Fear Not

Amy Thedinga and a Swazi childAll my life I have struggled with fear. When I had my first child, my anxiety kicked into high gear. Eventually, I had another child and experienced this crippling fear times two. Medication took the edge off, but only slightly. I had trouble leaving my children with a babysitter and would not be able to go around the block for a date with my husband without relentlessly texting and calling home. I was even scared to leave them in the church nursery!

As I was seeking God’s deliverance from this prison of anxiety, the answer came in a most unusual way. In the summer of 2009 when God began to talk to me about going to Africa the following year, I would have laughed if I wasn’t so frightened that He was serious. My end of the conversation went something like this: “I can’t even let my kids out of my sight long enough to go down the street for coffee and you want me not only to leave the country, but the continent, and enter another hemisphere with very limited communication for 11 days? Say what?”

I once heard someone say that the phrase “fear not” is in the bible 365 times; once for every day of the year. As I searched scripture to find the key to unlocking my freedom in this area, I began to realize that when the Lord told His people to fear not, He was really telling them that when fear attacks them, to trust Him, to follow His leading and not to run away from what He is calling them to do. In every instance He promised that if they stepped out, He would be with them. And in every instance, He was.

So with sweaty palms, dry mouth, and racing heart, I boarded the plane that would take me half the globe away from my children for more than a week to follow what I believe is His calling on my life. I wish I could say that I didn’t feel afraid, but the truth is that I was terrified. But ever faithful, my God was right beside me the whole time.

One day as our team worked on the garden, the children gathered around and started singing the most beautiful song in SiSwati. I stopped and asked the interpreter what they were singing. She said the words of the song translate as: “we know the Lord and He walks us through all our trouble.”

That’s when it hit me: I know the Lord and He will walk me through all of my trouble. There is no reason to be afraid. Come what may, my God will uphold me with His righteous right hand.

As I served in Africa and had the privilege to love and care for those beautiful children who have suffered more than most of us can even comprehend, I began to get a revelation. Who am I, based on my need to control and my feelings of fear, to refuse to obey God’s call and neglect to be part of the solution He is putting into place for these precious ones? On a selfish note, I shudder when I think of how dangerously close I came to letting fear cause me to miss out on one of the most valuable and life changing experiences I have ever had. I went to Africa wanting to be used by God to bring a ray of hope into their life but God in his goodness used them to do that very thing for me as well.

I hear so many people say things to me like, “Amy, I can’t go to Africa, I don’t have a job, I’m depressed, I have small children, I have an anxiety disorder”. Tell me about it! My response to them is this: When God calls you to do something, He will equip you and the only acceptable response is obedience. You can trust that when you are following His mandate to feed the hungry and care for the orphan, your righteousness will go before you and His glory will be your rear guard. So, fear not!

~by Amy Thedinga

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Litsemba Worship Project

Litsemba Worship ProjectA few months ago, I was invited to join with a group of musicians and Heart for Africa people for a weekend of creating music.  We were called to meet in Atlanta to begin a music project that would reflect and speak about our experiences in Swaziland last summer.  As with many others that were there, I thought yeah, that sounds great, but what can I do?  Something like that is great for some people, but seems like something way over my head.

Well, of course it did. Most of what God calls us to do seems way over our heads. That’s the point. God often calls us to go and do things that are way out of our comfort zone. I believe he does that for a reason. So, that we must trust and rely on His grace to get us through. And as always this was the case, with all of us who excepted the invitation.

The goal was to think, talk, pray, and write about what God was speaking to us about our experiences in Swaziland.  So, that is what we did.  And out of this time together there were several songs written that will soon be recorded and available for all of you to enjoy.

As I think back on that weekend, I think of some little things that was said and think “that was the coolest part of the weekend”.  Then I think of another instance and say, “no, that was the coolest part”, and then another, and on and on.  So to single out one thing that happened would be impossible to do.  It was all so very cool.  What a great group of people.  They all brought a great heart to the sessions, each with their own perspectives and stories about how they were impacted. There were a lot of laughs, and times of very serious thought, and moments of tears as we recalled what we had seen.

