South Africa—2011 Report
Paul wrote to Timothy to “stir up the gift” (2 Timothy 1:6) that God had placed within him. Since 1996, we have traveled to nations in southern Africa to provide a ministry of encouragement and instruction to pastors and church members to do the same in their spiritual lives and ministries. It is easy for the gift to become dormant, for ground to get hard, and to drift along instead of being a force that makes a difference.
Time and time, we have returned home to report MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, through the grace and help of God. For most of these years (beginning in the early nineties), we received written feedback from each participant and, thus, have ample documentation thrilling to read providing strong confirmation that the Holy Spirit was indeed the Teacher, bringing the Word alive. As we return to areas where we have been, a specific theme of the prayer preparation is to pray, DO IT AGAIN, LORD!
There is abundant evidence that the South Africa 2011 mission was used by the Lord to stir up the saints toward the Word of God, Spirit-filled living, prayer, witnessing (Psalm 126:5-6), and stewardship. It is not easy to teach in South Africa’s black townships (where God has called us to work with indigenous churches where the need for basic instruction is so very great, even with pastors and leaders) for several reasons.
First, there are many diverse churches in the townships. Often a group is lead by a person who is reluctant to encourage his people to attend anything outside their own church for fear that someone will steal his sheep. Consequently, it is highly unusual for participants to be from other churches (as is true in most countries in which we work). Second, although most have a working knowledge of English, the dialect is deeply British, not American, English. The inflections and pronunciations are quite different making it hard for me to understand and for them to understand—even when common words are used and the words are clearly spoken. This is true of an interpreter, as well. The primary language is Soetho. In South Africa, I must speak deliberately, clearly, and concisely to enable the interpreter to bridge the communication gap. Since Leslie Motsalane, who has served as JGHM—Southern Africa Branch’s director for the past thirteen years, is used to my voice, he seldom needs clarification. He has taught many prayer seminars and plans to do more this year.
Points of interest
There were ten prayer seminars in the Free State. The seminars began in northeastern Free State in the mountains in a region called QwaQwa, home to three million people. The first two seminars were there. The first venue was Emmanuel Bible Church, where I preached on Sunday (five people came to Christ) and taught one prayer seminar using two evenings. The second seminar was during the day on Monday. Little did we know that a severe, late winter-storm would come in during the night on Sunday with heavy snow and very cold temperatures—no electricity or heat (of any kind). Many said that this was the worst such storm in their memory. N-3, the major highway into Durban was closed. In spite of this powerful obstacle, the people came, many walking three or four miles. Using candles for light, the people sat (wrapped in blankets) taking notes and joyfully responding heartily. The “teaching-learning flow,” which I try to establish in each seminar was present from the beginning. Pastors, especially, reflected full understanding and expressed gratitude for the prayer seminar workbook vowing to use it personally and to teach their people the purpose and power of prayer expressing over and over their deep appreciation for the Prayer Seminar Workbook.
The third and fourth seminars were in Harrismith, the leading city in a region that thrives on agriculture. Again, pastors appeared to benefit. I left a digital copy of the workbook for their use in printing more workbooks. A teacher at the Bible college in New Castle said that this was the best organized and thorough teaching material on the Christian life that he had ever seen and plans to use this approach with his students. I preached at the New Life Christian Assembly on Sunday morning and five came to Christ; a large number rededicated themselves to prayer and the Word of God.
A schedule adjustment was made when it was reported that two day seminars would have fewer than ten attending IF we started at 4 p.m. Of course, we could not revise our schedule since the evenings were already set to begin at 6 p.m. Actually, not having a day seminar and one-half a seminar in the evenings (three in two days), reduced the physical demand dramatically. Once again, I acceded to God’s wisdom. Since we have placed the prayer seminar ministry in His hands, we have no cause to fret over cancelled seminars or abbreviated seminars (less than the six hours).
