- Pray for continued recovery from jetlag, and that the team would get good rest.
- Pray for the preparation of material to be presented on Tuesday and Wednesday at JBC.
- Pray for the church in Africa (and particularly in South Africa), that God would put a stop to syncretism, the prosperity gospel, and the unhealthy adoration of ministers and teachers.
- Pray for all the people who still live with the consequences of apartheid. Pray that God’s Spirit would grant wisdom to all those that work for reconciliation and renewal.
Monday began with an introduction to Johannesburg Bible College (JBC), where some of our team will be delivering lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was an amazing opportunity to hear from some of the staff about how God has been at work in their lives, in South Africa, and on the continent itself.
We heard from Kevin who as well as being rescued from sin and judgement, was also rescued from a life of drugs and substance abuse. We also heard from Tekla, a native of Zim (Zimbabwe), who is training up many people for gospel ministry in Africa. She gave a clear and powerful presentation on the challenges facing the African Church, including syncretism, the prosperity gospel, and the cult of personality.
After lunch at JBC, we head off for an afternoon at the Apartheid Museum. Apartheid was a system of racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948-1994. It existed, among other reasons, to prevent the ‘mixing’ of whites (European) and non-whites (coloureds or mixed, Indians, and Blacks).
Upon arriving at the museum, each of us was given a ‘pass’ labelled either ‘blankes’ (whites) or ‘nie-blankes’ (non-whites). We were then asked to use separate entrances (according to our racial classification), and to abide by the signage that stipulated where we were allowed to go. Although randomly assigned, it felt both awkward, and an affront to our modern sensibilities. Despite feeling like apartheid must have happened ‘back in the day’, we would soon learn that almost all of us were born when apartheid was still very much in effect.
For the next three hours, and at our own paces, we learned about the history of Africa, South Africa, racial segregation, de-segregation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC), and the indominable figure of Nelson Mandela: also known as Madiba (Father).
It was easy to admire how far South Africa has come in such a short amount of time. In my lifetime (I’m 26 years old), South Africa has become a vibrant, cosmopolitan, eclectic country that continues to grow and meet its own challenges.
It was also easy to feel the pain and heartbreak that the system of apartheid caused. Absolutely terrible things were enacted in order to create a white South Africa, where coloured and black people were denied the dignity that should be afforded to them as image-bearers of God.
It was clear, from the beginning of the exhibition, that we would need to relinquish any faulty beliefs that Christians are only capable of good. Indeed, we would soon learn about the horrible things that were done in the name of Christ. However, we would also need to relinquish any faulty belief that all is hopeless, as we would also learn of the courageous Christians who fought to end apartheid.
At JBC, Tekla told us about the struggle to get African Christians to separate the gospel from European invasion and colonisation. Her words were ringing in our ears at the apartheid museum, as we saw first-hand the effects that European Christians had on South Africa.
One quote read: “When the Europeans came, they had the Bible and we had the land. Now they have our lands, and we have the Bible.”
It was difficult truth to digest: that the people associated with bringing the message of eternal life to the continent of Africa, are also associated with death and destruction.
But is was also a humbling one.
As visitors to this country, as people who are here only to serve, it was so very important to be reminded of the history of sharing the gospel in Africa. A history that has been tainted by sin and inadequacy.
And yet, they “have the Bible.”
Feature Image Credit: Apartheid Museum Entrance, Johannesburg By Annette Kurylo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21715018