28 Jan 2008
Believers in Jesus Christ should be everywhere in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. A recent government survey revealed that of its 3.1 million people over 2.2 million believe they are Christians.
The large capital city of Nelspruit looks much like a midwestern city in the United States – even some of the names are common. While most of the residents of the city are white, this is slowly changing. They shop in supermarkets and upscale stores and drive nice cars. On a Saturday afternoon, families enjoy a friendly game of lawn hockey while others just watch. Who among these folks know Jesus Christ in a personal way?
Piet Retief is another city in Mpumalanga Province. This city is named for the leader of the Dutch settlers who came here in the late 1800’s. Originally called Boers, these people claimed to know God. They felt that they had direct revelation from God to take the land from the indigenous population and make it their own.
Throughout the country, Boers, … now more commonly known as Afrikaaners, … have done well for themselves in a variety of industries, large farming enterprises, and in tourism. They have built churches many of which are of traditional Dutch architecture. If asked, most Afrikaaners would say they are Christians. However, if pressed further, few would say that they have a personal relationship with Jesus. Also, in these larger cities, one will often find new mosques as this one in Nelspruit with its futuristic style of minaret. Islam is growing as the Muslims make a major push to become more influential in South Africa.
The white South Africans, … Afrikaaners, … are only a small part of the population of this province. Just outside the large cities is another type of city. It is where the blacks live. They live in places called townships much as they did during the era of Apartheid. This is the only place that they can afford to live. Their wages are low, the unemployment is high, and education is difficult because of the cost of tuition and school uniforms. This township, … located just off the four-lane highway that leads to Nelspruit, … has a few believers. Finding these believers is not easy. Not only is it hard to find believers, it is really tricky to walk among the houses built on the steep hillside. A variety of materials are used for home construction. Brick or cinder block are used for many but others use only corrugated sheet metal. Fruit trees and gardens help meet family needs. Residents are friendly and usually smile and greet those who come to the township. Occasionally, they will offer you either hard liquor or home brew. Continuing on and at the end of a paved road is a church. It is called St. Engenas Z.C.C., the Zionist Christian Church. The people claim to be Christian but few are believers. Down the path a short distance is a mosque. It is old. There are only a few followers of Islam in this township but they can be easily identified by their caps. These are not believers. A traditional healer, … a sangoma, … gathers herbs near her home. There are many sangomas in the area but probably none are believers. They are more likely to follow the superstition and ancestor worship that is characteristic of the African traditional religious culture and belief system.
From the outside, the believers look like others. Their homes look similar. Their church building may look to some like a shack but inside, … sitting on the wood benches, … is where true followers of Jesus Christ listen regularly to the teaching of God’s Word. Today the pastor and another believer are attending a leadership training class taught by an American missionary. Pastor Augustine Khoza says that there are 30 members in this church. They have a foundation poured at the back of the current building and hope to erect a masonry structure soon. Praise the Lord! There are believers in this township near Nelspruit.
Piet Retief is a town close to the Swaziland border with modern homes and paved streets. However in the rural areas there are shacks and muddy roads. Most of the people in these areas are Zulu or Swazi and survive by subsistence farming.
Way out in a field off the main highway is a large circle of painted white rocks. Within the circle is music. The songs have familiar Christian tunes. The white-robed people have crosses. They have Bibles. They cry, “Praise the Lord!” and call themselves “Followers of Shembe”. They claim to be members of the Nazarene Baptist Church. Whole families are here – men and women, young and old, as well as children. They worship together within the circle of rocks each week. … These folks look like believers.
Several miles down a dirt road is a family compound where another group meets regularly. Their leader, Mr. Mwelase, is proud of his cornfield located adjacent to his home. He is a supplier of herbs and potions used by the traditional healers. His followers are generally known as Zionists. They are friendly. Some are prosperous business people, others are farmers, but all are very devoted to their belief and their leader. They believe in God. They sing as if they know Jesus but, as one watches, few of the faces reflect the joy of a true believer.
Like those of the Nazarene Baptists, there are many different and complex beliefs and rituals among the Zionists. They have a very limited knowledge of the scripture and are, in reality, followers of their leader. Telling these people about Jesus when they truly believe they are already Christians is met with skepticism.
Developing a strong relationship is essential for sharing the truth of the Bible. One example is a weekday Bible study for children where boys and girls have fun as well as learn about Jesus. Pray for these kids. They need to know Jesus loves them and cares for them. A real priority is sharing and teaching the love of Jesus to children before they become indoctrinated with the religion and cultural traditions of their parents.
In some places, children are taught about Jesus in an orphanage such as the one near Piet Retief. Several churches throughout South Africa are reaching out to the millions of orphans. This orphanage went from 2 children to 30 in a matter of months.
Also near Piet Retief and down a muddy road flanked by tall grass on one side and a rickety wood fence on the other, … is where Mama Mavuso lives. Her house, … next to a pigpen, …looks much like others in the area. Yet, it is different than most in the township of Amatjeni. The doors are always open to the neighborhood children. You see … Mama Mavuso is a believer. She invites children from the neighborhood to her home to hear Bible stories, sing about Jesus, and have refreshments. Listen to these happy voices (on camera audio of group singing) (As we fade out the following is said:) Mama Mavuso finances the food and materials from her meager income working as a vendor. She makes and sells cakes to the employees at a local company. The group meeting at Mama’s house is growing but opposition from unbelievers nearby is growing as well.
Back in the big city of Nelspruit, Clifford Goliath is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church. He and his wife, Estelle, are taking the Theological Education by Extension courses to better equip themselves to lead their congregation in a Biblical way. This pastoral couple believes that theological knowledge and training of pastors and leaders is a key to developing believers with a solid foundation.
True Biblical moral values are not provided by the prevailing religions… not only in Mpumalanga Province … but also throughout South Africa. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is sweeping the people. Over 30% are HIV/AIDS positive. Premature death due to AIDS is causing the cemeteries to overflow.
With the rampage of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa, it is vital to reach the children with Biblical instruction on dating, marriage, and Godly family living. In an effort to reach the young people, a program called True Love Waits is being taught by believers in a variety of locations. When permitted, it is taught in the public schools. Pray for the Youth who have signed the True Love Waits cards and are determined to honor God in their lives through this commitment.
There are believers in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa and their influence, while small now, is growing. More people are needed to tell about the true God. In Acts 17:23, Paul says, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” Will you COME? (overlay COME) … Will you TELL? (overlay TELL) … Will you SHOW (overlay SHOW) them the JOY (overlay JOY) that comes with a personal relationship with Jesus?
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