June 10, 2024

Hooray!  I graduated!  I received a Masters from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and shook the hand of Dr. Sunquist, pictured above with my parents, Isaac, and two amazing friends (and a daughter).  What a blessing to be there in person, and to be reminded that my studies are part of something larger than me – they are a part of a larger Christian community on mission to the world.  It was a joy to see that I have friends in every realm: fellow students, GCTS staff, and faculty.  My parents threw a lovely party for me afterward, so I felt truly celebrated!  Thank you to those of you who were able to come celebrate with me.

Back on the home front, Alberto, Margaret, and Phoebe managed very well.  Phoebe continued with her schedule of going to school every day with Leigh-Anne, so her routine was uninterrupted.  

What will interrupt her schedule, however, is our upcoming trip to the US in July!  It’s time for her nine-appointment marathon.  Also included in the marathon are some appointments for Alberto and me.  We will be in the US for most of July, staying with my parents.  We are scheduled to speak in Park Street Church in all services on July 14, and plan to attend the Spanish First Baptist Church’s Family Camp in PA later in July (where I will be sharing on the book of Ruth!). 

While we are looking forward to being back and connecting with many of you, we are grieved over the problems at Park Street Church.  It is heartbreaking to watch the church we love crumble at the seams while it literally implodes.  If we, the body of Christ, cannot walk out repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, what does that say about the message we preach?  We weep when we hear about the latest resignations and the steady stream of our friends who are leaving.  We continue to pray for a miracle!  The emotional toll this has taken on us is considerable.  We have always considered our home church to be a source of unquestionable foundational security.  We no longer have that security.  We continue to lift up the leaders of the church, and pray that they (and all of us) can be sensitive to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

On a more positive note, Alberto has been very busy with Restorative Justice conferences in various prisons in and around Cape Town, and has been following up with the participants and their families.  This is what he says: “The work in the prison is getting more and more exciting!  There is not a single day in the prison when we don’t see the spirit of God moving in a powerful way.  We see why Jesus tells us to go to the prisons, and to declare the good news of his salvation and healing for the wounded.  The prisoners hold a special place in Jesus’ heart, and prisons are ripe for the harvest.  In these past few months, we have had so many breakthroughs.  We have seen leaders of the gangs humbling themselves and reconciling with one another.  Being with them and seeing these breakthroughs is so encouraging!  When God breaks the hearts of the leaders, this paves the way for their followers to also make good choices to change their lives by accepting Christ and renouncing their gangster lifestyle.  This has immediate consequences, as there are serious repercussions for leaving the gangs.”

One such example is Cia, who moved to Cape Town at the age of 5, which marked the beginning of his criminal activity.  Children are easy targets for gangs, as they are less likely to be questioned when running suspicious errands.  By the time Alberto met Cia, he had been in and out of the criminal system for most of his life.  But at the age of 40, he heard the message of hope we have in Christ, and took the brave step of deciding to follow Christ and turning his back on the gangs.  When he is released from prison, he wants to return to his family’s home in the Eastern Cape and share his changed life with them.  Please pray he can do this and the light of Christ will shine brightly through him!

A special lady (Maryann Gurney) from the Church of the Holy Nativity (my childhood church and where my parents still attend) helped make blankets for the needy.  When I visited last month, the blankets were being prayed over, so I could bring them back to South Africa to distribute.  The children affected by the bus crash in Tanzania were the motivation, but there are enough blankets to distribute locally to cold kids, as we are now in winter. 

These kids were affected by the bus crash, in that they lost a parent.  Along with many widows and widowers, they came to Cape Town for a week of debriefing and trauma counseling, and received blankets!  Perfect timing, as it is cold here! (I obtained permission for all the pictures of minors in this newsletter.)

One of the projects we are involved with is the soup kitchen Deon runs out of his garage, feeding the children in his community who would otherwise go without.  His motivation is Jesus, whom he loves to talk about!

Margaret and I rented bikes on my birthday!  (Alberto also had a birthday recently!)  Margaret just got her South African license, which is a great accomplishment, seeing how difficult the process is!  She is still living with us and commuting to school, and still on the lookout for a job and accommodation closer to school.  School is going well, although not as challenging as she had hoped.

Thanksgiving

* The many men who committed their lives to Jesus in recent Restorative Justice conferences. 
* The people who accepted Christ and those who received Bibles during Ana and Frenchie’s outreach to Kosrae, Micronesia last month.  

Prayer Points

* The men who recently gave their lives to Jesus to walk out their new calling in the face of great challenges
* God’s blessing on our upcoming trip to the US
* Guidance in our sharing both at Park Street Church and the Spanish First Baptist Church’s Family Camp
* Phoebe’s diabetic care as we travel across time zones in July
* Margaret’s safety as she stays home alone and commutes to school while we travel, and that she can find a job
* Isaac’s summer and future plans
* Healing and restoration in Park Street Church’s turmoil
* Peaceful days in South Africa as members of parliament clamber for a majority vote and choose a new president (The recent election was the first time the ANC did not win a majority in parliament.)

April 10, 2024

The past month has been filled with grief.  Too many tragedies in too short a period of time.  At least we know this phase will pass, as “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5).

Tragedy #1: Bus accident in Tanzania killed 11 YWAMers.  (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2024/february/ywam-tanzania-bus-accident-11-missionaries-killed-arusha.html)  A YWAM base in Arusha, Tanzania recently hosted a leadership gathering for (mostly) young African leaders, 11 of whom were killed in a bus accident.  Many of them left spouses and young families.  They all left budding ministries.  When the list of names was eventually published, we realized we knew one of the people.  Lova left two young children and a wife, was from Madagascar, and oversaw the YWAM work there.  Ana stayed with him and his wife when she led an outreach there many years ago.  We met Lova and his family when they did the Leadership Training School here in Cape Town at the end of last year.  It broke our hearts to know Lova was among the dead.  As time went on, we learned that some other friends of ours were also part of the YWAM excursion and narrowly escaped death.  One of these friends was immediately thrust into the position of all the administrative work involved in dying: getting death certificates and arranging the repatriation of bodies.  Since they were not given time to grieve, she and her husband were encouraged to take time to process the trauma.  It just so happens that we have (different) friends in Cape Town who are in the process of setting up a retreat center for missionaries in crisis.  So, our two grief-stricken friends and their children came to Cape Town to meet with counselors and take time to start to heal.  Listening to my friend recount her experiences in Tanzania was heavy.  Margaret and I watched their children a few times during their stay.

