My daughter Nala had a uniquely designed mission project this summer. She teamed up with 11 other missionary kids (MKs) from around the world to serve in Orlando, Florida. This project was led by former MKs. Below is her newsletter about her experience.
From 24 June – 25 July, I got to serve on the MK2MK 2022 Orlando Summer Mission. Over four weeks we did lots of ministry. We did evangelism at the University of Central Florida (UCF). We participated in holistic ministry with The Sharing Center and UNTO, Cru’s humanitarian ministry. We worked with the kids of Celebration Community Athletics (CCA) playing games: ninja, kickball, and Kids from Mars. We also shared the gospel with the CCA kids. Along with all the ministry, we had sessions led by our leaders on various topics including building home, doubt, grief that we may have experienced as a missionary kid and storytelling.
Storytelling was a highlight for me because I came to mission with the prayer of being able to share my story not just any story but my testimony. I wanted to be able to testify about the overwhelming love and goodness of God in my life. During one session when we prepared to speak to college students at UCF, we learned how to write a 3 – 5 min testimony and how to engage in spiritual conversations. Being able to articulate what God has done in my life to college students in one minute was encouraging but there was still a yearning in my heart to share longer. During my quiet times I wrestled around on what to do knowing God wanted me to write my longer testimony. I finally told myself that I was going to write it, and God’s hand was at work.
Debrief was upon us and I had an individual appointment with my group leader, and she gave me the opportunity to share my full testimony to my fellow MKs, people who have had similar life experiences as me. In the moment my eyes wide, heart thumping, body scrunched up in a ball said, ‘Yes!’ Because at that moment I was in awe, perplexed at how God was working in the midst. On 24 July I got to share a testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life through His perfect timing.
Now that I am back in Texas, I look forward to doing a service project that will include crocheting, leading at my school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and lastly doing a six-week fast which I will complete before Christmas. Thank you again for everyone who supported me on my MK2MK Orlando summer mission.
The summer was full and filled with memories. See some of the highlights below:
Evangelism and discipleship have been two words that have shaped my life for the past two decades. I enjoy sharing the message of the gospel and helping people to grow in their walks with the Lord. These past two month I had the opportunity to complete my theological development courses through Cru’s Institute of Biblical Studies (IBS). All Cru Staff are required to complete an eleven core IBS courses. These required courses we take during our staff life are crucial to our ministry.
The nature of the mission to which Cru staff have been called requires kingdom-workers with a passion for God who are growing ever deeper in our ability to understand and apply His Word to our own lives and the lives of those to whom we minister. I need to treasure Christ and be captured by a vision of His greatness; a leader who can apply the resources of the gospel to the lives of broken people; and possess great confidence in the promises of God.
In May, I completed Biblical Interpretation virtually and this month finished Biblical Communication at Rollins College in Orlando, Florida. These were my last classes for my IBS completion! I was blessed to have a wonderful coach and great peer group that helped to refresh my spirit, revitalize my vision, and challenge my thinking. Completing this curriculum has further developed my evangelism and discipleship. This prepared me well when I shared with an individual who believes White men have corrupted the Bible, Black-Americans are the true Israelites and Jesus was a good man. Pray for my future gospel conversations and discipleship times with individuals.
My family and I will do extensive travelling in July. Nala is on a mission trip in Orlando, Florida. Mack is playing rugby in Valladolid, Spain. Noel will do beach outreach in Panama City, Florida. Melanie, Elle, and I will attend a missionary retreat and Cru staff conference in Wisconsin. Please pray for our road trips, domestic and international flights.
Leon and Mack just returned from a great campus visit at Life University in Marietta, GA near Atlanta. Mack received his acceptance and is waiting for his financial aid. He had the opportunity to meet the head rugby coach, teammates, academic counselor, and students. Mack will train with the Life rugby team in July and attend classes in the fall. He is excited to be moving forward.
Noel and Nala are adjusting well with their high school courses. Noel made the dance team this month and set some personal records in track for shot put and discus. Nala also had athletic success making it to area competition on the 4X400 relay team. They were both asked to be on the leadership team for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for their high school next year. Both girls are making friends at church and school.
Nala shared recently that God flooded her heart with joy and sadness as she realized the things she did not get to in South Africa and the opportunities God has given her in Texas. She desired to be baptized by her father in her home church in South Africa; however, the pandemic did not allow for this special event to occur. Nala is excited about participating on a summer mission trip in June. Joy and sorrow are always in tension in transition.
