Reaching South Africa–One Home at a Tim
About the Guest
On the broadcast today, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, still a little jet-lagged, talk about their travels to South Africa and FamilyLife's active ministry there.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk about their travels to South Africa and FamilyLife’s active ministry there.
Reaching South Africa–One Home at a Tim
Bob: Dennis Rainey and his wife, Barbara, returned recently from a trip to the Republic of South Africa, where they were involved in helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife in that nation.
And, as is often the case with trips abroad, they were very aware of the incredible opportunities and the incredible need. Here's Barbara.
Barbara: Our daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Jacob, were with us for part of the trip, and the three of us went to visit this little preschool and, oh, these kids were just adorable. We just wanted to pick them up and take them all home with us. But it was very Spartan. It was just a one-room thing with some little tables and chairs and a pile of mattresses in the corner for when they had rest time in the afternoon, and that's what most of these kids live in – is very primitive type environments.
And so this little preschool, even though it is nothing compared to what we think of when we think of preschool, it's still a lot more than what they would have otherwise.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll learn more about what God is up to and how families are being ministered to in South Africa on today's program.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You recognized that, didn't you? That was the national anthem of the Republic of South Africa, which is not how we normally start our program.
Dennis: I didn't hear it, did you, sweetheart?
Barbara: I didn't. I don't think I'd recognize it even if I did, sorry.
Bob: Should we play it again for you? Did they play it at all while you were over there?
Dennis: We didn't go to any sporting events.
Barbara: We did watch one on TV, but it was midway through, so we didn't hear the national anthem.
Dennis: I have to tell you, Bob, this is a true story. Actually, there's two true stories here. We just got back from South Africa, as you were alluding to, and …
Bob: And, by the way, can I say what a delight it is to have your wife in the studio with us today.
Dennis: Oh, you know, it's so much better to look across the table at her.
Bob: Thank you so much for coming.
Dennis: But we arrived in South Africa, and their rugby team is like our baseball or basketball or …
Bob: Big stuff.
Dennis: Yeah, it's their sport, okay? And the couple we were staying with said "We do not have a rugby team this year." They've not shown up for a game yet. We're losing left and right. While we were in country, their rugby team beat New Zealand and Australia.
Dennis: Who are their two main rivals, and I actually spoke to a group of South Africans, and they didn't realize it, but I had my coat on, and I had purchased a green and gold South African – what do you call it?
Bob: A jersey?
Barbara: A jersey.
Dennis: A jersey.
Barbara: Actually, it was a polo, but it had all the emblems and the logo and all that on it.
Dennis: I had it on under my sport coat, and I said, "You know, I've been in South Africa, this is my third trip, and I think I'm becoming a South African, and with that I started taking off my sport coat, and the place erupted. And I said, "I'm not taking any credit for the two wins, but I was told you didn't have a team before I came."
Bob: Well, tell our listeners – this was your third trip to South Africa. You went down back in 1978, is that right?
Dennis: Good memory, Bob. Our listeners need to know that as we were preparing this broadcast …
Bob: … here we go …
Dennis: … Bob sent out an e-mail saying, "We need to meet with Dennis and Barbara and have them share about their trip to Russia.
Bob: You've been to Russia, haven't you, Barbara?
Barbara: You can't get away with anything, can you, Bob? I'm telling you, it's really sad.
Dennis: Bob sent out a return e-mail that said, "There's really not a lot of difference between Russia and South Africa."
Dennis: It was a classic e-mail.
Barbara: The problem with e-mail is you've got proof.
Dennis: In fact, do you know what we're going to do, Keith? I'm going to ask that we post his e-mail on the website.
Bob: Oh, thank you.
Dennis: It's one of the classics that I've ever received from Bob. Yes, Bob, you're right, we did go back in 1978, and in fact it was an interesting visit to South Africa. Apartheid was totally in control. We stayed in an Anglican monastery and slept on cots and ate three meals a day, room and board, for $1.25.
Dennis: We stayed with a couple this time who just absolutely took care of us and lavished love upon us, and we had a great trip. We did go back again in 1981, though, and in fact I have a journal here. You'll see this, it's not a fancy journal. It's a little paperback journal that Barbara gave me dated September 1, 1981, and it had verses that she had outlined starting with my trip over all the way through for the 14 days I was there without her.
And it was interesting – the notes I took back then and some of the people I had ministered to and introduced to Christ came back and hosted us on this trip.
Dennis: It was really cool. It was almost 25 years to the day that Barbara and I went back to visit this great country.
