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Let the Light shine through me

By Papama Mtembeka

Forming my own Vuku Family group has been a life-changing experience for me. I started my Vuku meetings in February this year with two of my friends at University I study Political Science and Information Systems at UCT and my friends are both pursuing business Science Degrees in Finance and Analytics. We were close friends starting off but being Vuku members created a new more important dynamic in our relationship. One of my members was already a believer, attending church three times a week and the other one had just started therefore we were all at different places in our lives with Jesus. I have always thought of myself as Christian, but I only recently made the decision to truly accept Jesus into my life and starting to see what he has done for me and how much he loves me. The beginning of my Vuku Meetings was the beginning of my journey in Christ’s love. God gave me a renewed heart that wants to love others not because it makes me feel good or I want to be loved back, but so that they may know Jesus Christ’s love that I was experiencing. Regardless of what we thought we knew about Jesus, each meeting felt like learning new information and shifted our perceptions of what being Christian means. We had to learn to let go of pre-existing notions of what being good Christians means and focus on our relationships with each other, what our relationships mean to us, and the love and care required to maintain them. We learned that for our relationships with each other to have real value, we would need to have a foundation in Christ’s love. That brought us closer to each other than we were before.

Over the past couple of months, we have grown individually and as a collective in our relationship with Christ. When we were still meeting on campus each meeting was centered around getting to know each other
and sharing Christ’s love between ourselves. When the pandemic started, and we had to go home that was a big change for us. As a leader, I was concerned about how we would be able to continue and whether the
meetings would have the same impact. As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry because God had already started working in their lives and they were excited to continue by whatever means necessary. This was a big encouragement for me because when I was in doubt God showed himself to me through them. Once we had started meeting online, barring a few technical issues, we were continuing to grow individually and as a group. Being at home with our families we had the opportunity to practice what we have been learning about love. My friends each had different, but positive responses. Sometimes it would be little things like not getting mad when a sibling does something to hurt them, facing past traumas from a parent, and learning to forgive them with love. One time one of my friends was excited to tell us about her mom’s response of genuine gratefulness to God for the first time after receiving good results for a test. They learned to find such joy in seeing his presence in small things in their lives.

Before having a Vuku Family group I didn’t really understand what it means to love others as Jesus loved me. That is mainly because I didn’t understand what Jesus’ love for me means. Like most people I understood that love as Jesus blessing me with good things, keeping me safe, and being there for me to pray to when I need things. It wasn’t until I started serving my members that I realize why Jesus died for me, why he loves me, and why I have to love them. The reason Jesus died for me and the reason why he loves me is for me to know God’s heart for me. Loving them became easier once I started understanding that my love for them is not for me, but to bring them salvation through getting closer to God. Seeing how my friends responded to this different kind of love and the meetings and seeing how God was working in their lives helped me see how God is working through me. I was able to see God’s love for me through what he was doing for them. Through caring for them I have learned what it means to have faith in God’s love and will for my life.

Recently, one of my friends was in trouble and because of the distance, I didn’t know what to do or how to help. I let myself worry about it so much that it was affecting my day. Due to taking on all of this trouble on myself, I didn’t leave much room for Jesus in my mind and heart. I couldn’t see what he was doing for me and for her in that situation because I’d momentarily forgotten how much he loves me. After I had a talk with my parents about the situation, I finally let go and placed my faith in God’s love for her and the change sharing Christ’s love with her has brought into her life. Going through that experience and the relationships I have been able to build in Christ’s love revealed to me what I had always been searching for. I completely let myself fully trust in and depend on God and I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I found the kind of peace that only God can give.

Since starting my own group, I became more attentive, affectionate, and kind towards my friends because I know that by loving them, they get to also experience Christ’s love for me and them. They have remarked that they can see the difference in how I care for them before and after we started our meetings. I am just starting out on my journey with Christ and getting to know God’s heart, but he has given me a taste of what life with him is like and I want more of that. Jesus has given me the desire to dive deeper into who Christ is and what a life walking with him looks like. Learning to depend on him in every aspect of my life and trust in his love for me and others around me.

