Last Sunday I thanked God for the opportunity to finally minister in English again. A small Baptist church in Louis Trichardt without a pastor asked me to preach in their morning service. With January 9th as my target, I invited a number of people I have been working on over the last few months. Ten of my friends showed up that morning, and at the conclusion 5 requested prayer that God would save them. Since then I’ve met with two of the families and a mother has been converted! Incidentally, she said it wasn’t my preaching, but a tract I gave her—so keep passing them out. She also asked that I have a weekly Bible study with her and her family.
MUSIC IS HARD WORK
Over the last few days my little printer has been working at maximum output trying to create a songbook for the Mashamba Baptist Church. Repairs and collating have reminded me of how blessed American churches are, so the next time you sing at church remember to be grateful for the “little things”. And speaking of music, I am now playing the only musical instrument (that I know of) in the village of Mashamba. Godfrey received a guitar, and since I know the rudiments I am now the church accompanist. For those of you who know my dubious musical ability your prayers are appreciated.
“TSWARIWA RA VUMBIRHI”
Last night my eyes were again blurring over from Tsonga as a visitor showed up at my house. Moffat works on the farm on which I rent my house, and he came with divine interest. He puzzled my expectations by not asking for money, food, or a ride, and within 5 minutes he got to the meat of his concern: “Tswariwa ra vumbirhi. How do I do it?” That is Tsonga for “born the second time.” Apparently he has been reading his Bible and this question was one of many that he couldn’t understand. For nearly two hours he bombarded me with the kind of Bible questions a seminary student asks. Moffat’s first language is Venda, but he understands Tsonga. My Tsonga is still very poor, but I was amazed at how much suddenly came back to me. Phrases and vocabulary words starting clicking in place, and before 9:00 Moffat had experienced that mysterious “tswariwa ra vumbirhi.” On Christmas day I had helped him, and it may have been that little seed of kindness that germinated into a desire to be saved. Praise the Lord for unexpected reaping.
The photo shows one of the mountain villages in which I want to preach. Many villages are situated similarly with precarious roads and breathtaking backdrops. LORD-willing, this Saturday I am planning to start an itinerant preaching ministry in some surrounding villages. My Tsonga is slowly getting better, and I’m sure it will help me to practice. A teenage boy named Eric will translate for me. As we travel he can help me while I help him. He is a gifted, young man that wants to be in the ministry, and presently I look on him as a Timothy. Maybe in a few months he can do the preaching as I watch. I had hesitated to preach in the open air through a translator because I was hoping to speak the language fluently by now, but that level is still further down the road. This technique might help my Tsonga as well a train a national.
HOLD THE ROPES IN PRAYER
1. Vhlengwe’s conversion and closed tavern
2. Itinerant preaching in the villages: My Tsonga and Eric’s spiritual growth
3. Spiritual growth for Wilma (the mom) and Moffat.
4. Johan’s conversion (the son)
Blessed beyond desert,
If you have been praying for Moffat (I mentioned him in the last letter.) then praise the LORD! He has proven his conversion a number of times now over the last month since he asked me on January 7th how to be born again. Sunday he rode a bike nearly 20 miles to come to church in Mashamba. When I asked him if he would have done that 6 months ago he replied with “No, but since then Moya lowu Kwetsima (the Holy Spirit) has come in.” He has gone through a number of personal Bible studies with me, is ready to be baptized, and wants me to come preach to his village. Continue to pray for his understanding of doctrine and opportunities to win his family.
MY FIRST BAPTISMS!
Two Sunday’s ago I was able to baptize two girls and a young man from my youth group—Voni ~ 13 years, Lerato ~ 15 years, and Takalani ~ 20. The baptistry took several days and numbers of buckets to fill. Thankfully, there is a water tap only about 100 yards from the church. Do you have any idea how many buckets of water it takes to fill even a small pool for baptisms?
TWO NEW VILLAGES
With Eric’s help, I am now preaching in the open air in two different villages on Sunday afternoons. The crowds have varied from 3 to around 40 (only counting adults). Yesterday, the Gospel was proclaimed for the first time in Wayeni as nearly 20 teens and adults listened. One key goal for these open-air meetings is to discover men that are potential for church leadership. Already I have learned that gathering a crowd is not too difficult, but finding solid men to take the helm requires divine activity. My constant prayers now are for teachable men to step forward. The picture was taken last Sunday at Wayeni for the first time. I like preaching in this village because of the shade!
