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June 2008

Heroes in Suffering

Submitted by ClaireB on Tue, 2008-06-17 22:10

Life in Zimbabwe:

“Working disciples can no longer support themselves due to the country’s soaring inflation rate. They get a salary, but they cannot afford to buy petrol for their cars and groceries for the month. Some walk to church for over 10km either way! Every disciple is in need: 215 in Harare, 55 in Bulawayo and 10 in Mutare. 

One may have cash in hand, but there is no food to spend the money on. I earn a good salary, but my fridge is empty because there is no food in the shops. My 8 month old baby is losing weight due to the poor diet.  It hurts to see my other children go off to school with a small packet of potato chips because we cannot get bread. Most people are used to having one meal a day. People have to queue in long lines at supermarkets and bakeries and food items are sold out within minutes. There are newspaper reports of people dying or being seriously injured during food stampedes is such queues!”  

Kizito Muodzi 

Empty shelves

Notice the empty shelves and refrigerator in Harare shops

Currently a loaf of bread costs 170 million Zim dollars and 1 US dollar is 490 million Zim dollars!  

Reading these words of Kizito’s are enough to make your heart break. My husband and I were able to go and visit the church in March of 2008. The situation has even worsened since these words were written as our visit was just before the general elections, which is yet to be concluded.

When you understand the reality of life in Zimbabwe, you cannot get over the joy of the disciples - their faith, their vision and their desire to please God. They were generous, hospitable and warm… You would never have thought that they are experiencing all that they are! What a joyful group of men and women. 

Here in South Africa we have moaned and complained after two or four hours of load- shedding when in Zimbabwe, electricity cuts last days and even weeks!  When your eyes are on Jesus it is possible to be joyful despite your circumstances! 

Lisa Comrie - Durban  

Rudo Marovatsanga (Harare)

I am Rudo Marovatsanga. I will be 33 in June 2008. I am a single mother with two girls aged 12 and 8. I am self-employed. I sell electrical gadgets. I was married in 1995 and became a disciple in 1999. My husband never became a Christian and he was very abusive. The last time he beat me, I broke a tooth and had eight stitches in my face to repair the damage. In April 2006, he finally walked out of my life, paying no maintenance. My daughters and I felt the bite of the economic hardships in the country. We had to walk 7km to their school. Buying food or groceries became an elusive dream, yet there was not a night where we went to bed on an empty stomach. For a whole year I could not afford to pay school fees. God moved the Headmaster’s heart and he allowed the girls to stay. When there was no money for rent, we moved from house to house, taken in by both people in and out of church. What has kept me faithful is seeing the power of God in all my challenges. I have seen God’s hand provide both food and shelter. The girls are well behaved and have done very well despite their circumstances. The power of prayer has become very real.   

Themba and Buhle Ncube (Bulawayo)

When Themba became a disciple some years back, his wife Buhle was staying in the rural areas because he could not support her off his gardener’s salary. His home consisted of one small room, not big enough for two people. Soon after becoming a Christian, Themba made the radical decision to leave his job because of over-time demands that would make him miss church services. With no job and no accommodation, life was very difficult until a disciple offered him accommodation in one of the townships. Another disciple offered him commission work selling magazines. During this difficult time, Themba walked over 10km three times a week for morning prayers. Later on, after getting a job in a musical studio, Themba brought his wife Buhle and daughter Viola to live with him in a single room so that they could attend church. 

Their current home is bigger and better, but he and his wife often have to walk 15km to church because taxi fares are too high. They also, like many other families, have to contend with the country’s food shortages. 

God has come through for the Ncubes and many others like them in the Bulawayo church by moving the hearts of people in America and South Africa to help with money and food. Despite the intense suffering, the Ncubes have emerged tougher and more faithful. Their attitude is both faithful and hopeful. “My wife’s faith has grown tremendously; she is no longer just following her husband to church, but has matured in her conviction.” said Themba. 

Themba is now a powerful song leader in the church and dreams to lead a Bible Talk in Lobengula.  To God be the glory!   

