1 January 2008 ~ Lessons Learned
Happy New Year everyone! Here are some lessons we have learned in 2007. As you read, be certain to focus on God’s answers to your prayers, and then be encouraged to ask again!
1. We have learned firsthand the importance of communication.
It is a well-known fact that coworker tension often causes missionaries to leave the field. Of course, in a marriage, communication is priority number one; but communication is also the most arduous factor in our ministry to the Tsongas. In every relationship, success is directly proportional to your skill of both sending and receiving ideas. In light of that, we would also like to praise God for the strong team He’s given us, happy marriage, and growing ministry.
2. I (Amy) am learning firsthand not to complain.
This year I’ve begun memorizing Philippians. When I got to chapter two, I saw the link between doing all things without complaint (2:14) and a blameless reputation for one spreading the “Word of life.” (2:15-16) I was going to write a list of situations that taught me this lesson this year; but then I realized, that would be complaining. In a number of situations this year, I have been tempted to justify venting, at least to my husband, but there is no exception clause in verse 14.
3. I (Seth) have learned theology.
Some time ago I came across this great quote. “Too much reading is not a fault that many American pastors have taken time to acquire.” Experience has taught me that rigorous theology is the best tonic for discouragement in ministry. This year I’ve enjoyed a friendship with Isaac Watts, Martin Luther, John Owen, and others. Good thinking is never out of style, and it doesn’t depreciate. Especially this year, I thank God for a soul-enriching, sermon-firing library.
4. I (Seth) have learned firsthand that successful people are practical.
Fixing a pickup in Mozambique. Maneuvering government officials to accept the paperwork without a bribe. Motivating and overseeing employees on the construction site. Life always wants more time for these things than I want to give it, but mastering practical areas sure increases productivity.
5. We have learned firsthand that culture is a powerful force.
Traditional beer flows like water in the villages. Among other sins, when people come to Christ here, they are immersed with opportunities to drink. The command to replace wine with the Spirit is a real battlefield. We have already practiced church discipline on 6 different church members who, having been saved for less than a year, gave in to the pressure. Thankfully, five of them responded with godly sorrow. Deeply engrained cultural paths are a lot stronger and more complex than I first realized.
6. I (Amy) have learned firsthand that a missionary needs the gift of hospitality.
But if she doesn’t naturally have that gift, she’ll learn it. I recall seeing guest books of other missionaries and marveling at their busy visitor schedule. This year I am learning for myself the importance of a laid-back, cheerful attitude about a missionary’s ministry to visitors, both national and international. For example, you’ve got to “roll with the punches” when your stove explodes with one guest, and your fridge breaks with the next.
7. We have learned again that the majority is often wrong.
“…now learn too late / How few sometimes may know, when thousands err.” Milton, Paradise Lost. Communism is popular here. Every tool but abstinence is used to handle the problem of AIDS. The majority of “Christians” think that a real church is one that can give you a house, a car, a job, and healing from disease. The practical effect of an extremely liberal government and “get-rich-Christianity” is that your church members often feel like loners.
8. I (Caleb) have learned what “No” means.
Daddy’s catechisms still stump me, but I definitely know what that one tone means. It seems to be connected to all of my greatest pleasures, like unrolling the toilet paper. I have also learned that new teeth make me cry. Best of all, I’ve learned how to sleep, even with loud bar music blasting the neighborhood.
With another year to learn,
Seth and Amy
9 February 2008
Hanging doors, printing the handbook, collecting tuition fees, and finishing a hundred other details climaxed last Saturday (the 2nd of February) when our Bible institute had its first orientation meeting. The students are living with Paul in his new house designed with a large “dorm room” on one end and a larger teaching room on the other. The dorm room has five students sleeping on homemade bunk beds with a small refrigerator and a two-burner stove. On the other side of the house is the Bible study room with bookshelves, desks, and chalkboard (all homemade as well). A computer should be coming soon as well.
