April 27, 2022

Greetings to you all!  As we enter fall and temperatures start to drop, we are keenly aware of the needs of those in our surrounding communities who lack the basic necessities of food and warm clothing.  Our friends Dion and Deborah continue serving their community, pictured above, home-made meals three times a week.  Their motivation is to feed those in need, both physically and spiritually.  Their love for Christ burns bright in a community plagued by gangs and violence.  It is our privilege to be able to help sponsor this program.  I am reminded of how partnership works: some people have a dream, but lack the resources to make it happen.  Others have the resources, but not the opportunity to act.  Thank you for your indirect partnership with this program.

As you will see in the pictures below, my parents came to visit!  It was a wonderful time of reconnecting, and they were able to see our lives here.  Also, we are in the midst of praying about and planning a slightly longer furlough this summer.  Stay tuned for more details.

Pictured above are Dion and Deborah, resting after a busy morning of cooking and feeding their neighbors.  They live in a “Coloured” township and Afrikaans is their mother tongue.  South Africans, by and large, still live in racially segregated neighborhoods.

Ana turned 25 recently, and has just left for the U.S. She is visiting Frenchie’s family in Texas, and will attend “The Send” missions mobilization conference in Kansas City with him before joining me for Isaac’s graduation on May 7.

Although I am excited and grateful to be able to fly to PA to be at the graduation, I am also nervous about being so far away from Phoebe for a week.  Please pray for Alberto as he takes over Phoebe’s care, and for my travels!

Margaret graduates from high school May 27.  She is still planning on taking a gap year, and is still looking for a nanny position for the summer and fall.

I (Alberto) had the opportunity to get to know Silver, pictured above, in one of my most recent Restorative Justice programs. He shared with me how he ended up in prison: one evening as he was returning from work, one of his friends came running to him to give him the news. He said his brother was lying on the floor injured and needed help. Without delaying, Silver went to try to help his younger brother. As soon as he saw him, he realized that he had been hurt by two guys at the bar. He said he asked them in a polite way to let him help his brother. They refused, and started to attack him as well.  He felt he had no other choice than to defend himself, and in the process, he hurt the two guys. He was arrested and now is in prison. He is taking responsibility for the crime he committed, and says he wants to start his own construction business when he gets out. I also had the honor to pray with him to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. To God be the glory.

Sometimes economic disparities seem so great that they paralyze us in our ability to relate to each other as human beings.  Yet it is the simple things, like freshly washed clothes, that we can all appreciate!

Praises

*Our new brother in Christ, Silver
*The official end of the COVID-induced State of Emergency.
*Family filling our house
*Ana’s opportunity to be in the U.S.
*My official acceptance back to Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

Sheep heads for sale, in case you are making soup!

Prayer Requests

*Peace in Ukraine
*Silver’s dreams in a challenging future
*Soccer ministry
*Blessings on Margaret’s final stretch of high school, and guidance for her next steps
*My trip to PA next week and for stability of Phoebe’s glucose levels while I am away
*Logistics of figuring out how to come to Boston for an extended visit starting in July, and possible schooling for Phoebe
*Finding people to stay in our Cape Town house while we are away
*Resolution for an unexpectedly high medical bill we received for Phoebe’s lab work from the Children’s Hospital of Cape Town, not covered by insurance

 

February 22, 2022

The challenge with writing updates every other month is that news becomes outdated so quickly!  The picture above was taken on New Year’s Day at a vineyard, though it seems like ages ago already.  Neither Ana nor Isaac are with us now in South Africa, so we can only cherish the memories of happy times together.  I loved having a full house again, and at one point, we were seven!

Allow me to introduce Frenchie (whose full name is Fransisco).  Frenchie (33!) and Ana (24) met briefly in Hawaii three years ago, and have stayed in touch ever since.  Their paths did not cross again due to Covid.  When Frenchie heard that Ana was returning to South Africa, he planned a trip from Hawaii, and stayed with us for three weeks last month.  Frenchie is an incredibly respectful man (he asked us if he could date Ana, and asked us to pray over them).  He is Hispanic, born in Texas to Mexican parents.  But most importantly, he loves Jesus.  He has been with YWAM in Hawaii for the past seven years.  His ministry is “Fire and Fragrance” which is about sharing both the power and the sweet aroma of Jesus with the nations.  He ran the camp Margaret attended in Hawaii last summer, and helps run the DTS there.  He also travels to different countries as a guest speaker.  Currently, he and Ana are in Nepal.  He invited Ana lat minute to join him, and she accepted.  They are having an amazing time, and seeing many lives touched by the gospel.  I will say, however, that getting to Nepal was a bit of a challenge.  They were denied entrance onto the flight to Qatar, because Nepal had red-listed South Africa on Qatar Airlines, but there were no such restrictions on Emirates Airlines.  They rebooked through Dubai two days later, and got their covid test results as we were driving to the airport…in faith!

Less stressful news is that Isaac was offered a job!  He is working part-time at Ambassador Advisors, in Lancaster, PA.  He was interning with this investment company, so was excited to receive the job offer.  He will start working full-time upon graduation in May.  This brings me to the next point. Isaac graduates early May, and Margaret late May.  It seems ludicrous to fly to the U.S. for just a short visit, but I don’t see any way around it.  Also, such a quick trip would be very stressful for Phoebe, so Alberto will most likely stay here with her, while I travel.  Please keep this trip in your prayers.

Onto Margaret…Margaret submitted the rest of her college applications recently, so we are all able to breathe a sigh of relief and wait patiently.  There were moments when I wondered if she would get any applications in at all, but she rose to the challenge!  She is still planning on taking a GAP year, as she still wants to do YWAM’s six-month DTS in Hawaii starting in September (with Frenchie).  She would like to work in the Boston area before and after that time.  We are praying and brainstorming about possibly coming back to Boston as a family for at least part of the time Margaret is in Boston, so as to give her a place to stay, and to reconnect with all of you!  Every time we come it is so rushed, so a slightly longer visit would be nice!

