What a friend we have in Jesus!

[notice]Musings around children’s ministry. Reflections on week 4 of 10 weeks teaching stint.[/notice]

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Even before school officially closed on Friday I was on my way to Limpopo to Reaching a Generation’s Headquarters (Shikwaru Lodge). Part of me was relieved that we had to be on our way because I hate goodbyes and it was easier to wave a general goodbye than to personally face some of the children and educators I have to come love so dearly. I threw myself back into my work with RaG and before the weekend was over I had already been serving up to 350 children in an outreach programme! If I wanted a break from children, I have the wrong job!

My time at school grew me in ways that I didn’t notice until I reviewed some of my experiences with an older teacher at the school. Before my last day one of the teachers that has been at the school for close to 15 years took me for tea. It was a farewell tea and one of the best mentoring sessions I’ve ever had. I sat across from this woman who has been an educator for longer than I’ve been alive and thought how privileged I was to have had 10 weeks to sit around her feet and learn from her. It was funny how we interpreted the same events slightly differently too. I saw her coming to visit my classroom as a sign that I was losing the battle and she felt she had to control the learners for me. She told me over tea that she came in so much to support me and let me know I was not alone!  Isn’t it funny how we let negative thinking distort our reality so radically? It was a reminder to me that as a man thinks in his heart so he is! (Proverbs 23:7) I made myself so much smaller than I really was and burdened myself with condemnation for no good reason! That is not the Lord’s will for us at all.

But back to the week’s activities; Reaching a Generation  (RaG) regularly has teams from abroad who come and serve on short term missions trips. This week, a team from North Carolina have come for the fourth year to facilitate a Leadership Academy (ILA) that RaG runs every year for some of our South Africa’s bright and upcoming high school learners. Go to www.rag.org.za to see what the Lord is doing in these children’s lives through this ministry.

Mind-blowing
While there are many stories involving the children I could share.  I’d like to share something that happened in a session with educators this week that blew my mind and let me see a little more of the glory of God.

The story happened one night during the Teacher’s tea. This was a special Teacher’s tea where the team served the educators and waited on them all evening. The story involves a wonderful woman of God named Mary. She ministered to the teachers that evening and shared with them about Unity and how the calling can be hard sometimes but we must persevere. To illustrate her point, Mary had to young team members hold up rocks for the whole time that she shared. Honestly, I am not sure that those two girls had any idea of what they were in for when they agreed to help Mary with the illustration. Perhaps like some of us when we first hear the call we think about how comfortable we feel that moment and agree based on our feelings then. They’d just had a lovely supper and were nice and warm, “Sure, why not hold a rock up?” . But as Mary spoke and spoke, the discomfort started becoming more and more unbearable for the girls and they started to shift uncomfortably. The pain started to show in their eyes and my attention turned from Mary’s words to the girls’ faces. They were in agony and I was wondering how much longer they would hold out for. At that moment, another team member couldn’t bear the tension anymore and went to help them. I just burst into tears when that happened and Mary actually stopped speaking to acknowledge the power in what this young girl was had down for her friends. It was fine for a while after a friend brought temporary relief but then as Mary proceeded to share, even the friend started to wane. Now all three girls stood, starting to turn red from the effort of keeping these rocks above their heads. Here we were again, back to square one where good intentions were being tested with pain. Finally one of the girl’s father who is part of the ILA team came forward and told the girls to sit down. He took the rocks from them and released them from their obligation. He held the rocks up for a few minutes and then took them and threw them away. It was not planned but it was such a profound picture of what the Lord does for us. In my mind I was thinking, “Ooh Mary is going to be mad at him for messing with her illustration!” I am sure my next thought was Spirit inspired. My next thought was; “He knows that, and he’s prepared to fight any battle to save those girls from any further hurt”.

Jesus invites us to give Him our burdens all the time and how often do we stand, resolute to see our end of the bargain through? How often do we carry things we needn’t because we think we ought to, or we deserve to, or because it’s the right thing to do. It reminds me of that old hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus”, that is quoted at the start of this article. Jesus is standing before us saying,

“Come to me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Give whatever your ‘rock’ is to Him today, He is gentle and kind and He’ll give you rest.

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