The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
We arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 7th, 2010. The five of us (Dave, Beth, Hannah, Maddy, and our dog Milo) came across the ocean with our clothes and some electronics. Moving our furniture, books, and other possessions seemed cost prohibititive so we came without. The church had prepared temporary housing for us until we got on our feet. When we found a house to rent, we were blown away by the generosity of the disciples. Beds, furniture, dishes, pots and pans started arriving. The disciples were giving their possessions to us. It was a story right out of Acts 4:32,
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
One sister had just purchased a new double bed for herself and was going to give us her older one. She instead decided to have the new one sent to our home. Unbelievible!
Getting settled in a new country took longer than anticipated. It is hard to get a mobile phone, open a bank account, and rent a property as a foreigner. I have learned a lot about patience.
We started getting to know the church immediately.
The Joburg Church of Christ has five regions; we landed in the Northwest. Churchwide we found out there were over 130 teenagers. At the time, only four were disciples. In the Northwest there were over 50 teenagers with one disciple. We went to the first teen devo and there were eight teens that came. Come to find out, this was common.
We witnessed generous hearts and parents that deeply desired for their kids to become Christians but faith was lacking. Year after year seeing teens graduate from high school without having become disciples slowly eroded the faith of the families. When people do not believe that God will work powerfully in their life, they tend to drop God’s standard. A more liberal parenting philosophy started creeping in and parents became more permissive. We saw good-hearted disciples that did not lead their families faithfully. Regular family devotionals, spiritual expectations, and godly standards in the home were not prevalent.
We started a five-part parenting series in the Northwest Region for the teen parents. In the first session, we talked about our history of teen ministry in our movement and how we ended up moving from youth ministry to youth and family ministry. In the second class, I taught the “Biblical Theology of Family” where we highlighted God’s plan for family from Genesis to Revelation. The third class painted a vision of our spiritual goal for our children and the fourth class was, “How Do We Get There?” In our final time together we talked through the importance of devotionals and continued times together as families.
About a month after this series we hosted a Youth & Family Conference in Johannesburg for church leaders in Africa and parents from Southern Africa. The attendance was remarkable. We had over 700 people there! The Taliaferro family spent five weeks serving the church in Johannesburg and helped with the conference. Their message on Friday night, “Live It 2 Give It,” was instrumental is reestablishing the spiritual standard for our families. The conference ended Saturday night with a family dance party and we celebrated.
Beth and I started really investing in our time together with the teens as well. We wanted to have lots of fun and teach solid and deep Bible. We asked the teens in our first gathering what they loved about church and what they did not like. We also surveyed them about what spiritual questions they had and what they wanted to do together. We have done a number of things to build faith and conviction with the teens. We did a month-long series with the guys and girls separate that we started off together with a message called, “God’s Design for Marriage.” We want the teens to have a vision of God’s plan for them as they are now so keenly interested in the opposite sex. The girls spent the rest of the month doing “The Truth About Satan,” “The Truth About God,” “The Truth About Girls,” and “The Truth About Guys.” The guys did a series entitled, “The Masculine Journey” where we outlined God’s plan for them as men. We did a devotional entitled, “What in Hell Do You Want?” followed by a Quiet Time series, “A Week In Hell.” We then did a devotional about heaven with a Quiet Time series, “A Week in Heaven.” We have also introduced a series called “Deep Stuff.” We divided the teens and the Youth & Family leaders into teams and we post on the screen the questions that they said they wanted answered spiritually. We have the teams discuss them at length and then they have to present an answer based only in scripture. We challenge each other and search for the answers together. The first time we did this we answered the question, “How righteous do you need to be to get into heaven?”
Over the last five months we have seen the devotionals grow from eight to nearly 80! We have started seeing a number of graduates also come back. As a matter of fact, one guy that grew up in the church and was 19 years old started coming back, studied, and got baptized. He is incredibly zealous and is helping to launch our campus ministry. He and a few other brothers just had a campus Bible talk with 50 in attendance with less than ten disciples! The same week that he was baptized another teen girl was also baptized. God has really been moving as we are now studying the Bible with more than 20 of the teens in our region of 50!
The same enthusiam is spreading across the Joburg Church. Last week I visited one of the other regions and the Youth & Family leader said to me, “We are having a hard time keeping up with all of the teens that want to study the Bible. What should we do?”
That is a good problem to have.
I am so moved and encouraged about how God has been moving in Johannesburg. We are so grateful to the Columbia and San Antonio churches for supporting us spiritually, emotionally, and financially to be here. We feel blessed to see God working so powerfully and love our new family in Africa. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.