Happy Anniversary!

Can you believe we’ve been in South Africa for a year?!

We spent a lovely evening out to dinner as a family to celebrate our one year anniversary (early March). It has caused us to think back on our first year here in Cape Town and we realized that a proper family update is in order! So, here it goes!

DOUG

Doug and Josiah on a recent hike

Doug and Josiah on a recent hike

Most of Doug’s time is spent at Living Hope where he is busy with several things. The first thing Doug established when he began at Living Hope was a prayer walk around the main campus. He stops at several specific places to pray for each of the ministries of the organization and their satellite campuses. One of Doug’s main roles is to help with the devotional life of the health care workers in the different communities. There are multiple campuses and three days a week each campus works through the same series of devotions in the mornings. He spends each day going to the different communities and leading or helping to lead devotions. Each community is on a specific day of the week so that routine is consistent from week to week. It’s been exciting to be a part of what God is doing in each of the communities (each in very different ways) and how He answers prayer. Typically after devotions are finished he will head back to the main campus where he will continue working on devotions for another day to come. Another of his roles is keeping track and updating prayer needs and praises from each of the communities. It’s amazing to watch God answer prayer as the days and weeks go by. Another element of Doug’s role is the staff newsletter that has been started since we’ve been here. This is to keep staff aware of upcoming training days, visiting teams, staff birthdays and any other information that might be helpful and important to the staff on all the campuses. These things as well as building relationships and talking and praying with staff members are what keep Doug busy on a typical day.

Doug has also enjoyed connecting with a fellow missionary. They have been keeping each other accountable and praying for one another through each week. They schedule biweekly times to pray for each other and what’s on their hearts.

Doug has also enjoyed getting back into running. After many months of injury prior to moving to South Africa, he has since joined a running club and trained and run several races. After running a hilly ten mile race in September (on his birthday), he started looking into more races and decided to train for “The world’s most beautiful marathon”: The Two Oceans (Ultra) Marathon (56K). Training included running two additional marathons, which happened to be right here in our neighborhood! Finally, along with 11,000 other runners, on Easter Saturday he ran the Two Oceans Marathon. It was a great race and he is wondering what is the next adventure. Meanwhile, he enjoys meeting up with his running club on Thursday mornings at the beach and Saturdays at our local park run. This is a great time to get to know other runners in our community.

ELLEN

Ellen and Josiah above the clouds

Ellen and Josiah above the clouds

Ellen is keeping busy with the two boys! Nathaniel started preschool (more on that later), so she is enjoying more personal time with Josiah in the mornings. It’s been so fun to watch his personality grow and flourish. The boys have allowed Ellen to be a part of several extracurricular activities. Almost every Tuesday morning mom’s from all over our community gather together to “do life” together. It’s a wonderful time to connect with each other, allow our children to play and interact together, and have adult conversation! Ellen has made some great connections there and is really enjoying the friendships that she’s building. Additionally, she has enjoyed scheduling several extra play dates with these friends and she and the boys have truly enjoyed the time they’ve been able to spend together.

Several weeks ago, through our church, Ellen joined a ladies Bible Study and is working her way through the ten week study. It’s been such a joy to gather with other women and study God’s Word together, growing closer as women in the process. It has also been a wonderful way to meet new people in the church.

Ellen continues to work every Wednesday at Living Hope. She completes weekly patient chart audits. This task used to take an entire day or two at the end of the month (with 30+ charts), but now, with weekly auditing, she only has about 5-10 charts at a time. This has not only allowed more time for other things, but has also enabled her to interact more with staff and patients, which she has enjoyed. The rest of Ellen’s time at Living Hope can be spent doing any number of things, but recently it has involved reviewing and updating policies and procedures which is a large task, but one that has been rewarding and mentally stimulating. Mid way through the year, Ellen and the health care centre manager sat down and talked about implementing inservice training for staff on a weekly basis. With that in mind, and training days to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays (to cover both shifts), Ellen started working half days on Tuesday afternoons as well as all day Wednesday. This has worked out well with Doug’s schedule, so that he can be home with the boys in the afternoons. Trainings are going fairly well (it’s taken a few months to work out the kinks) and we recently welcomed another volunteer to our team, who is helping us with the training materials!

