Archive for the 'community' Category

LFS Introduces… Angela De Souza from D7 Church in Gloucester, England

I’m Angela De Souza, I live in Cheltenham, England. My husband and I pastor D7 Church in Gloucester, England. We also play in the band and we are currently recording our very first CD, which is extremely exciting.

We have loved the journey of church planting. It’s incredibly to be a part of God’s work and seeing how he saved and changes life. No matter how difficult it gets it is always worth it when you see someone break through from darkness into light, from addictions into freedom, from hopelessness into hope!

It was never our intention to plant a church; no not in our wildest dreams did we ever see ourselves doing this. Our daughter started it all, we had moved from London to Cheltenham and she stared at a new school. She was 14 at the time. It was tough for her and she complained that she couldn’t make any friends that shared the same values as her. After some time of struggle she decided to see school as her mission field. If she couldn’t find friends that shared her values then she would win people to Jesus and help them to become the friends that she needed. She of course didn’t say it quite like that, this is me paraphrasing.

Soon she insisted that we start a youth group at our home so that we can get to know the young people, so we did. Within months they were getting saved! We started to present the gospel and as they got saved we realised that we had a discipleship problem, we needed to get these baby Christians disciple and our church was over and hour’s drive away, we couldn’t get them all to church. At a meeting with our pastor about this problem we asked permission to start a discipleship group for these young people and when we walked out of the meeting we were given permission to start a church! Still today we don’t know how this happened. How did it go from asking to start a discipleship group to being released to plant a church. We had NEVER preached before, never don’t anything at all like this – why us!!!

Anyway, the short story is, we did and here we are LOVING the journey!

The best part of the journey has been life change and not only in the lost that come to know Jesus but in our team. I have the honour of working with the most amazing leadership team. They consist of our daughter who is now 18, her boyfriend who is one of the very first young people to be saved at the youth group, another young person who was our very first convert as a new church and a trainee whom he lead to Jesus. Along with this amazing bunch of young people is my husband, myself and one other “grown up” ha ha. Many people laugh when they hear about our team and often refer to them as our “leadership team” as if it is not a real team.

They may be young but they are the most reliable people I have ever worked with. Never have I come across such amazing people who are passionate about the cause of Christ and will do whatever it takes to build this church. Adult Christians have come and gone, added their two pennies worth, not got their own way, complained about how we did things, threw in some Bible verses to justify what they say, stir up a mess in Church and then leave. This has happened several times. Through it all the very ones that they look down at have remained faithful and have simply got on with the work. No theological debates, no longs emails with complaints or loads of unnecessary questions. They get what it’s about, the simple message of the gospel, and they get on with it. I could it a huge privilege and honour to work with this awesome leadership team.

Here are some links where you can keep up with what God is doing at D7 Church.

Our website: www.d7church.co.uk

Our community: www.d7community.co.uk

Thank you Angela for sharing the journey your family has been on to plant a church!

You can also follow Angela’s blog King’s Daughters at http://kingsdaughters21.blogspot.com and you can also purchase her book: Hope’s Journey on Amazon.

LFS Introduces…Carolyn & Anjali House in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Please introduce yourself…

I’m Carolyn;  I’m a 31-year-old Scottish girl who now lives in Cardiff, South Wales.

What is Anjali House?

To properly answer this, I need to explain a bit of Cambodian history and culture. I’ll try to be concise.

Between 1975 and 1979, under the regime of Pol Pot and the communist Khmer Rouge party, approximately 21% of the Cambodian population (an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 million people) were killed. Pol Pot’s vision was for an agriculture based communist utopia, and two of his methods of promoting & achieving this were to close schools (everyone was now to be a subsistence farmer, working to provide for Cambodia’s own needs so it would have no need for the Western world) and to kill anyone with any level of prior education (as they may have been a threat to the new ‘utopia’).

Cambodia as a country has been ‘reeling’ from this ever since. Although Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are long gone, the legacy of their rule was a country in ruins – no economy, no infrastructure, and the huge problem of a pretty much uneducated and unskilled population. Either you were educated before the Pol Pot rule and were killed due to being educated, or you didn’t receive any education to begin with as you were a child during the regime as you worked in the fields instead of attending school and after the regime was over there was no infrastructure for schooling and no educated citizens to teach you.

