30 March 2013


Each Friday Hannah and I hang out with a group of young orphans at a crèche in the township of Alex. Granny Evelyn, the Mother Theresa of Alex, cares for the children from 7 am to 5 pm each day out of the goodness of her heart and without monetary compensation. Many of the children even live with Granny, who offers them asylum from their atrocious family situations. My days with these kids are a life highlight, so I was very disturbed by a call I received from Hannah late one night this week. Gomolemo, one of the youngest children at the crèche, died of a chest virus on Monday. Gomolemo had been in my arms just days before. I had fed him and hugged him. And now this sweet baby is dead. 

I committed to doing life with these people. This week I learned that doing life together means doing death together. 

Early Thursday morning Hannah and I traveled into the heart of Alex to the home of Gomolemo's family. We were invited inside as relatives gathered to mourn the loss of this child, whose body lay in the back room, from which a stream of silently sobbing people continuously flowed all morning. Later, under the shade of a white tent, a pastor poured words of encouragement and prayer over the bereaved family, and the crowd sang hymn after hymn. The repeated lyrics were a salve rubbed into their still bleeding wounds of grief. I was struck with how the chorus of African a cappella voices, at times the world's most joyful noise, could sound so mournful. Although mainly Zulu was spoken, the sorrow of the words needed no translation. 

We made our way to the graveyard and, under the white hot sun, watched as the tiny coffin was lowered into the ground. The crowd stood in silence as friends of the family shoveled dirt into the hole, then covered the mound with flowers. My heart is still heavy with the memory of Gomolemo's young mother, with Gomolemo's bright round eyes, hunched and sobbing at the graveside. As we stood on the cusp of Good Friday, I understood the despair of this day in a fresh way. But the attending pastor offered this resonant thought: When a parent buries her child, she buries that which was her future. But today we must refuse to bury our hope with the body of that baby. 

I can think of a few people whose hope was sealed in a tomb with the lifeless body of that which was their future, their Messiah, their Jesus. Good Friday realized the greatest fears of Christ's followers. Fortunately, Sunday soon follows Friday.

While precious Gomolemo's death is final, our hope still abounds. In fact, it is because our Jesus died and rose again that we can even bear this baby's death. Christ's death and resurrection supply us with the gift of eternity with Him and are, therefore, the wellsprings of every hope we have in this life. I firmly believe that Gomolemo is now whole and free in the presence of his Maker. Although he was spared what likely would have been an ugly life, the loss is no less agonizing. As we mourn the life of our baby angel this week, I'm claiming the triumphant truth spoken by Pope John Paul II:

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the people of Easter and Hallelujah is our song.

Refuse to bury your hope, because our Hope is alive. Today the tomb is empty. 

24 March 2013


A few weeks ago we were given the really tough job of hanging out with nine awesome missionary kids while their parents attended a retreat at the fabulous Sun City, about 2.5 hours outside of Jo'burg. Among our many adventures of the week: two game drives, one at sunrise and one at sunset. We saw Africa in all its glory, my friends. 


photo credit: Hayley and Katy

05 March 2013


I've been trying to form this post for a few weeks now. The experience I'm about to describe was so unique, so special that I can't seem to capture it effectively with words. Truly, you had to be here. But I'll attempt to provide you a glimpse into my time in an abandoned house on Hunter Street in downtown Jo'burg.

Some context: I've been attending a fabulously vibrant black church called Bellevue Baptist. The church is adjacent to a crumbling old house, long condemned and abandoned. A variegated group of  people (ranging from infants to grandmothers) have been squatting on the property for years now, and, despite their efforts, the members of Bellevue Baptist have had very little success in reaching the residents of this home. Most notably, several young prostitutes live there. These are the women we have been called to befriend. 

A few Saturdays ago we, accompanied by two men from Bellevue, decided to knock on the gate of this decaying mustard yellow house. In typical African fashion, chairs were offered from the house and we sat on the veranda in the company of four gorgeous young women for the entire afternoon. We talked for hours of their backgrounds, children, hopes, and (finally) beliefs. Without agenda, we discussed Jesus and sin and judgement and the mystery of justification through faith. The four women listened so carefully, weighed in with their own opinions, and asked lots of questions. In some of the most precious moments of my life, we were able to communicate the truth of grace -- mystifying, undeserved, scandalous grace -- to ears who had never heard. These women, so kind and charming and confused and entrapped, shed tears over this novel idea that even they could be forgiven. The fading light of evening, the shadow of the crowded clothesline striping our faces, the still summer air, our hands grasped together in prayer. These are details I will never forget because they accompanied one of the most beautiful presentations of the Gospel I have ever witnessed. I heard the Gospel with new ears that night, because I saw all of mankind represented in those four women. We are all harlots, unfaithful to the One who loves us most. 

As I sat with these four beautiful prostitutes, I couldn't help but remember an encounter with four burqa-clad women during a visit to a mosque several weeks ago. Although poised at the opposite end of the spectrum, these Muslim women were as lost as the prostitutes. As different as the situations were, they both serve as such vivid portraits of entrapment. Antithetical, yet interchangeable, portraits. And the Gospel found it's way to all of them. To God be the glory for this miracle. 

As I write I'm listening to one of my favorite songs, "Wedding Dress" by Derek Webb. 'Cause I am so easily satisfied by the call of a lover so less wild… I am a whore, I do confess, and I put you  on just like a wedding dress and run down the aisle. I'm a prodigal with no way home. I put you on just like a ring of gold, and I run down the aisle to you. 

It is only by God's unfathomable grace that I do not live in that yellow house on Hunter Street, forced into prostitution just to be able to eat. But my life -- all our lives -- is marked by unfaithfulness to the ever-faithful Jesus. Allured by the call of countless other lovers, I abandon the perfect call of Christ. Our "prostitution" may be manifested literally (as in the case of my four new friends), but probably comes as rebellion, greed, pride, or self-obsession. But as the Bible so beautifully reminds us in the stories of Gomer and Rahab and Mary Magdelene, our whoredom is forgiven and cured by Jesus. His unconditional love transcends my sedition. He has even given me the honor of inviting four lost lambs in to the fold. 

I ask you to pray for the salvation of these four women. We have continued to visit them weekly, and one friend has come to Bellevue several Sundays in a row. This is huge progress and celebration is undoubtedly erupting in Heaven as the Lord draws these women closer to Himself. Pray for my friends to accept the sweet call of the one and only Lover of their souls. 

04 March 2013


Lots of good things happening on this side of the world, but there are not enough hours in the day to write about them! This weekend we had the pleasure of attending a wedding shower for Angela, a wonderful friend at our church. Now, this was not your Southern-sundresses-sandwiches-pearls-and-petit-fours deal. We began with a sermon, then spent about seventy-five percent of the party dancing. African ladies know how to celebrate. In fact, it's hard to get a good photo because of all the dancing!