Elle had a moment of tears when I discussed some changes with her. She allowed herself to cry realizing she missed her old normal in SA. It was precious. I ask how I could help, and she desired a playdate. Recently, Elle had her first playdate! I have been reading Raising Third Culture Kids and it has helped me be patient to give the kids freedom to be sad. My girls are very grateful, but they miss their SA home.
Leon and I are well. Transition has been very expensive, but God is providing. We had dinner with former staff Jessie Marcos and his wife, Cru associate staff, Tricia Marcos. It was great catching up. We haven’t seen them in 18 years! We also spoke with the new mission pastor at our church. It was great to hear his heart for the mission field. Leon and I are registered for a retreat for missionaries coming off the field called Still Watters and Cru 22, our national staff conference. We are thrilled to go as a couple to Family Life’s Weekend to Remember in June. This summer Leon is also taking a couple of seminary classes from Cru at Reform Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. The summer will be busy!
Rushing to our local grocery store, Melanie and I searched for a plant. Outside the busy marketplace, a flora and fauna menagerie stood before us. We were working on a project for our virtual debrief class. In our organization, debrief is the process of acclimating back to one’s home culture by participating in group sessions to verbally process your international assignment. Feeling hurried by passersby, I spotted small temporary plastic containers filled with green shoots and tiny leaves. Plants inside were healthy, so I grabbed one and entered the crowded store to make a purchase. “Texas bluebonnets” read the label on the plastic pot that fit into the palm of my hand.
The plant assignment I learned was a visual representation of the transition process back to the US. During the virtual debrief session, the facilitator explained we needed to transfer the plant into a new pot. The instructions were to uproot the plant, shake off the old soil to expose the roots and then replant into new soil in a new pot. Looking at my virtual class of returning missionaries, I saw my completed assignment next to my laptop. My plant Bluey was still contained in his temporary pot, inside an empty new bigger ceramic pot.
It’s been a little over three months since my family returned from South Africa. Christmas holidays with family, father-in-law’s court case, trips to Arkansas and Arizona, having an emergency appendectomy, my 45th birthday, my girls adjusting to school, my son preparing for university, son obtaining his drivers’ license, celebrating my grandmother’s 85th birthday, mourning the death of my last grandfather this past week… Today my wife shared Bluey doesn’t look well. It’s been a couple weeks, and the plant was wilting. Pray for me and my family as we continue to adjust to life back in the US. After the funeral of my grandfather on April 8, it will be great to see you. I am going to take Bluey out of the pot, shake off the old soil to expose the roots and replant into the new soil in the new pot. Pray for me.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
As I look back on my senior year of high school and think about all that God has done for me, I smile. I smile not because I received all that I thought I needed to have an amazing senior year, but I smile because I received all that I needed to be a great man one day. As a starry-eyed young senior, I was ready to finish high school and see where God was leading me in my life and where I wanted to go. I took a Nazarite vow because I wanted God to give me strength for my rugby season because I was unsure of my spot on the varsity team. My school brought someone new who played my position and was a year older than me, and I was nervous about keeping my grades up so that I could pass the year. I asked God to give me strength for the season, so I would maintain my grades and he would help me in all my leadership positions.
I was ready to see all of what would make my last year so great. The season was about to begin and we were having a pre-season tournament and I was so excited, but during one of our games I fell down hard on my shoulder and had to be escorted off the field. It was heartbreaking to find out that I dislocated my shoulder, and it was bad. The doctors told me I had two options: play the season with my shoulder and risk dislocating or get surgery that would abruptly end my season. I chose to take the surgery because high school rugby was not where I wanted to stop with my rugby. My season ended but I didn’t miss out on anything because Covid-19 just released its latest variant. It was a blessing in disguise for me because it gave me the time to go to extra classes to improve my grades and prepare for the SAT and National Senior Certificate (NSC) which is the required national standardized test for high school completion.
I completed my senior year of high school in December 2021, and I passed my NSC and received a bachelors’ pass on my national report card last month. Last week, I was accepted to the college of my choice Life University in Marietta, Georgia where I will continue my dreams of playing rugby. My shoulder is completely recovered now, and I have found an adult rugby team to keep me in shape while I wait to go to university in the fall and study sport science. As I look back on last year and all that God has shown me, I have learned to trust him more and whenever he throws a curve ball in my plans I don’t have to question him because his plans for me are much greater than mine.