Fast-forward 30 years…

Cambodia is a country that’s done a pretty good job of piecing itself back together. It’s still a very, VERY poor country. But it has an infrastructure of sorts. It has an economy of sorts. It has a stable government. It’s getting there. Corruption is rife. There are still live landmines all over the place. It’s not perfect. But in spite of all this, it’s getting there.

The education gap is still there though. It’s one of the things Cambodia can’t easily fix on its own. Another generation has passed, but they didn’t have anyone to teach them either. And so the cycle continues.

There are ‘public’ schools in Cambodia, but the fees (a few dollars a month) plus the need for a uniform and the lost earnings of the child make it an unobtainable dream for most Cambodian families.

And this is where NGO’s (Non Government Organisations) come into the picture, and where I finally get back to the original question…

What is Anjali House?

Anjali House (pronounced An-jah-lee) is an NGO in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  I was privileged to spend a month there in summer 2009 working as a volunteer English and General Studies teacher.

Anjali aims to provide support, education and healthcare provision to street kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these things.  In practice, this means…

  • The kids attend Anjali for half a day, and public school for the other half (Anjali pays their fees and provides them with a uniform).
  • Many of the health problems affecting Cambodian children are a result of poor diet and unsuitable drinking water. To attempt to counter this, the children at Anjali receive two healthy meals (breakfast and lunch) and a fruit snack each day, and have access to filtered drinking water throughout the day.
  • Due to the lack of clean water and the constraints of poverty, many of the children had never used soap or cleaned their teeth. They now bathe every morning at Anjali and are educated in the importance of personal hygiene.
  • All Anjali children have regular medical and dental health checks provided by the project. They will also be taken to hospital or the doctors if necessary.
  • As one of the conditions of attendance at Anjali, the child is no longer allowed to be sent out to work on the streets begging, selling trinkets etc. The families receive a weekly allowance of rice to compensate for the loss of income.

There are currently approximately 80 children at Anjali. Enrolment is by application (and based on social and economic testing). Due to lack funds and constraints of space, Anjali currently is not accepting any further applications at this time.

Tell us how you ended up going over to Cambodia to work with the team at Anjali?

The short answer is it felt like the right thing to do at the right time.

The longer answer is that I had recently resigned from a job I’d once loved after a prolonged chain of events (clash of personalities with one of my bosses, what I believe was an institutional bullying campaign, an unrealistically large work load, a nervous breakdown and a 5 month absence due to stress, a subsequent formal grievance process, and so on) None of it is particularly interesting reading. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best period in my life.

I had (and still have) an incredibly supportive partner in my boyfriend, Ian. He not only encouraged me to bite the bullet and resign, but told me to take as much time as I needed to recharge my batteries, get my head straight again, get over the lousy year I’d had and generally become myself again.

I realised that I’d been defining myself primarily by my job for a long time, and that I needed and wanted to change that.

I’d just posed the question ‘what next?’ when my friend Beth had returned from a month in Cambodia, having been placed at Grace House by a volunteer organisation called Globalteer. She’d come back on schedule purely to attend her own university graduation, and was planning on heading straight back out to Siem Reap. She told me I ought to come with her. I decided to roll with that.

Beth later decided that although she’d love to return straight away, it wasn’t to be. I applied anyway, thinking that it probably wouldn’t be possible. Less than a month later I was on a plane, having been placed at Anjali by Globalteer.

What are the most important things you learned from your time at Anjali?

I think I learned a lot, but it’s incredibly difficult to describe the experiences I had, words just don’t seem to do it justice. I can honestly say it was one of the best months of my life. (I STILL want to go back).

I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to be a volunteer. You just have to be enthusiastic. I’m a perfectionist, and as such, frequently worry that my best isn’t good enough.  It was, and you get lots of help and support from the staff and other volunteers at Globalteer.

I learned that there’s a place for all personality types in this sort of environment. I’m very much an introvert, and in the beginning found myself feeling inadequate due to the fact that I wasn’t an ‘all out’, loud, confident presence around the kids during non lesson times. Pretty soon I realised that not all of the kids were extroverts either, and the fact that I interacted with them in a different manner to some of the other volunteers didn’t actually matter.

I learned that there’s a peace that comes with just going with the flow and that somehow you’ll end up in the right place at the right time anyway – even if you didn’t see it coming.

