Author Archives: Elyse Seal

Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela photo

“Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes. We would be honored if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation, and cultural diversity.”

This is the Mandela Day campaign message. Every July 18th, South Africans come together and do at least 67 minutes of community service. This year everything has been about COVID-19 alleviation. People were passing out cooked food, food parcels, masks, and sanitizer all over South Africa.

Some members of Sonrise Church and I have been delivering cooked meals and food parcels to people in Kempton Park since April. We have networked with several NGO’s in our community to help people in need. So, when one of our partner NGO’s stepped up and said it wanted to feed 1800 people on Mandela Day, we pledged to feed 100 people here in Kempton Park.

We ended up feeding around 160 people. Three of our local ward councilors (elected officials who serve the community and have supported us with other problems) came to show us support. Some of our students from Sonrise School (Ary and Owen’s school) helped with preparing and serving the meals to get some community service hours. We even made it into the newspaper. You can find the article here: kemptonexpress.co.za/293337/multiple-kempton-entities-took-hands-on-mandela-day/

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June 2020 Prayer Letter

I wish this letter had more solid details of our future. However, like many of you, our lives are up in the air right now. We are in a time of waiting.

These last few months Ryan has been finishing up projects and preparing to hand them off. He has been applying for jobs and having interviews. However, immigration is still shut down completely so we cannot get new visas yet. The situation in South Africa is uncertain. In September, our current visas run out; so we have a short-term plan for June and July. In August, Immigration is supposed to re-open, however that is not definite. We will re-evaluate our situation in August to see where God is leading us. Our desire is to stay in South Africa. We have most of our paperwork together. We are just waiting and trusting God. In the interim, Ryan is allowed to do freelance work for American companies. God has also blessed us recently so we should not be in need from June to September. God keeps proving to us day by day that he is going to take care of us in these uncertain times. He is our surety, not money.

A trunk full of groceries thanks to generous donations!

Since Lockdown hit on March 27th, Elyse has been helping out the community by buying food for people in need. She usually buys food for 5-6 families every week. She also donates to a friend’s charity who is feeding around 300 people a day. Another one of Elyse’s friends has connections to hear of people’s needs. Elyse has been collecting baby clothes, baby supplies, food, and other necessities from people to give to the poor. Elyse and Ryan have both driven people to and from the hospital as needed. Don’t worry. We are being sanitary and safe.

Ary and Owen’s Corner

Aryanna and Owen ready for our morning walks.

Ary and Owen are adapting to being at home all the time. Since May 1st we have been allowed to go on morning walks. That has helped their cabin fever. Ary and Owen are both doing well in home-school. Ary’s teacher tries to send two videos a week however she has a lot of technical issues so Mommy has been coming up with a lot of school ideas. Ary likes wearing a mask but Owen does not so when we go out he has a face shield.

Stay in touch!

Thank you for being part of our team these last 11 years. We appreciate your prayers, support, and encouragement. We keep getting asked, “what if I still want to support you?” Donations to TWR will no longer reach us. It will go to general TWR funds. We are not in need so if you do want to keep supporting us, we will use that money to help people in our community struggling to make ends meet because of COVID-19. Please message us privately if you want to do this.

We will not be sending out any more physical newsletters but we will continue to write in the blog and send out e-mail updates.

It has been an adventurous 11 years. Thank you for sticking with us and for your commitment to Kingdom work. We have appreciated your prayers, support, and encouragement.

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Corona Virus in South Africa

It’s Day 30 of our 35 day (at-least) Lockdown. Like the rest of you, we were keeping an eye on COVID-19 since it started spreading around the world. On March 15th, Owen’s birthday, President Ramaphosa addressed South Africa talking about the seriousness of the situation and instituting social distancing. Therefore, we postponed Owen’s birthday party. Soon, it was obvious that this party was not going to happen so we celebrated as a family. Later that week, Ryan started working from home. His “office” is set up in the garage.

On March 23rd, President Ramaphosa addressed the nation again and announced a 21 day national lock-down would start on March 27th. That week lines were long in all shops. Everyone was ready to batten down the hatches for lock-down. The president urged people that grocery stores would remain open and stocked but people were panic buying anyway. We started seeing limits on certain things such as rice, canned beans, tuna, and oil. Then on April 15th President Ramaphosa announced the locked was to be extended for an additional 14 days. Then on April 23rd he announced that on May 1st the lockdown would only lift slighlty to a “stage 4” that will allow just a few more business sectors to open. For many, the lockdown will last far longer than 35 days.