I will continue to grow in my walk with The Lord.
I have a rugby tour to Spain & Portugal that will be 25 June – 3 July and I hope it goes well
During the Summer break Life University will host a rugby training camp where they offer scholarships to rugby players.
That God will continue to open doors for me so that I can play for America’s national rugby team in the next Rugby World Cup.
Thank you so much for your prayers last year. The Lord carried me in so many ways.
Our family was scheduled to leave South Africa on December 11, 2021. On Saturday morning, we anxiously awaited the test results for our required Covid-19 test needed for travel.
Nala Best – Covid-19 positive. Our hearts sank and we began to pray and ask God what we must do. After consulting with our physician, she recommended we isolate as a family and postpone our flights. Disappointed and saddened, God sent so much comfort.
Please pray for Nala to completely recover this week. She has been experiencing symptoms which were very similar to allergies and flu for a week now. We are now scheduled to leave on December 18. The present variant is contagious. Please pray that the rest of the family will continue to test negative and we make our flights on Saturday. Pray for South Africa as this new variant has sent the country into the 4th wave.
As you can imagine, we will incur more cost for PCR test and travel cost. Please pray for God’s provision. You can give a special gift to help with these cost Today.
Three cult members and Leon sitting in a coffee shop…
At the shop, decadent pastries captured my eyes and aromatic coffees permeated my nostrils. I indulged in an immoral hot chocolate when three twentysomethings cornered me in my sensually soft chair.
After comparing Covid stories: their friend was a 30-year-old father who left behind a wife and two kids, and me losing a 40-year-old friend who contracted it while taking care of his dying Covid positive mother, we discussed the reason for our meeting.
“Why are you meeting with this group?” my wife asked me the night before. I am intrigued by who becomes involved with cults. I define these deviant groups as movements that have a Christian background but deny one or more of the fundamentals of biblical truth. These three twentysomethings were part of a group originating from Korea, I will refer to them as the Seoul Stealers*.
I inquired about the young adults’ family backgrounds, and two were preacher’s kids (PKs). I asked one PK what their parents thought of their involvement. They shared their parents allowed them to pursue knowledge. They also intimated the loneliness they felt because they would be left alone at night while their parents travelled to care for church members. Another PK explained Seoul Stealers always utilized the Bible when answering their questions. I enjoyed my conversation with these engaging individuals, but my heart broke because of their involvement with a cult.
Living in South Africa, I have been exposed to cults from Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Some cults intentionally attract people with church backgrounds. Enticing un-discipled people to their communities by providing semi-divine leaders who have the answers has become their modus operandi. Your prayers and financial giving have allowed me to share with many the gospel and expose them to Biblical truth. It has been a blessing to disciple young adults in South Africa to combat these counterfeit Christian groups.
Our current South African work permits are expiring, and my wife and I decided to return to the US on home assignment. After twelve years of focused ministry in South Africa, my family and I are returning to Houston, TX to reconnect and refresh. Please pray for our preparations to return to the USA.
My wife and I attended something unique on 25 September. We were part of a book launch for The Cricket Bachelor. I have had ministry partners and friends send me books they have authored. The newest Christian fiction novelist is someone I mentored and has recently joined Campus Crusade for Christ – South Africa as an intern, Phumlani Handile. It was a pleasure to read the short story about a young man raised with Christian principles overcoming early life tragedies and setbacks to eventually find true love the “Christian way.” Phumlani states there is a part of him in the book’s main character, Mark Chase. Discipling Phumlani, I am familiar with several of his life stories that are captured in the book. With my video editing skills, something I learned during the pandemic, I created a quick 40 sec video trailer for The Cricket Bachelor book launch. You can see the video and learn how to purchase the e-book from our website: BestTimes.org.
Another fun video on our website is my son’s matric ball (senior prom) entrance. In Cape Town, the matric ball signals seniors are almost done with their South African high school experience. Could you imagine not attending your senior prom? In 2020, many young South Africans did not have their matric balls due to the nation’s lockdown restrictions. Joyce, from our home church, missed her matric ball due to these circumstances last year. My son, Mack, graciously invited Joyce to attend his matric ball. This wonderful gesture my son did allowed Joyce to experience a wonderful matric ball. My wife and daughters helped Joyce prepare for the ball, choosing a dress, shoes, purses, etc. Thank you for all your prayers and financial support to help us raise this young man. I hope you enjoy watching the couple’s Wakanda-themed entrance.
