13 January 2009 ~ Cholera in Zimbabwe
May God help us to pray for Christians who are suffering and the growth of the Gospel in hard times. Paul wrote this excellent account of what is happening near our area.
Seth and Amy
Standing in a Line of Suffering
“The Son of Man must suffer many things”… and so shall Zimbabweans. Suffering for the average American is much different than that of the 12 million Africans who live in the decimated country of Zimbabwe. According to many reports, Zimbabwe is the poorest country in the world. Its bustling border-post resides just 75 miles from our front door. Words fail to communicate the country’s tragic state of affairs.
The country is ruled by the European-educated dictator Robert Mugabe, a mad man by the account of his own people. The economy is in such shambles that the inflation rate will likely double by the time you finish reading this letter. Americans complain about a 7% inflation rate, but Zimbabwe has broken every known record with totals over 200 million percent. Last year, the government issued 500 million dollar bills. A sandwich will cost a poor farmer millions of dollars, and people are forced to use wheelbarrows to carry their cash to the store. Many have sold all they have in hopes of avoiding starvation.
But the economic problems are just a crust of bread compared to the massive wave of death that has passed over the once beautiful Rhodesia. Only 30% of Zimbabwe’s 15-year old girls will reach the age of 30. A Catholic doctor from Wisconsin practicing in Zimbabwe told me that AIDS is by far the greatest killer. Starvation has already set in. The death knell has been the recent outbreak of cholera, a pandemic that is killing thousands. A friend from Zimbabwe called me recently and told me that his entire family has the disease.
On the surface, better times do not appear in sight. Having forced the winner of the 2008 elections to flee for his life, Mugabe has firmly entrenched himself as the nation’s dictator. Corruption is everywhere. One is sadistically taxed when taking aid into the country and if the correct documentation is not obtained, nationals are forced to jump the border to escape. Things are better for Zimbabweans in South Africa, but just a little. They experience frequent attacks of xenophobia (racism) and jobs are difficult to find. Many are forced to slay their conscience and steal for bread.
All of this becomes very personal when considering our student body at Limpopo Bible Institute. The spring semester begins in less than four weeks and 11 of our accepted, first-year students are Zimbabweans. But obtaining documentation for them has been a nightmare. Many sleep in line for days, not to obtain the latest PlayStation, but to acquire a one-year asylum permit in hopes of attending LBI. This takes about $70 per permit, which most of them don’t have. One 34-year old student, Shadrack Zireva, has dropped out in order to support his family. Another student, Trainos, was recently in a horrific accident and may need brain surgery.
I ask you to pray for our students. Most of them do not have the proper documentation to remain in the country and attend our school. Time is fleeting and we need prayer for God to intervene on their behalf. Indeed, “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The UN cannot change Zimbabwe’s plight; but Christ-centered, Bible-saturated soldiers of the cross can.
Paul and Melinda Schlehlein
11 February 2009
WHERE HAVE WE BEEN?
No, we have not taken an anti-email vow although it may appear that way since I have not written very much over the past few months. Thank you for your concern, prayers and patience as we finished furlough and boarded the plane January 27. For the past two weeks now, we have been busy putting the pieces back together for our home, church and college.
Upon returning to SA we picked up a 1998 Toyota 4×4 for a great deal because of the exchange rate. This new family member should save effort and expense in repairs over the sleeker Mitsubishi we had.
Our house was broken into twice while we were gone, so Daniel renovated with some stylish new burglar bars. Though we thought the thieves didn’t take anything, I have been unable to find my old, path-walking Nike’s.
WHEN IS A GROUP OF BELIEVERS A CHURCH?
The idea of the “Three Self’s” originally came from a 40-year old Congregationalist in the 1840’s. Way back then, Rufus Anderson taught the unpopular ideas that churches on the mission field need to be self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. These days, everyone seems to have accepted the “Three Self’s” as the most Biblical and common sense model. But agreeing with the idea is barely the tip of the iceberg.
