Welcome

We are so excited to be serving in Malawi. We invite you to take this journey with us. Keep the beautiful people of Malawi in your prayers, and us too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

IMPORTANT NEWS: God is Moving Us!

Please take a few minutes to read!
To start things off, we wanted to thank you for taking the time from your busy schedules to pray for us, to read our often lengthy emails, and to love us (and many in Malawi) well.  The support we’ve had has been nothing short of remarkable and God has dropped us to our knees many times over the past 7 years since we began telling you of this ministry in Malawi.  Seven years ago, we told you of a distant land in Africa that was one of the poorest countries in the world. We told you of a desperately lost people who had little to no knowledge of the Gospel and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.   We told you of the clear calling that the Lord had put on our family’s life to GO and use church-centered sports ministry to fish for men, women, boys and girls.  We did not know anyone in Malawi but we knew the King of the nations was calling us so we went….and God met us there.
Luke & Pastor Fostance
Many of you know how amazing our great Father is but we just wanted to take a moment to praise Him for all that he has been up to in Malawi through you over the past 6 years. As you are aware, the Lord hand-chose Pastor Fostance and brought him alongside us from the very beginning in 2011.   He continues to seek the face of Christ with all of his heart and the Lord continues to flow through him in mighty ways here.  He and I (Luke) just returned from a wonderful trip to the capital city sharing the vision of sports ministry with two new denominations who are VERY interested in using this ministry tool as a platform for making disciples of Jesus for years to come in Malawi.  The fire is spreading. 

Alzheimer’s & the Sovereignty of God
If you reside in California, you might be aware that my dad has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  He and my mom have really struggled over the past year as things have progressed.  When I went to California in late 2016 for a wedding, I had the chance to stay with them.  During that time, Becca and I were praying that the Lord would give us wisdom on what he wanted our family to do when it came to helping and supporting my mom and dad through this terrible disease.   As we prayed, the Lord clearly revealed to us, “Honor your father and mother.  We couldn’t get it out of our heads and I went back to Malawi with a very strong draw to pray with Becca about retuning to California for a season to help with dad. 

Over the following weeks in Malawi, the Lord made it very clear to us that we needed to move to California to help my mom and dad as this disease progresses.  This was an extremely difficult and unexpected decision.  We love Malawi and didn’t plan on leaving so soon.  But, as we began to seek the prayers and advice of our leadership and mentors, the Lord brought to the surface another great passion to our attention: refugees.  Over the past 12 years, whenever we have been in the USA, God has stirred our hearts for refugees. When we were at Moody, we worked with World Relief with Burmese refugees; when we were in Wheaton over a year ago, we were connected with refugees. We love working with those who have little to no known Gospel knowledge, so no matter what we were going to do in CA for work, Becca and I wanted to be involved in welcoming refugees and introducing them to Christ.  Especially individuals who have little to no known Gospel knowledge.  No matter what we were going to do in California for work, Becca and I wanted to be involved in a church that was actively involved in welcoming refugees into Sacramento and introducing them to Jesus Christ.

So, simultaneously, as we are grieving the thought of leaving Malawi, the Lord was burdening our hearts for refugees in the USA.  We prayed, “God, are you calling us to use sports to reach out to refugees in California?”
 
To make a long story short, we Skyped with our Sports Friends Director and he was supportive of our decision to go back.  He then asked us if we were planning on leaving Sports Friends.  We told him how much we absolutely love the ministry and the global family that we have.  Then we said, “We have something we want to propose to you.  He then graciously listened to the vision we had.   God has been strongly burdening us to do what we’ve been doing in Malawi: to be the visionaries in mobilizing local churches and followers of Jesus to reach out to the lost using sports as the platform.  Then we specified the people group who we would target: primarily unreached refugees; Desperately lost people with little to no knowledge of the Gospel.    We want to set our sights and prayers on them to reach these people with the glorious life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Many of these refugee’s countries have been closed to missionaries for decades but we believe God is bringing them to the USA for a reason: They need to receive the warm hospitability of the Body of Christ to melt their hearts for His fame.   We strongly believe that our God oversees the movement of all peoples as it says in Acts 17:26-27.  The phrase from that passage that most impacted us was “That they should seek God..and find him.”  David Platt recently said, “When we see the migration of peoples, we must recognize that it is from God for a reason. Make no mistake, God aims to be sought, found, known, and enjoyed by all the peoples of the world, and He oversees their travels toward that end. In His goodness, our God turns even the tragedy of forced migration into the triumph of future salvation.”
Syrian Refugee family
The response of our international director confirmed what we felt the Lord was saying to us. He said, “We’ve been praying to start refugee ministry in the western world and have really felt the Lord leading Sports Friends to start something in the States to reach out to refugees.”  Becca and I had tears of joy in our eyes as we listened to our leader and we knew this was the Lord Jesus giving us our marching orders.   We have received a clear calling so we obey our King and GO.

