Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holy Expectancy

In many ways, Advent has taken on a new meaning for us personally. It has always been a time for expectant reflection, but as we now find ourselves in a period of transition between two ministries, the sense of expectation is heightened as we look to the one who loved the world so much that He came and gave His life for us. His coming and giving compels us to come and give too so that others may know Him and His love.

In this season of holy expectancy, would you prayerfully consider joining in what God is doing through us in our new ministry context? There are so many ways you can be part of our ministry - through prayer, through various forms of communication, through being our ambassadors in your contexts, and, of course, through financial support. Also, if you know of anyone who might be interested in our new ministry, please put them in touch with us.

Our personal SAMS page still lists us as missionaries to Ethiopia, and this will change once we have greater clarity on our new situation, but the giving link remains the same. https://secure-q.net/Donations/SAMS/3723

As always, we covet your prayers.

Thank you so much for all your love, support, and encouragement.

Advent blessings to you all.

May the reality of His birth and its blessed consequence in our rebirth touch you deeply this Christmastide and throughout the new year.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Walking with Jesus into His future...

Who can believe we are nearly at the end of yet another year…and at the beginning of a new one filled with all sorts of God-ordained moments?

Like being seated next to a male stripper on a plane from Johannesburg to Cape Town…

I had a captive audience for nearly three hours as I witnessed to the love of God shown so clearly in Jesus! Wynand and I parted as if we were old friends and I pray now for his journey with Jesus every day.

As you know, Louise and I have been on a journey since leaving Gambela. So many of our dear friends and family confirmed our move that if it wasn’t for the emotional ties with our dear brethren in Ethiopia, the transition might even have been classified as easy.

We have explored different options, but believe that the Lord is leading us to work with an Anglican organisation named Growing the Church, or GtC for short. However, this move is subject to SAMS approval.

So far, we have met with the GtC Director and team members (several times!), the GtC Board, Diocesan Coordinators, and Elders. Tomorrow, we will be meeting the Archbishop and the Suffragan Bishop as well.

GtC works in seven southern African areas: South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, and the island of St Helena.

In many ways, GtC is a logical extension of what we have been doing for so many years of our life in Africa, India, and in the US. Mobilising church members to do what they are called by God to do is very much part of who we are as His servants. (We have included the GtC Job Description below for your perusal.)

God willing, we will return to the US mid January to meet with SAMS Leadership, take a course in Discipleship at Trinity, take a course in short-term missions training at SAMS, visit our children and grandchildren, visit as many of our supporters as humanly possible (what would we do without y’all?!), attend a debriefing session in PA, and seek our more support as the cost of living in South Africa will be higher than that in Gambela. The timing of our return to the field will be contingent on sufficient funding…so we really need your prayers!

Please walk with us as we seek to walk further with Jesus into His future.

We wish you all the most blessed Christmas and the happiest of new years. May our gracious and merciful King grant you all your heart’s desire and may you come to know that His every thought towards you as His child is always for good only and never, ever for evil.

Many blessings and tons of love.

Johann and Louise

GROWING THE CHURCH (GtC)
Job Description: Johann & Louise van der Bijl -
Joint Coordinators – Training in Mission & Ministry

1.     Leadership Development and Team Formation

W  Primarily to transition GtC into our 28 dioceses through assisting with team formation, and capacity building through appropriate training.
W  Training at least 15 people in each diocese who will immediately begin to pass their training on to at least 10 other persons within one year. This equates to 420 primary people trained in 3 years and 4200 secondary trained persons in that period.
W  The Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-making training process will be the primary means of team formation so as to instil a missional DNA from the start.

2.     Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-making (ID&DM)

W  To develop skilled faculty from among those being trained above who will assist with passing their training on both within their dioceses and regionally.
W  The aim is to spark an ID&DM movement which will grow exponentially and impact virtually every parish. Disciples making disciples is thus a critical component.


3.     Mission Teams – Formation and Training

W  A mark of a disciple’s maturity is that they intentionally reach out to others both within their ambit and beyond.
W  Holistic missional engagement is considered to be one of the best means of growing mature disciples as we seek to fulfil the great commandment and the great commission.
W  Our primary focus will be weekend and short-term missions.


4.     Research relevant to Church Health, Mission and Ministry

W  Specific research in relation to items 1 & 2 above – so that we may serve dioceses in accordance with their needs and context.
W  General research as regards church health that serves our bishops, clergy and leaders, and serves GtC as we seek to be more focussed and intentional in our work and ministry.

5.     Participate in Joint Team Initiatives

W  Anglicans Ablaze Conferences
W  Family Life Seminars

W  Planning, administration & execution

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Leaving Gambela...

We have now left Gambela…for good. Saying goodbye to the folks we have come to love dearly ranks as one of the most difficult things we have ever done in our lives up to this point…but we knew we simply could not stay any longer. My heart and my head just could not cope with the extreme weather.

We are in Cape Town for the present time staying with family. While this is meant to be a time of rest, relaxation, and recovery, it is also a time of prayerful discernment as we seek the Lord’s will regarding our future.

