Blog

Below you’ll find several stories, letters and updates about my “life. It’s exactly what the link claims it is: my blog. It’s mainly intended to keep people up to date about my ministry. The quarterly prayer letters will be posted here as well as any other additional updates or stories. Thanks for taking time to read.

The Long Awaited Update

I have sat down to write this update several times, but up until now, there was still nothing to tell you except that we are still waiting. When COVID-19 hit South Africa in March, everything was shut down. South Africa slowly reopened over the last six months. First, we could come out for a few hours a day to exercise. Then, right as winter hit, the clothing stores opened. Clothing flew off the shelves as soon as it got there as we experienced one of the coldest winters in five years. School opened, then closed, then opened, then closed, then took a little break, and finally opened with strict protocols. Once barbers could open their doors again, there was a three hour wait for their services especially since only one client could come in at a time. I danced a little when we were legally allowed to visit each other again. I could have danced down the aisles when our church reopened too. On September 16th, we finally went down to Lockdown level 1. Immigration and international travel opened again.

Last Monday we went to an immigration consultant, we were told that we have two options. We can return to the USA and apply for Ryan’s critical skill visa there however South Africa is still restricting travel to high risk countries and as always, the USA is number one. We would have to get permission to travel to and from the States from a high up government official. We would also have to each have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel. The other option is to get a waiver and apply for the visas in South Africa. To do this, Ryan must have a job offer or contract and getting the waiver takes six weeks. Then we can apply for visas and permanent residence.

We are opting for the second choice because if we leave South Africa, we may not be able to return. Our current visas are valid until next year December, so we have time.

We have been asked time and time again, why are you staying in South Africa? Wouldn’t it be easier to move back to the USA? Yes, it would but both of us have a strong feeling that God is not done with us here in South Africa. We miss you all dearly especially our family, but we need to be here. Our ministry here has changed but it is not done.

In our last letter, we told you that Elyse and some other women in our church were helping the needy in our community. What started as helping one or two other families has become a full-blown ministry over the last six months. We are helping ten families now. The number waxes and wanes as people get back on their feet or lose contact with us. We help with food parcels and cooked meals the most. We also help with clothing and transportation. We have taken people to the hospital for treatment and even paid for some doctor appointments. We raised money for rent for an elderly gentleman who was in a bad and dangerous position. We raised enough to pay rent for a year. We have helped a little with gas money for a lady who needed to get back and forth to court. We are trying to find housing for a homeless man right now. We are also helping a family protect a woman and kids from an abusive father. We connect with other Nonprofit Organizations and support each other. We have become a community with these families, some more than others. Some of the ladies have started cooking with us. Some are giving of what they have and collecting donations for others. The helped are becoming the helpers. We are joining with a friend’s NPO so we can be legitimate. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am going to be fundraising again. Many of you have reached out to me in the last six months and given before I even asked. Thank you. Your donations and prayers kept us going. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing the stories of the people we are helping as they allow. Walking with these people has broken me. The people we are helping have broken and painful paths that have led them to us. But our God is one who heals and restores.

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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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March 2020 Newsletter

Celebrating Christmas at the Festival of Lights.

Christmas was a little different this year. Ryan was on-call for the technical team over Christmas so, instead of taking a long vacation we took the weekends in December to go on small trips around the Johannesburg area and spend time together as a family. On Christmas day we swam with friends and had a braai. Just one of the perks of having Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Year’s was fun as we continued our tradition of having a board games party. We also had a huge scare in January. Ryan had a bad reaction to a new brand of deodorant that was complicated by a virus. This took two emergency room visits and eventually two weeks to clear up.

After a lot of prayer and discussion, we felt it is time for us to step down from the ministry from TWR and pursue serving God in other avenues. So, Ryan is preparing his projects to pass on to someone else. We know this is huge news and there are a lot of questions. Here are a few of the basics:

Why are you leaving TWR?
During making plans for furlough we realized our reason for returning was to stay in South Africa. The ministry of TWR was not on our hearts anymore, and we felt a clear leading from God that our time with TWR was done. The vision of TWR is still something we believe in, but God is clearly leading our hearts to something new.

