A plastic bag of rice

 There are times when we go through “dry” seasons. Seasons when we feel like all is quiet and we wonder if anything is happening at all. When it feels as though life revolves around the everyday slog to learn language and persevere through this chapter in ministry. Its the looooong stretch to the final goal that sometimes feels like it will never come. 

Until the day the simple plastic bag with 3kgs of rice arrives at your door. 

And you realise that God has been at work all this time in the hearts of those you seek to minister to. And suddenly its not just a bag of rice. Its a personal encouragement from the Lord. A push to keep at it. A reminder that He works alongside us. A very tangible sign of the work that is already accomplished.

How can a simple bag of rice mean so much, you wonder? Because it shows were we stand in the hearts and minds of our Agutaynen neighbours! Recently the “barangay” (little subdivision we stay in) had an initiative where each household would receive free rice. This is an intiative for the indigent people of our area and instead of them overlooking us they included us in the share. It may not seem like much, but to people who struggle to get every meal for their families it is an extremely generous gesture. I cannot help but be extremely humbled and delighted that they thought to share the little they have with us. My heart is filled with joy at the relationships that the Lord has helped us form because those are the very relationships that will bring them to listen when start to teach them through His Word. 

He is at work, and we are so privileged to be part of it!

A devine appointment:

During our run Val and I run a route on the island that takes us passed some quiet uninhabited areas. One particular run on a quiet uphill we noticed a young man lying in the “road” next to his bicycle. He had just fallen off the bicycle and hit his head on the volcanic rock on the side of the “road”. He was clearly dazed and struggled to get to his feet. We quickly helped him to his feet and Val carried his bag of fruit while I pushed his bicycle (that he insisted on taking with him) back down the hill so we could get him some help. He had been drinking (not uncommon here and of course the reason for his fall), and it took some persuading to even let me look at his wound. One minute he was saying he is fine and the next he was crying. After about 30 minutes of trying, and a crowd gathering to see the commotion we finally got him to agree to go to the local “clinic” to check him out. Im pleased to say he has recovered completely and greets (albeit rather sheepishly) everytime we see him. I’m thankful we were in that area at that exact moment to get him help. Sometimes you just know you had a devine appointment!

Opportunities:

With Pastor Ryan having joined us in ministry here we have had the opportunity to get involved with a group of people who have broken away from the Catholic church and are in need of sound biblical teaching. Please pray that God will use this for His glory and tyat they will be open to His Truth.

Challenges:

This is going to be a year of “big” things for us. It’s the year we start teaching on the island and also the year Val graduates from high school. Please keep praying for us as we work towards these really important goals.


With thanks

Thank you for lifting us up in prayer and supporting the Lords work here on Agutaya Island. We value each one of you who has taken hands with us in reaching the lost.

With love,

The le Rouxs

This is the year..

Bare with me a minute, and…
Imagine if you will, that you hold the limp body of your baby boy in your arms, fear coursing through your veins as you hear him struggling to breathe, terrified that the next breath will be his last. You know you need to do something, you know his life is slipping away, but what can you do? There is no doctor to take him to, and the nearest help is a three hour boat ride away. But it’s nighttime now and everyone knows you cannot travel in the dark. Tomorrow you will go with the money the missionaries gave you, and see the doctor on the other island. But for now you wait. Thoughts fill your mind of what the “albulario” (witch doctor) said to you today. Can it be a ghost in your home causing your little one to suffer like this? What have you done to deserve this punishment?

As morning dawns you watch your baby boy fall into an eternal sleep. Dread fills you, knowing he is gone forever. He never made it to his second month of life, just like so many on the island. So you lay his lifeless body on a bamboo bed and wrap his clothes in a plastic bag in front of his tiny feet. You long to hold on to them, sweet memories of your tiny boy. But you can never use them again, for fear of bringing bad luck to your home. 

Many will come to see your babies body today and for several days following, and offer you words of condolence. The neighbors all quietly rally around doing what has been done for centuries. The men gather pieces of left over wood and scraps to make a coffin. Women sit around chatting, in whispering tones not knowing what to say. Soon they will cut your baby open removing the organs in preparation of embalming him. People bring rice and food for the meal that will take place after the burial. It seems like just the other day you sat across the dead body of your brother. Just 21 years old and gone too soon. You named your baby after him, and now a year after your brother he is gone too. Grief overwhelms you and you wonder how much more you will suffer in this life. 

