April 8, 2019
Written by Lindsay Shifflet
Over the next few months we would like to feature a couple stories of past East Mountain residents, highlighting where they find themselves now and what they are up to one, two or three years later. The mark of any great process or organization lies not only in how a mission is carried out in the present, but also by the mark of what legacy is left behind. One such legacy figure in the history of East Mountain is Siyanda Landzela. Hailing originally from the Eastern Cape, Siya has spent much of his life with his family in the township of Khayelitsha. Though Siya treasures the sense of community and support found in Khayelitsha, he recognizes the cycles of violence, substance abuse, and fatherlessness that continue generation after generation. A lack of positive male role models in homes is a pervading problem, and one that affected Siya personally as he grew up without a father.
Although he grew up attending Sunday school, the thrilling lure of soccer soon captured Siya's attention each Sunday. It is on the field that he met Dumisani, a pastor from Khayelitsha, and his life was radically altered. He played on the soccer team that Dumisani's church had and later started attending church as well. Both church and soccer became important areas of passion in Siya's life, especially because they introduced him to father-like mentor figures who invested in him. Up to this point, Siya had been following the direction and influences of his friends and peers. Encountering Christ in church helped him know himself better and consciously choose a more positive direction in his life. As he was poured into my various role models, Siya began wrestling with questions about who he was and what he wanted from life. The natural next question soon became, "How do I get that?"
One part of that answer came in 2017 when Dumisani informed Siya of East Mountain's six week Summit program. Siya's highlights from Summit were having a mentor hear his story and pour into him as well as having access to a fun, diverse, and caring community. Impacted by his Summit experience, Siya signed up to be a resident in 2018. Growing up in Khayelitsha where there is one dominant culture, Siya was surprised and challenged by the varied perspectives he found presented by the multiple cultures and individuals represented at East Mountain. He saw different forms of leadership than he had ever seen before, and was able to learn from those around him. He brought much wisdom and joy into the resident house, as well as screams of terror whenever he would hide behind corners and grab passerby's ankles, a favorite pastime of his.
Walking away from East Mountain, Siya marvels at how the programs offered can help any South African. East Mountain "takes you as you are," and trusts that God will work. He shares that his time at EM prepared him for his next season of life and gave him the tools to grow and live a life of leadership and impact. Being a part of East Mountain for him was, and is still, equivalent to being a part of a family.
So, where is he now? Glad you asked! Siya was connected by an EM staff member to a coding school in Cape Town where he is thriving and continually being challenged. He hopes to use this skill to impact the church. Yet his greatest desire is to be a role model for others in his community of Khayelitsha. Siya's life was changed by the Lord bringing role models into his life to invest in him, and now he is walking that same road with others to bring lasting change not only in the lives of individual people, but also in the church, the community, and the next generation.
March 25, 2019
Written by Rodney Duttweiler
While attending a gathering of mission agency leaders almost twenty years ago, a speaker named Bobb Biehl made a simple statement: When you ask shallow questions, you get shallow answers. When you ask profound questions, you get profound answers.
Biehl continues to write and speak on this topic. (https://bobbbiehl.com Asking Profound Questions Booklet) His simple axiom from years ago spins in my head constantly. I recently exited a church service on Sunday morning and asked an acquaintance, "How was your week?" I attempted an open question rather than a quick "Good morning," but he still managed to answer with a short response; "Good." I followed with a second question, "what made the week good?" He paused and admitted he had never been asked that question. He took time to think and gave a heartfelt answer. We joked about how often we don't engage such questions as it is much easier and socially acceptable to do the quick exchange of "how are you?" "Fine. And you?" "Fine thanks," after which, we carry on with our struggles and joys, untouched and unaffected by human interaction.
In the highly Islamic context where my wife and I served for over twenty years, we were always asking second questions. Before Biehl was a thought on my radar I was keenly aware of the fact that a single answer rarely unveils the true state of being or understanding. I had thousands of conversations with Muslims asking them about their faith an imploring them to come to Jesus. Early in the ministry, I was surprised when in response to my inquiring if they knew Jesus, almost all people said, "Yes, I believe in Jesus!" What? My limited information about Islam and Mohammed had not given me a net to catch this one. I quickly realized I needed to ask a second question immediately after the first: "What do you believe about Jesus?" This question stemmed from my observation that what many people know and believe about Jesus is not always incorrect but it is almost always incomplete.
