Thursday, July 30, 2009

Become a DAD

This week the following letter was sent to Living Hope supporters from John Thomas, Chairperson of the Living Hope Trust:

Greetings from a warm winter in Cape Town. We have been blessed to have a number of teams from wonderful churches and universities which partner with us here at Living Hope. All of these teams have worked with our Life Skills Educators in kids-related ministry. We are so grateful to the Lord for all who partner with us and do pray that this will be able to continue beyond the end of this year. As you know the future of our children's work depends on finding adequate funding for our whole Life Skills department. I would ask you to take a few moments to click now on this link, which will take you to our website. Do read the DAD letter on the Home Page which I have written to you. I pray that you will become a DAD. Would you be willing to pass this email on to as many of your friends as possible?

Thank-you for being a partner with us and may God bless you as you become a DAD to the children of Cape Town.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


You truly never know what you will see on any given day in South Africa. Today as I was driving up the twisty mountain road that leads to the Red Hill community, I came upon a man lying in the middle of my lane. I swerved around him and pulled over. I thought surely he had been hit and was dead. But when I called out, he sat up, stumbled to his feet and started mumbling something about the police beating him up last night. At this point he had apparently decided he couldn’t walk any further, so he had just lay down to take a little nap in the road.

He said he lives in Red Hill, so my friend Mzo and I helped him into the car and drove him the rest of the way. He smelled horrible and was clearly under the influence of something. I have no idea whether his police story was true or not, but either way, this man was hurting. And I felt very discouraged, because his story is but one of many seemingly hopeless cases of people enslaved by poverty, addiction and other social ills.

In the big picture, I know that God is in control and understands the pain and suffering that ravage the world around us. But at eye level, it sure is tough to face sometimes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wait 4 Me

Saturday was a big day for Living Hope. More than 600 children (from grade 5 and up) were transported to King of Kings Baptist Church to experience Wait 4 Me, an abstinence promotion program that Living Hope developed in partnership with Pathway Church in Southern California. The high-energy event included skits, a fashion show and song and dance performances by children from each community that LH works in.

Mixed in with all the fun stuff were several personal testimonies and the message that God loves every individual and wants the best for him or her. In a region where the HIV rate is about 1 in 5 and unplanned pregnancies are common, kids don’t always hear that at home. The power of the message was evident when, at the end, children were invited to move to an adjoining room if they wanted to talk to an adult about abstinence, problems at home, their relationship with God or anything else that was on their minds. Dozens of kids poured into that room and were met by people who were ready to listen and love them unconditionally.

It was a great day that underscored the need among these kids and the positive impact that Living Hope is having on them. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that Living Hope’s Prevention program (of which Wait 4 Me is a part) could be shut down by year’s end, due to a lack of funding. If you believe in this cause and want to know how you can help by giving just $1 a day for a year, please check out the short video at this link:

And for more details, see

Love in Action

“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:27-39)

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When in Cape Town ...

Among the Xhosa culture, a popular delicacy is roasted sheep’s head. That means all of the head – eyes, brains, tongue, everything but the bones. They’re called smileys due to the way their teeth are exposed when cooked. (I wonder if this is where the expression “sheepish grin” comes from?) I had seen a collection of uncooked sheep’s heads before and was sure I’d never be brave enough to try one. But two weeks into this adventure, I’ve done just that.

A man in Red Hill cooked one yesterday and offered me some. My friend Stanton cut me a piece from around the eye – let’s call it the eye socket – but mercifully, it didn’t include the eyeball. It was a little tough, but very tasty. I also had a piece of tongue, which looked like any other piece but meat, but had a strange flavor. Not bad, just different.

It might sound disgusting, but it can’t be as vile as Scottish haggis. Sheep parts boiled in a sheep’s stomach with onions and spices – ugh.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Living in a foreign country and working with people from different cultures, I am (not surprisingly) feeling a bit out of my element. That’s part of being on a mission, and it’s a situation that makes one depend on God all the more (which is what He wants from each of us anyway).

But sometimes I have to laugh at certain situations, so opposite are they from what I would “normally” be doing back home. This week, for example, I have been coaching a kids soccer clinic. And I use the term “coaching” in the loosest sense, because I know (nor care, to be honest) very little about the game.

I think my aversion to soccer goes back to second grade, when during a P.E. class I inadvertently kicked a ball too high and hit a female classmate in the head. The teacher yanked me to the sideline and paddled me, despite my plea of innocence. I tell you, I was never the same after that. It also frustrates me to no end that players never really seem to have control of the ball. I prefer baseball and others sports where one can have a firm grip on things.