DISTINCTIONS, PRECISION, AND PERSUASION
Can a sermon exist without these three qualities? I am greatly frustrated by my inability to wield this trichotomy of communicative swords when I talk in Tsonga. Pray, with all passion and belief, that my words in Tsonga will manifest elements of each of these three categories. Presently, I preach at least 4 times per week, and twice without a translator. Those two times are to my youth group; the teens understand a little English because of the schools. Attaining these is my greatest desire right now.
By now I’ve killed my first two snakes. The first was nearly 5 feet long, and the “experts” told my neighbor and I it was a Mozambiquan spitting cobra. I still feel safe though because both snakes were on my neighbor’s property not mine.
My new truck is now in its third inaugural week. The red Ford earned a place in the “Thorn-in-the-Flesh” Hall of flame for breaking down once a week for 6 weeks in a row after I replaced the engine, transmission, and fuel injector within the first 6 months. My new chariot is a 1998 4×4 Mitsubishi, and I have higher hopes for this one.
My motto, This Is Africa, is nowhere more evident than in the phone service. For the past 2 ½ weeks my phone line has had assorted faults, and every other month since I’ve been here it has spontaneously taken a Sabbatical from its duties. That is one reason why this letter was not delivered two weeks ago. But that slight inconvenience is so far from persecution that I only mention it to give you some local flavor.
This Sunday I am hoping to preach again in English in the city. Please pray for those I’ve invited this time: Beauty and Elise (landlord and family), Low and Milda (neighbors), and Mehboob (a young Muslim who described himself as “not very devout”).
Ever grateful to the Almighty,
16 March 2005
Here are two opportunities to hold the ropes in prayer. May our praise be unusually loud when we see God’s answers in two weeks.
NESTLED IN THE MOUNTAINS
While taking a few hours on a mountain with my bike, I found a hut where a man named Phinehas stayed. He agreed to study the Bible with me if I would bring back a translator, and so the next day he was waiting for us. Ripe fruit has never fallen so smoothly into a reaper’s basket. And praise God the next week when we returned, he said that his wife wanted to know what happened to him because he had stopped drinking!
His hut is some distance from his village, so last Monday I went to his village and set up March 28th as the day the chief will gather all the people in this place to hear our message. This cluster of 50 huts or so, is so far back in the mountains I wonder if the Gospel has ever been there. I am hoping to find a warm reception and many open hearts in two Monday’s.
7 DAYS TO PREPARE FOR SEMINARY
My calendar shows that I was planning to have a mini-Bible institute for some of the teens and men from surrounding areas each weekend in April. However, that all changed last Saturday when I learned that next week the schools are closed and my main pupils will be more free than on the weekends of the following month. So I write asking for your prayers for the students to understand and the teacher to communicate well because next week, March 21-25, I will be teaching about 35 hours of courses to several young men. LORD-willing I will send some photos after these next two weeks are done.
28 March 2005
TEACHING THEM ALL THINGS
Last week I taught 4 courses: Hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible), Homiletics (preaching), Interpreting the Proverbs, and Soulwinning. I prepared notes and tried my best, but the language barrier was a definite frustration. Two-three students attended and seemed to profit a great deal from the lessons. Please pray for Eric, my translator. He is a gifted 17 year old and a growing Christian who fervently wants to enter the ministry. His father would not allow him to attend the courses last week, but last night I spoke to Eric’s dad for over an hour about the new birth. Originally, I had planned the teaching just for this boy, but it seems God had other plans.
Today was the appointed day to return to the still-unnamed village high in the mountains above Louis Trichardt. Philemon, a Venda speaking pastor came as my translator and is in the picture with the tiny, but influential village behind him. We met a very large, well-spoken man who was clearly the leader of the village. Mr. Phopi talked with us for nearly two hours and was a great contact to meet; he is not saved, but very influential—what great Christian he would make! We did not preach, but Philemon told me that several meetings like this would probably be necessary before we will have a chance to address the whole village.