Bob: Barbara, when Dennis first came to you several months ago and said, "We're being asked to come to South Africa for an extended ministry trip, what do you think we should do?" What were your thoughts?
Barbara: Well, we had been talking about going back probably for, what, a couple of years, I guess.
Dennis: Actually, almost six years.
Barbara: Has it been that long?
Dennis: I traced the e-mails back to before 9/11, and we actually had some time. We were thinking about going not long after 9/11, but that completely shut down international travel, as you know.
Barbara: So we had been sort of talking about it, and it just was a matter of getting it on the calendar, but I remember the trip in '78 and really liked the country and really remembered liking the people. And so it was something that we were looking forward to doing again.
Dennis: South Africa is such a strategic nation to the entire continent. You know, most of us think of Africa, and we think of it kind of like it's a nation. Well, this comprised of 55 different and distinct nations, and I might add, quite honestly, despite all of the missionary effort, a pretty dark continent in need of the Gospel of Christ.
And so when we had the opportunity to go back to this country of more than 45 million people that has been stricken with an AIDS epidemic, we decided it was time to go.
Bob, more than 10 percent of the population are HIV positive or have full-blown AIDS. I mean, it's a massive problem in that nation. In fact, we flew over a graveyard, and I'll never forget this as long as I live – it was a huge graveyard, and you could tell half the graves were fresh, and so there are huge issues being created by this and another one, of course, that's close to our hearts here at FamilyLife is by the year 2015, there will be 1.8 million orphans because of AIDS in the country of South Africa.
Bob: I know that was part of why you wanted to go back now was because we're looking at how we can connect churches and individuals with the needs of orphans all around the world, and this gave you an opportunity to see that up close and personal. In fact, you visited an orphanage while you were over there, is that right?
Barbara: It wasn't an orphanage, actually, it was a preschool. There are some missionaries there who are working with some local pastors in the villages that surround the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and when we think of the word "village" we think of a small little community of people. Well, these villages are huge, and there are lots and lots and lots of people who live in these outlying areas around the big cities.
And these missionaries that we met are running a preschool, and so we got the privilege of going there. Dennis didn't, but Rebecca – our daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Jacob, were with us for part of the trip, and the three of us went to visit this little preschool and, oh, these kids were just adorable. We just wanted to pick them up and take them all home with us. The youngest was probably right at 12 months or maybe a little younger, and the oldest was four or five.
One of the little girls was HIV-positive herself, and there may have been others, I don't know, but it was just a one-room thing with some little tables and chairs and a pile of mattresses in the corner for when they had rest time in the afternoon. Two little playground equipment things out in the yard for them play on, but it's better than nothing that they have, sitting on the floor of their little dirt shacks, and that's what most of these kids live in – is very minimal, primitive-type environments.
And so this little preschool, even though it is nothing compared to what we think of when we think of preschool, it's still a lot more than what they would have otherwise.
Dennis: In fact, there's a picture I want to put on the Internet. It's a picture of our daughter, Rebecca, with her hair – how did she have her hair up?
Barbara: She had it in braids.
Dennis: She had her hair up in braids, and she's peeking around …
Barbara: Around the corner of the door …
Dennis: … of the door, and the door is filled with these little black children looking up at her, and I'm telling you, that – we're going to blow that picture up here at FamilyLife, because it's a picture, I think, of our responsibility to look around the corner and to see the needs of a generation of children that really need some older people to step into their lives.
I have to tell you one quick story, Bob, because as Barbara mentioned, Rebecca and her husband, Jacob, went with us – when the orphans first saw Jacob, they didn't know what to do with him, and I think we kind of figured out that some of them perhaps had not seen a man in a while, certainly a white man.
So he got out on the playground equipment and, in fact, we've got pictures of him on the playground equipment where I'm going, "Oh, I'm glad the playground equipment didn't break" because he was climbing, and those kids, there are all these pictures of them just gathering around his legs.
Barbara: He became like the Pied Piper, because these kids usually don't have someone to play with them, and they're around women most of the time, because there aren't a lot of strong male figures in their lives. These kids are raised by grandmothers or aunts so to have a man there who would play with them was just a novelty, and they kind of had to warm up to him, and he actually kind of had to warm up to them because he wasn't really sure what they would think. But he started chasing them and tickling them and throwing them in the air and catching them, and they just were, like – they absolutely loved it.
And the rest of us women, the workers, and Rebecca, and the two missionaries and I just stood there and watched. It was like the greatest entertainment to watch him with these kids.
Bob: Now, you spoke in a number of different settings over there. You did a one-day conference for couples in one setting. You spoke four nights in a row for a marriage event for a church in South Africa. Do you find that you have to adjust your message as you go into a country like South Africa in order to be culturally relevant?
