By Becki Philip
The commencement of our trip has resulted in varying levels of stress and sleep for each member of the team. Turns out some of us are pretty good at sleeping on long haul flights, and some of us aren’t.
We touched down in Joburg, regrouped, and managed to accidentally break most of Simon’s safety rules before we even got out the doors of the airport. Piling into a couple of minibuses, we began the rounds of dropping people off at the various locations we are being billeted. This first adventure taught us that stopping at red robots (traffic lights) at night is more of a general guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. The notion of a ‘street guard’ was also new to us, and it seems the norm to have high fences and rather large dogs. Our accommodation is eclectic, but the hospitality and generosity of our hosts is consistent across the board. After a red sunset, warm welcomes, and sleepy suppers, we said goodnight to our first day of mission and collapsed into bed.
Sunday morning, the logistics of 14 people, 6 homes, 4 church’s, and 2 minibuses somehow came together and we all made it to church on time. While over here we are partnering with Johannesburg Bible College (JBC) as well 4 local churches; Soweto, Blairgowrie, Hillbrow, and Hope.
“Soweto is a new church, who just celebrated their 1st birthday. Founded by the need for a gospel-grounded church in a lower-class area of Joburg. The thing I loved about Soweto was how in chatting to the leadership team you could see that they were really grounded in the gospel truths that were driving how they did church. They weren’t swayed by what society or the prosperity gospel was saying around them. And they were still able to do it in their own style, dancing and singing with joy.” (Simon T.)
“Blairgowrie felt almost a standard Sydney Anglican Church, apart from the fact that many people had lived through the apartheid and Mandela. People were very welcoming, and some of the 8amers had been there their whole life. I met one guy who was put in the army against a civilian rise up and was told to shoot if he sees anyone. He was thankful to God that he never was put in that position. At 9:30am there was a good mix of white and black Africans. Preaching from Philippians 1:12-18, Evan helpfully encouraged us to keep going further for the gospel like Paul did. And we danced a little bit.” (Rob).
“At Hillbrow there were more kids than adults. Hillbrow is a very low-socioeconomic area and the congregation was almost entirely black. Amidst the difference of this context, it was still a very familiar service, with great singing, gospel-presentation, and even a financial update from the church-treasurer, pie-graphs and all! Marlee gave her testimony and got lots of hugs afterwards. People at Hillbrow were friendly, warm, servant-hearted, and evidently committed to their faith. A lot of people had to run off to open up their shops straight after church, but it was encouraging to see how they were still so committed to being there” (Stuart).
“Arriving at Hope church I had all the same nerves that I usually have when visiting a new place. This was intensified, however, by the guard in high-vis, ushering the arriving congregants in through the extremely tall security fence. Any fears or anxieties soon dissipated, as we received an extremely warm welcome from all those we met. A highlight was meeting Tekla, a native of Zim (Zimbabwe) whose zeal for the Lord is contagious. After being widowed, she pursued a theological education so that she might meet the needs and challenges of the church in Africa. Singing together was also an incredible encouragement, as I was emboldened to rejoice, raise my voice, and use my whole body in the worship of our great God” (Andy).
It was pretty special to worship our great God with brothers and sisters 11,000km from where we call home, and a great encouragement to see how the gospel transcends national borders. God is good.
Igama leNkosi Malibongwe (Let his name be praised)