May 2020

South Africa is now in its eighth week of a very strict national lockdown. The enormity of this crisis on our fragile nation is already starting to show – widespread hunger, unemployment, gender-based violence. Statistics show that these are growing daily and today a report revealed a spike in the number of child abandonments.

Winter is approaching and our peak is still a long way off. We need to immense ourselves regularly in God’s word and remember the truths of the gospel. Alun has been taking our congregation through the Psalms each morning. Through these simple studies we are reminded that God is our refuge, our provider, our very-great Saviour, our friend, our comforter and our King! 

At the beginning of the month, South Africa moved to a smart lockdown system and saw us move as a country from alert level five to alert level four. With swathes of the population facing urgent hunger, this allowed some businesses to return to work and some areas of the economy to get moving again. On Thursday, President Ramaphosa suggested that much of the country might move towards level three soon and with it a greater easing of restrictions. Nonetheless with the Western Cape statistically the epicentre here, it is likely that we will remain on level four restrictions for a while still. 

Like many nations around the world, there is a growing divide between those in favour and those against the lockdown, particularly one which is so tight. It is clear that there is and will continue to be immense suffering whenever and however regulations are lifted. Our prayer is that the unity showed across the nation in March will not descend into politicising and infighting. It is right that matters must be debated and mistakes rectified but our prayer is that this occurs in a spirit of humility that is honouring and that the ugly cancer of racism would not grow as people struggle.

As a family, we have been incredibly blessed. The children are coping well and accepting that this is the Lord’s will for their lives at the moment. They have grown in empathy, recognising the privilege of food every day, a spacious house that is safe, and a chance to continue education so effectively. In the allocated time set for us each morning they are enjoying an hour of cycling up and down our road and this week have learnt to do some video-editing.

At St. Thomas, WhatsApp Church continues to be well received although we long to meet up again. Alun sends out daily devotions with prayer items and activities for families. On Sundays we are able to send a simple recorded sermon that is not too data heavy and ensures the best uptake. We are encouraged to hear of non-Christians listening in and to see photos of families doing activities together. But we miss our St. Thomas family – it is a blessing to see their faces through photos sent after the Sunday service. 

Material for Sunday school delivered just before lockdown began.

Last month Alun ran a WhatsApp Christianity Explored course with 36 attendees, ranging from congregation members to folk who wanted to explore the claims of Jesus for the first time. Later this week, Alun is launching a second WhatsApp Course called ‘Life Together’. This course will look at Ephesians 4-5, helping us to live well together during lockdown. Pray that these studies will bear gospel fruit, encourage our hearts and mould our behaviour through this challenging season. 

We are very grateful for partners both in SA and the UK who have given generously to allow us to set up a much-needed COVID-19 fund. Many of our congregation have lost income and through this fund we are able to ensure that each family has food. Arise has also embarked on a food appeal to support a further 60 families in Heideveld over the coming months. The scale of the food crisis is staggering, but the spirit of generosity encourages our hearts. They are now at least 13 soup kitchens operating in our community and some schools are running feeding schemes. Thank you for your contribution. 

Another partnership for which we have been tremendously encouraged has been with Grace Primary. Aware that the majority of kids in Heideveld were not receiving much, if any, work from their schools and unable to access online portals without an internet connection, the idea of WhatsApp School-Help was born. We were able to create a WhatsApp group whereby mums can receive daily work to complete with their children at home. The teachers of our children’s school have kindly allowed us to share several of their lessons which have been modified so that they are low data. It has been encouraging to hear testimonies of some children continuing to learn and to see some of their work. Nonetheless, the inequality of education here is colossal. There is a desperate need for children to return to school as it has been weeks and weeks of very little stimulation and often in very small and crowded home environments. We long for them to be able to get back to the classroom and yet the hurdles seem enormous – over 1,000 schools nationally have been broken into during lockdown. Safely managing large classes with few resources presents a minefield of logistical problems to solve. St. Thomas Pre-Primary is, of course, closed and the government have not given any indication of when or how they might reopen again. We ask you to pray for the protection of our 24 children. 

It's going to be a very long haul. But God is good, he is in control and he knows the future.

We value your prayers that as a family we would be generous, wise, healthy, content with restrictions and ever more rooted in the beauty of the gospel.

With every blessing and much love,

Alun, Debbie, Likhona (15), Ilana (12), Malachi (8) and Timothy (4) xx

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