The matric ball signals the ending of Mack’s high school career, please pray as he prepares for his final exams during the next two months. As Mack completes high school, my wife and I have been wrestling with the Lord on a new phase of our ministry. I will share more about what is new for family in our upcoming newsletter.
As Esmari and I sat around the table speaking to Thando, a first-year student at Stellenbosch University, one Thursday morning. Both of us smiled at one another as we realized the great importance of our ministry and others like ours. I was introduced to Thando through an Instagram campaign where we encouraged varsity student to reach out if they desired to know God. As we chatted with Thando, the last two years of training started to make sense to Esmari. There were many times when I thought, it was just too difficult to translate the practical ministry experience to Esmari. Constant lockdowns made it impossible for us to reach out. During one of our training times, God used this verse to ignite the perseverance required to press on with training.
“…I (Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow…”
I Corinthians 3:6
In our weekly New Staff Training talks, I have seen my new staff, Esmari, grow in confidence and awareness of how to find new and young believers in this digital space. God has determined when and how Esmari will apply what she is learning to her personal ministry. I don’t control the growth. I must trust that he will provide the increase on His schedule. Not only is God at work in my life – increasing patience, prayer, grace, and love. He will sometimes allow me to see or hear how He is working in the lives of the women that I train and disciple.
In the last two months, Esmari has begun online ministry with students in different areas of the country. She shares the Gospel online and begins follow-up of these new believers. She also led our Western Cape team initiate an online outreach for Women’s Month in South Africa called “Proverbs 31 Woman Today”. It has been beautiful to see her faith stretched at moments when she wanted to give up and walk away. God is making her into the missionary that will be flexible and agile for this new normal. I observe how God provides opportunities for her to seek God in prayer and to activate faith steps daily.
It was so amazing to see how this year despite the challenges, God is growing her faith, hope and love in so many ways. Please pray for Esmari as she completes her New Staff Training in the next month.
Leon will have sinus surgery on 31 August. Hence the title ! Please pray.
Do not travel to South Africa due to COVID-19 and related restrictions and conditions.
U.S. State Department (July 6, 2021).
Melanie and I waited. My headache, low energy and just feeling bad were my symptoms. I hoped this was just the flu. Winter was here. Noel and Melanie were feverish and tired, and now the feeling spread to me. I volunteered to take the “test.” Melanie and I were in our vehicle waiting to receive the results from my Covid-19 test. The nurse arrived to share my test was positive for Covid-19. On 10th of June, our 21st wedding anniversary, I jokingly thanked my wife for a wonderful anniversary gift.
Ten days the illness presented itself in me as something that took away my drive. My low energy kept me from my passions and hobbies. My asthma caused my family concern, so my blood oxygen saturation levels were measured daily by Melanie.
Melanie and Noel felt Covid-19 effects before my diagnosis. I praise God they only dealt with fever and muscle soreness. Nala, had no Covid-19, doubled masked and stayed in a tent most of the day to avoid contact with the infected. Elle suffered one day with symptoms, afterwards she was her energized self. My South African community served my family well. Many called to check on us each day. They delivered food, medicine, and prayer. Mack isolated at his hostel. He continued to study for exams and attended his physio sessions.
We are excited to share Mack has been able to take off his shoulder sling. It has been seven weeks since his surgery. He will have his second doctor’s follow-up appointment this week. After this appointment, he will know when he can lift weights to build muscle and prepare for rugby. His sisters are happy he will be able to help wash dishes again. Thank you for your financial gifts and prayers. Mack’s medical bills for his shoulder surgery have been paid!
“Akhona, will you be able to lead Cru Youth if I am not around?”
Most missionaries wrestled with this question. Is an individual you mentored able to sustain an outreach if missionary is absent? Three years ago Akhona, aka Mr. Mayor, expressed his desire to do ministry at the local library in Khayelitsha and Cru Youth was born. Generally, primary and secondary school students frequent the library, which is different from the university undergraduates I usually support. Learners from surrounding schools come to this community space to have access to the internet, find a good book or utilize this quiet place to study. Librarians gladly allowed Akhona to begin the outreach, and he ask me for training and resources.
