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.”
22 July highlighted my ministry calendar after our team meeting in February. Activate was an ambitious plan to have our entire provincial team to minister on the campus of the University of the Western Cape (UWC). We hoped to expose students and lecturers to all our ministry strategies by reaching rising athletes, influencing idealistic educators, engaging enterprising entrepreneurs, and sharing to studious undergraduates. Covid-19 occurred, and a hard-countrywide lockdown ensued, but my team did not allow this pandemic to cancel our ministry event.
Activate was reimagined into an online event. The online outreach transformed to help train our online audience to reach others with the gospel by highlighting our creative mobile applications. The one-hour Facebook Live event spotlighted Soularium, Jesus Film and Thrive mobile apps. We were encouraged by the hundreds of views to our event, but what encouraged me the most was an email message I received after the outreach from a former disciple. Grayson, a former UWC student, was one of the first men I had the pleasure to disciple.
When I reconnected with him, Grayson shared he was married with kids. He desired helped with a mobile app. Grayson is leading a small online men’s group from his church. I connected him to the Thrive mobile app, and even sent him articles from the app. He appreciated the help and was excited about Thrive. I am glad to see the immediate effects from our Activate outreach. Continue to pray for my team to thrive during this pandemic. We are committed to win people to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out to do the same even during this pandemic.
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.
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.