The storm is calming from a hasty retreat out of Mozambique that ended Monday, New Year’s Day at midnight. In retrospect, God’s providence was our constant companion, even though some details are still unaccounted for.
We set out Wednesday morning the 27th for the village of Massangena (Mah-sun-jay-nuh). It is the highest major Tsonga-speaking village in Mozambique and can be found on most maps. We had visited there last year and intended to focus our fact-finding mission on this region. Stopping at a few smaller spots before there, we surveyed the inhabitants and sometimes the pastors in an attempt to accurately grade each region according to our unreached scale.
Though our chief adventures happened in connection with Massangena, a few other details might be interesting. My 4×4, “Mitch” (from Mitsubishi) broke down at the Limpopo river restraining us for about 6 hours. The Limpopo is the first river to be crossed when traveling north, but it hadn’t received rain for 11 months. Paul rushed ahead to the next village, found a mechanic, and returned with him. He figured out the problem in 110-degree weather, earning a comfortable pay and our respect since our confidence wasn’t very high at first. Then Paul’s truck got stuck in the river, and we spent an hour getting him out. Day two ended at the larger village of Mapai. The next morning we woke up in the village of Mapai, and Paul’s vehicle was filled with hundreds of bees. Thankfully, our team received minimal stings.
Friday morning we started off for Massangena. The road dissected many hut clusters following this general pattern: nothing for 10 kilometers, 30 huts, nothing for 10 kilometers, 30 huts, etc. We passed many such “villages” and the picture of the blind man is from the first one we stopped at. I was greatly encouraged that he couldn’t believe we were white! I presented the Gospel to him, and he said he had never heard that before (though he did know who Jesus was). Our hearts resonated with Spurgeon as we left that blind man’s house on a surge of emotion: “Take the gospel to them; carry it to their door; put it in their way; do not suffer them to escape it; blow the trumpet right against their ears.” One of the benefits of a mission station in Massangena would be the striking distance of all these hundreds of forgotten peoples.
Friday afternoon we arrived at Massangena: a thriving metropolis of about 15,000 people with many villages spoking off from this hub. The people speak Tsonga and Portuguese. There is no electricity even though there are electrical lines powered by a generator whenever the government has enough money to buy diesel for them (which is very rare to never). Water is no problem because they are on the banks of the Save river. Many churches are in this town; but as we conducted surveys and asked people simply, “If a person wants to have his sins forgiven and enter Heaven, what must he do?”, the most common answer, even among church members, was “A ndzi swi tivi.” (I don’t know.) They do have a hospital there, which we had the chance to closely examine, as you will see.
Our camp was positioned just outside the city on the banks of the Save river where we were awakened every morning at 5 by fishermen. These men would walk into the river up to their necks, using nets to catch the fish. Others were also in the Save doing different chores, so it was a somewhat busy place at times.
Saturday night we had an appointment with 2 men at a hut to talk about salvation. We started witnessing to them, but then a bad storm blew in. Within seconds, the wind was howling, and the rain was pouring on us in buckets. The Three Little Pigs in a surreal sort of way came to life as the man lived in a one-room house built entirely out of sticks except for the corrugated iron roof held down by large rocks. The roof shook and moved from the wind, revealing vast new skylights from which water invited itself in. Thankfully, it only lasted a few minutes and then we helped them rebuild their house. When we finished, they set up an appointment with us for the next day at 3.
The next day, Sunday, we jumped in the river at about 2 o’clock. The original plan was to swim to the other side and back to cool off. I jumped in first, but upon noticing my loose wedding ring, I turned back and gave it to Takalani. That gave Paul and Dan the lead, and they went quite far out, almost halfway between the shores. It was a deep area, and they couldn’t touch the bottom. I was on my way out to join them when a local called out, “Crocodile!”
I heard him, looked, and the most frightening moments of my life began. A large dirty green nose and head were silently moving towards Dan and Paul about 10 yards from them. I screamed out a warning. From that moment everything moved in a blurry, slow motion of unbelievable events. Dan immediately started swimming for shore, but Paul stayed still. The croc veered for Dan as I rushed to the shore.
A boat, a skiff really, was on the shore. It was about two-thirds the size of a couch made of old wood and metal. With that I returned to get Paul because Dan was nearly on the shore. I can’t remember a greater feeling of relief than when Paul climbed, unscathed, into the boat. But neither Paul nor I saw that Dan had been attacked in those few short seconds.
We made it back to shore as quickly as possible because now I realized that Dan had been attacked. Several gashes in the back of his legs were bleeding profusely. Unknown to me, the crocodile had caught and dragged Dan while he raced back to the shore. Amazingly, he remembered an episode of the “Crocodile Hunter” that told him how to escape literally from the jaws. Dan now has the scars to prove he escaped from the croc by shoving his hand down its throat.
