Dear brethren,

Greetings from the Newcastle Baptist Church.

When we started the year 2020, who would have thought that the year would hardly start and we would go into a state of national lockdown. The impact of the lockdown is being felt in every aspect of our lives. When the lockdown started there was a sense of disbelief, but it only took a day or two for the reality to sink in. Now we are looking back at four months of Stage 5, 4, and 3 lockdown and no one knows when we will return to any sort of “normal.” We praise God that he is sovereignly in control of his creation. We can trust him no matter what our circumstances might be.

A congregational note

The lockdown and resulting difficulties are having an impact on the lives and livelihood of the congregation. During the initial hard lockdown, we all realised how much we missed having fellowship with one another. By God’s enabling grace we could keep our eyes focused on the fact that we have fellowship through Christ.

We’ve had the privilege to provide much needed assistance to some families in need by supplying them with food parcels. We were also able to assist two pastors whose churches were unable to support them.

Our Sunday school functions as an outreach ministry to the children of the community. We have children coming to Sunday school, even though their parents or guardians do not attend the services. We pray and trust the Lord that the children will take what they learn and share it at their respective homes. The lockdown has affected our ministry to the children since we have not been able to open the Sunday school. Even our outreach ministry to the youth on Fridays has been on hold and we are looking forward to the day when we will once again be able to minister to the youth.

The young adult ministry is using social media platforms to continue with ministry.

Even though ministry is limited, it is good to see how members are reaching out to one another and how they encourage one another. We praise God for our church family because it is such a blessing to be surrounded by people who loves Christ and looks at life with eternal perspective.

A personal note

As a pastor, I was confronted with the challenge to minister to God’s people without being able to see them. I was also confronted with questions such as: Is a cyberspace service really a worship service? Can we partake of “cyberspace” Communion? Should we obey government and keep the doors of the church closed or should we obey Scripture and congregate together as instructed? How do we balance the safety of the members and the biblical command to not neglect the gathering of ourselves together? These and many other questions confronted me as a shepherd of God’s people.

We do not have a plurality of elders in the church, which makes it difficult to have in-depth biblical discussions about all the questions which arose during the lockdown period. I have been encouraged by the discussions which took place on social media platforms on many of the questions.

At the end of June, I was admitted to hospital and, after a colonoscopy was done, was diagnosed with rectal cancer. The suggested treatment by the oncologist was chemo and radiation treatment for six weeks followed by a complete proctectomy. After much prayer and discussion with my family, I decided to pursue alternative treatment and re-evaluate my situation after four months. The diagnosis had a huge impact on me, my family, and the church. I can say with certainty that I do not look at life the same way I did a month and a half ago. Even though I received this diagnosis we can still say with joy, to God be the glory for who he is and what he has done!

Looking forward

We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. As the restrictions are lifted, we would like to start our “Farming God’s way” project if it be God’s will. With this project, we plan to grow vegetables at the back of the church building. This project will enable us to reach out to the community through skills training in vegetable farming and through the supply of fresh organic vegetables. It will also enable us to reach out with the gospel and do discipleship with those people who are receiving the skills training.

Prayer requests

  1. Please pray that our members and adherents will grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
  2. Please pray for two of our members who have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19.
  3. Please pray for our members who are frontline workers.
  4. Please pray for the “Farming God’s way” project.
  5. Please pray for wisdom how to effectively reach the youth during this time.

We want to thank our Sola 5 family for your prayers. Please be assured of our prayers for you as we pray for a different Sola 5 church every week.

For Newcastle Baptist Church,

Japie van Kampen