Gerald and I have been going through some major changes in our life these past few months, mainly due to reaching retirement age – although none of this will affect our involvement in the ministry! But through the years, I have learned to focus on the new situation rather than keep looking back. In John 15 Jesus taught his disciples about the importance of pruning in order to produce a better, more abundant crop. Every year when we grow carrots, I have to repeatedly go down the row and pull out many of the young plants to give more room for the others to grow. It always seems sad to me that I should have to throw away so many good, tiny plants, but I know that unless I do so, the remaining carrots just cannot grow to be strong and healthy. But the resulting crop well proves the point!
Gerald and I are preparing to move into a small apartment after living in our East Texas home for 31 years, and so we have had to do some harsh “thinning out” of our belongings! It was difficult to say “no” to items that still hold great potential (especially for a crafty person like me!) and to old cards or mementos from past loved ones. We have to face the reality that what we hold dear in our heart is far more important than any mere material item; and “pruning” IS a good thing – as long as we remain truly rooted in the vine (Jesus)! He alone knows what He has planned ahead for us, so as long as we keep focused on Him we will flourish because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever – no matter where we are located physically! We hope you enjoy the news of how our African partners continue to flourish in spite of the many problems they face. Blessings, Gerald and Shirley.
Mike in Kenya did some great ministry with his team in schools in Southern Kenya in May, and as a result some 80 souls came to Jesus. Thankfully Mike’s contacts there and a good Christian family at one school will continue to disciple these new young believers. His team is seen in the first photo enjoying a quick visit to the nearby Tanzanian border.
Not long after, Mike was able to attend a conference in Nairobi where he both met with friends and was also refreshed spiritually after some particularly busy months of ministry and travel. This photo of two cute children shows them carefully collecting water bottles – probably not to recycle them but to be able to use them at home! It’s a good reminder that in Africa so much of what we would throw away is truly cherished as valuable!
Pastor Honoré in C.A.R. writes that the situation is still very unstable in the country and the only area with some form of law still is the capital, Bangui. However even there, there are frequent clashes between groups and even with the UN peacekeepers – one of whom was killed earlier this week. The many different rebel groups operate throughout Central Africa, disregarding borders between countries and terrorizing everyone. A very informative, but sad, short news video (from Vice news) tells of how thousands of children (boys and girls) are captured and forced to be child soldiers, at times passed from one group to another and threatened with death if they escape. Yet in spite of all this, Pastor Honoré says his church continues to grow each month, with faith that God is their only hope and defender. We pray daily for protection and provision for him and his congregation. He has also recently taken on a new project with a supporter here in the USA – to translate the Bible into the local language of Yakoma. He has been furnished with a new laptop, USB keys and a generator which will both help with the project and also be a blessing to his ministry in general. They have already finished the Book of John, which will be a great blessing to many in the region. We pray for God to bless this huge task!
Pastor Sika in Togo just sent us a very long and exciting report of his ministry over the past few months, which we will share in more detail in coming newsletters. He reports that both he and Lucie, his wife, have been sick again recently, but are now doing better. Togo also is undergoing an intense political crisis with fast-rising prices (especially for Internet use), military take-over of the capital, and severe restrictions on public travel. Nevertheless, Pastor Sika remains committed to pursue the various ministries and opportunities for evangelism that God puts on his heart. Bethany Baptist church in Lomé, which he pastors, recently held a baptism for 8 new believers, and he promotes frequent teaching series so that the people can grow spiritually and be strengthened in their faith and learn to live more godly lives.
He reports that although the rains arrived late, they have been abundant, and all the crops at the Joseph Project Orphanage are growing well (as seen in the pictures), so they are hoping for a good harvest in a month or so. Sadly the rain brought a serious mosquito problem, and several of the children caught malaria and were sick, in spite of getting new mosquito nets for the beds. Getting them medical treatment was difficult and expensive (with the current political situation) but they have all recovered now, thankfully. The children are doing well and growing spiritually, but due to rising prices, an average of $1,200 US is needed each month for food, clothing, medical care and staff salaries. We pray God will meet this need either through increased donations or by supplying more somehow locally there in Togo.
Pastor Sika and his team continue to visit and share the Gospel in Agbanakin and other villages known for being very resistant to the Gospel. As they have often done before, they started by holding regular children’s meetings, first using the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, then bible stories, games and other children’s ministry methods. As can be seen by these photos, these meetings have become very well-attended and now even more children are being brought in from nearby villages also strongly entrenched in idol worship. However there is continual opposition, with local witch doctors accusing Pastor Sika of stealing children and being involved in child-trafficking! We will share more next month. Please keep this in your prayers!