Another possible benefit for coming for a longer period of time is that I could possibly finish my Masters through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary’s CUME (Center for Urban Ministerial Education).  I started classes there when Ana was a baby, and surprisingly enough, my classes still are valid.  I only need five more classes to graduate with a Masters of Art in Christian Ministries with an Urban Ministries Track.  Maybe I could finish those classes while back in Boston?  Lots of things to pray about.

Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy leading our small group in Cape Town and attending leadership meetings at the YWAM base.  I love how Christ-centered our YWAM leadership circle is, and appreciate their diversity and energy.

In terms of Alberto’s ministry, soccer is back on the fields, and all prisons are open again!  Omicron hit South Africa in December (us included), but since then most restrictions have been lifted.  Alberto actually spent last week in Pollsmoor Prison doing a “Restorative Justice” conference with the Hope Prison Ministry team.  Pollsmoor is the high security prison close to us, and was one of the last prisons to open, as it had the tightest restrictions.  Alberto was thrilled to get back to this prison, and to see some familiar faces again.  This particular conference had 29 participants, and was made up of largely gang members, competing gangs at that!  The conference culminated with the family visit day last Saturday.  This is the day when family members are invited to come to the prison to see their incarcerated family member, and to start the reconciliation process.  They are allowed to come and ask any questions they want.  Usually, a mother comes.  This is often the first time she hears the truth as to why her child is in prison.  Although it is always exciting to see lives change through the conference, it is also heart-breaking when no family members come to visit, as is often the case.  Just because the prisoners change, doesn’t mean the family is ready to accept that.  Sometimes trust needs to be re-earned.  Please keep the RJ conference attenders in your prayers, that the change in their hearts will result in a change of lifestyle which will be evident to their families.

Photos

December 20, 2021

Merry Christmas to you all!  It really has been another challenging year full of uncertainty, but God’s faithfulness is evident.

The year started with closed borders and a challenging holiday season.  This Christmas, our borders are open, so both Ana and Isaac have come home after two years!  Of course I cried at the airport!  Their trips were not without challenges though, as the UK red listed South Africa due to Omicron, so London cancelled Isaac’s flight.  It seemed impossible to get him home for a reasonable price.  Then we discovered the direct flight from Newark to Cape Town, which was not originally available when I booked months ago.  That ticket ended up being cheaper than the original one!  When Ana left Australia, she knew she would not be able to re-enter, due to their closed borders.  This was bittersweet for her, as she left behind friends she has invested in for two years.  She is grateful that she completed her Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies, her Barista course, and was able to staff another School of Biblical Studies.

As we try to focus on the good of this year, we see God’s provision.  When most schools shut down due to the pandemic, we were able to start an amazing home autism therapy program for Phoebe.  She has also enjoyed swimming, hippotherapy (horseback riding therapy), physical therapy and surf therapy!

Margaret just finished her first semester of her senior year of high school, and has sent applications into a number of schools in California, much to her excitement and our apprehension!  She received her first acceptance from Azusa Pacific University.  She is still considering taking a GAP year, but wants to get college lined up first.

As we look back on the soccer ministry, it is encouraging to watch the boys grow up.  We are starting to see the fruits of them staying in school or working, some are going to church, yet some are still struggling to make the right choices in very challenging situations.  Soccer ministry was the least affected by pandemic restrictions.

Salvations continues to happen in the prisons, where the name of Jesus is exalted and glorified.  Prison ministry, however, was greatly affected by fluctuating lockdown restrictions.  Alberto was able to do a few Restorative Justice conferences and some prison visits, but this year has been focused mainly on working with released prisoners and families of existing prisoners.

Food distribution has continued, and we are grateful that we can share with our brothers and sisters in need.

John 15:5 has been particularly meaningful to us this year: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

We praise God for the miracles He is doing in people’s lives, and we are grateful for your support and partnership with us.  Your faithfulness always touches and amazes us!  If you would like to support our ministry here in South Africa, please do so on the Park Street Church online giving forum: www.parkstreet.org/give.  We are listed in the drop-down box as “Missions: Parada PM” which means we are Partner Missionaries through the church, and receive only a portion of our support directly from the church.  The majority of our support comes through individuals and families.  If you would like to support Ana, she is exploring some exciting ministry options, and is able to receive support through the same link, but choose “Missions: Ana Parada” in the drop-down box.

May the joy of Christ’s birth bring you hope and joy this Christmas season.

November 18, 2021

Park Street Church’s annual Global Missions Conference is always a highlight for us, as we reconnect with the global body of Christ, and more specifically with our Park Street Church family (albeit virtually).  This year’s theme was “Jesus in Global Cities,” which as the name implies, told stories of how Jesus is working in and strategically through cities, and gave a voice to many of us to share about ministry in the city.  We spoke on the panel “Invisible Cities: Jesus and Incarceration” which discussed the unseen web of power, control and communication in the prisons and the communities from which the prisoners come.  Most people are unaware of this intricate web, as prisons are purposefully hidden away from society.  Yet God does not discriminate, and despite society’s efforts to make prisoners disappear, God is using that intricate web to make Himself known and spread His kingdom.  We know how the story ends.  He has the ultimate victory.

As part of the conference, we were encouraged to make a drive-by video showing different aspects of city life.  Alberto and I (and Phoebe) made an attempt at this, which you can see here.  Along with South Africa’s incredible racial and cultural diversity comes a huge disparity of wealth between rich and poor.  56% of the population live in poverty, while a minority live in opulence (source).  South Africa has the worst wealth income inequality in the world, according to the World Bank (source).  This contrast hits the visitor pretty hard upon arrival, and is one of the reasons why South Africa has been tugging on my heart all these years.  But, I dislike taking videos of people, as I feel it invades their space and encourages a victim mentality.  All this to say, our video is pretty simple.

A highlight of the conference is always the Women’s Benevolent Society’s luncheon, where missionaries from all over the world Zoom in and chat with the faithful women who have been praying all year long!

In regards to prison ministry, Alberto and his team are currently on an intense six-day Restorative Justice Program in a nearby prison.  Please pray for the Holy Spirit to transform lives and reunite families.  Saturday is Family Day, which means families are invited to come to the prison to see and hear their relative.  This is obviously a very emotional and potentially life-changing day.

