Ministry Update: Reformed Faith Mission Community Church (Belville South, South Africa) (December 2020) (Mario)

Dearly beloved,

Greetings in the name of our one true God who gives us access to his throne by his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Hebrews 4:14–16)

I praise God that our weaknesses does not disqualify us from coming with confidence to the throne of grace. Instead it is the very motivation for us to come since our Lord sympathises with our weaknesses and bids us to come. It is because of Christ that we can come so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

My intention with this report is to motivate you to acknowledge how weak you truly are before the awesome calling of God upon you and your church, and that such realisation would bring you to a desperate dependency upon the Lord, so that you will constantly find yourself drawing near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I like to describe our church as a small, weak little church. That is not just a description of how few members we are, but rather of how dependent we are on the Lord for everyday mercies. This desperate dependency has made us rely upon our Lord in prayer for things that might seem insignificant to many and things that seem impossible to most.

Please join me as I reflect on the goodness of the Lord: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me…. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:4, 8).

I know this report is a bit lengthy and that you don’t always have time to read it. However, to you who will read it I pray that it would encourage you to trust the Lord for every need.

We need healthy reformed churches everywhere!

For several years two Assemblies of God elders have been trying to reform the church from the inside when they finally realised that it would be better to leave the church, otherwise they might end up splitting it.

After a year of meeting together in their homes and praying for the Lord to give the way forward, in 2009, Sovereign Word Ministries was born: a reformed church made up of only four families to begin with. Our desire was simply to live for God’s glory and to see his glory spread through the proclamation of the gospel and to see healthy reformed churches planted everywhere!

By that time, I’d been praying and challenging my brother in Cape Town to come out of the prosperity movement and confronted his pastor on a few accounts. My prayers got answered and Quinton was finally released from that bondage. He started embracing the doctrines of grace and started preaching on the streets and several churches but could not find a church that would accept him as a member. In 2010 Sovereign Word Ministries decided to train him and his team to become his sending church for what is now Reformed Faith Mission Community Church. It was another answer to prayer.

Lord, please send men to help me!

I must admit it was premature and unwise of us to send out a man to plant a healthy Reformed church with limited knowledge, experience, and overwhelming passion. Many mistakes have been made and it could have totally snuffed out the passion that was needed for planting a church in a hard place, but the Lord was gracious and Quinton was praying that the Lord would send him men to help lead this ministry.

Sovereign Word Ministries was doing well. The Lord was blessing our labour. We were in the process of merging with Grace Baptist Church Kimberley when I moved back to Cape Town. I was a bit weary of joining Reformed Faith Mission, because I did not want to be seen as coming to take over the church that my brother was leading, unaware that he was praying that the Lord would work in my heart to help him lead the church. Long story short: I could not stay away and was inducted as lead pastor of the church. Another prayer was answered.

Everything is falling apart!

In the first year of me being part of the church, I started preaching through the first epistle of Peter, with Quinton preaching some relevant topical sermons. That year we were confronted with a lot of church discipline issues and end up losing everyone accept one lady. Yes, 99% of the members left and went to join some of the Pentecostal churches. Suddenly, me joining did not look as beneficial as we thought it would be. So we had to start from scratch with much prayer for wisdom and direction.

We were meeting at a sports facility at the time and were asking the Lord for a new facility more central in our community. We wanted to get a school hall, but not in a school where there were already several churches, which is the norm in our area. We then heard of the primary school which my mom used to attend and us when we were kids. They had no churches making use of their facility, because they had decided not to rent it out to churches anymore since the last church messed up their venue. We prayed and asked the Lord to open up this door to us. And the Lord answered our prayer.

Lord, we need a keyboard player who is Reformed!

We started with services in the school hall in 2014. We were starting to receive regular visitors and were making use of music videos to sing along with. I remember telling Quinton that the reason why we do not have a keyboard player is because we have not asked the Lord to send us one. We decided to make it a matter of prayer, but to pray specifically for a Reformed young man. As weeks turned into months we continued praying until, one Sunday, a young Pedi man visited our church and immediately felt that it was where he belonged. He found us on the Sola 5 website. And yes, he could play the keyboard. Another answered prayer.

Lord, please send us likeminded men!

As the church was receiving more visitors on a Sunday and interest from those whom we engaged with on a daily basis grew, we started seeing the need for more Reformed men in our church. There was no Reformed witness in our community and it seemed as if Quinton and I were the only ones who believed these “strange” doctrines. We started praying that the Lord would send us mature believers who are likeminded and could help with discipleship and living out the very truths we were expounding Sunday after Sunday. It did not take long for the Lord to start answering this prayer.

