Janco’s Story (Part Two)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209688Five years have passed since I took Nata to the shelter for street children.  A lot has happened within that time.  I’m still handing out tracts but now I’m a Youth leader in my church.  My Mother is back home and she hasn’t touch a drink since she checked into the Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centre.  She is working part-time at a bookstore.

My brother Jacquan is out of prison, a completely changed person.  After my first visit to him, he read the tract I left and was curious to learn more about God and this Jesus who would die for him.  I took other tracts on my next visit and then I learned that the Prison Ministries department had a programme with the prison where my brother was.  Volunteers visited the prisoners, mentor them and study the Bible with them.

Jacquan accepted Christ as his Savior and when he left the prison he was baptized in our church.  Mama and I were there.  He got a job working in the warehouse of a distribution company while studying to become a pastor, believe it or not.  It goes to show you that with God nothing is impossible.  In his free time, he shares his story and the Gospel with kids living on the streets, prostitutes and drug dealers.  Some of them listen and invite him to go again while others curse and threaten him.  He also visits the prison where he had spent ten years of his life to mentor, pray and study the Bible with the inmates.  I never thought I would ever be proud of my big brother but I am.  He was dealing drugs and now he sharing the Gospel.  He was a prisoner and now he’s going to be a preacher.  All he needed was a second chance and God gave it to him.  Now he could spend the rest of his life doing good.

Nata stayed at the shelter until she graduated from high school.  I was there for the ceremony.  She didn’t return home but went to live with a cousin and her family.  While she was at the shelter, I visited her as promised and was relieved to see that she was happy there.  She is going to Wits University now and studying Computer Science.  Good for her because this has been a male dominated field of study all over the world and Africa needs more women computer scientists.

I am no longer working at the grocery store.  I got a job as a Social Media Coordinator at a Christian organization and love every minute of it.  And my work as Youth Leader keeps me busy.  I look forward to teaching Sabbath School, worship, fellowship, our weekly meetings, outreach and recreational outings.  I am in charge of a terrific group of young people.  I learn as much from them as they learn from me.  Tomorrow, is Youth Ministry Day and I have invited Nata to come.  The youth are in charge of entire day’s programme.  I am nervous and excited.  The only thing I am responsible for is introducing the speaker who is none other than my brother, Jacquan.  My best buddy, Gidea offered to do the special music.  He has an incredible voice.  After the service there will be a fellowship meal which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to.

Right now, I’m meeting with the group participating in the service in my flat.  We are going over the details and making sure that everything is in order.  Lesedi has bravely volunteered to teach Sabbath School.  I have no doubt that she will do an outstanding job.  She has the making of a leader.  I am considering making her my Sabbath School Superintendent.  One of these days, I will discuss it with her.

After the meeting is over, I pray and then they leave.  The flat seems very quiet now that they are gone.  I head back into the living-room and turn on the television.  I was about to watch 3ABN when my doorbell rings.  Did one of the youth forget something?  I hurry to the door and look through the keyhole.  It’s Nata.  I quickly open the door.

She stares up at me.  She’s wearing a black top and denim skirt and a red scarf on her head.  “Hi,” she said.  nata

“Hi,” I reply, wondering what brings her to my neck of the woods.  I lean against the door.  I can’t get over how pretty she is.  “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow.  Have you come to tell me in person that you can’t come?”

She shook her head.  “No, I will be there.  I just came by to thank you in person for being so kind to me and to ask you if you would study the Bible with me.  We don’t have to do it now or here.”

My face brightened.  “Sure, I would be more than happy to study the Bible with you.  We can do so on Sunday in the park just around the corner from here.  Tomorrow when I see you we can decide when and where we will meet.”

She nodded.  “All right.  Thanks, Janco.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have you been in touch with your parents at all since you left home?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Nata, at some point you need to face them and deal with the issues you have with them.”

She lowered her eyes.  “I’m not ready to do that yet.”

“Okay,” I said.  I didn’t want to push her.  “It’s best to do it when you’re ready.  It’s getting dark, you’d better head home now.  Do you have far to go?”

“No.  My cousin is a twenty minute bus ride from here.”

“Would you like me to walk you to the bus stop and wait with you until the bus comes?”

She raised her eyes to look at me.  “You don’t have to,” she said quietly.

“Wait here,” I said as I leaned away from the door.  I went inside, turned off the television, grabbed my keys and went back.  I closed and locked the door.  “Let’s go.”

We walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus.  There were a couple of other people waiting there.  “Do you still live alone?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“So, you’re not married then?  I don’t see a wedding ring on your finger but I know that most Seventh-day Adventists don’t wear jewelry.”

“No, I’m not married.”

“What about a girlfriend?”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” I was about to ask her if she had a boyfriend but just then the bus arrived.  Lousy timing.  “See you tomorrow, Nata.”

“Good night, Janco.”  She smiled up at me before she turned and joined the small line to board the bus.

I saw her sat beside the window and look out.  She waved as the bus pulled away.  I watched it until it disappeared before I returned to my place.  I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.

Saturday came and I was up and about early, anxious to get the day started.  I had a light breakfast, showered and put on a new suit.  Yesterday I had gotten a haircut.  I looked sharp.  I smiled at my reflection before I grabbed my Bible, wallet and keys and left the apartment.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  I put the top down on my car and enjoyed the half-hour ride to church.  Already, the parking lot was filling up.

As I made my way from the parking lot to the front entrance of the church, I was greeted by church members and visitors.  I spent some time chatting with people before I went down into the basement and into one of the rooms to meet with the youth and have prayer with them.  At the back of my mind I was hoping that Nata would come.

Everything went exceptionally well.  I was so proud of my youth group and the special music by Gidea was a sermon in itself.  And speaking of sermons, Jacquan’s message, Set Free, brought tears to my eyes and I saw other people dabbing their eyes.  At the end of the service, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the program.  I was very pleased and I shared the positive feedback with everyone who participated.  I hugged Jacquan and told him that I was very proud of him.  When we parted, we were both in tears.  My mother came and whisked him away.  As I was about to leave the reception area and head down to the fellowship hall to have something to eat, I saw Nata.  My heart leapt in my chest.  I was so happy to see her.  I went over to her.

“You came,” I said.  She was wearing a yellow jacket over a floral dress with splashes of yellow in it.  For the first time since I knew her, she wasn’t wearing the red shawl on her head.

“I told you I would,” she said.  “And I’m happy I did.  I was truly blessed.”

“I’m thrilled to hear that.  Are you going to stay and have something to eat and meet some of the youth?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  You look very handsome in your suit.”

I smiled.  “Thank you.  And you look very pretty.  Let’s head on down now.”

We went downstairs to the fellowship hall which was buzzing with lively conversation.  It settled down when the pastor announced that he was going to say a prayer.  He offered thanks and a blessing of the meal and then people were helping themselves to the different delicious looking and smelling dishes.  Nata was in front of me in the line.  After we finished helping ourselves to the food, we found a couple of seats and sat down.  For several minutes we were alone.

“In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said suddenly, startling me.

I felt my face get hot.  “That’s good to know,” I managed to say after a while.

She smiled.  “So, there’s no reason why you and I can’t go out with each other.”

“No, there isn’t.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“We can go bowling and then have pizza afterwards.”

“That sounds great.”

Just then several youth joined us.  I introduced Nata to them.  We had a great time, socializing.  By the time we were ready to go our separate ways, Nata had been invited to our next outdoor activity and to attend church the following week.  I dropped her home and I told her that I would be back at six-thirty to take her bowling.

Our first date was a blast and it led to other dates.  We have been dating for almost a year and today we are riding in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain where I will propose to Nata.  I’m nervous and excited but I have no doubt that this is God’s will for my life.  The Lord has opened His hand and poured out so many blessings on my life.  I am so thankful to Him for His love and goodness not only to me but to my family and Nata.  True to my promise, I studied the Bible with her.  Two months ago, she answered the altar call and accepted Christ.  Now she is a baptized member of my church.  Yes, God is good.  He has turned so many lives around.

Sources:  Crossroad Prison MinistriesUPMI; SDA Church; The Conversation

An Invitation

“So, what are your plans this weekend?” Vihaan asked Leona Friday morning when she was at her desk having a cup of hot chocolate.

His question caught her by surprise.  It was the first time since she had been his secretary that he had asked her such a personal question.  She pondered it for a moment and then replied, “I’m going to a friend’s bridal shower tomorrow and on Sunday, I’m going to church.”

His eyebrows rose.  “You’re a Christian?”

