2003

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #14

The ship’s Captain was warned repeatedly by the port authorities during the night. His anchors were dragging and the storm was raging at gale-force strength. Except to put out an additional anchor for safety, the advices were ignored. For seafarers not familiar with the brutal storms of the Cape of Good Hope, the weather appears to be rough but survivable. The vast twinkling array of lights surrounding the bay around Cape Town seem warm and inviting. Deceptively so.

In the early hours just before dawn today (Aug 19th), a frantic call from the Captain and First Officer was made — they were dangerously close to shore and drifting quickly, despite the anchors. Two harbor tugs were immediately despatched and managed to secure bow lines in the stormy seas at great risk to the crew. To no avail. The Maersk Lines “Sealand Express” struck the beach side-on to the screaming winds and pounding waves — the fully laden Container ship had run aground with a huge crash.

Steve Zimmerman just finished a mid-morning meeting and heard about the wreck stuck fast on the shifting sands of the beach. He drove through the scattered rain showers and found the huge ship silhouetted against the world-famous Table Mountain. “I could easily hear the hull grind against the sand shoals. The bow would twist and turn with each successive wave, then the stern would shift and the ship would buckle in the center. The waves were so high, the spray flew over the bridge and stacked containers stored on deck!” he said.

At this moment, the crew is still onboard. A helicopter from a salvage company is currently assessing the status but with the sea still raging directly against the vessel, slamming it continually on the sands, it is doubtful it will be saved before the hull finally breaks.

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #13

The church is Ruyterwacht, an extremely economically depressed area, is active and alive. They do not own their own building, which they would dearly love to do, but rent a church hall from the Dutch Reformed Church (Christian Reformed in the US) who abandoned the area some years ago. Their Pastor and his wife, Andy and Patricia Williams, welcome the Cape Bible Seminary at every opportunity. Currently, there are classes held for the Christians every Thursday evening.

Recently, the congregation became aware of an increase in social problems around their center of worship. Crime, house-breaking, muggings, etc seemed to spiral out of control even though the police attempted to stem the tide. Instead of hunkering down and closing the doors, Bro Andy decided to meet the challenges head-on. The members visited their neighborhoods and invited people to attend the worship services. At first the response was very slow but then, gradually, people started coming. The significant factor was when the parents brought their kids, too — amazingly, the problems in the area seem to ease as the young kids and adults were included in the active life of the church.

Steve Zimmerman was teaching a CBS course one evening and Bro David came very late, out of breath — most unlike him. Afterwards, he explained to Bro Andy and Steve that he had been stopped by a young prostitute on the way and took time to speak with her. At first, she dismissed him as just another “Bible-puncher” but then began to listen as Dave explained his faith in Christ and what it could mean to her. The men prayed for the girl even though she wouldn’t accompany Dave to the class. It remains to be seen what will happpen as the men follow up.

Please pray for this girl and the church’s effectiveness under pressure.

The church is Ruyterwacht, an extremely economically depressed area, is active and alive. They do not own their own building, which they would dearly love to do, but rent a church hall from the Dutch Reformed Church (Christian Reformed in the US) who abandoned the area some years ago. Their Pastor and his wife, Andy and Patricia Williams, welcome the Cape Bible Seminary at every opportunity. Currently, there are classes held for the Christians every Thursday evening.

Recently, the congregation became aware of an increase in social problems

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #12

It is an event when the Cape Bible Seminary visits an area! Thompson Ntobie and Steve Zimmerman visited the Queenstown area (approx 800 miles from Cape Town) and are always received with great expectations. The basic arrangements are as follows: the area to be visited must find a suitable place for the classes, then provide food, tables, chairs, etc as well as overnight accommodation if necessary. (Some students travel a hundred miles through the mountains to attend the classes.)

In Ilinge (approx 20 miles south of Queenstown), all the preparations had been made. When Thompson and Steve arrived, two men were already there at the doors, waiting patiently. They had been there all afternoon and didn’t want to miss anything! As is usual, the brothers arranged with the local school to borrow a room for the evening and weekends to accommodate the crowd — everybody had a seat and a desk.

