Straight into the Flames!

I have asked Ray Haakonsen , Oceans South Africa Ambassador, to share with you in the next few blogs about the challenges facing South Africa as well as what we sense our all powerful God is up to in this incredible land of promise.

I consider myself blessed to be a child of Africa, born, bred and still living here…..a continent rich in natural resources, great bush and wildlife, sunny skies, beautiful scenery and, on the whole, amazingly warm, colorful friendly people. Most visitors I have met in my varied roles on this continent, will vouch for this. 

Numerous African quotes speak of people falling in love with her, being bitten by her or finding her seeping in and running through their veins after coming the first time, and often returning more than once. My favourite is “You may leave Africa, but she will never leave you”. Africa has a distinctive allure.

But sadly, in the midst of all this beauty, the continent, and my country of citizenship since 1981, South Africa, is facing very challenging times. Considered a relatively new ‘country’ after its first democratic elections in 1994, our home has faced the complexities of dealing with a post-apartheid season, largely trying to appease the  majority of its people who had effectively been forgotten before.

Our leaders have not been able to deal with the immense challenges successfully governing the country including pleasing and giving fair opportunity to the population of over 55 million. Our economy is struggling, important utilities such as electricity and water supply are under severe strain and we have an unemployment rate of 30% and rising, not including millions from neighbouring countries seeking work. 

But if you’ve been following Oceans Ministries’ posts, you would have read recently that the organisation, founded just over 5 years ago by Tim Spykstra, based out of Denver Colorado, had recently prayed about and purchased a Property, now named Oceans Retreat Center, in Fish Hoek, Cape Town at the very tip of the continent.

So why would an organisation, which believes in the Kingdom of God, the Loving and redeeming nature of God the Father, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, consider starting a ministry, way across the Atlantic, so far away from the beauty, safety, and relative wealth of spectacular Denver Colorado? In a recent whatsapp chat across the miles, (technology can be great), between Tim and I we were discussing these big challenges in our country and how many, who have the funds or opportunities to afford to, are considering leaving. 

As we spoke further, I believe the Holy Spirit gave us the same unction along the lines of us being the light in the darkness! As disciples (representatives) of Christ, with Him and His Spirit within us, and on the authority of the Father, we are called (destined) to manifest His light into the darkness. The impression in my spirit, was when a huge fire breaks out everybody is running out of the building, but the firefighters are going against the stream of humanity, straight into the flames! Consider these scriptures:

John 8:12 ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people He said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will HAVE the light of life”

John 1:5 says; “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

Revelation 21:23 ‘The City does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the lamb as its lamp

Stay with me if you will as I expand on this thought and how we as Oceans Ministries International are seeking to be and bring the Light into the darkness for and in His glory.

The Best Day Ever

Crafts at the Wooden Shoe Motel

Written by Mike Verkaik

We pulled up to the motel at 5:15, loaded down with a trailer and van full of tables, chairs, games and a grill. As we arrived we were met by smiles from young children running towards us.  “Where have you been?” one of them belted out, “you said you were going to be here at 3:00.”  Seems they were mistaken about our time of arrival and had been waiting for the last two hours.  Full of excitement we began to unload the games from the vehicle; corn hole, giant Jenga, hula-hoops and washer toss.  Not knowing which one to play *Trisha exclaimed, “Oh my, there are too many choices”.

Last Tuesday volunteers for Oceans Ministries put on a cookout in the back parking lot of the Wooden Shoe Motel.  For sometime we had been praying for an opportunity to build more community with the residents and God placed on our hearts to provide a place, a table, for immediate families and for us as a family to eat, dwell and share life together.  The motel rooms they reside in are equipped for rest, but not for meals.

While the tables were being set up, residents began to make their way to the back.  Like the little children preceding them, they were excited for a different type of evening meal and guardedly played the games as well.  

As the dinner progressed, the table created a place for connection, laughter and sharing the happenings of life. Some of the conversations led to prayers as together we laid our burdens before our Abba Father. The table became a place where our commonality as broken sinners found acceptance and community. We are all in desperate need of people who will journey with us in our stumbling and mountain top experiences.  To provide that community at the Wooden Shoe Motel is something we continue to bring before God. 

Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God as he taught his disciples and friends around the table. However, he also extended that invitation to those excluded from the religious community as He was accused of eating with sinners in Mark 2:16. 

When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

The gospels are full of stories of Jesus eating with people.  In fact, sharing meals played a vital role in the ministry and mission of Jesus, as the meals represented something greater than the food.  Our prayers continue to be for the Holy Spirit to take our meals, our friendship and bring about a discipleship opportunity.

As the evening came to a close, the children were the last ones to leave.  They were still soaking in the meal, the activities and the games that were brought to them. While packing up the last table, my wife Dawn overheard one of the children let out their thoughts on the evening, “This was the best day ever!”  Driving home we concurred with that child. As 58 hamburgers and 24 hot dogs were served around the table, our Father showed up and advanced His kingdom by deepening our relationship and community with the family He is creating at the Wooden Shoe.

*name was changed 

Steps…Proverbs 16:9

Tim certainly did not plan to tear his bicep tendon and need surgery weeks before both our daughters get married. I, Patty, certainly did not plan to write this blog, however this is the path set before us. So that being the case I have decided to share a few thoughts about the recent path Oceans Ministries has been on.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT

  1. The purchase of Wellwood, previously owned by Azusa Pacific University, is now officially Oceans Ministry Retreat Center. A heartfelt thank you to board members Steve, Ken, Steve and Danell, who displayed incredible patience, perseverance, and attention to detail to accomplish this feat! We praise God for each of their gifts and for God’s sovereignty.
  2. The step to obtain non-profit status came with many, many prayers, lots of paperwork, and the assistance of a South African lawyer. We heard many accounts of how difficult and time consuming this process can be! To God be the glory that this step is competed.
  3. The purchase of 2 vans and a 7-person vehicle are being finalized. This will be great for groups who come to serve in neighboring communities. This transportation will also allow for visits to Robben Island, where Nelson was in prison, as well trips to other beautiful and historical places nearby.
  4. Desiring to be good stewards of what God has given us, we are asking God to put on the hearts of others to provide for the repayment of the interest free loan for the property. We praise God for the individual who offered the financial backing without solicitation!
  5. We are so thankful that Ray & Sue Haakenson, our South African Ambassadors, live less than a mile from the Retreat Center. Kegan Haakonsen, who grew up in Africa, has agreed to live on the property and manage the the day-to-day details of the Retreat Center. We are grateful the commitment of these mission-minded individuals.
  6. Tim and I,Patty, are making plans to relocate to Fish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa at the beginning of the new year. In the next few months we will be celebrating the weddings of our two daughters and packing up our Colorado home. Anna and her husband will live in our Aurora home and we will therefore have a spot in the basement for return visits.
  7. Tim, who at the moment only has use of his left hand, has delegated many tasks -one of which is securing a VISA for our travels. This process is so unpredictable and we ask for the paperwork to get “pushed through” so that we can continue to make the Father’s love known to spiritual and physical orphans.
  8. So thankful that Mike Verkaik, the US Ambassador for Oceans Ministries, already has several trips planned for 2020 and carpenters from Haven Church who are willing to make necessary improvements on the property! The fact that God moves in the hearts of His people to give of themselves is truly a gift from the Holy Spirit!
  9. Both Mike, Tim and their families continue to partner in ministry with those living in hotels in Michigan and Colorado. Financial hardship hits many and offering food, friendship & prayer to the individuals and families in these situations is a small contribution of love.
  10. Tim’s book Stepping into The Lord’s Prayer is in editing mode. This book highlights the parallels between working the 12 steps of recovery and how they are linked to the Lord’s Prayer. We are thankful for gifted friends who have helped with this!

Steps. So these are just a few steps that we have been taking with Oceans Ministries. This retreat center is a BIG STEP for me, Tim has been wanting to move to Africa for at least the past 17 years, but if you look carefully at the logo, I am not in the boat. 🙂 My kids have promised that they will come to visit and are excited to join us as we continue to pursue the vision and mission of Oceans.

