Saturday, September 26, 2009

Name Dropping

One of my responsibilities with the Red Hill Children’s Club is to record attendance every day. Sounds easy enough, right? It’s something I do in my home church’s Promiseland kids ministry. And as a grad student, I had to take roll for an Advertising 101 class of 250 freshmen.

But they didn’t have names like Aviwe, Aphiwe and Athembe; Basanda, Bayanda, Bhongo, Buhle and Bonisile; or Sinethemba, Siyathemba, Sikholise, Siphokule and Sikelelwa. (Try saying that just one time fast.) I’ve been here for nearly three months and my head still spins when trying to figure out who’s present and who’s not among 80-plus children.

Complicating matters even more is that many of them go by more than one name. There’s Magusha, who’s also called Nkosikona. There’s Brian, which is easy enough, except that I just found out most of the kids know him as Boetie. And there’s Denzel, who’s known as Pinky to his friends. (I asked him why one day. “Because I was pink when I was a baby,” he said.)

As challenging as the job is, it helps me get to know the kids better each week. And I don't worry too much, because God knows every one of their names. And He loves them all.


There’s a great song by the Talley Trio called The Broken Ones. (If you’re not familiar with the Talleys, or Southern Gospel music in general, well, you’re missing out …) The song speaks of a girl named Maggie who finds a “raggedy Raggedy Ann,” brings it home and fixes it up. Twenty years later she’s doing the same for battered women in a shelter.

I love the chorus: She loves the broken ones / The ones that need a little patching up / She sees the diamond in the rough / And makes it shine like new / It really doesn’t take that much / A willing heart and a tender touch / If everybody loved like she does / There’d be a lot less broken ones

I see broken people every day and I see ministries like Living Hope reaching out with God’s love to heal those people. It’s not because anyone is trying to earn their way into God’s Kingdom. (That would be impossible.) It’s simply out of gratitude for what God has already done. He loved a broken world so much that He sent His only Son to die as the perfect sacrifice to fix it. Anyone who has personally received that love should be compelled to pass it on. 1 John 4:11 says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

The Talleys song says the same: If you call her an angel / She’ll be quick to say to you / She’s just doing what the One who died for her would do

He loves the broken ones / The ones that need a little patching up / He sees the diamond in the rough / And makes it shine like new / It really doesn’t take that much / A willing heart and a tender touch / If everybody loved like He does / There’d be a lot less broken ones

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Field Day

As I’ve shared elsewhere in this blog, I’m not much of a soccer fan. But God has a sense of humor, so I’ve found myself in the position of “soccer coach” as one of my job duties. Despite my disinterest in the game and my complete ignorance of the rules, I still have a competitive streak, and it came alive on Friday.

Living Hope hosted a tournament for some 200 children and youth from the various communities that we serve. The photo above shows me with some of the Red Hill “Red Giants,” prior to a game in the 7-and-under age division. As pre-game talks go, this one won’t rank up there with “Win One for the Gipper;” it was more like, “You’re on the same team, so don’t fight with each other; when the whistle blows, stop kicking the ball; and don’t touch the ball with your hands.”

After a slow start, the Red Giants ended up making the championship game. We led 1-0 at halftime, but our opponent, Ocean View, tied it in the second half and sent the game to a tiebreaker on free kicks. With Red Hill players from the other age divisions excitedly looking on, our goalkeeper, Aviwe, stopped the final kick, and the older boys carried him off the field on their shoulders, just like on TV. And I jumped about as high as my aching legs would take me after an 11-hour workday.

Each championship team from the four age groups got a team trophy, and every player got either a gold medal for first place, silver for second, or a certificate for third and fourth. But winning was certainly not the event’s main focus. Most importantly, every child heard the message of eternal life through Jesus Christ (by a representative of Upward Sports, the sponsoring organization). Fittingly, a brief rain shower during the Gospel presentation left a stunning rainbow over the mountains behind the field.

It was a great day for the kids, and for Living Hope. For more images, see below.

Kodak Moments

Each community made a banner for their teams to run through as they entered the field. The Red Hill boys initially went under the banner before catching on to the concept.

The Red Hill 11-and-under team in action.

Each team even had its own cheerleaders.

Members of the championship-winning 7-and-under team.

A memorable moment on a day full of them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Honored Guests

The lady in the red dress in the photo above is Dr. Alberta Mayberry, U.S. Consulate General for Cape Town. On Friday, September 11, she hosted a reception for American volunteers in the metro area (including the Living Hope volunteers pictured here). Dr. Mayberry is a classy lady and it was an honor to spend time at her home. Everyone who attended received a certificate, signed by her, “for selfless service as an American volunteer in Cape Town presented on Interfaith Service Day.”

