Spencer Family Blog from October 14th – October 31st, 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019


Bec Bartlett arrived from Malawi today.  Pete and Bec Bartlett are from Australia, but were working with us in Malawi.  They are truly wonderful people, and have three daughters.  Bec was traveling back to Australia, but decided to spend a few days with us!  She also brought two fresh packs of Tim Tams (Australian cookies that taste amazing dipped in coffee!).


Started filling out the application for registration with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).  The application is about 13 pages long, but includes at least 50 “annexure” or administrative actions.  Many of the items I have already in our business plan.  However, several of the items have to deal with the South African Revenue Service (SARS), our version of the IRS.  Genesis is a registered corporation, non-profit company.  We are currently being registered for Value Added Tax (VAT).  And once we get registered/accredited with CHE, then we can apply to tax exemption.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Today I drove into Johannesburg (Protea Hotel, Fire & Ice) to meet with Jane Jelgerhuis.  Jane is the Director of Global Campaign Partnerships at the American Bible Society.  She was with her husband Drew and two other leaders of Bible Society (England and South Africa).  Jane has worked with Covenant Colleges (development).  In fact, their kids went to Covenant College the same time our boys, David & Jon Jon were there.  From the meeting I texted David in Uganda to see if he remembered them and he did.  Not only did we have kids at Covenant, but we have mutual friends and supporters.


One of my main roles, other than seeking registration and accreditation for Genesis University, is to begin building relationships/partnerships with Christian leaders, churches, businesses, foundations and para-church organizations.  I meet so many new people, almost daily, who are excited about the Genesis project.  In two months, I can only think of 2 or 3 people that weren’t happy to hear about Genesis!  Most people are enthusiastic and so many families ask, “When is this starting!”


Thursday, October 17, 2019


Today needed to focus on development and fundraising back in America.  Spent an hour on the phone with Zach Clark discussing development, communication with donors, and scheduling appointments for our brief return in November.  Have a lot to do regarding updates, thanking donors, and another round of asking folks to participate in start up costs.


Also spoke with an immigration lawyer concerning our Volunteer Visa.  We have everything ready to submit, and now need to figure out which way forward is the most productive.


Friday, October 18, 2019


My granddaughter Addie arrived today!  Our son David, his wife Katie and our 15 month old grandbaby, Addie, are missionaries in Uganda.  They are here for 9 days!  The airlines lost their car seat, but were nice enough to provide another one to borrow.


Love O. R. Tambo International airport.  It has easy in and out access, good parking and a great arrival area.  I always enjoy watching people meet their loved ones!  I stood next to a Professional Hunter who was picking up two clients from Hong Kong.  They are hunting Sable for one week.  He was worried about the language barrier.


Who is O. R. Tambo?  His statue stands in the arrival area at the O. R. Tambo airport!  Oliver Reginald Tambo was born October 27, 1917.  He was a South African anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1967 to 1991.  O. R. Tambo was exiled in London for 30 years, only returning to South Africa in 1990



Sunday, October 20, 2019


We worshipped at a local church in Hartbeespoort called The Barn.  Ever since moving out to this area, we’ve met so many folks who went to this church.  One particular guy, Jaco Swart (the Pecanwood Golf Course teaching pro), invited us to attend.  So we did!  It was refreshing to sing a selection of hymns and worship songs beginning with How Great Thou Art.  Also, the pastor, a young guy named Jared Kwant, preached an excellent message from James 2 – “Faith without works is dead!”


An interesting side note to church today….everyone was wearing their green and gold South African Springboks rugby jerseys!  South Africa was playing Ireland in the quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.  The Boks crushed the Irish to secure a place in the semi-finals next weekend against Wales.  The other semi-final is between England and New Zealand.


So while I’m waking up to watch the baseball playoffs and World Series, the entire country of South Africa is going nuts over rugby!


Monday, October 21, 2019


Marion and I drove into Pretoria this morning to meet with the CEO of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Mr. Joe Samuels.   The purpose of our meeting was to meet Joe again (we met him two years ago with Tim Cantrell and Chris Sambo), and to update him on our progress with Genesis.


