Friday, December 8, 2006

No goat for me, Dad?

In all my life my Dad never sacrificed a goat to our ancestors in my honor. Today I was sitting with several of the young people that are being discipled by Pastor Mark. Two sisters that have been coming to the church here for several years were telling about difficulties at home. Their father tells them that the Bible says that they are supposed to obey him so they should sit down and pay attention while he teaches them how to worship their ancestors. They are concerned for their littler sister who is also saved but is confused between Biblical truths and the things her parents and uncle tell her. Other hard things at home challenge their patience and try their faith. It's hard to hear these things but wonderful to know that God is going to use them all for mighty things in the future.

I think the thing that I have enjoyed the very most here has been the teacher training class that I've been blessed to conduct on Saturdays. These sisters and two others from the class are excited to take over leadership of the Junior church after I leave next week. Others may become Sunday School teachers and I hope all will continue with the Saturday open air meetings. I received a thank you note this week that brought me to tears. I feel so happy and fulfilled to be ministering God's Word. There is no more precious gift than the news of how to be right with God.

L to R: Me, Boniswa, Romeo, Muhtondi, Zenele, Cindy Neilson, Thumeka, and Stacey Neilson.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Wild Animals

I just got back from a couple days at camp with youth from several area churches. And yes there were wild animals there. and yes, monkeys are cute, but in the wild they're actually pretty annoying. (Note that the monkey at left didn't pick the orange he's holding.) Actually, they're entertaining as long as it's not your stuff that they're after. For a short while there was a rumor that anyone who could hit a monkey in the head with a rock would get a free coke. That was quickly corrected as the youth leader didn't want to give away that many cokes. :-D First they came and took away my friend Wisani's apple. Just as quickly as he walked away, a monkey scampered head-first down a pole and right over to within 3 feet of everyone, grabbed the apple and ran away. We all laughed as he yelled at the insidious creature on the roof.
But that wasn't all, just when I was practicing monkey-like skills myself (see photo) they came and grabbed my sunblock (which you NEED here) and ran up on the roof with that as well. After they bit a hole in it and realized that it really didn't taste as good as they'd hoped they left it kindly on the roof for me to fetch. ...the things you learn away from home.

And while we're on the topic of animals...they have the biggest crickets here,

and a lot of other things I've never seen in real life either, like cool multi-colored lizards and baboon. I went to two game reserves. Here are a few of the pictures, there are more on my photos page.

I enjoyed the time at camp. We heard some good preaching from the book of Ephesians, especially one message on 5:14-15 "...awake thou that sleepest...see then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools..." Many of us need to be awakened, again! God has a plan for our lives that we ought to strive to fulfill!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

We had a very nice Thanksgiving meal next door at the Brunks and with Jonathon Deseno. I don’t think I’ve eaten so much at one time in a couple of years! It was so good. The Brunks are from Ohio. Mrs. Brunk says that it is her ‘biggest’ dilemma every year to know how to celebrate Thanksgiving because of the lack of Americans. Thanksgiving isn't big with the British. I was glad to be able to serve God by solving this dilemma.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time in front of the computer. I'm glad to use any skills that I have if that's what needs to be done. Please pray that I be faithful to my tasks here and not my own distractions. I was thinking this morning, as I was washing the dishes, that I’m so glad that I'm able to fit into 'normal life' here with the Grings. I wanted to experience closest to the day to day life of missions work as possible and I don't think that would have happened in weeklong blitz with a dozen people running from one thing to the next.

Many people here say ‘how is it?’, especially when you exchange greetings on the street. I learned to say Hello yesterday in Zulu, Saw’-o-bona (phonetically), when I went with Pastor Brunk and Jonathon to Katlehong township. The Brunks started working in the area about 5 years ago when they came here from Ohio. They now have Sunday school meetings that have 900 and 1300 children! God is doing a good work here and it is growing and could soon be split into 4 separate works. Pastor Brunk is discipling several individuals. One, Johannes, teaches a Bible (Theology) class on Wednesday nights. He came to the Lord several years ago through door to door visitation. Another is a Mozambican named Sergio. I was part of the Bible study with him yesterday. Pastor Brunk is working to prepare him for ministry back in Mozambique. After this Bible study Jonathon and I went walking up the street handing out tracts and talking with people. I used an Evangecube, that he had with him and some 1,000,000 Rand tracts from the ‘South African Reverse Bank’. There were kids all over the place. One kid in particular just couldn’t seem to get enough of these. I eventually started holding them up in the air one at a time and letting the children run after them as the wind blew them away. That gave me a few seconds of peace. I presented the gospel numerous times, once more effectively I think, through a young man that translated for me. Then I taught them ‘Yes, the Bible’s true’ and the actions. I'm told there are millions living in just the Katlehong township.

