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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

October 26, 2020

Pictured above are wild daisies which flower in the month of September in the arid land north of Cape Town.  It is a spectacular sight to see so much colour in an otherwise monotonous terrain.  I had heard about this amazing phenomena, and finally made the trip to see them with my own eyes.  What a blessing!  And what a story of God’s redemption, that out of the ordinary and out of winter comes life and beauty!

These past two months have been a time of blessing.  In retrospect, I was very depressed during our lock-down.  I can now say with full confidence that I am an extrovert.  As life has returned to some semblance of normalcy, I have felt my old self return.  Although official meetings like church, large YWAM gatherings, and prison ministry are still not able to resume, individuals and small groups can gather.  Soccer ministry has resumed.  I have loved seeing old friends again and being with our YWAM small group singing worship songs.  It brought tears to my eyes, gathering as a small group/Christian community again.  I have been reminded of the beauty and strength of the body of Christ.

In terms of the pandemic, the worst of wave #1 is over.  Our numbers are ok, all things considering.  There is concern for a second wave, much like Europe and the U.S. are currently experiencing.  Because of this, we still need to be vigilant and monitor our borders.  Travellers from the U.S. and most of Europe are still restricted from entering South Africa.  Isaac will not make it to us at Christmas.  Australia is on the good-list for South Africa, although Ana has no guarantee she could re-enter Australia if she left.  Therefore, she is planning on staying where she is for Christmas.

Some amazing things have happened during the pandemic.  Out of South Africa has come an internationally acclaimed worship song “Jerusalema.”  If you click on the link you will hear a catchy song that has gone viral with its dance.  The Zulu lyrics with English translation are:
Jerusalema ikhaya lami (Jerusalem is my home),
Ngilondoloze (Guard me), Uhambe nami (Walk with me),
Zungangishiyi lana (Do not leave me here),
Ndawo yami ayikho lana (My place is not here),
Mbuso wami awukho lana (My kingdom is not here).

This song is on many South African radio stations, and is a testimony that out of dry ground God can still work glorious miracles and will be glorified through the nations.

Speaking of the nations, our home church Park Street Church is embarking on their annual missions conference, which will be virtual this year for the very first time.  That means that we can participate!  See https://parkstreet.org/conference for details.  This is our schedule of involvement (all times are EST):

  • Sunday, Nov 8th 9:45am: I will be talking in the “Disability in Missions” session, while Alberto will be talking in the “Racial Diversity in Missions” session.
  • Sunday, Nov 8th 11:00am: We will be part of a panel during the church service.
  • Sunday, November 8 5:45pm: Ana and Isaac will be part of the panel “Growing Up on the Mission Field: Challenges and Opportunities.”
  • Wednesday, Nov 11th 8:00am: I will be speaking at the Women’s event.
  • Friday, Nov 13th 12:00pm: We will both be participating in a prayer time for the Majority World.
  • Saturday, Nov 14th 10:00am: We will both speak on the panel “The Gospel as Justice.”

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Happy 17th birthday to Margaret!  I simply cannot believe she is 17!  I am grateful for our relationship where we can speak completely honestly with each other about our thoughts, feelings, and anxieties.

Margaret’s school is almost completely in-person instruction at this point, although there is the option for virtual learning for those students still stuck outside of the country, or for those students who need to quarantine.  Margaret is quarantining this week actually, as she was exposed to someone who has COVID, although she herself tested negative.

Margaret is off all ADHD medication, as it was making her very anxious.  She tried four different medications in varying strengths and doses.  She is now taking a break from all medication.  As a result, her attention and grades are not great. We have decided, with the support of her teachers, that her emotional well-being is more important at this point.  Of course, this doesn’t even take into account the stress caused by COVID. Teenagers have a lot on their plates.

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My mom just made this beautiful sweater for Phoebe!

Sadly, Phoebe’s school has closed their doors and will not reopen.  I have come to peace with this.  Slowly but surely we are coming up with a plan for her according to her interests and what we can find and afford.  It’s been a challenging path, but one I am well used to.  Right now she is doing swimming lessons, art therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.  Patience watches Phoebe on Wednesdays so I can hike.

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Ana is still enjoying working with YWAM Brisbane’s coffee ministry, and is being challenged by her business as mission classes.  Her coffee team recently participated in an outreach within Australia.  You can see the video in her recent update, linked here.

You will also see from her update that she is fundraising. Please consider supporting her through this Park Street Churchlink and select Missions: Ana Parada, or through the PayPal link in her update.

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Isaac broke his leg skateboarding (on a penny board) at Messiah University within his first week of arriving!  He had surgery immediately, and the leg is healing nicely.  He is not able to walk on it yet. It was really hard for me not to be there with him in the hospital, but I am grateful for the amazing community of friends who supported him, and the Plantes who are his surrogate parents.

Derreck Plante is pictured above visiting Isaac in his dorm room.

Academically, Isaac made the Dean’s list last semester, much to our joy (and surprise!)  He is enjoying his finance and computer science degrees, and is coming in first place in the investment club competition.  He is in the process of applying for internships now.

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Deon and Deborah continue to run the soup kitchen out of their home in Oceanview, thanks to donations from some of you.  (The roughest neighbourhoods have the nicest names here.)

Alberto has also been able to continue with food packages for needy families, again, thanks to some of you.  He and partner Clint decided to add blankets to the last distribution.

People are overjoyed to receive a care package and are reminded that God loves them and cares for their needs.

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Peniel is back at university after studying virtually since March. Originally from the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), he is one of the soccer boys whom we support with tuition expenses. You can watch his 22 second video of gratitude to the church here: Peniel’s video.

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I have been spending a few hours each day here at my desk, doing all things admin that I do not enjoy.  We have to file taxes in South Africa for the first time this year.  Taxes are due Nov 15.  Yes, we also file in the U.S., which makes it doubly complicated and stressful for me. I am also working on Isaac’s financial aid forms for FAFSA.  We recently spent three full days at the Home Affairs office to apply for Margaret’s and Phoebe’s South African passports, and Margaret’s id card (issued after the age of 16).

Prayer Requests

*An end to COVID
*Protection for our family
*Expansion of the kingdom of God in South Africa
*The upcoming missions conference: good internet connections and God’s leading and peace while we speak (I get very nervous speaking!)
*Alberto’s soccer ministry
*Joanna’s admin task list
*Ana’s fundraising
*Isaac’s leg’s healing, complete insurance coverage for the mounting medical bills, and blessings on his internship interviews
*Helpful strategies for Margaret’s studying
*Better health insurance that will cover Phoebe’s therapies
*Plan B for us for Christmas
*Discernment from God for Americans during the elections

August 18, 2020

When times are tough, I like to go to the beach and watch the waves crash onto the shore and remember that God is still moving and active in the world.  I like to stare at the horizon where the water meets the sky and remember that God is endless. He has the final word, the ultimate victory, all glory.

It’s been a rough couple of months here in South Africa with COVID.  South Africa remains in the top five countries in terms of number of cases, although our population can’t compare to the U.S., Brazil, India or Russia.  COVID is pretty much rampant here, with many of our friends claiming to already have had the virus.  I actually think that we have had it too.  Phoebe’s fever, my recent month-long stomach ache, and Alberto’s headaches could all point to the virus, even though none of us had sore throats.  I have since read that you can have COVID without having a sore throat.  We will have to see if the antibody test ever makes its way to South Africa.

Meanwhile, the country is in economic turmoil, with 35% unemployment rate and a resulting hunger crisis.  We are still in lockdown, which means the prisons are still closed to visitors.  Instead of going to the prisons, Alberto has been staying in touch with ex-prisoners and prisoners’ families through text, encouraging them to keep their eyes on Jesus our only Hope.  We have also been involved in food distribution, through the generous donations of some of you.  At first, the food recipients were needy families of prisoners, but we were able to branch out to support people we know in the townships who started soup kitchens in their homes in order to feed the hungry in their neighborhoods.  These people did not have any financial backing for their work, but they felt God was compelling them to do something about the hunger.  Right now we are supporting three such people, all of whom live in very challenging environments.  We also continue to support the soccer players and their families with food donations as well.

In the midst of the challenges, there are always beautiful movements of God in people’s lives.  I want to introduce you to Emily, the daughter of friends here in Cape Town.  She recently did her DTS with YWAM, and now wants to continue with her SBS, School of Biblical Studies, just like Ana did.  I feel partially responsible for Emily’s discipleship, as I encouraged her to do her DTS, and now I want to help her so she can do her SBS.  Please read her attached letter and let me know if you would like to assist her with tuition: Emily’s fundraising letter for SBS.

