A Tapestry of Tragedy and Love

I asked Ray Haakonsen, Oceans South African Ambassador, to share this touching story of how even in times of painful loss the Father’s love shines through.

As a high-energy individual I’m generally drawn to activities that require robust contact, are fast pace and involve sweat! My wife Sue on the other hand, is a patient, keen, and skilled “stitcher,” preferring cross-stitch, but also interested in tapestry. It has always amazed me when I investigate a tapestry or cross stitch design, she is busy with, whilst the front is normally an exquisite design, the back just seems to be a chaotic, colorful jumble of threads, with seemingly no shape at all! Life can feel like that at times.

A recent story reaching across an Ocean expanse, reminded me of such a tapestry. Raven, a lady I know from the suburb of Cape Town often challenges people who can, to partner with individuals or families in very difficult circumstances. On her Facebook Group – Goodwill Donations she mentioned a family of 6 with both parents facing unemployment. The 9-year-old son had won a place in a boys’ soccer team, and needed a substantial amount of money to purchase the kit and pay for costs associated with participating in the tournament. However, the family was struggling just to put food on the table (especially at this special time of the year), to pay money for their son to continue to play the game he was good at and brought him great joy did not seem possible.

With Raven’s permission, I posted the story on my personal Facebook page with the agreement of not mentioning any names. Within minutes I heard from a family I know from Michigan USA. The Kroll’s had volunteered with their three children for 6 months some years back at Beautiful Gate, the Care Center Sue and I ran for abandoned and HIV/AIDS babies.

The Kroll family

This family had experienced unimaginable pain with the tragic loss of their youngest teenage son Zach, 4 years ago. Then just 3 weeks ago their nephew, Keaton, at age 16, with dreams to one day become a pro soccer player, collapsed whilst playing indoor soccer, caused by a blood clot in his leg that travelled to his lungs. Another bright, passionate, loving young man in their family lost. How do you speak into and comfort families, who have suffered such heart-breaking loss?

Keaton Kroll

But when Lori Kroll (the Mom of Zach) messaged me, she told me the family were being sustained and ministered to by the faith of Christ, the God they love and serve and felt helping this young boy (and family) in an over-populated, drug and gang engulfed area, would be a way of honoring the loss of these 2 precious teens, who are so close to their hearts. The Kroll’s willingly agreed to meet the full cost for the pre-teen South African to participate in this tournament.

Raven, who initially posted the need, met with the family struggling financially, and the recipients of this kindness were overwhelmed and completely stunned by this gesture. They repeatedly thanked Raven (who they know well), for sensitively making their son’s need known. I picture in my mind, the smile of that young boy and imagine the racing of his heart, first when he puts his kit on, then runs on to take part with his team at the tournament.

Picture used with permission.

Hearts have been torn apart, broken, challenged, and knitted together, across the Oceans, forming a human Tapestry through the circumstances of families in Cape Town and Michigan, spurred by love amongst strangers. It is so amazing to see how our Creator God is interested in and involved in the details of our lives. Behind the messiness there is a beautiful tapestry.

63 days of Praise!

“Perfect love drives out fear!” For me these words from 1 John 4:18 are some of the most freeing in all of Scripture. If we are honest with ourselves fear can control much of our thinking and our lives. Since the first family walked away from the Father’s love in the garden of Eden we have struggled with the stronghold of fear. We fear the future, not fitting in, not having financial security, failure, etc. These fears become a vicious task master robbing us of true love and life and leaving both mind and body imprisoned in a dungeon of despair.