I learned that I can’t solve everything for everyone, but that’s not a reason to stop trying to at least make a small difference. There’s an old Scottish saying that –  “Mony a mickle maks a muckle” (translation: lots of small things make up a large thing), and I realised that I need to stop worrying about the ‘Muckle’, and just get on with my ‘Mickle’.

How can we support Anjali?

There are lots of ways…

Volunteer over there. I promise, you will NOT regret it. You don’t need a month; however long you have is fine. And if I can do it, ANYONE can.

Raise awareness of Anjali, who & what they are and what they do. You’re welcome to use the information & pictures on my blog.

Make a donation/ host a fundraising event for Anjali. I’ve been there and can personally verify that every dollar is put to good use. If you’re a UK tax payer, you can gift aid your donation to make it worth and extra 28%.

Sponsor an Anjali child Please be aware though that Anjali don’t generally allow sponsors to visit the kids (Cambodia, unfortunately seems to be fast becoming the new Thailand in that respect, and that fact breaks my heart).

If people wanted to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

Prayer isn’t something I’ve figured out, so I’m not entirely sure how to answer that sincerely. I guess the best answer I can give is ‘however they feel led’.

Cambodia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, who lead hard, hard lives. I’d like to hope it’ll get better for them.

The kids at Anjali come from some pretty hopeless backgrounds, I’d like to think that they’ll have better futures than pasts.

I’d hope that their time at Anjali makes them feel loved and validated and allows them to have a childhood.

I’d like to hope that they won’t have to go to bed hungry again.

I’d like to hope that they grow up create a better world than the one they were born into.

Thank you so much for sharing about Anjali House with us Carolyn. We’re also really happy to announce that Carolyn will be returning to Cambodia and Anjali House this summer! You can find out more about Anjali House by going to www.anjali-house.com and follow more of Carolyn’s tales of Cambodia, plus life as a Scottish lass in Wales on her blog http://searchingforbrokenness.blogspot.com


LFS Introduces…Carl & Michelle Waldron & Seed of Hope Community Development

Please introduce yourselves and tell us about how you got inspired to work with Seed of Hope…


We are Carl and Michelle Waldron.  Carl is a Canadian boy, and I, Michelle, was born in the good ole’ US of A.  Our paths crossed when we both signed up to go overseas as short-term missionaries as a one-year break from university.  We met during training for that year and started a friendship that eventually turned into romance and we married in August 1998.  Our passion has always been for cross-cultural missions. Carl has a degree in International Development and I am a Registered Nurse. The text we chose as our life’s guiding statement was from the Psalms:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”

Psalm 67: 1-2

Seed of Hope is a community centre in the middle of an underserved, under-resourced Zulu community.  Our centre offers many different classes and programs.  We have 3 after school programs for differing age levels.  We provide HIV testing and counseling, offer 3 HIV support groups, teach vocational skills (i.e. sewing) to women in the community, encourage gardening, promote healthy lifestyle choices, etc.  Carl is the CEO of this small organization and I work with another nurse to lead the medical side of the ministry.  We are in a daily battle against HIV/AIDS and the stigma that prevents so many people from reaching out and getting help.

How did you get involved with Seed of Hope?

We have always shared a joint love of and interest in missions.  But God did not open doors for us to go overseas until we met a South African man named Derek Liebenberg.  We attended a gathering at a friend’s home, where Derek shared how God led him and his wife, Heather, to begin a community centre in a small rural community ravaged by HIV/AIDS, near Durban. By the end of his slideshow, we were ready to jump on a plane and come to South Africa to work with them.  We gradually began that process, but unfortunately, he passed away from a sudden heart attack before we made the big move. Carl was asked to step into the CEO’s role. We finally arrived on African soil in June 2007 and have been working with Seed of Hope, ever since.

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with Seed of Hope?

We are praying for an opportunity to buy or long-term lease the buildings we currently rent to do our ministry. This would allow our organization to expand and grow in ways that have been hindered until now.  We also have several new staff coming on board this year who will help us grow and reach even further into our community – and also bring leadership gifts to help fine tune the programs that already exist.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

Michelle – I LOVE being in the homes of the people in the township we serve.  Just today I was in the home of a mom we helped last year to get tested for HIV and then get onto anti-retroviral medication.  To see her healthy and actually being able to care for her children is so rewarding.  And as I sit there visiting with her, she says, “can I take you to see my neighbor?  She is now sick.”  Of course!  So she takes me next door and there is another single mom – losing the battle with AIDS…finally willing to reach out for help.

