The Riots Have CEASED – The CELEBRATION of Easter is On

Nancy and I would like to send you an Easter greeting and also update you on the unrest and riots that have been happening in our community this week. Thank you for praying! Many have written and our blog site spiked with the high number of visitors reading about the situation. Here is a brief update and a request for continued prayers.

The Riots Have Ceased…Praise God

Praise God, the riots have ceased, for now. Hermanus, the town where we live and are planting a church, has been gripped by protests that started late last week. It all came to a head on Monday as protests and riots broke out mostly in the township of Zwelihle. The demonstrations were devastating in many ways; a satellite police station was burned down, a library gutted, shops and home were looted.  As a result, many people had to abandon their homes and find temporary shelter.  The standoff was over a group of people who took up occupancy on vacant land that apparently belonged to the government (here it’s called a land grab). They marked out plots for themselves and then marched to the municipal manager’s office demanding utilities such as water and electricity.

How were we impacted? Although we’ve been safe, we have several families in our church who have not been. The school that we rent for our church services borders the township of Zwelihle and is close to where the unrest was located. As a result, their safety was at risk and many had to abandon their homes and move in with some of our church families for several days.

The good news is that after community meetings were held there seems to be peace, some kind of consensus reached, and order has returned to our community. The Mall, shops and restaurants and businesses are back in operation. We are grateful that our families were able to return home and resume work.

South Africa Has Made Progress, But…

Living through situations like this breaks our hearts – to see the fear and to feel the helplessness. In South Africa, years have passed since Apartheid was abolished (1994) and yet the remnants still exist. Thousands of people have been severely impacted and have suffered this week. I have mentally tried to put myself in the shoes of those forced to leave their homes, who feared for their children and worried about their belongings being stolen or burned. When they returned to their homes, they were uncertain what they would find. The good news is that none of our families suffered loss.

The other side of me looks at this situation and sees it as an amazing time for the church to shine. It’s an opportunity to be the light in the darkness and a people who don’t just talk about caring, but who give shelter and feed those in need. Some of the people in our church already had houseguests for the Easter holiday, but they still scattered mattresses and blankets were placed in every corner of their homes.

We had the joy of helping Wade and Tara lead the charge for our church, and to watch them was to see them in their element.  A very generous financial gift came in that paid for most of the food that was served this week. Nancy and I were able to have all four of our grandkids bunked in my study as their rooms were used for others. They thought the idea of a slumber party with Papaw and Nana was pretty cool. And it was, that is, until little Maeve came to me early on Wednesday morning with some brown stuff all over her hands and a very stinky nappy (diaper). Not so cool!

Good Friday & Easter Services

Our focus now turns toward a Good Friday remembrance and Easter celebration services. I am excited for our little church to gather and rejoice over all God has done for us. I am excited to see if some of the people that were cared for this week will join us for church.

I am excited that my message for Easter Sunday is done and how God led me to redo what I had prepared, and instead bring a simple gospel message… a heartfelt expression of our need to personalize the Easter story. When you have weeks like this one, it’s a good reminder that the greatest need we each have is not shelter and protection (even though we long for that), but our greatest need is Jesus and His gift of salvation.

How Can You Continue To Pray?

As we pray for you, would you pray for our weekend of services at Mountain View, and for the message of why having a relationship with Jesus matters?  Also, pray that the peace we are experiencing today will continue and the riots will not return. Nancy and I would also like to say, thank you! Thank you for caring and interceding for the events of the week. Have a wonderful and blessed Easter celebration!

Resurrection, Riots, Restrictions and Resolute

The Resurrection – Does it ever feel to you like more things are going wrong than are going right? Do you ever wake up, look around, and wonder how much longer this crazy world will carry on?

What joy this time of the year brings to the followers of Jesus! Even when things look dismal, hope is restored. Easter brings with it a reminder of the resurrection. It’s our hope and anticipation. It’s our courage. I love the way the Gospel of Mark records it for those of us who need hope…You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.”  We covet your prayers as Wade preaches on Good Friday and I preach on Easter Sunday hoping to bring encouragement to God’s people, because if we need anything right now, it’s hope.

The Riots – In the midst of holy week many in our community have headed for cover. Yesterday a series of riots broke out in Hermanus as tensions continue over those who are attempting to illegally occupy land. The riots have pretty much shut down our town. Stores and schools have closed, streets are blocked, cars have burned, houses in our sub-economic areas are being plundered, and many people have been displaced.