Back on shore, Dan had engineered some tourniquets out of T-shirts, which proved very effective. One of the cuts, especially on the back of his left leg, was deep and long. Paul drove my bakkie as we rushed back to the hospital we had discovered about 24 hours earlier. We praise God for the hospital as the doctor there was able to stitch Dan’s wounds, but oh, the pain as there was no anesthetic! Because of a high fever, we waited that night and left the next morning, New Year’s Day. We rushed over some pretty bad roads to get to a hospital in South Africa, this time returning through Zimbabwe. The picture of the return trip shows the waterlogged sloshy way we worked through since the rains finally arrived that weekend after 11 months of drought. At midnight, January 1, we reached the hospital in South Africa with Joy waiting for us. The rest has been a good story as Dan’s status just went up. He is walking slowly now with crutches and is at home. If you are interested in contacting either Dan or Paul, here are their addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, the marks of God’s clear intervention: first, Dan was a lifeguard and the only one who knew that random fact about sticking his hand down the croc’s throat. Second, my wedding ring saved me and allowed me to get Paul. Third, the croc could have hit anywhere else on Dan’s body, and it might have punctured vital organs. Fourth, we were in the only village around for miles that had a hospital, and the doctor did a good job of difficult stitching. For a few seconds I thought one of us wouldn’t return.
One more thing—those two guys we were supposed to meet with walked to the hospital, where Dan and Tak led them to Christ, along with the nurse! They seemed to evidence a real desire and fervency for their souls’ salvation.
Since Monday we’ve been deep in thought regarding future plans. Presently, I think Massangena is the wisest place for a long-term ministry in Mozambique, but Amy and I will take a period of time to focus on deepening our Tsonga and planting a church in this area before considering living there for a few months at a time. Please pray for our team to wisely discern all of the factors that go into a decision like this: Tsonga, the level of potential in each area to hear the Gospel, number of people, a possible Bible college, and the ministry needs here as well as our families.
I know it’s been long so thanks for persevering to the end of this letter.
Rejoicing in Providence,
Seth and Amy
SATURDAY MORNING BREAKFASTS
Our first 6 months at our new house saw one young man, Tiyani, come to the Savior. But recently, after repeated discussions and many sermons we have seen 5 more take up their cross to follow Christ. Siphiwe, Khensani, Matimba, Ntwanano, and another Siphiwe are all around 16 years old and seem to have finally grasped the gospel after a number of private discussions—that they initiated! So following Paul’s example (our teammate not the apostle), we started a Saturday breakfast last week for them to work on their discipleship lessons and ask questions. While I work on translating the discipleship lessons into Tsonga, they are hopefully learning that Christianity is the only world religion in which it is vitally important to read—not just pronouncing the syllables, but also analyzing the ideas.
These boys represent the first fruits of about 15 young people we take every week to Mashamba. Our plans are to start a youth group here in Makhongele, as our truck is full, and often we have to turn kids away on Sunday mornings and Friday nights.
We have done our best in evangelism, but using Tsonga is always a handicap to us. Please pray that the future will show that these teens have truly begun their pilgrimage toward the Celestial City.
For nearly two years we have been unable to baptize because of difficulty in obtaining water. Pastor Godfrey now has a pump and pipes, and Saturday we filled the church’s “swimming pool” as they all call it. Sunday a line of 22 people listened as I told them to hold their lambs (tinyimpfu) instead of their noses (tinompfu). During the service we had announced that any who wanted to share their salvation testimonies with the church were welcome to do that. Little did we know, approximately 80 minutes of testimonies would follow, in which every person came forward to share with the largest crowd I think our church has ever seen. Godfrey preached a short message explaining baptism to the many visitors. In this culture, baptism is often equated with salvation. We then closed the service with seeing 22 people show their faith pictorially.
Can I share a few highlights from the testimonies? Nearly everyone used Scripture verses! How refreshing to see teenagers who knew nothing about the Bible 6 months ago, now quoting verses on which they base their conversion. One girl said that when she first heard that she was a child of Satan she got angry, but then she realized it was true. Possibly more exciting from a pastor’s perspective, at least 6 other teens in the youth group who have been saved for some time were mentioned as being key in leading one of the others to Jesus. It was also exciting to note that a number of those baptized were fruit from Paul’s and Dan’s ministries here.
Back in November I requested your prayers for a list of people. Many of you responded with names of whom you were praying. Here’s an updated, annotated list of who’s who in Makhongele:
• Solly—my neighbor, has had probably 6 Bible studies with me, and actually responded recently when I told him that I have been praying that God would give me men that would want to learn the Bible, not play around with miracles or just make money. Solly’s words were “That might be me.”
• His friend Tinyiko also listens very well and has come to my house on three different occasions for Bible teaching. He is a university teacher an hour away, but most weekends he comes back to his home village.