The soccer team recently had a Christmas party to mark the end of the season.

Margaret is pictured above on her 18th birthday.  I am treasuring every day I have with her, since I don’t know where she’ll be living next year.  She is still considering a gap year, but is also applying to a few colleges in the U.S. Her stress is high with looming deadlines.  Meanwhile, we have submitted the FAFSA in preparation.  Please pray for God’s guidance in her life!

One of Margaret’s favorite classes in school is Advanced Marimba.  The picture at the top of the update shows her class giving a performance.  Click here to listen.  (She has the marimba with the yellow diamond, and is to the left.)

Much has changed in Ana’s life in the last few months.  She finished her coffee internship in Port Macquire and managed to get back to Brisbane, where she received her diploma from the University of the Nations: an Associates in Arts in Biblical Studies (pictured to the right).  She also received a certificate of completion of the barista course.  She is now staffing a Biblical Core Course and  taught on 1 and 2 Kings this week!  The school ends in December, at which time she will fly to Cape Town!  I am so excited to see her again after nearly two years!  Please pray for Ana’s next steps, as she has a few options on the horizon.

Phoebe is growing quickly and putting on weight, now that we have treated the bacterial overgrowth.  She continues to make great strides with her autism therapists.

At a recent swimming lesson, a mom approached me to ask if Phoebe has diabetes, as she saw the sensor on her arm.  When I responded that she does, she told me that her son also does.  This was my first time ever meeting another mom of a child with Type 1 Diabetes (South Africa and U.S.).  She proceeded to invite me to a support group for mothers of children with Type 1 Diabetes!  I went to the first (post-covid) meeting, and was amazed to meet about 15 other moms.  I have spent years researching each of Phoebe’s disabilities and am part of various on-line support groups, but have not had the opportunity to meet other moms of Type 1 children, strangely enough.  Such a gift!

Isaac is pictured above on his fall break visit to Emilio Karakey.  Isaac is enjoying his computer science and finance classes, and his internships have been going well. He is also coming to Cape Town for a month over Christmas!  He graduates in May.  He is looking into job opportunities now, so please pray for that process.

We recently adopted a cat from the animal shelter.  The poor thing had a broken leg, which necessitated his spending his first four weeks with us in a cage.  Out of the kindness of her heart, Phoebe snuck in her iPad, hoping to cheer up the despondent kitty!

Leo, the cat, now has a completely healed leg, and a high tolerance for Phoebe.  Maybe you can spot him under her stack of cards!

Covid update: 33% of South Africans are fully vaccinated.  We are currently on stage 1 of restrictions, which is the lightest of the restrictions.  Life seems almost back to normal.  Please pray against a possible 4th wave after Christmas.

Electricity is in short supply these days.  This has been an ongoing struggle marked by corruption and inefficiency, so please pray for a solution!  Last week we averaged 7 hours a day without power

September 10, 2021

It’s spring, and we are back in Cape Town!  Thank you to Park Street Church and all of you who welcomed us back to Boston in June and July.  You reminded us that we are still friends and family despite the distance, despite the challenges of the pandemic, and despite the passing of the years.

After such a packed and eventful time in Boston, it was hard to get excited about our return to cold, wet Cape Town and the lock-down restrictions of the pandemic.  We arrived on a freezing cold night last month, and my heart was torn.  I missed everyone in Boston so much, yet was welcomed by Alberto and saw the fruits of his labors in our house.  It was at that moment that I realized that I have two homes in two very different places, yet they are both home.

When I say “cold” in Cape Town, I mean “cold.”  With no central heating, indoor temperatures mirror outside temperatures, which dip to the 30’s.  We have seen snow on the mountains, and have sleet and hail.  We are grateful for our wood stove, which takes the chill out of our bones.

As I reflect, I am grateful for so many things.  Thank you for your prayers for Margaret when she went to camp at the end of July.  The whole experience was a miracle in terms of her openness to going, the timing, financing, etc.  She had a life-changing experience as she listened to amazing testimonies and saw the Holy Spirit working in and through her life and the lives of the other high schoolers. She came home with the scales lifted from her eyes, and excited to know God more deeply.  She is considering doing a DTS after graduation, which I am very excited about!

As parents, we want nothing more for our children than for them to walk with God, experience His joy, and want to grow in relationship with Him.  Sometimes that dream seems so distant, and other times it smacks us in the face and catches us by surprise.

Phoebe had a total of 14 appointments at Children’s Hospital while we were in Boston.  That is our new record!  She had a GI procedure, liver ultrasound, and eye exam under anesthesia on July 30, which necessitated our moving our flight back (and Margaret missing some school.)  The results of those procedures are that Phoebe has SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), a slightly fatty liver, and no diabetes-induced retina damage.  The SIBO we are treating here.  The fatty liver is possibly from diabetes, and requires no intervention at this point.  The clear eye exam is a blessing.  Phoebe is putting on weight again, so that is also a praise.  Please continue to pray for her and all her challenges.

I am so grateful for the doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and our doctors in Cape Town.  We are able to do more tests in a short amount of time in Boston, and have everything covered by insurance.  In Cape Town, it’s just a bit more complicated and expensive.  But, the Cape Town doctors follow us more regularly, so all in all, it is a great team approach.

Personally, I am also feeling stronger and healthier.  I am also putting on weight again, so that is a relief.  I jumped back into my roles of teaching Spanish and leading our YWAM group.  As COVID restrictions start to relax here (despite the fact that only 12% of the population is fully vaccinated), it is a joy to start to gather with groups of up to 50 people.

We had our YWAM annual conference this week and discussed the importance of intimacy with God and vulnerability with each other.  We are only a remnant of what we used to be in terms of missionary numbers, due to a mass exodus during COVID.  Some people returned to their home countries to be closer to family during the pandemic, while for many it was a financial decision, as their missionary support dried up.  Again, I want to thank all of you who are faithfully standing with us and not giving up on us during this trying time.

