Sunday, May 31, 2015

We survived the BUSH retreat!


Since the retreat, the girls have not stopped asking me, "when are we going again?" Needless to say, we think it was a sucess. If not for the girls' feedback, the way that the Holy Spirit moved while we were away on our retreat certainly confirmed God's presence in our weekend away when we took our oldest girls on a retreat to the BUSH called Seceleca 2015...

Friday morning I grabbed two of the oldest girls and a lovely Mozambican woman to come with me to the market to purchase all the food for the weekend. The girls eye's widened as I instructed them to load the cart with as much junk food as possible. After all, what is a youth retreat without sugar and treats! Once again, I was put to culinary shame by my girls as they began to instruct me on how to cook for large groups and use a giant mortar and pestal to thrash peanuts.

On Friday night, Evan and I loaded up a bus of our thirteen oldest girls along with two of our other friends from the U.S., Stephen and Danielle. The girls were excited and yet timid, unsure of what lay ahead. Some of the boys from our centre teased and taunted us before leaving claiming we wouldn't survive and that they would have to accompany us to take care of all the snakes. (We think they were just jealous it wasn't a boys retreat!) We may live in one of the poorest countries in the world, but our girls have become quite accustomed to the running water and electricity that our centre has to offer. In other words, it was something like trying to bring a bunch of city-slickers out to the BUSH. On the way there, however nothing got my heart racing as much as when our bus was almost hit by a passing train. Fortunately, without any suburban Mozambican luxuries (an ironic slew of words!) and thanks to making it across the tracks on time, our girls managed to survive. Over the weekend, I even got to draw water from a well for my bucket shower.
The focus of our weekend was to experience, empower and equip: to experience more of the Holy Spirit, and to be empowered as young woman and equipped to face some of the many awful challenges this world will throw at them. A few dozen teens from Gumbane joined us on Saturday for some of our conference sessions focused on what it means to stand firm in your faith. So often, our youth here view faith as something serious and lacking joy, fun and excitement. Our heart behind the weekend was to provide a container for them to experience the Holy Spirit in a new way while having fun and enjoying their youth. In a country stricken by poverty, so many of our eleven to nineteen year olds miss out on their "youth" as their parents pass away or abandon them and they are left to care for their families, forsake their education, miss out on much of the joy of simply being a "youth", and fall victim to the continuing cycle of poverty. These ladies below certainly aren't going to miss out of their youth!
Sure, the retreat may only have lasted a weekend, but we believe that the seeds that were sown may last a lifetime. And so we returned, all in one piece, smiling and laughing, slightly exhausted, and definetely in need of a proper shower!

Infinite thanks for your prayers and support during our weekend away!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

STAND 2015: A Youth Retreat in the Bush

We believe in seeing a brighter future by empowering and equipping youth through faith, education and hope. I believe that these 72 beautiful girls entrusted in our care can live in peace, pursue education, and rise above the horrors of poverty, malnutrition and modern day slavery that plague so many developing nations. As William Wilberforce, a leader of the movement to abolish slavery, once wrote,“We are too young to realize that certain things are impossible... So we will do them anyway.”

Have you heard of STAND? For my friends living in Ottawa, you may have heard me speak about or even attended a youth retreat I ran for 6 years while living in Canada called STAND. It was a weekend aimed at challenging youth to take a stand for what they believe in and take action in the world around them.

For those in attendance, do you remember waking up early and staying up late. Running around the church after dark and smashing holes into the walls at BCCN. Remember washing dishes, listening to speakers, getting lost in worship and going without showers for 3 days? Most of all, I'm wondering if you remember how God touched your life at STAND because I know He touched mine.

God birthed a dream for this youth retreat called STAND many years ago. Now, years after God first birthed that dream, He is still speaking and He is still stirring my heart for more.

I knew at the last STAND youth retreat in May 2012 that God wasn't finished we me yet or with 'STAND'. For years I have been passionate about seeing youth transforming the world around them. And now, living around the world in sub-Saharan Africa, I feel God stirring this dream yet again and birthing it anew. As such, were excited to announce that this weekend is SECELECA 2015. Because sometimes believing in a brighter future means running a youth retreat.

'Seceleca' means STAND in the local dialect of Shangaan, most popular here in Maputo, Mozambique. This weekend we are taking a group of our teenage girls on a retreat to Gumbane for two nights. We are going to be staying at a church in the BUSH that I've never even been too that has no electricity and no stove top. We will be making food for approximately 40 people with pots over a fire and rocks. Did I mention that I have no idea how to cook proper Mozambican food? The water is not drinkable and I'm not sure what the toilet situation is--if any. We're in for an adventure no doubt. There are a million things that could go wrong, but all we need is one thing that is right: God's presence.

HELP! Team, we need you now more than ever. We need your prayers and support. We need a team of youth committed to praying for this weekend that God would breakthrough and move in ways like never before. That He would touch their lives in a way that they would be forever changed.

Would you commit to praying for us in these next few days and during the course of the weekend? Sign up for a time slot by writing your name on this spreadsheet. Signing your name means you are committed to praying for us for at least 10 minutes during that time slot: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bvIancSTYVkkSpp3H0QlhfYEk_RMoBRHe1ooQ5xcr78/edit?usp=sharing

Would you also consider asking God for a bible verse, word of encouragement, vision or picture, etc for some of our girls? Send them to me either by email or facebook.

Or send me a 30 second video clip via imessage telling us how God touched your life at STAND if ever you attended or how you believe He will touch our girls lives. My imessage is 'natasha.bourk@hotmail.com'

Stay posted for our next blog about what happens on the retreat! Were going in with expectant hearts.

Enjoying the photobooth at one of our latest youth events!