Return to Ha Makopela: Fanning the Glowing Embers
Our return outreach to Ha Makopela was truly an adventure that required faith, perseverance, selflessness and courage! However, with the majority of the team being seasoned veterans and the first-timers rising to the occasion, it was a rich, successful, and immensely enjoyable time. We left early on Monday morning the 8th of December and enjoyed the three-hour drive through the stunning Maloti Mountains. The weather was much better than our previous trip, and we were able to enjoy the incredible views and warm temperatures.
Upon arrival in Ha Makopela just before noon, we were greeted by the kids of the village running to the road yelling songs from the games we had taught them the previous year. We quickly set up our living quarters, the boys and the kitchen in one two-roomed house and the girls and Godfrey and Elizabeth in two rooms at the neighbor’s house. It was such a blessing to stay with those two neighboring families as opposed to on our own last year; we were able to deeply connect with them and truly felt like part of the community. The afternoon was spent playing with the kids who gathered to see us and going to the chief’s house to announce our arrival. After supper we had team devotions and games, and from the very beginning it was clear this was going to be a unique adventure. We experienced powerful unity and focus within the team, and the way we were able to step right back into our relationships and activities in the community encouraged us that the Lord planned to take us deeper. We were not mistaken!
The weekly program remained consistent Tuesday through Sunday, except for a team outing on Saturday afternoon. After breakfast we had a time of devotions and prayer, then went into the community in teams of four to visit people in their homes. We reconnected with friends we had met the previous year and visited new families. Our goal was to build relationships, serve our new friends, and share with them the Jesus whom we know and love. A lot of that time was spent chatting about life, discussing our challenges, reading the bible and praying together. After lunch we would gather the children and youth for games, small group discussions, and bible study. After a bit of initial shyness, the kids warmed back up to us and we were able to have genuine discussions about life and God’s best for us in the areas of salvation, purity, forgiveness, and the true meaning of Christmas and how to best celebrate the season. After supper we were blessed by teachings, discussions, and prayer before ending the night with games. A hike down to the river and adjacent waterfall supplemented our team time and we had such a great time playing, laughing, swimming, talking and enjoying the beauty of creation. By the end of the week we were tired physically, but incredibly energized spiritually and found it terribly hard to say goodbye. There was even talk of leaving one or two behind to encourage the disciples!
What made this outreach unique was the way the Lord grew each and every one of us and bound us together as a team with chords of love and unity that nothing could break. The week was not without challenges, but each one was faithful to receive grace from the Father to respond well to each difficulty, to forgive each fault, and to fix his or her eyes on Jesus and remain faithful to the mission. As disciples devoted to making disciples of these youth, who will in turn make disciples of others, we were immeasurably blessed and rewarded by what we saw in the young men and women the Lord has entrusted to us. The maturity, spiritual depth, compassion, true joy, and passion for Christ each one exhibited was delightful to behold. We took turns leading morning devotions, youth programs, and evening sessions and it was deeply satisfying to be impressed, challenged, ministered to and refreshed by what came from the hearts of our youth leaders. They were taken to another level in their relationship with the Lord and their ability to love, serve and lead others. We pray that this growth continues as we have returned home and back to our homes and normal routines.
In addition to the growth and new experiences we desired for our team, our mission in returning to Ha Makopela was to encourage those we had connected with the previous year, make new disciples of Jesus, and leave a lasting impact that would carry on even after we had gone. At the end of our first outreach we left some of the older youth who showed potential with the responsibility of continuing to gather and lead the children in studying the Bible, praying together, and sharing their challenges. They were not able to maintain the momentum we gained during the week in the village, but had continued to meet in small groups in their schools. We trust that after our return this past year the others will have an interest in continuing to gather in the large group, and the leaders we have entrusted with the role to persevere will have the devotion and wisdom to guide them. The house visits of the 2013 outreach had resulted in many people giving their lives to Jesus and many more sharing their struggles with us and experiencing the Lord through our prayers. We had encouraged them to gather as neighbors, those we had connected with, and a few of them did so throughout the year but most expressed disappointment that others showed no interest in meeting. Undeterred, we encouraged them again this second time to continue to gather even after we are gone as it is the Lord who impacted their lives through bible study and prayer, not us. This second time in Ha Makopela we sensed we were fanning the glowing embers of faith in peoples’ hearts. The Lord had sparked a fire in 2013, and for many it dimmed throughout the year, but had not died. When we returned we saw the glow, fanned the ember and many rekindled into flame! Our prayer is that the sparks and flames that have been revived continue to burn and grow as people press into the Lord and encourage one another in their faith journeys. We trust that when we return again we will find them further than where we left them and ready to go deeper and invite others to join them!
Our desire is to return to Ha Makopela twice this year, so we are able to do our part in maintaining the work the Lord is doing in that community. Please pray with us that God will open the doors for this to happen; that we will have two teams willing and available to go and the finances and time resources to do so.