Tragedy #2: On Saturday, while I was watching our friends’ children, Alberto attended a funeral for Isaac’s brother.  Isaac, as you may remember, had recently started a DTS with YWAM.  We were all so excited!  Initially, he was grateful to be able to be there and draw closer to God.  His teachers were happy with his growth.  And then Isaac’s brother died unexpectedly, and Isaac quit the DTS.  For weeks we didn’t know where Isaac was.  His texts were vague and a bit accusatorial.  This was very painful for Alberto, who felt rejected by someone he had poured so much of himself into.  Of course, we understood Isaac needed time to mourn the untimely death of his brother, but still, it was a time we could have supported him, but instead, we were worried and wounded.  Weeks after the apparent death of his brother, when people started questioning whether there actually had been a death, Isaac reappeared on the scene and came to work with Alberto.  Shortly thereafter, Isaac invited Alberto (and me) to the funeral.  It was a sad day for Alberto as he supported his friend and mourned with him, despite his frustrations with him.  Isaac is now living with his father and has no intention of returning to YWAM.  Of course God is not limited to working through YWAM, but I am still sad that he doesn’t want to finish what he started, considering YWAM would have given him the right type of support.  Please pray for Isaac to remain faithful in his walk with God, as he is surrounded by many temptations in his home environment, and has struggled with this in the past.

Tragedy #3: The day after the funeral, I got the news that my beloved aunt had died. She had been admitted to hospital outside Johannesburg for something that did not sound life-threatening, but things changed in the ensuing two weeks, and she died.  I was shocked, as this aunt seemed so strong and was certainly young at heart.  She was a huge influence in my spiritual walk, and was like a second mother to me.

As you can see, it was a rough weekend.  But God is always with us, and new things are on the horizon.  Here are some exciting things that lie ahead:

I am coming to Boston for my graduation from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary on May 18!  I found a cheap ticket for one week, so I get to come and shake the president’s hand and receive my diploma.  Praise the Lord I finally finished!  I may get an award for being the longest registered student, as I took my first class in 1998!

Another exciting piece of news is that Ana and Frenchie are leading an outreach to Micronesia next week for six weeks.  You can read more about their trip in her recent newsletter here.  Ana turned 27 yesterday!

Lastly, YWAM has used “Circles” in the past to care for their missionaries.  “Circles” have recently undergone a rebranding, and are now called “Ubuntu” groups.  In Zulu, “Ubuntu” means “I am, because you are.”  I continue to co-lead a group, but with open registration, our group has jumped to 20 people plus kids!  We have a kick-off pot-luck at our house this week, so please pray we can clearly discuss hopes and expectations, and start to get to know each other in this exciting new chapter!

Alberto with Isaac, his uncle, and his father at the funeral.

Alberto, Alexander, and Andrew shared ministry opportunities through Hope Prison Ministry at a recent YWAM ministry fair.

A participant of Restorative Justice was recently released from prison, and is seen here celebrating!  Gangstar Cafe is a pretty cool place, as it is South Africa’s first coffee shop that trains and employs ex-offenders!

Our friend Lova and his family in December in Cape Town.  Lova died in the bus accident in Tanzania.

The last time I saw my aunty Denise was when my parents visited two years ago.  She is pictured above with my dad and me.

Phoebe has been enjoying school with Leigh-Anne, although has been on a seemingly long fall vacation for the past 2 and a half weeks.  Now that we are back in the South African school schedule, I must adapt to the many short breaks throughout the year, and the lack of a long July vacation!

As an update to Phoebe’s toilet-training, we have come a long way.  I realized that part of the problem with Phoebe’s accidents was due to her high glucose readings in the mornings (which were actually not terribly high, as her HBa1c readings are always within range, but they could get better).  I have adjusted her insulin and diet once again, with the help of her endocrinologist.  Through this change and endless repetition, we are starting to see some good progress.  Please continue to pray for this!

Pictured above is Ella, who has been living with us for the past month.  She is from Austria, and is a friend of a friend who needed a home while she processed her parents’ divorce.  She is 21, and has grown very close to Margaret.  We have had some excellent discussions about Jesus, and Ella even came to church with us on Easter!

Margaret has been enjoying her art school, despite a rocky start where she wondered if she had made the right choice.  Now she has friends at the school, though, and is used to the long commute.  She is taking driving lessons locally, and is hoping to get her licence and a car soon!  I am enjoying her living with us.

Prayer Points

* Comfort for the family members and friends as they mourn the death of their loved ones in the bus accident
* Protection and guidance for Isaac as he figures out how he wants to live
* Health and protection for us, especially Alberto, as he’s been sick a lot lately
* God’s blessing on Alberto’s upcoming Restorative Justice conference
* God’s blessing on my upcoming trip, and that everything will be ok with Phoebe during my absence
* Phoebe’s continued progress in school and in toilet-training
* Margaret’s safety as she commutes to school, and that she can get her license and a job
* Isaac’s (Parada) school year to end well
* Ana and Frenchie’s outreach to Micronesia next week
* Healing and restoration in Park Street Church’s turmoil

February 14, 2024

Hello everyone!  Happy Valentine’s Day!  We are pictured above on Christmas Day!  We are enjoying a long hot summer, which I am very happy about, despite the constant threat of wild fires. Every summer at least one fire blows soot and ash over our property, so we continue to lift up the firefighters and victims in prayer!

So many updates, where to begin…

Alberto has been following up with past participants of the Restorative Justice programs, and is one of the MC’s for the program that started this week.  Please pray for open ears and for God to draw the participants to himself.

Sam, one of the soccer players, gave his life to Jesus and got baptized!  Thank you for praying for this ministry.  Another soccer player, Peniel, whom we have mentioned in the past, just graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, and is now starting a Master’s program.  With your help, we have been supporting his studies.

Isaac, our unofficial tenant, is now doing his DTS through YWAM in Durban, which is an intensive three-month Discipleship Training School and a two-month outreach.  He is loving learning more about God’s character and his identity as a child of God.  He calls us more frequently than our own kids do, as he has so many exciting stories to share!  We are thrilled doors finally opened for him, as Durban was not his first choice, nor second choice, and not even his third choice!

This struggle actually highlights some of the challenges people with a criminal history face, even if they appear to have superficially reintegrated into society.  It is impossible to delete a prison sentence from your history, and we as the church have many obstacles to overcome in terms of being able to truly welcome our formally incarcerated brothers and sisters, while simultaneously providing the extra support they need.

For example, in his Durban DTS, Isaac cannot do the required outreach with his team, as he would be in direct contact with school-aged children.  The law is very clear on this restriction, as it should be.  This is an impossible hurdle for anyone with a criminal past to overcome though, especially for someone who loves children, and whose criminal history did not involve children.  Of course there are alternatives, such as providing an outreach opportunity for Isaac that does not involve children, so that is what YWAM is trying to create.  I am grateful for their desire to meet Isaac where he is, and to not have closed the door on his face.

Isaac excels in fixing things, so before he left for Durban, he and Alberto fixed a friend of a friend’s house in Ocean View, which is the “Coloured” township not far from us.  (In South Africa, challenged communities have picturesque names.)  It is amazing how much better you feel with a proper roof over your head.  And it is shocking how people can survive in such challenged environments, and how thieves show no mercy.

Although I don’t mention it regularly, we are still involved in a feeding program in this community, which, sadly, seems to be growing in need and numbers.  At the Christmas party, 350 kids received small goody bags.  I can’t show you the kids’ eyes, but please know they are beautiful!

Speaking of Christmas, we had a wonderful time celebrating with Isaac and Margaret.  We missed Ana and Frenchie!  It always fills my soul to reconnect with my kids in the flesh, so Isaac’s quick visit was a blessing.  And Margaret’s presence here is an incredible blessing!

Margaret is happy to be back, and has maintained an impressive social schedule since arriving early December.  Now that her money is depleted, she has found a waitressing job at a restaurant down the street from us.  Originally she was going to live downtown, close to her college, but the accommodations we viewed were neither safe nor sanitary.  Sadly, the college does not offer housing, so students either commute from home or find group houses with friends.  Margaret is hoping to commute from home until she can find a good group of friends to live with.  The only challenge to this plan is the commute.  She does not have a license yet (though she has her South African permit!), so we are working on a carpool group.  Orientation starts this week.  We have had to jump through more hoops than I care to recount, but, we have made it through.  Now the real challenge will come with the start of classes!

Margaret is not the only one starting classes this year.  Phoebe started school last month at Beautiful Minds Learning Center.  You may remember that we hired Leigh-Anne to be her aide.  Leigh-Anne is calm and responsible, and has a sweet connection with Phoebe.  Starting school was understandably challenging for Phoebe.  Her glucose levels went hay-wire the first week.  The teacher called me in for a meeting and told me she wasn’t sure the school was a good fit, but they agreed to give her more time.  And sure enough, the following weeks have been much better, to the point that I now get happy reports from the school and Leigh-Anne!  We are so grateful for this opportunity, and for our generous donor.

Probably not the best in terms of timing, but definitely in terms of climate, is the fact that we started potty-training Phoebe again!  I am fed-up with the price of pull-ups, and have a firm conviction that we can master this.  It has been a very slow and long last two months, but she is making progress.  The biggest challenge is getting Phoebe to disengage from her current activity in order to go to the bathroom. No prize seems to be incentive enough for her, so, most of the toys travel with us to the bathroom regularly.   I have micro-analyzed every step of the process, and even have a virtual follow-up with the Toileting Clinic at Children’s Hospital soon.  Please pray we can do this!

In other news, Ana and Frenchie are well.  They are leading an outreach in Mexico during Carnival this week.  Back in Kona, Ana is leading a Brave Hearts women-only DTS this term.  Frenchie continues to teach on evangelism.

Isaac is skiing every spare moment he gets, and is getting used to the energy of elementary school-age kids at Park Street School.  It is most confusing having two Isaacs!

Prayer Requests

Open eyes and ears during this week’s Restorative Justice conference.
* A graduate from Restorative Justice, who was recently released from prison and given a job at a socially-conscious restaurant, is struggling in finding a balance between his new job and his new freedom.  Please pray he stays committed to the job.
* Isaac to soak up the presence of God during his time in Durban.
* Sam to grow in his love and understanding of God.
* Phoebe’s continued adjustment to her new school.
* Margaret’s first semester at school to be settling, after jumping around the world and considering so many options.
* Isaac (Parada) to have patience, peace, and joy as he teaches energetic kids.
* Ana and Frenchie’s outreach in Mexico to draw many people to Christ.

December 14, 2023

Merry Christmas from sunny Cape Town!  May the joy of Christ’s birth be with each of you.

Last Christmas we were in the U.S. celebrating Christmas with many of you.  Spending time with my family and attending “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” at Park Street Church were highlights for me.  Reliving those missed experiences fed my soul.  Now, one year later, I am in a better place to fully embrace Christmas in the summer.  We have begun to celebrate the season by attending Christmas parties with our ministries and inviting friends over to braai.  It’s also tourist season, as the weather in Cape Town is glorious!