Tonight you know you will not sleep as many people surround you gambling and drinking. It’s the way of your people, and it’s better than being alone with your thoughts and your grief. Sleep eludes you anyway. Your husband will join them. To forget. And so the grief will be yours to carry alone tonight.
When the time comes to bury your little one you will put him in a grave along with generations of your family who have all lived and died on this island. You should feel relief at not having to look at his lifeless body, but now he truly feels gone. Every year you will paint his grave for All Saints Day and leave food to appease the spirits in memory of your little one who never made it passed his second month of life. And in your heart you wonder, is there more to life than this?

What if there was more to life? What if even death held hope? What if there was joy to found in every circumstance? But you never knew it, because no one ever told you.

I know I should be writing a New Years post, but somehow after the loss of another life on the island today, a New Years post seems forced. Please forgive the lack of photos, but what does one put in a post like this? Not the photo of a tiny lifeless body now forever imprinted on my mind. So much of life on this island is filled with sadness and loss. So much is about struggle and suffering. So many times I am filled with a deep sadness for these people I have come to love, who live a life without hope. Their hope is in their harvest, in their next generation, and sometimes, even in us. 

It is for this that we have come! To bring hope to the hopeless. To share with them the love of a Savior who gave His life for them. To be His feet here on this little patch of earth. Oh Let this be the year, that many come to know of that hope! Let this be the year that they are finally set free! We are standing on the brink of it, and I can hardly wait!

Lord willing, soon they will echo the words of 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, oh death, is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?

Please keep us and the people of Agutaya in your prayers. May the Lord bless you abundantly in 2017.

With love,

The le Rouxs

A heartfelt message

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It seems sometimes as if the days fly bye in an instant. In the monotony of the mundane days blend into each other seemingly becoming an endless string of routine. These are the hardest times. No highlights or lows, just the daily work of getting done what needs to be done. The everyday push towards what will bring us to the moment we have been working towards for years – finally bringing the gospel the lost on Agutaya.

The life of a missionary often gets thought of as exciting, full of adventure and change (and bugs! Dont forget the bugs). Although this is a part of most missionaries lives, the truth is that much of our time is spend behind a desk studying complicated sentence structures or puzzling our way through the cultural norms that are part of life here. Many a day seems to just dissappear in the myriad of other days that look the same. Sometimes for me the desire to reach the lost is overwhelmed by the temporary desire to just chat with a friend, to have something exciting happen, to see fruit for your labour! In the mundane I find myself struggling with how “normal” my life is.

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These are the times you don’t fill your facebook updates with, the times that garner no applause. No one ever receives applause for the training they put in for the race, and rightfully so. And yet these are the times that count so much towards the goal of reaching the lost. As we run this race the road seems long and the uphills many, and as of yet we cannot see the finish line. This stretch of road seems quiet and lonely and the race seems longer than I ever imagined. But we know great things lie ahead! So we push forward knowing that nothing matters more. This is God’s heartbeat! He died so the lost could live. May we live in the light of that, every step of the way.

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Will you pray with us? Pray that God will use this time in our lives and the Agutaynens lives to bring Him Glory. Pray that much will be learned over this time that God will use later in drawing others close to Him. Pray that many will come to know the joy of His truth.

Typhoid, dengue and 16 hours

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The last month has been somewhat stressful for us. For reasons I cannot explain on our newsletter (feel free to contact us directly if you wish to know details), we have not been sleeping well and have had to take some measures to secure our area around us. Never-the-less, it is a good opportunity to put our trust in the Lord and look to Him for all our needs. We do still covet your prayers for safety, especially for our children. But, it hasn’t all been stressful :-). There has been some good news along the way too.

16 Hours:

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Much to our surprise, a few weeks ago the town generator came on at 8am and ran until midnight. We were delighted to hear that they have started this new 16 hour a day electricity for the forseeable future. What an unexpected bit of news! This means we can now run an electric fan at the hottest times of the day! Initially our sleepy island became party central with everyone playing their music really loudly ALL day. We really began regretting the 16 hours of power. But, thankfully, things have settled down and life is almost back to normal. Except cooler!