I would like to say a special thanks to Ian and Janine for there hospitality and all the hard work it took to plan and pull off an event like this.  It’s not always easy dealing with musicians. :)  Also a big thanks to Tricia Ford.  Thanks for all your work behind the scene.

Thanks to the Coe family for the use of their beautiful house and for Mann and Leigh for their work with the camera.  And all the guys for their contributions, Laura Hawthorne, Austin Klee, Seth Condrey, Scottie Dugan, Mark Magee, Joseph Patrick Moore, and Masi Willis.  It was great to be with everyone again,and to meet their families that were able to join us for fellowship time.

Looking forward to the next time we have a chance to meet.

Thanks to everyone that helped to make that weekend one that was great fun and one that brought great joy to our Lord and King, Jesus.

~by Mark Hafliger

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Lessons a Teacher Has Learned

Five years ago I followed my heart and made a trip with Dream for Africa to plant gardens in South African villages.  I thought…I’ll just go this one time.  Our Lord thought otherwise!  I was so moved by the whole experience I knew I had to go back.

Doris, from my first trip, is a beautiful young woman I’ll never forget.  She showed me her church.  It was a small, very small wooden structure with gaping holes between the boards.  A dozen or so cheap plastic chairs were the only things inside.  As we said goodbye, tears filled my eyes, having seen a glimpse of the beauty and richness in her heart in sharp contrast to her extreme poverty and lack of possessions.

For trip two, I traveled to Malawi.  By now, Dream for Africa had transitioned to the leadership of Ian and Janine Maxwell and had been renamed Heart for Africa.  On this trip, I had the privilege of visiting a school for orphans and vulnerable children  As a 1st grade teacher in California, I couldn’t believe the eagerness to learn despite the lack of school supplies, hungry bellies, and untold stories of tragedy.  We had so much fun singing silly songs, and they sure got a kick out of me trying to dance.

For my third trip, I traveled to Kenya to help move the children of Merciful Redeemer Children’s Home into their new home.  Lots of physical labor was well worth the effort and discomfort as joyous children saw their safe and beautiful new home well stocked with food.  Their angelic voices immediately started praising the Lord.  Oh, such faith!

For trips 4 and 5, I traveled to Swaziland.  In 2009 I was able to see firsthand all of the wonderful tinges I had heard about El Shaddai Children’s Home.  In the summer of 2010, I taught Bible School, went on community visits, attended a church service at Project Canaan and helped with Litsemba.  How exciting to help bring HOPE to the thousands of children and adults who attended Litsemba!  It’s even more exciting to consider how Project Canaan will be able to save and enrich untold numbers of Swazi people!!

In my small way, I wanted to do more.  So this fall I told Janine I’d help raise money for Project Canaan Goats.  Then it was up to family, friends, and work associates to respond to my letter.  It was not a good time to involve my school families as I had in the past.  On the other hand, I was delighted when the health tech at my school organized a grade levee and office staff donation challenge.  Thanks to donations from $5 to $600, the total to date is 42 goats.

Since I began my amazing journey in 2005, I have to say…
It’s the little things
a smile, a wink
a hug, a thumb’s up
a laugh, a tear
a song, a dance
a word of encouragement, a word of compassion
an open mind, an open heart
Along with God’s guidance and grace
That truly unite us as one
And offer us hope now and forevermore.
Praise to the Lord of All!

~Linda Olson is a first grade teacher from southern California

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Project Canaan Construction Trip

Construction in AfricaFrom June 23 – July 3, 2011, Heart for Africa will lead a team of volunteers serving in Swaziland on a special trip planned for constructing two structures on Project Canaan.  The trip will focus on building a training classroom as well as a carpentry workshop.  While the trip will focus on these construction projects there will be many other tasks as well.  We’re looking for skilled carpenters, those comfortable with construction projects, and those who are willing to help with all the other tasks that will not involve actual construction or building.

In addition to construction work on Project Canaan, the trip will also include one day of service at one of our church partners in the rural communities.  So register to join us, pack your work gloves, and the fun will begin June 23rd.

Click here for complete trip details.

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