Hello friends and family! We are thrilled to have made it to December in a year marked by so much uncertainty and instability, along with so many "new normals." In spite of all of the changes, we are so thankful to have a Heavenly Father who never changes and who has promised to never leave us or forsake us.
In our last update at the end of September South Africa was beginning to show signs of recovery with regard to Covid-19 infection rates and economic activity. That trend continued until very recently, with our daily case numbers holding steady for a couple of months. In the past two weeks cases have started rising again in a few hotspots, including Cape Town. This is a concern, since December marks the "Festive Season," which normally entails a lot of holiday traveling between provinces and large family gatherings. We are still waiting to see what the government may do to try to contain the virus without further damaging the economy. Tourism is normally a huge part of the economy, especially in Cape Town, and many businesses are struggling with the severely reduced numbers of tourists since March. December and January are usually peak season for visitors from overseas, but the number of people traveling this year will be greatly reduced. We pray that people will be able to come up with creative ways to stay afloat until things are able to open up again.
SCRIPTURE UNION NEWS
FATHER SON Camp | Western Cape
The following is a reflection from a recent Father/Son 'Coming-of-Age' camp:
Many cultures around the world place great significance on the transition of a boy becoming a man. It is no small thing for a boy to decide the kind of man he wants to be. So, in the midst of a global pandemic, a number of boys and their fathers headed off for a camping experience to welcome the journey into the teen years and get out of the city for an SU 'Coming-of-Age' camp.
The boys got to spend fun time with their buddies as they played soccer, walked up the mountain, swam in a toxic-colored pool in the rain, did acrobatics on the trampoline, made a fire, and challenged the wilds of kitchen duty. Fun times…
But in between the spaces, we realized something that was deeply profound. It was not just our sons that were graduating into manhood, but the fathers were graduating, too. Our roles as dad and father also had to mature so that we could continue to “Train up a child in the way he should go...” (Proverbs 22:6). Many of the dads realized that they were 'suffering in silence,' thinking that they were messing up in their roles. There seemed to be an unburdening in being reminded that they were not alone and that their sons were gifts from the Father to guide. And their heavenly Father would be there on the journey.
I saw the impact on my son when he read letters addressed to him from men who have gone before, challenging and encouraging him to be both steadfast and caring – a man who says what he means and means what he says.
In reflection, I realise that while the emphasis was on the boys, Jesus spoke deeply to the dads – and we heard Him. I too can introduce my son saying, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”.
Eugene Rens | Father
Camp was special for me because I could spend time with my Dad and my friends where I got to know my friends more. I also found out that some of my friends have no idea how to peel a potato!
Luca Rens | Son
HAPPENINGS AT MOKONE PRIMARY
After a very tumultuous and disruptive year, schools are winding down. Children are in exams this week, and then schools close on the 11th for their summer holiday. Schools are only re-opening at the end of January.
Leslie has been the grade 6 math teacher at Mokone since the children came back in August, as the official teacher took an extended leave of absence after the death of her husband. Some of the children managed to catch up and do well, but many others struggled without a teacher that could speak to them in isiXhosa. They will have a lot of catching up to do next year.
After a long hiatus, the Bible Club was able to proceed again with a limited number of children. The ones who faithfully attended were very keen and engaged. During our first session post-lockdown, Leslie asked the children to describe some of their experiences when school was closed. The responses were very sobering. Many children were not getting enough food, and one boy said that his family was constantly fighting over using the limited amount of electricity. Home is not a safe place for many of the children that we work with, and they were delighted to be back at school. We had a bit of a party at the final Bible Club and we prayed for the grade 7 children, as they will be moving to high school next year. It was bittersweet having to say good-bye to them.
Our congregation at church once again gave generously towards providing stationery packs for the Grade 7 learners so that they will have some items to start them off in high school in January. Each pack includes pens, pencils, an eraser and sharpener, a ruler, and a Reach4Life Bible. In addition, church members wrote notes of encouragement and prayers for each child, and the packs also included a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a cloth facemask this year. We hope the children will feel loved and blessed.
For the past couple of months we have been able to have live church services with up to 250 people in the building, while live-streaming the service for others. It has really been wonderful to be able to come back together in this way.
We are grateful that we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a few friends. There is so much to be thankful for, in spite of all of the challenges of this year.
Tim's mother fell a few weeks ago and had to have hip surgery. She is now recovering at home, but it will take some time for her to regain her strength. Tim would love to be able to visit his family, but that just doesn't seem wise under the current circumstances. We hope that the pandemic will calm down enough to make a visit possible sometime next year.
As we reflect on all that has and hasn't happened in 2020, we are in awe of the greatness and majesty of God. This year has given us all a chance to re-evaluate our priorities and to be thankful for the many ways in which we are blessed. God has clearly been at work, and he is moving to bring his kingdom to earth. In Luke 9:43, after Jesus rebuked an evil spirit in a boy and healed him, it says, "Awe gripped the people as they saw this display of God's power," (NLT). In the ESV it says, "And all were astonished at the majesty of God." This is how 2020 has made us feel. Only God could have brought the whole world to a standstill. His power inspires awe and creates an intense awareness of his majesty. May we never lose sight this.
Thank you for standing with us and praying with us this year. God has been so faithful. Thank you so much for your love and support, and we pray that you will stay physically healthy, emotionally strong, and spiritually rejuvenated as we head toward celebrating the birth of Jesus. Have a blessed Christmas, and please let us know how we can pray for you.