Oh, and I went running this morning. It’s much more difficult here at 5,000 ft. above sea level. :-) What I thought was probably a 7 minute/mile pace was really hardly even 8:00.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Hmm, not too many speak Spanish here. Actually, no one does. I found out today more about the names of the children. The names of the children here are so much different than the ones that I’m accustomed to in MN. I’m used to Donta, Dominique, Shavonte, Shanika, Marquesha, and the likes. Uncle Mike (Mike Nielson) said that that’s because of Spanish influence.

I had an encouraging day today. The highlight was definitely a time of teacher training that I led for about 6 youth from the city! It’s such a privilege to work with these ones. One gave the presentation today in her own language when we went into a very poor community to do something similar to our Wed. park ministry.

It was such a joy to hear her speak with confidence as she gave the message to the children and led the singing. Praise God!

Shame that I can’t give you much more of the details now of the many things that have been happening. The weekend is the busiest, just as at Straitgate. Developing the local British accent and tonal inflections and rather like them. Preaching again tomorrow night and doing special music. Feeling great, except for staying up too late last night (this morning really) playing Age of Empires with the Neilsons. :-) Experienced a ‘Braai’ (as in ‘Brian’) as instructed by Jono. It’s the South African bbq with their own meat similar to bratwurst. Tasted good. Pray again that I be filled to overflowing. God is giving me more understanding of the life of a missionary and how important it is that he plant and nurture those who have believed and continue in the local Church. Oh that the lives of some might see lasting change by God’s Word through me. Also do pray for Auntie Wyla, she is in much pain continually and the doctors are not able to find anything that they might do to resolve the pain.
Sooo much more...but that’s all for now.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hi everyone!

Greetings from Leondale, South Africa! I trust that these notes will prove to be an encouragement in the Lord and bring praise to Him. The first of what I expect to be five weeks here has been wonderful! I realize that many of you may be surprised at my sudden departure. Please don't think that I didn't care to tell you. It was exactly a week and a half from the time that Pastor Mark and I talked until I stepped on the airplane! Surprised was be a good word to describe me, as was excited, and even stunned as I watched the Lord everything out so quickly including several of the necessary details within just 12 hours of the time that I talked to Pastor Mark!

I've been interested in missions work for years and would be very happy if God would provide that I could minister His Word full time. I've been hoping to see Africa for some time and to learn more of the life of a missionary. For this reason I'm very happy to be staying with Pastor Mark and Auntie Wyla (as they are affectionately known.) Thursday, the 16th was their 38th wedding anniversary and and marks 53 faithful years on the mission fields of Africa. When they first came to their house here in South Africa 30 years ago there were no missionaries in the area. Now Community Bible church, two blocks away gathers several times throughout the week for prayer, Sunday services, visitation/evangelism, singing, soccer, volleyball, Bible studies, and weekday youth ministries. God raised it from nothing and now it is an active, soulwinning and discipling church from those that the Lord has brought through the Grings work here. Several other churches in nearby towns have been planted and continue, originating at CBC and still others have gone out as foreign missionaries. I love to witness the transforming and reproducing power of God.

Learn more at

Leondale is a suburb of Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. It is very modern and probably not at all what you imagine when you think, 'Josh is in Africa.' Living at the Grings home is actually similar to home in many respects. We eat mostly American foods and I have an internet connection, and I sleep on a bed with a normal spring matress. What more could a guy ask for, right? Really though, on a deeper level things are similar to home too. It's the same beautiful children as those on my bus route at home, English is predominant, sin enslaves mankind and drives him to destruction, God's Word provides hope, and it's a joy to be with God's people. I sat thinking the other day, 'Just what would tell me that I'm not in America?'

There are some big differences, and I haven't woken up confused yet about where I am. More than once though I've woken up with names running through my head of people I met recently... Easy to remember names like Wisani, Luvo, Tabesa, Thandho, Ntsako. The water here tastes different too. How do you describe tastes? Just different from anything I've tasted, yuk. Oh, and driving on the other side of the road still gets me concerned. A missionary family from the states that lives next door told me the other day that they've played jokes on Americans when they pick them up from the airport by walking to the 'driver's' side of the car while the American naturally wanders over and looks confused at the steering wheel in front of him. Another thing about driving. It's not uncommon here to be hurtling down the road at 120 or 130 kph (75 or 80 mph) and suddenly come to a traffic jam. This has happened several times. Overall, it's just a little more tense of an experience for me. Speaking of travel, walking is another good option. :-) It's very common here, and more children in the Sunday School walk than ride the bus. This culture hinders my frenetic tendencies (a little bit.)

Until later,