South African Christian Mission

"Our Core Mission: Teach, Train and Equip"

NEWSLETTER VOL. #7, 2004

Greetings to one and all in the name of Jesus! It seems that the long the year goes on, the faster it moves. (Is that just me or do you feel the same?)

BAVULEMELI
The Children’s Center struggles as it usually does with food for the feeding program. Part of the problem is its own success – street kids gather from all over as the word of mouth spreads. Primrose and Doreen, who prepare the food they have, will not turn anyone away that is hungry. Even if it means cleaning out their own cupboards, they give what they have.

I’ve been trying to integrate the Cape Bible Seminary lessons into practical ministries for those who regularly attend and study the Word. This has always been the aim of the Christian education programs – without help and effort on the ground, the gospel’s message is pretty hollow. It is difficult to teach people who are hungry about Jesus and God’s love. Of all the classes I have, only one is capable, financially and spiritually, to assist the Children’s Center.

The Durbanville group grew out of an introduction by one woman. Over the past eighteen months, it has split, reformed, split and grown into three seperate groups. The original one is hosted by Bro Andre in his home – most who gather regularly on the Monday night course are fairly well off and have good jobs. None of them had ever visitied an African township, just fifteen minutes away by car. During our prayer times for the group, I regularly prayed for Bavumeleni and the kids. Then, Antoinette, the woman who always sat next to me during the courses (the group gathers around a huge dining room table that seats sisteen or so), asked if she could visit the Center with me one day.

I knew Antoinette was sincere but like many Christians had done previously, I didn’t know if a lone white woman from an Afrikaans background would actually be comfortable. At the appointed time, I met Antoinette and with her where an Afrikaans couple, also part of the Monday group, Ria and her husband, Koosie! We drove out and Primrose immeditely embraced all of them warmly. I let her show them around and explain the work that is done for the kids – the feeding program four days a week, the teaching program before and after the soup, the Sunday services conducted by the kids and her own humble home from which she does everything. On the drive back, they were all very quiet. I think Antoinette was nearly in tears.

I needn’t have been concerned about their reluctance to enter an African township. Koosie immediately organized a few boxes of toiletries, soap and shampoo. Ria cleaned out her cupboards and gave several bags of good clothes. Antoinette badgered one of the most exclusive food chains for donations. (It still thrills me even today to see the poorest of society being fed from the king’s table!) The repsonse from these three, who had never set food in a township before, was overwhelming. All of them confided in me that this is what they had been searching for – the opportunity to channel their talents and resources into a practical ministry. I can only thank the Lord for His mercies and what this means to the children.

PERSONAL
Why does the flu attack during the wrong time? Just when the CBS schedule is the busiest, it seems that illness leaps out from nowhere. Normally, a simple cold or flu puts me out of commission for three days or so – this one stayed with me for three WEEKS! Unfortunately, I had to cancel two speaking dates with new contact churches which I was looking forward to with anticipation. CBS courses are introduced soley by word of mouth and I don’t like to disappoint anyone – when the gospel is taught correctly, it changes lives!

A troubling problem for us has been the exchange rate between the US Dollar and the SA Rand – the Dollar’s value has been weakening and less Rand is exchanged for us to use in the CBS programs. Gasoline prices have also been steadily rising. The result of this might be cutting back on travel. Normally, Queenstown is visited for CBS classes and planning every quarter. Then, also the churches in the Boland are visited regularly, too. I don’t want to cut back, particuarly when Christians look forward to the classes. Please pray for this situation – we need help on this.

The Isuzu bakkie didn’t cooperate either. We’ve been noticing small patches on the driveway in recent weeks so I took it down to the dealership for a service and check-up. I was floored when they called to say that the repairs would cost $2000! The seals and gaskets around the gearbox, train and engine neede replacing – some of them were still okay but since they had the whole thing in pieces, it would be wise to replace all of them, they said. Also, there were worn parts in the diff that should be replaced. I quickly wrote to Shirley Neuenschwander and Dave McLaughlin – I was assured that it was okay to proceed. The pick-up is the only heavy haul vehicle we have here and it is needed to distribute books and Bibles. An anonymous donor helped with the repairs and we thank the Lord for that. The Isuzu is back on the road, friskier and better than ever!

Wayne and Barbara Ferguson will be arriving from Colorado with a team to work on the building at Bavumeleni next month. Please pray for their safety. All are hightly motivated to serve the kids and help with painting, repair and maintance.

We thank everyone for your prayers and assistance in the Lord’s work in South Africa.

Steve and Pat Zimmerman
S.A. Christian Mission, Cape Town

Editor’s Note: I want to personally thank you for your financial support and efforts to provide books and materials for the people we reach. I also want to appeal to you on behalf of the work and Steve. As opportunities abound finances are down from last year. We are planning a return trip home for Steve in 2005. In the meantime his personal expenses have greatly been burden by the financial situation in South Africa. Please pray for God’s provisions as we wait upon Him. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us. Thank you!

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SACM Update #11

It happens: the kudu gets loose and people have to round it up again.

