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

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