June 19, 2020

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently declared, “Violence against women and children is another pandemic in South Africa.”  The past few months have seen a sharp increase in the abuse of women and children, some of these cases have resulted in death. There have also been a number of deaths related to police brutality while enforcing lock-down curfew.  It’s been a tough time for South Africa, with unemployment and malnutrition also reaching new limits.

Meanwhile, our hearts certainly go out to the #blacklivesmatter struggle in the U.S., which gained strength after George Floyd’s death.  The struggle against the systemic and institutionalized oppression of black people through policies, attitudes and behaviors has been going on for too long.  We pray that the long-overdue changes can start to be seen in policy and mindset.

In South Africa, apartheid is not a distant memory in people’s minds, where people were legally separated and differentiated according to the color of their skin.  The pain of injustice is a wound that is still raw here.

COVID, lock-down, hunger, police brutality, racial injustices, gender-based violence…it is all so much, and enough to make one feel helpless.  Except we serve a God who cares deeply about injustice, and He prompts us to action.  We can examine our own hearts, ask God and others for forgiveness, and ask God what we can do.

And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God

Micah 6:8

The one thing we can do during this trying time is to feed the hungry.  There are so many hungry people in South Africa.  Every time I go to the store, I am confronted by people asking for food or money.  We started making sandwiches and distributing them in the nearby township where basic amenities (water, food, plumbing) are limited and overcrowding is common.

A friend of mine then decided he would donate money to us to increase our food distribution efforts.  Alberto enlisted the help of a prison ministry partner.  Together they bought, bagged and distributed over 80 bags of groceries to needy prison families.  Prison families, families with a member in prison, are at high risk of going hungry because they are often ostracized by their communities, and employment is hard to come by.

I shared the above picture of Alberto and friend with the bags of groceries on facebook, and more people decided they wanted to donate.  We are embarking on a third round of grocery distribution to prison families.  Please contact me if you would like to contribute.

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During level 5 of lock-down, we could only leave the house for groceries or medical care.  Level 4 brought exercise time from 6-9 am.  Stores closed early and curfew was enforced (often brutally, as I mentioned).  Level 3 has allowed us to exercise at any time and our curfew has now ended.  We still cannot gather socially, but people are going stir-crazy so they do gather, often without masks.  It’s all very concerning since our peak is not expected until next month.  Cape Town is the epicenter for South Africa, and for the entire African continent!

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Prisons are still closed to visitors, but Alberto is able to maintain contact with ex-prisoners and their families through encouraging texts and food donations.

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Margaret in particular was having a very hard time in isolation away from her classmates and friends.  We finally invited Savannah to come and quarantine with us.  She has been with us for a few weeks already, and is a huge blessing.

Margaret finished 10th grade last Friday.  She is relieved!  The virtual classroom was challenging for her, but she did great academically.  Now she is just waiting for her AP Psychology grade.  She is also adjusting to a new ADHD medication.

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Phoebe seems to be thriving at home, surrounded by all of us.  (I’m also enjoying it!)  Her school closed their doors in March and have no plans to reopen this year.

Meanwhile, Phoebe and I both got very sick last week.  We both had terrible stomach aches that radiated throughout our bodies.  Phoebe also had a low-grade fever for a week, a resulting cold-sore infection in her mouth, and was generally weak.  I must say, the pain I endured was one of the worst in my life.  I would have taken us both to the ER if COVID weren’t such a risk.  But, praise God, we are on the mend.

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Ana is doing great in Australia, so that is a relief and blessing!  You can read her latest update here.

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Isaac finished his semester at Messiah College.  You may remember he was allowed to stay in the college dorms due to his international student status.  He thought it better to stay there, rather than with my parents, who are at high-risk for COVID due to their age.  At the end of the semester, he was hoping to be a camp counselor at Camp Brookwoods in NH.  As a back-up plan, he found work at Messiah College.

Through unavoidable situations, however, he now finds himself without either job.  On June 1, Camp Brookwoods said they were legally allowed to continue with camp.  Therefore, Isaac quit his Messiah job and bought a ticket to NH.  Shortly thereafter, Camp Brookwoods said that they would not be able to open camp after all, due to the restrictions placed on them by the state.  So, Isaac found himself jobless and homeless, because he had to leave the dorms as soon as his college employment ended.  He is now staying with a friend in the area until he can make a plan C.

Prayer Requests

*For people to turn to Jesus
*For us to be a light in the darkness
*For protection for the people of South Africa, especially those in tight quarters like the prisons
*For an end to gender-based violence in this country
*For healing and change to result from the unrest in the U.S.
*For COVID to end
*For protection of front-line workers, and all of you
*For Margaret’s school vacation
*For Phoebe’s protection during the pandemic
*For Ana in her various ministries
*For Isaac’s plan C for the summer

April 18, 2020

Our thoughts and prayers are with the front-line workers world-wide.  Every night at 8pm, we stand outside our front door to cheer and clap for them.  But even now, weeks into lock-down, the cheering is starting to lose its enthusiasm.  How long, oh Lord?  We all ask.  Lord, be our help!  We are reading through the Psalms, which voice similar prayers and pleas for help in difficult situations.  Seek God.  Obey His Word.  He alone is on the throne.  That is my brief summary of what I’ve been reading.  We serve a God who has the victory!  And Jesus gives us hope when fear, isolation, sickness and death surround us.  This is not the first time God has seen the world suffer.  As we meditate on Easter and the resurrection of the One who suffered, died, and rose again, let us remember that God is on the throne.