Dennis: Well, yes and no. You've always got to be sensitive to cultural mistakes and colloquialisms, you know, that we have in our language as Americans, the trunk is what an elephant has – not what they have on their cars. It's a "boot." A "buggy" is a pickup. And if you're telling a story about driving down the road in your pickup, you better talk about a buggy.
So, yes, you have to be sensitive but, Bob, the thing that hit me, and you've heard me say it before – family is an international language, and children are children around the world. Married couples have the same issues. They have issues of conflict, issues of finances, priorities, busy-ness, communication, sex, commitment, leaving parents, cleaving to one another – I mean – same issues. And so we just spoke from the Scriptures and, frankly, that's a safe thing to speak from when you get together.
I look back in my notes from 1981 when I journaled what I did, and I spoke approximately – I don't know – a dozen, 15 times, over a period of 14 days to about 950 people. This time we spoke about 20 times and spoke to about 14,000 people. And I think a large part of the reason why, Bob, we spoke to so many this time was because we tied it around a local church. This was not just any church. This is the largest Dutch Reformed church in the world.
The auditorium where I spoke held 7,200 people. I don't think I've spoken at a bigger church. The only other podium in a church where I've ever stood that was larger was in Seoul, Korea, which was a church of about 25,000. But for South Africa or anywhere in America, this was a brand-new facility and was state-of-the-art from the standpoint of communications, so it was a real privilege to speak that first night we were there – I believe it was a Sunday night – to about 5,000 people, 1,500 of whom were under the age of 20.
And so I actually showed the clip that we have on our website of Samuel's first kiss, and it was really interesting to hear the gasp in the audience of these young people as I challenged them to be young men and women who follow Jesus Christ and to protect their moral and spiritual innocence with the opposite sex.
Bob: And, of course, that challenge in that country where, as you said, 10 percent of the nation is dying from AIDS, that's a counter-cultural challenge.
Dennis: I don't want to offend anyone by telling this story, but we had a meeting in a corporate headquarters that was actually hosted by the corporation, and they paid for 75 percent of the banquet, that was an evangelistic banquet, to many of their employees that came. Now, imagine that happening here in America.
But when I went to the restroom, I noticed right beside the sink, there was a dispenser for free condoms. Anyone who went to the restroom could get a package of five condoms, and in that country they had a serious problem with AIDS. And they are attempting to address it in a way that they know best, but by the time I was finished, I was convinced that the Gospel is the best way to really address the spiritual, moral, and physical needs of those people.
Bob: I know you mentioned that you had an opportunity to see some of the people you had first met in 1981. They were back to hear you speak again when you came to South Africa just a few months ago. That had to be exciting – to see that these folks were still walking in the faith and love Christ.
Dennis: When Barbara and I arrived in South Africa, and the plane was at the gate, we were all – everybody on the plane was getting their gear together to exit the aircraft …
Bob: You'd been in the plane for 18 hours.
Dennis: Oh, my goodness.
Barbara: Yeah, 18, I think.
Dennis: It was a long time.
Barbara: It felt like forever.
Dennis: Flew from JFK to Dakar, Senegal – that was eight and a half hours. Stopped for an hour plus to refuel, and then finished it up with another eight hours – so a long time to be in a plane.
But we're sitting there at the gate, and the announcement comes on over the intercom – "Would Mrs. Rainey please check at the gate?" And it was interesting, neither Barbara nor I thought of any kind of an emergency. I thought there was a problem with the kids back home. We thought, "What's with that?"
So we went with everybody else, because we were in the back of the plane, I mean, the way back of the plane – 55 A and B. And we made our way to the front, and we turned the corner to go through the door of the aircraft, and there at the end of the gate was Brian Stocks. Now, let me tell you who Brian was – in 1981, when I went back to South Africa, Brian and his wife, Edna, attended an executive conference that I spoke at in Plettenberg Bay down near Capetown, and Brian was not a Christian. Edna was – and had been praying for her husband's salvation. They had three sons, and at that conference Brian committed his life to Christ.
And it was really cool that Brian was there at the airport. He told me, as we walked up to him, I said, "How did you get through security? In America, you can't – unless you have a ticket, you can't" …
Barbara: He wasn't just at the gate, he was in the jetway standing at the door of the plane. You can't do that in the States.
Dennis: No, you really can't, and there's really the rest of the story to this. He said, "I wanted to give you the best reception you would receive this side of heaven." And I said, "Well, you've done that. How did you get past security?"
Bob: How'd you pull it off?
Dennis: Well, long story made short, he's part owner in the airport.