Typhoid and dengue fever:

In my last newsletter mentioned that Phil would have a language evaluation with our NTM consultants. Four days before they were due to fly in, one of them was taken to hospital with dengue and typhoid fever. He is recovering well, but needless to say, the evaluation was cancelled. We were quite dissapointed with this as it seems we cannot get a new one scheduled until next year. This means Phil will have to wait until then to have his progress evaluated. This was when we were hoping to start teaching. Please pray for Phil as he continues to study the language and wait upon the Lord for His perfect timing.

Visas:

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Our visas expire this month and were in need of being renewed for another two years. This year with Val turning 18 she is no longer allowed to act as a dependent under Phils visa. Previously other missionaries needed to leave the country for 3 days and return to apply for a tourist visa for their child. This is very costly added to the already very high cost of the visas. But the Lord has done amazing things! For the first time they have allowed a child of her age to continue under her fathers visa! So Val has a two year visa along with the rest of us, and no need to leave the country! Its exciting to think that it is perhaps within these next two years that we may have our first Agutaynen brothers and sisters in Christ!

Landing strip:

Not much progress has been made this last month. We have no fuel available for the heavy equipment which is causing delays. This past week they did remove 50 coconut trees that were in the flight path at the end of the runway. Its a work in progress, albeit slow progress.

Prayers:

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Thank you so much for all your prayers. This month has been a stark reminder of how much we are in need of your prayers and how dependent we are on the Lord for everything. It’s a great place to be. After all, His perfect, plan, His perfect timing, His perfect will is all we seek. Thank you for partnering with us to reach the lost.

The le Rouxs

Back to Basics

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The last few weeks have been busy and tough at times, but so rewarding. We are finally “home” on the island! After our furlough there were many things on the house that needed fixing. I’m so thankful for a hubby who can take a broken pump, no power (our batteries needed replacing), generator servicing, and a myriad of other things all in his stride. Being here has definately been an education in many areas :-).

Now, several weeks later, we are comfortably back to life as we know it on Agutaya. Back to basics! I am so thankful to be able to shower with a light in the bathroom and not a candle anymore, and we are all thankful for the waterpump that gets us water to our taps in the house. Its nearing the end of rainy season and soon we will be back to hauling water from the well 800m from the house. I am so thankful for every drop of water the Lord supplies. We would not be able to be here without Him.

Home-schooling

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School has started at the le Rouxs! The kids have been doing school for 5 weeks and things are going well. We have had many challenges getting Valerie’s grade 12 books ordered after the Philippines legislation changed saying all children need to attend formal school for grades 11 and 12. To avoid a long lengthy explaination (yes, it really is such a complicated, lengthy story), Ill just say that it looks like we FINALLY have things sorted! As of yesterday the books are finally ordered and, Lord willing, we should have them with us in this month. I am really thankful to the many people who prayed for this, those that helped get things done, and for a friend who kindly offered to pay for the books. The Lord never ceases to amaze me! It’s been 5 months of wondering what to do, and now we see His perfect plan coming into play. Please continue to pray with us for the home-schooling. Although we have the books, they come without accreditation because of the legislation. We also may have challenges for Boeta and Angie in the future when they reach grade 11.

Partners:

Our previous partner, Claudia,  has left the work to get married. We have been praying for some time that the Lord will send us partners if its His will. Recently there have been some developments that we believe would greatly benefit the work on Agutaya and us. While we were building our house here we lived on Cuyo for 18 months. During that time we became good friends with both the pastors of the Baptist church we attended there. We really value their friendship, commitment to truth and servant hearts. One of the pastors visited us recently and we discussed possibly partnering on Agutaya. This will be beneficial as being a Filipino national he is already comfortable with the grammar (so he can learn the language quicker), they will need to do less cultural studies than us, and they are able to join us before we start teaching. Please pray with us as we prepare for this partnership. We feel, after much prayer, that this is the Lords will for us. Please pray for Ps. Ryan and his wife Maritel as they prepare to join us. Above all, please pray for God to be glorified in all this.

