Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you so much for your prayers and support over the past few weeks, as we’ve begun a new phase of life as a family. On July 31, Ashley and Amy left for the US as Ashley is preparing to spend the next three school years finishing her studies at Lancaster Bible College. It’s been difficult to think about Ashley being so far away for the majority of the next three years, but we are grateful. So many of you have offered encouragement, support, and the assurance that you’ll help “keep an eye on her” while she’s away. As well, we’ve seen three unexpected blessings already that have served to remind us that God has Ashley (and the rest of us!) in His mighty hands. First, someone from the US has purchased a car for Ashley to use during her entire time at LBC! We weren’t even thinking about Ashley possibly having a vehicle to use, but now she will have much more freedom to move about. This blessing has moved us greatly, reminding us that God provides in truly unexpected ways! We are grateful to this dear brother for thinking of us in this way! Second, a friend of ours here in SA has purchased a plane ticket for Ashley to be here in Knysna with us for three weeks over the Christmas/New Year holiday. He had asked me (George) when we’d see Ashley next, and when I told him June he seemed visibly disturbed. And so, by God’s grace, he was moved to facilitate a visit for Ashley that we didn’t think would happen. Third, a close friend from our sending church asked for a list of things Ashley needs for college. Amy sent quite a list, and people from our former Sunday school class and small group purchased every item! In addition to these three specific blessings, there have been so many more. We thank God for allowing us to be connected to you as those who pray for us and care for us!
Today, August 16, we celebrate the two-year anniversary of our arrival in South Africa! We’ll never forget stepping off the airplane in summer clothes, only to be greeted by a soaking downpour and bone-chilling temperatures! Right away we learned a valuable lesson – there actually is such a thing as winter in Africa! From that first day until now, we have seen God bless in all areas of ministry. For the remainder of this update, we’d like to give a brief summary of how God has worked in our three areas of focus: theological education, church planting, and community upliftment.
Theological Education – The Biblical Leadership Institute (BLI) was born on March 3, 2018, with an initial plan of offering ministry training courses in Knysna and Sedgefield. We have seen faithful participation from learners in both places, with some even pursuing a qualification (degree) through our program. We are looking forward to beginning classes in George, hopefully later this year or very early in 2020. In addition, we now (as of three weeks ago) have students from outside the Garden Route joining the BLI program as affiliate students. These students participate by watching video recordings of classes, and they are mentored by ministers based where they live. With this development, BLI is beginning to move beyond the region of the Garden Route and extend to a more “national” presence. We praise God for using BLI to equip people for ministry, and we ask for your continued prayers as we seek to glorify Jesus Christ in every aspect our theological education ministry.
Church Planting – The church we helped plant in Belvidere (a suburb of Knysna) began on January 13, 2019. We don’t have a name yet, but since we’re located (roughly) on the west side of the Knysna lagoon, we are calling ourselves “The Westside Story” until further notice! What a blessing it is to worship and fellowship with this dear group of people each Sunday! We seek to bring honor to Jesus’ name in our ministry, and by God’s grace we have seen a small congregation begin to form. We are growing together as a spiritual family, and we are excited about those God has brought together! We ask you to pray with us, that our people would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, that we would reach into our community to share the Gospel with those around us, and that we would be a strong testimony of what God intended the church to be. Many here in Knysna are exhausted from religion overload, and their opinion of all things “church” can be jaded at times. So we also pray that within us, people will see not mere religion, but the sincere and authentic relationship we have with Jesus.
Community Upliftment – We can’t even begin to count how many invitations and appeals we’ve had from people all over town concerning how we might be involved in uplifting our community. One could easily spend full-time hours per week doing charitable work, because the needs here are unending and all-consuming. Part of our mission here is to help, but to do so intelligently and in accordance with that which gives real opportunity for Gospel ministry. And so, as multitudinous opportunities have come along, we’ve settled into two areas of focus: the Sivuyele School for the Deaf (primarily George’s focus) and computer skills training through LAUNCH Workplace Readiness (primarily Amy’s focus). We’ve shared with you, fairly recently, many details about our involvement in these two programs, so we won’t repeat too much here. But please continue to pray that our involvement in these opportunities will not only uplift our community but also establish relationships that lead to the furtherance of the Gospel. At the end of this month, we will be sending a special update concerning the deaf school, as there continues to be great financial need there, and many of you have expressed interest in helping in some way. Stay tuned!!
What a journey it’s been over these two years! In some ways, we feel like we’ve been here much longer, but in other ways, it still feels very new. And we know we have much to learn and to do in the days, months, and years ahead. None of this would be possible without God’s grace in our lives and His enabling power to help us along the way. We praise Him for all He’s done!! As well, we firmly believe that none of this would be happening without the continual, faithful prayer and support you gift us with each day. Thank you again, from all of us, for your partnership in the Gospel!
With Sincere Love and Thankfulness,
The Coon Family