Your Grace Finds Me

Written by Mike Verkaik, Oceans US Ambassador and Outreach Coordinator

Do you know this song by Matt Redman?

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me, yes Your grace finds me

Sitting at the kitchen table, reflecting on the people I had met and the conversations I recently had at the Wooden Shoe, the song Your Grace Finds Me began to play on the radio.  While listening to the repetition of the lines above, I reflected on the lesson Abba Father had taught me through a current resident, *Brenda.

As I reflected I realized that God had initiated this divine appointment that was about to unfold with Brenda a week earlier via a phone call from a volunteer.  This volunteer alerted me to how the Holy Spirit led two couples to donate money towards the rent of someone who might have lost their job due to the coronavirus. 

As our team prepared to leave for the motel that Tuesday night, I was praying for a divine appointment with the motel owner and yes God provided this encounter. As we were getting ready to hand out the food prepared for the individuals and families living in the Wooden Shoe, I broke away from the group to ask the owner if any residents were falling behind in their rent.  With a disgusted look he said, “Yes, I am kicking *Brenda out tonight.  She is two weeks behind in her rent. She has lied to me, forged several notes from her employer, and I have had enough. If you would be willing to give her some assistance, it would help a lot?”  I told him we would like to help.

Tuesday Food Ministry at the Wooden Shoe

After walking through the vending room to the back of the motel, I met Brenda for the first time. She was standing in the parking lot crying.  Through the sniffles and tears she shared her story.  The pandemic had closed the restaurant she worked at for the past 6 years; she had no money and nowhere to go.  She went on to say, “I prayed to God, but I don’t think He hears me.”

As I listened to her last words the Holy Spirit gave me this response, “Brenda, not only did your Father hear you, He put you on someone’s heart before you even prayed your prayer.  Last week, your Father prompted a person to call me, someone that does not even know you.  That is how much your Father loves you.”

Upon leaving the motel, I settled with the owner and went back to *Brenda’s room with a receipt.  As I explained how her back rent and the upcoming weeks rent were paid for, she burst out in tears again and responded, “Oh grace, grace, so much grace.  Thank you, so much grace!”  

In Galatians, Paul felt that same kind of grace when he wrote: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.,”(Galatians 2:4, 5 –NIV).

*Brenda has since moved out of the motel after receiving her stimulus check.  She is living in a better place, and I am happy for her.  Last week she texted saying, “ Thank you again for your help. God is good and He was there. I am hoping to pay it forward in the very near future”

Grace found *Brenda that night and she was overwhelmed by His love and mercy for her in that moment.  Made me think about my response to Easter?  Am I still living in the memory of the grace of resurrection day which has made me alive with Christ? How about you?

Resident is thankful for activities provided by Oceans during the lockdown.

*name changed

Lessons from my 4 Living Dad’s

Yes, you read the title right. I’m blessed to say I have “4” living dad’s who in the past few months have spoken wisdom into my soul during this season of turbulent seas. Each of them have shared 4 truths that can transform any circumstance, no mater how dark, into a triumphal victory.

Last week I got a Face Time call from my Dad, Ray. My dad is not much into technology so to see an incoming call was a bit shocking. But as we talked I was relieved and blessed that all was ok and hearing what was on his heart from 10,000 miles away. He shared how he was awoken from a vivid dream where the LORD was communicating to him the absolute necessity for prayer to fight the pandemic plaguing the globe. How prayer must be the first priority for all His people. As he asked God what he could do, he sensed the LORD saying call 10 people and urge them to pray fervently over the peril we are facing. And to challenge them to call 10 more people to pray and so on so that we can join a prayer movement around the world to fight the battle in the heavenly realm.

My dad’s passion for intercession was contagious and so I contacted 10 people that day with his challenge. His challenged reminded me that prayer is our greatest act of faith, declaring we are not in control but must turn to the Sovereign Savior who has power over all creation.

Back in February my step dad Bill and my mom were out in South Africa for the dedication of Oceans Retreat Center. Bill was extremely sick and weak as he was battling pneumonia during his time here. But when you would walk into their room you would often find him singing worship songs he downloaded from his I-Pad. One of the songs he played over and over again was God of the Mountains – the chorus states:

“For the God of the mountain is still God in the valley when thing go wrong, He will make them right. And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times. The God of the day is still God of the night!