Although the U.S is getting hit hard, South Africa also has its COVID-19 cases.  With so many people living in complete poverty in crowded locations that prevent social distancing, with so many people at high-risk due to Tuberculous and HIV/AIDS, and with so many people going hungry because they are no longer working, the situation is bleak.  In addition, we are going into winter here, so many people are going to be cold soon since clothing and blankets were not on the original list of essential services.  It is easy to get completely overwhelmed.

Alberto is not allowed into the prisons these days.  Actually, we are not allowed to leave the house except to go to the grocery store or to get medical care.  No walks, no jogs, no driving around for a change of scenery.  The army enforces this.  The girls and I have not left our property for over a month now.  Our little dog has given up on requesting a walk.

Through this time, we are trying to be diligent in seeking God about our lives and ministry.  What are we doing well?  Where are we coming up short?  Where do we want to go from here?  We are having similar conversations with YWAM, who is using this period as a time of pruning.  We have lots of Zoom meetings.  Lots of them.  In a way, this has been fantastic for me, as I am usually not able to join many of the YWAM meetings, due to their conflicts with the kids’ school schedules or bed times.

Alberto is trying to stay in touch with some families of prisoners.  We know many people who do not have enough food to eat, so we are helping them with money or food.  Our community is collecting 6000 sandwiches/week to distribute to the needy in the local township Masiphumelele.  How this works is that we each make 60 sandwiches at home and drop them at a small grocery store where the liaison picks them up.

I recently received an email from the American Embassy alerting me to the fact that although the South African borders were closed and no flights were coming or going, they had organized a private plane to do an emergency “evacuation” of Americans back to the U.S.  If we wanted to be “repatriated” this was our only chance.  The flight left the next day.  This was a hard email for me, as although I hadn’t considered leaving South Africa, knowing that I couldn’t leave to help my parents in an emergency was sobering.  Also challenging was knowing that Ana and Isaac would not be able to fly here.

Despite these challenges, it is good to count the blessings.  Crime is down in the communities, as alcohol is banned.  Gangs are forming truces, because the drug market is paused since no one has money.  Most importantly, we hear of many people crying out to God and finding hope in Jesus.

Personally, this time is also a blessing for us.  It is a sabbatical from all the running around that previously consumed our days.  We love our new house and yard.  We are enjoying each other’s company.  We are gardening, doing some home renovations, reconnecting with friends, reading, praying, reading the Bible, playing lots of loud praise music, journaling and resting.  I’m also doing an online course on Member Care Foundations through Global Member Care Network.  I am enjoying it, and trust it will give me more tools to listen and help the people around me, and specifically other missionaries in my small group!

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This is Margaret’s school picture for 10th grade.  She is doing all her classes virtually, which has been very intense.  She is still figuring out dosage and type of medication for the ADHD, as well as how to handle anxiety, so please keep her in your prayers.

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Ana is doing really well in Australia with YWAM.  She does not have a severe lock-down, although must social distance and adhere to restricted coffee shop services.  She is still doing her classes and working limited shifts in the coffee shop.  You can read her April update here.

She was recently approached by the staff and asked if she would consider staffing an upcoming Bible school, to which she enthusiastically agreed.  She has begun staff training already.  She says she is a bit overwhelmed by the high caliber of the other Bible staff, so it will be a great opportunity for her.

Meanwhile, she wrote an article for the YWAM newspaper on what it is like to grow up as a missionary kid, which you can read here.  As a parent, it is hard to hear of the challenges your children face, but I am glad that God has redeemed them.

She is pictured above on her 23rd birthday last week.

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Phoebe and Alberto pictured above are in our driveway cheering at night.

Isaac is still at Messiah College. He was allowed to stay in the dorm due to his international student classification.  There are a few students there, although they are required to stay in their dorms, cannot visit other dorms, or go off campus.  He, like the rest of the world, is waiting to see what will happen this summer.  He was planning on being a camp counselor at Camp Brookwoods.

Phoebe is perfectly content following me around the house, or perhaps it is I who follow her around the house?  Anyway, she hasn’t communicated any stress in the change of routine.  I am especially concerned with keeping her safe.  Her health conditions put her at a higher risk.  Please pray she stay safe.

Prayer Requests

*For COVID-19 to end.
*For protection of front-line workers.
*For protection for the people of South Africa, especially those in tight quarters like the prisons, and those who are hungry.
*For people world-wide to turn to Jesus through this pandemic.
*For God’s protection on all of you and on our family.
*For us to be a light in the darkness surrounding us.
*For Margaret’s remaining school year: for peace.
*For Phoebe’s diabetes to be stable, especially these days.
*For Ana in her various ministries.
*For Isaac to finish his semester strong, and for a possible plan B for the summer.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

February 20, 2020

I hope you have had a good beginning to 2020.  For the first time in a long time, we were all together as a family over the holidays.  It was wonderful!  We had lots of happy times together, including a few days by the beach down the coast and lots of braais with friends. Now it is all but a memory, but at least the memories are good!  I am grateful that our kids are following God, and know what they want to do!  Ana is in Brisbane, Australia doing a leadership/business/barista course with YWAM.  Isaac is in the middle of his sophomore year at Messiah College.  Margaret is in the middle of 10th grade here in Cape Town, and Phoebe started a new school year at a new school.

