Monday, May 29, 2017

Made it safely to SA!

Sanibonani kusukela South Africa...

We just wanted to get a quick update to you after a successful wrapping up of the Christian Heritage School year.  We had planned to give an update from our long layover in London, but met some unexpected challenges there that brought us to our knees and seeing God's favor coming through in the last minute! (will share more on that in a bit:)

CHS Graduation
Busi had a great 1st grade year, filled with many field trips, increasing friendships and an even greater love of learning.  We are so grateful for her teacher Mrs. Frederickson, who is also over all the Elementary department, so both Thandi and I served under her leadership.
Busi finished with Honors in Reading and the got the highest award in her class for Penmanship.  She also received Character awards for Generosity and Enthusiasm!

Thandi finished strong with her 4th graders and did a great job affirming each of them on their graduation day.  She is still praying about her committment for the next school year, but knows she wants to take the mornings to homeschool Elisha since he will still not be old enough to enter the Reading (Kindergarten) class.

I also got to help run media for a CHS Senior graduation ceremony held at the local church we attend.  We had graduates from Colombia, South Korea/Syria and China.  Surprisingly, no Americans but not too much so as it is a school run by missionaries!  I was blessed to hear each of the graduate's testimonies, especially two of the guys I had the privilege of coaching in soccer and track.  One of them, Andres, said this that I thought was such an amazing takeaway:

"If I was really proud of being a Colombian when I arrived, now I am more proud of my culture and the history of my people and what Colombia represents in the world. I don’t want to give up on my people. I want to dream with them, grow with them, and teach them."

Just before school got out, a local news channel did a special on CHS that does really well to explain why we are doing what we do.  They had asked Thandi to do an interview for it, but she chose not to.  However, you can catch a glimpse of Busi in there:)

Now, getting back to the drama/stress of our flight here, British Airways said plainly when we tried checking in for our final flight that we could not.  The reason was we had been misinformed about needing the original unabridged birth certificates for our children.  We thought we just needed copies of them with their passports.  To make a long story short, I was running back and forth between BA and American Airlines desk (15min shuttle between) trying to see the best way forward.  AA was most helpful with the local supervisor phoning various government numbers in South Africa to see if they would accept us once we landed, but it ultimately ended with the conclusion that they would put us up in a hotel for two nights (since they were not supposed to let us on the first flight to London) while we arranged a courier to ship the documents and get our last flight rebooked at a cost of well over $1000 since they weren't flexi tickets.
It really did seem like the only way, even though one of the Port of Entry guys in SA we spoke on the phone with said they could not refuse us entry since both our kids were born in SA.  But we didn't need to convince him, we needed to convince BA officials!  As I got back with Thandi and the kids and explained the situation, I felt I would try once more with the current BA supervisor since it had been nearly 6 hours since we first tried to check in.  Well, God led us to an elderly employee who heard my explanation and saw the photos of the originals on my phone and had the authority to let us was remarkably simple!
I knew he was taking a risk in letting us through and was still a bit worried when we faced Customs upon our arrival, but Thandi kept assuring me it would be fine.  After all, it definitely felt like a miracle that we got on our original flight at all!

After all that, once it was our turn at Passport Control in Joburg airport, the official didn't even have a problem with the certificates being copies!  We, however, do need to renew Busi's SA passport, as they said we should be travelling on that and not her US passport.  But thanks be to God that we got through without a hitch!
It was really cool to see an African American brother again at baggage claim, after he had been next to us at the beginning when we got the news we would not be going on the flight, and AA may even make us fly back to Dallas.  He was just as thrilled as us that we made it, and we got a chance to pray for him, as it was his first visit to SA.  You could tell he was touched by our joy and prayer, and asked to keep in touch.

We are now enjoying time with Thandi's family, and, though still heavily jet-lagged, excited about what God has in store for us and through us on this trip.  Thanks so much for your faithful prayers and keep in touch!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]."  --Hebrews 12:1-2, Amplified Bible

He is Risen!  Jesus is Risen indeed!  Happy Easter to you all as we take time to really reflect and celebrate the obedience and ultimate victory of our Lord Jesus...

This past month has been filled with great times with visitors, fun and meaningful events at the school, and a few challenges along the way.  
Most recently, Thandi had a wonderful time bringing her 4th grade class to our home for an Easter celebration, in which the students prayed words over one another as they washed one another's feet.  I helped in giving a short teaching on all that Jesus was communicating with His disciples during the Last Supper and celebrating the Passover festival in preparation for his arrest later that night. They were all a bit turned off at first, but embraced it more as we talked how much dirtier the disciples' feet would have been and how this in no way hindered Jesus, our Servant King.
It was a real blessing to share with the students the true meaning of Easter, and how Jesus still is calling people from every nation and walk of life to follow His example in today's world.  What a privilege that we could do something like this for a school class!