In leading missionaries, church leaders, my children, and other teams, I have discovered how a second question invites others to more fully express their thoughts. In interaction with my friends and family, I have also noticed how a second question clarifies and helps us avoid unnecessary conflict.
Here are a few tips on how to reach deeper understanding and connection by asking that second question.
We must improve our listening skills. Pay attention to key words and phrases. We need to use our eyes in addition to our ears as we listen. Are people avoiding eye contact? Are they communicating anything about how they are feeling or what they are thinking by their posture? Are their answers curt or loquacious? Communication books are everywhere. Grab one of them, read up on listening skills and begin to practice them. One key skill that any of those books will emphasize is to repeat back to the speaker what you understood and give them the veto power to clarify. One tendency to avoid is to jump on a single word and start to formulate your response as the speaker is still in the process of answering. This shows you listened only enough to hear something about which you can speak.
In leading through dialogue one has to create a safe space. If the person with whom you are speaking feels unsafe, you will never get a profound answer. This may take time as we are rarely able to create a safe space at a first meeting. As a leader you create safety by remaining consistent and trustworthy. If anything said in confidence gets out, you are done. If you laugh or snicker at comments, you are not safe. If you look away or at your watch, you are disinterested and unsafe. Patience is important as you listen. Be willing to allow the person to circumnavigate the issues until they get to the point. This is not always easy but it will create safety. Quickly and kindly correct self-deprecating language on the part of the person speaking. Phrases like, "I am babbling," "I talk too much," or "I am making no sense," indicate possible past hurts. Most times I have inquired about those phrases, people use them because they were used against them at some point: "You babble," "you talk too much," "you make no sense." Those powerful phrases sting and shape us. The kind listener can free the speaker by repeating the truth to them. "You are not babbling." "You are not talking too much." "You are making sense. Keep going."
Avoid the Why
The follow-up questions should start with "how" and "what" not "why." Why, you ask? In many ways, why questions carry a verbal dart whether we mean it or not. Remember when you did something wrong and admitted it to a friend or colleague and their first question was, "why would you do that?" Arrow to the heart and soul. Many of my pain moments in ministry or life have come from those why questions, which came across as accusatory and demeaning. In my family of origin, I often heard, "why do you always find the most difficult way to do something?"
Simply using the word "how" or "what" does not magically make any accusatory question viable. How could you think that was a good idea, what were you thinking and what are you talking about? Are examples of how using these words can still come across as accusatory. By pausing to reformulate the question before asking it we will avoid unintended hurt which could derail the conversation.
Purpose and Processors
Reflect on what you are truly trying to clarify before asking the second question. If you don't, it seems like you are not listening. Be careful not to restate the obvious unless you really didn't hear. If multiple ideas and subjects are shared, a clarifying step may be to ask them to choose one direction or thought they would like to explore further.
A quick word on types of processors: Verbal processors take time to express all they are thinking and invite feedback to make sense of it all. They talk through each piece of the puzzle as they are putting it together. Their final product or thought will come at the end of a dialogue. They are still deciding and clarifying as they speak. Non-verbal processors still need to express their thoughts with a listening ear. However, they have spent a lot of time thinking and putting the puzzle together in their heads already. They may be looking for correction if their conclusions are way off or for affirmation if they are on point, but are otherwise not looking for a lot of dialogue or extra ideas.
The asking of the second question is an art. We all know people who dig for information and they certainly ask a lot of questions, however one gets the sense they may be seeking for justification for their own point of view, not seeking to understand.
Maybe an image of someone drawing water from a well is what we are looking to create. This is in contrast to the excavating machines which break up packed dirt and stone to extract what lies under the earth. Both techniques seek to retrieve something from below the surface. The one who draws out the water from the well lets the bucket or fabric settle into the water and fill up before they draw it out gently, careful not to spill or lose any of the contents. The excavator hits the ground hard and drags the teeth of the power shovel into the earth to uncover what is beneath. When they grab the loose earth to move it out of the way, there is little concern for what falls to the ground. They can always pick that up later.
