He Speaks Peace!

God loves us so intimately He knows just how to speak to us. The blog below was written by Maribeth Stech, sister of Mike Verkaik, who I asked to share how her Father God ‘s voice is bringing her through a difficult season right now.

Two years ago with the Covid running rampant my work gave us the opportunity to take a couple days to have a spiritual retreat. When thinking about where and how I wanted to have/do my retreat I thought of South Africa. Why South Africa? Because my husband had been there a few times with my brother to  Oceans Retreat Center and it was a place I wanted to go after he came back and talked about his time there. So we decided to add time on to the retreat and make it a vacation where we would be able to serve the ministry.

I then asked Pastor Tim if he would be willing to be a part of my retreat, and he was more than willing. Without knowing that one of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10 he based the first day of my retreat on this Psalm 46:10 which says:

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Tim and I met for awhile and then he encouraged me to spend some time alone. So I walked by the ocean and found a bench to sit on to watch and listen to the waves. I spent time listening to God and what He had to say to me through journaling. When I was walking back to the retreat center I found a bench with a dedication plaque. At the bottom of the dedication was written “Be Still and Know” I feel and know this was God speaking to me telling me to be still, listen to His voice and know, feel His presence.

Now it’s two years later and a lot has happened. I was just recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The cancer has metastasized to my bones and I have had to have a complete hip replacement.

A few weeks ago my brother Mike asked me if I could go back to any place I had been before where would I go, and without hesitation I said I would like to go back to South Africa. Thanks to some unanimous donors I am able to write this blog from South Africa.

God has been using my time here to be prayed over in multiple languages. On Monday night we went to a Fullies church prayer meeting and I was prayed over in a couple languages. Wednesday evening Pastor Raymond and his wife Pamela prayed over me and sang a beautiful song about God’s peace as we got ready to serve dinner at Jim Se Bos township. And Sunday at the church in Masi township I was also prayed over. What a blessing to be prayed over in so many languages, even though I didn’t understand it all I was filled with heavens peace as prayers ascended on my behalf.

Since being here I have been able to find my bench again. God has blessed my time here and has given me a time to relax in Him and find His peace in the midst of this present storm. To be Still and to Know His presence is the greatest blessing of all.

Restoring Your Soul


Living near the ocean has many blessings for sure as the Father’s creative beauty paints a new picture daily, as for buildings well that is anther story. The combination of gale force winds stirring up sea salt and sand quickly strip away the exterior of the building as well as rusting any metal object in its path.

Over these last 3 years of living on campus it has become evidence that up keep never stops and the longer it is neglected the worse it becomes. So this past week painters have tackled the frames of all the windows of the main building. It has been a tedious and repetitious task of sanding and staining as workers restore the old window frames with a fresh and shining bright glaze.

Observing the process I thought about how restoration is a metaphor of the believer’s soul. Powerful spiritual forces storm against us daily, beating on us on both the outside and inside. These forces stir within us feelings of inadequacies, weakness, weariness, and shame from battles with self and sin in the world. Soon the once anointed bright glaze of the Spirit is in need of deep restoration.

The Restorer of our souls has revealed to us throughout His Word that the way to revive our hearts is through repentance. The word repentance is used by every prophet in the First (Old) Testament and at the very beginning of the New Testament with the eccentric one-of-a-kind prophet John the Baptist. Both Jesus and His disciples began their ministries preaching repentance after they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Repentance is how the Spirit of God works to restore our cracked and worn souls. Both the Hebrew and Greek word for “repentance” carries with it the meaning of turning. Turning away from sin and all the distractions that our culture throws at us, and turning to the loving arms of the Father (see the story of the Loving Father in Luke 15:11ff.).

Recently I was sharing in a message at a local church how I had to fast from the news media again. For me it is a soul sucker and robs me of heaven’s shalom. So whenever I’m tempted to scroll through news feeds I open my Bible instead and turn to the Good News, what a difference for my soul!

After the message I heard several testimonies from people who were struggling with their souls being sucked dry from social media and spending countless hours only to feel more distorted. One young lady shared how she stopped her social media accounts at the beginning of the year because of the bondage she felt but now she exclaimed, “I feel freedom!!!” Spiritual “sanding” was taking place and the bright glaze of the Spirit’s light was making way to shine brightly.

Repentance is not just a one time turning away from looking to the world and all its gods for solace it is a conscious and daily choice to spend time focussing on the kindness of a Savior God who sent His Son to rebuild and restore our soul with His freedom and life.

