"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."

Friday, November 10, 2017

Living Through Tragedy

Living Through Tragedy
“Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.”  - Psalm 22:11

This is probably one of the most difficult update letters I’ve ever had to write. At the same time, it comes off of one of the most meaningful times of ministry we have ever had in Africa. I will also write this differently than most of our letters, because there is only one story I want to tell here.
“The World Race” is a relatively new short-term missions program run by Adventures in Missions. Short-term missions have been a part of the missionary cause ever since Barnabas and Saul launched the first missionary journey in Acts 13. In recent decades, however, their popularity has exploded as the world becomes smaller, travel becomes cheaper, and Christians become more aware of the needs in the world around them. Much had been written in missional journals about this explosion of short-term missions and how to make them count for long-term missionary efforts. In Mokhotlong, we have now been able to see four World Race teams come through, spending between three weeks and three months in ministry at one time. For us personally, it is very refreshing to have groups of 18-25-year-old Americans come around. Our kids especially love the World Racers and immediately start asking when the next group will come after one leaves. From what I have seen, because of the way that World Race works through local pastors and ministries in Mokhotlong, their short-term efforts are truly aiding the long-term ministry of missions.
For the past month, we have had a beautiful group of 21 World Racers living with us in Mokhotlong. They lived one street over from our house in “the mission house” belonging to our pastor Ntsimane, whose home we are also renting. When we learned that a new team would be coming to Mokhotlong, we looked up their profiles on the World Race website. We found all of their pictures and names and spent the month before they came memorizing all of their names and hometowns and praying for them during their month in Swaziland. When they finally arrived in Mokhotlong, the kids went up to greet them and instantly fell in love with them. I think it reflects the biblical principle of sowing and reaping - that the amount you are willing to invest in someone or something will be reflected in the amount that you love that person or thing and how much you also receive back from them/it. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We treasured these Racers, and they captured our hearts as well. That makes what was to come so much more special and heartbreaking at the same time. 
This month brought so much joy to our family. Every morning, Kyle and Ellee would come to ask us, “Can I go see the mission team? I drew this picture for Will Holt. Jesse Dillow wants to take me to get fish and chips. Emily Duncan ‘Donuts’ said she would take me for a walk. I want to play basketball with Sam Van Dyke.” We always said yes. We wanted Mokhotlong to be home for them, even if only for a month. We loaned them books and movies. Abby made up a signup sheet for everyone to come over for dinner on different nights. We took them to our favorite picnic spot across the river in a cave. We had them over for movie nights. I played chess with them. We sang and worshiped the Lord together. We built a church building together. We loved them. They loved us. Abby has also written a blog post about our time with them, which you can read here: http://abbymtstclair.blogspot.co.za/2017/11/racing-through-mokhotlong.html
The night before they left, I went up to share my heart with them and give a personal goodbye. I shared how we had wanted to give them a realistic picture of missionary life. Many times you don’t get that on a short-term trip. You get busy, do projects, and try to make the most of your time. Also, many people think of missionaries in Africa living in a hut, huddled around a campfire to stay warm. Sometimes it is like that; sometimes it’s not. But if this is the view of missionary life that young people have, it may often hinder them from surrendering their life to missions if they sense God’s call that way. “I can’t live in a hut. I couldn’t stay that busy all the time. I need time to rest.” So I wanted them to see that missionary life is not so bad. We live in a comfortable home. We have running water (most of the time), electricity (most of the time), internet (most of the time), and we have time to rest and relax and just enjoy life, too. But this life is also hard - because of people. It is the people that we miss from America. So having them here  is so special for us. It meets a need in our life that is usually unmet. It is why my kids attach to them so quickly and so deeply. And I thanked them for loving my kids and my family so well.
This Sunday when they left, I preached a message that God laid on my heart. It is a message that is always on my heart, though I don’t always have the right group to preach it to. So throughout the week, I had prepared exactly what I felt God wanted me to say. If I had been asked to preach one week later (this Sunday), I would not have preached the same thing. I don’t regret anything I said, but I now wonder why God wanted me to say it. I called the message “Lose Your Life for the Kingdom” based on Mark 8:34-36. It was basically a plea to these young people to live their lives, burn out their candles, in the service of the Lord. One of my points was that your life is short and you never know for how long the candle of your life is going to burn. It was not a direct plea to surrender to the mission field, but certainly that is one of the biggest needs in God’s plan for the world today. I preached it with all of my heart and emotions. I recorded the audio on my phone and have posted it here, in case others would like to hear it as well: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1jac7aqnp9feb7d/Lose%20Your%20Life%20for%20the%20Kingdom.m4a?dl=0.  
