Monday, July 31, 2017

If a problem is solvable...

From a distance I saw them. Two young women…hardly women…girls, more like it…walking down the street, the one wrapped in a cheap, dirty blanket, the other scarcely covered, her bare legs bruised and scarred with cigarette burn marks. Who are these girls? Where do they come from? They are just two of many who stand at street corners day and night in the area where we live. What made them turn to a life of prostitution, subjecting themselves to being violated night after night by vile men who live duplicitous lives? Is there a parent watching through a window, waiting for the return of the prodigal…or is the parent already overburdened with life, trying to maintain a house filled with too many mouths to feed with little or no income…or is there no parent at all? My heart bled…

There are way too many homeless people all around us. Beggars fight each other at traffic lights as they defend their territory. Men, women, and children unashamedly scratch around in trash bins looking for something to stave off the hunger pains. Many sleep among the graves in the graveyards…some on the sidewalks…others under bridges or bushes. Those who are fortunate enough to find a small job here or there, live in shacks made out of iron and plastic sheeting…shacks that leak when it rains or are flattened when the wind blows. And this, twenty years after apartheid was dismantled! It is not as if there is no money…it is not uncommon to see the latest models of expensive motor vehicles whizzing by. Pricey restaurants are filled to capacity every night. The malls are filled with shoppers…there is money…somewhere.

And it is not that there is no Christian presence here either…many churches are involved in some or other philanthropic endeavour. But usually that is a side line item in the otherwise attraction centred model of church growth. Dirty, unwashed, and unkempt souls are not generally the kind of people the more fortunate enjoy hanging out with. But wait…this sounds all too familiar…just read the four Gospels.

In his book, The Christ of the Indian Road, Stanley Jones relates how he once asked Mahatma Gandhi how to naturalize Christianity into India. Gandhi apparently replied in part: “I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all begin to live more like Jesus Christ.” Which makes me wonder what he would have said about the Church of Jesus Christ in southern Africa…or, more pointedly, what Jesus might have said were He to address us today. In our behaviour, do we mirror the ecclesiastical elite of 1st Century Palestine…or do we mirror the one who came to serve, not to be served…the one who came to give His life a ransom for many…the one who was accused of being a friend of tax-collectors and sinners? Do I even need to answer that question?

It is true that we simply cannot help everyone…but everyone can help someone. If every person attending a church could be trained to take just one person under their wing…just one…surely we could make quite a dent in the problems we encounter in this society. General Jan Smuts, one time leader of South Africa and friend of Winston Churchill, apparently used to say that if a problem is solvable, it is no longer a problem. The problem of vagrancy, prostitution, and poverty is solvable…if only all our parishioners were trained to make disciples like Jesus made disciples…if only our Christians lived more like Christ.

Growing the Church has a wonderful tool that is simple and yet life-changing…if only we can get it out there. Some Dioceses (especially in the Gauteng area where we have done two trainings and will do another at the end of August – as well as Mpumalanga in September) have responded positively and we have trained a number of folk there. Some of these trainees have embraced the material and have used it to teach many more. But there are still many who have not responded at all. Our introductory trip to the Eastern Cape has yet to show any fruit…

Please pray with us for the removal of all obstacles…this disciple-making material can change the spiritual landscape of southern Africa! I believe that with all my heart…because it is the very same model Jesus used.

Pray for our three day training in the Western Cape this weekend and for a possible training in Arniston next weekend!

On a more personal note, please continue to pray for our support raising efforts. We are still not up to snuff on our SAMS-USA budget. Please pray with us to the Lord of the Harvest, as this is quite troubling.

Please pray for our children and grandchildren.
Hanno and Lauren – Jeremiah (soon to be 6), Beatrix (2), and Constance (just over one month old). Jeremiah has broad-spectrum autism, but is doing well, even at school. Beatrix and Constance were born with a genetic disorder that causes severe hearing impairment. Beatrix has cochlear implants now and seems to be doing very well. Constance must still jump through all the medical hoops to get hers. Please pray for them as a family as they deal with these challenges. But, from what we can see, they are a happy family with ready smiles.
Heyns and Hanna – Amelia (18 months) is the sunshine of their lives and is quite a character, and Baby E (yes!). They will be flying over to visit us mid-August. Pray for a wonderful time of love and fellowship and bonding. We do miss them all so!

Please pray for the ministry of Growing the Church. Our budget was cut in half this year…there is still so much work to be done out there!

