Dear Friends and Family,

‘Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, at the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.’ CS Lewis

We are currently on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth book of the famous Narnia series, for at least the fourth time around. Yet with each re-reading, we are struck again by the genius of CS Lewis’ writing and the profound gospel truths contained within. Truths that remind us that evil doesn’t triumph; death doesn’t win because Jesus’ resurrection signals renewal and secures our hope forever.

Seeing people move from death to life in front of us is truly one of the greatest privileges in ministry. Alun has just finished leading our first Christianity Explored course this week. We had five regular guests with several more ad hoc attendees – all of whom live on Groenberg Road, the road we mentioned in our last newsletter as currently seeing a real move of God’s spirit as neighbour brings neighbour to St Thomas. One attendee left the session on grace, saying to Alun: ‘I am 59 years old, and the Lord has been so patient with me, as he’s waited for me to answer his call and turn to him’.

Gospel proclamation is so vital when all around us the world is groaning, and individual hardships seem to be mounting. South Africa as a nation is experiencing a period of significant challenge, certainly more than in the 17 years we have been living here. Daily power cuts, which began last October, mean that electricity is turned off for an average of 6–10 hours out of every 24 hours across the country. Only two days of 2023 so far have been free from what is known locally as ‘loadshedding’ (rotational powercuts). Jobs are hard to come by, food prices are soaring, crime is on the increase (again), begging increases as poverty deepens, and people are generally more fatigued by the relentless of living with such unpredictability.

What does this look like in practical terms for us, acutely aware of all our privileges? The instalment of a gas hob and purchase of a whistling kettle. Dark mornings and evenings. Finishing schoolwork/admin when the power and Wi-Fi is back on. More time in the car due to increased traffic with lights out at numerous intersections. Regularly cancelled appointments and events. People knocking on our front door several times a day asking for food. Folk we know asking for financial assistance to cover the essentials. Extra vigilance walking and driving around. The human heart often defaults to grumbling, anger and despair in such situations. We recognise it in ourselves, and we pray to do better. During our teens’ devotional times in the mornings, Alun has been teaching about contentment from Philippians. Within our family this week, we have asked each other, ‘are you content?’ – it is a good indicator of our hearts. Of course, we need to rely on the Lord’s strength to be content in whatever situations we find ourselves. We would love your prayers as we seek to live well in a nation that is groaning.

One way our church is seeking to live well, is by reaching out to the vulnerable in Heideveld. Nadene, a biblical counsellor who joined our staff team in November, has been able to assist a number of local families. She has also started both a grief-share group and a family support group for people living with addicts. Both these groups are responses to pervasive needs. Both groups have been well received with space to grow. Nadene brings much needed skill and experience in social work and counselling as well as a genuine ability to relate to people.

What excites us most about her role though, is the way she has gently directed people to find further support at church. Whether it be youth group, kids club, bible study groups or Sunday services, we are seeing new people join and stay in a way that we haven’t seen to such an extent before. We know trauma is long-term; we know that sin and its consequences don’t disappear after a few weeks of intervention. Nonetheless we are seeing how God’s word faithfully taught has the ability to speak truth into people’s complex situations and a work of sanctification begins when people respond to Jesus’ call to discipleship. We have recently witnessed two marriages on the brink of divorce whose family situations have changed palpably after coming to living faith in Jesus. Similarly, we lately celebrated a milestone birthday for a young person who just a few years ago was meddling in gangsterism. What an encouragement to hear him tell his friend, ‘If you want to hear a talk about real things, come here on Sundays’. It has warmed our hearts to see new believers find close human relationships at St Thomas and to call their new friends their family. Keep praying!

We don’t have much space this time for family news, so here is a word or two to sum up each of the kids. Likhona – driving (!), Ilana – enjoying cello, Malachi – Bear Grylls fan, and Timothy – ‘the sponge’!

With every blessing and gratitude for your partnership,

Alun, Debbie, Likhona (18), Ilana (15), Malachi (11) and Timothy (7) xx

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