Carl – My role is more about looking ahead at how we meet the challenges of a growing number of child-headed households, the need for entrepreneurship and agricultural training, and developing leaders within our staff and the wider community who can come up with new ideas to face these issues. I also share the vision of what God’s doing in our community through Seed Of Hope, and invite others to join in and support our work in whatever way they’re able.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

Seeing children being orphaned over and over again.  A lot of them are initially orphaned by their mom, who often succumbs first to HIV.  Then sometimes by their dad, and finally by their grandmothers, who usually end up caring for them, until they become too old or pass away. Along with that emotional strain is the challenge of relating across many different cultural, linguistic, economic and racial lines, all the cause of drawing each person involved a little closer together over time.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

Friends and family in Canada support us.  Our church in St. Albert, Alberta is the biggest supporter for us, financially, with prayer, and with love! We’ve also made friends from the UK, USA, Australia and many other places over the last few years.

Our website has links to various means of joining in with what we’re doing.

Do you partner with any other organisations?

Yes, we partner with many organizations.  Some local, like the Amanzimtoti Pregnancy Resource Centre, or Bobbi Bear, a local NGO that provides counseling for children who have suffered sexual assault and abuse.  Others include Durban-based Soul Action, local churches in Amanzimtoti such as Oasis Church and Amanzimtoti Methodist.  And we also partner with some international organizations.  Seed of Hope Canada and RESKU International in the United States are the main international partners.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing something similar to what you are doing?

Take the time and energy needed to get a good handle on the culture and language of the people you are serving. This will make your time more enjoyable, your impact more lasting, and your relationships deeper. Also, prepare well by learning as much as possible about where you’re going, visiting in advance, and cultivating a habit of being laid back, gracious and humble. Accepting that you have much to learn, being patient with delays and inadequate services, and being willing to accept tasks that help others achieve their goals even if they seem unrewarding to you at the time.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with?

We welcome prayer support.  South Africa has a high rate of violent crime, so we love to hear when people are praying for us and for our staff at the Centre!  We are also in the process of buying the property and then doing some renovating to accommodate expanded programs/classes… so any financial support would be gladly received. We do have space for occasional volunteer placements, depending on skills and international experience. We’d love to hear from people interested.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

Pray that more people (particularly the men) will come for HIV testing, pray that the stigma will be reduced, pray for the massive orphan crisis that South Africa is facing. We would value prayer for the health and safety of our organization staff and volunteers, and for favour as we build relationships with local government, rural Zulu tribal and nearby city authorities in our region.

Thank you so much Carl & Michelle for sharing with us. I feel so blessed to have met you in person and to have spent time working with the Seed of Hope team, and have such fond memories of my short time there last summer. Hopefully by what you’ve shared people may understand why many of us are missing everyone there so much!

For more information on Seed of Hope Community Development, check out their website www.theseedofhope.org . You can also follow Carl’s Blog and Michelle’s Blog.

LFS Introduces…The Bowyer Family & Soul Action South Africa

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about what you do with Soul Action South Africa.

Phil and Rachel Bowyer are co-founders of Soul Action South Africa, they live in Durban with their 9 year old son Zachary. Prior to moving to South Africa, Phil worked for Tearfund, He was a key member of Tearfund’s Innovation Team and before that co-ordinated their Youthwork across the UK and Ireland.

Rachel is a qualified teacher with a degree in Music and Mathematics.  Before launching Soul Action in Durban she spent 11 years as a primary school teacher and Special Educational Needs Coordinator in one of the UK’s Urban Priority Areas.

Soul Action South Africa has been working in Durban, in the province of KwaZulu Natal, for over two and a half years. As a result of the research we have gathered by meeting with Christians from across Durban, and a greater awareness of the situation with regards to the extent of HIV and Aids in KwaZulu Natal, we have felt led to establish a network where Christians who are serving the poor can come together, share good practice and begin to learn from one another.  It is a place where individuals can share their difficulties, a place where they can receive from one another, and most of all a place where they feel supported and encouraged to keep on serving.