Our goal should be to invite people to share what they are thinking and sensing in a safe environment, through carefully crafted questions. We want to be kind as we draw the deeper meaning and more profound expressions of those to whom we are listening. We build trust and the ability to influence through this type of listening and questioning. Like any artist, the art of asking the second question takes a lot of time. To become a better writer, you must write. To become a better painter, you must paint. To become better at asking the second question, you must practice.
What might this look like in real time and space? I remember sitting in a small structure with some of the first believers in a small church in Congo. They didn't have an ancestry of generations of believers in their families. They were hunter gatherers by tradition but were being forced to settle and establish homes and gardens by the government. They were also subject to many abuses by other, more powerful people. The Aka people are small of stature but strong of heart and will. The endured abuses for many years and were even mistreated by those who had control and influence in churches.
The men spoke of being tired and uninterested in carrying on with following Jesus. It only meant more pain and persecution. A fellow believer asked the first question, "What does the Bible say?" The Aka men quoted a couple of verses about perseverance, patience, loving enemies and receiving blessings because of it. They said the words but I wasn't convinced they believed them. Their eyes were still pained and they looked at the ground, scratching at it with sticks they used to till the soil. I asked the second question: "What would help you believe this Word from the Bible is for you today?" They replied, "if we knew others were going through the same difficulties, it would mean we are not alone."
We went to the book of Hebrews where the names of the "By Faith" people are listed. We went farther to the verses of those whose names we don't yet know. They were tortured, suffered mocking, flogging, and even chains, imprisonment and stoning and are commended for their faith.
I also shared a story of people in China who, suffering under persecution themselves asked the same question. "Are there others who suffer like us because of their faith in Jesus?" At a training for leaders from many underground churches, the Chinese believers heard of their brothers and sisters in African countries like Somalia, Congo, Algeria, Gambia and Sudan who suffered persecution for the sake of Christ and decided to rise early in the morning to pray for them. The American missionary who was present said that as he exited his room early the following morning he saw hundreds of Chinese believers on their knees praying out loud. He didn't understand the language but echoing over the low rumble of the prayers the names of countries were heard: "Somalia, Congo, Gambia" and he knew they were praying for the persecuted Christians in those places.
As I recounted the story to my brothers in the Congo, they raised their heads, put their hands to their chests and said, "they were praying for us? "They are going through what we are living?" "We are not alone then, right?" "Yes," I said. "You are not alone!" They determined to carry on in their faith and depend on the prayers of one another in the Congo but also those prayers lifted for them from China.
My eyes are full as I retell the story. It was powerful. Listening, asking a second question, creating a safe place, drawing out fears and giving hope to overcome them inspires us all.
February 12, 2019
At nine am on a cloudy Tuesday morning, our staff, residents and community members gathered together for a time of communal learning. Why? At East Mountain, one of our core values is a commitment to life-long learning. We believe true leaders are men and women who whole heartedly engage in the process of personal growth and development - head, heart, hands. In line with this value, we decided to set aside time each month to gather and learn together. Whether it be some of our own staff teaching or bringing in outside voices, our hope is to provide another avenue of inspiration and critical thinking and time together.
Our first topic was The Big Picture, A Whole Bible Overview. We focused on demonstrating how God redeems us into His covenant family through the faithfulness of His Son Jesus. Throughout the course of the day, we looked at God's covenant promises made to his people, beginning in Genesis and continuing to the coming and death of Jesus. The purpose was to help us cultivate a deeper awareness of God's Grand Plan to restore his people to a place where they can enjoy His presence forever. Looking at scripture through the lens of a progression of covenants (or development of one covenant) was invaluable, especially to give context and motivation as we jump into a year of reading through the entire Bible as a community.
