August 1, 1998 – Saturday – 10:00 a.m.

It’s August!  I think today was the day my parents were moving to Florida.

We are leaving Swaziland today.  I’ve really enjoyed it.  The mountains are huge, there are monkeys everywhere, and cows roam the streets like dogs.  I guess they don’t believe in the idea of fenced in pastures.

On Thursday, John and Paul and I went for a walk in the wilderness.  We found tons of waterfalls.  Yesterday, we went to a church service at a little hut with no electricity.  It was about half the size of this bus.  It made me appreciate so much.  I’ve been in huge churches with so much modern technology, but the praise and worship was in no way pleasing to the Lord.  But last night, these African Christians sang their heart out to God.  They had nothing, but they gave everything.

After the service, the guys went out to eat at a place called Spurs.  It was super yummy!  Our waitress’ name was Alice and as I sat there, I realized how strange it all was.  I was in Mbabane, Swaziland, eating with a West Virginian who plays drums for Acquire the Fire, an Alabaman who is related to Gomer Pyle, a college student from Arizona, a 13-year-old from Texas, an Italian from New Jersey, and a Michigan kid.  And each of them knew nothing about the previous 21 years of my life.  Yet, none of it mattered, for we had Jesus in common.

I have only five days left.

I wonder if I’ll ever come here again.

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July 29, 1998 – Wednesday – 8:00 a.m.

The scenery we saw between Johannasburg and Piet Retief took my breath away.  When we arrived Jon and I played on a small playground before we went to pray for people at the hospital.

The hospital was very tragic.  I prayed for many men: men with tumors, men without arms, boys with the entire backs of their legs gone.  It was a sad sight.  The medical technology didn’t seem great.  We then went to visit the children.  The crying pierced my ears.  The children of the squatter camps seemed blessed compared to these children.  Oh Lord, I’m so sorry for taking my health for granted.  Forty minutes before we arrived, a woman had given birth to a dead baby.

Why has God given me so much?

Last night we played capture the flag, watched a beautiful sunset, and then, there above us, with no light pollution to spoil it, was a moonless sky.  It was the first time I was able to see the pure night sky from the Southern Hemisphere.  It was a different sky altogether.  The milky way was super bright, and several shooting stars flew past us.  I walked away from the group, laid on the ground, stared into the abyss, and faded away.

Why do I ever have a worry in the world, when I’m loved by a God who could make such sights?

July 28, 1998 – Tuesday – 8:30 a.m.

We went to a pretty awesome church service Sunday morning.  I sat with a girl named Amber there and back.  We had some cool talks.  That afternoon we had a cookout and visited with some missionaries from South Africa.

The Lord laid something on my heart that night and I called Sarah’s home in Winston-Salem.  She was at Lees-McRae though.  She went up there to see Starqueen and visit her friends.  So I called Ann-Marie’s room and she was there.  When we talked it was as if we were strangers and had nothing in common.  I told her that when I was with her I wasn’t a complete person and I’m sorry for any thing I did.

She just basically said “okay.”

We visited a lion park on Monday and I got the chance to play with some huge lion cubs.  One bit me on my bicep.  I have a scar.  It was awesome!  We then went shopping and I bought a bracelet similar to the one PK wears in The Power of One.

We had a funny little “Christmas in July” party last night.  Everyone thinks it is cold here, but it feels just like a Banner Elk summer.  But I guess July is the cold season in the Southern Hemisphere.

While in the lion park, I spent most of my time with Jessica.  She is the sweetest girl.  She’s 17 and from Georgia.  We shared some nice conversations and I thank God for her daily.

I’ve discovered that I have a lot of pride in my life.  It keeps me from listening and learning from other people.  Before I leave here I want to give all that pride away to God. I fear it keeps me from growing.

I love this mission thing.  Teen Mania functions in a way that I can’t relate to, but I have molded to its ways.

I’m looking forward to the world of film.  I want that to be my mission field.  I hope I can understand that world.  I just want to know my Jesus and understand him better and share him with those who haven’t heard of his love.

I am now on a bus and in just a minute or two we will be headed to Piet Retief in South Africa.  It is about a five or six hour bus ride.  Later on we will drive into Swaziland.  “It’s a whole other country,” to quote Forrest Gump.  I’m excited for the long bus ride!  I just want to stare out the window.  After our final ministry days, we will go on a full out African Safari!

Not much time is left.  Only about a week and a day.  I have many plane rides to look forward to and a new job waiting on my when I return.  But for now, I’m in Africa.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Humble me God.  Melt my pride.  I just want you.  Thank you for these days.  You are so big and I am so small.

You are all I have.

You are all I need.

You are all I want.

July 25, 1998 – Saturday – 8:10 p.m.

I have so little time left here.  So little time left in Africa.  So little time around these people.  So little time left on this planet.

