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?
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.
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?)
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.
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?
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