Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
One of the many exciting aspects of our ministry here in Swaziland, is the time we get to study the Word with our brother’s and sister’s here. Earlier this year, we decided that our first study as a staff would be looking at the Paul’s letter to the Saints in Ephesus. For such a small book, Ephesians packs a big punch, as it is filled with so much incredibly important and life-changing stuff. A man by the name of Watchman Nee described the letter with these three words, Sit, Walk, Stand. Paul teaches us that we must first be “seated with Christ” (Eph. 2:), as he explains our position with God through His past, present and future work in our lives. Paul then goes on to explain the truth that “we are no longer two but one” (Eph. 2:), one body of Christ, urging them to walk in complete unity. Finally, he ends the letter teaching that we must STAND together as one unified body in the strength and armour of God (Eph. 6:10 – 20). God is so good, and His Word stands for all generations! There wasn’t a more appropriate time for us to go through this amazing book of the Bible. God used exactly what we were studying each week, to directly speak into the challenges and joys we were currently experiencing. There really could not of been a better time to go through this amazing letter, and it is always such a sweet time studying and learning from one another. Charity and I both grew immensely, and saw how it was growing, shaping and impacting the rest of the staff as well. We are now seeking direction from God as to what we need to study next. Please pray with us in this.
God has also given me the opportunity to start a men’s study with a group of men from the community in which our base is set up. We are studying Jesus the Man, searching out what He taught, how He lived and applying it to our own lives as we desire to be men like Him. It has been so encouraging to see how enthusiastic and hungry these men are about understanding and knowing the truth of the Bible. One of the big issues I have seen in Swaziland, is a general lack of understanding the Bible, and I pray for continued personal growth and understanding to be able to teach and explain the Word of God more clearly and accurately through the opportunities He will most definitely not cease in giving.
Finally, what a joy it is to be able to see God’s Word shape and mould our precious children. How comforting it is to know that He continues to draw them to Himself, and use them to share His love to the kids in Swaziland. He has given them a heart for these children and is using them to impact and advance His kingdom.
Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
Psalms 119:89 – 90
The definition of the word Charity, is the act of giving money, food or other kinds of help to people who are poor, sick, etc. This definition emulates the heart and life of my beautiful wife, as she daily pours out her life for those who are around her, and it just so happens that this is her name. Charity, the most amazing woman I have ever known, she is the mother of my children and over and over again she astounds me in endless ways. The way in which she loves our children…… ……and the children in our community…..
…..the way in which she selflessly provides, cares and patiently teaches Hannah, Luke and Titus…..her unwavering faith, a faith that can move mountains. I could go on and on about her compassionate heart, and the way in which she tells you that you are loved and cared for in one of her truly authentic hugs. All of these reasons, and many more, are why I wholeheartedly love and adore this beautiful, matchless woman of God.
We thank the Lord for you everyday Charity, and appreciate all that you are ,and will be, as God continues to mold and shape you.
Luke – bringer of light
Before Luke was born, Charity and I decided to call our firstborn son “Luke”. One of the reasons we liked this name so much, is that it means ‘bringer of light’, and that has been our prayer for him ever since. That he truly is a bringer of the Light of the world. Today is Luke’s 6th birthday. Six years old! It’s hard to imagine what our life would be like without this amazing boy. He brings so much light into our family. We are so blessed to be his parents, and most importantly a brother and sister to this new child of God. The more time that God gives us with this amazing boy, the more we see the light of Jesus truly shining in his heart. It’s been about a month now since he was drilling me with questions about what it means to follow Jesus and to live for Him. From an early age, I have seen God moving in His heart, and our prayer was that He would continue to shape the way in which he thinks and acts. As we were preparing to move to Swaziland, we asked him what he was most excited about in regards to moving to this new land, and his answer echoed what our prayer for him has been from the start, “I can’t wait to tell the kids about Jesus”. This light bringing heart can be seen in the way in which he loves the children who are now becoming close friends of his. How precious this is when you see your boy growing in this way.
As he continues to get older, he becomes more and more selfless, and it is displayed all of the time. Whenever we are giving our kids anything he always tells us to serve his brother and sister before him. He loves them both so much, and is always encouraging and uplifting each one of us.
With all of this Luke is a boy who has so much energy and excitement as he wakes up each morning and goes through the day. He is a strong, tough boy, who plays hard, cares easily and loves the Lord intensely.
So, whatever he does we trust that God will continue to mold and shape Him, knowing that He will answer our continued prayers for this wonderful light. We cannot wait to see how God will use the make up that He has given him for His glory and purpose, as He brings light to the darkness through our son LUKE!!!!!
“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true”
Ephesians 5:8 & 9
Today is a very important and exciting day in the Spragg house. Hannah turns nine today. (I know I’m always saying this…but seriously, where does the time go, people??) This day nine years ago, our lives changed forever. She made me a mom and our lives have been richer in every way possible. We are beyond blessed!
