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 Naomi Bosch
May this encourage you to be a blessing wherever you are.
I was born in Germany, grew up in Croatia, then recently moved back to Germany for my studies. I moved 7 times in 21 years, with several shorter stations in between. And I tell you: I know the feeling of homelessness very well. And even when I moved to Rostock it was quite clear from the beginning that I would only stay here for 3 years and I wondered if it’s even worth settling down and investing myself.
One day I read a story in the Bible that completely changed my attitude. There the Jewish people were in a situation that was not entirely different from mine. Far away from their beloved land, they lived in the city of Babylon, which was foreign to them. Then the prophet Jeremiah writes the following letter to the Jewish people living in exile:
“Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because your future depends on its welfare.”
There is no talk of “Pray that you will get out of this terrible place as soon as possible!” No, “settle down and be a blessing to this city,” God directs to his people. So, I gradually let God change my point of view – and experienced some amazing things!
Last summer, I had a crazy thought: “Why not take the Bible literally and actually plant a garden?” And the simple act of gardening became a new spiritual attitude: I am here where God has just planted me and I’m a blessing to others wherever I can.
So I decided, even in this short time I had left, to become a permanent member in a local church. I became part of a local scout’s group, even if it was “only” three years I would invest there. I made my room the most enjoyable and bright place in the world and invited people to it. I read about the history of the city. I got to know the people here. And suddenly, I am happy to be living in Rostock!
Interestingly, Jesus also had almost exactly three years for his world-changing mission in Israel. I’ll leave the part of saving the world to Jesus. But I can imitate him in the way he lived on earth. Jesus was not busy all day preaching and healing people. He spent many hours a day just talking to God, like to a friend. We often see him eating with friends or partying (the very beginning of his mission was a wedding on which he made sure they wouldn’t run out of good wine!). Wherever he went, he left traces of blessing for everyone around him.
Sometimes we act like tourists. We don’t like to make commitments. Why invest in “worldly things” when God will one day bring us to Heaven anyway? Is it worth “wasting” my time on relationships?
Leviticus 25:23 puts things back into perspective. There God says to the Israelites “… the land belongs to God, and you are like foreigners who are allowed to make use of it.”
We are guests in God’s beautiful world. We can enjoy its wealth and goodness. But God also gave us the responsibility to “maintain and protect the garden” (see Genesis 2:15). God “planted” us in a certain place so that we can be a blessing where we are, in every area of life.
Here, too, Jesus is a wonderful example to us. (see Matthew 14:13-21) He had deep compassion for the people around him.
At the same time, he also knew when it was time to withdraw and to spend time with God in solitude. He knew the culture around him and was deeply rooted in it. He read the scriptures and liked to discuss them with the Jewish law teachers, but also clearly distinguished himself on contentious issues.
Jesus had good friends with whom he spent a lot of time (such as Mary, Marta, and Lazarus). He could celebrate and gratefully enjoy God’s good gifts. But he wasted none of it. With his life, Jesus shows what it means to live in a deeply rooted way, and at the same time to see things in eternity’s perspective.
We are citizens of the heaven, but we are also all citizens of the earth. Through deep, local relationships, through care for God’s creation, through a grounded trust in God, and through passing on blessings in the very place we are in, we bring a piece of heaven to earth.
And if God should replant me, I will just grow new, deep roots. Because I know that the groundwater – God’s presence – is the same at every point of the earth. Then, as the Psalmist so beautifully says, we are “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”
By Tamara Stannard
Tamara has served on our LLI team and is studying to be a teacher.
A few weeks ago, in psychology class, a professor asked us if we knew what the only two fears are that we are all born with. We made a lot of guesses, but we didn't guess right. The only two fears are the fear of falling or losing ground under your feet and the fear of a strong, sudden or surprising sound. All other fears that we have, have been acquired throughout our lives. That's when I first heard this information. I stored it in a drawer and forgot about it.
One Sunday, at 6:24 a.m., that drawer opened. The powerful earthquake that hit Zagreb and its surroundings triggered both of those fears, but also many others! The powerful sound and feeling of losing the ground under my feet shook me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For the first few minutes I was just sitting on the bed, in shock looking at the wall and shaking with fear, not knowing if this was just another nightmare or reality. "Please, God, say it’s not real!"