Suddenly, the Lord created an interest in the hearts of pastors all over our country in our ministry. Churches were praying for us and talking about what the lord is doing in Bellville South. This allowed people who were moving from other parts of our country to the Cape to spend time with our church. God would use this exposure to burden them with a love for our community and our local church. Another prayer answered!

The Petitions of Reformed Faith Mission

“Lord I need a job, but I have a criminal record.”

Our brother Theo was wonderfully saved out of a life of gangsterism and crime. He used to be one of the notorious gang leaders who terrorised our community, but God was gracious to him and saved him.

He applied for a job at the City of Cape Town and was called in for an interview. I remember us having a prayer meeting in his little bungalow at the back of his in-laws’ yard. They told him to sign a form to check whether he has a criminal record because the City does not employ people with criminal records. That evening, the church prayed for that the Lord would grant him the opportunity to provide for his family. A few weeks after that they called him to let him know he got the job. Somehow, his criminal record has been scratched from the roll. Since then, our brother has been awarded Employee of the Year several times. That’s God answering prayer!

“Terminate the pregnancy or give birth to a Down syndrome baby.”

Our brother Donnie and his wife were expecting their eighth child and only daughter. The doctors told his wife she needed to abort the baby for the sake of her own health as a diabetic and because the baby would be born with abnormalities and possibly Down syndrome. They showed her several horrific videos about what to expect, but Donnie insisted that they would trust the Lord and accept whatever he gave them, but they will not kill their baby.

The church started praying and pleading with the Lord for a healthy baby and to keep Shiyaam safe throughout the pregnancy and delivery. The Lord answered our prayer and a beautiful, healthy baby girl was added to this all-male family.

“Lord I need my wife in church with me.”

Quinton’s wife, Jennifer, was working on a temporary contract. She worked a night-only shift which meant that she could never be in church on a Sunday. These shifts were very awkward. By the time our service started she would still be at work. The church started praying that not only would God put her on a better shift, but also that he would grant her permanent employment.

A permanent contract at the same firm seemed like an impossibility since there were many who worked on these temporary contracts for several more years than Jennifer did and it would only seem reasonable that they would get first preference should a permanent post become available. As you guessed, a permanent position for a straight shift did become available and Jennifer reluctantly applied. The church prayed that the Lord would show favour to Jennifer and give her the Job. The Lord answered our prayers and she got the job. Amen!

“Peter, if the Lord doesn’t save you then I pray that he will remove you!”

Peter (not his real name) is one of the oldest and biggest drug dealers in Bellville South. He runs Hell’s Kitchen (the most dangerous area in our community).

We do a lot of outreach in this area and on one particular night we did an open air service close to Peter’s house and place of “business.” Quinton, full of the zeal of God, was preaching the gospel and started calling gangsters and drug dealers to repentance. What I think shocked those who were listening and certainly us was when he shouted with a loud voice: “You who keep on selling drugs to kill our children, you must repent or be removed. Peter, if the Lord doesn’t save you then I pray that he will remove you!”

The church started praying that the Lord would save these thugs or remove them. Many have since, either gone to prison or died, but the Lord saved Peter and now we have an open door to have Bible studies at the place that used to be his place of “business.” Another prayer that the Lord has answered.

There are many such stories I can tell, but I’d have to write a book to just briefly touch on each of them.

I’ve not told you how the Lord gave us (Charlene & I) a specific house, which I could not afford, but the church prayed for two years despite my doubts. The owner called me out of the blue offering to sell the house to us for R900k less. That’s almost half the price! I should not forget to tell you about how sick my wife and I was after contracting COVID-19. We were sick to the point of death, each of us saying our last goodbyes to each other, but the saints prayed and God healed us.

I did not tell you about the many times we were faced with sudden death by gang members high on drugs pointing a gun in our face or leaving just in time after a shootout on the very spot we shared the gospel, or threats from a drug dealer known to put hits on people and the Lord removed her. Oh, how the prayers of the saints have served to keep us safe.

What about the chase to find a hit man who killed several people, praying to get to him before the police did in order that we may share the gospel with him and the Lord granting us our request. That same week, after challenging him with the gospel, he was arrested.

