Okay, with the above picture, it shows that even if this is our second Christmas in the southern hemisphere, the weight of so many northern hemisphere Christmases is still stronger. But it’s still Christmas! Where ever we are – on a skating rink, the mall, the beach, or in church – there are lots of opportunities to stop for the one at Christmas (or what South Africans call ‘the festive season.’)
My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have spent Christmas in Northern Ireland, England, Pakistan, St. Maarten, Canada and South Africa. This time, it’s Christmas in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa. In our last article, I shared about learning to thrive in God despite disappointment. We are to pause, ponder, praise and psalm. It’s at times like this that we remember God’s faithfulness. The Psalms often mention “Selah” or pause. A friend of mine just named their little one this precious name. And what beautiful one wouldn’t cause a parent’s heart to pause and ponder? So it is the same as we think of the heavenly child, Jesus, who came to earth for us. We also praise Jesus for every good thing that he’s brought us, including our very lives and salvation. Psalming is a beautiful devotional practice that allows you to voice disappointments to God, choose to lay them at his feet, and then trust him. If you’re disappointed during this Christmas season, then I recommend you do this. Your perspective may get deeper, as you realize that God is indeed Emmanuel, God with us. God is with you – he is closer than you think.
During my last two broadcasts on CWCP Radio, I spoke about depending on God for all our strength when we have none of our own. Sometimes disabilities sap us of strength and other times, we are brought into weakness when we use up our own strengths. We can’t run on our strengths and gifts alone. The Apostle Paul shared with us to use our weakness as an opportunity to lean on God. 2 Corinthians 12: 10 says, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Gideon was transformed from a fearful man to become a great hero. We can do more in our weakness that we realize. If you have any form of disability, it does not stop you from doing great things in God. There are many other examples of people that God worked through their weakness. I recommend you visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Coppleswesterncape.ca website to learn more. These are #40 and #41 on the page.
When I was in the acceptance process to become a long-term Iris missionary, my health was a question that topped the list. Our base co-founder Johan Fourie, defended me and said, that while I couldn’t do certain things more ‘able-bodied’ missionaries could do, I could do a lot of other things. These things include our call to love, teach, disciple and befriend vulnerable farm kids and township kids. It includes our prison ministry, my artwork, bookkeeping, and webwork. It includes writing, CWCP Radio, and stopping for the one.
Tony and I often talk about stopping for the one, wherever we are. It’s something that our Iris Global co-founder Heidi Baker says all the time. When people ask her how she does ministry in a nutshell, she often says “We just stop for the one, it’s not complicated.” Heidi also says that love looks like something – and it does. This means that love has different flavours. This isn’t about chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but about the many different ways of showing love in practical ways. To a single-mom, it’s about practical help in fixing things, and being a support to their children, as well as her. To a lonely senior, it’s in lovingly listening to their stories and encouraging them that they still have purpose. It’s in relationship. To a person with various disabilities, it’s in bringing practical help that they need and want, while respecting their dignity. There are so many examples.
To a love-starved child, it means being like a loving aunt and uncle. Sometimes, well maybe a lot more often than sometimes, this means giving them something good to eat, while listening to them, teaching them, and holding them close to you – that is, once they trust you enough to hug them.
I’m fortunate; some kids have warmed up to me right away, since they see I’m not threatening. And many kids love Uncle Tony and have wormed their way into Tony’s heart. Sometimes it’s a ride in Avian Park, one of our townships in Worcester, and other times it’s a ride to church. We also disciple and love on eight or more teen girls from Avian Park. They love to come up to our retirement village home, for the wifi, sandwiches, Bible study and the love. These are often planned times of ministry – usually on Monday and Saturday afternoons. We have many times of planned ministry, and we give these times to God for opportunities for what God would have us do beyond our planned items. In other words, our agenda is very loose, so we can allow for what the girls want and we would like to share. We also have many beautiful God moments with the Brandvlei inmates on Saturday mornings; it is amazing what happens within the space of two hours. It’s the same when we are teaching at MasterPeace Academy – we are teachers, but in some of those moments, we have God opportunities to bless each child, depending on their needs and the Holy Spirit’s leading. The most needy child is Mpho, who has ADHD, but learns and receives love by touch. So I always hug him and touch him gently and appropriately to show him that we love him and are there for him. Sometimes stopping for Mpho in the context of school is to encourage him that he can still learn despite his disability. He actually came top of the class in the art exam last term.
