Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Spent the day working on documents for Eddie Brown. Eddie is our educational consultant. He’s busy finishing up another project before he takes on the Genesis project. So much of our success is centered on the ability to be granted accreditation. We need to be praying!!!!
The kids are doing homeschooling and it seems to be going well. I’m helping Stephen with Bible. Both kids are tackling this new adventure. I know they miss school and friends, but they seem to be very mature in understanding what God has called us to do. We talk about it regularly. And we try to listen when they complain. It must be tough going from a school, with friends and a social environment to doing school at the dining room table. By the way, the dining room table is also my “office.” So we spend a lot of time at the table.
I’m meeting new people everyday. I met Donovan at the gym. He’s a believer and was trying to get Formula One to SA. He operated the largest racing magazine in the country for a while. I also met Jaco. He’s also a believer and is the local golf pro. I asked him to invite me to the next men’s Bible study. I also met Dave. He works for BMW in the IT department.
The Genesis website crashed today! Thank the Lord for Amy Stauffacher who put humpty dumpty back together again. What a blessing to have Bob & Amy on the other end in America holding the rope and anchoring us on that side of the world. We still have a few tweaks remaining but the website looks awesome….www.genesissouthafrica.org
Friday, September 27, 2019
Met with a guy named Sheldon Delport at Culinary Table, Lanseria. He’s a friend of Gary Rivas, the pastor at Gracepoint. Sheldon sits on the board of a ministry called Liv Village. They do orphan care work in the Durban and Lanseria area. Through Sheldon I am meeting with one of the directors of Liv Village, Ann Moodley this next week. We talked about possible locations for Genesis, and also about connecting with potential SA donors.
Meeting people and connecting influence, partnerships and prayer support is really my second goal here in SA. Number one priority is seeking accreditation. But number two goal is spreading the word of Genesis University all over the country of South Africa. I am extremely intentional to share the Genesis story with everyone I meet. Most people are very excited and interested to hear about what we are doing. I’m sure some people could care less, but I haven’t met anyone (including unbelievers) who have told me to “take a hike.” I’m sure it’s coming!
Really enjoying South African food! Not only do South African’s eat good food, but the portions are big too. South African’s would make good Texans! Meat is the name of the game – steak, kebabs, boerwors (sausage) and biltong. Awesome veggies too – butternut squash is my favorite. But my favorite SA food is the rusk. A rusk is the local name for beskuit (a traditional Afrikaner breakfast meal or snack). The rusk came into existence in the late 1690’s as a way of preserving bread when people started trekking long distances across Africa. It’s basically a dried bread made with buttermilk and nuts. A rusk is hard and crunchy, so that’s why people in SA dunk it in coffee and tea. I love them and we’ve enjoyed trying different flavors and ingredients!
Saturday, September 28
Today Charlotte (our 17 year old senior at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, MO), flew down to visit her brother Jon Jon, sister-in-law Lauren and her two nephews Canaan & Judah. It’s been tough for her and for us being apart. We’ve never left a child behind (that wasn’t going to college). We’ve battled with understanding if this was the best decision. I think it was! Char’s with an amazing family (Dave, Alice and Libby Thomas) in St. Louis. She’s at an incredible Christian high school (WCA). And she’s surrounded by a loving and caring Christian family (Kirk of the Hills church). Knowing all this makes it easier, but it’s still very hard to be apart from your kids!
Buying Char’s ticket to Florida was a simple decision. She misses family. And now she gets to hang out with Jon Jon, Lauren and the kids for a few days!
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Stayed up late last night to watch my St. Louis Cards beat the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Central Division! I’m thankful to the Lord for small things like MLB At Bat App!! And for fast enough internet here in South Africa to watch baseball. Bring on the Atlanta Braves!
Monday, September 30, 2019
So for some good news and bad news! Actually the good news is great news! We picked up our letter of approval from the Department of Social Development. This means we can now apply for long-term visas! We started this process 10 months ago! So we are praising the Lord. This next week we’ll try to set up a meeting with a local immigration lawyer in Cape Town to see if they can help us from this side of the world.
The bad news isn’t so bad either. Genesis University is a registered corporation in South Africa. We are also a non-profit organization (spelled organization here in SA). We were trying to get tax exemption and duty free status as a private Christian school. However two issues are going to hold us back for several months. First, we found out that on certain issues pertaining to taxes, Marion and I can’t sign documents together. Even though we are both directors, we are related so we can’t sign certain documents together. We asked Joel Kirby to be a director and he graciously said yes! However, now we need all the directors, including Marion, to sign certain tax documents to add Joel. Bottom line is this….we’re signing a lot of documents, thus adding months to the approval for tax exemption.
