The Gift of Peace

Written by Mike Verkaik

As the we began the Christmas celebration with the residents from the motel this year a north wind was ushering in the long forecasted blizzard of 2022. There was no more dreaming of a white Christmas, it was bearing down upon us.

As the winter storm brewed in the darkness outside the motel, spiritual battles were ongoing inside as bitterness, fractured relationships and fears were infiltrating minds keeping residents in the chaos and away from the bountiful feast prepared for them. The next minutes were filled with prayers, problem solving strategies and words of encouragement as I longed for each situation to be resolved resulting in residents attending. After many attempts some decided to come, while others had hurdles that were too high to cross over.

The bus and caravan of cars traveling to Haven’s Harbor room was slow and at times tense as the roads became snow covered and icy. Upon arriving we made our final push through the blowing and swirling snow in the darkness outside and entered into the bright and calmness of our meeting place.

I have entered the Harbor room at Haven many times, but this particular night it glimmered in a supernatural way. I believe it was the contrast between the spiritual darkness I had just left, and the hearing of children’s voices proclaiming “Glory to God in the Highest” as the program began. The evening started with a reenactment of the story of Jesus, our Prince of Peace, entering into the world and dwelling among us. As we watched and listened our good Father entered in, removed the turbulent storms blowing outside and provided His peace. As one of the volunteers texted after our night, “Wow! My heart is full. It was truly a night of God’s favor and presence.”

Matt*, one of the residents at the motel, told a volunteer, “Man, this place is really peaceful.” A testimony of the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and in that place. What a privilege to bring the gift of His peace shown in our lives, and in the story of Jesus, our Messiah to residents that have walked away, or found no need for a relationship with God.

We gave the residents many other gifts our Father provided that night as well. Gifts of toiletries, snacks, cards and food – but the greatest gift we gave was an opportunity to experience the presence of the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 29 states:

Above the furious flood, the Enthroned One reigns, the King-God rules with eternity at His side. This is the One who gives His strength and might to His people. This is the Lord giving us His kiss of peace. Psalm 29:10-11

I found it interesting that the word flood in the Bible is always used in connection to man’s rebellion and turning away from God. We witness this flood at the motel on a daily occurrence as we also pray and long for residents to receive the free kiss of peace that awaits those who receive Jesus as their Rescuer and Savior.

Jesus’ coming was indeed to rescue us from our sin and restore our relationship to our Abba Father, but it is so much more. Jesus says in John 14:27:

I leave the gift of peace with you—My peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but My perfect peace.

Oh how I desire to take and receive the gift of His peace along with my gift of salvation. In my own struggle to live with this promised peace I am often brought back to the song Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins. His lyrics state: Hold me Jesus, for I’m shaking like a leaf. You have been my King of glory, won’t You be my Prince of Peace. God continues to use those words over and over again to teach me and remind me of the gift of His peace through my salvation.

May you experience the gift of peace this Christmas season, and may that inner peace shine Jesus’ bright light into your darkest night.

Matt* – name was changed

The Gift of a Place to Gather

By Patty Spykstra

The mission of the Retreat Centre is to be a place, which seeks to develop authentic love relationships between the Father and His children, inspiring them to live out their Kingdom calling in the world.

This December 25 marks the third Christmas here at Oceans Retreat Centre in Fish Hoek, South Africa. In many ways living here feels like home. We have a Christmas tree set up, a few decorations, and Tim bought me a poinsettia. We are blessed to enjoy fellowship with Thobeka, Sunny, and others through church and ministry.

We are told that this building is one with a rich history. In many ways the above mission has been going on for generations without us even realizing it. Over the year’s missionaries gathered here while they waited for a ship out of Cape Town to bring them back to Europe. Much singing around the piano, sharing of a cup of tea with warm milk, and many prayers were prayed on this property. In fact during our time here many have stopped by to ask if they can see the place and share their story of time spent here as missionary kids.

For those of you have been on campus you know that front room in particular is a place filled with peace. This room is where we have our staff meetings and gather for prayer. Many guests enjoy this space to sit quietly in the early morning hours of the day with their Bible and a cup of coffee. It is a place for teens to ask tough questions about their faith or ponder what God may have in store for them. Heartfelt conversations, prayer requests, worship and confession are shared in this safe place. Missionaries, Bible translators and leaders from impoverished areas have all gathered in the “living room” and spent a few nights in the guest rooms and been renewed.

I love spending time in the front living room; it is a place to gather, to fellowship, to develop friendships and grow in community. It is where the presence of the Lord is. As Tim, Thobeka and I prepare for guests we offer prayers for peace and rest and add a realistic prayer that the plumbing won’t back up, that load shedding won’t last too long, and that the much needed rains don’t pour down all at once causing flooding. The winds and rain and age have its effects on this place that Oceans offers as a respite and as a safe place for those traveling from overseas.

Over the past 3 years we have met so many authentic followers of Christ who live and minister daily in impoverished communities and we are well aware of how easily discouragement can set it. We are reminded of how important it is to encourage these leaders and give them a place to rest and be cared for and this building here at Oceans Retreat Centre has provided that many times.

In our mission for Oceans Retreat Centre to be a place to develop authentic love relationships and inspire others to live out their Kingdom calling we realize that a place of peace does not need the newest furniture or amazing light fixtures or perfect pillows. But broken things do need to be replaced, a leaky roof repaired, and perhaps some towels updated.

