Thursday, March 18, 2021

AN UNOBTRUSIVE AND USEFUL LIFE The Life and Labour of Arthur and Mary-Ellen Lomax (Preamble)

I am currently researching the life and labour of SPG Missionary Arthur (Holliday) Lomax, together with his wife, Mary-Ellen (Conroy) and their children. The ultimate objective is to write an historical novel entitled, AN UNOBTRUSIVE AND USEFUL LIFE: The Life and Labour of Arthur and Mary-Ellen Lomax.

This is the Preamble.

Preamble:

You come to me in dreams, dearest Arthur. I see you, standing there at the foot of the bed. You are patiently waiting for me…just as you patiently waited for me to come of age so that we might be wed. Do you recall? The vows we took on that day when we pledged ourselves one to the other stated that only death could part us…but how could death part us when you are still very much alive in my heart? 

The others do not see you. How can they? It is my dream. Sweet Alice sits at my side, gently caressing my hand as she weeps silently. At times she recites the Psalms, at other times she sings hymns, or prays. The sisters at the Community of the Resurrection taught her well. She will make a fine nun. 

Ambrose and John sit a little further to my right. They seem to be less comfortable in the presence of one dying. Strange how one who is acquainted with the anatomy of the physical body, as Ambrose is, can be so afraid of it in the face of its frailty. John…well he is a good attorney, but a poor companion for the bedridden. He is too impatient. 

Ellen of Ambrose busies herself with our grandchildren in the kitchen. Wee Francis sleeps in a cradle as Talbot, Margaret, and Clara Mary do what they can to help. They are baking for the Christmas festivities. Their hushed giggles are so precious to me. 

I do not know where the others are. I know that they are not close by and that travel is arduous and difficult. But their absence does not bother me. I understand. Besides, I am not alone.

And the van Zyl girl is here with us too. You remember her, Arthur? The daughter of the farmer, Louis – Louis van Zyl – the man you defended before the magistrate for shooting the British soldiers who were slaughtering his pregnant ewes. Perhaps you do not remember her. She was as she is now…a silent presence who prefers to do the chores about the house – the emptying of pails and bedpans, and the washing of floors and dishes – than making small talk.

Death is such a strange thing, is it not? I feel it creeping up from my feet. At one point my feet were cold. Alice rubbed them with liniment Ambrose brought with him. But now I can’t feel them at all. It is as if the numbness is slowly making its way up my swollen, pale grey legs. 

But death for you was sudden, as I recall. There was no long sickbed for you. One moment standing by my side…the next, you were standing in the presence of the Lord. But a relief for you, nonetheless. All those years of suffering and pain snuffed out in an instant. 

Perhaps that was what it was like with our son Francis when he drowned. At first, the struggle against the swirling river to preserve earthly life, then the surrender and the embracing of heavenly immortality. Francis. Is Francis with you? Have you seen him at all? And our wee grandson John Peter? I’ll not forget laying his tiny body in that casket. Our beautiful grandson. But now you are there with him and with Francis. 

What is it like, Arthur? This heaven about which we have spoken for so many years. Is it like a joyous family reunion? You too are now absent from your body and present with our Lord of love. For you, the promises are fulfilled…no more death, no more mourning, no more crying or pain…it must defy description. For you who suffered so much for so long, the absence of agony must be utterly delightful. Ah, yes…to behold the beatific vision must be glorious in and of itself.

These past few months since you left me, I have revisited our lives from the first day I met you to the present. Ambrose said I ought to write down what I remember so that I might leave behind a permanent memory of our lives and our labor…almost like one of his photographs. And so, I have tried to write as much as I could – starting in Manchester with our respective families. What humble origins, Arthur! And yet, by God’s providential intervention, we were given the opportunity to better ourselves and to rise from that awful life of poverty and squalor. Perhaps that is the reason we headed out to places where others needed to be uplifted. I have often wondered about that. What made us take such bold and fearless steps into what was so far and so foreign? We could have been dashed against the sharp rocks of life so easily and come away damaged or dead.

But even in the midst of great upheaval, struggle, fear, poverty, sickness, loss, war, and uncertainty, our love for our Lord kept our love for each other alive. We had such great adventures together, did we not? Plunging headlong into the great unknown, not once or twice, but many times. How often did we not spend sleepless nights wondering where the next crust of bread would come from to feed our wee babes? But He never left us…He never forsook us…just as He promised. He remained faithful and consistently provided all we needed…rewarding our watchful waiting time after time. Were we reckless? Perhaps. Like Abraham, leaving all he knew for what he could not have known. But he had Sara and a great company along the way. All we had was each other…and Him…and that was sufficient. A threefold cord is not easily broken. 

