Greetings from a creeping wintery Cape Town! South Africa is now in the throes of a cool autumn. The rains will start any day now.
With the way the global economy is hamstrung, it had really affected the work in South Africa. Not only has the price of gas skyrocketed but the exchange rate has really taken a beating during the past few months. Gasoline is now running at nearly $6.00/gal! This has meant that we have had to cut back on the trips into the interior. The CBS classes in town are continuing but the churches in the outlying districts and further away in Queenstown haven’t been visited for months. While this is very disappointing to them, the people understand that it is back times – they, too, are struggling.
Our real income has fallen by 25% just in the past six months. We have cut back to the minimum and are really struggling to stay afloat. There are no savings or reserves to fall back upon. So, we really need your prayers but we have faith that the Lord will provide through His people.
Wells Fargo and the South African end of the banking have “lost” an entire month’s funding! It is somewhere in the electronic wastelands and despite the intense efforts of Shirley and I, it is stuck in limbo. This has really put a pinch on an already tight budget for us. We can only pray that somehow this will be resolved. In the meantime, we have gone back to the old system of writing checks. (We switched to the electronic transfer because it was cheaper.)
BIBLES FOR AFRICA PROJECT
This project alone has really put us on the map! The last container arrived just prior to the Field Report of October last year and the response has been tremendous! The Bible and New Testaments were snapped up quickly – the hunger for the Word hasn’t diminished at all but rather, increased dramatically! Church, groups and congregations have really been excited about the teaching materials, reference books and commentaries.
I have the joy of seeing the faces as they stare in awe and pleasure at the boxes of Bibles and books. It is as if they just cannot believe that there is so much for them to share with their churches. One lady had tears in her eyes when she went through the children’s books. Another couple thanked me and prayed over the boxes that had been loaded in their car. The word has spread and there are so many new contacts that have been made. I’ll have to clone myself several times over just to get around to visit everyone!
The deal is simple: any group, which needs materials, must first write a letter on their letterhead and bring it with them. This way, I can keep track of who has received blessings and approximately how much they have taken. I always provide to new contacts first. The feedback has been encouraging – so many of the youth in particular are ecstatic to have their own Bible or New Testament. With the tough economic climate, the younger ones have been doing without. This project is such a blessing to so many African Christians.
The McLaughlin New Life Center has stored all the boxes, chairs, etc safely. It rained hard last winter but the building is dry and sound. Another two containers could be stored there. The shelving that was donated by Tom Dumez has really been a blessing, too. So many prayers were answered and we now have the means to ship and store whatever is sent, all the way from Michigan to Cape Town!
Via a US contact, which Mark Vernik passed on, I was re-introduced to Roger Dickson, an American missionary based in Cape Town. I’d known Roger many years ago but lost contact. He now prints Bibles, New Testaments and teaching materials and has made them available to me for distribution. I am working with him to sort out what he can supply and what our needs are but certainly, this will help keep our costs down. I am so happy to be in touch with him again!
THIS JUST IN: two days ago, another container arrived. Like the last one, this was delivered at night just before a public holiday – obviously the driver and the container crane operator want overtime! There has been a change in the way the docks work, too. Instead of the harbor trucks, now private contractors are used to deliver containers. This is more expensive of course but we have no choice.
Sana and I haven’t yet sorted anything out but Bob and Roberta have packed the boxes and other items so well that I think the very air itself was shoved out. A surprise was four more tires for the Renault (the insides were packed with clothes, too) and golf balls! Our thanks to them for storing, packing and organizing other Christians to help pack the container. Also, Mattie McLaughlin has donated the funds to ensure that this container arrived swiftly. I cannot thank everyone for their help and dedicated to ensure that Christians here have a Bible and teaching materials to pass the Word into their churches and communities.
BAVUMELENI CHILDREN’S CENTER
There have been good changes at BCC during the past six months. Primrose and her husband, Victor, have been champing at the bit to take over the reins of the center and its outreach into the community. Primrose has been invited to sit on the Community Forum, a semi-official body which controls complaints and allocated resources in the township. While it is an honor to be invited, it also has meant that BCC has had to change its policies, too. No longer does BCC cater only to kids – the Forum has said that adults and vagrants have also had to be fed at the center because there are no other facilities in the area. Also, they have not liked the idea that extra English classes have been taught after school (tirelessly done by Lorna Rutter and Marty Wallace) and so the program was curtailed.
