Africa Reformation Overland Mission 2018
We praise God for His provision and protection over the fifteen thousand kilometres travelled, ministering throughout Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Namibia and Swaziland. Thank you to all those who prayed for our Africa Reformation Overland Mission team (Daniel, Tobie, Talita, Alieske and myself) and made this mission financially possible. In total, we conducted 117 meetings, which included preaching at 8 Sunday services, 19 outreaches (which included 3 outreaches at Old Age Homes, 3 Jesus film screenings, 3 school meetings, 6 street outreaches and 4 open-air preaching outreaches in market places) and 37 children’s meetings.
Back to Biblical Exposition
Ulrich Zwingli brought Switzerland back to the Bible through expository preaching - by preaching verse by verse through the New Testament, starting in Matthew one, verse one on the first of January 1519. As next year is the 500th anniversary of the launch of the Swiss Reformation by Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, our team particularly focussed on conducting Biblical Exposition Workshops for pastors. We used the Gospel of John to practically teach participants how to exposit Scripture and also donated them resources to further guide their study in John. It is our desire that pastors will be motivated to preach through the Gospel of John in the coming year.
We conducted four different Biblical Exposition Workshops in Zambia, one in Tanzania and one in Malawi. The team also conducted two leadership training conferences in Swaziland and one in Zimbabwe. Participants of these seminars received copies of our new Biblical Preaching Handbook, Old Testament Survey, and Biblical Principles for Africa, as well as other books donated to us for the field such as Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and Taking God at His Word. In total, we distributed 1566 books.
Bible Donations in Local Languages
Also, due to a generous, specifically designated donation, we were able to purchase and wisely distribute Bibles in Afrikaans, Shona, Chichewa, Portuguese and Bemba. We distributed a total of 238 local language Bibles and also 206 English Bibles. We also donated 39 boxes of World Missionary Press Gospel booklets in local languages (550 booklets in one box) to pastors and evangelists. Including other leaflets distributed, we distributed a grand total of 22 450 Gospel booklets, leaflets and tracts.
It was wonderful to have Alieske and Talita on the team and available to do children’s ministry. There are always so many children in the rural areas we minister in and they are often a neglected field. Alieske and Talita taught them the Ten Commandments using pictures, the days of Creation and got the children involved by calling on volunteers to help “act” out Biblical stories being taught such as Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
Biblical Exposition for Children
In one rural area of Zambia, during the three days that we ministered there, Alieske and Talita read and taught through the Books of Esther, Jonah and parts of Daniel to the children and also had the children acting it out. They also had times of answering the children’s questions, looking at the meaning of the stories in their contexts and how to apply them to their lives. Although some of the children were very young, it was clear that they were thinking about what we were teaching. During the last morning, Alieske was explaining the Marching Song (based on Romans 6:23) to the children and they ended up having a long conversation about sin and salvation. Earlier they all said they are good people and some even said we can be saved through good works but through us asking questions, we could see their understanding growing. Finally they understood: “We are not good but sinful,” “We cannot save ourselves through doing good things” and “Jesus Christ is the One Who saves.”
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Blessed Border Crossing and Ministry in Tanzania
This was my first time in Tanzania. I was most concerned for this border crossing, as one of our missionaries had experienced corrupt officials at this border last year. Yet, by God’s grace, we arrived there (deliberately) on an evening when the officials who needed to give us our paperwork had already gone home. Despite a mosquito-infested sleep in the vehicle at the border post that night, we got through early the next morning without our vehicle being searched!
We ministered in a very rural area and yet the thirty pastors who gathered together for our seminar were very enthusiastic, always asking many questions, expressing their excitement at what they were learning.
Our hosts, the pastors of the church, were poor but sacrificially generous. They even bought us soda drinks at the market and gave it to us every evening with meals, as a treat. One of the pastors said to me, “we can see you love us” because you joke with us, eat our food with us and because you don’t act as if you are more important than us.
Delivery of Boxes with Love to Pensioners in Zimbabwe
Despite Zimbabwe’s new “president”, Zimbabweans are still suffering immensely. The economy has again taken another drastic down-turn with many shops closing in the last few weeks. In a country with a corrupt government and a collapsed economy, the elderly are among those that suffer the most. Our team was gain able to deliver 40 “Boxes with Love” (29 different food and medicine items in each box) to needy pensioners in two different towns – one of which was through new contacts and to elderly folk we have not ministered to before. By God’s grace, these boxes again made it through several border crossings! Here are some of the grateful Thank You messages we received from the old age home that our team ministered to and from those who received parcels:
“It was good to meet you and the team. Our pensioners are still talking about their visit and how good it was to have young people visit them. May our Lord and Saviour continue to use you mightily.” Manager of Old Age Home
“Thank you so very much for bringing the three young people to us. They thoroughly enjoyed their time with the residents and it was great to see the residents being engaged in one on one conversations.” Nurse at Old Age Home
“E suffers from dementia. Her husband died recently. She is looked after by his family. This parcel will give her some nice treats and a variety of food. A break from the staple food they live on.