I know that most states have a stay at home order but South Africa’s lock-down is serious. We are not allowed to leave our property unless we are going to the hospital, bank, grocery store, pharmacy or to work for an essential service. All other stores are closed. We are not even allowed to be in the common area of our complex except to take our garbage out to the road and to get in our cars. All schools are closed. Ary’s school has started some online schooling. Many families do not have computers or wifi so e-learning may not be an option for every family. I go out once a week to go grocery shopping. Most people are walking around in homemade masks. I have seen police blockades where the police are stopping people at random to inquire about why they are out of their homes. Police are also patrolling  high density areas to make sure people are obeying the lock-down. Tension and fear are in the air. Many people have lost jobs. Many people here live week to week if not day to day so many people are suffering.

The news is not all bad though. While each of us is struggling to accommodate an abnormal life, we are becoming closer as a church and family. We have been doing some special things together as a family such as camping in the back yard, doing special events for each day of Holy Week, baking cookies for neighbors, and movie nights. We have been doing a little homeschooling everyday too. We have been spending more time praying and reading the Bible. We have been finding ways to communicate and encourage one another. We are separated from each other in body but not in spirit. The church in South Africa has really stepped up to help the poor in our area. We have been told of needs for food and essentials and people have enthusiastically replied and given to people in need. Women who are about to give birth are especially in need as they cannot buy clothing. Many people have been digging into their closets and finding essentials for these new babies. We had one family absolutely speechless after we delivered food and baby supplies to them. All they could say was, “How is it that you can be so generous? Who are you people? God bless you.”

Some of our donors have donated money to us to help people who are starving. Every week when I go to the grocery store, I look like I am panic buying, I have so much food. Usually I can get enough for six or seven families. We have people who we specifically help and an organization that is in a sketchy neighborhood that helps feed the community. This organization went from feeding 20 families a week to just over 300 people a day. They still have to turn people away because they are out of food. So, to my donors who have sent money for that purpose, thank you. If anyone would like to pitch in as well, please message Elyse on facebook or email one of us.

So what does this lock-down mean for our future? Honestly, we don’t know. Our desire is to stay in South Africa but at this point everything is unsure. We have background checks floating around somewhere being processed or waiting to be processed. Our flights to the United States in June were cancelled. We are waiting until after the lock-down to buy new tickets. We, like many people, are sitting in limbo. We are trying not to be anxious and trusting God for each day.

You can pray that all our paperwork comes through for visas and that Ryan can find a job in South Africa.

Please pray for the poor in our country who have nothing right now and are confined to a small space together in this lock-down. Pray that communities will be brought together to help and encourage one another. Pray that we can be a blessing to our community. Pray that we will speak the name of Jesus boldly in this time.

Pray for our anxiety. We are saying, “I believe. Help my unbelief”

Please contact us about how you are doing during this time. Write back to us and tell us how we can pray for you.

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Riots and Protests

Burned and looted buildings. Tires on fire. Angry shouts in the streets as protestors stand on one street and the police stand on the other. People having to evacuate banks and malls because the riot is coming their way. Streets blocked by buses and taxis. These were some of the sights of Kempton Park and Johannesburg in September.

Protests, riots, and strikes are common in South Africa. You are prepared for them but you also don’t take a lot of notice to them unless they are close to you. Then you get out fast. People don’t pay attention to what people are protesting about because they are too focused on the violence that is done. The protests and riots achieve nothing positive. This month people have been protesting businesses hiring people from other African nations over South Africans. There are a lot of complexities to cause the tension; however, during this protest, I did not see evil men who wanted to hurt this country. I saw desperate men who just want to survive and feed their families. Please pray for these South Africans that they can find jobs to care for their families. Pray that as a country South Africans will help their neighbors. Pray against prejudice.

The other protest that happened is a protest about violence against women. Domestic violence is rampant in South Africa. There has also been an increase in kidnapping, raping, and killing women. There has been an increase in abandoned babies and young unmarried women being arrested for these abandonments. People are standing up and saying this must stop. Women need to be respected and valued. Please pray that as we can be part of that change. Pray that we can help women in need. Pray that our Women of Hope programs and prayer groups can help women hear the truth of Jesus and encourage one another. Pray for the hearts of men in this country that they would hear and accept Jesus. Pray that they would start seeing the women as God sees them: as precious daughters and valuable pratners.

