Normally our updates are filled with pictures and stories of the ministry in Welkom. God continues to do great and awesome things in the children of Restoring Hope Village, at Welkom Baptist Church and in the community as a whole. I wish you could personally meet each of the children, young people and families that God has brought into our lives. After nearly 6 years serving in South Africa we feel we can truly understand Paul’s heart when he shares his desire to visit the believers in Rome.
“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11-12
Although we have been sent to South Africa to minister the Gospel there, we have found that in the midst of ministry we are receiving exponentially more than we expend. What a privilege to serve a God who constantly fills us back up. Our testimony is that you can never out-give God. And as with Paul, He so often uses the very same people whom we serve to bless us!
The past several years of ministry have brought both blessing and heartache. But our sovereign God uses heartache to bring about His most precious blessings. It is in the difficult times that He drives us more deeply into an intimate relationship with Him. Since He is the treasure of surpassing value, whatever causes us to know Jesus more deeply is a blessing that cannot be measured.
Reading between the lines, you probably can tell what’s coming. Over the past several months we believe God has led us in a new direction…new to us at least. For several years we have been working with the children’s home ministry, focusing almost exclusively on orphaned and abandoned children. We still have a tremendous burden for this type of work, but God has also revealed to us a significant need within South Africa, and especially in Welkom. That need is for the solid establishment of a Gospel community, of a church family that will be able to minister not only to their own orphaned and abandoned children but to a culture desperately in need of God’s redemption message.
I want to share with you what God has been doing in our life and ministry, and at Welkom Baptist Church. Throughout our ministry in Welkom one of the greatest challenges has been the lack of a healthy Gospel community - a place to worship, serve, encourage and be encouraged. While the children we have worked with have received the gospel message, it has been a struggle to find a spiritual family for them outside the walls of the children’s home. This spiritual family will be vitally important for their ongoing spiritual growth and wellbeing. This is God’s design for His children to thrive.
Welkom Baptist Church has existed in Welkom for several decades. Along with the decline of the mining community in the area, the church saw a decline as well. In 2011 they were down to about 20 people attending and hadn’t had a pastor for about 7 years. Through a long and complicated process God brought Pastor Joshua Bolaji to the church in September 2011 and we joined in December 2011. Since Pastor Josh’s arrival the church has grown from 20 people to an attendance of around 150. However, many of these are either unbelievers or new believers much in need of discipleship.
Last March we were able to start a youth group at the church. God has been doing His awesome work in the hearts and minds of many of these young people. We have seen them go from a fractured group of cliques to a unified group sharing their bond in Christ with other young people in the surrounding communities. There have been several young men and women step up to take leadership roles and they are becoming active in serving the church body as a whole. Our study through 1 John has challenged us all in our walk with Christ and with one another.
We believe that God is leading us to focus more directly on the establishment and growth of the church, either in Welkom or elsewhere in South Africa.
The leadership of Welkom Baptist Church have asked me to join in an associate role, along with Pastor Josh, working to spread the Gospel within the church and community. Our primary responsibilities would be evangelism and discipleship with young families, young adults and youth. Given the situation of the church it would be very much a church-planting type ministry.
Whether we return to Welkom Baptist or pursue another ministry, it would still be in a “missions” capacity, as whatever work we pursue would not have the financial resources to pay us. Your ongoing financial support is important for us as we continue serving in the Gospel.
Because of this change in direction our family is in the process of looking for a new supporting agency. Our work will no longer be under Restoring Hope International. You may have received a communication from RHI announcing our resignation. We appreciate the time we spent there and have not made this decision lightly. On the one hand, we approach these changes with excited anticipation to see how God will work as we abide in Him. On the other hand, the transition will be difficult as our relationship with The Village children and staff changes. The leadership of Slater Baptist Church, our “home church”, has been actively involved as we have worked through things over the past several months. Attached along with this letter is a letter from Pastor Michaelsen on behalf of the church leadership.
For those who have been supporting us financially, we thank you for your faithfulness. RHI will no longer be accepting or processing our donations. We ask that you please hold those donations for the time being, and as soon as we have arrangements with another supporting organization we will let you know.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515.203.9700. We would love to speak with you and clear up any questions you may have. We appreciate the prayers and encouragement we have received from so many throughout this time.