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Landing strip:

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What an amazing feeling to stand on the landing strip and see a kilometer of cleared land! The strip is looking great and although its not done, its close to getting finished. We have many challenges with red-tape and change in municipal management so please continue to pray for us.

Language and culture:

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Phil is back to full time language study. It has been exciting to see how much he is able to understand in conversations. He is able to communicate almost soley in Agutaynen now! In September Phil will have a language evaluation with our NTM language consultants. Please pray him as he prepares for that, and that it will be a help for him as he proceeds in the language.

Thank you for praying for us! We are often encouraged when we think of all of you holding the ropes for us. We are blessed through you!

Love in Him,

The le Rouxs

Change is as good as a holiday

Growing up I heard that expression a lot. “Change is as good as a holiday”. But somehow that’s never been my experience (at least not initially). Change stresses me. And my life always seems to be full of change. We are back in the Philippines after a wonderful 10 months in South Africa. Everything feels so different here. Weather, food, sounds, smells, people. The first few days were hard. (My aversion to change doing its thing no doubt). I suppose it’s partly because I kept looking back at what I left behind instead of looking at what lies ahead. 

I’m pleased to say that almost a month on things are going much better. I am reminded of the things I love here. I have been blessed with wonderful friends here, and already we are making precious memories. Through all the change I am greatly comforted by the knowledge that God never changes. No matter the circumstances, He remains faithful. His promises are never changing, His Grace is always there, He is ever present. Knowing this gives me the courage to tackle the many changes that await us. (Albeit hesitantly at first 😝).

Elections:

On Monday the Philippines had their Election Day. A new president Rody Duterte has been elected. He is well known as Military type, no nonsense action man. He was voted in by a huge majority and is seen by many as the man who will enforce law and order. He has said many controversial things, some against foreigners and even said he would institute martial law if necessary. Please join us in praying for the Philippines. We are thankful that God is in control and that ultimately His will will be done.

With the new elections changes have happened on Agutaya too. We have a new Mayor. We are quite saddened by this as we have already built good relationships with the past Mayor, and she is a friend. But, we look forward to getting to know the new Mayor and hopefully forging new relationships there too. Please pray for the Lords favor on the island.

Home-schooling:

As many of you know I have been using the Accelerated Christian Education Program to home-school the kids for the past 9 years. I purchase all the books locally which greatly reduces the cost and makes it easier to get to our location. It has been going so well until now. I was informed a week ago that they will no longer be supplying grades 11 and 12 to home-schoolers and that those kids need to be enrolled in a school. Valerie-Anne is in grade 12. This means I can no longer get her books she needs here. Obviously enrolling her in a school is not an option for us. Please join us in praying for Wisdom. I am trying to sort it out without much success at this stage. We have some other options, none of which are ideal at this stage. 

Another change:

Initially when we returned to the Philippines we hoped to be in Manila while Phil taught through Revelations at the weekly Bible Study and while we get supplies, school books etc. Our hope was to be back on Agutaya by mid May. After meetings with NTM leadership we have been told we must attend the yearly conference in mid June, and various meetings about the work. This means we will now be here for an extra month. On the bright side it gives me more time to get our home-schooling sorted and Phil gets longer with the Bible study group (BTW, the group has grown again!). Unfortunately it means longer away from Agutaya and all we need to accomplish there. We are trusting the Lord for His perfect timing.

Thank you for praying for us, and caring for us!

We are encouraged knowing you are all behind us holding the ropes.

P.S. Apologies for the post without photos, but WordPress would not cooperate!

Much love,

The le Rouxs

Excedingly, abundantly above all our expectations!

Its just less than two weeks when we will be saying goodbye to our beloved South Africa, our family, many brothers and sisters in Christ and leave a part of our hearts behind. Part of me wants to hide at the thought of the goodbyes, the packing and the journey back to the Philippines. The other part wants to jump in excitement to see our dear friends in the Philippines and to be back in our own home. And above all to begin the teaching! I find myself stuck between two worlds. Between delight and despair. And you know what? Its a great place to be!

I’m so thankful to have a reason to cry when I leave, because it means I have people I love enough to cry about. I’m so thankful to have a part of me left behind when I go, because it means I have a place where I belong. I’m so thankful to have much to look forward to in the Philippines, because it means we have been blessed abundantly there too! So I will not complain. I will rejoice knowing that we are blessed indeed!