I have been preparing the elementary students for their annual Track & Field Day that will be this week, which will consist of 8 events, including a relay at the end with chopped up broom sticks:) I just finished working alongside another staff in coaching our Junior High/HS track team at CHS.  I wish we could have gotten more students to turn out, but it ended up being a rewarding time of being able encourage the students individually (all of them improved repeatedly on their PRs) and as a team to build one another up.  It was another learning curve for me, not competing in track in high school, but I was blessed to serve in this capacity.  The only major challenge was rolling my ankle quite badly in a soccer game and needing to follow through on my commitment during those LONG track meets!

On April 2nd, I had the honor of baptizing Busisiwe into the family of God as my sister in Christ!  I love that our local church encourages the father's to be able to do this with the children, and that Busi got to do alongside six other new believers, four of them being almost as young as her.
We also got to celebrate Thandi's birthday the next day with all kinds of love coming her way!  We were incredibly blessed to have our friends Steve and Kara Loeppky with their kids visiting us during their Spring Break, and they helped make Thandi's birthday even more amazing with authentic boerewors (South African sausage) shipped in alongside side an assortment of delectable biltong.  What an amazing taste of home for her, and what a great time of fellowship we had with the Loeppkys, though it was way too short.  They were such an encouragement to us in their hearts to serve intentionally, and even helped with doing some Spanish lessons for Thandi's class.

Prior to that, we were able to host my parents for the first time since moving into our duplex, and we had a wonderful time with them, including having them drive with us to camp outside Austin and check out the city the next day during our Spring Break (this was after driving all the way from WA:).  Troopers they are!  They also helped with a full day of running my PE classes with the parachute they had packed along (it was a big hit, and now the pressure is on from the kids to secure one for the school:)  Overall, it was just amazing to see the unique relationships Busi and Elisha can have with their grandparents, and we came away from the visit with so much gratitude in our hearts.  They are missed nearly every day.

Speaking of family, we had been praying and checking tickets for some time now in order to get back to SA for a visit.  We are thrilled to say we got a really good deal on tickets for May 22-July 12.  The primary purpose will be to catch up with Thandi's family around the Johannesburg area, but are also planning to get down to Cape Town to visit all our friends and see how the ministries are going forward.  We wanted to make it a good long visit to make it worthwhile, though we are struggling to find anyone to cover our lease while we are away.  
We are really excited to be spending some quality time with Thandeka's family, as we really miss them.

  • Holy Spirit to guide our visit to South Africa, including time with Thandi's family as well as friends in different places/ministries
  • Good deal on a reliable rental car for our time in Jozi, as well as tickets to get down to Cape Town and back
  • Someone to help us at least cover June's rent here, or see more of God's provision in that
  • Quick healing of my ankle so I can get back out on the field/court/etc!
We are so grateful for all of you following our journey of faith with the Lord and growing His Kingdom, and look forward always to hearing about yours!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