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I felt like I’ve received Jesus for the first time

My name is Thandokazi. a.k.a. Thando.

I started to hearing about the (Vuku Cell) group I think it was 2017. I met Nokuphumla. I know her, so she is my friend. You can say that.

She invited me to the group. I was like what are you doing there. She was like, “come, cause I can’t explain to you, I don’t know how. You need to come and see it for yourself.”

I said, “No man you are with Chinese. I don’t even understand how you doing things. How do you preach? How do you sing? Ching Chang? I don’t have time for that.”

Every time when she met me.
“You have not decided yet?” “No man leave me alone.”

Last year, I just decided to go because I was bored at home. I had nothing to do. I was not working. Man, I could just spend some of my time there, because it was not a boring thing there. Suppose it was (about) Word of God. I might learn something. Then I went there.

When I went there, Nokuphumla wasn’t there. I just found her mom. Then I was like, ‘Ah you see now. Where are you chines people, now.’ On Whatsapp (I wrote) ‘where are you people, cause. I was there and you weren’t even there. That means this thing is not serious.’

But she (Noluphumla) kept on, she didn’t give up on me. Cause she knew what was going on with me. “You know what? You don’t know anything, just come man.” So I just decided to go.

And I’ve learnt a lot of things. I don’t want to lie. Sometimes, we think we love our kids, but when I got here, I just realised, no I never loved my kids. I have learnt to have that affections that relationship with my kids. That I’ve learnt it here.

I know I’m saved, but now I felt like I’ve received Jesus for the first time, cause I’ve learnt new things. I mean something that is more here. That expressed more is love. If you don’t have Jesus, you can’t have that. So you must first have relationship with God. Then, you will know how to have relationship with other people then you can know how to show love to other people.

Because you know what god is done for you. You experience that love from God. That is what I received here. Its love love love all the way. I am all smiles. Amen.

Even in the church, when I find a verse that says about love, I know exactly what to explain (and) what to show to other people so they could understand what this love is exactly about.

So I am very grateful hoping to grow. I won’t say I’m perfect, I am learning every day and hoping to learn every day.

*It was one of 8 testimonies that Vuku Cell Leaders gave during the Vuku Cell Leaders Retreat in January 2019. She’s been a member since September 2018.

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Finding Me in Christ

By Papama Mtembeka

I grew up in a Christian family, so I was surrounded by the idea of God and the church from when I was little. I never had a reason to question my faith or what I believed. For me it was quite simple. My parents are Christian so I’m Christian too. I lived for 19years of my life not really know what being Christian really meant or witnessing God work in anyone else’s life. Being Christian mostly meant going to church every Sunday, praying to God to ask and give thanks for things. I never thought of it any more than that, because God was doing things for me. I took whatever God gave me without considering what my relationship with him was and what he required of me. To me it was ‘God loves me so he will give me all the things that I need.’ Yes, God did all of those things for me, but because I didn’t really know who he was it might as well have all been for nothing because it wasn’t bringing me any closer to him. After my mom died when I was 12 I ended up living with different aunt’s over the years. Mr Jung and Helen found me and took me out of the situation that I was in by me putting into a private school out of the township so I could have different better opportunities.
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It wasn’t until I started living with my new family that we grew close and became a real family where I could finally get an idea of what God is really like. God used them to give me a small glimpse of what his love for me is like. For example when I didn’t do well in my Matric year my dad, Mr Jung supported me, instead of being disappointed in me. Him and my mom Helen did everything they could think of to help me improve my results. Over and over again they supported and advised me as I continued to mess up trying to find my way. My dad continued to be there everyday giving me advice and guidance. My mom played the role of a loving and strict mother where she would help me with my studies, teaching me discipline and how to take care of myself and others around me. Preston was such a joy in my every day life. On the darkest days where things felt extremely hard he was always there cheering me up, reminding me of the little joys in life, what it feels like to be needed, loved and looked up to. Through them I learned what it feels like to be in a loving family that always supports each other. This is what God did for me and I could not and still fail to completely fathom how he could have so much love for me even when I didn’t know or care about him.

