Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'Light to Gentiles’ (Luke 2:32, Acts 9).

Luke 1:78-79 (ESV) … because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  
Merry Christmas from South Africa 2016

Dear friends,
Zechariah, filled with the Spirit, spoke of the coming of the ultimate sunrise bringing light to those sitting in darkness, guiding into the way of peace. Later Simeon, also filled with the Spirit, would hold the baby Jesus in his arms calling him a light of ‘revelation to Gentiles’ and ‘glory for Israel’ (Luke 2:32).

We pray that you will be filled with the ‘light and peace’ of Jesus this Christmas season. This Christmas is bringing us another transition for in January we’re moving back into a University flat (apartment). We will miss having a spacious house to show hospitality to International students. I won’t miss the yellow jackets (a German invasion), the flies (we’re near a dairy farm) or the squirrel from the roof that recently got into the kitchen. Then there’s watering the garden and cleaning the pool. Yes, we had a pool but keeping it clean and free of frogs is a hassle. We’ll also miss the rental Belgian Shepherd, Maxie that came with the house.

Carol service w/ DK and Kefas.
When I walk with Maxie in the hills not far from the house we pass a house with a large German shepherd. As we pass the house the two dogs bark furiously at each other on either side of the security fence. Somehow this reminds me of the barriers between the various ethnic groups that still remain here in the 'Rainbow Nation’.  America is a different place but when I watch media clips and read Facebook posts somehow I’m reminded of those two dogs growling on either side of a dividing wall.

In South Africa there are Christian churches of every ethnicity but little interaction between them. Unfortunately it seems we in the church are just as divided ourselves. Our ‘story group’ has been working through stories from the Book of Acts and the theme of the ‘one multi-ethnic’ family of Abraham comes up again and again. The stories show how the Holy Spirit powerfully worked to form one unified people of God, the Church. The Spirit was poured out on the Samaritans at the laying on of the Apostle’s hand (Acts 8:14-17) and the Jewish believers were amazed when the Spirit was poured out even on Gentiles in the household of Cornelius the Roman centurion (Acts 10:44-48).
That God wanted one multi-ethnic people of the Messiah really hit home when we discussed the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-19). While on his way to Damascus Saul was blinded by the light of the glorified Christ.  Then when Ananias placed his hands on Saul he could see again. After being baptized, Saul preached Jesus fearlessly until he had to flee for his life from Damascus through the city wall in a basket. Later Saul joined the Apostles in Jerusalem where he spoke boldly about Jesus until he was forced to flee for his life to Tarsus. We are told that the church (singular) throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31).  

When Saul, the churches greatest antagonist, fled Jerusalem as a persecuted proponent the church, the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria experienced a time of peace. The one unified church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria is depicted as having the presence and power of the Spirit upon and it grew in numbers (9:31). What a powerful witness of God’s new society they were! They even sold their properties to care for those in need (4:34-35) and they feed their widows daily (Acts 6:1). The one multiethnic people of God showed unity and exhibited charity before the world that Israel’s Messiah was the Lord of all the earth.
Getting to know students from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and South Korea over the past year has been just a small taste of the one multi-ethnic people of God. Being privileged to hear their diverse perspectives on the ‘Story and stories of God’ has been for us a taste of the ‘light and glory’ that Jesus has and is bringing to the world. Thanks so very much for your prayerful support of the ministry God has given us here in South Africa.
With Love / Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
Jay, Laura, Clara (11), Katherine (10) and Lauren Stoms (7).

We invite you to partner with us in prayer. To give financially please send donations on behalf of Jay and Laura Stoms to the Africa Christian Training Institute. Your generosity is deeply appreciated. Send a tax-deductible donation in care of Jay and Laura Stoms to: PLEASE SEND SUPPORT TO: 

Africa Christian Training Institute (Stoms Ministry Fund).
P O Box 15621
Panama City FL 32406-5621

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Many Thanks 2016

Dear Friends and family,  
Lauren (7) with Maxi

The grey mountains that once held the chill and damp winter, later welcomed the spring rains and wild flowers, are now bathed in the large South African sun. The dry heat of Stellenbosch summer is settling in. The Guinea fowl have had their chicks and already left our abode for wider grasslands. The undergraduate students have finished their year, the graduate and post graduates are submitting theses and finishing reading for oral exams.  A few of the internationals we have met will go home to Zambia, Nigeria, or Korea for Christmas, while others like Gilbert from Ghana, who is about to get his Master’s in Food Science will stay through to begin his PHD. The campus can be lonely for the internationals as they feel like they are “alone” in studying at this time. With limited scholarships’, financial constraints, and often having to move to find a cheaper rent, these students carry a lot of stress and pressure to succeed. 

'Braai' for Internationals
On Sunday we hosted an international student braai (barbecue) with friends from Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Korea and South Africa. We had Nigerian rice and potatoes, Korean bbq, noodles and rice, as well as some American homemade ice cream, grilled chicken and salads.  Many helped and were encouraged by the fellowship of the many nations. A Korean friend, who has taught Katherine to watercolour paint, came with her husband.  She recently had shingles just as her husband’s Masters’ thesis was due, and we had not seen them out being social in quite a while.

On January 1 we move from our rental home. On 19 January we move back to the University of Stellenbosch housing flat on the campus.  The girls and I spent a couple of weeks cleaning, sorting and getting rid of stuff (the up side of moving) as they have finished their academic year. I struggle to get our black containers out yet, as I don’t quite want to feel in complete moving mode.  Clara has begun to grieve the loss of her own room, Katherine has photographed most of the garden, and Lauren sketches many pictures of Maxi, the Belgian shepherd “rental dog”, and I am expecting big tears. Meanwhile Jay is thrilled to reduce rent, as well as his facilities management and pest control efforts (squirrels in the roof, flies, sand fleas, tics, frogs, and wasps to name a few).  We hoped to secure a three week house sit (as most South Africans like to have someone in their home to prevent robbery while away). We have a week of house sitting, then will go to a pastoral retreat center with a Korean family and finally to a “basic house” belonging to a friend’s relative located by a river leading to the sea of great white sharks. This year Katherine has really enjoyed the ballet programs and Clara is swimming 4 days a week, trained by the University coaching staff. Lauren has joined ballet with Katherine and swims once a week. Both Katherine and Lauren received piano lessons from University of Stellenbosch students as part of the students’ requirements for study.   Katherine wants two birthday parties this year, one with her international student family and one with her two special ballet friends.

Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare to move again, to care for and transition the girls, each other and to seek to improve the care and encouragement in Christ to our international friends at the University of Stellenbosch.  I've struggled to communicate our situation, but I'm sending this update with thanksgiving and gratitude to each of you. We thank God for your generosity in both prayer and financial support this past year. 

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and We Wishing you a Merry Christmas Season. 
With love in Christ, Laura (on behalf of Jay, Clara, Katherine and Lauren)