As the year winds down, we are able to reflect on the opportunities God has given us.  Alberto has built on existing relationships and started new ones through the Restorative Justice (RJ) programs and follow-ups in the prisons with Hope Prison Ministry.  Miracles are still taking place as hearts and minds are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In a recent RJ conference, two Cape Town rival gang leaders came to peace with not only Jesus, but each other.  While RJ teaches about the ripple effects of crime, there are also ripple effects of peace.  The agreed upon cease-fire between the gangs extended to a general peace in their home communities.  For better or worse, prison is the place where gang policy is masterminded.  Some inmates are from further afield than Cape Town, such as Tanzania, and want to share their new hope in Jesus with family members back home. We are trusting that the seeds from the Cape Town prisons can spread to not only Cape Town, but all of Africa.

Next year, we plan to make some progress with the halfway house.  Housing Isaac (an ex-prisoner who has gone through the RJ program) in our home has shown us some of the challenges and joys of reintegrating people back into society.  Overall, Isaac is doing really well.  He even bought me some chocolates when he was paid for a job last week, as a token of his appreciation!

The soccer ministry has finished for the year, although the boys are still waiting for a Christmas party!  The current fields are unavailable, so we must think quickly of a place large enough for so many young soccer enthusiasts!  This has been a great ministry, as interest in soccer is high, and half-time provides a convenient opportunity to talk to the boys about Jesus, respect for each other on and off the field, and how to make good life decisions to keep them out of the prison.  This morning, one of the boys, Sam, was baptised at our church!  He wants to attend the church’s summer camp program, so we will sponsor him for that!  It is a joy to see young people who are excited to follow the Lord!

In terms of family news, Margaret arrived this past week.  She is busily catching up with all her old friends, and really happy to be here.  Likewise, I am thrilled she chose to return.  We were finally able to visit Vega, the art school she will be attending in January.  It’s an exciting place!  Now we need to find her housing closer to the school, since we live an hour away.

Isaac arrives Dec 20, and will be with us for 10 days.  He had a successful IronMan competition recently.  Thank you for your prayers.

Phoebe finally has a facilitator for her new school!  Thank you for praying!  Leigh-Anne starts on Monday, and will build rapport with Phoebe at our house over the next couple of weeks before school starts in January.  Leigh-Anne has experience working with children with autism and connects well with Phoebe.

Ana and Frenchie have been married for almost one year!  They continue to be active in youth ministry in Kona, Hawaii with YWAM, and Frenchie continues to travel the world speaking on evangelism.  You can read Ana’s latest update here.  I really miss Ana, and hope she and Frenchie can come to South Africa next year!  The picture above was taken last year after their wedding.  We haven’t been together since.

I have officially finished my last class at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary!  Interpreting the Bible was a challenging class, but it gave me to the tools to, well, better interpret Scripture!  I will graduate with a Master of Arts in Christian Ministries in January, and attend an online ceremony in May.

We want to thank you for your love and prayers, and for your support in our ministry in South Africa over these past nine years as we have endeavored to share the light of Christ with those around us, particularly in the prisons.  Your concern for all our children, especially Phoebe, has touched our hearts and shown us what the body of Christ is capable of.  May God bless you in all aspects of your lives!

If you would like to support our ministry 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 “Paradas – Partner Missionaries” which means we are partner missionaries through the church, and receive only a portion of our support directly form the church.  The majority of our support comes through individual and families.  Or if you would like to support Ana and Frenchie, choose “Ana Parada” in the drop-down box.

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

Love,
Alberto, Joanna, Ana (and Frenchie), Isaac, Margaret and Phoebe Parada

October 19, 2023

I hope you are all having a happy fall.  We are in the midst of a glorious spring.  Pictured above is my hiking group standing in the mouth of a cave!

Since our last update, the Park Street Church team came and ministered in the prisons through their participation in the Restorative Justice conference.  These conferences challenge inmates to take a serious look at their lives through the perspective of their victims, families, and God.  (Alberto is actually participating in another such conference this week!)  When they were not in prison, the Park Street cohort was able to come to our house, climb Lion’s Head, and explore the area.  Their presence was a huge blessing to us personally, as it is so helpful to get feedback on life here from people who are from our home church.  Thanks for coming, friends!

Alberto, Phoebe and I recently attended the YWAM Southern Africa leadership conference in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa.  It was really encouraging to see friends of ours from our early days at the Worcester base now in leadership roles throughout South Africa.  YWAM has faced incredible blessings as they show how Jesus is relevant to young people today and empower them to make a difference in their communities and in the world.  34% of the South African population is under the age of 18, so harnessing their involvement is critical for the kingdom of God.  With this comes some significant challenges, however.  In trying to empower young people from economically challenged environments to become missionaries, the whole concept of support raising needs to be reevaluated.  In a context where support letters are not relevant, how do people raise support?  It can be through creative ways such as raising chickens or selling vegetables.  One of the other challenges YWAM is facing is how to support people coming out of challenging situations, such as homelessness or gangs.  Everyone is always welcome at YWAM, though some need more support than others.

I love YWAM’s vision to reach every nation with waves of young people from every nation, to influence every sphere of society, and to translate the Bible into every mother tongue.  Although the founder of YWAM, Loren Cunningham, recently died in Kona, Hawaii, he was an extraordinary evangelist and man of vision.  You can read his story here.  YWAM’s newest focus is oral Bible translation with the help of AI.

Isaac (the ex-prisoner, as opposed to Isaac our son) is still living with us, as he needs extra support.  Every time he tries returning to his community, he gets into some type of trouble with his family, friends or wife.  This last time, his sister stole from him.  (His sister is addicted to tik, crystal meth, which is easily accessible in the townships.)  Alberto has encouraged Isaac to buy a small piece of land in a township far from his old community, since he is not strong enough to resist their influence. Township plots are cheap, but Isaac will need to save his money so he can buy building materials.  So now he is occasionally working for us by painting or rewiring our electricity.  Today he went to pay off his traffic fines, for driving without a license.  Next, he needs to try to apply to get a license.  He is also, sadly, in the process of divorce.  Having Isaac live in our guest cottage (half of the garage is converted into a bedroom and bathroom) has its blessings, though, as he is a gifted musician!  We are hoping he will attend a DTS in the near future.  (Thus, the applicable conversations at the conference about helping people in challenging situations who still need quite a bit of support.)