Bill modeled our need to praise no matter what. And it was that power of praise that got him out of bed to give a powerful message at our dedication service he titled the “Sovereign of the Sea.” It was truly a prophetic word as he called us to look to the Jesus who is in the boat with us in the midst of life’s storms. The One who has the power to shout out “Peace be Still!” Praise redirects our attention to the Almighty Sovereign of the Sea who will flood our life with His perfect peace.

My father-in-law, Ray loves life and people. So Patty were wondering how he would be doing in this time of self-isolation. But as we talked on the phone last week he was still full of joy and enthusiasm. He shared with us how even though he can’t get out to see people he felt called by the LORD to write letters of encouragement each week to people God put on his heart.

His looking outward instead of inward was a great challenge as well. In a world full of fear and negativity how love can overcome those emotions through giving and receiving words of encouragement. We have been recreated in Christ to be conduits of His love and grace to a broken and hurting world. Just think of the impact we could have on are world by daily giving others words of affirmation and encouragement.

By now you have probably figured out who my 4th living Dad is –Abba Father. The lessons He is daily teaching me is to rest in His endless supply of love. Being still is not always easy because inner voices stuffed away through busyness and other forms of distraction all of a sudden become louder when we practice the discipline of silence. Sins that lurk in the dark places of our soul become uncovered. Pain we have sought to avoid pound louder. Yet, these voices and the pain are teachers of the Holy Spirit and point to our need for the gift of love given to us in Jesus.

I truly believe the Father is using this particular season to bring us back to the Cross. To bring those sins, fears, and strongholds of the enemy to the cursed Tree of Calvary. At the cross we can honestly confess our sin and our weakness and once again give them to Jesus. We can rest in His mighty work. We can receive the gift of the Father’s love. Surrendering our lives anew and waiting for His power to be made perfect in our weakness through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So His challenge is to rest in Christ’s finished work and wait in great hope for the Holy Spirit to do His mighty work within us making us more and more into the image of His Son Jesus.

I praise God for the lessons of my 4 living Dad’s during this historic season. May we all be challenged to pray in faith to our Sovereign Savior who is the miracle worker, to praise and worship in every situation, to be instruments of His love and encouragement to others, and to rest in the perfect love of our Father given through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I pray you will hear your Father’s voice speaking to you in each of these challenges.

Easter 2020

The Wild Ways of the Providence of God!

Written by Ray Haakonsen

Day 8 of the Corona Virus lockdown in South Africa dawned on Friday 03rd April 2020. As Oceans Ministries we had already received 5 cancellations/postponements of teams booked at Oceans Retreat Center (ORC) for what we were anticipating to be a ‘crazy busy’ March/April period. Corvid-19 changed all that.

As Oceans in South Africa, we began to seek the Father as to what He wanted for us during this time. Through some networking we heard about a dire need amongst the homeless in Fish Hoek, many we had seen walking passed our premises pre-Corvid-19!

At the same time I have been reading a book “The Externally Focused Church” and as Oceans we recognize whilst we are not a ‘Church denomination’, each of us as believers in Christ, belong to the body of Christ and make up “The church.” There are many lines in the book that accurately define for me the truth of what it means to be “church” but I share this paragraph that defines clearly for me how the truth that God loves people, stands out.

Churches talk about service, and everyone agrees that it ought to be important to us, but do we really know how to effectively meet the needs of our communities and reach lost people? Are we willing to step outside the safety net of our church pews and cross the street into real life, real world acts of service in order to share the truth (The Father’s Love) through practically following Jesus Christ?”

So when we heard of a need, from an organization called NET, requesting meals to be cooked and served for40 to 60 homeless who were sleeping outside the civic center located just blocks away from ORC, we readily responded. On Friday Tim and I walked over to observe how the meal were served we immediately jumped in to help. Our staff committed to serving breakfast and dinner for Saturday and so appreciated Thobeka’s assistance and great cooking. “God ordained encounters” soon followed.

Following Corvid-19 guidelines we used tape on the ground to encourage social distancing , came prepared with hand with sanitizers, and served the meal with gloves. Tim offered a prayer, two great meals were enjoyed, we connected with other volunteers, mingled the homeless and settled a few disputes, and received “thank you’s” it was blessed time and felt like “church.” People who have ended up here, some through bad decisions, some through circumstances beyond their control, was a graphic reminder that “there but by the grace of God, go I.”