ORIANA FROM MOZAMBIQUE
A month ago I had asked you to pray for my opportunity to preach at the Baptist church in Louis Trichardt. That morning (Feb. 27) Oriana, a college-age Catholic from Mozambique was in the service. After the service I talked to her about salvation, and it didn’t take her long to ask me if she could be saved that morning. A few days later we did a Bible study with her before she was suddenly forced to return to Mozambique.
MY FIRST TSONGA MAN!
Once again, the stores closed while I was trying to shop, so I decided I would at least talk to the security guard. Mzamani was just thrilled that I could speak some Tsonga with him, and within 5 minutes asked when he could hear me teach the Bible. After several days and some providential circumstances, I finally found his three huts far away from town late on a Sunday night. Because of the hour I assumed I would just say “Hi” and teach the Bible later. He wouldn’t hear of it. For nearly two hours we went through the Bible while he copiously inscribed in his little notebook every passage I used. “Mzamani, are you ready to receive Christ the Bible way, or do you need time to think about it?” An affirmative answer found him praying in Tsonga while I caught the phrases I could understand. He works 10 days on and 5 days off, so hopefully he will be in church this Sunday.
FRUIT FROM THE OPEN AIR
That was last Sunday night. That same day an 18 year old had come to the open air preaching in Wayeni and was very interested in the Gospel. After discussing with Michael until I had to leave for Mahatlane, he agreed to meet with me on Tuesday (March 22). When I returned last Tuesday with one of my students, he had gathered his whole family together to hear what I had to say. Praise the LORD, I found another one of the elect! Yesterday, Michael came to Mashamba for church, to the open air service in Wayeni, and to the open air preaching in Mahatlane as well. When I left him he assured me he would be back next Sunday.
Thrilled and tired, I thank you for the prayers that are reflected by this letter.
3 May 2005
Lord-willing I will leave my house Friday morning early on the first leg of a trip to see Amy graduate from PCC. In case you didn’t know, she won first place at PCC’s big music contest for the second year in a row! Hopefully, marrying a less-gifted husband won’t disappoint her. We will be returning near the end of August or beginning of September after preaching in a number of churches. If you are in the Schaumburg area, I will be speaking there May 15th. My phone number in the States is (847) 882-0442, and I hope that e-mail will be working as well. Because I don’t know how to transport my address book, this will probably be the last ministry letter until I get back to Africa.
THE NEXT GENERATION
The teen group was my largest area of pastoral ministry over the last 4 months. Presently, there are about 8 of them in the core of “never-missers” at Sunday school and Friday teen preaching service. Our average attendance is the same 12-15 at both weekend services. Saturdays we evangelise hut to hut in different villages, and Sunday as many as can fit in my bakkie go with me to the open-air services. The photo shows my teen Sunday School class in which I have been teaching the book of Acts (Timhaka) using as much as Tsonga as possible.
Of the four soils given in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Mzamani and Michael look like they are the good ground. Perhaps you recall these names from my last update; since that time, both have consistently attended church. Michael (18) has brought his other siblings, and Mzamani (36) has to stay at church with me from 8 am until 7 pm because he lives too far away. I have met about 6 extra times with Mzamani for prayer, Bible questions, and Tsonga instruction. He loves to read and has borrowed several books from me which should greatly aid his spiritual growth. If you have prayed for these names in the past, redouble your efforts now seeing that this paragraph is written in answer to your prayers. If they should fall away it will be in the absence of our prayers. Also, Wilma (mentioned in the January letter) has been growing and has her whole family of 5 people listening to our Tuesday evening Bible studies. Right now she is the only one saved, but as tonight is our last Bible study before I leave, I will press the urgency on the others.
On the eve of leaving this area, I feel a deep deficiency in my own burden for the lost. Why is it so hard to fuel a brighter flame for evangelism? With a Savior like Jesus, a future like Heaven, and their future in the Lake of Fire, what is the impediment to full-flowing tears, boundless sacrifice, and a thick stream of new recruits for Christian evangelism? I find that my emotions are more quickly excited by any number of physical, earthly situations before Christ’s love or the fierceness of eternal damnation. The fact needs a greater Christian audience that many millions—no, billions will enter a lake lapping with flames and no remission for unending days. If true belief is that thing that is most real to us, then how often do we believe in the reality of Hell? Jeremiah and Jesus both wept for those they knew were about to face God’s wrath. Paul and Moses wished to accurse their own souls in exchange for the conversion of Israel. Can we relate to this love? I share this devotional thought to edify you as the Holy Spirit tightens the conviction on my own hard heart.