After the service, we took one final group picture together and said tearful goodbyes to our dear new friends. They packed up into two combi-bus taxis and prayed and drove away from Mokhotlong. We went away and back to normal life. I played a football match in the afternoon and my team got destroyed (6-0)! In the evening, we went for dinner to the mission house with Ntsimane’s family and a South African mission team that had come for the weekend. As we were visiting, Ntsimane’s phone rang. There has been a car accident on Moteng Pass. We didn’t have many details - only that the crash was in front of the World Racers and none of them were hurt. They were on the scene trying to help. Some people were dead.
I called Abby and said I might need to leave. I have some emergency response training and supplies, but they were two hours away from us already. I called Tšolo, Ntsimane’s son, who was riding with the team. He said the crash would probably be cleared before I arrived. So he gave his phone to some of the team members and I just tried to talk to them and see how they were feeling. Some seemed very disturbed, some calm. One of the guys also said it would be cleared before I came, so I stayed home. We prayed for the team, the victims, and those at the scene. Then we finished our evening together.
Monday morning, the World Racers traveled to Johannesburg from Maseru. They had now joined up with the 30 other Racers who had been in other Lesotho locations. I called Tšolo for an update and he confirmed that they were all on the bus to Joburg. I got on Facebook and messaged some of the Racers. Word had gotten through to families in the States that something bad happened. Mothers were worried. So I contacted as many people as I could to confirm all the details I had and that all Racers were safe. When I heard back from some of the Racers who were there, the scene was much worse than I had gathered. 14 bodies strewn across the road. 8 people dead instantly; 6 others driven to the hospital. Incredibly graphic, disturbing scene. Something that nineteen 18-20-year-olds should never have had to witness. But they did. They faced the trauma bravely and heroically did all they could to help the victims. They attended to every victim they could find using the pathetic first aid kits in their taxis. Those they could not save they prayed for. Others they tried to keep conscious by singing worship songs to them. They loaded bodies onto a truck to be driven to the nearest hospital. They called police and medical services for help. Rural Lesotho has nothing like a 911-response service. Many of the medical facilities they called said they would send nobody because it was too far away. Only one police unit responded an hour after being called. A few local people tried to help, but medical knowledge is incredibly inept here. Others stood around taking pictures, blasting hip-hop music from their cars, or casually chatting. Some local drivers were more angered at having their trip slowed down and tried to force their vehicles through the scene. It was a horrifying situation in every sense of the word.
Now these World Racers were expected to travel on to India, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Guatemala ministering to people and giving of themselves for the next seven months without any direct support from their families, pastors, or churches. No way. They had just spent four weeks with family in Mokhotlong and now we were their only family within 8,000 miles. That evening we packed our suitcases and called their squad leaders to ask if we could come and stay with them until they leave.
Tuesday morning, we drove to Johannesburg and arrived around 3:00 PM. It was incredible to see them again. The hugs in Joburg were different than the hugs in Mokhotlong. They were longer, quavering, strengthening - weakness plus weakness equaling strength. Our dear World Racers were different; they had experienced an instant, forced maturing. Their faces bore a seriousness of recent shock and a softening of relief in seeing familiar faces. A deep breath. A crumpling of the need to be strong for others. A chance to cry again and begin the hard sequence of processing grief. But not alone anymore. Together. 
Those days were not easy, but they were meaningful. Abby and I both said to each other that we think this was the most meaningful time of ministry we’ve had since moving overseas. We were able to sit down with all 50 Racers and try to evaluate how to move forward, how those not on the scene could help those who were, how to give people support but also space to settle this matter individually. We dove into the Psalms to try to express our various emotions to the Lord. We had the chance to sit down in one-on-ones and listen to the needs and thoughts of our friends. But we also had the chance to laugh, swim, exercise, sing, dance (sort of!), eat, and drink coffee - lots of coffee!
All in all, I feel like the World Race team is in a great place. For those of you at home who know and love them, you have nothing to worry about. God is keeping and sustaining them. Do continue to pray for them. Many have processed through the grief and come to closure on this incident already in their hearts. Others will do so later. But for everyone, the images of tragedy will be very fresh on their minds for the next month or more. When we faced a tragic encounter with death in Lesotho, it was two months before those images faded and were no longer on my mind all day, every day. So lift them up in prayer. I have committed to pray for all 19 of them by name every day for the next six months. Join me, if you feel led. Pray for Sam, Nick, Madison, Jesse, Allison, Cole, Will D., Josh, Blake, Will H., Emily, Bella, Ana, Katie, Bailey, Abby, Katherine, Kimberly, and Megan. And pray also for the 30 others who are in their squad, but didn’t witness the accident. They are also affected by seeing the effects on their teammates.
Many of the Racers feel that we were their heroes. I don’t. They don’t realize how much they did for us in Mokhotlong. God has definitely used them to meet the needs in our lives, just like we have now been used to meet the needs in their lives. This was mutually beneficial for all of us. We came and offered our presence, tears, touches, words, and Scriptures. We were the body of Christ - all members suffering when one member suffered. The team members have indeed lived through tragedy, but they will come out stronger for it on the other side. We are grateful to God for using them in our lives and for being able to be used in their lives during this difficult time.

