Time for a Retake!

IMG_6075Sometimes it’s fun to look back, compare where you were then to where you are now, and to see how much has changed. We had a wonderful opportunity to do just that this past month while the family was here in Cape Town for our youngest daughter’s (Morgan) wedding. Here are two favorite “retake” pictures that we re-created while our family was together. 13220724_10100274812551654_7560242252571380146_oIt was so fun and encouraging, but it was also a bit sentimental and sobering – the years seem like they’ve flown by. I’m sure most of you know what I mean. Tom, who has lovingly been called “George Banks” for years (Father of the Bride), took it quite hard!

In much the same way, we are also looking back and remembering where we were in our ministry life when those pictures were taken and where we are now. Check out this retake!

IMG_6052These two pictures look pretty much the same, but with one major difference. We now have a fully established and completed church building (thanks to many of you reading this update). However, we are missing one important thing – a parking lot (or a car park, as we say in South Africa).

This is where we are now – Mountain View has saved almost half the funds needed and we have just started a faith-promise campaign aimed at receiving financial commitments from the forever family that we trust will be given to complete the project. God willing, the final building phase of this church plant will be completed in 2016.

Slide1God Will Provide. This is true, both for our family and the new parking lot. The proof is in the pictures. The amazing, all powerful, and sovereign God who provided and led us here over 15 years ago, with four girls in tow, is still providing everything we need. He’s proven that to our family and to our church. It’s a humbling, awesome, praise-worthy truth…from then until now, God has been faithful.

It makes us excited for the “retakes” in the years to come. Especially as we see the new church plant in Hermanus taking off and starting to mature. We say it each month, but it’s worth repeating, thank you for your partnership in our ministry. Together, we are making an impact for Jesus!

 

The Dreaded Day…A Missionary Response to the Donn Ketcham Investigation

image001Ephesians 5:11 says it much better than we can. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Our ministry and personal blog site is not the place to rehash the horrific sins of ex-ABWE missionary Donn Ketcham, nor of the sins and neglect of multiple ABWE leaders who knew about it and did nothing, or the agency and its representatives’ treatment of the victims. It is heartbreaking and grievous, and we pray that at the very least, truth and transparency will lead to some amount of healing for those who have been hurt.

ABWE’s website includes the interim President’s declaration of ABWE owning the facts as we know them and the agency’s request for forgiveness from the victims and all those affected by this tragedy. In addition, the Pii investigative report has been made available providing more details than most of us will want to expose our eyes and hearts to.

Although long overdue, Nancy and I, along with the ABWE family, have been anticipating that this report would someday be released. As we read it along with you for the first time, we were overwhelmed with a deep sorrow, a fierce anger, overwhelming discouragement and a sense of betrayal in the organization that has done so much good for the cause of Christ around the world. This is our missionary family, our friends, people whom we admire, respect and look up to. The release of the report was a shattering day in many ways for us, not to mention the grief we felt, knowing that Christ’s reputation has been hurt and in the coming days and months will continue to be dragged through the dirt.

We’ve already started receiving emails with questions like, “What do you think or what will you do now?” So we thought we would answer that question briefly, as best as we can now, and also ask you to resist reading or listening to rumors and gossip. Instead, go to the ABWE website that details many of the pertinent questions you may have and what we believe to be an honest response. This matter needs to be openly dealt with and time allowed for people to process the facts and address the actions.

cropped-p20307662In the end, let’s make no excuses. No more hiding! No defenses! Is it too little…too late? YES! What we all want is transparency, taking ownership of poor decisions, forgiveness, healing and ultimately reconciliation – that is the heart of Jesus who in the end is the one who has been disgraced. All of that to say, may we not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16). The task of the Great Commission is still at hand, God is on His throne, His promises are still true and we are spending ourselves to that end!

So, what will we do? And what should you do?

