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!