31 March 2010

What’s up with the Bunny?

Today, I dashed into a mall here in South Africa to pay the phone bill and some other bills at the bank. In the middle of the mall was a large enclosed display area about 30 feet (9.1 meters) by 30 feet square. The big letters in Afrikaans read, “Paasfees.” In English that is translated as Easter. The interesting thing is that this mall with this display where we frequent is always full of Muslim shoppers. They were as excited about the chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow eggs, and hot cross buns as I am.
However, I am much more excited and joyful about the true meaning of Easter than a bunch of chocolate. If you know me, you know I love my chocolate. However, my joy in no way compares to the joy I have for the one who died for my sins and was raised from the dead on the third day so that I can have eternal life. What gets you excited at Easter? How many of your friends and neighbors only get excited about chocolate bunnies? I encourage you pray over them, speak to them and share your faith. Give them something to really get excited about. Spread the news, “Jesus is Alive.” Het ‘n Geseende Paastyd. (Have a blessed Easter)

Go Team!!

How many of you are faithfully watching basketball these days? Who is going to win it all in March Madness!
You may long to be one of those players or even wish to be the coach. But how important are the fans? There can only be so many players on the court. A team can only afford to have so many on the sidelines, ready to go in. But they always make room for a fan whether in the stands, on TV or streaming the game online.
In the world of missions, we may long to be one of those individuals living out in the village, sharing oral Bible stories or living in the huge metropolitan center, coordinating the work of multiple house groups. Perhaps we wish to be a trainer. But how important are the intercessors back home?
I’ve seen those teams who are all pumped up because their fans are cheering them on . . . and I’ve seen those teams playing with no one in the stands. A team should fight to win whether the fans come or not . . . but it is easier with a crowd cheering you on.
You, and God’s great cloud of witnesses, are part of the crowd cheering the missionaries on when you pray for the salvation of every tribe and tongue and nation. When you ask God to call out laborers to the harvest, you can celebrate His work as new missionaries are appointed. When you pray for a witch doctor or imam to be released from his false belief system then he becomes a Christian leader in the community, you should rejoice that God has called you too. He has called you to intercede, and He is answering prayer.
Give thanks today for the privilege of being a cheerleader for God!
Based on Eleanor Witcher’s prayer request from the Office of Global Prayer Strategy

Shatter the Silence

As many of you may have known, we used to be part of the Central, Eastern and Southern Africa Region. Under the new reorganization, we now belong to the Sub-Saharan Africa Global Affinity Group. The Strategy Leader for this vast region is Tim Cearley. His job is so demanding that he needed a good administrative assistant to help him with many multiple tasks. Shortly after the start of the month, Pam became his administrative assistant. This is a demanding job and Pam is doing great. Please pray for her as she seeks to help out in such a way as to free up Tim to lead this cluster. Pray that our strategy leader and others under him can follow the will of the Lord so that the silence and gloom of sin over Africa can be shattered by the life-giving Gospel and the joy that it gives.

We Saw the Queen

I have heard people call Cape Town the “New York” of the continent of Africa. It certainly is a big, diverse place. We are gradually learning our way around, as time allows, in getting from point A to point B. We visited a South African style Mexican restaurant when we were in the downtown City Bowl area and looked around where Andrew Murray, the famous Scottish preacher, first preached in the early days of the Cape Settlement.

Upon leaving, we spied a queen. The Queen Mary 2, QM2, was docked at the harbor and she is quite a beautiful lady. However, our desire is for everyone in this city to know Jesus who is the true king and is awesome and stands above all in his majesty to the glory of God the Father.

A Very Colorful Band

We consider it a joy to be able to share the Gospel primarily with the people group known as the Coloureds. We also have some dear Coloured friends that work alongside us. They are a people group of mixed origin with a strong sense of identity and separateness from both black Africans and white Africans. They usually speak either Afrikaans or English (and many times both) rather than a traditional ‘African’ language. Their rich heritage in the Cape includes their Minstrel Parade and music festivals held in January. The colorful costumes and choreographed street dancing is energetic and fun. The music is known as goema which is jazz-like in form with a tinny timbre. In February, we saw a group practicing and earning a little extra income from tourists on the side. Please pray for us as we follow the Lord in discovering where we can best share the Gospel in the midst of the 4 million plus people in Cape Town.