With the influx of tourists over the holiday, I became keenly aware of the beauty and challenges of this country.  Mountains crash down to the ocean on every side.  Hearing three or four different languages daily is normal.  I have seen the biggest houses in my life here, yet I have also seen the most depravity imaginable to humankind.  Segregation and racial tensions are rife.  This rainbow nation has its work cut out for it.  It’s hard to watch sometimes, always interesting, always challenging.

Our current challenge is electricity, in terms of supply and price.  Because of poor management and corruption, the country cannot provide enough electricity to everyone.  We have allotted black-out periods which usually run for two and a half hours each day.  Believe me, you get into a rhythm with this. It’s not all bad, although it is frustrating when you forget and go to the store and find it closed.

Prison ministry is up and running once again.  Alberto just attended the Hope Prison Ministry conference where they discussed the unrecognized ministry of working with prison authorities.  While some officials are corrupt and directly benefit from the illicit market of goods entering the prison, others are dedicated to doing the right thing.  It is up to the officials to decide whether it is a good day to allow volunteers in or not.  It may not be safe on a particular day, or they simply may not want to be bothered.  Another subject that was discussed is prison trauma and the importance of volunteers debriefing what they see and hear in prison.  I am grateful Alberto is part of a team so they can debrief together.

Please keep the prison ministry in your prayers, as well as our family and our safety.  Of course we are all praying for the Coronavirus outbreak, for those suffering, and for wisdom for those making decisions.

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Fire season is here.  The land is dry, and fires break out with far too much frequency.  The above fire was maliciously lit in our neighborhood.  The thick smoke and ash caused us to leave.  It took a few days of hard work by the fire department as the fires kept being reignited, but eventually they were put out.

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Ana was so excited to start her barista course in Australia, although good-byes are always hard.  You can read her positive update here.

Margaret was recently diagnosed with ADD, as I mentioned in the last update.  She is now on medication and doing much better.  She is able to focus in class and on her homework, and her general mood has improved considerably.  We are still working out the details on the medication, but grateful for this discovery and Margaret’s persistence in getting me to get her tested.

Phoebe started the new school year at a new private special needs school.  She is pictured above looking a bit anxious on the first day (no uniform at this school).  So far we are happy with the school.  The student teacher ratio is 3:1.  The school day includes most of Phoebe’s therapies, which means I do not have to spend my afternoons driving around to the various sessions.  The beautiful thing is that last July a generous donor donated a large sum of money to our account.  Little did we know at the time that we would need that money to cover the higher tuition of the school.  Yet God knew all along, and even provided the money before we knew we would need it!

Our last update mentioned Elna and her struggles with her son being in and out of prison.  Meanwhile she is taking care of lots of foster kids and struggling financially.  Her church wanted to affirm her ministry to the children and honour her for her faithfulness, even though they couldn’t provide any financial assistance in caring for the foster kids.  Through the generosity of one of our supporters, we were able to bring Elna bags of groceries at the end of the year.  This made her weep, as she said she was waiting for God’s provision when the groceries appeared.

According to the 2019 statistic by UNICEF, 27.4% (1.7 million) South African children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition and hunger. This is absolutely appalling for a country with so many resources!  One load of groceries will not prevent malnutrition, but bit by bit we can all work together.  Margaret’s school is currently getting involved in this very issue.

Phoebe was recently tested for an adrenal auto-immune disease (Addison’s Disease) at the Groote Schuur Hospital.  Night time dips in her blood sugar levels turned out to be due to low cortisol levels.  The doctor recommended a stimulation test of her adrenal glands, to rule out an auto-immune disease.  Since she already has two auto-immune conditions, we have to be very proactive when we see red flags.  Phoebe spent a challenging day in the hospital with a port in her hand, and her other hand tied up, to prevent her from pulling the thing out.  Praise God, the end result was that she was NEGATIVE for the disease.

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Soccer ministry is up and running.  Peniel is one of the soccer players.  Originally from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), he fled his country during civil war and came to Cape Town, a haven for immigrants and refugees.  He became a Christian through the soccer ministry, and is a hard-working college student.  He worked around the clock at McDonalds to pay for his fees for his first year.  Now he wants to continue with his second year, but does not have enough funds.  Instead of letting him drop out, we decided to help him.  Pictured above is Alberto dropping him at his college dorm.  Because we are blessed and have seen God’s faithfulness in our lives with our children’s education, we can bless others.  Thank you to all of you who support us, who inadvertently support Peniel!

 

 

December 20, 2019

Merry Christmas!  Happy summer vacation!  Summer is here in the southern hemisphere, and while many people are flocking to the beach, we are trying to recreate some familiar Christmas traditions.  We have found a real Christmas tree and we are busy making Christmas cookies.  We are also counting down the days to Isaac’s arrival on Dec 23.  Having all our children with us will be a huge blessing!

With the approach of the end of the year, we have time to reflect and verbalize our gratitude to God.  We own the most amazing house with a beautiful garden that God uses to restore my soul!  Owning a house has enabled our roots to grow quickly, and gives us a sense of belonging and stability.

Ministry has been good this year, with the soccer team growing by leaps and bounds.  The team is pictured above with Alberto at the end-of-year braai.  Prison ministry has also been fruitful, with Restorative Justice conferences and counselling opportunities that have shown many that they are loved by a faithful father.