Refugee boys playing soccer
But what about Malawi?
Sports Friends is a ministry that trains and empowers local churches how to make disciples of Jesus through the powerful platform of sport.  By the grace of Christ, this is now happening at a large scale in Malawi and hundreds of local churches are making the name of Jesus famous all across this land.   GLORY BE TO CHRIST!   A central part of what Sports Friends does is building leadership capacity into the local churches to lead the ministry moving forward for years to come.   Discipleship is all about multiplication and we praise God that it has happened in a Biblical way here in Malawi over the past 6 years.   We are leaving BUT the ministry continues to expand and multiply by the leading of the Holy Spirit.    Pastor Fostance and his wife Esnart are incredibly godly leaders who will spearhead the ministry going forward.   Please pray for them as these faithful servants take on this new leadership role.  Also, Chisomo and Clement continue to work as full-time Sports Friends staff and are a wonderful support to Fostance.  We praise God that, though we go, the ministry will not die.  This is such a praise point!  Also, Fostance will be mentored by Sports Friends regional leadership and our fellow SIM leadership here in Malawi.  He will not be a lone ranger in any way and is well loved by all of Sports Friends Internationally.
Sports Friends Malawi leadership team
So when is this change going to happen?
The Voight family will leave Malawi July of this year.   We grieve at the thought of not living near Fostance, the Sports Friends team and the boys of Lyzee United.   We do not look forward to that day of saying goodbye.   But, thankfully, it will be just “goodbye for now” because we hope to visit as much as possible in the decade to come & the far greater reality is that we will be joining many of these brothers and sisters before the throne of God when we see the face of Christ together and there will be people from every tribe, tongue and nation at the wedding supper of the Lamb.  Yes, thankfully, it will only be “goodbye for now”, though there will be many tears.    

So, now…once again, we will pack our bags and sell everything we have to go to a distant land with our marching orders from our Lord.  When you love much, you open yourself up to hurting much.  God has given us a massive amount of love for the people of Malawi and now we hurt as we say goodbye.  But, this world is not our home.  USA is not our home.  Malawi is not our home.  Heaven is our home and we long for the day when our King returns.  Until then, He bids each and every one of us to daily lay down our lives for the Gospel and say, “Here am I, send me!”   Though I (Luke) grew up in California, it is truly a foreign land to us now.   We will struggle greatly.  We will miss the warm heart of Africa and we will need the Bride of Christ to do just what they’ve done to us here, welcome us with loving arms.  And not just us, but the refugees who, in time, will be coming with us.   The Malawian church has welcomed us with amazing hospitality and love and we’ve linked arms and God has done great things.  Soon, we’ll be moving stateside and ask for your prayers and support as we reach out to hurting people who need the love of Jesus.  But we know the God who has saved us is fully capable of saving any sinner on this earth.   So we go to a city we’ve never lived in with only a few people whom we know with rock solid confidence in our great God who is mighty to save!

Please prayerfully consider a few things:
1.    If you want to continue to support us, you don’t have to change a thing.  We are still with SIM and Sports Friends and just are changing ministry locations from Malawi to Sacramento.  Please prayerfully consider continuing your amazing financial and prayer support of our family and Sports Friends Malawi.
2.    Please continue to pray for my mom and dad during this difficult time and direct any questions you might have about this situation to us.  BTW: We are thanking God for the new protocol my dad has been on that's had very positive results in the last few months.  
3.     Please pray the Lord would enable us to finish well here in Malawi. There is so much to do in the next 5 months! 
4.    Pray that the Holy Spirit would call out individuals and churches in the USA to partner with us in making the name of Jesus known and praised among refugees in California.  We cannot do it alone.  We need coaches, volunteers, prayer warriors, financial supporters, and people with hearts full of love, ready to reach out with us. Now is the time to seek the face of the Lord for his movement among these people who he has brought to us!