NATHANIEL

At the beach!

At the beach!

Nathaniel turned FIVE in February! He loves to run and play any kind of sport! Several months ago we joined our community’s Saturday park run. This is a free community event, happening every Saturday morning, with a measured and timed 5k (and 2k) route. This has been such a joy for Nathaniel. He loves to run the 2k and improve upon his time. As a family, we’ve really enjoyed meeting other families in our community and getting exercise! In addition to the weekly park runs, Nathaniel has run two official 5k races (one being 5.6k!). He loves the challenge and is proud that he has run the entire way (as are we!). He is only five, but he is already starting his collection of finisher medals!

Nathaniel started preschool in January (schools run year round here, beginning in January). He has loved the routine and making new friends. It has also been a great way to meet other families in our area and coming this second term, we are looking forward to having friends over.

Both boys have been taking swimming lessons this year and they are loving it! Nathaniel learned how to swim in just 4 sessions and hasn’t looked back. He loves diving for things on the bottom of the pool and jumping into the deep end. He can even swim from one side of the pool to the other without taking a breath (must be his runner’s lungs!).

JOSIAH

Being silly in a homemade boat!

Being silly in a homemade boat!

Josiah adores his older brother and copies everything Nathaniel does. It has been so fun to watch the relationship between these two boys grow stronger. They are starting to have lots (maybe too much) fun together! Josiah turned TWO in November and has a vibrant personality! He loves to do silly things and always has an opinion. He also has a tender heart towards others and will often share toys and food with friends.

Recently Josiah has started swimming on his own (for short times) during his lessons and absolutely loves the water! His favorite part of swim lessons is jumping off the side into the water. He is always sad when his lesson is over.

Some of his favorite activities are reading (especially finding Goldbug in Richard Scarry books), eating snacks, visiting the penguins, jumping, building blocks, stickers, and the beach! This past week he started potty training too!

The day before the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon - Ellen, Josiah and Nathaniel ran fun runs!

The day before the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon – Ellen, Josiah and Nathaniel ran fun runs!

We are looking forward to this next year ahead to see what God will teach us and how He will use us! We are glad you are on this journey with us. We’d love to hear your family updates too!

The Power of Prayer

It’s time to conclude our six word series! Sorry for the long break between words five and six, but we have saved the “best for last”. Our sixth word is prayer. Oh how important this has been!

First of all, we are carried day to day (even moment by moment) by your prayers. It is such an encouragement to know that people are praying for us, with us, and for our communities (both Living Hope and our local area). Thank you so much! It literally means the world to us that you are praying for us. We couldn’t be here without you.

Secondly, God has been teaching us newer and bolder ways to pray in recent days. We’ve been impressed with the importance of intentionality in prayer, no matter the request. We also have been challenged to open ourselves up to hear the Spirit’s leading in our prayers. It has been such an incredible journey that has made a difference in our own lives (and those around us). We thought you’d enjoy 3 short stories about the power of prayer.

Story 1: The Traffic Registry (aka the dreaded DMV!)

In December I (Doug) applied to get a traffic registry number so that our cars can be registered in our name. When I submitted my paperwork I was told it should take about a week. A week passed and there was no word back. This is not uncommon to wait longer than expected. I waited another week and returned. When I went in I was told that my request had been denied. The man who told me this news looked through the paperwork and found no reason why my request should have been denied and that he would resubmit it with a clarification note.

Fast forward 6 weeks. I went in again to figure out what was going on because six weeks with no explanation was a long time. I went back in and the woman I spoke with this time looked at my paperwork and said that I won’t be able to get the paperwork completed simply because of the wording in my Visa (even though it is clearly explained). She then gave me a phone number to call the western Provincial government office of public works and transportation. It took several people to finally get to the right person. The woman on the other end of the line asked me to retrieve several pieces of information from the traffic registry office here in Fish Hoek. I began to feel like I was being run around, however I obliged and went back to the office and asked for the information she was requesting. They didn’t have it. In the time all this was transpiring we were praying very specific prayers about this paperwork. Unfortunately my eyes were not seeing the abilities of God and I began to get discouraged. The woman at the desk came back from talking with her supervisor and asked me to step aside because the supervisor was dealing with another issue and would be with me shortly. Several minutes passed and the supervisor came out with my passport and registry certificate in hand, said “here it is” and handed it to me.

