by Conny (SU Botswana)
Separated by the COVID crisis, but together for hope!
Thank you for following our story and again we greet you from your brothers and sisters in Christ in Botswana!
We might have been separated by lockdown, but we were not alone! Our God never left us, nor forsook us. COVID looked strong and yes it has a real risk, but God has been there with us every step of the way. We do have to deal with our fears and take them to our Heavenly Father who reassures our hearts He is right there with us.
During the crisis, a demand to provide counseling and fight anxiety and fear to affected and infected students arose . I must admit, I wondered, “How are we going to insure the safety of our staff? How is God, going to keep us safe as we enter the schools?”
Honestly, we stepped out in faith, took precautions, but the sacrifice is not greater than the opportunity to take God’s Good News, His message of Hope in Jesus to those who need to hear and have someone step alongside them at this time. So we go, we endure the real risk because God says He is with us and will protect us.
But there was another group God placed on our hearts and that was those stuck at home. Lockdown had a dark side to it as well as gender-based violence and abuse of women and children increased in our nation. How could we speak hope into this setting?
Here is where we were encouraged by Scripture Union Global and LLI Live. Weekly, they stepped alongside us as the pandemic continued to unfold. They spoke into relevant topics like child protection and how to use social media for discipleship.
Our supporters and volunteers listened in and were so excited after each session. These sessions provided us with tools to reach others with Hope when ministry continued to transition to online venues. We realized we needed to make this shift to get the word of God into the hands of those we were now socially distant from.
God has enabled us to reach out through our Facebook page and to address tough topics like gender violence and encourage others through daily online devotions. We are grateful for those who provided timely training through the webinars and Zoom training events. Today, we see even clearer how we are in this Together for Hope!
Conny (SU Botswana)
In the face of COVID Crisis, we choose HOPE!
Greetings from Botswana!
We were shaken by the news of the COVID crisis and how this invisible disease had entered Botswana and was impacting the world. God had brought us to a crossroads with our faith. Would we choose to throw in the towel, to give up, or choose a path of growth, a path drawing closer to Jesus?
This was a defining moment for us, a critical decision needed to be made. One path led to shipwreck and the other to transformation. We chose the path of HOPE!
Across the nation, Christians in different platforms, such as National Intercession and Transformation groups, began to pray through WhatsApp groups throughout the day. There was a call to prayer and fasting during this crisis and even though we couldn’t go to church, this movement of mobilizing prayer around the country sustained us and continues to this day.
We pray not only for ourselves, but for the nations during this COVID-19 crisis. In Botswana, the numbers have not sky rocketed and the death toll to this point is low. We accredit this to the intervention of God and not the work of human hands.
At the same time, we give Jesus praise for all who are serving to find a cure and the medical personnel around the world who faithfully care for those infected by this disease. This crisis of 2020 has been a wakeup call for our nation. Many realize they need to seek God and truly live for Him. God is using this hour of decision to allow us to take His word to others so they too can choose HOPE!
by Joanne Thompson
Joanne reflects on the Amazing Joy we experience when we choose to follow Jesus!
“Do we or don’t we?” That question danced around the edges of my mind for weeks. I so wanted to celebrate our grandson Noah’s High School graduation in Texas. Though we knew attending the ceremony wasn’t an option (restricted tickets because of Covid ), my compelling desire was to be with the family. So YES, I pushed through my fears to make reservations.
Our daughter’s white Suburban pulled up to the airport’s arrival lane with only seven-year-old Ellie. (So typical! Teenagers are done with airport trips for grandparents.) I scooted close to Ellie in the back seat and with the sweetest dimpled grin she said, “This is so much better than Facetime!” Oh, that girl’s words melted my heart! Not only was she revealing her desire. (She wanted me!) She was describing my desire for that deep joy of face-to-face time together.
All image-bearers (from little girls to grandmas) crave the connection of the joyful presence of another. For sure, I was chasing joy when I got on that airplane.
Our faith walk with Jesus is a path that leads to outrageous joy in the presence of Christ, eternally! Though our 2020 world is filled with trials and struggles, Jesus clearly doesn’t want us to be devoid of joy now. He isn’t asking us to hold our breath ‘til heaven! But we need to pay attention to the path that provides that here-and-now-joy. Listen to Jesus: “I have told you these things so that MY JOY maybe in you and YOUR JOY may be complete.” What are these things?
The “these things” Jesus refers to is REMAINING in his LOVE. Jesus talks about it over and over. (Read John 15.) The LORD’S divine design goes like this: His love produces our joy. Our job is one thing: REMAIN! In the midst of frustration, fatigue, fear and anger that storm our hearts, we need to choose mindfulness that there is more love coming our way today from Jesus. Look for it. Receive it. Remain in it. Choose this practice daily. But how? Here is where Jesus goes “counter-cultural” with the world’s thinking.
He said, “If you obey my commands, you remain in my love.”
Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking that obeying Jesus is dutiful drudgery with no reward.
Don’t let the enemy accuse you with inevitable daily failures.
Reframe each day with wisdom: Obeying Jesus is chasing joy! The “have to” transforms into a “want to” as we learn to respond to the faithful, whispered prompts of the Holy Spirit. My prayer for all of us is that as we pay attention to those “little prompts” we will notice our joy grow.
As the Psalmist wrote: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).
by Emily Twigg
Emily shares with our community 5 sporting games & activities to bring out Christmas story themes!
Christmas is a time where everyone loves to come together to eat, catch-up and play games with family and friends. Within sports ministry we love to use sport, games and play to share the Christian faith. The story and message of Christmas is not only an important one but is also a fun one we can share especially amongst children and young people.
Below are 5 sporting games and activities which can be used to bring out themes from the Christmas story and can be adapted to be used with both children and youth. Enjoy!
