What I never knew..


This year marks the 10 year anniversary of our arrival in the Philippines. Time surely has flown bye. The days are long but the years are indeed short. Looking back nostalgically on our time here there are some things I wish I had known as a young missionary embarking on our adventure here. And some I’m glad I didn’t know 😊. As a new missionary there were many things I feared and expected but what I didn’t know was..

That the strange smells, sounds and tastes would one day feel like home.

That the things I feared most then are not even things I think of now.

That I would not be home to bury my father but would be at peace because the Lord, in His grace, saved him 2 months before his death.

That taking my children away from all they knew would be the best thing I could ever do for them.

That I would long for my home country with an ache that physically hurts my heart, and that I would feel the same way about the Philippines when I am home on furlough.

That we would survive a super typhoon, our vehicle being stoned and shot at and were almost shipwrecked, and some of it would be while on furlough.

That I would experience first hand how God can turn a calamity into a beautiful blessing.

That struggling financially would be gift because it allows us to see God perform miracles.

That home-schooling my children would be a privilege that I would love.

That I would come to love a people group who have nothing in common with me but who have become my life’s purpose.

That being on the mission field would expose the sinfulness of my heart in ways I never knew existed, and God’s love for me would be even more real because of it. 

That what I once counted sacrifice has been the best decision of my life (well, second best after salvation ❤).

There were so many things I didn’t know then, but I knew enough to know I could GO. 

Today I know enough to know that I can STAY. 

He is faithful beyond what we could ever imagine. 

It is fitting that our ten year anniversary coincides with a new chapter in our ministry and family life. This year we prepare to teach the Agutaynens for the first time and next year our eldest child, Valerie-Anne, leaves for college abroad. Although I know these things come with big challenges and sacrifice for sure, I am at peace knowing that something beautiful will come from this. He has already begun to paint a beautiful picture with the fragments of our lives, and I cannot wait to see the finished masterwork!

Rejoicing because of all that He is,

The le Rouxs

A new chapter!


“Summer” has arrived in the Philippines but not even the relentless heat can dampen our spirits! What a joy it to finally be able to prepare lessons for the teaching of phase one. Phil has been hard at work putting together our first lessons this month. There are more than 70 lessons which Phil will teach through in phase one. Lessons work chronologically from Creation to Christ using key passages in scripture that depict the characteristics of God and point to Christ. 

Much thought goes into the preparation of these lessons taking the culture of the Agutaynens into consideration. Each sentence is thought through carefully with the listeners world view in mind and how they will understand the context. Bridges and barriers are determined so that we know what areas need extra attention in the lesson. Phil works closely with several language helpers and checks and re-checks the lessons for error and clarity. This is where understanding of the culture is so important. Please join us in praying for wisdom during this process.

Several milestones:

This year is a big year for our family because not only is it the year we start teaching, but its also the year that Valerie-Anne graduates from high school. Please be praying for her as she studies for and writes her SATs. She will then apply to several colleges in the US where she hopes to do a Bible course for her first year. We are praying for the Lords guidance and provision for Valerie-Anne’s next step.

Everyday life:
With the legislation in the Philippines changing with regards to getting medicine over the counter we have been limited as to how much we can help people medically on the island. Although this has been difficult the Lord has given us several opportunities even this month to help in one way or the other. This past month we helped a lady with a very bad burn get to the hospital for the treatment she needed and help towards her hospital bill. Just today a tora tora (a tricycle with an open side-car commonly used for cargo) crashed into the rocks near our house with a young family in it. Phil was able to clean up the drivers wounds and bandage them for him. Several others have been helped with transport money (boat fare) to Cuyo to get medical treatment at the hospital there. We are thankful for this opportunity to show people our love and care and hopefully give them a glimpse of the Lords love through us. 


Angelique and Boeta are in their last few weeks of grade 9 and working hard to completion of their work. I can hardly believe that they will almost be done with grade 12 when we are on furlough again. It certainly makes me treasure these precious times with the five of us all being together!

Missing you

It has already been a year since we left South Africa after our furlough. We miss you all very much (also our precious friends in other parts of the world), but are thankful to each one who lifts us up in prayer and is a part of the work here on Agutaya. We pray for you often and our hearts are full of thankfulness at the thought of you. Its a privilege to serve alongside you!

Cleared to teach!

Last week we had a long awaited visit from our NTM consultants. Some of you might remember that we had a visit scheduled in September last year but unfortunately our consultant landed in hospital with both dengue and typhoid fever 2 days before he was due to fly in. The earliest date we could get scheduled was last week. So Im sure you can imagine it was a very big deal to finally have the visit happen.

For those who are not familiar with how NTM works, church planters are required to be assessed by language consultants and achieve a level of proficiency in language and culture before they are cleared to teach in the tribal language. This takes years of work as the missionary must use the national language to aquire the tribal language and live amongst the people to study their culture. 

As I’m sure you derived from this newletters title, we are delighted to tell you that Philip has reached proficiency and is cleared to teach!! (Im doing a happy dance right now..). This is a pretty big deal as its a big step closer to finally bringing the gospel to the people we have grown to love on Agutaya!

So what happens next?

Now we begin the process of putting together the more than 70 lessons that will be taught in our phase 1 teaching. lessons will be put together and designed around the audience, so much thought has to be put into the examples and explanations and skids (dramas) that we will use. 

We have so much to consider and decide on and we covet your prayers as we enter this next phase in our ministry. 

 Thank you!

Thank you to all of you who have lifted us in prayer and supported us in the Lords work on Agutaya! We are so excited to take the next step forward with you all. We are blessed to partner with you!

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