15 December 2021Dear Special Friends and Family, I am overwhelmed with embarrassment at the very long time it has been since last I wrote to you all in this way. But life, waywardness, mental laziness and procrastination can all play havoc with one’s plans and intentions. Carol told me the other day not to procrastinate on something, and I replied to her: “Sweetheart, one must never put off till tomorrow what one can put off till next week!” Now with my feeble excuses over, let me give you some of my news for 2021. Happiness First of all I would have to say that it has been a good year, and one in which I have experienced a great measure of unusual happiness. And no wonder, because, as I think I said before, I have been locked up in a place I love, in a home I love, with the woman I love, and doing the thing I love, … which is writing. I have also found enormous joy in just being with Carol for the kind of extended times which were not easily possible over all those years when I was in the full swing of ministry with so much travel. And never before has it been possible after supper, just to listen to the news and then perhaps some fun TV such as the series, When Calls the Heart. We have also got into Heartlands which, apart from some rather silly teenage romances, is all about horses, and I find this particularly enjoyable because I grew up on horses in old Basutoland, and riding was part of my daily life. After these sorts of indulgences, we can each do some letters or general reading. What more could one ask for? As to general reading, for some years when I was very weakened in health, I did not have good energy for serious reading, but that has now returned and I have been reading history, biography, ethics, and cosmology. At bedtime, after Carol and I have prayed together, I used simply to read my devotional book and then go to sleep. But now I find myself eager to put in a further half hour or forty five minutes of general reading. Then at the end, I do the devotional book, and go to sleep quickly, praise God, with the Lord and His Word in my heart. All of this adds up to a very rich time for which I cannot thank the Lord enough. Perhaps on top of this I should add that I am increasingly blessed by Nature and Carol’s truly lovely garden. One of my very favourite verses is: “Day to day pours forth speech” (Psalm 19:2). I find when I look at the garden that I feel the Lord and experience afresh the revelation of His Supernatural Creativity. Orville Dewey, a devotional writer of yesteryear, once wrote: “A new day rose upon me. It was as if another sun had risen into the sky; the earth fairer; and that day has gone on brightening to the present hour. I have known other joys of life, I suppose, as much as most men; I have known friendship and love and family ties; but it is certain that till we see God in the world – God in the bright and boundless universe – we never know the highest joy.” Family news Carol is well and in good shape. We walk every day to keep our blood oxygen up and I am fed on a very healthy diet by this great girl. We also try to have one dinner date out per week where we can observe Covid protocols. Carol is incredible the way she does all of our family admin from finances and bills through to funerals and wills!! We find it quite a battle to know to whom we should leave our family plastic, or our coffee mugs, or our two silver teaspoons! Carol still does flowers regularly for our local church and these lovely arrangements we are able to see in the excellent online YouTube services we receive from our Church of the Ascension. Carol has not been able, because of Covid protocols, to keep up her Bonginkosi work in Sweetwaters, a nearby township, amongst the poorest of the poor. Her garden is her particular delight and this year I think it excels all other preceding years. Thankfully, we are also able to be in touch by phone daily with our kids and Cathy rings very faithfully from the States every day. The Scott family in Chattanooga are in quite a few transitions. Jonathan has a new job, and Cathy gets increasing responsibilities as CEO of the parachurch ministry The Bible in Schools. This involves raising money for salaries of Bible teachers where the government won’t fund the activity. Cathy has turned into a remarkable fundraiser and this year her budget is three million US Dollars. Andrew, now 21, is training to be a pilot, and Cameron moving towards the end of his high school years. Gary and Debs lead very full lives, with Gary still having cricket coaching jobs and Debs having an ever expanding ministry, along with Jackie Moll, into the lives of women, and especially young mums. This is called Strongest Story (Writing a Stronger Story with Your Life). More info at www.strongeststory.com/. The big thing in that family is that Joshua has come up here to Michaelhouse for his last two years of school. We are delighted that he is a school prefect for next year, and Vice-Captain of the First Eleven Cricket and its opening bowler. We love going to watch him play and having him for weekends. Martin and Sam press on merrily with their lives in Johannesburg, Sam teaching, and Martin being CEO of a rubber factory with some 250 workers. Very demanding. Martin has become a class act game photographer and they relish in regular visits to his father-in-law’s game farm up near Kruger. Their three kids are all excelling and bless us with messages saying, “We love you to the moon and back!” I said to Samantha the other day, “It’s not fair for one family to have two future Miss South Africa’s!”
My sisters, Olave and Judy, are still in good health, and likewise their families. This is a mercy indeed.
On the work front I am thankful that I have finished my two Lockdown books; Deep Waters of the Disciple and Great is Thy Faithfulness. These will both, Lord willing, be published next year and please pray with me that they will touch many people. We are also republishing my book A Witness Forever about the South African ’94 elections and this will be out in a few weeks’ time. This is intended especially for supplementary reading along with our new documentary, The Threatened Miracle of South Africa’s Democracy which is based on the book. This documentary was launched on September 24th, South Africa’s Heritage Day, and coincidently my 85th birthday when Theuns and Charlene Pauw and AESA gave me a truly marvellous day. Martin and his two girls, Jessica and Emma, came down, but Sam stayed in Johannesburg to support Mattie who was playing for a regional team in a big cricket tournament. Coming back to the documentary, the mantra at the end of it is “DO YOUR BIT.” This is the film’s strong challenge to all South Africans to become involved, each person, in seeking to make a contribution to the rescue and healing of South Africa at this rather perilous time. We would profoundly appreciate it if you would be willing share the YouTube link for this documentary with your family, friends, church groups, and spheres of influence.
