"I have but one passion - it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can most be used in winning souls for Christ."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October 2015 Newsletter

Training Up Leaders in Africa

"80 percent of the world’s believers who are practicing their faith live in persecution… we are compelled to rethink our definition of “normal”… According to the Bible, persecution is normal, simply a natural by-product of faith.”
- Nik Ripken, The Insanity of Obedience

Exciting Times 
Our family is looking forward to much in the coming months.  As we write, we are sitting in South Africa awaiting the arrival of our new daughter, a little more than two months from our first TEE graduation in Mokhotlong, and less than three months from our first Home Assignment!
The pastors enrolled in Theological Education by Extension in Mokhotlong are set to finish the last of their books in early December and preparations for their graduation ceremony are underway.  It is encouraging to see their excitement as this monumental event approaches and to watch as they take ownership of the planning and arrangements.  We have twelve pastors/laymen who are qualified to graduate and they are looking into everything from graduation robes to a big graduation cake!  Over the past year, we have focused on hermeneutics at our TEE conferences and the pastors say they have learned much about how to preach God’s Word as a result.  We look forward to completing this first class of students and to seeing how God will use TEE to grow their ministries in the future.

Our Family of Four...
…is expected to welcome its fifth member in just two short weeks.  Abby has been seeing an OBGyn in South Africa, in a place called Hillcrest near Durban.  As with Ellee’s delivery in South Africa, we expect Abby to deliver in a hospital just like one would visit in the States, with medical care comparable to what one would receive there as well.  The doctor has been great and really understanding of our far-out living situation; we are thankful to have been connected with him for this pregnancy.  We have rented an apartment above someone’s garage about 15  minutes from the hospital for the duration of October.  Before leaving Lesotho, we went to the South African embassy in Maseru to receive extended visas so we have plenty of time to be in the country.  We drove down Sani Pass about a week ago and are grateful to God to be settled and ready for the delivery.  Excitement is heavy in the air and Kyle and Ellee are beside themselves as they anticipate meeting their new sister!

Plans and preparations...
…for our Home Assignment have been falling into place over the past weeks.  We booked our tickets and are scheduled to arrive home on December 16th!  We are all very much looking forward to spending Christmas with our families!  Our travel schedule is also coming together for the early months of 2016 and we look forward to reconnecting with as many of you as we can.  We will be attending missions conferences at three of our supporting churches in Decatur, AL, Aiken, SC and Morton, IL.  For the holidays we will have a very special guest with us: our neighbor and pastor’s daughter, Joy (14), is booked to fly with us as well and we are excited for all of you to meet her!  She is a bright and sweet girl who loves to play with our kids in her free time.  We often find her pulling the stroller out of the back room and taking Ellee on walks around town.  This will be her first experience outside of southern Africa and she is giddy with excitement!  She will spend Christmas and New Year’s with us before flying back here to start her sophomore year of high school.

We are so grateful...
…that the Lord has provided an apartment for us to live out of while we are in Aiken.   While we will be traveling in and out a good deal, it will be good to have a home base for some sense of stability.  We’ve also been offered a van to use, which we are so thankful for, since we will now be using three carseats!  In the coming months, we will be posting on Facebook about smaller necessities we’ll have during our time home.

During our time on Home Assignment, our support will continue to run as usual through AIM.  If you have any questions regarding our support in this matter, please contact us.  We thank God that over the past three years, our support has remained around 100%!  That is something to give praise over!  Thank you all! 

Our future plans…
…are to continue with the work of TEE.  We hope to return to Lesotho in August and spend our next years starting new TEE groups around the country.  We have sought to run the program in a way that is repeatable and sustainable.  It is all run on local finances and by local leadership.  Our goal now is to spread the work to reach new areas and more pastors who seek training.  Then we can leave behind a healthy and growing program to national church leaders and move on to wherever God will take us next.  Many of you committed to support us through this three-year assignment and we are so grateful for your faithfulness.  We would love to hear in the next months whether or not you desire to continue that into our next assignment, so that we can make up any additional support during our time in America.  God bless you all! 
See you soon!