The fifth prayer seminar was in Ficksburg, a small town nestled along the border of Lesotho, the beautiful mountain kingdom to the east. The attendance was large; participants were well-educated and well-versed in the Word of God. It was a pleasure to teach this group sensing that their understanding was far above average. Their pastor was one of the most impressive men that I have encountered in Africa. One could sense renewal and revival in his heart as he realized, and acknowledged, that revival had come to him and to his people. Several times, he declared that God had sent me at the right time with the right message. One well-dressed affable man came to Christ and, at the close, hugged me and thanked me for coming.
We shifted from eastern Free State and moved westward to Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State and the home of South Africa’s Judicial Branch. The federal government’s three branches are in different cities—Executive Branch is in Pretoria and the Legislative Branch is in Cape Town. Bloemfontein, “the rose city,” is beautiful and home to two million people. The sixth seminar was forty miles east of the city and was in a relatively young church in Thaba-Nchwa (Black Mountain). Other than the pastor and our team members, only women attended. However, they were excellent learners, very articulate and sharp—easy to teach and capable of being teaches themselves. Anticipating a large number of participants (having sent out many letters of invitation), the church rented a tent. During the morning, a heavy wind came and brought down one side of the tent so we ended up in the small meeting quarters, anyway.
The seventh seminar was in Botschabelo, a region of about a million people, fifty miles west of Bloemfontein. There is a group of evangelical churches in the southern Africa nations known as the Apostolic Free Mission. Not only do they have churches in the black townships, there are churches in the white suburbs as well. The group is well established. One of their churches in Wassel Namibia, on the Pacific Ocean, hosted us in 2001, so it was a joy to reestablish fellowship. The eighth seminar was in another AFM church in Bloemfontein.
After we finished out work Thursday night, we proceeded to drive one hundred and twenty miles to Welkom, the headquarters of JGHM-SOUTHERN AFRICA BRANCH. It is the home of Leslie and Tabitha Motsalane, leaders of the ministry, and the home of Leslie’s church. When we started working with Leslie, there were no members and a tent was erected in a black township each Saturday and dismantled on Sunday night (for security reasons). Mostly children attended. Leslie taught the children how to pray for their parents. Sue and I taught a prayer seminar in the early days, mostly to children. Now there is a very nice brick building and the church has around 600 members. God has blessed a ministry built on prayer and the Word of God.
When I first saw the two lots that the black township had provided the church, there were no other buildings in site and there were no roads. It was a wise choice, however, because two roads would intersect at the church location, one leading to a cemetery. Year after year, we waited for the roads to be constructed and they have been completed. At the same time, Leslie and Tabitha lived in two rooms during those early days. They felt that if their ministry was to be in the black township that they should live there. Now, they have a lovely brick home. I no longer need to stay in a guest house, but there is a bedroom for Sue and me when we are there.
The ninth seminar was in Wesselsbron, thirty-five miles northwest of Welkom, and the home of Simon, one of our team members who was invaluable as we traveled. When we arrived, we found the church was meeting in a corrugated building, very modest indeed. The environs, however, did not detract from the powerful moving of the Holy Spirit. For the first time on this circuit, I did not have to establish a flow getting people to read and respond in “unison.” It was already there. During the first two hours, people kept coming. During a break, I observed several young people in the back furiously copying notes that they had missed and receiving explanation from those who had attended—students teaching each other is a pleasant sight for any teacher! The Holy Spirit was at work in Wesselsbron.
The tenth seminar was in Welkom. The church that hosted the seminar meets in Welkom Lodge and uses a very large hall that is not used for any other purpose. Since the gold mines are playing out, it appears that the lodge does not have the business that it once had, thus, there is space available for the church. It was a beautiful setting, indeed. I had wondered why Leslie did not have the seminar in his own church, but I was pleasantly surprised that the pastor of this thriving congregation (mostly young people) was a man who had served on an earlier team. He said that since he traveled with us, he thinks about what he learned about the Christian life (the Word of God, Spirit-filled living, prayer witnessing, and stewardship) every day of his life. He decided to build the church on these emphases, as did the early church in Jerusalem. He testified that this approach works. Everything about the last prayer seminar was outstanding. I taught in English, which allowed Leslie to listen and take notes.
