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Monday, December 30, 2013

News From Louis & Amber O'Tool

Dear Supporter,

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 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.

Louis O’Tool

Friday, November 29, 2013

Meditations - Galatians 1:3-4

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father."  Gal 1:3-4

I just read this and chewed on it for a couple hours whilst on the airplane from Joburg to London.  One thing that struck me is the question "what does it actually mean to 'rescue us from this present evil age?'"  Is Paul speaking in physical terms?  I don't think so, because the two ways that would be accomplished is either through physical death or Rapture.  And His "giving of Himself" doesn't accomplish our physical fact, that itself is a result of the curse of sin, not the restoration work of Christ.  And if He is speaking of the Rapture, then only saints who are alive to be raptured would be actually included in this referenced deliverance from the present evil age.

A key word is present.  If His rescuing was through physical death it would be rescuing us from the future punishment, not the present evil.  So then how does He rescue us, or what does it mean to be rescued from this present evil age?

To answer that we must first determine what the evil age refers to.  Satan is called the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), His forces of evil are referred to as the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:8-16).  As the ruler of this present evil age, His plans stand in direct opposition to the working of God.  Going back to Genesis 3, we see His plan was to convince mankind that they could be as gods themselves, knowing good from evil and exercising control over their own lives.  This brings to fruition an attitude that leads to willful ignorance and "going about to establish your own righteousness (Romans 10:3)."  In other words, this default setting of emnity with God leads to a certain restlessness, a lack of peace.  And in that, we know we need righteousness, so we set up our own code of conduct, our own standards with which we measure ourselves, our own goals to accomplish.  In this is pride manifested in its depths.

Doing this leads us only to discouragement, bitterness and failure.  One, because we can never accomplish righteousness on our own.  Two, because God Himself promises to ensure our failure, as our pride stands in opposition to Him.  Our participation in this present evil world is spiritual bondage.

"But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves to sin you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance" (Rom 6:17).  We are freed from our own selves, to experience victory in Jesus!  He died for all.  So I died.  And my life isn't my's His!  His act of rescuing us from this present evil world is to set us free from our bondage to self, to the works of the law, to the constant struggle to obtain righteousness apart from Him.  He cures our blindness to His glory and we are liberated to live for Him, not to ourselves.  Not to our own perceptions of success, our own struggle for righteousness, our own desires to have others think well of us.  Jesus rescues us from this present evil age!

So, then, if this is what Jesus gave Himself for, we have to ask the very same question that Paul was led to ask.  "This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?"

If the Spirit must rescue us, isn't it equally true that the Spirit must keep us rescued?  That He must work in us His life-giving work?  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Therefore, don't become entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Let us rejoice in this freedom, this liberation that Jesus gives us to know Him and to make Him known.  And let us pray for those of our brothers and sisters who do not live according to this freedom.  According to Paul, they are bewitched.  Deceived.  In bondage to the elemental things of the spiritual forces of this age.  Oh, that we may all experience the freedom that we have been blessed with in Christ.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Kamohelo:  "Why did God make sharks?"

Kamohelo:  "Does Mufasa believe in Jesus?"

Revival:  "Who were the first two children in the world?"
Kamohelo:  "Cain and Esau."

Meredith:  "When Jessica grows up…"

Meredith:  "Monica, Drake and I were playing houseparents…"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Makes You Say "Hmmmm!"

Why?  Isn't there a better place for this?  I guess this is so parents can combine two life lessons into one:  Take out the garbage and Look both ways before you cross the street.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Progress on House #3

Here at Restoring Hope Village there is some progress being made on our 3rd Children's House.  It is nearing completion and it is exciting to see this get closer to being ready to receive new children.  There are just a few more plumbing and electrical things to get settled, along with the always aggravating odds and ends that must be completed and seem to take forever sometimes.  Anyone who has ever built or remodeled a house knows what I'm talking about there:-)  

The kitchen:  Still waiting on some final details, including lights and the table/counter that the kids eat at

The bathroom: almost ready, just some final plumbing hookups and some touch up work

The bedrooms:  Waiting on curtains, beds and furnishings, along with those nagging final details

Please pray that it will be ready soon, that we will find godly houseparents to come together along with us, and that God will be preparing the children who will come live here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Update on Atlehang

Earlier this year we received Atlehang into our care.  You can read more about her background here.  She has slowly been gaining strength, and although she has had numerous health struggles God has blessed her while she has been here.  CD4 count is a way that our immune system is measured.  Normal levels in a healthy person range from 500-1,500.  Doctors really become concerned when it drops below 100.  Shortly after coming here Atlehang's CD4 count measured only 2.  We just received word today that her CD4 count is now up to 150!  We are praising the Lord for her growth!  Continue to pray for her to fall in love with Jesus.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Photo Albums

With these last few months being so crazy busy, and with so many visitors taking so many awesome pictures, I felt I had to pirate some of them.  These were mostly taken from Sam and Holly Walters, Emily Harmsen and Elise Anderson.