One-Stop Shop

Because in these troubled times, who can’t use a job and a little bewitchment counseling?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Personal

A lot of people mistakenly have the idea that man is basically good at heart. The bad apples – the ones who steal and murder and such – are the exception. But “good” is a relative term. The truth is, every human is born with a sinful nature. It manifests itself worse in some people than in others, but it’s there in all of us.

The most illustrative point I’ve heard on this subject is to consider the way of a child. Do we have to teach them to be selfish? To say “mine”? To pitch a fit when they don’t get what they want? Of course not. It comes naturally.

Jeremiah 17:9 says “the human heart is deceitful above all things.” That’s what God sees – the heart. Even if we say and do all the right things, we still harbor selfish and hurtful thoughts. Jesus said those thoughts condemn us just as much as our actions do (e.g., see His discussion of adultery in Matthew 5:27-28).

Because God is perfect, a human stained by sin cannot enter His presence. That’s why Jesus came down to earth, lived a perfect life and died on a cross. His sacrificial death is the payment for sin for anyone who will personally receive Him as Savior and Lord of their life. That’s how a person gets to heaven – not by their own merits, but by Christ’s alone.

It’s not enough to do your best to live a good life; to go to church on (most) Sundays; even to agree intellectually that Jesus is the Savior of mankind. A personal relationship with Christ is required. That means to invite Him into your heart and commit to live obediently to Him. When that happens, a person is born again (John 3:3) into a new life.

If you haven’t taken this step, please don’t delay it. It’s a life-or-death matter. For more information on how to have a personal relationship with God, see

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Can You Hear It?

The heavens declare You are God
And the mountains rejoice
The oceans cry “Allelujah”
As we worship You Lord
–Rebecca St. James, Song of Love

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Living Grace, a ministry for the homeless and destitute in the Cape Town suburb of Muizenberg, has a partnership with the town business district to employ six “clients” as street cleaners. It’s a win-win situation: The downtown area is swept clean every day and a half-dozen men have jobs (and in turn, proper homes, so they don’t have to live on those same streets).

Supervising the street-cleaning crew is Peter, a man who brings considerable life and character to Living Grace. He’s there for breakfast every morning, and for lunch at noon, and he always sits in the same chair. If a newcomer happens to beat him to it, he’ll give a gentle nudge and nod for them to find another seat. He has an infectious laugh and he sings boldly, if a bit off-key. Whenever I give the breakfast or lunchtime devotional, Peter is always good for a few hearty proclamations of “amen,” which is a tremendous encouragement to me.

Peter doesn’t have much in the way of material possessions, but he’s got a strong relationship with God, a big heart and a loving spirit. That, in my view, makes him rich beyond measure.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

House on Fire

The building pictured here is a church. Not much to look at, is it? But it’s what’s on the inside that counts (“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7).

Today I saw a display of honest, unfettered, authentic worship to God inside this church. It’s called River of Life and it’s located in the Red Hill informal settlement. Living Hope runs an after-school Children’s Club in the building each Tuesday and Thursday, but I had never attended a worship service there until this morning.

What a powerful experience it was. There was singing. There was dancing in the aisles. People were falling down (no kidding). God’s Word was preached with conviction. Three hours later, I emerged feeling full of the Spirit and ready for a new week of work in what can be extremely challenging conditions.

River of Life is different than any other church I’ve ever been in, which goes to show that there’s no single “right” way to worship as long as Jesus Christ is the center of attention. As Jesus Himself said, “The true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (John 4:23).

And to quote an old Tom T. Hall song – because you can apply a good country song to just about any situation – about a barn that was converted into a house of worship: “Comfort came second and Jesus came first / That’s why they called it a church.”

Housewarming Gift

Not every child who lives in a Cape Town slum is troubled. Certainly there are plenty who come from stable homes and are a delight to work with. Awonke, a second-grader in Red Hill, is one of my favorites.

Last Tuesday Awonke came up to me and said, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands.” That, of course, is a loaded statement, especially coming from a child. But I complied. When I opened my eyes, what I found was the flower “arrangement” you see pictured here.

It really is the little things that make life so special. That flower, resting in a dirty discarded milk bottle, is one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. And what Awonke didn’t know was that I was moving into a new flat the day she gave it to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better housewarming gift.