As we close out 2011, we are thankful for so many things. After relocating to Cape Town the previous June, this year was about settling in. School relationships, houses, ministry opportunities – submerging into the spaces God had opened up. We thank God for being so present during this transition. We thank God for His consistent and sometimes surprising provision. We thank God for introducing us to so many “people of peace” (Luke 10:5-6) here in Cape Town – those who have welcomed us, been open to the Gospel, and connected us to ways and relationships where God is at work. We thank God for allowing us time with our families who have visited and enabling us to stay well connected to several family members currently battling with significant illness. Finally, we are thankful that God continues to love and grow us as a family and each of us individually as we live seek Him.
I have also been reflecting a bit over these past weeks on the nature of our work. So much of it is helping others discover and live out whom God has created them to be – salvation, freedom, discipleship. As such, the tangible results we see are not “ours” to claim as they come to fruition in others. Yet we know God has used us to play a crucial role. And there is something so healthy about this – not being able to call the work of God as our own. God sees this work and says, “well done.” AND this year we have been blessed by so many others who have seen our lives and ministry and joined us with Amen!
In this update, I want to point to a few milestones from the year that I think you will be excited to hear as a friend who has been interested in our lives and ministry. These are some of the things we’ve been involved with that may not have appeared in other newsletters or updates, but are significant and indicative of the ministry we are involved with here. So, family updates and things we’ve been learning will appear elsewhere…
Get-togethers with Jesus friends
I’ve written quite a bit in other places (esp. at http://differentchurch.wordpress.com) about the need for different types of churches to reach people here in Cape Town. What I haven’t written a lot about is the church we have been planting this year. It really came about as God’s burden on our hearts for something to help people experience God in life-giving ways intersected with several people who desired the same. A few key people wanted refreshment in their own walks with Jesus and were not part of local churches for various reasons. There are also others who have little or bad experience with formal church, but still have a spiritual hunger for something. We’ve prayerfully got things going this year – meeting every-other-Sunday in homes. We’ve spent a lot of time this year on stories – sharing our own stories, wrestling with Bible stories, listening for God in action stories. Pretty simple really! A significant part of this group is children and it’s been quite a joy to incorporate each of them into experiencing God. Just recently, one of the moms wrote about how refreshing it was to sit outside and talk about God together in the midst of the creation with children coming in and out of the conversation, playing, and experiencing God’s people gathered in such a normal and beautiful way. As we move into 2012, we feel God calling us to now increase the intentionality and give more opportunities to help one another’s discipleship. I promise to write more about this church plant in upcoming months.
The Incubator at The Warehouse
I’ve done a lot of work with The Warehouse (http://warehouse.org.za) this year – a local ministry helping churches address issues of poverty and injustice. I sent a communication a few months ago with quite a bit of how I am helping The Warehouse. Something that has been developing more recently is my work with the Incubator. The Incubator is a Warehouse strategy to help churches identify responses to specific needs in their community – part “research and development” and part “birthing room” – we help churches get their own projects and ministries up and running. This can be through training, helping churches connect with other churches or resources, or assisting in the systemic/logistical needs of these ministries. Churches here often lack the experience or resources to do all this themselves, so we are able to come alongside them as they serve. My role is primarily to help with training, discerning next steps with these ministries in their growth, and finding the ways the Warehouse can bless them most. Currently, we are helping nurture church-based ministries for orphans and vulnerable children, those who have experienced trauma, high-risk youth, an informal settlement, and teen mentoring. You can read more about these here: http://www.warehouse.org.za/index.php/site/overview/C3
Fusion is one of the ministries in The Warehouse Incubator. Fusion is a ministry to high risk youth in one of Cape Town’s largest townships called Mannenberg. Drug abuse, cyclical poverty, and gangs are a normal part of life for those who grow up in Mannenberg. The Fusion team are working in the community to find new possibilities for young people with Jesus (http://www.warehouse.org.za/index.php/site/articles/C16). During the past several months, I have had the privilege of working with The Fusion team to better understand what church can look like for the teenagers they are reaching. What are churches to do with gangsters and drug addicts? How can they as a team live as a different kind of community that is attractive and healthy for those they are working with? How can they model and call others to a way of following Jesus that is a beautiful alternative to the life many of these high-risk youth have experienced? This team is living and working in a very hard environment and I have loved talking, praying, and walking with them. They are living out Jesus’ mission here I trust they are doing so a little more effectively and healthily as a result of my training with their leadership.
Missional Cape Town
Cape Town needs a movement of churches – passionate followers of Jesus, seeking God’s Kingdom and living and sharing the Gospel. In a city this diverse, that will take lots of churches, especially those willing to go out, to minister with, to be among – rather than sit and wait for others to show up on Sunday morning! I am fortunate to know a number of people who have heard God’s call and want to start new expressions across the city. We have begun to meet monthly for training, connecting, and supporting one another. It’s actually been so much fun to get together with like-minded missional leaders and we are asking God has we can do more this upcoming year. There hasn’t been a network like this up until now, so I believe it’s significant though only in early days. One of the guys is blogging his journey with church here: http://www.unlearning.co.za I am also working more intensely with St. Peter’s Church in Mowbray (http://www.stpetersmowbray.org.za) – a very old church with a new vision for reaching it’s neighbourhood. I LOVE helping a church that wants to be renewed and have been meeting with the church leaders to figure out what that looks like for them. Melissa has also recently become involved in helping those working with children. St. Peter’s also provides us local accountability, prayer, and backs our missionary work here in Cape Town.
While we were working with NieuCommunities, we started using a tool called the Grip Birkman Blueprint to help people understand their spiritual gifts, interests, styles of working, and needs. It’s a really helpful way of self-understanding AND allows individuals to know how they fit and work well with others (whether it’s their church or workplace). A few years ago, Melissa and I went through the training to asses and coach others in the process. In October, we introduced this at The Warehouse. Melissa walked each staff person through their report, asking questions and drawing out their own understandings. I then took the staff through several team-building teachings and exercises together. It has been fun to see light bulbs come on – as individual staff come to see different facets of how God has made them and desiring to better serve in their teams and the organization as a whole. It has also been helpful, as we’ve begun to give no work assignments to staff, giving new opportunities combinations of people based on what they love and are well suited to do.
Thank you for partnering with us this year. Your support and prayer have helped enable us to serve God here in Cape Town. It has been an amazing year and we are looking forward to what God has in store for 2012. We are glad to have you seeking the Kingdom right here with us. Thank you so much!
Arthur for the Stewart5