Melinda and I have had an amazing couple of weeks in South Africa. Our partners on this mission team, Howard and Debi Foreman have been a joy to work alongside. We arrived in the middle of a government workers strike in which hospitals, schools and other offices are closed. The government is negotiating with the workers who want more money. Yet, things appear to be much as normal.
We stayed at the Giyani-area Police Guest House on the outskirts of town. The local police officials have rolled out the red carpet for us. We were able to hire a cook and were allowed the use of the full accommodations. The police commander for crime prevention in Giyani lives at the guesthouse. He and his son and a friend gave us a large brie (BBQ) one night earlier this week. The seven of us had great discussion and fellowship.
One of the local African pastors, Pastor David, loaned us his Indian-made Tata car so we could get around on our own. What a sacrifice on his part! That kind gesture saved us from the sometimes complicated and expensive process foreigners must go through to rent one. Both Howard and I drove the car, which for me was a bit weird because in South Africa they drive British-style (on the left).
The week of ministry included pastoral training classes in theology, taught by Howard and a general church leadership seminar on Christian counseling, taught by me. The two wives presented a women’s seminar and craft session, as well as met privately with several wives of pastors for encouragement.
While in the city of Malamulele, about 40 minutes north of Giyani, the four of us were invited briefly to the home of a local pastor in the area and given a gift of fresh garden spinach, which we ate later that night. We were allowed to present a gospel-oriented devotional at three police station chapel services, where we given a profuse welcome.
Believe it or not, the week also gave us opportunities to hold youth meetings and speak in several other church services, where we presented a welcome from the churches in the US. A highlight was driving 25 miles to the NW and visiting with the chief of the five villages in the Diangheza area. Once again the chief rolled out the red carpet, inviting us to lunch and outfitting Melinda and Debi in Shangaani costume.
What we have seen here in this northeastern corner of the country is a wild mix of western and traditional cultures. Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants exist side-by-side with traditional food vendors. We have seen women in traditional costume with fruit baskets on their heads and people in business suits; serious poverty and affluence; Africaans, Tsonga and English all spoken simultaneously.
Each morning we awoke to vervet monkeys in the trees outside our window. Several afternoons we were guests of the local Spar grocery store, where the managers made their computers and internet available to us. Americans can learn much about hospitality from South Africans.
If you ever get the chance, you should experience this place. We are amazed at how people are open to the message of Christ and the Bible and the pervasiveness of at least a positive attitude toward Christianity. Please pray for our friends, pastors Rex, David and Jackson; for our police friend Peter; Betta (our cook) and many others. Though tired, we came though the week very well. Thanks for your interest in this very effective project. We pray for you and trust you are well.
Mike and Melinda
Here are some typical scenes from Limpopo Province in northeastern South Africa.
The large picture was taken at a wedding we attended. This is the bride’s family. Her dad has three wives. Can you pick them out?
December 1, 2006
Greetings! It is that special holiday time of year, which gives us the opportunity to report to those who have prayed, given and shown interest in the ministry we have with JARON. We trust all of you are well and finding fulfillment in serving where you have opportunity as well.
As I mentioned in June, JARON has been invited to begin a ministry training course for pastors who serve in the villages of Limpopo Province in the northeastern part of the country. The first phase of what we hope will become a multi-year Global Leadership Training Project took place July 21-August 12.
More than anything else, this trip confirmed the need (and renewed the invitation) for us to become involved in the training of Christian leaders in the region. In those eventful three weeks I was involved in the following:
One week was spent networking with Afrikaans leaders in the Pretoria area, discussing needs and touring existing ministry projects. There are multiple layers of ministry we can easily plug into and provide training and other things in north-central part of the country.
The final two weeks were spent working with Shangaan ethnic people in Limpopo Province. A brief summary of this training week follows:
I taught a Christian leadership seminar to fifty church leaders from two different churches.
I led a marriage seminar for pastors in the city of Giyani.
I met with key pastoral leaders to discuss the details of a JARON Bible Institute program to meet the academic and practical ministry needs in the area.
The JARON team put together a medical / relief project in several area villages.
I along with several others, participated in a discussion for future development of a Christian camp that would serve the entire northeastern region of South Africa.
We met and established good relationships with many wonderful people, whom I hope to see again in future trips.
Thanks for your prayers, Mike Bogart