Hello friends and family! It is amazing how time marches on in the midst of this strange season. In our last update two months ago, South Africa was surging towards its peak with Covid-19 cases. We're currently ranked 7th in the world as far as the total number of confirmed cases, but the new cases per day have dropped substantially over the past few weeks. The government has eased restrictions somewhat, but masks and social-distancing remain, and gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed in homes, but they are discouraged. As businesses try to get back in gear it is becoming clear that many did not survive the extended lock-down. The repercussions of all of this will be long-lasting, and we continue to pray for the Lord to guide us and our church on how best to engage with those who are struggling.
SCRIPTURE UNION NEWS
Faith In Action: Running an Online Holiday Club
When it became impossible to gather children for Holiday Clubs this year, we instead decided to do the next best thing! August 2020 saw the first ever SU Holiday Club as an online National event—aptly named ‘Eye of the Storm’ and hosted by SU staff from around the country.
The Theme was fitting for a number of reasons:
Sickness happened. The main storyteller, Peter Nuttall, began having severe chest pains, was struggling to breathe and was rushed to hospital the night before the Holiday Club was to kick off, being released only at 4am the next morning. He was fine by the time of the launch and still able to do the talks as scheduled.
Load shedding happened—the national power grid was constrained so power went out during the event--not helpful when the event is online! There was extra data available and a fully charged computer was pressed into action. Even though that reserve computer decided it was time to update Windows--as would be the case--the update finished just before the Bible story time was to kick off.
God provided. The three messages for the talks were: God is in Control, God will give you Strength, and Prayer Works. We saw each one of these lessons clearly through our experiences in a tangible way.
All the children who came enjoyed the Holiday Club and wanted to come back another time. They commented as follows:
"What I learned this week is that in whatever challenge I face I can make it through.”
“God is higher than any other and he can give us strength to do anything."
“The activities were very exciting. I had fun learning about people from the Bible. It also taught me how react when I face a challenge. The songs and dancing were loads of fun. I will teach my friends the songs that I learned. Thank you to SU and all the facilitators. I look forward to the next fun holiday club."
“We had lots of fun. I learned a new memory verse and more about Jesus. When we are weak, Jesus makes us strong and when we are sad, Jesus makes us happy. I loved the songs with actions. The best for me was meeting other kids online and seeing my cousin from England. The leaders made us laugh and do fun stuff. I am looking forward for another holiday club!”
“I live in England and it was my first time attending a Bible holiday club. I enjoyed meeting children from South Africa and the leaders who were very funny. I enjoyed the ice breakers and the dancing as well as the activities around the Bible stories. I still remember the verse from Psalms 46:1. I hope there will be more online Bible holiday clubs in the future as I would like to attend them again.”
During the past couple of months, Tim has hosted a weekly podcast for SU, featuring interviews with people who have been involved with SU at some point in their history. These can be heard on the website: su.org.za.
HAPPENINGS AT MOKONE PRIMARY
Schools were open from June 8 until July 24 when they were closed again for between 1 and 4 weeks, depending on the grade. This was due to the high number of daily Covid-19 cases during that time across the country. Grade 7 children came back to Mokone on August 11 and then all of the grades returned on August 24. Most come on staggered days, but at least all of the children are getting some education again. The impact of being out of school for so long is particularly apparent in the grade 6 children that Leslie works with. The grade 7 children are catching up, but the grade 6s only come twice per week, and they are very far behind.
In the previous update we mentioned that the LEAP accelerated math and science high school would be coming to assess the grade 7 children at some point. They came in July, and 10 of the children did well enough on the assessment to be offered a place in grade 8 for 2021. Thank you for your prayers for this. This is an amazing opportunity for those who are able to go there. Now we would ask that you pray that the families of those 10 children will recognize what a great opportunity this is for their children and that they would commit to sending them there. The school requires a non-refundable registration fee of roughly $80, which must be paid by the end of September. Monthly school fees from next year will be roughly $25/month. For some of these families, paying the registration fee will be a big challenge, as most of them really have no margin in their monthly budgets. We plan to meet with the parents and discuss options, so that hopefully no child will be forced to miss this opportunity because of finances.
Leslie is hoping to be able to start the Bible club up again soon, with Covid modifications. Please pray for a plan to be worked out and for wisdom in how to proceed.
In our last update we asked for prayer for Pastor Julius and his wife Lulama, who were both exhibiting signs of Covid-19. Their test results were positive, and they had a rocky couple of weeks, but thankfully they have both fully recovered! Several of the children and caregivers at the children's home also tested positive, but all have recovered. Once Pastor Julius was well, we were able to transfer ownership of Sam and Emily Copeland's car to them, which is a real blessing for them, as their other car was totaled in an accident in April.
Our congregation has continued to be very supportive of families in Langa. We have been able to provide grocery vouchers to 30 families every two weeks, as well as blankets. Many families are really struggling, and this has been a tangible way to show God's love.
Tim had the opportunity to preach for a Langa Common Ground Church service a few weeks ago, which was recorded from our house and uploaded to the Commonground Church Langa YouTube Channel. Access to data is a challenge for many of their members, so sermons are kept very short. Other Common Ground congregations view a longer service every week which can be viewed later on Facebook or YouTube. We are in the process of making plans to have in-person services again soon, which will be limited to a maximum of 50 people in attendance including the worship team and support staff. Since our congregation is fairly large, most people will continue to view church online while others rotate through the live services each week.
In August, Tim was able to get his Ph.D. dissertation published on Amazon in the hopes that it will be useful to help encourage churches to engage issues of injustice as part of our gospel mandate to love our neighbors. It is available on Kindle or in printed format if you are interested in obtaining a copy.
We are coming out of a cold, wet winter here, and are thrilled to be able to report that the reservoir levels are currently over 90% capacity, higher than they have been since 2014. It was only just over 2 years ago that "Day Zero" was looming as the predicted day that we would run out of water.
Due to the easing of some of the Covid-19 restrictions, we have been able to get back out and enjoy the beauty of the Western Cape again. We have included a few pictures, hoping that these might entice some of you to come to visit us when travel is allowed again!
We are very thankful that our family and friends in the U.S. have continued to be healthy and relatively unscathed by the pandemic. We are hopeful that we will be able to visit them before too many more months.
In this newsletter we wanted to encourage everyone by showing how our faithful Father has been answering prayers. James 5:16 says, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Thank you for praying with us; we have seen the Lord answering prayers so faithfully. Thank you so much for your love and support, and we pray that you will stay physically healthy, emotionally strong, and spiritually rejuvenated in the coming weeks. Please let us know how we can pray for you.