Please do it, and here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtGgrymEpTs&t=1369s
The vision for this 90 minute film came from Charlene Pauw, wife of SA Team Leader Theuns, and the Producer was Frans Cronje, brother of the late Hansie, and Producer of Angus Buchan’s Faith Like Potatoes, who has done a really marvellous job. In fact, the film has been placed among the award finalists of International Christian Visual Media. The awards will be announced at a ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee, in February next year. This is a feather in the caps of both Frans and Charlene. I have also been privileged with a few others to launch a South African Christian Leaders Forum (for discussion and action) and a Christian Leaders Fellowship (for dialogue, interaction and prayer for one another and the country). We meet monthly with growing numbers and I think this has the potential to be a very useful and relevant contribution to the needs of both church and nation at this time. On the wider Pan African front, Stephen Mbogo, our International Team Leader, is most admirably leading the work forward. In fact, AE has launched two new teams, the first in Southern Sudan, a desperately needy country under Rev Alex Aggrey. The team is focussing into evangelism among Members of Parliament and trauma healing among students. The second is in Zambia under Dr Lubasi who is now serving also as Southern African Regional Team Leader, and securing strategic cooperation between the teams in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia itself. Their reach will also extend to Angola, Mozambique and Botswana. The team in East Africa also coordinated, just this last week, a three-day virtual evangelism training conference drawing in some 31 countries, including South Africa which was represented by AESA Team Leader, Theuns Pauw. And I will be happier still, Lord willing, to see next August, first in South Africa, and then in Zambia, our 60th anniversary celebrations of the first mission to Pietermaritzburg. There is huge planning going on for this and in South Africa it will include another Mission to Maritzurg, and in Zambia, another mission to Lusaka. How good is our God! All of this I find gratifying and it makes my heart happy and ready for a nunc dimittis. Health I guess some of you out there may be wondering how we are going with our health. Carol’s, as I said, is remarkably good, and I feel pretty okay most of the time. Sadly I do still struggle with shingles (two and a half years now), or perhaps what I should call its aftermath in Post-Herpetic Neuralgia, otherwise called Neuro-Pathic Neuralgia. This is a trial indeed, and I long to be delivered from it. I do rattle the Lord’s cage on it a bit, but I know He has His own purposes in leaving me with this struggle. My leukaemia is stable and non-aggressive and every four months I go for two days to the hospital for Polygam Immunotherapy. My little congregation of nurses in the hospital all seem to be doing quite well and greet me like a long-lost pastor when I go there! My Myasthenia Gravis (Google will help you!) is kept under control by medication I take every six hours every day. I continue to see the medical fraternity as God’s special agents in the world for His healing and loving care. Heaven and Home I suppose being 85 it is not surprising that I think a lot about Heaven. And I must say it excites me tremendously and fills my heart with glorious hope and anticipation. C S Lewis, one of my special spiritual friends, from whom I read a daily extract in a CSL anthology, writes: “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…. They all left their mark on Earth precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’. Aim at Earth and you will get neither.” So I am enjoying aiming at Heaven and finding Earth joyously thrown in! In my new book Deep Waters of the Disciple, I have a final chapter on Heaven – At Last! This chapter opens: “I have to say that I am incredibly excited about Heaven. And I must agree with Peter Pan that ‘to die will be an awfully big adventure!’ And I must think of the unimaginable and inexpressible wonder of what is to come when I reflect again and again on Paul’s words ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has there entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV). So if a student in a varsity mission ever said to me, and some did: “All you are into is this pie-in-the- sky stuff”, then my reply would be: “But suppose there IS pie in the sky?” The question is central, says my chapter, “to our life on Earth, bringing us, as it does, a world-view of breath-taking significance: telling us that this life is just a preliminary, a prelude, the cover and title page, and that that there is more to come, as C S Lewis says in ‘The Great Story which goes on forever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before.’” And we will know that at last we are Home! With all that said, I nevertheless do ask the Lord for extra-long life so that I can drink and fully drain the Cup of Marriage, knowing that in Heaven, “there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage”, something which I’m going to chat to the Lord about in a quiet moment when I’m not deafened by angels singing, and ask Him for a special plan for Carol and me! And yes of course, I also have a very deep desire to keep ministering the Gospel of salvation and Christian life to as many as I can through writing and preaching, as the Lord enables. Well, I guess that’s it. So if you haven’t gone to sleep, or hit the delete button half an hour ago, I’d like you to receive Carol’s and my warmest best wishes for a blessed and happy Christmas and a New Year full of joyful and fruitful Kingdom Exploits. After all, we have to “keep working while it is day because the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Much love…. Michael…and of course Carol