First of all we want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2020. We pray that you will enjoy the celebrations as we all remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!
When schools closed, we had a graduation for the nine day care children who will go to big-school next year. We also celebrated Christmas with the Magog Senior Citizens’ Club. We had a delicious meal catered by local ladies who gave our members (who usually cook for our regular meetings) a well-deserved break! We drew names and exchanged gifts and had a most enjoyable day! Now the Seniors and the day care center are in recess until mid-January.
Our family will be celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve with all 16 of us plus a couple of extras. Then on Christmas Day we will attend church and then gather with all of our family who are not involved with other family gatherings plus some extras who don’t have family nearby!
We were very pleased that two of the young people from Umzumbe Church of Christ were able to attend the first National Youth Convention right after the schools closed for the December holidays. The plan is for this Convention to be held each year in December in various places throughout the country to provide teaching and fellowship for young adults of high school and post-high school age.
Our weather has been very unusual this year. It is the rainy season here, but we had even more than usual rain plus wind. This resulted in severely damaged roads, branches blowing down and a damaged roof at Umzumbe Bible Institute. In addition we have had some unseasonably cool weather so we have to keep sweaters or jackets close at hand. Over the past few days it has warmed up quite a lot, but the wind has continued.
We will be thinking of you and praying for you as you celebrate Christmas and we would ask you to pray for us as well.
My apologies! I completely missed sending an email in May.
Rebecca, our granddaughter, and Ruahn Beattie were married on the 4th of May. We had severe rain storms in April. Their wedding was supposed to be at River Valley Farm in a tent by the river. The storms destroyed the road to the river so less than 2 weeks before the wedding they were informed that they had to find another venue for the wedding! After looking at a few different places they were able to hold the wedding in the tent at a campground. In the end the wedding was beautiful and everything went well on the day.
While we were in the US last year Michael’s brother, Duane, said that he and Kathy were planning to go to Normandy about the time of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He said they also wanted to go to Northern Ireland to see a place where some ancestors came from. For many years we have wanted to go to Northern Ireland so we decided to meet them there and then go to Normandy with them. When their brother, Larry, heard about the trip, he and his wife also decided to go. Then they contacted their sister, Debbie, and invited her to join the group. Later their cousin, Craig, and his wife also decided to join the group. So nine of us met in St. Mere Eglise and spent four days seeing the monuments, museums, beaches and other attractions of Normandy. It was especially noteworthy as Craig’s dad, Uncle Dean Stanley, was a pilot during the Normandy invasion. It was a very special time of honoring him and the hundreds of other soldiers who fought for freedom 75 years ago.
The Magog Senior Citizens’ Club continues to meet twice each week. Recently they were practicing so they could compete against other clubs in the region in physical games. Despite their age, many of them are very agile and active. Those who excelled will go on to compete against other clubs on a provincial level.
The day care center is doing well. We have 20 children registered, but they don’t all come every day. We have recently hired a cook who prepares meals for the children.
Michael has recently been experiencing some short-term memory problems. We decided it would be advisable to have him see the doctor and determine the seriousness of the situation. So last week we met with our GP and he decided to have Michael admitted to hospital for a battery of tests. He was only in hospital overnight and the tests revealed that there is no reason to be concerned. We praise the Lord for that! The doctor said it could be stress-related so we are trying to scale down even more on his work.
The youth camp for our province takes place this week. Michael was asked to teach, but that required a long trip which is what we are trying to avoid so we decided that he should not go. Pray that the camp will provide meaningful fellowship and valuable teaching.
On June 7th we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Our children organized an afternoon tea for us at a hotel. Our family and some close friends joined us for eats, cake and a lovely social afternoon. The next weekend we went to a nearby game farm and stayed in a beautiful chalet. We were able to see zebra, eland, wildebeest, impala, warthog and giraffe. A highlight was seeing a very young baby giraffe! We also enjoyed a delicious Sunday dinner of warthog-on-the-spit with all the trimmings!