Story 2: The bed

A few months ago, a homeless gentleman that had been receiving treatment in the Health Care Centre, had to be discharged without a permanent place to stay. In over a year of staying at the Health Care Centre, his situation had not been resolved, and his future was very uncertain. After sending him to another local hospital, it was brought to the attention of the staff that there was a space available in a long-term program for people with similar circumstances.  We were overjoyed to learn that someone would be offering our client care for the rest of his life. The only caveat was that the patient needed to provide his own bed to be brought to the facility. As a man without an income, our staff wondered how were we going to be able to help?

We remembered that there was a single bed recently donated to Living Hope, and that it would be a perfect allocation for our patient. However, when the staff went looking for this bed, it was gone. There was no trace of the bed anywhere.

We then turned to a local social media group where we found a bed being sold for R200 (about $13 USD). This showed that there was a possible solution. The owner initially responded with a confirmation that the Health Care Centre was the first to respond to the advertisement and therefore they had first option to buy to the bed. Throughout the afternoon, continual efforts were made to contact the owner again with no answer. Had he chosen to sell it to someone else? Did he change his mind on selling it? Why is he not answering any of our communications?  We were holding onto faith, hoping that in the face of a challenge, God would provide a solution.

We waited all day for the response from the owner and early in the evening, we prayed that the problem would be sorted out immediately. No more than five minutes after we prayed, communication with the owner was re-established and the delivery of the bed was organized for the next day. Staff members anxiously waited all night long, praying that the situation would work out for the patient.  First thing in the morning the driver went to fetch the bed and we found out that the owner had decided to donate the bed to our patient, allowing us to send our friend on his way to his new home with all of his needs provided for. We praise God for His faithfulness and His provision in this situation!

Story 3: Wherever the Spirit leads!

On each day of the week I (Doug) travel to different communities to be a part of their devotions. Although the week is consistent and each community expects to see me on a certain day of the week, I am not present at each place on a daily basis. I am not always aware of conversations that take place in devotions on other days. This particular day I was planning on using a devotion from the Minor Prophets, but when I sat down to join in on the devotion with the community health care workers I asked a question. “So, do we want to go to the New or Old Testament?” The response I received from three of the carers was, “Wherever the Spirit leads!” I paused and because of all that had gone on in the past couple of weeks with the nudging of the Spirit to pray specifically I felt a need to put my devotion from the prophets on the shelf and open up Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3.

Proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel and working through the mystery does not change things about the mystery. Some things, this side of heaven will remain a mystery and that is what faith is about.  God far surpasses our understanding of the Gospel itself. The fact that the Gospel is the Word of God gives it life. We sometimes attempt to put it in a box until it stops moving. This discussion led to talking about the church and the fact that its foundation is Jesus Christ. It is not denominations, not individual pastors, nor para-church organizations. It is Christ alone.

They informed me that this subject was one that caused strife and some misunderstanding between co-workers late in the previous week.  In a “wherever the Spirit leads” kind of moment, we sat in awe and wonder of How God moves and breathes life into His people through the Word.

This continued for the next three weeks – although I had prepared specific devotions for our time together in this community, each time I arrived God impressed upon my heart something completely different. And each time I found out afterwards that the change in devotion was exactly what these workers needed to hear.

Prayer is so important! Will you join us in thanking God for His work in our lives, especially as we seek to draw closer to him and know Him better? And please keep praying for us! Here are a few ways:

  • Pray that we would be used by God in our ministry roles. Pray that God would direct us in ways that we can be most useful.
  • Pray that God would continue to provide financial supporters – and praise God for his faithfulness.
  • Pray for our family as we continue serving our community. Pray that we grow together with Jesus as the center and that we love each other well.

We are excited to see how the Spirit leads in the coming weeks!

We want to pray with you and for you too! Please send us a message if there’s something specific we can be praying about. It is such a privilege to come to our Father on your behalf, so please let us know how we can be praying.

Our winter newsletter is out!