I open my eyes. Alice says something, but I do not hear her voice…it all seems so far away. I see you clearly now…not in my dreams, but with my eyes. Am I delirious? No, there is a light behind you…around you. I hear beautiful voices singing the praises of God. Are those angels at your side? I hear a gasp and I feel myself rising. Am I dead? Yes, I am. But I am alive! Really vibrantly alive! What an exhilarating sensation! I am free! I am soaring as if on eagle wings. I see light…I feel love. Oh, Eternal bliss! Arthur, I am coming to you, my beloved. I am coming to our Lord and to you and to each precious soul we brought to Him…and to all those who have gone before us. Arthur. We will be together forever.


Friday, March 5, 2021

March Newsletter

Johann and Louise: Training Disciples to Make Disciples in Southern Africa

Lace-up shoes. You know them. You've worn them at least at one time in your life. 

I am sure I am not the only one who has at some or other time had an unfortunate experience that comes from untied laces. One moment you are plodding along happily and the next you are either lying prostrate on the earth or flying forward crazily trying to regain your balance. 

I think 2020 and the first few months of 2021 have made some of us feel as if we have stepped on an untied shoelace. It has certainly been that way for Louise and myself. 

I do not do well with untied things...I am one of those people who like to complete a task, tie it up neatly, and move ahead with the next item on my five-year-plan agenda. But these past few months, we have had to deal with many untied things...ranging from rather serious events like our health and the deaths of family members and friends to, what one would think ought to be a rather simple task of licensing the trailer we were given two years ago. This global pandemic has thrown a wrench in every single plan we had for ministry here and beyond our borders.

So, we tried to be as flexible as possible, getting involved in local ministries as best we could. I have been preaching at St Augustine's more regularly than before. We have managed to train one group of local folks in disciple making. Louise has been very involved in Tools4Life, feeding the hungry and working with the disabled and disenfranchised. It has shocked us to realise that there is nowhere for these folks to go in our village. No safe house. No shelter. If their family or friends do not step in, they have to fend for themselves, as best they can.

The group is trying to secure anything that might serve as a place where the disabled can safely live and function as per the skills they are taught by Tools4Life. They are looking into recycling (there is a LOT of trash here!) and eco-bricks to help these folks generate their own funding. Please pray that someone will make a positive decision so that the group may move forward. At the moment we keep tripping over the untied lace of bureaucratic indifference.

My book, Breakfast on the Beach: The Development of Simon Peter, is now in the final editing phase. Please pray that all will go smoothly and that it might be published sooner rather than later. Also pray for the marketing of the book. That billions around the world will be drawn closer to Jesus by reading it. That is my main concern. That our Lord and God be glorified and that His Kingdom be advanced globally. Pray also that it will be translated into other languages. The South American Bishops have indicated that they would like to see it translated into Spanish. 

Pray also for the sequel to this book entitled, For Us, For Our Children, For The World. Langham has said they would like to see how Breakfast performs before committing to the next volume. These two books explain what we teach in story form. It is discipling according to Scripture. 

My research into the lives and labor of two SPG Missionaries has been placed on hold as we cannot physically go to Oxford to access the archives in the libraries in the UK, particularly the Bodleian Library. This research is valuable to all missionaries seeking to go into the field as it explores the many factors that have an impact on the lives of both the sent and the senders. Every economic slump, caused by war, political instability, or fluctuating markets had a direct effect on the Church and the Sending Societies, as giving went down during these periods. The same is still true today.

Thankfully, our SAMS account has not taken too much of a hit during this pandemic. We are grateful to every one of our supporters. We are so grateful to each one who prays for us. True, our SAMS support account could be better, but then again it could also be worse.

But our Lord knows our needs and we leave that in His hands.

Bless you and thank you.
 
