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
July 19, 2016
Written by Ronn and Aladrian Elmore
Ronn and Aladrian are Americans, former church leaders who moved to South Africa earlier this year to live in the EM community and serve as members of EM full-time staff.
Sixteen weeks. Not very much time in a missionary's life. It seems like we've been serving with East Mountain so much longer. Everything is new and so very unfamiliar--new country, community, customs, cuisine, languages, laws, practices, procedures, expectations, work, and relationships (let's not talk about driving). The only things familiar are what we brought with us--our clothes, our prayers, and each other. What an adventure we're having, and we're so grateful.
God's timing in our lives has been amazing. We arrived at East Mountain (EM) just days before the Battle for the Hearts (B4H) retreat, which afforded us the privilege of getting to know and be known by our new community very quickly. We were embraced by each EM household; and, we fell in love with the residents whom we adopted as surrogate offspring. We quickly became family.
So much has happened in this short period ... Both of us have preached at a local church, and Aladrian has sung there on several occasions. Ronn has preached, taught, and counseled in the Western and Eastern Cape areas. He was even asked to candidate to be pastor of a local church and (only half-jokingly) Bishop of an Eastern Cape diocese. Talk about jumping in with both feet!
And, God continues to remind us that He's in control here in South Africa.
We've met South Africans changing the world like Desiree, Branch Manager of Learn to Earn, a discipleship for residents of high-unemployment communities; and Enoch, a Zimbabwean pastor called to South Africa, who also tends lions, tigers, jaguars and cheetahs in a big cats preserve at a local winery; and Marie, an Afrikaans woman called to meet the needs of the down-trodden in her Paarl community and to challenge Afrikaaners concerning the validity of their relationship with God. Read more
It's been an exciting life so far, filled with challenges and much joy. We are honored that the Lord called us to partner with Him in this beautiful part of the world. And, we are grateful for our East Mountain community. We look forward to more adventures to come.
June 21, 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.
We are in the middle of Summit and if there is one thing we want to do, it's feed our interns well. They have an over-flowing schedule, plenty of studying, ministry commitments, and adventures to go on. So, we feel it is necessary to provide adequate nutrition.
But on a Saturday night three weeks into the journey, they each came to the dinner table with a small coloured square which was placed before them. If they had a blue square, they received a plate of pap (stiff corn meal), a large spoonful of beans, half a boiled carrot, and a spoon to eat with. If they had a yellow square, they received a plate with a quarter loaf of brown bread, a spoonful of jam, the other half of someone's boiled carrot and a helping of those same beans. They all drank black, terrible coffee, the blue squares had one spoonful of sugar, the yellows had two.
There were no seconds and no desserts. It didn't take long to finish the unappetising meal, but they did finish it. They had had a long day and were ready to eat. This dinner was the wrap up of a pilgrimage to Robben Island which started at 9 am on a boat trip to the famous prison in Cape Town's Table Bay. The blue squares received the standard ration of the Black prisoners and the yellow squares received the diet designated for Asian and Coloured prisoners. Although the interns made the best of it, it was hardly a jolly meal.
Robben Island's most renowned prisoner was Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27 years as a prisoner there. Our interns rode in a bus around the island seeing: the house of isolation where Robert Sobukwe was kept, the large rooms which housed 60 prisoners who slept on two mats with four thin blankets, the quarry where the prisoners broke rock, the cave where the educated prisoners secretly taught the illiterates, and the cell where Mandela lived, slept, and wrote his "Long Walk to Freedom". They took in more than history.
They saw a new depth of human spirit, that God-breathed part of each person.
They turned cold inside from the horror of what people could do to one another, and they were warmed by the resilience of people to respond to evil in gracious ways. Mandela's legacy is strong there. We listened to a guide who had been incarcerated in 1986, sentenced to 14 years for "acts of subversion." When our intern, KeKe, asked him how he felt when he first
walked into the cell he would share with 59 others, Ndoza said he had hope because he knew he had 14 years, then could walk free. He knew the Rivonia Trialists (Mandela and other leaders) were serving life sentences. He lived in the hope that one day he would walk free. Now he proudly shows tourists his prison and tells his story.
This journey is one of the experiences we hope will make our interns more aware of history and the reality of human nature. We pray it brings all our hearts and eyes into alignment with how God's heart feels and His eyes see this world we desire to serve.
As Mandela said: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Enhancing the lives of others is essential in Kingdom life. Read more
May 31, 2016
Written by Autumn Pendergras
Autumn is enrolled in the East Mountain Residency Program. She lives full-time at EM's Community House & Retreat Center and ministers at a school in a local township.
As I write this I am sitting in Trinity Church in Beacon Valley. It is nine at night and I have been here since nine this morning. I have taught phonics, played dolls, lost foot races, had my hair pulled my a dozen little girls, and heard my name over a thousand times since this morning.
This is my place. I don't fit in. I'm not the right color, I don't speak the right language, and many people call me the crazy white girl. But it is where my heart is.
I have been partnering with Trinity Church and Trinity Children's Center for the last ten months and every day that I am here I fall more in love. I look into the eyes of a laughing child and the girls in our middle school group come up to give me a hug and tell me the latest drama and I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
The Summit interns from East Mountain came with me this week to play with the Trinity Children's Center kids. KeKe coached some soccer and all of the kids had the opportunity to read in small groups with the interns. It is so amazing to watch the influence of positive role models in Mitchells Plain.
To see the partnership between Trinity and East Mountain flourish has brought so much joy to my heart. Trinity's wholistic view of each child and person that comes through their doors combined with East Mountain's desire to train leaders has led to a great partnership. The church has run out of seats the last three weeks and the Thursday night Bible study at the church dives deep into the truth of scripture every week. I see the light of the gospel going out in a place that the world calls forsaken.
