2018 Update Letters


In the village of Juweni about 200 homes cluster a thousand or so Tsongas with a sprinkling of Vendas and Shonas. The larger area known as Valdezia holds about eight of these smaller villages together. From this place, I met a young man I’ll call Xikombiso Kubayi in 2017. At 17 years old, he lives in a homestead with four different free standing rooms that house his mother, grandmother, and three siblings. His father has no influence in his life, but he has met the man before. He walks to school about 15 minutes away having just entered the 7thgrade though my 10 months with him on Saturday and Sunday have discovered that he remembers facts and verses well. He is a good soccer player, a friendly conversationalist, and an average fatherless youth.

By his own admission, his life consists of attending school, a few house chores, and sitting with friends. School runs 180 days in the year, so 50% of the time, his daily routine has two main tasks rather than three. However, in March 2017, another leg was added to the table—studying the Bible. Saturday for about 2 hours and Sunday for about 3 hours (including travel time), he and his friends meet with me. On Saturday, we memorize Bible verses and catechism questions, practice reading, study an African map, and hear a 20-30 minute exposition of Luke. On Sunday, we gather for a “church” service though we only have one baptized believer.

When this young man first read a verse publicly around November 2017, he required a prolonged time to read that single sentence. But now as he and his peers voted to read 5 verses per day in 2018 and keep each other accountable, his reading has dramatically improved. Around Christmas time, he told me that he has entered the Narrow Gate, but he is not yet ready to be baptized. Why not? He told me he wanted to understand everything before hastily standing in front of others. Our Lord did tell us to count the cost to see if we can complete the task (Luke 14:28).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve introduced a new review game. After someone quotes a verse, I will paraphrase it in my own Tsonga words sometimes paraphrasing it accurately, and sometimes adding ideas that are not in the verse. The young people then have to tell me if my paraphrase is the same, not the same, or partly similar to the actual words of the verse. Another game following Mortimer Adler’s rules in How to Read a Book, requires them to state the main point in their own Tsonga words, or to translate the main point into Venda, or to give one example of a person who showed that main point. These tools have born fruit in just a few weeks as Xikombiso has already demonstrated that the ideas are penetrating both mind and heart now.

My point in this brief biography is two fold. First, since this little description summarizes the average child and home, you will hopefully be able to imagine something of the family life in rural areas. Second, I have written for you to intercede for the salvation of these souls. This is a real boy (though I changed his name) who had a darkened understanding, was excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that was in him as well as the hardness of his callous heart (Eph. 4:18-19). He and 6 others ranging in age from 13-17 have been studying faithfully with us for months. This group appears to be the nearest to salvation of those whom we have been evangelizing in Valdezia.

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.Mark 11:24

Please pray for Langu, Masana, Thabiso, Themba, Hluleko, Tshedza, and Doni that they may join us in casting our crowns before His feet.

Over the past two years, we have been working to plant two churches at the same time. We are now in a position to ponder again where we should begin evangelizing. Please pray that we would wisely follow our Lord’s leading.

Sowing in tears that we may reap in joy,

Seth and Amy

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For the past three Sundays, the church in town has met in our home, which only reduces our travel time if we are not helping to transport people to the services. My study is bursting at the seams during worship services, so we are hoping by the end of the month to have finished some construction on the back of our home where the church can meet in the future.

WhenPaul debated a Muslimback in 2015, a man named Steven came and was attracted to the gospel. For several years now he has been a member at the Elim Baptist Church, while his mother was still bound in fear to a prosperity church in the town of Louis Trichardt. Then in January this year, she stopped my vehicle on the road to say that she is now ready to leave her church. The “pastor” had threatened the people with car accidents, losing their jobs, attending a child’s funeral, or some other tragedy if they step out from under his “umbrella” by refusing to tithe or visiting another church. Alvina Maleti and her adult daughter Ndinewo have been worshipping with us for a few weeks now. Both ladies seem to be surprised each week by the difference between our church and their previous years of experience. They told my wife last week, “We would go and dance and do the other things [falling down, throwing money at the pastor’s feet, etc.], and then later ask, ‘Why did we do that?’” Please pray that both of these women and the other people coming would follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord-willing, on 1 April Easter Sunday, we will hold a testimony and baptism service for several like Alvina who are ready to confess their faith and join the church. We have made invitation cards and are struggling through a website in order to find Christ’s sheep lost in this network of self-aggrandizing wolves.


Tinyiko Phaswani continues to be faithful to her profession and baptism that is now nearly a year old. The church in Mambedi meets on her property either in a tent or under the avocado tree depending on the weather. Two weeks ago, rivulets invaded our worship service rushing down the top of the tent and collecting in ranks at the bottom before unassumingly wandering across the dirt floor inside. Our children returned home from church that day with mud figurines they had formed and were hoping to bake in the oven. Since then, we have engineered a drainage ditch to avoid the experience of inches of mud caked to the shoes.

