Archives for January 2014

Enjoyable Fellowship with Students and Families

PRTS Student Families

My wife and I enjoyed having some of the seminary students and their families over for supper on three different evenings. Here are pictures of the group that came for the last evening.

The most beautiful part of these evenings was when each of the students and their wives shared how God convicted them of sin and led them to Jesus Christ. True conversion always contains the same ingredients no matter what country you are from!

Seminary Babes

Home Sweet Home (January 16-17)

The 16-hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta—the longest commercial flight in the world, went well. I spoke for three hours with a young Jewish man—the third Jew on this trip!—who was returning home from his honeymoon. He said that he believed strongly in the God of the Old Testament, but is still waiting for the Messiah. I talked to him about Isaiah 53, but he had no recall of that chapter. His rabbi speaks mostly from the Pentateuch (the first five books of Moses). This young man himself has never read the entire Old Testament. We also spent considerable time talking about creation and Genesis 1-3. He is a theistic evolutionist. I happened to have with me a 30-page booklet I had purchased in South Africa, titled, 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History, which my traveling companion promptly read in its entirety. Though he wasn’t fully persuaded himself, he did acknowledge that the authors had made some good points. He said, “Their arguments are quite similar to my rabbi’s, who also believes in a young earth and rejects evolution.”

I landed in Grand Rapids well in time to participate in the beautiful wedding and reception of Jason Fintelman and Hannah Kamp (my niece). Between the wedding and the reception, my wife and I visited three dear friends in the hospital. I was exhausted by the time we returned home late on Friday evening. Thanks for praying my way through this South African itinerary. Your prayers mean more to me than you know.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Jason and Hannah Fintelman

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Jason and Hannah Fintelman

Mukhanyo Theological College, KwaMahlangu, South Africa (January 16)

Mukhanyo Theological College

Mukhanyo Theological College

After overnighting at the DeVries home and enjoying breakfast with Brian and Lanae DeVries, and their precious children, Christa (almost 3) and Micah (almost 1), Dr. DeVries drove me to Mukhanyo Theological College, so that I could give two opening lectures for the semester that begins next week. The first was for the faculty, staff, and administration (“What the Puritans Have to Teach Us Today”) and the second was for the incoming students (“Cultivating Holiness for Study and Ministry”). I thoroughly enjoyed fellowshiping afterward with many of the faculty and some of the approximately forty students. The whole experience was rather nostalgic, as PRTS is so closely tied to this school, with Dr. DeVries, Dr. Miskin, and Jane Korevaar playing such key roles here.

Faculty Members at Mukhanyo Theological College--Dr. Brian Wingard, President Dr. Brian DeVries, Dr. Arthur Miskin, Pastor Ronald Munyithya, Pastor Paul Mahlangu

Faculty Members at Mukhanyo Theological College–Dr. Brian Wingard, President Dr. Brian DeVries, Dr. Arthur Miskin, Pastor Ronald Munyithya, Pastor Paul Mahlangu

I had lunch with Dr. DeVries and Henria Stolper, who is heading up Teacher’s Education, a program that is upgrading the credentials of teachers who are presently working in South African schools. The program is designed to help Christian teachers become better role models for the children in local schools. There are presently more than 160 teachers in this program.

Staff for Long Distance Training Program, Led by Jane Korevaar

Staff for Long Distance Training Program, Led by Jane Korevaar

After lunch, Dr. DeVries showed me the adjacent elementary school—now educating 69 students, grades K–5—where Sarsih Kegel worked recently. We then went to Jane Korevaar’s office. She introduced me to her staff which is busy editing various courses for Mukhanyo’s burgeoning long distance program which is now serving nearly 200 students and explained the huge potential of this program. I came away from my visit persuaded more than ever of the great value of Mukhanyo Theological College for Christ’s kingdom throughout South Africa and beyond. Please pray for this school and its long distance program. The possibilities of extension and great usefulness are immeasurable.

Dr. DeVries then took me to the Johannesburg airport. On the way, we stopped to see Dr. Flip Buys, the former president of Mukhanyo Theological College, whom I know well. It was great to see him again.

