The most painful thing is when people you’ve confided in, trusted, those who have prophesied great words over your life then suddenly turn and question your integrity. It is like been blind-folded and asked to swallow sweets only to realise that it’s a sharp edge knife. ‘With their mouth they bless, but in their hearts they curse’ (Psalm 62:4b)
The most gruelling part of any marathon is the last 6 miles. That’s when reality hits you and you begin to think, what are you doing running 42 km around London? There are two or three reasons why you keep going.
1. The cheering crowd and cries from people you do not know calling out your name, encouraging you with the words ‘Well done, keep going, not far to go now”
2. The cause or charity you are running for.
3. Seeing and crossing that Finish Line and getting that medal and goodie bag. Not that there is much in the goodie bag but anything will suffice after running 42 kilometres.
I guess mission is like running a marathon. My last 4 months like the last 6 miles. By persevering I will get to the end.
I always believe that the church could learn a few things from the community spirit exhibited at the London marathon i.e. encouraging and cheering people to keep going instead of discouraging them.
Even the Galatians church experienced this. Paul said in Galatians 5: 7 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
On marathon day everyone is like a family, no one is there to trip you up or set traps in your way. People gather together from different nationalities, backgrounds, colour, class and creed. We use the same toilet or bush, male and female. We may be running for different causes but our aim is to get to the finishing line and we do whatever we can to help others in doing so. I remember asking someone to help me put in one of contact lens that came out while rubbing my eye and she tried and on failing she advised me that the best thing is to discard the other. I ran the rest of the race without them. In fact it helped as I did not have to focus on looking but running, not on the crowd or prevailing circumstances but on my goal. Some Christians have a bad habit of trampling all over others without even realising it, or caring about the effect of their behaviour on others. The key is not to give up but to keep going. “Run in such a way as to get the prize…. a crown that will last forever” (1 Cor. 9: 24-25). Forgive, pray and move on. Let God deal with them. Don’t become emotionally trapped by their behaviour. Don’t let paralysis entrap you – it is a snare of the enemy, designed to squeeze the life out of you. Keep moving. Be yourself, be free and walk in love and continue to walk in tune with the Spirit.
Paul encouraged Timothy to “..keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (1 Timothy 4: 4)
Then like Paul you will be able to say “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only me but also to all who have longed for his appearing” ( 1 Timothy 4: 7 – 8)
I was moved beyond words can express today. A lady offered me a seat beside her on the bus home. She started a conversation telling me how beautiful my skin is and asking what I use on my face. I told her I don’t use anything expensive but remember starting the cleanse, exfoliate, tone and moisture routine from I was about 15 years. Her response was ‘That was 10 years ago’ and I had to tell her I am 50 on Saturday.
Anyway for some reason I don’t feel like making a fuss about my 50th. This is not like me as for the past 10 years I’ve planned what I want to do at 50 including riding a Harley dressed in leather. In fact, prior to returning to the UK I was planning on doing so around Chapman’s Peak – South Africa followed by a big party at my favourite hang out Motherland Coffee Company & Brewers. I have been know in the past to end relationships if he didn’t acknowledge my birthday or start celebrating a week in advance. Its very strange how I am so laid back about this particular birthday. Either I am getting older and wiser, having a different perspective on life or I’m in denial. I must confess that the expense of moving country, finding a place to live in London and starting a new job in the past month have not done justice to my pocket but I don’t think this is the reason even though it’s a constraint. I actually have no desire for parties and my prayer to God was ‘You are my Father. You know it’s my 50th birthday, so I’m leaving this one up to you’.
So as I revealed my age to the lady on the bus, her response was ‘You’re still young’
She then handed me a book with a poem and asked me to read it, saying that this poem is for me.
Well, anyone who knows me well, know that I love poetry. I was so moved, I asked if I could take a photo. She said ‘No’ and then handed me the book.
Still moved, I asked her to sign it. She went on to say how I have brighten her day and have uplifted her spirit.
Karen, you are very fragile, and too strong in love. Thank you for your energy. Congratulations. Happy Birthday.
Big Kiss on your day.
Your smile (transmit) give to us energy…
Such beautiful words. Honestly I am still not sure what I did. All I can say is that my Father who knows my heart has answered my prayers and sent me an angel with the most beautiful poem as a gift for my 50th birthday. The best present ever!