The Christmas message is one of LIGHT breaking into darkness with a transforming love-freeing us from all fear. Jesus, the gift of the Father, is the “perfect love” sent to destroy the power of fear in our lives and bring us back to the world of love we were created for. Our minds are powerful and what we focus on we will become. That is why Paul said, “don’t be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2)

For the last 63 days I have been doing a spiritual exercise to help renew my mind and overcome the foe of fear. I was inspired by books and podcasts by Dr. Caroline Leaf. As Patty and I prepare for our move to South Africa fear can covertly creep in and try to rob me of living in perfect love. Why 63 days? Studies have shown that after repeating an action for 21 days-a pattern is formed in the mind that will begin to control they way the brain responds. If you think about and practice something for 63 days a powerful transformation will take place in your mind. Below are the steps I practiced for the last 63 days. Since I am a visual learnerI would either draw a corresponding picture in my journal or visualize each step in my mind.

  1. Carry my fears to the foot of the Cross of Christ and lay them down before Him. (1 Peter 5:6-7).
  2. Acknowledge, confess, and receive forgiveness from Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin. (1 John 1:9, Psalm 32).
  3. Kneel before the thrown of Grace and give thanks for all Christ has done through the cross making me complete in Him. (Psalm 103:1-5, Colossians 1:15-23)
  4. Visualize Christ picking me up and carrying me into the Father’s house of perfect love. Spend time with hands lifted high in praise and worship. (Romans 8:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, Revelation 4-5).

I challenge you to do the above for 63 days and watch how the Spirit of Christ will fill you with transforming peace and perfect love from heaven. The exercise has helped me identify the lie of fear that targets my mind and has given me the spiritual tools of thanksgiving and praise to overcome the attacks. We have been called through the cross to live in the abundant love of the Father’s house where fear has no place and praise and peace reign!


“Somehow the dishes always need to be rinsed and loaded in the dishwasher!” My wife Patty has come up with a new nickname for me, “Always!” The possible reasoning behind this title are the words often repeat, “I always do the dishes!” The truth may be that I do not “always” follow through with this repetitive chore, and when that is the case, I am “always” reminded of this fact.

“Always” no doubt a potent word. And my wife has made her point that I may want to eliminate it when talking about dish duty. However, the Apostle Paul uses the word “always” as a command given to us that has life transforming power.

“Always be joyful, keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1. Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT)

The secret to living a life infused with heavens love, joy and peace is to “always” have a spirit of rejoicing and thanksgiving no matter what life is throwing at you. Paul says this is priority one for those who have been brought into the family of God through Christ Jesus. Because we “belong” our sinful past has been paid for at the cross and the present is filled with the presence of God living in us through the Holy Spirit who reminds us that we are forever loved sons and daughters of a Good Good Father.

I’m continually learning that when I stop and give praise and thanksgiving for all I have been given in Christ Jesus no matter what the circumstance my fears are replaced by the forever love of the Father. It is no wonder that praise and thanksgiving is God’s #1 desire for His sons and daughters.

This Thanksgiving season is a wonderful reminder for us to “always be joyfulalways be thankful!” Not just on Thanksgiving Day-but ever single moment. I know this is not always easy, but doing so you will release heaven’s gifts into your heart! This life style becomes infectious and the world will wonder what you are on – simply tell them Jesus!!!!

Personally, all of us at Oceans Ministries are overwhelmed with Praise & Thanksgiving for all our Good Father has done this year and how He has used so many of you to come along side of us to make His love and name known to spiritual & physical orphans around the world. Thank you for helping spread His love to prisoners, the homeless in hotels in Aurora ,Colorado and Holland, Michigan, retreats, chapels, preaching, mission trips to Lesotho & South Africa, providing funds and muscle to build Abba’s place house at Beautiful Gate orphanage, the purchase & launching of Oceans Retreat Center in Fish Hoek, South Africa and new opportunities for us to do ministry in the townships in South Africa. We are truly overwhelmed by the goodness of God and praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for using so many of you to enable this and so much more to happen!!! From the depths of our souls we thank God for you!

As those who belong to Jesus may we “ALWAYS” seek to be JOYFUL and THANKFUL!

Feel the Zeal!