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Hospitality

This term in South Africa has gone quite different than I expected or wanted. When we were on furlough last, I told you I was going to be more involved with TWR and writing more programs. I wrote one program and it was a stretching and encouraging experience. However since I completed that program, my skills have not been needed at TWR. I was frustrated that my plans fell through but after my sulking was done I started asking God what He had in mind for me in ministry. I love my children and love caring for them but I was also looking to do more. God has slowly been growing me in the area of hospitality. It took me surrenduring my plans and putting my “yes” on the table; to listen to God each day and go in the direction he leads; to take the next right step and have that be enough.

There are a lot of beggers on the corners of the roads we drive. There are so many, we don’t know who to help so a lot of times we don’t help anyone. One day while driving to the grocery store, we passed an old man. I felt a stirring from the Holy Spirit to give him food. I got extra food for him and the next day went to give him my little bundle. I couldn’t just give him the bag of food without blocking traffic so I had to park my car and get out to give him the food. This also meant I had to talk to him. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to say and truthfully I can’t remember what I said but we started getting to know each other for a few minutes. The next week I gave him another bundle but this time the Holy Spirit told me to invite this man and his room mate to our home for supper! Invite over a complete stranger? You must be hearing wrong. But that thought wouldn’t leave my mind and the feeling of urgency to do so. I first asked Ryan to see if he was ok with it – if he wan’t, that would let me off the hook… but he was ok with it.

God told me that we should be inviting the poor, the sick, the ousiders, the unwanted to our tables. I was an outsider and He invited me. I can now sit at God’s table and enjoy his food and presence. Being hospitable to these people is a way to show them the love of God. It is the way Jesus ministered with people most of the time. I decided to follow Jesus’ example. I invited Fred over for supper. Nothing magical or exciting happened at that supper. We got to know each other better and shared a yummy meal together. Ever since then, when I bring Fred’s package we sit and chat about our week for about 10 minutes. We will definitely be inviting him and others over again.

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The Persecuted Church in Nigeria

My dear friends,

Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria need your prayers.

Church leaders in Nigeria report that 6,000 Christians, mostly women and children have been murdered since January. According to Open Door, which is a charity that provides aid to Christians who are persecuted for their faith, Islamic radicals who are allied with Boko Haram are “descending on the villages in the night or in the day and carry out cruel attacks against innocent people, including women and children.”

There has been an outcry to the government to stop the slaughter but so far they have done nothing. Appeals have been sent to the United Nations as well. Many people are fearing that Nigeria will become a county of genocide comparable to what happened in Rwanda in 1994.

My words can not fully convey the desperation of the situation in Nigeria but here are some stories that can help. https://www.hudson.org/research/14792-an-unrecognized-genocide-in-nigeria

How can we help our persecuted brothers and sisters?

Pray.

Pray for God’s protection over these people.

Pray that people would not fall away from Jesus because of fear.

Pray for the people carrying out the attacks that they would be stopped. Pray for God to convict their hearts. Pray that they would be saved. God did it for Saul. Why can’t he for Islamic radicalists?

TWR is building a powerful 200,000 watt transmitter that will be able to broadcast into all of Nigeria plus some of the surrounding countries like Cameroon, Niger, and Benin. We hope to have programs broadcasting by the end of 2019. There is hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please pray the people would hear the message of the gospel and believe. Pray that our programs would encourage the believers in Nigeria.

Do you want to do more? Give to the TWR Oasis Project or to Open Doors. You may not be able to go but you can support those who can.

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Cyclone Idai

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/Idai_2019-03-13_1052Z.jpg

Many of you were hit with a cyclone bomb with wild blizzards and terrible flooding. We are sorry to hear of the destruction that the storm left in its wake especially for those of you in Nebraska. We have been encouraged by the stories we have heard about how people are pulling together to help each other. Please know you are in our prayers.

At about the same time, Africa was also hit with a terrible Category 3 cyclone. Cylcone Idai hit Mozambique on March 14th but it also affected the countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe with storms and flooding. South Africa even had some power outtages due to Idai. This storm came out of no where and no one was prepared for it. The official count so far is about 1000 dead but so many are missing that we may never know how many people died in the floods. Searches for missing people have been called off so they can care for the living.

