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.
Throughout this lockdown, Leon and I have created bridges to bring our different strategy teams together. These collaborative efforts have helped reach people for Christ. We have shared in our updates over the last year how our ministry has hosted several evangelistic & discipleship online events to engage people to share the gospel and build believers in their faith.
Last year, I led a small group of ladies from my church through The Significant Woman, a life-coaching discipleship resource for women. This year, I wanted to explore more material from The Significance Project (Cru ministry) to help believers take the journey with friends and co-workers, called Soaring. In January, I attended The Significance Project training Zoom call with leaders from all over the world.
A fellow staff member shared this John Maxwell quote as we opened our time together, “I’ve never collaborated with anyone that is good that didn’t make me better.” This quote gave me the courage to learn a new resource, because I knew a South African team of women were praying and helping me encourage ladies to understand their unique design.
On Leon’s birthday, he allowed me to begin the first round of Soaring 2021 with 9 ladies from different South African cities like Johannesburg and Durban. I even had a woman attend from the neighboring country of Namibia. Co-leading with a volunteer named Jessica, the ladies introduced themselves and agreed to partner together in this journey to help them better understand their unique design.
With Soaring we use six principles to guide the journey. The principles are Celebrate Your Uniqueness, Identify Your Core Values, Define Your Life Foundation, Discover Your Life Direction, Integrate Direction into Your Life, and Soaring with Your Life Design.
Please pray for the ladies that God will meet them wherever they are in their journeys. Pray for Jessica and myself that we will be sensitive to God’s leading and facilitate well. If you would like to learn more about The Significance Project, you can find them online at thesignificantwoman.com
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.