October/November Update

"Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way."  (Colossians 3:15-17, The Message)
Happy Thanksgiving!  Truly there is so much to be thankful for in the midst of all the uncertainty of life, for we know God loves to do life with us and bring hope through us wherever we go.  And when I say "us", I am speaking of all those who place their trust in the Lord.
We really appreciate you taking the time to read our updates and pray with us. We know in this digital age you are daily bombarded with emails and newsletters sharing amazing stories of what God is doing around the world and very worthy causes to give to, so we do not take for granted the time you take to read our news and prayerfully invest into our ministry.  We are now enjoying a week off of school for the Thanksgiving break and happy to be staying home and hosting friends from different nations.
Teaching/Coaching Update:
The school year is carrying on well at Christian Heritage School.  We have had some hard news with a teacher colleague as well as a Junior High student recently being diagnosed with different types of cancer, but amazing to see their faith in the face of such adversity.
Thandi is doing great with her 4th grade class of six students, and I am enjoying the time I get to have with them in Bible class twice a week, as well as PE and library.  As you can see from the photo, Elisha has made himself a part of the 4th graders, even coming in at times to sit at one of the empty desks:)  The other photo of Thandi with her students at the picnic table is their Swiss celebration after going through the classic The Apple and the Arrow in Literature class.  Thandi has voiced many times how challenging it has been for her to not only put in the time to develop lesson plans and know her stuff but also deliver it in such a way that the students with their different learning styles understand.
It has been most rewarding for her that the school setup allows for, and actually encourages, discipling the student in each subject as well as connecting with their families as much as the parents allow.  It has been really a blessing for her teaching one girl in particular who comes from a broken home and struggles to focus on her schoolwork.  She has taken a lot of extra time speaking with the single mother, who eventually opened up to Thandi about how hard it has been for her to surrender everything to Christ.  She is thrilled with how much her daughter is growing in academics and even moreso love for God and His ways, and wants that for herself.  How cool is that!  It is also a blessing for her to pray every morning with the kids, hearing their hearts and seeking to engage on even deeper levels.
I enjoyed the time coaching the Boys/Girls mixed soccer team that wrapped up with helping the players run a Soccer Camp for the elementary kids in the school at the end of October.   Even though we didn't manage a win for the short season, I could see the character development through those frustrations with most of the players and was happy to get to disciple each of them in different ways.  We had photos with the team, but I was not able to track down where they went (amazingly not on the Internet:).
I am continuing with PE classes with the elementary students nearly everyday (so far we have gone through volleyball, basketball and soccer skills), and just started coaching the basketball season for JH Boys at the beginning of November.  That's a first for me even though I love the sport, but I have been blessed to have one of the High School students who was Captain of our soccer team as an assistant and he actually knows some good plays to run with the kids:) It's funny that I had said years ago I was not going to have anything to do with teaching PE like my parents and sister, but here God has me for this season and I am asking Him to help me do it for His glory.  I am especially asking for the kids who are more naturally athletic to experience the joy of living out God's Word they hear everyday in the midst of sport, preferring their classmates and actually celebrating their successes, especially those kids who do not have much physical activity outside of school.
As you may remember from our last update, God has opened up a very nice duplex for us to live in not very far at all from the campus. It is a blessing to have a solid floor under our feet and all the appliances working including AC (though thankfully do not need on anymore, as Fall has finally started here in East Texas).  As we had wrestled with the decision to move off campus and felt some of it was confirmed by the housing challenges with new staff/students coming into the Dayspring base, we really sensed God was asking us if we really trust Him as a family in finances.  I could honestly say I did not, but wanted to learn to and not be bound with any kind of poverty mentality that I know I am easily susceptible.  I remember my time in Africa before marriage, I would take a kind of pride in how little I could live off of.  Not to say living frugal is wrong, for I still know God has wired me this way to adapt easily, but I knew I was also not giving God a chance now with me and my family to learn to trust Him on deeper and deeper levels.
Thus, with the move off campus, our monthly needs have more than tripled.  Contrary to South Africa which your bills simply involve rent + electricity (and I know you all know this), we are now dealing with quite high water bills (due to being outside the city limits but the city of Tyler being the only provider), gas bill, electrical and waste removal in addition to the challenging monthly rent.  I share this because I know God is challenging me to do so, and is all part of my trust journey with Him.  We have been incredibly blessed by your faithful support to us over the years, but the truth is we need to increase our support substantially.  We know this is part of the strong foundation God has been speaking to us in this season that will enable us to be launched back into Africa in the way He intends for us.  While I do work for a friend from my church who has his own construction company from time to time and am even working this break with a roofer from my Mexican League team, we know God is challenging us to ask for more support to build up our funding for the long-term calling that He still has for us.  
May I ask you to go back to the Lord and ask any new way you could support us financially at this time?  We know we are still called to give ourselves and have many missionary friends in greater need than us that we do, but it is not as regular as we would like it to be.  We are working on our budget to know clearly where each of our support goes, and would love to get that to those of you who would like it, but at this point we do know we have much more going out than what is coming in each month.  Thank you so much for prayerfully hearing this out, and being such an amazing support to us!  We are trying to see those of you who live in Bellingham that are in the area around Christmas, as we got blessed by my parents to make another trip up as a family from December 17-30th.  Please let us know if you have time to meet up, even if just to catch a coffee downtown so we can share more of our hearts with you. 
Praise and Prayer Points:
-Praise God for opening up relationships with our new neighbors; we have gotten into a couple spiritual conversations with some and gives us good prayer ammo, as a number have been raised in the church (it is the Bible belt after all), but are having serious doubts about if they have ever had faith of their own and if they believe God is real
-Praise God for building relationships with our local church and being a part of initiatives into the community; grateful also to go every Friday evening to play pick-up soccer with the large, predominantly Muslim community of Gambians in Tyler (I have met a number of other Africans there as well, including a Sudanese student who has similar interests as mine in reducing waste and creating jobs in both Sudan and South Sudan...his name is Yusuf)
-Pray for the Junior High student named Joshua who I coached in soccer and was just diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer at the end of the season; they found two large tumors there and he is undergoing a very traumatic process of multiple surgeries to see it removed completely (Busi and Eli remember to pray for him every night:)
-Pray for Thandi's Green Card still...trusting God for it to come before we head out on Christmas break.  Interview went well, but asked for her Mozambiquan birth certificate to be translated officially and have official proof of her name change in South Africa since her Portuguese birth name was completely different; praying the new documents we sent in will be miraculously processed in record time or will have to re-do a lot of her application since it is over a year since we submitted:(
- Pray for the ongoing fighting and insecurity in South Sudan that has flooded such border towns as Arua, where nearly all the YWAMers of South Sudan have evacuated to; the base cannot provide enough food and health is real concern for many of the large missionary families.
We are praying for security and revival of God's people there, not waiting on government to determine the direction of the country... The Arua, Uganda base is currently running a Trailblazers DTS and the school is going well with 25 students and 10 staff from different countries within Africa, including South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. They have already started praying for outreach places and one of main places God is highlighting is YIDA refugee camps in northern part of south Sudan.  Pray for students to get their passports and funds raised, as they are all willing to go for the Lord, though there is certain danger going into a war-zone and to one of the most remote refugee camps.

