Friday, May 25, 2018

Communion in the Truest Sense

This morning, I awoke with a strong desire to read Ephesians and, again, was moved by Paul's description of unity in Christ's body. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Just beautiful.

So I was well primed for our visit to Drakenstein Prison to participate in Hope Ministry's restorative justice program. Now before I continue, I must remind you that in 1990, former political prisoner and (later) South African president, Nelson Mandela took his steps to freedom on the same road on which we were standing. So to plant our feet on the same road … pretty incredible. After checking in (which was shockingly easy), we went to Medium A to meet with inmates who were serving life terms, which equates to 25 years in South Africa. Cornel, who we met through Ma's of Wellington, reminded us that these serious offenders were once victims of crime who learned how to be criminals. Then she took us in. We listened to the presenter and the inmates as they literally lived out the gospel before our eyes … with Christ offering release for the captives … release of pain, sin, old ways, bondage … you name it, Christ can overcome it all. (Did you shout "Amen"? You should.) They testified, offered one another forgiveness, practiced telling the truth about their crimes, took responsibility for hurting their victims, and readied themselves for meeting those victims face-to-face on Saturday. Powerful stuff, for sure. We listened, we served a meal, and we sat among them and broke bread. Communion in the truest sense.

But most impactful on me was this: The Lord turned my face toward two inmates in particular … one I felt I needed to speak to and one I needed to listen to. To the one I needed to speak to, I offered a blessing, which he received like water in the driest place. To the one I needed to listen to, I offered my ears as he confessed his crimes to me and asked me to pray for the forgiveness of Christ over him. Then, a volunteer told me that three inmates decided to give their lives to Christ yesterday and he asked me to say the sinner's prayer with them. So in a circle, comprised of Hopewell folks and inmates, I led them in that prayer as they asked Christ into their hearts and lives as Lord and Savior. There is freedom, my friends, and then there is FREEDOM! These men, although incarcerated, are learning what a deeper freedom can mean for them, for their community, and for this world.

After leaving Drakenstein, which we did reluctantly, we visited the Mosaic homes in Paarl. Brad Lloyd, if you are reading this, the walls you helped me build in 2016 are still standing. Just kidding, but not really. Now families are moving into those homes. They have electricity (finally) and furniture. One of the moms will be sleeping in a bed tonight for the first time in 4 years. Praise the Lord! Later in the evening, Craig and Alex helped a family move in.

The Mosaic kids were so excited to see us … still amazed that we would travel across the ocean just to see them. Our Hopewell crew played with them on the community center's new play area. Such joy and laughter. The majority of our work has been saying--not only with words, but also with action--that they are valuable children of God who are created, loved, and embraced. For some, that's a totally new concept. The need for that proclamation is the same no matter where we are in the world. We played, we sang, we danced, we hugged, we prayed, and we ate. Communion in the truest sense.

We are now sitting around the fire in the kitchen of the Brantzeg home, cooking pizza in the fire (called a braai in Afrikaans). We are sharing food, laughter, memories, perspectives, and praises to God who dwells on high. Truly, God's glory brings me to tears today. Soon, we will move to the piano to worship. Communion in the truest sense.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for you are the bread of life. One Lord, one faith, one good day.

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