Greetings one and all in the Lord’s name! Our family is well, although scattered all over the world at the moment but very blessed in the work of Christ!
The return from furlough is always the most difficult adjustment for us. This time, it was no different – a whirlwind of churches, people and places, then when the world stops spinning, a return to normality!
The gasoline prices have continued to rise steadily – this isn’t just a South African phenomenon but worldwide oil prices have risen quite dramatically. Here, when the government decides to “adjust” the price, they do so with minimal notice. The lesson learned here is to keep the tank topped up. This Wednesday, we have been notified in the press that the price per liter will go up by 38 cents to R6.10 per liter! ($3.85 per gallon)
The additional worry is that the exchange rate has gone against us, which makes the situation much more difficult. It is now at R6 to the greenback instead of the cushioning R8 or R9. So, we have to squeeze every dollar to ensure it goes further. Of course, a gasoline price increase means that all the prices of food, clothing, etc will rise, too.
We have hosted two visitors in 2006 – Dr John Zimmerman, my brother from Seattle, in Feb, and Dave McLaughlin in March. They both stayed for a month. I am sure that Dave has his report of the work in South Africa and will share it with you.
CAPE BIBLE SEMINARY:
As usual, the busiest time for me is in the evenings. The CBS classes are running at full capacity – every night of the week from Monday to Thursday in different areas. (Yes, I get to take Friday night off!) The Monday group consists of people living in the Durbanville area – many are Afrikaans speaking, some from the Dutch Reform Church, others from Pentecostal or Baptist churches. They all have one thing in common: they want to serve the Lord. Antoinette and her team are active every week, collecting food and clothing for the Bavumeleni Children’s Center. Koos and his wife, Ria, make the contacts for Antoinette so that there is a regular supply of donated goods. The group has come a long way since its beginning in Andre Brandt’s home a few years ago.
Tuesday night hosts a brand new group in Ravensmead, led by Pastor Ivan, a former gang boss. He came to the Lord a few years ago and his group meets in a small church hall in the ganglands. They have never had solid teaching but are eagerly studying “The Will of God” and are enthusiastic. I see a lot of potential in this group.
Wednesday is at Bro Abe Hickley’s home. I taught at the old Polo Rd church for a year or so in 1994 – Abe is a lot older now but he has gathered his family and friends for Cape Bible Seminary classes. Again, the church of Christ where they attend is not providing good teaching and they need to be active in the Lord.
Thursday evening is a small cell group at Reinaldo Rutter’s apartment in Bellville. We have lively discussions around the teaching – Reinaldo has invited his neighbors, who have been regularly attending, as well as a Congolese pastor, Jacques. A lot of focus is upon practical service to Jesus.
Dave McLaughlin was able to teach to all these groups during his visit.
Every second and fourth Sunday mornings are reserved for the largest Cape Bible Seminary class – Elsies River church turns over their morning service to me for this purpose. It is the only time all the Christians are there. Usually, the attendance is around 120-150. The impact of regular teaching has been enormous. Pastor Samuel Jacobs has felt that the Lord is leading him into a different work and has since resigned as pastor at Elsies River – teaching and preaching amongst the many refugees in the city. It is a new work in which I am also involved.
I thought God provided time to keep everything from happening at once.
Originally, the idea was to have our container in Michigan sent a month or so after a container from Colorado. From the beginning, the Colorado one was a headache – not only was it not an FCL (Full Container Load) but it was a mixed cargo, part of which was medical supplies to go to the Congo. This is the most expensive way to ship anything. It costs more to pack, store and unpack separate cargos. At the same time the Colorado container arrived, the Michigan one caught up with it and was delivered just seven days later. The timing was off and it was a scramble to ensure it all came through safely.
Fortunately, the Lord always has His hand in our plans and it worked out despite the hectic timing. Many Congolese refugees unloaded the boxes and cartons – the ones from Colorado were very badly packed – and everything was safely stored in a temporary warehouse near the airport. Bro Mark Abrahams, a Christian from a nearby church, asked his boss if we could use the space at their overflow storage. We were supposed to have it until April this year but the company has extended their lease by another year. As long as they have no use for it, we can keep the Bibles, books and teaching materials safely under lock and key! The Lord works wonders!