As we continued through the day, reading through God's faithfulness and promise despite man's pattern for disobedience and destruction, many of us sat in our seats wondering, what do we take away from this? How do we cling to truth and hope that feels so easy to believe in the classroom but so difficult when we go out and interact in a world tormented by pain, war, sadness, and so much suffering? Jesus came as our ultimate sacrifice and invitation to be with God, and yet he also commissioned us to love God, obey him, and make disciples. We accept this as a challenge as we march into a creation that continues to reel in expectation for Jesus to return and for God to restore the world.
Revelations 22 paints a picture of this world: "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him."
We opened up the day with a tree that humans had used to send creation into a spiral of shame, disobedience and chaos. The nations throughout the Bible are generally in poor shape. Despite the hope Jesus brings, it's hard to ignore the suffering that still abounds around us. But God isn't just sitting back and letting the world tear itself up. Throughout history his plan has been to make things right, to restore the relationships of humans with creation, humans with other humans, humans with self, and everything to Himself. His kingdom is one of future restoration (the city and river and beauty painted in revelation) as well as current ongoing restoration. His tree of life with leaves for healing the nations gives us hope for this future, but also motivates us to join in this healing process right now. When it comes down to it, that's our tiny part in kingdom-building with Him. If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, we look forward to any opportunity to be his healing leaves to the nations, restoring the world to shalom alongside Him. Read more
January 28, 2019
Written by Lindsay Shifflet
Once again, as in years past, East Mountain ushered in the new year with a braai to welcome our new residents: Tamsen, Jacques, Matt, Jordan, and Azola (Stix). The braai was stocked full of meat, the kitchen sink was full of dishes, and the house echoed with laughter and conversation as our community gathered together to commemorate the beginning of a new season together. After some ice-breaker games, a meal was shared before a powerful time of worshipping, listening to the Word, and praying with one another. We were reminded of the importance of fixing our eyes on Jesus and asking Him to help us love God and our neighbor well. The 2019 resident welcome braai signifies the beginning of a focused journey full of learning more about God and loving others.
As the evening came to a close and people drifted off to their respective homes, our five new residents stayed behind for their first night in their new home. These residents represent five lives that will be challenged and changed this year for the sake of the Kingdom because they said "yes" to God's call on their lives. Five lives that will experience new relationships and opportunities that will delight and stretch them. Five lives that will be empowered to impact the world with hope, love, and wisdom in profound new ways at the end of this year by the grace of God.
With this first braai, the cusp of the unknown for this new year has been breached, and the way to go is forward. We look ahead with anticipation to see what incredible and astounding plans God has in store for our new residents, the East Mountain community, and our fellow South African partners and friends.
January 1, 2019
Written by Spanky Rouse
I have the privilege of connecting with partners here in South Africa as the partnership coordinator for East Mountain. Our mission at East Mountain is to develop Christian leaders for global missional service, so my day job consists of connecting people and organizations for kingdom purposes. If you know me, then you know that I love this kind of work.
Recently, I attended a breakfast with one of our partners and one of the top evangelical schools in Africa for training pastors and church leaders, George Whitfield College. GWC is training and preparing Africans from across the continent to lead the church with great biblical clarity. East Mountain is thrilled that several of our former residents and interns are currently studying at GWC.
During our breakfast, a professor passionately shared with us statistics on the explosion of Christianity on the continent of Africa. As I listened, I was reminded just how important our mission is for discipleship and training of young African Christian leaders! Here are some surprising stats:
In 1900, 9 million Christians were estimated to be from Africa
In 2000, 380 million African Christians (a 4000% growth!)
In 2025 there is projected to be 700 million Christians in Africa! Gordon Conwell
Today, 1 in 4 Christians are African and in the next 50 years it will be 1 in 3. Africa will soon be the centre for worldwide Christianity.
Why is the church growing so fast?
Africans might be the best evangelists. Why? From my observations, they are for the most part a communal society, passionate communicators, and unashamed of their beliefs - beliefs in God or beliefs in soccer, it doesn't matter. Whatever they love and hold close, they will passionately and unashamedly let you know.
Also, mission efforts over the past 100 years have been focused on evangelism. This isn't a negative, but it isn't complete in fulfilling the Gospel. We need to lead people to Jesus and then walk with them through life to help them grow in their relationship and understanding of Jesus and the Bible.