Trying unsuccessfully to out-give God,
21 June 2005
Four years have slowly dwindled until now just a few busy days are left before our wedding. This Saturday at 2:00 the wait will be over officially! Our plans are to start visiting churches immediately; from now until the end of August we only have one Sunday at Bethel. We will start studying Tsonga together on the honeymoon—well, maybe not, but we will be teaching a class for NBT as soon as we return. At this time especially we are grateful for your united prayers for wisdom, success and Christlikeness as we start our marriage.
Our first Tsonga title is hot on the press as we speak. The first 10,000 copies of a Chick tract in Tsonga and Venda will be at our house before we return from the honeymoon. We have some other titles that we are putting through the same process, but they are a little further behind. Please pray for all these little seeds that they will find good ground.
Reaping the Harvest,
Seth and AMY!
25 August 2005
THE FIRST TWO MONTHS
Today we are celebrating our two-month anniversary. Since leaving and cleaving, we have traveled well over 6,300 miles, changed beds 26 times, and paid over $60 in tolls. I have preached 23 times, Amy has ministered 22 different times with music, and we have only left items behind seven times! We thank God for a smooth beginning to our marriage, in part due to the generosity and kindness constantly expressed to us by many of you. Thank you for caring about us and investing in our new life and ministry together.
D-DAY: SEPTEMBER 6
Our tickets are bought, our visas are in hand, and our personal belongings are somewhere over the Atlantic. Lord-willing, we will fly out Tuesday night September 6th. Our last chance to preach and say goodbye to our Bethel family will be Sunday evening the 4th. If any of you are near enough to come, we would love to see you there.
SEEDS AND SAPLINGS
Among other things we are shipping the first 20,000 tracts in Tsonga and Venda. Hopefully, this will be just the beginning of a Gospel deluge in literature form. When we return, one of our first missionary duties will be to see the new converts Wilma and Mzamani. I think every missionary can relate to the concern I feel about where these two will be spiritually when we return. Thank you for your prayers.
AMY’S FIRST SPEAKING MINISTRY
Where else but in Africa would a 22-year-old newlywed without children be asked to be the speaker at a women’s conference? While adjusting to the culture, married life, and the languages of Africa, Amy will also be preparing five different seminar sessions for a conference scheduled by a national pastor, Philemon, for Venda-speaking women in the Limpopo province in October. She’s in greater demand than me! Please do pray for discernment and prepared soil.
Walking by Faith,
Seth and Amy
23 September 2005
On our flight to SA, a 10-hour layover in London allowed a very tired couple to explore the major sights before completing the journey to Johannesburg. We arrived here two weeks ago, and the house is finally feeling and looking like home. However, our shipment (including Amy’s piano) has not arrived yet and is the source of no little amount of concern. Thanks for praying about all the issues regarding our move—God has been very good to us. Our phone line—This Is Africa (TIA)—underwent triple bypass surgery and is finally working, but the very hour we heard a dial tone, our hot water heater exploded. Once again, TIA.
After much deliberation, we have decided to place our first efforts on Venda, not Tsonga. Though I am going to continue Tsonga on the side, Philemon (“fill-a-mon”), a national pastor, has already begun teaching us the difficult tongue that uses mainly v’s, z’s, w’s, and a very hard to pronounce “l” sound. We have finished our first week and are fluent now—in greetings. Our reasons for beginning with Venda were the following: Venda is spoken by nearly 1 million people who live near our house. Furthermore, the Tsongas around us most often speak Venda as well, but the Vendas don’t usually learn Tsonga in return. Another important factor in choosing Venda was our inability to find a Tsonga teacher, whereas Philemon was willing to help us Monday through Thursday, three hours per day.
For the last two Fridays, we have picked up the teens and continued the Friday preaching and Bible quiz meetings from 4:00-6:00. I began a series on Revelation on Friday nights; and in Sunday School, I am teaching New Testament Survey. The core of teens that I left in May is still strong, although the oldest young man is struggling. Do pray for Takalani to follow Christ consistently.