Pic Captions:
1 - Elisha at 'his' desk
2 - 4th Grade Lit party
3 - PE warm up laps with Busi at the middle
4 - Caleb Shim, my assistant coach; he lived with his missionary parents in Syria and Turkey and is fluent in Arabic; great to disciple him and see him disciple the boys
5 - at our church's Fall Fest in place of Halloween, opening up free fun and food for community
6 - 1st time kids carved a pumpkin for our front stoop
7&8 - making sandwiches at My Brother's Keeper and then handing them out door-to-door, praying with the downtrodden
9 - Eric and his wife from Burundi are travelling intercessors, and I helped him connect to a Pastor friend of mine in Juba, South Sudan; here he is encouraging the eldership of a local church in the midst of the most disheartening of Sudan's wars
10 - My buddy Dachung who has been with me on many outreaches and worked with me in Cape Town encouraged me with this photo: He is with Thulani, one of the young men we met with regularly for Discovery Bible Studies in Overcome, and Thulani now got a job playing music in cool and big answer to prayer for this youth with so much potential!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

January/February Update

New Year greetings and blessed Ash Wednesday to you all!

We trust you have welcomed in the new year well, reflecting on God's faithfulness over the past year and taking some time to pray through what He has for you in 2016.  Thandi and I have gone into this year with a lot of expectation in our hearts and peace that God has us at the right place at the right time, being equipped and uniquely mentored in the areas we need as a family as well as individuals.

Heavy Hearts...
We do need to update you regarding a very tragic event that occurred a bit over a week ago here on campus (at least to us).  The founder and leader of the Teachers for the Nations school Thandi is in, as well as the older Christian Heritage K-12 school, went missing in the morning after teaching one of the high school classes.  He was not found until over two hours later (and many were looking), and he had suffered a massive stroke that left him barely alive.  Many (including our family) were trusting God for a miracle, but the Lord took him a little over a week ago.  James Kilkenny left an incredible legacy, so much so that his funeral service had a live feed to many countries tuning in around the world. The majority of the world did not know him, but the impact He had made in the growing Kingdom was massive.  [Please see picture below with the accompanying caption at end of this update.]
It has been especially hard for Thandi, who really saw him as a very intimate father figure in such a short time, and she has been praying and crying a lot for his ten children left behind (four adopted, and one of those being Busi's teacher) as she identifies with them and exercises her gift of empathy.  We do thank God for being able to be apart of the end of his life here on earth, and want to join those in carrying on the torch of the gospel into whatever spheres of society God leads us.

The Legacy continues...
It was with great joy that we announce Busisiwe became a Christian last night, Feb. 9th!  [See photo and caption below] I came home late from a teaching, but Busi heard me from her bed and cried out, "Daddy daddy, I accepted Jesus into my heart!"  She had shared about asking Jesus to come into her heart back in the fall in response to her schoolteacher (Mr. Kilkenny's adopted daughter from China), but was still not understanding it and we just prayed for God to show her more.  Well, He was faithful and it was so special for Thandi to lead her in prayer as she said, "Mommy, I want Jesus to shine out of me and make me to be a better person."  How amazing is that revelation?
I am reminded of the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:14, "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."  We often pray with the kids at night for those children that don't have mothers or fathers to show them the way in life, or who lack the basics God intends for us, that they may know they still have a Father in heaven who loves them unconditionally, and has hope and a good future for them.  We know Busi is taking this to heart and will be a light to many for the glory of our Lord!

Lastly, just to follow up with the Mexican-American boy I asked prayer for a few updates ago, I have been organizing a pick-up game/training on the field every Thursday after their school lets out and it has been a really good time of informal coaching, encouraging and just building relationship with him and the other guys that show up.  It was actually while we were playing last Thursday that we got the news of Mr. Kilkenny's passing in the hospital.  We all stopped and had a time to come together in respect for the legacy this great man has left behind with the Christian Heritage School he founded with his wife back in 1979 as well as many nations around the world in his Word-centered teaching.  After one of the Brazilian students who knows the Lord prayed and gave thanks for his life, I sensed others wanted to say something so I quickly jumped in with a prayer, and the floodgates just opened from there.  It was an amazing moment as everyone was down on one knee listening to each other pray out one at a time what this man meant to them and taught them about life.  I pray that all of these youth (about 8 or so come to play) would hear the voice of God calling them to greatness in their own lives.

