In the below picture is the current leadership of SGBC. From your left is Jacob Mnyakeni (Deacon), Sello Rasephei (Elder), Bheki Bembe (Lead Elder), and Shimi Masubelele (Deacon). We always joke to each other that God chose the most stubborn people he could find in South Africa and brought them together for the purposes of this church planting work.
Indeed, much stubbornness, of the good kind, is required when planting a church in Olievenhoutbosch. This picture was taken outside our current church place, where we are borrowing land from the municipality, and just behind the black fence on the right side of the picture is a place where nyaope (the most popular drug in South Africa) is being sold in broad daylight. If we ever needed reminding of the need for a biblical church in this township, it is staring at us right in the face. We have had countless encounters with those selling this drug and have at times called the police to get them to stop only to find that they are working with and are protected by the police.
As much as our current place has been of much encouragement, it has also been of great distress to us. We have suffered great loss at the expense of the drug addicts who not only previously vandalised and burnt the tent we used to meet in, but they are also vandalising our current church temporary structure as a number of times this month our church was broken into. These drug addicts also use our church as a hiding place for themselves and their stolen goods, which has led to increased misunderstanding between us and the community.
On 15 September 2018, while busy with our Sunday’s worship service, people who claimed to represent the community and are members of one of the political parties came to our church and asked for a private conversation. They mentioned that the land we are using for our church has been bought by a developer and therefore we have two weeks to move and find another place. Although we were not too troubled by this news, as we have been through similar problems before, we escalated our efforts to find a new place to use. The same week we met with management of a private school company to discuss the possibility of hiring one of the halls in their private school, just 2km away from our current place. The discussion went well and we are awaiting a lease agreement from the school before we can move.
The importance of a move to a new place cannot be emphasised enough as the current place is lacking in water and bathroom facilities, and has become a stumbling block to the gospel. The area where the church is based in is also proving a challenge to would-be visitors from the area as it has a bad reputation.
This month we have been continuing with our sermon series in the book of Matthew as we made our way to Matthew 12.
It has been very difficult to prepare for the sermons as the chapter itself is very difficult to preach, but we thank God that the messages are being well received. Our sermons continue to receive much attention on Facebook as we seek to attract visitors to the church. We are having a problem with updating our website with sermons at the moment but we hope to resolve the issue. Both our Facebook page and the website continue to help us in marketing the church to the people in our area.
We have just come out of the winter month and, as usual, winter is very bad for church attendance in the township. Our church attendance has been greatly affected, which has compromised the discipleship classes we used to have. We are looking to continue with our discipleship classes in October when school holidays end.
Bheki is continually looking for opportunities for a ministry at schools in the area. Schools do allow preachers time to preach at their assemblies, but the problem is that the Charismatic preachers have flooded the schools and made it impossible for other preachers to have an opportunity to preach. We hope for an opening.
Bheki and Thandi’s family is doing relatively well. Their oldest child, Ntokozo, is doing his final high school year and is hoping to go to university next year to study Engineering or IT. He is the oldest of the next generation of young people in our church and we are hoping for great things from him. We always remark that we want to make sure that we build a good foundation for the next generation to be able to plant churches without much of the difficulties that we are facing at the moment. Their youngest child, Nontokozo, is doing Grade 2 at school and enjoys singing. Unfortunately, Thandi continues to struggle with low blood pressure which sometimes keeps her from fellowship, but we are grateful that she has been doing better in the last few weeks. We continue to pray for complete healing.
Jacob’s son has been in hospital for the last week with sugar diabetes. This has been a challenging time for Jacob as the hospital is 40km away from his home and it has been costly for him to make frequent visits. He also needs prayers as he is looking for a permanent home for his family as he had to leave the place he was renting which happened to be close to his work.
Sello and Pearl’s family is doing well, except that they are finding it difficult to raise their children (four boys) who frequently get into trouble at school. The oldest boy, Warona (14 years), also took the car without permission and crashed it into the wall of their house. Pray for wisdom as they are raising their children.
Shimi and Jeniffer’s family is struggling with the home schooling of their children (two girls and one boy). Pray for God’s wisdom as they continue to raise them.
Fatigue has been a problem for the leadership. Last December was the first time the leadership of the church took time off from church and ministry to recuperate after five years of consistent ministry and work. We find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that our bodies are not as strong as we would like to think. We need spiritual rejuvenation that will overcome our physical weaknesses.
It has been difficult to be excited about evangelism given the place where the church is currently situated. Many people, especially amongst the middle class, have welcomed the gospel message but they have found our church (building, place) to be a stumblingblock to them being our members. We have found this to be a kind of problem that we never expected in church planting, but one that we are learning from.
The lack of fruit in terms of numbers has started to bother us lately. It is not easy to put the kind of effort we put in the preaching when there are so few people on the pews, even worse when some of the few decide to sleep during the preaching because of the heatwave. It can be humbling at times, but lately it is starting to bother us.
We are excited that we seem to have found a new place for the church and we might start using it from October onwards. But the fact that we would be dependent on unbelievers who could cancel the lease at a month’s notice is unsettling. This thought does not escape our mind, and our desire for a permanent land becomes even more desperate by the day. A few weeks ago, we were lamenting the fact that the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses just opened a second church within 1km of one another right by our area. It naturally hurts us that the wicked prosper.
Speaking of the wicked prospering, the monopoly of Charismatic churches in our area continues to give us sleepless nights. Ours is a very bad version of the Charismatic movement, where women are abused and families torn apart. This has given a very bad report with the community, which has caused us to become victims as well. This grieves our souls and we find ourselves helpless to see the name of God blasphemed like this. Pray that we may not lose hope of revival in our very area.