So it was against that background that I found myself directing soccer drills with teenage boys this week, bluffing my way through instruction on technique and strategy. We were working with a program called Upward Sport South Africa, which uses soccer and other sports to engage kids and share the Gospel of Christ. All the Living Hope Children’s Clubs are taking part, with plans to eventually begin a league among the four townships/settlements in which they are located (Red Hill, Ocean View, Masiphumelele and Capricorn).

Despite my lack of knowledge or experience, soccer camp has been a blast – for me certainly, and I think for the Red Hill boys, too. This is no doubt an example of how God works through weak and unskilled vessels. “My grace is sufficient for you,” Jesus said, “for my power is made perfect in weakness.”


One of many South African sights that you won't find in America. This family was seen along the road near the beachfront town of Scarborough.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Help Needed

With any new station in life comes a least a little bit of apprehension. In moving to South Africa this week, I have certainly experienced this. Leaving familiar surroundings is never easy – I think it’s simply part of our nature to become attached to what’s comfortable. And of course there is an inevitable sadness that comes with separation from family and friends.

However, if one is going to reside in a foreign country for a year, it’s hard to beat Cape Town. It’s simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. With the mountains or the sea, or sometimes both, filling every view, it’s a spectacular setting in which to live and work.

More importantly, there is much work to be done. If you are familiar with this part of the world, or if you’ve read this blog in the past, then you know that South Africa suffers from a host of social and economic troubles, including extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, and more. When I returned to the U.S. after a two-month stay in late 2008, I kept thinking of Jesus’ words to His disciples in Luke 10:2 – “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

That prayer was one of the motivating factors in my decision to return here. There is so much need in South Africa, but not enough workers to tell people of God’s love and ability to transform and heal lives. Interestingly, last Sunday – a day before I departed – I received a message from a Facebook group I belong to called “Pray for South Africa.” The message: “The harvest in South Africa is great … let's pray for labourers!” followed by the aforementioned passage from Luke. I have no doubt God was speaking to me through that message (yes, apparently even God uses Facebook), to confirm His call for me to come here.

So here I am, and I now have two extremely full and rewarding days of ministry behind me. I’m working in Red Hill, an informal settlement of maybe 1,000 or so people, located on a mountainside south of Cape Town. The area school kids are on winter holiday, so Living Hope is conducting Holiday Club, similar to what we would think of as a vacation Bible school or camp in the U.S. I love hanging out with the children of Red Hill, and it was an awesome experience to come back after being away for seven months and have a lot of kids remember me. I was also really encouraged to see how much some of the kids have matured and become better behaved (and believe me, bad behavior is common in a community where many kids don’t get a lot of love at home).

These kids give me a lot of laughs, and the best one so far came from an extremely bright (and polite) fifth-grader named Bayanda. He was peppering me with questions about life in the U.S. when the subject somehow turned to Michael Jackson. He had heard there was a memorial in L.A. and he apparently knew about the lottery system that thousands went through to gain entry.

“All those people got tickets just to see him rot,” Bayanda said. That kid has no idea just how perceptive he is.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Reading

I’ve been reading an interesting book lately. It’s been great preparation for my upcoming work as a full-time missionary with Living Hope ( It’s about alcohol, drugs and promiscuous sex.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. Part of my work in Cape Town will be among the Xhosa people, millions of whom populate the area’s townships and informal settlements. A few years ago, a white South African journalist, Steven Otter, went to live in one of these townships, Khayelitsha. His book by that title is an insightful look into the Xhosa culture and the complexity of post-Apartheid relations between blacks and whites.

Otter makes it clear that life in the townships offers ample opportunity for substance abuse and other excesses. Monogamous relationships are rare, which helps explain the high rate of HIV and AIDS. But Xhosa culture also features some endearing qualities, particularly an emphasis on community and selflessness. Everyone, it seems, knows everyone else. Family is of paramount importance. And the what’s-mine-is-yours mentality is essential to enduring in such an impoverished environment.

Having spent some time in a Xhosa community, Red Hill, on my two previous trips to Cape Town, I had an idea of how harsh life can be in the townships. Otter’s tale confirmed this, and gave me a greater understanding of it. I remember meeting a guy in Red Hill last October. He was probably in his early 20s, and he was out of work and drunk on a Monday morning. He invited me to his home, and as I sat and talked with him and three of his friends – all of them smoking and drinking from 40-ounce beer bottles – he told me of how desperately he wants to be free of his addiction to alcohol.

His cry for help reminded me of what Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-19, 24-25)

Indeed, only Christ has the power to truly transform lives. It is this truth that permeates all which Living Hope does in serving the people of Cape Town. And it is this truth that I intend to share as I join in that effort.