Cylcone Idai destroyed about 100,000 homes, about 1 million acres of crops, and washed out many roads. People in the port town of Beira in Mozambique were clinging to rooftops and trees even a week after the storm hit. People are struggling to find food, clean water, and shelter. To make matters worse, cholera has spread among the crowded survivors. 1400 cases have popped up in the last week. Rescue workers and relief organizations have flocked in to help but there is so much need and not enough help.

TWR’s shortwave and AM broadcasts have not been disturbed as we broadcast from Swaziland. We are still sending out a message of hope to our listeners who desperately need to hear it in their time of despair. Pray that our listeners will hear the hope that is found in Jesus and will turn to him.

Some of our local ladies who are a part of our Women of Hope ministry have started a collection of blankets, clothing, non-perishable food, and money to send to other Women of Hope groups in Mozambique.

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Shine as Lights in the World

What do we like to complain about most?

If you live in South Africa, the answer is load shedding. You can complain with everyone and anyone about load shedding and they will happily join in bashing the company who provides electricity to all of South Africa.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with load shedding, it is when the power company turns off your power for a couple hours during the day on a rotating schedule so that the system doesn’t crash. However, even though the company puts out a schedule for when the power outage will happen in your area, they do not follow the schedule that they put out. You never know when your power will go out and for how long it will last. Fortunately, it usually only lasts a couple of hours.

A week ago while I was reading my Bible, I came across Philippians 2:14 ” Do all things without grumbling or complaining” The Holy Spirit brought to my attention that when I speak to people, whether I know them or not, it is easier to complain about load shedding, the weather, the government ect. Yes, those things frustrate me. But instead of always dwelling on them and complaining how hard it makes my life, maybe I should be thankful that I do have electricity most of the time. I should be thankful that I can store a month’s worth of meat in my freezer because I have electricity. I can have a fan running in my kids’ rooms because I have electricity. I have the money to go out for dinner on those rare occasions when we don’t have power and I can’t cook a hot supper. I have a place to charge my phone so I can communicate with people especially my family across the world. I never think to thank God for electricity when it is always on but now that it turns on and off, I am more conscious of the blessing I have.

Instead of complaining, I choose to be thankful and satisfied with what I have. I am also starting to be prepared for when I don’t have it. The power going out in the morning is exciting to the kids now because it means we are taking a walk to the playground with a snack. I now make sure I have a meal on hand that can be made without cooking until we can get a portable gas stove. We have a lantern and candles if the power goes off at night. The power going out is also a blessing because it forces us to be creative and spend time together and with others around us.

Also speaking positively about these kinds of difficulites to others makes you different. You are not joining the crowd in complaining. It is just one of the ways you can ,”be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” which is Phillipains 2:15.

In a time when we celebrate the Light of the World coming to us. Let’s share some of that light. Let’s show people the joy in our lives in spite of troubles because we have Jesus in our lives. One small way to do that for me is not starting a conversation with complaints but with goodness and the blessing in the weather and load shedding.

Merry Christmas from the summer in South Africa. We love you all. I hope you experience the blessing of the season where we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us: Jesus.

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Sand Stories

At the beginning of September, we took a much needed family trip to Swaziland. It is only a four hour drive to the border or six if you have two toddlers. I have crossed a couple of borders before so I thought I knew what I was in for. I was wrong. First surprise was we had to get out of our car on the South African side of the border. We had to go into a building, wait in a long slow moving line to get our passports stamped. The second surprise was we had to drive 300 feet to the Swaziland side of the border and do the same thing!

Once we were in Mbabane, we had a wonderful time. When you are in Swaziland, you can open up the window in the morning and hear nothing but the birds singing. Internet access is sketchy at best so we enjoyed several days of just being together as a family and having fun. We went to a game park where we could get out and walk. We saw lots of buck and zebra up close. We saw two crocodiles too but didn’t want to to come too close to them. I was quite proud of Ary. She walked 2 km without a complaint.

Chilling by the swimming pool

The braai master

Greetings to Miliwane Park by a buck

We also stopped to see some TWR friends. The kids and I finally got to visit the transmitter site where many of our programs are broadcast. Our friend who runs the transmitter site told us a fantastic story about the building at the site.