Just a reminder that our latest newsletter was sent out last week! If you didn’t have a chance to read it, you can here! In it, you’ll read:

  • An incredible story of God’s provision
  • How we are learning to rely on the Spirit’s leading
  • Updated prayer/praise points
  • Photos of the boys!

If you want to be added to our newsletter list to receive future news, please let us know!

Community

Community*. What does this word mean to you?

In the wee hours of a Sunday morning in early December, the worst fire in the history of Masiphumelele broke out, taking with it over 1100 homes and displacing 5000 people. It was shocking and overwhelming. We arrived to church on Sunday morning oblivious to the magnitude of this disaster. We had heard whispers on social media that there was a fire (again) in Masi, but we really had no idea the impact until the leadership made an announcement and called for prayer. We stood there together, hearts joined as one, praying for our ‘community’.

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This area is called “the wetlands” in Masi. About 80% of this area was burnt. You can see that the area where the houses used to be was reduced to just dirt.

I use the word ‘community’ loosely. There are so many communities to which we can belong. For instance, we have our family community (including our immediate family and stretching to far distance relatives). We are bonded together by blood. We are in relationship.

The rubble was bulldozed into piles to be carted away.

The rubble was bulldozed into piles to be carted away.

We are in community. Then, there is the community in which we live. Houses that are in close proximity to each other. Life paths that cross (frequently or infrequently). There is a bond. As dwellers we look out for each other. We are a community. Next, I think of our church community. Families that gather together from many different geographic areas and many different backgrounds and circumstances, yet we are one because of Christ. Then, finally, there is the wider community. The grouping of towns in an area creates a community. In our case, we consider ourselves part of “the valley” or the Southern Peninsula, which is made up of several towns. Just about everyone who lives in the valley identifies together as one community.

As we sat in our chairs during that Sunday morning, I could see that people were concerned. As a community, when one person suffers, everyone feels it. We sat there wondering what we could do. What do you do when so many people are affected, so many lives changed in an instant? The answer: community. You come together as one and work towards a common good.

In order for rebuilding to commence, the land had to be cleared.

In order for rebuilding to commence, the land had to be cleared.

Over the next few days, we watched true community happen. Living Hope became the drop off/sorting area. Within hours, the great hall was full of clothes, bedding, and food. By the next morning, someone had donated 1000 mattresses. Disaster Relief set up camp at Living Hope and coordinated everything. Starter buckets were assembled to give to each family in need. People donated goods, time, and money towards their fellow community members. It was incredible to watch! In just a few days, most everything was collected that was needed.

These are some of the buckets that were prepared for families with babies/toddlers. Along with other basic necessities, they included cans of formula. You can see, among all of the other donations, the piles of green mattresses in the background.

These are some of the buckets that were prepared for families with babies/toddlers. Along with other basic necessities, they included cans of formula. You can see, among all of the other donations, the piles of green mattresses in the background.

This is what community means to me. We’ve seen it over and over since we’ve landed on the ground here in South Africa. What an absolute blessing to be surrounded by people who care about each other. Pray that God’s light would shine bright in our community. Pray that those who don’t yet know Him would find Him. Imagine what a community could accomplish for His good when we all work together with a common purpose!

 

*This is our fifth word in our six word series of words that have impacted our recent lives.

The words of the day are…

IMG_5775Let’s continue on with our six words! Word number four: Language. It’s a funny thing isn’t it? We thought you’d like to know some of the differences in our day-to-day speech.

First of all, while most everyone here speaks/understands English, it is not American English (it is British English), so we are getting used to a few new words:

  • boot/bonnet – trunk/hood of the car
  • swim costume (or “cozzie”) – bathing suit
  • flapjacks – pancakes (if we ask for a pancake here, we’ll get a crepe!)
  • nappy – diaper
  • petrol – gas for your car (“gas” is rather propane here)
  • trainers – sneakers
  • jumper – sweater
  • biscuits – cookies
  • pram/pushchair – stroller
  • lift – elevator

Now for some more “South African” words (many of these originate in the Afrikaans language):