Pray for us as we are in the process of making some decisions about the future. We are doing some down-sizing in preparation for putting our house on the market. We want to move into a more secure place. We are also making plans to hand over the Umzumbe Bible Institute property where the church, day care center and seniors’ club now meet.
Easter is a very special time in South Africa. Most churches have big gatherings. The Churches of Christ in KwaZulu Natal (our province) will be gathering at Gingindlovu which is about a 3-hour drive from home. We will leave early on Friday morning to arrive for the all-day service. It is scheduled to start at 9:00 am and finish about 3:00 pm with messages on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the cross. After supper there will be a worship service. On Saturday there will be lessons and a worship service. The minister who was asked to bring a lesson for the entire group has asked Michael to take his place. He has had some health issues and doesn’t feel he can do it. So Michael is preparing a lesson this week. After Michael’s lesson the people will be divided into groups and there will be lessons for men, women and youth. In the afternoon there will be meetings and then there will be an all-night service. Sunday we will have a church service and then a big meal before everyone returns home.
April is a big birthday month for our family. Sean, baby Michael, Dawn, John, and Gabriella all have birthdays this month. It looks like this year we will have three parties, but all are pretty low-key as everyone is so busy. Rebecca’s wedding is the 4th of May so she and Dina and Sean are busy getting that all organized. Diane and Dina are making bridesmaids and flower girl dresses. Gabriella is busy finishing her high school studies and needs to be done by the end of April.
Michael and I have both been to the doctor this month. Michael went for check-up and he has no problems. He will see the cardiologist the first week of May to have his annual checkup. I had been having a lot of pain from what is, apparently, a spur in my heel. I think from walking awkwardly because of that pain, I developed severe back pain. Fortunately, the doctor was able to prescribe a medication which has really helped so I am feeling a lot better.
Pray for the Easter meetings and for the preparations for the wedding.
Michael and Caryl
We have been keeping busy. The weather has been hot and humid so it isn’t easy to do much that involves physical exertion! We have a small air-conditioner in the office so it is our favorite place right now!
The day care center is operating with four teachers this year. We have to have so many because two of the teachers are doing a training course and have to be away part of the time. When they are away the other teachers (who have not been for training) have to be there to care for the children. It is not ideal, but we don’t have any other solution at present. We need the teachers who have training! Pray for guidance for us!
The Seniors’ Club is going well. The people certainly enjoy getting together and sharing time with one another. Because it has been so hot, they have not been doing much that requires physical activity.
The last week of February Steve Caulley, a colleague from Kimberley came to Port Shepstone by bus. He had surgery on his shoulder recently so he isn’t driving. Steve and Brenda will be returning to the United States permanently later this year. A church about 75 miles from us invited him to come for a special farewell service. He arrived here on Friday morning and he and Michael traveled to the church on Saturday. They stayed over one night. The rain came down in torrents that night. The noise on the tin roof of the building made it almost impossible to hear what was going on! However the church gave him a nice farewell and presented him with gifts. He returned to Kimberley on the bus on Monday.
We are busy getting ready for the annual Ministers’ Week. This is a time when ministers and their wives from all over South Africa meet for teaching, worship and fellowship. This year it will be in Wellington – near Cape Town. We decided the only way we could make the trip of over 1000 miles was to fly so we will leave early on Sunday morning from Durban. The 2-hour flight will get us to Cape Town in plenty of time for the first service in the evening. Michael will be leading the communion service that night. I have been asked to prepare lesson(s) for the ladies so I have been working on that. They haven’t said how many lessons or when they will be. We will be staying with friends who live on a farm just a few minutes’ drive from the conference center.
The family is doing fine. The children are growing. The 7 and 8 year-olds (three of them) are all losing teeth at a rapid pace! Michael, at 10 months, is crawling and getting around very quickly! The school children (and the teacher) are looking forward to a 2-week school break between terms. Rebecca started a new job recently and is preparing for her May 4th wedding. Diane is making bridesmaids dresses for the wedding too.
Steve Caulley spoke to the congregation when they invited him for a farewell. He and his wife, Brenda, will be returning to the United States permanently later this year.
