A few busy months culminating in 7 end-of-year events in two weekends! We thank God for allowing us to reach many more people these last few months. Apologies for photos missing of recent events…my camera went missing just before we headed back to the UK for a Christmas break.
Our Margate Sunday School continues to be quite small, with approx 7-10 students most weeks. Freda, our regular visitor is a regular in the teen/adult class and Ben is steadily going through first principles with her. She is always enthusiastic but retains some beliefs from her days with the JWs. It was great that some funds came through so that we could upgrade the play facilities at Freda’s crèche.
We held an end of year concert at the beginning of December and encouraged the children to bring family and friends. We had about 5 adult visitors and most of the neighbourhood under 10s (not sure why they don’t come normally – free lunch maybe?!) to watch the infants perform a song and enact the wise men bringing gifts to the baby Jesus, the juniors enact a 5 part drama on Moses and the ten plagues, and the Seniors perform readings and songs. It led to positive conversations with family of some of the regular children, who we had never met before, and was a very encouraging afternoon.
Kingdom Youth has maintained numbers around the 40 mark and much enthusiasm in these last months – those of you who have worked in Africa will be shocked and amazed to hear that we had a turn out of 35 on a rainy day – they came with umbrellas! (Most South Africans stay indoors when it rains so that was a very gratifying day). We have several kids from Lorraine school, KYFC (the associated Football team) members are still coming and we get a couple of new kids each week! We had a crèche upgrade in the local area and with no volunteers coming soon we tried asking the kids of KY to help us- it was a resounding success and a very practical way of getting the kids excited about reaching out to their own community.
Kingdom Youth now feels like a consistent, regular part of our work – much nicer than the uncertainty of ‘how many will turn up?’ and ‘will it fall flat?’ in previous months!
Our end of year party (and at the insistence of one of our committee members, ‘One Year Anniversary’!) was a lovely event, with prizes and certificates for ‘Most Loyal member’ etc.
We are in talks with a couple of our UK brothers and sisters to try and sort sponsorship of a kit and the regular transport for the football club training.
An art session at KY
KY volunteers getting to work on crèche upgrade facilities
Bro Nelson & a teaching assistant, at the crèche post-upgrade
The Kingdom Youth football club at training
The Gamalakhe youth club is thriving, with a core of 12-15 high school students who are dedicated and enthusiastic about Bible study. They came throughout their stressful end of year exam period, and one day they arrived saying, “We’ve got a maths exam tomorrow so please can we just do the Bible study and skip the activity?” – er, sure!! As you can imagine it is exciting working with such motivated youth, who have had very little previous Bible exposure – they are like sponges. Caz has been working through the lives of Adam and Noah with them, using small group discussion – the format is working really well and there have been several ‘lightbulb moments’ and much opportunity to bring in first principles. A couple of the committee members (from the original Indumiso group) were asking about life after death, so rather than bring doctrinal discussion to the youth club (just to remind you- they all attend different denominations) Ben spent a couple of hours with them in a separate session. Those sessions are likely to continue in the New Year, God willing!
We held a ‘closing function’ – a braai on the beach in shockingly bad weather – but the kids had great fun dancing in and out of the sea in driving rain and warming themselves around the braai under umbrellas- their spirit was infectious, and they all expressed thanks and that they would miss us over the holidays. They feel like such a close-knit group that we have grown very close to, as Ben says, we have to keep reminding ourselves they are not an ecclesial youth group. We pray that God will open up his truth to them through us or other means so that one day they will be!
Fun & games in Gamalakhe; getting into aerobics
Saturday Bible Club has grown into a really rewarding project for Caz – probably her favourite. It quickly grew and attracts about 25-30 children most weeks, mainly from word of mouth; again really teachable, enthusiastic students – she had ten waiting at the door 30 minutes before it started on the final week before Christmas. We give them a peanut butter sandwich, fruit and juice each week as Zama advised us many of them come from poor homes. We ended the term with the Parable of the Great Banquet as an excuse to have a party – so much excitement over cake and chocolates! We are hoping we can pick up where we left off after the Christmas break.
There has been a question mark over the viability of us having access to the hall in Gamalakhe in the medium term, as Zama has concerns over the reliability of the councillor who controls its use. We hope & pray that it is not closed to us as our two afternoons there are some of the most rewarding parts of our week, and there is no obvious alternative venue at the moment.
Growing numbers at SBC; waiting to tuck into their banquet
We have continued to visit and preach to the shy young man, Sisa, who has still to visit our hall.
Ben got in touch with a man in Port Edward via an advert in a supermarket requesting Bible study – this man is a sort of pastor with quite strongly held beliefs but was claiming to be open-minded and requesting more Bible knowledge from anyone who was willing to share. It has been a chance for Ben to really wrestle with the first principles; they have just had two meetings so far.
One of our lady visitors has returned to Bible classes, and we have also had a disabled man, Werner (of Austrian descent) start coming to Bible class too. He attends the local SDA church on Saturdays. He got in touch as a result of an advert for computer lessons and attended our most recent computer course and from that did the God’s Master Plan course at home. We have also helped him a little at home, as he lives alone in quite bad conditions – Caz helped him to bath his four Jack Russell Terriers and Nelson chopped down a few trees for him.
