Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Pray'n for Rain

The latest update from Soul Action South Africa:

Pray'n For Rain

The thought of praying for rain feels a bit of an anomaly to me – but ‘needs’ must.

South Africa’s Dolphin Coast – which is where we live – is experiencing its worst water shortage on record. It is autumn / winter here, which is traditionally dry, but we didn’t have much rain last Spring / Summer and it isn’t expected to rain again until September – some reports say January! We currently have no water from 09h00 - 16h00 and have been informed that the taps will run dry by August. Our reservoir is down to 30%, which is effectively 15%, since half of what is left is mud and therefore cannot be purified.

Apart from the odd hosepipe ban or two in the occasional Summer months, being from the UK means rain is not something I can ever remember being short of. Which is probably why I’m finding it more than a little odd to be praying for rain. Then there is the theology to get your head around – does God decide who does/n’t get rain? Is God involved in a struggle with the spiritual forces of evil over water (Eph 6:12) and does prayer open the heavens?

I may not fully understand it, but I am praying nevertheless, and would ask you to do the same.

Of course we’re also acting; trying to reduce our consumption wherever we can. We’re washing dishes once a day and flushing toilets with our used bath water. It is actually been quite shocking to see how much we normally flush down the loo without a thought. The local water authority has informed us that we need to reduce our usual monthly consumption of 10,000 litres by half. This weekend we each took turns sharing one shallow bath, used the same water to wash our clothes and then again in the toilets – five uses instead of the usual one! Fifty litres per person per day, which amounts to 4,500 litres pcm for our family, is what the UN believes is necessary to avoid diseases and retain efficiency. What is challenging us is that the UN also estimates most African’s live off 20 litres per day.
A few years ago Rachel and I co-authored The Whole Wide World, a book of 42 interactive devotions that provide everyday ways to connect with poverty and injustice for families with children aged 4-11. Zac was about five at the time. One of the first devotions involves reflecting on how scarce water is in some poorer communities by monitoring and saving water. It is strange how that has now become our reality.

Please pray that we'll have rain in July and August.

Developing Teaching Skills

During this term the Grade 3 teachers we’re working alongside have continued to develop skills to teach children how to read, write and communicate effectively in English. Each teacher has received 3 support visits in the last few weeks. The photos show the progress teachers and children are making:

The majority of Grade 3 teachers I’m supporting have made amazing progress in developing the ability to facilitate activities in order for children to develop reading and writing skills. But, this term I’ve had to consider additional ways to support teachers as the workshops and mentoring provided was not enabling one teacher to develop the necessary skills. So through a series of discussions with the appropriate people it was decided to organise a learning opportunity in which a teacher could:

observe a colleague teach a phonics lesson
share and discuss what she noticed her colleague do well
immediately try and apply this to her own teaching
With these measures in place the teacher was able to identify how her colleague dealt with situations she was finding a challenge. This teacher is now applying what she learnt to her own teaching. It was a simple process and, in this instance, very effective.
Next term, all Grade 3 teachers will be introduced to peer mentoring. Peer mentoring tends to involve two people of the same level or status who work together to support one another. The key feature of peer mentoring is that everyone involved works together to learn from and support each other (Ehrich 2013).

My hope is that, just like the one teacher learnt important skills from her colleague, that through peer mentoring all the teachers will learn from a colleague and further develop their teaching skills; that they will be able to highlight what their colleagues are doing well, thus encouraging them, and also learn from this.

Prayer points  
Thank God for the progress that the teachers are making

In July we will be facilitating two workshops – please pray that the teachers respond positively

An area that the teachers struggle with is the pronunciation of vowels – please pray for me as I focus on this during one of the workshops

Equip Training

This year we’re gathering 40 leaders connected to the Soul Action Network that work with children and youth. In February we focussed on creativity. At the last session on May 27th we looked at planning & preparation in a way that encourages creativity. From experience we have found that the children we work with are often expected to sit for long periods listening to an adult. Furthermore children are seldom given opportunities to practice or apply what they are learning. This is why the teaching element of May’s Equip highlighted how children’s attention span is limited when purely listening, and that active learning methods are vital in helping children to pay attention and learn. Leaders recognised that learning must be active, imaginative and creative and for this to happen thorough planning is absolutely crucial! As the key aim of the session was for people to develop skills in planning multi-sensory lessons a template was introduced which included:

Way In - an opening game or activity that links in to the theme of the session

Teaching - on the subject

Work it out – activities to help the children understand the teaching


In small groups leaders had the opportunity to work together to plan a session on a theme which included all of the above. They were encouraged to think creatively and to consider how to cater for different learning styles.