A few great resources to be more informed about refugees in the USA & God’s heart for them
Website:  worldrelief.org
Online articles:
“Why it takes two years for Syrian Refugees to enter the U.S.”   https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/20/us/why-it-takes-two-years-for-syrian-refugees-to-apply-to-enter-the-united-states.html?_r=0
Books:
Seeking Refuge: On the shores of the global refugee crisis   by Bauman, Soerens, Smeir
Standing with the Vulnerable  by Odendaal
Videos:
Fleeing war
*Please email us directly with any questions, concerns, comments, etc.:   luke.voight@sim.org     or   becca.voight@sim.org   or we would love to talk to you on Skype or arrange a meeting when we get to California in the summer. 

We’ll leave you with a quote from the article “God’s heart for the refugee” by David Platt that has been used by the Lord in our lives over the past few weeks.

“Let us proclaim the Gospel urgently.  This is an unprecedented opportunity!   These people now have Gospel access all across America.  Could it be that God on high has orchestrated these people so that YOU, your family, your church might be the means that they hear the Gospel for the first time?  Let’s spread it to them urgently here, now?  They are disillusioned by Islam and their hearts are aching for better news.  They are prepared. Consider the beauty of the Gospel.   God identifies as a refugee.  He had to flee to Egypt as a refugee from a murderous King.  God is not detached; is present, and is no stranger with suffering.  He has not left them alone and He has come for us and severed the root of suffering and has defeated death forever.  This is the greatest news in the world and Refugees NEED to hear it.  They need to hear it now.  They need it!   It is the refugee’s greatest need.   The doors are open today.  Now is the time!  One Syrian refugee woman in a camp said, “I’m tired of being tied to a religion that doesn’t offer me hope.”  She came to Jesus that day and was baptized.  
Instead of sitting back and spending all our time debating whether or not a few of them can come to us, The time is now for a lot of us to go to them. Outreach opportunities abound (in Sacramento and many other places)   Let’s wisely take advantage of what our sovereign God is doing in the world…Are there risks in proclaiming the Gospel to refugees?  Sure there are but where in the world did we get the idea that Christianity is devoid of risk.  It’s Only an Americanized Christianity that prioritizes security in this world over proclamation of God’s Word.   As followers of Christ, self is no longer our God.  Safety is no longer our concern because this world is not our home and we hope confidently for the day when sin will be no more.  No more crisis and war and suffering.  In this moment, we are ALL in a foreign land if we are in Christ. We are sojourners, exiles, migrant. We are.  We pray and we work HARD in anticipation to the day when we meet our Savior with people from all over.” 

Hebrews 13:13-14 – “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”  So..as Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Will you join us?

We Welcome Refugees with the boys of Lyzee United


Love,

Luke, Becca, Lyzee and Zeke





Friday, December 16, 2016

When Losing Is Winning

In 2012, I wrote an blog called “When Winning is Losing.”  The post was about a time when a few of the boys of Lyzee United Football Club lost their cool in a tournament and ended up getting into a fight which resulted in quite a scene where many other teams saw a very bad example of the Gospel.  We ended up going back to our house and talking for a long time about how winning the game at all cost really is not worth it.   Some of the boys stood up to apologize and reconcile with one another.  It was a beautiful moment but a very hard lesson.
Lyzee United FC in 2012

 Today I have another story from the same group of boys who we have poured our lives into over the past 5 ½ years.   In that time, the Holy Spirit has moved mightily and has really transformed several of the boys of Lyzee United.  Now, they are no longer little 10-12 year olds.  They are young men who are 16-18 years old and who know how to work hard, love their neighbor and honor the King.  From the beginning, our team verse on our logo is 1 Peter 2:17 which says “Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood. Fear God.  Honor the King.” Here is a picture of our logo which reads, “Yesu Ndi Mfumu” (Jesus is King).
Lyzee United Football Club logo

These boys are our family.  We’ve lost some along the way to sickness and death but the Lord has been near and has grown up an exceptional core of young men who truly love Him and care more about the kingdom of God than the trifles of this world.  Many of you have knelt on behalf of the salvation of these young men and we have seen it with our eyes!  Jesus has revealed himself to many of them and beckoned them to come and join his family. 