There is always more we could share with you but wanted to just give you a few highlights.  Thanks for your ongoing prayers and support, and please get in touch with us anytime! And let us know whenever passing through Tyler, TX!

Praise Points
  • Great time with family over Christmas break and Thandi finishing strong with her 41 page mid-term paper
  • Thank God for the ongoing healing the Father is doing in Thandi through this difficult time of Mr. Kilkenny's passing
  • Great feedback of outreaches we have been able to support back in South Africa and even South Sudan; Ashley reported having been able to feed and help clothe 75 families in a poor community along South Africa's West Coast and he will return with his evangelistic team to disciple and help see those who responded to the Word enter into local churches
  • The couple we helped commission from our Frontier Missions Dept. in Muizenberg doing great in Aswan, Eg8pt, learning the language and building relationships with the Nubian people (making me jealous!:)
Prayer Points
  • Continued prayer for speedy processing of documents and favor with US Immigration for Thandi's Green Card
  • Obedience in our daily walks with the Lord, being open to the people He wants us to impact around us
  • Hearing God for what is next as a family...Thandi finishes her school in May/June and we are looking at doing a Family School of Evangelism that runs at the larger ranch base around 30min away in July (SOE is required to be on staff officially)
  • Along with that, praying into opportunities for the next school year beginning in August here and whether we can travel to Africa near the end of the year

Our kids bring us so much joy

Busi asked the Lord into her heart just last night with tears of joy alongside her Mother after reading the insert in her Bible called HOW TO BE A CHRISTIAN (I came back from teaching a night class on Church Planting Movements, but still got to hear the excitement in her voice...Praise God and we know He will be faithful to reveal more and more of Himself and His purposes for her!)
Kids have been able to see dentist here free of charge, as they qualified for Medicaid (excited with their new toothbrushes, though Busi has to go back for cavity fillings)
Program for our dear Mr. Kilkenny's funeral service (Notice Thandi's quote at the bottom of insert, the only current student chosen: "The way I look at family and education will never be the same.  He exemplified the Father's heart to me" she wrote)

Recent prayer meeting for a YWAM family struggling with Visa and finance issues---what a blessing it is to live together in unity of Spirit and give freely in our love and resources!  
Thank you for also making this possible!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thanksgiving/Christmas Update

Seasons Greetings Y'all!

Happy belated Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas to all… As we are in this season of Advent, I am reminded what Jesus came to usher in for all who would believe and carry on seeking Him and His Kingdom.  The Apostle Peter captures the pursuit of God/holiness well in 2 Peter 1:3-8, as he breaks down what spiritual growth looks like to keep from being ineffective in the service the Lord has called us to.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…”  We are truly living in tough times where it is crucial we stand on the only firm foundation of His Word and watch that we don’t let our spiritual lives slip.  One of my prayers has been, ‘May our children realize Jesus has so much more to give them than Santa, grandparents or anyone else can!’:)

We did not get out an update soon enough to let you know we have been blessed to be able to come up to Bellingham for Christmas break, and we apologize for that.  The grandparents could not accept us being in the US and not coming up for break, and it has been fun to hear the cries of both Busi and Elisha every morning, "Granddad, Grandded...Grammie, Grammie!"  We were greatly saddened to hear about our dear friend and long-time pastor Bud Lee's passing back in late October.  Both Thandi and I were mourning afresh as we entered back through BPC's doors and didn't see his smiling face, though we know he was a great blessing to many throughout his life of faithful service.
We will unfortunately not make it back to Birchwood church this trip, as we are spending Christmas down with my sister’s family and seeing friends in Seattle, but will be having Christmas cards distributed this next Sunday to everyone at Birchwood.  For those of you I could not get hard copies made, I have attached the card in digital format.  A Korean staff friend back in Tyler did the photos for us.

Update on Thandi’s Visa/school
We have also been late in telling you about our decision to apply for permanent residency for Thandi (ie. green card) for her to be eligible for citizenship down the road.  This was a hard decision to make, knowing God has called us to be in Africa, and specifically South Sudan for the long run.  But, as we prayed since arriving back in June and saw her 6-month deadline closing in soon, we felt peace that getting in a position to be able to apply for US citizenship was the wisest choice.  We also have felt peace that the YWAM Tyler community (along with the Lifepoint local church we have been plugging into) is a place for further refining and equipping for us as a family before being launched out into our destiny.  Having submitted all the forms/documents back in November, God amazingly orchestrated her biometrics/fingerprints appointment at USCIS in Dallas for the afternoon before we were flying out to Seattle…I couldn’t have organized the time more perfectly myself!  We were already going that day to spend the night with some friends, as our flight was so early the next morning.  Prayers are appreciated that the process will not be delayed in any way, so that we can begin the 2.5 years needed to be documented in the US to be eligible for her citizenship.

