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.
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!
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
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…