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 Muizenberg...so 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!