GAP News October 2021
Dear Friends. We are greeting you in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. It is the turn for an English Newsletter again. As usual, we are sharing personal and some ministry news here. Please read it with us and feel free to share it with others.
A Word from the Word
In Acts 17 the apostle Paul is on route with his second missionary journey through Greece which at that time was part of the Roman Empire and called Macedonia. He was well into his journey through Macedonia when he arrived in Thessalonica. It was his custom to visit the Jewish Synagogues on the Sabbath and to reason with the Jews aiming to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul did so for 3 consecutive Sabbath's but only a few of the Jews in Thessalonica were persuaded as well as some Greeks and some prominent women. Most of the Jews were so jealous that they rounded up a group of bandits through whom they instigated a riot. The local municipality also got involved in the whole fracas and Paul's followers had to whisk him away early one morning. From there his journey continued to Berea, to the west of Thessalonica. He once again had to flee his Jewish persecutors who followed him all the way from Thessalonica. He eventually ended up in Athens where he again found his way to the synagogue. Observing the many Greek idols in the city of Athens he became distressed. So much so that, apart from the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks in the Synagogue, he engaged some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the local market. They became so intrigued by what Paul was teaching that they took him to the Areopagus where there was a bigger audience of Greeks and foreigners who liked to do nothing other “than to sit and talk about and listen to new ideas” as we are told in this chapter of Acts. Paul’s distress led to him engaging an eager audience where he challenged them with more facts about the “Unknown God” whose statue he bypassed on his way.
This is an abstract from a recent short Bible Study titled “Paul’s PowerPoint Presentation at the Areopagus” we compiled with the help of a dear friend. The result of Paul’s missionary journeys through Macedonia is that Greek Mythology, as a cultural way of life, has been largely eradicated. Considering how it dominated everyday life at Paul’s time, makes it even more remarkable! Today it is mainly a history subject and a tourist attraction. What would have been the result had Paul not turned West but East as he initially planned? What would have been the effect of that on the Muslim World today? Nevertheless, applying a lesson or two from Paul’s script, it was the gospel he preached in its simplicity that led to establishing the early church. It was simple and powerful.
We don’t face the Greek gods anymore but there are other role-players now on the scene that are shaping the fibre of our society through greed, corruption, and crime. And then there are the vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. The scenario has changed quite a lot, but the Gospel has not! It still has the power to transform individuals and communities. And it is simple enough for children to understand. We want to encourage everyone to find their unique way of proclaiming the Gospel and to continue doing so. Like Paul, facing the Jews, Gentiles and Philosophers in the Areopagus, God suddenly dropped in his heart an 8-point “plan” that shook the foundations of Greek culture! Our plan might not have 8 points, perhaps just 1! Let us ask God to bless us with our own action plans for such a time as this.
Talking about the vaxxers and anti-vaxxers we went for our single “jabs” the past weekend. Sugnét could tick most of the after-effect boxes listed on the wall in the waiting room and I, fortunately, could escape most of them apart from struggling to get the smell of that small bottle of liquid out of my nostrils! The third wave has left many of our friends sick but recovering while there are still a few in great danger. By the grace of God, the whole family are still well. Johan and Eldi were here for a very short visit, and they have just moved into Johan’s house in Kimberley which he was renovating for the past two months. A great plus for them, as they will now be saving on rental. Pieter is doing well at Landrani Lodge and Meatmaster Stud in the Swartberge between Oudshoorn and De Rust. There are no visitors now as the Lodge has been “mothballed” until all the covid restrictions are lifted. So, most of the time he is overseeing all the maintenance and farming operations himself. At weekends he is the sole inhabitant, most of us would or may think it is heaven on earth but, being so sociable, the idea of not having another human being in sight is a very lonely experience for him! But he is doing well and sees it as another step up to where the Lord is guiding him to be eventually.
Huppelkind is having a short break this coming week before the last stretch towards year-end. The staff is already gearing up for 2022 as there are many changes in the pipeline due to the increasing role of the Department of Education. The enrolment numbers for 2022 are down as parents are cutting down on expenses. Grade RR is still not a compulsory expense, neither subsidized by the government. Please pray for parents who would like to enroll their children, that they may be able to do so. Both our mothers are doing well respectively, my mother in Groenkloof Retirement Village in George and Sugnét’s mother in Aandmymering around the corner. The lockdown was challenging to our senior folk too and at times we could sense their frustration with, and concern about, where all of this is going to end. But they are doing well, and we are thankful that they are in good care. The clearing of the fences and invasive trees and bush on the farm is catching up on me and my skeleton is not always that cooperative, as in the past few weeks, I had problems with inflammation which has prompted me to think about the sanity of all of this! Despite frequent inquiries, there are still no renters on the horizon and the bush chapel is still on that horizon too. It is a prayer point!