Stellenbosch, South Africa (January 13-15)

Conference Attendees

Monday through Wednesday was the second and final Grace Ministers’ Conference for this year. It was held at the Stellenbosch Lodge in beautiful Stellenbosch, a South African city famous for its vineyards. We were told that in the old days, slaves would work in the vineyards for no pay other than receiving bottles of wine, which helped turn nearly all of them into alcoholics. Happily, today things are somewhat better. With a backdrop of rugged mountains, the lush green vineyards of Stellenbosch glow with stunning beauty.

Dr. McIntosh and I gave the same four addresses each as at the first Grace Ministers’ Conference and again had two Q/A sessions. I learned a great deal in these weeks from my brother about the creation/evolution issue and I felt more freedom in preaching this time around. I had several good talks with dear brothers and sisters in the Lord. On Tuesday, I especially enjoyed my time with Karl Peterson, who I knew for a few years as a missionary from Mozambique, but is now teaching for BISA (Bible Institute for South Africa)—a school quite similar to Mukhanyo Theological College. Pastor Peterson had the highest praise for Mukhanyo and for Dr. Brian DeVries and Dr. Miskin’s efforts there. I also had three lengthy conversations with prospective students, two of which seems very hopeful to me.

Aime and Micheline Sefu

Aime and Micheline Sefu

One couple, Aime and Micheline Sefu, told me they had two children, the youngest being named Eneilla Emmanuella, which is derived from a French sentence that means “the eternal Lord is alive”! I asked them if there was a special reason they gave this child such a unique name. They told me that this girl was born in special circumstances.

Two weeks after Micheline became pregnant with her, Aime lost his job. Despite crying long and hard to the Lord, no matter what he tried he could find no employment. During the pregnancy, God covered Micheline by applying Isaiah 66:9 powerfully to her soul, “Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? Saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.” Eneilla was born on the way to the hospital in her aunt’s car and was wonderfully spared. It all happened so fast that the Aime was not aware of it until his wife reached the hospital. At that point, his sister called him and told him that he needed to wash his car because his baby had been born in it!

The following day, Aime, who had been out of work for three months, was applying for a job but failed to pass the challenging test (a score of 1500 was needed) he was given for the position. No second interview was ever allowed, but when he pleaded for another chance, the office manager eventually relented, and he then went into the bathroom to call his wife to pray for him as he took the test. (She was already at home, as she stayed in the hospital only four hours after delivery!) Afterward, the office manager asked him how he managed to get a nearly perfect score of 2500! He was hired on the spot for a very good job. Because of this combination of wonderful events, the Sefu’s were so impressed with God’s intervening grace that they named their little baby, “the eternal Lord is alive”!

Update from Trichelle Beeke

Here is another update from my niece, Trichelle, regarding her cancer treatment.

Hi Everybody,

So today was the middle point in this second round of chemo. Due to the reactions that have occurred during the first five treatments, they changed the protocol slightly today. They reduced the Benadryl to an oral form and upped the amount of steroids that they gave. That seemed to help quite a bit with the funny feeling I get from the Benadryl. And the Taxol didn’t change my reaction at all either. So that was a great blessing and hopefully things stay that way.  I only have six more chemo rounds of this Taxol and then it will be on to radiation.

Thanks again for the support and ongoing meals. We really appreciate all the help we have been receiving in various forms.

Thanks to Sister Amy for filling in for teaching for Dave when needed.

“The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25–26).


Trichelle & Dave

Cape Town Area, South Africa (January 12)

Pastor and Mrs. Jason Labuschagne in front of Plumstead Baptist Church

Pastor and Mrs. Jason Labuschagne in front of Plumstead Baptist Church


I preached for Pastor Jason Labuschagne in Plumstead Baptist Church on Sunday morning from John 18 on Gethsemane’s King-Lamb. The 150 people were unusually attentive, I thought, which gave me more freedom than usual. Many were quietly taking notes. What a joy it is to preach to a small church that is drinking in the Word!

Fellowship in the Backyard of My Host

Fellowship in the Backyard of My Host

In the afternoon, my host family provided a great meal for the McIntoshes and several couples from Goodwood Baptist Church, including the new pastor and his wife (he hopes to preach next week and be installed in two weeks). Fellowship was excellent. We went around the table and shared what we thought were important biblical qualities for effective leadership in the church and for effective marriages. The overlap between these qualities in both areas was quite surprising and nearly complete. Collectively, iron sharpened iron as a considerable amount of life experience surfaced in the responses. Major qualities that surfaced included humility, servanthood, spiritual and moral integrity, consistency, kindness, good communication, developing great friendship, being examples, understanding how men and women think differently, etc.

