As we think back over 2014, we raise our Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Sam 7:12b) We have been going for three years here at Hope Bible Church and the Lord has sustained us more than we deserve. The church membership stands at 17, we meet for worship and prayer meetings every week. We have a Sunday School for the children and hold weekly Bible studies during school terms. We thank the Lord for deepening relationships, visitors regulalry visiting the church, opportunities for evangelism and opportunities to bear one another’s burdens.
The last six months have been busy. We had the privilege as a church of hosting an African Pastors Conference here in Bloemfontein for the second time on 14 October 2014. The conference went well, we had an attendance of about 35 delegates (from a wide range of church backgrounds, mostly Pentecostal/Charismatic), lots of books were sold, and the preaching was frequently repsonded to with expressions of “Amen”, “Uh” and “Eish” as delegates appreciated what they were hearing. We had a lively bunch attending. The theme of the conference was “Preaching Christ and becoming more like Christ”. We are grateful to our people for putting in a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make the conference happen.
The church, once again, put up a book table at the local Christmas market on 28 November 2014. We were able to display a wide range book titles and tracts ranging from Bibles, Gospel titles, Christian life issues and Biblical Counselling material. Although we didn’t sell as many books as last year, we did hand out a lot of free literature and trust that God will use this Gospel witness. We were quite sadened to observe other churches who would consider themselves “evangelical” at the Christmas market with no focus to advance the Gospel but instead to raise money for their churches by selling food and that whilst the Mormons were also around singing Christmas carols.
During the winter months we went out on two occasions to a park in town where we preached the Gospel to the homeless and unemployed. We were able to hand out soup and bread to a group of about 30 men and blankets to the ones that said they were homeless. One of the ladies in the church established contact with an underprivileged old age home. So, during November a group from the church went over to encourage them by spending time with them, singing Christian songs and preach the Gospel. We continue with street evangelism on Saturday mornings. During September we met a Jehovah’s Witness gentleman called Clement, and since then we have had regular contact with him, seeking to evangelise him (he is obviously trying to evangelise us aswell!). Please pray for our evengelism efforts, that we may see conversions, that our church will become more burdened about sharing the Gospel and that more people in the church will give themselves to it.
Since our previous newsletter in July we have completed a preaching series in the books of Ruth and Haggai and in the meantime started a new series in the book of Acts. Our prayer meetings are generally well attened and is in many ways the heartbeat of the church. We have decided as a church that we want to learn more about the persecuted church and pray more actively for persecuted Christians around the world. We had a representative from Open Doors come and addresses us and link us up with regular news updates from persecuted countries. We have started a Bible study series in the book of Romans and have committed ourselves to memorize Romans chapter 8, which some have said is the greatest chapter of the greatest book in the Bible.
It has been a trying year for us as a number of church folk in the church have and are still going through times of trial. Please pray that the Lord’s grace will be sufficient for us to remain faithful toim under trial and that the Lord’s good will and purpose will be accomplished.
I have been able to wind down on my secular work commitments. The last month or two I have only needed to go into the office the odd day here and there which meant that I could essentially commit most of my time to the ministry. We were priviledged as a family to be able to go away camping at the coast for the first two weeks of December. The change of scenery and time spent as a family was very refreshing. In 2015 Elizabeth will be going to grade 5, Joshua grade 2 and Alan grade 00. We are thankful to the Lord for the way we can see the children make progress in their development but we sometimes feel that they are growing up too quickly!
Richard & Liza Raven