During our furlough, Paul pastored our little group of believers, preaching in most of the services and administering the Lord’s Table. But if he wasn’t there then, or I wasn’t here now, would they be a church? Does this group, by their own initiative pay their pastor (self-supporting), make their own theological and business decisions (self-governing) and evangelize others (self-propagating)? The answer is, no, which means we still have work to do before we can call this group a church.
Yet we are confident. Four of the five adult church members were there in the past weeks as well as 9 of the teens. The unsaved Mamayila, Pilly, Ipfi and Vutivi still attend as well though they are outside of Christ.
This week we will resume our youth group ministry as well as door-to-door Bible studies in Romans. Also, for the next few months we will work through the book of Job as a church. Summary of prayer requests for Elim Baptist:
• Pray for the unconverted ones who regularly attend services.
• Pray for one of our adults, Rinette Baloyi, who found out recently that she has cancer.
• Pray for a saving work of God’s Spirit through our outreach efforts.
WHEN IS A GROUP OF STUDENTS A COLLEGE?
A frantic pace climaxed today as Paul, Daniel and I entered the classroom to teach 7 different subjects to a final total of 12 students. To start the second year of LBI, my teammates built new dormitory facilities, arranged for the new students, managed the finances and even printed new shirts for the beginning of the school year while we were back in the US.
All 5 of the first year students returned with an additional 7 men coming from Zimbabwe. Together there are 5 languages represented, but we use English for teaching. God supplied a house to rent in the village, so 7 of the men are there. The other 5 are staying at the smaller dorm constructed at Paul’s house.
This semester’s classes include:
• Expositions of Acts, Genesis, Revelation, Luke and John
• Theology of Missions
• Systematic Theology 2
• English Grammar Summary of prayer requests for LBI:
• Pray for the students to find work in an economy much worse than America’s, persevere in their education, and become more like Christ.
• Pray for their instructors to be examples of wisdom in the Scriptures.
Glad to be back,
Seth and Amy
8 March 2009
BREAKING ONE TRADITION TO UPHOLD ANOTHER
Out of love for children and Christ, Robert Raikes pioneered the original Sunday School back in 1780. I am glad that today Elim Baptist Church joined the impressive heritage he began, although we traded another time-honored tradition to make it work with our people. Instead of our usual Sunday evening services, we now gather earlier for Sunday School, then have our morning service. The attendance had been near dismal for the evening service anyway since people didn’t want to walk back to church in the evening after having cooked in the afternoon. And what was the result of my little effort at pragmatism? They were all there in time for church!
As a church we remembered the Lord’s Table this morning, ending with a rendition of “And Can It Be?” that was both loud and joyful. I’m pretty sure all the neighbors heard us.
When you gather in your Sunday School class, would you pray for one of these Sunday School classes?
• Amy taught the children’s class with one of our strongest teens helping her. She had 6 pupils whom she taught while controlling a toddler and an infant.
• Mzamani and I are co-teaching the Tsonga class for teens and adults. We are working through a study of the disciples.
• Some of the students from LBI are teaching a Xona class for Zimbabwean immigrants living in our area.
“FIND A SINNER AND EXPERIMENT”
Evangelist Ray Comfort urges believers to “find a sinner and experiment,” referring to using the 10 Commandments in evangelism. All the students at LBI are required to be involved in weekly efforts at bringing the lost to Christ, but how can our new students from Zimbabwe do that without knowing Tsonga or Venda?
The answer is the pockets of Xona-speakers who have immigrated to South Africa in any way possible to escape the world’s poorest economy. Little shacks sprinkled in the oddest places, bars catering to Zims, and word of mouth have given us a handful of sinners that the men from LBI are eager to experiment on. I was thrilled yesterday when Verengerai and Samuel, two of our LBI students, returned for our second appointment through Romans with a group of three unconverted Xona-speaking men.