- Jonathan &Abby St.Clair

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

September 2017 Newsletter

Training Up Leaders in Africa
"What happens within the African Churches in the next generation will determine the whole shape of church history for centuries to come; what sort of theology is most characteristic of the Christianity of the twenty-first century may well depend on what has happened in the minds of African Christians in the interim."
- Andrew Walls, cited in Missions from the Majority World, 2009.

Seeing Ministry Fruit
Hello, everyone. I’m sitting down today to write an update letter because of what happened yesterday. It is nothing short of a direct answer to prayer and I am thrilled to share it with all of you. Our pastor, Ntsimane, is traveling this week, so it was left to one of his associate pastors to preach the sermon in yesterday’s service. We first heard this pastor preach a few months ago. At the time, I felt that he was a very good speaker and had a great pastor’s heart, but he knew very little biblical content. I thought he would be a great candidate for TEE studies. After the service, Abby said the same thing to me. A few weeks later, we were invited to start a new TEE group in a village an hour’s drive from Mokhotlong. My colleague, Bongata, who now leads TEE in Mokhotlong, invited this pastor to come along. He heard us share with the village pastors about TEE and asked us if he could join the program and study with that new group. He bought his first two books and has begun his at-home study through those books.
I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to hear his sermon yesterday! It was incredible. He taught on the need for church unity based on 1 Corinthians 1, Ephesians 4, and John 17. He explained the background of Paul’s relationship to the church at Corinth and the divisions they were facing. He then called up several children and gave a visual illustration of how a unified church was more powerful than a divided church. After teaching that each member of the body is necessary and none should look down on another, he read Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers and concluded with a humble plea for the church members to love and support one another. I came home and looked through my copy of the books he is currently studying. In that sermon he had pulled together the teaching of several different chapters in his TEE books, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and directly applied it to the needs of his church body. All of this was evidence to me that our work here has accomplished its purpose. TEE is reaching those for whom it was intended and has been established in a way that it will continue on without us. When we complete this assignment about 11 months from now, we will move on from here confident that God will continue to use this work to strengthen his church in Lesotho!
In recent days…
…much of my time has been taken up by Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. I am so excited to be able to take part in this excellent missions program even from this side of the globe. The Perspectives textbook has shaped my understanding of missions more than any other book outside the Bible. I am thoroughly enjoying interacting with students as a grader for the Aiken, SC class and can’t wait to teach Lesson 7 via Skype two weeks from now. We are living today in one of the most exciting periods of Christian history and I am eager to share what God is doing around the world in this final era of missions. The slogan of the Student Volunteer Movement, “the evangelization of the world in this generation,” is truly possible in our world today! God has laid the groundwork for the completion of the Great Commission and I pray that we will all be doing our part to get the task done.
Our schedule…
…is about to get busy! In addition to finishing Perspectives for the next 10 weeks, I will be doing the final format of another TEE book ready to go to the publisher. We also have a World Race team coming for a month starting next week. Then in November we will be hosting a TEE conference for the Maseru students, TEE committee, Mokhotlong students and graduates. We will also have a short-term volunteer from South Africa coming to observe AIM’s work in Lesotho. We have also met with a potential leader for a new TEE center in Butha Buthe and are praying that God will burden his heart to take on this new ministry within a few months. Then we have family coming to visit us also in November. And I will still be working to get my Sesotho commentary written in time to publish within a year. Please pray that I will especially be able to focus my time and energy to get this project done. I think this commentary project could rival TEE for the most long-lasting effect of our years living here. There just is nothing else like this available for Basotho pastors and Bible students.
…our life in Africa goes on. Abby is back home from her visit to America with Sadie and she is busy with Kyle’s second year of homeschooling. He continues to be a good student who loves to learn and has taken it upon himself to start teaching Ellee her alphabet and handwriting skills. The kids love life in Mokhotlong and are trying to get used to the idea of moving away in about a year. I’m not at all looking forward to all of that, but trust that God will give us just as much excitement about our next assignment as we will have sadness about leaving here. We love and miss you all. Thank you for your investment in our lives.
- Jonathan, Abby, Kyle, Ellee, & Sadie Kate St.Clair