Thank You Father. I’m here worrying about not wanting to celebrate my 50th. Today I’ve realised that I’m already celebrated!:-)
As a teenager growing up in Jamaica, one of my favourite TV sitcom was ‘Cheers’ .From 1982 to 1993, Cheers was America’s television equivalent of the corner bar where everybody knows your name.
The cast includes laid-back Sam Malone, a former relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who owns and runs Cheers, a cozy bar in Boston. He hires smart, uptight — and jilted — Diane Chambers as a server, out of sympathy, but their attraction causes constant bickering. Wacky characters fill the bar: sarcastic waitress Carla, beer-loving accountant Norm, know-it-all postman Cliff. When Diane leaves Boston much later, Sam sells the bar, buys a boat and sails the world, but his boat sinks, so he returns. New, ambitious manager Rebecca Howe hires him back, but they love to hate each other too.
Why am I telling you about Cheers? In 2014 I spent a year doing voluntary work in Cape Town – South Africa. After 2 months of feeling home sick, my priest from my local church in the UK who was on holiday in South Africa took me to this coffee bar on St George’s Mall called ‘Motherland’. He assured me they serve good coffee. I thought it was a very strange name for a coffee bar but this was later explained to me. South Africa being the Motherland and Cape Town the Mother City. The well known joke is that it takes 9 months to get anything done in Cape Town thus the reason why it is called the Mother City.
On my first visit to Motherland, I remember sitting outside and ordering iced latte on recommendation from my priest as the weather was scorching hot! I am not a latte but a cappuccino drinker. In fact, up to that point I’ve never drank latte. I politely obeyed my priest and had iced latte. My response was this was the worst drink I’ve ever tasted and wasn’t sure I wanted to visit this place again.
A few days later I decided to give it another try and was at Motherland again ordering a cappuccino and this laid back ‘Sam Malone’ called Alistair who owns the coffee shop served up the best cup of cappuccino I’ve ever tasted. Not only that he told me I could come at anytime and use the WiFi. The optimistic and skeptical sides of me thought what a nice guy and what does he want. Anyway I accepted his offer and Motherland became my mobile office where I spent the day doing research, drinking great coffee and chatting to some amazing and friendly baristas called Big Joe, Rasta, Gabriel, Small Boy and others. These guys knew how to make coffee served up with love, to your specification and taste thus the Motherland slogan ‘Drink the Love’. Not only that they know your name.
Yet still that wasn’t the reason why I became a regular at Motherland, drinking coffee, having my breakfast lunch there and dinner too. It’s the place where I invited all my friends for coffee and had my leaving do when I left Cape Town in January 2015.
So what is the main reason why I keep going back to Motherland time and time again? Well here’s the story. One day while there doing my research, I felt really tired and needed a break so I packed my laptop and went to the till to pay for my lunch. Alistair asked whether I was coming back and I said yes. He then said ‘Don’t worry you can pay when you get back’. Honestly, I was surprised as one could easily walked along St George’s Mall and never returned but I felt so honoured that he trusted me, I didn’t. Alistair is far from the local Sam. Don’t be fooled by his management exterior and don’t ignore that as well. I’ve experienced both but that’s another story to tell. He has a big heart for the homeless and disadvantaged in our society. You can see him at times walking from behind the coffee bar , discreetly and without drawing attention to himself handing a homeless person a bag with something to eat, having his motor bike cleaned too often or buying pens he doesn’t need to to support a homeless person.
The food is great, the coffee is top class. My favourite drink apart from cappuccino is the blended ice coffee and I’ve tried it with the various flavourings , cinnamon and caramel. As I’m gluten intolerant I can order salads on the menu to my specification omitting all the gluten products.
This is a place where I can pop in when I need to take time out to chill, relax and reflect. Here I can run to when things become a bit hectic and I’m feeling homesick. Here I can chat to some friendly faces even leave my bags with the guys when I have some extra errands to run around Cape Town (not to be encouraged). It’s my special place and I guarantee you that I will be smiling as I leave. I’m still yet to convince Alistair that I have shares in Motherland for all the business development ideas I’ve given him during our conversations but that will be in 2073 I am told. You may have guessed that will be when I’m long dead – left this planet i.e.56 years from now. I doubt I will live to be 106 years old and sadly I have no children to claim my legacy.
