Digital Progress

Good day ministry partner,

We, the Digital Strategies team, desire to have an effective and growing ministry. Accountability is what will help us get there and sustain it. Unfortunately, such accountability cannot come from our neighbouring countries because we are the first team in the region to utilise an online course-based system for evangelism and discipleship. Our accountability therefore needs to come from the original hosts of the Jesus.net platform (they are based in Holland). Every 2 to 3 months our team hosts a skype call with our Jesus.net representative – Arjo de Vroome. He provides the coaching, accountability and encouragement that is helping our team move forward and stay on course.

At this stage, things feel a little slow. We are beginning to understand how to use Google ads to effectively aid our objectives. That is, we are learning how to word our adverts in an appealing way; how to use key words that will link online searches to our pages; and create pages that are relevant and interesting. It is all trial and error, but we are learning and improving with every month. The reason I say every month is that we choose a theme for each month, create a page and link the page to our ministry platform. Every month we evaluate the previous month’s effectiveness and identify areas that need improvement.

Another focus point of ours is church partnership. My colleague, Fanie, has been cultivating a relationship with our church, Doxa Deo, to use our platform to help them engage the people that view their church services online. Things are falling into place and I trust this process will provide me with prospective e-coaches that I can train within the upcoming month.

As we are learning about our ministry, we welcome all the assistance we can get. If you are skilled at using Google ads or are interested in developing content for our online pages, please send me an email. If you are interested in becoming an e-coach you are also welcomed to send me an email and I will get you all the information you need.

Have a blessed day,

Nicholas

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Getting sharper

Ecclesiastes 10:10
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.”

The above-mentioned verse of biblical scripture was brought to my attention during a leadership course in 2008. I was taught the value and wisdom of keeping yourself sharp – to pursue growth even in your areas of strength. Speaking of areas of strength (or giftings), the Bible has something to say about that as well:

Romans 12: 7-8

7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

In these verses we are reminded that our gifts (given from God) are to be taken seriously, honed, perfected, taken to a standard of excellence and most of all, to be done with gladness in our hearts. After taking the Strengthfinders assessment by Gallup (you can find it online here), I came to understand that my top strength is Communication. The Comms Lab – a workshop organised by our human resources department was an ideal opportunity for me to grow and learn. Some of the topics covered were: Gestures, Eye contact, Movement and Sound. Every day concluded with a drill where we could practice telling a story using the lessons of the day. Here’s a video of my story told on the day we learned about Gestures:

This week-long course was a blessing to me. Especially because Nicholas chose to stay at home that week so that I could grow. One of the major things I learned was that when one is a good speaker the audience doesn’t remember her fantastic gestures, eye contact or loud voice – they remember the content of her talk! I want people to remember what I said, not how I said it. But now that I know better, I am going to SAY it better!

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Personal Growth – Getting back to basics

On Monday in our weekly team meeting I shared that I am struggling to get into work mode. I have been reflecting over my 10 years with CCC and seeing that January was usually a slow start because campuses only opened in the last week of January. But now that I am part of Digital Strategies, we start as soon as our office opens for the year.

During this time, I am hearing a sermon series at our church called Word. This term we are focusing on the book of John. Our pastor mentioned that when we encounter a new believer, we usually suggest to them to start reading the bible by reading the book of John, because the book is written so that we can believe Jesus is the Messiah and by believing we will have life (John 20:31). The point I want to share is that we are getting back to the basics of our faith.

In this week I have come to the realisation that I need to get back to the basics in my life. I was getting swept up by my circumstances, just reacting and I did very little reflecting and preparation. On Tuesday I started working through a devotional on YouVersion called Word, working through the book of John. I am working at connecting better with God. Suddenly I have more focus. Wednesday night I was at a church gathering, and with 1 guy playing guitar and singing 1 song, I had a moment of surrendered worship that I have not experienced in long time.

I know some of you will understand what I am writing about and others will not. But I need to share my heart and journey, because I know that I am not the only one.

The question I want to leave you with is, what is the basic thing in your relationship with God that you have been neglecting? It may be quiet time, connecting with believers, trusting Him when He says do this or that.

Let me know what I can pray for you.

I pray that you will have peace in tough times,
that you will have strength in times unyielding storms,
that you will have support in when you feel alone.