Last Sunday we began baptism classes with a row of young men who have been studying the Bible for several months with us. My last prayer letter introduced them to you. Our hope is to baptize new believers in the month of April. Do join us in prayer that Satan’s devices would be thwarted and that the young faith of these men and women would not fail.


We are planning to return to the US from 8 May to 4 September for a furlough in order to visit churches and rest as a family. For many years, God has answered your prayers for us, and we would be honored to speak together either when we visit your church or even in your homes. As we prepare to return, we are in need of a reliable vehicle to march our troop around the country. If you know of a minivan that we could rent during that time, please let me know.

Finally, though my book recommendations are late this year, I think I can still tempt you. In 2017, I read Foxe’s Book of Martyrscompletely after it languished on my shelves for many years. I can safely say this 450 year old book will inspire, interest, and often shock you. Secondly, last year I was surprised again by Christians who loved the gospel, but followed the world in areas of life such as economics, history, or politics. Having now read about 5 books of The Politically Incorrect Guidesseries, I can testify that they are both fun and informing. Try The PIG to Communismor Islamand you won’t be disappointed.

In hopes of a full harvest,

Seth and Amy

sonofcarey.com| Reflections on theology, missions, and culture



Our First Baptism Service

As the Lord of the harvest causes the seeds sown by the evangelist to grow, angels watch in awe at God’s wisdom displayed in the local church. Sunday morning my wife and I enjoyed the sweet spiritual pleasure of hearing eight adults outside my wife, Caleb, and I profess their faith in Christ for nearly an hour. Six of those were people we have been evangelizing over the past years representing five different African languages. Four of them were baptized in a pool donated to our churchplant for that purpose.

Brief Introductions

Lesigo Sebola said, “I was a sinner in Adam and also because I broke God’s laws.” She is the wife of Justice who had been planting a church in Whunga, Zimbabwe. They have joined our church here in South Africa as he is attending Christ Baptist Seminary for the next few years. They are expecting their second baby in June and will help lead the new group of believers when we head back to the US for our furlough from May to September.

Frances Taylor, our only white member, quoted John 6:44 and said, “God drew me so that I would come to Jesus.” She was converted in Durban many years ago and has been looking for a Bible teaching church in this town for the last 7 years.

Alvina Maleti used to attend “All Nations Church” here in town. I visited it last yearconfirming that it too was no more Christian than a Buddhist temple. As she reflected on her previous “church,” she told me, “I have nothing after 8 years. No knowledge of the Bible. No salvation. No Nothing. Nothing. These churches are just like sangomas [witchdoctors].” Her son, Stevens, was converted back in 2016 and was baptized along with Caleb at Elim Baptist. Through his efforts at talking to her, she flagged down my vehicle on the road in January this year and asked if she could start learning the Bible. Another woman who had been on the “worship team” from the same church as Alvina has been coming and is showing signs of grace as well.

Dineo Maleti is Alvina’s 27-year old daughter. Sunday morning she too was baptized and has already been running an evangelistic Bible study with three other women in her home. Following the pattern that she is seeing on Sunday mornings, she is going verse-by-verse through 1 John.

Dorothy Matevani is a Tsonga woman who worked at a restaurant where Amy and I enjoyed our anniversary dinner last year. She and her co-worker Tintswalo responded to a gospel invitation at our table last June proving that if you love your wife God may just save someone. In her testimony she said that even though she had been in church all her life, she had never heard “teaching like this.”

Mugove Kamutimbe coming from Zimbabwe entered our church the first time in November with a tithe envelope. In 2016, a Baptist pastor gave him a flier. Mugove and the pastor met here in our town not five minutes from where I am typing, but the pastor, apparently an American missionary, was just passing through the town since his home and church were about 6 hours away. Mugove, not knowing this area well, eventually made it to one of our services, but his heart knew nothing of regeneration. On the 21stof March, he came to our prayer meeting saying that he heard a voice in his heart that morning urging him to be a Christian that very day. When we asked for prayer requests the next week, he asked us to pray for his wife to be converted. She has been attending, but her English is very poor.

Ongoing Prayer Requests

In abiography of George Whitefield, Robert Philip lists five marks of the Great Awakening in America in the 1730’s.

  1. A melting down of all classes and ages in concern for their salvation.

  2. An absorbing sense of eternal realities which banished all vain and useless conversation.

  3. Self-abasement and self-condemnation.

  4. Secret and corporate prayer.

  5. Concern for the souls of others.

Like the smallest green leaves of a new plant eager to get out of the soil, on Sunday we thought we saw some of those characteristics. We ask you to keep this list as a prayer list for the town of Louis Trichardt in which we are currently living and working.