All in all, we are in a much better place than we were two months ago!  Many of the challenges we experienced upon arrival in Cape Town have now been settled.  My car is fixed, registrations and passport are renewed, replacement credit cards have arrived, even load-shedding has experienced some relief!  Some things are still pending though, and therefore need ongoing prayer: Phoebe is still not in school.  We did find a school (Beautiful Minds) that has accepted her provisionally, praise God, but the stipulation is that we will find and hire an aid for her.  I contacted a recruiting agency, so am waiting for their recommendations at this point.  Since the school year ends early December, it seems unlikely that Phoebe would start school this year.  In the meantime, I have hired a lady to help me with Phoebe at home, as she needs a constant set of eyes on her.  Even when she is being watched, however, she can be a challenge.  Last month when I was working on my laptop, Phoebe came running into the house and dumped my cup of tea over the keyboard.  Despite following Google’s recommendations for drying out a laptop, it never turned on again.  Fortunately, I have the extended Apple Care package, being the mother of a child like Phoebe. Unfortunately, there are no Apple store partners in the entire country (or southern Africa, for that matter).  My only hope was to return the laptop to the US, which I did through the kindness of a friend, who then took the laptop to Apple.  Now, a month later, at no cost to me, I have an almost brand new laptop, as just about everything was replaced. I am now waiting for a friend of a friend to transport the laptop back to South Africa.

Meanwhile, I have been working on our old laptop, which is a blessing, as I am taking an online class this semester, Interpreting the Bible, which is my last requirement for my Masters of Arts in Christian Ministries at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.  I love digging into the Biblical texts and seeing God’s heart for the nations, but it is a lot of work!

Pictured above and below are friends from our YWAM, Worcester days when we first arrived in South Africa (yes, Worcester, South Africa).  They have since moved on to other locations in South Africa to do amazing things with youth to spread the kingdom of God.

Pictured above and below are members of the Park Street Church short-term mission at our house and climbing Lion’s Head.

Nice looking cleats!  The guys are so appreciative of all the cleats that have come their way, thanks to the generosity of so many of you at Park Street Church!

Some of the topics discussed during half-time are concerns brought up by the players, such as the fact that some of them view Christianity as the white-man’s religion.  This is an important subject, as throughout history, white people have manipulated the Christian faith for their personal gain, which requires an accounting for.  It is hard to separate what Christians have done from Jesus.  Please pray the soccer players will seek Jesus and find him in their African context.  After all, Africa has an amazing Christian heritage!

To watch Phoebe and Isaac sing “Sing Hosanna” please click on this link.

Isaac and Margaret are pictured above with my mom and nephew.  Isaac continues to live with my parents, and is now a PE teacher.  Margaret is waitressing in Boston, but returns to Cape Town December 5th!  She has applied to an art school in Cape Town, where she hopes to study design.

Ana and Frenchie (and Kara) at Park Street Church.  They had an amazing time reconnecting with some of you, participating in The Send, and spending time with my parents, Isaac, and Margaret.  They are now back in ministry with YWAM in Kona, Hawaii.

Prayer Points

* Spiritually open eyes and ears during this week’s Restorative Justice conference
* Strength to walk with integrity for ex-prisoners like Isaac
* Soccer players to seek Jesus.
* A good aid for Phoebe
* Margaret’s transition back to South Africa
* Isaac to remain injury-free in his Ironman training
* God’s help and intervention in the challenges of Park Street Church
* Peace and comfort in Israel and Gaza

August 14, 2023

Where am I?  This question lingered in my subconscious as I awoke every morning after we moved out of Park Street Church on July 2.  First Isaac, Phoebe and I were in South Weymouth with my parents, then Phoebe and I flew back to South Africa.  Two days later, Alberto, Phoebe and I flew to Thailand to attend the Joni & Friends International Family Retreat for missionary families with special needs children.  Even though the ground beneath us moves, God is our anchor and our strength.

The conference was amazing, and put us in touch with other missionary families with the same struggles as us: how do you cope overseas with the challenges of special needs?  The answer is “not easily, with much creativity, and with the presence of God.”  It was great to be in the company of like-minded people, and to share life experiences and wisdom.  At some point, we sadly picked up a terrible GI bug, which lingered with us most of the time we were in Thailand, and accompanied us back to South Africa. After much prayer, medicine, and rest, we have finally all recovered.

Being back in South Africa has been simultaneously better and worse than I expected.  We left South Africa for Boston during the pandemic last year, so that stress is my last association with being in South Africa.  Returning here post-pandemic has been a breath of fresh air, as life is back to its normal hustle and bustle.  On the other hand, there have been some challenges that I didn’t expect, at least I didn’t expect them to hit us all at once.  My patience muscle was not stretched on a daily basis in Boston, so that muscle is now weak, and has led me to feel impatient with the inefficiencies of this country.  Some of our challenges include daily load-shedding (black-outs) for five to seven hours a day.  Besides being massively inconvenient for us and our fridge, it basically brings business to a complete halt.  Since each neighborhood has its own schedule, I inevitably go somewhere and find it closed.  We are currently trying to get all sorts of things back in order after having been gone for a year, so my patience muscle is getting a good work-out.  Also, there has been a transportation strike here for the past eight days, which has further exacerbated the situation and has depleted grocery store supplies.  Furthermore, we are in the midst of trying to get my car fixed and registrations renewed, our P.O. box renewed (no mail delivery to our residential area), my South African passport renewed (not that I plan to go anywhere anytime soon), and new credit cards delivered (cards were blocked from fraudulent activity).  More importantly, we are trying to find a school or home program for Phoebe.  I am waiting to hear back from two possible “cottage” schools.  (A cottage school is run out of someone’s home for a handful of special needs kids.)  If neither works out, we will resort to what we did before, hire therapists to come to our house.  Please keep this in prayer.

On a more positive note, it has been a joy to be with our YWAM staff and friends again, although I was a bit surprised by how many families have left this past year.  (It is getting increasingly difficult for foreigners to get and renew visas here.)  There is a core group of missionaries that is here for the long haul though, and it is exciting to see how God is refining and equipping our base.

