It is with mixed feelings that we write this, our last report from Margate. However we are so thankful that the Lord has provided another volunteer family, the Wrights from Australia, to carry on the work here for the next 12 months.
We came back from our break in the UK to a much smaller team, Josh and Josie having embarked on their road trip around East Africa. Bro. Themba also gained a full-time job which was great news for him, but we have really missed his help. However sister Fezekile has continued to help out Caz on Fridays with CUDDLE where her confidence has slowly grown.
We started to think about going home, and so our emphasis has been on consolidating our relationships with current contacts rather than looking for avenues to expand our reach to new audiences. As a result regular classes like computers and study skills, which had taken a lot of our time, dropped off, but that time was soon filled by tasks like getting all our administration in place for a smooth takeover, instructing our local helpers in their tasks during the volunteer gap and in the last couple of weeks, a never-ending round of farewell events and goodbyes! 25 people came to our house on our last day to say goodbye.
A visit from some of Ben’s family in October was exciting for us and gave them a glimpse into what we’d been going on about for all this time!! They were kept very busy in the 5 days they were here; as Ben said, it was like a ‘Parsons P2P event’!
We also fitted in a visit from sisters Natalie Ferguson and Janine Perry for a week, a week in the Drakensburg for the International Family Bible Conference, 4 days in Candu for a CUDDLE course and a 4 day holiday to Lesotho!
It was a lovely culmination to our stay here to have our long-time contact and friend William Gumbo baptised into Christ a couple of weeks ago. Although Margate ecclesia is still small, the young people there have the potential to grow and develop with the love and support of the elder members and visitors.
We have so loved and enjoyed our time here but we are both now ready for the next phase of life, whatever God has in store for us – we know he will continue to offer new opportunities to serve Him wherever we are.
Fezekile teaching a session at the creche course
Simon Parsons and family
Ben doing what he does best in Lesotho
Sunday School has been steady in the last few months, with our Lorraine school kids mainly. They all received letters from Bournemouth Winton Sunday School and replied with beautifully illustrated letters of their own; we hope this relationship will continue to help with continuity of attendance. We had a Sunday School/ecclesial outing to Lake Eland where the kids were able to support Caz swimming her first open water mile! The prizegiving had a variety feel with songs, thoughts, readings and some acting to finish off the year.
Angharad Parsons teaching youth class
Caz with her supporters at the Lake Eland Mile
Parsons girls teaching the Sunday School a new song
They love their CSSU magazines from the UK
Sunday School prizegiving/closing party
Kingdom Youth has continued to run regularly and it was lovely to have bro Charlie Taylor visit and give a great interactive talk. The committee have all done their part with organising events and doing talks, and we are confident that they will be able to bridge the volunteer gap (VG). A brief farewell visit from Josh and Josie was appreciated at a lively session and the year finished with a small intimate braai – numbers had been down through November due to school exams.
One of our committee, Yolanda, surprised us by producing the full fees for the Bible conference the night before we left, so we were very happy to take her despite not really having room in the car! It seemed to have a big impact on her.
The Gamalakhe youth have all been writing final school exams so we haven’t seen them at all.
Saturday Bible Club has continued to be strong in our school venue, with close to 40 kids on a sunny day and a loyal core of 15 or so who wait under a tree for the car to arrive even on a stormy day. They have a special place in Caz’s heart, with many of the regulars being very helpful cleaning up after each lesson. We finished on a high with 80 (yes they heard there was a party!) kids learning about all the things we can look forward to in the Kingdom and a party lunch – it was chaos!! But good chaos! After learning about how little children would have pet snakes, it was fitting that a small snake turned up and the kids quickly stoned it, showing how we are not yet in the Kingdom…
SBC always starts off with a singing session
Saturday Bible Club kids take their activities very seriously!
Themba on a rare day off helping out at SBC
They never tire of having a photo taken!
Eyeing up the party food being prepared
Simon teaching a new game at Kingdom Youth
How many people can you get in an Avanza? We had 9 for the Bible Conference!
We must start this section by praising Almighty God for allowing us to witness the new birth of William, who had been attending Tuesday Bible studies since the beginning of the year and Sunday meetings for about 6 months. Several of Nelson’s family and some brothers and sisters from Pinetown were there to witness the event which took place during our Sunday morning ‘witness’ session – what better witness? Ben had taken over one-to-one classes from Josh and it was lovely that COP Trust could sponsor him to attend the International Bible Conference in the Drakensburg with several ecclesial members, so he already knows several of his new family outside of Margate. He spent a lot of his time there doing the heavy work on the outreach day.