Themba
Themba Ncube

Steve and Terry Angelos, Durban , South Africa

In February 2007, our family and some members of our family group were the victims of an armed robbery while in our home in Durban. Four men all armed with guns entered our home as we were finishing Bible study. Crime is a grim reality in our country, but it is truly terrifying when it becomes a personal experience. Our children were all in the house and I was only able to pull Luke, my youngest child, under me while we lay on the floor with guns to our heads. The men and women were separated and we found out later that the other children were pulled into the room and my oldest son of 11 was dragged from his bed where he was asleep. For the next 20 to 30 minutes the house was ransacked and we were held at gunpoint, not knowing whether we would live or die!

My husband’s car alarm went off and this seemed to scare the criminals because they “miraculously” vanished. We were left much traumatized, but no one was hurt. 

Although the robbery was a terrible experience, the challenge has been to deal with the effect that it had on us in a godly way. My reality and outlook has forever changed - crime is not something I just read about or hear about, but is something I think about and take extra precaution against every single day! 

We have had to work through feelings of fear, frustration, anger and despair. In all things, God promises that He is at work for our good. It is hard to see in this kind of situation. The day before the robbery, I had had a very detailed talk with my children about what to do in either a hijacking or robbery at home. I believe this was God at work to keep us safe! No one was hurt and we are all grateful to be alive and to learn that in those few minutes when your life is in danger, the only thing that matters is that you have a relationship with God!  

The Angeloses 
Steve and Terry Angelos with their sons Michael and Luke and daughter Sindi

Suffering

Submitted by ClaireB on Tue, 2008-06-17 14:32

By Duncan and Lisa Comrie  

* Ps 119 vs 71* NLT version

“The suffering you sent was good for me , for it taught me to pay attention to your principles” (Theme scripture) 

The challenge for us as disciples is to have a spiritual perspective when it comes to suffering.  Satan’s immediate taunt when we face hardships is usually: “How can a loving God allow ………..” Suffering comes in all forms: it hits individuals, it strikes families and churches. We will never escape suffering. We cannot run from it - it is a reality of life!  It is promised to the Christian and the non-Christian alike. 

* Matt 7 vs 24-27*

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise, and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock.But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”  

The storms and floods of life will come. It is not a question of if, it is a matter of when! They will come, whether you are someone who is practicing God’s word or not.   Let’s look in detail at some of the reasons we suffer: 

  1. To prove our faith genuine

There is a reason for suffering that is made very clear in the theme scripture above: Suffering teaches us to pay much closer attention to the principles of God and to His Word.

* Ps 119 vs 71*

“The symptoms and the illness are not the same thing. The illness exists long before the symptoms. Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cures. The fact that they are unwanted, makes them all the more a phenomenon of God’s grace --- a gift of God, a message from the unconscious, if you will, to initiate self-examination and repair.”

M.Scott Peck

The Road Less Travelled

 

Just as our physical pain receptors play an essential role in warning us of our physical body’s emotional and spiritual suffering, they can also be a warning that our relationship with God needs some attention!

The suffering the church as a corporate group has experienced in the last few years has taught us that we have to constantly examine the scriptures to make sure we are holding to the scriptures. We have had to re-examine, self-examine and make some repairs.

* 1 Peter 1 vs 6,7 *

NIV: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith –of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  

This scripture emphasizes that we will have many trials. They happen in order to prove our faith genuine. What is a genuine faith? It is when we learn to stay the course and hold onto the promises of God, even when all around us may be in tatters. It is when we hold on despite the fact that we cannot answer the question “why?”           

“Why does false doctrine prosper so much?’            

“Why does a three year old child get cancer?”            

“Why does a young mother of two get killed while out riding her bicycle?”           

“Why are wicked leaders allowed to rule?”

Is it not better to find out here on earth that our faith needs some work rather than arriving at the “pearly gates” only to discover that our faith is not genuine after all!Think for a moment if there were no challenges to our existence! 

2.         To develop and grow our characters:

* James 1 vs 2-4* 

NLT :  “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.  For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. 

James remarks “…whenever trouble comes your way…” We must and can face it with joy because it will help us to grow to have a strong character.What would you say God is working on right now to develop in your character?

