Towers of Hope Covid-19 Update
"Alive, alive, alive for ever more; My Jesus is alive, alive for ever more
Alive, alive, alive for ever more: My Jesus is alive!"
(a favourite song we sing when I visit the Covid-19 shelters)
It's already DAY 99 of the National Coronavirus lockdown. And Jesus is still alive. Like He was before the crisis. Like He will be after this. Like He is now in the midst of a world that is never going to be like it was before. It is the time of the so-called 'new normal' and God is resetting the world.
I'm hearing more and more voices going up, saying that God is using this crisis to do something new in this world. And we have to prepare ourselves for this. We have to re-think what it means to be a community of Jesus-followers here and now. So that we can courageously step forward into God's future. And we can't do this without being even better connected than now.
At Towers this means the formation of new connections and forming new networks. But it is also about deepening and strengthening existing connections and networks. Like the broad support base of Towers of Hope which includes YOU. It's to 'up our game' in communicating, listening and keeping YOU up to date with what the Lord is doing and teaching us at Towers.
It is also re-thinking and re-calibrating connections with our vulnerable beneficiaries - i.e. especially those on the streets and in the shacks, including those who are at present in the government lockdown shelters. From these friends of ours who are trying to survive in very difficult circumstances, we pick up that this extended lockdown has made them much more reticent and unsure of themselves. For most, the so-called social distancing is near impossible, while their compulsory facemasks are often so dirty and shabby, that they could just as well have been without it. (Of the 471 facemasks that we produced, we sold 232 on order, but handed out 269 for free to our vulnerable friends).
They do come to the daily soup kitchen, but nowhere in the numbers which we saw when lockdown started. In June we served 1 439 hot meals, which work out on an average of 58 per day. But, what we can say, is that with quite a number of these guys and ladies, especially those who experienced with us in this lockdown the stress of not knowing when the police were to close us down, the agony when they eventually did, the operating 'under the radar' for the period we were closed, and the relief when we could at long last re-open, there's been a deepening of connection. Especially with those who are still in the government lockdown shelters.
Bringing the Word up to 3 x per week at the two shelters in Bloemfontein, a beautiful stronger bond has been formed between me and a number of these ladies and men. Seldom have I had such wonderful opportunities to sow so consistent in vulnerable people's lives! And I'm sure, No!, I'm convinced that the Lord is definitely doing something new in a couple of lives!
"Alive, alive, alive forever more; My Jesus is alive, alive for ever more
Alive, alive, alive forever more; My Jesus is alive!"
At the Tierpoort lockdown shelter (50 km outside Bloemfontein), those who have been able to stick it out (the shelters are not prisons and people can leave if they really want to), there are amazing programs for learning both practical skills, and deepening one's relationship with the Lord. When I visited Tierpoort a couple of Sundays ago, I simultaneously got goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes, as I observed at first hand the truth of 1 Cor 3:6-7: "Some plant the seed; others water it; but God makes it grow! Thank you Lord!"
The challenge is now to try and prepare these ladies and men for their eventual exit from these temporary shelters. For some it means the possibility to access the special government Covid-19 unemployment grant, or maybe first getting a new ID and bank account. For others it entails being reunited with long lost family members. For others it might be the finding of a bridging sponsorship to take the first step in stepping into God's new future for them. Please pray with us as for this.
And then there are the exciting new connections and network forming with 28 township pastors. Through them we distribute about 80% of our food parcels to people in the townships who have lost jobs and income due to the Covid-19 crisis. The rest are used to either support those individuals referred to us, or the food support we can give to 19 other NGO's, churches or similar organizations. Since lockdown started, we were able through the grace of God and the generous support (financial and otherwise) of so many of YOU, to distribute 7 409 different types of food parcels; 1 319 in the last three weeks alone, together with 94 bags of clothing.
Unfortunately, we have to be more and more, like in the words of Jesus (Matt 10:16), not only as "innocent as doves", but also as "shrewd as snakes" as those who try to abuse our food parcel program for their own devices, are on the increase. Please pray that we will have a special grace to deal with these thorny situations.
In the extended Towers of Hope faith community, our weekly 'Whatsapp prayer group' has filled a long time need for us to regularly pray together in larger numbers. Speaking to the Lord as a group, by typing in your requests and remarks, it is truly an exciting way to grow in Him and the labour of regular petitionary prayers.
While we have not yet opened up the church building for Sunday services (we are aiming to get everything ready before the end of July), we still worship together on Sundays on the lawn in the church yard. Although it is a bit strange and at times do not feel like 'the real thing', it is at least bringing us together and connecting us with the Lord. The Wednesday mid-day Taize Holy Communion services (also outside) for staff and program participants, is very special, as it also functions as a testimony of Jesus being alive in the midst of the hustle and bustle of city life going on around us.
Jesus is alive! He is alive forevermore!