With the love in Christ,

Nicholas

Looking at 2019

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe we are already in the third week of 2019. Time is just moving at a rapid pace. But we have so much to be excited about for 2019. But we also know of a few challenges that lie ahead. As a family we still have our Cape Town ways and we are still getting used to being back in Pretoria, so this year we will focus more on building our Pretoria community and connecting more with our families. One of the big ways we are trusting to build community is being part of a new church. Doxa Deo Brooklyn, our current home church, is planting an English church in Hatfield. This is an answer to prayer, because we have been trusting for an English Doxa Deo closer to our home.

Vincent started preschool this year and he is loving it. This past weekend he told us more than once that he wants to “go see teacher”. This was heart-warming for us as parents because we can clearly see that he is enjoying school. He will have 2 years of preschool to prepare him for Grade 1. We are trusting that the combination of preschool and occupational therapy will help with his speech development.

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With Vincent at school, Pravani and Kiran will be spending quality time together in the mornings. Pravani realised on the first day how much Vincent kept his brother entertained. Things are going well and Pravani will soon start potty training with Kiran.

From a ministry perspective, we also have some highlights lying ahead. As the Digital Strategy Team, we are looking at building partnerships with churches and ministry strategies, to help them reach their target audience using our online platform. We are also on a constant learning curve and part of this learning curve will be attending a Jesus.net conference in Holland in May. We will also be refining our content on our platform, as well as creating webpages that we can advertise through Google.

Pravani and I will also take a sabbatical in September. This is a 6 week break from ministry that all missionaries in Campus Crusade for Christ are required to take after every 7 years of ministry. We look forward to taking this break and spending quality time as a family.

We are excited and overwhelmed at what needs to happen in this year, but we know that we need Jesus in everything that we do, and we rely on your prayers carrying us day by day. Thank you.

Nicholas

One year plan? I can do that! Five year plan? Umm…I think I’d better sit down :-)

Missionaries are dreamers, boundary-pushers, risk-takers, big-picture people. Perhaps that’s true when it comes to our faith and aspirations (which cause us to accomplish great and seemingly impossible tasks!), but when we are asked to attach strategic plans, timelines and budgets to those dreams, a certain feeling starts to come over us and our plans become smaller and safer. Every year, each team with CCC creates a one-year strategic plan, with a budget and calendar. This year, the board of directors requested that each team submit a one year operational plan and a FIVE year strategic plan, each with their own budget!

Most teams gathered together physically at our national strategic planning event while others (like Nicholas’ team – the Digital Strategy Team) did theirs prior to the event. This was one of the highlights of my year work-wise because for 3 days and two nights, Nicholas was able to spend daddy-time with the boys on the site while I spent some quality work time with the national Student-led Movement team (my team!). I was in my element!

Our first order of business was to actually find out how everyone is doing. This was a very special time because we don’t often get the opportunity to connect as a national team face to face. It warmed my heart to hear how our missionaries and students in Cape Town are doing and to even see two of our missionary friends as newly weds (They’re the couple on the far left of the picture below).

The Student-led Movement of South Africa

I was given the task of leading the team through our SWOT time (a tool to help assess our current reality by considering our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Taking some inspiration from the Digital Strategy team, I led our team through a time of dreaming about the future. Even though crazy, adventurous dreams lie in the heart of many a missionary, I feel we don’t take adequate time to discuss those dreams, stretch them, and even put them to paper. This was the time to do it, and we did! My question to the team was: “If funding and manpower were never an issue, what dreams would you dream for our ministry?” There were a few moments of silence, but then the ideas slowly trickled out. At the end, it felt like something had lifted off our chests and we were ready to build these plans. By the end of those three days, we had put together both a one year and a 5 year strategic plan! A few days later, I worked together with our national SLM team leaders to create a budget to see how these dreams will become a reality. I must tell you, it was exhausting but worth it.

 

Here are a few things I had learned from this time together:

a) Sometimes it helps to assess the current reality of your staff before you assess the current reality of your organisation

b) Budgets, timelines and calendars are not weights to your dreams, they’re wings. When the right wind comes it will lift them and carry them!

c) Vincent and Kiran love chasing chickens 🙂 It also was sweet to see them busy with a few toys while Nic and I sat in on a few sessions in the main hall.

Nicholas was also able to contribute to the national planning event by giving a presentation on the national plans of the Digital Strategy team. He did an excellent job and I’m encouraged by his team and the way they work.

Nicholas sharing the national strategic plan for Digital Strategy

Please pray for Nicholas and I as we take turns to give each other opportunities for ministry. We are figuring out how to care for Vincent at home with occupational and speech therapy in order to prepare him for school next year.