I simply have to get my health back on track again…that is priority…otherwise I won’t mean much to any mission. So, I will be seeing my doctors this week, working on a heart healthy diet, and getting this body back into shape again with an emphasis on cardio-vascular exercises. My sister-in-law has promised keep me true to the exercise challenge as long as I keep her true to the (rather strict) diet! Mike and Marianne are such an encouragement to us…what would do without their very real and tangible support? Of course the Queen is overjoyed that we are here…ah, however did I earn such love from my dear mother-in-law?

We will also be chatting with the “Growing the Church” (see here: http://www.growingthechurch.org.za/site/home.aspx) leadership while we are here to see if we are able to discern a call to work together in the future. SAMS-USA Missionaries Wayne and Nicole Curtis work with them and Fr Trevor Pierce came to the Christian Barnard Hospital to pray with and for us when I had my heart surgery…we have always sensed a strong bond between us, so we just need to find our what the Lord has in mind.

We are trying to read up as much about the Cape Area as possible so that can become reacquainted with it…much has changed since we were here in seminary at George Whitefield College in 1992! One book I am finding very interesting is called “Gang Town” (see here, although they only seem to have the Kindle edition https://www.amazon.com/Gang-Town-Don-Pinnock-ebook/dp/B01DMDBPEG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479109213&sr=1-1&keywords=gang+town) about the two sides of the city of Cape Town. If we are going to grow the church, then the marginalised must surely be part of the equation, right? I am also reading two books by Mark Batterson…The Circle Maker and the Grave Robber…actually I am rereading the latter. Good books to read now as we contemplate the future…we are asking great things from a great God.

Thank you for your on-going prayers and for your unbelievable support! So many have told us that they support us as people and not the project and that has meant so much to us, you cannot even begin to imagine! To know that we are not simply commodities to be spent is so encouraging…ah, but that’s what friends and family are for, right?


We have come through a rather dark valley…but we are sensing the light. Walk with us into His brightness…

Friday, September 9, 2016

Introducing our new students: Achara Ogut Omot


Achara Ogut Omot is a 27 year old Anuak student. He is not married, and, like Ojulu, this is not by choice. In his case, he has no parents to do any negotiations on his behalf. 

Achara has been leading and preaching in the church for a number of years in the southern part of the Gambela People’s Region. His dream is to study further once he is complete so that he might teach in a seminary one day…a worthy goal, indeed.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Newsletter August 2016

Newsletter August 2016

With views of lions, spectacular thunderstorms, and the long awaited arrival of a new faculty member and his family, it is hard to know exactly where to begin. Perhaps Maria von Trapp’s wisdom is best. “Let’s start at the very beginning…”

We arrived back in Addis from a quick medical trip to Cape Town, South Africa, but did not stop there…we followed the signs for those in transit (first time ever – how exciting not having a clue of where to go or what was waiting for us at the end) and were shuttled to the domestic airport where we competed with a flight from somewhere in the Middle East to have our passports stamped and our residents cards checked. Then we simply walked up a short flight of stairs into the waiting lounge. Ah, bliss…no struggling through the first security checkpoint.

And there we met up with Tekle Belachew, a dear and very learned friend who was flying down to teach African Church History (I) and (II) – Early and Modern. The beginning of our second year – yup, we have one year behind us already! – was a very good beginning. We had all our students present – 1st years, 2nd years, and part-timers…all rearing to go. Many of our students expressed surprise when told that Africa played a huge role in shaping Christendom, as we know it.

After Tekle left, I started teaching four courses to both 1st and 2nd year students. Theological English (I) and (III), African Traditional Religion/Philosophy, and the Intertestamental Period. While I was teaching one year, Louise read one of our more difficult prescribed books with the other year…this is working so well that we will continue doing this even after that particular course is ended. Most folks here don’t read so Louise demonstrates how to read and study, using dictionaries and other reference books when there are difficult words or concepts. The students love it and so does Louise!

Chris, Suzy, Abigail, and Matthew Wilson arrived on August 22, together with another Chris, also from the UK – a seminary student who is doing practical work here – and the Rev Roger Kay from Addis. Roger taught our students how to do cultural research as a project, while Chris (not the faculty Chris) led morning devotions. At one point we asked him to give his testimony as he had grown up in a church only to discover years later that he wasn’t really a believer at all. The students loved that! The culture here is so community oriented that many people end up joining the church, not because they believe, but because that’s where they find community! Not a bad place to start, but they can’t stop there…so his testimony hit a solid home run!

Jeremiah, our Nuer faculty member, is now our College Chaplain, the Coordinator of our Field Education Programme, and the Director of our College Research Programme. He certainly has his work cut out for him, so he would appreciate your prayers.

The renovation of the old classroom is now complete and the 2nd year students moved in this past Friday. Chris Wilson will start teaching his subjects on Monday…one week before the arrival of two lecturers from the US, Clark and Carol Smith, who will be teaching on the book of Ezekiel.

We are both doing exceptionally well in every way…I have a rather heavy teaching load, but I am as content as a warthog in a mud hole. Our students are amazing and eager to learn…what more could a teacher ask for?

Our little grandson, Jeremiah, turned five years old today…we are missing so many of our wee ones milestones, but hopefully we will get to Face Time with them this evening.

Oh yes, the lions…+Grant saw two lions on two separate trips not too far from Gambela. So there is life out there after all! Speaking about +Grant, he is down with malaria now too…seems we like to take turns getting sick here…but please pray for him.