Let me tell you a little bit about our sweet Hannah and how she continues to point me to Christ. Hannah is very laid back and easy going…even as a baby she was so easy. People used to tell us that we didnt really know what “real parents” go through because she was such a laid back baby. For example, she started sleeping through the night at 7 days old. I know, we had it good! (But for all you parents out there that are hating me right now…no worries she has 2 little brothers that more then made up for it 😉) She has the biggest compassionate heart of anyone I know. Anyone that knows her, knows that when she loves, she does it with her whole heart…and that includes people and animals alike. She has a very quiet and sweet spirit. She is a deep thinker and definitely keeps me on my toes with all her tough questions. She loves to laugh and make others laugh. She is a great big sister and her brothers love and adore her. She is very creative…loves to draw and is always singing and dancing through the house. Some days we all join in and let’s be honest here…some days she’s asked to take the singing outside. 😊
So I could go on and on but Iets move on….
In her nine years of life she has been through her share of trials and heartbreaks as well. It is in these moments especially that I see God forming her into a woman of God. He is refining her and drawing her closer to Him. In one of our biggest trials as a family, Hannah lost her uncle. Hannah was 5 and she had grown especially close to him as he lived with us. God in His sovereignty and grace used this tragedy and heartbreak to draw her to Him and she decided to follow Christ with her life.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Saying goodbye is never easy…well at least not to the people we love. 😉 As we were preparing to come to Swazi and all that that entailed…Saying goodbye to family and friends, and let’s not forget our dog, Nala, and leaving everything familiar to us…we were feeling many different emotions. Hannah came to me one day and said: Mommy half of my heart can’t wait to go to Swazi but the other half is broken because we have to say goodbye to everyone we love. So we had a very deep and tearful talk about the real sacrifices of following Christ. We are now 6+ months on the other side of that conversation and the sacrifices have been real and sometimes tearful but so worthwhile as I see God maturing her faith and trust in Him. She has never once said, I don’t want to go to Swaziland or can we move back to the States. Instead everyday she says, please can I go to the care points, please can I go play with my friends, mommy how can we tell this person or that person about Jesus, mommy I think we should make some cookies and bring to everyone. I see the joy in her eyes as she runs and gives our Swazi staff hugs. I see the love of God pouring through her and touching the lives of everyone around her.
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deicetful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Wow! I cannot believe we have been here for 6 full months already. Where has the time gone? We feel so blessed to be able to call Swaziland our home. My heart overflows with joy and great contentment as I know we are right where God wants us!
1 Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.
I just want to say THANK YOU…because I can never say it enough…to everyone that is partnering with us financially and prayerfully! I love to see how God uses the family of Christ! Because of your obedience to Him, we are able to serve Him here in Swaziland. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
One of my favorite days of the week is Thursday morning, where we have our staff Bible study in our home. One of our greatest passions is our Swazi staff. We work with AMAZING brothers and sisters in Christ! It has been so great to study the book of Ephesians together. Our prayer for our staff is that we would have unity, as the body of Christ, and be imitators of God. (In the picture below we are missing two of our staff)
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
In the 6 months that we have been here we have seen many highs and lows. We have grieved with those that grieve and rejoiced with those that rejoice. We have shed many tears of heartbreak and joy. We have experienced spiritual warfare like never before but we have also seen God answer prayer and move in ways that seem impossible to us. (I will share more in detail in our next blog) Through it all we have seen and experienced God’s faithfulness like never before. In the valleys and mountain tops, He remains faithful. In the joys and challenges, He has always shown His face. Our God is faithful!
This has been my prayer for our family…
Romans 12:9-12 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
So often in life we forget about the common, every day generosity of our heavenly Father. I am not talking about how thankful we should be for the amazing truth and blessing of the gift of righteousness He has given us through His Son Jesus Christ, but rather the physical things that we have that we usually do not think twice about. This is the reality that I was faced with just a couple of weeks ago. The staff here in Nsoko had the opportunity to visit a few of our local families, and deliver some of our extra mattresses that were no longer in use at our team house. As we pull up to these homes, more times than not we are met with the rush of happy children, some naked, some clothed, and are invited into their humble homes. Homes that they are very proud of. As we sit in these homes, you realize that we are sitting on a dirt floor covered with pieces of linoleum, straw mats and anything that can cover these hard surfaces to give a little more comfort and cleanliness. You sit in these homes where many will curl up and sleep for the night on this solid surface, realizing that the rays of sunlight light that are seeping into the dimly lit structure are not from windows strategically placed to give a nice view or look to the house, but rather because the walls and roof are filled with holes throughout. Holes that will function as open flowing faucets when the intense blowing storms hit during this rainy season that we are currently in. As we stay and talk, the joy in their faces can be seen as they share how grateful and extremely thankful they are for this gift of a mattress, a mattress that you would not even consider putting on your bed, giving praise to God for His provision. I share all of this not to bring guilt into your life for the stuff that you have, but rather to encourage you as He has encouraged me. I challenge you to continually thank God for the every day gifts that He has so generously given you. The not so simple fact that you are able to curl up into a bed that is most likely layered with comfortable sheets, blankets and pillows, under a roof that will probably not leak if a heavy storm hits, or possibly blow over if the winds get too strong, is something that you should not take credit for. This is purely the work of God and can be taken away at any moment. Just as Paul learned to be content and thankful in times of plenty and in times of need, so must we model this mindset. Thank God for all of this, and pray for those who do not have these. Pray that God will provide for their needs, and that in His provision, His love and grace can be shared, seen and accepted.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 19
Wow! Are we really coming to the end of 2014?? This year has flown by and especially these last few months.