Alberto started a visitation ministry this year, whereby he visits family member of prisoners, and sees firsthand the effects of crime on the extended family.  Many times there is misunderstanding and anger, not to mention the loss of an income.  His goal is to listen to their struggles and offer a word of hope in Jesus.

On the family-front, we have had some challenges.  Violence has been on the increase in the city, and daily power outages have been difficult to work-around.  Power outages have been a particular challenge to Margaret, who depends on the internet for homework.  (No power=no internet and often no cell service.)  This, combined with challenging academics and the fact that she doesn’t have good friends at school, has made for a tough semester.  It was suggested to us that we test Margaret for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) as a possible explanation for her seeming inability to concentrate.  Sure enough, we received the official diagnosis yesterday.  Looking back at her academic history, it all makes sense now!  Grateful for more insight, we’ll see how things change in the new year.  Please keep us in your prayers.

Phoebe, on the other hand, has just been accepted at a new school, which sounds absolutely amazing!  They have an autism behaviouralist on staff, and an occupational therapist, physical therapist and speech therapist.  Her new teacher just came to our house for coffee, and seems lovely.  The school will focus on life skills like gardening, meal prep, and art.  Her last school was alright, and at the time, her only option.  But after some helpful input from an observer, it was suggested that we look elsewhere.  I had heard of a new private special needs school opening in January 2020 through the broker for our house!  (We’ve stayed in touch because we both have special needs children.)  We applied for Phoebe and have just received her acceptance!  Although this new school is considerably more expensive, it seems like a very worth-while expense.  I am very excited about this opportunity.

My mom recently shared this passage from Isaiah 35 with me, as it reminded her that one day Phoebe will shout for joy!  What a day that will be!  (Phoebe does have some words, but not a full vocabulary, and it is often hard to know her intent.)  Anyway, the passage shows the Glory of the Lord and the Splendor of God.  It is a reminder to us, the redeemed, of things to come, and the motivation for us to carry on.  I cut the passage after the water reference, since drought is particularly fresh in our minds!

Joy of the Redeemed

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert…

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Alberto sharing at the end-of-year Hope Prison Ministry gathering.  Next to him is  Willem, his ministry partner of a few years.  Anne May is also in the line-up!

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In a recent home visit, Alberto met Elna, whose son was recently released from prison, and causing her much stress.  Although they couldn’t track down the son, Alberto was able to encourage the mom, who has three younger children at home plus seven foster kids.  She lives in a particularly challenging community with few opportunities, where many children get caught up in drug use at a very young age.  Alberto was able to listen to her challenges and pray with her.  He gave her some food for the children and a blood-pressure machine to help monitor her high blood pressure.  It seems like a drop in the bucket of need, but God is faithful and Alberto will maintain contact with her.

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Phoebe has completed another year of therapeutic horse-back riding, thanks to donations through SARDA (South African Riding for the Disabled Association).  Although its not quite clear whether Phoebe enjoys being on the horse or not, she certainly has good posture to show for it.

Phoebe has been enjoying swimming lessons again.  She is slowly but surely learning to swim, which is an important skill to have for someone with zero fear of water.

The talented ladies from the WBS (Women’s Benevolent Society) made this quilt for Phoebe!  What an act of love from those faithful ladies who always keep in touch with us and pray for us.  Thank you ladies!

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We are loving having Ana home!  She is cheerful and encouraging!  She has reconnected with old friends, including one of her best friends from Hawaii who lives here in Cape Town!  She has also been accepted to YWAM Brisbane leadership school and coffee internship program.  This 18-month course will teach her how to run a coffee shop as a business and ministry.  She is currently awaiting her Australian visa.  Click on this link to read her letter.

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I continue to enjoy my weekly hikes around Cape Town with other moms from Margaret’s school.  It’s a time to decompress and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.  I have made some friends, and learned some of the challenges of the rotating culture at the school.

Current Address
P.O. Box 663
Noordhoek 7979
South Africa
Thank you to those of you who send us mail!  Some of you have our old address on file.  Please note our new address!

Merry Christmas!  God bless you and your families during this season!

 

October 28, 2019

Our refreshing time in Boston seems like a distant memory at this point.  Thanks to Jess Herndon for the lovely family picture taken on Boston Common.

Thank you for supporting our ministry here in South Africa, faithfully praying for us, and being our friends year after year.  As of September, we’ve been in South Africa for five years!

Since we were originally sent out by Park Street Church as mid-term missionaries, which carries a five-year maximum term of service, our status has recently been updated.  We are happy to announce that we are now Partner Missionaries!  We are thrilled to have an ongoing partner relationship with Park Street Church, and appreciate the long-term relationship with the church and their validation for our vision for ministry in South Africa.  To have the support of our home church is very important to us, as it carries an emotional relationship as well as a spiritual connection and practical backing.

In terms of practical backing, Park Street Church has increased their financial support of our family to 12% of our budget (from 6% under our old category).  The bulk of our budget will continue to be made up by generous supporters such as yourselves.  Most of you give through the church, with a message that the funds are to be allocated to our family.  Please continue to support us this way.

Ministry has taken different shapes and forms over the years, but the goal has always been to preach the gospel of salvation and make disciples.  Looking back, we have seen much fruit, and give all glory to God.  It is an honor to be working in His vineyard.  Despite having a troubled history and a present plagued with extreme racial inequalities, South Africa is a land of hope.  Thank you to all of you for standing with us, and thank you to Park Street Church for our new Partner Missionary status!

