II Corinthians 9:9
"As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever."
Written by Tim Maguire, National Ministry leader in South Africa
My sincere thanks goes to Canada for making this trip possible and funding my travels to visit with the church group that GCI South Africa has been walking alongside since late 2010. This was my third trip to visit with Lascan Sikhosi and the groups he pastors.
A Brief History:
A German missionary planted a small Church in Katimo Mulilo, Namibia (Formerly German South West Africa) in 2006. Katimo Mulilo is in the Caprivi Strip, a long narrow section of North Eastern Namibia which gives the country access to the mighty Zambesi River, biggest river in Southern Africa.
The missionary returned to Germany in 2008, leaving them without any sort of support structure, merely suggesting to them that they look for a mother church. Unsure what to do, Lascan searched the internet and game across the South African GCI website and started corresponding with myself via e-mail. I forwarded him a lot of our literature which he read and then asked for a visit. My first visit to Katimo Mulilo was in late February 2011.
On that first visit I found a group struggling with legalism and couldn't understand the concept of being free in Christ. The Seventh Day Adventists are very active in the area and had been trying to get the little group to follow them. The first question I was asked is should they change their day of worship to Saturday? I was able to sit with their leadership and explain the Old Covenant/New Covenant concept to them, and the reality that all things have been accomplished in Christ, and that he is our Sabbath rest. I returned to Johannesburg and sent them additional reading material as well as CDs dealing with TT. Also, I had them GCI hymn-books made, with their own songs in their own language, which I delivered to them on my second visit last in September last year. Lascan was able to travel to Zimbabwe towards the end of last year to spend some time being mentored by Zimbabwean National GCI Director, Joseph Mpophu. Lascan then attended a Southern African regional conference in Harare, Zimbabwe in February, a week before this latest visit.
Canadian GCI member, David Linker had shown interest in attending a mission trip to Africa, and after co-ordinating through Wendy Moore, it was arranged that he would accompany me on this trip. He flew in from Canada, and we left Johannesburg at 3:00am Friday, February 24, 2012, in order to make our first destination (Kasane in Northern Botswana) by nightfall. We tented in a small camping ground where the Zambesi and Chobe rivers come together. It's a truly beautiful, remote part of Southern Africa, with wild elephant known to be found wandering through the streets.
A large bull African Elephant we came across alongside the road.
After a sixteen hour car journey, we slept well and woke up to a beautiful African morning. We had a leisurely breakfast and then travelled through the upper section of the Chobe Game Reserve, before entering Namibia on our final leg to Katima Mulilo. The contrast in living standards as we entered Namibia was obvious. Small, basic rural homes made with mud walls and grass roofs were scattered randomly along the main road into town. We arrived at Namwi Island lodge shortly after lunch, unpacked, then went into town to meet with Lascan.
Lascan's excitement over having visitors was evident, as we discussed the following day's programme and went to examine the church building, where we were planning to make improvements which would turn the little mud structure into a more weather durable building.
Sunday was a day of great rejoicing. David’s musical talent in singing and guitar playing was a huge hit to the locals, and he was asked again and again to keep on singing.
The morning church service (fifty in attendance), where I spoke on Christ’s centrality to all things, was followed by the formalisation of our welcoming Lascan’s small groups into the fellowship of GCI, and then a communion service, the first the group had ever taken part in.
After a great lunch and enjoying song and fellowship with the members of the main church, we travelled to two small home churches, one in Katima Mulio town (about eighteen attended), and one about 25km west of town (about twelve in attendance), where we met, spoke and sang with the people, who hold their church services outdoors.
We spent the next day (Monday) arranging the building materials and trying to arrange for contractors to replace a badly damaged potion of the church roof, as well as create a porch area supported by poles, and plasterers to plaster the mud building to prevent the continual damage caused by the heavy rains experienced each summer.
We travelled the village, buying Mopani poles from locals that go into the forests and cut them, buying water from the local town council, then waited for the contractor to arrive, who never showed! This turned out to be a blessing, because we eventually found two more experienced contractors to do the work at a cheaper rate!
Over the next two days we supervised the church building as well as travelling about 150km west along the Caprivi Strip to a small San (Bakwena) community where we held church on logs under the trees. The San, or bushmen, as they were previously known, claim to be the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. The greatest problem we face in this community is that the Bible has never been translated into their language. Fortunately, one of the members speaks Afrikaans, a South African derivation of Dutch, and has an Afrikaans bible, which he translates for them.
On Wednesday we held an evening service as is their custom, and on their request, again we shared in Communion, so touched were they by the experience the previous Sunday.
We said our goodbyes, and early Thursday morning we left our newest group in Namibia behind and headed towards home.
It is comforting to know that on trips like this, we are led by the Holy Spirit, in all we say and do. It is important to bathe the event in prayer and realise that we are only being privileged to participate in what God is already doing in each region.
I mentioned that on the Sunday I preached on Christ's centrality to all things. As a side i mentioned Christ's centrality to and fulfilment of the Sabbath, quoting Hebrews 4. Unknown to me, Lascan had invited four senior SDA's to the service. One of them came to him after the service and said they had never seen the scriptures quoted in this context, and may they continue attending on a regular basis. I didn't even realise they were present and was definitely not trying to explain away the need for the Sabbath, but through the Holy Spirit they heard the message that they needed to hear!
The greatest comfort, however, is knowing that when we depart, we do not leave them alone, but in continual Communion with Father Son and Holy Spirit, who will guide them into all truth. These churches in Namibia will now be serviced by GCI South Africa. Lascan will be included in our Pastoral training programmes, and our national office sends them our GCI SA magazine called Face to Face as well as audio CDs and articles on a regular basis.
Lascan has big plans for Namibia, has become extremely excited by the truth he sees in Trinitarian Theology, and his plan is to take the Gospel to all of Namibia. I'm sure this will not be the last you hear of Lascan or GCI Namibia!