While we are enjoying time with family and catching up with friends, Thandi is being kept very busy with a 6-pg Take-home test and a 40pg teaching seminar based of what she has learned thus far that will both be due when back on the 3rd.  Prayers are appreciated in this as well!  She is really enjoying the program, getting great teaching experience, and is being challenged in many ways.  Check her picture with her 4th grade class as well as teaching practice with classmates.

Thanksgiving in the Crescent City
We were incredibly blessed to be able to spend our Thanksgiving break in New Orleans with a childhood friend of mine, Ray Spees, and his wife, giving us their studio apartment in a great location to stay at (the majority of pics below). We also travelled with our friend Michael from Papua New Guinea, whom I have been working with on maintenance.  He let us know how great it was to spend Thanksgiving with a family, and not have to stay back alone at the base, and he really loves Busi and Elisha.  During our time there, we had opportunity to reach out to people from many different countries, which just made me nostalgic for the inner city outreaches I would take part in back in Cape Town.  I was surprised to meet many Israelis and Palestinians along with the Ethiopians and other nations, and we especially had a good time chatting with some Palestinian Muslims who ran a local grocery mart, as they made some amazing ‘Po-Boy’ sub sandwiches!  Shariff (see pic), the one I had the most congenial relationship with at the Louisiana Discount Mart, asked me one day as Michael and I came in, “How did you two end up getting together?  I mean, with you from one side of the globe, and he from the other.”  
I simply pointed up and replied, “Allah bess (Only God).  And, specifically, our pursuit of God in how He has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus, of whom al-Quran even says is still alive and will come again.”
Shariff was quick to respond, “Yeah man, religion is a beautiful thing…” to which I was equally quick to respond, “Actually I think it is quite clear from current events and throughout history, religion can become quite an ugly thing.  Rather, God is a beautiful God and longs for every man and nation to know Him personally.” 
1 Timothy 2:3-4 states clearly, “God our Savior desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”  We also spoke of the world’s bias and concern for only those close to them culturally (with the recent example of the Paris terror attacks making the West feel so vulnerable again, while in several other countries are repeated terror victims yet don’t even raise eyebrows), but that this does not reflect the way God sees the nations.  He loves every culture/ethne, and has a place for all of them in His ever-increasing Kingdom.  I pray for Shariff and many youth like him, who are rarely given the opportunity to hear truth and then respond to it without fear from family, friends, etc.

Thank You!/Testimonies
This holiday season is providing many opportunities to give, sowing into people's needs and the ministries they are doing to meet others needs. This would not be possible for us to do in obedience to God's prompting without your amazing support to us as a family...thank you so much for enabling us to sow into others lives! 
I would especially like to highlight two ministries we have been able to continue to sow into back in Cape Town.  This is with our dear friends Edwin and his family ministering with the soup kitchen out of their home, and their friend Ashley who is really taking Holy Spirit fire to the gang-ridden streets in the area by running regular open-air worship sessions.  Please see the pictures of him and his team (he is in the hat), and of some of their outreach.  Ashley has been keeping me closely updated as God has given him a team of young men to continue the work that seems so daunting.  One of his new team members includes a former Muslim who has radically had his life changed and is now being discipled by Ashley in the ways of God.  I recently sent Ashley notes I received from a speaker who does church planting among a particular unreached people group on Luke 10, as I really see the demographic of gang bosses Ashley is targeting as an unreached part of society, for which the existing church has very little idea how to reach out to.  I salute Ashley for acting in obedience to the Lord and living out passionately the grace he has received in his own life, longing so much for others growing up in very difficult circumstances to enjoy.

Lastly, I just received a very encouraging testimony from an Ethiopian brother named Yared who has been faithfully obeying the Lord in reaching out to university students across his country, and is now in SE Asia in partnership with several different pastors to see the gospel be preached.  Here is his last update to me:

Hey Bryan how are you. do you Know I am in Cambodia now?... yes it has been three days.
I have been very busy. My host has just drive 7 Hours to take me to famous hindu and budha temple in asia.i went there to pray. after my visit to this temple i led one budhist to the lord. his name is 
Koy. As i was having boat safari in a river near by,i was led to speak to him about jesus. I asked him first if he have heard a name called JESUS christ. he said he had never heard this name before.i said say jesus christ. he said it and Then i told him the Jesus story.the presence of God was heavy .he was been ministered joy of the Lord. i asked hi what he feels when he calls the name and the story JOY he said with excitement. and then I led him on the sinners prayer.i told him to look for a Bible and continue to know about jesus more.He is a second year university student but drives boat on part -time base that was my day. today I am In Phnom Penh.we drive back 7 hour again.
God bless for your 
support.  It bears fruit. tomorrow i will start preaching every night.
Bryan,i always see you as one of my own nationality,seriously.
God bless you brother for standing with me