I’ve not even mentioned the 500-plus member church that was planted by famous gang bosses in our community, through which money laundering and drugs were run. We prayed for about three years that the Lord would open the eyes of our community and rid the community from this evil. The pastor of the church with his gang even assaulted some of our youth. The Lord answered our prayers and completely removed them from our community.

What about the almost thirty pastors’ seminars that we were privilege to conduct for the past seven years amongst Pentecostal pastors? The Lord providing funds through the Sola 5 churches and put many good books and study Bibles in the hands of pastors who were never exposed to solid biblical truths. Fifteen of these pastors have rejected the prosperity gospel as a direct result of these seminars.

The church prayed for Quinton to be supported fulltime and the Lord has made provision for this to happen. What a profound blessing he is to the church and the community. His evangelistic fervour and zeal are inspirational and God-honouring.

Oh yes, the Lord has been good to us! We are praying for revival and are looking forward to see what the Lord will do! “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble” (Psalm 107:1–2).

Allow me to tell just one more story of answered prayer.

“Lord, please grant us this building.”

I remember the first time Quinton and I spoke about this building that had become a white elephant for the past 25 years in our community. We were reminiscing about the years when we ran all sorts of programs for the kids of our community from this building. We served hundreds of kids from this facility: feeding schemes, Bible studies, performing arts, school study and tutoring, camps, etc.

While thinking about this, the thought of having this building as a meeting place for our church seemed only logical. We then brought it to the church as something we should trust the Lord for. By that time (2014), we were only a ten-member strong church plant.

We recognised that this was a huge ask but had no doubt that the Lord could give it to us. We were dreaming of all the gospel good this facility would bring to our community. This would be like a community centre that would serve this community well. And this time we are not gospel ignorant Charismatics like we used to be when we used the building in the 90s.

The more we thought about it and talked about it, the more we became desperate for the Lord to give us this building. We had a lot of opposition. The URC church scribe at the time ignored all our emails and never brought it before the board for consideration. The church kept on praying.

I started taking prospective investors to see the building with the hope they might be able to help me raise the money to buy the building. Some looked promising, but it seemed that the Lord was closing all these doors.

I then started a fundraising drive calling upon all those who know us and those who have shown interest in our ministry to support us in giving towards the purchase of this building. This process caused me a lot of tears and joys, frustration and contentment. Some gave joyfully and others even sacrificially and some rightfully questioned our need for this building.

I really felt the pressure when we learned that one of the big gang leaders was interested in the building and a prosperity church was also interested. The church prayed and sought the Lord to not judge our community so harshly by giving this building into the hands of such evil.

I remember that, for the past five years, at every weekly corporate prayer meeting, we prayed for this building.

It was in January this year (2020) when we finally gave up praying for the building. We decided that it was perhaps not in God’s will for us to have this building, since everything we had done so far seemed to have been blocked by God. We knew that we would only receive that which was the will of God for us when we pray. The building was no longer mentioned as a prayer item in our weekly corporate prayer meetings. We started praying for other opportunities.

Then COVID-19 struck and we lost our meeting place. I was about to build a small hall on top of my house that would cost me just over R80,000. I thank God that he did not grant that prayer request!

On 19 October 2020, I receive a WhatsApp message from a dear friend that totally wrecked my day. Here’s part of the message: “Have you given up on the building you wanted? Where are negotiations on the plot of land? If you could have your dream come true this week, what would you like to see? I need facts, numbers, costs, photos. Could I please have that by tomorrow?”

I remember being stunned for a moment with these words ringing loud as though I was right under those huge old church bells: “If you could have your dream come true this week!” I thought to myself, “Is this guy for real?” Then again, I knew that this man would not joke about such things. He knew we’d been praying for this for years. He joined us in praying for this.

Within a matter of days, we were signing the offer to purchase. We had a video call with those representing the donors and sobbed like babies! We could not contain the joy and the clear reality that we do not deserve such favour from the Lord. God had answered a prayer that we had given up on. This was more than just an answered prayer for our small, weak little church. This was hope for our community. This was God establishing his gospel purposes in Bellville South and reassuring this small, weak little church that he was with us. Amen!

Oh, may the Lord do the same for you as you seek him with desperation for moment to moment mercies.

I hope you are encouraged and challenged to see afresh your desperate dependency upon the Lord and that you too would be able to say like David and poor needy sinners like us: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me…. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:4, 8).

Thank you for taking time out to read this lengthy report and for rejoicing with us.

Yours in his service,

Mario F. Maneville
Pastor-teacher
Reformed Faith Mission Community Church

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