Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October Update

It is hard to believe that it has been almost 3 months since the last post. It has been my intention, believe me, to have had several posts by now, but for whatever reason, I have not completed any. I believe this is a form of spiritual warfare because in these updates, Jody and I try to give God all the glory. I know that the enemy is not happy as our focus continues to be on the Lord.

Our work continues with pockets of joy, successes, and disappointments. The work in 39 is progressing slowly. Million and I continue to go out and share with Goodwin. In one of my recent conversations with him, I asked Goodwin what good have our visits had? I had kind of been having the feelings of "what's the use - am I doing any good." He responded by saying that "I know that Jesus loves me!" His response almost brought tears to my eyes and I was greatly encouraged and knew that God was using our work out there.

Every Wednesday evening, our team members here in Mmabatho meet for prayer. During this time we are able to share with each other the activities and ministries of the previous week. One of our recent comments has been "We'll never know..." As one of our team member's term is coming to a close, we've been sharing about how her ministry has changed from what she thought she was going to do and what God has her doing right now. Just the little things that we do that we think don't matter - we have seen God do some mighty things!

Jody continues her work and is doing a great job in her ministry. I am so proud of her as a husband and ministry partner. She has such a heart for the Tswana people. It breaks her heart to be in contact with some many children and babies and know that their future is not too bright! If we could, we'd have a house full of Tswana children. Jody's work in Moshawane had a touch of sadness as a faithful lady of her Bible studies died of AIDS leaving 6 children. However, we continue to press on knowing the peace that only our Loving Saviour brings.

The children are all doing great. We have about 4 weeks of school left before we head home. Jody is teaching Bethany how to read through the program "Sing, Spell, Read and Write" The first song is an Alphabet Song helping her to learn the letters and sounds. Well, right in the middle of everything is Melody singing louder than anyone wanting the song to be replayed. It was an incredible sight when she was playing out in the garage (separated from and behind the house), Jody turned that song on and turned it up. She heard it, made a bee-line from the garage, down the driveway, into the house, through the kitchen door, and up on her chair with her "homework" book open singing away. I have it recorded on video. Andy started 9th grade in September - wow! where has the time gone? He got his braces off last week - so he is ready for our return to the States - he won't have to miss out on all the "sweets!" Josiah continues with his "A" work. He is motivated to get into his school room, work ahead and get his work done and be done for the day - by mid-morning. Caleb is tops in his class. The school has been so good for him from a social aspect. When he started 3 years ago, he kept to himself. His teacher was a little concerned at the beginning. Now, 3 years later, he tells us "...because I am popular!" We just laugh with him!!

I had the opportunity in September to go to Zambia for a training meeting. We drove! It was a long, long trip. I was able to do something that I am sure not many people are able to say they have done. We were able to eat 3 meals in 3 different countries in one day - actually in about 14 hours. We ate breakfast in Botswana, lunch in Namibia, and supper in Zambia. I had a great time and I am looking forward to the opportunity to return along with the family. Through our drive in northern Botswana, we saw several elephants along side the road - just living! We also saw some zebra and ostrich out in a field. It was neat to see that.

Well, thanks again for your care, concern and prayers. I was deeply touched a couple of days ago when I received an email from a prayer partner. He told me that he had not received the Prayer Calendar that we sent out for October and requested another copy. I had no idea that he was praying and thought enough of us to request another one. Know that your prayers are so important and we appreciate them. "We'll never know..." what your prayers have done for us until we get to heaven. Blessings.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pilanesburg 2009

This last week we had the opportunity to go to Pilanesburg National Park. This is a "Big 5" park. A Big 5 park is a game reserve that contains elephants, rhino, leopard, lion, and Cape buffalo. This is a benchmark for parks in Africa. We were on our way to Johannesburg for a doctor's appointment. We left the house a 4:00 am to get there when the gates opened at 6:30. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and eat a little breakfast that we had packed. We got into the park at 7:00. We had packed lunch and enjoyed it in a secure area inside the park. We drove around until about 1;00 pm and then made our way to J-burg. We always love going to Pilanesburg.
These are four of many giraffe that we saw throughout the park. They were on top of a mountain/hill and we first saw them on the first on the other side. We were close to them - about 30 yards. There are 2 or 3 others that you can't see on the other side.