• Sentycliff is a 35-year old who has also shown real interest and lives only 100 meters away. We had worked together on some people’s house that burnt down one day, and since then he has been following lightly. He promises that he wants to be saved, but he just needs time.
• Mzamani’s friend Foster has been talking to him about salvation since Mzamani’s conversion. His major problem is the existence of so many churches. He’s very skeptical that anyone can be certain they are right, when everyone else is certain they are right. But he overcame a huge step last week when he came to me asking if I could lend or sell him a Bible. (The Tsonga translation has been out of print for several months over here and is very hard to acquire.) Mzamani and I have a Bible study with him at 6 this Saturday night. He’s sharp and mild mannered—what a great Baptist he would make.
Still a little wet,
Seth and Amy
31 March 2007 ~ Faithful Men
Our marriage has been a three-some these last few months: Amy, Seth, and the fan. During the pregnancy, Amy’s thermostat has been going haywire, but LORD-willing we will trade the fan for a baby in the next few weeks! We are excited and ready (we think…), but your prayers and kind notes encourage us a lot. The doctors had told us that they thought Cassie would be our firstborn, but two weeks ago we learned that “Cassie” was more blue than pink.
THE YOUTH GROUP IN ELIM
Tiyani, Siphiwe, Siphiwe, and Khensani have all completed the 8th and final lesson in the discipleship series we have written to this point. Our numbers have grown since starting the Saturday breakfasts. Now 8 boys have seemed to show a serious spirit in following Christ. There are also two others who have been somewhat faithful to our new Elim youth group and look like good candidates for salvation. Please pray for Themba (16) and Hitekani (12) to be converted. I will be certain to tell you when they have.
Two months ago we also started Vavanuna Vo Tshembeka (Faithful Men) to train young men as godly leaders in the home and church. Without being pressured at all to attend, 13 young men have been coming every other Saturday to a two-hour time of teaching, prayer, and Q and A. Then on Wednesday nights they get a chance to practice preaching. Three young men so far have delivered messages in Tsonga that came straight from their texts! This is a major accomplishment considering the common idea of preaching over here. Just to give you an idea, here are some topics we are covering: The Purpose of Preaching, The Seriousness of Preaching, and How to Find the Purpose of a Passage (7 lectures). These Saturday afternoons are my favorite time of ministry. Who knows, maybe it will grow into a college?
IT ALL STARTS IN THE NURSERY
In an attempt to give the Gospel to serious-minded people, I have found a small, two-room nursery / pre-school very close to my house that will let me use their building. So starting Tuesday nights, April 10th, I am going to teach through the book of Romans. I have invited all the pastors I can find in the area as well as distributed hundreds of fliers. My draw card is not just the teaching though, because I am offering a free book to each person who attends 7 of the 8 meetings. You can read the flier in Tsonga or English if you’d like to get a little local flavor. If you would like to invest in this outreach attempt, I am hoping that at least ten people would commit to an 8-week prayer time on Monday nights or Tuesday mornings for our Tuesday evening sessions. I’ve got to admit, I’m nervous that no one will come, and I’m nervous that if a lot of people do come then I won’t be able to communicate well in Tsonga.
Tools in His Hand,
Seth and Amy
10 April 2007
THE ROMAN’S ROAD
It’s 9:15 at night and we just returned from a preschool where I taught the first of 8 lessons on Romans. While certainly not a Whitefieldish crowd, 5 adults came and some children. My Tsonga didn’t struggle, but my heart did as at least 5 other adults who had promised earlier today didn’t show up. For those praying for Tinyiko (see February letter) he came this evening with his fiancé and was excited enough to promise without us asking that he would be back Sunday for the church service. I think his conversion is not far away.
Another “first” happened Sunday night. We had planned to start the first Sunday evening meeting for the 12 believers of Makhongele. Seven of them were baptized and have exhibited real desire for further growth. Again we were disappointed as only four of them came. But it’s a start, and on the bright side, it shouldn’t be hard for the Sunday or Tuesday group to grow.
Having listened to a one-hour biography of Adoniram Judson this morning the flames of service are beginning to burn again after a tiring season without. Do pray for spiritual passion and inner longings in the hearts of your missionaries.
We appreciate your concern and prayers,
Seth and Amy
29 April 2007 ~ Caleb’s Birth
A sudden jarring pain seized Amy at 2:00 am this morning and returned intermittently with about 5 minutes between each blast. The contractions continued until we contacted the doctor at 6:00. From then things moved pretty quickly: arriving at the hospital at 7:45, contractions until about 8:30, and Caleb Seth Meyers brightened up the room at 9:00 am this morning. At the last moment God also sent the only gynecologist in the entire region to randomly stop into the hospital at 8:00 this morning. When he heard about Amy’s condition he immediately helped our doctor avoiding what would have probably been a Caesarian delivery.
