Dear Praying Friends,
July has been, without question, the most difficult month for us emotionally since we’ve moved to Knysna. The singular event that has dominated our life lately has been the loss one of our most promising students – Shadreck Fungai Machemendza. Many of you have kept up with our “mini-updates” over the course of this month as Shadreck’s health took a drastic turn for the worse rather unexpectedly and suddenly. Then, you grieved with us as Shadreck fell asleep in Jesus on July 17. You kept praying all the way through last Saturday (July 27), as Shadreck was finally laid to rest. Through it all, God has been working, and His grace has been clearly seen by Shadreck’s family and friends. Thank you all SO VERY MUCH for your prayer, your help, and your love. It is felt here, even by those who you do not know!
At times like these, our minds often turn to Isaiah 55:8-9, a very familiar passage where God declares to Isaiah, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” This text reminds us that we cannot and will not always understand what God is doing and why He is doing it. We cannot see the big picture that He sees, so we must trust Him and rest in His goodness. This text is regularly quoted in times of mystery, sadness, or bewilderment.
But if we pay attention to the context of this passage – as any good Bible student should! – we see that this text is not about our resignation to God’s mysterious sovereignty in times of sadness or doubt. It’s actually about God promising to work, through His Word, in the lives of those who are presently far from Him. The mystery of God’s “higher ways” refers to His power to call people out of their sin and into a right relationship with Himself. Thus, chapter 55 ends with great rejoicing over what God is doing now and what He will do in the future. And this is precisely our prayer in light of Shadreck’s death: that God will send forth His Word into the lives of people who desperately need His salvation.
And yet, just as we begin to move forward and engage the ministry that has opened to us, we now learn – as of the writing of this letter – that we lost another one of our church family members unexpectedly. Ray Lear, who we just saw Sunday morning, passed away of what appears to be a heart attack sometime last night. Ray was living alone, and he was only discovered this morning. Ray was a regular attender of our Ironman theology group that meets on Tuesday mornings; and he was a consistent auditor of our BLI class in Knysna. When Ray failed to show up to our Ironman meeting this morning, we all expressed concern because he NEVER misses Ironman. When one of our other attendees, Doug (Ray’s best friend), went to Ray’s house to check on him, there was no response. Doug forced his way into Ray’s house and found that Ray had died. This is quite a shock, and as a ministry team, we are deeply saddened yet again!
We loved Ray very much, and we were enjoying the opportunity to assist him in his spiritual growth. Ray had struggled with his personal assurance of salvation for a long time; but he had been progressively understanding that his salvation was secure because he was saved by God’s grace through faith. His salvation was – and is – secure in Christ. In fact, Ray had just shared with George a few weeks back that he was so happy to now know for certain that he would be with Jesus after he died. This was a monumental step in his growth as a disciple of Christ, and now we know that he is with our Lord. We will miss him in our meetings and in our classes – he was a faithful participant with us. But even as we grieve again at the sudden loss of a dear brother, we continue to trust God’s wisdom and purpose in all our lives. Please pray for Gospel opportunities in the days ahead.
In addition to continued prayer for Shadreck’s family, and in addition to prayer for Ray’s family and our team as we minister to all involved, there are other items for which we would be appreciative of your prayers:
1. Please pray for a family in our area (Brenton-on-Sea) that we have just begun a relationship with. We are hoping for Gospel opportunities with them. They have been through some personal trials recently, and we are seeking to bring help to them in a meaningful way.
2. We have been ministering for a while in the Sivuyele School for the Deaf. You’ve heard much about this opportunity. Now, another opportunity related to this has arisen. George has been invited to conduct a weekly Bible study on Friday mornings at a local business that employs three deaf men who seem hungry for God’s Word. George does not know sign language (although it seems God is leading him to learn it quickly!), but he will be trying to communicate through an interpreter. We have no idea how this will go, but we ask for your prayers as we move ahead.
3. Speaking of Sivuyele, the outside funding that they’ve had for the past year is ending abruptly in August. While we do not intend to provide ongoing, permanent financial help, we are helping where we are able in the short term. And further, we are trying to work with them to secure outside funding for themselves. Please pray that we help them appropriately.
4. We have started new BLI courses in both Knysna and Sedgefield. In Knysna, we have begun Bible Survey, where we will cover all 66 books of Scripture over the next 12 weeks. In Sedgefield, we are beginning Christian Worldview, where we will take students on a biblical journey to answer the key questions of reality, truth, and goodness. Please pray for these courses will be opportunities for real spiritual growth in the lives of our students.
As always, we are so grateful for you and your prayers for us. Without the encouragement we receive regularly from you, we would be lost indeed. It’s great to know that so many of you are lifting us up before God.
Resting in God’s Grace,
George, Amy, George David, Ashley, and Alyssa