We had a great hour-long discussion with Joe Samuels.  He is delightful, informative, encouraging and has a wonderful sense of humor.  We like him a lot!  I asked Joe three questions:


  1. How do we succeed?
  2. How do we not fail?
  3. “If you were me, what would you do?”


How do we succeed?  Genesis must be strategic when it comes to understanding the South African Constitution.  The SA Constitution is very clear on inclusivity and does not allow for discrimination.


How do we not fail?  We spoke about the need to seek legal advice from someone who understands the SA Constitution and also understands the biblical foundations of a Christian liberal arts university.  Obtaining legal advice gives us a better position to frame/communicate what we are trying to accomplish for South Africa.


“If you were me, what would you do?”  Joe looked at me and said, “Well, I’m glad I’m not you!”  Joe is an educated, professional, experienced servant of South Africa’s educational system.  He’s also a professing Catholic who values and appreciated the biblical foundation of Genesis!  I have been honored to meet him twice!


Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Today is a special day for the Spencer clan!  Our eighth and final child, Esther, is 11 years old today!  Esther is beautiful, smart and has a keen and witty personality.  She loves animals, like to ride horses, and is taking tennis and archery lessons.  In her spare time she’s being homeschooled!  To celebrate Esther’s 11th birthday we drove out to Sun City’s Valley of the Waves water park (https://www.suninternational.com/sun-city/activities/valley-of-waves/).  Had a great day of fun in the sun, eating ice cream, zip lining, and watching Esther overcome her fear of sliding down the Tower of Courage.  The day ended with us being run off by the rain and two very large baboons!


By the way, we are blessed to have three birthdays in the span of one week – Esther 11 (Oct 22), Samuel 21 (Oct 24) and Nell 26 (Oct 27)!

The population of South Africa is approximately 58 million.  The infant mortality rate is estimated at 37 per 1000 live births.  HIV Aids is still a serious problem in SA with approximately 13% of the population infected by this horrible disease.  And the life expectancy for South Africa is 61 years for males and 67 years for females.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Marion and I met with Eddie Brown and few days ago to discuss the application for Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).  We settled on various tasks to be performed and set up timelines to be completed.  The application is very technical and requires at least 30 different administrative policies (3 year financial forecast, business plan, surety agreement, company registration documents, VAT registration, declaration on monitoring and evaluation, admissions information and declaration on non-discrimination).


Several of these criteria are foreign to my western (and Malawian) way of thinking.  The person who receives these applications at the DHET is Dr. Wayne Dirk.  He has been very helpful to answer all my questions.  In fact, he has sent me a few templates on how to fill out various criteria effectively.  One of the things I’m battling to accomplish is the Surety Agreement (Financial viability report, Annexure 27.  This is basically an insurance policy, or a bank savings account, to cover student tuition in case Genesis goes bankrupt.  For example, if we have 40 students in our first year, and each student is paying R40,000, that means we need to insure R1,600,000 ($110,000).  Still trying to figure this one out…..


Another “pothole” in the Genesis journey that needs to be addressed is our HEQC online user status.  Our former educational consultant set up this account, but never activated it.  In fact, the email which was established can’t be accessed.  So we are trying to ask permission from the Council of Higher Education (CHE) to help us change all the contact details so we can start using the system.  The person who is helping us is Dr. Louis Swanepoel.  Hopefully she is willing and able to help us!


Sunday, October 27, 2019


Went to church at Antioch Bible this morning.  There was hardly anyone there!  Then Robin Brown got up for the call to worship and commended the “faithful few” for coming to church in spite of the South African rugby game on TV!  Senior pastor, Tim Cantrell, is in Madagascar training pastors!  Matt Floreen preached a wonderful sermon from Matthew 5:38-42.  When I opened my Bible to Matthew 5, I found my favorite hymn printed on a small sheet of paper.  I’m making this my theme song for Genesis South Africa!


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

There is no shadow of turning with Thee,

Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,

As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.


Great is Thy faithfulness!

            Great is Thy faithfulness!

            Morning by morning new mercies I see

            All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

            Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;

Join with all nature in manifold witness,

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide:

Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.


