Taste & See

Written by Patty Spykstra

It has been a whirlwind these last months getting “settled” into our new home. We feel so blessed in our one bedroom flat here in Cape Town. Our friends & family from CA and the team from Michigan were an amazing help with projects around the retreat center, huge encouragement, and already touched many in the community.

Ray Haakenson, Oceans Ambassador, has been a wealth of knowledge and has already established many relationships in the community; Johan is one of those connections. He is a South African native, grew up in a missionary home and actually stayed at Oceans Retreat Center as a child. 

One night we invited Johan to dinner at ORC and he shared his story. He is a humble, passionate man, sold out for Jesus and the marginalized. Johan is a well-known presence in the township of Ocean View for the last 10 years with his primary focus being the fatherless and gangs. However, as he observed countless children wandering the streets he felt he needed to start a free care center. The center has been open for over five years now and he shared that rival gang members now bring their children to this safe place where they are learning about Jesus. 

Our group was privileged to see first hand the preschool and prayed for the teachers who are doing so much good in the midst of limited space and few resources. These ladies, who have families of their own, offer hope and love to these vulnerable kids. Our team was quick to help with lunch-which was simply rice or porridge-for many the only meal eaten during the day. After one group ate the bowls were washed and used for the next.  

When asked what we could do to help, initially Bernie, the director, said, “Please come back” and then she added, “well we could really use some mats for the children to take their naps on. The floor is so hard.” 

Our reply, “We would be blessed to do both.” 

The next group out will be from Lutheran High School in Parker, Colorado and we have arranged for them to be an extra set of hands to hug and to help. We are also set to order 100 or more mats for these kids to be able to rest on in their narrow classroom containers. 

It is hard for us in the States to understand what we have seen. I take comfort in the believers such as Johan and the ladies serving that they can offer food, comfort and the goodness of the Lord. They are providing a refuge for the least of these. We pray these 3,4 and 5 year olds can know Jesus and look back to taste and see that their Abba Father loves them. 

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” 

Sovereign of the Sea

Blog written by Pastor Bill Bierling


Sitting here by the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Town, South Africa, Harriet & I have been 
privileged to be part of the dedication of  Oceans Retreat Center.  The passage of Scripture shared was the story of Jesus stilling the sea in Mark 4: 35-41. Notice that Jesus called the disciples to go to the other side of the sea. Little did anyone realize that for Oceans this would involve a move to South Africa for Tim and Patty-literally across the sea-joining Ray & Kegan at Oceans Retreat Center. Thankfully, just as Jesus was with the disciples sleeping on the boat that day on the Sea of Galilee, He is also with us on whatever journey we may be on- the wonderful human Jesus-who understands exactly what we are experiencing this very moment.  

How we need that Jesus to identify with us in all of our humanness- our struggles, our fears, our loneliness, our disappointments & whatever other storms may arrive. We are so glad for Oceans Ministries & for each of us that we not only have the human Jesus, but also the Divine Jesus with us as well. This is the Jesus of John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word & the Word was with God & the Word was God.” We see this divine Jesus rise up in the storm. 
He speaks, “Quiet! Be Still!”

Then the waters were calm. 

Thank God for the Master of Miracles; the One who is the  Sovereign of the Sea. Incredible! He is the One with us as we move ahead in the future. Let Him still the storms that will come. Let Him invade the darkness with His light & His power. Let the Sovereign of the Sea reign in your lives. May we all in humble wonderment and amazement say, “Who is this that the winds and the ways obey Him?”

Our only response can be, HE IS THE SOVEREIGN OF THE SEA! As Oceans Ministries International steps into uncharted territory of townships, homelessness, loneliness, darkness, hopelessness and fatherlessness, may the human Jesus and the divine Jesus be ever present!