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This is Emily, whom I have known for five years.  It is an honor to watch young people grown in their love and commitment to God as they are discipled in His ways.  It is especially important that we encourage young local South Africans to see their potential as the next generation of local missionaries.  They are specifically gifted in their cultural and linguistic understandings to do great things for the Kingdom of God.  Please read Emily’s fundraising letter linked above and consider supporting her.

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This is a mighty woman who has a full house of foster children.  Everyone in her home had COVID and survived.  After we gave her money for her food, she responded with a picture of herself and words of thanks, which I want to pass on to you (in short-hand text): “?Blessed be the Blessers. Thank u again. Blessed be u nd ur family whom reach out to those in need.”

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Phoebe’s school is still closed, and may never reopen.  Virtual classes have ceased.  None of her other previous therapies are back in session either.  I wonder if she misses them.  She doesn’t seem to mind being home more, but of course I always feel like I should be doing more with her.  I finally hired Patience to come and play with her a couple of afternoons a week.  Patience is studying to become a speech therapist and has had some Waldorf training.

Phoebe has also started surfing lessons with a friend of ours, since she loves the ocean and loves movement.  Right now it is more of a boogie board experience, but I am happy that she enjoys the water.  And yes, the water here is very cold.

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Margaret is pictured above on the first day of 11th grade.

After a month of winter vacation, Margaret’s school opened their doors last week for physical learning for 70% of the students.  30% study virtually, as many families are stuck outside of South Africa since our borders are still closed.  Margaret was really excited to go back and see people in the flesh despite the masks, plexiglass screens, and social distancing.  Public schools are still not in session, so she is relieved that private schools could open at their own discretion.

Margaret’s best friend Savannah is going to attend Margaret’s school!  This is the best possible news for Margaret.  Margaret and Savannah spent most of the winter break at our house together.  For 11th grade, Margaret is taking some exciting classes: AP European History, AP Spanish, pre-AP art, Algebra 2, Marimba and SAT-prep.

Ana is doing great.  She just finished staffing a Bible course at YWAM Brisbane.  She continues to work at the cafe, and take business and leadership classes.  She was recently interviewed about growing up as a missionary kid for a YWAM podcast, which you can listen to here: podcast.

As you may remember, Isaac needed a plan C for the summer, since Messiah employment and Camp Brookwoods counselling fell through.  He ended up getting a position as a camp counsellor at a Christian camp in Vermont!  He had an amazing summer in the woods where they cooked all their meals over the open fire.  He was not able to make it back to Boston to visit friends and grandparents due to COVID concerns.  He is heading back to Pennsylvania right now, in order to start Messiah next week for his junior year.  When he gets back to Messiah, he will see our family friend Rony who is starting his doctoral studies at Messiah University!  (Yes, Messiah just became a University.)

My mom recently celebrated her 80th birthday.  I was very sad to miss it, although we did celebrate as a family virtually.  I’m sure you can all relate to this!

Despite the cold wet winter, we do have some beautiful days, which means I am still able to schedule hikes with my friends.  It is a highlight for me to get into the mountains and observe God’s creation and talk to friends.

Prayer Requests

*For our borders to open soon.
*For patience as we wait for the Pandemic to end, and that we learn the lessons God has for us.
*For God’s mercy as many people struggle to put food on the table.
*For prisoners to know that God is with them.
*For continued innovative ways YWAM is using technology to reach more young people for Jesus.
*For Margaret’s first term of school, that she would not be anxious.
*For creativity for me as I create an unconventional schedule for Phoebe based on her interests and strengths.
*For Isaac’s semester at Messiah to remain live, in person.
*For Ana’s joy to shine brightly.
*For Emily’s fundraising goals for YWAM.

Here are some more words of thanks from a lady we supported who cares for the elderly in her home (they all think Alberto is a pastor):  “Pastor thank you so much for yr good care especial the poor people and God will blessed you more and more and yr family (Mathew 5: 7- 9) Jeremiah (1: 4-10) and the Holy Spirit tells you today about God’s people they are hungry and thirsty and I’m blessed so we can go cook next week and celebrate 2 birthdays.”

 

June 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Micah 6:8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Requests

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