 

The boys kept themselves busy while we worked. Kiran had a furry 4-legged visitor to keep him company!

Thank you for your love and prayers!

 

Pravani

 

Vinnie is growing! And so are we!

 

“If you’re going to be a leader, you need to be a life-long learner”. This concept was taught to me during a program called the Emerging Leaders Initiative. I was young, about to enter a leadership position at CCC and I was engaged to Nicholas – taking on as many courses and reading material as I could get my hands on. Fast forward ten years and oh boy, I have finally begun to understand that learning isn’t always about academics or accolades!

Kiran loves muddy puddles

One of the most fun, interesting (and hardest) opportunities for learning has been my kids. With Kiran I’m learning how to raise a two year-old again, this means potty-training, emotional outbursts (including regular uses of the word “no!” in his vocab) and needing to enforce discipline even in the face of intense cuteness. Oh my word, the cuteness! It’s paralysing! He is a teddy bear, a man of adventure and has the cutest dance moves ever!

Vincent is a marvel and testimony to us of God’s creativity, patience, fun and love. As you may have heard, he is currently receiving speech therapy as well as occupational therapy. For those of you who don’t know, here is a synopsis of his journey until now:

We began noticing Vincent’s speech challenges earlier this year when his brother began talking more and more. To me, it was a personality thing – Vincent was a quiet boy who enjoys playing by himself. We also noticed that when Vincent played with his cousins, he couldn’t communicate with them well. This all gave us a point of reference regarding how he should be communicating. Most of his sentences were 1-2 words long, he would babble a lot, not respond to our questions and would have sudden tantrum outbursts without being able to tell us what the cause of his frustrations were. He was also often distracted and restless, it was difficult getting him to complete almost any task.

Vincent’s time in hospital wasn’t easy but we are thankful for unblocked ears!

My family encouraged us to take him for a speech therapy assessment and we soon got an appointment with the Speech and Language Pathology department at the University of Pretoria.  The assessment revealed that Vincent had a significant wax blockage in both ears, and that he would need both speech and occupational therapy. After a visit to the ear, nose and throat specialist it became clear that Vincent would need to be put under a general anaesthetic to remove the wax thoroughly. After doing this and going for a hearing test, we found the procedure to be a success. We also made an appointment with an occupational therapist. This assessment proved to be one of the most helpful of them all. Serna Smit, an occupational therapist in Moreleta Park, explained to us that Vincent has a high sensory threshold. This means that he needs a high amount of sensory input before he can focus on anything. The communication between his senses, his brain, and his muscles and joints (the term for this is proprioception – fancy right?) need to be exercised and developed so that he can understand what to do, prioritize what to do and do it through to completion. This also will affect his speech, helping him to finish his sentences and verbalise his thoughts constructively.

 

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I can gladly say that after 5 weeks of speech therapy and 3 weeks of occupational therapy, we are already seeing a difference in our boy. The differences are small but we as parents feel so empowered by the tools given to us and seeing the fruit of those efforts is encouraging.  Here are some steps given to us by the speech and occupational therapy:

Speech Therapy: The acronym OWL is key. O is for observe – taking the time to watch Vincent for opportunities of communication (like him looking up at the fridge at the jar of sweets). W is for wait – show him with your body posture that you’re waiting in anticipation for him to ask you what he wants. L is for Listen – actively listen to him, letting him know that his attempts to communicate are validated by us being excited that he wants to talk to us, a part of listening is to also give him a word or two as a nudge forward, for example “Vincent, say ‘Sweets please Mamma’” and when he says it I respond with praise and excitement.

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Occupational therapy: To have constructive play time that has a beginning an end. Like picking up only the red blocks with tongs and dropping them into a basket until there aren’t any left. When he gets bored or distracted I gently redirect him to focus on finishing the task rather than moving onto another toy. Activities such as “ring-around-a-rosie” (falling onto the ground and getting up again), playing on grass, feeling the sand, riding his bike barefoot – all those activities are actually helping him do things like building puzzles, completing chores and even using more 3-word sentences rather than 2 words!

Dear ministry partners, please continue to pray for our beautiful boy, that he will flourish and that we as his first teachers won’t grow weary of learning and practising with diligence.  Pray for our selection of the right school for him next year and that God will continue to provide for the cost of Vincent’s therapies.

With love,

 

Pravani