The other week I was speaking with a group of pastors and church leaders in Denver about the journey of Oceans Ministries. In the middle of sharing about one of our stops along the way a lady blurted out, “ “Feel the Zeel!” Some people looked at her with a perplexing stare as she enthusiastically let those words fly, but Patty and I knew exactly what she was referring to. It wasn’t exactly an amen to what I was sharing but rather a reference to a marketing campaign geared to attract people to the quaint downtown of Zeeland, Michigan, where we once lived.

Ironically, or should I say in God’s Sovereign plan, a few days later I was back in Zeeland with a group of men eager to learn more about the Holy Spirit. As we shared, studied, and prayed together that phrase “Feel the Zeel” kept orbiting around my mind. “Zeal” is great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. This describes how the HOLY Spirit works in the life of a believer. This weekend we referenced the Holy Spirit as….

The Holy Spirit as the power and presence of God- who brings us to the perfect love of the Father and Son producing an abundant life.

The Holy Spirit is zealous for us to come into an experiential knowledge of the love of God the Father through the work of His Son Jesus as revealed in Romans 8:15-17:

“For you did not receive a spirt that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by which you cry, “Abba Father, (Daddy, Daddy). The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”

God the Holy Spirit is zealous to bring us into the Father’s house through the finished work of Jesus and lavish Heaven’s unfailing love upon us. To taste it, to feel it, to be transformed by this perfect love that cast out every possible fear in life (1 John 4:19). This is what happened to Jesus at His baptism, to the disciples at Pentecost and what God the Holy Spirit wants to bring to us. Our world is in desperate need of followers of Christ who “feel the zeal” of God’s unquenchable love. Our churches in the US need to be revived afresh by this unstoppable love if we are going to become attractive to a lost and hurting world.

What attracts this zealous love of God through the Holy Spirit? I believe it is when His followers zealously go after Him. After this two day gathering I left extremely hopeful as this group of men from Zeeland committed to pray and seek after the gift of the Father as promised by Jesus in Luke 11:11-13:

Keep asking, seeking, and knocking – if you father’s who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give you the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

Take a moment to quiet your soul. To hear the Holy Spirit declaring “Feel the Zeal?” May He prompt and prepare our hearts for a fresh move. To bring us into the power and the presence of the the Father and the Son’s love. May this love overflow from the banks of our soul and splash out upon a draw and thirsty world.

“Just One!”

Oceans Retreat Center Staff, Kegan, Thobeka & Michele

Recently Patty and I returned from hanging out with friends in the hotels on East Colfax. We celebrated a friend’s birthday complete with ice cream, party hats, and singing along with Scripture reading and prayer. The evening was special indeed, but as we drove home we both felt blessed and burdened. The addictions, poverty, and demonic strongholds imprisoning God’s precious children is so overwhelming at times!

Then the next day I received this email from Michele, a friend who has been volunteering at Oceans Retreat Center in South Africa. She said:

In my traveling around the Cape Town area, my heart cries with the segregation that still has it’s hold on peoples lives. The horrid conditions and inequality brings me to literal tears. I have spent much time praying about this and asking God what I could possibly do and where does He sees Oceans in this. It is so big and so overwhelming. I have heard repeatedly, just one. Start with just one.  Build relationship, love, encourage, be Jesus to just one. So this is what I have continued praying into.

The words God gave to Michele, “be Jesus to just one,” re-captured for me the essence of our calling as followers of Christ. The stories I love reading in the Gospels are how Jesus lived the “just one” principle. The calling of Levi, the despised tax-collector, a Samaritan woman with a sorted past He met at the well, the man filled with the legion of demons, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a woman bleeding for 12 years, a little guy called Zacchaeus, blind Bartimaeus, and how about the the thief on the cross, just to name a few.

A big part of Jesus’ ministry was loving the one the Father put before Him that day. Jesus demonstrated the importance of stopping, listening, and loving the one before Him. He revealed to us the heart of our Father-every person matters! We can be a part of changing the world around us by being “Jesus to just one!”

Thanks Michele for reminding me of heavens big strategy – “Jesus to just one!” When you get overwhelmed by the needs of the world around you-remember today He calls to be “Jesus to just one!”