Stories of Fire: Van Zyl family

The Van Zyls were one of the families in our church who lost everything in the Knysna Fires of June 7, 2017. Here is their memory of the day

Retha’s account: Upon returning from a playdate with my two little boys (Christopher 5 & Jean Louis 3) from the opposite side of town… there was this unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach staring into the enormous cloud of smoke that seemed to be growing bigger and creeping closer with every passing minute…yet, I had full confidence that everything was under control… Having every intention of getting home to get a pot of soup on the stove and delivered to the fire station…non of us the wiser as to what was about to go down in the next hour or so…

My husband, JC, was still making his way back from George and due to a low battery..and disruption on the networks, keeping in touch became next to impossible…
I tried to settle the boys all the while preparing the soup but could not refrain from constantly running back onto our deck to check on that cloud of smoke.. I tried to stay as calm as possible… For my boys sake, but decided to pack an overnight bag for us…just in case, you know?!… My mother in law, who was also home at that time, gave a helping hand with the soup..but after a few minutes, thought the better of it and instead decided to rather also grab a few of their items as well… Limbs and personal possessions flying all over the place..
Upon emerging from our bedroom 5 min later, I was rattled at what I saw..a wave of flames, enveloping the whole of Eastford …. that’s when I came to the stark realisation that we were in a whole heap of trouble..
I rushed to grab our few essentials and put that, together with my two boys and two dogs into my car…trust my mum in law to grab the pot of soup as well!! I opened the gate, ran to the car only to discover that my keys were nowhere to be found.. My mum in law, idling in her own car, waiting on me as I parked her in..
I begged the Lord to please.. please just keep me calm and collected.. I rushed back into the house and by His Love and Grace, He provided… I found the keys on my kitchen counter and as I grabbed it I looked up one last time to take in my surroundings..something I’ve had the privilege of enjoying for a whole of ten days since we bought the place and moved in only end of.the previous month.
As I looked out onto our deck I saw the flames making it’s way towards our neighbour’s picket fence… We made our way out of there as fast as we possibly could…from there, all “hell” broke loose and chaos ensued.
Yes, we may have lost our livelihood, our memories… our sentiment. However, we were reunited with my husband a few hours later, who in turn didn’t know where we were or whether we were still alive and safe…Our lives were spared and in the end, that’s all that truly matters.

JC’s account: It’s been a tough year for our family. My father had a heart attack in March. They stayed on the same plot as us in a separate dwelling. We all lost our homes and earthly possessions in the Knynsa fires…but not our loves ones. We however have learned as a family that God is gracious and merciful beyond imagination…he provides in many ways. Through the love and kindness of many people but especially our Christian family, we felt loved and a closeness to God beyond comprehension. In many ways the support we received was so humbling . It was not only an encouragement to us in times of great need but it was also a testimony to the world that the Lord provides and looks after his flock.
JAMES 1:2-5 states that we can count it Joy when we have trials and tribulations because it produces steadfastness in our faith.

We praise God and thank everybody that made contributions towards us and the greater Knysna area. God is good and gracious beyond all measures and expectation…We will never be able to replace the material things we had…but we have gained so much more…as a family we have grown tremendously in our faith and dependency on God our father and we have experienced the love of our greater Christian family…people we have never even met but have a special bond to through Christ … every good and perfect gift comes from Him, our Father of light.

To God be the glory and praise forever…Amen


JC, Retha and their boys after the fires

We’re in for the long haul

We're in for the long haul. As the ash settles, the dawn of rebuilding lives has begun. Knysna Baptist are the frontline for the Baptist Union of SA in this disaster, and we have been so thankful to assist a number of families in our church and beyond. 8 households have received food, clothing, kitchenware, toiletries and bedding and may be back for more. Some have no space, so we're storing it for them. Others don't even know where to begin. People are facing job loss, depression, livestock starvation, and yet each need to continue moving forward with things like school and making a living. Our church will continue doing everything in our power to assist, and bring eternal joy which survives anything this broken world can bring.
Lord use us for Your Gospel at this time!

Reading to Kids – 27 April 2017

;widows: 2;-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px;text-decoration-style: initial;text-decoration-color: initial;word-spacing:0px’>I encourage parents of school age children to take advantage of this blessing. Take a few moments before bedtime each night to read to your kids. The key? Don’t make it too long. You will burn them out. For us, each chapter took about 10-15 minutes max to read.

We established a couple of ground rules for our reading time.

1.) Either girl could say she was tired at any point, and without judgment, we would conclude immediately and finish the chapter the next night.

2.) We took a break in the summer. This might sound counter-intuitive as you have more time in the summer. We found nightly summer reading more difficult with slumber parties, vacations, relaxed schedules, and other events. Eventually, the girls had their own required summer reading for school. It was just easier for us to resume reading in the school year. It actually became a great motivation in the school year to hurry and get ready for bed.

3.) Nightly reading is not a time for discipline. I had two quiet girls, but I now have the joy of watching my son-in-law read to my active, five-year-old grandson. I love their reading philosophy. This is not a time for discipline. Sometimes my grandson listens quietly, sometimes he is bouncing off the walls, fidgeting, asking questions and chattering. Either way is fine. The routine of hearing mom or dad read over him is more important than him actually understanding every word or comprehending the plot. This is not school. If your child is having fun and mildly interested in the story, it is a success.

Here are six benefits to reading to your children at an early age.

1. You have their undivided attention. Their role is critical as they have to concentrate on what’s being read. There can be no distractions or multi-tasking at reading time. It is just you and them and the good ole book. (Okay, maybe the e-reader these days!) See the above note if you are just beginning to read to an active child.

2. Imagination is exercised. I envy the time when my mom and dad would gather around the radio (remember that term?) each Saturday night as kids and listen to the next installment of their favorite program. What did they see when they listened? Your creativity is stretched when listening. You envision your own sights and sounds. You see your own sunset or landscape. You have your own image of the hero. There is no screen activity, app, movie, or game that replaces reading.

3. Reading expands their world. They realize there are other issues, other problems to be solved, other plots than just their own cares. When a kid begins to see beyond himself/herself, growth and maturity can bloom.

4. Children who are read to become children who read. When the girls were small I read the Chronicles of Narnia to them. It took several years to get through, but what a world they encountered! A few years later it was almost overwhelming to see them curled up with their own advanced novels, far surpassing the level of reading that I do to this day!

I was not a reader as a kid. In fact, I was 23 and out of seminary before I ever read voluntarily. It has been an amazing blessing to see my girls grow in this area of their lives, beginning at such an early age.

5. Completing a book gives the family a sense of accomplishment. This is something the family did. The team persisted and conquered another series. Completing a series actually built momentum to tackle another series.

6. Reading opens doors to share the gospel with your kids. Whether or not your’e reading overtly Christian books, reading opens doors to talk to your children about Jesus, good and evil, and our need for a Savior. Reading invites discussion about spiritual matters, and creates a regular environment of conversation with your kids. Take advantage of these moments to share Christ when they arise.

A humbling honor came to me the other night as we babysat our grandchildren. Our 6-year-old asked me to read the next chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to him. He and his daddy are reading through it.

I encourage you to pick up a short chapter book this week, and build nightly reading into your routine. It might take a couple nights to adjust, but reading together may just become one of your favourite parenting memories too.