Written by Patty Spykstra
It is hard to believe that Tim and I relocated to South Africa in January 2020. I must admit that missions for us isn’t quite the same as my childhood recollections, and I like to think that we are all called to be missionaries and reflect Christ in our work places, neighborhood and every day life. Years ago good old-fashioned mail and an expensive international phone call were the mode of communication and now we have Wi-Fi and cell phones. Yes, here we are in South Africa residing in a one bedroom, one bathroom “flat” or apartment, which reminds us of when we were first married. Each day at the Retreat Center is unpredictable and we have literally met people from all over the world and from all different backgrounds and upbringings.
Doing life and ministry in a country that at times seems so progressive and then we are reminded that things are not what we are used to with load shedding (power outages) and the sewer bubbling up unto the property to cause flooding on campus. However, these annoyances do not compare to life a few kilometers away where there is a drastic contrast. In these nearby townships a whole other world exists- with tin shack after tin shack-most without plumbing or electricity. Since I don’t write the blog often and I could potentially have a whole lot to share, so I decided to “give a slice of life” about the gathering of believers in the different communities we have joined in worship on a regular basis. Tim has had opportunity to preach in each of these churches, sometimes with advance notice and other times he is invited to speak when we arrive at the service.
First off, we love that we can worship outdoors on the property of Oceanview Care Centre under a covered patio. Pastor Raymond his wife Pamela lead this church, some familiar faces are here with Bernie, the director, and a couple of other teachers, as well Isabella. Pastor Raymond and the elders have a HUGE heart to teach the Word of God, sing, worship, give, and encourage. You can often hear Pastor Raymond reminding the group of mostly women and children that they are not victims but victors! The services are in English but a few phrases in Afrikaans always seem to slip in, the group is primarily Coloured-the title they like to be called. There is always much laughter, joy and a few tears in the midst of the service. Pastor Raymond and Pamela also oversee a team who feed hundreds of people in nearby townships experiencing much poverty and they are also heading up a crèche or preschool.
The other church we attend is in Masiphumelele and primarily a Xhosa speaking congregation. This is where our “retreat-mates” Thobeka and her daughter Sunny attend. At this service men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle, there are always testimonies in either word or song and this group is kind enough to hold their service in English when we attend. We love when prayer time happens as each people group speaks out loud in their own native tongue. When Oceans’ Kingdom Encounter students visit this church each person is encouraged to share a song or testimony as well. This church currently meets in a small house of sorts with the hopes to make it more of a structure conducive for a larger gathering.
Within walking distance here in Fish Hoek we also attend a local church with a more typical building, however the chairs are the white stackable outdoor ones. This church is most like what we are accustomed to with a praise team, youth group, children’s ministry, and nursery. Here we are blessed to interact with a multitude of people from varying places and cultures. There are 13 official languages in South Africa and many are represented in this congregation. The prayer group is what got us first visiting this church and we later found out that the pastor and family lived just up the street. A genuine friendship has developed with Pastor Ryan and Tammy and we welcome our times of sharing over a cup of coffee and an almond croissant. The groups from the US may not stay long enough to attend a Sunday service, but always join in one or two Monday nights of praise and prayer. The visiting students will always say this is a highlight of the Kingdom Encounter.
We are blessed to worship together with these 3 groups of believers here in the Fish Hoek Valley. We are grateful to support and encourage each of the pastors, their families and congregations in different ways whether that be providing food, a get away at Oceans Retreat Center, funds for building improvements or bringing teams from the US to encourage them in person. In the midst of our language differences, in the midst of our different styles and ways of worship, TOGETHER we focus on praising and honoring the King of Kings who IS in control of all things! This unity is what the unbelieving world needs to see! This is the body of Christ.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35