Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Difficult Month

24 January 2017

Dear Pastors and Friends who are praying,

It's always nice when the new school year starts up again. (School started Jan.11th)  People come home from vacation and the children are ready to start attending Sunday School again. On back-to-school Sunday the children brought friends who came again the next Sunday as well.  We now have 12 new children to visit on Saturday mornings and one woman visitor, who has come two Sundays in a row.

December was a difficult month.  Jeff preached every Sunday morning for 6 weeks or more on what it means to be a church member.  He made sure everyone had a copy of the church covenant.  We've been praying for people to wake-up, recognize their sin for the sin that it is, repent, be saved, step out in faith and learn to do right.  We had a church member who stopped selling beer and wine out of her home and then started right back to doing it again.  Another member has never divorced the husband who deserted her and is now living with another man.  One member insists that she does love Jesus; that she can love Jesus and also love her tribal traditions (that begin with sacrificing a sheep or cow to the ancestors, thanking them for the blessings they've bestowed, and end with plenty of beer for all).  We stopped by to visit a man one Saturday and found him drinking in his front yard with a lot of friends. (It was the first anniversary of his wife's death so he was the one hosting this time of remembrance, he paid for the beer, yep, tradition.  And yes, his name was on the church roll.)  One woman claims that she accepted Christ as her Saviour three years ago but she's never submitted to baptism.  She attends Sunday morning services about twice a month.  Others claim to be members but stay away for 6 weeks at a time.  The monthly offerings tell us that only three families are tithing.  At the end of December, Jeff announced that this church no longer has any members!  Any one who meets the qualifications and wishes to be a member of this church may stand up and say so next Sunday morning.  Our church now has just six members: Jeff and Judy Blanton, John Gqoboka and his wife, who has been bedridden since she had a stroke about a year and a half ago, Anna Fen, and Brandon, a new convert.  We are very disappointed that a few others who we believe are saved couldn't or wouldn't promise to keep the church covenant.  (Our church covenant is an Afrikaans translation of the same one you probably have on display in your church.)

Please pray for Thandi.  This young mother has attended a couple of Sunday mornings a month for over a year and a half.  She's been listening.  We had a good visit and we believed Thandi was going to bow her head and ask to be forgiven but when it came time to pray she wasn't looking for forgiveness.  She really believes that she has cleaned up her life and she's now ready to give herself to the Lord and start receiving all the blessings He gives to His children! And she named all the blessings she had in mind.  Aw... I tried going over verses again but she can't see it.  Pray for Thandi.

From Mitchell Plain  Brother Frantz reports that they have had the joy of baptizing two adults and their Friday Kids Bible Club has started back up with over 50 children in attendance.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!
Your Missionaries,
Jeff & Judy Blanton

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During this time, we had a visit from three young women (ages 20 to 26) who have grown up in the church.  They came to talk about a New Year's Eve watch night service but ended up giving us an earful; their own list of grievances.  According to them this church was doing just fine and was full of young people just like themselves until Jeff Blanton came along! This is their' church. They were the Sunday School children and now that they've grown up - this is their' church.  Jeff told them that years ago all the adults had hoped that by growing up in the church their children would believe, trust Christ as Saviour, be baptized and join the church.  Since none of them had actually done that, they weren't actually members and wouldn't be allowed to call for a vote to air their grievances. (Yeah, that visit was no fun.)

Recently, on a Sunday night, we were singing choruses out of the back of the songbook.  Some of the choruses are almost silly, like:
Shoo, shoo it's hot there,
shoo, shoo it's hot there,
shoo, shoo it's hot there,
it's hot in hell!    (sounds better in Afrikaans)   We all laugh, but not really a chorus we sing often.

 Anna's youngest son, who isn't saved, was asked to choose his favorite and he chose an Afrikaans chorus which translated means:

Jesus is my Saviour,
He is my Redeemer,
He is everything in my life,
Therefore I praise his precious name! 

This young man is 36 years old.  He grew up in our church and yet never accepted Christ as his Saviour.  He chose that chorus and he really sang as though he loves that chorus.  He comes to church about once a month.  We're still praying for him and others just like him.

