Greetings from a sunny, hot South Africa! This year’s rains didn’t fill up the dams in the mountains and right now, the greater Cape Town metropolitan area is under severe water restrictions – watering of lawns, gardens, etc are permitted only once a week for an hour!

Cape Bible Seminary
This year has been a bumper year for the Cape Bible Seminary courses and classes. Every night of the week from Sunday to Thursday, classes were conducted in different areas of the city – from the rich northern suburbs to the townships and even the ganglands. All the courses are taught in ten week modules on topical studies or book of the Bible. The attendance of the classes range from 75 – 100.

In addition to the evening classes, the Elsies River church continued with their Sunday morning program – every second and fourth Sunday of the month, instead of a regular worship service, Pastor Sam Jacobs turns over the major part of the morning to the Cape Bible Seminary. It is the only time that all of the people are there. (It’s difficult to gather the congregation for an evening study course because most work in factories or some distance away from the church building.) There are usually 80 – 100 Christians on Sunday morning CBS classes.

This year has been a real blessing in bridging the gap between the white, more affluent CBS students and Christians living in the townships. At first, only one lady, Antoinette, an Afrikaner woman, offered to help with an African children’s feeding scheme. The Monday evening group is hosted by Andre and Rogene Brandt in their luxury home – when it first began, there were only four Christians who came. Now, every seat it full around the huge dining room table, plus folding chairs were brought for the overflow. The make-up of the group was startling: rigid Afrikaans Dutch Reformers, a few independent Baptists, a sprinkling of Pentecostals and two who gave up on their denominational affiliations. The courses were always lively and challenging but through the weeks and months of allowing the Bible to teach, every student has eagerly renewed their faith in Jesus Christ.

Antoinette felt she had to do something with her life. She volunteered to help with the children’s feeding scheme, situated in Bloukombos, a poverty stricken township with lawlessness and gangs. To my surprise, she accompanied me when I visited Sister Primrose and the kids – Antoinette threw herself into badgering supermarkets, bakeries and fresh product outlets for donations. Then, when the response picked up, she recruited another couple in the Monday night group to help – Ria and her husband, Koosie. Then, it snowballed into her friend, also named Antoinette, that usually sat next to her Monday evenings! Now, three more around that dining room table are becoming involved.

This has been my prayer for many years. To introduce these two groups to one another and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to bring out gifts and talents to meet the needs of the community. The Cape Bible Seminary classes aren’t just about learning the Word as an intellectual exercise but a deeper commitment to practical Christian ministries. If the needs of the community are met by the church, then the opportunities for the gospel are boundless.

The Queenstown churches had continued to work hard. Over 200 people have been baptized into Christ this year. They are the first recipients of the books from the Container Project and have constructed shelves, etc needed for their fledgling library. Ntobie and I visit them quarterly to teach classes and assist with their outreach programs.

Container Project
When Robert and Roberta Snyder visited Cape Town two years ago, they returned and took it upon themselves to help with the Container Project – Bibles, Sunday School materials and books were needed for the Christians in South Africa. One of the SACM’s objectives is to establish four or five Christian library centers in the townships. That way, the entire community can have access to the Word as well as ordinary reference works for school studies. The first Container arrived in 2004 after many churches and individuals donated funding and boxes of books.

All the Bibles, New Testaments and Halley’s Handbooks were distributed within weeks. The word of mouth spread and the phone rang off the hook! I took the first load of boxes to Queenstown, which enthusiastically welcomed every single box and book. Also, Pastor Sam Jacobs has helped distribute the Bibles and Sunday School materials to churches in the ganglands.

We intend bringing in another Container in 2005.

Bavumeleni Children’s Center
Tuesdays evening CBS classes are held in the home of Reinaldo and Lorna Rutter – he his Brazilian and she is South African. Reinaldo introduced me to Wayne and Barbara Ferguson who left their home in Colorado to work permanently with the African kids at the center. (Unfortunately, Wayne has a medical condition which is better treated in the States than here – they had to sell up and relocate back to the Denver area this year.) I was taken to the BCC to meet Primrose and Doreen, who fed the township children four afternoons a week. The needs of the kids were enormous – besides being hungry, many had no direction and were victims of poverty, abuse and the street gangs. (Many a night, there would be a knock on Primrose’s door and she’d let the kids sleep on the floor in her house for safety.)

I was asked to help with the Bavumeleni Children’s Center. (The response from the Monday evening CBS group has made an enormous impact upon the kids as well as those who serve.) In 2005, Primrose and I will begin classes for the team leaders (usually teenage kids) who in turn, will teach their groups. Every Sunday morning, Primrose and the kids conduct their own worship service – everything is done by the children. They sing, they bring simple Bible stories, they read the Bible and they bring other kids from the streets. There are no elders, deacons, pastors or other church officials. Yet, Jesus is proclaimed and taught, the kids are enthusiastic about the changes in their lives.

Wayne and Barbara led a 15-person working team from Colorado in November to help at the BCC. They repaired Primrose’s simple home, bought her a new carpet and furniture, painted, made a great sign for outside and helped with the kids. The changes on both the team and the children were enormous. It is expensive to leave the States, fly to South Africa, stay for over two weeks, provide the funds to repair and maintain the work and still give even more than that for special needs. One couple didn’t have enough money for the air ticket but the rest of the team chipped in so they could come. This is true sacrifice and service in Christ’s kingdom to meet the needs of others.

AIDS Crisis Center
Pastor Queun Raaf heads up an AIDS Crisis center in Elsies River. This is a privately funded project by a local church – they have a facility and rooms for terminally ill AIDS patients of the community. Pastor Q (I nicknamed him after the fixit scientist in the James Bond movies!) is dedicated to reaching those who are in dire need. He asked for books, Sunday School materials and New Testaments. There’s a Bible next to each bed of each patient. It is such a blessing to see the expressions of people as the read the Word.

Personal
This year saw all of our son leave home. Kyle and Kelley worked in England; Kent left Springbok; then later, Kent and Kyle accepted contract work in South Caroline and Kelley went to Florida. Very confusing with all the arrivals and departures! Kelley asked his girlfriend of four years, Louise, to marry him (she accepted!) and Kent was married to a South African girl working in South Carolina!

Pat and I have been blessed in the Lord’s work and seen many changes in the lives of Christians and those who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior, then baptized into the Body. We will return to the US in May 2005 for a brief furlough and visit many of you. (Mark Vernik, a minister in Lima, OH will be contacting the churches to set up a schedule.)