After 2 years in the UK I’m back again in Cape Town hanging out at my favourite place. The staff are new and I still miss the old team but we still have Small Boy – Luvuyo , Freedom and Vuyeletu. Now there is Sino, Sonny and Justin and I must confess some of the other names I’m still learning. It’s nice to know that they all know my name. I actually feel like a part of the furniture.
To top it all off Motherland has now opened a Brewers next door serving up some great burgers, hot dogs and tacos along with a wide selection of the best tasting craft beers, ciders and wines. I am not a beer drinker (being gluten intolerant) but I guarantee you that Freedom will leave you thirsty for beer just listening to him describing the varieties of craft beers on tap and suggesting you try a taster tray. They are a great team with customer service skills as well.
You’ll find me frequently in the Brewers section doing research, writing my Sunday prayers or preparing bible study for the cell group at church over an open burger and a glass of cider. They serve the tastiest chips, fish salad ( my invention) an open dog, fish or bean corn tacos, specially catering for my gluten free palate.
Here I meet people from all over the globe. Motherland is located in the heart of Cape Town business district next to Mandela Rhodes hotel and near to the Taj Hotel and St Georges Mall where tourist frequently visit. There is a popular farmer’s market on St George’s Mall every Thursdays which add to the vibz. When I step into Motherland I feel at home, loved and safe. It’s my little haven and a place where I can just be – a home away from home.
How can a Christian find solace in a brewers? I hear you say.
A few years ago one of my spiritual mentor gave me a book entitled ‘Crossing The Bar – Home By Another Way’ – James G. Johnson. The book is about the people and stories from the life of a pastor who became a bar tender.
I love this book because it is real. Unfortunately I’ve left it in the UK for fear of lending it to someone and losing it as I am very attached to my books. It includes stories of local non-church goers who frequently visit the bar and share their stories with Jim – the bar owner. They frequently make jokes about a previous pastor who now serves up beer to his congregation.
So these two guys walk into a bar and stop in their tracks: “Oh no, by bartender is a preacher!” one thinks, while the other is thinking, “oh no, my pastor is a bartender…” If you want to sit in on a conversation with a bartender who is a pastor, this book is for you. If you want to take a journey filled with stories and insights born of the joining together of these two worlds, you will find such things contained in these pages. Crossing the Bar: Home by Another Way is written for the church, yet for the sake of those beyond its well established boundaries. It is a book about God’s love, our freedom within that love, and hope yet to be established in the lives of people the church often ignores, but who are precious to God, and for whom God never ceases to seek.
It doesn’t stop there as Jim also runs a local bible study for his customers with unanswered questions in a relaxed, non obligatory atmosphere. People who have no interest in religion or skeptical about God and faith find solace in this group and some came to faith in the end. A must read!
There’s a joke between me and Alistair that he is blessed just by having me sitting in Motherland, doing my bible studies and writing my prayers. I’m sure this has increased his sales and customer base as well.
Why am introducing you to this book?
Some Christian may find it difficult to swallow the idea of me being in a bar – doing theology on tap. In fact I’ve had a few remarks like ‘This is where you do mission?’ ‘How could you be doing bible study and writing prayers in such an ‘ungodly’ place?
God is everywhere – he is omnipresent and found not only in our so called ‘religious spaces’ but in our everyday lives and conversations. Matthew 11: 19 states “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” This is actually one of the many conversations I had with the guys behind the bar who think I need to teach some Christians to think outside the box – to be more free and open minded. So last week I took my church cell group to Motherland for our first ‘Theology on Tap’ session which went very well.
Motherland is the place where the Jamaican meets the British in South Africa, joining in fusion to find my voice. The spiritual and the physical moves freely with each other and create my dance. I know you’re thinking that’s a bit deep for a brewers but it’s real.
A friend of mine recently said to me ‘Karen, you’re a lovely lady but your theology is warped’ Mmmm! Maybe so, or maybe my friend just need to have a little more faith and trust God to move in every circumstances.
Remember I’ve likened Motherland to my favourite sitcom ‘Cheers’ at the start of this blog. The story of ‘Cheers’ is based on people going through a hectic and stressful day who have found home and solace in the fellowship of each other in a cozy bar in Boston – away from all the stress and hustle and bustle of life and work.
