It seems such an age since I wrote an update for our church, and I realize how much has happened this year. Who would have believed what 2010 would bring.
The year started with a bang! Everybody’s favourite event: Family Camp! The site chosen by the Camp Committee was Stoneyridge in the Magaliesberg. Many of us had fond memories of this campsite, and what a surprise awaited those of us who had not visited it since our youth. The “old” had been revamped and modernized and a wonderful weekend was had by all. Pastor Tim Cantrell was the speaker and we were challenged by God’s Word anew. Camp weekend has always been a time of forging closer bonds, encouraging good fellowship and stimulating good discussion among members.
In March, Deborah, our pastor’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery. What a shock! We knew there was going to be a long, tough and challenging road ahead with more major surgery after chemotherapy. During the following months of chemo, nausea, tiredness and sometimes anxiety, we as a congregation have witnessed God at work in many people’s lives in different ways as well as affecting us corporately. We stand in awe of the way the Lord has enabled our pastoral family to handle this trial in such an exemplary manner. The Lord has used this trial for our good and has given us the privilege to serve practically in many ways. Good works abound in times of difficulty! The ladies of the church were always willing to help with meals and many offers were made to help in any other way that they could. Many of the ladies felt the need to get together and pray and so a Thursday morning prayer meeting was started!
We have borne witness to many miracles that the Lord has brought about through his people, not least of these was the provision of the funds needed for the major surgery which took place in October! The morning Jeff and Deb were due to meet the medical team to discuss the surgery, the people of Audubon Drive Bible Church in Mississippi offered to pay the part of the bill not covered by the medical aid! Not a moment too early, not a moment too late! What confidence we can have in our Father who hears our prayers and meets all our needs! The best news of all was when we heard the results of all the tests after the surgery, Deborah is cancer free! Hallelujah!
There was cause for more celebration this year: 2010 marked the tenth anniversary of the Gage family’s ministry at Free Grace. Invitations were sent out and on 10 April we gathered at a venue just outside Heidelberg for a wonderful evening of good food, fun, fellowship and praise to the Lord for his blessing over the years. Many testified through joyful tears as to how the Lord had used Pastor Jeff’s teaching of God’s word to change their lives forever. We realized afresh just how privileged we are to have the Gage family in South Africa, never mind here in Boksburg!
Our ties with the Reformed Baptist Church Harare are as strong as ever. Jeff and Doug Van Meter visited the church at the beginning of the year and Errol Wagner accompanied Jeff on a second trip, mid-year. We are happy to share our pastor with our brothers and sisters across the border as we know that the training that they receive is of great benefit to them as they lead and teach the people. Sola 5 was hosted by the Zim church this year and those of us who could not attend the conference were kept up to date with events via Pastor Conrad on Facebook and his blog. As we read of power failures and cold water showers, we realized how much we take for granted and how much we complain. We continue to support the ministry there by our prayers, financially and in practical ways as needs arise. We have been praying for Theo Soko who still needs further surgery. We will continue to do so and trust that the Lord will restore him to full health and strength soon. It has been a joy to be part of this church’s ministry even though it has not been in the flesh. It is God’s will that we be involved in as many ways as we are able. The Zimbabweans have endured many dark days and hardship but have remained faithful to him. We are grateful to the Lord for the part we have played in keeping them encouraged.
The youth work in the church has been blessed by the Lord and two new meetings have been added to the week’s activities, one for primary school children and one for the young adults. Both meetings are focusing on fellowship, evangelism and discipling.
Some of the youth attended the POWER Camp in August and came home truly encouraged and blessed.
Many of the members have been involved in various ministries during the week such as hospital visitation, visiting the bereaved, ill and aged. Discipling one on one has been taking place and this has been a most exciting development.
The men’s and women’s fellowships have continued to meet on the first Saturday every month. The DVD series The Christian and Suffering was chosen, and God in his sovereignty had arranged the choice of this particular series knowing what we would need by way of encouragement this year, as many of us have faced real challenges and difficulties. We thank the Lord for sustaining us and keeping our perspective focused on him and his truth, even in the face of severe financial pressure, joblessness, business pressures, illness . . . the list is endless.
A number of babies were born to families in the church this year! It is always a joy when the Lord blesses us with children and we welcomed Christopher Watt, Emily Vasquez and Sarah Kanyama into the church family.
We were sad to say goodbye to some families this year. Stuart and Samantha Watt have moved to Hillcrest and while we miss them, we are pleased that they have found a spiritual home at Hillcrest Baptist Church and have settled into their new home and community. The Vasquez Family will be moving to Amanzimtoti in November and will be sorely missed. We will continue to pray for them.
The midweek Bible study and prayer meeting that was started last year has been a source of great encouragement and help to those who attended. This meeting is overseen by Pastor Patrick Paine and has been the source of healthy debate and interaction. The Letters of Peter have been the focus of study.
Some of the members enrolled for Bible School this year. The classes were held on a Sunday afternoon and while some of us found it challenging to keep up, it has proved to be time well spent. Studying God’s word is so exciting and it’s thrilling to see how all of the Scripture points to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sunday remains the highlight of the week! We look forward to gathering for worship with our spiritual family and relish hearing what the Lord has to say to us from his word.
It is truly wonderful to be part of a church where there is concern, love, support and unity. It is a privilege to witness the miracle that God is working in individual lives and to see changes that come as a result of obedience to his word. We are grateful to the Lord for his continued working in our lives and we trust him for the future plans that he has for us as we minister to one another and reach out with the good news to those who are lost.
On behalf of Free Grace Baptist Church