Five young men had applied to LBI, but Sunday night before the start of classes one of our students had to drop out for unexpected difficulties in his home. However, a new student from the Johannesburg area several hours away heard about the college, applied quickly, paid the year’s tuition fee, and arrived in time to take Takalani’s place for the first semester. We now have three Venda students, one Sotho, and one Tsonga for our first year of classes: Maano, Justice, Jastone, Tebogo, and Sydwell. A 6th student joined us for classes this week as well, but we’re not counting him yet since he hasn’t paid the tuition fees. As you pray for these young men remember their greatest needs are discipline for a rigorous course of study and perseverance.
The six classes being offered this semester are Systematic Theology 1, Romans, English Grammar, New Testament Survey, Old Testament Survey, and Evangelism.
GIFT AND RECEIVE
Way back in February 2007 I listed Tinyiko (Gift) as a man I was studying with from time to time. He teaches in Cape Town and only comes home twice a year. When he was home for Christmas this year I invited him to church and he finally walked through that door. The 13th of January we dealt with the Father’s pleasure to save the humble in Matthew 1125-27.
After the service I asked him what he was waiting for before he would repent and believe the Gospel. He replied that he would like to be saved whenever I was ready. “Me? I have been trying to convince you for months!” That night I showed him Romans 3 for at least the third time, but now something was different. He saw salvation with new eyes! Immediately following he went to his fiancé Amukelani (Receive) and began showing her the verses. She has claimed to be saved and has been a faithful attendee of our church plant. But the new found faith of Gift and the working of God’s Spirit convicted her. Two weeks later she came to Amy shaken in her certainty that she was converted. After a discussion of some verses, she was certain—that she had never been born again. That night, Amukelani followed Gift in following Christ. Gift purchased a Bible from me and returned to Cape Town to teach. Amukelani will be baptized next Sunday.
MY FRIEND THE NEUROSURGEON
After receiving an MRI for ongoing back pain since the day after Christmas, I promptly passed out upon hearing the doctor’s diagnosis. The only neurosurgeon in the North of this country told me that not only are my two bottom discs bad, but the weakness caused the upper disc to bulge onto the main nerve of my right leg. Because of that, sitting in a chair ranges from annoying to extremely painful. Hopefully the leg pain will be cured on the 19th of February when I am scheduled for back surgery in Petersburg. The recovery will be 4-6 weeks during which I am not allowed to sit at a computer or drive. I would appreciate your prayers.
Tools in His hand,
Seth and Amy
26 February 2008
A DIVINELY-GUIDED SET OF MISTAKES
I was scheduled to enter the hospital February 19th at 6:00 am for the back surgery you read about two weeks ago. But our phone line took a vacation Feb. 14th and returned last night. Then Monday night (the 18th) we heard from the insurance company saying that they hadn’t received the estimate from the hospital and were unable to pay until those papers arrived. When I called the hospital late on Monday, they tried to send the papers through to my insurance company, but the hospital needed something signed by the doctor who was gone for the day. So 10 hours before checking in I canceled the operation trusting the unseen purpose of the one who authored Romans 828.
Because of this cancellation, I have decided to go for another opinion on April 21st in hopes of finding an alternative to surgery. This doctor is 4 hours away and has a several month waiting list, but I have heard that he won’t “cut” unless it is absolutely necessary. Thanks for your kind words and prayers.
OUR NEIGHBOR MERCY
Of the 52 million people in South Africa, we are one closer to finishing our job. Our neighbor Mercy is a Venda-born, Tsonga-speaking woman with two kids and a husband who loves alcohol. Her family lives in a one-room shack touching our property. Back in January, Amy visited her with a black KJV (King Jhakajhaka Version—he was the Tsonga chief when the Swiss translated the Bible into Tsonga) and a burdened heart. So quickly did our neighbor accept everything told her that my wife thought Mercy must be just trying to please her white neighbors. Amy returned to me asking if I would quiz Mercy a little to check her comprehension of the way of salvation. Well, she gave the right answers and followed that up with baptism three weeks later. She has a good mind and has not missed a Sunday of services at the Elim Baptist Church since being saved. Will you pray for Mercy’s growth during the month of March?