After church we went to a Mexican restaurant called La Rosa and ate enchiladas and tacos!  Matt and Rachel Floreen (and their two girls) joined us for lunch.  And we got to watch the end of the Rugby World Cup semi- final between South Africa and Wales.  SA won a tight game 19-16 and are headed to the championship game.


On the way home we stopped at a gated community called Eagle Canyon.  We are looking for a place to live closer to town and church.  Real Estate agents are allowed to have “open houses” in these gated communities on Sunday afternoons only.  So there were many families going around and looking at houses.  Most SA homes don’t have air conditioning or heat.  They are open and airy.  In fact, we sleep with the windows open every night.  We only looked at three houses because the kids got bored, and honestly we didn’t see anything we liked.


Nell’s birthday today!  She’s lives in Texas and is working with at risk kids.  She has her graduate degree in marriage and family counseling.  She turned 26 today and spent her birthday working at a shelter for abused women.  She and her boyfriend Chris (a lawyer and rugby coach) are raising exotic baby chickens.  For her birthday I sent her a shirt and coffee mug that says, “Crazy chicken lady!”


Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Received a phone call from our auditors, Middel & Partners.  It seems that our three year financial forecast is not a solid document for the DHET.  It was good enough to get us into the door of the HEQC, but now there are different and more stringent regulations.  This will delay the application to the DHET, and requires me to go into the Middel offices next Monday.  The name of the person assisting us is Monique.  I haven’t personally met her yet.  Hopefully we’ll be able to verify data and crank out the numbers quickly!


Middel & Partners are officially the auditors of Genesis SA.  We signed a contract with them this week.  They are also helping us with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to apply for Value Added Tax (VAT) registration and hopefully down the road tax exemption.  As I mentioned before, everything in Africa is hard and takes a long time!  Ok that’s a little extreme, but things are certainly different here.


If you don’t have GRIT, then you’re gonna quit.  I’m putting this slogan on a t-shirt.  Well probably not, but it sounded cool.  True grit is not just a movie by John Wayne.  Grit is the passion, patience and perseverance to achieve long-term goals.  If I don’t have grit, it will be too easy to quit.


Jesus told His disciples to have grit!  Actually He used a different word, “Abide.”  In John 15:1-11, Jesus says,


I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing!


Father give me grit!  Give me the power, your power, to abide, to stay, to keep on keeping on and to not give up!!


Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Today work is being happily interrupted by the birth of baby Josiah!  As I am working on the application criteria for the DHET, the three year financial forecast for Middel & Partners, the Genesis Business Plan with Ken Manuel and Eddie Brown, the Genesis Admissions Policies with the attorney, connecting with SA partners, writing fundraising updates to our donors in America, I am also glued to my What’s App!  Our good friends, Nick and Abi Tellone are having their first baby.  They live in Arizona so we are 10 hours ahead of them!  Abi was scheduled to be induced on Sunday, but there weren’t enough beds at the hospital.  Josiah finally arrived yesterday and weighed 6.2 lbs and measured in at 18.5 inches long.  Josiah is super hairy just like his Italian daddy!!


The other day I thanked the Lord for Waze.  Today I’m thanking the Lord for What’s App!  What’s App has made the world a little smaller.  I’m a button push away from communicating with my family and friends 24/7.  And check this out…I get video calls from my grandkids! The other day my grandson Canaan (age 3) called me and showed me his new bike.  Imagine David Livingstone with social media and What’s App!!


Thursday, October 31, 2019


Today is Halloween.  Didn’t even know it until I looked at my calendar.  No costumes, no candy, no crazy evil stuff.  Wow, this feels refreshingly normal!


Also woke up early (about 4 am) to catch the World Series Game 7.  Congrats to the Washington Nationals.  They beat the Houston Astros 7-2.  This is the first time in 112 years that nobody won a home game!  All seven wins were on the road!  Now that the Nationals are WS champions, I feel a little better about them sweeping my beloved St. Louis Cardinals in the NL championship series.  The Nationals are probably still sipping champagne, but I’m already looking forward to next April!  Go Cards!!


Goodbye October!  What does the Lord have in store for Genesis in November?