Sunday, August 2, 2015


8-2-15 update

Now that I have successfully made my way back to the United States it is time for another update. In the last two weeks, since getting back, I have had the opportunity to reintegrate into the culture and society of southern Missouri as well as spend some quality time with my family. It has been very nice to get to see family in person again.

The flight back was long and the wait to actually get on the flight seemed even longer.  During our final days in JoBurg our people group was finishing up with Ramadan and during the last ten days of Ramadan most people stay in their homes or in the mosque and focus on their prayers. Leaving the work that was being done in Johannesburg was a difficult thing for me. I had at six months in, felt as if real relationships and connections had really started to move forward and blossom. I hope that the relationships that I had the privilege of taking part in are continued with the workers there now and in the future. I will also miss the people with whom I was working with as my coworkers, during the course of the time there I think I was stretched to be able to appreciate and understand how beneficial our work dynamic was.

One of the things that struck me instantly upon arrival back into Missouri was the amount of green, water, humidity, and the lack of people everywhere! The amount of green here at home is wonderful and something to be thankful for, it’s not like this everywhere! The recent rainfalls have been amazing, having been agriculturally minded for most of my life I like that we have had more than enough rainfall to compensate for the last several years of dry times. Humidity is something that I used to always take for granted or complain about, but living without it for six months gave me a vast appreciation of how nice that moist heat really is. I feel as if I can finally breath easily again. Another immediate realization that I had upon entering Saint Louis was the lack of people and how small that city is! I think that if I put together all the people that I have seen in passing since I got back they might add up to the amount of people I saw on an average day in JoBurg. We are blessed to be living in an earthly paradise that has been a well-kept secret.

Now for what I have been doing personally! I knew that upon re-entry I would be unemployed, without transportation, and relatively homeless (I say this because I still have my family to be with and friends/old roommates that I can crash with). I have been running for the last few weeks trying to line out the finalizing touches for my degree, applying for an awesome job working with refugees here in southwest Missouri, and finding housing for the upcoming future. As soon as the university issues are lined out the job is supposed to be provided and I will be able to move into housing as soon as I do a bit of basement cleaning to make a space. All my needs are being provided for and my wants as well. One of my passions before I left was that of motorcycle riding, since I came back that motorcycle has been the primary mode of transportation, and I love every minute of it. 

Thank you for continuing to read this blog and I ask that you keep the work and team in Johannesburg in your thoughts as well as continuing to keep the work going here.

Until next time,

                                Ethan Smith.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


7/4/15.

Happy Independence Day. I am so glad to have that little blue and gold passport!

Less than two weeks out, I can already smell the BBQ and taste the blackberry cobbler! In this past week we have had some awesome working experiences! My team and I have been asking for intercession on the part of our people here for the recent several months. We have also been interceding daily on the behalf of our friends. This week we have had some conversations that are potentially breakthroughs for some friends. HE has been answering our pleas, and the interactions that we have had the opportunity to be a part of have been amazing.

A few people started conversations that were Q&A times about our beliefs. These were conversations that were in the length of an hour or more each of deep discussion over what makes us different, and why our differences look so ‘different’. I had the chance to explain in depth some of my personal views and went from the beginning to the maps with a few guys. These are amazing experiences that rarely happen during the average day, but some sort of breakthrough has enticed some disinterested men into becoming interested in a topic that they are not supposed to ever question or talk about.

Concerning the work here and elsewhere with this culture and others like it I have a myriad of thoughts that I am mulling over. To be honest I do not feel like my work is done, rather I feel as if the ability to really work has just begun. I know that I am coming home and I am excited to reconnect with family and friends, and I feel like it will be a great time to recharge and share with people firsthand what HE has been doing here. In the last six months I have had the opportunity to learn about and experience a culture that is unknown and distrusted to most who hear of it. This culture or these cultures have their own nuances that outshine some of those from our own cultures, for the good and the bad as well as the beautiful and ugly.

For something that I have experienced as good. The community is of utmost importance for this culture, and the religion ties directly to the family, community, and people as a whole. If we were to value the community as highly as some of our cousins do how would we ever lose our youth to false ideals and beliefs? This is an aspect that I think we had until recent generations, but have lost or forgotten as time progresses. The aspect of community that I am describing is as close to the same in structure today as it was in the times of Paul and the twelve.

