When people think of Cape Town, South Africa, scenes like this often come to mind. Yet beneath the stunning scenery lies deep spiritual darkness. A recent BBC article announced the deployment of troops in Cape Town to assist the police with gang violence. Violence between gangs in some of the poorer townships of Cape Town is escalating at an alarming rate. But there is a much greater battle being waged in Cape Town – the fight for souls – and the pastors that HeartCry supports are on the frontline of that fight.
Thus, it should not surprise us when they suffer attacks and setbacks, though certainly we hurt for them nonetheless. Yet how can we not be surprised when we receive news that one of our newest South African missionaries, not quite 40 years of age, has just suffered a stroke?
Sandi Suffers a Stroke
Sandi Sonteya is prone to very high blood pressure. A couple of weeks ago, Sandi’s blood pressure spiked high enough to induce a stroke. After a couple of days in hospital, Sandi is home and recovering. The stroke has impacted his speech, but not mobility. Doctors anticipate a full recovery in time.
In the midst of medical care for the stroke, a more severe problem has come to light. Sandi’s kidney function has decreased significantly over the past 2 years. Sandi and his wife, Zimbini, are awaiting answers from the doctors regarding the possibility of future dialysis and perhaps even a kidney transplant. Please pray with us for full and miraculous healing of Sandi’s brain and kidneys.
Sandi and Zimbini have an 8 year old boy and a 4 year old daughter. They are in the midst of planting a church and have a remarkable ministry among immigrants from a Muslim North African nation. You can imagine the concerns they have as a family. You can also imagine how frustrating the speech impairment is for Sandi, who loves preaching God’s word and discipling men.
Zimbini recently wrote, “The Lord is continuing to help us through this as we both went through a shock and we need to adjust as a couple and family. . . . The kids have adjusted very well having their dad back at home with him. . . . They pray for him always. . . . The church has met and the elders are doing a very good job in trying to take over the reins during Sandi’s sabbatical. They are seeing it as a very good way for them to learn practically. They ask that we continue to keep them in prayers as the task they have taken on is not an easy one for them but they trust God for His guidance and wisdom. They meet with Sandi on a regular basis so that he can give direction on some matters. . . . Thank you so much for all that you have been and done for us.”
Sizwe’s Grief and Suffering Members
As Sandi battles severe health problems, Pastor Sizwe, in a different Cape township, is working through his own grief and ministering in multiple painful trials among his church members. He writes in his last report:
“Our grandmother (on my mother’s side) has passed away, and my parents are elderly and live far away, so I have been carrying all the work for the funeral arrangements. I have a brother whom we do not know where he lives. After coming out of prison, he stayed in a squatter camp. I have been trying to look for him to no avail. He was the closest to our grandmother and he doesn’t know about her passing. This has been a very tiring and taxing time for me.”
While dealing with his own grief, there are many difficult issues among the flock weighing on this faithful shepherd. Sizwe continues: “Our church members have been going through some difficult times. People have been losing loved ones recently, and some have family struggles. In the beginning of the year we gave one elder a six month sabbatical, since he had a family problem that he needed to resolve which has been very heavy on him. My colleague, Bulelani, his wife has been struggling with health problems since the beginning of the year, and the doctors are still doing tests to figure out what is wrong.
Some of our members have experienced deaths in their families recently. One woman lost her brother-in-law and her cousin in the same time period. One of our member’s grandson just went to a neighbor, an old woman, and started beating her and then sent his pitbull dog to attack her. It was a very difficult time for this member. This took place while she was away in Eastern Cape to visit her son who had been mugged and beaten badly. When she came back, a community meeting was called by neighbors, and some were accusing her of being behind the attack. She apologized to the neighborhood and to the family for her grandson’s actions, but it doesn’t seem that they are happy with her. Her daughter, who is also a member in our church, witnessed the whole incident, and she has not been well since. This family is going through tough times.
What has been encouraging is to see church members reaching out to one another, encouraging and praying with them. And also seeing our elders supporting others elders who are going through these difficulties. People have been there for each other.”
The struggles of one family in the church are enough to weigh on the thoughts and emotions of a pastor. Sizwe has several. Please pray for Sizwe and Sandi, and their churches, as they fight on the front lines in the spiritual darkness of Cape Town’s townships.
Before his current role at HeartCry, Robert served several years in pastoral ministry, and a few years in Zambia, Africa as a missionary. He is also a veteran of the Marine Corps. Robert and his wife have been blessed with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. They live near Christiansburg, VA in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, where he enjoys deer hunting and fly-fishing for trout.More By Robert Shepherd