All our love
Johann and Louise

Facebook
Website
Email
Twitter
Support Us
Johann and Louise spent two years helping to develop the St. Frumentius Seminary in Gambella, Ethiopia. At present, they are mostly working in Southern Africa where they are serving in seven southern African countries, although they continue to work with the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa as well as other southern and northern African countries, through engaging in a disciple making movement in order to grow the body of Christ. They are partnering with J-Life and other like-minded ministries. This ministry is massive and has the ability to reach thousands.
We are sent  through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, a missionary sending community, engaging in building relationships with the worldwide church to experience the broken restored, the wounded healed, the hungry fed, and the lost found through the love and power of Jesus Christ. 
Support SAMS
Copyright © 2016 Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, All rights reserved.
www.sams-usa.org
    

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 399 Ambridge PA 15003
Attention to: Johann and Louise van der Bijl

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Way, the Truth, the Life

The Way, the Truth, the Life

There is a way not easily found

The entrance hidden in plain sight

The path itself is narrow, steep

And often leads through valleys deep

But there’s a light that beckons on

That illuminates the feet of those who see.


They who enter by this Door

Are driven by the truth

They know through darkest, deepest vales

They never are alone

His presence is yet clearer still

The steeper, deeper winds the way.


The path though hard and difficult

Leads those who travel on to life

A life that only can be found 

At the end of the way 

And so they walk the way in truth

To enter life eternal bliss.


© Johannes W H van der Bijl 2021


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

To the unseen and the unnoticed

In an age when missiological books focus on the great and the successful, I wish to focus on the many who labour on unseen and unnoticed, looking ever for that one lost lamb in the wilderness places of the world. 

Arthur and Mary-Ellen Lomax were such missionaries...serving silently but faithfully in areas outside the bright lights of the cities. They did not seek praise and are therefore almost forgotten...but not in the eyes of a saviour who lived and laboured in the backwater places in Galilee. 

If ever this research leads to a published work, I hope to dedicate it to those who will forever be unknown save for the books written and kept in heaven.

A Research Trip

We are about to embark on yet another fact finding trip around the Eastern Cape/Karoo region. Louise and I will be going to Aliwal-North, Dordrecht, Southwell, Middleburg, and Steynsburg, all places SPG Missionaries, Arthur and Mary-Ellen Lomax lived and laboured in the 1800's until their promotion to glory in 1910. It has been a struggle to find any relevant information, but people in these areas have been ever so helpful and have gone to great lengths to help us in our quest. 

Also, folks in the UK, in particular Manchester, Oxford, and Staffordshire have sent me some of the most amazing information over the past few months, in spite of the Covid regulations and lockdowns and restrictions.

This exercise, although vexing at times, has served to restore one faith in our human race. We are most grateful.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Personal Programme Design for the Oxford Guided Study Programme

OCMS Guided Study Programme

Programme Design

John Stott once asked the question, “Why is it that some Christians cross land and sea, continents and cultures, as missionaries? What on earth impels them?” His answer was simple. “It is not in order to commend a civilization, an institution or an ideology, but rather a person, Jesus Christ.”

However, the Scriptures indicate that it is very often the everyday commonplace things in life that move people to do things that ultimately bring glory to God and salvation to many. I intend this reality to be the object of my research.

My questions regarding the life and ministry of SPG Missionaries, Arthur and Mary-Ellen Lomax, are rather basic. First, what were the non-spiritual catalysts for their entry into mission? The Victorian era was bursting with activities that brought about monumental changes in the lives of millions of ordinary people. This was the time of Marx, Darwin, Dickens, Nightingale, Gandhi, Hobhouse…men and women who boldly and publicly challenged the status quo, who exposed the callous disregard for the poor and destitute, and who encouraged many to rise above their traditional stations in life. This was the time of change in the church…the Oxford Movement, and the novel thought of allowing non-aristocratic men into training for the service of the church. This was the time of mechanization, of factories, of educational reform, of epidemics (Cholera), famines (the Irish Potato and ama-Xhosa Cattle Famines), and emigration as well as a time of wars (the Sepoy Rebellion in India, the American Civil War, the Crimean War, and the Anglo-Boer War) , the greedy driven quest for wealth (Land, Diamonds, and Gold) and imperial expansion and brutal oppression. How did these people, ideas, and events work together in the lives of Arthur and Mary-Ellen in shaping their hopes and dreams for their personal future? I also wish to research possible reasons for their choosing to go under the auspices of the SPG, rather than other possible mission societies at that time and attempt to answer the questions: Why Mauritius? Why Lichfield? Why South Africa? 