I took on this challenge not so much for the children, but aid men like Akhona to help them fulfill God’s purpose in their lives. God allowed me to disciple several male volunteers that have participated in the Kuyasa library outreach. Young leaders like Phumlani, whom I challenged to come with me to help with the children’s program. He also went on campuses to share his faith, and recently through our interactions decided to join Campus Crusade for Christ – South Africa (CCCSA) as an intern. Another Christian worker, Casta, partnered with Cru Youth. He enquired if I could aid him to raise personal ministry funds, so he could better support his family. I shared with him a few suggestions on how to communicate the vision God gave him for serving the kingdom, and one generous donor inspired by his ask bought a home for Casta’s family. Cru Youth volunteer Sonwabile had actively engaged kids with worship and playing games at Cru Youth. He participated in many CCCSA events and trainings. God blessed Sonwabile with a much-needed job and was promoted as an associate pastor with his church. These volunteers have been a blessing to work with, and it has been great to see God doing some wonderful things in their lives during the pandemic!
Akhona planted the seed of Cru Youth. This ministry has been fertile ground for discipling and encouraging men in their relationships with God. Mr. Mayor answered, “Yes, I will be able to lead Cru Youth without you.” Continue to pray for Akhona as we work together to restart Cru Youth as South Africa lowers Covid restriction levels. Also, pray for Akhona to obtain a full-time job during this pandemic.
“What matters is that you’re trying, and you’re learning to seek grace as you learn to pace yourself,” Morgan Harper Nichols
April is the most notorious month in South Africa for ministry. The public holidays, observance of Easter and school holidays bring many interruptions to routines. This year we add the continuance of the pandemic that plagues our lives. As my colleague and I planned out our content for social media, we came up with a project that intersects her passions for God and engaging people – Race, Politics and Music with Nyameka, RPM for short.
During the month of April, we recorded the content and edited the podcast. The first season launched on a special holiday in South Africa, Freedom Day (27 April). Freedom Day marks the first democratic election for the Republic of South Africa. It has been 27 years since these elections took place. As the years move ever so quickly, we thought it would be a great idea for us to reflect on the progress our ministry. We desired thoughtful conversation that ponders our present reality and how it affects the way we love each other, care for the widows, orphans, and the poor in South Africa. These conversations will be helpful as we move forward with one heart and spirit. This pandemic has highlighted the harvest that needs the gospel in a wholistic way.
Season 1 is available on Spotify and YouTube. Leon was the first guest. You can listen here. He has worked tirelessly behind the scenes of this effort. We recorded eight episodes for a podcast and our CCCSA YouTube channel. Our goal is to use these conversations to engage those who email and make contact. We can also share the content with friends we have made throughout the year. Pray that God would give us fruitful conversations with non-believers and believers resulting in multiplying disciples.
From 22 – 24 March, Leon and I attended the Campus Crusade for Christ – Southern & Eastern Africa (CCC – SEA) Celebration Staff Conference. It was three mornings on Zoom listening to the great leaders from different countries share about God’s goodness. We experienced a sense of gratefulness and joy learning about the wonderful things God had done in the last year during the Hope 2020 initiative. Hope 2020 was a CCC – SEA initiative to “Win, Build and Send” Christ-centered multiplying disciples who launched spiritual movements throughout the SEA region. It was a beautiful time in the Lord, but I realized that I miss in-person ministry.
God in his sovereignty organized a special treat for me. Leon Mack has a special friend in Ohio (yes, a girlfriend). She sent a birthday gift to our son via her cousin, Dr. Takiyah White-Ndwanya, who returned to South Africa and lives in Cape Town. Last Monday, I received this gift from her. Takiyah invited me to come to a special outreach at a school that her organization has adopted. God made a way for me to attend.
Alongside Dr. Takiyah White-Ndwanya and her team, we delivered school clothes and shoes to the beautiful children of Mkhanyiseli Primary School in the Nyanga Township. Through Takiyah’s foundation, Donald Whtie/Mandla A. Ndwanya Memorial Fund, she desires to provide exceptional and targeted educational support and exchange opportunities for students in the United States and South Africa to serve learners in schools and promote cross-cultural learning and understanding.
Numah, the foundation’s coordinator, had special words of encouragement to the learners. She challenged them to work hard despite the current conditions as they attend school on alternate days because of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Numah proclaimed, “Friends from all over the world are praying for them and believing God to keep them safe and help them learn this year.”
Oh, what joy filled my heart! I learned that the foundation provided food parcels to students and their families during the pandemic. They were actively looking for ways to continue to explore fulfilling the needs at Mkhanyiseli and John Pama primary schools.
Please join me in praying for these leaders that God will provide funding to hire Numah as a full-time coordinator and find office space in Nyanga area, so they may continue to meet the needs of the community.
