I can hardly believe that Christmas is upon us. That means we have been living here in Johannesburg for nearly four months now. Where does time go? We still miss Senegal and our mission family there, but this place is beginning to feel like home. Though Alex said when she moved she would not call it home until she had fish and a puppy. We have fish – lots of them, the “male” guppy had babies! – but not a puppy yet. We want to get settled in first before we throw a chewing, tear up your best slippers puppy into the mix. Mark is traveling more than ever, but we have calculated that in just the four months we have lived here that we have gained an additional three weeks of his time. That makes moving here sooooo worth it! The other Nazarene missionaries who live in this complex are wonderful. They are so warm, open and friendly. There are 6 preschool age children from two families (I am old enough to be their grandmother – perish the thought!!!) who come over quite often to play with Alex (she loves being a big sister) and do some crafts and projects with me. There are also two teenage girls who are wonderful at including Alex when they go swimming or jump on the trampoline. Homeschooling is wonderful. I love having Alex at home and sharing literature and history with her. She loves the literature, but she would not mind giving history a skip. We invited the children over for a Native American activity day and baked colonial foods. This Christmas we are making homemade gifts (in addition to the mall purchases) and making our own wrapping paper (what else does one do with all that butcher paper used for shipping?). We are enjoying some of the amenities of life in a modern city – shopping at the mall, McDonalds, Nutcracker on Ice. But I do miss the open markets and haggling over prices. And I will admit that I am spoiled by the constant electricity and water – I can do laundry any time I want, not just when I happen to have both at the same time!
Probably the coolest thing we have done this year is to instigate a National leaders and their spouses retreat. Leaders from all over West Africa met together at a retreat center in Ghana. We had devotionals, played games and discussed relevant topics. We sang, ate, laughed and cried together – in two languages, French and English. On the last day we had a testimony time. One couple stood up and said they were so thankful for this time as they felt as though they had finally had a honeymoon. When they married 25 years ago they went straight to work and have never had any sort of vacation. This modest retreat center and our large company of leaders was their honeymoon – rather humbling thought to us Westerners. Most of the wives there had never been away from their children or their country of birth. But for all the cultural differences when we discussed the heartaches of raising our children in a family very active in ministry and enriching our marriages when one partner is always traveling and working we found we were all on the same page. Love of our families transcends all cultural and language barriers. I also enjoyed seeing some of the leaders from Cote d’Ivoire whom I hadn’t seen since our evacuation 7 years ago. They were all amazed at how their little Amoine (it means Sunday, the day Alex was born, in one of their local dialects) had grown.
The other girls are doing well. Kathryn is living with my father in Fresno. She is tutoring middle school students most evenings and will start a new office job in January. She is actually really surprised at how much she enjoys the tutoring. Kirstin is in her last year at Trevecca and hopes to graduate this May. Her major is social-justice and the challenge will be to get a job in that field when she graduates. She would love to work with an NGO and is thinking that she might like to stay in the Nashville area. Johanna is in her first year at Trevecca, though because she has followed the example of Kirstin, she is now a Sophomore having clepped out of a semester’s worth of classes. She is still undecided about her major, but she has time. She loves the social life – basketball games, rallies and other school activities. Her roommate is wonderful and she loves hanging out in the room with her. She even brought Johanna a happy meal when she was staying up late finishing a project.
We would appreciate prayer for my father. Just a couple of weeks ago they did a biopsy on a sore on his tongue which came out malignant. They have done a PET scan, which shows the cancer has not spread. He is scheduled to have surgery on January 3rd to remove the spot
We are attending a church in the Davidsonville Township. Alex loves it – she calls it her church. There are several children her age and she already has a BFF that she sits with each Sunday. She was an angel in the Christmas play and as one child said, she looked like a real angel, and so she is.
Mark, as I have said is busier than ever. He is very excited about the addition of clergy development to his already full plate. He feels that the development of our church leaders is one of the most critical factors in church growth in Africa, especially as the church continues to multiply throughout so many regions. It is a huge challenge considering the many language groups, varying stages of formal education and religious backgrounds of the emerging pastors.
We appreciate all of you more than we could ever possibly express. Your prayers and support mean the world to us, especially in this time of transition. The following was part of our Christmas devotional with the Africa regional missionaries. May this be your prayer for the coming New Year.
Dear God, please untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart and my life. Remove the have not’s, the can not’s and the do not’s that I have in my mind. Erase the will not’s, may not’s, might not’s that may find a home in my heart. Release me from the could not’s, would not’s and should not’s that obstruct my life. And most of all, dear God, I ask that you remove from my mind, my heart and my life all of the am not’s that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough to be your child. You have paid the price and I will not let anything separate me from your love. Amen
May God’s richest blessings abound in your mind, heart and life during this time we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us all – Emmanuel, God With Us in the form of a baby.
Mark and Linda Louw