For each of us there have been countless steps to get us from place to place. These steps may be physical ones and/or spiritual ones. Sometimes in the midst of the journey we cannot see where we are headed, yet, glancing back we can see that the Lord has determined each and every step. In the words of Henry Blackaby, “Watch to see where God is working and join Him in His work.”

“Immeasurably More…”

Oceans Retreat Center, Fish Hoek, South Africa.

On my morning walk, I soaked in the beauty of the fresh Colorado air as my thoughts wandered to the miracle that has been unfolding. I was thanking the Father for the final approval needed for Oceans’ non-profit status in South Africa and utterly amazed realizing the official transfer of property from Azusa Pacific University to Oceans Ministries took place this week! Ephesians 3:20-21 was in the forefront of my mind.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Six months ago the idea of “asking or imagining” a retreat center near Cape Town unconceivable, YET, when Abba Father opens doors the impossible becomes possible. He is the “immeasurably more” God who works wonders to broadcast His glory for generations to come. There is absolutely no way on earth that we could have organized the events, divine appointments, prophetic words, and the team of people brought together to make Oceans Retreat Center a reality. Knowing that the supernatural Hand of God was lifting it all into place gives us overwhelming comfort and courage to step out of the boat in faith, to the great unknown of His sovereign plan.

My friend Henry designed the logo for Oceans Retreat Center with a boat on the water. If you look closely there is no one in the boat. He did that to remind us that as followers of Christ we are called to daily step out of our safe places of comfort and trust in a Good Father who does “immeasurably more…” in and through us for His glory. So keep stepping!!!

We invite you to praise God with us for the new journey we are on and to check out the website to find out more about Oceans Retreat Center’s mission and vision and how you may join us. Go to the website, and click on retreat center.

“Honey, the Church is Here!”

Pictures by Amy Forestieri

Blog by TJ Spykstra.

It was a hot Colorado evening and there was little relief from the sun. After work I made my way down to Colfax, where a group of believers from various congregations join every Tuesday to walk alongside those who are “living” in the motels there. Most of those in the motels are fighting paycheck-to-paycheck to just stand on their own two feet, trying to keep a roof over their heads. 

We go out two-by-two knocking on doors offering “just” food and prayer. I say “just” loosely as the food and prayer has opened a multitude of doors leading to relationships and friendships among one another. 

However, there was one door that we knocked on last Tuesday night that stood out. We knocked, the door was opened, and we were greeted by a massive smile. My partner Amy, wearing her signature do-rag and I had on a sweat-stained cap we both were exhausted that night. Yet, when the door shot open we regained our energy were greeted warmly. We had spoken to this particular middle-aged lady on several occasions, established a trust relationship and began to ask her how she was doing.

She proceeded to tell us how that day she had been kicked out of her room because she was a $1.63 short on her payment. No grace was given and she would not be let in until she had paid the $1.63 plus the $64 that was owed for that day. Then all of the sudden, she stopped and said I’ll be right back. Through the doorframe I could see her knocking on the bathroom door. She raised her voice, “Honey, come out the church is here!” I smiled to myself as I heard those words echo through their small cluttered motel room “the church is here.”

It was a statement that rang forth truth to me. God wants to use each one of us. The church or “the way” as it was called in Acts is just that a “way of life.” It is not confined to a building or temple, because Jesus our Savior redefined and refined us, so that the church is in us.Jesus lives in us and because of that when we knock on His door and we are greeted by a smile that radiates this love and grace. This grace cancels our debts of sin and gives us a home for eternity. 

To end I would like to share this quote from David Guzink:

“God always wants us to go deeper. We tend to sip where we could drink deeply; we drink deeply where we could wade in, and we wade in where we could plunge in and swim. Most of us need to be encouraged to go deeper and further into the things of the Holy Spirit.”

What door is the Holy Spirit calling you to knock on? Is it a friendship? Is it to dive deeper into His word? Is it at your job or a new job? Whatever it is, may you seek to be the Church? 

2 Timothy 2:6-7 

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline”