On February 4 I will be three quarters of a century old. I am actually a bit amazed that I have lived so long. There certainly have been a few bumps along the way, but at the end of the day my life has been full of joy. I am feeling good and full of energy. I cannot imagine anything that I would rather be doing than living here in South Africa and serving as an ambassador of God’s love for the African people and the many short-term missionaries who travel here to serve with us.

We just finished 10 days with our first team of the year from Father Ray’s church, St. Francis in West Des Moines. They love coming and serving with us and we love working with them. This was the sixth year in a row that Father Ray has brought a team and he has already reserved the second week of January 2021. At first, it stretched us to work with people of a slightly different faith than us, but as we learned to serve together, they have become a big blessing to Blessman International and to the children here in South Africa. When we eventually get to Heaven, I believe that there will be many surprises as to who we see there and who we do not see. I feel my role is to help as many souls as possible find their way there. I remember with a smile many years ago I was on a medical mission to Brazil. I asked this young boy if he would like to go to Heaven and he replied, “No, no, not yet.” In the early days, I was much too aggressive. Over the years I have learned that a slower, gentler approach is more effective and much more enjoyable, even for me. I find that the example of how I am living my life is much more effective than my words could ever be.

We have already started to train our team to start a program called Celebrate Recovery for the youth at one of our large high schools here. Our first presentation to the student body was just one day after the funeral of one of their ninth grade classmates who had committed suicide. Sadly, there is a big drug and alcohol problem in the youth here. Please pray with me that many children will sign up for this voluntary program which can be so effective at healing the hurts and unhealthy behavior that they are mired in.

Next week we are starting our Sports for Christ program. We are creating a new league of eight churches that will each field a soccer and netball team. The games will all be played on our new soccer field at Del Cramer. While the grass and goals have been prepared, we still need to build stadium seating and several other things to make it a sports complex done with excellence. Our first soccer game will be on February 1. Since this is being done as a church league, there will be a spiritually motivational presentation by one of the eight pastors before each game for the benefit of the players and fans.

I appreciate all of the prayers and support from our many friends in America and South Africa.

Usually this time of year, I focus a lot of attention on accomplishments and failures of the past 12 months and look forward to what I hope to accomplish in the coming year.

This year, I am focusing on my own health and frailty. I will be seventy-five years old in just one month and that feels like a significant milestone. I still have no plans to retire or change what I am doing, but a couple of weeks ago, I had a pacemaker put into my heart. This is a pretty simple operation and rarely complicated, but I did end up with a complication that was very significant for me.

Five days after receiving the pacemaker, I thought that I should be feeling better and better. I love riding my e-assist bike and I looked at getting the pacemaker like adding e-assist to my heart. I was trying to take some short walks to help my recovery, but on the 5th day I started having pain in my chest which got worse and worse every few minutes. I asked Beth to take me to the emergency room, because I thought that I either had a collapsed lung or was in the middle of a heart attack. After about 3 hours in the ER my pain was the most severe that I have ever experienced. Each heart beat was excruciating. I felt for sure that I was near death, which turned out to be my brick wall.

My chest x-ray was normal and my cardiologist was able to put a catheter in my coronary arteries to prove that they were okay and I was not having a heart attack. It turned out that I simply had pericarditis, which is not particularly serious, but for me was extremely painful. I am now one week past all of that and feeling better every day.

I feel like I have been given a second chance at life and I look forward to getting back to South Africa and starting over on my walking exercise program and the work that God has called me to do to help the children in Africa. I have had many second chances in my life and I appreciate each and every one of them. They say that a cat has nine lives and I am sure that I have used up well more than half of my lives, but I am feeling better and looking forward to what is next.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year and want to let all of you know how much I appreciate your friendship and support.

Thank you,