It's a wondeful day, oh yes, its a wonderful day! So goes the line of one of the popular songs sung in the churches we visit here. It speaks of it being wonderful to know Christ and to go to church to be together. It reminds me of the Songs of the Ascents (Psalms 120-134), the Psalms in our Bible's that were sung on the way up to worship the Lord. We must never lose sight of the fact of how wonderful it is to worship Jesus, to have the freedom to do so, to be able to join with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to lift our voices in unison in praise of Him is is worthy of all our worship! "I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1).
As missionaries we are apolitical, we offer no opinion on the political tensions that arise here. This is an election year and parties are out in force to canvass for votes, although campaigning has not officially started at the actual election date in May has not been announced. In the UK electioneering would happen on doorsteps, here churches are fair game. We were recently at a service where the ruling party was invited to speak. At times it was like a political rally. It was culturally very foreign to us but also uncomfortable. This practice seems to be the norm in the area where we live. We would value your prayers for us during these times; we don't want to curtail our visits to churches but at the same time need to remain impartial. In a nation that has been divided by colour (and still is in many ways) we do stand out in a crowd even though we are neutral politically. We need wisdom.
We have been fairly busy with visits over December and January. We work in two Districts for Emmanuel (Highveld and Northern). Highveld District is the Jo'burg/Pretoria area and Northern District is the whole of Limpopo. We travel to Highveld monthly. In December we visited Mamelode Church (Pretoria) where we had been previously for a leaders' day and to preach on the Sunday. The leaders' day was cancelled before we arrived on the Saturday but no one has told us! On our last visit the church was full, but this time there were only 11 adults. This is because most people had returned to the family homes in the rural areas, including many of the pastors. Something unique to South Africa is the national Christmas shutdown - industry closes from 15th December to 15th January each year. It ties in with the main school summer holidays. We learnt a lesson around planning with the churches but also were blessed to spend quality time with Pastor Mboweni, the Chair of Highveld District.
In December Keith was invited to share at a Youth Revival Week in Lephepane, near Tzaneen, about an hour away from home. What a privilege to encourage young people on fire for Jesus. January saw visits to Lulekane, Benfarm and Namakgale, all within 20 minutes drive of us. Many of the Emmanuel Assemblies in Ba-Phalaborwa are involved in major building programmes as their churches are too small and old. It seems that God is doing something significant in this area.
One thing the Christmas shut down meant was that we could take a few days R&R over Christmas week. We visited Barbie's sister in Durban North. Although it was good to be away, Barbie was sick the whole time we were there! We did mange to visit the place we spent our honeymoon. So much has changed in over 30 years! Interestingly, we posted a picture on social media and had a comment (not from someone involved with us in this ministry ) complaining that we were 'on holiday.' We shared this with other Elim missionaries to find that none of them ever say when they are on holiday or having a break, for fear of losing sponsors. Keith's been a pastor for almost 20 years and we have never hidden it when we are on holiday. We include this little episode for two reasons: firstly, we know you'd be happy for us that we had the opportunity to visit where we spent our first week of married life together, but secondly, we trust you our partners in this adventure to know that we sometimes need rest and that this is part of the journey. We believe it would be disingenuous to create an impression that we are working 24/7, 365 days a year. We do work a full week, but have decided not to own a sense of guilt over taking senisble rest. We know you wouldn't want this for us.
Barbie's Course and Midwifery Status:
Barbie is working hard to complete her dispensing course. This will mean that she will be able to prescribe and dispense medications to the women in our mobile clinincs when these commnece. We initially thought it was a weekend course, but it turned out to be over 300 hours of prescribed study. She has been in Jo'burg at a friends medical company doing some practical work for the course. She will also need to volunteer in a local pharmacy for a few days to gain some knowledge before completing the course. She is due to finish the course at the end of February.
Barbie's nursing qualification has been recognised as she studied this in South Africa orignally. Her BSc. in midwifery has been recognised by the government too. However, to practice as a midwife, the SA Nursing Council have to recognise her UK training. Barbie is actually one of the most highly qualified midwives in the country. In fact, she has been told that she could be a trainer of midwives here if she chose to be. However, the same organistion are now demanding a lot of paperwork from the UK, for Barbie to sit an equivalency exam (even though SAQA have recognised it). All of this is costing time and money! A local politician has apologised to us for all this as they are desperate for the mobile clinis for women to begin yet they cannot expedite this for us.
National Church Planting Strategy
Emmanuel Assemblies have a vision to plant churches across South Africa. In talking with many of the pastors they admit that this is an area of weakness for their movement. Keith was approached by the General Superintendent to put together a strategy for the expansion and church planting of Emmanuel Assemblies across South Africa and into neighbouring nations. This was a major piece of work and Keith submitted this to the National Executive a few weeks ago. It would be very exciting if this, or a version of it, were adopted as national policy and would mean we would be involved in some very excting church planting priojects.
Keith's first book, Exquisite Jesus, will be available in South Africa soon. Sadly his UK publisher has no relationships with publishers here and so no agreement could be reached about the share of royalties between the publishers. So in South Afrcia we are simlpy getting coies printed up. Keith's second book, Surrendered Warriors, should be available by May. Having been offered a contract by the same UK publisher, which would involve guaranteeing a certain number of sales, and still being faced with the problem of sales and distribution here, we decided it was going to be too cost prohibitive to publish in the UK and print them ourselves in South Africa. We will produce Surrendered Warriors here but bring plenty of copies with us on furlough. We will see if we can update our website to include a 'shop' too.
We are back in the UK for May and some of June for furlough. This is not a vacation, as it's mandatory to attend the Global Missions Conference, but will be a great opportunity to see family and connect with you all again. Here is our itinerary so far. If you'd like us to come to your church please let us know.
5th: Life Church, Chelmsford, both morning services.
10th-12th: Missions Global Conference, Malvern.
12th: Church TBC, organised by Elim Missions.
14th-16th: Elim Leadership Summit, Harrogate.
19th: New Life Church, Crewe Elim, morning and evening.
26th: Westcliff Elim in the morning, Ashingdon Elim in the evening.
Please stand with us in prayer over the next coming months:
For South Africa, as elections will be announced, for peace and for the Emmanuel Assemblies during this period, for us to have wisdom.
Barbie's midwifery qualification to be recognised, for the exam this involves and for her dispensing course.
For the National Church Planting Strategy to be adopted and Keith's involvement with this.
For our furlough preparations, for a car for the time that we are in the UK and for us to find house-sitters here to look after the dogs and the house in South Africa.
Thank you for standing with us.
In His service,
Keith and Barbie
All gifts towards our ministry should be marked 'Jacksons South Africa' and sent to Elim International Missions, Elim International Centre, De Walden Road, West Malvern, WR14 4DF (cheques payable to Elim International Missions).
If you would like to make regular gifts towards our support please visit our giving page or our contact page.
Thank you so much.
Charity No. 251549 (England & Wales) SC037754 (Scotland)