1) Christmas Dodgeball
Set up a dodgeball court as normal and divide your group into two teams. Give each team 5 skittles (or pointed cones) which must be placed within their side of the court. On labels, ask the group to write down four things which are important to them at Christmas (e.g presents, time with family etc.) and stick one label onto each of their skittles. The fifth label should have ‘Jesus’ written on it and placed on the fifth skittle.
Play the game of dodgeball as normal, but instead of trying to hit the players, the teams must try and hit the skittles on the other side of the court. Players must try and defend their cones, however they cannot just stand still in front of a cone. Each time a skittle is hit, it is taken out of the game until none are left, however if the ‘Jesus skittle’ is hit then that team automatically loses instantly. The idea of this game is that without Jesus, all the other parts of Christmas wouldn’t exist and a greater value should be placed on Jesus at Christmas than the other parts, just like players were probably more careful about defending the ‘Jesus skittle’ than the others.
Which of the labels on the skittles do you think is most important at Christmas?
What do other people value?
Why did the team instantly lose if the ‘Jesus skittle’ was hit?
Do you think people who don’t believe in Jesus should celebrate Christmas if it’s meant to be all about him?
2) Wait for it….
Split your group into teams and have them line up one behind each other at one end of a room. At the other end of the room have 5 pieces of paper with Biblical prophecies about Jesus on and 5 which have written down Jesus fulfilling the prophecy on them. In the middle of the room set out an obstacle course for each team (the same course but multiplied). One at a time, teams must send one person out to complete the course and get 1 piece of paper before bringing it back to the team and tagging the next person and so on. Once all 10 pieces of paper are brought back the team must match up the prophecies and the fulfillment.
Ask the team members what they were having to do whilst in the line. Hopefully they will reply ‘waiting’ for the team mate to come back and tag them and to have their turn.
Ask them how they found waiting, was it easy, hard?
Would it have been frustrating if for example you were turned the opposite way and so didn’t know how far away your team-mate was?
Check over the matched prophesies to make sure they’re correct. Share with the children that the prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth but were about him and he fulfilled hundreds of them during his lifetime!
Why were people waiting for Jesus to come?
Did they know exactly when he was coming?
Do you think they were frustrated at times when they were still waiting?
The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, the chosen one who would come to save them and Jesus was that person. (If you want to, you can talk about how Christians today are waiting for Jesus to return and to fulfill the prophecies of the second coming).
3) All change (cat and mouse)
Divide the group into two or more lines of equal length and stand one line in front of the other.
E.g. If you have 15 young people you could have 5 lines of 3 or three lines of 5 – see below
x x x x x x x x
x x x. x x x x x
x x x or x x x x x
x x x
x x x
Ask all the group to face the same direction and then to hold out their arms, so that they touch the finger tips of those next to them. When you say change, everyone must turn 90° so that now their finger tips are touching with the people who were previously in front and behind them but are
now to their right and left.
Choose 2 young people, 1 to be a cat and the other to be a mouse. The mouse must run up and down the lines created by the groups’ arms and the cat should try and catch them by tagging them. As the two players run, call out ‘change’ at which point the group must turn 90o. Neither the cat or mouse can run through the group’s arms, only down the lines. Play until the mouse is caught or a good amount of time has passed.
What word was being called a lot? (Change).
What does change mean?
How did change feel for the cat and mouse? (frustrating, worrying, uncertain etc.)
Who has had something change in their life?
Is change easy, difficult or both?
Ask the group whose lives were changed during the Christmas story? E.g.
- Mary as she was suddenly pregnant at a young age and to God’s son!
- King Herod as he was alerted to this new king who he then wanted to kill
- The shepherds who were outcasts, yet valued and invited to this special occasion Etc.
4) Follow the star
Split your group into small teams and have one person blind-folded. Around the room have coloured stars laid out, a different colour for each team with each team having the same number of stars.
E.g. 10 x blue, yellow, red, green etc.
Each group has to navigate their blindfolded team mate to star number 1, being careful of other teams. Once there, they pick up the star and change the blindfolded team member and head for star number 2. Repeat until all teams reach their final star.
In that game what were you following? (Star and voices)
What did the blindfolded player have to do? (Trust and follow – just like the Magi and shepherds)
Did the blindfolded person know where they were heading? (Unlikely, just like the shepherds and Magi)
Was there any danger on the way? (bumping into other groups, listening to the wrong voices)
What danger did the Magi encounter? (Herod who wanted Jesus killed)
Did the Magi listen to Herod and return with information about Jesus? (No, just like you didn’t listen to the ‘wrong’ voices in that game)
Who was the one guiding the star (God), how does he guide us today? By stars?
Start by asking children to jump forwards or jump backwards, whilst also repeating the words. Then change it so that when you say ‘jump forwards’ they repeat the same but just backwards. Then change it so that when you say ‘jump forwards’ they say ‘jump backwards’ and say ‘jump backwards’.
What made it tricky as that game went along?
Was it hard getting your head around doing the opposite?
Were there things you weren’t expecting?
Were there things which happened in the nativity story which you or people then didn’t expect? (Jesus to be born in a stable, Mary being pregnant as a first time mum and young)
Did anything happen which was the opposite (inviting shepherds to a royal birth instead of important people)
Why do you think God chose those people? People we wouldn’t perhaps expect or are the opposite? Why was Jesus born in this way? What does it tell us about God?
You might want to explain how God welcomes and includes everyone, even those society says are less important. He choses us! Jesus coming as a baby to humble beginnings meant that all the people could relate and it showed more greatly God’s power at work. Sometimes God works strangely in our lives too, but Christians believe that God is best and follow and trust him as they live their lives.