WILL HE SELL?
Our Bible Institute is operating in the village of Mbhokota, but we desire to plant it permanently in Elim about 6 kilometers away. Last week I spoke with Mr. Machevele about purchasing a piece of land he owns, but is not using. From our perspective this land’s benefits include being in a population center, but also having room for future expansion. The owner already has a house so we are praying for him to sell us this land. He will give me his answer Saturday the 8th of March.
Trusting and Waiting,
Seth and Amy
12 March 2008 ~ Miracle Crusades
THE DAMAGE DONE BY FALSE TEACHERS
At 8:00 pm darkness quietly steals across the soccer field. But darkness isn’t the only thing stealing. A shouting woman from the raised platform blasts her voice via 10 four-foot-high speakers in English and Tsonga to a waiting crowd of several hundred. “Do you want a miracle?”
Crowd responds with roars and cheers.
“Then don’t give R10 ($1.50) and expect a R10,000 ($1,500) miracle!”
Crowd responds with mild, begrudging roar.
Holding up a stack of envelopes, she continues, “If you want me to pray for you, then come take an envelope. But these envelopes are only for people who will pay at least R100 ($15).” She then asked for translators to explain that to all the grandmothers who were there because they get a government pension of R700 every month. The “preaching” hasn’t even started yet. The offering went on for nearly an hour.
The platform has multi-colored lights and huge brightly painted signs saying, “Miracles!” and “Jesus”. I spotted at least 8 people I have witnessed to in the past who are not converted and know they are not. One of them was an usher at the crusade that week who lives with a woman he is not married to in a one-room shack. He gave money in the offering.
You might be tempted to think that some of my descriptions are exaggerated, but I think 9 out of 10 people would have called his platform motions and antics clown-like. He shouted for the entire time. His favorite pose was looking away from the people. He continually interrupted the translator. Several times he bent over to the ground shouting to his voice’s extremity.
For 10 days this white man openly lied (“I will not leave this city until no one has AIDS!” and “Everyone of you will get a job this week!”), twisted the Scripture (“Elijah killed the false prophet of poverty! He killed the false prophet of HIV!”), and perverted the Gospel (“You are all children of God! I don’t want to talk about Hell, I just want everyone to be happy!”).
But his message wasn’t wholly lacking in intellectual content. I learned that poverty is a demon that he could cast out. During one particularly memorable segment, he also assured us that if we had faith, then money would fill our pockets. Of course, he was a man of faith, because his 2008 Mercedes wasn’t hidden from view. He also closed his sermon by asking people to raise their hands if they love him and his ministry. He never asked the same question about Jesus or the Bible.
He began his “miracles” each night about 10:00 pm, 90% of which included causing people to collapse and pretending to throw the Holy Spirit like a baseball to other people. There wasn’t one word about the people’s sin, God’s anger, Hell, or faith alone in Christ alone. But they did have an “altar call.” Every night the crowd increased.
The day before the crusade started I had visited with the “preacher” who styled himself as an apostle and a prophet. “Hi, my name is Seth and I am a pastor here in the area. I was wondering if you could tell me what your goal is with this crusade?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, “Miracles, signs, and wonders,” he said with an edge in his voice.
He failed the first question. Let me make it easier. “I am a pastor who loves the Gospel. It’s my burden to explain the way of salvation to people. What will you be hoping to do this week?” I asked him for the second time not really because I thought he would have the right answer, but to make my point even clearer.
“Miracles from the Holy Spirit.” He failed the second question even after I gave him a hint. But at least he was honest that time. He didn’t say he would preach the Gospel, and he didn’t.
APPLICATIONS TO THE MISSIONARY
Crusades like this are the heart and soul of African Christianity in this region, and I suspect other areas are the same. Here are some of my musings on this mess that will hopefully provoke you to prayer for us.