Saturday soccer ministry continues to show the players that walking with God is a viable long-term option, and that God is faithful.  Restorative Justice conferences through Hope Prison Ministry continue to reconcile inmates with their families and God.  Sometimes this has lasting positive effects, such as the woman who left prison a changed person, put herself through nursing school in order to help others, and is currently planning her wedding to a wonderful Christian man.  Sadly, sometimes the effects are short-lived.  On Alberto’s visit to a recently-released man, he learned that this man had just committed a new crime and was on his way back to prison again.  We must be faithful in sowing the Word of God, as some people’s hearts require great persistence.

Happy 16th birthday, Margaret!  She is pictured above, on her September 17th birthday.  Life has not always been easy with moving and adjusting, coming and going of friends, and stress of high school.  Through it all, Margaret has maintained a song in her heart and a smile on her face, as my mom says.  (Actually, a song on her lips, as she loves to sing!)

Margaret’s best present was Ana’s arrival from the U.S.  No time for jet-lag, we immediately whisked Ana off for Margaret’s birthday celebrations, including a sunset photo shoot over the Atlantic Ocean.  What a blessing to have Ana back with us, at least temporarily.  The Lord has been good to us!

Ana is with us for a few months, now that she is done with the School of Biblical Studies.  She needs some family time before she embarks on her next venture, which you will hear about shortly.

Phoebe recently started wearing a glucose monitoring sensor, which allows me to check her glucose levels with a scanner.  I no longer have to prick her finger five times a day.  This is a huge step in the care of her diabetes!

Last update I asked for prayer to get an appointment with a Behavioural therapist.  We are still on the wait-list for the recommended therapist, but in the meantime I found another one who seems equally as good.  She observed Phoebe in school this week, so I am eagerly awaiting her feedback and recommendations.

We recently had the opportunity to raft down the Breede River, along with other families in our special needs support group.  I am always inspired by the perseverance of the children in this group, and the commitment of their families. Walking the special needs road is certainly something we never envisioned for ourselves, but has caused us to slow down and watch our roots in God grow deep.

Isaac is in his sophomore year at Messiah College pursuing a Computer Science major and Finance minor (at present).  He is enjoying his classes, track, investment club, and working.  Happy summer memories of being with him have now faded, although he will be home with us for Christmas in Cape Town!  He’s been gone for over a year, so I can’t wait to have him back!

Alberto recently spoke about his prison ministry at our annual YWAM conference here in Cape Town.  It was an honor to be chosen to be a speaker, and many people have since expressed interest in getting involved in the ministry.

I joined a weekly hiking club with other mothers at Margaret’s school, which means I am now climbing some of Cape Town’s visual masterpieces, while getting to know some lovely ladies.  Ana joined us on our last hike up Devil’s Peak, part of the Table Mountain National Park, with views overlooking Cape Town.

Sue Givens is a missionary in Paraguay who was instrumental in our years of service there.  She recently visited us for a few days, which was so much fun, and allowed us to talk about our happy years in Paraguay!  Here we are at the Cape of Good Hope on an unusually calm day on the point.  It’s usually very windy there, which partly explains the many ship wrecks.

Glow-in dark algae (bioluminescent plankton) at a local beach.  I’m not sure why it glowed in the dark on that specific night, but we got the alert and headed to the beach!  What a phenomenon, and evidence of God’s handiwork!

Phoebe is relaxing on our porch after a busy day.

August 20, 2019

We are back in Cape Town after an amazing whirl-wind trip.  Thank you for welcoming us back into your lives with so much love.  It was as if we had never left, except for the fact that everyone’s kids had grown beyond recognition!  Non-stop invitations to get-togethers with old friends was sweetness to the soul.

We stayed with my parents during our Massachusetts visit.  Isaac was also there, so that was a highlight!  My sister and her children visited, as did my brother and his family.  I hadn’t seen my brother and sister-in-law in six years, and finally met my nephew, all pictured above.

We attended lots of meetings and presentations at Park Street Church, had seven appointments at Children’s Hospital, refinanced our Quincy house, and ran around visiting as many friends as we could.  For those of you who missed the five-minute YouTube video we showed at our reception at Park Street Church, please click this video link.  Thank you to our friend Wesley for filming!

In Pennsylvania we saw more friends, bits of Isaac’s life at Messiah College, and attended the phenomenal Family Camp with the Spanish Church (Primera Iglesia Bautista de Washington DC).  In the Washington DC area we saw Alberto’s two brothers and their families, and more friends!

Thank you for encouraging us in our ministry in South Africa.  We often feel lonely here, so being surrounded by people who are familiar with our work and lives is a blessing.  We have returned to South Africa overflowing with more happiness, more confidence, and more energy.  Prison and soccer ministry resumed immediately, and Alberto’s team is doing a Restorative Justice conference this week.  Margaret and Phoebe are back to school.  Please see their updates below.

As a side note, please delete my U.S. cell number from your phones, as that number is being reassigned to a new person!

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I loved being with Isaac again!  He and Margaret sold ice-cream at Faneuil Hall in Boston.  Isaac also took an on-line summer class in Economics.  His two scholarships were renewed for this coming year (Mary McKenzie through Park Street Church and Martin’s through Messiah College).  Praise God!  He returns to Messiah at the end of August.  It will be hard for me to not be there when he moves in, although I am grateful for his surrogate mother Leah Plante, and my own mom!