It is to my shame that I lacked the foresight to bring the camera to our Bible study Saturday, but picture six men sitting around in black, plastic chairs in a small room at a pre-school reading out of an English Bible and then translating it into Xona. (We can’t find any Xona Bibles in SA.)
Summary of prayer requests for this ministry:
• Lefson, Doubt, and Tapiwa are unconverted.
• Verengerai, Shadrack, and Samuel are struggling to learn how to evangelize. Pray that they would see someone come to Christ through their efforts.
Amy’s due date is coming up April 13th! Thank you for praying for a safe delivery, a healthy baby, and a non-fainting husband.
Filling the schedule with Bible studies,
Seth and Amy
12 March 2009 ~ Zimbabwean Evangelism
The attached picture is a beautiful reminder of God’s creativity and orderliness. The teachers (the two men at the desk) are Shona-speaking Zimbabweans originally found by the Calvary Baptist Church in Johannesburg during the xenophobic attacks that South Africans were making against Zimbabweans and Mozambiquans back in 2008. The seven men who are now students at LBI were all forced to leave Zim because of the conditions there only to end up in violent conditions in South Africa. While sin caused the spiraling failure in Zimbabwe and the xenophobia in Joburg, God was behind the scenes manipulating both of these to place seven Christian Shonas in Elim.
That’s one thread, but God’s art is more complex. LBI students are required to evangelize every week, but who can they evangelize when they can’t speak Tsonga or Venda? Living about 70 miles from the Zimbabwean border, our village is saturated with Shonas who are doing anything they can to get out of the mess in their country—even walking to our area. So Taphiwa, Doubt, Tinache, and Felix, among others, were quietly and steadily directed through the pain of their circumstances to the point where they could be found in a little room hearing the Gospel. God’s providence in action, that is beautiful.
The picture shows Sam and Shadrack evangelizing a growing group of Shonas. We found these men at bars, and in shacks and now they are beginning to bring others. Yesterday there were 8 men at the study with another 4 arriving at the close.
None of the men have yet accepted Christ (so please pray to that end), but they are showing strong interest in that 1. this is the fourth week, 2. they again asked numerous questions for the 90 minute study, and 3. they are inviting others. We are rejoicing that God has given the Shona students a chance to minister as well as reveling in this tapestry of experiences God has intricately planned for the conversion of these men.
Enjoying the beauty,
Seth and Amy
6 April 2009 ~ Colin’s Birth
This morning Amy again joined millions of other women in a dramatically effective weight loss program. Colin Amos Meyers came into the world at 6:50 am weighing 3.5 kgs (7 lbs 11 oz). Because Colin refused to stand on his head in the womb, he was delivered via Cesarean, and we are continually thanking God for the technology that allowed this to be such a smooth, safe process.
Mom is sleeping (or supposed to be) as I send this out, but I’ll return with Caleb to see her very soon. Please pray for her to experience relief from a cold that has been giving her fits of coughing—painful after having been operated on, and a concern for the new baby.
We would have been thrilled to have a little girl, but boys have at least two advantages: 1. there are so many aimless Christian young men we thought it would not be fun to try finding a groom for her some day, and 2. we are praying that God will one day send these men to hard countries for the sake of the Gospel. We would appreciate your prayers that Colin’s life would be marked by sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
And there’s more good news on the horizon since our teammates Paul and Melinda are hoping in a week or so to see their first baby.
With grateful hearts to God and the many friends who have been praying for us,
Seth and Amy
7 June 2009
A common response people give here when confronted with Biblical demands is, “Well, that’s not my culture,” or another similarly worded effort at bucking Scriptural authority. Knowing that, we planned our second annual Youth Conference with the theme: “Culture War: What to do when the Bible and my culture disagree.” The speakers were similar to last year, and the messages were well-received. After all, if you can’t raise interest with an African audience when discussing the use of drums in the church, when can you raise interest?