1. Missionaries need to know the Gospel. The music was bad. The stage antics were man-centered. The offering was criminal. But the confusion that crusade made about the way of salvation was immoral. Again I was convinced that God’s plan for saving sinners must be the preeminent theme of study for a missionary who would evangelize so that his converts remain in 25 years.
2. Every culture has its own battlegrounds that obscure the Gospel. The battleground here is the “Old Africa” superstitions about evil spirits. Our job is to find the most persuasive arguments against spiritism, and beat it mercilessly.
3. True logic doesn’t serve Satan. Fuzzy thinking helps the false teacher. For that reason, we’ve decided to catechize our teens on principles of logic for the next 6 weeks in the youth groups. A large-scale shortage of logic is not a good field to grow soldiers of the Cross.
Seth and Amy
1 May 2008
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH OUR TEAM
Out team consists of our family, Daniel and Joy Minton (plus their children Abby and Katherine), and Paul Schlehlein. As you may have known, Paul has been following Jesus and the apostle Paul’s example by being single, but that will all change next week when he corrects Melinda’s last name. Next Saturday they will be married with their return date to SA at the end of June. If you’d like to send a gift to Paul and Melinda, I’d be glad to give you their information.
Both Dan in Bungeni (12 miles from us) and Paul in Mbhokota (6 miles from us) have started Bible studies at their homes on Sunday evenings. Having begun with a core of converted teens, God has opened the eyes of several adults in each village. According to providence, Joy led their next-door neighbor Tsakani to Christ a few months ago, and last week Tsakani died leaving two children behind. Please pray for her son Elijah to come to Christ. Also, a number of teenage boys have been consistently attending the Bible studies in Bungeni, but as yet remain dead in sin.
We are grateful to work with teammates who actively evangelize while still seeing value in encouraging would-be Christians to think carefully before making a decision they might not understand. Would you commit to regular prayer either for the Bible study in Bungeni or Mbhokota?
THE FIRST TERM IS OVER
LBI’s first term ended last week. Here is a brief biographical description of the students (written by Paul) and some excerpts from their testimonies.
Justice—A twin who I still have difficulty distinguishing from his brother. He accompanies me (Paul) almost every time I go visiting and believes his spiritual gift is evangelism. He has a perpetual song on his lips, which unfortunately begins at five am. What is one lesson you learned this semester? “to use God’s law as a powerful weapon to strip off human pride.”
Jastone—This is Justice’s twin brother and may be the most impressive so far. Quiet like his brother, Jastone participates actively in class. He and his brother are orphans and have lived on their own for years now. Thus far, I have yet to discover what the twins’ weaknesses are. What is one lesson you learned this semester? “God has put into my heart a love for souls.”
Mark—Outgoing, funny, savvy and sometimes air-headed, Mark is a perfect balance to the group. He loves Christ and this becomes most evident when he pauses to pray. What is one lesson you learned this semester? “I learned that I cannot lose my salvation… also, God has really helped me wash all my pride away.”
Sydwell—Sydwell has the weakest English of the group but the firmest Biblical base. While Justice, Jastone and Mark had little contact with our ministry before LBI, Sydwell has been growing right along side our work in Mashamba for the last year. What is one lesson you learned this semester? “I have learned a lot about salvation, mostly from the Roman’s class. … God has helped me to meditate on Scripture and Bible reading.”
Thebogo—He is unique from the others in a number of ways. He was a late-comer who arrived at LBI from Witbank, over five hours away. Articulate, athletic and respectful, Thebogo has learned how to cope with a recent accident in which his left thumb was amputated. He is the only student with a father in his life. What is one lesson you learned this semester? “I didn’t know how to talk to someone about Christ, but this semester I learned what to say.”