October 7th and 8th are the dates for the women’s conference at Shalom Baptist Church. Our Venda teacher, Philemon, started a church among the Venda people in the nearby village of Tshikota. Amy will be speaking there Friday night and Saturday to a mixed group of ladies from all over this area. Interestingly, though Philemon started a Venda congregation, he has actually had to change to English because villagers who speak Tsonga, Sotho, and Xhosa have also joined his church. Friday night will be an evangelistic message, and Saturday’s 3 lessons will focus on Christian growth. The series is biographical from women of the Bible, and who knows, it may be her first book someday… Please pray for comprehension, conversions, and growth in the LORD among the Venda women.
HUNGRY FOR MORE
“What do you think we should pray for today?” I asked as we closed our second Bible study. “For my wife and children to get saved,” Mzamani replied. I nearly jumped out of my chair. Last April he bowed the knee to Christ, but I was eminently concerned for him while I was gone these last four months. Apparently though, He who began a good work was faithful in continuing it in my absence. I now meet with Mzamani, at his request, for Bible instruction several hours per week. One indicator of spiritual growth that I was observantly watching for was any understanding or concern for his unsaved wife and children. Praise the LORD, during our third meeting since I’ve been back, and without my coaxing, he asked us to focus our prayers on their salvation. Their names for your prayer list are: Murunwa (angel), Nyeleti (star), and Ripfumelo (belief).
OUR FIRST VISITOR; OUR FIRST TRIP
One of the first phone calls we received when our line was fixed was from Paul Schlelein, a friend from PCC. Paul’s passion for the unreached people groups has been growing exponentially; and through a series of unusual circumstances, he has discerned God’s hand guiding him to preach among the Tsongas of Mozambique. After much prayer, we have mutually agreed on and begun to plan for his visit in just two weeks. LORD-willing, we will survey the villages of Mozambique for 7-10 days in preparation for his return in July 2006. Many details must go into a trip like this—especially since I’m new at leading such excursions. Our desire is to map out villages for future visits and ministry, and to that end we covet your prayers for our safety and success.
Seth and Amy
10 October 2005
The commentators and authors of a real expositor have become my wife’s most frequent associates over the last few weeks. This picture shows Amy at her post where I have become accustomed to seeing her. The dates for the conference were changed so she will now be speaking October 21st and 22nd (Friday night once and Saturday thrice).
Last Saturday, we planned a relaxing time for Paul who had only been here for 3 days. Together we met up with Eric and a few other teens from the village of Tshivhangani to hike a mountain out in the bush. When we reached the top we were playing around with the teens but were interrupted by a sickening accident I hope to never repeat. Paul had somehow slipped from a tree and fell about 12 feet onto some rocks below. He was unconscious for a while and broke his wrist. With some effort we got him down the mountain and to the doctor where he was kept for observation over night. Praise the LORD for his protection as we thought Paul’s injuries would have been worse. He is fully recovered now and we are looking forward to some great experiences as we venture into Mozambique.
Tomorrow morning we finally end a very busy time of preparation for a trip to Mozambique to scout out the unreached peoples of that country with Paul Schlelein. The picture shows Paul packing our truck for the journey in the morning. We will be gone through Thursday night the 20th and would covet your prayers for open doors to preach, safety, and wisdom for future planning on how to reach the numerous people groups. Let the brevity of this e-mail tell you how busy we have been as I typically like to be a little more descriptive.
To the regions beyond,
Seth and Amy
24 October 2005
THE INTERIOR OF MOZAMBIQUE
On 10 occasions Hudson Taylor took evangelistic journeys into the interior of China at the beginning of his ministry. Our trip to Mozambique that ended last week was my second such excursion. From the outset our goal was knowledge. We wanted to know what language groups lived in which parts as well as the condition of the roads and Gospel background of the people.
First let me introduce the key figures on this trip. Kevin Brosnan and John Moore, two missionaries from Johannesburg, agreed to join us with a second vehicle for our trip in case one broke down. The other four you should already know: Amy, Paul, Godfrey (our translator for the Tsonga areas) and myself. Tuesday morning, October 11th we pulled out of Louis Trichardt and got to the Mozambiquan border just before they closed. However, we (Seth and Amy) couldn’t cross because we didn’t have certain paperwork for our vehicle that was required to cross the border. So back we drove to our home that we had left 7 hours earlier. The other men just crossed through into Mozambique and camped a few kilometres in at the first village they could find.