Ben studying with Sisa; Werner and his four friends
Our second ‘BEC graduation’ event occurred in the first week of December, where we invited those who had completed a correspondence course, plus crèche teacher and computer course graduates, plus the Indumiso choir to make sure we had some good singing! It was a lovely day, with a packed hall hearing the gospel– over 50 visitors and standing room only towards the end! Embarrassingly Ben & I were also given gifts – again! Special thanks are due to sis Sheryl Clark (Alastair’s wife) who spent most of the time in the kitchen preparing the refreshments so they were ready to hand out at the end- it would have been very stressful without her behind the scenes. (The same went for the SS concert, and the crèche end of year function!)
The gathering crowd on BEC graduation day
After School Klub/Computer Learning Centre
We changed the Tuesday drop-in computer classes to a 6 week course which we advertised in the local paper, and had a good response – 8 people completed the course. This ran alongside a 3rd group from Nzimakwe township on Wednesdays. Ben introduced a new internet-taster session, showing them Google searches (“Think of the most unusual thing and I bet you we can find a picture of it”) and Google Streetviews of their own streets – as you can imagine there were gasps of amazement all round!
We found it much easier to teach and also build relationships using a set course rather than the drop in sessions, and several of them attended the graduation day, so we feel we will continue to use this format into next year God willing. We are weighing up whether to introduce internet access in the coming months. This would require installing a router and will require more administrative control and time but will probably attract more people. We will discuss it with the ecclesia & the COPT when we return.
Lorraine Development & Skills Centre
The school has had a lot of outside help in recent months and it is an exciting but daunting time for Zola, the principal who has worked so hard for the last 8 years. The Rotary Club is working to try and get a plot of land assigned by the local municipality so that they can at last have a purpose-built building created. This is a project which could take several more years. However they also received a large grant from the US Embassy, which is great but comes with many strings attached; for example they have got money for classroom furniture, which is badly needed, but they must spend it within the next four months, while they are still squashed into the tiny house and garage! Zola asked us to advise her on the purchase of computer equipment and other items as she is aware she is a little out of her depth, and it has been good to consolidate our relationship in this way. We were asked to play a part in the school’s AGM in November, reporting on our current involvement with computer teaching and garden training, and our vision for the coming year.
In a recent computer class for the school children, Ben was able to set up a Skype session with bro Dave Worth in the UK, which both Dave and the children enjoyed. If we got internet access we feel there may be opportunity for increasing the involvement of brothers and sisters back home in our work in this way.
We are thankful for the generosity of a brother in the UK who has agreed to sponsor the children’s transport for the next 12 months, meaning we can continue to offer the computer classes for the new academic year.
The 3rd crèche course of the year ended in November with ten graduates, meaning a total of 34 teachers trained this year. Most of them attended the graduation day and only two of them were from ‘new’ crèches (i.e., crèches where I had not trained any of their staff before). This is a good thing as the upgrade list is already quite long!
As mentioned above, a recent upgrade in Margate using our Kingdom Youth members was a great success and may be one way of getting round a lack of manpower for manual work.
Caz continues to teach one day a week in the Good News Crèche, and the benefits of the regular lesson planning and increasing exposure to English have been paying off in terms of improved education. The end-of-year concert and graduation was a great success with many parents asking if we could provide Grade R (the year before entry to primary school, which we do not currently have.) This is something we would like to think about for the future, but our priority is to complete the arduous task of registration with the Dept of Social Development at present.
Crèche teachers showing their crafts; running the obstacle course
Good News Creche children making a collage; playing fireman!
Indumiso CB Group
Apart from being able to pass on the odd food donation we have not been involved in Indumiso’s day to day work, and Zama now has a job some distance from home which means we have not seen much of her. There is a possibility of her being moved to a job in Kokstad; this would probably mean Indumiso folding and so we pray that our Social Club is not jeopardised by such a move.
However we are still in regular contact and see her at the Youth Social Club occasionally. We visited the disabled girl, Slindile a couple more times in the past two months and gave her the new wheelchair and her tray for toys. We always try to do a Bible reading or at least a prayer with the family while we are there.
Caz continues to spend a half day at the Margate Veterinary Hospital and they provided another donation in lieu of salary for days worked; this went into the CUDDLE fund which allowed us to carry out our most recent upgrade.
Ben’s morning in the Learning Difficulties Unit is going well and he has increased his work to 4 hours of teaching, which of course is a valuable increase to our local funding. He heard of an opening in another local school for a special needs teacher, which he considered briefly, but we felt that he could not afford to take any more time away from our outreach and preaching.
We both set ourselves a rough target for a half day a week to maintain our professional skills at the outset and feel that this is just about workable – we are conscious of the many project ideas which we are unable to further & classes which we can’t offer at the moment so we certainly don’t want to take any more time out.
We feel that our projects here are well established and are being supported by the local community. We are increasingly focusing on Bible teaching and making sure that our outreach is linked someway to it. One of our aims has always been to increase the size of the ecclesia through our outreach work. It has been great to have our hall full on graduation days, but we realize that growing the ecclesia is a long-term process, and of course subject to our Father’s will and timescale. We can envisage the need for our work to continue for another year or two before bearing the fruit we hope for, in terms of baptisms.