When asked what they do for a living, Japie and Ronel from Namibia answer that they are on a holiday with Jesus—a permanent one.
“[People] are shocked when I say we are always on holiday, cause I’m always busy with ministry. But [ministry] doesn’t tire me. It really energises me,” said Japie.
After years of being involved in different aspects of spreading the love of Christ—from leading outreaches to pastoring a church to holding trainings—Japie and Ronel took a yearlong timeout to ask God what was next for them. “Over and over He confirmed that we must open our hearts that people can come and live with us and through that, that people can grow in their faith,” Ronel remembered.
And so, Luke 24 Journey was born: a month-long journey in Namibia focussing on hearing the voice of God, living by faith and letting Jesus work in, and through, each participant’s life. The name and principles of the journey stems from Luke 24:13-49, where two disciples travel down the road to Emmaus and meet Jesus along the way.
“It’s not: ‘I’m on an outreach and I do something for God and now my life goes on,’ but it must be a lifestyle,” explained Ronel. “When you go back home or wherever you go, you can continue on the journey on your own. …We pray that people will be strengthened in their faith and in their life to live and walk with Jesus.”
Luke 24 Journey has no set teachings. No planned programme. Not even a known destination beyond the first few nights. “There’s no recipe,” emphasised Japie. Instead, the group prays and listens for God’s voice, looking to Him to lead them where He wants them to go and what He wants them to do.
This unique approach means that each Luke 24 Journey is completely different. Some groups stay in one general area while others traverse across the whole country. Sometimes the focus is on listening to teachings and studying God’s Word together, while other months the group spends a lot of time spreading the good news in communities. Though Japie and Ronel originally thought that the unknown aspect of Luke 24 Journey would deter people from joining, they said it has instead been a reason why people sign up as they look for direction in their life.
‘I want what she has’
Both Japie and Ronel grew up in Christian households and knew God from a young age.
For Japie an incident at an evangelism training spurred him on in his faith. A young woman was passionately speaking at the conference, and “there was something in my heart that said: ‘I want what she has,’” remembered Japie. “That’s when I really came into a relationship with Jesus where I walked with Him and talked with Him and experienced His love every day. My whole life changed in an instant.” In fact, his life changed so dramatically that Japie’s girlfriend at the time phoned his mother, advising her to make an appointment with a psychologist because he was so different.
In elementary school, Ronel remembers being at her church’s kids club and experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit for the first time after the teacher urged the children to close their eyes and wait on the Lord. Ronel envisioned herself holding a key and being guided to unlock a cloud which opened up to reveal a photo of Jesus with an arm around her shoulders talking with her. The picture and feeling of the Holy Spirit’s presence brought tears of joy to Ronel’s eyes and is something she will never forget.
One big family
Keeping in touch with people through WhatsApp, Japie and Ronel send encouraging messages and Bible verses and share in the highs and lows of life. When the couple visited Europe after running three Luke 24 Journeys, past participants, as well as other Europeans the couple had walked with over the years, eagerly invited them over for meals and to meet their families. “It’s so much of a privilege that people call us their Namibian parents and to be part of their lives,” said Japie.
Regardless of whether they are leading a Luke 24 Journey or not, the couple remains on their holiday with Jesus, going where He directs. Often if they are not spending time with their children and grandchildren, Japie and Ronel are travelling throughout Namibia, coming alongside people in whatever way is needed—whether that means asking deep questions, providing a space to rest and think or giving encouragement.
“People say: ‘Are you not tired?’ and I say: ‘No, I’m so excited,’” said Japie.
“I’m excited about what God is doing in people’s lives. The one thing that is difficult for me is to keep my hands off. To show up and to shut up, you know.”
In mid-March, Namibia announced the closure of schools and restriction of flights in and out of the country. During the following weeks, specific areas of the country entered lockdown, and all land borders were closed. Fortunately, the Luke 24 Journey that was running at that time consisted of all Namibians, so they continued, finishing the journey as originally planned and each returning home before the nation-wide lockdown began. Though the team wasn’t able to interact with many people during that period, they spent time praying, worshipping and pooled together resources to purchase food for those in need. As of June 11, Namibia has 14 active cases of COVID-19 and is gradually reopening.