Sam and Holly are from Minnesota, which you can tell pretty quickly by their thick accents.  Coming from a large, homeschool family we bonded right away.  They were a blast to have around and were a huge help to the ministry for a couple months.

Emily and Elise, or EmElise were also here for a couple months.  They were great with the kids, helping out at school, with homework and around The Village.  We really enjoyed these two young ladies.

Hope you enjoy some of their shared experiences!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Youth Group Fun

On Friday night at Thirst (our youth group at Welkom Baptist Church) the young people participated in a fishing tournament.  Specifically, they were fishing for popcorn using a pen for a rod, a paper clip for a hook, and gummy worms for bait.  They got 6 pieces of popcorn in a bowl and using only those tools (not even their other hand), they had to get all the popcorn from the bowl into their mouth.  It got pretty intense, as you can hear in the video.  This was the championship match between Rose and David.  Since David was informally representing the boys, you can see why they got so excited at the end!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bible Club

This isn't the first time we've written about Bible Club.  And hopefully it won't be the last.  But this one is certainly different from those we've written in the past.

See, in the past we have gone out to Thabong, or Hani Park, or hosted the children at Welkom Baptist Church.  This time we went to Kultwanong, a township about 20 minutes away.  Pastor Vincent left Welkom Baptist Church to plant a Sesotho church in that location and we wanted to help support him in the Lord's work there.

But the major difference was in leadership.  Normally we'll do a Bible Club when there is a team here to help us with teaching, crowd control, games and all those things.  But this time we didn't need a team.  What was so exciting about this Bible Club is that God raised the leadership up from our own young people!

Our mission has been to raise children who will be equipped to impact their communities for Christ.  And it is such a blessing to be able to experience some of the fruit that God is producing in the lives of young men and women dedicated to Him!

Some great young people working together
But to properly understand we have to rewind a few fact, all the way back to July 2012.  We were in the States and Brian and Lois hosted a team of young people from a church in Ohio.  They came and held a Bible Club at Welkom Baptist Church.  This year that team came back, but with a twist on their vision.  Their leader, Jim Heffner, didn't want them to just come in and do a ministry for us.  His desire was to see them come in equipped to equip us to do it.  And that's exactly what happened.

Sorry, Chris.  Had to post this one!
During school holidays in July his team of youth partnered with our youth group, Thirst.  The first week was spent in preparations, training, advertising, and team building.  The second week was the actual event.  Jim's main idea is very similar to my dad's philosophy in raising children - "Don't do anything for them that they can do themselves." (At least, that's what my dad said when he made us start mowing the lawn at age 9:-)  But this proved to be very effective.  Their young people came in prepared to teach the lessons and do the major things, but our youth were quickly plugged into leadership in games, crafts, dance and songs, crowd control, translation and whatever else needed to be done.
Team Ohio with Welkom Baptist Church Youth

Those two weeks were a time of sweet fellowship between the American youth and South African youth.  And from a leader's perspective it developed so much chemistry and camaraderie within our own youth group that hadn't been there in the previous months.

Not only that, but it helped give our youth a vision for what God could use them to accomplish without the need for outside support.

We immediately began planning a Bible Club for the next school holidays, which was the last week of September.  Throughout August and September we spent time preparing, assigning roles and practicing.  Abby and Jessica both took on a large load of the leadership, coordinating the music, drama and games.  One week before Thirst led the entire Sunday School at Welkom Baptist Church.  That helped highlight some "opportunities for improvement" and show who was truly committed to their roles.  It also helped those young people committed to their leadership roles to know how to more adequately prepare themselves.
Figuring out how to 

The following week we jumped in!

Holding the event in the township changed some of the dynamics.  The church is being held at Morningstar Children's Centre, a Christian daycare for HIV+ children.  The facility itself is a bit smaller than the church grounds, and the township tends to be very densely populated.  Plus, in a poorer area the kids tend to be more available to come to Bible Club, with less distractions than kids who have computers, iPods and all that. We intentionally limited our advertisement, hoping to have around 50 kids each day.