The other bad news (which put a dent in my grit armor) is we found that although we are registered with HEQC to use the online system, nothing has been uploaded in the system. We had assumed our former educational consultant had done this. Unfortunately we assumed wrong. I’m hoping we can rectify this with the folks at CHE.
Before we went to bed tonight, we could hear the rumbling of distant thunder. We also caught a few flashes of lightning before we closed our eyes. The rainy season is on it’s way!
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Today is another historic event. The other day we celebrated Heritage Day. Today we celebrated Hearing Day. After 57 years of shooting guns, working around heavy equipment, listening to loud music (yes I am of the generation that plugged headsets into a humongous wooden stereo console) and being happily married to Marion for 32 years, I am now the proud owner of hearing aids! My new hearing aids are synced to my iphone and with a push of a button I can go to a hear in a meeting, in a classroom, in a restaurant, or in the great outdoors! My hearing has improved so dramatically, it makes me think of what I was missing!
My new hearing aids remind of that great passage in John 10 – I am the Good Shepherd
“I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will HEAR MY VOICE, and there will be one flock and one Shepherd.” John 10:14-16.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Before moving to Africa, our family talked about the opportunity to explore a new country. We have been excited to learn a new culture, language, and of course, food! Today we are headed to Durban with friends from Malawi, John & Samantha Jewel, and their two boys Andy (14) and Ben (10).
Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa (after Johannesburg and Cape Town). Durban is famous for being the busiest port in SA, and lies in the region known as the KwaZulu-Natal. It is approximately 600 kilometers (360 miles) from Johannesburg to Durban.
Modern day Durban was a gift to European settlers from the Zulu King, Shaka during the 1830’s. Over the years only a few people moved to the area. In 1835 the total numbers of settlers were approximately 15 who named the town Durban in honor of the Governor of the Cape, Sir Benjami D’Urban.
After King Shaka’s death, the Voortrekkers (Dutch settlers from Cape Town) began to arrive, laying claim to the Natal around 1938. This didn’t sit well with the Zulu’s or the British, and thus began some major conflict in that area. In 1842 the British sent troops to maintain order and in 1844 the area was opened up to thousands of settlers. In 1860 the British imported thousands of indentured laborers from India to work in the sugarcane fields. And if you visit Durban today you will be pleasantly surprised by all the wonderful Indian food to feast on! My favorite is definitely the Chicken Tikka Masala
Thursday, October 3, 2019
Made it to Durban in 7 ½ hours. It’s a gorgeous drive that reminded me of the plains of Kansas & Colorado, but also the mountains and bluffs of New Mexico & Arizona. We saw ostrich, impala, blesbok and springbok on our journey. We even drove by a zebra eating grass on the side of the freeway (I was driving 130 km’s / 78 mph in our little Toyota Corolla). And after driving in Malawi for 30 years, we are really appreciating these South African highways. I never hit one pothole!
The speed limit is 120 kph. To figure out miles per hour you take your driving speed and times in by 60%. So if I’m driving 130 kph x 60% that equals 78 mph. If you hit a zebra going 120 kph you’ll knock the strips right off him!
Everything around here has the name Shaka in it (King Shaka airport, Shaka Marine World, Shaka Blvd, stick your finger in a light socket and get a major Shaka!). King Shaka was a very important Zulu king/warrior in South African history. He was born in 1787 into the royal family. Shaka was a strong, but brutal leader who built the Zulu nation into a powerful military machine. On one point Shaka’s army numbered 40,000 soldiers. Anyone who disobeyed an order was immediately killed. He sometimes massacred entire villages. It is said he executed over 7000 of his own people for not properly mourning the death of his mother. Shaka was assassinated in 1828 by his own brothers and buried in an unmarked grave.
Saturday, October 5, 2019
We are heading back to Johannesburg as I write! Marion is driving and I’m beat! What a wonderful trip to Durban! We hardly put a dent in this place. So what did we do? We ate seafood, took the kids deep sea fishing (poor little Esther turned 7 shades of green and had several trips to the railing to chum the fish…but she kept fishing!!), watched dolphins and whales, played on the beach, and explored Durban.
One thing we didn’t do was actually get into the water. The water temp was around 70 degrees. For my San Diego buddies that surfing without a wetsuit weather. But the kids wouldn’t get in! So here’s why! When we arrived my kids asked our Airbnb guy if there were sharks in the water. His answer, “absolutely!” He went on to say that his beach was very safe because it had a shark net 300 yards off the beach beyond the breakers. But then our host (who was enjoying terrorizing the Malawian kids) said, “Did you know that most sharks get caught in the net on their way out!” On their way out! My kids who grew up on Lake Malawi watching for hippos and crocs wouldn’t get near the salty stuff!
About 2 hours south of Johannesburg we stopped for fuel and food. There was a little “bakery” that sold sandwiches and hot cappacinos! As we waited for our food we walked outside to discover lions, a friendly rhino that follows people around, a black panther (no we weren’t in Wakanda!), a worn out old stork, and baby lion cubs! We stayed for two hours!