  • Howzit – a very casual “how are you?”
  • braai (pronounced “br-eye”) – barbeque
  • boerewores (pronounced “bore-eh-vores”) – a type of sausage
  • bakkie (pronounced “buckie”) – pickup truck
  • lekker (pronounced “lek-ah”) – good or great. Often when asked how someone is doing, they’ll respond with “lekker!”
  • Shame – culturally used as an empathetic response. For instance, after hearing one’s misfortunes, it is appropriate to say, “shame”.
  • dankie (roughly pronounced “don-key”) – thank you

A few more words we commonly hear from the Xhosa speaking people:

  • molo – hello
  • unjani – how are you?
  • ndiphilile (pronounced “dia-p-lee-lay”) – I’m fine.
  • Mfundisi (pronounced “foon-deece”) – pastor/reverend

There are so many more words that we are getting used to and learning (and I’m sure we’ve miss-pronounced many of the above), but hopefully this gives you a small taste of words we use in our day-to-day conversations. We have been enjoying learning bits and pieces of new languages and look forward to becoming more closely acquainted with the many cultures we are surrounded with here in Fish Hoek.

Two Sides of the Street

Please accept our apologies for the long pause. We are back continuing on with our six words for our first six months! In this third post, Doug gives his thoughts on the word “contrast”.

From the outside, Cape Town is a big and beautiful city, stretching from far north of Table Mountain to the end of the southern peninsula (locals call it the ‘deep south’). Inside of vast Cape Town, one can experience and observe many different things. Often these pictures of life leave us feeling caught between two worlds. Here is an example from my personal experience:

One side of the street

One side of the street

One side of the street is a whitewashed wall with in ground sprinklers watering the beautifully groomed landscaping.  Behind this wall is a neighborhood of large homes with security guards at the entrance. People enter and leave in their luxury cars to go into the city to their work day. As you exit this community you come to a robot (traffic light). Right in front of you, across the main street, is a very different community.  There is a wire fence that only partially surrounds a property with discarded foil wrappers and broken glass lining the edges. Skinny dogs forage for anything that may look like an edible scrap. Houses are seemingly erected right on top of the other, with minimal yard space (if any). The security fences in some places are porous enough for people to walk through. Here there is a high level of poverty, gang violence, substance abuse, and crime. People get into trouble because many don’t have jobs. Many that do have jobs still struggle to put food on the table. Some are enticed by a life of crime, violence and drugs because it is sold as a solution to their hunger. Daily, one can watch hundreds of these community members exit their neighborhood on foot. They walk to work or spend the morning trying to bargain a ride.

The other side of the street

The other side of the street

These two communities are two different worlds. Very infrequently will those from the gated community cross the main road into the community that sits just meters away. Even though these next-door communities are a part of Cape Town, each community’s (or each person’s) “Cape Town” looks vastly different. Each and every one of us leads a different life. Our realities, while on paper may seem similar, are in fact so individual and unique. Each person’s reality is his or her own. What a humbling reminder!

The big elements in life here in Cape Town are a delicate topic. In fact, a few weeks ago, the pastor at our church said that, “if you want to hear a pin drop in church here in South Africa you bring up either the topic of money or race”. The divides and contrasts we see are often financial and racial. The dynamics are not easy to navigate.

IMG_4809Apartheid officially ended here in South Africa in 1994. It officially ended over 20 years ago. Although it has ended, this kind of cultural, racial, financial, and political situation does not just stop with life continuing on like it never happened. There are wounds here that are still open. There are others that have closed, but the scars remain, often painful to the touch. I broke my ankle while in college and to this day the nerves are very sensitive in that spot. There is no visible scar, but it is different than it was before. In fact although it has healed, I still feel some pain in it when the weather changes. I believe that when the “weather” (political, financial, or cultural) changes here, the scars in the society become tender once again. Here in South Africa the weather is always changing.

 
Without Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, there is no way to understand how these scars can be discovered, dealt with, and gotten past. Our prayer is that we are able to emulate Jesus and minister to those who are hurting and share the love of our heavenly Father in whatever circumstance. More often than not, we can (and need to) minister on both sides of the road!

Our summer news is out!

For most of you, today marks the first day of Autumn. Even though you are experiencing the close of summer, here in South Africa, we are celebrating summer’s arrival on our doorstep! In light of all of this, we’ve sent out our latest newsletter. You can read it here.