On a farm across the valley called Clara Anna Fontein, the owners keep a few wild buck. The largest of all African antelope is the kudu — it easily stands shoulder-height, has two long twisty horns and can weigh up to 700 pounds. The farm has a few of them.

Someone left the enclosure gate open and an adventurous kudu wandered out. The danger is that Durbanville (where Steve and Pat Zimmerman live) has quite a heavy traffic road that borders the farm. Whilst accidents with wild animals in the area are extremely rare, a kudu is large enough to wreck a car and severely injure the passengers.

A brief chase ended the kudu’s brief freedom. It strictly isn’t a “chase” but rather a slow and deliberate encouragement to prcoeed in a certain direction! Not that kudu are generally dangerous to humans but it is a wild animal and when frightened, could do a lot of damage.

Durbanville was once again a safe place!

Field Report – October 2004

Greetings to one and all in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ! I actually cannot believe that another six months has zipped past with pause. Is it my imagination or does someone have their finger firmly on the Fast Forward button?

GENERAL
It’s the old vaudeville routine: Good News, Bad News.

The Bad News is that gasoline has risen seven times in the past six months in substantial amounts. This is due to the fluctuating Rand/Dollar exchange rate (all crude oil is quoted by the barrel in dollars) and more recently, because of the continuing problems in Iraq and the Middle East. Right now, the pump price is R4.89 per liter and estimates are that it will rise over R5.25 within a month. The biggest expense on the Mission Budget has always been gasoline – already, I am in a position where I must cut back on travel. This effects not only the Cape Bible Seminary courses but also the book distribution for the library projects.

Good News is that inflation has slowed (the government waxes eloquent about it being around 5-6% but anyone who shops knows it is still 9-10%) and interest rates have steadied (12% for mortgage bonds; 18-20% for credit cards). The economy is slowly growing in certain areas but unemployment remains over 40%, including many Christians who are still seeking work.

CAPE BIBLE SEMINARY
As ever, word gets around.

I have never been so committed to so many classes in so many areas before! I run CBS courses run every night from Sunday to Thursday; every Friday morning and every other Sunday morning. (This is aside from preaching and other speaking dates.) Enrollment stands at about 150 for my classes and 100 for Ntobie’s. The problem is that the more Ntobie and I teach, word of mouth spreads and more Christians ask for classes. Just recently, we were asked to split a 60 minute session in Mbekweni (a township in Paarl, about 30 miles from Cape Town at the foot of the eastern mountains) – Pastor Happy is a Shangaan (the Zimbabwe border area) and has a circuit of about six churches. I took thirty minutes and then Thompson did the other half, right on my heels. The response was tremendous! Ntobie’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing – all six churches now want Cape Bible Seminary classes. Exactly where and how we can fit them in remains to be seen.

CONTAINER PROJECT
A major impact has been the books. The ton of New Testaments have lasted as long as a snowball in the Mojave Desert at midday in summer. The youth ate them up! It was an ideal text for those who’s first language isn’t English – I spared ten boxes for prison ministries and I had a call from Pastor Jerome Pienaar (who heads one of the ministries) that the recipients have asked for visitation and teaching to explain the gospel that they read about in their new books. (Talk about a captive audience!) It is thanks to Stroh who had the vision to commit themselves to such an amount that this specialized ministry has made such a major impact in the lives of criminals. I have been asked to visit with Pastor Jerome to assess the needs of the prisoners.

Two embryo library projects have started with the first deliveries of the boxes of books. Queenstown and Elsies River have taken major parts and have already prepared themselves for this – both have set aside rooms with shelves and certain Christians have been nominated to unpack, sort and put them into place. At this moment, neither area is ready to open doors but they are close to doing so.

I am ready to take another three loads of boxes to Queenstown but lack the funds – it is an six hundred mile journey each way and, of course, with the pick-up being loaded, plus hauling a trailer, diesel consumption is higher. Please pray for this because the objective is to establish more libraries and place Christian books in the hands of the communities, as well as expand the outreach of the churches.

I’ve been asked to comment on the contents of the Container:

1.First and foremost, Bibles of any kind and description are needed. The easy-to-read Celebration New Testaments via Stroh and Jeff Cook were a major hit. The study Bibles (NIV Thompson Chain), Halley’s Handbook, etc were also huge impacts – I passed these out to the CBS students first and they are devouring them at an enornous rate of knots!

2.Sunday School materials, especially the colorful boxes sets, have the Sunday School teachers in states of ecstasy – they haven’t seen anything like it. The VBS materials have been distributed and I still have about thirty boxes left to distribute. The local churches have a swap scheme so that when one church is finished with the material, they’ll trade it with another group. This will maximize the usage.

3.The “ordinary” materials – dictionaries, self-help, topical subjects, etc – are reserved for the small libraries at present. I am sorting out which material goes where and it is slower but targeted for the best possible use. These usually come from the libraries in the US that closed doors and the unacceptable novels, etc I either destroy or pass on to an ordinary city library. (South Africa doesn’t spend much on new books for their own libraries – two head librarians locally are so impressed with these donations! Word gets around….!)