As Soul Action South Africa, our aim is to facilitate opportunities for Christians who are passionate about integral mission to network, train and work together, in order that the poor and marginalised may be served in a more sustainable way.

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with Soul Action South Africa?

During this year we will continue to work through the Network we have established – at present we are working with 60 partners churches and projects that serve the poor and marginalized across our municipality.  These range from an individual whose own experience of dealing with HIV led her to establish a community HIV support group, to projects that are enabling hundreds of children to go to school. Soul Action South Africa currently facilitates three network gatherings each year, with the specific aim of bringing together all the projects we are working with in order that they may share with, learn from and give support to one another.

In addition to this, we have been able to start two new initiatives which have the potential to benefit the whole Network: A network for Young and Emerging leaders and our Literacy Project.*

*Phil and Rachel have given us more details on these projects which are posted here for any of you that are interested!

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

We particularly enjoy connecting with the different people across the city, learning about what God has called them to and from this gaining a bigger picture of what God is doing in the city of Durban.  From these conversations we are able to ensure the network is appropriate to the needs of the people it serves.  There is so much potential and seeing and being a part of empowering local people is such a privilege.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

I would say the most challenging element of what we are doing is the pace at which it moves.  We are very aware that what might be a good idea to us may not be appropriate so we ensure we work with projects and churches where they are at and at their pace.  The work we are involved in is long term, we are encouraging and supporting communities to analyse their own situations and to take steps to work together to make changes for the better.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

Our church, family and friends in the UK pray for us on a regular basis and support us in that way.  Delegates attending the Soul Survivor UK summer festivals raised some funds last year, these have enabled us to start the two initiatives with young people and children this year.

Do you partner with any other organisations?

Soul Action South Africa relates to Soul Action UK.  Soul Action UK is a partnership between Soul Survivor and Tearfund.  Over the past ten years Soul Survivor has resourced and equipped literally thousand of Christian young people to live lives of integrity and worship to God.  Tearfund works in about 70 countries across the world by supporting local Christian partners and working directly in emergency situations.  By bringing together the best of Soul Survivor and Tearfund the hope of Soul Action is to raise up a generation of Christians who are whole hearted about whole life discipleship and mission to the whole world.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that are thinking about doing something similar to what you are doing?

I think there are three main things to do:  PRAY, TEST IT OUT, GO FOR IT!

Doing what God wants you to do has to be first prize, no matter what the challenges being in that place is it always brings with it great rewards.  So if God is asking you to do something, no matter how big or small then take the first step and let God lead you.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with Soul Action South Africa?

Soul Action South Africa can only remain effective if Christians who are just as passionate about integral mission as we are continue to get behind it.  There are many ways that people can add value to our ongoing work with the last, the least and the lost:

  • Prayer – committing to pray for our work on a regular basis
  • Volunteering – come and serve our projects, from two weeks to 6 months
  • Financiallywww.soulaction.co.za/support has details of the different ways our work can be supported

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

For the two initiatives that Soul Action South Africa has been able to start this year:

The Young and Emerging Leaders Network – for each young person that is a part of this that God would continue to show them his plan for their lives

The Literacy Project – for the two local people that are working in school on a daily basis, that as well as teaching the children they would be able to show God’s love.

Our current funding runs out in September this year, and at the moment we are praying and looking into different ways of securing funding so this work can continue.  Please pray we would make wise decisions in who we apply to funding for.

Thank you so much to the Bowyer Family for sharing about Soul Action South Africa with us. It was such a pleasure and privilege to go out to South Africa as part of Soul in the City Durban last summer – so I have seen the amazing stuff God is doing through the Network and more!

For more information on Soul Action South Africa you can check out their website www.soulaction.co.za & if you have any questions you can e-mail Rachel by clicking here

LFS Extra: More on Soul Action South Africa


Phil & Rachel sent so much information and detail about the research they did when they first arrived in Durban to how they got the network of local partners established and so on. I didn’t want to leave it out, so for those of you interested here are the extra details on what Phil & Rachel discussed in their ‘Introducing’ post….