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The only thing that I was really sure of was that they knew Christ a lot better than I did and that he was working through them for my benefit, but I didn’t truly understand why. I knew that we were all Christian, but I also knew that the relationship was different. The way that they worship God was completely different to how I did. At this point I wasn’t reading the bible or praying as much so this didn’t bother me as much as it should have. I could see God’s grace and power working through them, but that still didn’t inspire me to truly seek him out because he was already doing great things for me so I didn’t really have an incentive to. God though was relentless in the fight for my life. He showed his patience, love and understanding towards me through the family. Every single time that I would mess up and stumble my family would be there to help me back up and guide me in the right direction. Anyone else doing what my mom and dad did out of their own freewill would have given up on me, but because God was the one in charge he showed his unconditional, relentless love to me through their patience and understanding. He is the one who brought me into this family so he could reach me through them. Through all the good and bad things in the last 6 years God was preparing me for this moment right here. A moment where I can say I am Christian and truly believe in it and him. Not because I deserve it, but because he loved me even when he didn’t need to.

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I’ve always known that I wasn’t a good Christian and not living the way that I should but because I didn’t really understand who God was it was hard for me to want to please him. During all of this time and all my trouble committing to him Jesus Christ never left me. When I felt like my life was falling apart and I was failing in school He was using the family, their friends, neighbours and even mere strangers to help shape my life to his will and prepare me to be able to seek him out and build a relationship with him with no reservations and on his own terms. For example both my parents have friends who are professors at the University and they would ask them for advice and information whenever I needed any. Also our neighbour who is a good family friend and a professional Psychologist offered me professional academic evaluations free of charge, which helped identify what my weaknesses are and that has allowed me to work on making them strengths. With both of my parents’ spiritual and physical guidance I have gotten to a place where I know who Jesus Christ is in my life. It is still a work in progress, but God has revealed himself to me and I am happy to get to know him, love him and serve him with my whole heart and mind. The love that I have experienced from God is the greatest most truest thing I’ve ever felt. It’s a love that has filled me up in places I never knew were empty. That is the kind of love I am willing to share to anyone who will have it because it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

My orientation at the University of Cape Town is next week. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me in this new love I’ve found in him.

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God, Preschool and I

Reflecting on the past 8 years as the Montessori ministry comes to a close.

– Helen Lee

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’ – Mark 16:15

It is our ninth year serving children in South Africa.  My sole focus was to share God’s love with underprivileged children.  The first three years were the most important years of my life while serving Liyabona Montessori Preschool, and training teachers such as Wendy.

However, the condition of the people’s lives was an unimaginable paradigm, and it sparked fear in me on many occasions.  This might have even been the spark for me to meet Jesus; learning to depend on Him in the deepest way.

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The God I met through serving families through Liyabona Montessori was the part of God of healing and comfort.  While I was working in Canada my heart went out to the children who needed special care, and God called me to love them.  I then brought that calling to South Africa.  To my surprise, the sheer number of children who needed urgent special care was overwhelming, and soon I started hiding saying, “God, I can’t handle this.”  I was in doubt of God’s power since I myself wasn’t convinced of the power of true love.

I wasn’t dealing with a few problem children in a good environment, but instead it was the majority of the children who needed special care.  I was crying out and asking Him what must be done, but He kept on telling me just to bear the day, persevere, and to depend on Him.  Therefore, I tried to ask this question every day for the past 8 years, ‘How can I love the children under these circumstances?’

Baffling thing was, despite my dire attempts to hang on to God for the strength, I didn’t have joy in me. My anger and temperament towards my family was getting worse over time, and the little patience I had left in me had long but evaporated when I was in Antarctica.  Abohna has become very wise through the years.  I have found myself getting mad at him for no reason, and in response he would climb up a tree refusing to come down until either his dad came home, or I apologised profusely.  I believe that him being courageous was God’s providence for him to endure his mother’s shortcomings.

I couldn’t understand the reason for my high stress and fatigue all the time.  Come to think of it, I just plain worked hard.  Then, I would get tired and work even harder again.  I felt overwhelmed with all the responsibilities of loving them.  When the black township children came to visit our house, I had for forcefully drag my body and soul to serve them. When they were gone, I took it out on my family.