Please pray for Louise’s 92-year-old mum…affectionately known as the Queen. She is still struggling with wounds on her shins. We are able to pop over the mountain every now and again to see her for which we are truly grateful.

And lastly, please pray for rain. While we are thankful for the rain and snow we have had, we are all too aware of the alarmingly low water levels in the major dams. We need much more rain and a lot more snow in the catchment areas especially.

Thank you for being there for us…you are all appreciated. May the Lord bless you way beyond your wildest thoughts.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sigh no more...

I was thinking about the hoohah in the church of late and the way in which both sides fling dung one at the other...and the song of Balthazar came to mind...set in a play of intrigue and plotting and fickleness and naiveté. Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever; One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never. Then sigh not so, But let them go, And be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe Into Hey nonny, nonny. Sing no more ditties, sing no more Of dumps so dull and heavy; The fraud of men was ever so, Since summer first was leavy. Then sigh not so, But let them go, And be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Monday, July 24, 2017


In a recent conversation with Denise Cox, Associate Director of SAMS-USA, our sending agency, we were told that we are still running between $1,000 and $1,500 short of our monthly budgeted amount. That means SAMS is dipping into our reserves to pay our monthly stipends. If this reserve drops below a certain level, SAMS will have no option other than to call us back off the field.

This news comes at a strange time, as we are busier now than we have been in a long time. The disciple-making course, Strategy, is being taught to so many people, clergy and laity alike, young and old alike, with many more trainings scheduled in the months to come. Of course, we are cognisant of the fact that we have an adversary who is never pleased when the kingdom advances, but we are also well aware of the fact that nothing can thwart the will of God…and that our God hearkens to the prayers of His people.

So, we are asking that you join us in praying to the Lord of the Harvest, not only to continue to send out more labourers into the harvest field, but also to raise up supporters for those labourers. If you know of anyone who might be interested in supporting us in our ministry in southern Africa, please pass on our information.

And please…also join us in praying for rain. If we do not get more rain this year, there will be no water for the people, animals, and plant life of the western Cape come summer.

With all our love and God's richest blessings.

Johann and Louise

A Christianity without a passion to turn the world upside down is not reflective of apostolic Christianity.  Carl F. H. Henry

The Rev Dr Johann W H van der Bijl III
SAMS Missionaries
+1 27 72 958 5845

Thursday, July 20, 2017

St Paul's Anglican Church: George Diocese

When we toured the Eastern Cape area a week ago, our first stop was in the Diocese of George. The evening prior to our meeting with the Bishop, Canon, and Archdeacons, Lyndon Du Plessis, our GtC coordinator, showed us around the city of George and, more especially the areas where he and he and his wife Corine work. It is mostly a poor to impoverished area...some folks live in shacks and cook outside around campfires. But we were so blessed when he took us to meet his choir...made up of people from all walks of life, none of them professionally trained...but oh! What a heavenly sound! I think even the angels were commanded to be silent and listen...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 15

I was reminded of our donkeys on my father’s farm as we travelled back home yesterday. Speed was not their forte on the way from their place of abode…but just turn them around! The moment they realised they were headed on back to the kraal, they galloped as if a demon from hell itself was pursuing them. All this to say, we made good time on our way back to Cape Town…

We had a long way ahead of us, but we had a late start…how could we refuse a full English farmhouse breakfast with some of the dearest people we now have the privilege of calling friends? Or better still, family in Jesus. Keith and Pam went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and loved.

All of those we met these past two weeks were wonderful and kind hosts…we truly experienced Christian hospitality at its best. Thank you one and all.

Unfortunately, my Man Cold has taken a turn downhill. I now sound like a nasally Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows.  Croak.  Thankfully, Louise is still fine.

We came home to a warm welcome from those who were at the GtC office. It is always nice to know one was missed.

John Ramsdale, who had promised to do some research into Arthur’s work at Zonnebloem, had also left two photocopied pages taken from a three volume work which he found in one of the cupboards at the College. The author cites statements made by Bishop Gray and Arthur’s superior, Glover, in which Arthur is described as “a teacher of outstanding ability” and as “an energetic good man” who “shows much kindness to the boys, making friends of them as well as out of school as in school.” The author then goes on to say that “it was provident that a man of such a calibre had been chose as Sub-Warden, for Glover resigned his post in May 1869 and Lomax had the entire responsibility of superintending the College for the next two years.” I do need to see this work for myself, as the author cites letters and reports that may yet be in existence somewhere.

