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

Dearly beloved,

I’m writing this morning with overwhelming joy and thankfulness to our Lord for his holiness. Yes, for his holiness!

I have resolved a long time ago that I would be thankful at the remembrance of God’s holy name i.e. his holy character.

It was in 2014 that I was convicted by Psalm 97, specifically the last verse: “Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holy name” (v. 12).

We can so easily be excited and have overwhelming joy when the Lord does the seemingly impossible in our favour, but we so easily neglect to see the impossibility of a holy God looking with intense favour and limitless love upon sinful people like us. And yes, Jesus redeemed us with his precious blood and we are in Christ, the righteousness of God. But can you see the vast greatness of that? A holy God displaying his holy wrath for sinners on the cross. That’s because God is holy!

The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in us is because of his holiness. He is the Holy Spirit. When we are mindful of his holiness, it propels us to live practically holy lives. Without God’s holiness there would be no need for righteousness and sanctification would be unnecessary. But praise be to our holy God, because of his holiness I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ.

So, this morning, I have overwhelming joy and thankfulness to our Lord for his holiness.

I have some great news to share with you. Really exciting things that the Lord has done for us, but I need you to know that my conviction is that any success that God gives us is because God has kept us faithful, so that the only reality that kept us going is this: The God who called us is holy! He has burdened us with a gospel ministry that will not compromise his holiness.

I am fully persuaded that none of the successes of our church would be possible if this church did not live in the reality of the holiness of God.

So please, rejoice with us in the LORD, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of his holy name. The Lord, in his great providence, has decided to give us the building that we have been praying for, for more than five years. Hallelujah!

I know many of you laboured in prayer with us, and many of you contributed financially toward this building. This was a huge ask and I sometimes thought to myself, “How dare you even ask such a thing from the Lord?” Someone rightly pointed out to me, “But you guys are such a small church. What are you going to do with such a huge building?”

God has kept us faithful and has done many valiant things through this small and weak church whose aim it is to please him and to live for the splendour of his holiness.

Please allow me to draw a little background to why this is such an important victory for our church, our community, and the gospel.

This building was built in 1974 and was supposed to accommodate the coloured people who was attending a Dutch Reformed Church in an area that was supposed to be for whites only.

This was in accordance to the group areas act of 1966. The act assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid. An effect of the law was to exclude non-whites from living in the most developed areas, which were restricted to whites (wiki).

To the coloured people of Bellville South, the building was a symbol of segregation and apartheid and they refused to use the building as a church building. Instead, the building was used as a community hall for ANC and UDF “awareness programs” and general community gatherings. After 1994, the building slowly became a white elephant in our community, but has been reasonably maintained by the Uniting Reformed Church of SA (which use to be the coloured mission arm of the Dutch Reformed Church).

If I have my dates correct, it was in 1996 that one of our community members started with a project called, “The Sanctuary” of which I was involved as one of its leaders. We ran Bible programs for the kids of Bellville South and fed them from this facility. These kids’ parents were either alcoholics or drug addicts or in prison.

I can tell hundreds of stories about the atrocities and beauty we’ve experienced during those years. We were running daily programs for more than 200 kids. From feeding schemes to Bible studies to school programs and camps and just simple table manners and how boys and girls are supposed to talk to each other. We ran The Sanctuary for five years until the church we belonged to saw its success and took over and ran the ministry into the ground. We could never get the building back. I moved to Kimberley in 2002 for ministry and returned in 2013 and for all this time the building stood unused being vandalised and becoming a menace to the community as gangsters started using the property as their own personal playground.

In 2015, we started engaging the Uniting Reformed Church about the possibility to rent the building or even to buy it. The church started dreaming about the gospel possibilities if we could buy the building, and as crazy as our church is we started praying and asking God to give us this building for his glory and gospel renown in Bellville South. In 2018 we started with fundraising efforts when we heard that some of the gang bosses was interested in the building and some prosperity preacher also wanted the building.

Our prayers became more desperate and my pleas more aggressive. You would remember this. We were face with these two realities that I wrote about at that time.

