From the Field | South Africa
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
It’s Wednesday afternoon in Cape Town. It’s much cooler today after yesterday’s record-setting high temperature of 104 degrees. The fires that have been burning across the peninsula since Saturday continued throughout the night. When we arrived home last night, Paul and I went out our front door and took these pictures. They were taken less than a quarter mile from the residence where we are staying. Officials promptly evacuated those houses nearest the fires.
We had a great start to the Pastors Seminar last night. I will continue tonight and tomorrow night, as well as all day Saturday. This morning I spoke at a Men’s Breakfast about an hour across town. Enroute we passed a region of the Cape where the burning fires were threatening to engulf massive oceanfront residences. During our pre-dawn drive, we passed countless people standing along the oceanfront looking up toward the steep mountain slopes behind their homes with helpless looks on their faces. Huge flames could be seen hovering over these homes threatening to consume them. I’ve never seen a sight quite as ominous. We prayed for rain.
This morning I shared with the men at the Roundtable of Prayer Men’s breakfast from the Lord’s Prayer, “May your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” I reminded men that even as huge plumes of smoke blanket the city and feelings of desperation stalk the people, God’s ways and his mysterious plans can unfold from the ashes. As a group we spent time praying for rain. After I finished speaking John and I walked to the parking lot and the rain began to fall for the first time in months here.
We then toured an inner city drug and rehab ministry for 75 drug addicts, prostitutes and gangsters. We heard testimonies of men and women, prayed, worshipped, listened to a message and saw many surrender their lives to Christ. Later tonight I will lead the pastors in a second session. Please continue to pray for us! We are counting on your prayers for us.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Today Paul and Helen Gallagher and all the Doyles headed off in one direction while Mike (the driver and his wife Fiona) and I made a 20-minute drive to Ocean View. Ocean View is a predominantly colored Afrikan-speaking community. In the 1960’s during Apartheid in South Africa, thousands of coloreds were systematically relocated to various locations by the all white government. The reason for the relocation was that families of coloreds used to occupy land along the coastal region. White real estate enthusiasts realized the significant financial upside and attraction of oceanfront property and decided to use their political clout and influence to seize these land holdings from the colored community. Consequently the white government had to find a place for these displaced people, so they designated inland pieces of real estate and promptly moved them to places like Ocean View.
There are numerous places like these in and around Cape Town. The housing units are usually built by the government, and the surrounding community is usually unkempt, deteriorating and in deep disrepair. Moreover, unemployment, teenage pregnancy, gang-related crime, alcoholism and drug abuse are regular features of these communities. Many of the coloreds in South Africa are historically Christianized so there is usually a strong and vibrant Christian community in each of the areas. However, because of the numerous social problems, most churches struggle to meet the growing demands of these displaced people.
We arrived at the community center where Ocean View House of Praise meets every Sunday The church is only three years old. Pastor Raymond not only pastors the church, but works as a full-time firefighter in Cape Town. He is an outgoing, gregarious, positive man who has fire and energy for Christ. I was invited to preach the morning services and as the community center filled up quickly, the whole atmosphere reminded me of the early days of Northbrook Church. People setting up chairs, worship teams practicing their selections.
I preached from James 1:1-8 on facing hardship. It was no accident that James’ words were addressed to a similar group of people as these. James mentions those “scattered” in James 1:1. Like James original audience, these people had suffered a similar plight! Driven from their homelands, stripped of their rights and often on the receiving end of brutal injustices, James’s words were timely and relevant. It was a thrill to speak to this congregation. They were attentive, hungry and extremely receptive to the preaching of the Word.
In the evening the team drove out to Dock’s Mission Church in Lentegeur. Pastor Rodney, whom I met my first trip to Cape Town in 2008, has served this congregation for 14-15 years. Located in a different ‘colored’ community and a more established church. Recently Pastor Rodney and his leaders learned that one of their key leaders had been embezzling money from the church. Unfortunately these kinds of things occur in churches struggling to survive in poor and destitute places. After the services John and I spent time counseling, praying and trying to encourage Rodney.