Posts Tagged 'Johannesburg'

First, Lasting Impressions of South Africa

We just arrived a few days ago, after a 15 hour flight from Atlanta.  From the minute we sat down on the plane I knew this trip would be different.  Sitting between David and me was a South African man.  As we began talking he knew everybody we were meeting with in South Africa.  Imagine, three hundred or so people on the plane and God puts the one person who is connected with our work here in South Africa next to us.

             The country is beautiful; the people are friendly and open.  One of the most unusual things about this trip for me is that we are staying in the same hotel every night.  In Europe we are always in four or five cities and move from hotel to hotel; often a new hotel every night.   When we arrived at the bed and breakfast where we are staying we found the doors locked.  We rang the bell and no one answered.  After about two or three minutes a man popped his head through the curtain that covered the locked metal gate that provides security.

             We identified ourselves and he found our name on the registry.  “I am a guest here, too.”  Come around and I will let you in.  We followed him in and waited on the owner to arrive.  As we talked to this man we learned that, like us, he had chosen this hotel at “random.”  We sat out on the patio, under a thatched hut and spent the next hour talking with him.

             We followed that up with breakfast the next morning.  During breakfast we learned that our new friend, Enock, was a young Christian from Zimbabwe.  He is working on developing a foundation to help young people learn the value of getting an education and working hard.

             By the time breakfast was over I felt like I had known Enock my whole life.  He gave us a tour of the neighborhood where we are staying.  The Lord used us to encourage him in matters of developing your vision into a viable business or ministry.

             Over the next few days we spent more and more time with Enock.  Talking about ministry and how to develop a foundation to help young people in Africa get more involved in the daily life of their country.  His concern was how to motivate young people to take control of their own lives, gain a vision for the future, and even get involved in the political process by voting and working to influence policy at the local level.

             Enock really helped us get into the local culture; we went for a ride using the Soweto taxi system.  This taxi system is a series of vans with five rows of seats in them.  You flag down the taxi with a series of hand signals that let the driver know where you are going.  If it is the right taxi he pulls over and you get in.  The cost is about a dollar.  Through a series of transfers we made it to Nelson Mandela Square where there is a huge statute of Mandela overseeing the entrance to a brand new upscale shopping mall in the most exclusive section of Johannesburg.  Near the Mandela statute is a serious of eight foot soccer balls set up to honor the World Cup and other championships of World Football.

             From there it was off to another series of Soweto taxis so that we could go to the Rosebank African Market.  Stall after stall of native Africa crafts.  A huge sign hung from the roof.  “This is Africa—We bargain.”  And the games began. The crafts were awesome; the prices were fluid.  David was enjoying himself, I was a little nervous because I am not big on the bargaining.

             The next day we headed out to meet the Ultimate Goal Committee so that I could give them legal advice on outreach during the World Cup.  Here was a room full of brothers and sisters from South Africa and around the world.  They were working together with one common goal—how to turn the World Cup Soccer Tournament into a valuable outreach for the Kingdom and the Church.

             I have worked with some of these folks since the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 2004.  They are becoming old friends.  They always inspire me as they are working hard to finish strong.  They are giving up their homes to come to a foreign land and see the Kingdom built.  What a great calling!

             We left these two days of meetings with a mandate for preparing information for the Committee—something I am doing now that we are back.

             The greatest news of all, however, is what happened after these meetings.  David and I were spending a few more days before heading home.  On Thursday we were resting at the guesthouse when the owner told us that we had a couple of friends here to see us.

             Earlier in the week David had shared the Gospel with an African man named Josiah.  He left the first meeting telling us that he wanted to talk more about God and asking if he could come back on Thursday.  In the excitement we had forgotten.

             Here was Josiah, with his cousin Tich, looking to hear more about the Gospel message.  David sat down with them while I showered.  I was locked in our room as David took the key with him promising to return in fifteen minutes.  Over an hour later I was in a panic, not knowing if something had happened to David. 

             When I finally got out of the room by calling the owner on his cell, using my computer, I found David circled up under our thatch hut, holding hands with these two African men as he prayed for their salvation.

             Josiah told us that after he prayed he “felt like ice cream!”

             That was a fitting end to our time in South Africa.  Now we are preparing to make sure that all the missionaries and evangelists who show up for the World Cup are protected as they share their faith with others like Josiah and Tich.

             Thank you for your prayers and your support of our work!


South Africa and the World Cup, IHRG is getting ready

            We are getting ready to head to Johannesburg, South Africa to meet with some of the ministry leaders who are preparing for a huge outreach during the World Cup Soccer Tournament this June and July.

            Since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta we have been providing religious freedom legal help at many of the major sporting events around the world.  This year we are personally working with ministry leaders and FIFA officials to make sure that the free speech and religious freedom rights of the missionaries who will come from around the world are respected by local and tournament officials.

            At the same time, I am working, even now, to establish meetings with other ministry leaders in South Africa and local Christian attorneys.  These meetings will allow us to have an even greater effect during our time in South Africa.

            There is a lot of preparation that goes into these meetings.  We have to do all the normal travel arrangements, determine where is the most strategic location to set up as our camp in Johannesburg.  We have to prepare legal documents and then we have to get those legal documents to the key mission people and the key people with FIFA and the local law enforcement.  We have to make sure they understand their rights and this involves some training before and during the tournament.

            Our job is to make sure everyone understands the protected speech rights.  Our job is to make sure that police officials do not overstep their bounds during the tournament.  Our job is to make sure the missionaries do not get too aggressive on their part as well.

            So, we are preparing to leave in just over two weeks for our first on the ground meetings in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Please continue to pray for our team.  We have a lot of work in the next few months, and a lot of travel as well.

Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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