A number of people have asked about my back, and I am very grateful for the kind expressions of friendship as well as the prayers that I am confident backed up my back. The pain began the day after Christmas, and then transferred to my leg within 4 days. For the next 6 weeks, my leg was often in pain. I decided to have surgery back in February, but God postponed the appointment through a series of God-sent circumstances. (Our phone died the day I needed to confirm the financial details, etc.)
On April 21st I did get a second opinion from a doctor who urged me not to have the surgery (as if I was just dying to get cut up). The pain has been gone since the second week in February leaving me cautiously going about my work as before. So the surgery didn’t happen, and I hope it never will. It is good for young men to be humbled by pain, and I thank God for the marvelous way He made and sustains our bodies.
Finally, Amy and I will be flying back to the US, Lord-willing, at the end of October this year. We are thinking about bringing Caleb as well. Our return trip will probably be at the end of January 2009.
Little by little,
Seth and Amy
22 June 2008 ~ Weekly Schedule
AN AVERAGE WEEK
About 3 months ago I began a new discipline. I started planning my week in 30 minute sections. From 6 am to 10 pm my single-page, weekly calendar now dictates the great majority of my time. Every Monday morning I plan out the priorities for the week, and then seek to live accordingly.
Simultaneously, I have found that people often wonder what pastors in general, and missionaries in particular, do all day. Armed with the accuracy of my little calendar, let me try to give a hopefully interesting account of the average missionary week. Any or all of these days may include extra events, such as going to the tribal authority for yet another meeting about obtaining land for the college.
Since we have been meeting in our own village for Sunday morning and evening services, the schedule has been much easier. We leave for church at 9:00—it’s about half mile away. Amy cleans the room with the other teens who arrive early, while I pick up the paraplegic man named Chris who lives on top of our mountain.
Two weeks ago, Chris and a woman from his area told me after the service they were prepared to follow Christ. I first mentioned them in last year’s May and June letters. Over a year of teaching, but they finally got it! LORD-willing, they will both give their testimonies next week. Please pray for Chris and Rinette along with the other fragile new believers at the Elim Baptist Church.
In the afternoon I usually have an evangelistic Bible study at a house that can’t fit the time into their week. Then our Sunday evening services start at 4:00.
The first item for Monday is planning the week ahead. As soon as the week’s calendar comes off the printer, I pull out the books to prepare the next semester’s college class. It’s a load of work, but the focused meditation and writing is a helpful source for spiritual rejuvenation. After lunch and family worship, I pop in an MP3 sermon while working on administrative tasks for the church plant, college, or Mozambique ministries. Door-to-door and evangelistic Bible studies end Monday about 6:00.
Tuesday is our day off. (I say, “our” but Amy still works a ton, as you wives already know.) Our weekly trip into town, yard work, Caleb, and time for reading and writing fill the day too quickly.
The Sunday morning sermon takes shape. Our church has been studying the Sermon on the Mount in an attempt to follow Jesus’ teachings. The afternoon has an hour or so of administrative work and some more efforts with house-to-house evangelism. In the evenings a group of 30 gathers for prayer at the Mashamba church. These prayer meetings are sometimes the most rewarding event of the week.
Our church plant’s youth group meets in our house every Thursday, so the sermon comes together in the morning. Mid-morning and afternoon is a mishmash of administration, Tsonga study, and prayer for the church. At 4:00 our core group of 12 arrives with visitors from time to time.
Back to writing the college syllabus first thing in the morning. Then, if I’ve finished my Sunday AM message, it’s time to start the evening sermon. We leave for the larger Mashamba youth group at 3:30. On average, 30-40 teens show up and the majority of them are growing Christians. Between the three of us, we catechize them, sing, and preach with an occasional game thrown in for fun.
Until 9:30 I get a little time into whatever I didn’t get done from the week; then comes evangelism in the nearby location of Waterval. From 11:30 to 3:00 we lead the Faithful Men and Women of Grace at Mashamba. These groups don’t meet every week, but when they do, convictions slowly and solidly take shape.