Everything came through in excellent condition. Bob and Roberta Snyder stored and packed everything neatly. Their team loaded the Container to its maximum – the driver of the rig said to me that he’d never seen a Container packed so tightly! Bob had his usually surprises that I did not expect – chairs, computers and of course, goodies! All was appreciated.
Our thanks must go to everyone who did so much work and helped to ensure that this Container was loaded and dispatched so efficiently. The customs let everything through without inspection and already, the Bibles, etc are making such an impact within many churches and congregations. (Next month, I am invited to a church in Belhar near Elsies River, to officially open the very first church library in the Western Cape!)
A few things to note: please, no more computers. Nearly two out of three items packed were useless, even in an African context. The equipment was way out of date and couldn’t be used for anything. Jeff Johnson, a computer jock friend, worked a whole day to salvage what he could. (One good set-up has been donated to Bro Graham Malgas, a man who has felt led by the Lord to oversee the Cape Bible Seminary Library system in the city. Another set-up is targeted for Queenstown.) Also, the fax machine and printers will be difficult to use, too, because of the difference in electricity supply. The only way they can be utilized is with a transformer, which costs about $100 for each machine.
CAPE BIBLE SEMINARY LIBRARY:
Bro Malgas is heading up many different contacts to ensure that the Christian libraries are correctly placed to ensure maximum access by communities. We have visited a high school in Bishop Lavis, a community hall in Ruyterwacht, local politicians and the police academy to discuss their needs. To my surprise, the local ward counselors have shown the most interest for their constituents! Government money is drying up for community projects and they see the value in our Christian reading rooms. At this moment, Bro Malgas and I are busy talking to many different groups. Your prayers are needed.
During Dave’s visit, we drove to Queenstown with over a ton of Bibles, teaching materials and Christian literature. We left Friday morning early and the congregation met at the same time, praying and singing the whole day until we arrived that evening. This is their normal practice. The trailer and pick-up truck was unloaded in the fastest fifteen minutes I’d ever seen! They are so eager for the boxes of books. The impact within this community is tremendous. Their planning and forward-thinking will save many souls. (Already, they baptize about two hundred every year.)
BAVUMELENI CHILDREN’S CENTER:
Coinciding with Dave’s visit, a team from Colorado led by Wayne and Barbara Ferguson, came to service the children’s center. Reinaldo Rutter, a Brazilian Christian, heads up the work in Cape Town and together with the team, they accomplished a lot of work for the kids. At the moment, Sister Primrose uses her own house for the feeding and teaching of the street children – the team painted and repaired her house as best they could during their stay.
There are plans to acquire the plot of land across the street from the municipality. This would allow a properly constructed multifunctional facility to be opened for the community. However, with the local government elections in March, the reins of power have passed from the ANC to the Democratic Alliance – ANC appointees have been shunted out and new people have taken their place. While this might be a good thing for the city of Cape Town in the long run, it has made our application for the land to be delayed until new people can be trained. Yet, we are praying hard and trusting in the Lord for His wisdom.
Antoinette and her team of eight Christian women, all Afrikaners, highly unusual, have taken over a large part of the daily food supply for Primrose. Antoinette is a short brunette woman with a heart of gold to serve Jesus by helping these kids. She badgers, pleads and accosts managers and directors of companies for food, clothing and whatever she can get. Then, she organizes her friends to help take the donations to Bavumeleni. Antoinette is an answer to prayer.
Thompson Ntobie faithfully translates Cape Bible Seminary materials into isiXhosa and Afrikaans. The office that was provided nearly three years ago is in constant use. Not only for translations but it also serves as a classroom and a quiet space for counseling.
In 2005, IDES kindly donated funding for Thompson’s brand new computer, monitor and keyboard. Ntobie nearly did cartwheels the day I surprised him with the boxes that contained his new office equipment. I helped set it up and taught him the basics – he would remain in the small office until midnight in order to learn all the whizzbangs and gizmos. Within months, Ntobie had mastered the new computer and is churning out material hand over fist!