Teaching is done through an interpreter — English to isiXhosa (and very occasionally Tse-Tswana) — so all the classes take time to explain and edify, especially with lively questions asked and answered across cultural and linguistic lines! Usually, twice a day, tea is served to everyone.

Without this vital link of solid doctrine, the African churches would struggle. But, because they know there is regular training and teaching, they are bolder and more eager to take the Word to the lost in the surrounding townships, villages and isolated areas. The youth, in particular, are keen and enthusiastic. Whenever Thompson and Steve visit, they wait patiently until after the classes or during the tea time to ask questions, discuss their strategies and find ways to solve the m amy problems they encounter. (The drastic increase in HIV/AIDS concerns them greatly.)

One of the elders, Bro Tsewu, told Steve before he left, “Brother, without the teaching of the Word and encouragement you bring, we could not save so many people for Christ! We thank the Lord every day for His rich blessings through the Cape Bible Seminary!”

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #11

Recently, the leadership of the Elsies River church asked for a meeting with Steve Zimmerman in his home. Obviously, there was something on their minds and Steve opened his home to them for a confidential discussion.

Five men arrived and after the obligatory cup of tea and brief chat, the main topic was broached. The church was in severe financial straits — a few years ago, a splinter group left the main body, took the treasury with them and sued the congregation to take the name, too. It was fought through the courts and the church retained their name and the building — the funds, however, were never returned. The church had to borrow R100,000 to meet all the court costs, lawyer’s fees and other expenses, which were now overdue. They had been paying the interest on the debt but not the capital amount.

A number of options were discussed, including a bank loan (interest is still very high here — 14% and higher) and fund raising efforts. The church is located in one of the main gangland areas and unemployment is very high amongst the Christians. Despite the severe difficulties, the congregation is unbowed and seeking ways to fulfill their financial obligations. The men left after intensive prayers but with high hopes that theirs will be answered.

It is heart-rending to hear their plight but such an encouragment to see their faith. We can only pray that the Lord will guide them.

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #10

Winter in South Africa isn’t as severe as the American variety. Steve Zimmerman is asked a lot about what it is like during winter in Cape Town.

First, it never snows, hails or falls below zero (except in the highest elevations of the Hottentot-Mountain Range, thirty miles east of the city). In fact, just recently, snow fell on the lofty peaks and will last only a few weeks before it melts. Also, there are no hurricanes, tornadoes or thunderstorms. The temperature drops to about 45 F (brrr, can’t you just feel it? Ha ha!) and it rains a lot — the climate is perhaps more like Italy than Africa!

Second, many species of flowers bloom only in winter, during the wettest months of the year. The Pincushion Protea is a spectacular flower that has no scent but covers certain areas of the mountain slopes and valleys. Yards all over Cape Town have summer, spring and winter flowering shurbs and plants. Even the grass stays green and fresh in winter although it does grow a lot slower.

Third, the highest rainfall occurs in Cape Town during the winter months of June-Sept. The seasons are exactly the opposite of the northern hemisphere — summer is Dec-April. Being very damp in the winter causes a lot of colds, flu and other lung ailments. Tourists still travel to South Africa during the winter months and are surprised to find it so warm and sunny!

Africa is stranger than it looks!
DATELINE CAPE TOWN #9

A curious sign stopped Steve Zimmerman in his tracks at one of the gas stations along the road. There are long stretches of empty road the further into the interior you travel. Although there are adequate gas stations and gasoline available in the towns along the way, it is wise to plan a trip carefully — running out of gas or a breakdown in the middle of the Karoo might delay a trip by a day or so.
The sign itself is strange: “Abandoned Vehicles Will Be Towed Away” and immediately underneath it is a symbol for wheelchair access. Does this mean that apparently “abandoned” people is wheelchairs will be towed away? To where? And for how long?

Thompson Notibe and Steve Zimmerman laughed about this one. Just be careful
with your grandparents at this gas stop!
DATELINE CAPE TOWN #8

When African Christians finally obtain a piece of ground upon which they intend to build a church hall, they first “dedicate” it to the service of God. (This also occurs when a building is completed and the first service conducted in it.) The congregation at Ilinge near Queenstown dedicated a piece of land which they recently purchased. It is located in a green valley with small settlements surrounded the hills and slopes of the mountains.