Last night the home where we live with the McComas family became a temporary night shelter. Several other families are also housing people from our church. Community centers and churches are bursting at the seams. As I write, we are safe, however, we know that people in the community of Zwelihle are under great stress.

This morning during our prayer time with our house guests and family we read from Psalm 121:1-2, I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  How can you pray right now? Pray for God to intervene and bring a quick resolution to the conflict, for peace to be restored, and for the Gospel to prosper in the midst of it all. Pray for our families who hope to return home soon, not knowing what they will find when they get there.

The Restrictions – In our post last month we updated you on the water crisis and “Day Zero,” the anticipated day when Cape Town would run out of water. Not much has really changed since then, other than Day Zero has been pushed back.  All the restrictions still exist as we conserve water and wait for God to bring the winter rains. If you landed in Cape Town today, the water crisis would be clear to you before you even left the International Airport. The bathroom faucets are dry and soap dispensers now contain hand sanitizer.  Soon our peak winter season will arrive (June-August) when we hope to get a good dose of some much-needed rain. However, one local news source may have it right, “Cape Town might have dodged Day Zero, but a new hyper-consciousness of water use looks set to be the new normal…” Some think this way of living may become a way of life.

The Resolute – Like any good sermon outline I needed one more “R” to complete the message, or in this case, blog post. I mean this with all my heart…we are more resolute than ever.  We are convinced that God is on His throne and in complete control.  We are unyielding that we are in the center of His will for such a season as this. We are steadfast in our efforts to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus and believe it is our greatest need. This week of Easter is not about the riots and it’s not about the water restrictions. It’s about the very glory of God and the resurrection of His Son.

As I started this post, I admit, I was feeling pretty down. Thanks for allowing me to preach to myself. I needed to be reminded that in the midst of tragedy and uncertainty, God is with us, God is for us, and God is in us. Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, partnering churches and supporting friends and family, for your commitment to the Lord, to us, and to the work He is doing here in South Africa.

A Good Friday and a very Happy Easter from our family to yours!

Is Day Zero Coming?

Many of you have heard about the water crisis in Cape Town. Let me tell you…it’s real. Cape Town is experiencing one of its worst droughts in the past 100 years. The water is running out and “Day Zero” seems all but inevitable. Nancy and I wanted to quickly pass along some details to keep you informed and to also ask you to pray for the people of Cape Town.

Being a semi-arid climate (known as the 30th driest in the world), South Africa relies on the winter rainfall season to supply water to over four million people every day. Our water is supplied largely from the six major dams located in the Western Cape’s mountainous areas close to the city. The dams are normally refilled by rain falling, which happens during the cooler winter months of May to August. After the winter season we don’t get much rain and the dam levels decline during the warm, dry summer months of November to March, during which urban and agricultural water use increases.

How Can a City Run Out of Water?

At present, the dams are extremely low (about 25% full) from a drought that began in 2015. Even with all the water-saving measures enforced, dam levels are predicted to decline to critically low levels and the city has made plans for “Day Zero” to happen in May. Day Zero is the anticipated day that almost all of the taps in the city will be turned off. Public water will only be made available at approximately 200 sites scattered across the peninsula to those who stand in line for it.

As you can imagine the finger pointing and political pondering is all around us. Not wanting to enter that debate, the facts speak for themselves and it’s actually pretty simple. Since 1995, Cape Town’s population has grown from 2.4 million residents to an estimated 4.3 million in 2018. That represents nearly an 80 percent population increase in 23 years. During which time the dam water storage only increased by 15 percent. Couple rapid population growth with very little rainfall and you can see why folks are saying Day Zero is fast approaching. What about Cape Town’s government and planning interventions? Many here would pass along this simple but profound Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant an oak tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today.”

How Do We Live With Less Water?

Here are just a few of the ways an average Capetonian conserves, uses, and even re-uses their allotment of 50 liters per person (13 gallons) of water a day.

  • Only flush the toilet when necessary. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” That’s the mantra at home, work, school, etc.
  • Take infrequent and very short stop-start showers, i.e., quickly wet your body, turn off the tap, soap, then rinse quickly.
  • Collect your excess shower, bath and basin water and re-use it to flush your toilet or water plants.
  • Wait for a full load before running washing machines and dishwashers. Then, collect the rinse water for use in the garden or re-use it for the next wash cycle.
  • Use a cup instead of running water in the bathroom or kitchen when brushing teeth, shaving, drinking, etc.