We closed with a lively question and answer session, a sampling of which might give you the flavor of the day.
Question: “Is it true that if African babies don’t have certain rituals performed to them at birth they will die?”
Answer from the Venda pastor: “Well, then all three of my kids should be dead.”
Question: “Is it all right for a Christian to go to the traditional healer?”
Answer from the Tsonga pastor: “They are called traditional healers, but their real name is witch doctor. No, absolutely not for Christians.”
Question: “Is it all right to sing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ since that is repetition?” This was asked in response to Godfrey Ngomane’s negative critique of the song “Tshe, Tshe, Tshe” which is both the title and all the words to a 5+ minute song.
Answer: “If Holy, Holy, Holy were the only words, I don’t think we would sing it either, but there are many more words to that song than just those three.”
By God’s grace, this conference will be one more brick in the godly character of young people called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Your prayers for these young Christians to persevere are being answered, so please don’t cease praying now.
TO BUILD A CHURCH
Our life, ministry, and outreach is intentionally patterned after the apostle Paul, but there are times when we differ from his example. For example, this Sunday we have urged all the church members at Elim Baptist to invite at least one friend per person. Outreach efforts are somewhat limited in scope when you don’t have a building or money, but the faithful in our assembly do care about the lost. This Sunday, June 14th, is our first biannual Friend Day. While we always are glad for people to worship with us, the main point is that those we have done Bible studies with in the past could come. People do say yes easily without one momentary thought of following through with their promise, but we are hoping that our personal relationships will make the external difference. Internally, we have been praying that the Spirit of God will grant life to the dead, and we ask you to join us in praying for this Sunday morning’s evangelistic efforts. Lord-willing, I’ll send a summary of the service on Sunday evening.
One particular man needs our prayer more than he knows. Eric Makhuva is a businessman who came back from Johannesburg to live in the village again. He has done Bible studies with me for nearly a year now and has responded well, though he admits he is not ready to follow Christ. Today I found out why. In a poor area, Eric’s brother had offered a year ago to pay for the building and stock so that he can start a bar. Now he is considering salvation, but the bar is scheduled to open within the next few months. Pray for Eric to choose Christ over the money and the bar.
“Paul said all Scripture is inspired by God, so that means even the parts you don’t like.” Mzamani Baloyi, 40 year old, recently appointed Sunday School teacher speaking to a charismatic woman who insisted to him that God was calling her to be a pastor. Rough translation from Venda.
“If you send me lord help me preach every sermon like my last one. I don’t care if I live on water only but I just want to [reach the lost] and that for me will be enough payment oh lord when I get to heaven hold my hand for I will collapse with joy and it will be the joy of loving God.” Tiyani Shihlomule, 15 year old, wrote this sentence as part of a 600 word essay, “The Beauty of the Gospel.”
Thank you for your prayers,
Seth and Amy
14 June 2009
EFFORTS AND RESULTS
Between Amy and me, we had 16 people invited for Friend Day. Of that number, 10 promised repeatedly even as late as Saturday that they would come. Of that 10, three came. But our church beat us (which is the way we would want it anyway) with 8 visitors. We had a record 12 adults, 17 teens, and a lot of kids.
Mzamani taught the adult Sunday School about the foundation of the first church. He did a good job emphasizing the importance of doctrine. However, contemporary Tsonga will probably never cease to amaze me when it mixes Western culture and English. Here’s one line he used while explaining the gift of tongues: “Ku ri Xikwembu xi activate-ile BlueTooth ya vona.” Which being interpreted is: It’s like God he activated their BlueTooth [so they could understand].
Amy taught a full house of children and sang a great Tsonga / Venda song she arranged from Isaiah 43.
Eric Makhuva (the man from last week’s letter) promised to come, but I received a message from him saying his car wouldn’t start and he has a big trip to make tomorrow.