With poverty all around and so many without running water or a toilet is it an internal battle to do such things as tree trimming and preventative maintenance, but we also realize that by taking care of such things we are providing jobs for the community and this is a way we can directly bless others.

As we continue to gather with whomever God may bring to the Retreat Centre, Tim and myself, Mike and Dawn and the Oceans staff are so appreciate of the countless ways the board and you as a community have supported and walked alongside us over the years.

We want to wish you a blessed Christmas and wherever you may be don’t miss the Gift of Gathering with friends and family to worship the King of Kings born in a humble cave. Yes, Jesus has brought love, hope and peace to those gathering all over the world!

The Gift of Hope in the Protea

It was a wonderful graduation celebration the other week at Oceanview Care Center. The children sparkled as they sang, acted out the Christmas story, and as each one proudly received their graduation certificate.

The graduation speaker was a local artist who turned shipping containers into a wonderland of beauty, and brings such a sense of joy and warmth to the center. She described her artistic process as being birthed in prayer and asking the Lord what she should paint. Once she has the picture in her mind the creativity takes over and her hands work out the details of the masterpiece.

The first painting was of the Protea, the national flower of South Africa. This exquisite flower covers the mountainsides surrounding where we live. Our Creator God blessed this country with these brilliant plants with various hues, which speak His glory as well as bringing a message of hope.

I can see why the Holy Spirit promoted the artist to start with the Protea. Not only is it breathtaking in beauty but also resilient. Once this plant takes root it is able to withstand hurricane force winds, severe droughts, and destructive fires. It is the perfect flower to represent this country that has suffered so much pain and yet still perseveres.

I thought about the Protea and the smiling children donning bright smiles and singing out glorious praise to God. In a few months they move on from this Christ filled Kingdom Center and will face spiritual enemies seeking to uproot and destroy them. For some the battle rages in their homes or the gang infested streets where they live. Others will feel the impact transitioning from this safe and familiar space to a much bigger campus. In the natural there is little hope for these precious masterpieces of Father God.

Yet, the Protea preaches a supernatural hope for these image carries of the Divine. The One who creates us in Christ-plants us with Him on the cross- killing the curse of sin and death. He plants the seed of our soul in the fertile soil of His death and will resurrect us to His heaven filled life. Such blossoms radiant His glory.

As in the natural the Protea is a picture of hope so too is God’s Word. Over and over His Word brings us hope that “He makes all things beautiful in His time, (Ecc. 3:11). And “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 1:6).

The graduation was a joy-filled time and there behind the singing and dancing children stood the Protea, a symbol of hope. No matter what the future may bring for these children and all who are in Christ we claim hope as The Word says:

“… rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:3-5)














The Gift of “Warming Up”

If you have participated in any type of sports or physical activity-even shoveling snow-you know how important it is to stretch your muscles and do a proper warm up. Failing to correctly warm up can lead to muscle damage, which may quickly side line you from the competition or keep you inactive.

Our African sisters and brothers have been teaching me that there is also a spiritual principal of “warming up.” It is a time where one prepares the heart in order to encounter His voice.

Last week 26 individuals from the Family Strengthening Team (or social workers) from Beautiful Gate South Africa joined us at Oceans Retreat Centre. These amazing people are truly the hands and feet of Jesus to at risk children and families in the midst of a spiritual and physical war zone. Everyday with enormous caseloads they seek to bring hope and healing where darkness seems to rule.

It was a joy for Oceans to host them and lead them in a time of much needed retreat. The theme was “Hearing the Voice of the Father.” Our prayer was for them to get much needed rest and to be refilled by the loving and encouraging voice of their Abba Father.

At the beginning of one of our sessions I asked the MC if perhaps we could limit the singing to just a few songs as we had a lot to cover that morning. He agreed and after a few minutes tried to draw the worship to a close, but he could tell it wasn’t time so he backed away. A few minutes later Patty made her way to the front of the room, but she too backed away. The singing got louder and more passionate as their voices poured out of the depths of their souls. It became a holy moment where no teaching could compare to what the Holy Spirit was doing. When I finally got up to share, hearts were wide open to hear. Their spiritual muscles were warmed up.

At the last session of the retreat I invited anyone to share how he or she heard the Father’s voice speak His love. One of the ladies described how during that extended worship time she was under a severe spiritual attack. She could feel this heavy weight upon her that was crushing her spirit. She even moved locations in the room to try to avoid it. However, as the worship continued she said the Father broke through the demonic bondage and freed her by His love. I later thought to myself, what if I ended the time of worship just after a few minutes as planned. She would have missed the break through that God chose to give her through extended worship.

My western mind was conscious of hearing God’s voice within a designated time frame. My western mind continues to do battles with the clock. How often have I missed a spiritual victory because I tried to rush into His presence without “warming up” and waiting on Him?

My African brothers and sisters teach me again and again the truth in Psalm 130:

“…This is why I wait upon you, expecting your breakthrough, for Your Word brings me hope. I long for You more than any watchman would long for the morning light. I will watch and wait for You, O God, throughout the night. O Israel keep hoping, keep trusting, and keep waiting on the Lord, for He is tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving, He has a thousand ways to set you free!”(Psalm 130:5-7 TPT)

During this Christmas season spend seek time “warming up” with worship AND wait with great anticipation for the gift His presence will bring!