We had a hectic January. On December 31 we went to town to do some final preparations for a movie night for the Umumbe church. While we were driving our 2003 VW Jetta, it started making a lot of noise and wasn’t starting properly. We decided to head straight to the VW garage to have it checked. About a mile from there, the engine died and would not restart so we had to be towed to VW. After several days they told us the engine was finished and presented us with a quote for parts and labor that was about double the value of the car. They said they would try to find a used engine, but they are rare. We decided to offer it for sale – as is – and had a few queries and finally a concrete offer. We decided to accept the offer and say “good-bye” to a car we had enjoyed for many years. The buyer collected it from VW on the 30th of January and on the 7th of February we met him and he was driving it. He had managed to find an engine and he and a friend installed it!
Meantime we were car-shopping. All of our children drive Toyotas and encouraged us to follow suit. We approached the local dealer (where John used to work) and it didn’t take us long to find a new (to us) car. They had a 2018 Toyota Corolla Quest that was demo model which would meet our needs. We were able to take possession of it on February 7.
We did go to the Umzumbe church on New Years’ Eve and showed a movie to a very small crowd. We had a movie that was aimed at adults and the people who came were mostly children. We had made popcorn so the children loved that. We will choose a children’s movie next time!! The evening ended with a time of prayer and we were home shortly after midnight.
Schools reopened on January 9. Since Dawn is a teacher she had to be at school a couple of days early so we had her girls (Chayah and Seanna) for two days. Dina’s daughter, Erin, also hadn’t started school so we decided to have her join us so we had a lot of fun with the three of them. They stayed overnight one night!
We have been attending the Umzumbe church since we got back. We were very disappointed the first couple of times as so few people were there, but it seems it was just because it was December and many people were away with family. The past few weeks the attendance has been between 20 and 30. Interestingly, many of those who come are children from the community whose parents do not come. One of the ladies teaches a short Sunday School lesson for them. Pray with us that the children continue to come and that they make commitments to the Lord!
I am sure most of you know that my step-Mom, who was my Mom for over 50 years, passed away on February 1st. We knew the time was very near and had debated whether I should return to the US for the funeral. In the end, in consultation with my sister and step-sister, I decided not to go. As you know the weather in Minnesota has been brutal and even some of the near-by family were not able to be at the funeral so I am sure my decision was right. One of my step-nephews was able to have the entire service videoed and I received it the day after the funeral. I am so thankful for the times I had been able to visit Mom over the past two years when we were in the US. She was a joyful, lovely lady!
The day care center has reopened and we are struggling with teachers this year. Our main teacher from last year has enrolled in a training program for teachers so isn’t able to be there every day. The other teachers have no formal training. Also the parents are sending younger children who need more full-time care so we may have to hire more care-givers for them. Michael and Malu, who assists us with the day care center, will meet with the parents and make some decisions.
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU
from hot, humid South Africa.
We arrived safely back in South Africa on December 12 after our flights from Minneapolis to Boston, then from Boston to Amsterdam, and (a very bumpy flight) from Amsterdam to Cape Town. Our flight landed in Cape Town too late to catch a flight to Durban so we stayed overnight and left early the next morning. Our daughter, Dina, met us there with a pickup to transport us and all of our luggage home.
Shortly after we got to our house, most of the rest of the family arrived and we enjoyed visiting and eating together. What a joy to see our girls, their husbands and six of the seven grandchildren. (John and Rebecca had to work so they couldn’t be here.) The little ones all grew a lot while we were away – especially Michael, who was seven weeks old when we left and almost eight months old when we got back.
It did take a few days to get our body clocks back on the right time zone. I (Caryl) especially had a hard time with that this time. I don’t know if it was just tension or if I am just getting old! Fortunately, I am now almost back to normal sleeping and waking hours. We have been busy trying to get the house back in order and taking care of some urgent paper work.
On Sunday, the 16th we went to a church about forty-five minutes from here for special services. Two of the ministers from KwaZulu Natal were ordained. Two of the ministers from the Northern Cape came to participate in the service. We enjoyed seeing a lot of our Christian friends at that service. We were especially pleased to see Anna Songo, widow to minister Barnabas Songo. She is 80 years old and still in good health.