- Jonathan, Abby, Kyle & Ellee

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 2015 Newsletter

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs . . . They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners . . . Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven . . . They love all men, and they are persecuted by all.”
- The Epistle to Diognetus,  A.D. 150

Winter Has Arrived  
Greetings from sunny and chilly Mokhotlong! We are hunkered in for winter with our coal stove burning and lots of warm meals on the menu. Our water pipes freeze nearly every night despite being insulated and buried but they typically thaw out by about 10am. There is something cozy about a warm fire and down blankets so we quite enjoy the winter!

TEE and AIM Conferences
Last month Jonathan and his coworker Ntate Bongata held the first TEE conference in a village about an hour and a half from here, where a new group of about 20 students has formed. They had a great turn out and a lot of eager interest. The students wrote exams on their first two books - New Testament, Part One and Following Jesus (Discipleship) - and the lectures were on biblical hermeneutics. Bongata commented to us that this is such an important topic for the pastors, because nobody is teaching it at all! We face a lot of questions about Bible interpretation because the students have never heard anything about it before. Bongata even suggested “taking this on the road” and holding weekend conferences on the topic around the country. Perhaps we may do that in our next term here while we work to start new TEE groups throughout Lesotho. The Mokhotlong TEE group is still going well although the cold air and early sunsets usually deter people from attending weekly meetings. Nevertheless the students continue to study on their own and are studying for another conference where they will write exams this weekend.

I (Abby) have volunteered along with another of our AIM teammates to plan this year’s AIM Lesotho team retreat.  We have recently set dates for late November and booked a location and a  speaker.  Our sessions will cover Matthew 24-25 and how to live in expectation of Christ’s return.  It is our hope to balance deep theological teaching and worship with recreation and time to fellowship as a team.  Because we are all so spread out, we typically only see each other quarterly at our Prayer Days.

On May 24th... 
…we celebrated Ellee’s second birthday!  My parents were able to be here for that as they arrived two days prior.  Ellee got to eat a cupcake for breakfast and wear her new special birthday outfit.  My parents were here together for two weeks before my dad had to fly back to return to work.  Lollee (my mom) stayed an extra four weeks and just left this past weekend!  I spent the whole of March, April and most of May very ill with this pregnancy and my parents decided to leave my mom here to hopefully help nurse me back to health.  Thankfully the intense sickness subsided just as they were arriving (about halfway through the pregnancy) and we were able to enjoy a nice long visit together.  I am nearly six months along now and the baby is growing very well, the doctor says.  Her name will be Sadie Kate and we expect her in October.

…Jonathan finished his first eight weeks of his online summer semester with Liberty and completed three more of his classes.  He now only has two classes for the next seven weeks before he has a long break during the time the baby will be born (He will have completed 30 credits between January and  August). His semesters are so grueling, especially when he is juggling three classes, so we are thankful that he is down to two and almost done for this year!

It is hard to believe…
…that our Home Assignment is fast approaching.  We are planning to book our tickets soon and expect to be home for Christmas!  Our actual Home Assignment won’t start until January but we want to spend Christmas with our family after two Christmases away.  Our immediate needs for Home Assignment are a vehicle to use for our travels as well as a place to stay in Aiken.  We are hoping to find a place that we can use or rent which is already furnished, if someone has an extra space or apartment on their property.  Please join us in the praying for these things and let us know if anything comes to mind.  To read more about our Home Assignment plans you can visit my blog: http://abbymtstclair.blogspot.com/2015/06/home-assignment.html.  We are looking forward to eight months at home before returning for our second term!  We want to catch up with as many of you as we can and will begin to plan our schedule for that time in the coming months.  

We covet your prayers...
…over the next months as we prepare for the many transitions ahead of us. It is our prayer that Kyle and Ellee will adjust easily to the changes coming.  Certainly being parents has taught us to pray and trust God so much more. 