Motherland Coffee Company and Motherland Brewers are located between St George’s Mall and Mandela Rhodes Place. The coffee shop opens on weekdays 7am – 6pm , Saturdays 08.30 am – 5.00 pm and Sundays & public holiday 09.00 am – 3.00 pm
Motherland Brewers next door opens from 12 noon – 10 pm weekdays and until 8 pm on Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
To the garagistes and the daredevils, the re-inventors and the curious craftsmen. To the resolute rebels, the stubborn and strong willed. The brewers who trust in science but believe in art, unafraid to back their crazy genius.
To the bold, brave fringe explorers. We celebrate you.
Recently I watched the film La La Land. The choice of film was made by a friend of mine who thought I would love it. I didn’t get to read the reviews prior to watching as I always do. I must confess that at the beginning of the film, I felt like walking out and was thanking God that I didn’t pay to watch this so called film/musical. If I wanted to see a musical I would go to the theatre, I thought. I stayed amidst whispers of disappointment with my friend sitting next to me, managing to catch the story as the singing and dancing subsided.
The film didn’t leave me with a tear in my eye or a song in my heart. In fact I was a little bit angry for both with many unanswered whys. It’s a shame they could not reconcile love with their ambition but maybe I have too much faith in happy endings:-) I was thoroughly disappointed until reality hits me later ….that I might be living in La La Land.
God has a way of choosing the most unlikely persons to do his will. Time and time again we read about people who God has called and who have responded by either complaining, making an excuse or running away. At times I’ve felt like Isaiah when he encountered God “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Having no choice other than to say “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:9). Moses objected saying that he was not eloquent in speech and asked for God to send someone else, even though God promised to be with him, gave him the tools he needed and the words to say.(Exodus 3 & 4). In the end God sent Aaron to accompany him.
Jonah ran away when he was asked to “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1: 2 -3) We later read of his fate, being swallowed by a fish and then having to turn back and do the very thing God asked him to do in the first place; proving we can never run away from God.
There are many other examples in the Bible where people who are called by God highlighted their inadequacies, thinking how could God choose me. Barak asked for a woman to go with him. We read in Judges 4 where the prophetess Deborah revealed to Barak his mission to free the Israelites from the hands of Sisera but then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” Deborah then said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.”
There are so many of these characters in the bible. Although I can truly identify with Jonah in wanting to run away, I wish I had the faith of Abraham who left everything to go even though he did not know where he was going or where he was going to live.
I aspire to be like Nehemiah having the audacity to ask for everything he needed. He not only asked for time off but for letters to the governors to provide him with safe-conduct until he arrive at his mission field – Judah, as well as a letter to the keeper of the royal park for the materials (timber) he needed to complete his work. Nehemiah 2: 7 -8 tells us that because the gracious hand of my God was upon him, the king granted his requests.
Maybe I need to spend more time in fasting and prayer.Being a missionary is not easy for someone who struggle with dependency, asking, and who loves to have things in control. In fact it is easy, a delight and a challenge to ask for others. Basically it’s just a matter of exercising my sales skills and giving back, which I enjoy doing. When it comes to asking for myself, that’s another kettle of fish. I find it extremely tough and yes we can probably put it down to pride. I was brought up by a grandmother who taught me it’s a blessing to give – not to receive. And when the Bible tells us in Luke 6: 38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”, we almost expect that that good measure will be returned automatically, in fact miraculously. The last thing you expect to do is ask and ask continually.
If I am going to be a missionary which requires raising funds then I have to learn to ask. I feel at times that when Jesus said ‘Ask and we shall receive, Knock and the door will be opened onto you”, He did not tell us we would experience rejection in the process – something I struggle with from a child. Neither did he tell us of the many letters and responses you’ll receive saying “No” “take me off your mailing list”, “Unfortunately we will not be able to make a grant to you.’ He did not tell us of the people who will expect you not just to ask but keep asking, literally begging and bringing yourself to the point of humiliation, those who insisted in helping but them changed their mind at the last minute, those who you thought would gladly support your ministry but refuse to do so, not to mention those who still expect you to give even in the midst of your lack. And I may sound as if I am complaining at this point but I am in good company when we consider some of the psalms of King David and Elijah the prophet complaining in 1 Kings 19. Even the most committed of God’s servants may at times experience discouragement, pessimism, and a desire to withdraw from their calling. At least I am not running away.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not all rejection even at times it feels like it. I have experienced moments when an old pensioner who you’ve just met, sought you out the next day and handed you a cheque or when someone give you an envelope with cash, a fellow bible college (London School of Theology) alumni send you support from Ghana or you receive an email from someone to say God has put you on their heart and they have made a donation. It’s usually during times when I feel like giving up that God use these kind souls to remind me that He will provide for all my needs.