During Dave’s visit, a fairly new photocopier was purchased for Ntobie – he was overjoyed. No longer would he have to give me a diskette and wait for me to copy what he needed. In addition, since Dave left, I purchased a hands-free telephone so he wouldn’t have to rush into the house every time to answer the phone.
Ntobie is over eighty. We are busy training young men to replace him so that the work will continue. In one way, it is easier since most of the younger generations are English speakers but there is still a great need for excellent teaching materials in isiXhosa and Afrikaans.
This is one of the few places Dave McLaughlin didn’t get around to visit. It is located in Elsies River. Bro Queun Raaf is one of the directors and he has been visiting the US to raise funds and awareness for this vital work. During his absence, we have been supplying Bibles and New Testaments to be placed next to each bed at the hospice.
Pat and I visited Bro Francis before we left on furlough last year. He was a young man, a committed Christian, who read his new Bible aloud every morning in the wards. A few terminal AIDS patients turned their backs on him but many listened. Some were former gang leaders, drug pushers, killers and the dregs of society but they heard God’s Word spoken. According to the nursing staff, quite a number were baptized in the largest bathtub at the hospice despite their weakened condition. When we arrived back on furlough in August, it took me a month to make a trip to the Aids center. There I learned that Bro Francis had died. But he’d passed his Bible on to another young man who was reading the Scriptures aloud.
It made me wonder: what will I pass on when I am finally called home?
The financial situation isn’t getting any easier. We try and ensure that each dollar sent to South Africa is used correctly and the most efficiently. We are very aware that many hardworking Christians give so that the gospel’s message is sown as widely as possible. But if the Dollar exchange rate continues to weaken against the Rand and the gasoline price continues its upward trend, things will be very tight for us. We truly need your prayers and ideas for additional support.
All of our sons (Kent, Kyle and Brice – he doesn’t like to be called “Kelley” anymore) are living and working in South Carolina, near Hilton Head Island. Brice and his new wife, Louise, flew to Florida in November 2005 to begin their new life in America. It was tough and very disturbingly difficult to obtain a marital visa for Louise but we have Dave and Mattie McLaughlin to thank for their sponsorship. I don’t think Louise would’ve been granted a visa without their help. While it is very lonely to be separated from our sons, we are thankful that they have all found good jobs and places to live within a few miles of one another.
Dave’s visit bought a lot of new energy into future plans. We discussed many different avenues and methods of working with the African Christians. I am sure that Dave will share aspects of his visit, which I don’t have the space to cover, during the Board Meeting. Aside from almost every household appliance quitting on us, Dave’s visit was a treat!
Where do we start? There are so many people to thank for their kindness and generosity. I’d feel bad if I left someone out.
Shirley and Jim Neuenschwander have kept the finances and accounting on track for so many years. During our furlough, they also loaned us vehicles and ensured that we wanted for nothing.
Bob and Roberta Snyder were also marvelous hosts during that time but their main labors have been for the Container Project. They’d travel almost anywhere to pick up loads of books, Bibles, etc. Bob re-packed all the literature into banana boxes to ensure he could get the maximum bang for the buck to stuff the Container as full as he could.
Dave and Mattie McLaughlin have always stepped in when there were needs. Our family has benefited greatly and the Lord’s people here were blessed by their generosity and kindness. When Dave left, there were more clothes and other items, which were passed onto the needy. His ideas and suggestions have kept our focus on the practical applications and have saved a lot of time and effort in doing so.
Mark and Lynn Vernik have always encouraged and helped whenever they can. I know they are very involved with the church where they minister but it seems that if we need anything, they are always there to offer help. Mark posts the newsletters on the website and sends them out to Stroh, which are printed and distributed.
And for everyone on the Board, who have taken the time and energy to help with the work, it is greatly appreciated. Perhaps you will never personally see the joy and happiness you have brought to many Africans but one day, when we are all home, you will meet them face to face.
We cannot do the work as efficiently and enthusiastically without you. Our goals and tasks are still clear and together, we will all serve the Lord for His good purpose.
Steve and Pat Zimmerman
S.A. Christian Mission, Cape Town