Amy is doing great, and I was proud of her for delivering this child without any pain medication (because the contractions were nearly all finished by the time we reached the hospital). She is feeling fairly strong but would appreciate your continued prayers.
Caleb was 8 lbs. 8 oz. and 20 ½ inches long / tall. My only disappointment was his inability to answer the first catechism question I tried on him, “What is the chief end of man?” I even gave him a hint too. I also experienced the first diaper I have ever changed as well as passing out in the delivery room.
With grateful hearts to God and the many friends who have been praying for us,
Seth and Amy
30 May 2007
TUESDAY’S EFFORTS: SETTING THE STAGE
Last night we ended our 8-week, Tuesday night Bible studies at a community hall / pre-school in our area. Our topic was the book of Romans, and the incentive was free books if they would attend 7 of the 8 studies. The really zealous could also earn two other books by passing the two tests I wrote. Two ladies accumulated all the books. Three men were very close, but didn’t get any. Thirteen different adults came to the 90-minute teaching sessions with a high night of 9.
One thing I hadn’t counted on was the darkness. The sun bids us adieu at about 6:00, and there are no public lights, so the walk could get tricky some times. The path has some unexpected rises and falls, and even the locks on the doors are a nice little game without light. Add to that the unexpected cold of an early winter, and the stage is set.
The fifth Tuesday (May 8th) I arrived at 6:30 with 3 others to set up, and we found a group of people in the room blasting window-shaking bass with several 3-foot speakers. Oh, what a blessing, another “church” has decided to have a “revival” meeting here. The owner of the pre-school forgot we were there and allowed this typical African church to use the premises. Since we couldn’t hear each other due to the unconquerable bass, she shouted in Tsonga, “You can just join them.” Discouraged, we retired to our house for the Bible study leaving at least three of our adults (we found out later) still in the dance session.
TUESDAY’S RESULTS: TIME WILL TELL
Two men were faithful in the beginning, but both of them were offered jobs that have kept them away now. One man, Vincent, began coming halfway through and has been a source of encouragement. Last night he told me that he had learned a lot and was interested in the new birth. LORD-willing, this Sunday we will talk again after the church service at our house. Please pray for Vincent Makamu.
Two women were faithful: Amukelani and Tiny, but Amu deserves a few comments. She was especially moved by the discussion of Romans 9-10. In an attempt to discern if she was converted I asked her which of these three she was: 1. born again and sure of the day, 2. not sure when she was saved, 3. still thinking about things. She responded that she didn’t know the day, but she was sure that she believed on Christ according to Romans 4-5. Amu seems to be converted now, though only Heaven knows the exact time.
Yesterday I closed with an emphasis on Romans 1617 about avoiding false teachers. My closing question was, “Have you ever heard teaching like this at your churches?” Surprisingly, all the participants began smiling and noticeably shaking their heads. Tiny spoke up and said, “Nobody talks about this stuff at church. They just sing and dance.” Amu and Vincent affirmed her assessment. It is hard to leave your church, but we are praying especially that Amu, Tiny, Vincent, and Tinyiko will have the courage to follow their newfound knowledge of Gospel truth and join the fledging group of Makhongele believers. All agreed that the course was too short.
THE CHURCH AT MAKHONGELE
When is a church a church? Currently 13 people have professed faith in Christ and 8 have offered their testimonies before the church. So from April 8th until now, we have been studying the Second Coming of Christ on Sunday nights at 5:00 pm. Our services are fairly simple including singing some Tsonga hymns translated by the Swiss missionaries 80 years ago, a time of prayer in which all the believers are encouraged to take part, and then the message.
Presently, two of the 4-5 adults attending are converted. The rest of the converts are teens. In my last letter (March) a young man named Themba was showing great interest. On May 11th he set up an appointment with me to learn more about the Bible, and we have good reason to believe that he was born again that morning! Last Sunday night he gave a solid conversion testimony in the service.
NOT ALL INTERRUPTIONS ARE BAD
While writing this letter I had to leave for the fourth Bible study with a paraplegic man who lives on top of our mountain. I was shocked to discover nine adults had gathered for this week’s study! Because of the size of the group we began working through Romans. When I finished explaining total depravity from chapter three, one lady who holds a church in her house asked, “If no one seeks after God, then what can we do to be saved?” I told them to read Romans 3-4 and come back next week. I thought you might like some news “hot off the presses.”
To the praise of His glorious grace,
Seth and Amy
30 June 2007 ~ Sins of the Missionary
SINS OF THE MISSIONARY
Eating vuswa and slurring your tongue into the strange “sw” sound of the Tsonga language do not bestow special powers over sin. But that kind of power is the desperate need! Good missionaries labor with their language, invent creative ways to plant churches and discover the Gospel battlegrounds of their culture, but certain sins are never far away. I have learned from my own experience, from our team and many other missionaries that the Tempter presses certain sins indefatigably onto the missionary’s “old man.” I mention these because those who bear the responsibility of praying for missions need to know where the battle is.