Monday was a public holiday here and Sunday had been Chayah’s 10th birthday so the family gathered at their house to celebrate. We had a pizza party - the choice of the birthday girl. Grandpa made home-made ice cream to go with the cupcakes her mom made. It was a fun and relaxing day.
The Christmas celebrations have begun. We went to a carols’ evening and nativity play last night. Chayah was Angel Gabriel, Erin was also an angel, Seanna was a shepherd and Matthew was the star of Bethlehem, complete with flashing lights. We will attend church at Umzumbe tomorrow and then join a small group to sing carols at a hospice in Port Shepstone on Monday. Our family Christmas will be on Christmas Day at Diane and John’s house.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2019!!
HEADING BACK TO SOUTH AFRICA
As we count down the hours to our departure, we look back over the past 15 months. Caryl returned to the US in August, 2017, nearly two months before Michael returned in October. When he arrived we “hit the ground running” and visited seven supporting churches in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
We returned to South Africa at the end of December, attended a niece’s wedding, enjoyed a photo safari with Michael’s siblings and a family friend, welcomed grandchild number seven, and got back to work.
In July 2018 we returned to the US and over the past 5 months we have visited our supporting churches and individuals in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. We also attended the International Conference on Missions in Cincinnati and visited the Ark Encounter.
We made our home base in Kimball Minnesota with our friend, Richard Eckman, in 2017 and with Larry and Marguerite Stanley in Apple Valley Minnesota this year. We are so thankful for them and for family and friends who hosted us on our travels and on breaks between trips.
In 2017 we got a Honda Accord to drive during our times here. We were able to sell it just a few days ago. Praise the Lord! We will miss it, but we are so glad to have that taken care of before our departure.
Now we are packing the suitcases and getting ready to leave Minnesota with its cold and snow for the heat and humidity of South Africa. Thank the Lord for safety and provision over the past 15 months. Pray for us as we travel and resume our ministry in South Africa.
Well, it has certainly been a busy time over the past few months. I just realized that we have not sent you any news since July!
We have spent quite a lot of time with family. We were fortunate to be able to visit my 90-year-old step-mother twice. She is amazingly well for her age. She still has a sense of humor and entertains us when we visit. (She doesn’t like beards and mustaches and both Michael and my sister’s husband have them, so she gives them a hard time!)
We have visited several historic areas with Michael’s brother, Duane. They are both very interested in history and aviation. We attended my family reunion with aunts, uncle, cousins and their families. It was great to see some we haven’t seen in many years.
We began visiting churches at the end of July. We started with a trip to Nebraska. We visited an individual supporter and good friend in the Omaha area. She treated us to a day at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Then we traveled on to visit two supporting churches on the next two Sundays. It was great to see our supporters in Nebraska again and to renew acquaintances and make new friends. In the week between we spent time with our hosts and visited some historic sites in their area. We also spent two days at the Harold Warp Pioneer Village in Minden Nebraska.
When we got back to Minnesota our granddaughter, Gabriella, arrived from South Africa for a ten-week visit. We got to participate in many of the activities that were arranged for her – including a Minnesota Twins game, a camping trip, the Minnesota State Fair, some museums and historic sites, a trip to see the source of the Mississippi River, a dinner cruise on the St. Croix River, a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, and many visits with family and friends! Are you tired yet? We are!!
In addition to that we have also visited a supporting church in Iowa and a supporting church in South Dakota as well as two more individual supporters and some friends. Gabriella went with us to South Dakota so after the church visit we traveled on west to visit the Badlands, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Wall Drug. The weather was perfect and one of the highlights was seeing a herd of bison!
We have a few more family events before Gabriella leaves later in October. Then Michael’s sister, Debbie, will arrive for a few weeks to visit her brothers here. They are all looking forward to having the four siblings together again. There are several family activities planned for that time.
We will also continue our visits to churches. We will visit one more church in South Dakota and make a trip to Indiana and Ohio in November to visit four more supporting churches and some individuals. Between last year and this year, we hope we will have been able to visit all of our supporters! We will also attend the International Conference on Missions in Cincinnati in November.