“Yes, I am.  Why are you so surprised about that?”

He sat on top of the filing cabinet.  “I’ve met Christians before and they’re nothing like you.  There are three things I have found about Christians which put me off and I’m not alone in this.”

She put her cup down.  He had her full attention.  “What are the three things?”

“Well, first, Christians and preachers always tend to condemn and criticize people for their sexual habits and preferences, life-style choices and even political views.  Second, they are hypocrites.  They oftentimes don’t practice what they preach.  Doesn’t the Bible say something about gossip and yet most of the people who are guilty of gossiping are so people who say that they are Christians.  And they talk about the sins of others but what about theirs?  And third, it’s hard to have friendships or relationships with Christians.  The things I like to do they look down on.  They try to make me feel bad because I don’t go to church or read the Bible.  You, on the other hand are not at all like them.  You’re laid back, not uptight, you socialize with non-Christians and you don’t act like you’re better than the rest of us because you go to church every Sunday.”

Leona had heard this before.  Sometimes, Christians were their own worst enemies.  They were so caught up in not being like the world that they forget that they are supposed to be the lights that would bring non-believers to Christ.  They forget that He they were once like those whom they look down on.  They forget that Jesus died for everyone and that God doesn’t want anyone to perish.  “I know that some Christians are judgmental and critical of those outside of the church and even of other Christians.  With regard to sexual immorality, that is addressed in the Bible but sexual sin isn’t the only thing Christians are warned against.  We are warned about wild living, worshiping false gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, having envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like this.  And you’re right about gossiping and we are told not to associate with a gossip.  And some Christians are hypocrites.  They are quick to point out someone else’s fault but ignore their own.  Jesus talked about that.  He called the religious people out a lot and even called them hypocrites.”

“Jesus loved everybody, didn’t He?  I mean He didn’t look down on certain people, did He?”

“No.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners, society’s undesirables.  Today, that would be the homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, drug dealers, prisoners, anyone who need to know about God and His love and mercy.  Jesus likened Himself to a doctor.  Doctors are in the business of healing. They would send a sick person away because of who they are.  It the same with Jesus.  Whoever went to Him, He didn’t reject.  He showed them the same love He would show to anyone.”

“So, He was not particular about who His friends were?”

She got up and went over to the filing cabinet to do some filing.  He shifted so that he was facing her.  “He didn’t turn anyone away because of their lifestyle or situation but He did tell them not to continue sinning.  Jesus showed everyone love and compassion but He still wanted them to turn away from a life of sin.  It’s like our parents. They love us but when we do wrong, they correct us.  They don’t ignore what we are doing because they love us.  Only an unloving and uncaring parent would allow his or her child to continue doing what is wrong even if it ruins that child in the end.”

“This is very interesting.  I would really like to continue this conversation.  How about having lunch with me at one.  We can grab some take out at the bistro around the corner and then go to a quiet spot in the park.” Corporate-Headshots_4812-500x1000

She smiled.  “That sounds good.  And if you’re not doing anything on Sunday, maybe you can stop by my church and meet other Christians like me.”

He slid off the cabinet.  “I just might do that.”

“Good.”  She watched him walk away.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to offer him an invitation to come to my church and see that there are Christians out there who have the heart and mind of Christ.

Sources:  ; Bible Gateway;

Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

Persecuted Church

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake – Luke 21:12

Pastor Samuel was arrested under false charges and imprisoned for eight years.  He was not able to be with his wife or to be a father to their daughter who was only ten months old when he was imprisoned.  In spite of his circumstances, Samuel remained faithful to the Lord, sharing the Gospel with other prisoners.  As a result of his commitment to the ministry to which he was called, many of them chose to follow Christ.

Watch Pastor Samuel’s story and ask yourself if you would respond to this situation with the same kind of trust and faith as he did?   Could you be strong like his wife?  In spite of the tears that overwhelmed her as a result of the pain and loneliness she experienced at their separation, she remained faithful to the Lord and didn’t quit on her husband.

http://www.gfa.org/samuel/

Pastor Samuel is a free man and he plans to continue in his ministry.  Please continue to pray for him and his family.  And pray for other families who may face the same fate.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose – Romans 8:28

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Her Nazi Grandfather

I lapsed into silence, I slept a lot and I wasn’t really functioning. Only afterward did I begin to analyze the situation and try to understand the characters of my mother and my grandmother. I only started to learn more about my grandmother at the end. Today I understand that I went through the process step by step, peeling away layer after layer. But in the first months I had no idea what to do.