Something that I find dislike in for this culture and others like it is the inability to ask questions concerning personal beliefs. What I mean by this is that if I am a student of certain schools of thought that directly oppose those of the western world, then I am not allowed to question in any way the information that I am learning. Something that I really value from our culture that may or may not be all for our benefit is our freedom to question all things. I feel as if in our culture the quest for and the questioning of knowledge is more important than the knowledge that we inadvertently learn in the process of the quest. In places away from our comfortable homes people are not permitted to ask the simple question of why. Because of this there are multitudes of people who don’t necessarily understand but continue to follow and practice in order to retain their place in the community, family, society, etc.

Thank you for your continued pr@yers and thoughts. As our time here winds to an end I am trying to focus on the interactions and conversations as much as I can. I simply ask that you continue in your intercession on behalf of the people who are here and around the world who have yet to hear the good news.

In this time of celebrating our freedom, I hope that you remember that we truly have a rare gift in that we are free to question the aspects and ideals of life that we have yet to understand. We have the freedom to make decisions on our own instead of making them out of an honor-shame understanding on life. We still have a country to call home and a government in that country. Regardless of how we perceive our current government and the branches of that government, it is currently still there to protect its people and allow us to provide for ourselves. I know my understanding of the world is limited, but now that I have been to another part of it I can appreciate the work and the sacrifices that have been invested to make our country a bastion off hope for those who are looking for their own promised land.

 

 

Friday, June 26, 2015


6-26-15

Hello! I know that it has been too long since the last update, I have been working on writing papers for my degree requirements and spending time with the people here as our time in country draws to an end. I find it amazing that we have already been in South Africa nearly six months, and while it doesn’t feel like we got here yesterday, I feel as if I am just now getting to the point where my relationships here are really taking off.

In thinking of the upcoming weeks I ask that everyone keep our people in your daily pr@yers. For Ramadaan fasting begins before sunrise and ends after sunset. The first pr@yer time is at 530am. The others are around the times of noon, 3pm, 530pm, and 645pm. These are the times around the world that mu$lim$ will be pr@ying, and these are great times for intercession for dreams and visions to be given to them. The month of Ramadaan is a time of fasting and pr@yer for all mu$lim$, and also a great time for mobilization on their behalf for the kingdom.

I know that the last paragraph may be a bit confusing, but this is what is really on my heart for the moment. I would also like to ask for pr@yer on my behalf as we finish up our time here, to make the best use of my time here and to boldly speak when and where I can. Another request is for grace in the travels and upon re-entry to the US.

I thank you for all of your support and Pr@yers and I’ll be seeing you soon.

Ethan Smith.

Friday, June 12, 2015

video
I have mentioned load shedding here in Joburg, this video is of an improvised grill that my roommate and I made to cook dinner and keep warm by this evening. In the video I say third world grill, this, after conferring with teammates from north Carolina and Mississippi, was a misspeak what it actually is falls more accurately into college guy jimmy rigging or second world grill! Enjoy, I know I did.

Today the load shedding totaled to nearly six hours, and at night with the city shut off you can actually see a few stars. After our royal ranger foil meal dinners we "foraged" for twigs and wood and made a bit of a campfire, there may have been a guitar and bluegrass involved to serenade the locals as well!
 
video

Thursday, June 11, 2015


6-10-15

Update.

Hello again from Joburg, the winter has kicked in here and while the cold is bearable, it is for me unexpected! As far as wondrous adventures and excitements, there has not been much happening in that department in the last few weeks, no stories of lions (except for the American girl mauled by a lion at a nearby lion park last week; she had the windows down and was trying to get a close-up picture in an area clearly labeled as dangerous). What has been going on though is much reading and writing on my part on papers for school. I have been listening to conversations to better understand the culture and issues of the people we are with and to better understand their personal religious views.

Ramadan is quickly approaching, I think it starts on the 19th of this month and goes through the 17th or 18th of July… sadly just two days after we fly home! Ramadan is the month of fasting and prayer, there are five times of prayer throughout the day and after sunset there are daily feasts at people’s houses. At the end of Ramadan is a three day festival called Eid. To the people that I have talked to, they consider Eid to be their equalivent to our Christmas. The time of Ramadan is a time of open doors and widespread kindness in the community we are in.

It is our goal to have a time set apart for intercession for these people that coincides with their official pr@yer times. We will be pr@ying for dreams and visions, uneasiness with their current situation, and a massive movement of turning towards the true faith. Also, the work here is expanding and there are more people wanting to be taught than we can currently handle. If there were some long term partners with this work then perhaps the classroom could be moved to a larger room in which more people could be taught. With incoming workers in the fall opportunities may arise to start an evening class, if this were to happen I was told today that a group of 60 young men all from the same ethnic background would gladly come. And these men are all from the same apartment building in Mayfair.  A whole outreach with more students than I can think of from a single building! We are praying for opportunities like this to open up and for the needs that come with these opportunities to be met.