Then there are the moments that are in-between planned activities. They go beyond Tony’s visits in the Hospice, which involve healing, prayer and pastoral care.
These are the moments when we meet people in cafes, grocery stores, on holiday and in need anywhere at all. Ministry time isn’t just for planned times during the week. This can be for anyone at all, not just full-time missionaries or pastors. But the biggest step is to intentionally go beyond your comfort zone and trust the Holy Spirit’s leading. It’s a little adventure that can be a great blessing.
God often sets up little divine appointments in our lives. Ask God to set them up for you, and they will be most fulfilling. The person we are to connect with could be anyone at all – male, female, teen or child. The key that I’ve discovered is that you sense a nudge inside you. Any fear for the unknown becomes overwhelmed by a wave of compassion towards that person. That is the key. Then you know that this is the person that you are to speak to. This person could be a lonely person in a café, and you find you have something in common. Say you’re reading the same book. Or you feel a nudge to give them a little treat to share with their tea.
Tony finds opportunities like this to find people to interview for the Worcester Reports. Sometimes we may find a place or a person seemingly by accident, and yet it’s no accident at all. Tony found the Iris affiliate couple Josh and Rachel Minter of the East London ministry, Global Mercy Missions when I searched out ministries near our Grahamstown B&B. He found the co-founder of the Rooibos Teahouse in Clanwilliam while we stayed in the Cedarberg just before Christmas. She brought us the rooibos experience, and we even shared our faith together, with wonderful stories on both sides. Sometimes stopping for the one involves people you don’t expect – including family members.
Stopping for the one at Christmas involves insight into those who are lonely and alone. Some of these people are seniors, but they also include busy single-moms and caregivers. Christmas can be a stressful time, and a lonely one for those who are on their own. One way is to invite someone to Christmas dinner (or another festive meal) and love on them. Make their Christmas. Another way may be to help a working poor person with a Christmas purchase. Say you’re in the queue at a store, and the person in front of you is short a few rand for an important meal purchase, or toy for their child. If you feel that wave of compassion, then reach out, and help their Christmas. Or help someone struggling with their grocery bags. You may see someone in obvious physical pain. They may need practical help and prayer. It doesn’t hurt to ask. People rarely say no, and you can bring a touch of hope into their lives. You may even be asked why you’re filled with such love and joy. Or they may remark about the peace that surrounds you. It’s Jesus!
The key components of stopping for the one during the festive season, as they call it in South Africa, are the same as the other times of the year, with more opportunities. Most people are actually more open to receive at this time of year. Christmas carols, gift-gifting and special meals don’t always require financial resources. These are opportunities for giving and showing love. The components of stopping for the one include: that you need to allow God to love others through you, and to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you. You don’t need fancy words or a formula. Be yourself. Be willing to be humble. Don’t rush. Heidi Baker was always telling us at Harvest School to “go low and go slow.” This means to be humble and to take your time. And if you work with children, lower yourself down to their level. Your divine appointments with people are not a project. They are real people, with real needs. They also give unique blessings that can blossom into special friendships.
The journey can be a wonderful one, especially if you can allow God to give a special “Kairos” God moment to someone at Christmas. Pray about the opportunities as God opens doors for you. You don’t have to go to Bible School, seminary or missions school to stop for the one. Sometimes it’s as simple as bringing your neighbour cupcakes, tea and a loving chat.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the Christmas season. Open our eyes to see the moments right in front of us. Let us see you in others, and allow others to see you in us. Fill us with your compassion, and give us direction to love on specific people at this time. We give you our calendars to fill with your appointments. Open our eyes to see them and you, and our ears to hear your loving voice. Thank you for coming to earth to show the Father’s love that we never could have received without you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Be blessed my friends, and have a lovely Christmas. May you encounter Jesus today.
If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, it’s on the CWCP podcast page as #42, and will be broadcast December 27, 2018