Meanwhile, Alberto has been busy distributing cleats to the soccer team!  Thank you to all of you who donated used cleats.  I’ll include a picture in our next update showing their new owners!

Alberto has also been meeting with Wisdom and Isaac, both ex-offenders.  Wisdom is now in seminary and about to start a position at an Anglican church.  Isaac, on the other hand, still has significant struggles with his wife and can’t find a stable job or place to live.  He’s stayed with us on a temporary basis in the past, and also occasionally works for us, but Alberto is trying to help him find something a bit more stable, while he figures out his marriage.  It is a difficult path, and the half-way house we are dreaming about cannot happen soon enough.  Ex-prisoners usually do not have the necessary skills to integrate themselves back into society.  Ideally, it is a two-way street.

Next week the team from Park Street Church arrives!  We are so excited to welcome them.  They will participate in a Restorative Justice process at Pollsmoor Prison, which is our local high-security prison.

Pictured above and at the top of the update are Phoebe’s two volunteers Kristin and Hollyn, and the retreat leader Liz and her husband Doug, whom we met at the New England retreat last year.

Although the strike prevented stores from restocking basics such as bread and milk, local fruits were abundant.  Avocados for 40¢  Guavas and papayas are also some of our favorites!

It was hard to say goodbye to friends and family in Boston!  Pictured above are Phoebe and Kara, who runs our Missionary Care Team.  What an amazing year we had!

Ana and Frenchie are not affected by the devastating fires in Maui, but their base is raising money and supplies for those who are.

On a brighter note, they are going to Boston in September, as they want to reconnect with friends at Park Street Church, see my parents, Isaac, and Margaret, and help out at THE SEND conference.THE SEND exists to gather and mobilize a generation into their missional calling to reach every high school, university, nation and community around the world with the gospel.”  (https://thesend.org/)

They will be sharing at a reception at Park Street Church on September 17 after the 11:00 service, so please drop by to see Ana, meet Frenchie, and learn about their ministry.

Isaac and Margaret are pictured above with my father.  Isaac is living with my parents now, which seems to be a good arrangement on both sides.  I am happy he can be there for them.  He is currently training for an Ironman Triathlon.

Margaret has returned from her European tour, and is now also staying with my parents and hoping to start work again.  She plans to return to South Africa next month and will also start applying for colleges again.  This will be her third round of applications, so she is getting good at the process!  I am praying this time yields a good way forward.  The UK college she was planning on attending (Leeds Beckett) ended up being too expensive.

Prayer Points

* Discernment to know what is the better option for Phoebe’s education and care, and corresponding open doors
* Grace as we readjust to the challenges of South Africa
* Integrity and opportunities for ex-prisoners as they seek to reintegrate into society
* God to speak His truth through the short-term team during the Restorative Justice process
* Rekindled connections during Ana and Frenchie’s Boston visit
* Isaac to remain injury-free in his Ironman training
* Work for Margaret so she can earn the money necessary to fly to South Africa

Our Mission

We proclaim the hope of Christ to the incarcerated through Hope Prison Ministry, on the soccer field to young men who are at-risk, and to the nations through Youth With A Mission (YWAM).

 

June 17, 2023

It is bittersweet to write this update, as it is the last one I’ll send before Phoebe and I return to South Africa on July 5th, without Margaret.  Alberto has actually already returned!  Our year of furlough has slipped through our fingers.

Gratitude sums up our year.  We are grateful for a year of reconnecting with so many of you in our church family, both at Park Street Church and the First Hispanic Baptist Church.  We have spent time with my parents in Weymouth, Alberto’s family in El Salvador, and my sister in Denver.  We are grateful for Ana and Frenchie’s wedding last December, and the opportunity it gave us to go to Hawaii!

We were able to get Phoebe a diabetic pump, and put her in an autism program in Charlestown High School through Boston Public Schools.  Alberto was able to work on our Quincy house, which continues to be rented to the same lovely Christian family.  I was able to take three classes towards the Masters I started at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary many years ago, leaving me one class shy of a Masters of Art in Christian Ministries.  My plan is to take that last class virtually in South Africa.

Another goal we had for this year was to provide a home base for our roaming children, and that, we certainly did!  I will share more about each one below.

The only thing we haven’t completed is our fundraising.  Currently, Park Street Church supports us $1,000/month.  Because we are Partner Missionaries ministering in a country with a Christian population, we are not eligible to be considered Full-Support missionaries by the church.  Thus, our need to fundraise for ourselves!  God has been faithful through the generosity of many of you, for which we are grateful.  But, our budget has increased since we left for South Africa almost nine years ago!  Please be in prayer about supporting us monthly through www.parkstreet.org/give.  We are listed in the drop-down box as “Missions: Paradas PM” (partner missionaries).  We are happy to answer any questions about our budget or fundraising, should you want to email me at joanna@paradas.org.

Talking about fundraising is always a touchy subject, and not my favorite thing to do, which is why we have left it to the end of our time.  The other thing we are trying to squeeze in before my departure is a collection of cleats for the soccer ministry Alberto is currently involved in on Saturday mornings in Cape Town.  There is a drop-off box in the church lobby, should you have extra cleats you want to donate!  Thank you!

Please join us in thanking God for this incredible year we have been able to have in the U.S.  It has allowed us to reconnect with friends and family, and helped us reflect on and prepare ourselves for ministry in South Africa.  Please continue to pray for us!

Happy 16th birthday, Phoebe!  You inspire me by your ability to bring out the best in people!

Please pray for opportunities for Phoebe in Cape Town.  At this point, I do not know of a school that could accommodate her.  I will continue to research this upon my return.  I will also reach out to the autism therapists that used to come to our house, and try to restart home therapies as well.  I am, at times, overwhelmed by Phoebe’s care needs, but need to remember that God has always opened doors and provided, and will continue to do so!

