Today was beautiful and sunny with a slight breeze on Day 27 of the South African (SA) Lockdown.
Recently, SA president Cyril Ramaphosa made his second national address about the Covid-19 pandemic. He extended the national lockdown until the end of April. First, he expressed most of the existing lockdown measures will remain in force. I realized after talking with US family & friends there is a vast difference between South Africa’s Lockdown and their US States’ “Stay-at-Home” orders. In our area restaurants are closed, Melanie’s heart sunk on the eve of the SA Lockdown. The 24-hour McDonalds she hoped to buy dinner from was shut down. Our guest bathroom’s toilet seat broke a week ago, this will not be fixed because all hardware stores are closed. Most of my American friends are shocked when they hear the sale and transport of alcohol & cigarettes in the country is prohibited during the lockdown. Additionally, the SA president shared he will roll out community screening and testing throughout the nation. Healthcare workers have screened over 900,000 individuals and if symptoms are presented a decision is made on the spot for the person to be tested. Over 100,000 have been tested, 3465 are positive with 58 deaths. Have you been tested?
Economic troubles caused by the pandemic has allowed my team to share financial gifts or groceries to friends in need. A ministry colleague died during this time, because of the many restrictions we viewed his service and burial online. It was good to see his wife, children and grandchildren celebrate his life. God’s Word, prayer and the Holy Spirit has helped me lead my team and give ministry insight during this time.
During our lockdown couple reflection times, my wife has shared ministry disappointments and life fears. As she wrestled, her countenance changed when she realized we have three teenagers and adulthood is around the corner. This uninterrupted, lockdown family time we are cherishing as parents. We agreed that in times of testing James said it best, “Consider it pure joy…” (James 1:2-4).
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.
Load shedding caused robots to be out of sync and with trains being less reliable, this meant more vehicles on the road during February. On one heavily trafficked morning, all my daughters were finally delivered at their schools, then my wife and I headed to our Campus Crusade for Christ office. Turning onto our exit from the highway, the que of cars was unusually long. As Melanie and I inched closer we saw the culprit. A stalled compact vehicle with its flashers telling people to go around on either side.
On the left of the vehicle hindrance, a narrow passage allowed cars to wedge between the curved boundary. On the right side of the vehicle a heavier flow of three lane traffic. I decided to take the narrow path to pass the impediment. Peered into the stalled compact, I saw an agitated young person inside. Glanced at Melanie and she understood what I needed to do, so we parked in a safe place. I proceeded to walk into oncoming traffic to reach the stalled car. Analyzed the situation, planned to push the car to the safe area out of traffic.
As I approached the vehicle, the agitated driver expressed the car was not starting and kept turning the key in the ignition and the car was unresponsive. I told anxious person to put the car in neutral. I went behind the car and pushed with all my strength. The car was on a slight incline, but it was insignificant; however, the compact sedan didn’t budge. I just had a birthday, I’m 40 something, no one walking around to help, I am wearing business casual and maybe my dress shoes aren’t getting enough traction. These are the thoughts crowding my mind as I return to the driver from my failed attempt at pushing the vehicle to safety. The answer came to me what was wrong. The individual in the driver’s seat was still trying to start the car. I looked over to the console, and told the driver, “Put the emergency brake down!”
This past month I had initial year conversations with each of my 14 team members. They shared their plans for how they were going to reach ministry objectives and develop personally. Please continue to pray the Lord will give me wisdom how to encourage teammates and He will reveal to me when they need to put their “emergency brakes” down. This allows me to push them to a safe area.
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.
Food insecurity is a new term I have learned at the university. It means a lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. A recent report shared 48% of students on US campuses feel food insecure. When I did ministry in the US our best tool to gather students was pizza. In South Africa, food insecurity on university campuses is over 50%.
