Wednesday, May 25, 2011

North American Ministry

We've just reached another milestone in our missionary career. Yesterday we arrived in the United States for the beginning of our second "North American Ministry", or time away from our host country of South Africa in our sending country. This time around we will be here for seven months, returning to South Africa just after Christmas.

The purpose of this period will be:

1) visits to our supporting congregations throughout Mennonite Church USA (June, July, August)
2) "mission education" at various other events and church visits (October, November, December)
3) spending time with extended family
4) personal renewal

We made lots of arrangements in order to be gone from South Africa for this amount of time. This period will be a good test of whether the work we have been doing over the last five years can continue long into the future. We return to the United States pleased that we were able to make all the necessary arrangements before leaving South Africa. Now we leave the work to others in confidence and in prayer.

In telling people about our plans, one other question kept resurfacing--"What about the boys?" The boys will complete the fall term of school in the states, in Goshen, Indiana.

We hope to see many of you around!

-Joe

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Easter and beyond

After our southern Africa trip, we had only one week at home before setting off on our Easter travels. Taking advantage of the long school break, we spent nearly two weeks in the Northern Cape and Free State, visiting churches and leaders to whom we Mennonites relate in South Africa.

We spent Easter with Grace Community Church (GCC) in Philipstown, and spent the following week visiting members and getting better acquainted with the small town. The big event of the church’s Easter conference was the ordination of a pastor, for which Anna and I were both invited to offer words of encouragement. The lingua franca in Northern Cape is Afrikaans, so, with those people who do not speak English, our best hope of communication is in isiXhosa, the other prominent language in the region.

After Philipstown, we headed 50 km down the road to De Aar. As last August, we enjoyed the hospitality of the Vena family and worshiped with New Beginnings church. Then we, along with two representatives from that congregation, traveled to Bloemfontein (Free State province) for this year’s meeting of the “Partnership Council”. There we met up with representatives from GCC, Breakthru Church International, Bethany Bible School, the Anabaptist Network in South Africa, A Rocha (a Christian environmental organization), and our other North American Mennonite colleagues.

The Partnership Council meeting was very rich. We developed a structure, appointed a Steering Committee, and made some plans to collaborate with one another on some ministry opportunities within the coming year. Ideally, the Partnership Council will function as a network of mutual growth, support, and accountability for partners diverse in experience, background, and theological perspective. Another highlight of the one-day meeting was an opening panel discussion on the meaning of salvation drawing upon the wealth of imagery and texts from the Bible.

-Joe