It is a privilege for me to report back on what the Lord has done in our church over the past year.
I want to approach my report with a sandwich in mind: two slices of bread with Bovril in between. The one slice will take me briefly back to last year this time and then I will share the other slice in the form of a WhatsApp I received a little bit more than a month ago. Then I will add the Bovril and lastly will wrap the sandwich in foil.
Last year this time, I cried out for help and assistance in the Vaal area because it is such fallow piece of ground for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be shared. The northern part of the Vaal Triangle (i.e. north of the Vaal River—excluding Sasolburg area) consists of townships and cities like Vereeniging, Sebokeng, Vanderbijlpark, Sharpeville, Sebokeng, Boipatong, and Bophelong with a total of approximately 500,000 inhabitants.
Almost a year later I received a WhatsApp message from a pastor and his wife who ministered at our church, while I was overseas. They said the following. (Seeing as the message was sent in Afrikaans, I have translated it, but because Afrikaans is such a beautiful and poetic language I’m afraid that I will do injustice to the original message!)
“Today, we had a wonderful experience—one of awe and thankfulness that the owner of the church also has a planting here in this grey, polluted, and dusty Vaal Triangle. His planting went through terrible times of strife and tears and opposition to the truth; times of sin, division, and a church split. A planting that was almost reborn through continuous prayer. A new plant, which, in the words of Philippians 3:13, is forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. A church pushing ahead on a path of victory in Christ Jesus! What a wonderful privilege to be able to attend the church today where there are few, if any, important and rich people, but humble and truly sincere people—like the church in Corinth. We have visited and ministered in many churches before, but today we can indeed say that we observed and experienced the true body of Christ!”
We can just humble ourselves before the Lord and bring him all the honour and glory for his grace and mercy.
Now, the thinly spread Bovril on the inside. Since the middle of last year, and especially from the beginning of this year, the Lord started to bring new people to our church—slowly but surely. The absolute wonder about this is the fact that the majority of these new visitors, and eventually new members, are young people—especially young men. On top of that, almost all of them are firmly established in the Reformed faith, amongst whom are potentially strong future leaders.
This brought a huge challenge to all of us. I dare say that the difference between us and the rest of the Sola 5 churches is the “imbalance” in leadership and earlier members in contrast to the majority from another culture. Let me try to explain.
In the majority of Sola 5 churches, I think, you have a church where the leadership and original members are predominantly white and the minority African. You also have churches where the leadership and the members are predominantly, if not exclusively, African. In our church, the leadership and the original members are white (and Afrikaans) and the majority of members and attendees are African. This has its own challenges, but with the grace of the Lord, and openness and honesty, with brotherly love amongst us, we are coping, overcoming, and adapting wonderfully. It is wonderful to experience the love and honesty amongst the members and attendees in the church. There are always abundant (but sincere) hugs and sharing and encouragement and caring. People cannot wait for Sundays and Wednesday and Saturdays, when we meet for church services and Bible studies. There’s a spontaneity that is contagious. There is an incredible hunger for the word and truth and eagerness to share the gospel with others. There are even young people (e.g. from KwaZulu-Natal) that have applied for posts in Vereeniging on order to become a part of our church.
For many years I wished a had a rich, childless uncle from whom I could inherit enough money to build a church for us. After we’d moved from one place to another, God provided wonderfully in a lovely, newly-built church, which is fully equipped with a state of the art sound system and media appliances, lovely lighting, enough brand new chairs, etc. This building can accommodate about 150 people. It is located on the premises of Eventide Old Aged home and Sedibeng Children’s Haven. We have Sunday school for the children in the Haven after the service. It is wonderful to see and hear some of the children in the Haven summarising the sermon in the Sunday school with the other children—even quoting Bible verses.
Apart from our weekly midweek meeting, where we share, pray, and discuss the previous Sunday’s sermon, we also have three other Bible study groups where we study the word on a weekly basis. We are involved in feeding one lady in our church. (Our vision is to expand this in future when the Lord provides the means.) We are making use of a new product on the market: Genesis Nutritional Food, developed by Lowveld Agrichem in co-operation with dieticians and scientists. This product consists of all the nutrients of a complete meal that can keep you for up to nine hours. It contains all and much more of the required nutrients that a person needs for a day. It contains dietary fibre, desaturated fatty acids, Omega 3 acids, sodium, etc. as well as twelve vitamins, eight minerals, and twenty amino acids. Feel free to contact me for more information on this product.
We are paying the university fees for a student who is currently studying part time at the NWU (Vaal Campus). There are members who are reaching out to the students at especially the campus of VUT. One of our members is also busy with a weekly online Bible study with young ladies in KwaZulu-Natal.
There is so much work to be done. I therefore want to encourage you to pray about it and come alongside us in order to reach out with the gospel.
I’m now going to wrap the sandwich in foil. I always said that a pastor cannot retire; he must just fall in, day after day, until the Lord takes him home. But over the past year, I have come to realise that it is not that simple, especially not in a vibrant young church with vision. The older you get (I’m 70 next year) the less energy you have and you battle to buy into any vision, because you just don’t have the energy to go along with it. I don’t want to be a stumbling block in the way of the Lord and the younger generation due to a lack of energy. I am at a stage where I must pass on the baton. I therefore intend to retire during some time next year. We cannot call a new pastor because there is just not money. We therefore need someone who will be a tentmaker, or a person sent out from and subsidised by another church. I’m going to start with leadership training on Saturdays early next year and will hopefully make use of Ekklesia Afrika’s material. I still have to negotiate with Tommie and the other brothers who are involved in Ekklesia Afrika.
We are so excited about what the Lord is doing in our church and we cannot thank him and glorify his name enough for it!