I preached about the nature of true conversion from the Apostle Paul’s conversion story, and pressed for an immediate response, but outside of those who are already born again it was quiet.
THE FIRST CHAPTER IN AN IMPORTANT STORY
Of the 6,652 least-reached people groups in the world, the Comorian islands off the coast of Madagascar contain the third, least-reached people group in the world according to www.joshuaproject.net. Paul will be visiting the islands in an effort to plan how best to change their status from least-reached to reached. I applaud his vision and commitment to the glory of God in the poorest places of the world, and ask you to join in praying for him and the islands for the next few weeks.
Seth and Amy
26 July 2009
ROMANS 7 ILLUSTRATED
“Oh, God, we love you, but sometimes we hate you…” This was the introduction to Siphiwe’s prayer just an hour or so ago when I confronted this 19 year old for skipping church. He has been a faithful member and evidenced real spiritual growth over the last two years of his Christian life, but character takes a long time to change even after God creates a new man inside. Up and down is a familiar pattern among the converts, but slowly there is more up than down. I can understand Siphiwe’s prayer from personal experience, and am glad that he at least wanted to talk with me and pray about his own spiritual weaknesses. His father passed away several years ago, and he is the only Christian in the home.
But I had two visits after church today. The other one wasn’t quite as positive, but we’re not giving up hope. When you finish praying for yourself to conquer the remaining corruptions in your flesh, would you remember Siphiwe Mahungu and Benji Mphaphuri as well?
THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH
The Elim Baptist Church has elders! At least we have elders’ meetings. Mzamani Baloyi has been joined by Rhudzani Rambau a 23 year old Venda living among the Tsongas. Rhudzani is working part time while also becoming a more serious Christian. To be a man in this culture you either need a wife, a house, or a job.
Every Saturday for the past two months the three of us have met to discuss how to secure members that are struggling, how to involve the church members, what to do with the $100 we have in the bank, and to pray for the lost. Typically, I come away from these meetings feeling as if we are on the verge of having a genuine church—a group of male-led believers that preaches the Word and practices church discipline.
On August 16th I won’t be with our assembly, so Mzamani will preach in the morning service; and Rhudzani is going to try his first opportunity at public speaking.
Before our next prayer letter a number of changes will happen among the team God has assembled here in SA. First, LBI’s semester starts August 3. Second, Joel and Kelly Simkus with their son Wyatt will be arriving August 4 to begin learning the language and culture in order to start an orphanage. We are anticipating new friends as well as a God-centered outreach to those who have lost their parents. Third, Daniel and Joy Minton will be leaving for furlough August 8, but they won’t be returning here. As early as February 2010, they are hoping to arrive in China for their second term of missionary service. I know they would appreciate your prayers.
A BRIEF BREAK FROM WRITING
Late last night, I finished my notes for Logic. Hermeneutics (how to study the Bible) was done a month ago and Church History shortly after that. Paul, after missing a few weeks of preparation time from his trip to the Comoros, has completed Isaiah and the Prison Epistles. Preparing these notes for the college has always been helpful for me personally, but it has especially taxed my schedule for this semester. Eleven of the students will be returning this Saturday with the twelfth hopeful that he can return next year after academic probation because of English. Please pray that Shadrack, Tinache, Mike, and Denis can find jobs in town, and that they will grow theologically.
RESULTS FROM THE COMOROS
July 7th Amy and I listened for several hours to Paul’s description of the Comorian islands. The second island especially commands attention as it is 99.9% Islamic with zero churches or missionaries. Providence arranged these blessings during his trip: the Shindzawani language is in the same family with certain linguistic similarities to Tsonga, a hospital was interested in Melinda’s medical assistance, and a number of vital contacts were made. What is a “stronghold of Satan” if not an Islamic island where it is illegal to evangelize? And what could possibly be more important than the hope that from that island of God-haters some will be in the choir of Revelation 59? Please pray for the islands to receive the light and for Paul’s replacement at LBI.