Because of these changes, there is a new Board at BCC. The Rutters and Marty Wallace have decided to move on and serve needy children in other areas of the city. A new structure is in place to meet the needs of AIDS orphans and street kids. I am also a part of that, too. BCC is now running on its own and we will continue to help and provide for their needs, too. It has grown tremendously over the years and everyone wants it to succeed. Your prayers are needed for all concerned.
The Cape Bible Seminary classes have continued unabated. There was a summer break but every group has been back in session. The Congolese church under Pastor Kiku have now taken up Tuesday evenings in Blackheath – they have been talking about this for the past year. Already, I have had a few classes and the response has been so encouraging. I have had to send Thompson Ntobie by bus to Queenstown twice (it’s cheaper). His classes in the townships have also kept him so busy. Two new study groups come to Ntobie’s office where he teaches the youth. Hard to believe that Thompson is 86 and still ready and able to serve his Lord!
New contacts on Sunday have been flooding in, too. This is due to the distribution of Bibles, etc – churches are curious and want to hear the Word. In all the congregations where the CBS has been taught regularly, there has been growth in numbers. There are so many opportunities!
I visit Rodney (the man in prison) once a month on average and we have a private worship service together at a table in the visitor’s hall. He has been moved to a different section and lost two of his study group, which he has been teaching. At first, he was disappointed but discovered three more men in the new section who want to study the Bible. I have ferried new Bibles for them all – I can only take two per visit. He has grown spiritually and doesn’t mind being behind bars because he is free in Christ. Rodney’s desire is to teach and he studying with his fellow Christians daily in the yard.
Charles and Mary Bell from Cincinnati arrived in Cape Town in February. I showed them the work and we had a wonderful time of fellowship. They have invited me to stop by when I am on furlough. (The Bells were former missionaries in Zambia – he is the elder brother of my previous girlfriend!)
Julie Sinclair came to South Africa on a work team to the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. She is an educator and part of a work group which helps other educators to teach more effectively. Julie was here for one day and visited Thompson as well as an AIDS orphanage (part of the new children’s work). She left with her colleagues a day later but will return in a few weeks after she is finished. Julie’s folks are members of the Los Alamos (NM) supporting church.
We will be returning on furlough mid-August and will remain for three months. Mark and I have been talking about dates and places – we want to access new contacts to increase the support base. If anyone has an additional contact, then please forward it to Mark. Airfares are much higher now, too. As much as it is a strain for everybody, this is an essential work, too. At this moment, we are looking for a place to stay in southern Michigan if possible, which is the most central to most of the churches. Also, a car is needed, too. If anyone can help, we would appreciate it.
There have been so many blessings as well as tough times. The good news is that my son, Brice, and his wife, Louise, produced another grandsons, Rexford Dean Zimmerman, in March 2011. I appreciate their thoughtfulness to keep all the birthdays close together so I can remember them – three are in March and Louise is the first week of April!
Graham, the father-in-law of my eldest son, Kent, died in March. I was able to speak to him for a few hours when I visited last year and he opened up and asked a lot of questions about my belief in God and faith in Christ. I don’t know if he ever accepted Jesus or made a change in his life but I hope so. His wife, Jane, is coping as well as she can.
Sana is adapting well to her new environment. I am learning Russian – I can read it with about 90% accuracy, although my accent is horrible. (The Russian Cyrillic alphabet has 33 letters, of which 10 are vowels and two have no sound less coupled with a consonant.) Her English is improving a lot but she is still very shy to use it unless I am there to help.
I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to ensure that the work of the mission in Africa continues to meet the needs of many who do not know Jesus. If I begin to name people who have been so helpful and encouraging, I’m sure I’ll leave someone out. But it is good teamwork, which has made this work a success.
May God continue to bless each of you as we serve Christ together,
S.A. Christian Mission, Cape Town