A furlough like no other:

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You don't see this everyday!

When we were planning our furlough we asked the Lord to keep us busy with many opportunities to talk about His goodness. And He has not dissapointed! We have been busier than we ever imagined we could be. In the last 10 months we have been in 3 countries, 5 provinces, stayed in over 30 different homes (some of them more than once). Shared our ministry every Sunday except for 4 Sundays. Been part of countless Bible Studies, growth groups, womens meetings, mens breakfasts, schools, prisons and squatter camps. Val got baptised and we have seen 29 people give their lives to the Lord! We have had our car stoned, Phil was hit by a car, Boeta fell off a horse, I was bitten by a dog (lol!!) and we live to talk about how good God is! What an amazing furlough!

The Lord has also blessed us with many wonderful experiences! Walking with lions and elephants and petting a cheetah. Boeta got to go to a basketball game in the US, a rugby game in the staduim in SA and watch live MMA. There were visits to the Nascar museum, zoo, uShaka, Tree Top Adventures, Scibono, movies, paintball, climbing mountains, riding (and falling off) a horse. Val and Angie even recorded a song in a music studio. We visited many tourist attractions like Gods Window, potholes, Kruger National Park, Biltmore house, Chimney Rock, The Lion and Rhino park and many more. But my favorite has been the many  times we spent in fellowship with people in their homes. What glorious times we have had!

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Our only regret is time. We just ran out of it! There were so many people we wanted to spend more time with, but just couldn’t get it scheduled. Some we had to cancel after Phils accident. You guys are first on our schedule next furlough!

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Baptism! Val, her cousin Willem and his girlfriend Lana

Please pray for us:

As we seek to serve the Lord in the Philippines, we know that its not a work we do alone. We are so thankful for your prayers and support in many different ways. Please keep praying for us!

Thank you to every single one of you that has made this furlough so wonderful! We keep you close to our hearts and in our prayers.

Goodbye South Africa! We love you.

The le Rouxs

Our Faithful God

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In my last newsletter I mentioned how excited I was to see what God is going to do in 2016. Shortly after writing that, Philip was involved in a collision whilst riding his bicycle. A car hit into him while he was travelling at 64km/h (who knows how fast the car was going).

What followed was a whirlwind of action. From seizures to brainscans to an operation to insert a plate on his broken collarbone. We dealt with public hospitals and all the red tape and inefficiency, private hospitals and all the expense. And not much sleep.

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Throughout it all, I felt this quiet reassurance that everything was going to be okay, no matter the turn out. I kept being reminded of Gods promises and of His presence in every situation. He is indeed sufficient for my every need. And was He ever sufficient! God raised up brothers and sisters in Christ who treated Phil medically, helped me at the hospital, provided funds to cover bills and many who prayed and sent encouraging messages. Then He worked it out for us to get the R16000 surgical plate donated for free!!

A week before the accident Phil preached at church and was saying how we as Christians are so busy controlling our own lives that we leave little room for God to do miracles. That week Phil got to see God perform miracles. The biggest one being the healing that took place in Phils body. Despite his face taking the maximum impact and him being unconcious for 15 minutes, there was no brain damage, paralysis or eye damage.

His broken collar bone, jaw and nose have all healed just a few weeks after the accident. He still has the occasional pain and has headaches, but he is getting stronger everyday. All the Glory to God!

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The beautiful USA:

We had the privilege of attending a missions conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. What a wonderful, uplifting time! We met so many precious people who encouraged us so much (not to mention spoiled us too!). And we got see some of the beautiful South. Only God could have made this trip possible and we are humbled constantly with how He continues to bless us.

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Birthdays:

This past month we celebrated 3 birthdays. Boeta turned 12 and celebrated playing paintball with a few of his friends.

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Angelique had her 13th birthday at Tree Top Adventures and glided through the trees for her party 🙂

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Then lastly, I celebrated my 40th birthday in the USA, and in South Africa! Never have I been so spoilt! 4 birthday cakes, 3 celebrations and loads of precious friends to celebrate with!

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When I said I couldn’t wait to see what God would do this year, I certainly meant it. And I still do! No matter what happens (be it good ir bad) I know it will be for my good and His glory. Now how can we not be excited about that?

