Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tales from the Townships

Soweto! Before the end of apartheid, it was no place for a white man. Some will remember Steve Biko and the 1960s. It was an absolute "no go" area. Thanks be to God, that it is no longer the case. I enjoyed fellowship with our brethren, sisters and friends in Soweto last summer.

On my return to South Africa two weeks ago, this time to the Durban area to help with the preaching project, what a joy it was to see how much progress has been made in preaching in townships. We now have small ecclesias in Lamontville and Marianhill, close to Durban. So far, I have been privileged to make two visits to Marianhill and one to Lamontville, and to share a joyous occasion while witnessing the baptism of four young people from Marianhill, which increases membership to eleven.

As they don't know how to "do" long, light, English summers in South Africa, brother Craig Blewett and I set off in the dark for an evening meeting in Lamontville. Lots of dark roads - I'm still in the dark as to how we got there! But we did. We met with three sisters and two interested friends.

We "Western culture" (perhaps first world) folks can learn so much from them. Yes, we have a good intellectual knowledge and understanding of Scripture, but how often does it show in our faces? It's different in the townships! Faces light up when we discuss the Scriptures. An appreciation of God's love for us, and of the saving work of our Lord Jesus, shone from the faces of our sisters that night. The evening was made memorable in our breaking of bread, and keen discussion after the meeting.

ThumbnailThe next evening, brother Tim Genders and I set out for Marianhill. Same story: no English summer, and I've no idea how we got there! But, get there we did, and walked down a long steep concrete path in the dark to brother Phinda and sister Sylvester's home at the bottom of the hill. Before long, 18 brothers, sisters and friends were eagerly gathered for Bible Class. We began with two African songs of praise. How I love the sound of their voices with impromptu harmonies. What a joy there is in their expressions of thanks to our God. They were all eager and attentive listeners - what a delight for the speaker!

My second visit to Marianhill was particularly memorable. For a start, it was raining. In the Third World, that's never good news for attendance at meetings. No cars to glide the occupants into an ecclesial car park. Just muddy walks and wet clothing. Yet 12 of us gathered for Bible Class on a cold evening.
Brother Tim led a discussion on Forgiveness, based on Matthew chapters 6 and 18. What was impressive, was the willingness of teenage boys to join in the discussion. One comment of "when you forgive it lifts a burden from your own heart" was particularly perceptive.

Then, a "magic moment". As Tim was talking about us learning to forgive, especially now as Marianhill ecclesia is growing and problems are inevitable, sister Sylvester said "some people killed my brother, but I have forgive them." Stunned silence! Now that was forgiveness! What a lesson we all took home that night.

Two weeks gone, three township meetings attended. I look forward to many more, God willing, and I hope to keep readers informed.

Bro. David White

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