11 March 2010

Unloaded, Unpacked, Plugged in and Ready to Roll

We have been in Cape Town for one month now. Everything was unloaded and only 1 serving plate, 1 glass, and one vegetable bowl was broken and part of our TV entertainment center was damaged along with some scratches. By the grace of God, all of the boxes are unpacked and the contents stored away. The office supplies are stored, inventoried, and we have shipped some supplies out to other missionaries. The garage is organized and everything in its place. We are now hooked up with phone and internet and the work is in full swing.

Although we miss our friends in PE, we and the dogs are settling in nicely. We have been to the beach once as you see in the picture for a total of 5 minutes or less and the water we have not touched. The view from our house of Table Mountain is breathtaking and is such a beautiful part of God’s creation. However, most of our views will be in the office (staring at the garage) working to serve the missionaries we are in charge of and asking the Lord to show us how he wants the unengaged people groups of our area to be reached. We will also spend a lot of time in the townships spreading the Gospel. We did not leave our family, children and friends for the view. We came here to help reach the lost. Please pray for us to reach the lost!!

Another Good Bye and Farewell!! February 2010

One of the facts of life in being a missionary is always saying "good bye" and "farewell." We say these words to friends, family, our own children, and even to places all the time. We refer to ourselves as global nomads. The boys’ university friends wonder why their room looks like their home. That’s because it is. On 8 February, we along with our two dogs left Port Elizabeth (the boys consider PE home) and began our journey to Cape Town. We said goodbye to many friends and churches and sadly were not able to speak to everyone as we had hoped.

The 480 mile journey was about 35 miles in progress when our red car starting overheating badly. After stopping to let it cool and later running the heat in the middle of summer which did not help, I prayed that car could go two more miles to Jeffery’s Bay. God provided a mechanic who just happened to stop at the gas station and his quick fix allowed me to drive into the town to a man who just happens to own a 1994 Mazda like we have. Also, the only rental car place that should have closed 20 minutes before we arrived just happened to still be open. God provided for us and the dogs and after spending the night with the Holders in George, we began again. We are thankful that the blocked up radiator did not occur in the middle of nowhere, at night, with two huge dogs. We thank the Lord for his goodness and care.

GREAT Expectations February 2010

In early February, Pam and I got to visit some dear friends in George, South Africa. Jeff and Lynne Holder stayed at our house in Port Elizabeth to take Afrikaans language training while we were in the States. They are now in George and they comprise the Garden Route Evangelism Area Team or GREAT. They immediately won the hearts and respect of the pastors and church members and have made many contacts and friendships. They actually have succeeded in bringing the pastors together regularly to pray and cast a vision to reach this growing area for the Lord. They are also mentoring a young church planter named Heinrich to expand his vision and his effectiveness. We were able to attend the vision and strategy meeting at their house which is nestled at the foot of the George Peak that we climbed in early 2009 (see earlier post). Please pray for Jeff and Lynne as we have GREAT expectations of what the Lord will do as his people pray and work together in Christian love.

Cast in Bronze February 2010

Drew and Matthew have left the sunny shores of South Africa to attend university in the United States. They left a large chunk of their hearts here and carried a worldview back to America based upon their experiences in SA. However, will there be a permanent record of the time they spent here? I feel that there will be a written record of their presence for generations to come. At Grey High School, there are presently 153 wooden or bronze plaques that record the top leaders in every school year dating back to the school’s founding in 1856. Drew is on the 2006 plaque as a prefect. Matthew is on the 2007 plaque for academic honors and on the 2008 plaque for academic honors and prefect. Drew is also on the Aston Manor Primary School plaque for swimming honors in 2001. We praise the Lord for the blessings He has bestowed on our children; to Him alone be the glory. Please pray for Drew and Matthew.