Pray for us as we travel. Also pray for the churches and our work in South Africa. We are in contact with a lady from the church and with some of the ministers and their wives who keep us informed about the situation there. We also have regular contact with our children, thanks to email and internet!
March was a hectic month.
We had the annual Ministers’ Week at the beginning of the month. It was held in East London which is about a 10 hour drive from here so we decided to travel by bus. The journey was fine except they didn’t have any meal stops so we quickly bought snacks whenever we could. When we got to East London we waited for one of the ministers to come and take us to the campsite. Unfortunately the organizers had under-estimated the number of people who would be there so they were short on housing. We stayed one night and then moved to a B&B where two of the other ministers were staying. That gave us more privacy and we could travel back and forth with them. It was a really good week of worship, fellowship and teaching. The plan was to do a handover of the mission finances at that meeting, but the new treasurer and the signatories were not present so that was not done.
March was busy with funerals as well. Doreen Madlala, a member of the Umzumbe church and a foundation member of Magog Senior Citizens’ Club, passed away at the age of 88. The huge funeral was held in a tent at Umzumbe Bible Institute. The next week we attended the funeral of Mrs. Jethro Zobolo. Her husband, who was a minister, passed away in January. Her funeral was held on the Saturday of Easter weekend. During that week another member of the Magog Senior Citizens’ Club passed away. I think she might have been the youngest member of the club. She was an amputee and had attended a meeting quite recently and we did not know she was ill. We did not attend her funeral because of other commitments we had.
The Easter weekend services were held at a school near Gcilima Church. There was a big crowd. The large tent was too small to hold the entire congregation, but when the rain started to fall people moved closer together and most of the people were able to get under shelter. People commented that the rain was a sign of God’s blessing on the meeting so no one complained.
The first week of April we traveled to Kimberley with our pickup loaded with old financial records and stationery for the new treasurer. There were still some things that we could not complete because the new executive committee did not have all of the papers they needed to change the signatories on the bank account. However we were able to hand over all the records and stationery to the new treasurer. Michael still has the check book and will have to issue checks until they get the necessary papers and change the signatories at the bank.
Our exciting news is that Baby Evans has arrived. Michael and I are staying at John and Diane’s for a few days to help with transporting Matthew to school and preparing meals for John and Matthew. We are proud to announce that Michael Roger Evans (named after his grandpas) arrived on 19 April at 8:09 a.m. and weighed 3.53 kilograms (7 pounds 12 ounces.) Matthew is so proud and everyone is doing fine.
For those who might be wondering - we did make it safely back to South Africa. We left Minneapolis (where the temperatures were well below zero) on December 29 and arrived in Cape Town (where it was very warm) on December 30. We stayed 2 nights with friends in Cape Town. Then we flew to Durban where Dina met us and brought us home.
We have settled into our home again and it is good to be back. Our housing area had been without water for most of the last four months of 2017. The water woes continued into 2018 so we had to get water from a communal water tank. Finally residents had enough and contacted the press and took to the streets in protest. They also threatened court action and we finally got some results. We have had water most of the time since mid-January.
We were blessed to have visitors in January. Michael's sister, Debbie, and her husband, Lynton, live in South Africa, so when their brothers, Duane and Larry, and Larry's wife, Marguerite came to visit all the siblings were able to be together on one side of the ocean. Friends, James and Marla Nicholson, also came and everyone was able to attend the wedding of Debbie and Lynton's youngest daughter, Jaclyn to Hugh van Niekerk.
Then the nine of us enjoyed a 5-day vacation at Tembe Elephant Park in northern KwaZulu Natal. It was a never-to-be-forgotten experience that included accommodation in tents, food several times a day, and 2 daily guided game drives -with Nkosi, who was a wonderful guide!
Unfortunately all good things must end and our visitors have returned to the US. It was a wonderful time and we made many memories!
Now life is getting back to normal. We have attended the Umzumbe church and Michael has preached a few times. The day care center has reopened with new teachers and lots of new children. We have been back to the senior club and they welcomed us very warmly.