Navigating Challenges and Celebrating Victories

February 1, 2021

It is a bittersweet time for all of us at Blessman International.  On one hand, we have had one of our best years to date, despite the pandemic.  Our staff has grown as we added two new interns from the National College of South Africa. We are also adding Dr. Ray Struthers from Iowa to strengthen the quality of our agricultural programs in Africa.

Funding for our general budget is better than any previous year, and our project funding is also coming along exceedingly well.  A few months ago, we were awarded $200,000 from Rotary International for our water and sanitation projects.  Just last week we were also awarded our fourth Global Rotary grant, this one for $100,000 to provide menstrual health kits to impoverished young ladies, and training for 25 women to learn to sew these products and prepare them to set up their own businesses after the grant expires in 18 months.  We also just received funding from Convoy of Hope, our favorite relief organization, to provide water to 2,500 students at St. Bede’s School in Polokwane.  Des Moines First Assembly provided funding through their Christmas offering which will permit us to begin construction of our sports complex as part of our Sports 4 Christ league. We have a grant application pending with Convoy of Hope to expand our Teach a Child to Fish from 10 schools to 116; we are praying that will also be approved.

On the other hand, this has been one of the most difficult years I have experienced in 20 years of ministry in Africa. COVID-19 has forced us to cancel all our mission teams since March of 2020.  We would usually have 120 short-term missionaries volunteering with us in Africa.  This has caused a significant decrease (about $400,000) in our in-kind funding.

The biggest hit came last week when we learned that our beloved pastor, Dr. Manyathela died from the COVID-19 virus.  He had served with us for the past 7 years.  He was a young man in his 40s with a beautiful wife and two young children.  I am not sure how we and our church will manage without him, but we are sure that God will provide a way.  He was a full-time dentist and provided well for his family, but now we worry for his children’s future.  We will be setting up a funding platform on our website where any of you wanting to contribute to bless his widow and two beautiful children can easily do this.

Beth and I are mourning the fact that we cannot be in Africa serving the people that we have grown to love.  This is the longest that we have been out of Africa.  Beth and I are praying that we can finally get back to South Africa mid to late February, but only time will tell if that is the wise thing for us to do.  The COVID-19 virus is very active in Mokopane now.

Your continued prayers for our ministry and staff as we move forward during this difficult time would be appreciated.