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Back to freezing cold Cape Town, where morning temperatures are in the 40’s.  That’s pretty cold, considering there is no central heat.  We are grateful for the wood stove in our new house, which is keeping us warm.  It’s been a cold wet winter, which means Cape Town is comfortably out of the drought crisis.  Praise the Lord!

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Clearly Phoebe is the most photographed member of our family!

Her appointments at Children’s were all positive: Gastrointestinal, Down syndrome, Endocrinology (twice), Hearing test, Dentist, Physical therapy assessment (for a special needs stroller we are hoping to receive).  Some of these areas we only check every two years, while others we check regularly in Cape Town (namely the diabetes).  I appreciate seeing the doctors at Children’s Hospital who have been following Phoebe for most of her life.  They always offer good suggestions, and don’t mind following her progress from afar.

Phoebe does have some challenging behaviours such as slamming doors, dumping her food, stripping off her clothes, etc.  I have been on the wait-list to see a behavioural therapist here in Cape Town for a very long time.  Please pray that we get the appointments we need, as I am running out of creative ideas and need some help.

Margaret started 10th grade the day after we arrived in Cape Town.  It’s been a challenging few weeks in terms of classes and friends.  Academically, she is taking her first AP class in Psychology.  She is doing soccer again.  Sadly, her two best friends left the country in June.  Please pray for new best friends to come her way!  The high turn-over rate is the hard part of attending an international school.

Having completed her School of Biblical Studies in June, Ana and team are on outreach in Oregon and Washington state teaching the Bible at various youth camps and churches.  Ana has been speaking on the Old Testament.  She finishes in September, at which point she will visit my sister in Denver, then spend a week in Boston before returning to Cape Town.  (Look out for her at Park Street Church on September 15.)  We are so excited to see her again!

She recently wrote an update on her time with YWAM, which you can read here: update link.

June 12, 2019

We are packing our bags and looking forward to our time back in the U.S.  We arrive June 21 (after a few day lay-over in the U.K.) and leave again July 31.  We will be staying with Joanna’s parents in South Weymouth.  We would love to see you to thank you personally for your support!  Please contact us:

Home phone (781)337-1141
Email joanna@paradas.org, or simply respond to this email

At the moment, this is our Sunday schedule:

June 23: Holy Nativity Church
June 30: Park Street Church ministry update
July 7: PSC
July 10: PSC Missions committee presentation
July 14: PSC
July 21: PSC: reception
July 28: Iglesia Bautista de Washington

Praises

We are grateful for:
*Our house (pictured above, with flowering aloes).
*Your faithful prayers and supporting our mission here.
*Phoebe’s recent liver counts that came back normal, and that she has grown.
*Margaret’s completion of 9th grade, and that her financial aid grant was renewed.  Also that she won the “Most Improved” in Algebra.
*Getting to see Isaac soon! In addition, that his Mary McKenzie scholarship through Park Street Church was renewed, as was his scholarship through Messiah College.
*Ana, who finishes School of Biblical Studies this month, at which time she will bid adieu to Hawaii and start a three-month outreach.

Prayer Requests

* Safe travels during our flights and lay-over in the U.K.
* Good visits with friends and family
* Church presentations: that we could effectively share what we are doing, reconnect with our supporters, and add in some new supporters
* Phoebe’s appointments at Children’s Hospital
* Margaret’s reconnection with old friends and job at Sprinkles in Boston
* Isaac’s summer class and work at Sprinkles
* Ana’s outreach to the North-West states with YWAM
* Refinancing our Quincy house (to pay-off the South African house with its high interest rate)
* Finances to cover all the added expenses

May 17, 2019

Here is our new house!  It is in a calm, beautiful setting, which makes it a blessing to return to after the stress of the day.  We are already enjoying lemons and granadillas (passion fruit) from our very own trees.  And there are no security bars on our doors and windows since we now live in a much safer area.  We have a long mortgage ahead of us, but at least we are not paying rent to a landlord looking over our shoulders.  (I’m still in complete awe of God opening doors for us.  It is so hard to get a mortgage in this country, especially if you have an unconventional income like ours!)

Although we are only over the mountain and 15 minutes from our previous home, it is still a big transition.  We didn’t know anyone in this area before moving here. While our neighbors are all lovely, we are starting from scratch, once again.  Although exciting, it is also exhausting and stressful.  We didn’t even know where the closest store was to buy milk our first day here!  (Siri, where can I buy milk?)  It strikes a chord deep within us that we don’t have a solid foundation here.  We are constantly reminded that God is our foundation, and that human connections are slow to come by.

We long to reconnect with people who know us well. And for that reason, we have planned a trip back to the U.S. in June and July.  It’s been two years since our last visit, so we are excited to see as many of you as possible.  Stay posted for more details.

National Elections

South Africa had its presidential elections last week, and the ANC (Africa National Congress) won once again.  President Cyril Ramaphosa remains president, and has the challenge to oversee Africa’s largest economy in a country with a 27% unemployment rate (most of which are young people).  Lack of job opportunities and corruption have made people weary.  This was the country’s worst election in terms of voter turn-out: only 65% of voters voted.  Six million eligible youth chose not to register.  The youth, traditionally politically active, have stepped aside in resignation.  They see no future.  (source: www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48211598)

What a challenge for us Christians!  These bleak statistics reflect the desperation many young people feel today.  The prisons are full of people who are capable of working, but have chosen the wrong path due to limited opportunities, and have entered into a cycle of crime.  But that cycle can be broken.