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September Update

A month and a half on and we are adjusting to life here in East Texas.  Other than the ubiquitous “fire ants” and getting used to things being so spread apart, we are really enjoying our new community.  It is even easier here to get sucked into a YWAM-only bubble with people living so far apart (I really miss Muizenberg in this, along with the pick-up soccer games), but we have been blessed to be attending a church not too far away called Lifepoint Fellowship Church [, can check a video of Pastor Steve with his Texan drawl:].  In our small group on Wednesday nights (while the kids are in a pretty amazing program that over half of the church body is involved in) we are going through David Platt’s book on what Jesus really means when he says, “Follow me.”  It is causing us to honestly ask to whom are we pouring our lives into (ie. Discipling), and whom are we allowing to pour themselves in to us (being disciple by)?  Another challenging question posed to us has been: “Do I think of my relationship with Jesus in terms of what’s in it for me, or what’s in it for Him?”

Thandi has really been enjoying Teachers for the Nations, in spite of the busy schedule and large amount of homework.  Other than what she brings as a Zulu South African, they have Brasilians, Koreans, Americans, a Chinese, Papuan (PNG), and a Ghanaian.  She has now started interning with teachers in the afternoon at the neighboring Christian Heritage School that Busi attends from 8:30-2:30.  I get to join her school for an hour every Tuesday to go through “Growing Kids God’s Way” video teaching and discussion, which has been amazing for us as a family.

Here is one area God has been challenging her on in her own words:

“One thing that has really been tough on me has been the fact that I still have to do work duties, even after an already full day.  I know it is required by every student in a YWAM school, but I felt this was unfairly taking away time with my kids and Bryan, for when I finish it is already dinner time and sometimes Bryan has soccer to coach.  I kept at it with a pretty bad attitude for the first couple weeks, but then knew I needed to take it to God and hear what He had to say.  He helped me see how this service was not to my staff or even the school, but to Him directly.   And He also reminded me that some of the bathrooms I am cleaning are being used by Busi, the precious energetic daughter He has given me, and what a blessing it is for her to attend such a Christ-centered school that daily teaches the Word of God.  I have repented of my bad attitude, and God has given me so much more joy in doing these duties, even when feeling so physically drained at the end of the day.”

 We have the 100th annual East Texas Fair running right now in this “City of Roses” (apparently Texas doesn’t acknowledge Portland’s claim to this title).  We were able to go with a long-time Bangladeshi friend of mine who I first met while staffing in South Sudan and he was on one of his first outreaches.  It has been amazing to get some time with him before he heads back into the field (Tyler is his home base), and hear all the Lord has done through his incredible faith and loving obedience (including helping those he has discipled to start over 30 churches underground in Afghanistan!).  He was such a blessing to us in this month together, welcoming us and truly loving and spoiling our children.  There is another Bangladeshi staff out at the Ranch base, and he told us recently how much of a VIP James is back home, which amazed us even more at his humility and heart for the lost.  His father was killed by Muslims when he was young, but  instead of allowing bitterness and hatred for Muslims to seep into his heart, he has chosen to love them deeply and consequently been given great spiritual authority to see many come to Christ…how amazing to think though that all believers have that potential to walk in that authority that is ours in Christ Jesus (John 17; Eph 1), if we truly believe and step out in obedience!

Both Busisiwe and Elisha are doing great.  The long days in class are hard for Busi, but they have multiple recess times and starting from next week she will be seeing me in the library.  Elisha is being watched over by an amazing Brasilian volunteer, along with a Ghanian brother and sister and Korean girl (see pic—the nations in Preschool!).  He also just started going on the toilet sometimes.  Praise God!  Also see pic:)

A typical week for me includes primary duties of maintenance work around the school, soccer field and housing units (see pic of Workmates from Papua New Guinea and Brasil), one day a week in the school library (been cleaning and logging in new books now, but soon receiving classes of elementary students to read them stories and creative activities to encourage reading) and at least three days a week coaching and discipling the junior high soccer team along with a Brasilian brother.  Just tonight we had a long away game and arrived back late.  It took long for all the parents to pick up their kids, and two of them couldn’t get their parents on the phone.  So I offered to take them home.  One of the students is from a Mexican background and struggles with the strict way CHS is run, having been expelled last year and already suspended this year.  I have been asking God for an opportunity to speak more into his life, and that came tonight, in the form of what at first seemed like an inconvenience, having to drop off kids after 8pm that I felt their parents should have picked up. After all, I’m not getting paid for any of this!  But God arrested that attitude in me, and gave me such compassion for this hardened young man.  I pray the relationship will continue to the point where this young brother will encounter Jesus’ love for Himself and not just say he’s heard it all before.