I started to surrender to God.  With daily devotion and prayer, I observed the God who was with the children.  When He was leading me, I wasn’t tired, and I felt his hands touching me through the children.
As I was following, not leading or rushing, God started to make me feel joyful.

As I was growing up, I thought I had received much love from my parents.  After all my parents worked hard, so I didn’t have to struggle financially at all. However, due to the busy schedules of my parents, I had to take care of things on my own. Also there was a lot of responsibility as the eldest child, which also carried great expectations as well.  I wasn’t allowed to make any mistakes, otherwise I would faced much resentment and punishment.  I had to pretend to be strong, and would act more responsible than my peers. I never felt free to share my feelings, or my thoughts.  I thought in doing so it would make me look weak.  Also, didn’t really know how to even be vulnerable in the first place.

Initially, I was attracted to Montessori Education because of the freedom that the children had in speaking
their minds, and learning through their own mistakes.  As I leaned to reason, practice patience, kindness, and deal with children’s emotions such as love, jealousy, anger, and fear, I started to experience God’s character.  It slowly filled my heart with joy and contentment.

The very joy and contentment were severely challenged as soon as I came to South Africa, pledging to live my life as a missionary.  I struggled with an unforgiving God, and as I tried harder, Satan attacked even more fiercely.  “You can’t handle it!  Hypocrite! Lier!  You will ruin everything, and there is nothing you can do to change that.”  These barks at my concious made me shiver for the longest time.

However, my good heavenly Father didn’t let go of me, and slowly healed me with unconditional love.  “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7. The preschool was my church, the place where I am with Him.  I couldn’t lie how I felt inside when I was at preschool, because He was with me, and He knows everything.  As I got closer to Him, the ghastly image the world portrayed became conspicuous to my heart through sexually abused children and women.  Then He started to lead us through the IDSC_0779’m Precious to Jesus Campaign.

‘Liyabona’ is a Xhosa phrase, and it means, ‘God is watching over us’.  Liyabona Montessori was a place to learn and experience His love.  He saw all my faults and mistakes, and yet He shone upon me.  I was a sinner, but He came to me and nurtured me to serve Him in this very place.  This place is my church where I spent the past 8 years learning God’s character.

God gave me the answer to the question that I never seized to ask, ‘How can I love the children under these circumstances?’  I saw Him loving the children as they were without conditions.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” – 1 Corinthians 3:11

When my husband was kidnapped by robbers in 2015, I cried out to God and He answered me.  He opened Heaven’s gate and saved me despite my sins.  He embraced me and told me that He loves me.  Then I finally understood.  I love Jesus Christ who died for me on the cross.  The gift I received was salvation.

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ – Isaiah 9:6

As I come to a close on the last 8 years of this ministry, God yet again has asked me to serve the children.  Vuku-Gold Rule Families has grown to 11 families with over 20 children.  It is my new task to restore the relationship with their parents, and to assist with their education.  God may have been showing me His love through preschool in order for me to it to them.  I will be stepping down from Liyabona Montessori where I have spent the past 8 years searching for God, while sharing Christ to them with Jung.  I pray that they will be able to overcome the hardships they face ahead, and that they place their hope in Christ.

So they may hope in Christ

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Do you feel His heart?

img_1768By Jung Lee

We stood in a circle, and got ready to close the Greenfield Vukukhanye meeting in prayer.  I asked, “Now, do you understand God’s heart?  Can you see a glimpse of it?”  The lesson was simple, to know God’s heart, the first step being to discern and empathize with what brings God joy and heartache.  To elaborate the lesson, two stories from the community were shared; one story of a young man who was paralyzed for 7 years from a stray bullet, and the other of an old grandma who was raped by her own nephew.