Doing some research, I discovered all viruses mutate and this includes Covid-19. Viruses replicate themselves to spread and thrive in its human host’s environment. Sometimes during the process, small genetic changes occur creating a more infectious and harmful variant virus to humans. In recent weeks, South African and United Kingdom (UK) variants have received more attention in the news. I have listened to medical research doctors from South Africa and UK share about these mutated Covid-19 viruses and its ability to spread around the globe. The South African variant is in the UK and the UK variant is in the US.
The virus of mankind is sin. A lie was conveyed to humanity (Gen. 3:5-6). Whether the appeal was to be like God, obtain a desirous object to the eye, or ability to gain wisdom this lie caused man to sin. As a missionary I see many variants of the lie that spread. Some are far more contagious than others and caused more damage. I can relate to Covid-19 researchers who are discovering new variants; however, I know the cure for sin.
“Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near,” (Matt. 4:17) Jesus’ first preached message. The gospel of repentance brings joy, because of his love he pardons our sins, and we received forgiveness through him. Please pray for my Zoom sessions, phone calls and meetings with disciples to go well in 2021.
When teaching I have noticed there are two ways people react when confronted with a lie they have believed. They either repent and humble themselves causing a change of mind and actions moving them closer to God. Or a hardening of the heart, holding tighter to the lie and hoping they can be saved by their own self-righteousness. Continue to ask the Lord to give me wisdom. Unfortunately, I have seen some US variants in South Africa, but praise God I know the cure.
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 May the Prince of Peace fill your hearts with His joy and love. Immanuel is with us and will help us in these difficult days. Our family is praying for you and we are so grateful for your partnership.
Indaba – “Xhosa and Zulu word meaning discussion or conference.”
National SLMSA Meetings (9 – 12 Nov) in Cape Town, National Leadership Team Meetings (16 – 20 Nov) in Pretoria and Western Cape Regional Team Meetings (24 – 25 Nov) in Cape Town dominated my November work schedule. As a leader in this mission’s group, ministry heads came together and had an indaba. We prayed, discussed, and came to agreements.
Campus Crusade for Christ – South Africa evaluated our resilience as a faith-based organization. Like many corporate and church entities, our year end discussions revolved around the pandemic’s effects on our movements and what must we do to move forward: What do we start? What do we stop? What do we “double down” on?
Now that the indabas concluded, I will focus my efforts to developing South African staff to now fill leadership positions. I will shut down our Western Cape regional store which sold CCCSA materials. Our CCCSA ministry will now produce more social media content to expand our outreach on all our social media platforms. I am excited about this upcoming year of ministry please pray our ministry will bring more people to relationship with Jesus Christ.
Although I am excited for the new year, my son is ecstatic for 2021. Leon Mack Best will be a senior. I will have a 12th grader. In South Africa they call it the matric year of high school. Mack will represent his school’s leadership as a prefect, his hostel as the head boy and rugby team on the field with the number 4 jersey. We thank God that Mack has done so well in South Africa.
My wife’s purposeful steps aroused my slumber, dimmed light from a cloudy sky brightened our bedroom, my thoughts turned to a small warm 4-year-old body lying next to me, “When did she climb into my bed?” I opened my eyes and saw my beautiful wife. Dressed for her Saturday morning women’s Bible study, I sat up to enjoy her presence and then she asked me to brace myself for difficult news.
“Chadwick Boseman was dead! He died of colon cancer. He was your age.” Each of these statements moved me uncomfortably. Boseman was Black Panther, the Black superhero! I viewed the film with my wife and teenagers. We were that family that posted a photo online with our African print clothing before entering the cinema. Mack, my son, loves superheroes, but this fictional character was extraordinary for him. A Black man, representing the African continent, was a superhero he could identify with. The live action star, Boseman, kept his four-year-old diagnosis hidden from the media and succumbed to colon cancer.
I still remember those words from my doctor over 20 years ago. “You will develop colon cancer in 10 years,” can you imagine a 20-year-old Rice University student receiving those words. After hospital visits and experimental drugs failed to give me relief from the pain, I made a vow. I recall pleading to the Lord saying, “If you want me to enter the mission field you must heal me from this affliction.” Because of his mercy 20 years ago, he gave me this testimony. I am ministering in South Africa today, healed with no symptoms. Boseman was 43, my age.
