for anyone who wanted to come to the front of the tent, and almost everyone fell down on the floor. This is not something we have ever experienced before, and it took Josh and I by surprise. We have see it happen to a few people before, but this was maybe 140 out of 150 prayed for. It was very dramatic. It was difficult to discern exactly what was happening. Although I refuse to judge other people’s spiritual experiences (because I have no idea!), I have to wonder if there might have been people who felt pressured to prove how “spiritual” they are.

As we are now part of the family of the senior pastor of that church, we sat front row center, so this was all happening pretty much in our laps. The whole time, I kept thinking to myself that I would not go up there unless the pastor specifically gestured to me (he gestured to a lot of people). Later, I found out that Josh had prayed the same thing. I could tell this might backfire when pretty much everyone in the room had gone up or been called up except Josh or I, and we probably weren’t going to escape it. Additionally, I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb- I was the whitest, blondest person in there sitting front row center. Additionally, since I was a child, I have begun to weep quietly out of compassion for others’ pain, and I sensed a lot of pain there that night. I was pretty sure it was only a matter of time before he signaled to us, so I just did my best to avoid eye contact. Imagine my relief when everyone had gone to sat down and he returned to the pulpit.

He then asked our host dad to come up and answer a question or something. Imagine my surprise when he called me up front by name! There aren’t any other “Nicky”s here, so I knew he wasn’t talking to anyone else. By this time, it was 11pm, I had been praying and crying and singing my heart out for hours, and I was exhausted- I didn’t know what to do. I kind of figured I didn’t have a choice, so I went to the front. By myself (well, Josh and my host mom came up with me). In front of everyone (some had gone home by then, but probably around 100 or so strangers remained). He whispered a few things to me, that were fairly general, but also applicable. He also whispered a few things to Josh, possibly a bit more specific, but still fairly general. The whole while I told God that if He wanted me to fall to the ground, that was fine, but He was going to have to push me. I didn’t fall, but I cried after. I am not sure, but I think it may have been a combination of Holy Spirit, exhaustion, and relief.

Afterwards, we went back to the house and had some tea time with our host parents (until 12am!). They were wonderful- they knew that we weren’t used to this sort of thing, and they allowed us to ask questions and took time to answer them. It was so helpful towards understanding what had taken place.

On Sunday night, we had our team meeting, in which we typically talk about anything unusual that happened during our week. Of course, we mentioned the service the night before. I wasn’t really sure what to think about what had been said to us, but one of our teammates had great advice. Her dad has the gift of prophecy, so she is familiar with it, and she said that when it is fairly general, it can be considered an encouragement, but you shouldn’t dramatically alter your life as a result of it. I am not sure if I am articulating that very well here, but it made sense at the time. We had a an excellent team meeting (we watched “Fruitcake and ice cream”), even though we are down to only 5 members now!

After the meeting, Josh, Steve, and I went back to the “tent church” for another service. We came in a bit late, but this is Africa, so nobody batted an eye. The service was fine, and nothing out of the ordinary really happened. However, when it got to be about 9:30, we decided we should go home (we went to Windhoek the next morning), and as we were getting up, the pastor said something about people and pastors not feeling pressure to be American. I am not sure exactly (accents obstruct communication), but it was along those lines. The three of us felt pretty awkward, being the only Americans in the room and choosing that time to leave! : )

On Monday we went to Windhoek to take some documents to our country director for our applications with Home Affairs. Home Affairs is something like the Namibian equivalent of the INS, and sometimes it can be difficult to get permission to stay in the country. Our first application was denied (quite common), so we must re-apply. Even though it always seems to work out eventually, it is a bit stressful. Although there are other countries we could possibly go to for a while, we really feel our place is here. It is an opportunity to exercise our trust in the Lord’s timing and provision.

Monday night I learned I will officially have a chance to try my hand at teaching! I have only ever taught at the university level, so this will be a brand-new experience. It’s something I have always thought would be fun to try, but that I don’t really have a desire to dedicate my life to, so this is an ideal opportunity. Our host mom is the principal at a local farm school, Kwakwas, where there is a teacher out for a few weeks who I will substitute for. I was nervous at first about my lack of experience, but then I found out the kids will just sit with no teacher for 3 weeks if I don’t come; I am confident I can do better than that! The extra-special part is that I will be teaching the same class Kristen taught while she was here! Pictures 2-4 in the clown ministry post were taken at Kwakwas.

When I start next Monday (6/1/09), I will mainly be responsible for teaching “maths” (math) and English, as well as some art, physical education, etc.- I think : ) The details so far are very sketchy, but I am trusting God to prepare me with what I need. Grade four (my class) is the first year in which the students are instructed in English, and since their school year begins in January, they have only had around four months of this system (they’ve had a month of “holiday,” or school break). I fully expect language barriers to pose a significant challenge in this endeavor. Although Josh and I have begun Afrikaans lessons, most of the students have been brought up speaking Namatal, and just started learning Afrikaans in grade 1, so I am not sure the lessons will help much. I am praying that the students will be understanding and respectful, and will have good attitudes.

On Tuesday, Steve, Josh, and I were just walking out the door to go to the pre-school in Block E when Steve got an sms (text message) that there was no school (Africa = flexibility). It was quite alright with me, as I had a massive migraine that ended up lasting the whole day, and 30 wild children probably wouldn’t have helped. Nonetheless, I can’t wait until the next time I get to see them! Steve and Josh ended up going to the youth center, and got a lot of work done- always a special blessing for an unplanned day of work. As it was the first day back to class for most kids, several came by the center to hang out and play games on their way home from school.

Here are some pictures that I took of Josh and our little host sister with the puppy at our house. He is around 6 weeks old now, and Josh says he looks like a snowball.

Wednesday was [kind of] the first day of our youth program. Last week, we decided that, even though we aren’t ready to start an official youth program yet, there is no reason that we can’t play games with kids for a couple of hours during what will eventually be our youth program time. This way, the kids will grow used to coming on Wednesdays from 2-4. About 20 kids showed up, which was pretty good considering we didn’t advertise it.

It has been another wonderful, challenging, busy week in Africa. We are grateful for your prayers, and forever indebted to The One Who Answers them.

Prayer Requests:

1. For language barriers to be broken in teaching, counseling, Bible studies, and in the community.
2. Our Bible studies (Josh’s on Saturday mornings, mine on Tuesday afternoons)
3. Guidance in arranging my schedule to accommodate teaching
4. Health and energy
5. Cooperation of Home Affairs in granting our work visas
6. Binding of the enemy
7. Unity
8. Family and Friends at home.


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