What will you be doing next?
We love South Africa. Ryan is eligible for a critical skills visa so he is going to pursue working in Johannesburg doing Software Development. If Ryan is unable to acquire a job offer before the end of May then we will be returning to Colorado Springs to be closer to our families.

When should I stop sending money for you?
The end of June. Our last day is May 29th, but TWR pays missionaries an extra month of salary since we are required to give three months notice. This gives us a little bit of a cushion time to find work. Please consider taking your contributions and giving them to another missionary. We appreciate your giving for Kingdom work and hope you will keep sending that money to support God’s work. If you do not know who to support next, please pray and consider supporting Tyler and Amy Mullis. They are good friends of ours doing good work within TWR and your support would be greatly appreciated. If you have more questions, send us an email and we’d be happy to answer them.

Ary and Owen’s Corner

Ary ready for the first day of school.

In January Aryanna started going part time (three days a week) to preschool. She absolutely loves it! She is doing P.E., Music classes and Computer classes. We are also happy that she is able to get more social interaction with her peers.

Owen ready for an imaginary dive!

Owen is much more talkative now that Ary is in school and he can get a word in edgewise. We are starting to see his imagination and creativity. He is very active but he also loves reading books.

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December 2019 Newsletter

One of the things software developers do together is something called a “hack-a-thon.” Developers from different backgrounds come together and write software for a common purpose.  Recently a group called Indigitous has been putting together hack-a-thons for Christians.  This year Ryan got to participate in one that happened in Pretoria over a weekend.  He worked with two other developers to try and make a discipleship site more accessible to blind users.  It was a good time to meet other like-minded developers and work on something a little different.

Looking back on this year, Elyse was sad that she was not able to work with TWR. There was just no need for her skills at this point. However, she has not been idle. The best thing that has happened these last few months is the progress of a student Elyse volunteers with every Thursday. Elyse listens to reading but with this student, she does more. He is a student who speaks English as a second language, so he struggles. In the last month, something has clicked. He has started reading better, focusing, and finishing his work. He is still far behind, but his teacher said, “He always does better every week after you have spent time with him.” Elyse is so glad to be able to be there even if it was just to help one kid do better.

Rare family photo with everyone looking in the same direction.

We had Thanksgiving with our church on November 23rd. Everyone brought a meat dish, a side, or a dessert. You know Elyse, she had to cook more. It was a wonderful time to remember what we are thankful for and celebrate with our South African family.

We will be in South Africa for Christmas as well.  It’s Ryan’s turn to be on-call to solve any technical issues during the holiday season.  This means we won’t get to travel anywhere for the summer break. However, we will still be celebrating Christmas with Elyse’s friend who is a single mom and her family.

Ary and Owen’s Corner

Ary and Owen playing on a re-purposed tractor.

Ary has a vivid imagination and is forever playing make-believe. She is becoming very artistic. She loves coloring, stickers, painting, and any opportunity to make something pretty. Ary is developing strong friendships with kids at church and school. She is always excited to read our Jesus stories and go to Sunday school.

Owen is a completely different child than last year. He speaks very well. He is happy. Right now his favorite thing to do is climb and jump, which makes mommy wonder if he will make it to his next birthday sometimes. He is still on a wheat-free diet which can be challenging here in South Africa but we have adapted well to it.

Listener story

Every day I am blessed with everything I need, not always what I want, but God knows what is best for me. TWR broadcasts the most encouraging messages which I listen to as often as I am able to; messages based on God’s Word, the Bible. I glean nuggets of eternal truths, leading to a deeper knowledge and understanding which become wisdom and peace in my life. As I put into practice these lessons, others also learn who Jesus is. He is the Light of the world. We are created in His image and must shine for Him in our daily walk for others to follow.

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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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September 2019 Prayer Letter

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Playing in Marloth Park

From the end of May to the beginning of July, we seemed to be constantly moving. We spent three wonderful weeks with family in the States. We got spoiled with fun and food at both grandparents’ homes. We got to meet our niece for the first time. Some of the highlights were visiting the zoo, feeding sharks and stingrays, fishing on Papa’s boat, and playing at lots of playgrounds with cousins.