The second question follows on from the first as it has to do with longevity in Mission. What motivated them to stay in Mission in spite of illness, hardship, wars, socio-economic and political upheaval. Arthur contracted some lung ailment while serving at Zonnebloem College and St Mary’s in Cape Town and yet, unlike some of his contemporaries, opted not to return to England, but chose rather to continue serving at another post in South Africa in Aliwal-North, a town on the very fringes of the Cape Colony. The ninth frontier war broke out as they were moving from Dordrecht to start a College to train and raise up local clergy in Mthatha. A protracted drought impoverished many parishioners, most of whom were farmers, which had a direct impact on their personal income and survival in Southwell. The Anglo- Boer War broke out and challenged their long-standing friendships with the Dutch in the Karoo region, Middleburg, Steynsberg, Molteno, and Craddock. But not only did they choose to stay, they somehow managed to overcome all these obstacles and difficulties. I hope to uncover a little more about the living conditions in their places of service by examining the reports and letters of their contemporaries and superiors.

Of course, as Stott points out, the overarching reason for entry into mission and longevity in mission is the conviction that we are in service of the Lord of all. It is only by His personal involvement in the lives of His servants that we are enabled to make decisions regarding both these questions, but God often uses the mundane to bring about the profound. And it is the mundane that lies behind my enquiry and my research.

It is hoped that my research and my writing will serve as an encouragement to those who seek to enter into the mission field in the future, as well as encouraging those who are currently serving in trying circumstances to make a wise and spiritually informed decision to press on.

Johannes W H van der Bijl

Windy Corner

Villiersdorp, South Africa

26 December 2020


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Johann and Louise: Training Disciples to Make Disciples in Southern Africa

Many years ago, I decided that a wooden roller coaster ride was a good idea. Boy was I sorry! I ached in places I did not even know I had. 

In many ways, 2020 reminds me of how I felt back then. Banged up and bruised, but grateful to have made it to the end in one piece.

The year has pretty much ended as it began...with an alarming rise in Covid-19 infections, but minus a full country-wide lockdown. We had taken the Queen out of the Nursing Home for Thanksgiving and just as well...that day, several residents were found to be covid positive and the Queen was not allowed to return. So, we have her stopping with us until it is safe for her to return. 

The sad reality of this pandemic is that much of our normal mission work ground to a halt. But we did find ways of reaching out to the those in need and Louise worked tirelessly with a local feeding scheme and with an organisation that ministers to people with disabilities. I managed to complete a book about Jesus' model of disciple making from the perspective of Simon Peter and signed a contract with Langham publishers...God willing, the book, entitled Breakfast on the Beach, will be published June of July 2021. I also completed a sequel to this book, entitled For Us, For Our Children, For The World that examines the life of Simon Peter post Ascension. In both cases, the books are written in a narrative style. I also wrote a devotional on the parable of the lost sons. The entries can be found on my blog here: http://missionsbloging.blogspot.com/

I am currently working on a biographical study of the life and ministry of two SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) Missionaries to Mauritius and South Africa in the mid 1800's through 1910. We are exploring possibilities of further research in Oxford where the SPG archives as well as many relevant important documents are kept at the Bodleian Library. This would be part of a Guided Study Program offered by Oxford. 

In many ways, I seem to have found my true calling. I absolutely love researching and writing! Other than the day when Jesus saved me, the day my wife and I became one, the days my sons were born, when they were married, and when their children were born...I have never been so happy and contended and fulfilled. I pray that our Lord will make it possible for me to continue writing for His Kingdom!

Finally, may Louise and I wish you all the happiest of Christmases...the Light of Life still shines in the darkness and even the darkness of a pandemic cannot overcome it! We pray that 2021 will be all you hope for a much, much more.

Thank you for your ongoing support. We are so grateful to each one who prays for us and supports us financially and otherwise. As usual, our SAMS support account could be better, but then again it could also be worse. The Lord knows our needs and we leave that in His hands. Bless you and thank you.
 
All our love
Johann and Louise

Facebook
Website
Email
Twitter
Support Us
Johann and Louise spent two years helping to develop the St. Frumentius Seminary in Gambella, Ethiopia. At present, they are mostly working in Southern Africa where they are serving in seven southern African countries, although they continue to work with the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa as well as other southern and northern African countries, through engaging in a disciple making movement in order to grow the body of Christ. They are partnering with J-Life and other like-minded ministries. This ministry is massive and has the ability to reach thousands.
We are sent  through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, a missionary sending community, engaging in building relationships with the worldwide church to experience the broken restored, the wounded healed, the hungry fed, and the lost found through the love and power of Jesus Christ. 
Support SAMS
Copyright © 2016 Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, All rights reserved.
www.sams-usa.org
    

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 399 Ambridge PA 15003
Attention to: Johann and Louise van der Bijl

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list