But it was. And then, after an hour, that reality happened again. And a few more times during the day too. I'd be lying if I said I fell asleep peacefully the next night. Because I didn't. And when in the midst of the earthquake and corona virus a snowstorm came too, my heart filled with worry and my mind began to doubt and question. God, are you really in control? Oh, how many times have I asked Him that question!
Nobody really prepares us for situations like these, do they? Even if we try to prepare, until a storm like that comes and turns our lives around, we can't quite be ready. Remember what Jesus did when the storm raged? He was asleep. He didn't sleep because He didn't care about His friends in danger. He was asleep because He knew who was in control, and He knew that if His disciples called Him for help now, He was there and He would calm the storm.
A friend posted this picture of the storm and a text alongside it that I read on Monday when my heart was still agitated and I couldn't sleep. At first you don't see Jesus in this dark picture of the storm. I didn't see Him at 6:24 on Sunday. But zoom in on the picture and you'll see the outline of His raised hands calming the storm.
That evening, the day after the earthquake, Jesus calmed down my storm. I don't know what tomorrow brings. I don't even know what the next moment brings me, but I know whose hands hold it! I know whose hands I'm in! When everything around me changes, when I lose the ground beneath my feet and my world is shaken, when the strong sounds deafen me and my worst fears come true—my Jesus, my Lord is with me! Whether I feel Him or not. Whether I hear His voice or not. This truth is unchangeable. His promises are steadfast!
As I write this, I’m listening to a song by JJ Heller, and I want these truths to be as reassuring to you as much as they are to me, and that's why I’m sharing them with you today! Wherever you are now and wherever you will be — Jesus is with you!
“Everything around me seems uncertain, my weary heart can’t take much more surprise.
I wish there was a point on the horizon, something I could see with my own eyes.
I need to tell you that I’m scared, I feel completely unprepared.
And nothing’s what it was two weeks ago.
You already know. You already know everything I’m scared of, everything I hope.
You hold my tomorrow and all tomorrow holds – You already know.
I can’t seem to find the easy answers, someday I hope the suffering makes sense.
I just need to know that you are with me even if you keep me in suspense.
And we talk so much these days because I have so much to say.
You stay and listen to me closely even though You already know.
You already know. You already know everything I’m scared of, everything I hope.
You hold my tomorrow and all tomorrow holds – You already know.
Whatever I’m feeling, whatever is coming, whenever the ending – You’re already there.
You go before me, You go behind me. Wherever I’m going – You’re already there.”
from SU Global News
“I had been leading a bible study group of girls 12-16 years old for about 5-6 years before I came to LLI,” said Carri. “It was one of the main reasons I came to LLI. I wanted to gain more skills and increase my knowledge of how to lead a bible study and better serve Christ in ministry. I also had a lot of my girls graduating and moving on the next year so I wanted to spend time with God and praying about if I needed to build a new group.”
Time at LLI taught Carri about how to teach different types of people within a group it also helped her see the signs of burnout, the danger of leading others without support and without relying on God.
Carri said, “After attending LLI, I was able to bring back the skill of debriefing, which made discussions in bible study much more fruitful and deep. I learned about leaders and teams and, once my original group of girls moved on to college and life, I started a leadership group for 17-20 year-olds that incorporates a lot of what I learned through LLI. I am teaching these young women about biblical leadership qualities, not only in a bible study group, but also in life. Then they are applying it while they teach a young girls’ bible study. It is fun to see them continue to grow.”
“I hope to lead this group for at least two years, and then see where God leads me. Whether the same ministry, a new one or even moving on to women’s ministry.
Carri says, “I am super thankful to LLI. God led me to it at the right time and knew exactly what I needed to learn and let go of that summer. He glorified himself so much by sanding and shaping me into what he wanted me to look like and planted me in the place where he wanted. I was broken, repaired, stretched and filled through my experience with LLI.”
What does "rock climbing" mean to you?
Your partnership with LLI has enabled others to learn how to use rock climbing in Jesus' Great Commission. Here is what Andrii from Ukraine wanted to share with our community.
It wasn’t just a rock. It wasn’t just a next step to ascending the face of a cliff. Participating in the Transform training allowed me to grasp a skill I longed to use in ministry. When I was little my older brother took me rock climbing and there the seed was sown that sparked my interest in the sport.
Then in the summer of 2018, that spark ignited and I was able to be mentored in developing skills to support others while they climbed. As I served in this role, God used the experience and the training to unlock new abilities to take this sport and understand how to use it as a ministry tool in discipling others.