Afrikaans lessons are going well.  Jonathan and Katie know quite a few words and are learning more every day.  They are reading some Bible stories written for Beginner Readers as well as studying our textbook.  I also look for passages in the Bible that are fairly easy to read and that repeat some of the new vocabulary words.   After all these years I'm also learning more.  I have a new dictionary with a grammar section that I love! Some things I picked up years ago by simply listening and learning: I know it's right because my ears tell me that's how everyone says it but this grammar section explains in detail why it's said that way!

During school vacation, we held Thursday morning game days for school age children.  While Jeff went to get the snacks one day, I tried to play "motorboat, motorboat, go so slow... motorboat, motorboat, go so fast..." with a couple of children.  Well, I slipped in the sand and fell flat on my bottom.  Unfortunately under our 2 inches of sand we have hard rock.  I was sure nothing was cracked or broken, just really slammed down hard.  I called myself, "dumb, dumb, dumb" for the next two weeks as it was hard to sit, stand, sit, stand and I couldn't pick up anything from the floor.  Praise the Lord!  I have now recovered.  I was so tired of being limited in what I could do. It is so good to be able to move.

Thank you for caring about us. 
Thank you for praying,     
Judy and Jeff, too

South Africa

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Baptism

16 November 2016

Dear Pastors and prayer partners,

Brandon approached Jeff after church for prayer.  As he understood it, Pastor had said that he would pray for anyone who had made a mess of his life, who wanted to do right but just couldn't do it.  That was just the kind of prayer he felt that he needed.  It turns out that he's been trying to straighten out his own life for the past year so that he would feel good enough to be able to give himself to the Lord.  It came as a real shock to him to be told that he would never be strong enough to straighten things out on his own; that he first needed to admit that he was a sinner and accept Christ as his Saviour.  He listened carefully and even asked for some things to be repeated.  Brandon asked the Lord to forgive his sins and be his Saviour.  He was baptized last Sunday after the morning service.  We have waited a long time for this first adult convert since we returned to Upington.  Brandon is 25 years old. 

Jonathan and Katie Switzer helped with VBS in Mitchell's Plain.  They presented puppet plays and Brother Switzer was in charge of outdoor games and keeping order; not an easy task when there are over 60 kids.  They were a real blessing there.  That VBS was the beginning of a continuing Kids Bible Club on Friday afternoons. Charmain says they are averaging 35 children for the Kids club and other than her own children they are neighborhood children and not our own Sunday School kids.  They are just simply children who don't have parents willing to have clothes and breakfast ready for them on a Sunday morning or who have plans for that day that don't include being home long enough for the children to attend Sunday School.

Here in Upington, we had a one day VBS.  I enjoyed teaching the story of Ravi Zacharias so much that I told the story again on Wednesday evening so Anna Feni and John Gqoboka could hear it as well.  The VBS helped to get some of the visiting children coming on a more regular basis.  Our visitors are like American bus children, as long as we stop by to remind them on Saturday of Sunday School tomorrow they keep coming.

Afrikaans lessons are going well. Did I tell you that I (Judy) am the teacher?  Brother Switzer had as a 14 year old MK more than a year of weekly lessons with a tutor to learn Afrikaans though he used it very seldom as their church services in the Delft were in English.  Now at 32 years old, he believed that he'd forgotten it all.  With the first songs in Sunday School and hymns in church it started coming back to him!  Its good to hear another male voice singing out in church!  He can read well, his pronunciation is good and he's learning new words every day.  No, he's not up to long conversations yet but he has a very good start.  Katie is over the first hurdle.  She needed the guttural 'g' sound to be able to say "Goeie mรดre!" "Good morning!" and it took some doing but she's got it now!  We're having fun!  The children don't even need language to play with other children and be adored by the adults.  All is well with them.

Since our last letter a few anniversaries have come and gone.  It was a year ago that Pastor Fen went home to be with the Lord.   Sister Anna has had a difficult year but she is coping with the Lord's help.  We also just celebrated our 44th Wedding Anniversary.

Recently we were asked what we liked the most about Christmas in South Africa. Both of us immediately answered church on Christmas Day!  It is a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour.  We want to wish everyone a most Blessed Christmas.

Thank you for all your prayers and support that have enabled us to serve here in South Africa!

Your Missionaries,

Jeff & Judy Blanton

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Missionaries!!!