Return to the Philippines:

In a months time we will leave our “home” in SA for our “home” in the Philippines. Please pray for us as we say our goodbyes and prepare to leave. Pray for our paperwork to be ready and sorted before we leave (Valerie’s passport is still outstanding).

Thank you for praying for us and caring for us. Not a day goes by the we don’t thank the Lord for you.

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A wonderful start to 2016

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This year has had such a wonderful beginning, and I am so excited to see what else God will do in 2016! Already we have begun our preparations for our return to the Philippines in April. Although Im not allowing myself to think about the goodbyes yet, I am looking forward to all the hellos on that side. Its a strange thing feeling like you belong in two places! But what a blessing to have so much to love, even if it means saying goodbye for a while.

A wonderful New Year:

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Our New Year was spent with Philips wonderful family and a dear friend visiting us from Switzerland. We got to enjoy a real “African experience” at the Krugersdorp Lion Park to end off our 2015 and then the beautiful Rhino and Lion Park for the first day of 2016. For this animal lover, there is no better start to a year! I am so very thankful for these precious times that will be treasured memories for a very long time.

Ironman 70.3

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Last weekend Philip took part in the 70.3 ironman East London. He did so well and we had such a wonderful time together for the weekend. Phils sis took care of the kids in Joburg so it was precious alone time for us. (Although I did miss the kids too!). We are so thankful for new acqaintences we made and opportunities to share of Gods goodness and grace in our lives.

Agutaya airstrip:

Unfortunately not much to report about the airstrip. Our last news was that not much has been done on the airstrip since October last year. The new estimated completion date is April 2016. Although this has taken a lot longer than was planned, we are still excited to see it completed. And the way things are going it seems we just might be back in time to see the first plane land :-).

2016 Plans:

In a few short weeks we head to the USA for a two week missions conference. Its our first trip to the States so its mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. After our return to South Africa in mid March we have a month until its time to say goodbye. Our first few weeks in the Philippines will most likely be spent in Manila getting supplies (everything from food, to medical, to building supplies to do repairs and home-schooling materials). Also, Phil has already got a scheduled Bible Study opportunity with his friends there. Then we head of to the island. Phil will most probably go to Agutaya while we wait on Cuyo to assess the house and if the water pump works, send out our drinking water containers and order anything needed for repairs.

We really need your prayers! Please pray for our time in the States, what’s left of our time in SA as we get all our documentation ready and saying goodbye :-(, and for all that needs to be done in the Philippines before we settle in again. Thank you for holding the ropes in prayer for us!

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Much love in Him,
The le Rouxs

November News

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Hazyview:

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Sometimes there are precious moments that just cannot be accurately described with words. Thats how I feel about our time in Hazyview. As many of you know, we spent the last 5 weeks in Hazyview with our dear friends there. We spent our last week in Hazyview at the Kruger Park Lodge because someone gifted us their timeshare there. It was a lovely time of rest and relaxation! It was such a wonderful time with the Tuckers that when it came time to say goodbye it was like leaving home again. We are so thankful for the many people we were able to share precious times with, for every opportunity to share Gods goodness in our lives with others, for the Hazyview church that spoilt us rotten, for every precious relationship He has blessed us with. Thank you John and Janine Tucker for making us feel so loved!!

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During our time in Hazyview we had many opportunities to share Gods work in the Philippines as well as for Philip to preach and lead Bible studies. Janine also hosted a ladies tea where I got to share what was on my heart. The kids enjoyed playing tennis, meeting up with new friends and Friday night youth nights!

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Thankful!

Whenever my heart is overwhelmed with goodbyes and longing for loved ones, I am reminded how very precious fellowship with believers is. Its the one thing our hearts long for the most on the mission field. Although my heart struggles knowing that we will leave this all behind in a few months, I also know that each of these moments, each of these friendships were not a coincidence. They were a special blessing from God. He knows our hearts, He sees our need and He loves us enough to give us what we don’t deserve. Humbling..

As the year comes to an end, we would like to thank everyone of you that has walked this journey with us this year. Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your friendships, thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for caring, for crying with us, loving us and listening to us. Truly, you are an answer to prayer!

With love,
The le Rouxs