The trip back to Louis Trichardt that night was long and hard, and we got lost after a long detour through the Venda mountains. As the stars came out we were on the highest peak in a very mountainous village area of South Africa. Our frustration levels were peaked, our jug of drinking water was nearly hot enough to steep tea, and our energy level was as low as the mountain was high. On a positive note, however, this unexpected leg of the journey enabled us to see dozens of villages in SA that we never would have known about without providentially stumbling off the right road. Finally, we got home, collected our paper, fell asleep for a few hours and started out at 5 am the next morning for the Mozambiquan border.
We reached another hardship at the border when the South African official accepted our car paper, but then the Mozambiquan official didn’t want to give us visas. Not only was he the lone worker, he was very uncommunicative. Now add these details to complete the picture: no phones, barely any cement, hours from home, unable to contact our friends who were who-knows-where inside the border, and he didn’t want to let us cross. Thank the LORD, for an unknown reason, he returned silently with two visas to the two stressed out Americans who were patiently waiting alone at this desolate entrance to the war-ravaged, lonely country.
Intensely dry, Mozambique was plentifully punctuated with prickly thorn trees, enormous Baobab trees (large enough for a one room apartment if hollowed out) and the rockiest “roads” a truck could drive on. Averaging 25 miles per hour was fast for long stretches on end. We did eventually meet up with Paul, Kevin, Godfrey, and John at a village about 12 kilometres (45 minutes) into the country. It was refreshing to meet them, but even better to realize that in the time we were gone, Paul had organized a preaching service at this village. (see the picture) When we arrived, he was just starting to preach through Godfrey to a group of about 60 people. Only 20-30 adults came, but then the village couldn’t have had more than 300. It was a shabby collection of huts located on the narrow path we had been crawling along.
Since we have arrived at the “church” in this story, I need to make one theological comment at this point regarding African village Christianity. The disguised poison of syncretism has saturated these rural “churches”. Syncretism is the mixing of different ideas about God regardless of their origin or even contradictory tenets. For example, a group of people who pray to their ancestors and look to the witch doctor for help will simply add a doctrinally minimal message about Jesus to their lives and then call themselves Christian. I thought the Christian scene of America was ravaged by doctrinal blur, but Africa seems to be even further down the creedless, mushy road where doctrine is left at the last exit ramp and the travelers careen optimistically toward Hell all the while saying they are “believers.” I think the cure is missionaries who will stay, learn the language and invest in a long-term attempt at growing mature disciples of Christ rather than short-term efforts at mass evangelism by evangelists who don’t know the language. Armed with this information, I hope you will pray more knowledgeably for our ministry.
The trip had just begun. We travelled well into the interior, camped out in villages as long as we could find one that spoke Tsonga, but sometimes we couldn’t so we just pulled the trucks into the brush and set up camp. We didn’t get to preach anymore, because very shortly we were out of Tsonga territory and into the Ndau, Xona, and Makunde people groups.
Wow, I’ve got quite a wife! Amy had to be the first white woman ever to enter some of the villages we were in. She washed her hair from wells on the side of the road and in a shallow bucket we brought. She slept in a tent and made food over an open flame propane cooker. She also made friends instantly with the women and children even with only a few words of Tsonga at her command. The picture of her is from the village of Masangena where the children melted her heart by initiating with their hands in hers.
We did find a city in the central area that had electricity and other modern conveniences. We also discovered that maps are not always accurate as none of our 3 different maps agreed completely. A few times we were greatly frustrated by finding out that a road doesn’t exist any more where the maps say it does. Kevin brought a Global Positioning Satellite device which gave us the road more than once. Our second vehicle wouldn’t start twice due to bad gas, and we got a flat tire, but other than that, there were no vehicle problems. We returned with an equal amount of exhaustion, filth, and gratitude for the Gospel light we have been given. There is so much more to say, the beauty of the mountains and valleys… The friendliness of the people… Scores of hut clusters separated by mile after barren mile… But the climax of all these impressions is the overbearing weight of the millions in the interior who live in awkward places with pitifully low potential to hear of their responsibility to repent and believe the Gospel.