Just before Steve Zimmerman’s sermon on Sunday morning, the people sang a lively song and everyone marched from the schoolroom where the Cape Bible Seminary classes were held to the vacant plot of land. The church leaders march in front with the youth choirs behind, singing and dancing as they proceed. This collects a large crowd along the way who are curious to the event being celebrated. By the time everyone arrives at the plot, there are many more people gathered than was in the church service!

The dedication is short and simple. The elder of the local church prays for the land, thankful to the Lord for His providence and wisdom. The area evangelist, Thompson Ntobie, was asked to provide a few words of encouragement so that the people can save their funds and build as soon as they can. Afterwards, the choir sing joyously as the group walks back to resume the Sunday service, everyone, even strangers, sharing in the celebration.

What an example this is for Christians. To give thanks and participate in the joys of our Father in Heaven. So simple, so direct!

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #7
During the last visit to Queenstown in February, Steve Zimmerman carried a special gift with him: a used Bible. It had been specifically left behind by Bob Snyder during his visit to the Cape with his wife (they were married on top of Table Mountain). Bob said he could get another one back home. He used it during his stay in South Africa and when it came time to leave, he gave his personal Bible to Steve — Bob wanted it passed on to someone who would use it and get a benefit from it.

That’s not all the Snyders left behind: they brought extra shoes and items of clothing which they left for the African Christians. During their stay, it was learned that one of the brethren in Khayelitsha, Bro Eric Ngczinyathi’s brother, had a fire in their home and lost everything exceptt the clothes they had on. Steve drove the bags of clothing to Thompson who passed them immediately to the stricken family. God provides His people in mysterious ways! How did Bob and Roberta know that their donations would be needed immediately? Only God knew!

When Steve arrived at the schoolhouse in Ilinge, he met one of his clan members, Bro Michael Tsewu who is the youth leader of the area. (Steve has been a member of the Tshonyane clan for two years and his clan home is Queenstown!) Michael is a hard worker and has personally headed up the tape ministry for the youth, many of whom can speak English very well. (The tapes are sent once a month from Greenboro, NC by Bob Kelper and are the weekly sermons given from the pulpit. Thanks, Bob!!) Each area of the youth is provided with a few tapes which they hear and discuss during their regular meetings.

Bro Michael was surprised to hear that he had a gift from an American Christian he didn’t know. Steve passed over the Bible which was enthusiastically received with much thanksgiving. During the weekend, Michael took every opportunity to read from it when he translated or helped with the discussions.

Such a simple gift. Such an eternal blessing. Thank you, Bob and Roberta!

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #6
One of the curious aspects of many worship services in Africa is the diversity in which each culture performs their worship to God. Usually, in the Xhosa services, it is backwards to a normal American service. The Xhosas love to sing, which they do lustily, and dance as they do so. Then, the service is handed over to the elder in charge who hands it over to the preacher of the morning. After that, a simple Communion is served, followed by the collection.

In certain areas, the collection is taken by the deacons or young men appointed to the task. Before the prayer of thanks is given, the money is counted as the congregation remains on their feet, singing. Once the total is known, it is announced to the church together with the number in attendance. And then the prayer of thanks is given.

It is simple to do the math. If a collection is $200 and there are a hundred there, then is it averaged out at $2 per person. This is taken very seriously by the Africans. Many are poor and in need (unemployment calculated by the government is over 30% and probably a lot higher). The churches are faced with a huge challenge: to help those in their communities who are in need.

The churches in the Queenstown area do a tremendous work amongst the poor. They share what they have and their congregations and preaching stations are continually growing. Steve Zimmerman and Thompson Ntobie visit them regularly and take teaching materials so that the gospel can be spread.

What would happen if churches in America had this peculiar habit of counting the collection and announcing the result in the service? Maybe someone will try it!

