Dear Praying Friends,
Happy New Year! It’s amazing to us how 2019 has left so quickly! They say time feels like it moves faster as you get older, and they’re right. In many ways, it feels like only a short time ago that we were reflecting on 2018 with you. In this update, we’d like to offer a brief summary of 2019’s particular blessings and give a preview of what we anticipate in 2020. We’ll also list several projects coming up in the new year for which we could use financial assistance.
Blessings of 2019
The faithfulness of God, manifested through our team of supporters: First and foremost, we continue to be humbled and encouraged by your effectual, fervent prayer for us and our ministry here. Knowing we have an army of people looking out for us before our heavenly Father is a comfort and encouragement beyond what we can express! In addition to the prayer support, we continue to see God’s faithfulness in taking care of us financially. On paper, we are still a bit below full support, but when we factor in the special, extra, and unexpected donations, we’ve hit our full support goal, and then some. We are beginning to believe that God does it this way to force us to trust him more, to test our faith, and to foster unique gratefulness in our hearts.
The beginning of a church-plant, with several discipleship opportunities: On January 13, we had our first Sunday service at the church plant we’ve begun alongside the Hunter family. Coming up on the 19th of this month, we’ll be celebrating our first year and praising God for bringing our group together. There is a sense in which all missionary activity relates to church planting, especially in light of Jesus’ command to make disciples. And so, we are grateful for not merely starting a church. We are also blessed by seeing people discipled in Christ.
The emergence of a national platform for BLI: The Biblical Leadership Institute experienced a bit of “settling” over the early part of 2019, as the true contenders for a qualification in theology began to distinguish themselves and make concrete commitments to fully take on our program and all the academic work associated with it. What was unexpected is that BLI’s work here, along the somewhat-out-of-the-way Garden Route, would be noticed by other ministers in various places throughout South Africa. Some of these ministry partners have taken steps to implement BLI’s program in their areas, and for that we are both amazed and grateful!
Making a real difference in Knysna and gaining Gospel opportunities: While the BLI and church planting are our explicit ministry focal points, we have also purposed to uplift our community where able. We do this not to fill our calendars, but to gain opportunities for the Gospel. This has happened, primarily through our involvement in the Deaf School and in the LAUNCH Workplace Readiness outreach. We thank God for these opportunities because many of them have been unexpected and certainly not brought about by our own efforts. All we have been is ready and willing – God has accomplished the rest!
And so much more: We could go on and on. There have been many other blessings, such as Ashley’s smooth (though heart-wrenching!) transition to Lancaster Bible College in PA; George David and Alyssa continuing to progress and do well in school, and Amy’s discovery of her love for teaching in the LAUNCH program. We’ve been physically healthy and able to function at high levels. We’ve been blessed with wonderful teammates, which has enhanced our ability to live out “the-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” principle. We continue to enjoy breathtaking ocean and mountain views from where we live and travel. God has given us so many blessings, to Him be the glory!
Anticipations for 2020
In keeping with the points above, we anticipate and are already thankful for the continued prayer and financial support. You pray for us, and you support us. But we often don’t know how we can be praying for you in return. We’d like to improve in this area, so please share with us how we can return the favor, so to speak, in lifting you up before our God. We have a couple creative ideas to help this happen, and you’ll see them in the coming year. But in the meantime, please take a moment and send us your prayer requests as we continue to share ours.
One of the components of our church plant that we’d like to solidify in 2020 is our children’s program (Sunday School, if you will). We have been using a great curriculum from The Gospel Project. It includes print material, audio, video, and numerous resources. It’s not only biblically sound, but also user friendly and very up-to-date. It’s a three-year program, and each quarter’s worth of material is roughly $250 USD. With the help of teammates, we’ve covered the first year; but we’d like to have the remaining $2,000 USD to cover the last two years thereafter. Once this up-front cost is covered, our church group should be able to cover ongoing costs of printing, copying, craft supplies, and so forth. Please pray that God will provide for this oft-overlooked expense.
The BLI students pay a very nominal tuition fee for courses, which has covered our relatively low costs to run the program (technology, refreshments, printing/copying, etc.) As we look to 2020, we anticipate at least a few of our students beginning to transfer some BLI coursework into a more formal Bachelor of Theology program that is available to them online. BLI’s current program only covers half a bachelor’s degree, so if students desire a full, accredited degree, they must finish it through a partnering institution. In doing so, they’ll begin having to pay full tuition for their courses. We’d like to develop a BLI scholarship fund to help students as they take courses at other institutions. So far, we have about $1,000 USD designated for this purpose, and that’s great. But for 2020, we’d like to add an additional $4,000 USD to this scholarship fund. If you are interested in helping here, please let us know.
As Knysna Hope continues to reach out into the community, we find our facility being used more and more. In 2020, we anticipate the Knysna Hope building being used a minimum of six days per week for most of the year, sometimes seven days a week! This was already happening in 2019, but this year will see even more use. As a missionary team, we all put in a monthly amount to offset regular monthly costs, including utilities, taxes, and so on. What we could use help with in 2020 is to jumpstart an emergency fund for unexpected costs that need a quick response, such as the bird lice infestation that we’ll spare you the details of!! We’ve had some contributions to this fund so far amongst our team, but it would be great if in 2020 we could see another $5,000 USD raised. Please pray with us about this.
Finally, we do have some personal, family plans for 2020 that we’d like you to pray about with us. First, we are coming to the USA for our first official furlough. This will not be long – only from the end of May to early July. The total costs for plane tickets will be close to $5,000 USD. Second, we also need to renew our visas in 2020. Can you believe we will have been here three years in August?!?! The visa renewal is an arduous process, with off-and-on success if we renew in the USA. We do have the option to renew our visas here in South Africa, which has a much higher success rate, but it’s more expensive – roughly $500-600 USD per person. Would you pray with us about this? Many of you know the terrible time we had getting our original visas back in 2017, and we’d like to take a simpler route this time around. But we need to be good stewards of our limited finances as well. So, as we make this decision, please pray that the Lord will provide according to His will.
Thank you all so very much for being such an instrumental part of all the blessings of 2019 as well as a sounding board for us as we share our vision for 2020. May God bless each of you abundantly in the year ahead for His glory!
George, Amy, George David, Ashley, and Alyssa