Life these past few months have kept us very busy, and at times I've neglected to update you on our ongoing ministries. We try to relate unusual events and happenings, but we've found that frequently people are more interested in the "normal", mundane goings-on of our ministry here. Consequently, I'm going to try to provide a quick update about the ministries that you have been hearing about the past several months.
Ministry #1 - Bible Study with the Thabong Boys
God has greatly blessed this study since we officially started in February of this year. We started with the 5 original boys (Alex, DJ, JT, Makhasi, and Sam), and while experiencing occasional peaks up to 6 visitors, we have grown to a consistent 9 young men in attendance. I am confident in saying that most of these guys have come to know Christ as Savior, as we are beginning to see significant growth and fruit in their lives. Already they have started their own Bible studies at their school, and a couple have also started leading a daily devotional for the other students who attend the school's feeding program. Recently we shared with them that we will be returning to the US for longer than expected. They already knew we planned on being gone 2 months, but when we told them it had grown to 4 it was difficult news. Several of them shared what our relationship had become to them. One even said this news was more difficult than when he learned his father had died. It was encouraging to hear their testimonies. In particular, it was encouraging to hear their perspective on those months. They agreed they should view our absence as a challenge. One pointed out the parable of the talents from Matthew 25. We had covered this a week or so earlier and he drew the parallels that this will allow them to use what God has taught them in our studies, so that when Amber & I return we will all have a joyful reunion, rather than be ashamed at what has taken place during the brief holiday. We still can't believe the work God is doing in their lives and ask that you pray with us for His ongoing protection and guidance for these lighthouses in their community.
Ministry #2 - Bible Study with The Pines Children
Our goal of ministry is to raise children who will be equipped and willing to reach their generation. Again, we can't believe God has allowed us to be a part of His work in the lives of His children. The growth He has brought about in the 18 months we have been here is amazing. We have seen children arrive at The Pines, learn of Jesus' love and accept His free gift of life, and progress to the point where they are already leading others to Christ. In July we hosted a team from Lakeside Fellowship and during their Bible Clubs we saw several professions of salvation. Some of those boys have continued to attend church with us. This past Sunday one of them brought his sister along, and after church they came to The Pines for lunch. The sister, Mamokete, at lunch in one of our girl's flats. Most of the afternoon Okuhle spent with her going over the Word of God and sharing with her the plan of God's salvation. Before Mamokete left she also made a profession of salvation. Praise God that we can plant and water, but He brings about the increase. Pray that these decisions would be genuine and both The Pines kids and those who are reached outside The Pines would remain committed to their Saviour. We have been blessed over the past several months to have some of the visitors step in and also teach the Bible Studies. My sister and brother in particular have been a huge help, with Rosina working with the girls and Sam working with the boys.
Ministry #3 - Evangelism
In December we started doing street evangelism, passing out food parcels and sharing God's Word when opportunity presented. Since that time we have done this about once per month, most of the time at the prompting of The Pines kids. Us adults accompany them for safety, supervision, and support in case they need assistance with Scripture, but the majority of the work is done by our kids themselves. Several have shown a gift, and it is enjoyable to see how each approaches the Gospel differently, allowing for their differing personalities. Some (one in particular) are "Fire & Brimstone" while others are more logical, and still others take a more quiet approach. Regardless of how they choose to converse with individuals, God's Word is being spread, and He has promised to use it.
Ministry #4 - Community Outreach
As you know, we have hosted many visitors the past few months. While this in itself is a ministry that God has given us, these people, through their willingness to come and serve, enable us to broaden our ministry ability. Bible Clubs, building a new house for someone, developing new relationships and making new contacts all help us as we seek to shine for Christ. Just this past weekend the team from Utah joined us in an outreach in Hani Park. We showed up with 2 soccer balls and within 10 minutes had what we estimate to be between 250-300 kids. This team, with their background in Utah, is uniquely gifted to work with an outreach like this. While to most it would seem chaotic and out-of-hand, this group quickly (and without prior planning, I might add) broke up into smaller groups by age. The younger ones played some nursery games, then sang and heard the Gospel message from a team member - through one of The Pines kids translating. The older kids (almost exclusively boys, because of the culture here) played soccer, then split into a couple groups to hear God's word - again with a Pines child translating. Throughout this whole event a couple of our girls kept themselves busy by witnessing to bystanders and on-lookers. We had a couple young men ask to join a Bible Study, so I imagine on our return in February we'll have more discipleship on our plates - wonderful. On the second evening we had a very interesting time with a drunk couple, but that is a story for another time, I promise.
Ministry #5 - Nurturing Relationships
This is the fun part of our ministry. The Pines kids, the boys from Thabong, now the boys from the Lakeside Bible Club, kids from church all join us from time to time just for a day of fun. Usually on Sundays, we transport everyone to church, then back to The Pines for lunch and games. This past week they wanted something "American" so Rosina baked 2 apple pies - what's more American than that? Chevrolet? Baseball? Actually, we did play some baseball, along with a soccer game and a little roofball (a game invented by the O'Tool family). While this was the first time for them to have American pie, obviously they've seen enough TV to know what you're supposed to do with a pie.
Ministry #6 - Church
The work at Reahola continues, and the past several weeks we've enjoyed a variety of preachers. I've enjoyed the break, as have the other "regular" preachers. Last Sunday we had almost 70 people, not counting the Utah team members. The building we meet in also doubles as a daycare during the week. Anne, who attends Reahola, runs the Creche with about 95 kids under her care on a daily basis. This team painted the main area and added some nice luxury features such as curtains, a sink, and chalkboard. It was amazing to see the kid's faces when they saw the renovations for the first time on Sunday morning.
Ministry #7 - Daily Chores
Not everything when running a children's home in fun 'n games. There are still issues of daily necessity. Things such as groceries, homework, discipline, and upkeep continue regardless of what else takes place. I don't want to make it seem as though we are the only ones working at The Pines, or that we are somehow indispensable to God's work here. We are just "lucky" to be a part of it. Our co-workers, the Niehoffs and Carmichaels, are the ones who keep things running.
Ministry #8 - Family
We know that our first job is to our own children and to each other. Unfortunately, that head knowledge sometimes doesn't make it any further than that. We have been learning how important it is to carve out time for Meredith & Drake. One thing that has become helpful is that they both enjoy joining us as we minister. Meredith loves the weekly grocery shop (shocker that she loves shopping, since she is a girl after all) and helps me with the list and helps as we deliver food to the different flats. Drake has joined us for Bible Study on occasion, and has become the designated taste-tester, whether it's tasting the cookies or the dirt, he is more than willing.
We ask that you continue to pray for the work at The Pines. Pray especially for those carrying on the work when we return to the US and pursue the establishment of a new children's home. Pray that we will be able to raise the necessary funds by the 1st of February, and be able to start reaching more children soon after that.