So should we wait for moments like these – God incidents and protect ourselves from any form of rejection? Should we not take initiative and having fundraising events, post on Facebook, send out reminders to friends and families? After all it is not British to ask! But Jesus implore us to ask (Matt. 7:7). Why? Is it because it’s the very thing He knew we would find difficult to do? Is it to remind us that it’s not our ministry, but His? Is it to teach us to trust and rely on Him and His promise to provide us with good gifts as we ask? Then we’ll not be tempted to take all the glory for ourselves.
On my last mission to South Africa, I remember a sister at St George’s Cathedral saying to me ‘Karen you are not here only to give but to receive’ a lesson I needed to learn and still learning. She recognised that I find it hard to receive and would regularly hand me a R200 note after Friday mass. I wish for these God moments to happen frequently but that would not develop me personally, to keep asking and persevering – it would be too easy.
Personally, the learning process in asking is slow. I may come across as an expert but I still get terrible painful knots in my stomach when I have to ask. I know how to give but it’s painful to ask and to receive. Many have told me not to see this as begging but inviting people to share in God’s ministry. I still find it difficult. I get joy in giving and even during times of lack I probably give away the very blessings God intended for me to have. Maybe there is an element of control in this. I also need to learn not to get angry nor take rejection personally.
And yes I like to be independent and at times I still act as if I am in control but God has this way of reminding me, at times it feels like embarrassing me when I become too independent and egotistical, to show me that He is in control and not me; that He will provide for my needs and even goes as far as creating situations where I have to ask and depend on others. I must confess that it’s during times like these I wish I was still the independent, probably arrogant, and impatient person working in the city where I felt I had the security of a job, not having to depend on anyone because I could supply all my wants and my needs. But you and I know that’s so far from the truth. At times, I feel like and I have in the past, relied on my personal resources to fund ministry work just to avoid asking but that only hinders the process of becoming the humble person God is shaping me to be, plus God has not called me yet to sell my limited treasures to minister to the poor. It’s tough being a missionary!
I now know God has called me to be a missionary to conform me to his image and bring glory to His name , to learn humility and to depend on Him. I do not have to have everything under control. Amidst the fear of rejection , He will complete His work through me and will never leave nor forsake me.
Missionaries are just ordinary people trying, at times struggling to respond to and obey God’s call, like Moses, Jonah and many others. They are learning to trust that as they respondto the command to ‘Go’ in Matt 28: 18-20 that God will be with us always and supply all our needs . A missionary is someone in whom the Holy Spirit has brought about this realization: “You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
They do not have loads of money stack up in their bank accounts, but learning to wait and depend on God’s provision. In most cases if not all, these provisions comes through you when God has laid it on your heart to give. And another thing, going on mission is not a vacation nor is it an adventure.
Even though some aspect of it may seem to be, it’s more about personal and spiritual development :
Learning to depend on God
Extending a hand of grace
Loving the people
Being a light to the nations He has called you
And it comes with many challenges as well as joys.
I would like to ask you to be sensitive when I ask for your support but then that would not encourage my long term spiritual growth.So please, can I please ask you to pray and seek God in supporting a missionary? See this as a chance to invest in God’s kingdom as we try to be obedient in being sent out to proclaim the gospel, amidst all our inadequacies, our struggle to comprehend that God can use us, amidst all our failings, our questioning on whether we deserve to be funded and as God seek to bring out the best and manifest His glory through us.
Like Nehemiah I pray that the gracious hand of God is upon me and that He will grant favour through you to all my request for prayers and support for my mission to South Africa.
We are passionate people. In fact God created us to be – ‘in his image’ and we serve a passionate God. A sinless Saviour, passionate enough to die on a cross, a most cruel and disgusting punishment reserved for criminals. While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Jesus suffered in order to set us free from sin to be in a relationship with Him and secure for us eternal life.
