Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Exciting Times

The following is a letter to Living Hope's American ministry partners from Chairman John Thomas:

I trust you all have had a wonderful Christmas and that 2011 will be a year of God’s grace to you and that you will know Him pouring out His Spirit over you in amazing ways.

Thank-you for your ongoing love and support. You have no idea how much you mean to us. We don’t share our gratefulness to you often enough, but we honestly could not continue the work in South Africa without you. There is no doubt in my mind that the USA churches, teams, volunteers and giving have become a critical cornerstone of what the Lord is doing in Cape Town. The month of December was a great one in terms of your giving to Living Hope and we are humbled by your generosity. Thank-you to each one and to each church who gave sacrificially to us.

We have traditionally held our annual Partners Conference at the beginning of March each year. This year we had planned to do the same, but we have decided to postpone it for a while. Let me share why we are postponing it. As most of you know that we have been working on a CD of the Masi Choir and a number of U.S.-based artists. Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay and Casting Crowns have each recorded a unique track of music on this CD, which is absolutely amazing. The guys at Brentwood Baptist Church have worked so hard on getting this CD together and it is finally produced and ready for printing. We are understandably thrilled that this project is nearing completion – it is a dream coming true. We had planned to have a launch concert of the CD as the opening night of our Partners Conference this year on February 28. We want each of you and your churches to be able to participate in this wonderful celebration with us. A lot of back ground work has gone into getting the U.S.-based artists to host this concert. Unfortunately, despite much effort to hold the concert on the 28th of February, it has become clear that it is not going to happen.

We obviously want you to participate in this concert and launch. Not only was this going to be the CD launch, but also a book launch. Allen Allnoch, a volunteer from Low Country Community Church, has been working tirelessly on a coffee-table story book on Living Hope.  (Like the CD, you are going to love this book). We do not feel that we can ask you to go to all the expense of coming to Nashville twice this year for Living Hope – once for the Partners Conference and then again for the Concert, CD and book launch. We really want this event to be a fantastic time when all our Partners and friends of Living Hope are present. We therefore have decided to put the Partners conference on hold until we have clarity on the concert and CD launch date. I hope the concert will be somewhere between May and September this year. It is my personal longing that every one of you will be there with a whole lot of your church if at all possible. The two days following the concert will then be our Partners Conference.  I know that at this stage I am not giving you dates to keep free, but as soon as we have clarity on possible dates, we will let you know. I really trust that this time of celebration and partnership will be one of the greatest held in the history of Living Hope USA. Do start saving in order to be with us for our Concert, CD and book launch and, of course, the Partners Conference.

Your friend and grateful partner in Christ

John V. Thomas
Chairperson, Living Hope

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hits and Misses

Many people have asked me what I missed the most about life in America while I lived in South Africa. Here are a few of those things, in no particular order, along with a few more I miss about there now that I’m here.

Besides the obvious ones, like family and friends, the things I missed most about the U.S. were:

-          American football. Rugby just ain’t the same.
-          Dr. Pepper
-          Chik-Fil-A biscuits
-          Country music. Thank the Lord for the iPod.
-          Sports Illustrated
-          Southern barbecue
-          Mexican food
-          Fall weather
-          Unlimited internet

And the things I now miss most about South Africa:

-          Mountains and sea everywhere I looked
-          South African accents
-          Breyani (a spicy curry dish with chicken, rice and lentils)
-          An unhurried way of doing things, also known as African Time (OK sometimes I enjoyed this; sometimes it was maddening)
-          Wildlife sightings: e.g., whales, baboons, ostrich
-          Rooibos tea (very tasty and grown only in the RSA)
-          A city, Cape Town, that is one of the most vibrant and scenic I’ve ever experienced
-          Working for a cause greater than my own
-          Some of the most interesting and beautiful people I’ve ever known

Lessons Learned

Now that I’ve been back from Africa for a few weeks and taken some time to process the past 18 months, here are a few observations I’ve reached:

-     Spiritual warfare is real. I knew this going in, but there on the frontlines of poverty and sickness, I realized it more than ever. Christians are striving to bring the love and healing power of Christ, and Satan is actively working to oppose it.
-     The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Again, I knew this, but to see it in another part of the world just affirms how dark human hearts are everywhere. We are not basically good people who occasionally do bad; we are, by nature, bad people who can only be made good by the perfect blood of Jesus.
-     God is able to do “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). In researching and writing a book about Living Hope, I saw the evidence of God’s hand on this ministry throughout its 10-year history, and even well before that. Living Hope chaplain Graham Haddad, who was there from the beginning, told me that this verse aptly describes the birth and development of Living Hope.
-     When God issues a call to do something for Him, He also provides the means to accomplish it. Much as He did this with Graham, Pastor John Thomas and the other founders of Living Hope, God enabled me to envision the book and carry it through to completion. A year ago, it was a blank slate; today it is nearly finished and it looks spectacular. I’m not saying this to boast about myself – this is all His doing. I, along with many others, was just an instrument He used to make it happen.
-     I hate injustice. I saw it everywhere, from corrupt government officials all the way down to petty criminals, and it drove me crazy sometimes.

Now the challenge is to apply these lessons in whatever vocation and location God places me in next. I’m excited to see what that will be.