What issues might come out of the rapid growth of Christianity?
Let me give you a real-life scenario that is taking place today as you read this and takes place every day across Africa. I think it will clearly demonstrate the need for discipleship and leadership development.
A young man heads to the big city to get a job so he can take care of his family. While in the city, someone passionately, unashamedly, and honestly shares the good news of Jesus with him while he is in the taxi. The man returns to his village and begins to share with others the love of Jesus and all that he has been reading in the Bible. After just a few months, there are now 100 people in his village that have put their faith in Jesus. They want to gather weekly for fellowship and learn more about the Bible. This is a good size church in an African village. Now the questions arise...
Who is going to lead this church?
Who is going to teach the Bible accurately?
Who is going to disciple all of these people into strong, growing, Bible-believing Christ followers?
The young man that just a few months ago became a Christian himself but still doesn't understand the much of the Bible, has never been discipled, and has never led a group of people?
The problem with this scenario is exactly what you can imagine. No one has ever taught him about the Bible or how to read it. No one has ever discipled him and showed him what a godly man looks like. No one has ever warned him against false teaching. He has grown up with tribalism and animism ingrained into his thinking. It will not be easy for him to clearly differentiate from correct teaching and corrupt teaching.
East Mountain seeks to address this real need in Africa for more trained Christian leaders for the rapidly growing church. We develop emerging leaders in the areas of Biblical knowledge, practical ministry and leadership skills, as well as spiritual life disciplines in an intentional multicultural environment. We commit ourselves to this holistic training so leaders gain what they truly need to in order to fulfil the mission of reaching the continent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and discipling believers to maturity in Christ. This is what East Mountain strives to achieve. That is our hope for what we do, and we believe this is God's call on our family for this season.
October 15, 2018
Written by Lindsay Shifflet
On any given Monday or Wednesday afternoon, you can find the EM Spark cruising along the 310. Enveloped by the sprawling township of Khayelitsha on one side and the rolling Atlantic Ocean on the other, our fellow EM residents hang a right toward Mitchell's Plain, one of the largest coloured townships in the Western Cape. Vibrantly colored houses line the streets. Each sidewalk corner boasts a unique display of wares for sale that include anything from a thirty rand sack of potatoes to a puppy to a left boot.
From the humble schoolyard of Trinity Children's Centre, you can hear the sound of children yelling with joy as they are released for their sports time. Coaches Zach, Zuzu, and Will stand in the yard, bracing themselves for hugs from kids running towards them at breakneck speed with all of the enthusiasm and anticipation of children who have been in classes all day and are ready for some action.
Trinity is now five years old, and each new year of its existence marks the beginning of a new grade added to the school's repertoire. Students who started at Trinity as preschoolers are now in grade four. The school strives to approach the care and education of the children from a holistic perspective, and this includes their physical health. This concern for physical health links right into what Zach, Zuzu, and Will have had the opportunity to engage with this past year with their physical education classes. These classes are not only really fun, but they are also powerful in their formation of the character of the kids.
Sports time starts off with laps, stretches, breathing exercises, and prayer. Then the games begin. Hula-hooping, jump roping, bean-bag-tossing, soccer, can-jam.... You name it, it's been played in the Trinity yard. The teachers, affectionately referred to as coaches, use this time to help the kids develop their physical health, motor skills, and basic sports skills. There are also plenty of opportunities to teach valuable themes such as teamwork, respecting authority, sportsmanship, and healthy competition.
Despite the fun, teaching the P.E. classes isn't always easy. The realities of gunshots, drugs, and gangsterism are ever-present in the backdrop of Mitchell's Plain. Trinity lies on the border between two warring gangs, and the teachers have to be prepared for anything. Another significant challenge is the diversity of backgrounds represented by the kids. For many of the children, the realities of living in Mitchell's Plain are real and tangible within their own homes. The difficult home settings that some of the kids come from creates a context around misbehavior in class that can be hard to fully understand and address. Even within one grade, there is a wide array of emotional ages and maturity levels present. Zuzu, Zach, and Will have all learned this year how to engage more effectively with kids who are acting out in class with compassion and a better understanding of trauma and its effects, especially under the guidance of Autumn who works at Trinity on a daily basis.