Psalm 146:7 declares:
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free.

Alberto participates in a prison prayer walk every month, pictured above, declaring victory against the powers of the enemy through the blood of Jesus.

There is Hope

Alberto recently met a prisoner from another African country who was the pioneer for the heroin market in South Africa. He used to give people free samples in order to assure a steady client base.  He was sentenced to time in prison for something completely unrelated, and will soon be released.  He recently participated in a Restorative Justice conference, and heard the Gospel for the first time.  He was Muslim.  Not only did he commit his life to Jesus, but he became saddened by the ripple effects of his actions and now wants to make amends.  Please pray that he can be a positive agent of change when he is released.

Ana came home for spring break last month.  Phoebe was so happy to see her that initially she wouldn’t let anyone else get close to her.  It was great to have Ana’s help and enthusiasm as we moved to our new house.  She returned to Hawaii just before her 22nd birthday.

Ana is in her last term of School of the Bible.  In June, her team will embark on a three-month outreach through the northwest U.S. states teaching the Bible at various churches.  Topics will include an OT overview, Messianic predictions throughout the OT, God’s covenants, and an overview of the NT (the later being Ana’s focus).  The team will also spear-head a youth revival conference.  We will sadly not see Ana during our U.S. trip.  (Photo credit: Ana Santos)

Isaac just finished his final exams and is back in Massachusetts with my parents.  He is taking a class and working this summer.

Margaret is about to start final exams for 9th grade.  The stress is on!  She’s had a busy term playing soccer and being in the school play, pictured above. She is excited to come back to the U.S.

Phoebe has had a challenging term at school because of the school’s insecurity about her diabetes, but things are improving, thanks to her doctor’s involvement.  Her facilitator is wonderful, and the teaching staff loving.  I wish Phoebe could tell me about her day, though!

Prayer Requests:

  • Phoebe: for wisdom to know if her school is a good fit, or if we should come up with a different plan.
  • Margaret: for peace as she prepares for her exams.
  • Alberto’s knees: which are both sore after painting our new house.
  • Prison authorities: to be willing to allow more inmates to participate in the ministries Alberto’s team offers.
  • Recently released prisoners: protection and guidance since pressure from their former lives is almost impossible to resist, plus they are seen as a threat in their home communities.
  • South African leadership: to seek God.
  • House-sitters: for God to send us good house sitters while we are away.
  • My friend: for healing as she undergoes her 3rd round of chemo for breast cancer.

 

 

March 19, 2019

Prison ministry continues to thrive.  There is such a hunger in the prisons for hope.  Alberto’s team recently completed a week-long “Restorative Justice” conference.  The participants are prisoners who are usually quick to want to change, but struggle with its implementation.  The pressure to conform to their former lifestyles of crime is almost impossible to resist.  But Christ makes a way, and shows the path.

An integral part of the transformation process is support from family members, who are usually the ones who suffer the most.  They often have no idea why their family member is in prison.  They suffer ridicule and rejection in their communities, as their family member was a menace to the peace.  He was an agent of violence which often created a cloud of fear in the community.  And financial stress also follows when the incarcerated is no longer able to be the bread-winner for the family.

Alberto now spends one day a week visiting the family members and listening to their stories.  It is an excellent way to show the love and mercy of our Father, and an integral step in reconciling prisoner to family.  Sometimes the families are so destitute that Alberto buys them a bag of potatoes or mielie-meal (a corn-based staple) and a chicken.  They cannot believe that someone would visit without threatening them or requesting something from them.

Destitution is a huge problem here, and probably the thing that I struggle with the most.  It seems like an impossible challenge to address.  Immigrants pour in over the border daily looking for a better life here, only to be met with xenophobia.  People beg on every street corner.  Children come to our house daily asking for a slice of bread or cup of water.  Yet, the rich continue to get richer here and live lavish lifestyles.  It is a hard contrast to swallow, and one I hope I never get used to.  Please pray that we will always have our eyes on Jesus, and be a light shining to those who do not know Him.  And pray we will have the wisdom to know when or how to help, as the need is overwhelming.

Isaiah 42:5-7 tells us what we as the people of God are called to:
5 This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

May we all walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

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Phoebe now attends a special needs school, which is going ok.  The staff is loving, although the school is incredibly under-resourced in terms of supplies and equipment.  Her facilitator Kirsty is wonderful, so thank you for praying for that connection.

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In case you missed the exciting news in our last update, we bought a house in Cape Town.  We move this week!  It has a lot of character, including a variety of fruit trees: passion fruit, olive, avocado, and lemon.  This is our fourth move in five years, so we are hoping for some stability going forward!

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Above is Margaret’s school picture from the American International School of Cape Town.  9th grade continues to be challenging academically.  Socially, there is a high turn-over rate among the students and staff since foreigners are generally issued three-year visas.  Margaret will lose another good friend in June.  But, Avy recently started at the school, and she is Christian!

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Ana is more than half-way through her School of Biblical Studies.  Click here to read her recent update.

She arrives on Saturday for her spring break, since tickets are much cheaper now than at Christmas.  We can’t wait to see her again.

