Greetings from out West! Yes, we flew out of Tampa Bay on the first day of June bound for Albuquerque. The Christians in Florida had been very good to us and it was time to move on.
My aunt and uncle in Rio Rancho, Bill and JoAnn Claybrook, have always opened through home to us whenever we visit that part of the United States. This was no exception. They have been members of the local Presbyterian church and whenever I visited, Bill took me to their storehouse project, which the church funds and supports. It is a program for the needy and provides clothing, toys and food to the poor. Seeing the way they work and the systems used in the storehouse, it was an inspiration to me for the Bible and book distribution project for the African Christians. This visit gave me yet another opportunity to learn from them. JoAnn asked me if I would speak to the Men’s Breakfast on Saturday morning. It would be an open meeting and she warned me not to run over thirty minutes because people had places to go. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and Pat and I spoke. The response was overwhelming – although we’d run over by about ten minutes, the questions and fellowship continued for another hour! They didn’t seem to want us to leave! A few of the members blessed us privately with a love offering, which surprised both of us. We also spent time with my cousin, Carol, and her husband, Bob Smen, who took us around the city. I bought a big black cowboy hat as a reminder of New Mexico!
The United Church in Los Alamos (NM) has been an active supporter of the SA Christian Mission for many years. A number from this congregation have visited us in Cape Town and seen with their own eyes the work in progress. Pat and I were mobbed at the display table and one woman said that her husband, Brian Foley, would be in Cape Town later this year! Pat offered to meet him when he arrived. Pat and I spoke at both services and enjoyed the enthusiasm of the church.
Wayne and Barbara Ferguson met us at the airport in Denver. This couple had sold everything in the US and set up home in Cape Town to work full time with Primose, Doreen and the Bavumeleni Children Center. Unfortunately, because of a medical problem, they had to sell up again and return to Colorado. But Wayne and Barbara had not forgotten the children – they lead a team of fifteen Christians last year to work and repair Primrose’s house. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and bonding!
The Ferguson’s asked us to speak on Wednesday night to a group who were considering another work trip to Bavumeleni. The Riverside Baptist Church is very big and the group that met in one of the classrooms was very eager to hear about South Africa. It is so good to talk to people who are attuned to serving Jesus in other places.
The next day, Wayne and Barbara took us into the Rockies and we enjoyed such beautiful vistas and….SNOW! It’s June, ain’t it? But there it was and me in my sandals! Aside from the frozen toes, the mountains were truly spectacular. That evening, we were re-united with those who were planning on a trip to South Africa. It was an informal BBQ and despite the rain, Pat and I enjoyed the fellowship and sharing. A love offering was given, which was special because we knew the intentions of this team.
From Denver, Pat and I split up. Her mother, Lee Sweeney, was ill in Lincoln (IL) and Pat wanted to be with her (Lee has a heart condition) – she took a flight to Chicago where she was met by the Whites and then took a train down to Lincoln. I flew to Seattle where my Dad met me.
During my week long stay, my sister, Sara, and her husband, Victor, flew out from Michigan and we had a family dinner together with all the children and our parents. Dr John Zimmerman, his wife and kids, live in Monroe and it was good to be together with them once again.
Central Christian Church in Snohomish began supporting the mission work last year. I had visited them during my previous furlough when they didn’t have a minister. Greg Ishmael is now their minister and he is very mission’s oriented. It in one of his goals to have every able-bodied member of the church to visit a mission field within five years! In fact, the Sunday that I preached was a time of commissioning their missions teams destined for Mongolia, Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines. I met with Greg during lunch and he has made it know that he wants to visit South Africa personally in 2006.
Again, the Whites in Chicago collected me when I arrived. They put me up for the night and the next morning, the church hired a car for me so I could drive down to Lincoln, briefly visit with Lee and bring Pat back with me to do our program at First Christian in Chicago. (An error by the car rental, I was given a Dodge Durango for the same price as a compact! What a pleasure!)
Al White’s brother filmed Pat and I as we spoke during the Bible hour and the worship service (it will be used later as promotional material for the mission). After I preached, three people came forward to give their hearts and lives to Jesus – two Albanians and a Hispanic woman. Two of them were baptized at that time and it was such an encouragement to us to welcome new sisters in Christ!
The Whites drove the Durango through to South Bend (IN) where we were met by Bob and Roberta Snyder, who took us forward to Michigan where we linked up with the Neuenschwanders. (Jim and Shirley loaned us a vehicle for the duration of our stay in the Midwest.) Then, we drove to Stroh (IN) where Pam and Steve Hamilton moved out of their home on the lake so we could have a place to stay!
After finally unpacking everything in our suitcases and shopping, we relaxed for a day or so before driving down to Lima (OH) for a Sunday program. Mark and Lynn Vernik and their family greeted us with open arms – the Christian at Rousculp Church of Christ did the same and it felt like we were home. Again, the warm fellowship and welcome was overwhelming. This was one of the best aspects of furlough: re-uniting with those of like faith in a common cause.
We have so many people to thank for opening their homes and ensuring we had work and rest. The Claybrooks, Smens, Fergusons, my father and mother, Greg Ishmael, the Whites (yes, the whole bunch in Chicago), the Crusader Class at First Christian, the Snyders, Neuenschwanders, Hamiltons and Verniks. With such caring and support, it made out furlough a lot easier.
Thank you, one and all!
Steve and Pat Zimmerman
S.A. Christian Mission