Missionaries can be lazy. We need to be kept accountable. Some people are more diligent under constant supervision, but all people are tempted with laziness to some extent. Thank you for your prayers that we might be…
…Redeeming the time,
Seth and Amy
12 July 2008
If they were all there, we had 7 adult members in our church one week ago. Sadly, that changed this last Sunday afternoon when we were visited by Amukelani and Tinyiko. For a reason that we can only deduce to be demonic, they chose to leave our fellowship. There were several sins tangled up in the whole fiasco, so we were already thinking we would have to confront them in love at the next opportunity. That chance came quicker than we expected, and worse than we hoped.
We personally studied many times with both of them and were growing in our friendship with what appeared to be a newly converted Christian couple. Our sadness and discouragement is great as we prepare to announce the first case of church discipline to the unsuspecting remnant tomorrow morning.
If you get this e-mail before you attend church, we would appreciate your fervent prayers for the little Elim Baptist Church.
You can pray that the 18 church members (13 in school and 5 adults) would persevere in godliness.
You can pray that three others who are on the edge would return.
You can pray that two other adults who are close to salvation would come to Christ.
You can pray for Amy and I to be strong, wise, and joyful.
You can pray 2 Thessalonians 31-2: Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
For Him who will build His Church,
Seth and Amy
13 August 2008
The question should have read: “Give three of the seven commands given to Christians in chapter 4 of Ephesians.” But two players had already stood to give the answer after I had only read, “Give three—” In true Bible quizzing, as soon as a player stands the quizmaster stops reading the question. You may recall from last year’s letter that Bible quizzing is a competition where teams memorize verses, questions, and answers before competing to see who can answer first.
This year 29 teens entered on 5 different teams for last Saturday’s tournament. The competition was strong; for example, on the first question of the first round 12 players stood to give the answer after I read only two words of the question. The whole event was baptized in that kind of intensity.
The rules called for double elimination, so if your team lost two of the 15 question rounds, you had to wait for next year. I’m not a very good fan because I was cheering for certain players on each team. Sadly, two promising teams got knocked out early, but the next day two young men told me, “Lemuel and I were thinking that it is better that we lost. We needed to learn a lesson this year.”
Hopefully, the 6 pages of seeds these teens memorized will remain deeply planted in the soil of their young hearts bringing fruit in godly lives and others coming to Christ. The questions were taken from Romans, Ephesians, and lessons on logic. If you’d like to give it a try, here are a few questions that 29 Tsongas now know like the back of their hands.
• Who are the four groups of people God loves in Romans 5:6-10?
• What is the mystery that Paul talks about in Ephesians 3?
• What makes the difference between rich nations and poor nations?
If you have any ministry with youth, may I highly recommend the most profitable (and exciting) youth activity I have ever seen.
Starting this evening in a village within walking distance of ours we will be meeting with Solly Chauke and a number of his neighbors for the first of a series of weekly Bible studies. I have studied privately with Solly and about 9 adults in 7 different homes in that area who have all responded well so far. But in an effort to save my time for others and to slowly impact them with the Gospel, God has opened the door of this man’s house once a week. I am encouraged to think of my friend in Cambodia, Forrest McPhail, whose church was birthed out of a home Bible study like this one.
We presently have the beginnings of a churchplant, but it is so up and down. However, if God would draw people through these evening Bible studies, we might see a significant increase to our fledgling group on Sundays. I will include a list of those who have been most interested.
• Matsiari—a Venda man who knows Tsonga well and is very interested in learning the Bible.
• Solly—a Tsonga man who works in town and is admittedly not a Christian, but very near to the narrow gate.
• Phukwani—a Sotho man who knows Tsonga, but has a problem with his legs. He is unable to walk well, but glad that we can start studying at his neighbor’s.
• Sithole—a Tsonga lady who is very religious, but admittedly not born again.
• Chavalala—a Tsonga lady who is younger than the others and eager to bring her friends.
