Steps of Faith – Nov 2021

A Bright Light

“Although your people live in darkness, they will see a bright light. Although they live in the shadow of death, a light will shine on them.” (Matt 4:16 CEV)

The Nativity is loaded with signs and wonders: a star, angels, shepherds and Magi. For me Christmas commemorates the switching on of a “bright light” – which the darkness can never extinguish (John 1:5).
Our family tradition didn’t have us place gifts under the Christmas tree nor did we hang stockings (with their limited capacity) on the fireplace. No! When I went to bed on Christmas Eve I placed an empty pillowcase at the end of my bed. I slept through the dark night until first light. At dawn, as the sun was rising, it was bright enough to see the bulging pillowcase. In the growing light I unwrapped my gifts.
The Seminary has, over its forty years, passed through times of shadows, when people have stood, for a moment, with their backs to the light. Now, we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and enterprise (Heb 12:2). God has been generous, in His light students and staff are busy unpacking His gifts.
May Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, illuminate your life and way in 2022. (Peter Russel-Boulton)


Principal points

By any measure, 2021 has been an extraordinary year. For many in South Africa it was annus horribilis, the July looting compounding multiple miseries of lockdown and load-shedding. According to the Numbeo Crime Index for 2020, Pietermaritzburg was ranked the most dangerous city in Africa. Theft and break-in are part of the urban scene we live and work in; how indeed we covet your prayers for safety! In other respects, however, this year was annus mirabilis. Elma & I praise God for his sustaining hand on two safe relocations, one mother going (Rose) and another coming (Cathy), and for a house just 15 minutes from ESSA. Settling in, finding a church and making friends across various networks has been quite invigorating.

Year in Review

Horribilis: it took several months for us to recoup our cyber-theft loss from Dec last year; in the end we had to settle for around 80% of what was lost. As mentioned the mid-year unrest created all sorts of problems for the city; looters walking right past our gates, bags in hand, while police were nowhere to be found. Pine St has suffered much from fence and plumbing theft; cars have been stolen off the street in broad daylight. It’s clear that we need a comprehensive security solution.
Mirabilis: With the installation of a JoJo tank + pressure pump our water taps and toilets are finally doing their thing! In August the Lord has blessed our seminary with a new student cohort; to this group will soon be added several more. Then it was all hands on deck during September / October when we hosted the CHE site visit who interviewed and inspected us thoroughly. God willing, we are cautiously optimistic about a positive report. Further happy news is that our administrator got married this month; she is now Mrs Lee Lowe.

Finances: We are grateful for the kind generosity of donors who continue to support the ESSA vision. Substantial gifts helped us settle an outstanding debt to a local architect, carry out sorely needed maintenance on several historic buildings, as well as resourcing the replenishment of library stocks which did not keep up while the seminary was closed. Bequests from a few deceased estates were deeply appreciated, enabling us to plan the digitizing of our archives. Against these positives must be recorded our ongoing difficulty in recouping rent arrears from tenants who have themselves endured, it must be said, a difficult 2021.
Publicity: In March we opened our chapel for the benefit of citizens who wished to view the ESSA Cross and hear Bill Houston and Allen Goddard share on the meaning of this highly intricate piece. For Heritage Day in September, a photographic tour led by Lara Edmonds visited the seminary in the company of a journalist and photographers Burkhard Schlosser and Gary Clarke, who snapped the pic above. Please, won’t you make a point of liking our Facebook page which is updated weekly? We are nearly ready to go live with our new website, and invite you to share this newsletter with as many like-minded friends as possible.


You may not be aware that 2020 marked four decades since ESSA was founded. As Peter RB points out, shadows have come and gone but the Light remains. This year has seen many wonderful signs of the Lord’s goodness and so, confidently, we look to him who holds the future. Shalom, and thank you for your support.