  • Pray for the victims and those who’ve been so tragically hurt and have lived with this pain for many years. And that includes Donn Ketcham’s family.
  • Pray for ABWE and its leaders (and the Board) as they strive to make it right, as right as they can at this point. Pray for the upcoming meetings with those victims who are willing to meet.
  • Pray for all the ABWE missionaries around the world (especially those in Bangladesh) who, like us, are expected to have answers but are trying to process the matter themselves.
  • Pray for God’s name to be lifted high, even though our true enemy, Satan, would love to see further damage done.
  • Pray for Christ-like patience and discernment. Be careful what you read and what conclusions you draw. Avoid making decisions without clear guidance from the Lord. Pray! And we will do the same.

Many of us are feeling the pain and grieving the consequences of this situation. We are also grateful for the continued support of our churches and individual supporters who stand by us personally, even though their disappointment with ABWE as a mission organization is great. Thank you for the emails and messages you’ve sent our way. Our ministry in South Africa is strong and remains effective in spite of Satan’s efforts to kill and destroy it from the top down.

We can attest to the implementation of the changes presented in the ABWE material made available for you to read and the seriousness and sincerity with which this investigation is now being handled. ABWE’s current leaders, none of which were part of the coverup themselves but are paying the price for it dearly, are embracing their responsibility as best they can to make sure this does not happen again. We pledge to do our best within the realm of our influence here in Southern Africa to do the same.

Our call to world missions that began in 1998 has not changed. We believe this is where God wants us and we are being faithful to our responsibilities each and every day. The role of our leadership here has never been more important than it is right now as Tom leads the missionaries in Southern Africa as Regional Director through these uncertain times. They need us and we are committed to help and serve them as never before. We are also committed to Mountain View Baptist Church and the national leaders with whom we have the privilege to serve here in South Africa.

If, after reading the information on the ABWE website (abwe.org) you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact ABWE’s Child Protection Response Team at 717.909.2315 or by emailing protectingourchildren@abwe.org.

Praying with you, Tom and Nancy

Thank You for Praying…Jesse’s Memorial Service

Jesse_2The song Because He Lives has been playing in my mind this week, for several reasons I’m sure. One is that I remember singing it year after year at Easter, and that’s what we are getting ready to celebrate this weekend.  Mostly though, I think it’s because of Jesse’s memorial service last weekend.

First of all, thank you for praying.  We could clearly see God answering your prayers at every turn. It was a hard week, however, we can say beyond a doubt that God was glorified. And, in answer to prayer, many people came to faith in Christ, including the young man who was the only survivor (from the four boys) of the car accident. Please continue to pray for Corné.

Thank you for praying for us as well as the Gous family and the forever family at Mountain View. Being followers of Christ instead of just fans was the theme of Tom’s challenge. The life that Jesse lived was put on display, highlighting his life in Christ.  That was actually the most powerful message of the day. Jesse was known by all as a Christ follower, not just an enthusiastic fan, and you could tell by the stories that were shared by his family and friends. Tom has asked on more than one occasion, “How could a young guy, only 18 years old, make such a profound impact on so many people?” The church was overflowing last Saturday. There were nearly as many people standing outside the doors as there were inside the church, in honor of this young man, and no one seemed to mind.

because_he_lives-title-2-still-4x3One truth that shined for all to see is the hope that we have “because He lives.”  It’s what we’ll celebrate this Easter weekend. Yes, the sting of death is real and is felt, but so is the hope we have in Christ. Why? Because Jesus conquered death. Because Jesus lives, Jesse lives, and we who believe, will live too. Absent from the body, present with the Lord.  How much more precious that truth is to us, heading into this Easter weekend, after experiencing the celebration of Jesse’s life last weekend.

Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone.  Because I KNOW, He holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because He lives.

We’ll be praying for you as you remember the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ and the life we live because He lives! With hearts full of gratitude and love for all of you…thank you for your partnership in our lives and ministry here in South Africa, Happy Easter!

Tom and Nancy

Lives Changed Instantly…Please Pray

Last Saturday, early in the morning, one of our sweetest 18-year-old young men at Mountain View was involved in an automobile accident and went home to be with Jesus.  Just like that, his life changed forever and Jesse Gous’ faith became sight!