As our residents grew to understand the children and their contexts, a vision for more intentional one-on-one time and engagement beyond the P.E. classes was born. Mere weeks later, Wednesday afternoons at Trinity became a space for an after-school program. The program focuses mostly on grades three and four. In the township context, these children are on the cusp of having to grow up very quickly, and this program meets the need to provide encouragement and connection with them in this influential time in their lives.
After a brief time outside to play games, the kids are split into boys and girls groups for homework time. The snacks are busted out, and it's down to business as class projects and tutoring are tackled. Afterwards is an engagement time where the kids talk about what has been going on in their lives and share prayer requests. The themes of teamwork and respecting authority that they learn in P.E. are played out in this time as well. Overall, the program serves to provide a safe place for the kids, and allows Zuzu, Will, and Zach to be more present with smaller groups in order to build stronger relationships with them.
Though different in many ways, the P.E. classes and after-school program hold one common theme: they are comprised of many small efforts, words, and gestures that build up to make an impact--even in the midst of schoolyard chaos. One minute you'll hear a coach telling a kid "No, you cannot take your pants off right now!" And yet, only a moment later, you will see another coach lean down, look a child in the eye as they face a daunting activity, and say "You are capable. You can do this." The latter phrase is one of many small ways that our EM coaches invest in the kids.
And it is in those many small moments that Zach, Zuzu, and Will have been able to join Trinity in its mission to see impact, growth, and hope. This mission is seen in the enthusiasm of a kid showing off a new trick or dance move, the warmth of a bone-crushing hug from three children at once, or the joy of a five year old feeling seen and known because you remembered their name and asked about their week. The kids receive encouragement and positive affirmation that crowns them with dignity and enrobes them with the truth that they are worthy of love, no matter what they experience or hear when they aren't at school.
In the end, the realities of preparation, the need for flexibility, and the importance of managing expectations are all challenges in the children's ministry field. A well-structured vision and picture perfect plan goes awry more often than not when working with kids, and Trinity is no exception. And yet, God works in grand ways amidst plans gone awry. In chaos and uncertainty, He uses small things we would never expect to form the heart of a child. In Zach, Zuzu, and Will's small acts of faithfulness to be present with the kids and love them well, God is faithful to do more than we could ever imagine. The few hours a week the residents spend there play a small yet vital role in raising up the next generation of leaders in Mitchell's Plain. A small role that will send ripples throughout time as these little children grow up to one day become leaders and role models who will affect great change in their communities, and in their country. For they are certainly capable, and the Trinity school yard serves as a small yet vital place of impact to remind them of that.
July 10, 2018
Written by Tori O'Connor
Eager, willing, hungry. Three characteristics that merely scratch the surface in describing the 2018 East Mountain Summiteers. These are the kind of characteristics that every Summit coordinator hopes (and prays!) to have in those he or she is spending the next six weeks with. By God's grace, He blessed our community with six extremely eager, willing, and hungry individuals.
Eager to embrace every class, workshop, ministry, and person they encountered. Willing to be challenged, molded, and stretched in their understanding of who they are and who God is. Hungry to know God in deeper and more profound ways...as well as for mama Kat's delicious food. As much as we hoped and prayed that the Summiteers would walk away being blessed by our community, I can say with confidence that they have blessed us in return and left their mark on each of us.
Throughout the six weeks, I often found myself pausing and realizing how absolutely spoiled I was to have the vantage point of the Summiteers that I did. I saw them at 6:45 in the morning when we would drag ourselves out in the freezing-cold, pitch-black mornings to drive to Theology class, I saw them come alive singing and dancing during 10-minute car rides to the grocery store, and I saw them in moments of stillness late at night when exhaustion and deep thoughts encompassed their mind. These moments are significant. They are the moments when all guards come down and you're really just living life with people - authentically and organically getting to know one another in simple day-to-day tasks. They are the moments when you see strengths and qualities that are natural God-given gifts in each of them. They are the moments that allowed me to know them more than just my interns, but more as friends, brothers & sisters, family.