THE LADIES’ CONFERENCE
Amy’s speaking engagement at Shalom Baptist Church’s ladies’ conference was moved to this past weekend because of our travelling schedule. The church meets in a school in the poor area outside Louis Trichardt, and the conference assembled in that same room. This elementary school had no lights so Friday night we had one lamp in the corner of the classroom you see in the picture. That evening we started with 6 and by the time Amy finished, 11 women had gathered. Saturday, the plan called for 3 teaching sessions, lunch and Q and A time all conducted within the modest framework of 10 am through 4 pm. But we decided to wait until people arrived before starting, so 11:15 was good enough. It all started with six women, but by lunch the number had tripled, and the last two sessions had more than 25 adults present. Unfortunately, our conference was also the nursery and Amy had to compete for well over an hour with two indomitable babies.
For the past weeks we have been praying for Mzamani’s wife, Murunwa, to be saved. She couldn’t come Friday night, but we picked her up for Saturday’s sessions. Do pray for her eyes to be opened and conviction to do its work. Amy’s messages brought to life women from the Bible including: Rahab, Ruth, and Martha. (Mary was planned, but not proclaimed because time ran out.) Rahab and Ruth heavily emphasized salvation and Martha’s life taught the critical priority of personal worship. I must admit she is becoming quite an expositor. She can figure out the point of the passage as well as many young preachers. Interestingly, Pastor Philemon wanted to end with a Q and A time so the women asked several rather difficult questions including divorce and remarriage issues. It was kind of like an ordination council for women. Thanks for laboring with your prayers—please continue as we follow up the contacts from this event.
I hope you understand the reason for a lengthier update this time and enjoy reading the details of these two busy events. We value your prayers and are strengthened by your friendship.
That we may win Christ,
Seth and Amy
23 November 2005
THANKFUL ON THANKSGIVING
Boxes lie strewn about hoping to be put away shortly, and that is quite a welcome sight even though neither of us likes clutter. Just before leaving to do a home Bible study tonight the truck arrived with our things from home! I’m sure Amy’s hope was set on the piano, but mine was for my Tsonga and Venda literature and my tools. We each got something we wanted because Amy’s piano is fine and the tracts look great. The bulk of everything we shipped arrived safely, but we did have a few boxes lost that God knew weren’t essential to our ministry.
LIKE MRS. SPURGEON
Charles Spurgeon’s wife managed a fruitful ministry of distributing thousands of good books while her husband was busy writing them. With that in mind, we shipped 36 boxes of books and literature including two large printings of tracts in Tsonga and Venda. These tracts along with a number of books we procured this summer have a temporary home in our guest room before finding their right owner. Our prayers are asking the Spirit to convict, save, enlighten, and challenge those who are blessed with these printed pages. The first study Bible has already been awarded to Mzamani, and both Godfrey and Philemon have enjoyed other second hand works. I wish you could see the looks on the faces of those who are hungry for sound Bible knowledge and can’t get it so easily. Please pray for this ministry to take the shape and have the impact God would be pleased to open up for us as I have been looking into some other possibilities in this regard.
Between listening to good sermons and reading some inspiring books, Amy and I have both been laboring to be more conscientious about soulwinning. Do pray for your missionaries to be good initiators for the Gospel’s sake—it’s as easy to get carnal and lazy over here as anywhere. In answer to our prayers, a number of new contacts have steadily emerged. Chioti is a Hindu woman who has shown us good interest. My premonition is that her family keeps her from any further steps in the right direction. Musa is a school teacher living in Mashamba. Last week after praying for him at church we were surprised to see him on the side of the road on the way home. After exchanging pleasantries, Amy interjected an invitation to hear me preach on Sunday. His response shamed me: “I’ve been waiting for Seth to ask.” Last week he came to hear the clearest Gospel presentation I know how to make.
Paul passed this poem on to me before I left the US. Its author is Jim Cooper a faithful pioneer missionary pilot to Nassau, Bahamas in the 50’s and 60’s. He wrote this as a college student, and I really like it.
Content? How can I be,
When all earth’s kindred tribes do plead
That God perchance in His great plan
Would heed their cry to send a man
That the Savior they might see.
Content? How can I be,
While Satan gloats and laughs with glee
And ushers countless souls to Hell
Many because I did not tell
Christ gives the victory.
Content? How can I say,
I’ve done my best for Christ today,
When not one soul to him I’ve led
Nor to a sinking sinner said,
“Jesus paid the way.”