How Phil & Rachel got started with Soul Action South Africa…

For the first eight months we made a commitment to visit as many Christians as possible who it was felt were in some way serving the poor and marginalised – so far we have met and recorded the work of 130 churches and / or Christian projects from across the municipality.  During this period we found many Christians who were doing amazing work but who were also, by the nature of their work, pretty much unaware of what else was going on.  Many people we spoke to felt isolated in the work that God had called them to, some wanted to serve the poor but just didn’t know how to get started, whilst others had a great desire to improve what they were already doing with, through and in their communities.  Our research has helped us to learn about the variety of work Christian’s are involved in throughout our municipality and as a result we have begun to understand some of the difficulties and frustrations they, and the poor they serve, face.

39% of the population of KwaZulu Natal is HIV+, higher than any other province in South Africa. Efforts to reduce new infections have had some success, but changing people’s behaviour takes time and factors that increase the risk of infection – such as poverty, social instability, illiteracy, sexual violence, and gender inequalities – cannot be addressed in the short term.  There are 11 million children living in poverty in South Africa, that’s over 60% of all its children! In 2008 the South African health department said that 1.5 million children had lost their parents to AIDS, by 2015 that number is estimated to grow as high as 5.7 million.  The impact of HIV/AIDS has a deep and lasting affect on communities and particularly households.

How the Network they have established is developing, learning & growing...

At our first Network gathering of the year the issue of human trafficking was highlighted.  An organization called Red Light shared with the network. Red Light Human Trafficking are a young adults team who have a keen interest in creating awareness on Human Trafficking and uplifting their community.   They explained what is meant by the term human trafficking – that human trafficking is the kidnapping, enslaving and exploitation of men, woman and children for use as sex workers, forced labour and in the illegal medical trade. They also shared some of the statistics, that 100,000 people will be trafficked into South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, that most trafficking victims are girls between 5 to 15 years old and that between 28,000 to 30,000 children are currently being prostituted in South Africa.They highlighted how we as churches / projects could share about the issue of human trafficking with the children we work with and empower them to make good decisions and speak up against these issues.

The Network is also proving to be a base of knowledge and expertise, projects can contact Soul Action South Africa with a need, and then we can point them in the direction of another who could provide the much needed area of expertise or service.   We produce a newsletter each month, which includes an article written by a member of the network, stories of encouragement, news from various projects, training opportunities, needs for specific resources, prayer requests and items to be thankful for.

The Young & Emerging Leaders Network: We believe there are many young people within the poor communities in which we work who have the potential of becoming leaders.  These young people need people to input into their lives and to work with them on achieving their goals.   Therefore we have started a network for young and emerging leaders.  We spent the day together last Saturday, which was amazing; there were 23 young emerging leaders who committed to be part of the network for this initial year.  All the Young and Emerging Leaders responded well to the activities and fully participated.  They worked well with their peers and there were lively discussions.  The day consisted of four workshops; The value of you, Peer mentoring, The value of others and The value of leadership.

The Literacy Project: Children who are being educated in some of the schools in the townships located across Durban are in large class sizes (between 60 and 70 learners per class) and the schools are very under-resourced.  Due to these circumstances many children are failing to learn the basic skills of reading and writing.  All children have to write their exams in English, therefore the children need to be learning English from a young age and at the same time their mother-tongue needs to be valued. The aim of the project is twofold: to equip the teachers to teach the children to read and write in English through modeling, team-teaching, developing appropriate resources, and lesson plans; and to empower the children to reach their full potential by learning to read and write in English. At the moment the project is working into one school, as funding allows this will be introduced in other schools across the city.

Plus Phil and Rachel have authored several books on poverty, development and mission, including Express Community Through Schools: Taking Social Action Beyond the Classroom, A Different World (a youthwork resource) and The Whole Wide World which you might be interested in! 🙂

LFS Introduces…Liam & Rachel Byrnes in Masi, South Africa

Please introduce yourselves, and tell us about what you are doing in South Africa just now?

We are a newly married couple in our early twenties with a sneaking suspicion that Jesus has an amazing plan to see the World made new, humans brought back to relationship with himself and each other, and that the place we should be doing that right now is in Southern Africa. More formally though, Rachel grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has been serving Church plants, loving her nieces and nephews, and loves culture. I (Liam) grew up in Cornwall near England (that’s a South-West joke) studying Theology in Aberdeen with a background in Politics and Economics and until 4 months ago was working in the oil Industry.