At the top universities in Cape Town, many come from affluent families, or have family members who live near the campus. However, some of the best and brightest come from rural areas and small towns in the Western Province. These young adults left home and family to pursue a better education which they hope will give them more opportunity for employment. Our UWC student Merlin (Best Times: 30 July 2018) came from an old farming town called Beaufort West. He pursues a degree in education and runs athletics for the university. Last year, Merlin, a student leader involved with our ministry to sportsmen called Athletes in Action (AIA), decided to dedicate more time to our ministry by becoming an associate staff member. His hope is to complete his studies and become full-time staff to address the spiritual famine on the campus.
Recently, a teammate revealed this startling confession about Merlin’s food insecurity. Studying, competing and discipling can be stressful and now worrying about your next meal can be unbearable. Our team is now addressing his situation.
Each year, food has always been one of my top three ministry expenses. Jesus was a great model, using food as a tool in discipleship. Thank you for your prayers and financial support because your gifts have allowed me to provide not only spiritual food, but physical food.
I had the pleasure of doing ministry
with my family last week. Our Cru Youth
group partnered with Student Christian Organization (SCO) to put on the 3 – day
Christian camp. The rustic campground was
a converted military base which overlooks beautiful ocean views. 90 high school and primary students from area
townships (Khayelitsha, Masiphumelele, Kayamandi) gave life to lifeless barracks. Xhosa was the dominant attending
culture. I was well versed in the
cultural interactions, but this was the first time for our new US team members,
Natasha and Naomi.
The two young women from Ohio and North Dakota joined our team last month. They had a great attitude desiring to be cultural learners and asked to go to the camp. As I observed, they did well with immersing themselves in Xhosa through worship, language and food. It was fun to see them try pap, samp & beans and canned fish; however, tripe (lamb intestines) they were not able to consume. Natasha and Naomi will minister predominately with university athletes when the South African school year begins in February. I am glad they were engaged at the camp and led camp activities with the learners. My children were also participants at the camp.
Noel and Nala facilitated icebreakers and music during the first evening of the camp. Mack was a favorite among the Xhosa girls. Elle also made great friends with some of the SCO staff children present at the event. My wife was essential in the registration process and learned how to pronounce many Xhosa names. Your support as a ministry partner allowed me to pay for 30 participants at the camp. It was great to be able to take the Cru Youth students and volunteers to a beautiful camp to spend time with God and receive training on how to reach their schools with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.
Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds
it? And when she finds it, she calls her
friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost
coin.’ In the same way, I tell you,
there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over when one sinner
who repents.”Luke 15:8 – 10
ever lost something you cherished for 19 years?
This was my situation on a busy evening cleaning our home, completing
tasks for my wife and helping kids with homework. I sat in my chair and touched my finger. My fingers have slimmed since my wedding, and
I established a routine of using my left thumb to turn my band on my left ring
finger. My wedding band was missing! The untanned ring of skin that encircled my
finger was evidence that something was missing.
Now my involuntary motion caused
by muscle memory was just touching the bare skin on my hand. I proceeded to search for my wedding ring the
next few days with no success. I drafted
my children to locate the precious metal.
After a week, I resigned to the fact the ring was lost. Of course, I was still married. It’s just a small trinket I have possessed
for 19 years that’s been with me from the beginning was no more.
been a pleasure helping the young men I disciple grow in their faith. The men have been inviting others to help
with Cru Youth. It has been great to see
them involve others to help teach these 90+ learners every week. Along with discipling these volunteers, I
also mentor staff. I had the opportunity
to witness with one of the young staff women (Nyameka) on our team. We were at the University of the Western Cape
(UWC) during a special day of outreach.
It was inspiring to see her display our new digital evangelism tools
from her smartphone. She opened the
Jesus Film mobile app and showed a one-minute film called, “Delight.” The UWC student enjoyed the engaging questions
after the presentation. Nyameka then utilized
the digital Four Spiritual Laws from the God Tools mobile application. The young student then received Christ in her
life. This witnessing experience continues to remind me there is rejoicing in
heaven when one sinner repents.