As we traveled, I sensed something happening in Leslie, but said nothing. As we drove back to his home, he said that the Holy Spirit had been working in his heart and mind since the prayer seminar in Ficksburg, where the pastor said at the end of that seminar that he had personally been renewed and his people revived. Leslie recommitted to the prayer seminar ministry that he had carried on so faithfully and enthusiastically for many years. His plan is to one day see his church in a strong position so that he can retire and give himself to the prayer ministry throughout southern Africa. Even now, he is comfortable in leaving his church to minister elsewhere because he has a leadership group that can function quite well.
I ended the mission speaking in Leslie’s church on Sunday morning. One blessing was to see how the congregation has grown and matured. The singing is harmonious, vibrant, and uplifting. The Holy Spirit moves freely among the congregation. Worship is joyous and alive. Here is the e-mail that I sent Sue on Sunday afternoon:
You would never believe the new building. It is yellow brick with red brick trim. The contrast between “then” (remember the little tent that was put up each weekend and the corrugated meeting place?) and the “now” is dramatic and this is considered the first phase with an auditorium to be built later. A large number attended. At least ten came to Christ (a missionary couple from Brazilian Baptists are working with Leslie to establish a pre-school (twenty-five children) based on the PEPE model. The brother worked with those who had trusted Christ and was quite skilled in how he did it. Scores came forward for repentance and re-commitment. Leslie led this part of the service using statements from my message. The altar was filled with many on their knees weeping before God. It was a moving time, one to be long remembered. We are “dreaming” that Zane Abbott from Lynchburg will come in early 2012 and lead evangelistic services. Leslie announced that he was seeking 168 people, each to commit to praying one hour a week for revival starting September 1. Other churches will be involved. I explained that I would not feel good about this happening unless they committed themselves to attend and bring their lost family members/friends to hear the Gospel. The primary emphasis will not be simply encouraging the saints, but to reach out to the unsaved people who live in the area. Remember 500,000 live in this township. We believe that the revival fires are stirring and the church is ready for concerted outreach.
So the climax of the 2011 South Africa mission was amazing, indeed. Now I am going to rest for a few hours and tomorrow, the Lord willing, I will begin the journey home.
Before leaving for South Africa, I established specific goals to guide my work. All in all, with God’s help, we were able to achieve them. I believe that there will be lighthouses of prayer penetrating the spiritual darkness in the black townships in South Africa and the other cities in which we ministered. A lighthouse may be one person, two persons meeting together in agreement, small groups families, or churches. Through the grace of God, we have been able to establish these lighthouses of prayer in each of South Africa’s nine provinces.
Leslie will continue to keep JGHM-Southern Africa Branch alive and well and will follow-up and conduct prayer seminars as his time and resources allow. I am grateful for the faithful financial and prayer support from our Doorkeepers and other partners that enable us to travel around the world teaching believers the purpose and power of prayer. We exceeded the one hundred contributors that we asked for and actually had a surplus as far as actual expenditures were concerned. Again, God knows what is doing.
It will be good to be home. Thanks to the availability of e-mail, Sue and I are able to communicate, sometimes more than once a day. She keeps me up-to-date on happenings in our family (and there is always something going on—this time Maggie beginning kindergarten and Willow not feeling well. She shares, also, prayer requests that she has received from folks in the Lynchburg area and elsewhere, including some from other nations. When I made the decision to give myself to the prayer seminar ministry, she and I talked it over. We agreed that my being away, even when she accompanied me, would not be easy. We agreed, however, that the Holy Spirit in a way bordering on the miraculous enabled me to write the prayer seminar workbook. Since the original purpose was to set up a prayer ministry in our local church, the layout provides practical assistance to churches that sponsor a seminar to do the same. God is able! God is willing! God is waiting for us to call on Him.