Here’s a few things you’ll read (in case your time is short):

  • Details on what we do each day (Doug as a chaplain and Ellen helping out in the health care centre)
  • We got a second car! Praise God!
  • We love to get mail (email or post)!
  • You are a blessing!
  • Fun pictures of the boys :)

 

Hot Topic

We are continuing our series of six words that have in some way defined our lives here in South Africa in the last six months. Our second word is ‘heat’.

We arrived late at night in early March. It just so happened to be one of the hottest days Cape Town has experienced in many years. In fact, close to midnight when we were getting settled at the SIM guesthouse, we found ourselves sweating. The days following continued to be warm, shocking our systems. When we left Maryland, there was ice on the ground.

The day we left Maryland - snow on the ground!

The day we left Maryland – snow on the ground!

Then there were the wildfires that Cape Town experienced in late February and early March. As our airplane rounded towards the city, the pilot made an announcement and those of us who could see out the windows, beheld the burning fires in the night. In the morning, we watch as ash fell constantly fell to the ground. It reminded us of snow. We have talked about the fires previously on this blog  and how the landscape was changed due to the worst wildfires in a decade. Many people had commented to us when we arrived at how marred the beautiful mountains were and they were extremely sad that we couldn’t see Cape Town in all it’s glory. However, God has shown us beauty amongst the ashes!

The morning after we arrived

The morning after we arrived

While the fires on the mountains have long since subsided (and slowly green is overtaking ash gray), fires in Masiphumelele have continued on, although on an infrequent basis. Since we’ve been here, there have been 2 major fires destroying many homes. While the destruction can be great, the rebuilding has happened so quickly. It has been such an encouragement to see community members come together to help each other in times of great need. Generally more fires break out during the winter months as people are struggling to stay warm.

Which brings us to the subject with has probably impacted us the most this winter: indoor heating (or lack thereof)! Winter here in Cape Town occurs from the months of June to September (thankfully, we are currently enjoying the birth of spring around us). And experienced Captonians will tell you to bundle up in layers. Often, on 60 degree days you’ll see people in puffy jackets and winter hats. This may seem a little strange to you until you’ve lived here. We often found ourselves happily dressed in a few layers if we were outside (especially in the sun), but as soon as we walked indoors (without central heating), the extra layers had to be added. In our case, two warm throw blankets, warm comforters on the beds, hot water bottles, hats, and space heaters provided the warmth we needed. In fact, when I think back to the days we were packing and sorting to come I am so thankful that we were advised to bring ‘winter clothes’. It’s also interesting to note that students are allowed (and encouraged) to bring blankets and hot water bottles to school during the winter months, so they will be warm in the classrooms (students here wear uniforms all year round and girls are required to wear skirts!).

The burnt landscape

The burnt landscape

We have two space heaters, for which we have been so thankful. One is run by gas (propane) and the other is electric. While we have been grateful for each one, they both have their downsides. The gas heater is the most child un-friendly system around. We’ve had to be diligent and careful if we had it running while the boys are around. However, it warms up a room in no time and doesn’t require electricity (especially wonderful to have during loadshedding!). The electric heater sucks away units of electricity faster than you can say ‘electricity’, however it kept the boys’ room warm during the cold winter nights.

We never thought that ‘heat’ would be one of the major things to mean so much to us during these first six months. We are thankful for warm days to come, for safety from the fires, and for creative ways to stay warm. We are also thankful that, despite colder temperatures, the sun (when it shines) is quite warm. Next, I suppose, we’ll be looking for ways to stay cool during the fast approaching summer months!

It’s Electric!

It’s been a bit quiet over here lately. It’s not that nothing has been happening, but it’s more that we are starting to finally find our groove in ministry and life is becoming just a little bit more routine. The unfamiliar is becoming more familiar and the excitement of newness is becoming a more controlled contentedness.

As we approach our six month mark of landing in South Africa, we thought you might appreciate to hear some of what we have learned (or are still learning) by sharing six words with you over the next few weeks (one word for each month that we’ve been here). To start us off, our first word is “electricity”.

The boys love using their headlamps at bedtime during loadshedding!