TWR did not have the money for all the materials to build the building at the transmitter site. Specifically they did not have enough money for the sand and transporting it to the site. They started praying to God that he would provide the funds. Later, Swaziland experienced a big and ferocious thunderstorm that lasted for three days. When the workers came to check for damage at the site, they discovered a vast amount of sand deposited in the stream next to the site. God provided the sand and the transportation to the site so the building could be built.

The sand you see below us is where the sand was deposited by God’s storm

The transmitter site today

We all have sand stories. Stories where God took a terrible storm in you life and provided for you. Stories where God answered your prayer but not in the way you expected. Since living over here in South Africa and joining TWR. I have learned to pray specifically and then expect God to show up and He does. God is faithful. Sometimes I just need to pay attention more to see what God is doing.

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Carry One Anothers’ Burdens

“Can my daughters and I sleep in your garage? We are being kicked out and have no place to go.” I was caught by surprise when my neighbor showed up and made such an interesting request. Our garage can barely fit a car inside it. It has one power outlet and one light. My answer, “definitely not! If you need a place to stay, you can stay in our home.”

We have become friends with our neighbor and her three girls over the past six months. The three girls are 9, 13, and 14. they moved in the day after we did. Ary and Owen had so much fun being adored by these girls. At first they would come over and knock on our door so they could play with Ary and Owen. As we got to know them, I noticed the girls were often home alone. Then I noticed that the oldest girl didn’t go to school. When I asked her about it, she said that they didn’t have enough money for school fees, a new uniform, and all her books and supplies. Once they had saved up enough she would be able to go. About once a month she would come to me excitedly about how she would be going to school next week but then next week would come she still wasn’t able to go. Then, when they started coming over after school, the girls would ask for food. They hadn’t eaten all day.

It turns out that this seemingly happy family was having hard financial times even though both parents are working. Also as is quite common lately, we discovered that the dad had a girlfriend and was not caring for his family as he ought to. So, when they were kicked out of their apartment, we took the three girls to temporarily live with us.

It was quite an adjustment going from two children to five especially with two teenagers. Thank God that he works us up to teenagers and doesn’t give the to us right off. Keeping up with everyone’s needs like food, clothes, and sleep were exhausting for me. Ary and Owen were now sharing a small room that had just enough room to put their beds and a dresser. We had to move most of Ary’s things from her closet to Owen’s closet to make room for the girls to have room to put their things in Ary’s closet. Ary and Owen did not like the idea at first of sleeping in the same room. Owen still wakes up in the night and so neither of them slept well. Ary also woke up Owen in the morning and at nap time quite frequently.

Our grocery bill jumped up quite a bit and cleaning became a bigger priority with more people living in our home. Ryan and I had to wake up earlier so we could get the girls off to school. We always made sure that they had something to eat before they left and made lunches for them. I think the hardest thing for me is that I had no down time ever. As soon as I got Ary and Owen down for a nap, the girls got home from school and wanted my attention.

As hectic as our lives became, I can’t imagine how the girls felt as their world became flipped upside down, living away from their mom and dad. I was glad that we could be there to provide a little stability in their lives while they finished up their last three weeks at school and more importantly, exams. Even in the chaos, I hope Ryan and I spoke into their lives. Many people were shocked that we even took these girls in, saying we were crazy. The girls were just aching for love and boundaries. We gave them that and they were great kids. We don’t have tv in our home so we ended up listening to music, talking, and playing board games a lot more. Plus we got them to study for their exams. I learned first hand about Black culture here in South Africa

We were able to take a lot of pressure off the girls’ mama. She was so overwhelmed and downtrodden that she had considered suicide. She said, she could never repay us for what we had done. She asked if we were really angels in disguise. I told her, “no, we are just people who are obeying God and helping our sister in Christ.”

We are told to carry each others burdens in Galatians 6:2. I was listening to a sermon about this passage when I was getting more frustrated with the situation we were in. The pastor said that the word burdens refers to trouble that the person got themselves into. So often I find I don’t want to help people because they got themselves into this trouble by their bad choices. They are just reaping the consequences of their decisions. God put this on my heart, “Did I leave you alone to reap the consequences of your sin? Did I leave you to spend eternity in hell?” It changed the way I look at helping people and bearing one anothers burdens.

After school was over, the mom and dad were able to take the girls home with them. I have not heard from them since. I have tried to communicate with them but there is no reply. Please pray for this family.

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