Dear Praying Friends,
May has been one of those months that reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, where Solomon reminds us that in life there is a time for all circumstances, activities, and emotions. So, along that line of thinking, we will use the phrases of verse 4 to frame this month’s update.
A time to weep . . . We live in a country with wonderful people, tremendous scenery, many modern conveniences, and freedom to go about our ministry in peace. And yet, everyday, we see striking examples of poverty, shame, desperation and struggle. We know we cannot solve society’s ills – we’re not called to do that on a large scale. Our mission here is primarily to teach and preach, evangelize and disciple; but we do seek to lend aid and hope when and where we can. But the need is overwhelming. When people close to us share the struggles they face just to get daily food, or just to get through the cold nights – it makes you want to weep. Just this morning, I (George) took two small bags of apples to the Sivuyele School for the Deaf where I teach a short Bible lesson each Friday morning. These poor children have nothing in life from a material perspective. In fact, most of them lack consistent supply of very basic needs. And yet, when I walked into their classroom, they clapped their hands and cheered, not because they were thrilled to see me, but because I brought apples! When was the last time you saw a young child or teenager literally clap their hands and squeal because you brought them apples?!?! It’s a lot of fun to be there each week, but it’s heartbreaking.
A time to laugh . . . In the midst of all that causes us to weep, there is just as much to make us laugh. Some of the children at the deaf school who make us weep, also make us laugh. They’re hilarious and adorable and crazy, all at the same time! Our ministry partners make us laugh. They bring joy and humor to situations wherein we might be tempted to take ourselves too seriously, often reminding us to see the silver lining behind the clouds – even if it IS lightning! Our children make us laugh all the time. And of course, we laugh at ourselves. Sometimes, Amy and I realize how old we’re getting (or acting!), and we have no choice but to laugh. As for me, regularly finding myself out of touch with technology is a great source of humor. Just the other day, my younger ministry partners were discussing an idea for a Knysna Hope podcast. Now, I know what a podcast is, but in that moment, for the life of me I couldn’t think of it. So what did I do? I swallowed my pride (not much left of that anyway), and I said, “Ok, guys, tell me again . . . what’s a podcast?” They didn’t laugh as hard as you might think. They just mumbled something like, “Ok, let’s explain this to the old man!” Little things like this keep us going. Each day, we enjoy the time to laugh.
A time to mourn . . . Some of the fondest memories for our entire family is the Christmas gathering that would take place at or near my Grandma Coon’s place in northern Michigan each year. My Grandmother loved Christmas, and she loved Jesus even more. All she ever wanted for her children, her grandchildren, or even her great-grandchildren was that we would please God with our lives. As long as we were following Jesus, she was happy. By God’s grace and in His perfect timing, my Grandma Coon passed away less than two weeks ago. She was 96 years old. She battled dementia to the very end, and even though she hasn’t remembered us for nearly three years now, it was nothing less than the grace of God that allowed me to see her one last time on my recent trip to the States. We’re happy that her physical and mental struggle in this life is over, but we’re sorry for the loss nonetheless. In addition to the loss of Grandma Coon, we also lost a good friend and faithful supporter from our sending church – Harry Woelkers. Harry was one of the most kind, generous, and fun-loving men we’ve ever met. He told me that he prayed for our family every day that we’ve been in Knysna. We can’t even begin to describe what that means to us! And just like my visit with Grandma Coon, on my recent trip to the States, I was able to see him for a brief time and say goodbye properly. Before I left, he asked me, “George, if there are golf courses in Heaven, do you think we could play a round together?” I told him, “Absolutely, let’s plan on it!” We miss him. We miss Grandma Coon. We mourn. But we mourn as those who rest in the hope of seeing these dear ones again in the life to come.
A time to dance . . . Ok, so Ashley has made it clear that I am not allowed to dance, anytime, anywhere, for any reason. That’s fine, I’d probably hurt myself anyway. But that all being said, there’s much to celebrate! Amy, along with her beginning-computer and typing students, just celebrated the completion of their 12-week course with a graduation ceremony this week. Africans absolutely LOVE to celebrate achievements, and it was great for Amy to see the fruit of her labor through the joy in her students! It was also blessing to see Amy celebrate with them, knowing that her instruction has such a significant impact. George David recently participated in a group project for his business ethics class. His group produced a one-act dramatization confronting an ethical issue in today’s culture. He was the group leader, and they placed 4th out of 40 groups. That was quite nice! But what’s even better, is that he was named “Best Presenter” out of all 240 students who participated in the competition! We thank God for this achievement, as there have been many struggles for George David in his studies. Ashley successfully completed her first year of studies online through Lancaster Bible College. She did superior work in her classes and will keep all her present scholarships heading into next school year. It was not an easy year, as she had to keep up with her studies all on her own, and keep herself disciplined and accountable to meet all deadlines. But God be praised, she did it! Also, Ashley applied for a job in the library at LBC, and we are praising the Lord she has been hired and will begin working as soon as she arrives on campus. God is already providing for her financial needs for college! Alyssa continues to do very well in school, staying at the top of her class through the first term of this year. She is especially enjoying her art class, where she gets a chance to express her God-given creativity in various ways. Neither she nor we realized how exciting this would be for her, and we’re pleased to see her so fulfilled by it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this “Ecclesiastes 3:4” update of a more personal nature this month. We weep, we laugh, we mourn, and we dance (well, not all of us!). And we do so in the context of seeking to make everyday count for the glory of God and the exaltation of Jesus Christ. We thank you for your prayers. We thank you for your financial support. And we are blessed to know, each day, that you are with us, even if you’re half a world away!
George, Amy, George David, Ashley, and Alyssa