Teaching the boys from God's Word in 2012
On Saturday, we entered into a big soccer tournament in Malawi for Under-21s.  Many of the nation’s best players were there and ready to wipe the floor with us.  There was a good bit of trash-talk coming from several of the other teams as we arrived and they saw how small we were.  Like I’d mentioned before, the boys are ages 16-18, so we were certainly the youngest team.  But our boys beamed with confidence in Christ and our captain led the way with setting our minds on things above, “No matter what happens, let’s represent Jesus today guys!  Win or lose, we shake the hands of our opponents and treat them with utmost respect.”    I reminded the boys that many many non-believers were watching us hoping for us to fail.   But God had other plans. 
The boys on Saturday
The first whistle sounded and the boys immediately took complete control of the game.  They have been playing with each other for more than 5 years so they play as one body.  It’s beautiful to watch.   Especially when they are so much smaller than the other teams.   We easily won our first match 3-1 and so went the rest of the matches as we cruised through the group stages into the quarterfinals.  By this time, many people were coming up to me as the coach and saying, ”Wow! Who are these little guys and where do you come from and why do you do what you do?”    I had 4 opportunities to share the WHY we do what we do in the first few games.   The boys were worshipping Christ on the pitch and I was able to explain and testify to their attitudes and work ethic and point all those who questioned to the glory of Jesus Christ!   “We love Jesus, we love football, and we love you.”   This was our slogan as coaches for the day as we interacted with many who asked.  It was the most God-honoring display of soccer (football) that I’ve ever been a part of. 

We easily won our quarterfinal game and tightly won the semifinal game, which put us into the final.  Everyone gathered to watch our boys fight hard in the final.  We have not lost 1 game all year so you can imagine how much the boys tried to win this one.  Blood, mud, sweat and tears were all present.  I’ve never seen them so exhausted.   The game finished 0-0 and we ended up losing in penalty kicks. I could see the agony in the boy’s faces.  They were drained emotionally, physically, BUT NOT spiritually!  Though we lost, this was our moment.

In every other tournament that I’ve seen in Malawi, the losing team always fights the ref or makes a huge scene to try to change the end result.  But, our boys went out of the way to shake the hands of the other players.  They realized that, more than we want to win games, we want to win souls.  They shook the hands of the champions and then took the second place trophy with grace and heads held high.   I cannot tell you how much I wanted to explode with joy as I watched their maturity and heard the things they were saying.  So so much glory being directed away from themselves and onto Jesus.   This is the goal of what we do.  Though we lost, we won!  And I’m actually thankful that we lost because this was a God-given opportunity for the boys to allow the Holy Spirit to work through them.  After everything, their disappointment faded quickly and we got into the minibus and this is what happened…
            Video:  Yenda Yenda Yenda ndi Yesu (Walk, Walk, walk with Jesus!)
 
The whole way home we celebrated!  God has a way of meeting us when we press into him in difficult times.   It was the sweetest celebration I’ve ever experienced in sports and it was straight worship.   Absolute Holy Spirit-given joy in the midst of loss.  Such an amazing day that I wanted to share with you.   I don’t think many of the boys saw me, but as they sang I wept with tears of joy to the Lord listening to their worship.  Worship that did not align with their circumstances and the outcome of the tournament but worship that flowed out from hearts that are full of the love and joy of the Father.    In Jesus Christ, even when we lose we can win because He has already won the battle for us on the cross.  He shed his blood for these boys and I got the blessing of hearing their praises to the King who came to us in the manger.

There is 220 active church-centered sports ministry teams like Lyzee United all over Malawi who are intentionally and effectively preaching Christ and making disciples.    We are praying that God would raise up more laborers for the harvest because the fields are ripe!   Will you join us in this?  Please let us know if you will commit to praying for Sports Friends Malawi ministry in 2017.

Here is the link to giving online if God leads you to support this ministry financially:
https://www.simusa.org/give?id=096754-091&dsg=Project

May the Lord continue to bless you with more of Himself over this Christmas holiday!  May Jesus be central in your home!

Love, 

Luke, Becca, Lyzee and Zeke Voight