We've been in South Africa since a week ago Saturday (along with our dear friend and colleague, Percy Muleba, from Zambia) and have had a great time.
Last Sunday, Isaac and Rachel Modise invited me (Doug) to preach at the Ark of God Church which Isaac founded some seventeen years ago when he was twenty-two years old! Today, Rachel and he provide strong leadership with a mission vision to Ark.
I preached on Psalm 22 which Jesus quoted twice from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (22:1) and "It is finished!" (22:31). This Psalm has been on my heart since last summer's trip and I had spent some time studying it and reflecting on it since then. It is, at heart, a Messianic Psalm with mission at its heart. From the cross, Jesus was announcing his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection for the sake of the nations (us+).
My outline was: 1. The Price Jesus Paid for Us; 2. The Faith Jesus Kept for Us; 3. The Life Jesus Lives for Us; 4. The Life Jesus Lives With Us.
On Monday, Isaac kindly drove the three of us 6 hours east to Kruger National Park where we enjoyed a day of great wildlife viewing (Tuesday) and 3 days of friendship building. Isaac's heart for international missions is obvious and we discussed many things in this regard. We're grateful we had the time to spend with him and to hear his heart and get some insight into the Southern African church's perspective on missions.
We returned Wednesday afternoon to our host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Kekana, who provided beautiful quarters for Percy and us. We enjoyed several serious talks about local missions, the desperate need for education and the problem of gangs among young men. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kekana have a deep heart for worship and community ministry so it was a pleasure to get to know them and their lovely children. Lillian, newly employed by the family, served us so kindly.
Friday began The Rise Missions Conference with the theme, "The Harvest Is Here!" We enjoyed an awesome evening of worship and inspiration. Pastor Willie Crew, founder of World Mission Centre (WMC), was the keynote speaker. WMC developed Live School, the video curriculum we use with our students. In addition, an amazing dance ministry from the Ark of God led us in worship, followed by a dance team from Columbia, South Carolina (!) who are here to train about 120 teens from area churches in dance ministry. It was amazing!
Saturday featured a warm devotional which was followed by four keynote addresses. I was privileged to speak on the subject "What We Are Harvesting: The Nature of Discipleship." I based my talk on John 1:35-42 and my outline was: 1. Discipleship Is Relational; 2. Discipleship Is Transformational; 3. Discipleship Is Not Exceptional; and 4. Discipleship Is Procreational.
Saturday night was another service of inspiration featuring talks on Farming Gods Way (www.farming-gods-way.org) and the prayer ministry of WMC for world mission. In addition to the sermon by Bishop Zakes from Swaziland, which was a vivid call to authentic discipleship and servant mission, we enjoyed three more dances by the South Carolina team and commissioned a mission team from Soweto who leave for Mozambique this Friday.
Sunday, Isaac gifted us with a morning of rest. We had hoped for the opportunity to travel into the bush to worship and preach, but suitable arrangements could not be made. Frankly, we welcomed the chance to rest and were refreshed.
Sunday night and Monday brought more amazing worship and inspirational speakers from different parts of Africa. Among them was Bishop Albert from Kenya, a dynamic speaker on Leadership, encouraging those in ministry to be accountable to mentors, open to learning from others and attentive to their own families. His lovely wife Nancy gave a stirring devotional Tuesday morning, Let's Go Back Home!, challenging those in missions and ministry to keep family a priority, pleasing the Lord and being authentic in our witness of Jesus' love.
Tuesday, Abby gave a keynote address in the morning entitled "Harvested by Love." Abby did an amazing job sharing her own testimony, the passionate love of Jesus for us, the need for genuine daily love in action as we join Jesus in bringing in the Harvest, and facing our need to rest and be with Jesus to fuel our outreach to others with his love. She ended with the significance of being used by the Wounded Savior as wounded healers as we join him in reaching wounded people. It was awesome!
Prior to Abby's talk, three pastors prayed for our nation on Tuesday, the 4th of July! That night, a cake with the American flag on it was presented to us and we all sang The Star Spangled Banner. It was all deeply moving, to say the least.
I unexpectedly had the opportunity to give a short keynote following Abby and I focused, at Percy's suggestion, on servanthood in mission using John 13:1-17.
Tuesday night, we were able to share dinner with Bishop Albert and Nancy from Kenya, solidifying our new friendship. Then we met for the final time with all those at RISE, worshiped through the dancing of more than 100 local children and youth from Mabopane Township, led by the 10 dancers from SC Dance Theatre in Columbia, SC and enjoyed a commissioning service led by Dr. John Schotz from South Africa. He has worked as a mission doctor and pastor for many years and now oversees twenty churches in the Church of the Nations family. We are definitely inspired and ready to return to the mission field in our beloved Zambia!
Please pray for Isaac and Rachel as they rest from leading this awesome conference with representatives from Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Kenya and the USA. Pray for Percy, our student John who enjoyed his first time at the RISE so much and for us as we process and learn from the stories of amazing people from these countries who are doing local and international mission. And pray that we keep a healthy balance of work and rest as we get settled in Zambia today, meet with Pastor Imasiku and his wife this evening and begin training tomorrow. Please also pray for Percy, Muyunda and their three girls as they move to the house they built in Livingstone today and tomorrow!
God is so good!