We ended up averaging about 90 kids per day!

Since this was our first experience we decided to host a 3 day club.  We got there early on Monday to make sure we had lots of time to set up and handle anything unexpected.  Not that anything unexpected ever happens in Africa!  So, the first day as we arrived the youth started to unload all our props, object lessons, speaker, etc into the large meeting room...and the quickly came running out coughing, gagging and wheezing.  Turns out the facility is equipped with motion sensitive pepper sprayers for security.  The lady who opened up for us that day accidentally pushed the wrong button and set off the pepper spray.  So it didn't directly get our young people, they just got the after-effects.

Because of the pepper spray we had to hold the entire club outside in the courtyard, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  God blessed us with awesome weather and having all the kids sing and dance outside drew some adult pedestrians who were passing by, stopping outside the fence to watch what was happening.
Dk leading the middle age group

Our opening session included songs, dancing, Scripture and drama.  Then we split into three rotating groups between crafts/snacks, games and Bible lesson.  Our youth were in charge of everything except snacks, because everyone knows you can't trust teenagers where there is food involved.

David teaching the older age group
David Canham, Dieketseng and Papa Revival taught the Bible lessons and each did an awesome job.  The theme over three days was Moses birth, the Burning Bush and then the Passover.  Of course, Moses never actually saved anyone so it was important for our teachers to draw out the Gospel from each of those stories.  I was so impressed with how each of them tied the daily themes into the truth that we all need Jesus to save us.  Praise the Lord for His truth going out, as well as for young people passionate to speak of Him!
I also learned this from my dad's parenting and from Jim Heffner's philosophy.  Wasn't this also the advice Moses' father-in-law gave to him?  Spread the workload, lighten the work!

One of the Kultwanong guys explaining the Scripture in Sesotho
Each day we had about 5 young men from the church plant join us, and we tried to replicate what the Ohio Team did with us - plugging these guys into roles of crowd control, Scripture explanation and other things.  Hopefully during the next school holiday we will be holding another Bible Club for an area church and these young men would join us there.

The message of the cross: God, sin, Jesus, life.

The last day during the closing session we broke up into smaller groups, with our youth pairing up to share the message of the cross with children in a more intimate setting.  They were able to share the facts of sin, separation, redemption and eternal life with the kids in their own language, using object lessons that would help the kids relate.  Our prayer is for lasting fruit from this outreach and that it would be used powerfully as Christ builds His church in Kultwanong.
Look how he's using his elbow to block out the other guys!

P.S. - The last night after Bible Club we had a pizza party, along with a good debriefing discussion.  16 pizzas don't go far with 20 teenagers, that's for sure!  I was left to pick the leftovers out of the box:-(
Woe is me.

Sorry, Motshidisi.  I just loved your enthusiasm.
The kids enjoyed the dances almost as much as our youth leaders:-)
Refilowe, Siya and some of our other leaders 
One of the most encouraging things was how our young people reached out to the kids, getting right down on their level with them.

Our dance team rotated every day, guys and girls both stepping up with enthusiasm

Lots of drama roles filled by lots of different people

Rose and Teboho led the Bible Club as emcee's.  And they both did great!

David Canham has been teaching children for many years and his experience showed

Having local young people teach in a local language made a tremendous difference in how we were received

In addition to Revival, Dk and David teaching, our other young people assisted them with the lessons

Apparently the lesson was really electrifying

Dk teaches the story of Moses.  See if you can pick up some of the words.

Game time got pretty serious.  Just ask Drake.
And if you think Drake was serious about tug-of-war, take a look at Monica's face!

Sad but True:  The kids beat our youth in team skiing.  (See Sam, your skis are still being put to good use).

Jess actually beat the kids in the limbo though.  But since Jess is only 4'11'' it kind of makes sense.

Snack time...the most anticipated part of the day!

My lovely wife, always behind the scenes keeping things running smoothly.  

Refilowe was one of our craft leaders
This is serious business...

...especially when there is candy at stake for the best drawing!

A beautiful young woman, inside and out.

Joint ministry bringing young people into real fellowship.

Fortunately there were times to take a quick break.  Teboho took on a lot of the coordination while at Bible Club, while Abby and Jess both were indispensable in their roles in preparing the youth and overseeing activities in Kultwanong.
Shadrach, one of the young men from Kultwanong sharing the Gospel message and inviting the kids to church.
Children in small groups hearing the Gospel in their own language.
Here's the whole team