East Mountain desires to cultivate a Christ-centered community while developing leadership skills amongst those we have the privilege to invest in. One of the Summiteers expressed to me, "Tori, I have learned so much through conversations and observation of the East Mountain staff as they have addressed situations and people. Apart from the workshops and teachings and events, I am learning leadership through simply watching and engaging other people."
Let us continue to create spaces to see each other in the day-to-day seemingly insignificant moments of life. These are the spaces where authenticity is found and where community flourishes. They are the moments where we can encourage, exhort, and stimulate one another to continue the missional work that is before us. Let us strive to be a living example to others of Christ-like leadership who loves all who cross our path. Read more
May 21, 2018
Written by Lindsay Shifflet
Tucked neatly within the hills of a farming community off of R 44 in Somerset West is the Helder Valley Community Learning Centre. Standing stoically like a proud and seasoned soldier, the rugged main building embodies the space of joy and safety that this center has been to generations of children. The sound of Afrikaans melds with snatches of dialects from Zimbabwe and the screams of delighted children. Soccer balls are the hottest commodities, and there's a feeling of joy in the air synonymous with the freedom that comes at the end of a school day.
Helder Valley Community Centre serves many purposes, and has for years. The children that are served by this centre are from families that have lived in the surrounding farming community for generations, and they range from grade R up to high school. Homework tutoring in reading and math is provided, but the most powerful impact of the centre is the space that it creates for the kids in the community to spend time with their friends in a place that allows them to be what they are--kids. For them, the community center is a place to come after school that is safe, fun, and engaging. This is no small blessing. With drugs, alcoholism, and abuse being stark realities in their lives, the environment that the centre fosters in the community cannot be overstated.
The centre also acts as a place for the kids to be poured into and challenged. The Rouse family who serve as missionaries with East Mountain come to the center several times a week to build relationships with the kids and love on them. This could include anything from helping with after-school tutoring to playing rounds of soccer to baking muffins for someone's birthday. Their time at the center embodies much of what East Mountain desires to focus on in regard to building relationships and discipleship. They work in partnership with Louise, a woman from the community who was herself impacted by the centre growing up. She is an integral part of everything that happens there, and her passion to serve the kids is evident not only in the commitment she has to pour out, but also in the respect that the kids show her in return. The work that both she and the Rouse family do embodies a very natural and organic kind of ministry that is conducive to building trust and strengthening relationships. This allows for tough questions to be asked, and truth and encouragement to be shared.
Lastly, occasional workshops are offered at the centre. East Mountain resident Marlyn teaches a couple of dance classes each week for different age groups. The younger kids delight in the way that she combines dancing with games, singing, and yelling. The joy radiating from that class is contagious. With the class for the older kids however, Marlyn shifts her focus to lessons underlying the dance moves she teaches. As she instructs dance, she also focuses intensely on leadership by asking her older students to help her lead the younger students, and expecting them to give her 100% effort. Amidst the kindness and fun Maryln brings to her class, she also expects the best from her students, and they respect her for it. She does an incredible job choreographing dances, but she also develops character and inspires young leaders. She believes in them, challenges them, and loves them.
The relationships and natural opportunities for discipleship that both Marlyn and the Rouse family are able to engage in at Helder Valley are tangibly affecting the young people that come to the centre every week. In the many small things of life such as a hug on a bad day, an answer to a tough question about home, or a friend to play soccer with, the power of investing in others with empowering love is creating change and impacting the Helder Valley community.
September 27, 2016
Written by Karen & Phil Dubert
Karen & Phil moved to South Africa in 2012 to live in the EM community and serve as members of EM full-time staff.
Timothy Fellowship, the one year foundational Bible study cohort in Port Elizabeth. Each month I (Karen) fly to Port Elizabeth to spend a Saturday working with a dedicated group of lay ministers hungry to know God's word more intimately. This year has been an exciting time of intellectual growth, spiritual communion and deep fellowship. We have grown to love and delight in one another. When Nonhlanhla texted that she would not be able to make class last month, Xoliswa texted her:
"This is our third last class. If you are dead can't you ask somebody to stand for you in the mortuary until you come back?"