We had a great first Christmas here in Swaziland! One of the things I love most about Swazi culture, especially during the Christmas season, is the slower pace of life. It has been amazing for our family to just “BE”… be together, be still and quiet and see God in the little things. The things we normally miss when our schedules are full and we’re rushing here, there, and everywhere, especially during the Christmas season.
Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth.
On Christmas Day, it was HOT. It’s so different being in shorts and t-shirts during Christmas time. We were able to get together with our fellow missionaries in Manzini and all the kids swam. I’m so thankful for our family of believers we have here in Swazi. We have been able to keep old traditions and make new ones. I am so very thankful for technology and even though we are thousands of miles away from our friends and families, we were still able to “see” them!
Here are a few pics from our first Thanksgiving as well. We had an amazing world race team here and with our ministry staff and fellow Nsoko missionaries there were 40+ people. It was great!
Psalm 138:1&2 I give You thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart…….and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.
We have SO much to be thankful for! The last couple of months and the last year have been a HUGE life change and transition period for our family. As I look back on all that has happened, I am truly humbled and in awe of His faithfulness, His grace, His provision, His protection and how He answers prayer!
In the short time that we have been here my life is forever changed. God is teaching me what true contentment and genuine thankfulness looks like. God is beginning to show me just how much I have taken for granted. To have clean water is truly a blessing, we have food in abundance, we have a vehicle and the means to go to a hospital if need be, we have a house and electricity and indoor plumbing and running water. We don’t have to live in fear of a storm coming and blowing our roof off or flooding our homestead, and every time our electricity goes out, which can be quite often :), I am reminded not to take it for granted. We have a washer and dryer. I have done laundry by hand and it is hard work and time consuming….especially the way our boys just seem to be attracted to dirt. 🙂 I am beyond thankful for this luxury and the time it saves me. Those are just a few of the everyday things I am so thankful for and I pray I never take for granted again.
I can’t write a post about thankfulness and not mention my amazing family. I sit back amazed at how God is changing and molding our children’s hearts for Him. I know that He is and will continue to use them to do great and mighty things in His name. I am a very blessed Make. (A little siSwati lesson there 🙂 Make pronounced maw-gay means mom.) I am also beyond thankful for my amazing husband. I am so thankful that God has given me a partner, a best friend, to do life with. It is an amazing gift to have a father and husband who is selfless, who loves and adores his family but most of all who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and loves God with all his heart. As I look around me and see so many broken homes I have never been so thankful for my family.
Most of all I am thankful for what we have in Christ! It is only in Him that we can have true contentment and genuine thankfulness. I have never seen the true need or hunger or thirst like I have here but I also have never seen the joy or genuine thankfulness and contentment like I have here either. He never promised His children an easy trial free life here on this earth…actually quite the opposite. (John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.) It is how we view this world and react to our trials that make all the difference. We are only passing through, our real home is in Heaven. Are we living each day with eternity in mind?
As believers, as brothers and sisters in Christ we are beyond blessed and have so much to be thankful for!!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for a month already but in some ways it seems like this has always been our home.
When we sit back and watch our children, it is further confirmation from God that we are truly where He wants us. They haven’t missed a beat. They LOVE it here! We see it in their faces, in their smiles, in their desire to go to the care points and play with the children daily, in the way they are beginning to speak Siswati and in their prayers as they thank God that we are finally in Swaziland!
It has definitely been a crazy month, with so much to learn ministry wise, culturally, the language and planning Christmas parties for all the Care Points. Then there is just the day to day living…we needed to figure out the grocery stores, (when you have kids that eat like ours this is a priority:) ) it only took a couple of days of the kids playing in the African soil and me washing clothes in the bathtub to let us know we couldn’t wait another day to get a washing machine. 🙂 and then just all the things you need to make up your house so it can actually be livable.
I’ll give you just a little rundown of our daily schedule….although it can change daily, it normally looks something like this. Get up in the morning eat breakfast together and then Stephen will head out for the morning meeting with our Swazi staff…which are amazing by the way…and we normally do school in the morning. The rest of the day can (but not always) be filled with home visits, going to the care points to do discipleship, Christmas parties, hospital runs, and just learning the culture and always trying to learn new words in siSwati. We want to get to know the people we serve with and the people God has called us to serve. We don’t ever want to be so consumed with our schedules for the day that we miss what God has for us.
He has taught us so much this first month. He continues to refine and stretch us, taking us out of our comfort zones. As things may happen that we haven’t planned for or are a surprise to us, we are reminded that we serve an all knowing God. One who is sovereign and nothing takes Him by surprise, and in Him and only Him do we have His peace and joy in the midst of this transition stage.
Thank you so much for your prayers. It has been a great encouragement to get emails saying our family has been covered in prayers! Thank you! Thank you!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.