Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

We wish you a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year! For us, 2023 has been a year of ups and downs, with James and Lucy both taking six months off work at Hope Church to seek to recover from burnout and also focus on the needs of our children, with the girls especially struggling with their mental health. Our spiritual blessings in Christ are great indeed, and being made so keenly aware of our physical and emotional limitations has given us new cause to praise God for his goodness and grace towards us. We have been especially encouraged and challenged that God’s kingdom work does not dependent on us and that our identity is secure in him, as we seek to battle the desire to please men and not God. Please join us in giving thanks to God that he has sustained us in the suffering and storm this year, that our family is safe still and that Hope Church has kept going and growing in our ‘absence’. Our morning service especially has been full to bursting in recent months so the need for a larger meeting hall increases. We are so grateful for your prayers and support for us as a family and as Hope Church, when we have felt buffeted by life’s storms. 

A huge encouragement this term has been the baptism service we held in October. We baptised about 20 people in March and another 20 in October and heard several testimonies at those services. One of the ladies who was baptised in October spoke about her amazement when she discovered that there were other versions of the Bible other than the King James version (which for a non-first language English speaker was quite impenetrable) and the fact that that must mean that God could be and even wanted to be known. Another spoke about learning about grace for the first time after almost 20 years in a traditional African church. Yet another spoke about the impact of student ministry on her and meeting people who actually made an effort to get to know her – she thought it was likely they must be recruiting for a cult. Most of them spoke about how Hope Church was unlike what they thought church would be or could be like. Praise be to God for these encouragements!  The photo shows a snapshot of the actual baptism which we had to do outside because our bath tub / baptismal pool was leaking! Most of the congregation were standing a bit further afield, under the shade of the tree.

Another huge encouragement were two ordination services held this term. Mbulelo (Boom) Maliza, who used to be a student worker at Hope Church, was appointed area bishop in Gauteng in November and Noxolo (Noxy) Khanyile, the director of children and youth ministry at Hope Church, was ordained as deaconess in September.   

January is the start of the academic year in South Africa, so we are expecting an influx of new first year students (around February) and professionals, as well as others looking for a new church at the start of the year. This year also marks James’ gentle / gradual return to work and we would value your prayers for him to be able to establish good patterns of work and rest. Praise the Lord that Hope Church is his church and his work and that he bears the burden for it all. Pray for James to keep fighting the temptation to become overwhelmed by his sense of responsibility for the church, the staff team and the council as well as our family. Pray that he would be able to lead the Hope Church staff team and council well, whilst continuing to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus and not fearing man. We would desperately love to employ an Operations Director at Hope to take some of the burden off James in that area – please would you pray that the Lord would provide the finances needed for that as well as the right person at the right time?

Praise God that after 10 years, Lucy and James both have permanent residence in South Africa so Lucy can finally travel outside of the country again. We now only need permanent residences for the children (especially Sam before the end of 2024 when he finishes high school) and then we won’t need to apply for visas again, which would be a huge blessing.

With love, James and Lucy

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