Jonathan, Abby, Kyle, Ellee & Sadie Kate St.Clair

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 2015 Newsletter

Training Up Leaders in Africa
March 2015

"Training for pastoral ministry is a specialized form of the mandate given to all Christians to make disciples.  Three essential parts of that training are godly character, biblical knowledge, and ministry skills . . . In this whole process, it is important to combine the academic portion with experience in ministry..”
- John MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry

 From the Mountain Kingdom… 
…life is moving along. Last August, Lesotho caught the world’s eye with an attempted coup in the capital city. Twelve days ago, the country held early elections in an attempt to settle the divisions and “let diplomacy resume.” Well, the outcome was essentially a tie, the prime ministry changed hands, and things are basically the same as they were before. Things have gone about peacefully, though, and we pray that the Lord will allow any issues to be settled without violence. He is in control!
Kyle’s Birthday 
Nine days ago, we celebrated our son’s 4th birthday! Where does the time go? It’s interesting to note that he has now lived more of his life in Lesotho than he has in the States. So begins our children’s “third culture” identity. When he meets new people he may introduce himself as “Kyle from Mokhotlong” or “from America” or “a Mosotho” - or “Darth Vader”. He might greet them in English or in Sesotho. He is between two worlds, but this is his home.
For his birthday, we traveled to visit some friends in South Africa who often serve on short-term mission trips to Mokhotlong, so Kyle knows them well. It is always refreshing to spend time with fellow believers who share our heart for missions. Kyle often asks about these friends or their children, so he had a great birthday party together with them. Because Star Wars is his favorite movie series right now, he asked Mama to make him an R2-D2 cake. We chuckle at how it looked, but Kyle loved it and, like all of Abby’s desserts, it was delicious! We found a few sales at the toy store on some Star Wars figures and puzzles, so Kyle’s 4th was a galactic success! Ellee’s birthday is next on our family calendar (May 24th) and we’re trying to explain to Kyle why it won’t be a Star Wars party. Today he suggested, “Well, maybe a butterfly party.” “Oh, that sounds better,” we  replied. “With Star Wars balloons,” he hinted. 
We are so grateful to God for our children. It is amazing to see how they enhance and expand our ministry to others. I think a lot of people like us - but they LOVE the kids! They really are “like arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Ps 127:4-5). May God give us a quiver full of them!
Our Ministry…
…is going very well. Our TEE pastors are continuing on in their studies and we’ve recently had about 10 people join the program and form a new TEE group in a village about 1.5 hours away. We have tried to focus only on our Mokhotlong group in this term, so that we can easily turn it over to local leadership when we leave, but we do hope to return for another couple of years to start new groups like this one. They are a small church plant from a Bible church in Mokhotlong and they are hungry for biblical training. Please pray that we will be a blessing to them and that their church will experience much spiritual growth as a result of their TEE studies.
Last week I finished another subterm of my seminary classes and another begins on Monday. I really don’t think I could describe how much I’ve learned through my Liberty studies. The way my academic studies have integrated with our practical experiences in ministry has made this degree incredibly beneficial. I will be busy with classes from now until August and then plan to finish my last five classes during home assignment in 2016. Last month I also received my first coaching license from the US Soccer Federation. I took an online course focused on coaching 5-8 year-old soccer. Twice a week, I take the boys in our neighborhood (ages 5 to 15) over to the football field for a game or some training sessions. Already we can see the doors this is opening for ministry. We now have 20-35 boys who show up to play with us. Their parents greet us as if they’ve known us for years. One boy’s father just signed up for TEE. People who don’t know me from their church probably know me from the field. The local DFA commissioner has called and wants to meet with me. The week I received my license, I was even contacted by the athletic director at the university I graduated from in the States, because they’re looking for a soccer coach. It’s incredible how quickly sports can build bridges for ministry! As more of these coaching courses come available online, I plan to keep advancing my training for football ministry. Please pray that God will bring me local young men who are willing to invest in these boys together!
Our Family…
…is growing again! We learned recently that baby #3 is on his or her way and should be here around late October.  This will leave us about two months to get papers from the US Embassy before flying out for our home assignment. It also means our families (and all of you) will be able to meet the newest St.Clair while still a newborn. God is so good to us and His timing is perfect. Our medical insurance covers all the costs of having a baby outside of the USA. This is perfect timing for us! Please pray for good health for mommy and baby alike. May the Lord bless you!
- Jonathan, Abby, Kyle, Ellee, & Baby St.Clair