We really never get tired of seeing these animals. It is fun just to stop the car and watch them. Seeing them run is an experience. They shouldn't be able to travel as fast as go.

Well, what can I say. It had dare all over it!!! In the background is a small lake where some hippo live. Unfortunately, you can't see them too clearly. They just look like big mounds of dirt. Most of the time they are just sunning on the bank. We did see one swimming and snorting around in the water.

This is a Crimson-breasted Boubou. I saw him returning to our car from a "hide." The red is brighter than this picture shows. It is very bright. We have about 10 other pictures, but could never get a good, clear, still picture.

This is a bird that I was watching while we were in the "hide". I have been looking in the bird book we have and I haven't been able to identify it. He would stand up and fan his feathers and then sit back down. He was doing this over and over.

After several trips to this park, we finally saw some lions. They were on the hunt. About a minute before we made contact with the lions, we saw a wart hog running past us. We just thought we saw a warthog. Actually, we were seeing "lunch" for these lions - more like a snack! We watched this situation for about 15 minutes - moving forward, backing up, turning around! At times they were within 20 feet of the car.

This was after they lost sight of lunch. This was on the left side of the road. The crossed over the road and then just "pluncked"down and I guess was just going to wait around.

Can you find the lion in the picture. There really is one in there. He is close - not 10 feet away!

Within 15 minutes of arriving at the park, we found 2 rhino getting breakfast. At times, they were no further than 8 feet from our vehicle. They were just eating and not concerned at all with us at all. There were two together. Andy had his window down as we were driving up to where they were and Bethany said, "I hope they don't poke Andy!"

Just a baby zebra - just cute!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Happy July 4th

We had, including ourselves, 49 people at the house to celebrate Independence Day. The menu was Mexican food. Jody and I prepared beef chimichangas, chicken quesadillas, flour tortillas for soft tacos, mexican rice, pinto beans, pico de gallo and gaucamole. Everyone else brought the rest of the fixin's to complete meal. It was wonderul! It is always a great time when our other missionary friends are able to get together. It was not a typical 4th as many of you in the States were enjoying your 100 degree weather cooking out on the grill. It was cloudy, breezy, and about 55 degrees!
God has blessed us with an incredible missionary family that surrounds us. When we arrived on the field, I did not fully understand the term "missionary family". But during times like these, missing the American holidays that we do, it makes it a lot easier to endure and get through.

Friday, July 03, 2009

July Happenings

A wonderful warm greetings to everyone even though it is freezing over here. I know that some of you would probably want some of our weather. Well, I can guarantee you that I would love some of that Texas weather right now. It is cold here and it is not going to get warm for another month.

We want to share with you some stories demonstrating God’s might hand working around us.

From Jody: The Lord has been so gracious in the ministry He has given to me. It feels like each time I get a little discouraged about being here, He lets me have a glimpse of what He’s up to. About two weeks ago, I was out in Ext.39. When we arrived, the only one there was the lady in whose house we meet. I told her it was OK, that I would just share with her. We were talking about the portion in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us to give in secret. Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. She listened with great interest as I told her the story of Ananias and Sapphira. After I finished, she asked if she could ask a question. She has been going to a church where the pastor would call people up to the front to give a certain amount of money. All she had was a two-rand coin. (Worth about 25 cents) The pastor told them not to fill up his baskets with one, two, or five rands. He wanted people to give big amounts. She felt so ashamed that she only had two rands to give. Imagine my inexpressible joy as God brought to my mind the story of the widow and her two mites. Mma Salamane is a widow as well. It brings tears to my eyes just writing about this. She was so appreciative about me helping her understand this. She tells me that every time we come out there, they learn something. Only God can do this. He gives me strength. By the way, the pastor told them to give the “small” money to the beggars. I told her to do just that. “When you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”