He has already done a reading at the Sunday School prizegiving and is very willing to start reading and praying on Sundays which will of course relieve some pressure on the few brothers in Margate.
It is worth pointing out that although William lives directly opposite our hall his first contact with us was at the AGM of the Lorraine special school just over a year ago. As a result he started attending computer classes and then Bible study. It is a lovely case study of the ‘Touch and Teach’ method working out, and how wonderful for God to allow us to be there for the whole process.
Werner continues to come to ecclesial Bible class as often as we can give him a lift. Our Tuesday night Bible study class lost a few attendees but a new computer course brought 2 very keen ladies from Gamalakhe who then stayed for the Bible studies. They seemed very taken from the first day with what they were learning and invited us for dinner at their home one evening. Moira has again been away for a few months visiting family and so we have only managed 3 or 4 Bible teaching sessions in the last months, although she attends on Sundays whenever she is around, and feels very much part of the family when she is there. She is still very keen to learn so we pray that the gaps in teaching time will not dampen her enthusiasm.
Akhona, the school girl who has been attending Bible study as long as William is still attending both Tuesdays and Saturday one-on-one with Caz. It is clear she is still very thirsty for the word of God despite her young age, and all through her school exams she missed only one class. She has obviously come around to some of our teachings, particularly regarding the Trinity, but struggles with a few issues. Sadly she has never really been able to spend time with any of our youth, but we will keep in email contact with her and she has said she will continue to come to the Tuesday class when it picks up again.
Mthy, the man who seemed so taken with our beliefs and methods of Bible study, suddenly got employment near Durban and all but disappeared. He had arranged two seminars for his church in Gamalakhe, the first of which was well attended but the second less so due to a funeral. We have since just barely kept in touch due to his busy schedule, but we pray that he will hear God’s call more strongly again when the time is right.
Another ‘special effort’ talk from Ben’s brother on the Bible and Medicine had a full hall again – mainly thanks to our friend Matthews Ngidi who always brings a couple of taxis of people to these events. Our Tuesday night ladies also attended as well as 3 of the sisters in isolation down by Port Edward – two of whom we had never met before.
Our final graduation Sunday of the year was also well attended.
It was great to be able to deliver a Braille Bible to a young partially sighted man just before we left- he had attended computer lessons despite living about 60 kms away and having to use public transport each week. He knew of us because his mother ran a crèche we visited earlier in the year. It took about 4 months to arrive and he had almost given up hope I think so it was lovely that it arrived just before we left!
Tuesday night Bible class
Nelson delivers the long-awaited Braille Bible to Sizwe
Seminar at Mthy’s church
Computer Learning Centre
The internet has continued to prove very useful, with Ben teaching advanced classes including internet and setting up email accounts for all the Lorraine school children as well as adults who attend. As mentioned before, the computers were significant in bringing our new brother William along in the first place.
We have been running a homework internet club one afternoon a week which attracts up to 14 children for homework research, downloading past papers and school application forms, etc.
Now Themba has left COP Trust duties computer classes will stop until the new volunteers arrive in February. However brother Nelson and sister Fezekile now have email accounts and this is useful for us to keep in touch with them regarding any worries they may have in the VG, and of course to keep their morale up while they wait for the new arrivals.
Margate homework club
Lorraine Development & Skills Centre
Ben’s relationship with the special school has been pretty solid over the last 2 years. As hoped he was able to use some donations from a UK corporate to take several children to the optometrist and get many of them eyeglasses, as well as picking up on a dangerous degenerative condition in one boy.
As two of Ben’s nieces are teachers-in-training he decided that teaching 40 African kids in a garage was a perfect way to break them into their profession! As a result they, along with Ben’s sister-in-law Sherrie spent 2 days out of their 5 with us, at the school, as well as visiting other school contacts Ben has made during his time here.
The staff and children of Lorraine school put on a fabulous farewell party for us both, with Ben receiving numerous accolades from pupils and staff, plus traditional and modern dancing, gifts and some very rich cake.
Lorraine pupils at their eye test
Parsons ladies teaching at Lorraine school
Ben’s farewell party at Lorraine school
Ben also made some time to take his Numicon maths training to Happy’s school for disabled children in Durban, and then to return to photograph all the kids.
