“Not for man to direct his Steps!”

Written by Patty Spykstra

Tuesday, May 26 marks our 60th day of lockdown here in Cape Town, South Africa. To date we have 22,583 confirmed cases and 429 who have lost their lives to COVID-19. We have moved from Level 5 to 4 and perhaps Level 3 in June.

Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own, it is not for man to direct his steps.”

Although things have not exactly gone how we planned. We have SO MUCH to be thankful for. Tim and I had expected the first 5 months to be so busy we couldn’t’ even catch our breath, but as things around the world changed the plans we had set in place also changed.

10 Things I never considered when Tim asked me go to South Africa…….

  1. That so many friends and family would fly out to visit and be apart of the Dedication of Oceans Retreat Center!
  2. That Tim’s office would in the exact room where our daughter Sarah lived when she studied abroad with Azusa Pacific University in 2013. (Sarah can’t wait to come back!)
  3. That the retreat center would be so booked that no rooms were available for our daughter Anna & her husband and then the airlines shut down all the rooms were available. (Anna & Hunter promise to rebook and come visit us! )
  4. That COVID-19 would be a global Pandemic and change the course of ALL of our lives!
  5. That I’d be cutting Tim’s hair and he would let me, as no barbershops are open! (Timothy I did my best.)
  6. That curtains are non-essential but material is for sale! So thankful ORC’s first volunteer, Michele left her sewing machine and that Thobeka knows how to sew!! Come see the changes! We may have floral masks for sale?
  7. That churches and schools would be closed and so many jobs lost. Thankful Oceans can help out by delivering groceries to the people living in the townships of OceanView and Masiphumelele.
  1. That my dad, Ray, would be getting married to Dianne, a wonderful lady with a heart for Africa, and who stayed at ORC when it was Wellwood Lodge.
  2. That January through May would be so sunny with wonderful weather and that we have plenty of projects to stretch us and keep us busy! Haven’t been bored yet!
  3. That WhatsApp and technology would be such a blessing to stay in touch with so many of you! Appreciate your prayers and concern during this time!!

I do love lists! And this particular list is a reminder that His LIST is full of wonderful unexpected blessings and surprises! “Yielding to God’s plan is the best path to follow. Tim and I have no idea what tomorrow, this week or next month will bring. I challenge you to do write your own list of blessings that came out of COVID-19 and praise God for HIS sovereign plan!

It’s Tuesday but Thursday is Coming!!!!

Sunrise over False Bay

It was dark when we started our hike up the mountain. Why so early you ask? Because we are only allowed exercise out of our homes from 6 – 9 AM so you need to squeeze in every minute you can. Looking at the positive side we have experienced some amazing sunrises.

On the morning of this photo we were reading from Psalm 46 as the sun broke through the darkness.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress,” (vs.10-11, NLT).

As I watched the sun irrupt from behind the mountains and dispel the last shade of darkness I thought about those words “The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us…” Those words along with the breathtaking scene filled my heart with praise for Christ’s glorious reign. The One who created the blinding sun lives in me and surrounds me with a ring of fire that promises to keep me for all eternity.

This blog comes out on Tuesday but don’t forget Thursday! Thursday is one of the most important and yet most forgotten days in Biblical history. Without Thursday I could never find comfort and joy in the verses above. This Thursday, May 21, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, where the Scriptures show Jesus took His Throne in Heaven, ushering His Kingdom reign over all the earth!

The following morning Patty and I hiked up again to let both the sunrise and God’s Word speak in the stillness of the morning. We read from Psalm 47 which goes on to tell why Ascension Thursday is such a big deal:

“God has ascended with a mighty shout. The LORD has ascended with trumpets blaring. Sing praises to God, sing praises…For God is the King over all the earth,” (vs. 6-7, NLT).

What a powerful prophetic Psalm pointing to Christ’s Coronation as King over all the earth. In the midst of a world wide pandemic and the chaos it has caused among governments and nations we have a glorious King whose reign is perfect and is an everlasting fortress for His people. I love how the 500 year old Heidelberg Catechism, answer 49, makes a big deal of Thursday and shows why we blare the trumpets with shouts of praise:

  1. He pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of His Father (Rom. 8:34)
  2. We have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, His members, to Himself in heaven (Jn. 14:2)
  3. He sends His Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand, (Jn. 14:16, Col. 3:1-4).

In this hour where the demonic darkness of fear has sought to dampen our faith remind yourself “Thursday is coming and has come!” We have an ascended King who prays for us, who is making an eternal home for us, and who has poured out His Spirit upon us. He reminds us we are sons and daughters of the King and we walk in the light of His glorious presence filled with His power bringing in His Kingdom Reign to all the earth!

Take Heart Thursday Has Come and “The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us…”

Fragrances of The Father’s Unconditional Love

My wife Patty & my mom Harriet in South Africa

What does the heart of the Father look like? As I thought about Mother’s Day this past weekend I thought about the gift of mothers both spiritual and physical ones to our world. Two words which I would use to describe many mothers whom I know: unconditional love!