2349077637Imagine how you would feel if you were to find out that Amon Goeth was your grandfather. He was the sadist Nazi Commandant at the Plaszow concentration camp near Krakow from 1943 to 1944 whom Ralph Fiennes portrayed in an Oscar worthy performance. I remember the scene in the movie where he would be on the verandah with his rifle and would randomly shoot people as if it were a sport.

This man murdered prisoners on a daily basis and actually trained his dogs to tear inmates to death. He shot people his office window if they appeared to be moving too slowly or resting in the yard. He even shot to death a Jewish cook because the soup was too hot. He brutally mistreated his two maids, Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig and Helen Hirsch, who, along with the other inmates, lived in constant fear for their lives.

In the movie he was attracted to Helen Hirsch, looking at her and wondering “is this the face of a rat?” At one point in the movie, Helen had resigned herself to idea that Goeth was going to kill her. “He will. I see things. We were on the roof on Monday, young Lisiek and I and we saw the Herr Kommandant come out of the house on the patio right there below us and he drew his gun and shot a woman who was passing by. Just a woman with a bundle, just shot her through the throat. She was just a woman on her way somewhere, she was no faster or slower or fatter or thinner than anyone else and I couldn’t guess what had she done. The more you see of the Herr Kommandant the more you see there are no set rules you can live by, you cannot say to yourself, “If I follow these rules, I will be safe.””

It’s hard to believe that a person could be capable of such horror. And it’s even harder to accept that you are related to such a person. This was the shocking reality for Jennifer Teege, a bi-racial woman who found out quite by accident that Amon Goeth was her grandfather.  She plucked a book from a library shelf and recognized photos of her mother and grandmother in the book.  It was then that she discovered the horrifying fact that her grandfather was Nazi butcher, Amon Goeth.  His daughter, Monika Hertwig was Jennifer’s mother. Monika had met and fallen in love with a Nigerian man. Their relationship didn’t last. Monika’s own experience in dealing with the truth about her father’s role in the Holocaust is showcased in the 2006 documentary film, The Inheritance. In the movie, Monika meets Helen Jonas-Rosenweig at the scene of the former concentration camp, the latter at first unwilling to meet the daughter of the man who terrorized her and so many others.

I am not clear on how Jennifer Teege came to be adopted. Apparently she was close to her grand-mother who committed suicide not long after she did an interview. Jennifer is convinced that had she been around when her grandfather was alive, he would have shot her because she was not a member of the master race–she didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes. Many of us would not have survived.  Jennifer shares her story in the book, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me which she co-wrote with award-winning journalist Nikola Sellmair.

If you are interested in hearing Jennifer’s story, listen here.

Sources: The Current; Jennifer Teege; Jennifer Teege’s Longreads

Iranian Christian Woman Released From Prison

Imagine being imprisoned for your faith!  For Shahnaz Jayzan and other Christians, this is a sad reality.  Thankfully, Shahnaz was released from prison on January 28, 2014 but with conditions.  Read more about her story in the below email I received from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Please pray for Shahnaz, the Christians in Iran and around the world who are being imprisoned and persecuted for their faith.

IRAN: Shahnaz Jayzan Released from Prison

Source: Mohabat News


Shahnaz Jayzan

Shahnaz Jayzan, an Iranian Christian arrested in December of 2011, was released from prison on January 28th. Shahnaz was imprisoned along with Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, Davoud Alijani and her husband, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh. The three men were earlier freed after spending over 200 days in jail. (For more on their release from prison, please visit this page.)

Shahnaz’s release was conditional, and she is required to report to the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz every four months. According to sources, Shahnaz and Pastor Farhad are not permitted to hold church services or visit Christians in Khuzestan province. Also, they were told they should leave Ahwaz, their hometown.

Thank God that Shahnaz has also been released from prison. Pray that she and her husband will continue to serve God faithfully, despite the limitations placed on them by authorities. Also remember in prayer the many other Iranian believers who remain imprisoned. Ask God to grant them endurance, and pray also that they will soon be released.

You can impact and encourage imprisoned Christians in Iran by writing letters, reminding them that they are not forgotten. For our complete list of prisoners’ addresses, please visit our website.