When I returned
home from the outreach, Melanie declared, “I found it.” The white gold band with the ribbed edges hid
the untanned section of my finger again.
My family and everyone I told about the missing wedding ring rejoiced
Winter has arrived in Cape Town. Unbelievable, it was one year ago that our city averted Day Zero and 10 years ago, 24 June, the Best Family arrived in Cape Town. What a journey this has been? It reminds me of the old hymn, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus’. Our family has had a lot exciting activity this month and we just wanted to share it with you.
Our son, Mack, had an incredible opportunity to play for his
provincial team in the under-16 Grant Khomo week. This is so exciting for him because three
years ago he played for the under-13 team.
Leon and I are encouraged that God has allowed him to accomplish his
rugby goals. It was our prayer that he
would glorify God as he interacted with his teammates and opponents. We are happy to share his Western Province
team won the championship game and he scored a try in their 34-10 win.
Noel is very focused. She made top 10 academically in her
class. It is such a blessing to see how
God uses her to encourage her peers. One
of her dance friends received some disappointing news. With intentional
listening and careful words, she encouraged reconciliation and peace amongst
disagreeing friends. They were able to
move forward together, “…forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is
ahead… (Philippians 3:13)” July will be busy for Noel, because she will be
performing in her school’s musical.
Nala was selected by her classmates to be finalist in the school
pageant. The pageant’s purpose is fun
and promotes school spirit and community service. At the end of this pageant, one girl is named
Miss Blessie, the nickname for the school’s mascot; a red-billed coot. After dance routines, a sports routine and an
interview, Nala was named Miss Blessie 2019.
I learned so much about my teenager during this process. I told her to
file this in her memory as God’s grace on her life. She is a foreigner who has been given such a
sweet platform to love, care and share Christ with her peers.
Little Miss Elle turned three years old on 12 June. She regularly makes up new songs to practice
her colors. She loves to pretend being a
teacher, princess and superhero. Her
prayers to God have grown. She prays for Daddy and Mommy regularly and
occasionally she will pray for her siblings when she thinks they are listening.
Leon and I have celebrated our 19th year of
marriage. We both agree that our desire
is to obey God in everything we do. Our
hearts are full and grateful for all that He has done.
6 – 10 May, Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) hosted Cape Town Baptist College students again. CTBC Mission Week sends the novice theologians to apply their biblical knowledge into their local communities. I’ll admit it’s a highlight for me during the year. If you remember from past updates, I’ve had some interesting experiences with the CTBC crew. In general, I have witnessed fear turn to confidence in Christ, and arrogance to humility in God’s grace. This partnership continues to benefit all who participate, and this year 15 students were assigned to our organization. Diverse spiritual backgrounds represented this year’s CTBC team. Current pastors, an evangelist and a pastor’s wife were included instead of the usual group of future pulpit ministers.
Mission week activities have evolved for CCC as well. In the past, we would only send CTBC to universities to share the gospel to students. Now they experience outreaches in the university, local community and marketplace during the week.
Have you shared your faith to business people? John*, current pastor, stated he didn’t even know it was possible to share the gospel in the corporate setting. During our debrief time, John expressed he realized he had prejudice to Muslims. He recalled a past bad business deal with a Muslim that made him avoid people of the Islamic faith. On the first day of mission week, the CTBC students were paired together to begin spiritual conversations at a financial institution’s corporate headquarters. John and his partner were afraid to do evangelism and desired to talk with someone with the “nicest face they could find.” The duo located someone who fit this description. They had a great conversation with the financial analyst and to John’s surprise the gentleman was Muslim. God allowed John to share with someone of a different faith. This lesson God used to encourage John to speak with more Muslims and not to avoid individuals created in the image of God.
You can see why I enjoy equipping future Christian workers to be a part of the Great Commission. Pray these students will continued to be challenged to move out of their comfort zones to love their neighbor.