How can you mentor and train others without the experience yourself? Here I was pushed to developing new levels of climbing and experienced what it was like to be on the sharp end of the rope when I ascended and knew one slip could send me falling only to be caught by my belayer who was securing me as I climbed. This is what I longed to do, to be in a position where I could support others as they journeyed in their faith in Jesus as they learned to climb the route God has set for their lives.
God taught me through this time that He wanted to use me as a part of His plan to unlock and open up new ministries in Ukraine. There was so much I brought back after sitting under this training with the LLI mentors.
Now, I am able to take others into God’s creation and to teach them biblical truth and to draw out so many parallels between the sport of rock climbing and God’s word. We help kids gain a solid foundation as they learn to depend on Jesus and develop a Christian culture based on values that we teach them through a 5 finger contract.
What started as a spark has developed into a passion for using this sport to teach others about our Rock, the One in whom we always can trust. My journey continues and I am continuing to learn to serve in Jesus’ Great Commission using these skills in rock climbing and other tools I learned while going through the training last summer. LLI gave me a great base from where to start and I look forward to seeing what God will continue to accomplish here in Ukraine for His glory.
To God be the glory!
In His Grip,
Please know, you have played a special role in the Scripture Union Latvia story and we are very thankful. Since LLI has partnered with us our Outdoor Camp Program has become a reality and we hope this video will be an encouragement to you.
Thank you for making it possible for trainers from LLI to come and serve our team of volunteers and staff. I still remember our first training where Zane joined us in Estonia as we were taught about team building in 2017.
Not only did God use the training for the team, but those 5 days changed the course of her life and she left convinced she was called to serve full-time in ministry through SU Latvia. Well, we took the next step and sent her on to LLI’s summer Transform Training in 2018 and saw her come back better equipped for her new role.
What has been a blessing for us is that the LLI team really steps alongside others. God had given us a vision to start an outdoor ministry for children in His creation, but we lacked tools to do this. Last year, your partnership made it possible for us to host the LLI Outdoor Ministry training at our campsite in Latvia.
Within a month after the training, a new ministry was launched called SAVA DABA. It is such a blessing that in partnership we were better prepared to begin this life-changing ministry and just recently celebrated its one-year anniversary! While you are watching the video below, may you also be encouraged and give thanks to God with us for this new ministry that is engaging children with God’s Big Story while they spend time in His creation.
Through Sava Daba our team helps children and young people from all over Latvia to discover our Heavenly Father, to learn about teamwork and understand Christian values as foundations of their lives.
This past spring, we were also able to send Zane and Richards, our newest team member, to Croatia to participate in a Discover Sports Ministry training. Not only did this training continue to inspire our young leaders, but Ricards felt it was there that God reignited his zeal for serving Jesus and depending on Him.
Please let me encourage you with one more result, this time from the LLI Courageous Peacemaking training which took place in Lithuania this October. Thirteen of our volunteers and staff went not knowing what to expect and they came back nurtured and really inspired to keep on going with the mission work through SU Latvia and Sava Daba.
It is such a blessing to see how God is raising up a whole new generation to develop the campsite and programs using His Creation that will reach others with God’s truth. What started as a seed of vision has become a reality and your partnership in developing young leaders, your prayers and support have all mattered.
Thank you for being a part of God’s story and His work through His kids serving with SU Latvia!
To God be the glory,
By Carri Clark
Alumna TRANSFORM training 2018
I came to LLI this year to gain more practical knowledge on how to be a leader. As a Senior Paramedic, Bible study leader and motivated individual I was very interested in improving my skills and growing in my relationship with Christ. I was constantly serving others, taking courses to learn new skills for serving others and wanting to know where God would lead me next in ministry and life. I knew of DPB and the staff from prior years of volunteering and was so excited to get a full summer of learning, ministry, rest and adventure!
The closer I got to the summer, the more God began to show me how I was burnt out and tired from work, ministry and family. I had been doing too much and I was wearing thin. I pushed through until the summer and then was happy to jump on a plane and spend a summer away from life, up close and personal with Jesus.
I knew the summer would be hard but fulfilling. I expected to be filled and well rested so I could go back to serving others. But God had all kinds of plans, and I can see now how he had those plans prepared for many years! I spent the first few weeks WAY out of my comfort zone. Multiple different cultures surrounding me, many strong leaders like me, a completely different schedule than normal and tasks made to challenge us mentally and spiritually. I knew that was coming but I didn’t expect how that would affect me.
