Monday, March 21, 2011

Life and Life to the Full

So I am back in the United States. I have been for about a week and a half. I'm sorry for not updating sooner. First let me tell you about the remaining weeks I had in South Africa.

I went to Kruger on 2/14 to a YWAM base there also called 10,000 Homes. Some of you may have heard of it, because of its affiliation with New Hope Church in Wylie. Immediately when I went to the base, I felt at home. There is such a warm and inviting feel to the people and their ministry. The whole heart behind 10,000 Homes is to provide people with homes. Not only a physical home, but the feeling of belonging, love, and support that comes with a family. While we were there we had several awesome opportunities. Each week we'd help out with 2 different feedings. One in Mbonaswani, that was located at the church we'd go each Sunday. We would have a group go out and help the volunteers from the church cook the food, then we'd all go out and have a VBS type program, telling Bible Stories and singing songs. We'd also just love and play with the kids. The other location, Dwaleni, we did a similar thing, with some slight variations. We would go help the nurses from the nearby clinic cook the food, and we'd also go out and do some home visits and pray for people before the rest of the team came for the feeding. On the days we didn't have a feeding, we'd go out to White River in a shopping center, and go do evangelism. We'd do intercession before hand, ask God who we should pray for, and then we'd go and find them! We also helped quilt together knit squares to make blankets for the most vulnerable children in the Dwaleni feeding. We knit about 12 together while we were there, and we had the opportunity to pass them out.

So that was our ministry on a non-personal level. I have a few stories that have just stuck with me. One day we were doing home visits while in Dwaleni. Meghan, Stephanie, Nate and I went out with a staff member to pray for people. After doing several visits, we stopped by a random house. The staff member had never been in this area before, he was just being spirit led. And we ended up getting into a conversation with this 19 year old guy. He wanted to know more about Jesus. We asked him what he knew and he said he knew very little. He went to church on Sundays, but he didn't feel as though he had a personal relationship with Christ. We got him to open up more and he told us that he didn't really like being a Christian, because all of his friends wanted him to do other stuff that he knew was wrong in God's to eyes. He didn't want to fully commit to Christ, because he knew he'd have to give those things up. First, the fact that he opened up that much to us is HUGE. Africans typically don't like addressing their own feelings and their own lives. They talk about external needs, but its rare for someone to open up about the real condition of their heart. But we were able to open up to this guy and tell him all there is to gain from following Christ...that the loss is nothing in comparison. That God loved him and had a plan for his life, and that he wanted to use him. He wanted his heart. We were able to give some testimonies and we asked whether he believed all of that. He said he did, and we ended up being able to lead this guy and his cousin in a prayer of salvation. The staff member got his number has has continued to keep in contact with the guy to continue discipleship. Praise God for leading us to this young man's house.

Another story is that we went to the clinic where all the nurses worked and we were able to pray for the patients waiting to go in to get checked up. Rachel Beck and I were able to talk to this young pregnant women who was waiting to go in. We found out she had had 3 children prior to the one she was expecting, but all of them had died. We asked about her faith in God, and she said she didn't really feel like God loved her because of all the terrible things that had happened to her. We were able to share with her the love of God and she just began to cry. We told her about God's mercy and justice, about how in heaven she'd be able to be with her children again. She prayed a prayer of salvation with us in her own language. She had such a huge smile on her face when she finished. She said she was so happy inside. It was a beautiful moment to see a daughter of the King recognize the love that God has directed towards her.

All of these things encouraged me and blessed me and filled me with boldness for the next person I would minister to. I want people to understand and know the love of Jesus! But my last story probably breaks my heart more than the rest. I was at the last feeding we were going to have in Mbonaswani...I was kind of tired and I really just wanted to sit around and do nothing. I thought that while I was sitting around...I might as well hold a little kid or something. I know this isn't the right heart mentality to have, but bear with me! I went and picked up this little boy I hadn't seen before. His name was Mensi. He was probably about 3 or 4...he didn't say anything. He was just wide eyed and open lipped...just the cutest thing ever. I went over to him and gestured if he wanted me to pick him up and he put his arms up for me to hold him. I picked him up and brought him back to my chair. I sat there just holding and rocking him...just singing to him softly, and he would just watch me and occasionally touch my face. I had him sitting so he was facing out towards what was going on...eventually he slumped over and fell asleep in my arms. He was drooling on my arms, so I positioned him up a little bit...and eventually I turned him around and he wrapped his little arms around my neck and rested his head on my chest. He held on tightly and fell fast asleep again. He slept in my arms for about 45 minutes. I was so honored that he felt comfortable enough with me to fall asleep in my arms. I just started praying for him and holding him close...trying to express as much love from my heart as I could. Eventually he woke up and we started playing together...he wanted to walk around...but he always made sure I was right by him. Kids would come by and start picking on him and he would run over to me and hide his face in my skirt. Later on, he fell down and started crying. His sister ran over and tried to pick him up to comfort him...but he shook her off and ran over to me and wanted me to hold him. I cannot even express how much this touched my heart. God spoke to me at that moment and told me how precious it is to him when I shake off anyone else who tries to comfort me and run to Him. He alone is my safety and my protector. I pray for Mensi just about every day. When I think about heart just rips out of my chest. He's that one little boy that I would want to take home and call my own. I love him. It was amazing to me that God waited until the last week of my outreach to really break my heart.

After we finished our ministry, we took 2 days and went on an overnight Safari,and went to several waterfalls and markets. We came back to states, and after traveling for 30 hours, I had to stay awake another 10-12 before I could go to sleep. I was extremely tired coming back, but now after an extremely tearful graduation, and goodbye to all my friends that I've grown SO attached to the last several months. I am home. Back in Allen, Texas

What is next you may ask? (Or maybe you're asking when this blog will be done, seeing as how its getting pretty long now)
I plan on doing a second school with YWAM Orlando. Instead of a DTS (Discipleship Training Program) I will be doing an SOMD (School of Ministry Development). I am praying about exactly when. They offer schools quarterly, so I have several options. But I do know that it is my next step. The school is focused on individual ministry. I feel a call to full time missions, and this school will help me focus on my giftings and passions, and I'll be able to have a better idea of how I can be best equipped for whatever God will ask me to do with my life. I'll be home for several months, working, support raising, and rebuilding relationships here.

But I am EXCITED about the work God is doing in my life. I am not the same after this experience. I feel like I've grown so much into a maturing and growing walk with God. I love discipleship. I want to see others grow in their understand of God's character and love. There is so much to live for and so much to experience.
Life and life to the full is definitely the life I feel I am living.

Thank you all so much for blessing me with this experience. I cannot even begin to describe how honored I am that you would believe in me enough to invest in my call. I would love to talk about my experience to anyone that wants to know, so please do not hesitate to message me or call me to get together. I am more than excited to give testimony to what God has done in my life.

I love you all!
--Rachel Olson