by Shannon Coenen
“We just traveled 22 hours to arrive at my old home!” Those were my words as I looked out over the South Africa landscape where GOF Missionaries Shannon & Corné Stone live and work. It seriously looked a lot like where I grew up in Wyoming. See for yourself! This trip had proven to be very different from all other Africa trips: no shots required, no visa required, you can drink the water, and the roads are halfway decent. And though it is summer there, the temperatures were quite bearable….until you step inside one of the tiny metal homes with no air flow.
GOF Board Director Steve Ferrante joined GOF President Shannon Coenen and her husband, Joseph, to deliver 300 pairs of shoes. These are special for two reasons: 1) They adapt in size up to 5 sizes and 2) They are used to bring the gospel message. We began to experience early on the depth of this second purpose, carrying of the gospel message, and the spiritual battle surrounding these shoes. The shoes were detained by customs at the airport, which was highly disappointing because we had planned on handing out the shoes while we were there. However, we weren’t going to let this inhibit us from completing the rest of our mission. Unfortunately the shoes are still being held by customs, but we will continue to work with authorities (and pray!) so that the shoes will be released and placed on the feet of those needing them most.
Most of our time was spent visiting families in their homes, praying for needs, and sharing the gospel. It was amazing to see how God orchestrated the time and answered prayers! One man had severe swelling of his legs and suffered great pain when walking. A few days after the team prayed, the swelling was gone and he was walking around the town with no issue. His wife rededicated her life to Christ and was then filled with the Spirit!
Another woman had cataracts that covered her eyes and could hardly see a thing. In fact, we couldn’t even tell what her eye color was! But after praying for her, we discovered her eyes are brown because the cataracts were gone except at the very edges of the iris. She was so happy because she could see!
Sangomas, or witchdoctors, are common place in Mautse. But the Lord is at work and many Sangomas have turned to Christ and walked away from their previous life. Yet for many it is very hard to fully walk away, instead choosing to include Christ in their arsenal of magic — which doesn’t work. One particular woman was a Sangoma in the past, gave her life to Christ, but has since returned to wearing symbols of witchcraft and signs of ritualistic behavior was apparent at her house. We challenged her to make up her mind once and for all for Christ, but she was not fully convinced. We asked if we could pray for her, but felt the need to pray inside her house. Much to our surprise, her son was resting in a dark corner of the house, so we asked him if he knew Christ and proceeded to share the gospel with him. He gave his life to Christ and was then baptized in the Holy Spirit — right in front of his backslidden mother!
Mixing witchcraft and Christianity is very common.
We discovered that area churches were endorsing ways of witchcraft by selling water that was “blessed” in order to protect the consumer. Another church was handing out dried plants that were to be tucked into one’s ceiling for protection from evil spirits. As can be imagined, these things were doing more harm than good. One man, a lay pastor in his church, had these dried plants in his house and was complaining of abdominal pain. We prayed for him, but the pain didn’t go away. After noticing the plants, we taught him the truth about trusting Jesus only and Jesus’ power to heal by Himself and took the plants outside. We prayed for him again and all pain immediately left his body. He said that he felt something “jumped out from his side” as we prayed.
I did a few Bible studies with ladies and girls about the need for Jesus to be allowed complete lordship and that one cannot turn back to old ways, even if people around us give us a hard time for our decision. The message struck home as many repented and prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And by the way, I think more Bible studies should be done outside under trees. 🙂 But when it rains, it’s not so fun anymore.
Steve Ferrante also taught at a few Bible studies. One study Steve did with the boys focused on Samson and his struggle to truly follow the Lord. At the end, 26 boys either accepted Christ for the first time or rededicated their lives and many prayed to be filled with the Spirit.
And lest you think Joseph Coenen was just along for the ride, he was his typical “kid magnet.” Seriously, kids adore him and flock to him for all sorts of fun and games. During one of the women’s Bible studies, the kids gathered around Joseph and gave his scalp a good massage. At one of the food distributions, several kids decided that Joseph and Steve should lift them like weights. Most of these kids have no father in their life, so the presence of Joseph and Steve was very meaningful and it was heartwarming to watch the kids intently observe these two men as they prayed, taught, and played.
There are so many other stories left to tell you! Like how Steve went hunting a got an oryx that is now providing meat for hundreds of families in Mautse. Or the boy who lost his ability to read after being exposed to the occult, but who now believes in Christ, can read once again, and he, along with his whole family are now filled with the Spirit!
Shannon & Corné Stone are doing a fantastic job in their work. They love the people deeply and it’s obvious the people love them. Children shout and wave once they spot them in the Landrover. Beaming smiles appear on the faces of adults. More and more are requesting the Stones visit them in their homes and pray for them. Corné is an expert at drawing the people into conversation while at the same time feeling down their backs and arms for signs of witchcraft — and the people have no idea she’s doing it! The gospel is going forth, people are growing in their faith, God is proving Himself through signs and miracles, and lives are changing.
Please keep the Stones in your prayers and consider giving toward their ministry. They are faithful workers who are pointing people to Christ in so many ways. And please pray with us for the release of the shoes. We look forward to the additional testimonies that will come forth as those are distributed. Soles and souls….what a great combo!