All in all, I must say, this trip was rewarding.  Time alone will tell how many will respond positively to our challenge to set dates for future trainings, but we trust that the Lord will water the seeds sown and provide the growth in His good time. We heard that some Anglican priests were trained by J-Life this past weekend in Queenstown in spite of our struggle to meet with our coordinators. We trust that they will now meet up with Siphiwo and together make a concerted effort to get the training up and running through the Mbashe Diocese.

Lord, in Your mercy…hear our prayer.

This ends the travel diary of our short trip to the Eastern Cape.

Stay tuned for more exciting news as the Lord opens doors for ministry through the Province!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 14

I have the Man Cold. Louise will tell you I am a miserable sod when I have a cold...I'm bad enough when I'm healthy, but when I have a cold I become a pitiful, pathetic please-feel-sorry-for-me blob. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but I do feel very sorry for myself when I have a cold.

However, I do have the ability to rise to the occasion when I have to, and as we still had two presentations today, one this morning and one this evening, I had to swallow hard and carry on. Both sessions were rather informative...the questions put to us after the presentation always reveal the pulse of the parish or diocese. Today was no different. We are surprised that so many months after the Provincial Synod's charge to Growing the Church to find a way to promote the Archbishop of Canterbury's challenge for global intentional discipleship, there are still many on the parish level that know nothing about it. This is one of the reasons we have taken to the road to inform the people in the various Dioceses of this new Disciple-making material taught by GtC...and everywhere, we have had positive responses with people wanting to set dates. But the setting of dates is not our prerogative...that has to be set by the Diocese itself...and so we can do little more than leave the ball in their court with a prayer that the Holy Spirit will lead and direct their deliberations in the future.

Both presentations today were very positive. The Plettenberg Bay Community is rather diverse with rich and poor rubbing gathering together as one parish. In the morning session, we also had a

representative from the local Community Church attending who would like to do the course with the Anglicans. Wonderful!

This evening, representatives from a poorer area came to hear about our LEAD program. They were so excited and also wanted to know when we were coming to do the training. All we can do is pray and encourage.

Tomorrow we head on home...this will be a long day...between 6 to 7 hours of driving with a stop or two. But we need to get the rental car back before 5 PM if we are to avoid extra charges. So, we push on cold or not...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 13

Today was a driving day...that's basically all we did all day. We left East London at 7:30, admittedly a little later than we had planned, but both of us were...actually are...tired. We had no meetings and, other than Louise calling Mother's Union and AWF leaders to remind them of a breakfast on July 15 when we will introduce the LEAD material to them, we did not really do any work type stuff.

Unfortunately, the CD player and radio in the car has a rather bad we couldn't listen to music. We talked a lot...about our children and grandchildren...about our ministry...about the Lord...we spoke to the Lord a lot too.

And we did not take a single photograph. We enjoyed the scenery...this really is one of the most beautiful parts of the world...we saw quite a few wild animals...we enjoyed lunch at a Greek Restaurant a stone's throw away from the beach at Jeffrey's Bay...and we enjoyed meeting Keith and Pam Berning, our hosts for tonight and tomorrow night in Plettenberg Bay.

We spoke to Pam at length about the LEAD program, we spoke about prayer, healing of memories (desperately needed in southern Africa!), we spoke about the churches in the area and their struggles, and oh so many other things.

We are about to enjoy a lovely dinner Keith has prepared for us, so if I don't have anything more to say, I will not return to this blog until tomorrow.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 12

One of the favourite games Louise and I have played on this trip is the game of dodgem...dodgem taxis, dodgem people, dodgem animals, and, our all time favourite, dodgem potholes. We left Molteno at 7 AM, which doesn't sound early, but it is still not quite light at that it was hard to spot potholes until you were right on top of them...unless, of course, some thoughtful person had painted a white line around the kidding. They erect signs warning you of potholes and they paint around them with white paint, but they don't fix them. Go figure...

I can well understand why our ancestors wanted to settle in this area in spite of the awful winters. -1 this morning! But the landscape is simply stunning...the valleys and the hills...the flora and the fauna...add in the mist over the dams and lakes and rivers...add in the golden hues of pinks and lilacs of sunrise...and you have magic.

