February 20, 2020

I hope you have had a good beginning to 2020.  For the first time in a long time, we were all together as a family over the holidays.  It was wonderful!  We had lots of happy times together, including a few days by the beach down the coast and lots of braais with friends. Now it is all but a memory, but at least the memories are good!  I am grateful that our kids are following God, and know what they want to do!  Ana is in Brisbane, Australia doing a leadership/business/barista course with YWAM.  Isaac is in the middle of his sophomore year at Messiah College.  Margaret is in the middle of 10th grade here in Cape Town, and Phoebe started a new school year at a new school.

With the influx of tourists over the holiday, I became keenly aware of the beauty and challenges of this country.  Mountains crash down to the ocean on every side.  Hearing three or four different languages daily is normal.  I have seen the biggest houses in my life here, yet I have also seen the most depravity imaginable to humankind.  Segregation and racial tensions are rife.  This rainbow nation has its work cut out for it.  It’s hard to watch sometimes, always interesting, always challenging.

Our current challenge is electricity, in terms of supply and price.  Because of poor management and corruption, the country cannot provide enough electricity to everyone.  We have allotted black-out periods which usually run for two and a half hours each day.  Believe me, you get into a rhythm with this. It’s not all bad, although it is frustrating when you forget and go to the store and find it closed.

Prison ministry is up and running once again.  Alberto just attended the Hope Prison Ministry conference where they discussed the unrecognized ministry of working with prison authorities.  While some officials are corrupt and directly benefit from the illicit market of goods entering the prison, others are dedicated to doing the right thing.  It is up to the officials to decide whether it is a good day to allow volunteers in or not.  It may not be safe on a particular day, or they simply may not want to be bothered.  Another subject that was discussed is prison trauma and the importance of volunteers debriefing what they see and hear in prison.  I am grateful Alberto is part of a team so they can debrief together.

Please keep the prison ministry in your prayers, as well as our family and our safety.  Of course we are all praying for the Coronavirus outbreak, for those suffering, and for wisdom for those making decisions.

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Fire season is here.  The land is dry, and fires break out with far too much frequency.  The above fire was maliciously lit in our neighborhood.  The thick smoke and ash caused us to leave.  It took a few days of hard work by the fire department as the fires kept being reignited, but eventually they were put out.

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Ana was so excited to start her barista course in Australia, although good-byes are always hard.  You can read her positive update here.

Margaret was recently diagnosed with ADD, as I mentioned in the last update.  She is now on medication and doing much better.  She is able to focus in class and on her homework, and her general mood has improved considerably.  We are still working out the details on the medication, but grateful for this discovery and Margaret’s persistence in getting me to get her tested.

Phoebe started the new school year at a new private special needs school.  She is pictured above looking a bit anxious on the first day (no uniform at this school).  So far we are happy with the school.  The student teacher ratio is 3:1.  The school day includes most of Phoebe’s therapies, which means I do not have to spend my afternoons driving around to the various sessions.  The beautiful thing is that last July a generous donor donated a large sum of money to our account.  Little did we know at the time that we would need that money to cover the higher tuition of the school.  Yet God knew all along, and even provided the money before we knew we would need it!

Our last update mentioned Elna and her struggles with her son being in and out of prison.  Meanwhile she is taking care of lots of foster kids and struggling financially.  Her church wanted to affirm her ministry to the children and honour her for her faithfulness, even though they couldn’t provide any financial assistance in caring for the foster kids.  Through the generosity of one of our supporters, we were able to bring Elna bags of groceries at the end of the year.  This made her weep, as she said she was waiting for God’s provision when the groceries appeared.

According to the 2019 statistic by UNICEF, 27.4% (1.7 million) South African children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition and hunger. This is absolutely appalling for a country with so many resources!  One load of groceries will not prevent malnutrition, but bit by bit we can all work together.  Margaret’s school is currently getting involved in this very issue.

Phoebe was recently tested for an adrenal auto-immune disease (Addison’s Disease) at the Groote Schuur Hospital.  Night time dips in her blood sugar levels turned out to be due to low cortisol levels.  The doctor recommended a stimulation test of her adrenal glands, to rule out an auto-immune disease.  Since she already has two auto-immune conditions, we have to be very proactive when we see red flags.  Phoebe spent a challenging day in the hospital with a port in her hand, and her other hand tied up, to prevent her from pulling the thing out.  Praise God, the end result was that she was NEGATIVE for the disease.

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Soccer ministry is up and running.  Peniel is one of the soccer players.  Originally from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), he fled his country during civil war and came to Cape Town, a haven for immigrants and refugees.  He became a Christian through the soccer ministry, and is a hard-working college student.  He worked around the clock at McDonalds to pay for his fees for his first year.  Now he wants to continue with his second year, but does not have enough funds.  Instead of letting him drop out, we decided to help him.  Pictured above is Alberto dropping him at his college dorm.  Because we are blessed and have seen God’s faithfulness in our lives with our children’s education, we can bless others.  Thank you to all of you who support us, who inadvertently support Peniel!