My wife hurried off to her morning women’s Bible study and left breakfast for me and the kids. I walked in the family room and revealed to Mack, Black Panther died of colon cancer. Dejected, he sat on the couch in solemn reflection. My two teenage daughters were also shocked to discover Chadwick Boseman’s passing but knowing my testimony they asked if I would get a colonoscopy. I hesitated to answer, but my 17-year-old son nodded in agreement with his sisters. He stared at me and shared, “I don’t want to lose another superhero.”
Leon and I were chatting on the patio. He shared an idea with me, and I encouraged him to move this idea forward. What started as an idea became a reality in the New Testament Relay. In the New Testament, Paul shares with Timothy to give time and effort to the public reading of Scripture. In 2020, what would this action look like during a nationwide lockdown? How about reading the entire New Testament over a social media platform LIVE! We mobilized over 60 different readers from South Africa, Kenya, and USA. Even our teenagers, Mack, Noel, Nala and my mother had the privilege of reading. Over five consecutive days, we read through the New Testament from noon until evening. We were trusting, “…my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
It was an amazing experience; 8000 views and 500 phone calls later! One of the young ladies I am discipling also read a section of the New Testament. She shared a special message to our ministry sharing what God had done in her life after the reading.
The third-year medical student wrote:
“Thank you for the [New Testament] Relay week. It was a challenge especially considering that I was writing my block tests online on 3 of the 5 days of this relay, but I was able to get bits and pieces of the live readings. I am a full-time medical student; therefore, since everything is online, there are bitter and sweet moments like these where you want to partake of something you know will benefit you spiritually but have academics hanging over your head however the Lord was very gracious to me and allowed me those moments.
I have really been blessed by this relay such that it spilled over to my conversations with my friends who also joined in watching the live readings. We have now started to prayerfully plan our own relay as practical as we can make it. If it weren’t for your idea, we would not even have thought of it and it would have even seemed impractical but now we see it is very achievable.”
Please pray for this group of women and all who heard God’s Word to use the public reading of His Word to continue impacting lives.
Last night our South African (SA) President Cyril Ramaphosa declared COVID-19 a national disaster. This preventative action alerted residents to implement social distancing mandates. 61 SA citizens are currently diagnosed with the corona virus. One mandate stated our children’s’ schools would close on Wednesday (18 Mar). Our children celebrated the extended holiday, but soon realized the real cost of the virus.
Nala received two bronze medals at her athletics competition on Saturday which qualified her to go to SA Nationals in two weeks. Nationals was cancelled. Mack played well in his 1st U19 rugby game and his team was victorious 28 -17; this possibly will be his final game because the schoolboy rugby season has been suspended. These protocols are like what is happening in the United States.
Our parents in the US (Texas & Arkansas), have been keeping us abreast of their situation. My retired mother has been shocked by the shortages in her local grocery store and shared her church service was online. She is concerned about the value of her nest egg with the stock market plunging. Many people are now worried about their jobs in this volatile economy.
My South African ministry will shut its offices on Wednesday (18 Mar) and my teammates will work virtually with digital tools. I will have two more ministry outreaches this week on Tuesday (17 Mar) in Khayelitsha and Wednesday at University of the Western Cape. Pray for me, my wife remembers me having H1N1 virus (swine flu) in that 2010 pandemic, because I was doing ministry in a high-risk area of the Western Cape. Thank you for being our ministry partners. Please send us your prayer requests during this time of trusting God.
On a sunset evening after a church function in Houston, TX, a wise person shared this insight. I’m sure at the time my hurried heart thought, “What is this old man talking about? They are just clouds, visible masses of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere.” When entering my vehicle in the church parking lot, I sat in my car and looked towards the sky. You never know what God will use to make you pause.
Recently, I was asked to take an additional role in South Africa. It will allow me to have more ministry oversight in the country. In two weeks, I will fly to Pretoria and meet with the national leadership team, but unfortunately one chair will be empty at the table. Taffy Chifamuna has gone home to be with the Lord. I was with him in November at another leaders’ meeting in Pretoria. Our last conversation was about a ministry outreach idea that wasn’t received well by the team. Two days later I received a message on my phone; he died. Taffy was 45 and left behind a wife and four kids. I paused.
My wife received a message our video store was closing today. Vee’s Video helped my family acclimate to South Africa. Our weekend routine was renting a movie and as a family we laughed, were thrilled or shed tears together. The video clerks shared their lives with us, and we ministered to them. Today, my family entered the disheveled store with shelves emptied, signs down and DVDs stacked high on the counter. My daughter Noel summed it up well, “This feels like when you’re visiting a dying friend in the hospital, and you don’t want this to be your last image of them,” I paused.