Goodwood Baptist

Goodwood Baptist

In the evening I preached in Goodwood Baptist Church to a large crowd, as several other churches joined this flock for their evening service. They do this each year in January for one evening service so that churches in the area can hear one of the international speakers for the Grace Ministers’ Conference.

After the evening service, I had a good talk with two daughters and their husbands of the Pieterse family—a family I’ve known for many years. It’s hard for me to believe that their two youngest daughters are now married, and that one of them already has two children. Then I spoke with two young men, one of whom is deeply involved in jail ministry and would like to attend PRTS but is grappling with how to do that since he has three young children. After that I spoke at length with three ministers, one of whom wants to study at PRTS.

Monday through Wednesday is the second and final portion of the Grace Ministers’ Conference.

Touring in Cape Town, South Africa (January 11)

On the Road to Simon's Town

On the Road to Simon’s Town

Cape Town is one of the world’s most scenic cities. Pastor Jason Labuschagne (who formerly served as an intern under Dr. Martin Holdt and has now served another Reformed Baptist church for the last 13 years where I also hope to preach tomorrow) picked up Dr. Andy and Juliet McIntosh and me on Saturday morning for a day of touring. We drove up the historic Table Mountain as far as we could and took a cable car up the rest of the way. The mountain is very flat on top—hence its name—and expansive. Views of the ocean and its rocky shoreline and whitewater waves are spectacular from a wide variety of angles. I couldn’t resist taking more than a hundred pictures for two hours as we walked around the top of the mountain. The divine grandeur and beauty is more than breathtaking. It provokes inward heart worship and sheer amazement that the sinless Creator of this stunning beauty would have anything at all to do with sinful man. It makes you want to cry out to all the tourists—yes, to everyone on this globe, and above all, to God Himself: “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens…. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:1).

From there we took a spectacular one hour drive along ocean’s shore to Simon’s Town, stopping at several scenic points along the way. At one scenic point, I opened a conversation with a man by saying, “It sure is hard not to believe in God when you see scenery like this, don’t you think?” “Oh yes, I definitely believe in God,” he said, then added, “I believe in the God of the Old Testament.” He paused: “I am a Jew from Argentina, and have been traveling through this beautiful country by myself for nearly a month.” After I told him that I was a Christian pastor, he tried to get me to agree that Judaism was almost like Christianity, but I had to lovingly tell him that there was a huge chasm between the two since one denied the messianic character of Jesus Christ and the other based all of salvation on Christ. He agreed he was a sinner and needed salvation, but he (sadly) thought that he had a spark of divinity within himself so that he could save himself.

Moreover, he thought that Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and others were all true prophets who could lead us to God.

I asked him if he had ever read Isaiah 53. He said, “No, but why do you ask?” I explained to him that Isaiah 53 pointed clearly to the coming Messiah and that Messiah is revealed to us in the New Testament. After he promised that he would read Isaiah 53, I explained to him why Christ alone could save us. I then asked him if he was a reader. He said that he read “a lot.” I asked him, “If I were to send you some books I’ve written about Christianity, would you read them?” “Definitely,” he said. He then wrote out his address for me, and I promised to send him several books. After we shook hands, he suddenly surprised me by asking: “Would you ask a blessing for me for the rest of my travels?” I gladly did that—and also prayed that God would lead him to the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ. To my surprise again, he said with tears in his eyes, “Thank you so much for those beautiful words you prayed for me.” Who can tell what God will do with this man?

Navy Frigate

Navy Frigate

After arriving in Simon’s Town, we were given a private tour by a Christian named Peter through a massive Naval Dockyard that employs some two or three thousand people. We saw numerous large ships, two submarines (of which only one is still active), and ships dry docked as well. Peter and his father both served the navy for most of their lives, and one of Peter’s sons is now following in his steps. With his 31 years of experience working for the navy, Peter was able to get us on the SAS ISANDLWANA, a Navy frigate that is the first ship ready to move out of the bay and into sea action on South Africa’s behalf. (I learned that the various ships from the smallest to largest have these names: offshore patrol vessel, corvette, destroyer, frigate, cruiser, destroyer, air craft carrier.) A female lieutenant on the frigate, who has been in the navy for 13 years, gave us a private tour of the frigate. The tour was supposed to be only 20 minutes but when the lieutenant saw how interested we were, she ended giving us a tour of more than an hour. We saw everything from the engine, the air conditioning room, office and sleeping quarters, to the bridge, which includes where the helmsman sits and steers the ship, and where the quartermaster and others involved in guiding the ship sit and work. Many parts of the frigate were off-limits for photographing, but she did say that she would take a picture of me in the helmsman’s position.