For 54 years I have experienced the unconditional love from my faithful mom knowing she will love me no matter what. When I was young and once again ended up in the principal’s office I knew she never stopped loving me regardless of the incident. Even as a graying adult living 10,000 miles I know I can always turn to my mom for comfort and love. I have seen this with my incredible wife Patty and her compassionate heart for our kids. She has often been an advocate for them and when dad felt justice must be served she became a powerful defense attorney pursuing mercy.

In so many ways through our physical or spiritual mothers we see the heart of the Father’s unconditional love. The Bible clearly displays God as Father, but God Himself when He wants us to understand part of His heart points to moms:

“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” (Isa. 66:13). “Can a mother forget a baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget I will not forget you,” (Isa. 49:15).

Here in South Africa I have seen beautiful fragrances of the Father’s love through godly women spreading the aroma of heaven’s love in beautiful displays. Let me share a few examples.

Thobeka & her daughter Sunny

When you visit Oceans Retreat Center you will run into Thobeka. And as you get to know her you will smell the sweet perfume of Christ’s love as her peaceful presence pours out into everything she does. From her cooking, cleaning, plumbing, sewing, fixing, painting, gardening, singing, praying, teaching, and raising her daughter. Believe me she does it all, and we are blessed to have her daily displaying the Father’s love to everyone who steps on our campus. She continues to point us to the beautiful heart of a forever loving Father and the gift of His unconditional love through Jesus.

Last week I was privileged to shop with Bernie & Marion who help run Ocean View Care Center. Despite the center being closed for over 40 days due to the lockdown they continue to daily feed not only the 120 at risk children, but also many of their families in Ocean View Township. Bernie & Marion have families of their own but love these children and tirelessly sacrifice their time to shop, cook, and provide nourishing food for those in need. Again fragrances of the Father’s tireless love for His beloved children.

Bernie & Marion from Ocean View Care Center

I praise God for these woman and a whole host of others who are fragrances of the unconditional love of the Father. A Father who ran after us in Jesus, giving up His only Son so that we would forever know a self-sacrificial love. A Father who daily serves us and provides for every need. A Father who hears our cries, captures every tear in a bottle, and comforts us in the darkest valleys. A Father who sees us in times of our greatest need and who will never ever forget us.

Thank you mom and moms for being the fragrance of His love!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him,” (2 Cor. 2:14).

A Kingdom Touch!

Jillian Dokter, at Beautiful Gate loving the fatherless.

This blog is written by Mike Verkaik, who God has used to transform and disciple many lives through mission trips to Africa.

As May begins, my attention generally turns to the final preparations for the Holland Christian High School trip to Beautiful Gate in Lesotho. However, this year is different. After much prayer for God to make a way for this group of students to experience His kingdom on African soil, I regretfully had to cancel our June trip.

There are some prayers that as an Oceans staff member we pray all the time. One is that God would bring a revival, a great awakening of the Father’s love for His children. We long for the earth to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. 2:14) We have seen glimpses of that outpouring in the transformed hearts of teens and adults alike during our trips to Africa.

This past February, on our last trip to South Africa, I met Johann Kikillus, founder of Ocean View Care Center. Listening to his passion against injustice, his dedication to serve the least, and dependence on God was a blessing and inspiration. In a recent discussion he states, “I used to take teams all over Africa and I learned very early that God didn’t send us to a place to go and change it, we are the ones that come back completely changed … I want to encourage people to come to Africa, to encourage and help laborers, but also to go back with a renewed faith and go back and change your world.”

Johann Kikillus shares more of the impact of teams on Oceans’ webpage.

Johann’s thoughts depict the experiences we have witnessed time and time again. Recently, Jillian Dokter, a 2018 participant on our June trip returned from serving for 9 months at Beautiful Gate. She recorded a podcast with host Bryant Russ. As I listened to her heart, I gave praise and glory to our Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit’s work in her life. Listen to her heart:

In Lesotho, I had my heart broken in a way I had never experienced before. I have never been that close to extreme poverty or vulnerable children. So, I couldn’t not respond. I started praying about what does my response look like? God placed on my heart to go back to Lesotho long term.

Through my experience, I’m more aware of the world as a whole. I came face to face with a lot of brokenness and pain while I was in Lesotho. I’m more aware that the world is broken, but with that I’m more aware also how faithful God is in the middle of it all. I praise Him for the way He showed up again and again. I have a better understanding of who He is and how He meets us in the chaos … over and over again God told me I am all that you need.

God as a Father really came alive for me when I was in Lesotho. I had to process a lot of things. Like, is the reality that these children don’t have earthly fathers going to affect their view of God as a Father? What does God as a Father look like for children who don’t have earthly parents? Processing through all of that I got to appreciate God as my own Father even more. I feel like I got to appreciate that characteristic of God as my Father more deeply working with kids who don’t know any father figures.

Hearing the impact Jillian’s time in Lesotho had on her life led me back to our prayers over the past months; prayers for the end of the pandemic, the ramifications from it, and for a revival of the heart of the Father. However, ultimately it brought me to the surrendering heart taught in the Lord’s prayer – Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Will you join us?

Thanks for your YES Jillian.