For the Church which He purchased,
Seth and Amy
18 August 2009 ~ Cultural Examples
As an aid to teaching Church History this semester and for personal interest, I am reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen and a biography of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian / politician who emphasized God’s common grace. These books have reminded me that the more a culture is grounded in Christianity, or at least Christian principles of work, the more beauty and efficiency will be evident in those cultures. Or conversely, the lack of beauty and efficiency in a society can be traced back to a lack of Christian influence.
Below I’ve included a few examples of life in modern southern Africa highlighting that the distinctly Christian values of dignified labor, personal responsibility, long-term planning, and careful thinking are rare because Biblical conversions are relatively rare.
93% FREE IS NOT ENOUGH
Tshwane University in Pretoria, the capitol city, had student riots because the costs were “so high.” The school directors begged the government for R9 million more (about a million dollars) and went to meet the students with their hats in hand. I heard on the radio the school’s president say they were able to offer the students an increase in the already dramatically discounted university fees such that students would be given 93% of all tuition, room, board, restaurant, taxi fare, and other college expenses free. But the students rejected the offer and rioted again.
Two weeks ago the University of Venda about 90 minutes from our house fired a lecturer because he seduced a student who was eager to get better grades. So he’s looking for work, right? No, the students refused to go to classes because they want him back.
On the desk in front of me are two copies of the newspaper “Forever” published by a large church near the University of Venda. As I returned from business there today, I stopped by the church and picked up some reading material. Here are some mainstream samples from the paper. Many more could have been recorded.
• “After [November 20, 2007] there will be no more spreading of HIV/AIDS from human to human.”
• “Everyone who will accept Jesus Christ will be cleansed of the HIV/AIDS completely.”
• One issue is filled with “testimonies” of people “healed” from voodoo powers. Here is one among many examples: “I don’t drink water. If I try and drink it, it actually comes out through a tiny opening in my right foot. But soft drinks are the ones that remain in my body.” The pastor tried to heal her from this and other terrible conditions, but was unable.
This style of make-my-life-comfortable, don’t-bother-me-with-Bible-teaching Christianity fills Africa’s churches today.
AFRICAN THEOLOGY IN SONG
While I was gone today, Amy had a chance to witness to our neighbor Johanna. This lady is a friendly Tsonga mother whom we have helped from time to time. She is also a member of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), the largest denomination in southern Africa. The ZCC is known for mixing African traditions and Biblical motifs, but more of the former than the latter. For example, Amy questioned Johanna last week about a ZCC song I heard at a funeral recently. A literal translation of the oft-repeated, one-line refrain says, “It doesn’t need money; it needs good works to get to Heaven.”
Johanna knew the song, and my little wife told her it was wrong. This morning Amy answered a knock at the door to find Johanna asking if they could look at the Bible verses Amy had referenced the week before. So amid a handful of interruptions including a sick four-month old, the two of them worked through Romans 3-4. Johanna picked up the concepts of sin and God’s wrath quicker than others, and she and Amy will talk again this Thursday. Please pray for Johanna to continue to initiate conversations about the Gospel. She is not only a sinner, but one of the women that have taken some efforts to be a friend to us.
Unapologetically refashioning culture,
Seth and Amy
4 October 2009
A ROOM FULL OF CHRISTIANS
In a borrowed room last Sunday night smiles crept onto our faces as we mingled with Christians from 5 surrounding villages. The Baptist church in Mbhokota started by Paul this last February invited the church at Mashamba and the church at Elim to worship together. Africans led most of the different parts of the service, and Paul preached about the meaning of Baptism. Then we remembered Christ’s death at the Lord’s Table before marching a mile or so to the place in the picture for the baptism.
Around 50 teens / adults were there giving the gathering a real local church feel especially since the majority of them were believers. As I perused the crowd I realized that the great majority of the congregation had been converted within the past 3 years. Many answered prayers are represented by the believers who assembled last week. Please continue to pray for those who attend church, but have not yet chosen to follow Christ.