Monday, October 7, 2019
Spent the day preparing for our biggest meeting so far (tomorrow with Eddie Brown). Talked with Ken Manuel to discuss curriculum accreditation and transformation. Typed up and printed out agenda:
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Protea Hotel, Midrand, RSA
- Eddie Brown
- John Arnesen
- Marion Spencer
- Steve Spencer
- Explanation of the project – Executive Summary & Purpose
- Emphasis of the program
- Christian liberal arts university education
- Biblical Knowledge
- Interdisciplinary Perspectives
- Equipment for Inquiry
- Major Specialization
- Academic excellence
- Vocational opportunity
- Biblically grounded (not ethos, but worldview)
- Culturally relevant (Science Foundation Prog & Curr. Transformation)
- Purpose of the meeting – How do we succeed and how do we not fail?
- Accreditation process – What are our first steps? Strategic plan
- Expectations – Who is doing what and when?
- Timeline – When can we expect results? When can we get accreditation?
- Costs – What is this accreditation process going to cost?
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Drove over to Protea Hotel, Midrand to meet with Eddie Brown, and one of his business associates. We sat for two hours drinking coffee and discussing the above agenda. It was nice we didn’t have to explain the purpose and function of a Christian liberal arts university. Both these gentlemen understand what we are trying to accomplish.
We discussed the importance of both institutional and curriculum recognition and accreditation. We also determined to focus on two degrees – a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration (BBA) and a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministries (not a Bachelor of Arts in Theology, BTh).
From our discussion, it looks like we need to purpose the following (with probable timeline).
- Registration with the Department of Higher Education & Training (DHET). We hope to get this before December 2019
- Develop institutional polices and qualifications for the DHET. We hope to submit this around May 2020.
- Design Genesis degrees and programs. We hope to gather and create curriculum leading to our first degrees by May 2020.
- Site inspection around September 2020
- Staffing submitted before December 2020
- Begin submitting curriculum for accreditation to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) early 2021
- Continue through the ranks of CHE and South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
- Start school February 2022
It’s very exciting to see things shaping up! It’s also very daunting to see how much work needs to be done. Although Eddie will consult, we must do the lion’s share of the work. That’s why we’re here with boots on the ground…to begin the foundational work leading towards February 2022. I’m also struck with the urgency and necessity to get people praying!! We are a Christian university having to seek accreditation and approval from a secular and very liberal government. Everyone tells us we have our work cut out. So we tarry and pray, pray and then pray some more!!
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Woke up to an email from one of the gentlemen we met yesterday. He has graciously removed himself from the Genesis project. His reasons for declining to work with us centered around his views on sexuality – mainly the homosexual agenda. This was a good reminder that we are in for a battle when it comes to seeking registration for a Christian university by a secular government. South Africa’s constitution is based on inclusivity. A Christian university, based upon biblical principles, may be seen as being exclusive, especially in view of our admission policies.
In light of today’s email, I decided to revisit our non-discrimination and admission policies. I sent the policies to our board members and key players here in South Africa in order to make sure we are being clearly biblical, but also strategic in our communication. For the last two years, people here in SA have told us to be very careful and intentional when it comes to presenting our biblical views.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Today I met with Will Gruver, an American businessman living in Johannesburg with his family. Will is a believer and attends church at Antioch Bible. Will is helping me with visa related issues and is also connecting me with potential partners here in SA. We also met with Rich Franzen of Impact Africa. Both guys have been in South Africa for a long time and are savvy with the way things operate. We also spoke about Genesis and how we can connect with Impact Africa (they run gap years excursions / ministry opportunities for college age kids).
Marion and I also had another appointment with a delightful woman named Ann Moodley. Ann is from Durban and is involved in various areas of service – government, education and ministry. Ann is a Director with a non-profit called Liv Village. We met at a hotel in downtown Johannesburg, drank coffee and talked about Genesis, it’s impact and where we should build the school. She’s from Durban, and we just visited Durban, so we schemed on how we could all live happily ever after in Durban!
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Marion’s Mom, Nell Chinchen, arrived over the weekend from Malawi. Mom is going on 94. She lost Dad earlier this year, but is back in Malawi and pressing forward. I have the upmost love and respect for her. She is a champion of the Christian faith, and a marvelous prayer warrior!!
We had lunch over at Will & Holly Gruver’s house. Holly baked homemade enchiladas. Quite the treat being in the heart of Joburg, SA! Holly runs a ballet/dance studio out of their house, and all the Gruver kids do ballet. The kids swam in the pool and we took turns chipping golf balls into a small net. We spent the afternoon just hanging out, eating, talking and drinking good coffee! This was one of those “good for the soul” days!