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #5
Thompson Ntobie and Steve Zimmerman drove to Queenstown for a regular quarterly visit. Steve hadn’t visited the area since his return from furlough and wanted to fellowship with the churches there. They took Bro Eric Ngczinyathi with them — Eric is one of the volunteer evangelists of the Evangelism Team.
During one of the Cape Bible Seminary classes on Saturday afternoon, Steve illustrated one of the joys of a Christian in the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you love must one another.” (John 13:34) One of the ways to express this kind of compassion was to share with those in need. One of the elders in the local church commented that Jesus asked a person with two coats to give one who had none.
Ilinge, the area which hosted the CBS courses this time, is a poor rural community. It is outside of Queenstown and cut off from it by a range of mountains. Steve saw the people from Lady Frere there, too. They were an even poorer community than Ilinge and further from Queenstown and employment opportunities. After the elder made this comment, Steve saw Bro Gobo from Lady Frere sitting in the front row. Bro Gobo is a faithful student and whenever the CBS courses are taught anywhere in the Queenstown region, he is always there no matter what it cost him. Steve noticed that Bro Gobo always wore the same jacket — it was well used but clean.
To illustrate the point that was discussed, Steve took off his jacket and gifted it to Bro Gobo. The people sat stunned in their seats. After the class, there was intense discussions in different parts of the schoolyard where the meetings were held. During supper, several Christians shared bread and food with the children hanging around the gates who were hungry.
Sometimes, it is the simplest things that are both easy and difficult to do. Yet, when compassion is shown, it always brings thankfulness.
DATELINE CAPE TOWN #4
Steve is Cape Town biggest fan and a permanent tourist of the city. When visitors arrive, he is always ready and available to take people around to see the sites and visit the churches. When Bob and Roberta Snyder came to Cape Town for two weeks, they saw the sights and had fellowship with the brethren in different areas. On their travels, Steve stopped at a local McDonalds for a quick meal. Bob, Roberta and Steve were sitting at the table, eating and discussing the work when a little girl stopped at the table and politely waited until they had finished speaking. Her big round eyes looked at Steve’s cowboy hat which he had purchased during his furlough in New Mexico. She pointed to Steve and asked in a small voice, “Uncle, are you really a cowboy?” Everyone laughed and Steve said that if his horse wasn’t outside, then he wasn’t a real cowboy. The girl nodded and left.
A few weeks later, Steve was in the local 7-Eleven (yes, there are branches in South Africa). Three kids were gathered around the ice cream freezer when a little boy looked up, saw Steve and said to his friends, “I’ll ask the cowboy, he’ll know!” Steve stopped when the boy asked him if the ice cream he wanted to buy contained surgar. “My Mom says that I can’t have it if is has sugar.” Steve read the label and said it did. The boy turned back to his friends and said, “See, I told you he’d know!”
Are there real cowboys left in the world? Would they please stand up Obviously, they know things…..!
DATELINE CAPE TOWN #3
Steve apologizes for the delay in updates. Since he’s been back to Cape Town, a number of the brethren have phoned and asked for a meeting to discuss future plans for 2003. Plus his server (iAfrica.com) has had a few technical problems which have been sorted out. The Zimmermans send their greetings to one and all for 2003.

Dr Phil Seeger and his wife, arrived on the “Marco Polo” in December. They are from the congregation at Los Alamos (NM) where Phil worked as a physicist. One of the Seeger’s “hobbies” is to follow solar eclipses around the world. In 2002, there was one off the eastern coast of Africa. Uknowingly, they embarked at Mombasa right at the time of the terrorist bombing of the Israeli owned hotel and were hustled onto the ship after many security checks. Fortunately, none of the passengers had been injured in the attack and embarkation went smoothly.

Phil’s photograph of the eclipse is quite spectacular (Steve will try to get a copy) even though the weather was quite cloudy at the time. When they arrived in the Cape, Steve took them to Thompson Ntobie’s new office which he proudly showed to them. Thompson was busy with new translation work and was pleased that he could show it off firsthand. The Seeger’s kindly brought a gift for the Ntobie family, an Indian artifact from New Mexico, with which Sylvie Ntobie was delighted.

Unfortunately, there was only one day to work with and after meeting Thompson, Steve drove them to Stellenbosch, perhaps thirty miles from Cape Town for a pleasant afternoon’s lunch and cultural tour.

