2022 was a tough year and we went into this year hoping that things might get easier. Instead the Lord seems to be answering our prayers to keep us humbly dependent on him! At the end of 2022 we said goodbye to four more members of staff – with Banele and Bonginkhosi heading off to study theology at George Whitfield College and Tumisang and Buyi deciding to take a break from ministry. We have also just said goodbye to John who is going to work at another local church. The past few years have felt like a huge churn on the staff team, in the midst of the pandemic, and with a church plant and lots of people moving on and coming in.

Please pray for our much-depleted student team and that our senior staff team especially might settle down a bit in the years to come and that we would have real unity and fellowship together as we seek to serve in our different areas of ministry. Give thanks that the church plant in Braamfontein (Khanya City Church) is growing and thriving and is celebrating its one year anniversary. Though church planting is a strain on the ‘sending’ church, Hope Church, it is wonderful to see how the Lord has been at work and has been reaching people just around the corner!

January is the start of our academic and calendar year, so we hit the ground running in many ways. Hope Church started with a new intake of first year interns (Lethabo, Khathu and Dineo). Please pray for them and our other interns and residents to be trained in a way that is useful for them. The hope is for them to grow in their personal walk with the Lord, in their Bible handling skills and to get a taste of various ministries as well as developing any specific gifts the Lord has given them.

Praise the Lord that we have also finished off renovations in the house next door to the church which Hope Church now rents to interns and other students. Since February, students have returned to campus and our student ministry at the University of Johannesburg is kicking off again along with the evening service and young adults ministry.

Our children have also started new classes at school in 2023 – Sam is now in grade 11 (of 12), Hannah in grade 9, Sophie is grade 6 and Rachel is grade 4. They are all doing well at school, enjoying sport, church and friendships. There is much to be grateful for! We are hoping to be able to visit London together in June/July this year, but Lucy is still waiting for her visa. Please do pray that we would all be granted permanent residence before the end of this year so Sam can also apply to university in South Africa.

These bureaucratic frustrations, along with regular load-shedding (where we don’t have electricity for eight hours a day, in scheduled two-to-four-hour stints) and current issues with water supply, can really wear us down and we would value your prayers for gratitude and patience. Now, we are feeling generally a bit weary and run down, which is a concern so early in the year. We are looking at 2 Corinthians in our Sunday services and 1 Peter in our Bible Studies right now and both are a wonderful encouragement to persevere in weakness and suffering.

Please pray for wisdom for James as he seeks to work out how to make his working week more manageable and how to lead a weary and worn-out team. Praise God that Lucy has finished her CCEF certificates in Biblical Counselling and is now planning a much-needed and much-anticipated sabbatical (April to June). Please pray for a good time of rest and refreshment in the Lord for us both. Please pray too for our sleep and our parenting especially and for wisdom as we seek to serve the Lord wholeheartedly without becoming overwhelmed, grumpy, or resentful. We are slow to learn but our God is patient and full of grace!

Amid our weariness, our Sunday church services continue to be a complete joy and a real encouragement – we are full to the brim most Sunday mornings. Just last week we were reminded not to lose heart in ministry from 2 Corinthians and then we also baptised 17 people – a wonderful reminder of why we should persevere! Do join us in praising the Lord for Hope Church’s diverse congregation, lively music and lots of visitors each week.

Our theme of the year is community, and we would really value your prayers that people would work at deep and honest friendship commitments, especially across the racial divide. We are hoping that pouring into our small group Bible studies (which we call Connect Groups) will be one way of growing that family feel, so praise God for providing willing Bible study leaders this year! Pray that Lucy and James would love, encourage, support, and train them well.

Much love,
James and Lucy Buchanan

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