28 September 2016

Greetings from South Africa,

Dear Pastors and prayers supporters,

Tony and Cathy Paine (fellow missionaries) joined us at the airport to welcome Jonathan and Katie Switzer, 6 year old Jeremiah, Isaiah 2 1/2 and 1 year old Alaythia.  We had a few minutes to reminisce over our own arrivals years ago with little children and lots of luggage, glad that deputation was over and excited to actually arrive in South Africa.  We were all so glad that new missionaries were arriving!

Jeff loves shopping for cars!  He and Jonathan went out for at least a few hours each day to start tackling all the challenges: find a car that's big enough for 2 baby/booster seats and a third child and still has room for a stroller and groceries, open a bank account so they can bring in their American dollars, purchase a cell phone and get set up on internet to keep in contact with their supporters.  Now that they are standing on South African soil they have to start jumping through the hoops of government regulations and paperwork that are supposed to protect us from international terrorists and conmen.  Without a 'permanent' residence they can't register a vehicle or purchase insurance, can't open a bank account and can't buy cell phone time.  Jeff got a standard lease agreement and Jonathan filled it out to 'lease' our Mitchell's Plain home for the next year.  We had prayed that the Lord would shower them with mercies and it was good to see him doing just that.   We still had a month of winter and yet were blessed with sunshine and warmth every day.  (All challenges would have been worse if they'd been running through the usual rain.) Jonathan still had his South African drivers license in his old I.D. book from when he was an 18 yr old missionary kid and the South African driver examiners declared it valid!  They are issuing him the new driving license card! No signing up for classes to learn how to pass this complicated test that has frustrated so many others.  With a lease agreement and driver's license, the Bank and cell phone company are now all smiles! Having a well established S.A. drivers license also helped with registering the car and affordable insurance.

We all made it through jet lag.  There were several nights of one or another little one being awake at midnight or 3 in the morning as though they'd just enjoyed a nap and were ready to play - only to be greeted by dim lights and tired adults who want them to lay back down without waking the baby!  Sunday afternoon when everyone else was asleep, I took Jeremiah on a walk to make a few visits.  We were suddenly confronted by three little street urchins.  This tough little girl was nose to nose with Jeremiah and demanded to know if he was white?  I assured her that 'ja, hy's wit'.  She jerked his shirt collar up and looked down his back!  I had to laugh.  Sure enough, from the nape of his neck down to his waist he is one white child.  Next she asked him if he'd dyed his hair to get it that color; Jeremiah has bright red-gold hair.  I translated that for him.  And in amazement she asks 'doesn't he speak Afrikaans?'  Six yr. old Jeremiah took all of this with pretty good grace.  He wants to know how long it will take to learn Afrikaans?  Can I teach him all the Afrikaans I know in two months?   Remember to pray for the new missionaries.

We left them to continue sorting through things his parents left in storage and we came back to Upington.  Knocking doors in another part of Paballelo, I began to think that someone has at some time run a bus route here.  One child after another asked if we would pick them up at 7:00 Sunday morning to bring them to Sunday School?  Jeff and I kept explaining the way to church - walk to the health clinic, turn right and walk another 2 blocks.  This was greeted with groans of  'too far'!  Sunday we didn't have any visitors from that area.  In the next week Jonathan and Jeremiah came to look at houses for rent.  One late afternoon Jeremiah and I were playing out in the church yard when 4 little girls walking down the street greeted me.  I invited them in to play with us and they stayed till dark.  Sunday morning Lerato and Nosipho came to Sunday School.  They had walked from that new area.  We've continued knocking on doors in that area and the next Sunday Nosipho was back again and brought 3 friends as well. Honestly, children attract other children!  M.K.s are a blessing.

Jonathan and Katie will be helping the church in Mitchell's Plain with VBS soon.  It will be good for them to enjoy working in English (Mitchell's Plain is mostly bilingual) before they come here and settle down to learn Afrikaans. This will be Strafford and Charmain's first VBS with the church there and part of me wants to run down and be involved too!  We will be holding the fort here and praying that the Lord will bless their efforts there.  Holding a good VBS requires a lot of cheerful, on their toes, teen and adult helpers.  It looks like it will be awhile before we can have a VBS here in Upington.  It will be something to look forward to.


Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Your Missionaries,
Jeff & Judy Blanton