Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Many Thanks"

Dear Friends,

Stellenbosch, South Africa.
After three weeks we are now settling in nicely in South Africa. A few years back a Pastor friend asked me where I would go if I could choose where to minister. I told him how much I liked Stellenbosch so he said, ‘we’ll have to pray about that’. Well, here we are and we can hardly believe it. We are so thankful that God has given us such a beautiful setting to tell His story.

Now I go to my office at Christ Church Stellenbosch while Laura home-schools our girls at our University housing. This Sunday I get to preach how the ‘story of Israel’ culminates in the ‘story of Jesus’ from Revelation 12 at Christ Church Stellenbosch. I hope to preach the ‘crucified and resurrected Christ as the ascended Lord of all’ in the context of the Biblical story. 
Two Sundays ago I went to an evening service geared to college students at a popular church in town. The service was more emotional than I’m used to but the real issue was how the Bible was handled. The scriptures were referred to throughout the sermon, but the verses were never explained in their context. It was all about how each verse spoke to the speaker without any connection the historical context or story. It seemed as if the Bible was merely a collection of isolated inspirational sayings so the message ended up being more about ‘me’ than about ‘Jesus’! 

One of the highlights of being here so far was a night out for us at a local pizza place. Our girls drew pictures of Malawi on the butcher paper table cloth while we talked with the Congolese, Zimbabwean, and Malawian employees. The face of my new Malawian friend, Paul, lit up with delight as I told him the story of God’s covenant with David and then we talked about Jesus.
This thanksgiving, though we are away from home, we have much to be grateful for. We are thankful for our ministry partners and partnering churches whose prayerful support makes our ministry possible. We are thankful for our new ‘home church’ in South Africa where we’ve been warmly welcomed. I am thankful to the Lord for my wife and daughters and we are grateful that Lauren’s arm is recovering nicely. Lastly, as we approach this Christmas season, we are especially thankful, ‘that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14)’.

Thanks very much,
Jay, Laura, Clara (9), Katherine (7) and Lauren (5) Stoms

Other Prayer Requests:
1) That God would provide three (3) new churches to partner with us.  
2) For the overall health of our family as we transition in South Africa. 

3) For God's guidance to help Christ Church Stellenbosch minister to International students.

Contact: (Befriend Jay and or Laura Stoms on FACEBOOK).
Africa Christian Training Institute (Stoms Family Ministry Fund)
P.O. Box 15621; Panama City FL 32406-5621.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We're here in South Africa!

Bye 'USA'.

Our flights to South Africa went well. Our tickets allowed 3 pieces of luggage each so we needed two vehicles for us and for our luggage to get to the airport. Besides clothes and some household items we mostly brought a lot of materials for home-schooling. Amazingly, we checked all our bags at SeaTac airport and made it through the TSA security lines without any hassles. After two 10 hour flights, several movies (the first flight Clara never slept) and a 6 hour layover in London we arrived safely in South Africa. Our new church, which has changed its name from St. Pauls to Christ Church Stellenbosch, graciously sent two guys with two vehicles big enough to carry us and our luggage and provided dinners for the first week.    
Hello 'South Africa'.
Most things are familiar but new and different at the same time. We are in a developed country, but it’s Africa and not the United States. First, our parents and closest friends don’t live here. Also in the States the Postal system is generally reliable, electrical power is consistent and law enforcement is mostly dependable. The Post Office here has been on strike for a couple of months. The second day we were here our power went off because of load sharing due to a malfunctioning power plant. While Stellenbosch can feel like a European town with a modern university, we’ve been told to be careful walking around town because of increased crime.
So here we are in South Africa, and find ourselves remembering Malawi. Malawians are genuinely friendly and have no real animosity towards foreigners. While we’ve been very warmly received by our Christ Church family, we can already see that it’s going to take more intentional effort to connect with people outside the church. South Africa is called the ‘Rainbow Nation’ because of its racial diversity. The various people groups coexist yet they appear to be somewhat separate. All this is to say that we are stepping out on onto new ground. This means more transitions for our whole family so we are asking for your continued prayers as we make the necessary adjustments. Stellenbosch is still Africa and not America, but it’s not Malawi either.