Repentance is a gift from the Father who through the Spirit awakens us to turn away from what is destroying our souls and turn to the loving and forgiving Face of The One who is in the business of restoring His glory in us. He desires to renew our souls, to give us a fresh and shining bright glaze.

Sand paper will be necessary to remove the old in order to prepare for the new. But it will be worth it to remove the stains we may inherit from this world in order to be covered by His perfect blood, sealing us forever with lasting love.

Let His Spirit speak to you today about your soul and where you need to turn back to the lover and restorer of it. 

“Do you realize that all the wealth of His extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?” Romans 2:4









A Slice of Life: The Puzzle

Written by Patty Spykstra

Over the last few months a puzzle was set up at Oceans Retreat Centre. This wasn’t just any 500-piece puzzle; it was a prayer-filled and purpose-filled puzzle.

People seem to have differing opinions of puzzles. I have fond memories of puzzles at my parent’s house. Sharing life and snacks around the table with with them, our kids or other family members and finding a piece to add here and there. My husband however associates puzzles with losing recess as a kid. The principal’s objective was forthright: once the puzzle was completed with whomever you had a disagreement with on the playground, recess resumed.

Since we wouldn’t be with family over the holidays I figured a puzzle was a great idea for the evenings. Reluctantly Tim agreed to “work the puzzle” or maybe more like join me in the dining room while I put the border together and he read. When friends from church offered to bring a South African Christmas meal to us we felt so blessed to have their family here on campus. The food and fellowship memorable and the puzzle a gathering spot. Antoinette and Jachin worked on the puzzle and soon Africa and Australia were completed.

Since South Africa continues to have load shedding (lately up to 8 hours a day) the absence of electricity provided time to complete the United States and Canada, places I was most familiar with. As I held the various pieces and deciphered what piece to put where I found myself praying over the cities I had lived in or visited. I thought this puzzle definitely has a purpose.

Preparations for a group of 20 from Hope Africa Collective for their annual staff retreat made for busy times with meal planning, shopping, and room arrangements. It was an eventful few days with people arriving at different times, and juggling load shedding for use of the conference room. The group sang, shared, had a braai, went to the beach, rested and enjoyed their time together as plans for 2023 were made.

Walking through the dining room I noticed several individuals standing around the puzzle. Europe, Russia and South America were completed. I couldn’t help but tell the story of just how much Tim ”loves puzzles” and that he married the principal’s daughter! (Yes, we love to tell that story.) I also added that I found this puzzle provided an opportunity to pray for people living all over the world. Each time I passed through the Ocean’s Lodge someone was working either alone or with others on the puzzle.

Then all the landmasses were completed, what remained was ALL that blue for the oceans! I happily skipped that part! Then on the last day for Hope Africa I realized the puzzle was finished! I was very excited and happy to see that none of the pieces were missing! It was done! Mission accomplished!

I placed my hand on the puzzle! The world. It is such a beautiful and broken place with so many people with varying gifts and passions and ideas. I touched South Africa and where our family lives in the United States. The places seemed so small and insignificant. Sometimes the issues and problems in life seem overwhelming and the hurt and pain too much.

Many people came together to work on this puzzle over an extended period of time. Some spent a lot of time finding 1 piece; others sat down to sort pieces, and some stood by and gave moral support. Actually I have no idea who worked on the puzzle or how it got finished.

I may have started the puzzle, but many others joined in along the way and did their part. We do not need to “do life” on our own, share the gospel or solve all the problems and pain in and of ourselves. The puzzle reminded me of how God uses each of us in different ways to accomplish His Plan and ultimately bring Him Glory!

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. “ Isaiah 55:8-9.

“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk. 2:14

May it be in 2023!









Hope in the Winds of Adversity


Holding on to my hat as I made my hike up the mountain knowing it was going to be a windy prayer time. But instead of going to my usual spot which blocks the wind I felt urged to ascend to the highest point. Gale force winds quickly caused me to get on all fours as I reached the top and thinking to myself “I’m too old for this.”

These North East winds off of the Atlantic can be brutal as only a few months ago they tore down a rusty radio tower leaving it in a tangled mess. On this day the only way I could stand was to grab ahold of a cement post marker and hang on for dear life.