Prayer points:  

Thank God for the willingness of the leaders to apply what they are learning

Pray for the facilitators as we start to plan the next session which focuses on behaviour management

Financial Literacy

In March Rachel & I met Romie, a debt counsellor with experience and the expertise to assess individuals financial position and restore their financial wellbeing. After hearing what she had to say about providing financial advice, being aware of the kind of financial problems hamstringing the communities our Network members serve and recalling the impact charities like Christians Against Poverty (CAP) have had in the UK, we decided to host a small gathering focused on financial literacy.

Following a short presentation by Romie, we encouraged small group discussion by asking how what we’d heard applies to each Network member’s context. Feedback revealed that training on how to help communities to budget is one of the key issues that needs addressing next – we plan to gather again.

Personal Finances

We’ve had to do a bit of re-budgeting ourselves this month, with the final bill for work on Zac’s mouth rising to over £3500. Thanks to the generosity of a UK church, friends and family members, we’ve been able to raise just under half and arranged to pay the rest in instalments. Drs’ removed five teeth and saved the rogue canine that we feared Zac might lose. Zac is recovering better than expected, but the process of manipulating his teeth is likely to take 15-18 months. 

Next Steps in our Journey?

Rachel and I are both feeling challenged after reading Bring your Eyes and See, a gift from Steve and Marie Goode – an amazing couple we were privileged to meet at May’s Call2CJ conference. I suppose its only natural to reflect on the degree of one’s own effectiveness whilst reading the Goode’s 40 year Journey into Justice, Compassion & Action in Afghanistan, Africa, India, Switzerland and Thailand. Halfway through the book – knowing the affect it had already had on Rachel – I asked whether the rest might include strategies or tactics that would enable us to have the kind of impact the Goode’s have.

That night I happened to read Chapter 11, that starts "A PATTERN WAS emerging. While we simply obeyed God in whatever He showed us to do, He then showed us the next steps to take" (Goode 2015:129).

How stupid I’d been. After everything we’ve learnt about how God works, I still can’t help looking for prepacked ready-made solutions; knowing full well that Soul Action began and continues as next steps emerge out of ongoing obedience to God. It reminded me of Bishop Graham Cray’s warning:

"We must be careful not to think we can simply take models of church and mission off the shelf. Rather than cloning, we ought to be listening to and following the Holy Spirit." This "Invitation to Improvise" is open to everyone.

God said, "What if NPO’s / charities aren’t the only answer to SA’s problems…"
This was the first God-thought in my head as we met to pray as a team at the turn of the year in January. Odd, considering we’ve spent 8 years focusing almost entirely on Christian non-profit organisations.
God continued, "…what if Christians are?"
Although God commands every follower to love Him and others; as they love themselves (Matt 22), the numbers directly involved in the non-profit sector in South Africa represents only a proportion of the 40+ million Christians. It made me think about how the rest engage and what could Rachel and I do about it?

"Just take the next step"
Although we don’t exactly know how, Rachel and I are sensing that as well as charities, we should be gathering Christians whose ‘day jobs’ present opportunities for them to begin to address some of the inequalities in our country. After speaking to the Assemblies of God GB / SA, our board, the team and UK church partners, we felt God’s next step was to meet local Pastors – after which God would no doubt show us His next steps. Three meetings in and we’ve already been offered resources and a potential space to begin to gather local Christians on a weekly basis!

Reflecting on their life towards the end of the book, Steve and Marie beautifully sum up our tentative aspirations in such a simple and yet powerful way:
"We are just ordinary people who have tried to listen to God and to love and obey Him by doing the next thing He asks us to do" (Goode 2015:237).

Please pray for discernment, as Rachel and I begin to meet and map the community in which we live.


No comments:

Post a Comment