Our amazing Missionary Care Team who loves us, prays for us, hangs out with us, and celebrates life events with us (such as Phoebe’s birthday and Alberto’s departure).

Phoebe and I recently participated in another Waypoint Adventure.  This time we cycled along the Charles.  Waypoint supports people with disabilities as they actively explore outdoor activities, and have an amazing staff and group of committed volunteers!

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a Joni & Friends fundraiser.  It was an honor to share our story of how real Jesus has been to us in our challenges, and I pray that this ministry will continue to flourish and bless people around the world as it has blessed us.

Alberto flew back to South Africa recently.  He is readjusting well, and enjoying getting back into the rhythm of ministry, where he is being welcomed back with open arms.  One of the projects he wants to complete before Phoebe and I return is to revarnish the kitchen floor.

He had varicose vein removal surgery before leaving, and thankfully, everything healed nicely!

Margaret finished waitressing at Puttshack and flew across the world alone.  She stopped off in Istanbul and has spent the past week in Seoul, Korea.  Tomorrow she flies to Amsterdam to start her backpacking trek on the Eurorail, as she visits various friends she’s met over the years.  In September she hopes to attend Leeds Beckett University in the U.K. and study social psychology.  This is, of course, a huge change from her original ideas of studying in Cape Town, MassArt, or SCAD.

It will be hard for me to return to Cape Town without Margaret.  This is a new chapter of life as it will be just Alberto, Phoebe and me.

Isaac surprised me with a game at the Celtics on Mother’s Day!  This was my first-ever professional sports event!

Isaac is bouncing around the country, having been in Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado (with us), Oregon, California, and now back to Massachusetts.  He’s a bit fuzzy on his next steps.  I am enjoying his company while he is here in Boston with me!

Ana just celebrated one year in Hawaii.  She and Frenchie have had lots of overseas invitations this year.  You can read her latest update here.

Prayer Points

* Fundraising
* Blessings as Alberto reenters prison and the soccer ministry
* Safe travels for Phoebe and me as we return to South Africa July 5th
* A school for Phoebe
* Guidance for me as I juggle Phoebe’s care and my desire to be more involved with YWAM
* Grace as we readjust to the electricity shortages in South Africa
* Safe travels in Europe for Margaret
* Safe travels in the U.S. for Isaac
* Guidance for Ana as she desires to develop a coffee house ministry

Our Mission

We proclaim the hope of Christ to the incarcerated through Hope Prison Ministry, on the soccer field to young men who are at-risk, and to the nations through Youth With A Mission (YWAM).  If you would like to come and see what God is doing, please join Park Street’s short-term team to Cape Town in August.

 

April 17, 2023

Happy spring!  What a joy to be in Boston at this time of year!  I have missed the energy, smells, and colors of this season!  All in all, it has been a fabulous year of furlough for us.  We have reconnected with many family and friends, and have had incredible opportunities to travel!  Pictured above is Alberto and his family in El Salvador.  It was their first time meeting Phoebe!  Whereas Alberto spent over two months there, Isaac, Margaret, Phoebe and I spent two weeks.  We had a few medical challenges: Phoebe’s diabetic pump needed to be replaced more than once, and Margaret is apparently allergic to cashew fruit.  Despite this, it was wonderful to be with family again.

Our second adventure of the year was a trip to Colorado to visit my sister (Denver) and ski (Aspen).  Thanks to the most generous gift of a friend, we were able to spend a few nights at his timeshare in Aspen.  What an incredible blessing!

Now we are back in Boston. I am not taking any classes this spring.  I only have one class left for my Masters of Arts in Christian Ministries at Gordon Conwell, which I can do remotely from Cape Town.

Speaking of, we have booked our return tickets!  Alberto flies back to Cape Town May 31, when our tenants’ lease expires.  I will fly out with Phoebe July 5, as I want her to finish the school year.  (I am delaying a bit since I love summer, and we will enter Cape Town in the winter.)

We are scrambling to see as many of you as we can while we are here!  If you are in the Boston area on Sunday April 23, please come hear us speak during the 8:30, 11:00 or 4:00 services at Park Street Church.  Receptions will take place after the 11:00 and 4:00 services, where we will share more pictures and stories!  Please come!

We have had a few opportunities to speak!  We presented to the missions committee, spoke at the Boston University pre-law fellowship, and shared with a Park Street small group.  If you would like to invite us to speak in your small group, please do!

I am also speaking at a Joni & Friends fundraiser next month.  I love their mission of sharing the hope of Jesus through suffering.  “Go out quickly…and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame…so that my house will be full.” (Luke 14:21, 23)  While we were in El Salvador, we visited a Joni & Friends house, and met the amazing Claudia, who, like Joni, is a quadriplegic, and uses her challenges to share the light of Jesus.

As far as our kids, Ana is currently in Nepal with Frenchie, who is speaking to DTS students at the YWAM base in Kathmandu.  You can read her latest newsletter here.

Isaac is enjoying the freedom of working remotely.  He is currently in Oregon, having already visited Florida, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.  California is next on the list.  He’ll return to Boston later this month.

Margaret is still working at Puttshack, and has bought her ticket to start her backpacking adventure!  She flies from Boston to Seoul, Korea early June, where she will meet up with a friend.  Although May 1 is quickly approaching, Margaret still has not made a decision about college next year.

At least Phoebe will remain with us!  We are squeezing in the last of her appointments at Children’s Hospital, and have given up on the ones that still have us on their wait-lists, almost a year after our arrival.

Please join us in thanking God for this incredible year we have been able to have in the U.S.  It has indeed been a great sabbatical as we reconnect with friends and family, and prepare ourselves for ministry ahead in South Africa.  Please continue to pray for us as we prepare to go back, and for God’s guidance and protection on us and our family.