That's how much this time of iron-sharpening-iron has come to mean to us. Each session includes parts of : a Bible overview, Bible study methods, hermeneutics and exegesis (and yes, we know what those words mean now), Spiritual formation, and learning the Catechism. We have had special guests come to teach: Sue taught us Inductive methods during two classes and Afrika Mhlope (author of "Freed by God Imprisoned by Culture") came to speak to us on veneration of ancestors for several hours. Talk about being challenged and having our worldview shaken!
These beginners' steps into knowing and loving the Word of God for ourselves have been life- giving. Feeling that we are able to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" --or at least heading in the right direction, gives us a sense of awe that we, children of our Heavenly Father have been so entrusted.
We have mourned with each other over the passing of family members, rejoiced over new lives coming into families, and celebrated milestones attained. We laugh. We encourage. We grow. We talk and question. Next year, Lord willing, some of these participants will be facilitating the year- long course in their own parishes.
August 23, 2016
Written by Matthew Davis
Matthew Davis is currently living in Texas, USA, and recently served as the Scholar-in-Residence for East Mountain's 6-week intensive internship program, Summit 2016.
I want to think about a word 'perspective' for a moment.
What definitions come to mind? What images?
Perhaps the word brought to mind a definition or two, like "point of view" or a particular "attitude." Perhaps you went another step, thinking of an example from your own life or in recent events. And this is exactly what I want to talk about today.
It is an early morning here in Texas as I write this. Having recently returned from South Africa, where I was humbled to have served as East Mountain's scholar-in-residence for the 2016 Summit, the word 'perspective' has been very near to my thoughts and lips. Friends and family have asked about my time. They are eager for stories and pictures, and in the midst of it, the word comes back again and again. When I scroll through social media apps, again and again: perspective.
Here are some of those thoughts...
This year's interns came to Summit for a variety of reasons and from a variety of places. They all brought not just clothes, Bibles, and toothbrushes, but also their own stories. They brought every joy and trial, and every idea of themselves, of this world, and God. I did too.
Together we went through Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We wrote down every 'identity marker,' that is, every place where Paul tells us who we are (and who we were). We talked about the plan of God for this world and the direction of history. We talked about how we should live. And in the midst of it all, God began to adjust their perspective.
I know I keep using that word, but, honestly, maybe it's because so often it does not mean for us what we think it means. We think of 'perspective' and see our own point of view and our own attitude. When we do, we mostly look at our own feet and think our own thoughts; we reach out and try to grasp our own breath. And when we are not thinking of ourselves, we are thinking of the world and its direction. We seek its counsel or we see what events unfold day after day. Often we are left with a desperate, terrible glimpse. What, then, shall we do? How must we live? We need to live from God's perspective.
Living in a busy household where privacy is but a moment and every day of six weeks is planned, I witnessed the Summit interns practice the things that Paul preached in Ephesians (many of which weren't planned). Their humility and leadership were evident as they brought up issues and practiced forgiveness. They encouraged one another, each intern one by one. They prayed for one another. They gathered together many evenings singing songs of worship. They broke bread together. They laughed. They hoped.
Then they all went back home.
But do you know what they took with them? Pictures, memories, and a cool t-shirt? Yes, of course. But also this: a taste, a glimpse of God's perspective!
Perspective needs vision and distance. Grasping God's perspective allows us a peek into reality, because it alone offers the eternal vision and distance necessary to grasp who we are and where history is headed. If we look into our own past and what's going on in this world, we don't see hope or a future; we see chaos. But Paul offers to us the gospel's perspective of reality. He calls us to look much further back and much further ahead.
And this is good news! Why? It means that before it all began and after it all ends, it is God's perspective that will remain. It means that you have a hope and a future because of the death and resurrection of Christ.
It means that, because of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the church is now a cosmic witness of God's radical reconciliation plan. It means that we are, as theologian Stanley Grenz calls the church, a 'pioneer community.' And our Summit interns are back on the frontier, having taking with them that glimpse of God's perspective. They are the ones telling the world, "Come and see. For we are the ones that have tasted and seen!" Read more