When I know the times for intercession I hope to post them so we all can join in this together.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and to think over the work here, all of the pr@yers are beneficial for the growth and development of the Kingdom, and to combat the ongoing Sp. Warfare.

Ethan. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015


5-23-15

Hello again from Joburg and I apologize for not updating more quickly, for the last several days I have had a bit of a bug and have been laid up in my apartment. For all who knew thank you for the thoughts and pr@yers, I can now move without a pounding head (and other various maladies)!

On Monday my roommate and I started feeling puny, and Tuesday he couldn’t leave the house. On Wednesday we shouldn’t have, and we ended up at a doctor in the afternoon to figure out what was going on. I can usually whine my way through a cold or flu and for a while I thought I could with this one, but it was a little too hard hitting for me to handle myself. The rest of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were fairly bedridden for me, and inasmuch I had a lot of time to pr@y and think about the work we are doing here (when my head was not throbbing too badly!).

With the addition of a couple to our team here there is also an addition of their skillsets to the dynamic as well. Our new teammates speak a dialect of Arabic and are more than comfortable using that here in attempts to build bonds with even more peoples than just the ones we are specifically working with here. This is an awesome opportunity for kingdom development among the many peoples in this area.

To be a reference in size for home standards, an area the size of the town proper of Farmington or Bolivar and with a population of 5 million instead of 10-20 thousand, and it is within this area where our people groups live and feel the safest within the Joburg area. Massive throngs of people waiting to be told in a way that speaks to their hearts not just their ears. Our plan which we hope to get on the ground in the next day or two, instead of just being in the air, is to give the first of several key portions of scriptural text in the mother language, set side by side with the same text in English, to our friend/s. This first portion will be the book of beginnings from creation up to the covenant with Ibrahim. Since the accounts will be similar to what they have learned previously, we hope that they will read unhindered by disbelief. We are earnestly pr@ying that this will be accepted and taken to heart, and that through the hearing, reading, and possessing of the word He will move among the people’s hearts and a CPM will rush through this people.  

Last weekend we as a team went to the city of Durban, which is on the east coast bordering the Indian Ocean. We went to inquire about future expansions of our work to that area, and if there is a need for the ESL classes, which there is, and in what sector of the population the need is the highest. We found that although there are not many people with whom we are currently working with there are multitudes of cousins who need to hear the truth of the word. During this trip we went to places where we could communicate with others our age in order to inquire about need, we found and went to the major university. At the university in Durban, main campus I believe – it was huge, there was a Hindu temple right next to a Mosque in order to support peace and unity among students in ZA. It was to the Mosque that we first went in order to inquire if there were any students in need of assistance with English work. After going into the prayer room and talking to several young men who were studying there, I was then taken to the Imam to talk about where the greatest need for our services would be. In our conversation it was important to stress that we were part of an already existing effort and that we had a good rapport within the area we currently work, he wanted to know who and what we were and why we were there – understandable coming from a professor as well as a flock leader. I believe our conversation went well, and I think that there is most defiantly a future for work efforts in the area.

The area of Durban is known for its sunny tropical feel and its beaches that draw in the surfers. While we were there the sun might have come out from the clouds for an hour all told, but we got some quiet time to sit by the ocean and think, after going to the university. I even had the opportunity to have a personal devotion with the sound of the ocean as background. On Sunday morning we woke up early in hopes of seeing the sunrise over the water, but the cloud cover was too thick and it started to rain. The city of Durban was a place that in areas was very wild and dingy and in others the streets were like the streets of Miami, lined with palms and buildings painted in all colors pastel. Downtown in all the tall buildings (most stained from the salt air), every window was different – an array of colors, fabrics, and people. There were clothes hanging out to dry all over the city. We were caught trying to drive back to the place we were staying at 4 o clock on Friday afternoon while downtown. A drive that should’ve taken 6 minutes through crowded downtown ended up taking 35. At times there were groups of 25-50 people crossing our lane on foot during green lights. There were also 20 cars crammed into every intersection! People were even getting out of cars stopped in traffic to continue on their way on foot. Crazy, frustrating, fun, and often hilarious, we just had to sit through and experience it!