AN AFRICAN DIFFICULTY IN BUILDING CHURCHES
In March 2004 I handed a tract to a security guard in town and greeted him in his language while passing. Shocked that a white man would speak Tsonga, he asked me why I was studying it. That was our first meeting, and it lasted it only a few minutes. But over the past 4 years Mzamani and his wife Murun’wa have become our closest African friends. After their conversion and baptism, they were our core adults when we started the churchplant here in Elim.
Starting today Mzamani has taken a new job in a city about an hour and a half away. While unfamiliar to Western culture, this is the standard for Africans: people get jobs in any city they can find and then return as possible to their village where their home is. Often migrant workers return as little as once per year to their families. Hopefully, but as of yet unknown, Mzamani will be able to return twice per month on the weekends.
The migrant worker factor stemming from a 3rd world economy impacts churchplanting by drawing many men to the cities. One reason more women attend church than men is that a significant percentage of the most responsible men aren’t living in their villages anymore.
Please pray for Mzamani to be a strong Christian while away from the security of the believers here in Elim. Also, remember our church that God would replace him with another man. He had just started teaching the adults on a consistent basis, and now we are back down to one teacher.
This last month Amy experienced back pain for several weeks similar to the symptoms I had about a year and a half ago. She is almost back to normal now, but we would appreciate your prayers for her.
Seth and Amy
8 November 2009 ~ Bible Quiz Tournament
THE GREATEST COMPETITION EVER INVENTED
After many scheduling difficulties, our third annual Bible Quiz tournament came together two Saturdays ago. This year there were only three teams whose members memorized 125 questions from Job, Acts, and missions statistics. As you can see from the picture, this year we used electric lights to tell who stood first for each question. That proved to be very important since the students were standing like lightning.
Here are some questions and answers they learned that we hope will serve them well in the spiritual battle
• When does God want us to trust Him? In the midst of our pain, Job 2:10
• What good things is God doing when we suffer? Conforming His children to Christ
• What is the best character trait of Apollos’ life? He was teachable.
The competition seemed scripted as it came down to the final round to qualify for the championship. A team of girls who had lost last year, came back in the last round to qualify for the championship where they beat the team from our church who had dominated throughout the first few rounds. So the girls (wearing pink and red in the photo) while two were grieving the recent loss of their father and without their star player pulled off an impressive come-from-behind win.
Summary of prayer requests for the youth ministries:
• Pray that Portia and Amu, the two girls who lost their father, would grow in grace even through pain.
• Pray that the teens who participated in this year’s Bible Quiz tournament would use their knowledge.
A PUBLIC DEBATE IN THE INTEREST OF LOGIC
The town was invited, but no one responded to the newspaper ads and a handful of posters three weeks ago as LBI held its first public debate. We did, however, garner two charismatics fervently praying against us in the back of the church where we met because the topic was, “All the gifts of the Spirit are still operating in the Church today.” Our student, Stephen Mavesere argued the negative side and a white charismatic pastor from the city argued from the affirmative. For a little over an hour we had a structured, gracious debate between two Christians in front of the students and a handful of church members over Bible doctrine.
As with everything we do for the students, our prayer is that they would recognize that the life of the mind is absolutely critical for the future of the African church. Unsupported assertions and a general disinterest in theology will not tend towards Africa’s salvation. This debate represented the climax of the class on Logic where the students have hopefully gathered the tools to critique the fuzzy thinking both inside and outside the African church.
Summary of prayer requests for LBI:
• Pray for the students to apply theology to their personal lives in mortifying sin and evangelism.
• Pray for 18 students next year.
“THE INITIATIVE AWARD”
Even as a youth evangelist I can recall giving kids special prizes when they showed initiative. In my present context as a church planter in Africa, I would rank this character trait near humility as two of the most vital marks of a mature believer.