And now, some words from Alberto…
Spring is arriving, and the vineyards are starting to sprout new leaves.  I thank God for the ways He has protected my family and me throughout the stormy days that are left behind.  I had my second COVID vaccine last week, which gives me courage to continue in strength and be responsible for the calling God has honored my wife and me with, here in South Africa.  Thank you for your partnership.

Please pray for the Department of Correctional Services, as crime has increased by 60% since the start of the pandemic, which means more overcrowding and stress for the incarcerated, and more work for the correctional authorities.  Prisons are once again closed to outside visitors, so we are currently focusing on outreach to prisoner families and ex-prisoners.

Kara, my dear friend and Missionary Care Team leader, visited me at my parent’s house shortly before our departure.

Ana Martinez from PSC and an OT student, worked with Phoebe for about 15 hours each week while we stayed with my parents.  This was an incredible blessing to us all!  We miss Ana!

Phoebe helped me point out family members during our PSC reception.

Our Missionary Care Team made this poster board for our reception.

Alberto and Edwin, our YWAM leader, putting the last touches of paint on the walls.  We now have a sturdy floor, leak-proof and freshly-painted walls, a new bathroom, a repainted closet, and an outdoor patio area!  Well done Alberto and friends!

Pictured above are some of the boys who play soccer every Saturday with Alberto.  Over the years, some of them have repeatedly shown up to play barefoot.  This has proven to be rather inconvenient, as some players have cleats.  Alberto finally decided to buy some of the boys sneakers from our newly created “soccer fund.”  Of course, the whole team will eventually want new shoes, but this is something we are happy to provide for the general safety of the team.

Margaret is pictured above in her school uniform.  She turns 18 next week!

Margaret started school immediately after we arrived.  She had actually missed the first week of school due to our needing to move our flights for Phoebe’s procedure.  Starting her senior year was quite emotional!  She is taking 3 AP’s this year (Art, Language and Composition, Statistics), Marimba, Voice, Business, and Gym.  She is stressed with a full academic load, and many decisions for next year.  She could apply to art schools or liberal arts schools in the U.S. or Europe, or take a gap year.  The good and bad of growing up overseas is that the whole world seems to be at your fingertips.  Nothing seems out of range.  Please pray for wisdom and guidance for us all!

Ana is pictured above with her ministry partner Maddie Mae on the day of her graduation, which she could not attend in person due to COVID.  She graduated from YWAM’s Brisbane’s Basic Leadership School, her cafe internship, and received an Associates in Biblical Study.  Since her Australian visa is tied to her classes with YWAM, it is about to expire.

The problem is that Ana is still in Port Macquire.  She extended her internship as the provincial borders are closed and she cannot get back to Brisbane.  Because the international borders are still closed as well, she cannot easily or cheaply leave the country.

She has applied for a visa extension, which would hopefully allow her to stay until the borders open up.  Please pray for wisdom for her, as there is just so much uncertainty.

Please read Ana’s latest update here.

Isaac (pictured with his roommate Michael) is in his senior year at Messiah University.  He completed his summer internship at Ambassadors Advisors in Lancaster, but is still interning with them remotely.  Since I only saw Isaac on the 4th of July weekend, I am really hoping he will celebrate Christmas with us in South Africa.

This is one of the best books I have ever read.  It is extremely insightful in providing a context for the current racial tensions in the U.S., which can be historically traced back to the forefathers of our nation and how they institutionalised a caste system based on race.  Parallels are drawn to Nazi Germany and the caste system in India.  This book is especially helpful in South Africa, where the legacy of apartheid continues and racial tensions and violence are mounting.

In order to have a voice here, we need to be aware of these tensions and understand the context in which we live.  As missionaries, we know without a doubt, that what the devil meant for evil, God can transform and use for His glory.  Working with multi-racial teams with YWAM and Hope Prison Ministry is an excellent example to the world of restoration made possible by the blood of Jesus.

 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:35)

A generous friend of a friend (from the Church of the Holy Nativity) sewed some vests and pillowcases for the children in a home-run program that we were associated with in our early days of being in South Africa.  Pictured above are some happy kids!  Sadly, most of the kids do not own pillows, so the teacher actually cut the pillowcases in half and inserted small pieces of foam, thereby doubling the number of kids who could benefit.

Prayer Requests

  • Movement of the Holy Spirit through the prisons
  • Guidance for our children to follow Jesus and not the currents of this world
  • Wisdom for Margaret’s senior year and college search
  • Open borders for Ana
  • Continued healing of Phoebe’s and my gut

July 24, 2021

We made it!  After 25 hours of traveling on three continents, we arrived safe and sound in Boston (pictured above).  Praise God!  So much stress, so much uncertainty, so many potential roadblocks, but we made it!  Thank you for all your prayers.  Phoebe’s inability to wear a mask was a non-issue.  No one asked for any of our copious paperwork.  All our three flights arrived on time, as did our luggage.

We left South Africa in the gulf of a third wave, with no mention of vaccine access.  It was cold, dark, wet, and depressing for me.  We left the airport on the only international flight, an almost empty plane with the other foreign-carrying passport passengers.  I felt like we were escaping.  I felt sad for leaving Cape Town in the midst of need.  At the same time, I couldn’t believe we could actually fly to Boston.

Arriving In Boston felt unreal.  I felt like I was walking in a movie.  We had left all the stress of the pandemic behind and arrived in Boston on a beautiful summer evening.  The contrast was too much for me!  Seeing my parents after two years was a gift! Seeing Kara, who has been in constant contact with me and organizes our Missionary Care Team, was also unbelievable.

I cried on my first Sunday back at Park Street Church.  Being surrounded by my church family, participating in a seeming post-pandemic gathering, listening to amazing organ music with voices lifted up in worship to God, hearing the Word of God preached from a pulpit instead of Zoom…it brought tears to me eyes!  The stress melted from my shoulders and I felt immersed in God’s blessings.

It has been wonderful to reconnect with so many of you.  Thank you for welcoming me back!  We are here until Aug 6.

This Sunday I will be sharing in each of the services at Park Street Church, and will speak at a lunch reception after the 11:00 service.  It would be great to see you!  Please stop by!