Durban is a five to six hour drive from Joburg, and the scenery is predominantly the same until 45 minutes’ drive from the Ocean. It was all highland savannah stretching over the hills with plenty of buttes and mesas thrown in for views. Near Durban were miles and miles of tree farms, all a type of pine, and the tree farms resembled the pine farms along the southern Mississippi, grown like any other crops. Once we descended into the valley, or down to the coast the climate went from high and dry to low and steamy. The humidity was a welcome change, if only for a few days. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to see and experience this part of ZA.

We went from Sunday morning in Durban trying to see a sunrise and being physically fine, to Monday morning the start of this stomach bug starting to hit.

I ask for pr@yer in our work here, for people to hear, see, read, be touched by, accept the Word, and for that hearing to develop into a CPM among our people here in Joburg. Also, there has been some sickness in the family back home and I believe that the whole of them need healing and SP protection, healing, and guidance. My sister will be needing protection as well as SP guidance as she sets off on a journey of her own in the upcoming months, and I pr@y all goes well with that and much learning and growth takes place.

Thank you so much for your pr@yer and support, none of this would be possible without all of you back home and your pr@yers.

Ethan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Week of 5-5-15
Hello again,
This week has finally arrived, and I was apprehensive for no good reason. This week is the week that my teammate and I have been drafted into service as child care members during a company meeting here in JoBurg. After arriving and helping with the bags of families arriving from all over the continent, I thought that the children might be wild acting or terrified of me, but as it turned out I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have found out that our ministry here as short term guys has many facets, one of those facets is to work with and do any task that is required here to streamline and make the career personnel’s work more beneficial and efficient. During the weekend I assisted in the carrying of refrigerators for a team that was in another part of town, he called my boss and asked if he could borrow our labor for a few hours (we are like loanable tools sometimes). So, while we do our work downtown, and it is really exciting, we are also here to serve the people who are living their lives, raising their children, and giving up their homeland to serve and reach the Lost of the world. I am saying this so that people don’t think we are wasting time or funds while “playing” with children for a week. We do what needs to be done, and sometimes that task is unattractive or seemingly less significant for our purpose here, but it may just mean that in this instance in particular, the parents may be equipped to better handle the rigors of the field because I took care of their screaming kids for a few hours. 
On Monday we supervised the children during the time that their parents were in seminars and meetings, the children’s game of dodgeball quickly morphed into “hit the big guy”. This lasted for several hours, during which I was captured, climbed, and turned into a personal steed many times. Man-o-man was I tired! When I woke up on Tuesday morning I could hardly walk and I thought I had slipped a disk during the night (I didn’t!) - My back was so sore, those kiddos wore me out! A pot of coffee and a few hours later all was loosened up and it was back to keeping the kiddos out of trouble and occupied.
At one point in the space of ten minutes I thought I might lose my job here. The age group that I am with for the most part is the teens/ youth, but during general recreational time all of the kids are running about playing as they wish. It was during this time that I saw one of the 5yr olds throw a football into the nose of another and knock the child back and down, I thought that there would be blood and thankfully there wasn’t. The next one happened as soon as the hurt boy was taken to his mother, the hurt boy’s next older brother (a year or so older) was knocked down by accident by the second oldest brother and almost bit through half of his tongue. The brother who had tripped and fell is somewhere around 12 and had gotten a black eye from one of the little girls here earlier. So far this has been three boys in one family, injured on my watch but with no intervention that I could have done. A little later, during snack time, another little 5yr old was kicking a soccer ball with us and eating skittles when he was roundhouse kicked in the face by the boy who had bitten his tongue, this time the boy was too focused on his skittles to even notice the kick to the face, he just kept on eating. Skittles, like many American candies, have to be brought over in luggage from the States, they cannot be bought here. So, obviously the kids really love it when volunteers from the States bring sweets. 
What a day! They kept me going until well after dark when, as a diversion for the parents, we showed a movie that the kids (and myself) love – Despicable Me 2. Some of the parents were requesting alone time and appreciated the time filler.  
Wednesday has been very windy, and out came a stack of Frisbees from the team for the kids to play with. That turned out to be a great idea, even the adults wanted to join in! In the afternoon and on Thursday and Friday we played Settlers of Catan with the 10 and up groups and they really had fun with the strategy games.
During the course of the week a few of the children made the decision to follow the way and accept Christ. This was an exciting development, and made for a great end to the week.
On Friday we were kept on our toes until after midnight, and had a great time fellowshipping with and learning form these apprentices. We also were drafted into helping to load all the bags and gather odds and ends around the camp. Once we made it home from the camp we crashed from all the running of the week.
In the upcoming week we should be able to go with our language teacher to some cultural places to learn more about the people as well as to help to use.

Ethan Smith