Bill Bathman, ITMI Founder
“The Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away
In Touch Monthly Newsletter, May 2009
Durban: The hardest part of ministering to a people devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic is seeing the swiftness with which death takes its victims. Kelly and Cherise Smith are in one of these hard places of the earth, where HIV/AIDS has afflicted every household in the community and freedom from the disease is considered miraculous.
Recently, death came knocking at the door of the Smith residence to lay its hands upon a Zulu man, Penn Gumbi, a caretaker on the large property the Smiths purchased a few years back. Because Penn had become so dear to the family, Cherise fought hard against this unwanted intruder into her home and told us of the struggle to give the hope of life to a man destined for death. Listen to this fight in her own words: “Where do I begin? My mind races as I try to figure out how to start telling you about this experience of mine. I suppose I would consider myself privileged – being allowed to fight for someone’s life, doing the best I know how, praying constantly for a chance for this person to survive. Day in and day out, not a second going by without me wondering if I should quickly pop my head in and see what he needs.
“Oh, Lord I need your strength. I pray for him and tell him that God will give him strength. I get so encouraged when he has a few good hours…I am excited about his prospects of survival.
“And then, I walk into his room to say, ‘Good morning!” and I can’t help myself; I just about fall to the ground sobbing. His skin has sunken completely into his bones overnight, just like that! I have to leave the room before he sees me. I need to be an encouragement.”
“I watched him outside the other day, slowly touching his face where the big recesses of skin are – he knows how sick he is. He listened to the gospel message that Kelly shared with him. When Kelly asked him if he wanted to pray, he said that he would rather repeat the words inside his head. Kelly encouraged him to confess these words of commitment to the Lord out loud with his mouth. Penn was willing. That day, he joined our family of believers.”
Cherise went on to explain other details of this long struggle with death, but finally admitted that the fight “was taking a toll on me.” She needed a break – a renewal of strength in the Lord’s presence. Feeling guilty if she were to leave Penn’s side, but desiring to worship the Lord with her family in Sunday church, another helper graciously volunteered to stand in her place. It was her last day seeing Penn alive.
But this is not the end. There is more to Cherise’s letter – you can read the full version of it by clicking here or in the Smith project page on our website. We want to say that what you have read in this newsletter is one of the many reasons why ITMI exists. We are partnering with those in restricted access countries who are sharing the Gospel of Christ and exhibiting His magnificent love to the dying. We are all dying. Christ Jesus is our only hope!
Please continue praying for the Smiths as they minister to those south of the community of Durban. Through their ministry, the Lord gave life to a Zulu man and took Him into His arms forever. Pray not only for the lost, but also for the Smiths who would benefit by another missionary couple or two in this difficult field of labor. For a more detailed list of prayer concerns and needs, see the Smith project page.
Malmesbury: (Follow-up on the fire at MCH. Visit the MCH project page on our website for future updates.)
Another missionary couple in South Africa who experienced a sudden loss recently was Gerhard and Elmane le Roux as highlighted in last month’s newsletter. On March 18, a fire broke out that started with a short in the wiring of a metal electrical conduit above the boys’ room that began glowing red-hot and soon caught the roof on fire. In the Lord’s providence, many of the children were with Elmane outside doing some physical labor. Gerhard’s first reaction was to rush in to save any others that might be trapped within. All had gotten out safely.
“The burned wires,” Gerhard said, “tripped the electricity of the whole farm and none of the electrical water pumps could work. When we opened the taps, only a few drops of water came out.” However, Gerhard still praised our heavenly Father and gave thanks for His mercy and grace.
He said in an email: “We were literally flooded with people that offered us help. We received so many gifts in the form of blankets, clothing, toys and food that we also generously could give to others…One lady started an email campaign and people from all over responded and offered to help in some or other way. So many new people came in contact with the mission and we had many opportunities to witness to people about the goodness of Christ in the whole situation.”
The le Roux family sends their thanks to everyone involved in helping them over the past month. Gerhard summed it up beautifully by saying, “We could experience God carrying us through. Truly we can sing ‘Great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies we see.’”
At ITMI, we join with the le Roux’s in singing this great hymn of praise to our God and Savior – for we remember that though “the Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job 1:21 KJV
Cherise Smith, Gerhard le Roux – South Africa
with Jeff Black