Simon’s family handing out Ben’s photos at Happy’s school
The last course of the year was full, with Nelson also attending as his duties at the crèche will increase again once we have left. It was a positive course with Fezekile teaching almost half the sessions and the follow-up visits showed much potential for brother Glenn to use his carpentry skills should he wish!
Fezy and Caz were also invited to two crèche closing parties with Caz as ‘guest speaker’.
Caz taught a condensed crèche course in Candu at the beginning of November, with 18 people attending. They were very enthusiastic and grateful for their new skills so we pray they will receive encouragement so that they have the confidence to put these skills into practice at their crèche.
Sis Janine Perry delivering donations to a rural creche
Nelson doing a good impression of someone requiring CPR during the creche course
Sessions from the last creche course
A graduation event at a creche in Gamalakhe; view from the guest speakers’ table
Ripe for an upgrade: the babies’ room & outdoor play at a creche in Paddock
Candu course: group lesson planning session
An impromptu kids night at Candu attracted 53 kids – such potential for long term volunteers…
Candu graduates of the creche teacher course
Good News Crèche
Caz has been trying to leave the crèche in a stable position, so she and the teachers came up with a year’s worth of lesson plans which can now be used over and over again. Fezekile’s administrative skills have been improving over the course of the year and she can now use the photocopier to print and copy worksheets and other teaching aids as needed, making the crèche much more independent. The documents to register with the Department for Social Development, which have taken a year to collate, have at last been submitted so the crèche will now be a Non-Profit Organisation independent of COP Trust. This means they can independently solicit donations and are now able to qualify for government support in the future should it be needed.
An impressive musical extravaganza was choreographed by sister Fezy (with no help from ourselves) for the closing party and graduation which was well attended by parents.
We really feel that the crèche provides a quality service to the community in terms of the care and development of the children who attend, much more than at our arrival – all the better to represent the good news of the Kingdom of God! The teachers have upgraded their skills in many areas and, having been running for 2 years before our arrival, we are confident it will continue to run well in the absence of volunteers.
Natalie is a favourite with the creche children
All three teachers at Good News have now completed the creche teacher course
Traditional and modern dancing at our creche graduation
Indumiso CB Group
Zama was able to obtain a run-down little house on the edge of Gamalakhe township from a community member which they renovated independently. While small they have made good use of the space to fulfil many of the tasks that the Indumiso group required: they hold their weekly meetings there, have started a crèche and our women’s Bible study moved to the house. Sadly severe rain and a few absences by ourselves and Zama mean that we only managed 4 Bible studies in the house in total, so our vision of it attracting more and more community members did not materialise, but the Lord knows His plans. We had begun a course on using Bible principles to deal with the social problems of and leading to HIV/AIDS, for example, dealing with discrimination, lack of compassion and judgement on HIV sufferers.
The youth only finished their exams only a week before we left, but it may be possible for the new volunteers to resurrect that relationship when they arrive – we are sure Zama will be only too happy for her centre to be used for that purpose.
Zama’s creche kids with a donation of toys from the UK
Discussions and role play at the Gamalakhe Bible class
An example of the weather that caused a few days of disruptions
We received a lump sum from the Margate veterinary hospital just before we left so we were able to use that to buy 76 food hampers. These went to a couple of community organisations to distribute as well as individual gifts for some individuals to whom we wanted to give a farewell gift. Every hamper had a Bible course and Sunday School magazine inside, so we pray that those who hunger for more than just bread will be satisfied…
To close… (from Ben)
Margate has been perfect for Caz and I. We felt that God guided us here from the very start. We have been supported on many levels, by WCF, COPT, our families, and by friends and brothers and sisters in Margate. We have had a lot of freedom, and been able to be creative in the way that we have reached out to the ecclesia, and to the community. I feel if we did the whole process again, there is very little we would change.
Although the number of baptisms has been small, we feel that the impact on the ecclesia and especially the community at large has been very significant, positioning Margate as an important location in the 2020 vision of South Africa.
Our hope is that the ecclesia will strengthen, with more ‘workers’, and less people on the periphery. We feel that after 2 years it is a good time to leave, and hand over the opportunity to a new couple to make their mark and develop as we have. There are many structures in place now that should make it relatively easy for them to move Margate on, and to see growth if that is God’s will.
Thank you to all who have supported us in many different ways and above all to our Heavenly Father for His grace in allowing us to serve Him in Margate for the past two years.
Ben & Caz wearing their leaving gifts from the Margate ecclesia, with their new brother in Christ, William Gumbo.