Jesse, Julio, Valentia & Mark Gous

Jesse, Julio, Valentia & Mark Gous

Also on that day, totally unexpected, life changed for his parents, Mark and Valentia Gous, as well as his younger brother, Julio, and tomorrow we will celebrate Jesse’s life with a memorial service.  Many in our community will be present, probably more people than has ever been inside our church building for something like this.  We will weep and mourn together, as forever families do, but we will also rejoice together in the salvation and hope that we have, made possible through Jesus Christ.  Please pray for the Gous family as they anticipate and experience the service.

There were three other young men in the car at the time of the accident.  Later in the day last Saturday, the driver of the car, Jean-Claude, also died. The following day, another passenger named Houston died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. Another young man, Corné, was safe and walked away with light injuries. His life also changed, only in a different way.  We are not sure of the spiritual condition of these young men, as we do not know them personally, however, we ask that you would keep these families in your prayers as well.

Please pray for our forever family and everyone in our community affected by this tragedy. Pray for Tom as he brings the gospel message on Saturday morning during the memorial service and Pastor Dave Drullinger as he holds the graveside service for the family. Perhaps someone in attendance will have their life changed forever, too. Our prayer is that through the work God did in Jesse’s life many more will come to faith and God will be glorified in all things.

Thank you for your partnership as we pray for one another.

Tom & Nancy

Can I Get a Drum Roll, Please?

IMG_4963Thanks to all of you, we’ve had a sweet time of celebrating our 15-year anniversary of ministry in South Africa.  Your emails have brought great encouragement. Thank you for your partnership as the work of the Great Commission continues on!

And now, can I get a drumroll as we announce the winners of the Wolfpack 15 Year Anniversary Starbucks Gift Cards? The three winners are:

Mark & Jen Holsinger, Tim & Andi Bell and Harry & Jan Gebert

We feel extremely blessed to share this celebration with all of you and reflect on the great things God has done. Here are just a few more comments that give glory to God!

“The Lord has reinforced to me these past 15 years that when we choose to be loyal to Christ alone He assures us all the more of His protection, purpose, power and presence in the diverse mission fields to which He has uniquely called us. Praising God for your obedience.” (Chip Weiant)

“I was blessed when meeting you…that a successful man in the world of business would be willing to pull up anchor and head into the unknown of God’s calling…A lesson in listening to God’s leading and then acting on it, despite any and all reservations.  And, look how the Lord has blessed you and your ministry over the past 15 years! May God grant you 15 more years and beyond of fruitful ministry!” (Amy Womack)

“Been there for everything…now give me my free Starbucks gift card!! If I win, I’ll take you out for a coffee!” (Morgan Wolf)

“Thank you for allowing us to partner with your work in South Africa.  Keep going for Him!” Psalm 37:23 (Pastor David Conrad)

“Follow the Lord’s leading…He can overcome our fears and do amazing things!” (Debbie Howdyshell)

“I have been affirmed about the importance of the local church in God’s plan.” (Rick Presley)

Our Way of Saying Thank You!

Thanks-this-one--s-on-meWe love coffee but we love you more! And since we don’t have Starbucks in South Africa, we’re giving you something that we love as part of our anniversary celebration. (It is Valentine’s Day weekend too!) It’s our way of saying thank you and sharing the blessing of 15 years of ministry in South Africa. The deadline for the three free $15 Starbucks gift card drawing is this weekend and we’ll announce the winners on Monday, 15 February.

Is it too late to get in on the drawing? No, just reply to this post (twolf@abwe.org) and we’ll add you to the list of people who’ve already responded and are hoping to win!  We really appreciate everyone who sent us words of encouragement and emails filled with praises to God. We’ve been collecting them, having cherished the interaction and learning of God’s has worked in your lives. Here are a few of the replies to the anniversary celebration question…

What is one thing you’ve seen God do in the time you have followed the Wolfpack, from 2001 until 2016, that has encouraged you, challenged you, or drawn you closer to God?

