"I like to come to Berakah because there is a gate and a fence."
Recently Chandra interviewed some of Berakah's children with the question, "What do you like about coming to Berakah?"
There were outtakes, shy grins, and giggles. One little girl said she likes to come because there are white people. Several said they like the playground, games, or activities. One child said she liked ma'am because she is ma'am. We compiled some of the responses into a video on our Facebook page.
We posted the kids' video on our Facebook page. Our friend Meleney, who leads an amazing community upliftment center about 5 miles from Berakah, commented that teenagers "just want to walk from home to school and back without being raped and molested."
I'm reminded of an old Fred Hammond song, "Jesus Be a Fence Around Me". While serving Him doesn't necessarily bring with it a guarantee of physical safety, He does "put a fence" around our hearts and minds, guarding us from predatory fears, prejudices, and other wicked thought patterns.
As we thank the Lord for His protection around our lives today, won't you join us in asking Him to guard the children of Mamelodi?
a poem by Dan Erickson
Our friend and fellow missionary Dan Erickson wrote this poem for a missions conference early in 2017 and read it at Hatfield's missions conference this afternoon. We are sharing it with his permission.
We are goofy, unstylish, odd.
Most of us.
We drive the worst cars
if we have cars.
We wear what fits,
we fit in, eventually,
We eat what is put in front of us,
and find we relish it.
We speak with accents and stutters.
Sometimes we are not understood
even in the places we were born.
We are the weird redheaded cousins
to our families, the black sheep,
some of us, others the glowing saints,
sometimes on the same day.
They think we’re clumsy, muddy,
tainted, pure, scrubbed, antiseptic.
We are placed on pedestals
or in the jumble closet,
depending on the mood and fashion.
But when there is an explosion
we run into the smoke
we run towards screaming
while others run away.
We compare scars sometimes
matching stab wounds in our backs,
some of us. Burns, scrapes, blisters,
bruises in all the same places.
We have beautiful feet though.
That’s what the old prophet said.
People who bring good news
have lovely feet.
So I bless your feet in Jesus Name.
Every calloused toe,
you explorers, you pioneers, you aliens,
travelers with only one true home,
I bless your feet.
I bless your hands in Jesus Name.
Your fingertips feel for the pulses
of your worlds, finding, God willing,
heads to touch, hands to squeeze,
brothers and sisters to embrace.
I bless your hands.
I bless your lips in Jesus Name.
You speak life, peace, healing.
Fear is afraid of your voices
because they are full of the Gospel,
full of love.
I bless your lips.
I bless your hearts in Jesus Name.
They are overgrown, overflowing,
they hurt for foreigners, refugees,
children, for the least stylish,
the least influential,
I bless your hearts.
Last Sunday a beautiful multi-racial congregation were worshiping together in Pretoria, South Africa, when the worship pastor stood to facilitate communion.
Joining the congregation that day were about 50 children from Berakah Education Foundation in Mamelodi, and a few of the parents (see video and photos below). Everyone in attendance was invited to partake in communion. But I wasn’t sure if the parents or staff from Berakah understood what was happening (possible cultural and linguistic barriers). As I explained to them how Jesus paid the price to take our punishment for our sins and how communion helped us to remember this act of love, one of the parents asked an unexpected question.
"Is this free?"
I was taken aback. I couldn’t fathom someone thinking that she had to pay for the communion elements. But then I became disturbed by the trap of false religion that held this beautiful woman back from experiencing the depths of the grace of God – His unmerited favor, unearned and undeserved love.
The question and the look on her face said, "Is this really for me?"
My immediate answer to the asked and unasked questions was a resounding, "Yes! His finished work is for all of us! Yes! You are qualified! Yes, He has paid it all! Yes, it is free!"
The bigger question
Does everyone know? How could it be possible that someone can attend church over and over and not know that Jesus paid it all--that it cost Him everything and us nothing, that we can neither pay for it nor earn it, and so He has given it to us freely? Oh, what a Savior! I wonder how many people are in our own circles of friendship, sitting right beside us, not knowing. Trapped by false religion--whether it's Western performance or Eastern mysticism or African traditionalism--into trying to earn something that is already paid for and given. Free.
Do we live like it ourselves? Do we affirm with our heads what Jesus did on the cross, but live as though we have to earn it? Do we share what He's freely given with those around us?
Is it really for me? Is it really for everyone around me?
Yes, it is!
Berakah kids visit Hatfield Christian Church, sing on stage
It's crowded spiritually, too. Churches work in a space increasingly encroached upon by Islam and various traditional religions. The Muslims are aggressively proselytizing and taking over business interests, while traditional belief systems remain entrenched and undetected.
There was also practical ministry. They learned the basics of how to maintain and balance finances for the church, in the interest of good stewardship and accountability. They learned that churches should compensate vocational pastors: many pastors have been working full-time in their churches with no salary at all! The earnest in their faces was precious as they realized that one leader had served them for twenty years, without ever receiving a cent.
Couples were ministered to, and some leaders were counseled one-on-one.
It was a fast-paced and beautiful week. Our friends Waldir and Deomilia da Silva, Portuguese-speaking pastors from Pretoria and long-time friends of Pastor Henrique, led the week and facilitated the counseling times. I'm so grateful to have been a part of it: ministering on the Father-heart of God and doing some much-needed computer repair for Pastor Henrique.
We plan to continue training the pastors and leaders in Maputo with one or two more visits in 2018. I am already looking forward!
As missionaries to Southern Africa, our sending team makes everything we get to do possible. We are so very grateful. Thank you to everyone who continues to make this incredible journey possible.
Ps Henrique "went live" with me from outside his home in Maputo!