April 2020

Our lockdown here in South Africa tied in with the end of the first term. We had just transferred over to online classes before the end.

When we were allowed outside in groups! Soaking up the sun between online lectures!

George Whitefield College (GWC) acted swiftly, as has the government. My particular concern has been for the many who are in very cramped living conditions in informal settlements. We hope the lockdown will help arrest the spread of the disease particularly in those areas across the country. Many too are immune-compromised due to HIV and TB. There are also myths spreading that it’s only a disease for the west/white people. Do please pray for those in need where their daily income is gone, for wise government action and for local community groups to be able to assist greatly. Some of these groups are paired across richer and poorer areas of Cape Town. Other local schemes are helping the homeless and farmers.

At college, a significant number of locals and international students have remained. It is good having a community to be around, albeit safely distanced! We have enjoyed some singing evenings, story-telling, prayer, roof-walking and cooking together. We have been kept busy by assignments too and I’m thankful for the time to consolidate some language learning. Thanks to God, Greek and Hebrew are sinking in slowly! Even if there’s a long way to go, it is exciting to read little bits in the original language of the Bible. I’m also more aware that a little bit of knowledge can be pretty dangerous! It’s been a mostly joyful start of the journey with Hebrew and I am in a ‘Shebrew’ study group with an Austrian and a Zimbabwean. Learning vocab with multiple other languages is useful and I’ve ‘learnt’ an extra word or two along the way!

Durban Reunited: colleagues from The Bible Talks now together at college. Thapelo, who I worked with for eight years, is now here doing a PhD.

This is now my second year in Cape Town. I’m appreciating my new church family more now. I am part of a family bible study group that normally meets in the early evening for food with the kids there too and I’m really enjoying that. Whilst in lockdown, I’ve been able to get to know those here in residence a little better after the limits of busy term-times. I’m enjoying those on my floor as well as those who come out to the roof for daily walking around. My Zimbabwean neighbours are a source of regular laughter, stories and prayer - a quick message or delivery often becomes a long, fascinating conversation! Their joy and trust in God is very encouraging, especially as their home country is in dire straits. For example, near their parent’s home the hospitals are not functioning at all. Some good news is that their house was rebuilt just before lockdown commenced, after its destruction from the cyclone a year ago.

Cycle race finish!

One of the other joys this past term was cycling in the Cape Town Cycle Tour for GWC. It was a great race of sun, rain and thunder with exciting up-hills of overtaking people and then slow downhills of being overtaken! I was partly doing it to raise fund for bursaries for other/future students. 65% of GWC students are on bursaries supplied by the college. Just like myself who is so generously supported, I’m so grateful these fellow students on bursaries can also be here. If you’d like to give a one-off gift towards a bursary the link is here (until end of April). 

As we all face the uncertainties of the weeks and months ahead, please could you continue to pray for some of these things:

  • God’s grace for South Africa (and Zimbabwe) at this time, especially the poor.
  • Wisdom for the South African government and GWC staff and lecturers.
  • That I'd love those around me and have eyes to see beyond the routine to creatively love those on my floor, in my fellowship group and church family.
  • The verse that the Lord keeps reminding me of in rebuke and encouragement is John 15:5: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’ Please pray that I will do my work/studies as I am able in Jesus, not worrying about what seems impossible but trusting him one day at a time.

I’m really thankful for you each - if only one could be able to talk more! Thank you for your kindness and for being willing to be part of things in this small corner of the world by your gifts and prayers.

With much love,

Nerena

Reply to this letter