Content? How can I be,
When Jesus gave His all for me
Smitten and scorned—was crucified,
Naked and bleeding freely died
To set the sinner free.
Content? One day I’ll be
When at last my Savior see,
As He in stately splendor stands,
To welcome me with outstretched hands:
“Praise God for Calvary.”
Discontented but thankful,
Seth and Amy
10 December 2005
THIS MONDAY NIGHT: ANDRE
Just one hour ago, Amy and I have met and had our first conversation with an interested atheist. He claims to have been a Christian, but then changed to atheism. His interest showed, however, in that he requested to meet with us again. We decided on Monday night after I asked him if he was sincerely interested in learning. Please join us in united prayer for his salvation. He is 30 and has been drinking the defiled cups of infidel authors for many years, but doesn’t our God convert men like this?
SOULWINNING IS STUDY
Venda is going very well in some respects. Last week Amy and I both wrote stories and delivered them as speeches to Philemon. Amy scored better than me, and Philemon said that her grammar was better than many Vendas! Armed with our newly translated Venda tracts, Bivhilis (Bibles), and phrases like “No bebwa hafhu?” (Are you born again?) we are moving our study outside the classroom by going door to door in Tshikhota on Monday. As always, our #1 need is greater dexterity in understanding the people and framing our responses in Venda and Tsonga.
Last year rain was not to be found as the Northern Province reached drought conditions, but praise the Lord, for the last few weeks rain has been cooling the temperatures and feeding the crops. The rivers filled to overflowing, and at least one bridge I use was swept away. Yesterday, with 16 people in our truck heading to church, we pulled two different trucks out of the mud. Unbeknownst to us, one of the trucks was the chief of Mashamba. You never know who is watching.
After translating a song into Venda, Amy began a youth choir in Mashamba last week. They are good singers and she’s doing a great job even without a piano. Next week we are having a Christmas party for the faithful teens.
One last thing, Amy and I were reading The Holy War by John Bunyan, and I remembered again why it is one of my all time favorite books. As I thought of the spiritual benefit it was to me, I wanted to recommend it to you as well. Either the updated English version or Bunyan’s original are both easy to find in bookstores or the internet.
Seth and Amy
19 December 2005
IMPORTANT PRAYER REQUEST
About 2 years ago Pastor Godfrey from Mashamba Baptist Church met some teens at a local school who had a lot of questions about the Bible. Justice, Eric and Lerato Mukhola began walking approximately 10 kilometres to church because they could see the difference between Bible teaching from a true church and the unchristian activities—dancing, yelling, praying to ancestors—at the “church” their parents attend. Last year these three teens and a number of their friends began riding with me from this out of the way village to church every Friday and Sunday. All the kids are good, but Eric really has promise as he “desires the office of a bishop”.
Yesterday Lerato confided in Amy that their father will not allow them to come to church anymore. He claims to be a Christian, yet still visits the witch doctor (which he calls the herbalist) and is urging his children to get a special “blessing” from him. The kids are even concerned that if they continued to come, they might lose their home. Once before I have talked with Ken Mukhola, the father, about the Gospel, but he said he was not prepared to be born again. These teens are a great blessing in our youth group, and an example in the villages. As a case in point, Eric recently lead his 14 year old brother Tsepo to the Lord, and the next week Tsepo was mysteriously not allowed to come to church.
Friday, Mr. Mukhola has agreed to meet with me at 11:00 to talk about the children, but I sense a real spiritual battle here. Pray specifically for his conversion and for the kids to return to church on Christmas Day.
AN UPDATE ON ANDRE
Do not cease praying for this deluded young man. At 30 years old he is so heavily involved in New Age / post-modern thinking that he is almost trying to evangelise us. This is the gentleman I told you about in the last letter. We talked for nearly two hours tonight, and Amy and I were greatly weighed down in spirit when he left. However, he did agree to another meeting next week to discuss Creation and evolution—we’re not giving up.
As you know, we do not typically bother your box with so much mail, but the importance of the first request especially needs your participation the next few days. I felt it was necessary to use the immediacy of e-mail, but if our e-mails are reaching the wrong address, please let me know by replying with “Remove” in the subject line.
Thanks in advance,
Seth and Amy