Greetings from a spring zone! South Africa is now in the throes of emerging from winter into glorious spring! After a summer in America, it is strange to return to yet another summer! Ahhh, the life of an African missionary….!
Like everywhere else in the world, South Africa has taken a beating over the oil price. Unlike America, the government here strictly controls the price and it cam move up (or down) within hours if they so choose. Right now, it rides above R6.25 per liter with yet another increase coming within days. This is the largest limiting factor in the field work.
Of course, this also means that inflation will increase and joblessness, too, with the fuel price governing growth and business confidence. Many African Christians still have no work and there are eager men standing on the street corners gesturing to passing traffic for a job. The trade unions (COSATU) don’t help by striking against unemployment! At the moment, there is “rolling mass action” in which the union will strike every Monday in different cities. (I thought I’d heard of every stupid idea in the book but I guess I still have a lot to learn! Was is Einstein who said that genius has its limits but stupidity doesn’t?)
April was spent tying loose ends for this year’s furlough. It was decided in 2002 that a three year gap would be more beneficial and productive than a five year stay-away. As much as I dislike disruption in the work on the ground over here, I have to admit that this seems to be the better option.
Pat and I visited the AIDS clinic and Bavumeleni Childrens Center as well as a number of churches and cell groups. They were all encouraging and enthusiastic and everyone prayed earnestly for a successful furlough. Our youngest son, Brice (he uses his second name) was married a day after my birthday to a lovely Christian girl, Louise – they have known each other since the second grade and were at one time in their lives, each other’s best friend or worst enemy. They returned from a temp post in England earlier in the year and decided to tie the knot on Clifton’s Fourth Beach. The newly marrieds lived in our home and learned the peculiarities of the house and yard – they did a spectacular job looking after it while we were away and even redecorated a few rooms. (They are both very talented.)
Pat and I left on British Airways during the first week of May and spent two days in London doing the tourist bit. (Little did we know that the same underground train that we rode to King’s Cross Station would be bombed within a few months.) It was chilly and brisk but provided a bit of a break from the tight airline seats.
We flew from Gatwick Airport direct to Tampa Bay, where Walt and Bea Mielke fetched us. They had arranged for us to live in a nearby home while the owner was on vacation. The lake had gators, the woods contained pumas and by all accounts, there were copperheads in the long grass. I’m not sure if Africa quite prepared us for the wilds of Lakeland, Florida!
Our itinerary was prepared by Mark Vernik who always does a spectacular job juggling dates and times. Briefly, we stayed in Florida for a few weeks, drove to South Carolina to visit our sons (Kent and Kyle) who now work there, flew to New Mexico, then Denver where we split up. Pat traveled to Chicago and down to Lincoln (IL) to be with her Mom, who was ill. I flew to Seattle to spend time with my folks and visit a supporting church in Snohomish. Afterwards, I rejoined Pat and we remained in Stroh for the remainder of our furlough.
The churches we visited were:
Chancey Rd (FL)
Vero Beach (FL)
Southside (Ft Myers)
United (Los Alamos)
Rio Rancho Presbyterian
Riverside Baptist (Denver)
First Christian (Chicago)
Rousculp (Lima, OH)
Lake Area (Fremont, IN)
Northside (Ft Wayne)
We also visited with various people in their homes and shared the Lord’s work in South Africa with them.
There were a few churches which I felt we HAD to visit but never were able to link up dates – Eastside (Bristol, VA), Hartford (KY), Central (Battlecreek) and Aurora (IL). I spoke to people at the churches but as much as we tried to shift dates around, it didn’t work. However, I promised each of them that they would get priority during the next furlough (2008).
Churches we visited, who did not support us, are serious considering the SACM as a viable and exciting mission – Vero Beach, Lakeland, Rio Rancho and possibly Northside. I think it would be great if someone could follow up with them.
We have so many people to thank for the success of this furlough: Mark and Lynn Vernik, Steve and Pam Hamilton, Bob and Roberta Snyder, Shirley and Jim Neuenschwander. Each one provided a key element to ensure that everything ran smoothly – we had transport, a home near a lake and adequate arrangements for speaking dates, meals and fellowship. I can honestly say that Pat and I lacked for nothing.
In addition, each region which we visited had been well prepared – the Mielkes in Florida, my relatives, Bill and Joanne Claybrook in New Mexico, my folks in Seattle and the Whites (ALL of them) in Chicago. Without the help of these dedicated Christians, it would have been much more difficult to achieve what we did.
We cannot thank all of you enough. The Lord provided His blessings through the grace and kindness of His children – Pat and I are thankful for your help and fellowship.
Someone once said that if you pray for showers of blessing, don’t complain when you get stuck in the mud! That is certainly the case with the Container Project. Bob and Roberta Snyder have kindly taken this work as their personal ministry. He has stored an enormous amount of Bibles, books, etc on his property, which he repacked in banana boxes for easy loading into a 20′ Container. I went with Bob a few days to assist with packing and sorting. We drove down to Ft Wayne one day to link up with a charity organization to swap unsuitable books for Bibles. This is now a regular routine.