Laziness. Nearly every day tempts us to say we studied the language for x number of hours when in reality a portion of that time was frivoled away. Or more commonly, to spend too much time on a not-so-necessary task because it is not as difficult as the more necessary drudgery of some other item on the To Do List. Or, when one Bible study goes well, to relax for the rest of the day as if the quota was at least filled for the prayer letter—“America will think I’m doing OK”. Another example of laziness is the frustrating lack of discipline that slowly, termite-like, builds a nest—prayerlessness. One theologian said that all of mankind’s sins could be broken down to three and among them was laziness.
Indifference. Loving is hard work especially when crossing cultural boundaries. At your commissioning service with romantic hopes and no disappointments yet, its far easier to weep for the lost than it is when, day by day, you see specific faces with specific sins deeply ingrained by centuries of culture. Empathetic, longsuffering love in the face of apathy is a real need we have.
Though always on the frontlines, missionaries are too often far from the standard of their title: Ambassador for Christ. There are others, but if these two were eradicated from the lives of cross-cultural evangelists, much more lasting work would be done.
BOUND TO HIS HOUSE
I wrote last month about a Bible study on the mountain with a paraplegic man. Chris (23) who can move only his head and hands about 6 inches, has been slowly digesting the hard statements of Romans about man and the principle of faith alone. His neighbors and family also study with us, as many as 9 and an average of 5 adults. They are glad to study with me, but the idea of Faith Alone is taking some time. To picture the scene a little clearer, the photo shows the sand by which they are making the bricks to build their home. Their present situation consists of three shacks made of used corrugated iron.
Having visited the houses in Makhongele, last week I began in the largest housing area, Waterval on a door-to-door campaign. But my inviting them to church hasn’t been very successful so now I invite myself back for a series of 4 studies on the book of Romans. I am hoping to find those who are hungry for Bible teaching. Today at 4:00 is the next follow up Bible study. Thanks for your prayers.
We hope you enjoy the pictures of Caleb as well. He’s an easy baby who recently started smiling to the constant delight of his parents.
Also, Dan and Joy are nearing completion for their house in the village of Bungeni about 8 miles from us. While juggling really frustrating problems between water, electricity, and their truck they hope to be sleeping there in July.
In hope of holiness,
Seth and Amy
PS. Please do not send large files like pictures and some forwards to us. We love mail and are always glad to hear from friends, but photos (unless reduced in size) often stop our phone line.
9 August 2007
Two next-door neighbors brighten up our home and ministry, and we thought you’d enjoy hearing about them. Siphiwe was orphaned several years ago along with his three younger siblings and now lives with his uncle in the house next to ours. Almost 17 years old, he is quiet and encouraging. Of all the teens that come to the Youth Group on Thursday or church on Sunday, he is by far the most consistently thankful. He is also one of the most consistent. Two months ago he joined the Faithful Men group every other Saturday. I often see evidence of thought and growth in his Christian journey, which is very encouraging to me. At our weekly prayer meetings, he has also taken to praying for the other teens to persevere in the faith. He is wearing the red shirt and blue hat in the picture.
He’s only 13, but Tiyani has showed the most interest and initiative in spiritual things of all our contacts. His family randomly attends an African “church” where he grew up, but he never heard the Gospel there. To give you an idea of his thinking and seriousness I’ll include a few of the questions he has asked in the past.
“What should a person do if he attends a church where they don’t know the Gospel and his mom makes him go, but then a new guy comes and teaches him the way of salvation and now he knows more than those people at his church? (grammar adjusted for publishing) If a guy is a thief and the other a murderer, will the punishment be the same in Hell?”
This young boy has also taken a stand against the superstitious belief nearly everyone over here has in miracles and demons. Thankfully, he has become convinced that biblical miracles aren’t done for money and casting out demons isn’t a side show at the latest revival / circus that has pulled into the village.
Two weeks ago Tiyani preached his first sermon at the church in Mashamba (the Faithful Men rotate on Wednesday nights) on “Do the Work of an Evangelist.” He is becoming proficient at the guitar and plays for our youth meetings. He lives with his mom and aunt and loves playing chess with me or reading books I loan him. He is so hungry to read that he even borrowed Amy’s latest Country Woman magazine this afternoon.