We are working in South Africa helping facilitate locally led, home based simple churches/bible studies, giving people the tools and education to lift themselves out of oppressive poverty, teaching people the skills to have life giving family life and care for Children.

How did you get involved with/what inspired you to work with YWAM?

YWAM just happened to turn up at the right time really. We love YWAM’s core values and have some great friends who are involved in it. YWAM is also releasing and broad enough that you can pretty much work in any sphere under their banner.

All that being said although we are relationally connected with YWAM we don’t have any long term commitment as of yet, but their DTS* program (which we are currently involved in) seemed like a good intro to our more long term plans in South Africa. We are very much of the mind that we want to build a Kingdom not an empire, so as long as being involved with YWAM serves that we will probably stay connected with YWAM.

*DTS = Discipleship Training School

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with YWAM?

Well from January to March we will be in South Africa continuing to scope out the land and make arrangements for our more long-term return later in the year. As part of the DTS program we are doing we have to go back to our sending YWAM base Kona for a little while, after that we are hoping to visit a few churches and friends in mainland USA for a couple of weeks up until end of April. Then from May to July we will be back in the UK to visit Churches, family and find some short-term employment to help towards our return to South Africa in August.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

We get to see people all day and we get the opportunity make a real difference to help them out of poverty.

Spiritual poverty: the sense that they don’t matter to God or have anywhere to take their burdens.

Financial poverty: helping people realise they can really step out of poverty and that it is something that is on God’s heart for them.

Relational poverty: networking them with people who care about them and want to engage in community with them.

All those areas are something that we are passionate about and so being able to work with people in those areas can be very enjoyable.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

Situations that feel hopeless have been challenging, we are working in a community of 30,000 in a 2sq mile area – there is more depravity, poverty, and brokenness than I ever thought imaginable. We often see heart breaking injustice: an alcoholic mother who neglects her baby to the point of serious malnutrition; a refugee working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for not enough money to pay rent.

There is so much need, as soon as one problem seems to be solved; a new one comes to the fore. It just reminds us that this community needs more than just initiatives, programs or even money; it needs Jesus-centered restoration in every category.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

Our families particularly have been incredibly supportive; Rachel’s parents are even currently visiting with us. We have lots of faithful friends who pray for us regularly as well as keep in regular contact (which is actually more of a support than you would realise!). The Church I grew up in, in Cornwall has committed to pray for us as a church, and our house group and great friends in Banchory from the Aberdeen Vineyard Church really support us as our home community.

In relation to financial support, Rachel and I saved for around a year – I did some web design projects on the side back in the UK to raise money. We also asked people to gift us money for our wedding instead of the normal gift registries. A number of friends and family gave us generous one off gifts, a couple others have committed to giving to us monthly which has been of huge help but is less than 20% of our current monthly outgoings. Financial support is one of the main reasons we have to return to the UK for a few months this year.

Do you partner with any other organisations?

Yes, we love to in fact. We are working closely with All Nations, a local organisation focused on planting small simple churches in peoples houses. We are working with them to integrate a business training initiative we’ve been working on for some Zimbabwean refugees who can’t find work into a more advanced program that All Nations run. We are also working on a policy and advocacy level with Justice Acts/IOM, a part of the Counter Trafficking Coalition, on a human trafficking and prostitution prevention project for the World Cup later this year.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing mission/charity work overseas?

1) Do your research – cultivate a cultural, historical and spiritual understanding of the country, understand the main difference in the culture you are coming from and the one you are entering. Find out what groups are already at work there, and understand how you want to partner with them. Learn some of the language.

2) Create Community – lack of support is the number one reason people leave missionary work, whether it be an organisation you are working with, a home church, a house group, your family, friends, a society, find a group of people who will partner with you, believe in you and what you are working for, a support team is really integral to any long term sustainability in missions.

3) Love God, Love Others – Missions work, especially in developing nations can be relationally, emotionally and physically exhausting, if you are not rooted in an understanding of the Love of God for you, and for the people in the World it must be entirely unsustainable. Relational conflict amongst missionaries is another major reason people leave missions work, get ready to be humble, submit to each other in love, you will likely come with cultural baggage and other westerners will more likely rub you up the wrong way than the local population. Bonhoeffer said in his book on living in Christians Community called Life Together – “If you love the vision you have for community, you will destroy community. If you love the people around you, you will create community.” There is no integrity in showing the love of God to a local community if you can’t practice it between other people working to the same end.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with YWAM?

