Dear Praying Friends,
Greetings from Knysna, where it is still cold and rainy, just like last month! We now realise that there really is such a thing as winter in Africa, complete with snow-capped mountains and frost dotting the ground and windshields. Of course, it’s nothing like the cold, bitter winters of the north-east US; but still, we find ourselves longing for the heat to return!
Our Recent Move
As some of you may be aware, we moved into a new house on August 31st. There is a long story about how this house became available, but we’ll share the shorter version. In Knysna, renting a house is very expensive. Most rentals are only short-term (one to three months) so that home-owners can drastically inflate prices for the holiday months. Long-term rentals are scarce and costly in their own right. Plus, “long-term” is normally considered to be only one year, so foreigners living in Knysna have to move often. Ever since we moved here, we have been praying about purchasing a home to avoid over-inflated rental costs and potentially having to move each year.
Back in the summer of 2016, once we knew God was leading us to South Africa, we sold our home in Lansdale. It was a sellers’ market then, and we received our full asking price. We set aside the proceeds to eventually purchase something here in Knysna, not knowing if it would be possible or how soon it might happen. In April of this year, a friend of ours mentioned a house for sale, in our neighbourhood (Brenton-on-Sea), for a great price. Our personal savings came close to the required deposit, but not enough to secure a bank loan for the remainder. Then, this same friend connected us with a company out of Cape Town that specialises in helping foreigners purchase homes in South Africa. This was exactly what we needed to get a loan large enough to combine with a deposit amount that we could afford.
We are now in the process of purchasing this home, with a deposit from our personal savings, and a loan from the company in Cape Town. For the month of September, we are technically renting from the original owner until all paperwork is completed. The details are boring; but the home is soon to be ours, and we will pay it off in monthly instalments much like a traditional mortgage. This opportunity allows us permanence in our neighbourhood, deeper friendships with our neighbours for outreach purposes, equity in a lovely part of Knysna, and lower monthly housing costs. We have sought wise counsel from many, including estate agents, attorneys, church leaders, close friends, and family. We know that any home purchase can be risky, but God has clearly provided, and we stand amazed at what He has allowed for us!
Our Ongoing Ministries
While all this has added busyness to our lives, the ministry opportunities in which we are involved move ahead. The Biblical Leadership Institute continues to fill a great need for theological education in our region. We are now into our second course in both locations. For the Knysna location, we are teaching Bible Survey, giving students an overview of all 66 books of the Bible over the course of roughly three months. For the Sedgefield location, we are teaching Christian Worldview, engaging our students with biblical responses to questions of reality, truth, and goodness. Our students taking the courses for credit are realising the work involved and the commitment needed. Thankfully, only a couple have dropped off, and some of that is expected. Please pray that our students will endure and find the right balance in their lives to accommodate their studies.
Church planting efforts continue, as we are involved with the Hunter family in developing our current mid-week Bible study in Belvidere. This study has been going well, with a handful of people attending who are not presently committed to another church. This is exciting, and it’s a great start; but we are also working to enter the lives of several unbelievers who are curiously supportive from a distance. Please pray that they will be open to the Gospel and willing to give their lives to Jesus Christ. True discipleship is our goal, as we are not content to simply put on a good show and attract people willing to sign up for some shallow version of Christianity. We are committed to a dependence on God’s Word, the love of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw people to saving faith.
A couple churches here – Lagoonside Baptist Church in Knysna and Lakeside Baptist Church in Sedgefield – are in the process of being handed over to South African pastors. We missionary types remain involved and helping these churches along; but the goal of any church planting effort is to eventually see national pastors take the lead. It’s very exciting to see this happening here! There will always be opposition as our enemy hates seeing spiritual progress. But while we see this opposition from time to time, we claim Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church’s advance. Please pray that all of our network ministries will flourish going forward.
Opportunities abound for community upliftment through Knysna Hope. It seems that the needs are innumerable. Our present focus continues to be on the Sivuyele School for the Deaf. George loves giving a Bible lesson to these precious children on Friday mornings, and he’s even learning a bit of sign language along the way. The children, and teachers, are very patient with him as he tries to “speak” their language and present the Gospel. The needs of Sivuyele are great. Over the past two years, they have been fully funded through a large grant from a major airline; but that funding has come to an abrupt end as of September 1. The team at Knysna Hope has been helping where able, and we have seen some incredible gifts from our supporters in the US. Thanks to all who have helped us secure some “gap” funding while we search for more permanent partners going forward. Please pray that God will work in the hearts and minds of a few key business owners here in South Africa to provide ongoing support for Sivuyele.
Our First Year
On August 16, we celebrated the completion of our first year in South Africa. It has flown by in so many ways! We give thanks to God for bringing us to Knysna and allowing us to serve Him and the people of this place. From a ministry standpoint, things seem to be happening more quickly than expected. From the procurement of a ministry facility, to the start of the Biblical Leadership Institute, to community outreach initiatives, to individual discipleship opportunities . . . all of it evidences God’s amazing grace. And all of it evidences your faithfulness in prayer and giving to support our efforts here. Thank you all so very much for your willingness to partner with us!
From a financial standpoint, I am delighted to report that God has provided for every need and has given above expectation for ministry investment. The vast fluctuation in the dollar-to-rand exchange rate has brought both lean and bountiful times, but the overall average has been better than budgeted. For that we are grateful. Of course, on the other hand, a weak rand also means significant inflation. We are currently paying 15% more for water, electricity, and trash removal than we were a year ago. Petrol has risen by over 20%, and food prices have increased on average over 10%. And yet, God has provided. We want to thank all who have given in support of our ministry here!
And finally, from a family standpoint, we are so grateful that God has watched over us and has provided opportunities to bring us closer together. All of us love it here, and we’ve all found places to serve and enjoy friendships and ministry among those God has brought into our lives. There have been a great number of unexpected blessings in our family, and all of these are solely due to God’s grace. A special thanks to those of you who regularly check in with us concerning our family. We appreciate your concern for us in this way!
As we begin our next ministry year, we thank you for keeping us in your minds and hearts. We don’t deserve your love, but we appreciate it nonetheless. Please know that we think of and pray for you often; and we always enjoy hearing from you.
By God’s Grace,
The Coon Family