From Dennis: God continues to show his faithfulness and answering prayers. I had been seeking to do some other things and occupy a little bit more of my time. I had been praying for God to show me where He was working. Several month ago, I had set up several preaching times with Ben Poo, pastor of United Baptist Church. There are several branches around Mmabatho and over the last several weeks I had been making my rounds. This last Sunday I went to a branch that I had never been to before. It was about an hour’s drive away. We arrived at 10:15 and started 10 minutes later with 3 people in the building. After some singing, praying, singing, testimonies, singing, offering, singing, special music, singing, I got into the pulpit at 12:45. Ben introduced me and shared briefly about my ministry in Mmabatho. I preached from 2 Timothy 2.2 and the 5 generations in that verse. I shared with them the importance telling others – someone told them and if each one reach one, well, then this village would be turned upside down. After church was over, several of the ladies approached Ben and asked when we were coming back to lead in teaching them how to witness and reach their village. What an incredible day that God set up weeks before hand to answer my prayers.

Someone emailed me and asked what Ext 39 is. Let me briefly explain. Extension 39 in a government subsidized subdivision. Back in 1994, with the fall of Apartheid and the new democratic government, the new gov’t promised the people that they would build 10 million homes for people that didn’t have proper housing. This is a result of that promise. In this area are about 2500, 450 sq ft houses with running water and electricity – they just got electricity a month ago after living there for 3 years. So in this area is about 10,000 people – a perfect place for a church. God put this area on mine and Jody’s hearts as we were leaving for the States and returning in 2007/08.

One more from Jody: Out in Moshawane, God continues to work there also. Several weeks I have had 13-14 women and about that many children. That next week, I was asking them to tell the story we had gone over the week before. The woman of the house, Maboka, usually tells the story back to me. She’s good at it, too! This time, however, she decided she wasn’t going to talk so that another one of the group could tell the story. Kelebogile and Maboka had been talking about the story the day before, so Maboka said that Kelebogile needed to tell it. Now, you may be asking what the big deal is. Well, for them to be willing to tell the story themselves is a major breakthrough. Usually, I have to ask them questions and coax the story out of them. Anyway, Kelebogile told the story and we were able to add on to that what we were studying that day. The other thing is that they were discussing the story WITHOUT Lorato and me being there! It just made my heart glad to hear it! Some of those who can read bring their Bibles and notebooks and take notes. God is just so awesome! To Him be the Glory!

The Lord is good – all the time – all the time – the Lord is good. Thanks for your continued prayers and support. Believe me, we feel your prayers and would not want to be here without them.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Vacation at Kaya Umdani

All I know is that God has blessed beyond anything I deserve -
what an incredible wife I have and these 5 blessings -
what a joy - I am wealthier than Bill Gates!

BFF's - Jody and Lisa Jones

For our vacation, we went to Kaya Umdani, which is a lodge outside of Kruger National Park. This was an wonderful opportunity for us just to relax with some friends. Outside the spacious, back porch they had a swimming area, fire pit, and braai area. The boys loved having a fire each night.

We saw some beautiful birds as we travel through Kruger. This is a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.

This is a Lilac-breasted Roller.

These giraffe walked around the area in which we stayed. On the website,it showed giraffe drinking at the water hold behind where we stay. I figured with all the noise the boys were making swimming we wouldn't have that photo opportunity ourselves!

We went to Kruger National Park on Tuesday afternoon and saw these hippos enjoying the water and the sun. We have seen most the animals that we would like to except for the big cats. Unfortunately we will have to wait for another time.

Well, we had to eat. This was some chicken and baked potatoes. Eventually, I took those potatoes off and put them back into the fire pit and covered them with hot coals. Um, um!

This is a bush-baby monkey looking out its little nest/house. This was hanging in a tree outside one of the bedrooms on the second floor.

This was Josiah's and Landon's bedroom. This was the sixth bedroom above the porch that really wasn't advertised. You can see the porch below through the wood slats and the walls are just screened in. Those are fur blankets on the bed. It was cool!!! I was a little envious, but more happy for their experience!

