While the world is under lockdown and movement is restricted to a bare minimum, we’re wearing masks and adhering to a strict social distancing criterion like people walking around in some invisible bubble. However, do not lose sight of this truth: The gospel is not locked down. The gospel does not have any restrictions and its movements are not limited. The gospel refuses to be masked and it has no social distancing criterion that can hold it back. It remains the power of God for salvation to them who will believe!
A couple of verses comes to mind as I think through our current reality. We have been locked down, but the word of God is not bound (2 Timothy 2:9). Therefore, this current crisis must serve to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12) and, regardless of what the local church suffers during this time, it will all work together for our good (Romans 8:28) so that we might be to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12), who works out all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).
Praise God, our family is doing well. Some of us had some issues with coughing and headaches, but nothing serious. Charlene went for her annual check-up and came back with a clean bill of health. We praise the Lord for His kindness towards us. Chané visited to help her mom when she suddenly fell sick early last month and, praise God, due to the lockdown she is stuck with us for a while.
I am grateful to God for fifteen years of marriage to an amazing woman who loves God and whose love for me can only be described as Christlike. These past fifteen years have been challenging, but mostly incredibly amazing. I think our journey is so God-saturated that it would read like a chapter out of the book of Acts. God has been front, back and, centre of our lives and there is no way we can look at our story and not see how he has carried us, discipled us, disciplined us, and continued to amaze us. As my brother Quinton likes to say, “We are in Bellville South, yes, but we are first in Christ. That’s what matters!”
We got married on Charlene’s birthday, so we had a double celebration under lockdown, but it turned out to be such a blessing to us, especially having all the kids home.
We also celebrated Devin’s twentieth birthday. It’s amazing to think that it’s been two years already when a broken young man, fearing for his life, beaten almost to death by his own father, who swore he would kill him should he find him came to us. We took Devin in he has completed his matric, started a job, and looks forward to the future. He had to unlearn and overcome a lot of things but we are thankful that we can show him Christ.
I also had the privilege to share the gospel with my very staunch Muslim uncle. He’s been to Mecca several times and is highly regarded in the Muslim community. He was diagnosed with cancer, which had already spread throughout his entire body. He is well-loved by our family, so I took my mom and dad and some of my aunts to say their last goodbyes, my wife reminding me not to waste this time but to share the gospel with him and the rest of the Muslim family. I had about 15–20 minutes to share the gospel with him and the rest of my Muslim family. It was well received despite my challenge to them that Jesus Christ is the only way and without him there is no hope for heaven only hell. Praise God for such an opportunity. My uncle passed away two days ago. I hope he put his trust in Jesus and that God showed him mercy.
I have been asked by another pastor whether I fear that this lockdown will make our members more complacent and maybe make it easier for them in future to stay at home on a Sunday and listen to their favourite preachers on YouTube. This might be a very valid concern for some churches, but I do not think this would be a concern for a healthy church. I have to say this with the risk of sounding arrogant or naïve: I am confident that our church will come out of this lockdown healthier and with much more love and zeal for the Lord and each other.
Here’s what’s been happening while under lockdown:
Families have been spending much more time together, especially around God’s word and prayer.
Communication between church members has dramatically increased. They’ve discovered Zoom!
We’ve decided to have a Bible study on Sundays that follows, questions to consider, points to ponder and applications for life. These are led by the head of the house. The service follows a program with Scripture readings, prayers, songs and then the Bible study. These are all prepared beforehand by the elders.
Three of our members are in homes where nobody is a Christian and will never come to a church service unless it’s a funeral. For them we prepare simple gospel messages that will follow the same program. It has been such a blessing to hear the feedback from these services and to see these brothers grow.
We have had two professions of faith from two different families during this lockdown period and what is great is that the families can now disciple their own. We praise God for his great wonders amongst his people.
Pastor Quinton has all the equipment we use for our open-air services and is not letting it just accumulate dust in his garage. He has been preaching from the gate of his yard to the people in his street. We thank God for providing us with an opportunity that fits the urgency of the gospel.
We continue with our Wednesday night corporate prayer meetings. I still call it a corporate prayer meeting, because all our members are still gathering in their homes at 7:00 PM on Wednesday for prayer. The prayer requests are shared via WhatsApp and divided up between the families and we all pray from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
What a joy it is to run into each other at the supermarket. All we can talk about is what the Lord is doing and how we can’t wait to gather together again.
Some of our members are making up grocery parcels to support families who are suffering during this time. We try to help the elderly by getting their medicines at the pharmacies and doing some of their shopping.
Quinton and I are also available to take people to hospital or clinic that need to get there or come back from there. We relieve each other like that. When he goes to hospital, I do the food drops.
What’s been a real blessing in our community is that most of the violent crime has stopped, except for the one guy who was almost stabbed to death opposite my mom’s house. We thank God for nurses and doctors that acted so quickly during this COVID-19 crisis. His life was spared.
The majority in our community have underlying health issues brought about by their own destructive lifestyles, poverty, old age and just general living conditions. The fact that our community are not taking the threat of this virus seriously will cause it to rapidly spread through our community and kill many. If a first world country such as the U.S. have so many dying from the virus what about a poor community in a third world country like South Africa?
Planning for the worst and praying for wisdom
It was different, but effective, to have our first leader’s meeting via Zoom call. I guess for many of us, it’s time to embrace technology. We are concerned about what COVID-19 could mean for our community who is literally paying no attention to the lockdown rules our government has put in place. We are well aware that when this virus hits poor communities such as ours it will have a devastating effect and we as the church needs to be ready.
The majority in our community have underlying health issues brought about by their own destructive lifestyles, poverty, old age and just general living conditions. The fact that our community is not taking the threat of this virus seriously will cause it to rapidly spread through our community and kill many. If a first world country such as the U.S. have so many dying from the virus what about a poor community in a third world country like South Africa?
People laugh at you when you warn them about keeping social distance and greeting without touching, washing hands, etc. They play cat and mouse with the police chasing them out of the streets. When the police vehicles pass, they just come out again, bragging about how they dodged the police.
So what is a small church without much resources to do in such turbulent waters? For now, we are praying that the Lord will grant us wisdom to respond in the best possible way that will preserve his church, propagate the gospel and bring him most glory. Please pray with us.
- Pray that the Lord will grow his church during this period of lockdown.
- Pray that we will not waste the opportunity we have to be urgent about the gospel.
- Pray that the Lord will protect our members from this virus.
- Pray that our church will be a blessing to our community during this time so they can see our good deeds and glorify God.
- Pray for those in our community who are suffering because they are unable to work and for most no work means no food on the table.
- Praise God for the two young people who made professions of faith. We rejoice with these families.
- Praise the Lord for the gospel being proclaimed to families who would not have been in such close proximity to the gospel and who now have opportunity to sit around God’s word.
- Praise God for families who are growing closer to each other and spending much more time in prayer and Bible study.
Thank you for taking time out to read this report and for joining us in prayer.
Yours in his service,
Mario F. Maneville
Reformed Faith Mission Community Church