My wife Debbie and I were asked to travel to the region this summer to visit and conduct training sessions for the men and their wives. It was a delightful experience.
We left the States on July 27 on a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. After a one night layover we traveled on to Lilongwe, Malawi, where we held the first of the meetings. The Church owns its own building there, and it was a suitable venue. More than 30 men and ladies from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia attended.
Two elders attended from Zimbabwe—Mike Mukarati and Mabasa Chichaya. Both are capable men who care for the scattered members. We first met Mike 16 years ago in Harare, Zimbabwe, and it was good to renew our friendship.
We were encouraged to meet the leaders from Zambia. One deacon, Filius Jere, edits our Beyond Today audio tracks into a “Zambian version” by removing Western references that do not relate to his people. He adds an intro and outro with a local address and then puts it on local radio. The Church there has grown in numbers, and there is promise for the future.
Our second conference was in Johannesburg, South Africa. The South African churches are served by three elders, several deacons and other leading men and women. No one is salaried by UCG, and all serve in addition to their full-time jobs. Roy Demont is the chairman of the the South African National Council and makes regular visits to all the congregations.
South Africa has seen steady growth in the past five years. Beyond Today television is aired in South Africa, and they have a substantial mailing list for the magazine. They eagerly anticipate two upcoming Beyond Today live appearances in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Steve Myers will be conducting these presentations before this year’s Feast of Tabernacles.
We discussed the United Church of God’s Vision and Mission Statements, and I gave a talk titled “Leaders Are Disciples First.” We also had a lively interactive discussion on how to approach and work with “lost sheep”—those who for whatever reason find themselves estranged from the Church while still holding to the faith and need of contact. Some of the areas here are having growth from members who have been part of the greater Church of God diaspora. The Cape Town church has grown to over 30 members as a result of a large group of people joining in fellowship with us in recent years.
Debbie conducted a session with the ladies, and they were encouraged to help their husbands fulfill their duties in the Church and take the lead in service where needed. Fellowship and time together for the members is a rare opportunity. They enjoy the time they have together.
South Africa’s history is at once colorful, tragic and fascinating. The end of apartheid and the coming of majority rule continues to be worked out among the distinct cultures of the region. While we were there the nation conducted local elections. The results highlighted the ferment that continues to challenge everyone. Everyone in Africa shares the hope for a better life. The true gospel of God offers the foundation for that hope.
At the end of both conferences I concluded by reading Acts 20:32, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” This is Paul’s farewell blessing to the Ephesian elders in Miletus. It has become a favorite verse of mine from the book of Acts.
Southern Africa is doing well. Pray for all who serve in this region.