This is just a big giraffe that saw as we were entering a animal reserve. He was on the outside. There were some other giraffe that on the other side of the fence. I think he was telling them that the grass was greener on this side.

Swimming is always fun with your friends. The water was kind of cool, but they swam anyway. We knew that with them swimming the animals that normally walk through the area would be leary about coming around.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April Update

Hello Everyone – it is hard to believe how fast time has passed since the last update. Part of my dad’s philosophy was “No news in good news!” I would agree on the most part with that. We have had a lot of things happening and none of it seems to be bad or sad. Except for the occasional sniffle, we have remained incredibly healthy. As active the boys are in the back yard playing football and basketball and the girls on the trampoline, we have yet to have a serious injury. We praise the Lord for His watch-care over us.

FROM Jody - I am still going to Moshawane and Ext. 39 every week on Wednesdays. To be honest, I’m not sure where God is leading next. I see so many needs, and there are times I feel overwhelmed. The ladies in both places are doing well, and I want to continue to dig a bit deeper in the Word with them. Please pray for direction for me.
We had a great time at Mission meeting and on vacation. It was nice to get away for awhile. I’m sure we’ll be posting some pictures on the blog and Facebook soon. Melody sang at the Talent Show at Mission meeting. The crowd enjoyed it. She wanted to sing again the next day!
We’re still on break from school for one more week. Pray for the boys at home as they finish their year.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. We love you all very much.

FROM Dennis – I have been preaching regularly at Calvary Baptist Church where we are without a pastor. Calvary is where we attend as a family. The church is a block away and Jody and the kids can easily walk there when I am preaching in the village or at another church. Today, I was at United Baptist Church. Pastor Ben Poo (Poe) has been one of my best partners in ministry. He was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, so he has a heart for evangelism. They have several branches, so I will be preaching in those churches in the next several weeks. I have been going almost every day with my friend Million out to Extension 39. It has been encouraging to see the spiritual growth in Goodwin, as he asked more questions about Scripture. Many times I just sit with him and talk about the things of the day. I use those topics to bridge to spiritual ideas and concepts. Million and I have gone next door and lead two other ladies to the Lord also. I was talking with one girl on Thursday before Easter and just asked her about Easter and Good Friday. She really didn’t have an answer. I asked her about Jesus and who He was and all she could give me was a general answer about someone that protects us and is around us. She didn’t have a whole lot of time, but I was able to give her a short, fast version of Creation to the Cross. For the last 2 weeks we have been on vacation and at a Mission meeting in Johannesburg. I am looking to start a group in Ext 39 this week when we get finished with holidays here in South Africa. From April 20 to May 1 – there are 5 public holidays. On the long weekends, I have noticed that people go away.
Since Jody didn’t share these stories, I will. One Wednesday, when Jody and Lorato were in Moshawane a man came in and listened to her story. Now, this was not just any man – this was a man whose wife attended Jody’s group. This was the man who threw kerosene on her and lit her on fire. She has since recovered. Needless to say, Jody was not too happy with this man’s presence. However, he sat through the story and continued to stay. Jody didn’t want to, but she started to talk to this man. He ended up giving his heart to Christ. He returned the next Wednesday to hear the story. God loves people!!! In Ext. 39, the lady of the house that Jody meets in has a son just graduating from high school. They do not have the finances for him to go to university. We have been praying for God to make a way – and He did. He is going to join the navy and they will pay for his education. He wants to become a doctor. This lady also gave up an opportunity to work because it would have meant for her to miss Jody’s group on Wednesday. With unemployment around 40%, she sacrificed a lot to not miss “church.”

VACATION - From April 15th to April 20th, we were in Johannesburg for our Annual Missionary Training Meeting. Missionaries from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Indian Oceans Islands gathered together. There were about 220 adults and 130 children and teens. It is always a good time to see our missionary family. On the morning of the 20th we traveled east about 400 kilometers to the southern part of Kruger National Park. We vacationed with our friends, the Jones, from Botswana. They joined us in language school in September 2004. At the time, our 3 boys and their 2 boys became fast friends. We have enjoyed our times together and look forward to the next time. We were able to stay at a house just 400 meters from Crocodile River which forms the border for Kruger. We had an incredible time. The “subdivision” we stayed in had warthog, giraffe, zebra, and many other animals just roaming around. We had kudu, impala, and warthog right around the house. We saw several giraffe just driving to and from the house.