Barbara: His company.
Dennis: His company …
Bob: He can get on the jet bridge if he wants to.
Dennis: He had a badge on. He's on the board of directors that owns all the airports, or a good number of the airports in South Africa. He said, "So I can get through."
But here was the cool thing – here we are, 25 years later, and we had seen Brian and his wife, Edna – in fact, we had hosted them and their sons when they'd come to America about a dozen years ago, and we'd had the chance to feed them a meal at our home and kind of get caught up. But it was great to hear how God had used them in those 25 years.
Here he is, he was a deacon in his Dutch Reformed church. He was on the board of directors of not one but several corporations in the country and taking a strong stand for biblical morality, and he's not a man who talks about his faith, he just lives it. He had also been on the board of directors and the chairman of the board for 15 years with Campus Crusade for Christ of South Africa and had ministered all over the continent of Africa with other businessmen from South Africa.
So here is just one life that was touched 25 years ago by Jesus Christ, and here is how God had used him. You know, you just have to wonder, when you get to heaven, if somehow there aren't going to be a lot of instant replays, what we would call "instant replays," of how God used a word that we said to a person that was lost, who needed Christ, who just needed to hear about their need for the Savior.
I have to say, coming back from that spiritually dark continent, both Barbara and I turned to one another on the way back and said, "You know, if the Gospel doesn't go there, what hope is there for that country or for that continent, and, for that matter, for the world?"
Bob: I think it's important for our listeners to understand that when FamilyLife has a ministry in a country like South Africa, we are taking the very real needs of marriages and families and using them as an opportunity, as a way in which to present the Gospel.
We have just found that with adults, particularly, this opportunity to talk about marriage and family issues, it will get you an audience with folks who, if you walked up to them and said, "Can I talk to you about God or about Jesus or about the Gospel," they might not be interested. But you walk up and say, "Can I talk to you about your marriage and about your family," and, all of a sudden, they're paying attention and, of course, the ultimate hope for every marriage, every family, is for the people in that family to be in a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ, and that's why anytime we have events here in the United States, our Weekend to Remember conferences, we are always careful to make sure that we are presenting the Gospel as the centerpiece of that event.
This past year we had somewhere between 3 percent and 4 percent of those who attended our Weekend to Remember conferences this year, filled out a form and indicated to us that they were trusting Christ for the first time. And I think, Dennis, we just need to say a word of thanks quickly to those folks who helped support this ministry because not only are you helping us reach out to a nation like South Africa with the hope of the Gospel, but you are also helping us here build stronger marriages and stronger families but, again, fundamentally, drawing people's attention back to their relationship with God as the foundation from which their relationship with one another can be strong and can grow and can flourish.
And, again, that is all made possible by folks who are listening to this program who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. More than 60 percent of our annual revenue comes from listeners like you who make contributions for the ongoing work of this ministry, and we want to say thanks to those of you who, in the past, have helped support this ministry.
We're hoping that some of you, especially as we approach the end of the year, would consider making some kind of a year-end contribution to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and this month we've been trying to say thank you to those of you who helped support the ministry financially by offering to send you a copy of a book called "While They Were Sleeping." It's a prayer guide for parents – a 12-week prayer guide so that we can be praying for specific character qualities to be cultivated in our children's hearts and in their character.
Today is the last day we are making that particular book available as a thank you gift for a donation of any amount. So if you'd like to make a donation today, you can either pick up the phone and call 1-800-FLTODAY. Just make your donation and mention that you'd like a copy of the prayer guide that we were talking about on the radio or go online at FamilyLife.com. You can fill out the donation form there.
When you get to the keycode box, just type in the word "pray," p-r-a-y, and we'll know to send you a copy of this book and, again, thanks for your financial support of this ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us.
By the way, we've been hearing from a lot of folks this week who have contacted us about the resource, "What God Wants for Christmas." A lot of folks using that as a part of their family devotions or their Christmas celebration this year, and I've been excited to see that there are a number of folks who are apparently planning to use this resource as a part of a Christmas party, either for children in the neighborhood or, I don't know, maybe for adults. But we've seen a lot of people who have been asking to get the ultimate Christmas party pack that has a cookie tin, a party-planning guide, tips, recipes, along with all of the resources that are a part of what God wants for Christmas.
There is information about all of that on our website at FamilyLife.com. If you'd like more information, just stop by the website or call 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, the Web address is FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
Tomorrow we want to hear more about the trip that, Dennis, you and your wife, Barbara, took to the Republic of South Africa and we want to hear particularly about your thoughts upon returning to the United States. I hope our listeners can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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