All the various instruments in the bridge reminded me a bit of an airplane cockpit. I was struck with how much is involved in bringing a frigate like this out to sea. It takes a whole team of people, each one doing his or her part. It reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul similarly argues in terms of Christ’s body, the church, that everyone is needed to do his or her task so as to reach the safe harbor of heaven in the end.

To Cape Town, South Africa (January 10)

South Africa Map 2I was going to try to sleep on the two-hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, but in God’s providence, a talkative atheist, who wanted to talk about God and religion, sat next to me. The two hours “flew by” in a moment.

My atheist companion was from California, but was presently working in Nairobi, Kenya, as a diplomat in the U.S. embassy department. Our conversation about his work was fascinating and eventually led into him asking about my work, which became the bridge to talking about God and Christianity. He was friendly enough but remained adamant throughout our conversation that God did not exist. He was very intellectual and yet woefully ignorant of what Christianity was all about. He gave me opportunity to explain exactly what the gospel is, but had a hard time understanding the concept of “free grace.” He kept thinking that Christianity teaches that we merit heaven. That conception was no doubt due, in part, to his having married a Roman Catholic, whom he since divorced.

At one point in the conversation, I graciously tried to point out to him how small his worldview was, because if everyone was their own “god,” as he claimed, then his worldview was no bigger than the human individual. Instead of getting angry, he agreed with me, but said he would rather have it that way than believe in a God who didn’t exist!

I don’t think I made any headway with him, but pray with me that the Holy Spirit will bring back certain things to his mind that may give him pause. The only time in those two hours when he seemed a bit stumped was when I said, “Well, what if Christianity is right, and you are wrong, and there is an afterlife. What then?” He was silent for a few moments, then said, “Well, then, my gamble didn’t pay off and your afterlife will be a whole lot better than mine!”

When we exited the plane, we were taken by buses to the terminal. It was only a five-minute ride. I asked the lady next to me how she was doing, to which she replied, “OK.” I said, “You say OK, but your tone of voice sounds like you’re not OK.”

She then changed the subject by asking me how I was doing. After I said I was fine, I told her that I was a pastor and didn’t want to pry, but that she seemed troubled, and I would be grateful for an opportunity to pray for her if she opened up.

Through tears she told me that her partner who was planning to be with her on this vacation in Cape Town had been murdered by a stranger two weeks ago. He was walking out of a bar in Johannesburg, and a stranger just walked up to him and shot him through the heart, took his wallet, and ran away. By the time she finished her sad story, the bus had stopped at the terminal, so I quickly wished her God’s grace and told her I would pray for her. I looked for her around the baggage claim area, thinking that perhaps I could find a more private seat somewhere to pray with her, but I couldn’t find her in the throng of people. Please pray with me for this hurting soul. And thank God for your living relatives as well as for the amazing gospel of Jesus Christ which alone can meet the needs of this unbelieving, broken, needy world.

By mid-afternoon, I had settled in at the home of Francois and Eileen VanderWesthuizen. It wasn’t long before we shared conversion stories. Some years ago, after Francois’s brother was radically converted one day, he called Francois the next day to share what happened to him. Francois could see that his brother was powerfully changed but didn’t know what to make of it. His dad thought his brother had joined a cult and asked Francois to save his brother from it! It wasn’t long, though, before Francois and Eileen returned to church. Astonishingly, the Lord began to deal with both of them under the first sermon after they returned. Already that week they met with the pastor of the Reformed Baptist church they attended (where I was invited to preach), and soon were brought to know the Lord savingly. What a delightful host and hostess I have been blessed with!