Here’s what we are faced with:

A well-known prosperity church that has close ties to gang bosses has offered double the price for the building that we want to buy. These are the same guys that started a church a few years ago in Bellville South through which they laundered money and sold drugs (this is a fact known in our community). They used the “church” as a front for all sorts of wickedness. They even used their “church” facility as a “drug rehab centre” sponsored by the government but run by drug dealers. These are the same guys that ripped of many pensioners who lost their homes through a ponzi scheme they ran to the value of R330M. We prayed for years that the Lord would remove them from our community and about a year ago the Lord removed this false church. I think some of you will remember in previous reports that I wrote, where I mention about the gangs also planting “churches” now.

This is a David vs. Goliath situation. We are small, but they seem big. We do not have money, but they have millions!

Here’s the reality I need you to see and feel: The building we want to buy will either be A place of gospel proclamation or a place that will spew forth a false gospel and enslave our people further to all sorts of evil, deceiving many and confusing seekers. This building can be a house of prayer for all nations or a den of robbers!

There is also an unscrupulous businessman who wants the building. He wants to convert it into apartment rooms to be rented out cheaply for whoever wants a place for a night. That is a nice way of saying that he wants to turn it into a brothel for prostitutes. There are some guys in our community that are using their homes for brothels. The building is strategically placed in the centre of our community and is the perfect place to run any sort of evil activity from.

The reality is this: This building can be either a centre for the worship of Christ or it will become the house of prostitutes and all sorts of immorality that breaks up marriages and destroys any bit of family values and curses a nation. It can be a witness of Christ and his gospel or the bed of death that leads men to hell.

I thank God for Doug Van Meter and Sean Reece who could listen to my ramblings and frustrations and anger. I praise God for the pastoral care I got from Doug and Sean who shared my brokenness. It felt like there was no church that would bleed for us. I remember telling Sean or Doug, “These guys are so strong on doctrine but they do not understand what sacrificial giving is. They are not willing to give till they bleed!” But, of course, some of them proved me wrong. God proved me wrong! We were able to raise R530,000 in less than two months through the sacrificial giving of churches and their members.

As a church we have been praying corporately without fail every Wednesday night for five years up to January 2020. This was when we gave up praying for this building thinking that maybe God has something else for us.

COVID-19 struck and we lost the school hall that had been our gathering place for almost seven years now. We are meeting in my house and five areas are now packed with people. Our kids are eating cereals and others are ironing clothes while church members who arrive early are finding seats. My wife and I decided to build a structure on top of our house as a temporary space for the church and I’m thinking of how I am going to raise R80,000 to do this.

I got a message from a friend (I don’t think the donor wants to be mentioned) asking whether the building is still available because they might be able to help us to buy it. The rest is history!

We signed the offer to purchase Sunday morning at 8:00 AM and had the church in tears and overjoyed at the announcement of God’s provision at 10:30 AM. Please join in on our celebration of God’s faithfulness and overflowing generosity to us.

God has shown favour not just to us as a local church, but to our community. This building will serve them well as a gospel witness, not just on a Sunday, but throughout the week. Our members’ faith has been boosted in the Lord as they taste the benefits of living holy before the Lord.

Just last year we said that, out of all the prayers that God has answered, (and yes we keep a list of these things) the only unanswered or presumably denied prayer request was asking God specifically for this building.

In the year 2020 during one of the greatest pandemics most of us have lived to see, with businesses closed down and countries facing economic depression, the Lord saw fit to answer the cries of a small, weak little church that is led by two knuckleheaded brothers with not much to show, but a love for the Lord and their community and an ambition to be pleasing to him. What a testimony to all of us, especially to the small churches that feel at times that God does not see them.

Remain faithful in the ordinary things! Live and do ministry with the reality of God’s holiness. Holiness is a work of grace that includes God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

As a local church when we look at all that God has done for us and through us we can truly, “give thanks at the remembrance of his holy name.”

Thank you for being part of what God is doing here in Bellville South. We appreciate your prayers.

I hope this encouraged you to keep trusting God for the seemingly impossible and that while you are trusting you are able to remain content with what his providence provides.

Prayer Requests

  • Praise God for his provision and preserving grace.
  • Pray that this building will serve God’s purposes for us and this community.
  • Pray for wisdom for us and godly accountability: that we will be God-honouring and faithful stewards.
  • Pray that we will remain humble with our eyes fixed on our holy God and that we will consistently live with the reality of God’s holiness and what it demands from us.
  • Praise God for the visible support and felt love from our Sola 5 family throughout the years.

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

Yours in his service,

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

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