In hopes of more rain before the great rain,

Seth and Amy

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Numbers Talk

Since our previous attempts at a list like this have been greeted favorably, before this furlough we offer one more compilation. Having extended some effort at research for this letter, the numbers are as exact as I could reasonably get them. I am not tossing out exaggerated estimates.

  • 150     Number of months I have been in South Africa. I returned for Amy after the first year.
  • 17       Months Amy has been in the US since she finished college in 2005.
  • 13 Years I have been blessed with Amy’s constant service, support, and friendship, starting June 25, 2005.
  • 114     Pages for our current visa application. Please pray that the government would honor our application which would help us move toward permanent residence.
  • 208    Percentage of increase in price of bread since I arrived.
  • 49      Average life expectancy in South Africa.
  • 4.50  Cost of gas per gallon in dollars. That is down from $5.50 in 2013.
  • 8        Broken bones among our children. Honorable mention to Cameron for stitches and a 2nddegree burn.
  • 9        New churches or churchplants in the rural areas of Zimbabwe and South Africa over the last decade. This list includes churches that Paul and I have started or whose pastors we have had the privilege of influencing. One church from over an hour away was established years ago, but the pastor recently became converted and then began trying to pull the 40 or so people out of the prosperity religion. We met yesterday and he said that he knows of only two true believers at the church now, himself and his wife. Pray for the Word of God to run as it did in the days of Paul.
  • 140     Church members in new Baptist churches in the rural areas over the last 10 years. We do our best not to rush people into baptism, and we use a church covenant as a tool to watch over the souls of those who confess faith. This number reminds us that our Father has been kind to poor sinners. And at the same time it shows us the tremendous need for laborers and the wind of the Spirit to blow in hearts.
  • 2        Wives of the same man both of whom are in the new members class at Elim Baptist. As Alpheus said, “One of them shows fruits of repentance, and the other is close.”
  • 33,000 Bricks in the Elim Baptist Church. The building project began with purchasing the land. That statistic was recorded in our last “Numbers” email in 2013, and the last brick was laid in December 2016. All the bricks were laid by the church members.
  • 5        Years spent working on EBC’s building. For the first four and a half years, 88% of the cash came from the church members’ offerings and efforts to sell books, Bibles, and lip balm.
  • 19      Months of Bible studies with Tinyiko Phaswani before she was baptized as the first believer in the collection of villages in which we began working in 2015. As I have mentioned repeatedly in these letters, do pray for a number of others who are near conversion right now. It would please us mightily if they were brought to Christ and baptized in our absence as Alpheus (the pastor at Elim) will be laboring there while we are gone.
  • 10/23 Ratio of young people in EBC or the Valdezia churchplant who do not know their father. Some of these teens might have seen him once. One said, “I sometimes see him, but he does not know who I am.” Another 11 know who their father is, but he does not stay with them so he has a muted effect on their lives. Only 2 have a father who stays the majority of nights in the home. Paul has told me that of 40 young people he consistently ministers to, the percentage is the same.
  • 3       Days until we leave our home to visit our dear friends who have held the ropes financially and in prayer.

Some Numbers From 2008

These are some highlights from the prayer letter I sent before furlough in 2008.

  • 14 ½ Weeks we have been without a vehicle for repairs. We only tallied the days if they went past a week.
  • 1 Man baptized
  • 48 Months in SA
  • 5 Trips to Mozambique
  • 2 Times my back has been prayed for by a charismatic
  • 6 Accidents and emergencies, including a girl that fell in a fire, a man shot in the leg, a teenage boy and girl falling out of our truck, and Daniel attacked by a crocodile.
  • 6-9 The exchange rate—we used to get 6 rand for a dollar, now it’s 9 to 1. [In 2018 it is 12.5 to 1.]
  • 14 Appliances broken—this is not counting multiple breaks on the same appliance.
  • 4 Theft / break ins among the team
  • 7 Termite nests on or near our property
  • 6 Homes that make traditional beer near where we meet for church.
  • 8 Snakes killed (One during a church service.)
  • 32 Distinct phone numbers we called in an attempt to renew our visas
  • 1,500 Approximate number of Tsonga words we use in everyday conversation

Some Numbers From 2013

  • 1 Sunday school child saved from choking with the Heimlich maneuver
  • 7 Minutes Amy was at the hospital before Carson showed up.
  • 9 Average number of verses our church members are trying to memorize each month to quote the entire book of James.
  • 9 Number of people who have been disciplined out of the church from 2009-2012. (usually for lack of attendance)
  • 13 Number of people baptized from 2009-2012 who are still church members.
  • 23 Unemployment rate in SA
  • 75 Guests Amy has cooked for in 2013 (not counting group and church functions)

Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,

Seth and Amy

sonofcarey.com| Reflections on theology, missions, and culture