We arrived just in time for my mom’s 81st birthday, pictured above.

Isaac came up for the 4th of July weekend.  It had been 18 months since I last saw him!  My heart was instantly filled with joy!  He is enjoying his internship at Ambassador Advisors in Lancaster, PA.

While here, I decided to see a doctor myself!  I never really knew what made me so sick last year.  I was sick with digestive stress for a full month, and have had a few relapses since then.  So, I had a my first colonoscopy!  They did a scope of my digestive tract, and found that I have lymphocytes colitis, which may explain things.  I’m on medication now, so praying that it helps, and ultimately that God will heal me.

Margaret has been working in Quincy Market selling ice-cream and cookies.  She is happy with the extra income.

She has the opportunity to attend “Infusion” youth camp at YWAM, Kona, Hawaii next week.  It is an absolute miracle how this came to be, and I am amazed at how God works through the impossible!  Please pray that God will draw Margaret close to himself during that week!

Phoebe is pictured above, rubbing her arm after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.  Margaret, Phoebe and I were able to get both vaccine shots here.  What a relief!

While here, I have been scheduling as many medical appointments for Phoebe as I can at Children’s Hospital in Boston.  She has seen the Down syndrome program, endocrinologist (diabetes doctor), diabetes dietician, diabetes nurse (twice), otolaryngologist (hearing), ophthalmologist (vision), dentist, gastroenterologists (digestion), physical therapy (for a DMO, or Dynamic Movement Orthosis top).  We are still waiting to be seen by Augmentative Communication (for ipad communication ideas).  All these appointments represent areas of concern for Phoebe’s Down syndrome or diabetes.

Most areas tested well, though there is still question as to why she is not gaining weight.  She is growing quickly, so that is reassuring.  The GI department will do a scope on her digestive tract on July 30.  They will also do an ultrasound on her liver, which has been in question in the past.  Also while under, her vision will be tested (don’t ask me how), since she was uncooperative for her vision test.

It is a lot though, and has been challenging for me to squeeze everything in while we are here.  I am however, grateful for our insurance and continued care from the same doctors year after year.  Overall, they are happy with her progress.

Alberto stayed back in Cape Town.  He is pictured above roasting marshmallows after having a devotional with ex-prisoners and a police officer, who was converted to Jesus by the guy he arrested.

Alberto is also doing a lot of work on our house, namely floors, walls, patio, and bathroom.  This is the longest period of time we have been apart.

Ana is enjoying her outreach at Port Macquarie Anglican Church.  When not in the cafe, she works with youth and a kids club, which she loves.

Australia has been minimally impacted by COVID.  Their international borders are still closed.  Provincial borders were also recently closed, which means Ana’s outreach will be extended by a month, as she cannot get back to Brisbane.

 

June 13, 2021

We have plane tickets to Boston on Wednesday!  That is our big news.  The other big news is that South Africa is experiencing a third wave of Covid.  Because of this, and because of the feared South African variant, our tickets have been cancelled or rescheduled three times already.  Many countries have blocked entry from red-flagged countries like South Africa.  Please pray that we can actually fly on Wednesday!  We will have to get tested for Covid twice before then, so please pray that we test negative and get the necessary official results in time!  As a praise, I already have the mask exemption forms from Phoebe’s doctor.

I will say that getting news of cancelled flights is rather devastating, as it is more than an inconvenient rebooking.  It means that there are no flights out of the country.  We are in essence, stuck here.  It brought up all my feelings of insecurity from last year when our borders were closed and I felt trapped.

But right now, we have three plane tickets.  The girls and I will fly.  Alberto has decided to stay here to continue prison ministry.  He will also do the work on our house which is impossible to do when the rest of us are living here, namely, tearing up the floor and fixing the walls.  Our home is an evolved cabin, so there is just earth under the floor boards and some leaks in the walls.  (But it is a beautiful home!)

Please pray for South Africa.  With only 2% of the population vaccinated, and a possible 2-year wait for vaccines from the international community, this third wave could be a long and tough one.  We are back in stage 2 lock-down restrictions, which means curfew is stricter, as are numbers of people allowed to gather.  With a 33% unemployment rate, many people continue to struggle to put food on the table.  This results in an increased crime rate.

The picture above shows our YWAM “circle” gathering, which Alberto and I currently lead.  We usually have a monthly pot-luck in the park, though this time we met in our yard.

Alberto is pictured above on his birthday!  In terms of ministry, he has been following up with Restorative Justice attendees and mentoring them as they build on the changes that began in their lives during the Restorative Justice program.  He and his team are also in the midst of planning the next Restorative Justice program.

We have a new house guest, Isaac (not to be confused with our Isaac).  He is staying in the guest room off the garage, so not exactly in our house.  Isaac participated in the Restorative Justice program in prison 15 years ago, when he served a 10-year sentence for a crime he did not commit.  While planning his revenge on his cousin who set him up, he heard about the Restorative Justice program, and the rest is history.  He was able to commit his life to Jesus, forgive his perpetrators, and leave a free man.  He is currently helping Alberto with some house projects in preparation for the work that they will do while the girls and I are away.

Margaret finished the school year on Friday, although the last week of exams were virtual, due to rising number of covid cases in the school and surrounding area.  It was really hard for Margaret to not be able to say goodbye to her senior friends.  Most of them will leave Cape Town and will not return.  This is the sad reality of an international school.

Looking ahead, she is excited to be back in Boston again.  She already has a job lined up in Faneuil Hall working at a bakery.  She can’t wait to see old friends again!

Happy 14th birthday Phoebe!  Phoebe is still learning to blow out candles, but she will eventually get there.  I made her a special gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free cake that actually tasted good, but still caused her to throw up and have alarmingly low glucose levels that evening.

On a more positive note, the toilet-training is going really well, as is the ABA home therapy!

Phoebe is pictured above with the special needs surfing volunteers.  I think she may like the volunteers more than the cold water!

Phoebe enjoys the special needs horseback program.  Here she is with Erin and Evey, Evey being the horse.

