Sunday, July 5, 2015

Busy day. Three services in 3 locations.

We begin at Eindhoven, where we’ve been holding the Bible club all week. The church meets at 9 am in a portable classroom outside the main building. We have a good crowd, with most of the seats full. I preach, and the team sings a special number. There’s a good spirit in the congregation.

After church the team girls and Cathy hold Sunday school for a handful of teens and another handful of younger kids, while the men of the church go visiting in the neighborhood. I pair up with a man named Jeremy, and we walk a couple of streets and talk to people we see. People are polite but generally not interested.

This is a tough neighborhood; we see more than one person drunk, at 11 am on a Sunday. A lot of these people are not happy—they’re drugging themselves to relieve the pain—but they don’t want to change their lifestyles. I’m reminded of Paul’s statement that the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.

When we return to the church, the Sunday school kids have been dismissed, but the team is nowhere to be found. There are purses and books in the classroom, but no people. Tony talks to the custodian, and he says they went to the restroom. We head that way and find that when the ladies went through a door it locked behind them, and they’re stuck down the hall.

So we rescue them, of course, and we’re all happily reunited.

We take Jason and his brother Luke to lunch with us—Salvin is at his own church this morning. Time’s a little tight; we have a 2 pm children’s club at Guguletu, so we head that direction and find a mall with a food court, and with Jason’s help, we finally order gatsbys. The gatsby is a big sub, stuffed with meat and French fries and cut into 4 ample individual portions. We get 2 with sausage and chicken, and 1 with hake and calamari. And the 11 of us can’t finish them. Boy, those things are big.

And off to Guguletu.

The Goog is a black township, similar to the more famous Soweto in Johannesburg. It’s one of several here—Khayelitsha and Mfuleni are nearby—and the one that’s a little better off than the others.

Times have changed in South Africa. When I first came in 2000, we could not have gone into Guguletu safely. The rage there ran deep. But with the successful transition from apartheid to black majority rule, we held a week-long Bible club there 2 years ago. This year we don’t have time to hold one there, but I wanted to get in there for the Sunday meeting. We’ll do a 1-hour children’s club at the scouting hall, where we held the VBS last time.

When we arrive we meet Sizwe, the outreach’s pastor, and his wife, Busi. This is a remarkable couple. Both grew up here, became successful, and could have left. But God has given them a burden for the neighborhood, and for several years he has been working to plant a church here. People have come and gone, and he currently has about 50 children and a handful of teens, but no adults have stayed on.

Busi’s smile and love are infectious, and within minutes she’s the best friend of all the girls on the team.

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We sing with the children, and Charity tells them the story of Mephibosheth. Busi tells it again in Xhosa. I teach them the memory verse, Romans 5:8, and Gershon leads them in a game of Lions and Goats.

And then it’s time to go. As I lead the team out to the van, several of the children run up to me. They remember the Bible club from 2 years ago. They reach up to hug me and kiss me on the cheek.

“Are you coming here this week?”

“I’m sorry, no. We can’t do that this time.”

“Please?”

“I’m sorry. God willing, maybe next year.”

They cling to me. And I choke up.

They want us to come. And we can’t. That stinks.

We’re going to the evening (6 pm) service at Strand Baptist Bible Church, back near Gordon’s Bay. Enough time to drop by the house and rest for a few minutes, then over to the Paynes’ to form a caravan. Sizwe and Busi are coming with us.

More indications of progress here. A Coloured church, and 2 Xhosa Africans (blacks) who feel free to drop in for the service, without fear of rejection or even awkwardness. The gospel breaks down barriers.

This is the oldest church that I’ve visited in the fellowship of churches here, and it shows. There’s a good-sized congregation, with well-developed male leadership and a solid, vital spirit. The singing is lively and heartfelt. The pastor asks if we can sing a special number. I tell him we have a number prepared. He responds, “Then sing that one, and sing another one that isn’t prepared.” So we do. I preach, and they listen and respond. Afterwards, they have rooibos and coffee and cakes with cream sauce, and the folks hang around and fellowship with no sign that anyone’s in a hurry.

It’s well after 8 before we get away and drive the hour home. Jason and Luke join us for supper, and we sit and talk until 11, when I decide that it’s high time these boys got home. I get back around midnight, and 3 are across the street in their quarters, with the house 5 still up using the wi-fi.

There’s nothing tomorrow until 2 pm, and they know it. I don’t even try to encourage them to get some sleep.

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Dan Olinger

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

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