As Barb and I write this praise report and prayer letter we are enjoying an incredible gift from our hosts; Focus on the Family Africa, of three nights at Ngala Game Preserve including five game drives. We have just concluded our second game drive and between the two drives we have witnessed sightings of the "Big 5" (elephant, leopard, lion, water buffalo and rhinoceros). This is no small feat by our guide and his tracker (Barney and Wiseman) who have navigated Krueger National Park and our visit.
Yet this is just the "cherry on top" of the ice cream sundae that we have joined God in for the last weeks. On Friday we concluded our 11 event 2015 South African tour over 11 days. We had one day rest within those 11 days…it has been busy and remarkably had great impact.
I once again was in the "first row" witnessing the fruit of my bride's passion of ministering to over 250 Zulu women who are caregivers of "at risk" and orphaned children (much due to the AIDS pandemic). This is the third year of Barb's ministry of "A Woman's Legacy" whereby she places upon each of the caregivers a hand-beaded (by our precious daughter Sarah) necklace. About 80 of the women received the inaugural "Ambassador" necklace with beautiful beads and a Cross to wear with the necklaces they have received in prior years. About 170 first time recipients received the newly designed (by Barb) necklace with the Cross and the 6 hearts representing the 6 Secrets we have been teaching since 2000. To watch the women dance, celebrate, embrace Barb, and receive instruction on how to encourage one another and the children they serve is a sight to behold. Also this year, Ken Medema (musical composer) composed a song that was inspired by Barb's message entitled "I am Beloved". The song was taught to the women as a way of further enhancing the training. And perhaps one of the biggest joys was hearing the overwhelming gratitude of the women for Barb's weekly SMS texts that she sends to our Zulu translator who in turn sends to the now over 400 women bringing them comfort and love consistently through the year. Story upon story of how God used Barb to remind them at just the right time of His faithfulness and provision, His love and grace was such an encouragement to all.
In addition we had the honor of doing five Date Nights (three in Cape Town, one each in Durban and outside Jo'Burg) on our brand new message Kiss and Make Up!. It was fun, deep, equipping and received better than we imagined. Hundreds of couples were ministered to eachnight. Visit our Facebook page (drgaryandbarb) for photos of hundreds of South African couples sitting on the "park bench"...our moniker for the tour. Each of them are holding a sign celebrating the number of years of marriage and of "Kissing and Making Up!". We saw hope restored, God's grace and tears of joy from old friends from previous years as well as countless new friends. Pastors from each church and communities impacted expressed over and over again the gratitude of how God stirred the hearts of the people in their congregations for Biblical marriages with a fresh fire. (By the way, we will be launching our 2016 Kiss and Make Up! USA tour soon...contact Kim at AFC for info on hosting an event in your church or community).
I also had the distinct honor of conducting two Marriage Champion training events adding more than 50 new couples to our current 233 couples in South Africa who have now been trained on bringing our video curriculum and written resources to small groups and church-wide events. This is a major part of my time with pastors, small group leaders, psychologists, counselors and other family advocates in South Africa...focusing on multiplication of the message God has entrusted to us.
We deepened our relationship with Graeme and Allison Schnell, the CEO of Focus on the Family Africa as they hosted us in their home, with their three young daughters for a Braii (BBQ). We also spent a great lunch with Jonathan Waller and his bride Runnel. He is one of the leading radio station broadcasters in Cape Town and hosts a program we join annually to love on the people of Cape Town. God deepened our commitment to the Focus on the Family Africa team as Marge, John and Gary Steyn traveled the country with us. Each year we have been with Marge and John and this is the second year with Gary. They are faithful servants and great friends whom we long to see and renew our friendship. We love spending time with the Focus staff, praying with them, visiting their ministry center and celebrating the faithfulness of this team that has become hosts of our second home of South Africa.
While we were in South Africa my Chicago Cubs rose to greatness and then lost. I became a South Africa Springoks Rugby fan only to see them lose last night to New Zealand in the World Cup series. And our hearts are quickened with the anticipation of seeing our daughters, grandchildren, son-in-law Cooper, friends and team back home sooner than we can imagine.
For the next couple of days we will pray, reflect, remember and again be treated to God's creation of wildlife and witness the cycle of life in this over-the-top Safari Lodge and Game Preserve.
And we humbly thank you and honor you....our Marriage Champions that are praying and carrying this message as part of your own legacy, as well as the donors that are equipping us to continue to serve way out of the box to a people far away from home but so close to our hearts. We love it here in South Africa...yet we can't wait to be home in the USA!
Bless you and as always...guard your hearts,
Gary and Barb