Stories from the field

Stories from the field

“Let go and let God.”  That was my answer when asked what I anticipated during an upcoming trip to South Africa with Blessman International.  With all of the unknowns related to a pandemic, hours of travel, and distance from family and responsibility, to “let go” seemed more of a daunting prerequisite than an option.  And to “let God” was simply, well…an unknown.

Early in our time with new friends in South Africa, I found myself searching their eyes for how they must view these strangers from America.  Privileged?  Gawking?  Out of place?  But for every difference I expected to see, our similarities are what became strikingly profound:  the twinkle in the eyes of an hornery little boy chewing bubblegum in church; tears in the eyes of a beautiful young girl who was orphaned and desperately needing to belong; the cloudy eyes of an elderly man seeking out our eyeglasses ministry but ultimately asking for prayers of healing where glasses failed.  To “let God” was allowing Him to show me how much we are alike in this human experience we call life.  The need to be listened to, cared for and loved, the need for laughter and play, to hold a hand in prayer or a loving arm that leads the way – all of these are universal gifts that God “let” us experience by bringing us together in South Africa.

Thank you to everyone who was part of and who made this extraordinary experience a reality, to the people of South Africa for showing us what it is to love and be loved, and to the One who makes it all possible.

Stories from the field Chelsea

 

“I just got back from South Africa. South Africa!” was all I could think about the day after our team returned. While I was there, the experience was so incredibly surreal, that it didn’t quite register until we got home that I had just returned from a mission trip, serving the people of South Africa.

A few years ago, I had seen our mission leader’s journey in South Africa as he’d gone with another team. A couple of Blessman galas, conversations and COVID years later, we made it. As I prepared for the journey, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had an odd calm over me. I’m typically the over-packing traveler for all of those “just-in-case” scenarios. I worry about getting sick on the flights, about not being able to go for some reason, and the list continues – but this time, I knew it was in God’s hands. If the trip didn’t work out for me, it’s because it wasn’t my time. Fortunately, it was my time, and I was so ready for it.

When I’d thought about what I wanted to get out of the trip, it was really to just understand myself as a Christian. I’ve known that I needed to continue working on my relationship with God and work on keeping God and my faith a priority in my life, something I’d failed to do over the last several years. I put a lot of pressure on myself to have some sort of “epiphany” on my journey, and while that didn’t necessarily happen, there were incredible incremental things that have changed my life since my experience.

The first event our group attended was a Sunday morning church service. Most of our team sat together as a group in the front of the church, not really knowing what to say or do. I was nervous, and this was out of my comfort zone. However, as the church service began, my fear melted away as I watched how truly genuinely the church worshipped God – the same God, but in a different way. It wasn’t out of obligation, peer pressure or because it’s “what you’re supposed to do.” It was complete joy and thankfulness of God’s word and things he’s done in their lives that led them there.

Towards the end of the service, the pastor asked for a final song, and two rows behind me, a young woman in a beautiful striped dress began to sing. It was one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard in my life. Her one voice got the entire church to sing with her: a completely powerful moment for many members of our team. After the church service, I let her know how much I loved her voice, and she asked if she could sing for me. She took my hand and sang me an entire song in the schoolyard near the church. I couldn’t understand the words she sang, but I’ve never been so moved by a single act of courage, faith or love in my entire life. God was fiercely working in both of us. I will never forget her or that moment.

As I return to my life back home, I’ve begun to focus more on loving God, life and all those around me. It had been so easy to get caught up in this world and all the things that need to be done, but there are so many simple pleasures in Africa. I saw individuals that appeared to have so few objects in life, including things we could consider a necessity, but they had true faith in God and that was all they needed. God continues to work through me, and I hope to be more like the people of Africa as I continue in my faith journey, and I hope that each of you can find your hope and peace in life as well.

Stories from the Field - Jeff

Stories Larger

I think each of us on this trip were searching for something. Whether it was a question related to our faith, our world, or possibly about ourselves. By the end of our 10-day journey, I was able to say with certainty, I found what I was looking for.

The first church service we attended on Sunday morning will leave His presence forever imprinted into my soul. The song, joy, and worship were so inspiring and heartfelt that no one there could have missed His presence that day. I continued to feel His hand on us throughout our vision ministries and school visits.