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 2017 Newsletter

“The professors observed that the Church was growing faster than their institutions could produce trained leadership… So these men decided that if the pastors were unable to come to the seminary, they would take the seminary to the pastors.”

- TEE Keynote Address, Maseru LS

Greetings from the Cold 
Our coal stove is burning brightly as we huddle around and try to stay warm throughout the cold Lesotho winter. The past few months have gone along normally without much to report out of the ordinary. We continue our life in Africa, living in the mountain community, preparing the expansion of TEE, and writing on the commentary project.

Recently in the Capital
…I had the opportunity to address a gathering of pastors, church leaders, missionaries, teachers, and laymen at a TEE Vision Casting event. This meeting was planned by the TEE committee as a way to promote the TEE program and make more ministry leaders aware of the opportunity for non-formal theological training in Lesotho. Our goal was both to expand the ministry’s horizons and to recruit more Basotho leaders to be involved in the work. I gave a brief history of TEE and how it was developed in Latin America in the 1960s. We pointed out the common hindrances that keep pastors from being able to attend traditional residential Bible schools and how TEE addresses each of those problems. I was then able to show them a video of testimonies from our TEE graduates. This, I believe, was one of the most powerful elements of the meeting. It was such a blessing for Basotho leaders to hear from other Basotho pastors how the TEE program has helped them in their ministries and in their understanding of God’s Word. You can watch the video for yourself here: http://stclairsinmissions.blogspot.com/2017/06/testimonies-from-tee-graduates.html.  I was very grateful for the opportunity to share the vision of TEE and pray that God will use that meeting as a catalyst to expand the ministry here. Please be praying for us as we meet with our Mokhotlong TEE graduates and current TEE students to try to recruit them to lead new TEE groups around the country. We are planning specifically to start a group in Butha Buthe, a town halfway between here and the capital, and hope to have that group launched by the end of August. We need the Lord to move hearts and transfer the vision of TEE to more “faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Last month...
…our family was able to take a trip to visit Cape Town! It was probably the most beautiful place I have ever been. We have been wanting to visit the Mother City for a long time, but the visa issues between Lesotho and South Africa have been preventing us. However, in a completely random incident a border guard stamped us into South Africa with a 90-day visa instead of the normal 7 days. So we took the opportunity to return and visit the Cape. We set aside several days to make the journey down and stopped in some beautiful towns, guest houses, and game parks along the way. While there, we were also able to visit with Juliette Hawkins, another missionary from Abby’s home church in South Carolina, who is working with an anti-trafficking organization. We also visited the Cape of Good Hope, a penguin roosting ground, a big aquarium, a gorgeous botanical garden, and experienced the spectacular views of Table Mountain. Our local pastor’s sister also lives in Cape Town and she and her husband showed us some of the special places, as well as treating us to a delicious African lunch buffet on Mother’s Day. All in all, it was a very enjoyable time for our family!

Another ministry of ours...
…is actually done by our children. I don’t think we will ever be able to know just how much our work here is impacted by Kyle, Ellee, and Sadie. Children add another dimension to ministry that will either help or hurt the overall impact of a missionary family. Most often, I believe, our kids greatly increase our impact here. They have relationships in Mokhotlong that draw people to our family in a way that Abby and I never could alone. Our neighbor’s son, Liteboho, is one of those boys. He is thirteen years old, but he is Kyle’s best friend (and I think Kyle may be his, too). Back in January, we were able to take another neighbor friend to South Africa for the first time, because he had turned 18. Well, as soon as we got back from that trip, Lite’s mother went and applied for his passport, so that he might also be able to visit one day. Last week, we took him to Durban. He had never been to a big city, let alone another country. Once again, we got to experience the joy of all of his “firsts” at the beach, the highway, a game park, a mall, a cinema, a restaurant, even a World Cup soccer stadium. Lite is our friend because of our kids. We were blessed by the opportunity to be a blessing to him!