After being pounded on for a few minutes I descended to a cleft in the rock and pondered creation’s power. As I begin to pray over various situations I thought about how many people are facing difficult winds of change  and adversity already in 2023. There have been sudden unexpected deaths of loved ones, chronic health issues, a terminal diagnosis, a painful divorce, battles with addictions, economic woes, severed relationships, and a culture that seems in constant chaos.



My mind went back to the cement post that kept me standing in the midst of turbulent winds. Two Scriptures came to mind, Hebrew 6 and Psalm 91. Both of these texts preach on how we  as believers find security and hope when the winds of adversity are way too powerful for us to stand against.

Soak in these Spirit breathed words of Hebrew 6:

“And now we have run into His heart to hide ourselves in His faithfulness. This is where we find His strength and comfort, for He empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time- an unshakable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God Himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us. He is now and forever our royal Priest…” (18-20, TPT).

 These words are a beautiful commentary of Psalm 91 which describes our anchor of unshakable hope this way:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge…” (1-4, NIV).

 Oh, Praise the Father for the gift of Jesus!!! His finished work opens the door into the Holy of Holies where by faith we kneel on the heavenly Ark of the Covenant, sheltered under angel wings.

I stood up from my little wind shelter and looked at that cement post again thinking about the unmovable power of living on the mercy seat. No matter when the storm gales Christ holds on to His children. Not only can we survive the spiritual battles but we have this “unshakable hope” which gives us the spirit of victory knowing eternity is secure in His everlasting arms.

May 2023 be a year of “unshakeable hope” living with Jesus on the “mercy seat.”







Adoring Spectator

Sunday, New Year’s Day our hearts were moved to tears through dance as a display of praise was demonstrated to a Faithful Father. She was an adoring spectator. Despite experiencing much pain in the past year she chose to express thanks and in doing so ushered each of us to join her as adoring spectators in offering praise to our Creator God!

Robert Murray McCheyne was used by God to start an amazing revival in Dundee, Scotland in the early 1800’s. He died at the age of 29, after being a part of an amazing move of God. He is quoted as saying, “Rather than having been an instrument of the Lord, all I was, was an adoring spectator.

What a profound combination of words I thought to myself as I spent time journaling. The more days I spend on this earth the more I realize the truth of these two words: adoring spectator. As I reflected back on 2022 and all its twists and turns, I acknowledge the Sovereign hand of God behind all the weavings of His divine tapestry. We have really been called as McCheyne said, to be “adoring spectators” of all His mighty works in our lives.

This does not mean we are called to inaction, rather to “walk by faith and not by sight,” as each day His “everlasting arms” carry us every step of the way.

I took my first trip to South Africa in 2003, traveling with my step dad Bill. 20 years ago I was a young pastor who took up the challenge from a Promise Keepers event. World Vision sought to inform Christian leaders about the pandemic of HIV Aids and the wave of destruction in its wake. To be honest I really had no desire to go to Africa. But when my legs became weak and started shaking, I felt pulled by a spiritual force. Somehow I found myself walking towards the front of the venue, dropping to my knees with my face on the ground.

I could have never envisioned that many years later, I would be part of a ministry called Oceans and Patty and I would be living at Oceans Retreat Center where the currents of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans intertwine in South Africa. Only God!

As the New Year arrived Patty and I spent time worshiping our Faithful Father God as adoring spectators. We have witnessed His supernatural works beyond our tiny understanding. He has provided through His precious people-prompted only by His Spirit to give. He has opened and closed doors for our good and His glory. He has orchestrated divine appointments according to His perfect plan not ours.

He has often reminds us that we are not in control. He is. He carries us through our pain, problems, and spiritual battles with sin, Satan, and a seductive world- and He reaches out His hand calling us to healing and forgiveness by receiving in faith the broken body and shed blood of His Son Jesus.

Psalm 46 is a text, which I have turned to often to help me be an adoring spectator. The entirety of this well-known Psalm shouts clearly to us, especially in our world today, how we can be an adoring spectator. It is best summarized in verses 10-11:

Surrender your anxiety. Be still and realize that I am God. I am God above the nations, and I am exalted throughout the whole earth. Here He stands! The Commander! The mighty LORD of Angel Armies is on our side! The God of Jacob fights for us! (TPT).

The Psalmist shows us how to live as an adoring spectator in the midst of a busy, crazy, distracted world, “Be still and know…” As you enter into 2023 take some time to be quiet in His presence and look back at all the ways Father God has carried you close to His loving heart. That same Faithful Father will continue to cradle you in 2023 and ultimately on to your eternal home.