Three-Year Anniversary Update

Dear Praying Friends,

On Sunday, we celebrated 3 years of being in Knysna, South Africa! It’s hard to believe that this much time has gone by. So much has happened, and yet we still feel new to the mission field. We are blessed to be here, and we count it a privilege to serve alongside our teammates in this great place! Thanks to all who pray for us, support us financially, and keep us involved in your lives. We praise God for His work in and through you, for without it, our ministry here couldn’t happen. We are truly amazed at what God has done, and we pray for more opportunities to serve going forward.

Now that we have moved to “Level 2” lockdown, we are anticipating a return to “mostly” normal very soon. It’s our plan (and I say that cautiously!) to resume many of the activities we typically do. By our next update at the end of September, we should have more of a progress report to offer. For now, we decided to reflect on what has taken a large portion of our time during the more stringent lockdown months – food relief. Since late March, we have been distributing food hampers to individuals and most recently, soup kitchens. Each member of our family who is here in South Africa has had a chance to participate. And so, we thought it would be appropriate to give each person the opportunity to express how they’ve been impacted through participating in this process.

AlyssaDelivering food parcels to the soup kitchens throughout the townships was an incredible experience. It was both amazing and sobering to see how much excitement a simple package of food created— food that I take for granted every day. The suffering is so visible in the people, the animals, and even in the buildings themselves— and yet, the people are so happy and grateful for any bit of food they can get. The women running these food kitchens are so strong, giving of their own time and energy even when they have so little themselves, some of them cooking and serving every day of the week to uplift their communities. The strength, perseverance and unity of these people for their neighbors’ sake, despite their own suffering, is amazing, and their deep gratitude when we arrived opened my eyes to how much God can do with a simple package of food. It doesn’t seem like much to us, but God uses it for so much good in these communities!

George DavidWhat surprised me the most was how simple it was to play a part in the feeding program. On one end, there are large grocery store chains donating stuff; on the other end, there are many soup kitchens preparing stuff. But in the middle, there’s a tiny role that needs filled: carrying stuff. At first, I was skeptical that me being there would provide any extra help at all; however, I soon realized my extra set of hands was making a difference! This led me to realize how simple it was to help. I didn’t need to be a large grocery store chain donating food or one of many soup kitchens preparing food. All I needed to be was someone willing and able to “carry stuff.” Well I can carry stuff! Going forward, I’m already looking into ways I can help local soup kitchens where I’ll be living. I know I won’t be able to make notable food donations, and I certainly don’t know how to prepare the food! But I’m excited for God to keep using me to “carry stuff” whether it’s in Knysna, Richmond, or wherever else God leads me!

AmyGeorge had done the “soup kitchen run” several times, and each week he had asked if I wanted to go. But each week I said, “No, I’ll stay home.” With my asthma, I thought it best to avoid unnecessary exposure to covid. Also, there had been reported instances of violence toward those delivering food (thankfully not to our team) which made me a little afraid. Around day ninety of our lockdown I was ready for a day out of the house and decided to help with the deliveries. I didn’t know what to expect but was looking forward to helping . . . with my mask on and lots of sanitizer. The things I saw tugged at my heartstrings — children playing while sitting on piles of trash, dogs so thin they were just skin and bones, “houses” that seem like they would fall apart if there was a strong wind, people with worn clothes, children lined up for what was probably their only meal for the day. I saw needs so great while knowing I couldn’t do anything to make a huge impact. I was thankful for each delivery stop because it forced me to take a break from looking at the surroundings, which allowed me to take a deep breath and keep the tears away. At each soup kitchen I saw ladies working tirelessly to help their community. Many of them spent the day prior prepping and early that morning cooking in order to serve hundreds in the afternoon. When they were done serving they would clean up and then start prepping for the next day of cooking. What I noticed most about these ladies was their smiles. They took great pride in what they were doing and loved to tell me what they were making that day. The smells from the kitchens were divine! I also noticed how tired the ladies were getting, doing this week after week. Another thing I noticed was the smiles and waves of children and adults as we drove through the neighborhoods. There were a couple times the people in line cheered and clapped when we arrived to deliver food. I am unable to have a huge impact on meeting the physical needs of the people I see each week while delivering to soup kitchens, but my small part of moving a bag of potatoes and a bag of sweet potatoes from the back of a truck into a soup kitchen does have an impact. My smile and words of encouragement to the ladies running the soup kitchens do have an impact. George and I leave the house by 8:00 and get home around 3:00 dirty and tired and sometimes sore, but Wednesday, aka “the soup kitchen run,” has become my favorite day of the week. I’m thankful for this opportunity to be involved in our town and to have this small impact.

GeorgeThrough this ongoing food relief program, I’ve learned much. First, I’ve learned that people here are resourceful! They can make a small amount of food last for days, even weeks. They can take a “soup kitchen hamper” and feed 100 people or more. I look at the same hamper and think perhaps it may feed 30-50. I really don’t know how they do it, but they do. And it’s not necessarily tiny portions either. For most people, this is the only meal they get for the day, so the portions are actually quite substantial per person. Second, I’ve learned that the women that work these soup kitchens are probably the reason our town hasn’t erupted in riots and looting such as is happening in other parts of the country and around the world. These ladies are the true heroes! They work 8-12 hours per day, doing the same thing over and over, completely voluntary, with no benefit to themselves. Third, I’ve learned that meeting physical needs is sobering, exhausting, and only partially rewarding. We are in a crisis moment, and people need to eat – I get that, and it’s a joy to help in this area. But more than bread to eat, people need the Bread of Life. Until their spiritual needs are met, the physical help we give will never be enough. This process has made me more committed than ever to our mission here.

Thank you for your generous support in helping us help Knysna. You have indeed “given a cup of water” in the name of Jesus, and the people in our town are grateful! Please keep giving, keep serving, keep loving, and keep praying. We need you all more than ever, and we are blessed to call you partners in the Gospel.

With Much Love,
The Coon Family