As always…
…we would love to hear from you. We pray that the Lord is keeping you and your loved ones by His Spirit. We miss you terribly and thank God continually for your investment in our lives and ministry.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.”

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Testimonies from TEE Graduates

Please enjoy this video of testimonies from our Mokhotlong TEE graduates.

© "Live in Your Word," Damaris Music, 2005.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 Newsletter

Satan’s Strategies to Hinder the Work of Missions:
  1. Destruction - Kill all the Christians
  2. Dead Religion - Church without the gospel power and genuine saving faith
  3. Deception - Create an alternate religion
  4. Indifference - Apathy towards the lost
  5. Distraction - Church focused on its own ministries, attendance, and facilities
  6. Division - Churches divided over non-essential doctrines and practices

Happy 2017!  
It is pretty amazing to realize that we are already into 2017. It doesn’t seem like four full years have passed since we first moved to make our home here in Lesotho. God has done much over the past years and we look forward to what He will do during the rest of our time here.

God’s Big Story
Over the past two months, I have been preaching through a series of sermons on the grand narrative of Scripture. I called it God’s Big Story. The goal was to help the church understand the big picture of God’s plan for the world and the reason that we Christians are still on the earth today. So many times, the Bible (especially the Old Testament) is treated as a collection of short stories that teach us moral principles about life rather than as a single, unified story of God’s plan to redeem mankind. The messages have been very well received and I have been so encouraged by the responses we have heard. So many people have said things like, “I have never understood it that way before. I never saw the connections between those truths.” Particularly when we came to the book of Acts, the people’s response was amazing! It was like I could see the light bulbs coming on in people’s faces and I even heard audible gasps as people began to understand why the church exists, how the new covenant relates to the old covenant, what it means to be “born again,” and why we do what we do in the church today. The last two Sundays have focused on missions and outreach to the unreached people groups of Africa. I showed them the statistics that the majority of the world’s evangelical Christians now live here in sub-Saharan Africa and how the African church is beginning to replace the American church as the primary missionary-sending people. This was a  brand new concept for most of the church members and I can’t wait to see how they respond to the challenge. Already I have had one of the men in the church approach me, saying he wants to help with AIM’s outreach team to the shepherds here in Lesotho. I pray that God will make this a truly pivotal moment in the life of Basotho churches!

This past month…
…we were happy to welcome a visitor from home. Abby’s sister, Lacy, took some of her winter break to come spend time with us. Her flights over here encountered a number of problems and she ended up being delayed two full days after landing in the wrong country, hitting sandstorms, food shortages, passenger riots, and engine problems! We were all relieved when she finally landed in Johannesburg safe and sound. The kids especially loved having Lacy here. Being far away from our families is always the hardest part of our living overseas. Kyle and Ellee loved sitting and listening to Lacy read books to them. While she was here we also experienced a flash flood that destroyed the town’s underground water system. It took them two and a half weeks to get the town’s water restored, so Abby and Lacy spent a lot of time down at the river washing the laundry by hand with the rest of the town ladies. Despite a trying African experience, we believe Lacy still enjoyed her time here. Now we are looking forward to our next visit from Abby’s mom and two other sisters at the end of this month!

When we returned Lacy to the airport in Durban, we also had a unique opportunity. South Africa’s strict immigration laws make it very difficult for us to travel out of Lesotho with anyone other than our immediate family. However, one of the boys that I have been coaching in football for the past two years just had his 18th birthday in January. This means he does not require parental consent, signed affidavits, or pre-approved visas to travel out of Lesotho. Danki has lived here in Mokhotlong his entire life and has only been to a city once, for a school trip. We had such a fun time watching him experience South Africa, the beach, and a big city for the first time. It was his first time to see Sani Pass, a freeway, monkeys, a zebra, an ostrich, an escalator, an elevator, a drive-thru, a movie theater, a restaurant menu, an airport, a traffic jam, a swimming pool, the ocean, a boat, a parking garage, a shower, a shopping mall, a football stadium, and more. Abby wrote a blog post about the trip you can find here: http://abbymtstclair.blogspot.com/2017/01/theres-first-time-for-everything.html.

We also enjoyed hosting a World Race team from America for the past two months. This team of 10 guys became our close friends and we spent several late nights streaming the NFL playoffs together. It is truly a blessing to be a part of the missionary community!

Life is going well for us…
…and we would like to know how yours has been. Please send us a quick email to let us know how you are and especially of any ways that we can pray for you or support you in any way. God bless you all! Thanks for your partnership in the ministry.

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