God used the people and tasks to break me down and bring down every wall I had up. Plenty of tears happened as God showed me how I had not rested in a long time and struggled to find things that brought me joy. He used debriefs with Steve and Megan to make me think about every part of my life. I said many times “I came to this summer already broken, and God is breaking me more. I thought if I just kept serving others for God’s glory that my heart would be fine.” But I learned that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you aren’t regularly filling up on Jesus every day, you won’t have anything to give others. So after spending most of the summer learning about what God wanted me to see and practicing new healthy habits like supportive leadership, sabbath rest, prayer and working in a team, I was put to the test! I was CREW leader with Zane and was able to practice everything! God knew that I learn more by teaching and I had many opportunities to teach CREW members lessons that I needed to learn myself. Zane and I watched God take our daily plans for CREW and change them into something much better and more glorifying to him every day! We always ended the day saying “Wow! Did you see what He did? God is amazing!”.
Through it we had the blessing of watching a girl give her life to Christ and develop a love for scripture, all because of GOD choosing to use us as tools in his handiwork. This was by far the hardest but most fulfilling summer. I could write PAGES of stories of things God taught me and stories of hearts he changed. I ended the summer still not feeling full spiritually, but with the realization that God knew that is where I needed to be. If I went home full, I would go back to my old habits and go until I was empty again. Instead, I knew I had to go back to the same old things and people but with new habits and mindset that I needed to practice.
I needed to fill daily and rely on God to serve others. That thought scared me. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to leave the loving and encouraging community that I had at LLI. Here, I was being challenged, pushed, loved and listened to. Coming home felt like I would be alone and inexperienced. But the thing with LLI is, you build such amazing relationships with your team members.
We were all going through similar struggles and questions. We learned how to be open, honest and loving with each other. Through that, during the summer, we built a community, a circle of people facing inwards, doing ministry. But now we must face outwards and go into the world to share what God has done and his love. Shoulder to shoulder, encouraging each other.
My first couple weeks home were a difficult transition. A few of us LLI students would say to each other “Everything is the same, except me.” Practicing those new habits was not easy, but I knew I had my LLI community behind me, thousands of miles away, but still willing to encourage and pray for each other.
I am currently practicing a weekly day of sabbath rest, spending devotional time regularly and allowing God to work in me. I have learned to step back from so many activities and focus on spending time to listen to God so that I can better serve others. I am still struggling with a lot of things spiritually and God is still teaching me a lot about things that need to change. But He used this summer to remove all the extra things so I could focus on the most important ones.
I’m not worried about all the tough things I’m walking through, because I saw through this summer that He has a much better plan, with an ending that is more than I could ever expect. If we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. I learned this summer that God knows more about what I want than I do, every truly fulfilling and joyful thing that He gives us in time is much more than what we think we want or need right now. So yes, I’m struggling, and I’m confused sometimes, but God has walked with me this far and blessed me more than I deserve, so I know He is going to continue that good work in me and carry it on to completion. He used LLI to change my life when I didn’t even know it needed to be changed! He is a good, GOOD Father.
By Zane Ločmele
Alumna TRANSFORM training 2018 - Serving with Scripture Union Latvia
I have three great passions in my life – nature, children and being a Christ Follower. I have always loved to be in nature and explore God’s amazing Creation. I’ve always loved working with kids and helping them to discover the world around them. But all these years I had a feeling I was not doing enough. God was calling me somewhere else where I could use my potential more. In the meantime, I volunteered in "Scripture Union" in Latvia.
Last summer, I got to taste a little bit of the Leadership Lab International (LLI) from Croatia. There I met Steve, Michael, Brenda and some students that chose to join the LLI 2018 team, which helped me in making the final decision to participate in the program. I started to see how I can combine my three biggest passions and follow God’s will. Those were very special and important 5 days.
After this LLI Training in Estonia, I felt that it was the right time to make some changes in my life and go full time in Ministry work. I left my job, but I knew that I needed to grow as a leader, discover my strengths and weakness, get more practice in Camp Ministry. So Leadership Lab International was the perfect option for me. I went there having no idea how important this summer would be.
It is not just a program. This summer I discovered new things about God and myself every day, I improved my language skills and expanded my English vocabulary. I learned about my culture’s impact on how I was raised and how I think. I challenged myself to try new things like rock climbing and rappelling, archery, canoeing, orienteering, doing crafts with leather and wood burning.