What are you passionate about? Our passion determines where we place our priorities in life, our energies and life’s goals. We invest everything, no matter the cost and may even like Jesus, die for it. You may be passionate about your son or daughter, your husband or wife, your work, faith or life’s calling. Abraham was so passionate about God that he left homeland and family to follow God (Genesis 11: 27 – 12:9). He even went as far as offering his son as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22: 1 -12) . Paul’s willingness to suffer for Christ geared his mind to face prison and saw this as a chance to advance the gospel (Philipians 1: 12 -26) I certainly fall short of the great Patriarch Abraham and the Apostle Paul but in my case, it is to fulfill all that God has created me to be and to do so through mission.
Whatever your passion is, nothing will deter you from it, however enticing it may be. You will hang on to your it through the joys and pains, through failures and uncertainties. Why? Because that’s what fulfills you most, that’s what gives you joy. Everything else is secondary. Everyone else takes second place.
When you can tap into and identify someone’s passion then you will begin to know and understand who they are.
I don’t really enjoy blogging. To me it’s like writing a sermon. It takes too much out of me and I only do it if I am asked to or have to. I have written many blogs and find every reason not to post them, some I have lost accidentally or intentionally. But like a sermon, a blog is not necessarily intended for me, well so I would like to believe.
This morning as I was anxiously thinking about my visa application I remembered a simple yet profound prayer I prayed at age 15. It’s a prayer I forgot when I made the decision to go to Bible College and during the 7 painful years of vocational search that followed after graduating from the London School of Theology with a degree in Christian Life & Ministry including a diploma in Christian counselling. I remembered this prayer a few months prior to my decision to go to South Africa on mission in 2014. From what I can recalled, it wasn’t like Hannah’s prayer when she prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish then made a vow in 1 Samuel 1: 10 -11 or like Paul’s prayer in the letter to the Colossians regarding his labour for the church. I would like to think it was. It was deeper than the hours I spent praying and weeping to God when I felt a call to go to Bible College to seek out and understand my faith. It was deeper than the chaos I felt and the moments I spent praying, crying and discerning when I felt collared to be a vicar in the Church of England. It’s probably one of my most still and intimate moment with God at age 15. It was in 1982. Now you know my age. I had just moved to Kingston and a new school. I was the only Christian in my household at the time and I was searching for something other than what my Anglican communion had to offer. I had become a part of a local Pentecostal church, experienced being filled with the Holy Spirit and I even went as far as doing local door to door evangelism which I enjoyed as believe it or not I was a very shy teenager. I remember my Mom telling me then that if I did not stop these frequent visits to church she would lock me out at nights. She thought my visits to church were to cover up some ungodly activities I was engaged in– seeing boys. Oh I wish! As Lady Saw – the great dancehall Queen now Evangelist Marion Hall would say “Man a di least ah mi problem! Mi worry bout de coming of God not the coming of man.” I was so determined that I told my Mom to lock me out as I felt I was being persecuted for Christ but my sister and brother always came to my rescue by passing the key through the window or opening the door whenever I was out late at church. I was searching for a way to anchor my life in God, to be His voice, His hands and feet in this world. It was then while listening to the news on the radio about South Africa, while my sister and her friends were dancing outside to Michael Jackson and learning his latest moves (as most children were probably doing then) that I asked God to use me one day to impact South Africa. I probably didn’t know what I was praying at the time but it was a simple prayer from the heart.
It’s interesting that I forgot this prayer. I don’t know why God chose to reveal it to when He did, after all the hours spent receiving spiritual direction and the years spent in searching. God sure does work in mysterious ways and chose to remind me after all the noise and chaos – at the right time.
Perhaps in those years He was preparing me for South Africa. In fact even during my time at Bible College I had no desire to do mission in Africa. I did everything to avoid an invitation to the World Prayer group for Africa and instead set up a group for the Caribbean because I wanted to prove a point and I felt the Caribbean needed prayer too. In my first year I avoided the African/Caribbean group for international students until I was asked to lead it. The only thought of South Africa was empty promises about visiting my South African brother and fellow alumni when he returned home. which is still yet to happen. I remember even refusing to buy the Operation World prayer book published by Operation Mobilisation! – the organisation I will be doing mission with in South Africa, because I thought it was too heavy and expensive and I was convinced God has not called me to Africa! After Bible College and redundancy from work I found myself frequently visiting a South African wholesaler (Jumbo Retailers) in the next street in an industrial estate near my home. I was buying and eating South African food because I hate shopping, I no longer had a company car and I could get there on my bicycle. Little did I know that God had a plan. He also has a sense of humour.