Only a handful of people even knew of the paralyzed young man currently living among them in their community since he was so scarce.  No one could believe that he had been bedridden for the past two years.  The old grandma was crying when we visited her.  Not only from the pain of getting raped by her own nephew, but also from the denial and rejection from her own brother (the perpetrator’s father).  Instead of admitting his son’s fault, her brother accused her that her own son was the rapist.  We also were able to ask her son what was going on at home and he replied that, “She is always resorting to drinking and has been sobbing throughout the day.”

img_1784The team decided to reach out to the paralyzed young man together to start off.  Prior to the meeting, some of us had made good relations with the notorious family.  The mother of the paralyzed young man was known to be a scary figure in the community, and people avoided her at all costs.  After the meeting, the team went to visit the family at the house that had been closed to any such visitors for a long time.  We worked together to install prepared drapes to lightened the room, and shared the words of encouragement and smiles.

When I asked the group if they see His heart, the group answered in a soft, but convicting voice, “Yes, we do.”  God’s heart can be felt everywhere around us if you align your sight with His people’s joy and ache.

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When the healing starts

By Helen Lee

“I am amazed how strong you are.  You keep yourself composed, and always look fantastic.  I also love the shade of your lips.”

When we first met Nosethu, she had been gang-raped by 7 boys who are now still awaiting sentencing.  She told me, “Helen, unless I act strong, people will gossip about me.  I can’t stand their stares and whispers.  My husband (who was stabbed by the same boys) helps me, but I am afraid that even he might leave me.  I suffer from nightmares, and can’t fall asleep unless I am really drunk.  I can’t even stay with my children because I once woke from a nightmare and choked them.  I have to drink myself to death to numb my pain, and then I suffer from headaches the next day.”

She wanted to go to the beach for tea, so we went to have coffee and cake.  I could tell she missed her children by the way she looked at Abohna.  It wasn’t until a little over two months did she start to open her heart to us.  Last Sunday, she started wailing when Jung and Zukisani visited her.  She shrieked, “I was pretending to be okay.  I can’t do it anymore.  Please help me.  I feel dirty! I can’t stand my mother believing that I abandoned my children for drinking.  I miss my children, and if only I can make peace with my mother will I see them again.”  Then she collapsed.

When Jung returned home that night he was smiling with joy.  He had driven her to her children, and held back to her mother who was yelling at her saying, “she was treacherous women who abandoned her children for money while providing nothing.”  He explained to her mother that what Nosethu needed most was a family who was willing to support her in this time.  A family that was willing to help her to overcome the pain she is in.  Vukukhanye team is currently helping her and monitoring her.  She is drinking much less, and doing her best to look for a job.

When he was leaving, Nosethu and her daughters had the biggest smile on their faces.

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Vuk’ukhanye Ministry 2

By Zukisani Nzala (Edited by Sean Lem)

We have continued to follow up with Syamthanda by visiting him throughout or daily routine in Zola.  We have asked around, and have actually gotten some great feedback on how he is doing.   Neighbors and family alike have mentioned to us that he is doing much better now within the home and in the community.  Moreover, Syamthanda’s relationship with his mother and father has improved greatly.  He is no longer getting beaten, and in fact most quarrels within the family are handled with calm talks rather than shouts of opinion.  We have even caught glimpses of Syamthanda with his mother playing marbles just outside the house.

img_1635I was so overjoyed to see them playing together and getting along.  It was truly a moment that I have deemed as priceless as I reflect on how Syamthanda used to be viewed within the community.  How other community members would protest as to how he would be a bully towards the other children.  He would often disappear after school with no trace as to where he would go, or what he was doing.   However, now he has become a part of the same community that rejected him, and you would have never known just from face value that this boy has such a troubled past.  He loves to play with the other children along the street, as well as stopped wandering aimlessly throughout the community.  We even discovered he likes drawing, and have thus tried our best to cultivate that area of his life.  Furthermore, we do realize that even though he has come so far this year we will continue to work with and nurture him.  The changes that have transformed him will need time to adjust to, and we hope that we can be there for each and every step.

I am really amazed with the work that God has procured within this single family.  How as a whole they have become more loving and caring for one another.  Even though there are still a lot of loose ends that need to be taken care of I feel like in God’s timing all things will come into their own.  As I reflect on the family I pray that they may be more accepted within the community.  I pray sincerely for Syamthanda’s older brother that he may too one day come back into the fold of the family.  Overall I have been a witness to the surpassing greatness of Christ as he has placed his hand upon this single family.  I eagerly look to continue walking with them as the press forward through all the struggles and joys ahead.