The Zimmerman’s always welcome visitors, especially from supporting churches. The Seeger’s will take back photographs and a personal report of the work in South Africa which will encourage others.

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #2
Thompson Ntobie’s office is finished! This was the good news everyone had been waiting for. Thompson and a few others worked hard to complete the structure and afterwards, he moved into the room with simple furnishings. The Off the Wall Class at Rousculp sent funds for a new filing cabinet, chairs, desk lamp, floor tiles and a sleeper chair. Steve and Thompson went shopping and he was like a dog with three tails — he didn’t know what to chose first.
The desk lamp was quite important. Although he has flourescent lights in the ceiling, Thompson needs additional illumination for the books, notes and typing. At first, he didn’t seem to keen on it but once he saw the brightness it provided, he leaves it on all the time.
Already, Ntobie has called several private meetings in his office which have borne fruit. Steve and Thompson have met with the Evangelism Team and planned a roster for 2002. The young men were surprised and delighted with the new office, opening all the drawers, switching on all the lights, sitting in the chairs and commenting how professional it appears. They took great pride in it.
The Team will begin their tasks as soon as the summer vacation break is over. Normally, the factories and offices begin work in mid-Jan and a full complement of workers is in place by the third week of the month. Linda Mase, one of the young preachers, has re-ogranized the schedule from last year — instead of once a month visits, they have planned twice a month visits to the churches in the mountains. It will be more gasoline and they don’t have the funding for it but they have faith. Most of the gas money comes from their own pockets. Bro Kanzi, Thompson and Steve sent ehe letters to the churches advising the new schedule (see photo).
Thompson has thanked the Lord many times for his new office. He anticipates and expects great things to be done with it.

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #1
A few months ago, a woman pulled out in front of Steve as he was driving to fetch Thompson. The accident was serious but only minor injuries were sustained.

It was hopeful that the Aerostar could be recovered after the insurance company wrote it off. Steve spoke extensively with the assessor and the proposed repair shop — since the van is unique and there are no parts for it in South Africa, the assessor indicated that he wanted to scrap it and let us do what we wanted. Dave McLaughlin (Chairman of the South African Christian Mission in the US) called and it was discussed in detail. Since a Land/Sea Container would be leaving the States within a few months with Bibles, books and Christian materials, parts could be included to repair the van.

After negotiating with the insurance company directly, the situation changed. They would total it and pay out but they would retain the wreck. Our broker advised to take the money (approx $3600) and make an offer for it later. This is an option but an unlikely one — the engine is still intact and it would seem likely that they could salvage and sell that out of hand.

This leaves us without a heavy haul vehicle. With the Container coming and many boxes of books, etc to move, it would be essential to have a pick-up or similar vehicle to distribute the materials. A good secondhand diesel pick-up (two or three years old in excellent condition) would cost approximately $10,000.

This is the most urgent need at the moment and we need your prayers.

DATELINE CAPE TOWN #15

DATELINE CAPE TOWN A huge storm, fronting over a thousand miles, slammed into the southern part of the African continent late last night (Aug 19th). It brought the coldest temperatures to Cape Town in forty years. For the first time in a decade, it snowed on top of Table Mountain (height 3636 ft) while in the city itself, torrential rains poured relentlessly and winds blew down trees and roofs from houses.

Dawn brought icy cold conditions in the Boland mountains to the east of the city. Several passes were closed because of snow and hail. For those living in homemade shacks in the lower parts of the townships, they spend the night huddled in schools and community halls. The shacks were flooded.

Amazingly, during the morning, sudden squalls dropped more rain and lightning flashes were seen! (Cape Town rarely has thunderstorms or lightning.) Fortunately, it didn’t snow in the city — only the higher elevations were covered with light dusts of snow.

It is predicted that the chilly conditions will last a few more days until the cold front moved further east.

In the meantime, Steve Zimmerman and Thompson Ntobie are visiting the Christians in the affected areas to see what their needs are. Already, it has been reported one family has lost most of their food which Steve will replace. Please pray for the African Christians who are in need.