Our first stop today was in a town named after Queen Victoria...Queenstown. This is one of two Dioceses in which we have struggled to get appointments, but a dear gentleman by the name of Siphiwo requested to see us today...which, in turned out, was his birthday!
He wanted to know what we were doing so that he can pass on the information to the Bishop and the rest of the Diocese...but, more importantly, he wants us to train his parishioners how to disciple others. We did the introductory presentation with him and the Diocesan secretary and prayed with them. He showed us around the cavernous Cathedral of St Michaels and All Angels. Gorgeous building...and really interesting decor...among the typical stained glass windows and stone carvings, they have a brown Jesus behind the altar.

Then we had to push on to East London for our first meeting at St Mark's, Cambridge, at 12:30. East London is part of the Diocese of Grahamstown, but these folks are chomping at the bit...they are so ready for the disciple-making training, the only repeated, almost urgent question was when do we do this? There were 24 at this introductory session...other than Mthatha, this was the largest group we have addressed. They are all excitement and so we set a tentative date, subject, of course to the approval of their Bishop.

We then went to the Guest House where we will spend the night. The building belongs to a member of St Mark's Church, but he is a St Thomas Christian from Kerela. They trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the First Century. How fortuitous that we should be staying in a house owned by a man who is a Christian today because of the obedience of one of Jesus' original make disciples of all nations...even if that meant crossing land and sea and cultures and languages to do so...not to mention, lose his life in the process.

After a short rest we returned to St Mark's for the second session.
This was not so well attended, but some key people were there with key ideas and key questions. It really only take one or two...that's the beauty of disciple-making. You don't need huge numbers, huge budgets, huge buildings, huge just need huge hearts filled with love for God and for people. It is that simple...

Tomorrow will be the longest drive it is time to find a pillow and get some shut-eye. Nighty night world...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 11

We had quite an early start today as we had quite a way to drive! But...we didn't take into consideration how long we would have to wait at roadblocks...the particular road we travelled on today was under construction - all the way! The only thing worse than sitting waiting for the STOP sign to turn to GO is doing the job must be brain numbing to stand hour after hour waving a red flag to unsympathetic motorists or turning a sign over or pulling the plastic roadblock out of the way. We always greet everyone with a wave and a smile and they respond with the same every time.

As we have been going non stop since leaving Cape Town, we rewarded ourselves by taking the day off today. So we headed down memory lane, stopping off at another mission my great-grandfather had on his list. Dortrecht. The church in which he served as Rector is now in a sad state of disrepair...but the rest of the town doesn't look all that hot either. Sad, really.

Next, we headed off towards Molteno, a tiny town in the Eastern Cape where Louise's Dutch ancestors were friends with my British ancestors three generations ago. At the time, the British and Boers were not that happy with each other and a huge battle was fought right on Louise's grandfather's farm, Klipfontein.

Old man van Zyl thought thieves were trying to steal his sheep so he let rip with his rifle...unbeknownst to him, the trespassers were British soldiers trying to get some sleep in his barn - their mistake was that they didn't ask his permission first. When they heard the gun shots, they thought they were surrounded by Boer soldiers and they ran for the hills. In the end, it was a Boer victory, so maybe Old man van Zyl could take a pat on the back.

Louise's father was also born in Molteno in a small house just off main street - because there was no hospital back then. He also went to school here and ought to have inherited one of Old Man van Zyl's farms, but...well, it is a long and convoluted family story. There were coal mines here at one time, but after the war, they discovered that the grade of coal was inferior, so they closed the mines...the town had a brief boom period, but it quickly declined as residents left seeking their fortunes elsewhere.

One such resident was my great-uncle Ambrose Lomax. Ambrose was a chemist and amateur photographer. We visited his old shop today which has been converted into a Magistrate's Court, a library and a wee museum. In the museum we saw a photograph - a self-portrait - of Ambrose as well as a newspaper from April 1910 in which my grandfather is listed as having won a tennis match. My great-grandfather, Arthur, died in December 1910...I wonder if he was present when his son won this match?

We did visit the grave sites of both my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother Mary Ellen as well as Louise's father's grave...the former in Steynsburg, the latter in Molteno. Always strange visiting grave sites and wishing one could somehow tell them what is happening in our lives and hear what they had to say about that...maybe that is better left unsaid and unheard.