I think I’ve already been too long winded so I’ll direct you to our website for that! –

Click here to help us by praying with us, follow us on our blog or you can sign up to receive our email updates. You can communicate our story to your local Church or housegroup and we would also hugely appreciate anyone prayerfully considering financially supporting the work we do in South Africa on a regular basis, you can find more about that here.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

1. Safety – Everyday we are working in a community with a shockingly high violent crime and murder rate and sometimes getting involved in difficult social and family situations, we haven’t had any issues so far but we certainly need God’s continued protection as we seek to be light in the darkness here.

2. Wisdom – We could get involved and see meaningful transformation in almost every sphere of society if we were to give our time to it, so please pray that we would work in strategic areas to help bring about the radical transformation Jesus announced when he was on earth.

3. Marriage – We consider a strong and loving marriage to be one of our most compelling witnesses in a community with so much unfaithfulness and broken families, please pray that we would continue to grow in our love for each other and commitment to each other.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Liam & Rachel! We will be praying for you as you prepare to get settled long-term in South Africa.

To keep up to date with what Liam and Rachel are up to, and to find out more about the different ways people can support them go to their website & blog at www.liamandrachel.com

LFS Introduces…Alece & Thrive Africa

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about what you do with Thrive Africa?

Hey! I’m Alece, Originally from New York and have lived in South Africa for almost 12 years, where I helped pioneer the ministry of Thrive Africa. I provide strategic and visionary direction to the ministry, even during this season of being Stateside.

What inspired you to start Thrive Africa?

I fell in love with Africa when I first spent a summer on her soil at 16 years old, and then I moved to South Africa by myself when I was 19. All I knew was that I felt God was leading me there and I wanted to use my life to make a difference. As I began by simply meeting needs around me, God brought clarity to my vision and my ministry work became more focused on leadership development.

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with Thrive Africa?

I’m in a unique season of restoration right now. A year ago my husband chose to leave me and the ministry to pursue another woman. The ripple effects of that decision have obviously been devastating both to me personally as well as to Thrive. By God’s grace, Thrive continues to move forward and bear fruit of changed lives under the leadership of our Director. I am spending this year Stateside, allowing the Lord to do His healing work in my heart and promoting Thrive domestically.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

What I’m most passionate about is the work we’re doing in public schools, teaching students what it means to follow Christ and make Godly choices. I believe it’s the best thing we can do to prevent the next generation from contracting AIDS.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

The challenge for me lies not in the work we’re doing, but in the work we’re still unable to do because we simply don’t have the finances yet. Our vision is bigger than we are, which is how I know God’s in it. But it is also an ongoing challenge to lack the resources and manpower to do all we want to do. The realities of poverty and HIV increase the urgency of the vision. My heart always longs to reach farther and have a greater impact than we currently are.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

We are funded solely by donations from generous people and churches across America. Support information can be found here if anyone is interested in partnering with us: http://thriveafrica.org/helpout/

Do you partner with any other organisations?

We partner locally in South Africa with over a hundred local churches of all denominations. We work with several other African-based independent missions organizations that have visions similar to ours. We also have supporting partner churches in America that run the full spectrum of denominations.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing mission/charity work overseas?

More important than Biblical training or a missions degree, is a teachable heart. For anyone doing missions work, it is vitally important to have the posture and attitude of a learner and not just a teacher. Be willing to be flexible and to learn as much as you can from the people you are going to serve. Nothing makes a missionary more effective than a teachable spirit.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you do with Thrive Africa?

You can support our work through your prayers and giving. You can help promote what God’s doing through us by telling others about us. You can also spend time on the field with us. We have programs that run two weeks, two months, one year, and three years, giving you the opportunity to serve with us for any length of time that you might be interested in.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

For Thrive, I covet your prayers for wisdom, favor, and provision as we navigate through this new season of ministry. For me personally, I’d appreciate your prayers for my heart healing and strength for the journey.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Alece. What an inspiration, we pray for continued healing and restoration for you, and for the growth and provision needed for Thrive Africa to continue its work alongside partner churches in South Africa.

You can read more on Alece’s personal story and many of her thought provoking writings on her blog Grit and Glory at www.gritandglory.com


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