“I’m Just the Driver!”

Kegan and the boys from Grand Rapids Christian High School

Blog written by Kegan Haakonsen, manager of Oceans Retreat Center.

In my role as driver for a high school group from Grand Rapids, I recently had the privilege of going back to Beautiful Gate, Lesotho, after a 10 year absence. At one time just one room with 7 babies, a simple “YES!” to God’s request by my mom and dad all those years ago turned a desperate situation into this beautiful, peaceful and welcoming Centre. Seeing the progress, the amount of new buildings and hearing that over 500 babies have been influenced made my heart swell with pride! Not to mention the amount of lives touched by volunteers, teams and staff that have passed through these beautiful gates!  

While sitting in the gazebo overlooking this beautiful place, I asked God what I could do to make a difference while I’m here. “Just be the driver” came the reply. Not really the answer I was hoping for! Ok God, what does that mean!? “Just be who you are” was the response.

As “just the driver” I had no idea how I was going to fit in with the tight-knit team of teenagers and leaders. It started slowly with conversations over meals, evening drives to the local supermarket for late night snacks and trips to the local souvenir shop. “Driver” soon became “friend” and the kids really got to see “just who I am” over some overly competitive ping pong games! By just being myself, relationships deepened and I found myself sharing my story and enjoying incredible fellowship with these teens. 

Church that Sunday moved me deeply. It moved everyone with a spirit-filled message from Tim Spykstra and the greatest praise and worship I have experienced in a long, long time. God once again spoke to me and gave me a fresh renewing of His love and peace in my life.

Dropping the team off at the airport was difficult. Good byes were harder than I expected. Some of the guys managed a good bear hug but no words were spoken. Setting off from the airport, this time for the long drive home on my own, I felt God’s voice again, “Good job on being YOU! You spoke honestly, you shared the good, the bad and the ugly from your life. You listened, you shared your faith, you encouraged them to love Me with all they’ve got! And you thought you were Just the Driver!”

Many times we wait. We wait for better timing, more understanding, a better position. We do not feel qualified enough. We have self doubt. We think we need to be better people first… Let me assure you that God wants you to be you. He will do the rest. So while I felt like I was “just the driver” I was used by God for so much more than that. I felt so alive in those moments and looking back now, I get excited to see that I am more than enough. I am someone. A very ordinary someone being used by an extraordinary God! All you have to do is say,
 “Yes, here I am, use me.”

“His Grace Abounds in Deepest Waters”

I was already having a difficult time holding back my tears as I prepared my heart and mind to preach at the Christian Revival Church in Lesotho, Africa. It was our first time back to CRC since Pastor David was killed a few months earlier and a million memories were flashing through my mind as Patty and I sat by his wife Lizzy. Then the dam broke as the praise team sang “Oceans.” The lyrics were just as overwhelming and emotional as they were on that Father’s Day 51/2 years ago. In 2014 I shared with the CRC about stepping out of the boat to begin the nonprofit Oceans Ministries. I remember it as clear as day, for as I finished preaching Pastor David requested that the praise team sing “Oceans.” Yes, that moment will be forever imprinted on my mind as Abba spoke loud and clear, “I’m with you in the middle of the ocean!”

These lyrics again busted through my brain into the depth of my soul as I knew the Father was reminding me of His past faithfulness and present presence to carry Oceans forward into a new seasons in Southern Africa:

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

As I shouted out those lyrics waves of God’s grace flooded me with perfect peace as I reflected on all Abba has done in the past 5 plus years. Truly His Sovereign hand has lifted Oceans up and carried us to places we could have never dreamed of. Even when my feet have failed and fear surrounded me His unfailing love has never let go. His grace shows up when we are in the deepest part of the ocean and all we have to hold onto are His promises. The CRC church, Lizzy and her two boys had just been through a horrific storm and yet waves of grace flooded the church. In fact, as we worshiped, our whole team was carried by those waves deeper into the presence of God’s amazing love. Many of the young people with us testified that they had never experienced anything like it and I doubt they will never forget it.

Could it be that the place where we are to dwell is the place where our feet cannot touch? Where our hope is anchored tightly to Jesus Christ who reigns as the sovereign King in the heavenly realms (Hebrews 6:19)? Our Good Father reminded me on that Sunday in Lesotho that the farther away I get from the “safety” of the shore the greater His grace abounds. Or as Pastor David’s oldest son said to me, “the world has nothing that I need.” The death of his father could have made him bitter or caused him to turn away from his faith, but instead he focused his eyes on his heavenly Father and asked for grace to heal his heart and give him hope for the future.

As you begin 2020 let Jesus take you out into the ocean where you can’t touch and you will find that He is with you in miraculous ways in the middle of the ocean, a place where His grace abounds!

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” (Isa. 41:10).

Clink on this link to hear the song live………https://www.instagram.com/p/B7Oyflshhd0/?igshid=ojzjf0fbj7o5

Touched by an Angel – It Changes You

Written by Ray Haakonsen, Oceans South African Ambassador:

I’m certain many are aware of a TV series from some time back Titled ‘Touched by an Angel’ where lives were changed for the good due to an ‘Angel assignment’ that intercepted lives. In the series the Angel was ‘sent from heaven’ as a task from God to help someone out.