10 March 2010

The Finish Line is Just Ahead! January, 2010

We spent the last few days of January with Bobby and Jo Carol Elliott and their African Grey bird Pongo in Nelspruit. We had a wonderful time as we visited these great folks. They have been so faithful and productive in serving the Lord here in Southern Africa. They will retire in about 1 ½ years and their children and grandchildren will be so happy to see them. We know from personal experience how hard it is to leave kids in the States, but I hear that grandkids are even tougher. I praise the Lord for their sacrifice. We visited the township areas where they lead Bible studies, train pastors and leaders to be solid in the faith and where Jo Carol leads a group of 25+ teens every Friday night and teaches them the Gospel and True Love Waits. This small city is gearing up to host some matches for the soccer world cup in just over 90 days. They have a long way to go. Please pray for the Elliotts to continue to finish well as the finish line is just around the bend. They will be missed.

Stunning Swaziland January 2010

In late January, Pam and I went to Swaziland to visit the Allen family in Mbabane and the Myers family in Tshaneni. These are two great families that God is using mightily to serve in the tiny kingdom of Swaziland. The country is beautiful and we came in one of the wettest summers in recent history. Many churches have been started here in the last couple of years and the Lord is really blessing the work. It appears that the road belongs to the cows, but the red clay determines who travels on it. Some of the churches are not accessible when it rains and we had to turn back one day.
Lacie and Nathan Allen are terrific kids. Please pray for Lacie as she has had some hearing issues. While visiting the Myers, we stayed at a place that has a few wild animals floating around. Pam was petting this little zebra that got shunned by his herd so he took up residence at the guest house office. He walks in the lobby and makes himself at home. He is a sweet fellow, but I would not stand behind him. A cow taught me years ago not to do that. Please pray for the Allens and Myers.

Thriving in Rural Africa January 2010

In mid-January, Pam and I had the pleasure to visit with Bob and Susan Morris and their son Robert in Grahamstown. This town is about 80 miles north of Port Elizabeth in the Frontier Country of South Africa. This area is where the 1820 English settlers clashed with the Xhosa over land and cattle. Bob and Susan now work in this area to offer the gift of eternal life to the once embattled Xhosa people. They work in a township in Grahamstown and other rural villages and farms in the area. They assist in an ostrich raising project to couple job creation along with proclaiming the Gospel. Pray for that project as it is experiencing hard times due to the economy. They teach far-flung Bible studies and help to plant new churches among a poor segment of the population. The people are very inventive as you will notice how they repaired their once tile floor with cow-dung. It dries very well and if you chip it, just moisten it and repair it. Bob Morris is standing with a little friend that we met. Please pray for Bob and Susan and their three kids (two of which are in university in America).

Deadly Poisons; Spitting Cobras and AIDS January 2010

Pam and I traveled to Queenstown to visit and minister alongside Tom and Pat Smith. They do evangelism, lead Bible studies, show the Jesus Film and encourage and assist local pastors and leaders. The dead 6 foot plus snake that you see hanging over the fence is a spitting Cobra. It can fire an accurate shot of venom straight into your eyes from 15 feet away. Tom and a local farm hand killed him in the back yard. Another poison that is really taking its toll is AIDS. Nandipag is the bright-eyed 21 year old girl in the red sweater. This former university student had some sores on the back of her leg that would not heal. She was tested and found to be HIV positive. Because of this poison, she will not be here in a few years. We delivered a BGR (Baptist Global Relief) bucket provided by Southern Baptists to give her medical supplies to help her and her family. You can also help provide these as well. We took the opportunity to share the Gospel with her and the family. Please pray for Tom and Pat and their ministry in Queenstown.

East London by the Bay January, 2010

Shortly after our return to South Africa, we joyfully visited and reconnected with some of our colleagues and had an opportunity to see first-hand how the work is going. Our first trip was to the old Ciskei Region which encompasses East London and Queenstown. In East London we visited with Deb Russell and Roxie Shore (Melodie Conner was out-of-country). Roxie and Melodie work with university students and Xhosa youth in the townships. Deb works with Xhosa Youth and adults and also with those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. She is using the methodology and some materials from Reformers Unanimous. Drugs and alcohol also play a significant role in propagating AIDS. Here is a picture of Roxie and Deb with her young friend “Wabi.” Please pray for them and their ministries.