Whirlwind Stirs Renewed Growth
Dr. Jim Blessman
Bethany Kester, Program Coordinator at our U.S. location, and her husband Jack and my wife Beth and I arrived in South Africa on May 17. Dustin also recently returned here after two weeks in the U.S. It has been a whirlwind of activity for us since we arrived!
Bethany and Jack are working to get our computer lab up and running again to add a new School-in-a-Box program to further educate children at Del Cramer in math, science, and English.
Dustin and I had a good meeting with the new induna of our village to bring him up do date with all we are doing. Our relationship with the tribal community is very important for our long-term success in working with this village.
I am assisting with two medical patients. Christelle, whom many friends of Blessman International know pretty well, continues to battle her stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Although her marker numbers continue to climb, she is still coping well medically all things considered. Her family suffers tremendously with poverty, and we assist them in every way we can. Last week, we got a nice donation of winter clothes for everyone in their family, and we also deliver packets of food to them. I added a second patient, Michael. He is the 26-year-old son of Lennie, one of our domestic workers. Michael suffers from renal failure and just started on dialysis. We are praying that this will not be a chronic condition requiring dialysis forever as his chance of getting a renal transplant will be difficult due to the extreme poverty and limited access to medical care. I am seeking to learn what might have caused his kidney failure. He has high blood pressure but no diabetes which is a common cause of renal failure among young people. Please add Christelle and Michael and their families to your prayers.
Our two churches remain strong with good attendance at live services. Mountain View Church is thriving under the leadership of Johanney with Ray now beginning to assist him. Their Friday night youth services are well attended and enjoyed by nearly 80 high school students each week. Two nights a week they hold a Bible study in neighborhood family homes. I was impressed when I attended one of these last week. It was not just another social evet. The group was deeply studying the Bible. This week’s study was on Ephesians.
We are preparing to academically mentor some of the students who attend Sterkrivier boarding school on Saturdays. We will be signing a new MOU (memorandum of understanding) between this school and Blessman International later this week to permit us to continue using the school hall for our church services. In return, we assist the school with mowing their soccer field and will dig a new septic system for them. The school has grown tremendously and now has about 200 students with 150 of them being boarding students. Our goal is to get more and more of these students involved in our church and sports programs. Lighthouse Church also remains very strong with many children attending children’s church and young people attending our Celebrate Recovery services each week. On Saturday, over 200 high school youth invested a full day at Del Cramer to hear motivational speeches and gain career guidance.
Our agricultural programs at Mountain View Farm and Del Cramer are both looking good. I am excited to have Ray here as a consultant to assist Johanney in making our agricultural programs even better. This last week they assisted Sterkrivier School by installing shade netting to make their garden even more productive. This is one of the 10 schools a part of our Teach a Child to Fish agricultural program in partnership with Rotary. We await a possible new $60,000 grant from Convoy of Hope to expand this program to 6 more schools. I estimate this program helps feed around 7,500 children through high quality gardens. For the past few years, I have been desiring to improve the quality of data we collect on children we assist. With the severe economic impact of the pandemic the last 15 months, we are finding more and more malnourished children and are rapidly expanding our feeding programs with lots of assistance from Convoy of Hope and Meals from the Heartland. We have established 7 feeding hubs around much of Southern Africa and each hub distributes food out to several churches, preschools and community feeding programs. With these 7 hubs, we currently assist approximately 60,000 children with 5 meals each week.
To improve the quality of information about the children we assist, we contracted with a couple of programmers who are helping us write our own software system to collect and store data. We hope to accurately record each child’s attendance and nutrition information along with quarterly measurements of height, weight, and arm circumference. We also hope to scan into the program their academic performance with school report cards and health and vaccinations records.
Our Sports 4 Christ program continues to gain steam. This last week we completed the acrylic painting of the netball and volleyball court and will be adding the goals to that this week. We have been successful at eradicating most of the thistles from our grass soccer field. Our women’s netball team now has a coach and team members who will play their first games the weekend of June 5th. We will hold our first soccer game for the boys the same weekend. The pavilion seating for our sports complex arrived and will be installed over the next 2 weeks as well. Over the weekend, Dustin and I flew to Durban to meet with Musco Sports Lighting’s representative who will come to Mokopane on June 1st to do their first site visit preparing to install LED professional sports lighting for our sports complex. Estimated date of completion for the lighting is mid-September. The entire village is getting excited about the progress they see as construction of this great project continues.
While we were in Durban this weekend, we also visited our friends from Focus on the Family. We have partnered with them for 9 years by providing a shipping container of Meals from the Heartland rice and soy protein meals each year. This partnership was started with the help of our mutual friends Gary and Barb Rosberg who connected us with Focus on the Family. I would like to do something special to celebrate our 10-year anniversary of working together next year!
Our child sponsorship program, One Child at a Time, continues to develop and function well. Nearly all 135 children at Del Cramer have active American sponsors who communicate with them through letters each quarter. We are planning a festive birthday celebration for all the children who had birthdays since our last celebration 2 months ago. We hope to add a virtual option so U.S. families can enjoy being part of this celebration. We plan to accomplish this while the Joshua Christian Academy team is here. We are working to deepen the relationship between our Del Cramer children and the JCA students in America. While that team is here, we also plan to refurbish a village home that needs enlarged and lots of updating. In addition, they will be doing a couple of menstrual health outreaches.
I greatly appreciate your faithful prayers and generous financial support – the fuel which powers these ministries. May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His Face shine upon you, and give you peace.