We made it about a week in South Africa before we experienced “loadshedding” (controlled power cuts). Then we spent close to two months figuring out how it works. There is a ‘schedule’ and it involves ‘stages’ and ‘areas’. We will save you the bore of details, but suffice it to say, even though we have been here almost six months we often still find ourselves scrambling during the last 30 minutes before loadshedding. Do we have the solar jars? Have we washed all the dishes, drawn the bath for the boys and filled the hot water bottles? Have we closed the garage door? Are the batteries charged for [insert device]? Do we have gas for our propane tank? AND, there really is no guarantee that we will receive the email notification before loadshedding actually occurs. Did you know that there are even apps specifically for loadshedding? We can even choose to be updated on the likelihood of power cuts. Phew! We are thankful for friends and coworkers who have offered their wisdom when we have questions!

Our 5 solar jars

Also on the subject of electricity, we thought you’d like to know that we purchase prepaid units of electricity. Monthly. At the grocery store. On the first of the month, we go to the store just like everyone else and buy our groceries. While checking out, we add on our units of electricity. It goes a little like this: we have a number unique to our address that we recite to the teller. We pay. They print a receipt with a specific pin on it (along with any groceries we may have purchased as well). We bring this receipt home (don’t lose it – it is gold!) and type in the many numbered pin into our meter. I find myself holding my breath each time as I wait for the units to show up on the screen, praying I haven’t mistyped a number. We are still navigating all the little nuances (for example, as the month goes on the price of electricity increases, or if you buy over a certain amount you pay more per unit).

Loadshedding is frustrating at times and prepaid electricity can all be a bit confusing, but one thing is for sure: we appreciate electricity more than ever!

Tangible Success

The other day I was walking through one of our ministry sites with a coworker who does not typically get to see all that goes on in the “field”.  Our conversation was mostly about Living Way, the agricultural ministry site that we were walking through. We both found ourselves saying, “Now this is something that I would love to be a part of.” I think this is, in part, because it has tangible success. As you walk through the agricultural tunnels (greenhouses), you can see the fruit growing, even to the point of nearing harvest readiness. For all their hard labor, these students have something to show for it!

Nathaniel in front of one of the agri-academy tomato tunnels.

I remember the days when I worked in construction. At the end of the day there was something to show for my work, whether it be exhaustion from hard work, a freshly primed and painted pillar, or a pile of dust from a wall that no longer stood. I also remember moments teaching in the classroom where students would come to me defeated and claim that they couldn’t do something (or I would hear “I don’t get it!”). Then after a bit of observation, correction, and encouragement, the willing student was able to have success with the task at hand. In these situations it was easy to note the successes of my day.

The plants grow quite nicely shielded from the constant wind and other harsh weather conditions.

Tangible success is sometimes invisible in our roles in ministry. The successes of the day seem miniscule, insignificant, and sometimes seemingly nonexistent. I may have answered a few questions, listened to a couple people’s stories, prayed for/with someone, and written a few emails, cleaned a toilet, or filed paperwork. My day may be full, but I don’t have that pile of drywall, dust, and nails to show for it. I don’t have that middle school student who grins and laughs it off showcasing a new skill when they’ve been reminded that only 30 minutes earlier they were convinced of defeat. Kingdom work is not always tangible. At the end of the day there may not be anything (physically) to show for everything that was done. I may still be as exhausted as if I was knocking drywall with a sledgehammer, but it is different.

Part of my routine is a daily prayer walk around our main campus. I make stops along the way in order to pray for the different ministries, ministry sites, and ministers working in all the communities in which we are involved. The fruit of this labor I may never see and sometimes this is very difficult to understand. However, it does not make it any less significant in value to the work of the ministry.

Along with tomatoes, peppers, kale, spinach, and swiss chard, the agri-academy students can raise chickens for both meat and eggs. The boys loved visiting the chickens!

We are eternally grateful for the many of you who are praying for us. We may be separated by thousands of miles, and you don’t see our day-to-day lives, but please do not let your prayers grow weary. Please do not let your support wane.  Although you may not feel the dirt beneath your fingernails or the muscle fatigue to prove you accomplished something, you are part of fighting a battle far greater than we will ever understand because the Kingdom of God is not of this world.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 (ESV)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

If you want to be a part of what God is doing in South Africa, please get in touch with us!