About a week ago I attended a conference in Durban with the title topic, The Call. I have to say when I hear Christians talking about callings I become somewhat skeptical because it can become very human-centric. We get so caught up in our destinies, that Jesus becomes a sub-theme, a name used to motivate us in our endeavors. But this weekend was the exact opposite.
I’m still processing everything I heard and saw and going through it all in detail would take half a lifetime, so I’ll try to be brief. The messages at the conference focused on what God’s heart is for us as His children and also as His collective church. From business, money and family, to mission, church activity and friendships, it all belongs to Him and He wants to use it all. He calls each of us to different things and equips us to do these things in His time. Sounds simple enough, but I don’t think I realized how difficult that is to really believe until I heard some of the stories that people told. They told of God’s promises for their lives and how they struggled early on to understand how those promises could come true. Some of them had to go through much tougher circumstances than I’ve had to endure, so I was taken aback at what faith was require of these people. I was also encouraged, because they sometimes stumbled, doubted and fought with God.
I think one word that sums up what God said to me again and again during the course of that weekend is INTIMACY. I want more intimacy with my heavenly Father. One speaker said, it could be translated “Into-me-see”. It’s really about being 100% open and honest with God and sharing everything with Him. When I take a good, hard look at myself, I realize that I have a tough time with that. I want to pray nice prayers, be a strong believer and show my “faith” by not sharing my doubts with Him. But nothing in the bible supports that idea of a flourishing life with Jesus. I really felt released again to be completely honest with God. If I don’t know what He’s saying to me, I can ask Him again. I don’t have to guess or thumb-suck, just so that I can make myself feel more spiritual.
So that was the conference in a very small nutshell. It was amazing. God was all over it and it was church in the every sense. If you want to learn more, you can download the messages from the conference website.
However God wasn’t finished once we walked out of the conference. That Saturday, after the final session, I joined eight others for a visit to LIV. Now, I had no idea what this place was about. It had been mentioned a few times during the conference (something about an orphanage) and I’d gathered that the people running it knew the local church leadership. I’m always keen on getting out of the city so along I went. As we drove through the rolling hills just north of Durban, we saw some buildings in the distance and assumed they were part of a farm. When we got to the LIV gate our mouths hung open. There were kids running around, big smiles, green grass, beautifully built and painted houses. It was just amazing, especially considering the poverty in the neighboring areas. We drove up to the farm house and were invited into the living room, where Joan Smith went on to tell us about how God had given her husband, Tich, the vision for this village and the journey they had taken so far. Their mission statement is as follows:
LIV provides holistic residential care for vulnerable children with the core vision to rescue a child, restore a life, raise a leader, and release a star.
We exist to raise the next generation of leaders in our nation. It is our mission, our purpose, and our passion. We place parentless children into a family environment where they receive unconditional love, spiritual discipleship, care and nurturing.
I wish I could have captured it all on video. We all sat there drinking in every word. The village cares for vulnerable and rejected kids and orphans. Everything they do is centred around the gospel because, as Joan explained, people can do a lot to help, but only Jesus can restore lives.
Joan gave us a tour of the village, going into more detail about how they’d gotten to this point and the plans for the future – and they are big. Children ran up to us and jumped and climbed all over the guys. As Joan guided us, it became increasingly clear that only God could have done this. The place feels like a sanctuary. Everything they do they do properly (which isn’t always the case with NGO’s), from the quality of constructions to the care given to the children and house mothers. Words from the conference came sweeping back into our minds time and time again. This was the perfect example of what happens when God calls and His people follow. It is a story with raw, rich, real faith and doubts and an amazing testimony of what’s possible with God. Check out the LIV Village website and see if and how you can get involved.
I came back a much more hopeful, trusting and intimacy-seeking Jesus follower. I have a tendency to focus solely on what I can do for God instead of just focusing on Him. I want that intimacy. Once you’ve tasted it, nothing else compares.