PRAISES/PRAYER REQUEST – We praise the Lord for the doors that He continues to open and how He leads us. Please pray that in the next two weeks Million and Dennis can get a discipleship group started in Extension 39. Please pray for Jody and what she needs to teach the ladies in Moshawane and in 39. She has completed a study on the Beatitudes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Kenya Elephant

In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University.

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Over twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over so it was close to where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, and then put it down. The elephant did that several times and then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs, and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

It probably wasn't the same elephant.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Latest Happenings

It's hard to believe that almost 2 months are gone in 2009! God continues to show His faithfulness and we are so thankful for His grace and mercy toward us.

Our work here continues to be rewarding, even when it seems nothing is going on. God has promised that His Word does not return void and we are seeing Him prove Himself once again.

With the beginning of 2009, it seemed like both Jody and I were starting over and not sure where to start. God has confirmed to Jody that both places where she was last year, she was to continue. She has had good attendance in both places of ministry - the village of Moshawane and Extension 39. God confirmed this to her through the passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus teaches about Kingdom Life -- "Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him..." Jody has used the Beatitudes as her teaching platform. God has showed her some neat and deep truths and both of us have been surprised that they are 'getting' it. God is so good.

For myself, I have been really frustrated on my apparent 'lack of progress." Of all the work that I did last year in Extension 39, I did not see any fruit. In fact, I didn't see much of anything. My national friend, Kagiso, was not able to continue visiting that area, so I had to find another person to go with. The work that a volunteer group did in October hasn't seemed to be very profitable. I know that I cannot judge, but I would like to see something.

Since our arrival in South Africa in 2005, I have allowed a national pastor to take care of our yard - they call it a garden - not a vegetable garden - just a garden. His name is Million and he is worth that much. He has become a great friend and has been my most trusted and dependable partner in ministry. There have been times that I have gone to his house and picked him up to make a visit or just needed him. With him, he and I have been going almost daily to Ext. 39 and just have been witnessing. We were able to lead 33 year-old man to faith in Christ last week. I believe that God will open a door through him to enable us to start a group some kind of meeting group. While we have gone back to Goodwin, Milion has gone next door and has been having a "conversation" with several ladies. They have been most inquisitive and responsive. Million is a natural conversationalist - he doesn't meet a stranger. I am looking forward each afternoon to see what God is going to do. On a side note, after I lead Goodwin in a sinner's prayer, I asked him to say a prayer of thanksgiving for God saving him, Wow, what an honest, simple prayer of thankfulness from Goodwin - it brought tears to my eyes.

Josiah expressed his desire to be homeschooled this year, so in January we brought him home from ISSA - the International School of South Africa. He spent 3 years there and made some good friends. Caleb still attends there and we hear through him many of Josiah's friends are missing him. Jody is doing 5th grade with him until September when he will start 6th grade. We want to keep them on an American school schedule. Caleb is doing 3rd grade at ISSA this year and we will bring him home next year for homeschooling. Next year, Bethany will start Kindergarten at ISSA. Melody is just over 2 and is a total mess (angel). Bethany got some Dora the Explorer computer games for Christmas, and Melody spends more time playing them than she does. Melody can pretty much express herself to let us know what she wants. If she can't say anything, like "aluminum" she will say 'huh,huh,huh' -like you are steaming up your glasses to clean them!! It's so funny!

We are scheduling to be home from November 19, 2009, through January 30, 2010. If you would like for us to come and share at your church, SS class, missions group - please let us know of your interest.

Thanks for your continued prayers as they totally enable us to keep on doing what we are doing. God has been so good and He has blessed so much. We have been kept safe in all of our travels and our health has been unbelieveable. Except for seasonal allergies and colds, we have not experienced any major medical problems. We praise the Lord for His continued grace and mercy.