So if like many you have numerous questions and thoughts about my mission to SA… Why South Africa? Why are you so desperate to go to South Africa? Why not Jamaica? Why not England? Africa is rich! Africa doesn’t need missionaries! There is a lot of work here to be done in England! You are running away! Please remember it is deeper than that. I’ve done all my running of marathons and using this as a defence mechanism to avoid ordination plus with my present ankle predicament I won’t get very far. And anyway, Africa would probably be the last place I would run to. If anywhere, it would be Jamaica. I much rather like the idea of sitting under a palm tree, sipping rum punch and listening to reggae music. In fact in all this, I was trying to run to God.
It is because of that simple yet profound prayer I prayed at age 15 when I asked God to use me one day to impact this nation. It was the reason why I made a trip in 2014 to South Africa and it is still the reason why after almost 2 years of returning to the UK I still have a heart for South Africa and strongly believe that God has called me to serve there.
To those of you who are searching, who feel like you are at a crossroad and trying to discern God’s calling on your life; who knows, there may be a prayer you prayed that you’ve forgotten about. Trust God to reveal this to you at the right time. The waiting may seem long but God is always on time and it is usually when He knows you are ready to embrace that calling. Here’s a further encouragement from Jeremiah 6:16.
This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls”.
Stand, Look, Ask, Walk. I’ve come up with an acronym for this (SLAW). Notice that Jeremiah did not say Run but Walk. I’m walking! I’m slawing! Not sure if that will work as my recent research tells me that ‘slaw’ is late 18th century word from Dutchsla, shortened from salade ‘salad’.Anyway I hope you get the message. Obviously I’ll be flying not walking to South Africa:-)
My plan was to blog more while I was recovering from surgery but as I anticipated that most would be filled with moans and groans and probably feeling sorry for myself , I decided not to.
Today I walked wearing shoes – not one but two ! Ok with the help of being drugged up on paracetemols and wearing insoles but for me this is major progress.
Imagine the feeling of joy when I carried my laptop and my portable cycle machine into the living room, all at once, without the help of crutches and a trolley.
A friend who visted me during the early period of my recovery, laughed at me pushing a trolley around as it reminded him of his Nan but this is how I coped.
What marvelled me during this period were the comments and attitudes from people re my progress. Some could not understand why it was taking so long and took it upon themselves to diagnose my condition and how long they think my healing should take. I had to put up with comments such as ‘I had the same surgery and it only took me a few weeks to recover’; ‘Aren’t you walking by now?’; ‘You are still in that walker boot?’; ‘When are you going back to work?’; ‘You should learn to walk on one crutch’; ‘My friend had the same surgery and he was preaching in his walker boot in church on Sunday’. Not to mention those who started out with you on the journey and gave up because it is taking too long.
Here’s my two penny bit of wisdom which I borrowed from the web…..
Even Solomon in all his wisdom tells us ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3) including a time to heal.
We are all on a journey whether its physical healing or a spiritual journey. Every journey is different and how long that journey takes is determined by many factors. It could be age, body make up, confidence or even past or personal experiences and it in this case the complexity of the operation. The best thing is not to force that process and allow people to find their way. I remember in my training as a counsellor we were taught that the counselling process is like walking with someone through a maze. Our job is not to point them the way out but to journey with them untill they find the way out. And this is a technique I practise when I counsel. Instead of judging, let’s stop and listen to their story.
I recently saw this post on Facebook and although it is funny, it rings true for most of us.
I do not like to be forced into anything especially when it comes to my spiritual life and I guess this is manifested in my vocational journey and physical life. I remember as a teenager being forced up to the altar each Sunday in a Pentecostal church by so called prayer warriors continuously shaking my head because they felt I needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. One Sunday, I guess I had enough of people messing up my hair and pretended (I thought then) to speak in tongues. That was in the early 80’s and it took an Alpha Holy Spirt weekend at Holy Trinity Brompton over a decade later for me to confirm that that experience was perhaps real.
There is a joy in knowing that you have not been forced into a situation , to come to that plaace where you feel you have achieved something or made a decision on your own and yes with genuine encouragement from others.
I’m on a journey, we are all on a journey, so please let’s be patient with each other and ourselves and for those who find this hard to do….then, Leave people business alone!
Many thanks to all those who prayed, encouraged and helped me on this journey. There is still more healing to come. Value your continued prayers.