Water vs. Electricity

You might recall that not too long ago we experienced an electricity crisis in Cape Town. But we are now finding out, that as horrible as it was when we experienced “load shedding” and our electricity was cut off for hours at a time, it’s not nearly as intense as this water crisis. Not having electric is inconvenient, however, running out of water to drink, cook, flush or bath is a catastrophe.

We’ve noticed that some of the big corporations and the rich are sorting themselves out. A large well-known hotel chain, which cannot afford to lose Cape Town as a major tourist city, is building their own desalination system so that paying guests can bath like there’s no tomorrow. Some others will truck water in from private companies.

What Will We Do?

Has God Forgotten Cape Town? You know he hasn’t! So, how can we pray? We will pray, “God, please send rain to Cape Town, and in the meantime help us to see you in the storm.”  We will use this as an opportunity to tell people about a great God who has not forgotten his people. We will be strengthened by trusting our sovereign Creator to a greater degree. We will invite people, as Peter did in 1 Peter 5:7, to cast “all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” We will keep on conserving water, understanding that our current water crisis in not a temporary phenomenon that will be resolved in a year or two – it’s a long-term reality.

All of this makes me think of crazy but faithful Elijah and his prayer for rain. How can you not love the story from 1 Kings 18 as God sends Elijah to deliver an important message to the fasting Ahab, “Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees.”  You know the rest of the story … all of a sudden, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!”  And the rest is history.

“But Some Doubted”

Have you ever noticed how those who were gathered around Jesus that day on the mountainside were feeling or the thoughts that were running through their heads and hearts when they first heard the Great Commission? Matthew records it this way… “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” (Matt. 28:17)

That’s right — Some were actually experiencing doubt (maybe even fear) in the midst of their desire to believe and worship the Savior of the world. I think that same kind of doubt can still easily capture our hearts, making us weary, defeated and even unwilling to personally attempt something as overwhelming as the Great Commission. And yet, here we are again, making goals for the year ahead and thinking about how we will accomplish the things we believe God has called us to do for Him.

It’s common to set goals without an accountability system in place to “keep our feet to the fire.” Not so with ABWE missionaries. Each year we have an official (yes, mandatory) evaluation of how the previous year turned out. It’s a great time to reflect and thank God for all He has done, and in some cases, consider the goals that weren’t accomplished and ask why not? Then, we record new goals for the year ahead.

It can be a daunting process, especially if we are really stretching ourselves and asking God to do something really big!

Here is a brief summary of our 2018 goals and how we believe God is leading us. 

  1. Church Planting: Tom will come along side Wade McComas in a supportive pastoral role at Mountain View, Hermanus, while continuing to lead the MV Church Multiplication Team.
  2. Multiplying Missions: We will further develop our partnership with our Brazilian colleagues and take actions steps to open Mozambique as a new field for ABWE.
  3. Mobilization: We will attend ABWE’s 24-Hour Demo and Candidate Seminar, Host Three Short-term Interns, Speak at the Next Gen Leadership Conference and be mentors to several Next Gen leaders.
  4. Team Building/Leadership Training: We will host the ABWE Regional Directors from Africa for a conference, as well as host the first Southern Africa Team Leaders Advance.
  5. Professional Training & Development: We will complete Biblical Counselor Training and become certified counselors.
  6. Shepherding/Soul Care: We will pray for and “be there” for our missionary families, providing encouragement and help while also challenging them toward ABWE’s mission… Fulfilling the Great Commission by multiplying leaders, churches and mission movements among every people.”

If you’re still reading this – thank you… you’re amazing! Thank you for being highly engaged, supportive and for walking the journey with us. You might be asking yourself the same question we are asking, “How can all these goals be accomplished this year? Every year we say that, and every year we face the future with a certain amount of doubt.

Having just reflected on the goals we set for 2017 this time last year, (so daunting at the time!) we saw that by God’s grace and in His strength we were able to report that each one was accomplished! But what will happen this year? How will God lead us in the days and months ahead? Are we crazy or faithful? Sometimes they look the same!

Having said that, we are trusting The One who has the plan in hand. He promises never to leave us or forsake us and we are committing our plans to Him. Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Psalm 37:4-5 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will act.”

A W Tozer’s quote says it well, “I take refuge in the fact that while I don’t know everything, I do know Someone who does!”  Thank you for your partnership and please let us know if you would like more information about how to engage in helping with our goals for 2018.

A Christmas wish and our “minimalist tree”

Nancy and I wanted to pass along a special Christmas greeting to you, our partners in ministry. Thank you for such a wonderful year together and it is with much anticipation that we look forward to 2018! We have a couple of exciting things to tell you about for the New Year and we’ll do that in our January post. For now, we just wanted to say Merry Christmas!