 Tonight we are staying over in a lovely Guest house called Olive's Cottage. On our way today, we received a call from the owner to say her husband had had a heart attack and they were in East London - he was having emergency heart surgery...but we could still get into the Cottage via a kind neighbour. We told her we would be praying and we called her just a wee while ago to hear how he is doing. Apparently everything went well...he is in recovery. Thank You Jesus.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day. From Molteno we drive to Queenstown to meet with the coordinator of GtC in the Kahlamba Diocese. We meet him at 8 we will have to leave a freezing (literally) Molteno no later than 7 AM. Then on to East London for two meetings at St Mark's Cambridge, the first at 12H30 and the second at 17H30. So, it is an early night again tonight for us!

What a has been a trip down memory lane and it has been fun.
Ambrose Lomax's Chemist and Photographic Studio

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trip to the Eastern Cape: Day 10

Close your eyes…you might just think you are in Cambridge or Westminster or King’s College…but no, wait! The words are not English, but Xhosa. Open your eyes and you are looking at roughly 5000 people crammed into a tent. I think to myself: “My great-grandfather did not build churches. These people. They are his legacy.” According to the SPG in London, Arthur was here to train indigenous missionaries…indigenous…that’s what this church is now. While it is a perfectly sound Anglican service, it is all done in isiXhosa…the Prayer Book, the Scripture readings, the Hymns, the service music…and all are indigenous people. Just the way Arthur would have wanted it to be.

We were told to be at the church at 8:30 AM, but by the time we got there crowds were already singing lustily in the tent…cars parked everywhere…and wave after wave of procession marching up the street from Ebenezer to the tent. I was there just in time for the very last one…with all the Canons, Archdeacons, the Provost and the Vicar General. Eish! Whatever happened to Africa time? 

I walked alongside the Chancellor of the Diocese…a good man to know! He and I chatted about the LEAD program and he is sold. One more on our side! Thank You Jesus! The tent was actually overflowing when we processed in and more people kept arriving throughout the service. As guess I managed to get a seat on the stage because I was with this final procession…it helps being late sometimes!

The service was amazingly organized. The choir was magnificent. As I said to one of the Archdeacons, today even the angels were silent. I hope I can buy one of their CD’s as I would love to hear these spectacular voices again. As neither Louise nor I speak or understand Xhosa, we were at somewhat of a disadvantage, but one of the great things about the Prayer Book is that even though it is in a different language, one can figure out what is going on from time to time.

These chaps do like their incense, though! The acolytes were so well trained and to watch them…their serious little faces…was a treat. The Eucharist is probably the largest I have ever attended with Chalices and Patens galore…the Vicar General kindly asked me to serve the bread – I loved every moment of it. Every man bows and every women curtseys as they receive the elements in upraised palms…precious brothers and sisters.

As this is a “Family Day” celebration service and everyone from the Diocese is present, there were reports to be given and gifts to be received. From the entrance of the church came the loud sound of dancing and singing as a group of enthusiastic young folk dragged in two sheep…a ram and ewe. As we did not understand what was being said or sung, we wondered…independently as we were not seated together…what was going down. Was this some OT scapegoat type ritual? The sheep were shoved onto the stage and made to sit at the feet of the Vicar General. My curiosity took over and I asked the Archdeacon next to me what was going on. He told me they were gifts from the Diocese to the Vicar General as a token of their appreciation. He was told that this was the start of a flock for him and his family…not to eat, but to multiply. They gave him an envelope with money for food…just to make sure. Sweet.

Then came my turn to address the crowd. I had prayed fervently that the Lord would give me the right words. Of course, at gatherings like these, there are many to address prior to saying anything…the Vicar General, the Provost, the Canon, the Archdeacons…and so on. But when I spoke, I told them what a blessing it was for us to be here on their family day as I am part of their family in a sense. I then told them about Arthur being the first principal of St John’s College…at this point people applauded and cheered. I had wondered how they would react, but it was very positive indeed. I told them all about GtC and the LEAD program and that I would be meeting with their Vicar General to discuss dates, times, and venues. The expectation is palpable…they want this training.

It was all over too soon…then there was lunch. Lunch? No, a feast worthy of the word celebration. Chicken, beef, lamb, rice, samp, butternut squash, spinach, salad, and dessert…these folks can eat! When it was time to say goodbye, the Vicar General said he would see us before nightfall…

And, in spite of an unbelievably busy schedule, he did! We had a wonderful chat over some light treats – who could eat anything heavy after today’s lunch? He is going to check on the Diocesan calendar, but is tentatively thinking of having us come up to do the first part of the training in October. Whoohoo!!!! We may be able to get some folk from the other Diocese to join in the fun too!

Long day…time to find a pillow.