This, dear friends, is the final blog post of 2007. Dry your tears, another year is beyond us. I am gearing up for the big New Year's Eve Party, which is always a sign to me that Christmas is officially finished, and the next year is all too close. I do hope that Christmas was great for you. Mine ended up being great - though there was a time where we weren't quite sure with my daughter being sick for the second Christmas in a row. But, in the end, antibiotics prevailed, and my inner George Bailey triumphed. "Merry Christmas, movie house!"
Speaking of New Year's Eve, if my Dee Snider makeup kit doesn't get here, I have no idea what I'm going to do for a costume...
Many have asked me to offer some commentary on my trip to Africa. Quick plug: I will do an extensive breakdown of the trip for High School Students at the X on January 6- January 13 for Middle School students. Adults are welcome to attend these presentations as well. I don't feel comfortable creating an extensive blog posting on the trip itself - especially since most people wouldn't even dare to read it. So, not to be a jerk, but if you want to hear the deep details of my journey, let's get some coffee, or come to the X to get a full breakdown.
Here is the five minute version:
On December 2, I left with a team of 8 to assist Christ in Youth in coordinating one of their international conferences in Durban, South Africa. Old School Northview-ers will recognize one of my teammates, Mr Johnny Scott, the former worship minister at NCC. Every year, on top of the summer conferences for HS students in the states, CIY puts on conferences in other countries. The goal for this involvement is to help the churches in other nations put on their own student conferences. Members of our team helped teach the morning sessions, while South African speakers led the evening sessions. One day prior to the conference, our team led an "international school of youth ministry," which was a chance to train pastors who are working with youth.
There is much to say about all of this, of course. Today, as a nation, South Africa is an interesting mix of western influence and tribal tradition. I could walk to a coffee shop and internet cafe, I could go to fast food restaurants, and my cell phone even worked. Most students dressed in a very western style, and even had their own cell phones. Yet, when we came together as a church, there was a desire to hold on to how things have been done in the past. Sound familiar at all? While I was hearing some of the most beautiful worship I have ever heard in my life, I was witnessing the church kind of being at a crossroads.
South Africa is a young nation in its current political structure. Only two decades removed from Apartheid, I still sensed a tension about the past. I still saw the influence of oppression. As we are seeing today in Iraq, just because a bad government is replaced, it doesn't mean that things become rosy for people overnight. There is still unemployment, poverty, and in that, there is a struggle to hold on to hope. Then throw in the big elephant called AIDS, which is said to effect as much as 30-35% of the population, and you have a real mess. Who is called to respond to crises such as these? Who is called to reach out to students who are affected by the way these struggles impact their families? It is not governments, it is not militaries, it is the church. That's why I thought it was so important to go and encourage, teach, and pray with those who are making a difference in South Africa everyday. I suppose, by the end of the trip, that was my goal.
I met some great people that week - people like Max, John, Paul, Mita, Karen, Michael, Phil, Freedom, Patson, Richard, Connell, and a myriad of others who are trying to reach out to students in South Africa. I hope that the few days our team spent with them energized them in their task. They certainly encouraged me. As far as the students, my prayer is that walls between adults and students in South Africa would be broken down, and relationships can built with ones like the ones I just mentioned. What a revolution it would create.
Many thanks to CIY, the NYS, my teammate, and to a God who decides to use my broken vessel from time to time, even when I don't deserve it. For whoever is reading this, my prayer is that you would see the world a little more like God sees it, then choose to act accordingly.
Happy New Year.