Blessings and thanks for reading/praying with us!

p.s. Let's not grow weary in interceding for the globes ongoing conflict zones, epecially with recent escalations in Syria/Iraqi region

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Update from Tyler, Texas (Three weeks on)

“Welcome to Texas y’all!”  That has been the general greeting over these first few days of arriving on campus of YWAM Tyler, Dayspring.  To clarify, YWAM has two campuses in this area, and we are living in a staff trailer at the one just to the west of the city and across the road from the local airport.  The main, much larger campus is at Twin Oaks Ranch about a 25 minute drive through county roads from us.  It works great for us and such a blessing they could make space for us here at Dayspring, as schools for both Busi and Thandi are right next door.

It was another fairly epic road trip we were able to enjoy on our way here, including stopping for two nights at the YWAM Colorado Springs base, where we got to meet up with a solid family who were in north Sudan for some time before they were kicked out with nearly all other Westerners by the government back in 2013.  My father and mother joined us up to this point (we initially met up with them in Idaho on the 2nd night, after we had gone ahead to spend the night and visit some friends in Portland), and we got to have some great time exploring the very unique Garden of the Gods park just down the road from the base, along with a great day in Yellowstone park before that.  The kids really bonded with both Grammie and Granddad in the time we got to be with them since arriving in late June.  On the day we parted ways they headed back to Bellingham via Salt Lake City, and we carried on to spend our final night of the trip in Amarillo, TX (home of the ‘free’ 72 oz steak, which I was tempted to go for but didn’t;).  Thank you for those who remembered to pray for our safety on this trip, as we were quite loaded down with luggage (all our belongings) and hit some pretty hectic weather along the way.  God really watched over both our cars.

Thank you also for those of you who set some time aside to lift up a prayer for our daughter Busi in this time of transition.  She did her thing on the testing day of the 13th, and we were told they are happy to accept her into the Kindergarten level, which they call “Reading” class here at Christian Heritage School.  Therefore, we have high hopes she will learn to read in this year, and are also told she will have some Spanish lessons!  It helps that we have teachers and neighboring families in the complex from Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Brasil (Portuguese is similar, and most of them also speak Spanish:).  And, of course, many South Koreans here for the school Thandi is doing as well as the School of the Bible that starts at the same time later this week.

I got to know some of the parents more this last Saturday during a required work day to help to get the school ready for classes to start on Monday.  It’s been a little while since I’ve had a full 9-5 manual work day under a hot sun, and it felt good!  (albeit a little sore:)…On Sunday night we headed to the sister YWAM campus at Twin Oak Ranch for the weekly Family Night, which is akin to what we knew as Base/Community Worship at our previous base.  We are looking forward to connecting with some more families that side, as well as getting Elisha into the Preschool there at least 2-3 mornings a week while I network/serve with the Strategic Frontiers staff and possibly work with a Brasilian brother in the base garden.

This past week has been getting a lot of logistical and accommodation things sorted, including checking if our car insurance covers our windshield that unfortunately cracked on the way over (even before the two hectic hailstorms we got caught in around Colorado Springs) and acquiring a used washing machine in good working condition.  Also hope to get some good family time in exploring what the area has to offer before Thandi hits the grind with the school on the 27th.

There are needs in Busi’s school, which is essentially taught by full-time missionaries, in the area of a Phys.Ed teacher (yes, I know Mom, Dad and Sis;) as well as Librarian (more time with booksJ).  It will be hard for me to get time for the PE position, as it is for the kid’s breaktimes in the mornings and I am already helping with maintenance on campus with an uncle from Brasil and a brother from Papua New Guinea, but there would be more flexibility in helping out with the library once I get trained on the system from the last volunteer.

·         Being a blessing to our neighbors, including one boy whose mother teaches at the school, but is divorced from his father; he needs positive male role models, and we have already been kicking the soccer ball around in the evenings when it cools off
·         That I will be able to get involved with some ministries while Thandi attends school, and still be there for the kids in afternoons; possibly at least one morning a week for prison ministry with a Brasilian cowboy, as well as helping coach the school’s soccer team among maintenance duties…
·         Getting some additional vaccines required for Busi at the school with the local Dept. of Health this week (diff. requirements from South Africa, but want to take the opportunity to also fill in any vaccines Elisha may be missing)
·         Clarity and favor on our submission for beginning Thandi’s application to extend her visa; we are still not sure if it is best to go for the Green Card (as we have heard you  can’t be out of the US for longer than six months while being processed), or just apply to change status on Visa; pray for God to give us a specific official to guide us through the process
·         Praise God most things in our trailer home are working well, esp the A/C!
·         Thank God for health on the whole family, even as we adjust to this new climate (Texas heat and the ubiquitous fire ants!)

Thanks all for reading and keeping us in your prayers.  Let’s keep the conversation of building the Lord’s Kingdom going!

Much love,
The Whitlocks