However, it is my belief we have Angels walking with us who have a unique ability to naturally impact lives around them for the Kingdom of God. I recently met one such ‘Angel’ in the person of Taylor Martin, a high school Special needs student, traveling with a team from Grand Rapids Christian located in Michigan, chaperoned by teacher Mr. Bryce Lutke and Oceans Ministries staff member Mike Verkaik.

Their trip involved visiting us at Oceans Retreat Center in Cape Town for 3 days followed by an outreach to Beautiful Gate Lesotho, a care center for abandoned and HIV/AIDS affected children in Lesotho. In the time with us they visited a church and ministry to children in a nearby township (Shantytown) and as a ‘tour activity’ were given the opportunity to climb iconic Table Mountain, standing steeply at 1085 m (.6 mile) above the ocean below.

Climbing Table Mountain ,as opposed to taking the comfortable revolving 5 minute cable car ride up, is a daunting prospect, not impossible by any means, but it is a strenuous and muscle sapping over 1.8 miles winding, steep trail. It was on this climb I got to experience and know what an amazing gift Taylor is to our world. Very soon the main group was climbing up the steep slopes of the mountain, named “Hoerikwaggo” or Mountain in the Sea by the original Khoi people of Southern Africa. But only 5 minutes in Taylor said she was tired and her legs hurt. Truthfully I felt the same, but experience told me (as I am a tour guide and have climbed it a number of times) that it will get easier fora bit before harder towards the top.

So the memorable climb began at 6:30 am, with Taylor, Tim Spykstra, Mike Verkaik, and myself in a group on our own, whilst the main group were quite aways ahead. Ive met so many people and some of those have had huge impact on my life, not least the 2 gentleman climbing with me. But honestly, Taylor quickly became one of those individuals. The climb with her was EPIC! Sure she often said “How longer?”, “I’m thirsty”, “This is too hard”, “I wanna sit right now” and “Where’s Mr. Lutke and my friends”, hollering for them all the way up the mountain!

But what an absolute joy, inspiration and delight Taylor was to us 3 older gentleman who looked after her. Along the way we met many people who noticed her efforts and urged her on by name. But it wasn’t just the climb, but who Taylor is. Sure some did not always know how to handle her, but oh my, she won so many hearts as she freely greeted people, catching some by surprise but who then greeted her back. By the time we reached the top 2 1/2 hours later, Taylor had a large support group, who had been inspired by persarvence. Everywhere we went with her, she would greet random people and compliment them on their clothes, smile, hairstyle and brought a smile to many. Such pure, innocent, God given love beamed the heart of Jesus to all she met. At times her honesty had us in stitches, but we loved it!

Taylor’s family can be so proud of their beautiful ‘missionary’ to Africa, who has blessed many with her authentic, exuberant love in the brief time she has been here.

I learnt so much from her in the area of overcoming challenges, unconditional love for others and speaking out words of love and encouragement. She for me is the epitome of the authentic gospel….clearly Taylor lives out the greatest commandment given us by Christ.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest Commandment. And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbour as yourself – Matthew 22:37-39

May this ‘Angel” inspire each of us to love one another in our every day lives!

Taylor Martain with her Lesotho blanket!

Standing on Holy Ground

Worship Service in Masiphumele township South Africa, with team from Grand Rapids Christian High School

I asked Mike Verkaik to share about our worship experience this last Sunday.

This past Sunday I was blessed to worship in the Masiphumelele Township near Cape Town, South Africa. As we made that right turn into the township, the community changed drastically from the previous roads we had been on. We passed a Catholic Church building, and then a Baptist, but neither of these were our final destinations. We continued deeper into the township until we made another right turn and came to a sudden halt in front of several cars that were noticeably out of commission for sometime.

As we filed out of the van there were no noticeable signs of a church building. The only structures recognizable were several metal shacks making up the homes of the residents that lived there. Some members of the Holy Zion church met us in the parking space, and they ushered us down the road. On the left we entered a small broken down building with bowed rafters and sheet covered windows, and were greeted by members with large smiles and joyful hearts.

As we circled around the candle lit table and the drum, we began to worship. Spontaneously a member broke into song as the drum quickly picked up the beat, which enhanced the harmony of the African voices. As the song of thanksgiving continued their voices raised in worship as their bodies joined in dancing before their Abba Father. In many ways it felt like I was home, praising and worshiping with simplicity and authenticity.

As the service continued the elder moved the candlesticks from the table to the middle of the cement floored room. He went onto explain that when Moses went over to examine burning bush; God said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) So to as they moved the fire from the candlelight the church where we are worshiping was holy ground.

At that moment God reminded me that He comes into the ordinary things of life and shows Himself extraordinary. A bush is something we pass by each day without much notice or acknowledgement.  I am sure I would have done the same with this building in Masiphumelele Township as well if I had not been guided there. However, like Moses and the burning bush there was a sense of His presence in that insignificant place as God calls Oceans to begin its ministry and message of the Father’s heart to the people in Masiphumelele