The front door ministry is a big challenge and requires a lot of wisdom. On the one hand, it is very time-consuming and on the other hand, it is a unique opportunity to minister to people. Many of them ask for prayer resulting in us standing on one side of the gate and they on the other side while praying. Not the best of prayer rooms but it works. The young men scavenging at the landfill site at Koedoeskloof often pass the house late at night on their way back. They are as dirty as the inside of a garbage truck and as hungry as a stray animal. They are starting to open and share their stories. It is heart-breaking! The problem is too big to solve but we envisage at least a more sustainable approach in helping them. That would require an integrated strategy and joint effort between churches and the community, and we trust that it will come to pass in due course.
The pre-schools in the townships whom we assist on an intermittent basis, all survived the past year yet again, and that is only the result of dedicated staff. They have gone through very challenging times and still do. We have stepped up our effort with the help of the Rev. John Gertze of the Methodist Church at Zoey’s pre-school in Joe Slovo. Sadly, the church in Port Elizabeth that supported them is winding down its involvement. Uncle Raymond has done a sterling job over many, many years. Although there is not a final goodbye, we would not like to see them ending up in the dark. There are some very precious people working there. Zoey’s is having their year-end student gradient on 12 November at their premises and as before, they plan to see the year out with a bang! We were asked to assist them in getting the supplies for the function.
The Bible School on Wheels launched their BSOW#3 curriculum at Mackhouwkuil, the training campus of Teach Every Nation near Vaalwater a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I missed it this time, but we could follow it via live stream. Dr Bruce Wilkinson was in the process of recording a new course in the US at the end of last year when he had a COVID-related stroke. Apart from a slight speech impairment, he managed to recover almost fully. Shortly after the incident, he asked the Lord what he should do from there. Instead of finishing that course, the Lord laid it on his heart to record a new and unplanned course called “The Testing of Your Faith”, birthed in his own ordeal and those of many Christians during the pandemic. It promises once again to be excellent. The “70 x 7” course that deals with forgiveness is still the “go-to” course from BSOW#1 and “The 5 Stages of Consecration” the “go-to” course from BSOW#2. But the whole curriculum is excellent. “70x7”, as well as the ‘Biblical Portrait of a Marriage” can still be streamed by anyone from the “tencourses.org website”. We plan to do the 5 stages course again before year-end and to buy BSOW#3 as soon as possible.
Next Saturday the Uitenhage Ministers Fraternal is hosting a Heartlines Sponsored Breakfast. The focus is on “Fathers Matter”, the initiative of Heartlines. Another prayer point! Our communities are coming apart at the seams because of the absence of fathers and father figures. We still must meet someone at our front door who had a father for life, never mind a caring father! Once again Heartlines has developed excellent resources in print that will hopefully be available at the breakfast. The Heartlines website is a bit overwhelming but once you find your way, there are tons of resources for churches, small groups, youth groups, churches, and schools. We have made ‘What’s your Story?” part of our daily modus operandi, especially at the front door and in pastors’ meetings. Watching the launch of the documentary, “The Threatened Miracle of South Africa’s Democracy” on YouTube on “Braaidag”, it struck me how personal storytelling became part of the build-up of the miracle of having a peaceful first election!
We are still privileged to go out to minister in the Elands River Church. I supply the transport and prayer back-up, Sugnét shares the Word, Gert takes care of the worship with Karen or Rudi joining him at times. André is doing the sound and many more are keeping the church-going. We managed to meet without any hindrance or sickness. Spiritually there is a new openness and a deep sharing of the individual journeys of people. We are a bit concerned about people who are so isolated and not getting to be part of the church community. Living in town makes it difficult to be part of their lives, pray with us for people, and an effective plan to encourage the amazing people in the Valley. As we write this, it is raining outside, may it continue!
The prayer networking roadshows through the Eastern Cape have taken a back seat since last year. If it continues next year, it will depend on all the variables that we have become accustomed to. Nevertheless, networking has continued digitally. Jericho Walls has gone through many changes the past year with Bennie Mostert retiring, and the office in Pretoria which has closed. Some of the staff retired and others went solo. Daniel and Estelle Brink in Cape Town took over what remained of the operations and Daniel will continue in the role of Director.
In closing. A word of thanks to everyone who supports us so faithfully. You continue to make a difference in our lives so that we can do it in the lives of others.
Pierre and Sugnét (GAP Ministries)