Dear Wake Chapel friends,
Happy New Year! It is a time of new beginnings, new challenges, …We are praying for God’s direction and blessing in your life as you embrace His grace in 2017! As Paul reminds us in Romans that the Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
“I enjoyed that Christmas service!” Not a common statement from a thirteen year old boy….but that was the exclamation of our Joshua after the service at the Phoenix Fellowship Baptist Church on Christmas morning. Now to put everything in perspective, our boys were in a car with us at 7am traveling over an hour to church on Christmas morning. No gifts or Christmas fanfare before we left.
The Phoenix Fellowship’s Christmas service was not big or elaborate…no flashy worship team or angelic choir…It was a simple service with three dedicated servants of Christ leading us in worship by a gifted guitarist. The precious Sunday School children sang a praise song and recited poems concerning the Christ child. Paul preached on the humble entry of our Savior into the world from Luke 2. Warmth and sincerity are the words we would choose to describe the welcome everyone received as there was not just a “greeter” at the door, but each one in the congregation took on the role of greeting and expressing Christ’s love to one another. It is not possible to walk in the church and just sit to wait for the music to begin… you must experience Christ’s love from His people. After the service, over a cup of tea, everyone lingered to chat, laugh, as well as comfort those who were missing loved ones on this special day. What a magnificent way to begin our Christmas day, focusing on our Savior’s birth with God’s people…priceless.
As 2017 begins, Paul will continue to preach and guide the leadership of the church in finding a pastor. He will also encourage various discipleship initiatives and evangelistic outreaches for the upcoming year. The people of Phoenix are doing well, forgiveness and restoration permeates this congregation. We believe God continues to use this church to be His hands and feet in the community of Phoenix. Please be in prayer for the Phoenix Fellowship Baptist Church.
Sibongumbomvu Combined School and Mashaka Primary School ministries continue in 2017 by God’s grace and power. We have about fifteen volunteers from Hilton Baptist to continue in the tutoring ministry at Sibongumbomvu. Penny focused significant time on the children and volunteers in 2016. In 2017, we will focus more on the teachers, empowering them with the gospel and mentoring them in effective teaching strategies. The tutors will continue to work with individual children, sharing Bible stories, verses as well as assisting with improving their English skills
One of these children is Sabelo. Sabelo is eleven years old and is always a bit disheveled, with holes in his socks, pants that are too short, and shoes that are dirty and worn. At the beginning of last year, he was extremely disruptive, climbing shelves, hitting others, throwing pencils, and refusing to participate. Marlene, a retired teacher who is now a volunteer tutor, took a special interest in Sabelo. She called him her “son”. You see, Sabelo’s parents are no longer living; his ”home” is with a grandmother who spends her days intoxicated. To be called “son” was quite significant for this young boy. Sabelo is still a challenge, but he now works hard, looks for us to come each week, memorizes his Bible verses and we believe is on his way to accepting Christ. Please continue to pray for Sabelo and the other children and volunteers at Sibongumbomvu!
We are praying that God will open more doors to serve in the local schools. This is a bit of a challenge since we plan to return to the States in May of this year for our scheduled furlough. This means that there is much to do in a limited amount of time! With more opportunities, Penny will need someone to help oversee and continue the evangelistic and mentoring process when she is away. Please pray that God would provide someone who could step into this role when she is not present.
As many of you know, Penny grew up in Virginia. Some people even call her a “home grown tomato”! Well,… since we could not go to Virginia, Tim and Cathy Harville brought Virginia to us! They came to visit us in South Africa. It was a joy to have them with us! Though ministries were slowing down at the end of November due to the upcoming summer holidays and Christmas, Tim was still able to preach at Phoenix Fellowship Baptist Church and to also share the gospel during an assembly time to almost a hundred children at Mashaka Primary. What a great encouragement they were to us and to the numerous South Africans they met. Ma Mkhize, one of the teachers at Mashaka, was especially blessed as she is struggling with health difficulties. She was so inspired that Tim and Cathy took the time to pray with her. Representing Christ, His words, hands, and feet…that is what God has called is to be. Thank you to Hillcrest Baptist for allowing them to come! What a blessing!
We all enjoyed a visit from one of our friends from Port Elizabeth. Brendon, one of Paul's mentees, came to visit a few days. It was good to reconnect with Brendon, encourage him to continue to pursue the Lord's will for his life. The boys had a blast as Brendon always has time for a quick game of soccer or cricket. Michael will be beginning his grade five year and Joshua will be starting grade eight. Please pray as our boys continue to grow and learn what it means to serve God.
Kathryn is on the home stretch as she starts her last semester of law school. Needless to say, she is excited as well as a bit apprehensive concerning the next step. Please pray for her as well.
Thank you again for your faithful partnership with us as we minister in South Africa. We never feel that we can fully express our gratitude for your prayers, friendship and financial support. We are humbled and grateful for God's people and their impact in our lives and in the lives of the people of South Africa!
Praises – Please praise the Lord for…
• God’s continued work in the lives of the people of the Phoenix Fellowship
• A blessed time of worship on Christmas morning
• Opportunities to work in the schools in South Africa
• An encouraging visit with Tim and Cathy
• Opportunities to teach theology among the Zulu and Indian communities in Northdale
Prayer Requests – Please pray for…
• God’s choice for a new pastor for the Phoenix Fellowship
• New evangelistic and discipleship initiatives at Phoenix
• The theological students in Northdale as a new term begins
• Continued growth of the ministries at Mashaka and Sibongumbomvu Primary Schools
• New schools to share the gospel and implement teacher mentoring
• The children and teachers of the schools that they may all embrace Christ as their Savior
• Continued spiritual growth of ourselves and our children
Blessings in Christ,
Paul, Penny, Kathryn, Joshua, and Michael Hesman