Waves of His Glory

In Africa when you visit a church and you are a pastor many times you will be asked to preach. That happened this past Sunday as we worshiped in the township of Massi a few miles down the road from Oceans Retreat Center. Without much time to prepare I instinctively chose the theme text from Oceans.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.Habakuk 2:14

As I spoke the Holy Spirit impressed on me that these beautiful people gathered in a make shift “church” are each an integral part of “God’s waves of glory!” Together brothers and sisters from Africa joined by a team from Western Michigan united in praise and both were ready and willing to splash the Father’s love where ever He may lead.

One of the waves in the room was Pastor Nevson, who moved into this township over 10 years ago out of obedience to God’s voice. He lives with his wife and 4 young boys in a small wooden shed on a street that never sleeps, surrounded by drinking bars and all sorts of darkness. Yet, daily Pastor Nevson works in the schools and walks through the township being the visible message of Jesus to people that are thirsty for hope.

As I opened God’s Word, it made me smile as glanced at all the familiar faces, waves represented from the states. Truly an amazing group, many from Haven church in Zeeland, who came out to help with a building project and be a part of the Dedication Service for Ocean’s Retreat Center. One of those waves was Jim. Jim would wake up early, brew coffee for the team, and sit in the front room. As he enjoyed the view he noticed two homeless men sitting on a bench right outside of the retreat center and one day he decided to join his friends on the bench, listened to their stories and splashed on them heaven’s love.

I believe with all my heart a tidal wave of the Father’s love is beginning to form in our world. An enormous swell is taking form from places like Massi township in South Africa, as well as in Zeeland, Michigan. Ordinary folks who have experienced extraordinary love from the Father’s face will flood the nations with the reflection of His transforming glory.

And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and get a glimpse of all that we have heard and seen during our time in South Africa. I pray that you will be caught up in the WAVE of the Father’s LOVE for you and let His Spirit carry you along SPLASHING His glory wherever He brings you!

The Higher you are the Smaller Things Get!

City of Fishhoek, SA

We hiked up a mountain near Oceans Retreat Center the other week and had a prayer time with some dear friends. The day was radiant and the prayers refreshed my thirsty soul. Down below was a huge “To do list” that seemed daunting and kept my mind spinning faster than I liked. But as we looked over the glory of God’s creation and focused on His majestic presence life was once again reordered in the right direction. What seemed so urgent and weighty an hour earlier vanished as our hearts touched the heavenly realm and grace was released. After our climb that day the Spirit prompted these words to my mind, The higher you are the smaller things get.”

A few days after our hike we met with what I would call a prophetical leader. Johann Kikillus runs Soteria Ministries in nearby Ocean View township. Johann fights tirelessly for those who have no voice in a place infested with gangs, addictions and child abuse, a literal war zone. Johann shared with us how our area has seen a convergence of witches, shaman’s and all types of spiritualists attracted to spiritual forces flowing through the valley. This group prays and practices their rituals in the mountains above us seeking to bring in the dominion of darkness. When we asked Johann what his greatest need was, he quickly responded, “prayer!” At the end of our time we followed up with his request for prayer. We drove away speechless. Quite overwhelmed by what we had heard and seen in the township, but again the Spirit brought back the phrase “The higher you are the smaller things get.”

The phrase above triggered these powerful Scriptural truths:

“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,” Ephesians 1:3.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6.

Since you and I are in Christ Jesus we have been given every resource of heaven to war with as we are seated with Christ and our Father as His beloved children. What helps ignite that truth? To live in a constant spirit of “Praise” to the Father and Son for the victory won in Christ Jesus. As we worshiped and prayed that day on the mountain top the battle below truly seemed to get smaller and the glory of God evaporated the lies and wicked schemes of the enemy below. I believe the Spirit was giving us a strategy of how He wants us to live in our new home, “The higher you are the smaller things get!”

I pray as you and I face our battles we would hear the Spirit call to live out of the heavenly realms where we are seated with Christ and our loving Abba. As we make Praise & Pray our priority, heavens Perfect Peace will flood our souls with a blessed victory! (Isa. 26:3)

Our Praise Team: Ray Haakonsen, Carmen & Nick Carlavato, & Patty