A FEW MORE NAMES
Amy is also working through introductory lessons on salvation with three girls on Saturdays. Two of them had professed to be converted before starting, but the third was openly acknowledging that she didn’t understand everything yet. But we were greatly encouraged when two weeks back Tsakani asked Amy what she needed to do be truly a child of God. The three girls who need your prayers are: Pinky, Rirhandzu, and Tsakani. Not everything is a bright spot though. Please pray for Khensani and Matimba, two 16 year olds who professed Christ and have been very active in our youth group, but were caught drinking last Saturday. When I rebuked them, it didn’t seem to stir up any sorrow either. But we can’t see the end of the story yet.
DETAILS FROM THE HOME FRONT
Our mailbox is changing. Effective immediately, we can be reached here:
Elim 0960 South Africa
Also, we are very grateful for cards and packages many of you have sent recently. I think, however, the Postal service here bases their customs fees off of the amount you write down as the value of the parcel. Sometimes it can be pricey. The lowest amount you can in good conscience write down would help on this side.
From February this year I have listened to dozens of sermons while driving over 700 miles and contacting numerous government offices in an attempt to renew our three-year visas scheduled for expiration on May 12th. I will spare you a rendition of the details, but as of today we see a light at the end of the tunnel, and LORD-willing, Amy and I should receive our next three-year visa on September 7th. Sometimes the simplest things can sap so much time.
Joyful in Jesus,
Seth and Amy
17 September 2007 ~ First Bible Quiz Tournament
Amy and Joy grew up with a heritage of the most profitable competition ever invented: Bible Quizzing. The competition is a simple idea: teens memorize Bible verses and catechism style questions and answers. Then 5 of them make up one team competing against other teams from other villages. Using 135 questions and answers derived from a series on the Gospel of Luke delivered earlier this year, 26 teens memorized and competed this last Saturday. The format allows for three different teams to sit on chairs listening as the questions are read. As soon as one person recognizes the question and can recall the answer, he stands. The question reader then stops reading and whichever player stood first must answer word perfect. The quality of quizzing is seen by how quickly the players can stand. One 12 year boy (the youngest player) from Mbhokota stood and gave the correct answer after only hearing the words, “Where in the Bi…” Furthermore, wrong answers are penalized. Would you like to play?
The teens did a GREAT job Saturday and it was one of the most enjoyable events I have been involved with here in Africa. The competition was very tight, all the teams were well practiced, and the final round went into overtime! I think we are going to do this again but we need to increase the questions to 400 or so. To make things even more exciting, the teens from our house church who have only been saved for a few months formed a team and won.
For several months Thomas Tendani has been studying with us on Thursday and Sunday nights. Not yet saved, he stood to give a testimony during a service at our house in which Tiyani was leading the music. When he finished speaking, Tiyani asked him, “Are you born again yet?”
“No, not yet.” Thomas said and sat down. I thought he would be embarrassed at having been pointed out in front of the other 15 people, but two days later he came to my house to testify of his new faith in Christ. When I questioned his salvation, he claimed, “Sunday night when Tiyani asked me if I was born again, I thought about it all night. Late that night, I told God I wanted to follow His ways.”
I was a little doubtful that he really understood, but since then, he has convinced his teachers at the government school to invite me to teach the entire student body. Upon meeting with his teachers they told me that Thomas has completely changed in the last few weeks—even going so far as saying he is respectful and doesn’t lie anymore. Please pray for growth in this 16 year-old’s life.
Sunday the 16th, seven believers showed their faith publicly by stepping into the chilly “swimming pool” in the church at Mashamba. Three of them were from Mbhokota, the village where Paul lives and holds Bible studies. Azwindini, an 18 year-old Venda, said that when he first came to our church he was amazed at the teaching. His old church did “miracles”, but he and his friends kept backsliding, so he decided not to go to any church. Now, he takes notes in church and has invited some others that live near him. The Grandma in the picture is Mhani Lovhisa who studied with Godfrey for several weeks before asking if she could be baptized. This is no small thing for a Grandma who has gone to another church for many years of her life to consent to climbing into a roughly hewn, cement baptistery to be immersed. Slowly, solid members are being added to the church in Mashamba and the church plant in Makhongele.
Grateful for Your Prayers,
Seth and Amy
7 October 2007
Tsonga people choose names that are nouns or verbs from their language. Mzamani’s name is the word for “try”—and that he did yesterday. He was saved back in April of 2004 BA (Before Amy), and we are constantly thanking God for saving this man while in the same breath asking for more like him. His logic is clean, his willingness is growing, his grip on justification is firm, and Friday night he tried to preach for the first time to 30 teens at the youth group in Mashamba. In one category, Mzamani has been the most encouraging part of the ministry. But let’s be very clear that we are not just recording chance, positive happenings. The difference between Mzamani and Foster (an unconverted man we are still working with) is a gracious work of God’s Spirit. Please join me in thanking God for the salvation and growth of Mzamani Baloyi.