But most importantly I made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I met so many amazing campers and volunteers this year that helped me to clearly see God’s love and care for His people.
My LLI team and staff became my family this summer. We built a team and learned together, we prayed and worshiped our Heavenly Father together. We cooked and traveled. We spent countless hours laughing until bedtime. We helped each other grow and become true God’s disciples. We served together spiritually - working in different Ministries, and practically - cleaning the camp place and doing yard work.
And above all I had an amazing support team who took care of me: I had special debrief times with Steve and our mentor Megan, coffee talks with Jenny and Brenda, and a supportive prayer group back at home.
When I came to Croatia at the beginning of this summer, I had lost my joy in life and had many insecurities. But God had already started His work in me.
One of my prayers during this summer was that God would take me as a useful tool in His hands. There were some special moments in camps when just a simple conversation or one of my actions inspired some campers to make changes in their lives. One special girl, who had been struggling with faith for many years, had many important questions about life. I had the amazing opportunity to be her counselor. She decided to stop being afraid and make some changes in her spiritual life. These moments were my answered prayers. I had to be there this summer because God used me in His work.
And that is so amazing! I grew week by week, I becoming more confident in myself, I discovered new leadership skills, learned that I am a peacemaker, encourager and team player and, most importantly, I renewed my relationship with God and regained joy.
Croatia will always have a special place in my heart because of the people and relationships which I built there. We have continued to communicate, praying together and for each other.
I can surely say that I came home much more equipped and prepared for my new role in Scripture Union Latvia. And also in this new journey, I continue to be mentored by the team during successes and happy moments and also during struggles in life and Ministry work.
By Roberta Dirgėlaitė
Alumna TRANSFORM training 2018 - Serving with Scripture Union Lithuania
“Looking back at this summer I still cannot grasp everything God has done in and through me during LLI. There was so much and there is still so much more to come! I am still in a process of unpacking, but I can share one significant thing that I learnt and that has influenced the way I look at my relationship with God.
That is learning to be a better disciple by making abiding in Him the foundation of my journey. There have been hardships and there has been JOY in doing this. However, now I am so different from how I was at the beginning of LLI! Now I am rejoicing in His love knowing that seeing the fruit of my works is the part I do not always need to understand.
I stand in awe and wonder having no words but praise and worship to my Alpha and Omega! And this poem is my praise to Him!”
In the depths of the sea of my innermost being
I believed in the lies and I followed that pride.
You spoke and took away part of my vision
With love you pruned for the greater Provision.
First, You created man like yourself
But his reckless pride sent him right to hell.
Nothing but love and love alone
Could redeem and restore that heart of stone.
Second, You died dressed all in flesh
After washing their feet in that garden you wept.
My God, my Lord, my Restoration
Your cup of death has brought Salvation!
In the depths of the sea of my innermost being
In the tunnels of mind where the warriors fight
You moved mountains and here I am seeing
Most glorious might – Lord you dress me in white!
Nobody can rob me again
Of the robe and the ring and the slaughtered Lamb.
I belong in your throne made out of thorns
You suffered for me inclining heavenly horns.
In the depths of your Mercy and on mountain of Grace
To the altar of Moses, I bring offering of Praise.
I choose to lay down all of my heart
Your Will be done
Your Kingdom come
Oh Church arise,
We are His Bride!
Today, as I reflect on the transformation that took place in Roberta's life, I am so thankful for all of you who partner with us in prayer and support to make LLI possible.
It is when we see the difference God has made in the lives of these young leaders and the campers that come through the DPB House doors that we are reminded about why we are seeking to raise funds so more beds become available. We are continuing to ask God to raise up the funds for the LLI Cabin project so we can gain back beds that were lost under new regulations as we had to remodel the DPB House to meet new codes.
Honestly, this journey has not been easy, but your prayers and generous donations have enabled us to get this far and each donation has been such an encouragement. Every matching grant, donation, every prayer in and around the building site has brought us together with a focus to God alone be the glory in and through Jesus’ ministry at the DPB House Camp and Training Center.
Together, we press on in this vision to see a facility completed so others may meet with their God away from the noises of life in a place where they may rest and grow.
Would you consider joining us in providing funding to finish the LLI Cabin so even more young men and women will have the opportunity to grow in Christian character, commitment to God’s call on their lives and competency to be servant leaders in a world in need?
Thank you for considering joining us in expanding ministry so more young leaders may be trained throughout the year.
Grace and Peace,