Ana just wrote an update which you can read here.  She is done with her coursework, and about to leave for a six-week internship in Port Macquarie, Australia where she will work with an emerging coffee shop ministry.  Please pray for her time there to be a blessing to the people of the town, and that God will use her and her friend as they share their love of Jesus and connect with people over coffee.

YWAM Brisbane has been featuring their staff on Instagram through pictures like the one above.  Ana will staff a Bible school with them in September.  She is also involved in a Wednesday night drop-in center, where people from the community can drop-in for prayer, games, or anything on their hearts.

Australia still has closed borders, so I am not sure when we will see Ana next.

To donate to Ana’s expenses, please use Park Street Church’s giving link or her PayPal link.

It’s been a busy month for Isaac.  During his last week of classes, he got covid (despite having had the first shot of the vaccine) and was quarantined.  After he recovered and was cleared to leave, he went to Boston to visit my parents and some Park Street Church friends.  While there, he got his license (finally), saw my sister and her kids, and returned to PA to start his internship as a summer analyst at Ambassador Advisors.  He just bought himself a car to get to work.  (Thanks to the stimulus checks and loan from us.  Good thing it’s a paid internship!)

I still do my weekly hikes, which clear my mind and give me a fresh perspective on this beautiful country!  I am pictured above eating my avocado snack, not realizing I’m being photographed by my friend!

Here are my Spanish students!  An unusual ministry presented itself when four high school students, being taught by a friend of mine at YWAM, chose Spanish as their second official school language.  This choice is quite ironic in a country with twelve official languages, none of which are Spanish.  But, since the students are technically homeschooled, they are able to choose any language as a second language, as long as they pass the final proficiency test.

Spanish is a safe choice, despite it being an un-useful choice, as many of the other languages carry stigmas with them.  Afrikaans, which is historically the first language of the “Coloured” community, and therefore the more obvious choice for school testing, is still seen as the language of the oppressor.  Xhosa and isiZulu are the other common languages here, although belong to the African groups that have racial tensions with the Coloured community.  So complicated!  The bottom line is that I tutor them in Spanish once a week, and they love it!

Prayer Requests

  • Travel mercies
  • Rest (I am very tired)
  • Rejuvenation (as we reconnect with friends and family)
  • Protection (as Alberto stays here)
  • Adaptability (for Isaac’s internship)
  • Provision (for Ana’s outreach)

April 30, 2021

It’s been a busy couple of months, which is very refreshing compared to the quiet of last year’ lock-down.  We still wear masks to enter stores, have a midnight curfew, limit indoor gatherings to 250 people, but life as we know it is pretty much back to normal!  All this in spite of the fact that only 0.5% of the population has been vaccinated.  The rate of COVID transmission is very low here, which is a phenomena people have various opinions about.

Last week was my 50th birthday!  I am so happy that we could celebrate in person, without the haunting presence of COVID.  After missing the chance to have big celebrations for both my 30th and 40th birthdays, (we were on a mission trip in Central America on my 30th, and adapting to Phoebe’s autism diagnosis in Quincy on my 40th), I was determined to make my 50th memorable.  And it was certainly memorable!  For starters, my hiking friends took me out for lunch, and our YWAM friends (pictured above) gathered for a cook-out.  Through the celebrations and various other invitations, I realized how many good friends I have developed here.  The 50th year is the year of jubilee, as noted in Leviticus 25:10-11.  It’s a year of blessing!  And after the trials of the pandemic, I stand with open hands to receive that blessing!

And speaking of blessings, we have plane tickets to Boston in July.  It will be a shorter trip than last time, since London only opens up for international connections in July.  I am really looking forward to being back on Boston soil and seeing family and friends again, however briefly.  Please pray Phoebe’s mask exemption paperwork is processed without any hassles.

In terms of ministry, smaller prisons have been slowly opening up again.  Alberto has been able to work in two Cape Town prisons lately, as you will see below.

Alberto is pictured above facilitating a Restorative Justice program in the Malmesbury Correctional Facility.  Seated at his table is a man from Zambia, a Xhosa man, and two Coloured men.  The latter two distinctions are racial/cultural groups in South Africa.  All in all, 32 guys participated this week, and there have been many breakthroughs already.  Saturday is the day of reunion, when family members are invited to visit their loved one in the prison and are allowed to ask questions of them, which often marks the beginning phase of attempted reconciliation.

Rev. Jonathan Clayton is the founder and director of Hope Prison Ministry.  He is pictured above with Alberto distributing certificates to young men who completed the Restorative Justice program at Goodwood Correctional Center.

Alberto asked the participants to invite God into their lives to be part of their recovery journey.  Walking with God is a daily process, not just a one-time decision of accepting Jesus.

Margaret has had in-person instruction most of the year.  She is pictured above with her homeroom at school.  She’s on the left hugging Savana.  11th grade is starting to wind down, with AP exams starting next week and final exams after that.  The school year ends early June.

Margaret has an abundant social life, with friends attending various high schools throughout the city.  She is more independent than our other kids were at this age, so it feels like we are dealing with teenage boundary issues for the first time.  I am grateful Margaret is finally happy here though, and has so many friends.  We’re still praying for a Christian friend, and praying for Margaret to be a Christian witness to her friends.

Phoebe’s home therapy is going amazingly well.  She loves the therapists and they are making great strides.  Last week we re-started toilet-training, and so far so good!  I am relieved to have a team of motivated and caring people working with us.  We are now up to 20-hours a week of ABA therapy.

Pictured above, Phoebe is trying out surfing again, which is really more like assisted-boogie boarding.

Last update I mentioned my concern over Phoebe’s diabetes and health in general.  I have been able to have Zoom appointments with specialists at Boston Children’s Hospital, which is one benefit of the pandemic!  I do have a great endocrinologist here in Cape Town, but I always like hearing from our Boston Children’s Hospital team.  It seems that Phoebe’s fluctuating glucose levels could be tied to her entering puberty, which is a whole other bag of challenges.  She turns 14 next month!

I have also registered myself for a First Aid and CPR class, which I hope and pray I will never have to put into practice.