SETTING UP HOUSE
We have a trailer. We have a portable house. We have a village in our sights. LORD-willing, Tuesday morning Dan, Paul, and I will set out for Mozambique with Sydwell, a sharp young man Dan met and discipled from Bungeni. Our purpose is very clear: we want the chief of Mavue to allow us to set up our house as our first mission outpost in his village. We would also like to make some good contacts for the next, already-planned trip in June. Our plan has us arriving in Mavue Wednesday afternoon with two bakkies (pick-ups) and a trailer loaded with this house. Paul has already contacted the chief and received a “go-ahead” for a mission station, but people change sometimes, so our biggest concern is the chief’s attitude toward us. Secondly, the roads are very bad and we have to cross the Limpopo River, which could present some obstacles. Noon on Tuesday should see us at the ford of the river. Finally, I am concerned for Amy. She never enjoys staying alone, but over the weekend she somehow sprained her back. Please ask God to give her a complete recovery within the next 24 hours.
Glad to Be Saved,
Seth and Amy
18 October 2007 ~ Trip to Mozambique
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9TH
Two bakkies and a trailer with a portable house set out for Mozambique hoping to cross the border, avoid any hefty “taxes” from the border guards, and cross the Limpopo river. Actually all three of those goals were accomplished before we ate dinner at an unknown village several kilometers from the banks of the river. The border patrol requested $1,000 at first for aid-bringing, non-profit missionaries to have the privilege of serving one of the poorest countries in Africa, but he finally settled for $40.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11TH
After averaging about 20-30 kilometers per hour for the last two days we made it to our goal—the little village of Mavue high in the Gaza Province, one of the last Tsonga-speaking regions. The picture doesn’t do justice to the steepness of the inclines that we crawled up and slid down to finally arrive late in the afternoon in this town of about 2,000 people. We immediately went looking for the chief when a villager was kind enough to greet me with the words, “Ku ni ndzilo hansi ka movha.” Wait, I know those words… Oh yeah, that means there’s a fire under my car. Sure enough, the starter had somehow taken flame, but was quickly subdued. We slept that night in Mavue with an appointment to see the chief’s assistant Friday morning for permission to build our house / mission outpost. The chief who had originally given permission to build to Paul was not there during our visit.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12TH
Appointment postponed. Come back Saturday. We tried to redeem the time, but no building today. We even had a two-liter of Pepsi for him, but he would not be bought.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13TH
Another appointment with the chief at 10:00, where he informed us that we’d have to go to a larger village 55 kilometers away to get permission to live there. But of course, we had to wait until Monday when the chief of that village would be working. We pleaded with him, but no to no avail. In the afternoon, an informant helped me learn the differences between Mozambiquan Tsonga and SA Tsonga.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 15TH
At 6:15 AM my truck was waiting at the chief’s house for a combined trip to the larger village of Massangena where Dan had been attacked a year ago. Fervently praying for a positive response so that we could begin building even by the afternoon, we set out. Things looked so good at first, but though we had already received a positive response from the chief the year before, now he would only say, “Go to Xai-xai.” Why would this coastal city several hundred kilometers away care who lives and serves in little Mavue? Please, God, change this man’s heart. He could give us permission today. But he would not be swayed, and after a wave of frustration, we contented ourselves in God’s sovereignty. Our counsel eventually set out the best course as leaving the house and trailer with a truly converted man in Massangena to be built when we have permission from Xai-xai. We also took the tongue off of the trailer for safety’s sake.
That night after my last Bible study, and just as the sun was setting, the tie rod on my bakkie popped out of the ball joint it had been so faithfully holding onto. Miles away from Dan and Paul, Sydwell and I were able to get it back together and driveable. For a few moments this became a real source of stress, but looking back I am confident that God can help His servants figure out mechanical problems as easily as he can aid them to remember the right verses. To my shock and delight, it held the entire 600 kilometers home and only popped out once more. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16TH
Arrive home and reflect. Regarding our major goal, the trip was a failure, but we haven’t stopped yet and we hope that this will just be the first of several steps before Mavue has a more permanent Gospel light. Here are some reflections that suggested themselves to me.
1. Study the Language. If you are not interested or prepared to labor with the language, you need to reevaluate your call to missions. Linguistic study is patience-stretching, initiative-demanding, detail-intensive work and missionaries by definition must be experts in it. The biggest positive of this trip for me was cataloguing key differences in the dialects of the Tsonga language. On paper this sounds small, but it is very important for ministry.
2. Genuine life change is a great encouragement. It is enough to see this change in ourselves, but this week we all saw Sydwell moving nearer to Christ. Not only was he evangelistic, as you can see in just one of many pictures we have with him witnessing, but he also consistently went to my vehicle to listen to the next sermon in the series as Mark Minnick exposited the book of Matthew. Why would a young man who can only understand 50% of what is said on a sermon tape spend his free time taking notes on a serious explanation of the Gospels? Because Christ has definitely moved in. And if He can do it to Sydwell, we are emboldened to believe He will do the same with many more unsuspecting Tsongas of Mozambique.