In my life, I can see the destination. I charge hard after it. When I obtain the goal, I go after the next ministry endeavor with the same focus. I have mentioned it before that God is doing something different this new year. This last decade God has taught me he is in control. Today I can tell Ron I do stop to look at the clouds; on occasions. There are beautiful cloudscapes in Cape Town. The sunrise colors and sunset hues with Table Mountain, create breathtaking cloud tapestries across the sky. Sometimes my daughter Nala demands I take my phone out to snap a picture of a cloud. God’s handiwork causes me to stand in awe of His beauty and reminds me He is in control. Selah.
The 2022 Homecoming season has inundated our household. This American tradition I was happy to leave behind when I sought refuge in Cape Town. Returning to experience a Texas-sized, football crazed, mum decadent homecoming was quite the assault to the senses. My daughters thrusted themselves into this high school tradition. One is on drill team and demonstrated dexterity with high kicks and splits with her dance troupe. My other daughter blared on her saxophone with the marching band serenading the audience. Finally, my six-year-old clutching her box of buttery popcorn, enjoyed the halftime presentations from the stands on the comfort of her daddy’s lap. Just another day resettling into American life.
Ten months in the States, I have shared words at my maternal grandfather’s funeral and preached at my paternal grandmother’s church for her 85th birthday celebration. Melanie and I attended an uplifting marriage conference with friends. I participated in two mission conferences. The most recent mission event was at my local church. It was a pleasure to share our story to the student ministry and 1st & 2nd grade class. Elle, our 1st grader, joined us up on stage and we taught the Best Family Creed to the children. “God is real. The Bible is true. And Jesus died for me and you. How do I know, the Holy Spirit told me, so!” Noel and Nala, my high school senior and junior, also led the 6- and 7-year-olds with a dance they learned in South Africa.
Since my American homecoming, I have spoken with ministry leaders and ministry friends as they help brief me on ministry in the States. Due to changes in leadership, Cru has allowed me and Melanie to take a ministry sabbatical beginning 1 November. This designed time will give us time to recover from an intense season of ministry and allow us to gain new perspectives by pursuing God during this sabbath rest. Like an athlete during off-season, we will continue to “work out and train,” but enjoy a hiatus from the “intense competition.” I am encouraged Cru gives staff this gift, and we will utilize it in time for harvest celebrations.
Elle is excited about the upcoming fall festivals in the US; Halloween & Thanksgiving. Noel is busy completing college applications and Nala took the PSAT this week. Please pray for our family during this period. We will continue to send updates of what God is teaching us during our spiritual off-season.
On Labor Day weekend, Melanie and I traveled the bittersweet road to Atlanta, GA. Our son in the backseat with his wardrobe and dorm room décor, enjoying his parental alone time, listening to our last warnings, guidance, and wisdom. Melanie and I connected Mack to our extensive Atlanta network and feel this community will aid him with prayer, encouragement, and food. It is a blessing that in Atlanta we know friends who planted a church, Cru teammates, and one of my mentors who lives not far from Mack. To think that our ministry has focused on university students for over 20 years! It is a blessing our son will experience the ministry fruit from a place we sowed seeds years ago.
By 2024, Melanie and I will have three children attending university. Living overseas for so long I do feel foreign, in the past I was familiar with everything a US college student would face campus. However, things have changed post-Covid lockdowns, and Mack will experience this new journey as he transitions to adulthood at Life University, an appropriate name for a university.
Melanie is relieved we have open lines of communication with our son: physical, emotional, and spiritual. When Melanie and I matriculated at Rice University, very few students had personal cell phones and landlines provided by Southwestern Bell was still a thing. Mack is happy he received an iPhone from his auntie. During my college days, I never called my parents when things were emotionally tough, “No news was good news,” was an unspoken motto in my family. Melanie is thankful that Mack requested that we contact him often. She also continues to text our teenagers daily Bible verses. Mack has already asked us to pray for a teammate who needs to know God.
Currently, Mack is playing in preseason rugby games and will begin classes in October. A student athlete’s world can be challenging to one’s faith. Our eldest child will have to stand on his faith and not his parents’. It’s a blessing he is surrounded by a caring community that’s available. Pray for us as Mack enters his first year of Life.