She recently posted this on facebook:
These are some of the reasons I smile:
1. I am fully loved by Jesus!
2. He has given me the most incredible family who I get to see in 5 days!
3. I am surrounded by the most incredible men and women who I call family as we study the Bible
4. I live in Hawaii ?

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Pictured above is Isaac enjoying the snow with his friends at Messiah.  His engineering classes are challenging.  He is trying to add in a philosophy or business minor.  He is also working at Cick-Fil-A.  He is not coming home for spring break, which means we have not seen Isaac since August, and he has not slept under the same roof as us in a year.  This is the sad reality of living so far away.  I miss him.

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Praise God our drought is over, as rains were plentiful last winter.  Sadly, our next challenge has started: daily black-outs, aka “load shedding.”  The “load” (demand) is “shed” (decreased) by cutting power nation-wide anywhere from two to seven hours a day.  Unmaintained generators are the cause of decreased production ability.  Not only is this incredibly inconvenient, but also has a strangling effect on small businesses and traffic (since most traffic lights are down).  As most house stoves are electric, we are grateful for our gas camping stove.  And we’re grateful we didn’t have electricity outages at the same time we had water restrictions!

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Merry Christmas to us from our amazing Barnabas group!  It took almost three months to arrive, but better late than never. And how we loved all those thoughtful presents!

January 27, 2019

Gratitude sums up our thoughts these days.  Thank you to everyone who donated money towards a new car for Alberto.  We were amazed and encouraged by the positive response.  Thank you!  The new Honda Jazz is pictured below.  It is already getting a good work-out transporting Alberto’s team around.  Now they can start visiting some of the inmates’ families again.

We have a big surprise to share, and one we didn’t anticipate…we bought a house!  Huge news, I know!  We were not looking to buy a house.  We just saw this one and fell in love with it immediately.  We actually didn’t think we could buy it without selling our Quincy home, but people strongly advised us against selling, so we started praying for an alternative.  My parents said they could help with the down payment.  Then we applied for a mortgage here, which we got.  We are amazed at God’s guiding Hand in what is usually a long and complicated process.  It’s been a month since we put an offer on the house, and yesterday we signed the last papers.

Not only are we grateful to my parents and our faithful renters in our Quincy house, but we are grateful to you all, who have faithfully been partnering with us year after year.  We honestly didn’t know how things would go for us in South Africa when we came in 2014, but door after door has opened, and now this!  The house is a gift from God, and we dedicate it to His purposes, hoping that everyone who enters will be blessed.  Please come visit!

In the words of our YWAM leader Edwin Fillies, “If we say we love South Africa and are not engaged on some level with [South Africa’s] reality then our love is superficial and hypocritical.”  Amen!  Our goal remains to love the marginalised as we share the Hope of Christ, and the blessings of our new car and home have further equipped us to do so.

Thank you to all of you who contributed to our car fund!  We raised enough to buy a 2016 Honda Jazz.  (The other car we were interested in didn’t work out, but this car is amazing!)  We are so grateful for everyone’s generosity.  And yes, it does look very similar to his last car, but is a better brand.

Alberto gave his old car to Willem, his South African co-worker.  Willem was overjoyed.  Blessings certainly have ripple affects.

Here is our new house!  April 1 is our move-in date, as we had to give our present landlord due notice.

Prison ministry is going well, despite the sad death of the Spanish inmate Alberto befriended.  Alberto had shared the gospel with this man, so we hope to see him in heaven!

Meanwhile, the picture above shows some of the wardens who are key people in prison ministry.  They can make things run smoothly, or make things unnecessarily complicated.  However, they have the same needs as everyone else: the need to be heard, and the need for hope in Jesus.

Sunday morning church services are still going strong in Pollsmoor Prison, which Alberto continues to be involved in.

Soccer ministry is going well, with the team growing each week.  Since the goalie’s shocking death, there has been an increase in spiritual thirst among the players.  They have a Bible study before each session.  Alberto was able to distribute Bibles to players so they can follow-up on the studies at home.

We attended an outdoor candlelight carol service at the botanical gardens with our YWAM friends.  It was a lovely kick-off to the Christmas season, although Christmas itself was very hard for us without Ana and Isaac.  We did invite another family over for the celebration, but it just wasn’t the same.

Ana and Isaac spent Christmas together in Hawaii, which they thoroughly enjoyed.  It seemed like the best solution, given the horrific airfare prices to Cape Town at Christmas.

Ana recently started term 2 of her School of Biblical Studies.  Isaac is back at Messiah College finishing up a Philosophy class for J-term, a concentrated study of one class.

Margaret is back to school in 9th grade.

Phoebe won a school raffle for a free family SUP (Stand Up Paddle board) session.  We each got our own board and set of paddles to explore the harbour.

Phoebe is pictured above standing tall on the SUP board with her instructor.  She loved it!

Phoebe’s free hypotherapy classes have resumed, much to her joy.

It was a long day for Santa and Phoebe at the YWAM Christmas party.

Phoebe is still on an extended summer break, and only starts her new school on February 5.  She will be in the autism division of the public special needs school.  There will be seven other students in the class.  The school day runs from 8:30-12:00.  Her teacher seems very capable and caring.  We are praying that it is a good experience for Phoebe, and that she will learn many new skills (including how to deal with an uncomfortable school uniform).

Phoebe’s new aide will be Kirsty, who is a wonderful Christian lady who adores Phoebe and has lots of experience with special needs children.  Thank you for praying for our search.