A few weeks ago I came across a quote by theologian Eugene Peterson that has stuck in my mind ever since: ‘Long obedience in the same direction’. Maybe you have felt that the last year has called for long obedience to COVID regulations! The months have seemed sluggish and slow and days have often been filled with the mundane. Yet as a nation and indeed across much of the world, humanity has persevered in taking precautions. Together we have acted in obedience to authority, with the hope of saving lives.  

As a Christian, though, Eugene’s quote is far more profound. A life lived for Christ is centred upon a steadfast commitment to choose to obey God’s word. With our direction fixed on eternity, we strive daily to put to death the sinful nature and clothe ourselves with the fruits of the spirit. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes less so. At times it requires a conscious fight against sin to act kindly and with resolute gentleness in a world which glorifies and expects retribution. At other times godly patience and servant hearted faithfulness over months and years is one outward mark of a believer transformed by the gospel.  Whether you are parenting, working a challenging work environment, leading a church or at home staying safe, may the Holy Spirit strengthen you to keep persevering in your (long) obedience to Christ, confident that in the age to come, you may receive a crown of life. 

Since our last update South Africa has come through a fairly nasty second wave. At the moment we are in a time of very few restrictions as numbers have returned to low and our lives look fairly normal. It was an absolute thrill to celebrate Easter together this year and the church had about 90 people for both Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Youth work at St. Thomas has been enormously encouraging this season. Our ministry apprentice Dillon has taken over the reins from Alun and is doing wonderfully. We have a solid cohort of about 16 – 18 teens that regularly come on Friday evenings and they are increasingly coming on Sunday mornings too. Revelation has been a challenging book to study together but Dillon has produced bible talks with great clarity and faithfulness to Scripture. Whilst we long to see ever greater maturity in our teens, we do see incremental growth. Our teens know that they are coming to engage with God’s word rather than to be entertained and they continue to come. Last Monday 22 teens/leaders hiked up Lions Head (google ‘Lions Head, Cape Town’ to get an idea of what we are talking about!). It was so wonderful to see them overcoming their fears, pushing themselves physically and getting out in nature, which for many teens happens very seldom.  

St. Thomas preschool now has a waiting list, which is a dramatic turnaround from last year! We believe that the Lord has firmly led us to keep this ministry alive and are grateful for strength to keep going. There remain ongoing issues of registration – tied up with very complicated fire compliancy work that seems to drag on month after month. We need expert help for this task that, on the surface, looks so simple, but in reality is something that no builder wants to take on! There is much we dream to do with the preschool but we continue to chip away bit by bit.  

COVID has affected many jobs in Heideveld and the level of unemployment particularly amongst 18 – 30s is frightening. We covet your prayers for doors to be opened up for our young adults. Pray that they will not get discouraged but will keep busy whether at home, volunteering or job seeking. Similarly, education on the Cape Flats is distressing. Fourteen months into the pandemic and children are still only in school 50% of the time (not our own children, who school in the suburbs). A lady in our church was telling us how one of the classes at her high school currently has 64 learners – they had to knock down a wall to fit everyone in. Arise reports an increasing number of learners who no longer want to attend school due to the disruption. Do keep their staff team in your prayers as they encounter such trauma every day. Please pray also for their financial situation, as COVID has affected our individual and corporate giving. Check out arisefamily.org for more information.  

Our family are well. In stark contrast to the above, our three younger kids are loving school this year and enjoying the learning that, for them, is happening full time. Malachi built himself a wormery this afternoon, whilst Ilana has been trying her hand at calligraphy. Timothy counted down the sleeps until his workers day dress up last Friday, when he dressed up as a policeman. Alun and Likhona get out on the mountain every week, either cycling or hiking/running. It is definitely a perk to doing high school as homeschool that PE lessons can be hours of long adventures on Dad’s day off (after academic work is completed, of course!). 15 years of exploring Table Mountain and Alun still regularly has the joy of discovering new unexplored trails. Last week they had to re-plan their trail due to the massive Table Mountain fire that you might have heard of, that caused widespread damage but is now under control.

Like you, we don’t know what the next few months hold – we expect a third wave and the possibility of an additional lockdown. We pray for vaccines to start in earnest so more of our most vulnerable are protected.  And yet, despite the uncertainty, we are convinced that the Lord is good, he is in control of our world, his word is drawing people to himself and we can trust him to work out his purposes.

Thank you for your long investment financially and in prayer for our family, for St Thomas, Arise and, more recently, the St Thomas Preschool. We appreciate you and whilst we can’t visit many of you as we would so dearly like to, we praise the Lord that our relationships remain strong.

Every blessing, 

Alun, Debbie, Likhona (16), Ilana (13), Malachi (9) and Timothy (5)  

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