May 24, 2016
Written by Servaas Hofmyer
Servaas is the East Mountain Resident Advisor, Facilities Manager and general host to all who visit the community.
At the intersection...
What is the fastest way to travel from point A to B? When one has ground to cover with limited time and resources available, this is a crucial question. What is the most efficient way to travel the world in order to experience a variety of cultures or serve among other peoples, for instance? One way to confront such a challenge is to construct an algorithm, directing one along a journey from place to place, experience to experience, opportunity to opportunity. However, should we consider culturally shaped spaces and the encounters therein as expressions of the human heart, we are presented with another alternative altogether: positioning oneself at an intersection.
Through East Mountain I find myself living at a constant intersection.
Encountering "the world on your doorstep" is not an unusual experience when living in a metropolitan city like Cape Town. A hotchpotch of cultures finds expression in people from all over roaming the streets and tourist hotspots of the city. They all gather here. Some temporarily; dotting down to take in the sights and sounds before soon taking off again with a bank full of memories (on which airlines are fortunately yet to place a weight restriction). Others again, arriving with not much more than memories; having migrated from somewhere with a desire to establish something of permanence in the Cape of Good Hope.
Although a local, I often find myself among these 'incomers' as I play the role of tour guide; and, in the fortunate position of observing the cross-continental, cross-cultural, cross-lingual shoulder rubbing that takes place.
I, however, do not live in Cape Town.
I enjoy the privilege of living near Stellenbosch, and through East Mountain have been given the opportunity of encountering "the world in my living room" - something that hit me as I considered the variety of fluid containers which found their way into our kitchen cupboard through the past few years (see picture). Firstly, instead of saying, "an Englishman, a German and a Frenchman", one might as well say "three South Africans" and possess the same cultural diversity necessary to tell a proper (or improper for that matter) joke. And so, in having three South Africans in the house, one can very easily encounter three nations in the process of living here. Then, apart from my own countrymen, the community living room is a place where, if you wait around long enough, you will encounter American diversity, the odd Englishman, other Africans, Asians and who knows, maybe one day a stray Australian?
It is at this intersection where my ministry happens. It is here that I learnt what ministry could look like. It is not always about going out but also inviting in. 'Receiving the sent', if you will. It is a strangely easy but also tough task. Both highly enjoyable and at times tiring.
My conclusion: it is possible to encounter and impact the world by opening the door to your living room. Read more
May 3, 2016
Written by Lutando Macopozo
Lutando is currently in his second year of East Mountain's Residency Program. He lives full-time at EM's Community House & Retreat Center and ministers in a local township. This is his story...
I grew up in a small township called Kayamandi which is about a five minutes' drive from Stellenbosch. It's occupied mostly by blacks and other black tribes from South Africa. The most-commonly spoken language Is IsiXhosa. Kayamandi is a very disadvantaged and underprivileged community where poverty is a norm. It is an unsafe neighborhood where most youngsters are addicted to alcohol and drugs. It is also a place where crime is slowly growing.
Like so many others, I also became addicted to alcohol, but by God's grace I became a Christian when I was 19. Despite becoming a Christian I always failed to overcome my alcohol addiction, mainly because of the environment I remained in. In 2015, I joined East Mountain and moved out of the township and had a chance to enter into a new journey and see where God was leading me.
I joined East Mountain and moved out of the township and had a chance to enter into a new journey and see where God was leading me.
I am in my second year at East Mountain continuing with the Residency Program. The first year was very challenging and interesting. One of the challenges at East Mountain was that I lived with other ethnic groups like Afrikaaners, Coloureds, and Americans. This was my first encounter to live and share life with other ethnics groups in one house. I was assigned to work in an Afrikaans-speaking, colored community - guess what - I can't speak Afrikaans! I had to minister in English, which is my second language; I'm not fluent in it. I grew up speaking IsiXhosa and now I had to primarily speak English for the entire year. I struggled a lot and had to adapt to other cultures. There were times I wanted to give up because of the language barrier and sometimes felt that the message I was sharing was not delivered clearly. I prayed a lot and the Lord revealed this verse to me as a reminder that I was not alone. Deuteronomy 31:6 says
What was interesting was that over the course of last year, I learned a lot about that culture having slowly learned it.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
This year I work in one of the biggest townships in the Western Cape called Kayelitsha. It is about ten times as big as my hometown(ship) of Kayamandi. Alcohol, drug abuse and crime are very high. Every weekend approximately 85 to 120 teenagers are admitted to the local hospital having been shot, stabbed, or raped (and been left for dead). I work for a church called Christ Church-Kayelitsha. I lead a men's ministry and also run home Bible studies two times a week. In the next few weeks I will also begin overseeing the worship team. I will lead some worship using one of my God-given talents, which is to play the piano. I enjoy my work a lot and one thing I love about working Kayelitsha is that I can relate to them because we are from the same culture. I use my home language of IsiXhosa to minister the Word of God. I work closely with Pastor Bheki Dikeni who is the associate pastor of the church.
It's a privilege and honor to work in a church that puts God's word above all things. Matthew 28:19 says "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." One of Christ Church-Khayelitsha's goals this year as the church is to reach as many young people as possible. As the Book of Matthew tells us that we should go and make disciples, we believe as the church, Kayelitsha is the place to start in sharing the Gospel, especially to those who face these aforementioned addictions.
I have faith in God, that he is going to do great things in Kayelitsha.
I pray for all those teenagers who suffer from overcoming their addictions.
I pray for the church leadership to trust and have patience in God when they work with all of those who are in need of the Gospel. Read more