Trinity Baptist Church was established in 2009 in the little Tsonga village of Mbhokota, about an hour’s drive from the borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
The Lord has ladled blessings over the heads of our church people this year. Here are some examples.
Thokozane Nkitsing is a fourth-year student at Christ Seminary in Polokwane, about an hour and a half south of us. Though already fluent in Sotho and Zulu, he took the hard road by agreeing to learn Tsonga, the language in which we conduct the majority of our ministry.
The preeminent trait we are seeking in an intern is teachability. Thoko is that. Every morning from 06:00–07:30 we meet in my study to pray, read the Scriptures, and study a Puritan work on shepherding the flock. Then we jump rope and lift weights until our arms shake.
He has taken over youth group responsibilities. He has preached at prayer meetings, Sunday morning and evening services, and numerous funerals gatherings. He has escorted me on visitation and evangelism and learned to empathize with the hurting. One example is Miss Khosa, who is so guilty over past sins and whose daughter is so embroiled in witchcraft, that she is afraid to return to church. Because seminary doesn’t give the answer to all these conundrums, internships are vital.
He has begun discipling a recent convert in a nearby village who is considering studying at seminary next year. He runs our church’s Facebook page and began learning the guitar until it was stolen from the sanctuary two months back. At the end of each month, he writes a review of the book we assigned him—such as The Forgotten Spurgeon or Trellis and the Vine.
Even during the 9–10 days he is studying at CBS, he has sometimes returned on a Sunday to fellowship and minister to the flock here in Mbhokota. Our people love him and he loves us.
Early on, Thokozane humbly asked for help with his time management. So at the beginning of each week, I schedule every hour block of his week from “six to six.” In general, I give my mornings to God, afternoons to the flock, and evenings to my family. Thokozane follows a similar schedule, though as a single man he is free to give even more time to study in the evening. And for any young, godly ladies reading this letter, I emphasize the word single.
This robust schedule is beneficial in many ways. (1) It keeps him accountable to the flock. At any time they can walk into his study at church, read his schedule on the wall, and know how he is using his time. (2) It keeps us on the same page. It keeps us from putting too much ice in the glass. (3) It helps us remember. After each day, T.O. is to write a few sentences observing his labors that day—a hat tip to the common but ancient pastoral practice of journaling.
Thokozane has also walked with our church through the process of biblical church discipline. Almost anyone in the churches here will tell you that sexual immorality is the greatest sinful temptation in the village, for adults and youth alike. Of our church plants here in Hlanganani over the past dozen years, to our knowledge, only one youth has followed the biblical order of purity àmarriageàchildren. These matters take much grace, courage, prayer, teaching, counsel, time and emotional energy. Sometimes there is repentance, sometimes not.
But a pastor in this context cannot face these predicaments by sitting back on his haunches and pouting. No. He must be skilled—surgeon like—in using his Scriptural scalpel on just the right spiritual area.
John Paton—the great evangelist to the cannibals of the South Seas—used to say that the first tangible mark of true conversion among the natives was family worship. When a father began to lead his family consistently through the Scriptures, Paton knew a true work of grace had commenced.
Participating in family worship is a central part of Trinity’s internship program. How can a man shepherd theflock if he cannot shepherd hisflock? “So my dear Timothy, Thoko, watch how I shepherd my little lambs.”
And what has happened? Upon his recent move from the intern guesthouse to the Maluleke home, Thokozane now leads the home each evening in family worship—broken Tsonga and all. Hi swona!
Which brings up Kamogelo. We’ve had several visitors to see our home and ministry lately, but we’d be remiss not to mention this young lady. Kamo and her family are members of another Sola 5 church, Antioch Bible Church in Joburg. She wanted to get a flavor of mission life up north, so she hung with my wife for two weeks in our home. The capstone was her family (and the Cantrell girls) joining us for a church service and our family’s monthly formal dinner. Much love to you, Letswalos.
Items of Prayer
- A long-term South African pastor for Trinity.
- Graduation for Thokozane.
- A pure church free from cultural sins.
- More interns and Timothys from churches and seminaries in South Africa.
- Visa issues: Our paperwork expires soon and we’re still awaiting word.