About the picture… this is just down the road about one kilometer from where we now live in the community of Hermanus. It’s where we do life and church planting while also leading our Southern Africa ABWE teams and missionaries. The Christmas decorations in our community… well, they very much reflect the simplicity of the season here. The malls are decorated in splendor, however, this neighborhood tree made us chuckle. We call this our “minimalist tree.” After all, how many Christmas trees do you know with only one bulb and an old CD hanging from the tinsel? But then again, who’s really looking at the tree with the ocean and the mountains this close by?

The Christmas season has also given me as well as the other Mountain View pastors the opportunity to once again preach our “Anticipation Series.” This is always a highlight for our churches as it is a revised version of what some refer to as Advent. Our four words this year are glory, light, grace, and truth. What a joy to preach the Gospel and retell the unforgettable story of our Savior’s birth.

Merry Christmas and all our love to you and your family!

 

 

 

 

Grateful, Thankful, Blessed…Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Wolfs in South Africa. Some dear friends of ours came for a visit this year and gave us this plaque.  It now sits on our coffee bar and comes with a daily reminder of how grateful, thankful, and blessed we really are. This month’s blog comes with a video update as we praise God and give thanks “always and for everything” (Eph. 5:20) this Thanksgiving season.

Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday, and as such, it is not celebrated in South Africa. However, there is always a reason to celebrate God’s goodness and to say “thank you,” to our friends and ministry partners.  You are such a blessing to us.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

“Ministry Partners, we have a problem!”

Tom’s farewell address and church challenge

You probably remember the quote, “Houston, we have a problem” from the 1995 film Apollo 13, but did you know that wasn’t actually what the real Commander of the Apollo 13 mission, Jim Lovell, said? Over time, this modified quote has become an idiom for situations where something is out of whack, not right, a “bit off” in some manner. Well, life here has felt a bit like that for us recently!

First of all, we haven’t written a Blog update since the end of July – oops! That should be your first indication that something is slightly off because we haven’t missed a month since we started the blog in July, 2011 – that’s six years running!

Pastors Dave and Tom and the new Lead Pastor Mark

Without giving you a list of numerous excuses, let me just tell you what’s been happening. After returning from America in late August, we went straight into gearing up for celebrating Mountain View’s 15th Anniversary. Nancy and I joyfully graduated our first church plant in Somerset West, turning the ministry over to our dear colleague and national Pastor Mark Osborne. It’s what we have been working toward for a long time, and we’re delighted it’s finally happened. Pastor Dave Drullinger will stay on at the Somerset West church while also leading our Ministry Training Centre.

Pastor Tom and Sue Wright

It was a wonderful month-long celebration, and we were able to host our sending church pastor, Tom Wright, who came to speak, as well as his wife, Sue. I guess one other reason it’s felt a bit off lately is that it’s been really hard emotionally for us to leave our church and the people we love in Somerset West. Even now as I write and reflect, I feel like there’s a part of my heart that I’ve left somewhere else.

The good news, however, is that we get to do it all again! That’s right – we are actually still unpacking from our move to Hermanus where we’ve joined the McComas family to help with another church plant. Hermanus is not an unfamiliar place to us – we’ve been commuting in and out each week for over two years. But living here is different and in many ways, it feels like we’re starting all over again. Hermanus is only a one hour drive from Somerset West, but the two towns couldn’t be any more different. It’s exciting to have a fresh start, and yet, the move itself feels overwhelming, as with church planting, often the hardest days are the early days.

The church building and parking lot completed

Having said all that, what we really wanted to write about this month is less about us, and more about God and you. First, the Wolfs didn’t plant a church…God did. That’s not false humility – it’s a reality. Secondly, God used you far more than you’ll ever know, at least until Heaven, that is. We want to say, as passionately as we possibly can and with all of our hearts,  thank you!!! Thank you for investing in us and in God’s call to reach the nations. We have an amazing and very giving family, as well as wonderful supporting churches and dear ministry partners who’ve bought into the vision of planting churches in South Africa.  When you look at some of the pictures we’ve posted, remember…this is how God used you. So, are you ready to do it again? Please say yes!

Oh, by the way, did I tell you that in the midst of all this Nancy and I had to leave South Africa for a week due to South African visa problems… and… we held the Southern Africa Regional Conference where we hosted guests from America and all the ABWE missionaries serving in South Africa.  Well, I guess that’s a post for another day! See, we’re already planning the next Blog post. Guess that means, we’re are back on track! Houston, all is well!