Ana is now assistant manager of the cafe at YWAM Brisbane.  Her leadership classes end in June, when she will embark on a two-month outreach in Australia.  In August she will graduate with a Christian missions certificate (through Australia) and a Biblical Studies associates (through YWAM’s University of the Nations).  At that time, she can either stay in Australia to continue working (volunteering) with YWAM, come back to South Africa, or pursue any other number of options.  Please pray for guidance.

Isaac also enjoys hiking with his friends!  He is having a very busy semester and is still applying for internships around the country.  Please pray that the right doors open, and that we can see him in July!

Our friends continue to operate a soup kitchen out of their home, and are not seeing any decrease in demand.  Many schools are still not completely back in session physically.  Since school lunches provide sustenance for the students, many kids get their lunch at Deborah and Deon’s.  Some of you have donated towards this cause.

Table Mountain caught on fire recently.  Sadly, much of the University of Cape Town’s library went down in flames.  Students were evacuated, but no one lost their lives.  It took about four days to put the fire out, during which time soot and smoke covered the area.

Baboons are a bit of a challenge here, as urbanization pushes them out of their habitats and forces them to find new homes.  A lone baboon recently wandered in and out of people’s homes in our neighborhood looking for food, including ours!  He came and went pretty quickly, wrecking havoc in the process.

We are pictured above celebrating Easter!  It’s a rare picture that shows Phoebe’s smile.  Good photography, Alberto!

 

February 18, 2021

We had the wonderful opportunity to visit a game park not far from Cape Town over the Christmas break, thanks to the generosity of a friend.  This was Alberto’s and my second time away without kids in 18 years!  This shocking reality made us realize that we need to prioritize our marriage more.  We are now making a better effort to go out on dates!  We are also taking a marriage enrichment class called “The Significant Marriage” through YWAM on Tuesdays nights (via Zoom).  So far, the course is helping us understand more clearly how each of us operates, and how culture plays a part in our values and patterns.  The instructing couple is also an interracial couple, so that is helpful.

With all this good information for improving our marriage, I thought I would take the next step and do a personality-type test.  A YWAM friend of mine is a life coach and uses the “Strength Finders” test to help people understand their strengths.  Needless to say, my strength is communication!  I have to watch out for my desire to achieve, though, as that can easily overpower my other gifts, and needs to be kept in check.  I find this information extremely helpful in understanding the person God has made me, how I can excel, and which areas I can work on.  One of my motives for taking the test was to see how I can serve God in a more official capacity, assuming I can break away from Phoebe’s therapies.  (Do you see I like to achieve?) My friend helped me realize that my gifts need to be used for God’s kingdom on a daily basis, and not necessarily through a certain job or ministry title.  It’s a more obvious integrative approach, although I have struggled with seeing my role as a care-giver as a viable ministry.  Somehow it is not as glamorous as some other types of ministry.  God is teaching me to see the value in all that I do, and to see it as an offering to Him, and a way to know Him deeper.

Speaking of my role in caring for others, Phoebe has started the most amazing home-therapy program for autism. Qualified therapists from The Star Academy use ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy to target life skills and communication goals for Phoebe.  They combine games with daily routines to teach Phoebe compliance, flexibility, toileting, and basic hygiene while reinforcing speech and addressing her sensory needs and behavioural challenges.  Not an easy task!  It is a team of four rotating therapists who come for four-hour sessions, and one case manager who watches Phoebe virtually for a period of time each week.  The case manager comes up with better strategies and goals, which are shared with all of us.  The therapists keep diligent records of her progress.  It is all very organized, which is how I work, so I am happy.  I am also happy to be part of a team, and not feel like Alberto and I are left alone to come up with good options for Phoebe.  Phoebe is also much happier to have more structure and stimulation.  Next week we reach our goal of four days of four hours sessions.

Another area of concern for me is always Phoebe’s diabetes and health.  In the past few weeks, both she and I had a terrible stomach bug, which played havoc with her glucose readings.  She had another low glucose scare after someone mistakenly gave her too much insulin.  She is also prone to choking, and we have had a couple of scares.  Because of these challenges, it is hard for me to be away from Phoebe for long, and especially hard not to be around over meal time.  As we settle into the new routine of therapy, I hope the therapists can become comfortable enough with Phoebe’s needs that I can actually leave the house.

Recently, two YWAM special needs moms and I got together (via Zoom) to support each other in caring for our children.  This support group has been a huge blessing to me, and has enabled me to go deep in my thinking and processing in becoming more aware of God’s still and ever present presence in the minutiae of the world of disabilities.

On a completely separate note, thank you for a strong finish to our financial year.  We are grateful for your ongoing support!

Picture

South Africa has just passed its second peak, with Cape Town being a hotspot.  Many of our friends have had Covid by now.  Since South Africa is responsible for the Covid variant, and it is unclear whether vaccines will be effective against this variant, there is little local discussion regarding getting the vaccine.

Picture

Margaret is pictured above receiving a box of Christmas presents from our Missionary Care Team!  Such a happy day!  Fed Ex is about the only way to get a package into the country, since travel to and from South Africa is severely limited.

Margaret had a happy five-week vacation with Savana and a few other friends, despite strict curfew hours and no beach access.  She started back at school virtually last month, although has since transitioned to in-person instruction, much to her joy!

Margaret has recently asked us for an allowance, which is new to us, as the older kids were always able to work for their spending money.  With jobs few and far between here, getting a job is not an option for Margaret.  But, I have a need for a very capable and experienced babysitter for date nights, so we have come up with a deal!  Margaret took excellent care of Phoebe while we were away, and she did not have a single diabetic scare!

Picture

Ministry continues to look different during the pandemic.  Alberto is following-up with the prisoners who participated in the Restorative Justice conference a couple of months ago. Deborah and Deon continue to distribute food through their soup kitchen.  Hunger is still rampant in the less-resourced communities.  We are still in Stage 3 of lock-down restrictions, so the end of the pandemic is not in sight.

This is also fire season.  A fire ravaged a poor community right before Christmas, destroying almost 1000 homes.  Reconstruction has been slow and difficult.

