WEEK 1 | South Africa
Greetings from South Africa!
We are about half way through our time here and we are amazed at how quickly the time is going by. We are late with this blog post because we have not had electricity or internet for portions of the trip. Our goal is to get one out every week, so we hope to get another one out a few days after this one so we can get back on track.
We spent the first few days traveling and getting acclimated to our surroundings and food!
Sunday morning, we attended one of Pastor Surprise’s original churches in Backdoor. Surprise Sithole is a great man of God, a father, a husband, and a leader. He has been apart of planting thousands of churches across the African continent and is affiliated with Iris Ministries. His amazing story is in his book, “Voice in the Night”. Attending one of his original churches in Backdoor was an incredible experience for the whole team. The church reminded us of Grace Center in the way that the church culture valued the presence of God and was ready and willing to change plans for the Holy Spirit. We also had a blast doing group dances with the congregation! Nathan, Marc and Aimee gave 2-5 minute testimonies in front of the entire congregation. Touching on a taboo topic in the region, Nathan shared how God healed him from depression and boldly asked people to stand up if, like himself, they struggled with depression or anxiety in the past and wanted to walk in the light and receive prayer.
Sunday afternoon was spent at another church affiliated with Pastor Surprise, but this church was in Nelspruit and the members were mostly Afrikaans (predominately white). At the beginning of service, Silvia and Cameron gave 5 minute testimonies about their walks with God. We believe that their testimonies, along with Pastor Surprise’s message on God’s amazing faithfulness and miracles, succeeded in stirring up the congregation and made them want more of God. After the message, we started doing the stuff (this is our playful phrase for praying for healing, prophesying, and doing deliverance) for the first time this trip! More than 20 people came to the front to receive prayer. We prayed for a woman’s shoulder and saw God heal her immediately. There was a woman who needed surgery in her eyes and could barely see; we prayed for her and she could see clearly. We prayed for a man with cancer and didn’t see him healed right away but are believing for healing for him. We also got to honor and prophecy over people and watch God touch their hearts. Our team members felt like our healing and prophetic gifts were amplified compared to how the gifts feel back home.
On Tuesday morning, we got to attend Surprise’s “School of Supernatural” where he talked about dealing with rejection and how it can keep us from deeper relationship with God and others. Many of our team members were encouraged to see someone who is such an outwardly focused evangelist, church builder, and itinerant speaker understand the importance of looking inward and inviting Holy Spirit and other people into places of past rejection. This sort of inner healing is highly valued at our home church, Grace Center. Some of us joked, “We flew half way around the world to do more inner healing!?” After his message, we got the opportunity to prophecy and pray over the other missionaries who were in attendance, and we saw many people get touched by God. Silvia and Nathan even got to prophecy over Pastor Surprise himself. It is important to note that we have all been learning from watching how Pastor Surprise leads with humility. At the church in Backdoor, the church in Nelspruit, at his school, and later on at one of his churches in Gutshwa, you can see him blending in with the rest of the congregation, taking time to honor Jesus, sneaking in unnoticed and standing at the back of the church, and always living with an incredible amount of joy. He is a great model for how to walk in God’s Presence, peace, humility, and joy.
Tuesday afternoon was spent doing practical projects around Michael’s Children’s Village. We organized donations, cleaned buildings, and took care of those pesky ants! Tuesday night was the first of six days in a row at the annual Gutshwa revival. We packed into a small tent and enjoyed worship, dancing, and fellowship with the people of Gutshwa. One of our trip leaders, Amanda Van De Sompele, spoke on what it looks like to fully let God into our house (life) and move things around in our lives to accommodate Him, rather than just opening the door and not letting Him in. After the message, we had folks stand if they wanted to fully let Jesus into their house. We prayed for a Gogo (Grandma) who needed deliverance from her partnership with ancestral worship. We instantly saw her eyes lighten up and her countenance change. We saw her laughing and talking more in the following days. We saw her at the revival nearly every night for the rest of the week and are confident she will be prosperous moving forward.
Wednesday morning, we had a group worship session in our beloved prayer hut with other missionaries in the village. That afternoon was spent at a local hospital praying for the sick. God moved in powerful ways. We saw many people get healed. Silvia, Mark, and Lee prayed for a baby who was alone in a bed, feeding through a tube, and was running a high fever. Her eyes were unresponsive. Silvia and Lee laid hands on her and she responded to the presence of God. She began to breathe easily. We prayed for 5 other babies and their fevers went down. After prayer, people who were minimally responsive began praising God and thanking us. Staff members also received prayer and experienced healing of aches and pains in their bodies. Wednesday night was day 2 of the Gutshwa revival. For the message that night, our team member, Sam Kessler, spoke on forgiveness. It was powerful message. At the end, many people stood up to receive prayer, and many were healed and delivered.
Thursday afternoon was spent partnering with Dignity Ministry, a ministry dedicated to rescuing people from a life on the streets. Teams were sent out on to Anderson Street, which is considered the darkest street in Nelspruit, with the task of ministering to the broken hearted, forgotten, and helping them encounter God’s love and healing power. We prayed for many people and watched as God touched them. We prayed for the eyes of a shoemaker and on our way back, we saw him working without his glasses. Our team faced some challenges during this time of ministry. We saw amazing miracles but the people rarely reacted to being healed, set free, etc. like we experience back home. We know now that this is for many reasons. One, the supernatural is more commonplace here. Two, if you show a reaction you are charged more money by the witchdoctors, spiritists, and corrupt ministers. Three, some cultures here are taught that if you laugh and smile today you will cry tomorrow. This day was also a huge learning opportunity for several people on our team. We were reminded that without love, our works are useless (1 Corinthians 13). We realized that we need to focus on loving the people we encounter, follow the Holy Spirit, and maybe “see the stuff”.
-Written by Cameron Hunt