Thank you very much for your prayers, and for the many who asked, Amy’s back is back to normal. Please pray at least once weekly for the mission outpost to be established at Mavue.
Seth and Amy
24 November 2007 ~ The Limpopo Bible Institute
THE LIMPOPO BIBLE INSTITUTE
Excitement, busy schedules and expectancy mark the last few weeks before Dan, Paul, and I begin the first semester of teaching at the newly established Limpopo Bible Institute. Let me back up and fill you in from the beginning now that you know the bottom line. When I first arrived in SA, Godfrey (the national pastor in Mashamba) asked me to lead the youth group at his church. That proved to be a good ground for my Tsonga and a fruitful ground for evangelism as well. Then, in 2006 we helped Philemon Mashau, a Venda pastor in another village, organize a youth group for his church.
When Paul and Dan arrived, youth ministries were the most obvious choice for them to begin with as well. Through these efforts God has given both of them young men who are ready and willing to be mentored. Presently there are youth groups running in Elim (my house), Mbhokota (Paul’s house), Mashamba, and soon Bungeni (Dan’s new house—which he is nearly living in).
As the young men in these groups grew older, several of them responded favorably to messages about ministry and the unreached peoples of the world. So after praying for wisdom, weighing our options, and seeking council we decided that this was the call of God to start a Bible institute with the following key distinctives, listed in order of importance:
1. Training men to reach the unreached peoples of Southern Africa.
2. Focus on expositional teaching especially through the New Testament. Our class schedule lists 37 total classes with 20 of them being expositional in nature.
3. Planted in Elim away from a major city, but near a fairly large population center. Often when people go to the major cities for college, they don’t want to return when they finish studying.
EARTH DETAILS: DATES, BUILDINGS, (ETC.)
So what does the course look like? Presently, LBI will offer a three-year course in Bible Exposition that we pray will one day be accredited and thus changed into a degree. There are two semesters a year; February, March, and April is the first, then a three-month break from May-July. Classes resume during August, September, and October. During the break between the semesters we are hoping to take the students to Mozambique to live and evangelize at the mission outpost we are still setting up. (see October’s prayer letter) We have received 5 applications for the first year and a few others who are interested but aren’t able this year.
As far as buildings, our goal was to build in Elim near to my house, but disputes regarding land have forced us to Plan B. Paul is presently building his house in Mbhokota about 5 miles away. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to attach an extra classroom and dorm room to that house for the first year while making sure we have not missed any details in procuring land in my area. If it pleases God, we hope to build a dedicated college building before the start of the school year in 2009.
We were each surprised that this opportunity arose this early in our ministry here, but we are confident that God ordained for us to be actively involved in guiding and teaching the young men from this area. I am especially grateful to Dan and Paul for the greater vision they had when these discussions first came to the table. I typically don’t like giving lists to pray for, but I am going to do that here because of the nature of this letter.
• An abundant supply of insight and skill in communication for teaching.
• Each young man to persevere in godliness and the rigors of college studies.
• For God’s wisdom and provision in practical elements like land, government registration, buildings, and textbooks.
• A constant replenishing of deep-seated godliness suitable to those who would teach others. I attached a picture of the school’s mascot as well the first page of our course descriptions to give you some flavor.
Reveling in Truth,
Seth and Amy
16 December 2007
A LOT OF RAIN
For the last four weeks there has been a good deal of rain around here. That makes building the house / college difficult, but the water table is coming back to “normal.” Our little Elim church plant has experienced rain as well. Tonight’s service had eight in attendance plus children. Approximately 18 have professed salvation with an average of 5 other unsaved visitors, so our normal numbers are 15-20 (without children or missionaries). January 7th we are hoping to start Sunday morning services at a building nearby, but tonight was discouraging.
A LITTLE SUNSHINE
But the sun has peeked through. Some of our bushes have blossoms. Tonight Tiyani (see August prayer letter) preached on “Being a Doer of the Word” from James 121-25. Maybe some excerpts from his message will explain my joy better than a description. After explaining each verse, Tiyani gave the following:
Why should we be doers of the Word? Here are 6 reasons.
1. We want to please God.
2. We want to resist Satan.
3. We want to win others to Christ and a changed life can draw them.
4. We want to grow as Christians.
5. We will be blessed.
6. We want to show that our faith is real.
He also gave an illustration from a Josh McDowell book I gave him. Amy said it was as thoughtful as a Puritan. This 30-minute sermon was a great Christmas bonus for a struggling church planter. This brief note is sent as a prayer request. Thank you for caring about God’s glory among the Tsongas of Elim.
Seth and Amy