There was chaos after the fire as YWAM and another Christian non-profit, Living Hope, tried to distribute necessities to the crowds.

Nceba and Alberto help with care packages for the fire victims.  Nceba is from a community close to the area affected by the fire.  He and his wife are with YWAM and lead our small group, which Alberto and I assist with.

Picture

Isaac is back at Messiah University for in-person instruction.  He is rooming with two friends this semester.  His knee continues to heal nicely, and he no longer has any restriction of activity.  He is still applying for a summer internship, so would appreciate your prayers for that.

Picture

Ana is pictured above co-officiating a DTS graduation.  She is being mentored into leadership and is enjoying her new role of leading Monday base worship and meeting.  She recently spoke on revival of our hearts, intimacy with God, and being armed for battle.  Lastly, she just submitted a practice business plan for a coffee ministry to her class!  Exciting days!

December 15, 2020

Alberto and I recently hiked up Sentinel Peak in order to watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.  Hiking with friends in the fresh air, surrounded by beautiful views, refreshed our souls.

Another wonderful experience we recently had was participating virtually in the Park Street Church missions conference.  It was life-giving connecting with many of you through the sessions.  We have missed our church, and feel privileged to be part of their team.

On the other hand, the reality of Covid can be all consuming.  It is hard to put into words all my thoughts for this year.  I know we have all been tried to our limits.  In South Africa, we are now in our ninth month of lockdown.  Although the restrictions are lighter than they were in March, we are all still keenly aware that we are in a state of emergency.  Our numbers are in a sharp incline, though you wouldn’t know it from all the tourists flocking to Cape Town.

This will be an unusual Christmas for us, as neither Ana nor Isaac will be with us.  Ana is in Australia, where the borders are still closed.  Isaac thought it wise not to travel internationally over the Christmas break, so he is lying low in Pennsylvania.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you during the ongoing stress of the Covid pandemic.  We know many of you have suffered physically, emotionally, socially and financially this year.  I hope you have not suffered spiritually, though.  I hope that God has met you where you are, and showed you His faithfulness and His presence as you keep walking the path in front of you.

May the joy of our Savior’s birth strike a deep chord within you, as you grasp onto the hope that we have through Him.  Merry Christmas to you and your families.

Margaret is pictured above with her second cousin Laurie, the daughter of my cousin Andrea (pictured above).  Despite the obvious challenges of Covid, Margaret is coping well and has a great support network of friends.  Having in-person classes this semester was a great help.  She finished her last exam on Friday, thus marking the start of her five-week summer vacation.  She is happy to have plenty of time to rest and spend time with her friends.

Please click on this link to watch Margaret’s marimba class perform a rendition of “Havana”.  (Margaret is in the back row.)

Isaac is pictured above with his roommate Michael.  Yes, the beard is gone!  He had a strong semester, with his favorite class being on coding (computer programming).  He is still waiting to hear back from internship interviews, so please continue to pray for an open door.

He is spending Christmas with a (different) college friend in Harrisburg, PA.  He had hoped to work, but given the current situation of Covid, he has instead decided to take an online class through Messiah.  I am sad he is not coming to South Africa as we had originally planned, but I understand.  Next Christmas will be different.

Phoebe has been home since March, when her school closed their doors permanently.  Since Phoebe struggles to wear a mask and to understand the need for social distancing, it has been challenging to find social outlets for her.  We have managed to put together an interesting assortment of therapies and lessons for her, though, with swimming lessons being the highlight of the week.  We had hired Patience to work with Phoebe on a trial basis, but that did not work out.

Once again, we have been faced with the prospect of zero opportunities for Phoebe.  And just like every time before, at the last minute, a new opportunity has arisen.  A brand new autism center is opening in Cape Town.  It is the only center which uses an American therapy model for autism.  I had a very good conversation with the woman who started the program for her sons, and I feel very comfortable with her level of expertise and vision.

Phoebe has her assessment this coming Friday, at which time her “team” will determine how many hours of home-therapy she needs a week.  This is a breath of fresh air, after almost feeling like I have to beg for therapy hours.  The initial challenge with this program, however, was the price tag.  But, I must say that God has been very faithful to us and through one generous donor, all Phoebe’s sessions for this program will be covered in full for 2021.  I am amazed at God’s faithfulness, and the obedience and generosity of the donor and his family.  Speechless really!

Ana is still enjoying working with YWAM Brisbane’s coffee ministry, and is being challenged by her business as mission classes.  Her outreach team has been participating in more outreaches within Australia, the current site being a Christian concert venue where they invite local people to come listen.

Over Christmas, she is going to house-sit with some friends, and then will embark on a road trip around their province.

The prisons are slowly opening up again, so Alberto was recently able to participate in a Restorative Justice conference in a nearby prison.  As always, his goal is to share the love of Jesus with those in the prison, and to help the inmates heal from their own wounds as they learn to trust Jesus as a friend and not a foe.  It is only then that they can begin to take responsibility for their actions and heal the broken relationships with their families and victims.

Restoration with family members is part of the healing process.  One family member is allowed to enter the prison on the last day of the Restorative Justice conference and is allowed to ask questions of their loved one.

Praises

Thank you for your prayers for all my admin projects.  Isaac’s financial aid application is in, South African taxes are filed, Margaret’s and Phoebe’s new South African passports are in my hand (although we have to make a fifth trip for Margaret to pick up her ID), South African health insurance has been applied for, and thank you postcards are being written.

Isaac’s leg is healing nicely.  Almost all of the medical bills have been covered by health insurance, which is another huge blessing!

Thank you

At this time we would like to thank you all for your friendship, prayers and financial support.  If you would like to support our ministry here in South Africa, please do so on the Park Street Church online giving forum: www.parkstreet.org/give.  We are listed in the drop-down box as “Missions: Paradas PM” which means we are partner missionaries through the church.  We are grateful for this partnership, and for your ongoing support.

The Blessing with Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes is a song of blessing adapted from Numbers 6:24-26, which reminds me of God’s love and faithfulness.  Click on this link to listen.  Below are the (majority of the) words:

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen

May His favor be upon you
For a thousand generations
Your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you…