“God has taught us to trust Him even when life is a fog, and we cannot see His purposes and His plan right away…Trust God in the hard times, and remember He has not failed us in the past, and there is no reason He would fail us in the future…Don’t forget to praise Him for His blessings…or take them for granted.” Pastor Jeff Beckley

11053244_10155920228860117_963663879149716317_oOur earliest memory of the Wolfpack was Tom speaking in a Sunday School class at Washington Heights – he spoke on belief.  Then…a missions conference in 2009…God used his words to speak to our hearts…I remember being challenged to consider missions. Almost six months went by and I received a call from Tom asking us to go to dinner. God’s timing was right and that evening Tom challenged us to be obedient to God’s call to missions.  We are now missionaries in Nicaragua!  The Holsinger Family

God taught us over and over again as we have followed the Wolfpack these last fifteen years that His promises are true…that indeed “Faithful is He Who calls you who will also do it”! Sue and Phil Miller

“The first thing that came to my mind was your willingness to just GO…God has challenged me to be willing to step out in faith and obey…The way God has blessed your family and helped you make that transition has GREATLY encouraged my heart, as I’m also a mother of four girls.” April Hand

“God has taught me that there is nothing easy about missions. That we cannot glorify it because it exists in a broken world with lost people, most of all me. But I can glorify the God who has called me to that mission…And he has challenged me to trust that he will teach those same lessons to my kids.” Tara (Wolf) McComas, also a missionary to South Africa

Wolf Family World View (1)I have learned through this journey that God is worth following, no matter the risks and no matter the cost.  We need go where he leads and rest in his faithfulness and grace.  Moving to South Africa, away from everything familiar, was by no means the easy path, but he has blessed more than we could have asked or imagined, and that is only what we see here on earth.  Just imagine the rewards in heaven! Lyndsey (Wolf) Bales, our eldest daughter

It’s a great reminder that God is always busy doing 10,000 different things, even though we might only see three of them!  Speaking of three – get your entry in and be watching for the names of the three winners to be announced here on Monday!

15 Year Anniversary Give Away

Wolfs SA Arrival (1)Our 15 Year Anniversary Celebration – It hardly seems possible that 15 years ago, in January, 2001, our family arrived in South Africa. Time has flown by and our joy of serving the Lord in South Africa has only increased through the years. God has blessed us with wonderful ministry partners! We’ve seen two churches started, people who have come to faith in Jesus and been baptized, numerous followers of Christ equipped for the ministry, and we are blessed to serve ABWE’s Southern Africa missionaries. We also love the people of Mountain View – they truly are part of  the forever family. Wow! God has blessed us in so many ways.

Thanks-this-one--s-on-meGift Card Give Away – Over the years we have been the recipients of so many generous gifts and we would like to say thank you in a fun and yet meaningful way. To do that, we are giving away three $15 Starbucks gift cards (a Mugg & Bean gift card if you are in South Africa). All you need to do is respond to the question listed below by emailing twolf@abwe.org with your name and a brief answer. Once your email is received, your name will automatically be included in the drawing. Since we get to make up the contest rules…anyone sending in an email response will be included. That means all our ministry partners, family members, ABWE teammates and South African friends are eligible (sounds so official!). Only hitch, only one entry per email address.

The Question… What is one thing you’ve seen God do in the time you have followed the Wolfpack, from 2001 until 2016, that has encouraged you, challenged you, or drawn you closer to God?

Oh yeah, one more little rule! Remember, your comment is about what God has done, not us. So we suggest you begin your reply with “God taught me…,” or “God blessed me…” Or how about this, “When I saw God…” One thing we know is that God is always working in more ways than we can even think or imagine, and we want to give Him all the praise!

Wolf Family World View (1)Gift Card Deadline – The winners will be announced on our blog site on February 12th along with an article including some of the God glorifying responses we receive. So, go for it!  And, don’t forget to pray for us (see the Prayer Partner tab for our current requests). Who knows what God has planned for the next 15 years!

With all our love and appreciation for the last 15 years…it’s been a great journey, thank you!