On Sunday there was an urgent need for breakfast and Tim was asked to give a brief Palm Sunday message. We were glad we were once again able to be present. Shortly after noon we heard the homeless were being transferred to Strandfontein that afternoon by buses. Our Oceans team sprang into action- toilet paper and toothpaste were donated, packed bags filled with blankets and clothes for each person were loaded into our Quantum van and delivered to the Civic Center. There we helped serve one final meal, assisted the homeless as they packed their meagre possessions, calmed the fears and uncertainty of others, and followed directions of capable volunteers as each person stepped onto the bus with gloves and a mask, unsure of what their future may hold.

The transportation for two wheelchair-bound older men had not been attended to by the city, so Tim and I and Carolyn, the main organizer of the Net organization, transported them to the newly constructed mass complex established for the duration of the lockdown. The human drama unfolded for us in a tangible way as we drove into the facility with hundreds of law enforcement, city officials and medical staff waiting the arrival of the homeless from all over Cape Town. The anxiety, bewilderment, and for some resignation in the eyes of many was palpable. Our words of encouragement and care may have seemed hollow, but we truly believed this was better for them than the insanitary, unsafe and uncertain place they came from at the Civic in Fish Hoek.  

As Oceans staff, here in South Africa we believe the Father is calling us to be “church” or as stated in the book I am reading to “really know how to effectively meet the needs of our communities and reach lost people.”  This statement surely fits Oceans’ mandate to 1)Pray, 2) Disciple and 3) Be a place of retreat. 

At a time of world shaking and uncertainty we face both now and post Corvid-19, my prayer is that we as Oceans, and for all of us as Believers-the Church-that we would be true Disciples of Christ, doing what He did as He taught from Matthew 25:40; ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.”

Finding Radical Faith in Uncertain Times

After an incredible night of prayer and worship last Wednesday a couple asked if they could meet with me the following day before South Africa was scheduled to go on lockdown. In my mind I was thinking they may need counseling or possibly financial assistance to sustain their family for the next 21 days as both of them would be out of work.

March 26 is a day I will never forget. Not only was it the last full day before we into quarantine as a nation, but it was my encounter with this couple that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was humbling, overwhelming, left me speechless, and filled my heart with overflowing hope and joy.

The couple started out sharing how they were touched by the Wednesday night of prayer and worship at Oceans Retreat Center and believed God was telling them to give a gift to the ministry. That’s when my heart started to beat rapidly and my tongue got tied. My mind flooded with countless thoughts on why they should not give due to the trial they would be facing in the coming days. I felt I was the one who should be giving money to them. When I finally was able to put a sentence together I said, “I have been coming to Africa for 17 years and I have never had this happen to me before, I don’t know what to say.” They both grinned with giant smiles saying, “it would be our joy for you to receive our widow’s mite.”

I shared with them that when God called us to start Oceans Ministries He told us not to ask for money but to pray and watch Him provide for all our needs. I went on to share with them about a spiritual hero named George Muller, just as I got those words out the wife jumped up out of her seat and gave a shout of praise. “Pastor Tim, it was George Muller who cared for thousands of orphans in England and never asked for funds, we love his example of prayer and faith in Almighty God!” At this I jumped up out of my seat and gave her a proper fist pump. I knew Abba was speaking powerfully through this brother and sister in Christ to encourage me to keep the faith.

Before this radiant couple left they asked if I could pray over them and their gift that God would some how be glorified through it. We all got down on our knees, laid hands on the gift. I praise God for what He is teaching me through such people of great faith, even in the midst of such uncertain times.

Their faith was a precious gift of the Goodness of the Father showing Himself faithful. It also inspired me to take time during this lock down to get to know the the Greatness of the God they follow and to live with radical faith. Wherever you may be during these unprecedented times will you join me in crying out to the Father for a greater awareness of the Spirit of Christ who lives in us so we can walk in faith through His abiding strength (Philippians 4:13).

“What is faith? it is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see…So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely seek HIm.” Hebrews 11:1 & 6 NLT

Last Wednesday’s Praise and Prayer Night at ORC