As this will be our final report on the work in South Africa, it will not have so many updates as it will have some thoughts on our time in South Africa. For those of you who have followed our work over the last four years, we thank you for your interest, prayers, and support. Your encouraging words, letters, cards, and gifts have made our work go smoothly. We are thankful to God for allowing us to play a small part in His kingdom in trying to turn people from darkness to light.
I went through my journal entries to try to figure out how many times I was privileged to preach and teach. Based on my information, from August 2012 through November 2016, I preached 797 times and taught Bible studies 2,041 times. I’m not sure what a normal schedule would be for a preacher, but that was mine.
Church at Masia
The church at Masia came into being on 10 March, 2013, with just a few of us meeting at the home of Eric Tshikovhi. We found many more interested in learning the word of God and putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
Working at Masia is probably the hardest spiritual (and sometimes physical) endeavor we have ever taken on. The battle against darkness was real. Trying to show people that there was a better way than the way of bitterness, malice, strife, jealousy, and drunkenness was a severe test of my patience. All of this has helped me to improve in several ways.
At the same time, seeing people who really wanted to change and live better lives was so rewarding. To see the power of God operating through His word in the lives of people was an amazing testament to the living power of this book we call the Bible.
Madzhie Bandela, my co-worker for these three years, helped in so many ways. He interpreted things I wrote into Venda, interpreted me when preaching and teaching, and helped me understand what the people were trying to tell me. I hope he is able to continue working there for a long time. He needs more financial help to be able to do this work.
I must add one more note: on 29 December, 2016, our sister Masindi Sithago went to meet her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. She was crippled, so we baptized her in a patio chair. We rejoice for her victory over sin and death realized through Jesus Christ. I believe, because of the work Jesus has done on the cross, that we will see her again!
The work we were able to do at Kutuma-Sinthumule Correctional Centre was a unique opportunity. How often do you get to go into a place that houses 3024 individuals who might be interested in changing their lives? That said, it was always hard to see who wanted to change and who wanted to just get in your good graces so they could get something. Thankfully, God doesn’t require us to figure that part out.
During our time, we saw fifty-three men confess their faith in Christ and who were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Most of these are still in prison though a few have been released. Sometimes we hear from them when they are released and sometimes not.
Prince Ramaira took over all the New Life Behaviour teaching in March 2015. Madzhie Bandela and Prince jointly do the worship services in the prison each Sunday. Madzhie also teaches classes on Saturdays. It is good to see this work continue.
In January 2016, Prince Ramaira and I started preaching on the radio together from a village called Bungeni, about 30 km. from Louis Trichardt. After March 2016, Prince started doing all the preaching and I just operated the controls and answered the phone.
When we first started, we had just a few calls here and there. However, a fairly regular study started at Chavani for a while. This looked promising but seems to have discontinued. Time will tell if it will start again.
A major success from this work was finding Mr. and Mrs. Tshavhalala, two Christians who stay at a place where there was no church. Now, they are meeting together with other Christians each Sunday, and I believe that a tent meeting will be held there in 2017 which will help them to grow and become more established.
This program costs R3000 per month. For now, we pay R1000. The church in Polokwane pays R1000. Other individuals are also helping and Prince is able to make the payment.
What work will continue and what work will end?
One brother asked me what work would continue with our departure and what work would end. Debbie and I are philosophically opposed to structuring religious work in such a way to where it needs someone else to run it, like another American. Therefore, we never started a work that required our presence for it to continue. We can say in good conscience that between Prince Ramaira and Madzhie Bandela, all the teaching work we were involved with can continue.
That said, it does not mean that they will do their work the same way or according to the same schedule. I told both Prince and Madzhie that they should do the work the way that works for them. Use their resources, study the word, and structure their schedules in a way that will allow them to be effective and not get burned out. I believe there will be a learning curve but they will succeed.
These men are also blessed to have Dave and Joanne Beckley still in South Africa to train them further. They have both been teaching for over forty years, so their valuable experience will help them further prepare for the years ahead.
Speaking of the Beckleys…
Speaking of the Beckleys, they are still in South Africa, working away. They are working with a new congregation in Polokwane, about 120 kilometres south of Louis Trichardt, but still living in Louis Trichardt. They go there every Sunday and Wednesday for worship and Bible study.
They are also having regular classes with Prince and Madzhie. They are teaching them Greek. I’m glad because I think it will help them with their English. When I took Greek at Florida College, it helped me understand more about English. They might even learn better Venda! Anyway, it’s good to see men who want to advance their knowledge.
The Beckleys also host four History and Geography of the Bible classes (four being the minimum) in their home for those who want to advance their knowledge of the Bible. One brother asked me if I thought these classes were useful. I think they are essential. Those who come have usually learned about the plan of salvation, the essentials about the church, and other first principals. Those who are from Zimbabwe and are preachers usually receive several visits a year from Americans who provide preacher training and help answer questions. However, this History and Geography class fills a void that perhaps many of us have in our knowledge. The course is based on Bob and Sandra Waldron’s book, “The History and Geography of the Bible Story” but several parts are dealt with in greater detail than the book can cover. So, our hat goes off to the Beckleys for this effort (and of course to brother Waldron and the late sister Waldron for their excellent work).
We worked well with the Beckleys. They have been friends, family, and coworkers all at the same time. We really were in-sync when it came to the work we were doing. We were usually working in different places, but were always working together. They shared their home and cars with us when we first moved to South Africa and helped us get started in a new place. We love them very much and will miss them.
The Move to Ireland
We made it to Ireland on 30 November, 2016. We immediately began the search for a house. So on 1 December, we looked at a house. On 2 December, we decided to accept that house, and on 3 December we were accepted to move into the house on 13 December. So, that part was done. We had to replace some furniture we sold in South Africa, and thankfully we have Ikea that allowed that to be done economically.
We have Liam and Henry starting at an all boys’ school called St. Corban’s on 9 January, 2017. They seem to be okay for their grade level for now, but it seems they’ll know what to do if they need any catching up. Charlotte starts at an all girls’ school called Mercy Convent also on 9 January 2017. They did not do as much checking on her abilities. Rosie will continue with the online school through the end of the year. At that time, we’ll decide what is next for her. Overall, we’re pleased with the situation.
The kids enjoy being able to walk the very large, open, green park at the end of the street. Liam and Henry have gotten involved in a regular soccer game with some other boys. It gets a little rough out on the field but no broken bones yet!
Irish law mandates that Debbie and I get our drivers’ licenses within 12 months of being here. I think that means by December, but it might be October. I’m not taking any chances! So, I passed my written test for my learner’s permit the other day and hope to have my license by February. I think Debbie will have hers in approximately the same time frame.
I saved the best for last. We are worshiping with the church at Knocklyon Road in Dublin. This is about a 20 minute drive for us, so it’s not far. The brothers and sisters have warmly welcomed us and we think we’ll enjoy getting to know them better over the years and finding our role as part of the church here.
Anyway, God is continuing to take good care of us. We have been blessed beyond what we deserve.
Debbie and her family are still mourning the loss of her mother. I believe Debbie’s dad is still having a difficult time. He took a cross-country trip from Virginia to California to see his mother. He traveled (and might still be traveling) with some of our nieces and nephews. I’m sure a combination of being with family and getting away has been good for him, but please pray for him and the rest of the family.
Thank you for reading this longer-than-usual report. May God continue to bless you as you work in His kingdom and live in a way that shows honor for our Lord Jesus Christ. Please do not forget about the work in South Africa. Remember those we’ve left behind in your prayers.