Where am I? This question lingered in my subconscious as I awoke every morning after we moved out of Park Street Church on July 2. First Isaac, Phoebe and I were in South Weymouth with my parents, then Phoebe and I flew back to South Africa. Two days later, Alberto, Phoebe and I flew to Thailand to attend the Joni & Friends International Family Retreat for missionary families with special needs children. Even though the ground beneath us moves, God is our anchor and our strength.
The conference was amazing, and put us in touch with other missionary families with the same struggles as us: how do you cope overseas with the challenges of special needs? The answer is “not easily, with much creativity, and with the presence of God.” It was great to be in the company of like-minded people, and to share life experiences and wisdom. At some point, we sadly picked up a terrible GI bug, which lingered with us most of the time we were in Thailand, and accompanied us back to South Africa. After much prayer, medicine, and rest, we have finally all recovered.
Being back in South Africa has been simultaneously better and worse than I expected. We left South Africa for Boston during the pandemic last year, so that stress is my last association with being in South Africa. Returning here post-pandemic has been a breath of fresh air, as life is back to its normal hustle and bustle. On the other hand, there have been some challenges that I didn’t expect, at least I didn’t expect them to hit us all at once. My patience muscle was not stretched on a daily basis in Boston, so that muscle is now weak, and has led me to feel impatient with the inefficiencies of this country. Some of our challenges include daily load-shedding (black-outs) for five to seven hours a day. Besides being massively inconvenient for us and our fridge, it basically brings business to a complete halt. Since each neighborhood has its own schedule, I inevitably go somewhere and find it closed. We are currently trying to get all sorts of things back in order after having been gone for a year, so my patience muscle is getting a good work-out. Also, there has been a transportation strike here for the past eight days, which has further exacerbated the situation and has depleted grocery store supplies. Furthermore, we are in the midst of trying to get my car fixed and registrations renewed, our P.O. box renewed (no mail delivery to our residential area), my South African passport renewed (not that I plan to go anywhere anytime soon), and new credit cards delivered (cards were blocked from fraudulent activity). More importantly, we are trying to find a school or home program for Phoebe. I am waiting to hear back from two possible “cottage” schools. (A cottage school is run out of someone’s home for a handful of special needs kids.) If neither works out, we will resort to what we did before, hire therapists to come to our house. Please keep this in prayer.
On a more positive note, it has been a joy to be with our YWAM staff and friends again, although I was a bit surprised by how many families have left this past year. (It is getting increasingly difficult for foreigners to get and renew visas here.) There is a core group of missionaries that is here for the long haul though, and it is exciting to see how God is refining and equipping our base.
Meanwhile, Alberto has been busy distributing cleats to the soccer team! Thank you to all of you who donated used cleats. I’ll include a picture in our next update showing their new owners!
Alberto has also been meeting with Wisdom and Isaac, both ex-offenders. Wisdom is now in seminary and about to start a position at an Anglican church. Isaac, on the other hand, still has significant struggles with his wife and can’t find a stable job or place to live. He’s stayed with us on a temporary basis in the past, and also occasionally works for us, but Alberto is trying to help him find something a bit more stable, while he figures out his marriage. It is a difficult path, and the half-way house we are dreaming about cannot happen soon enough. Ex-prisoners usually do not have the necessary skills to integrate themselves back into society. Ideally, it is a two-way street.
Next week the team from Park Street Church arrives! We are so excited to welcome them. They will participate in a Restorative Justice process at Pollsmoor Prison, which is our local high-security prison.
Pictured above and at the top of the update are Phoebe’s two volunteers Kristin and Hollyn, and the retreat leader Liz and her husband Doug, whom we met at the New England retreat last year.
Although the strike prevented stores from restocking basics such as bread and milk, local fruits were abundant. Avocados for 40¢ Guavas and papayas are also some of our favorites!
It was hard to say goodbye to friends and family in Boston! Pictured above are Phoebe and Kara, who runs our Missionary Care Team. What an amazing year we had!
Ana and Frenchie are not affected by the devastating fires in Maui, but their base is raising money and supplies for those who are.
On a brighter note, they are going to Boston in September, as they want to reconnect with friends at Park Street Church, see my parents, Isaac, and Margaret, and help out at THE SEND conference. “THE SEND exists to gather and mobilize a generation into their missional calling to reach every high school, university, nation and community around the world with the gospel.” (https://thesend.org/)
They will be sharing at a reception at Park Street Church on September 17 after the 11:00 service, so please drop by to see Ana, meet Frenchie, and learn about their ministry.
Isaac and Margaret are pictured above with my father. Isaac is living with my parents now, which seems to be a good arrangement on both sides. I am happy he can be there for them. He is currently training for an Ironman Triathlon.
Margaret has returned from her European tour, and is now also staying with my parents and hoping to start work again. She plans to return to South Africa next month and will also start applying for colleges again. This will be her third round of applications, so she is getting good at the process! I am praying this time yields a good way forward. The UK college she was planning on attending (Leeds Beckett) ended up being too expensive.
* Discernment to know what is the better option for Phoebe’s education and care, and corresponding open doors
* Grace as we readjust to the challenges of South Africa
* Integrity and opportunities for ex-prisoners as they seek to reintegrate into society
* God to speak His truth through the short-term team during the Restorative Justice process
* Rekindled connections during Ana and Frenchie’s Boston visit
* Isaac to remain injury-free in his Ironman training
* Work for Margaret so she can earn the money necessary to fly to South Africa
We proclaim the hope of Christ to the incarcerated through Hope Prison Ministry, on the soccer field to young men who are at-risk, and to the nations through Youth With A Mission (YWAM).