Feb 13, 2023

Our most exciting news is that Ana and Frenchie were married on December 17 in Hawaii!  It was a beautiful wedding full of personal touches and God’s presence.  The venue was YWAM’s King’s Mansion in the hills overlooking the ocean.  We met Ana’s new community of YWAM friends and were reunited with many of her old friends who had traveled half-way around the world!  Pictured above you will see that Margaret was the maid of honor, and Isaac was a groomsman.  It was a very emotional day for all of us.  I had my share of tears of joy for Ana’s new life with Frenchie, but also sadness in realizing a chapter of her life has ended and my role in her life has now shifted.  All good, but still an important realization!

As I mentioned before, Ana and Frenchie are staff missionaries with YWAM in Kona.  Frenchie oversees the Messenger’s Track (the evangelism elective within the Fire and Fragrance Discipleship Training School), travels extensively to speak on evangelism at other bases, and works with the local Micronesian community to run a youth group among the Kosraean people.  He and Ana are actually taking a Messengers team to Mexico tomorrow to do street evangelism at Carnival in Mazatlán, the biggest carnival in Mexico.  Please pray for the people they speak to, that they will have ears to hear the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Alberto is having his share of adventures as well.  He is currently in El Salvador visiting his parents, sisters, and extended relatives.  Since his father turns 90 this year, it is important for Alberto to spend a significant amount of time there.  Isaac, Margaret, Phoebe and I will fly down later this month.  This will be Phoebe’s first time meeting her relatives in El Salvador.  I had been concerned about accessible medical care in the past, but now Phoebe’s diabetes is a bit easier to manage, and her diet is a bit more flexible.  She has outgrown her sensitivity to corn, which is the staple of the country.  Please pray for a blessed time for all of us!

As far as the rest of us, we have enjoyed being in Boston!  I really wanted to be here through the winter, as I have missed the snow.  Needless to say, the lack of snow is not ideal for me.  But, Margaret and I have been able to skate on Frog Pond, and Phoebe and I were able to cross-country ski in Weston. (Phoebe was pushed through an adaptive recreation program called Waypoint Adventure).

I have completed three classes at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary since arriving in Boston: Church History, Leadership in Urban Ministry, and most recently, Spiritual Formation (January term).  This past class offered me a retreat to seek the presence of God and to rest in His presence.  It was exactly what I needed for this time of furlough.  I am back to the craziness of life, but I am grateful for that special time.  Now I only need one more class for a MA of Arts in Christian Ministries.  (I have completed 15 of the 16 required classes.)  Since I am not currently taking classes, I can rejoin my old Bible study on Thursday mornings!  What a joy!

Isaac is no longer working for Patagonia, although we are grateful for all the discounted gear he got us!  Now he is working remotely as a developer for Summit Technology Group and finishing up a computer programming class.  He enjoyed attending Urbana’s student missions conference after Christmas.  He enjoys helping out with the youth group, when it doesn’t conflict with his gym schedule.

Margaret has applied to a few colleges near and far, so we are patiently waiting for responses.  She is still working at Puttshack in Seaport and is getting excited for her European backpacking trip, which will start sometime late spring or summer.

Phoebe is still happy to get on the bus every morning at 6:45 for Charlestown High School, and is home again by 2:15.  She has been very faithful in bringing home all the viruses circulating through the school.  On a more positive note, her diabetic pump is working well. I change it every three days. No more injections or finger pricks. I am currently researching long-term grants she may be eligible for. I can only do such things while Phoebe is at school, as her care is getting more demanding with time.

Again, thank you for your partnerships.  It has been a joy to reconnect with so many of you, and we look forward to continuing to do so through May or June, when we return to South Africa.  Please reach out to get together with us while we are here.

December 2022

After eight years of celebrating Christmas in the heat of summer, it is refreshing to be back in cold New England, surrounded by friends and family. I love the build-up of the Christmas season here, and have missed the communal celebration of Advent, hearing Christmas carols, and singing Christmas hymns. May the joy of the birth of Christ be with you all!

We want to thank you for your love and prayers, and for your support in our ministry in South Africa over these past eight years as we have endeavored to share the light of Christ with those around us, particularly in the prisons. Your concern for all our children, especially Phoebe, has touched our hearts and shown us what the body of Christ is capable of. May God bless you in all aspects of your lives!

This past year has been exciting and unsettling, as we readjust to life in the U.S., while simultaneously trying to keep a presence in Cape Town. I think we all have suffered from readjustment stress to some degree or another.

The most exciting news is that Ana is getting married on December 17 in Hawaii to Frenchie Gamero. Frenchie has been a staff missionary with YWAM Kona for the past seven years.  He and Ana share a passion for seeing youth transformed for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Frenchie is a dynamic international speaker, and also works with a local youth group.

Isaac moved into our Park Street Church apartment with us in August. He is working part time at Patagonia while taking a computer programming class, and is figuring out his next steps. He just signed up to attend the Urbana Conference after Christmas, which is a student missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity.

Margaret is working at Puttshack in Seaport. She is enjoying being part of a team of servers, and is saving her money for her future adventures. Please pray for her as she is trying to figure out her life with God, that she will hear His voice as she considers options.

Phoebe has adjusted well to Charlestown High School, after a rocky beginning bouncing between various schools. Charlestown seems to have the best services for her needs, so we are grateful. We are also grateful that Phoebe now has an insulin pump attached to her, which we replace every three days. This has made dosing insulin much easier.

I have been immersed in two classes at Gordon Conwell: Survey of Church History and Leadership in Urban Ministry. I had not expected the classes to be so time-consuming, so will be relieved when I pass in my last paper before boarding the plane for Hawaii Monday morning!

Alberto has been a great help to my parents in attending to fix-up projects at their house.  He had wanted to attend to our rented house in Quincy, but time has escaped us. However, he had the opportunity to visit Lowell prison last week.

Again, thank you for your partnerships.  It has been a joy to reconnect with so many of you, and we look forward to continuing to do so through the spring, when we return to South Africa.

If you would like to support our ministry 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 form the church.  The majority of our support comes through individual and families.  Or if you would like to support Ana and Frenchie, choose “Missions: Ana Parada” in the drop-down box.

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

Love,
Alberto, Joanna, Ana (and Frenchie), Isaac, Margaret and Phoebe Parada