November 29th, 2011
It is good to be back in South Africa after 3 months in the States. My father and Lisa’s father both passed away while we were home, so it was a sad time for both of our families.
There were many good things that happened as well as the struggles. I focused most of my time and energy on raising funds for the work we are doing here in South Africa, and it has been a good time to deepen relationships with many churches and friends of our ministry.
This year we have raised funds to build an additional long-term missionary home. On the Thompson Campus and have raised partial funding to build team housing for short-term team members. It will be called the Leroy Blessman Lodge of Dreams in honor of my father and related to the theme from the movie Field of Dreams, which was filmed in Iowa, with the thought that if we build it, they (the short-term missionaries) will come. We are hoping to have approximately 200 short-term missionaries come work with us each year.
Josh and Heather Borchers are moving to South Africa to work with us full time after the first of the year. They both will be a great addition to our staff. Josh will help us with our Internet technology needs along with many other gifts that he has. He is hoping to keep doing his American job from our office here in SA designing websites and other online work that he does. He developed the soft ware that is serving our feeding program so well. Heather will be managing the office and finances for us here in SA freeing up Lisa to do more regular mission field work using her nursing skills. Lisa will continue to manage the logistics of our outreaches.
Pierre and his wife Rentia Dejager just joined our team the first of December; Rentia will be helping Beth with hosting activities with our team members and visitors. Pierre will be a consultant for us in our construction and farming microenterprises. He has been teaching Farming God’s Way in Zimbabwe for the last six years.
Del Cramer Campus is where we have our own feeding program and the Lighthouse Church. Both the church and feeding center continue to do well. We have had an interim pastor and are just now appointing him as the new senior pastor and will start paying him a salary. The church is in an impoverished neighborhood, so the collection plate is far too anemic to pay his salary, but our ministry will supplement that until the church attendees mature into a more giving population. I am confident that the church can become self supporting over the next 12 months. We are still feeding only 30 children a day at the feeding center with our intention to keep the number small until our quality is solid. We had struggled last year to learn all of the ins and outs of becoming a government supported center and just yesterday the head of the social worker called for me to come to her office and she gave me all of the documents that we need to fill out to become fully supported by the SA government. A year ago I sensed some resistance and now they seem to have a strong desire for us to become fully registered. I am sure that this speaks to the quality of what they see us doing over the last few months. That will help us fund our workers (8 cooks and care givers who are currently volunteering) and 3 administrative staff; it will also help us get some government funding to pay for the food for the children. The government funding will also pay for the social worker working with us and even our security company and help with the electric bills. The Lord is good. We are helping over a dozen other feeding centers to feed their children and are currently helping supply food for over 2,000 orphans and vulnerable children daily. We have a vision to increase this number to approximately 10,000 over the next year or two.
Next week I plan to be busy working with our administrative consultants to get all of the proper paper work filed. We will not find out until March if our program has been accepted but I fully expect that we will be properly registered by then.
Our farming program is off to a good start under the leadership of Johannes and with Pierre acting as our consultant. We have about 800 chickens (broilers) under management at this time. We sold our first bunch of 200 two weeks ago for 35 Rand each or about $4. We are now ready to sell 200 more this weekend and even today a few ladies are coming by to make their purchases. As I look at this program in its early stages I see some improvements that we need to make. Johannes used our laundry room at the campus to put the baby chickens in for their first 2 weeks and then has a large chicken coop that he moves them too. I am concerned that we have a bit of overcrowding with this arrangement and that we will develop illnesses in our chickens. So next week we will be building 3 additional larger chicken coops with a concrete floor and separate clothes and gum boots for the workers to wear when they are working in each chicken house. It is a bit of an investment but in the long run it looks like the right thing to do.
Our vegetable garden is off to a good start with spinach, beet root, cabbage and sweet corn. The moths have been attacking our cabbage and we will likely have to replant it. I think that I am going to enjoy farming as much as practicing medicine. We are waiting to plant our main maize crop until we get adequate rains here. Please be praying with us for good rains over the next few days.
Monday evening I have a meeting with some government officials interested in helping empower African farmers to do a better job. We will be exploring partnerships with them to train and equip local farmers to feed their families and make a profit.
Today I had a good meeting with my good friend Chief Kekana. He is happy that we are back in South Africa and we already started planning for new projects that we might be able to do together.
We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 of our SA friends at Shikwaru. We cooked turkeys imported from Brazil and corn casserole which is a tradition in the Blessman family. We had lots of other good food and deserts. After our feast, Randy Collier told them stories about the Indians and Pilgrims and how the tradition of Thanksgiving got started and what it means to nearly all of us Americans. It was a great time of fellowship with our African neighbors and friends. I am missing my wife and family a lot during this holiday season, but my African family is doing a good job of keeping me company. It is amazing to see all of the new construction on the Shikwaru side of the property. God continues to bless Reaching a Generation Ministry as well as Blessman Ministries.
I will be meeting with representatives from Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse next Tuesday with the hope that we will become their Limpopo distribution point for their Christmas Shoe Boxes.
I have been hiking up the Shikwaru Mountain every day since I have been here this time. That hike always makes me feel better and think more clearly. I have been enjoying seeing lots of animals. I also saw the Cape buffalo the first night that I was here. They are majestic animals.
I am currently reading a book “When Helping Hurts”; I am learning lots about improved ways of doing ministry in third world countries. Towards the back of the book the author speaks of how harmful short term mission trips can be. I understand where he is coming from but strongly disagree. I have been doing mission trips for 20 years and our ministry has been hosting trips for the last 10. I have seen tremendous value to the people who go on short term trips and also to the people they are ministering to. I am thinking that it may be time to write my first book explaining my experience. I have never thought that I had enough to say to warrant a book but I feel like this is a good opportunity to share how the Lord has blessed me over the years.
I will be returning to the States for a short time and then Beth and I will come back to South Africa at the end of December. So many wonderful things are happening here we will be returning excited for what the Lord will do in 2012!