So many people have really worked hard for this project. Many have donated Bibles and funding. Stroh has been instrumental in assuring the Word gets out to those who’s English reading skills are elementary. Bob and Bob (Roberta) Snyder have worked like Trojans to ensure that the books are collected, packed in standard sized boxes, carefully stored and shipped in the Container. All this hard work has really made this project hum.

Do we need another Container? Absolutely! The When and How must be decided but the impact here has been tremendous. (If a team could contact the Christian publishers in Grand Rapids directly, perhaps we could get a donation?)

QUEENSTOWN
This area has been one of the major success stories in South Africa. Of all the church groups, the Christians living here have annually baptized more people and restored more backsliders than almost all the other churches combined. The youth is enthusiastic and new leaders are emerging with each session of the Cape Bible Seminary courses being taught. Already, four plots of land have been purchased, two new buildings are under construction. Ntobie and I try to travel there every quarter. The library project has been started. Although I don’t have exact figures (very difficult to get the elders to understand the reasons to take stock), I believe nearly two hundred new Christians have been added to the Lord’s body this year alone.

BAVUMELENI
I became involved in a local children’s feeding project earlier this year. One of the Christians in my Tuesday night CBS class, a Brazilian named Reinaldo Rutter, introduced me to Wayne and Barbara Ferguson from Colorado, who started to come along to the CBS class. They had raised funding on their own to help Sister Primrose, a Christian Xhosa woman, to feed street kids in one of the poorest townships in the city. When it was apparent that the Ferguson’s would have to return to the US because of a medical problem, I agreed to help.

Four days a week, Primrose and Doreen (another Christian woman) prepare soup and bread for about three hundred street children. Many of them have no other meal on those days. Most are from homes of extreme poverty, have been abused, abandoned and live in the streets, prey to gangs and violence on a regular basis. When I see a skinny four year old carefully balance a scavenged plastic container filled with hot soup on his head as he hurries home to share it with his bedridden grandmother, I wonder sometimes where my own priorities are.

Two ladies from my Monday night CBS class, Antoinette and Ria, came with me one day to visit Primrose’s house and see for themselves the dire need of the kids. I have been trying for years to bring together such diverse groups so that South African Christians can share with one another. Both Afrikaner ladies had never visited a township in their entire lives – they were shocked to the core with what they saw being done with so little. And, in an answer to my prayers, both women have taken on Bavumeleni as their personal service to the Lord. Antoinette has been badgering one of the most exclusive food stores in the city for donations – the manager finally put Bavumeleni on the list. The last time I went to collect food, the entire back seat and trunk was filled to the brim! The irony of the poorest and most needy of the city eating from the king’s table of delights has not been lost on me. In addition, clothing, cupboards, shoes, crockery, towels, blankets and toys have been donated through these ladies, as well as Pat and I.

More important, Primrose and her helpers will begin Bible classes taught by Ntobie and I in shifts so that they can teach the children of Jesus and His love. Every Sunday morning in a tent across the street, the kids praise and worship the Lord – everything is done by the children themselves. There are no elders, deacons or preachers. They bring other kids from the street to hear the simple gospel message that they themselves understand. I have never seen anything of the like in my life. Maybe I’m missing something?

PERSONAL
This year has been one of complete change in our lives. All three sons have embarked on their own pathways – Kent and Kyle took jobs in South Carolina and requested that we not say anything to anyone! They wanted to “make it on their own first”. We’ve learned in the past two weeks that Kent married a girl who works alongside and she is from Durban in South Africa! As yet, we don’t know all the details and are awaiting the pictures. It was so sudden that we didn’t get a chance to attend or even send a gift. Kyle plans to return to SA in January to discuss his situation with his girlfriend, Elle – we don’t know what is on his mind either. Then, Kelley (the youngest at 22) returned from his last stint in the UK and three weeks ago, asked his girlfriend of four years, Louise, to marry him! They left for jobs in Florida two weeks ago.

To say this has dramatically altered our lifestyle would be an understatement. From zero to two sons making marital commitments within weeks has really rocked us. We can only pray that the Lord guides and blesses them with their choices.

Our financial situation is under drastic pressure. The Rand/Dollar has really hit us hard and currently stands at R6.19/$1.00, way down from the usual R9.50/$1.00 – a huge drop. When it was over R10.00, we stashed the excess for a rainy day – our personal expenses were down and we tightened our belts. For the past six months, the excess has disappeared both for the Mission and ourselves. We haven’t had an increase for two years and things are really tight.

Despite this, we remain committed to the Lord’s labor. There have been exciting changes and new challenges. Many have come to Christ. Not just due to our efforts but due to the committed Christians in the States who help and fund the work. Pat and I want to thank all of you for your assistance and prayers. The S.A. Christian Mission accomplishes more with the funding than any other mission in South Africa.

Steve and Pat Zimmerman
S.A. Christian Mission, Cape Town