I read a quote today by Frank Lawbach, “I have this minute in my control.  It is all I really do have to work with.  It is as magnificent or drab or vile as the thoughts which fill it.  I fear our most common sin is empty minutes.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to redeem the time, to set our time free from evil, to fill our life with good.  My life is full of empty minutes.  But I don’t want to live through another one ever again.  The other teams that went to Swaziland and Escourt came back today.  It was so great to see everyone.  I had been missing them and didn’t even know it.  I spent time talking with Jessica.  She has such a sweet spirit in her.  And then I talked with a girl named Emily here.  She is 15 and so smart.  She has such a Godly heart.  And while talking with her and hearing her passions, I realized that so many of the minutes I spent with Sarah were empty.  Many were filled with life, but many were not.  I was hurt by her.  Why do the ungodly ones always want me, but the Godly ones never do?

Well, last night, we went to a youth service, and I went up for prayer for God to help me give my past up to him.  I ended up on the floor and God definitely did some work in me.

And so, I am moving forward.  I will still keep in touch with Sarah, but I need to let her know that I need to be away from her to grow.

I think she already knows that though.

 

July 24, 1998 – Friday – 3:10 p.m.

Yesterday we went to minister in the malls in our normal street clothes without doing any drama.  Amanda was my partner; she reminds me so much of Emily.  We talked to many different people, and we bought lunch for some homeless guys.  It was nice to share the Lord with them.

Amanda, like Sarah, dreams of Broadway.  She is only 15, but her relationship with the Lord is strong.

A girl named Lauren and I had a great time putting on each other’s stage make up this morning.  She does not dream of Broadway, but of a simple life with a good husband and six kids.  And for a brief second, I dreamed I would be that good husband.  Hmmm.

It is nearly August.  I’ll be back in Virginia Beach in about 15 days.  We only have six days of ministry left here, but other days of worship, safaris, and traveling.  I hope to leave here with the mailing addresses of all my new American friends.  They spread all of the nation, so much so, I could travel America and never have to pay for a hotel room.

My parents are moving soon.  I will be a student again soon.  But all I want is to truly know my Jesus.  I lay my life before you Lord.  Please reveal yourself to me.  I just want to love you.

July 22, 1998 – Wednesday – 8:30 a.m.

The past few days of ministry have been amazing.  So many people have come to know the Lord. We’ve ministered both on the streets of Joburg and in the squatter camps. What an honor!  We went shopping on one day and I hated it; it felt like a wasted day.

These days are really nice.  I am constantly surrounded by different people and all of them are amazing.  I have such a peace in my life right now.  All of my focus is on others, that is the only way to live.

It’s been eight months and I still miss Sarah, but I needed to get away.  I want to live this life the right way!

July 18, 1998 – Saturday – 9:00 p.m.

I have some free time to myself now.  I just called my mom and she said she had a mammogram and they found something.  She is going in on Tuesday to get it taken care of.  I trust God will take care of her.

Today we went into some other Joburg places.  I led a young boy named Isaac to the Lord and talked to many young South African children who were already Christians.  Everyone here dreams of America and they ask us if we personally know movie stars.  They all want to live there.  It’s crazy!

I ate dinner with Dawn, Jessica, Rebecca, and Amy; they’re such beautiful girls.  Jessica looks like Jewel.  Anyway, Amy began telling me how much she misses me since we are not on a team together.  She was at the MA camp with me.  She said that I was a person who meant the world to her simply for being myself.  Then all the girls started talking about how neat and unique I was.  Finally Jessica, with whom I’ve shared some nice conversations and longing stares, laid her head on my arm and said, “I’m very glad that I met you.”

These are some of the most amazing girls I’ve ever come across.  I feel so far away from that chapter of my life that was obsessed with Sarah now.  It’s as though I’ve opened up a beautiful new book.  I’m in Africa for crying out loud!

I left the table after talking to Amy for a while and hung outside with Brandy and Krista, two homesick girls.  I told them some jokes and they both said the next time they feel down, they are coming to me since I made them feel so much better.

There were two girls, Alana and Liz, at dinner who yelled out “J-Dog!” and startled me so much I fell out of my chair.  Oh, this place is so much fun!  I want to take all these people with me into my future so I can be with them forever.  But forever will have to wait until Heaven.  Until then, I can be with them now.  I must be fully alive and aware that this moment is passing.  I don’t want to fully live in the moment I have.

I spent some good quality time talking with Shawn, my Team Leader, on the bus this evening.  His leadership style has confused some missionaries, so I talked with him about it.  He’s 26 and runs us like an Army platoon, which is fine, but some aren’t used to that.

I’m thankful I can blend so well with the younger ones as well as the older ones. Oh God, you are so good to me.  Everyday you amaze me.  The eyes and smiles of those I shared the gospel with yesterday are firmly planted in my mind.  Thank you for the gift of memory.  I can’t wait until Heaven!