Great work, team Vukukahnye!

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“What Have You Done So Far?”

By Jung Lee

It was a gloomy Heritage Day afternoon when I was confronted by two young men.  They both have been attending Vukukhanye in Zola South for the past two months.  A multitude of people on the street adorned traditional suits and proudly painted faces.  However, these two only displayed their displeasure with their arms crossed.  They demanded from us ‘concrete evidence’ on how we are helping in the community, and claimed they have not seen any help (jobs and such) from us.  It was obvious where they were going with this conversation, but I carried on with them anyways.  I asked, “Do you see any changes in the community?” They responded, “Yes, I do.  Ziekona is doing very, very well week after week, but did you help her only emotionally or financially?”

Ziekona was sobbing when she came to see us.  She is a single mother of three with a heavy drinking problem.  To make matter worse people kept taking her ID, so she couldn’t even apply for a government assistance.  People thought if someone would help her to get her ID back, things will work out.  However, here in South Africa, the identification book works as collateral due to heavy reliance on government grants.  Even if she did get her ID back, it is unfortunately very likely that things will not improve.  During the conversation, she said something that stood out to me, “I have nothing, and can’t provide for my kids.  My kids think I am a bad mother.  I want to be happy with my kids.”  At the end of the conversation I shared with her, “Ziekona, I understand that you need help, but what I am hearing is that you want to be a good mother.  Am I right?”  She nodded.  I continued, “I can make miracles happen and solve all the problems, but if you are drunk, you can’t ever be a good mother.  They need you as a mother 24 hours a day.  I’d like you to try to quit drinking first, and don’t worry about your relatives who do not care about you.  Consider us as your family, and we will be there for you.”  It was about a month ago when she walked out of our first meeting with hope, and a smile on her face.

Since then, Zameka and Gilbert have looked after her with food, and have rectified the ID issue.  Zukisani and I visit her every time we are in the community.  We rushed to the hospital when her baby got hurt, and brought them food.  When skeptical neighbors brought her down with condescending and hurtful words, we encouraged her to continue to be strong.  Now, she has a government grant on its way and support from Vukukhanye members and friends.  Yesterday, she came to me and said, “I love you guys.  Please never leave me.  Because of you, people saw something in me that they never saw before.  Now, people love me.  You brought me somewhere from nowhere, so you can take me anywhere from here.  I will go anywhere with you.”

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True repentance

By Helen Lee

While we were walking around Zola a man whom we have never met before stumbled into our lives.  This man’s name is Amen, and he was passing by while we were talking to Zikona. He was in quite a drunken state, and as it was around 11:30 am we deducted thathe must have been drinking all night.  We were in the middle of other matters; however, he insisted on circling around us shaking his head as he slurred out, “I shouldn’t drink.  I am sorry, my name is Amen.”  Jung, Zukisani, and I warmly greet him and shake his hand. Amen couldn’t stop talking and smiling.  He pulls my husband in close, and asks if they may pray together along with several other questions like, “Where is your church?  Are you a pastor?  Do you do bible study?” Jung replied, “You can come to our Vukukani tomorrow, we will welcome you.”

Amen seems like a nice person. God says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This man must have a deep seeded issue to be drinking through the night till morning. Maybe he is lonely, scared, abused, or he doesn’t have strength to carry on without the alcohol.  However, he was hanging around as if he needed rest, clinging to the hope that is at the edge of Christ’s robe.  He truly needed a friend, he needed Jesus.  Something he said that is still ringing in my mind is, ” I love Jesus, I know Jesus, I promise I won’t get drunken tomorrow. Can you pray for me?”

I know God heard Amen’s plea, and perhaps we were there at the right time to bring him into Vukukanie. Jesus invited those who are heavy burdened and promised them rest.  All they have to do is come and receive God’s comfort and love. God loves Amen, and I pray that he can follow Jesus.