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Elyse feeding a kudu

When we got home we immediately started packing up our home. God provided a perfect new home for us. We now live in a townhouse with an amazing kitchen for Elyse and a public park right behind our house for the kids to explore and play.
We also had a chance to visit Marloth Park, right on the edge of the Crocodile River.  We spent a weekend away with some friends and had some zebras, warthogs, giraffes, baboons and even kudu come right up to our door.

Ryan published the first version of the new LinguaDMS uploading application just before our trip to the US.  It was great to have this finished so he could relax.  After getting back his focus has been on catching up with all the other projects fixing small bugs and updating documentation.  Currently most of his time is working on going back to the Producer’s Tool.  It’s been nearly two years since he’s made any changes and it needs a few long outstanding bugs fixed.

Ary and Owen’s Corner

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Showing off firework art

Ary and Owen are growing like weeds. They seem to have unlimited energy. They love slaying monsters with their stick swords, playing in the dirt, climbing and jumping off anything. We are so thankful they are in better health now that we have moved.

Ary and Owen love going to school once a week. They are so excited to see their teachers and friends. Elyse is teaching Ary to read. Ary is excited to read but not a big fan of the hard work. Owen speaks more articulately everyday though when they are playing, Ary tells Owen exactly what he should say.

Listener Story

Hi there TWR.  Thank you for your broadcast in times that can’t be easy. I’m in Zimbabwe and found an old SW / MW radio which I retrieved after many years because of the power shedding in a country torn by greed and corruption. We only have 5 hours of power some days, so finding you again has been such a blessing in the long dark hours of the night on 1170MW. I listen to the DStv Channel 855 (TWR Africa) when we do have power. Many thanks again and may u be blessed in your service.

– A Listener in Zimbabwe

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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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June 2019 Newsletter

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The Seder meal we took part in on Good Friday

By the time you receive this letter, we will be in the US visiting family.  In 2017, just after we left Colorado, Elyse’s brother had his first child.  We haven’t had the opportunity to meet our new niece and wanted to take some time this year to celebrate and see our families. With the coming three-week break, life and work have been winding down a bit.  Ryan has been making small bug fixes to both the TWR Africa mobile applications and the new uploading application for online content.  Things need to run smoothly in our absence so its been a time for focusing on sorting out bugs and making sure everything is able to be handled by others in TWR.  Please pray that we have a restful time and that TWR will not need to contact Ryan for any software related issues.

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Easter egg hunting with friends

We celebrated Easter with our pastor and his family.  Easter in South Africa has a different vibe to it.  Here Good Friday and the Monday after Easter are public holidays.  The months of April and May include at least three other public holidays therefore many families take Easter weekend for vacation time. Easter services are usually not well attended, but most churches have a service on Good Friday.  This year our church held a Seder meal service to help us reflect on the significance of the cross. The Seder is a very family oriented service so it engaged both the adults and the kids.

Ary and Owen’s Corner

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Ary and Owen proud of their ability to match shapes

It seems that most of the past two months Aryanna and Owen have been sick.  It’s been mostly colds with coughing and sniffling, but we had two visits to the emergency room because Ary was struggling to breathe.  With the changing of the seasons and winter coming, we’ve been struggling to keep the kids healthy.  Please keep our health in your prayers.

Other than that, it’s been business as usual.  Elyse continues to do homeschooling four days a week with the kids.  Ary always enjoys the activities Elyse comes up with and usually jumps with excitement when asked “Do you want to do school?”  Owen is a big boy now that he turned two in March. He keeps gaining new vocabulary and loves to emulate his big sister.

Listener Story

Thank you TWR for giving me an opportunity to know the love of God upon my life. Through your programmes I learnt that there is no need for me to condemn myself that I am a sinner. Jesus Christ died on the cross for me. I used to think that my sins are too much that I may not be forgiven. But one day as I was listening one of your programmes I had a courage to forge ahead with my spiritual life. The thoughts I was hearing whispered in my mind that I am a sinner, stopped thru the advice I got from here. Thank you TWR I am no longer a slave of sin anymore.

– A Listener in South Africa

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