* Relationship troubles can teach us to be kind and respectful in character.

* Having a difficult child teaches us about unconditional love.

* Chronic illness teaches us to persevere.

* Weakness teaches us that our strength must be in God. 

3         Suffering is a form of discipline:

* Hebrews 12 vs 7, 8*

NLT: “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all his children, it means you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all.”

Sometimes we suffer because we are sinful beings and we need discipline. God is our Father. Those of us who are parents know the consequences of allowing children to run wild. God will not allow His children to run wild. He will step in and discipline. 

* Hebrews 12 vs 11 *  

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening ---it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” 

* Being in debt is not pleasant, but God may be using it to discipline you and teach you to be self-controlled with your money.

* Having a disciplinary hearing at work could be that God is teaching you to be more punctual and organized.

* With a chronic illness, God may be using it to teach you to take care of your physical body with good eating habits and exercise.

* Your feelings of loneliness may be God teaching you that it is time to change your independent character and selfishness in relationships

*Your two year old child’s tantrums and blatant disregard for any authority may be because you are neglecting to discipline.   

4         Suffering for being a Christian:

*Matt 5 vs 11,12*

NLT : “God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”

We are going to go through suffering just by virtue of the fact that we made a decision to follow Jesus Christ. We will be persecuted for our faith. Jesus was hated and he told us to expect that we will be hated. The recurring theme in every scripture about suffering is to face it with joy! Rejoice!Yet everything in us cries out:  “How do I rejoice?” We don’t naturally run after suffering - our instinct is to run from it! So, how do we rejoice?

* 1 Peter 2 vs 21-24*

 

 

NLT:  “This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.  He personally carried away our sins in his body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by his wounds.”

 We can rejoice because we are in God’s hands and must leave “our case” in his hands and focus our eyes on the cross of Christ.  We have to find our comfort in God - that is the only way we will be able to rejoice in times of difficulty.  

* 2 Corinth 1 vs 3 -7*

NLT: “All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in his suffering, you will also share God’s comfort.”

We will receive God’s comfort in all our troubles. He doesn’t promise to remove us from troubles, He promises to comfort us in our troubles.

 WHY? Do you realize that suffering is part of our evangelism and discipleship ----so that we can use it to benefit others by comforting them, with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. Suffering helps us to share our faith in God!  “It is by those who have suffered that the world has been advanced.” Leo Tolstoy                       

Suffering may endure for a season                    

And we wonder when relief will come.                    

Is thus for a time of testing                    

A really deep trial for some?                     

Day by day we endure our heartaches,                    

Often questioning why,                    

We don’t seem to fully understand                    

And we come before God with a sigh!                     

“Just quiet yourself in my presence,” He says,                     

“I have blessings for you in store.                      

This time with me will be precious,                      

Even more than ever before.”                      

The wonderful promises in God’s Holy Word                       

Bring comfort, encouragement and peace,                      

And as we nestle up close to Him,                      

Our faith brings sweet release.                       

So let us joyfully praise the Lord,                      

If, through the suffering we learn,                      

Truths that will help to guide our way,                      

And His Word more clearly discern.    

Elsie K. Young     

The Comries

Duncan and Lisa with their daughters, Linzi and Shelley

Visit the new North West Region website

Submitted by ClaireB on Tue, 2008-06-24 10:48

Communication can be described as the “glue” which bonds us together and helps us to create shared meaning.  Without good communication, individuals cannot understand one another or feel close to each other.   

In an effort to create stronger family bonds amongst the members of its region, the North West region of the Johannesburg Church of Christ is in the process of developing its own website, www.nwregion.co.za.  The website currently provides a brief overview of the region, including the current sermons that are being preached.  It also has some great tips on spiritual books to read as well as books that are available for purchase online. 

Future plans for the website include information about recent baptisms, birthday and anniversary dates of the church members, up-to-date schedules of those responsible for kids’ kingdom, ushering, song leading, etc and the regular distribution of a North West region newsletter. 

Feel welcome to also pass on this website address to your friends and/or family that live in the North West region of Johannesburg.