I hunted on Tuesday 2/22 solo with my guide Harry. Just being in a world I would never have imagined experiencing was overwhelming. As the day progressed and I was successful in taking a Zebra, Blesbuck, and a Sable. I learned more and more about what great things the Hunt Against Hunger does. I originally was hunting for trophies like a warthog, black back jackal, and smaller game. When I found out that none of the meat for these would be usable by the school, I changed my game plan. Any animal He blessed me with needed to be used to bless the schools and children.

On the second day of hunting, I was blessed again by the company of both Carma and Chelsea. They too were determined to harvest only animals that would be beneficial in the Hunt Against Hunger. By the end of the second day of hunting, Chelsea had a beautiful Blue Wildebeest, Carma had a big Zebra and I too had taken a Blue Wildebeest.

The Blessman team is, without doubt, guided by Him. Their graciousness and hospitality while living every day glorifying Him made this trip even more memorable.

South African Children Playing on Playground at Del Cramer Campus

Luke 12:22-34

31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

 

I recently went on a trip to South Africa.  It was a trip to help set up Celebrate Recovery for teenagers in schools.  I have never been out of the country.  I didn’t know what to wear, what to take, what it would be like.  One thing I did know is that it was God who made a way for this trip to be possible.  That gave me great comfort.  I realize that this was not something that happened on my own power.

In my planning of the trip, I found that most of my summer clothes did not fit anymore.  I hate clothes shopping.  But I asked the Lord to guide me and help me and as I shopped, I found outfits that fit perfectly and affordably.  No easy task, looking for summer clothes in January in Iowa, but God provided.

I had hoops to jump through with Covid testing, schedule planning, getting the cat sitter lined up….so many tasks that could have been very daunting.  But I knew that it was God who aligned this trip and with his help, I had no need to panic.  I only needed to be obedient and complete the tasks set before me.

Before I knew it, I was in South Africa.  While there, I witnessed a level of poverty I had only read about.  Communities without running water or electricity.  Ladies with children wrapped to their bodies while they worked in fields.  People walking miles to, hopefully, find work for the day.  Toilets that, in some cases were the nearest tree.

And you know what?  These people worshipped.  They worshipped God and thanked him for all they had.  They had a level of faith that was off the charts.  They worked with what they had and were thankful for it.  Their faith did not lack because they did not have possessions or modern conveniences.  In fact, they seemed to be in such a tight relationship with God that nothing would diminish it.  It just drew them closer to Him.

On my way home, I reflected on all the blessings God has given me.  A home with electricity, plumbing, job, car, food.  I realized I have many possessions, and I wondered if my faith was contingent on what God has provided me.  And as I reflected, I decided that I have many things I simply don’t use that would be beneficial for someone else.  No, I am not going to get rid of everything I have, but I can simplify and in that help others.

I have witnessed God moving huge mountains in my life and I know that He has provided every opportunity and blessing that I have ever received.  He never needs to prove His love for me.  My faith is simple.  I love God.  I trust God.  I follow God.  He provides.  He provides comfort, opportunity, love and blessings.  My treasure is not belongings or possessions.  My treasure is knowing that God is faithful and He is the same God in USA as in Africa and the whole world.  He is God.

 

 

John Miller

Sometimes God has other plans. As a pastor, I was exploring the potential for a ministry partnership in West Africa or maybe Eastern Europe when God directed us to… South Africa and Blessman International! I was drawn by Dr. Jim Blessman’s vision and passion for the people of South Africa. So, in May of 2021, three of us from my church visited the Blessman International work in South Africa to see if we might be able to partner with them. We worked at a children’s feeding center and were overwhelmed by the affection of the children. We sent a team to serve and teach young women at a local high school and participated in a well-attended Celebrate Recovery meeting. We helped a young believer build an addition to his overcrowded home. We made visits to a day-care center and to a young man who Blessman is helping in the establishment of a self-sustaining business. We prayed with families facing life-changing health issues. We worshiped in local churches alongside passionate fellow believers from South Africa.

Our time was well organized. Housing and transportation were excellent. Relationships with the Blessman staff and others we worked with were gratifying and inspiring. Our memories will certainly be long-lasting. But what we most came away with was a first-hand picture not just of what life looks like today in South Africa for many, but also a picture of what life could look like if churches and individuals would be willing to bow before Jesus and offer themselves in His service on behalf of others. The challenge of this vision is this: God’s plans are not always the same as ours.

So we all have to ask this question:

Am I willing to follow Jesus, no matter where He leads?