Also please pray for me to have wisdom in selecting the right messages. I am considering going through 1 John or the salvation parables.
Sowing the seed,
Seth and Amy
28 September 2008
NINE NEW BAPTISTS
The water borrowed its chill from an unusually brisk September morning last Sunday when we saw nine new Christians profess their faith publicly. Despite the coolness, we heard some encouraging testimonies including seven names of other teens in the church who had brought them to Jesus. Here’s a few samples:
• Lemuel: He’s a 15-year old boy from our village of Makhongele. Tiyani, another boy in our church led him to Christ about 8 months ago, and he has been on fire since then. Somewhat quiet, he still goes on evangelism—if the people he is speaking to can hear him. He’s also top of his class in school.
• Nyeleti and Oakley: Two 12-year olds who testified Sunday that the first time they heard the Gospel was during the Bible Club Amy and I ran about two years ago. Two more good reasons to reach them young! And yes, we did sing, “It’s Bible Time!” in Tsonga. Our best high school girl, Thandi, was nearly in tears as Nyeleti told the congregation that she was saved because Thandi explained the Gospel to her two years ago.
• Rhudzani: At 21 he came to our church and then to Christ after attending a miracle, health-and-wealth church. His friend invited him to study with us on Thursdays, and Rhudzani faithfully did for about 6 months before I confronted him with Ephesians 28-9 after a Sunday service. He has been faithful to church and evangelism since then, and was happily baptized into open communion last Sunday.
• Themba: One of five that was baptized from Dan and Joy’s area. At 17 he has demonstrated strong leadership and spiritual conviction. And what soul-stirring sermon brought this boy to salvation? A message at the youth group about the danger of beer. However, that was after he had been coming for many weeks.
Please pray for these converts to endure and bear fruit.
UP AND DOWN IN ELIM
Starting a church from scratch has proved to be the most difficult thing I have attempted in my life. At this time there are 15 active church members with a few still under church discipline. That number is encouraging until you hear that only four of them are adults. Neither Amy and myself nor the children are counted, but we have about 10-12 solid teens. A men’s Bible study on Wednesday evenings in another village may eventually produce more adult men, but everything takes time. I once heard a pastor in Michigan described as having “hewed his converts out of the rock,” and I think I know now what he meant.
Limpopo Bible Institute nears the end of its first academic year. Five students have stuck with us for over 300 hours of instruction in English, OT and NT survey, Romans, Matthew, the Pastoral Epistles, and 1 and 2 Corinthians. The youthful lecturers are being stretched as we write syllabi for the next classes, but what a rewarding exercise! We have already received more applications for next year than our present situation will allow, so your prayers that we would be able to wisely plan for the future would be appreciated.
A glance at the calendar reminded me that we have 3 weeks exactly until we climb on the airplane to return home for 3 months. Preparing for this leave of absence makes me ask, “How do missionaries do it if they have to go home for a year?” If you are anywhere near Schaumburg, IL, we would love to see you at Bethel Baptist Church on 26 October. In the meantime, I believe it would honor God for you to ask for these requests on our behalf during our furlough.
1. Pray that the members of our churchplant will attend services and stay away from sin.
2. Pray that the reports and messages delivered to the churches in the States would ignite interest for God’s glory among the unreached people groups of the world.
3. Pray for Daniel and Paul’s ministry here in SA to experience unusual success. One last thing, if anyone knows a used car that we could purchase for our time in the US, I would be glad to hear about a lead.
Investing in eternity,
Seth and Amy
11 October 2008 ~ The Statistics
Only a trifling 45 minutes late we started what we hope will become an annual youth conference for Christian teens in the Limpopo area. Around 90 teens eventually packed into our rented facilities to hear 5 sermons, sing songs, play games, mingle, and eat for this all day event. The theme this year was relationships with five sermons addressing key battlegrounds: How to Choose a Spouse, Good and Bad Friendship, Biblical Masculinity / Femininity (split session), and Moral Purity. I wish you could have heard the music and singing as well. Amy led a choir that sang “Xinyimpfana Xo Phatluka” (The Broken Lamb), and a men’s group sang an acappella song in three languages.