One week before LBI’s semester ended, two LBI students—both orphans—directed a brief children’s program comprising a Biblical drama of the Pharisee and the tax collector and a Bible quiz contest. Somewhere around 25 kids and a few teens were present representing about two months of daily Bible instruction from the LBI students, but the magnificent thing was… we didn’t start this ministry.
These two young men, Jastone and Justice Sebola, began teaching children at the house we had rented as a dorm for LBI. Soon the ministry grew to about 25 kids every day as these two Venda men who previously had not known Tsonga worked in an unfamiliar tongue without any external motive except the glory of God in the salvation of children. The attached photo shows them as the kids were just arriving. May God multiply that spirit among His people.
Amy’s back has been significantly better since we last wrote, but there are still pockets of time throughout the week where she will be weak. Please continue to pray for her ultimate healing.
Imparting knowledge while growing in knowledge,
Seth and Amy
12 December 2009
MORE BAD NEWS… SORT OF
Having just lost Mzamani to a job in a city 4 hours away, I found out this week that Rudzani, our other man, will be heading to Johannesburg in search of work in January. Rudzani’s character has been growing along with our friendship and I will be sad on several accounts when he leaves. It will be good for him to be able to build a house and support a family, but it’s sad for our struggling little church that has had some particularly low weeks recently. As for Mzamani, please pray for Rudzani’s ability to resist temptation and stay close to Christ in an area where there is probably no Bible-teaching church.
BECAUSE WE ASKED
Back in July I had requested prayer for four of the students: Shadrack, Tinache, Mike, and Denis. Each of these four were able to procure jobs over the break, and there are a few leads open for part time jobs during the semester. With the scarcity of jobs, we are all especially grateful for God’s provision. As you joined in prayer, please join us now in praising the Father’s goodness.
In that same prayer letter, I asked you to pray for Benji. This young man has been on a path in the right direction since that prayer letter for which slow and steady growth we are also thankful. In fact, Benji will be singing “To the Praise of His Glorious Grace” with three other boys next week in church.
In June I requested prayer for the Friend Day we were trying. None of my visitors have continued coming or been interested, but two of the men invited by other church members have been coming since then. Kenny (25) and Tiyani (18) are not yet saved, but they are near the wicket gate. Pray for their increased understanding.
Way back in February last year I asked for prayer for Vutivi’s conversion. This twelve-year old came to Christ a few weeks ago and is awaiting the next chance to be baptized. Also, Rinette Baloyi, the lady with cancer, has been fine for this year even though the cancer has not been removed. She has a good spirit and continues to come to church.
We are also thanking God for rest and chiropractors which appear to be His tools to heal Amy’s back. She is much better now.
EMBOLDENED TO ASK AGAIN
Recently, four other young men have been at different levels of interest in the Gospel. Please choose one of the four for whom you may pray without ceasing. We would be greatly encouraged if these four were added to Elim Baptist Church.
• Mashudu: 29-year old Venda man who has expressed a great interest in salvation. We have studied about 6 times, and he knows that he is outside of Christ. His work has taken him out of the area for a few weeks, but he called me again last night affirming his desire to be a “true Christian.”
• Mpho: 16-year old Tsonga boy who prayed the sinner’s prayer back in September. That exact week this very poor boy was given a job selling newspapers on Sunday mornings precisely when church meets. He has however come to my house asking for Bible studies.
• Tlangi: 14-year old Tsonga boy who is brighter than the average teen and lives near my house. We have finished the third chapter of Romans and he is eager for more.
• Nketheni: 22-year old Venda man who began studying Systematic Theology with me and some boys from our church every Thursday. Though he was very religious even before he knew me, the lessons convicted him and he was converted apart from any other human intervention after one of the studies. He confessed last week that he had never been saved, and the theology lessons opened his eyes. Pray for his spiritual growth.
Seth and Amy