Grace Ministers’ Conference, Pretoria, South Africa (January 7-9)

Attendees at Grace Ministers Conference, Pretoria, South Africa

Approximately 150 ministers and many of their wives gathered in Pretoria at a beautiful venue populated by blue cranes for a 3-day conference. Two sons of Dr. Martin Holdt, David and Jonathon (the latter of whom is completing a Th.M. degree at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary), have taken over its leadership, and did a superb job. Dr. Andy McIntosh from England gave four powerful and passionate addresses on issues related to creation: What’s the Issue?; Reconnecting the Gospel to a Godless Culture; The Flood, Babel, and the Nations; Creation or Evolution: Looking at the Evidence.

Blue Cranes

Blue Cranes

I spoke on Authentic Ministry: Humble Servanthood, Tears, and Temptations; Heart Ministry: Preaching Application; Pastoral Ministry: Pastoring to the Dying and the Mourning; Wrestling Ministry: “Taking Hold” of Yourself and God in Prayer.  Andy and I also did two Q/A sessions. Augustine Book Room had a great table of books on display.

We also heard a testimony of a brother and his wife who are working in a heavily persecuted country, which I am not allowed to name. One of their closest missionary friends in that country was recently murdered, which made news all over the world, including America. They are still grieving over this loss. Please offer a prayer for them that God will keep them safe and allow them to witness a breakthrough in their labors among the Muslims.

Guest Rooms at Conference Site

Guest Rooms at Conference Site

Lots of time was given for fellowship. I spoke at length with two men who are potential students for PRTS (one is already applying). I also had a memorable conversation with a brother who is authoring a biography on Dr. Holdt. He took diligent notes as I related my past experiences with this dear brother, including the fact that we always called each other “Gabba”—an African term of endearment which means that you are closer than a blood brother!

Reformed Church Tshwane and Constantia Park Baptist Church, Pretoria (Jan. 5)

With Dr. Miskin (left) and consistory

With Dr. Miskin (left) and Consistory

It was a joy to preach for Dr. Arthur Miskin Sunday morning to seventy-five people in his church plant called Reformed Church Tshwana. The church plant, which is affiliated with Gereformeerde Kerk Rietvallei, now has two elders and two deacons.

Dr. Arthur and Dr. Sonja Miskin are a great husband-wife team, who gave up their doctoral careers, so that Arthur could complete a four-year M.Div. degree at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.  They returned to South Africa so that he could teach at Mukhanyo Theological College, which trains men from all over Africa for ministry. Meanwhile, he has become deeply involved in this multi-racial church plant and his wife is deeply involved in supervising the Nakekela Clinic, which cares for about twenty very ill people on-site, and about 250 off-site. Nearly all of the patients are suffering from AIDS.

Sunday afternoon was spent at the Miskin home, situated in a very remote area, about half an hour from the college. Impala (similar to deer) stroll through their backyard, together with a host of other forms of wildlife—including four pet dogs and a cat. I enjoyed time with their three children, all of whom are anticipating marriage with God-fearing partners in the not-too-distant future—two of them most likely this year.

The Miskin Children and Their Friends

The Miskin Children and Their Friends

Also present was Jane Korevaar, a friend of many years who works for Mukhanyo Theological College (particularly for its long distance program), and an OPC missionary Dr. Brian Wingard, and his wife . Dr. Wingard teaches systematic theology and church history at Mukhanyo Theological College.  He and his wife had some particularly interesting stories to share about their years in Eritrea, where Christians have been severely persecuted in recent decades. In fact, the persecution became so severe when they were on a furlough that they could not return, and were never able to retrieve their belongings, nor his library.

Dr. and Mrs. Wingard (left), Dr. Sonya Miskin, Jane Korevaar, and Dr. Arthur Miskin

Dr. and Mrs. Wingard (left), Dr. Sonya Miskin, Jane Korevaar, and Dr. Arthur Miskin

In the evening, I preached for the Constantia Park Baptist Church in Pretoria to about 200 people, where my former close friend, Dr. Martin Holdt, spent the last years of his influential ministry. It was nostalgic to preach there, and it was good to hear that his successor, Rev. Willem Bronkhorst, is now running an effective ministry there. I got to meet Dr. Holdt’s widow, Dr. Elsabe Holdt, and to walk through the outstanding book store that she runs in the church. It was great to see most of the titles we publish gracing the bookcases of the store.

Monday was a catch-up and study day, preparing for addresses to be given, commencing on Tuesday, at the Grace Ministers’ Conference.