Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hot showers! First in 6 weeks. And since it’s cold—in the low 50s—the heat feels really, really good. Nobody objects to getting up early enough to get a turn.

We’re going to Immanuel Baptist Church in Eersterivier, a bit east of the city, a church planted back in the 90s by GFA missionary Tony Payne (more about him later) and now pastored by Capetonian Kevin Simpson. I’ve known Kevin since my first trip here 15 years ago. He’s about 6’6”; we did some door-to-door visitation together back then, and we got some really funny looks when people opened their doors.

South Africa has made a lot of progress since the end of apartheid—I can’t think of another country that’s approached racial difficulties with more grace and maturity and clearer success—but there are still very clear racial identities and classes. The whites—whether Afrikaaners (of Dutch descent, what we used to call Boers) or Brits—tend to be wealthier; the blacks—except for those running the government—tend to be poor; and the Coloureds (those of mixed race or those who aren’t either white or black, such as Indians) somewhere in the middle. And there’s little to no racial integration of neighborhoods. We’re working mostly with Coloured churches (more on that “mostly” later). The Coloured speak Afrikaans, a language descended from Dutch, and tend to be quiet but friendly and hospitable (he said, trying to avoid stereotypes while recognizing cultural patterns).

No trouble finding the church on time. The folks greet us warmly, and I see a number of familiar faces from 2013. Kevin leads the service, and I preach. He speaks in both Afrikaans and English, and I speak without an interpreter. We think we’re going to sing, but Kevin never calls on us. We’re not offended. 🙂

After church, during the Sunday school hour, we split up and canvass the neighborhood, Beverley Park, with fliers about the VBS we’ll hold here in a week. Some of the children and young people from the church accompany each of us as we go. We pass out all the fliers we have.

Kevin and his wife, Lydia, and their fraternal-twin 3-year-olds, a boy and a girl, go to lunch with us at a nearby mall. He recommends Ocean Basket, a seafood place with a large but reasonably priced menu. Excellent choice; everyone gets something he likes, and we have a long conversation.

At 2:30 we head a short distance to Tony Payne’s house to discuss this week’s VBS, which will be held at his church. Tony and his wife, Cathy, have been in Cape Town since 1988; I’ve worked with them since 2000. He planted the church that Kevin now pastors, and discipled him to take that position. Now he’s planting a church in another challenging area of the city, Delft, which is one of the poorest Coloured neighborhoods in the area. They meet in a primary school, where we’ll hold a 2-hour VBS every day this week. We talk through the plans, with the team getting more visibly quiet and sleepy by the minute. They were up late last night, and it’s catching up with them.

Tony asks about church tonight. He has no evening service, and we’re not scheduled to participate anywhere. There are a couple of churches we could attend, but services will be in Afrikaans. I look around the room and make an administrative decision to send everybody to bed early.

We stop on the way home to pick up enough groceries for tomorrow—we’re doing our own meals here—and return to quarters. Meet long enough to talk through specific assignments for tomorrow morning, and then early to bed.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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