Of the 12 teens that I interviewed after the conference, 10 of them voted for “How to Choose a Spouse” as the best sermon, and only one gave my message on friendship a charity vote. This seemed to indicate what we felt during the day, that the national pastors’ messages were the conference’s greatest successes. Philemon Mashau, a Venda pastor, and Godfrey Ngomane, a Tsonga, delivered touching, relevant, persuasive calls to the eager group God gave us.
We compiled these statistics below as a way for you to get a picture of some interesting aspects of our life and ministry over the past 4 years.
14 ½ Weeks we have been without a vehicle for repairs. We only tallied the days if they went past a week.
1 Babies we have had
1 Man baptized
3 Teammates the Lord gave us
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.
75 Minutes Amy was at the hospital before Caleb showed up 10 Supporting churches
5 Students at Limpopo Bible Institute the first year
5.40 Cost of gas per gallon in dollars
6-9 The exchange rate—we used to get 6 rand for a dollar, now it’s 9 to 1.
13 Different ministries attempted
14 Appliances broken—this is not counting multiple breaks on the same appliance.
4 Theft / break ins among the team
3 Houses built (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
8 Days until we get on the plane
Preparing for the trumpet,
Seth and Amy
2 December 2008 ~ First Furlough
SOME GREAT MEMORIES
• In Chariton, IA the pastor called a men’s prayer meeting where 25 men gathered on an average Sunday afternoon to pray for 2 ½ hours. I owe a debt to this assembly for modeling mature, corporate prayer for me to watch and learn from.
• One young mother showed me her three year old son reminding me of a verse that I had referenced three years ago when at her church. In God’s providence that verse strengthened this scared girl to choose life instead of an abortion. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
• In Taylorsville, MD the pastors gave me several hours of theological discussion and a great commentary on the Gospel of Luke. I didn’t get my tasks done that morning, but the energy from conversing with those fellowlaborers will prove to be valuable to me as we return to SA.
• In Latrobe, PA, at least four people thanked me for preaching a long sermon.
• In Groton, MA, the pastor won Caleb’s heart in a matter of minutes. I have not seen Caleb go to any American that quickly. This particular home has always modeled a strong family that Amy and I delight to enter. May God give us that same bond.
People have been overflowing in their kindness to us as we travel. From patience as we arrive late, to late-night Christian fellowship, to generous gifts, fellow Christians have refreshed us everywhere we have gone. Amy and I marvel at the sense of Christian unity that binds believers through the Spirit.
UPDATES ON THE COLLEGE
Our teammates Paul and Daniel are carrying a significant load of administrative details while we are in America for these three months. LBI ended its first year with good attitudes among the five students, and we have since received another 12 applications for the new year starting February 9th. So here’s the problem: We now have 17 students who need a place to stay during the semester. The plot gets thicker when you add in the fact that SA is the 30th driest country in the world. We are struggling to find a suitable dormitory, and finding water further complicates the situation. If we can’t find accommodations we may have to refuse the students.
Please ask God to give us a dorm room suitable for 20 students with some option for us to get water to the site. Daniel and Paul especially need wisdom since they are making so many decisions right now. Also, as we three prepare the curriculum please pray that we would write strong, Scriptural syllabi. A number of people have asked what they can do for us—praying for us during this formative stage in the college is the most important involvement you could have.
BIGGER IS BETTER
As Caleb will turn two in April, we’ve already chosen his birthday present: a baby brother or sister. Amy is due this April just in time for Caleb’s birthday. As we prayed (and are praying) for Caleb to be wise in the Scriptures, we are praying for this child to be sensitive to the Spirit. We’re pretty sure that it will be either a girl or a boy, so pass on any great ideas for names if you like.
Joyful in Jesus,
Seth and Amy