South Africa Mission
Joyce Ray is one of the ten founding members of Commitment Community Church, started in 1996. In 2001, after several short-term mission trips to Costa Rica, Romania, Bulgaria and South Africa, Joyce felt God calling her into full-time missions in South Africa. In 2003, she left New Jersey to live in South Africa, where she serves the people of Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape of SA.
Joyce Ray was born in West Chester, PA, but moved to NJ at the age of nine with three younger brothers. She has two older half-brothers who remained in PA. She graduated from Oakcrest High School in 1970 with a partial scholarship to Business College. At that time she was living away from home due to her parents’ divorce and could not continue her education. Instead, she worked as a manager in a retail health and beauty aids store in Ocean City, NJ for ten years, and then went on to become a professional photographer with Sears Portrait Studios. She eventually became manager and supervisor over six studios in three different states.
During this time, her younger brother Steven, who had been saved for over seven years at the time, continually told Joyce the Good News of Jesus. Also at this time many of the families Joyce photographed were involved in a church plant with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which Steven also attended. Through the prayers of these faithful people, Joyce gave her life to Jesus in 1984 at 31 years of age.
The first call of God on Joyce’s life was to leave her seven-year career in photography to take up church planting. She served full-time with the Christian and Missionary Alliance as a Licensed Deaconess, working with intern missionaries planting churches in Mullica Township NJ, and in Bloomfield, NJ, working with Cambodians, Spanish and Columbians. After some disappointments, Joyce came back to her home town and attended Philadelphia College of the Bible extended education studies, graduating five years later in 1994, second in her class. She then began her counseling studies at CCEF in Lavrock, PA, (finishing in 1996). During this time, she took a part-time job with the State of NJ working in the Adoption Resource Center of DYFS.
While attending Grace Community Church of the CMA, she met Cedrick and Lisa Brown. When Cedrick received the call to plant a church in Lindenwold, NJ, Joyce was asked to come and be a part of the team. She resisted at first, but finally conceded to God’s call and joined the team under Pastor Cedrick and Lisa. There, she would head up the Women’s Ministry, teach Sunday School to teens, and teach Bible Studies.
Deep in Joyce’s heart had always been a desire to be in service to God as a missionary. She had attended many missionary conferences with the CMA and had served as Vice-President of The Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship. She made many first-hand contacts with overseas missionaries. She was also an avid reader of true life missionary stories. Joyce applied to the CMA to serve as a missionary, but was informed that she didn’t have all the education required to go into the field.
Not to be discouraged, Joyce continued to serve. She served in a local juvenile detention center where many young teens came to Christ. In 1994, she and two friends took a short-term missions trip to Romania to visit her long-time friend John Williams (who is now a pastor at CCC) and they returned again in 1995. In 1998, while planning another trip to Romania, Joyce attended a conference where Sigi Oblander was speaking. Sigi had an international ministry and had spent many years in South Africa. She was offering a tour to South Africa in 1999. God changed Joyce’s plans for Romania and she found herself on a plane to South Africa. She returned to SA in 2001 on her own. It was there, after meeting with a school social worker who shared the plight of child abuse and the lack of services, that Joyce heard God’s call to South Africa.
Returning to the USA, she discussed her desire with the leadership of CCC and returned to SA in 2002 for three months. The church released her for full-time ministry in 2003. Joyce left her 15-year career at DYFS, sold her home, tearfully said goodbye to family and friends, and flew to SA. Once there, Joyce worked with a local SA woman who had a ministry to children on Friday afternoons, where they did worship, games, had Bible stories, and provided a meal. Close to 300 children attended weekly. With this ministry, Joyce built a safe house for abused and abandoned children, which eventually grew to three houses. Unfortunately, due to some disagreements on operational procedures and integrity, Joyce felt God release her into another ministry. She began to serve a middle-class white South African family with four children under the age of nine who had been molested by their biological father. Joyce worked with this family for seven years through the injustice of the judicial system, counseling and mentoring the mother and children. Today they are a safe, vibrant family living successful lives, with the father out of the country.
During the last seven years, Joyce has also been working on staff with a local multicultural church, Plett Community Church, located in Plettenberg Bay. She helps head up the counseling center, teaches ladies’ Bible studies, and serves in many other ministries. She also works in a school bridging program with another American couple to help township children receive a better education and helps them right through University. She works with ladies in a township setting, with the goal to empower them to affect their community. She has also worked with a Belgium group, “Born In Africa” for seven years, mentoring 21 teens each year. Not one to stay idle, Joyce has also served twice in Bulgaria assisting a fellow missionary who works among the gypsy population in Sliven and surrounding areas.
Joyce is currently establishing a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Plettenberg Bay, where she and her team will be able to assist those affected by the growing teenage pregnancy crisis in the area.
Joyce’s hobbies include photography, cooking for her friends, and exploring South Africa. She loves the outdoors, bass fishing and spending time reading at the beach. In the States, she has a large family of nieces and nephews that she tries to keep up with! But her greatest joy is in seeing people come to know the love that Christ has for them, and giving their heart to Him as she did.
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