In September 2010 our church, Friendship Baptist Church, sponsored a Missions Trip to South Africa to visit a missionary couple sent by our church, Gene and Jeanie Hayden. The Hayden’s were a retired couple that had been asked by Missionary Marc Blackwell Sr. to come to South Africa to help the Blackwell’s mission work. In the 10+ years they had been in South Africa (Cape Town area), the Hayden’s had been instrumental in forming a church (Paarl Valley Baptist) and in forming the Paardeberg Mountain Retreat (Christian Camp). During this mission trip, we were able to help at the camp (staining decks, staining doors in new Multi-purpose building, clearing brush and other tasks) as well as visit several local churches. It was during this trip that Lord taught my wife and I to love the South African people and to have a burden for the camp and local churches.
In October 2015 our church sponsored a Men for Missions trip to Paardeberg Mountain Retreat to work on completing a new two-room cabin and a new section of the Multi-purpose room. We also visited two local churches. Again, we felt drawn to the people and the camp. While at the camp, I had a chance to talk to the Camp Director, Malcomb McRobert. I mentioned to him that I would soon be retiring from IBM and was looking for what the Lord had for me to do to serve Him during my retirement years.
In April 2016, I received an email from Malcomb McRobert asking if my wife and I would consider coming to South Africa as he explained that there were two areas of potential ministry for us.
One area of ministry is with the Christian Camp, Paardeberg Mountain Retreat. Malcomb presented the needs of this ministry, specifically with developing a proactive maintenance plan for the camp (water/sewer systems, roads, cabins, etc.). Malcomb feels that a proactive plan (rather than waiting to fix something once it breaks) will keep the camp running more smoothly and allow the camp to be more cost efficient. Other areas of need include assisting with camps, helping with clean-up during/after camps and possibly helping with keeping the camp financial books.
The second ministry area is to help with the church plant at Grace Baptist Church – Lingelethu Township Malmesbury. This is a church plant to the Black people in one of the townships and that was being led by missionaries Russ and Barbara Stockman, who eventually retired in 2016. The areas at Grace that we are being asked to help with include running the youth Sunday School (Sue) and teen/adult Sunday School (Roger), preaching the morning service (as much as I can), and running the youth group. I have exchanged emails with Marc Blackwell Jr. who is, and will remain, the Pastor of this church. Marc also pastors an African speaking church.
We feel the Lord is leading us to take advantage of this opportunity to serve Him. My wife and I are both retired, in good health, and eager to serve the Lord.
I grew up in a non-Christian home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our family never attended church together; however, for a short time I attended Sunday school and youth meetings at a Dutch Reformed church near my home. I was also able to attend vacation Bible school meetings that a neighbor conducted. However, I do not remember ever hearing the gospel during my formative years.
While in the Army stationed in Okinawa Japan, a friend invited me to a BIMI missionary church where I heard the gospel and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savoir. I remember being excited as a new believer, going around witnessing and handing out tracks. A couple weeks later, the missionary went home on furlough, and I sort of fell through the cracks, stopped attending church and went back to my old life style. While I was living pretty much as I had before I had been saved, I had been changed and there was something (the Holy Spirit) prodding and convicting me when I sinned.
Years later, after I had left the military, I was attending college at Michigan State University, and my wife, Sue, mentioned that she wanted to start going to church. It was near Christmas, so on Christmas Day we set out to find a church service. To my surprise, no churches were open on Christmas Day, though we did find a church to try the following Sunday. We went to church the next Sunday morning and started attending regularly. I began to grow as a Christian. When I was set to graduate and move to Vermont, we asked the Pastor to recommend a church in the area where we were moving. The Pastor said the Church of Christ churches in New England were quite different from the one we were attending. He said we would likely be happier in a Baptist church (He forgot to warn us about Independent, Fundamental Baptist churches ;-).
The first Sunday morning in Vermont, we went to the First Baptist Church in Burlington, Vermont. It was your typical cold, unfriendly church full of old people. That evening we went to another Baptist church in Shelburne, Vermont. This church was friendly, and we were invited to join a group of young people at a member’s home that evening. A couple days later, I met one of those young people at work, and he remembered me. We returned to that church and soon became members. This turned out to be an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church.
At this church, I learned that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. This truth changed my life and has made me take my Christian life seriously. From that point on, the Lord became the primary focus in my life, and I have never looked back.
I did not grow up in a Christian home. Even though that was the case, I always felt something was missing in my life. I spent many years searching for meaning in my life, often in all the wrong places. I dread to think of what might have happened if the Lord had not saved me.
One Christmas after my husband and I were married, my husband asked me if I would like to go to a Christmas service. After a while, I agreed to go. Well, we could not find a church open that day so we went the next Sunday. I had been to many different churches during my search for meaning in my life and all of them were based on works. This church was different; the Gospel was actually preached. After the service, the pastor asked if he could come and talk to us. We agreed, and he sat down with us and explained the Gospel. I realized this was what I had been searching for all along and accepted the Lord right then. I am so thankful the Lord directed us to this church and more importantly that He loved me before I even knew Him.