When Pat and I visited Colorado with the Fergusons (who are actively involved in the Bavumeleni Childrens Center), we spoke to a team of Christian who will be visiting South Africa in 2006. Two of the ladies are retired librarians and have persuaded the State of Colorado not only to donate new text books but also pay for the freight to ship to South Africa in a Container!
Since it appeared that we already have two more Containers ready to be packed and shipped, it was decided to visit with IDES in Kempton (IN) to ask for assistance. The Zimmermans, Snyder and McLaughlins drove down and spoke with IDES – after a lengthly meeting, we put our proposals in writing with them and later learned that they had decided to fund $3500 towards shipment of a Container. In addition, we applied for a grant to assist Thompson Ntobie with office equipment and again, IDES donated $2500!
The biggest hold-up now is my side in Cape Town. As soon as we returned, I scouted all my contacts to see if we could beg, borrow or steal warehouse space for the three Containers. It has been slow but right now, I have two places to view – both warehouses are small and came through Cape Bible Seminary students. Within a week, I hope to have this settled, even if the premises is temporary.
Bob Snyder suggested during our furlough that we should investigate buying a piece of land and building our own warehouse and distribution center. In addition, it is envisaged that more storerooms should be added to rent out and make the project self-sustaining. It would employ Christians as well as provide an invaluable service to keep the Bibles and books flowing to the churches. (This week alone, I have distributed 140 boxes of Bibles and Sunday School materials to various churches in the city.)
I have seen various parcels of land and Cape Town turns out to be an expensive place. For a vacant plot of approx 1-2 acres, the price could range from $150,000 to $250,000 depending upon the area.
Many people who heard about the center and Primrose’s dedication have given privately towards this ministry. The children have touched people hearts and they have responded. I have passed on $250 to her for which she is grateful and thanks the Lord for her blessings.
In early 2006, a team of fifteen from Colorado will be visiting to work at BCC and visit other projects in Cape Town. Dave McLaughlin will accompany them and we look forward to sharing the work with them.
Next year appears to be a busy one for visitors. Aside from the Colorado team, my brother, Doc John, is flying out from Seattle. My aunt and cousin from New Mexico are threatening to arrive in Dec with my sister, Sara and her husband, Vic. The Snohomish church is sending a team to Kenya and part of the team will continue to Cape Town in July. A few from the Jenison church are planning a journey in October. Bob Butler from Lima (OH) was to visit Zimbabwe but it is too dangerous so I invited him to Cape Town.
I normally do not encourage interns or college students to visit even though others missionaries in South Africa do so. In my experience, I have found that it doesn’t really make an impact on either party. However, with the stream of sincere and eager visitors in 2006, I am looking forward to working side by side with them as the Lord leads and guides.
Our return wasn’t so “lekker” (“nice”) — we were caught squarely in the British Airways strike at Heathrow and spent a few days biting our nails until we could arrange a flight from London to Cape Town. Despite being very short of cash, the Lord provided for us at every turn, even easing our progress through to boarding the plane in a chaos that was unimaginable. (When we were sure we were going to miss our flight, we were pulled out of line twice by BA staff and sent to a newly opened counter – we made it with minutes to spare!) Although we had no meals or drinks aside from coffee, tea or water for the entire twelve hour flight, we were very happy to be flying to Cape Town!
The house didn’t cooperate either. In first two weeks, there was a fire in our electrical box, the hot water cylinder burst, Pat nearly choked on a filling that caught in her throat, the e-mail system went on the fritz and the garage was slightly flooded during heavy downpours!
Furlough is always exhausting. Pat and I had to be “up” most of the time in order to present our best for the Lord’s work in South Africa. We spoke wherever we were asked, whether planned or impromptu. We prayed that the impact that was made would rekindle the hearts and minds of the listeners so they could share and partake in God’s missions, not only in South Africa, but all over the world.
Our financial situation is not good. Yet, again, the Lord blessed us – Dave and Shirley sent additional funds for gasoline and expenses, which has taken care of the problem in the short term. We are obviously concerned for our retirement fund, too.
But as with everything, we rely on our God to provide our needs. He has never failed us and the support, prayer and concerns by many Christians has always been our mainstay. We are thankful to each and every one of you for your help and assistance on the Board. Dave and Mattie, Mark and Lynn, Jim and Shirley, Steve and Pam, Al and (whatzername again?) Joann have labored long and hard in their capacities on our behalf. Pat and I want to give special thanks for Jim and Shirley Neuenschwander for their wonderful gift which has provided many books for ourselves and the Christians here.
If I have missed thanking anyone, I do apologize. It is not intended and your help was appreciated.
For all, we give thanks and glory to Jesus.
In His name,
Steve and Pat Zimmerman
South African Christian Mission, Cape Town