“Our dear W died on Thursday night after a brave battle with aggressive skin cancer. Now his daughter will no longer benefit from his pension. She is a good bookkeeper but our tax department have made it too hard for small businesses to keep going, so she has lost most of her clients. I heard through the daughter’s church that she was struggling to buy food so I gave her one of the parcels from Frontline.” Our contact who oversees a ministry that helps the elderly
When our friend Leo Baan from Swazi Vision invited us for two weeks of ministry in Swaziland, I could not turn him down. Leo knows a good network of church leaders and last year arranged two productive leadership seminars for us to minister at. Even though this ministry would be tagged on to the end of our two-month long mission, it was again well worth the effort. We conducted two leadership conferences, ministered at an orphanage and also at a prison. Pastor C sent us this encouraging feedback:
“I would like to thank you for wonderful presentations. I learnt the following from the workshop: 1. Pastors should point people to Christ. 2. Passion for reaching out to the lost. 3. Awareness about human trafficking. 4. Awareness about abortion. We really need to teach our church members the importance of keeping themselves pure before God. Thank you so much for leaving us some tools like the Way of the Master to use in Evangelism.”
Discovery Bible Method
How do you teach Biblical Exposition to people from cultures that learn by hearing and telling stories? By teaching them the meaning of the stories in their Biblical context and then getting them to re-tell and learn how to teach the story with the correct Biblical meaning and application to those they are discipling. The tool that we found most helpful for this task is the Discovery Bible Method as presented in the Biblical Preaching Handbook.
This leader facilitates the following questions which members of the group answer by engaging with the Biblical text: 1. Re-tell the Text in your own words. 2. What did you like about this passage? 3. What did you find difficult? 4. What did you learn about God? 5. What did you learn about man? 6. How are you going to apply this in your life? 7. Who are you going to share this with?
It has been said that we remember 10% of what we hear, 30% of what we read and 80% of what we do. As this tool uses all three, especially because it is interactive, I believe that this is one of the most effective teaching tools to use in the field.
At all of the conferences, towards the end, we chose two of the participants to then lead a Bible Study using this method. This especially helped those leading to master this tool and the participants seemed to enjoy this part the most!
Pastor M from Tanzania said: “We are asking for prayers as we are now trying to teach Discovery Bible Study in our church. It is very helpful.”
Pastor S from Zambia said: “Thank you for taking your precious time to labour in our midst. Your ministry was so timely to the Body of Christ. We will forever be reminded of the sweet fellowship and how the Lord dealt with each one of us as we together looked into the Word of God. Our prayer is that the Lord God Almighty may grant that we meet again in a similar manner.”
Pastor A from Zambia: “I thank God for this day. It reminded me of God's amazing grace to learn how to stick to the text. You helped us a lot on how to get back to Reformation.”
Another Zambian pastor said: “We have seen that this Bible Study method you have taught us has really helped us. Because we have seen that we must not just go here and there and get distracted when we read the Bible; and we can’t just say what we want the Bible to mean, but we must ask, ‘What does the passage actually say?’”
In a two or three day seminar, we were only able to get through the first three chapters of John. At all the locations, the pastors asked us to come back again and continue the study in John. They even asked us to come for 21 days so that we could cover all 21 chapters of John!
Profound and Relevant Insights
As we studied the Word of God together, I was often impressed by some of the profound insights that these rural pastors with no formal theological training shared with us. These insights were directly relevant to needs and challenges faced by these African churches. The Word of God is always relevant to every nation and era!
God Was the First Missionary
On John chapter 1:14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” God was the first Missionary. We must imitate him and be missional.
Humility of John the Baptist
John the Baptist pointed to Christ and humbled himself, recognising “I am not worthy to tie his sandals” John 1:27. This is also what we should do as pastors. This is in great contrast to the many African pastors who call themselves “man of God” and are full of pride.
Two of John the Baptist’s Disciples Follow Jesus
Two of John the Baptist’s disciples became Jesus’ disciples after John declared “Look, the Lamb of God!” and were introduced to Jesus. We must not feel inadequate or be jealous if we see another congregation growing. We must be excited if God’s Kingdom is growing.
At one seminar, some Seventh Day Adventists participated. The SDA pastors were very appreciative. They told us: “We thought you believed in the Sun god, because you worship on a Sunday, but now we know you do not. We have been challenged to read the Bible for ourselves and not just listen to SDA teachers.” In this case, we did not need to challenge SDA doctrine directly, these pastors saw the need to go back to the Bible themselves.
Jesus is Superior to Mary
At this same seminar, there were also some Catholic leaders participating. Simply studying the Bible, also challenged their Catholic doctrine. For example, in John 2, at the wedding in Cana, Mary says to the servants of the wedding hosts, “Whatever [Jesus] says to you, do it.” This is a direct affront to the Catholic belief of Mary as a mediator – Mary told people to obey Jesus.
The First True Witness for Jehovah
In many of the places that we minister, the Jehovah’s Witness cult is a huge challenge to pastors trying to protect their flocks from false doctrine. John the Baptist pointed to Christ and said
“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Some pastors pointed out John the Baptist was the first true witness for Jehovah as he pointed to Christ as the fully Divine, sin-atoning, Messiah.
“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
Please pray for these pastors who have committed to preach through the Gospel of John. I am in contact with many of them via WhatsApp and am encouraging them to persevere. Please pray that the resources we left with these leaders would be studied, prayed through and would impact their lives and ministries. In 2019, we plan to have a ten-day Great Commission Course in a rural area in Zambia to which we can invite many Zambian pastors. This will be like a Zambian version of our Great Commission Course held in Cape Town. The Physical Training (PT) could include brick-making and farming to make it practical and relevant. One of our long-term friends and contacts, a rural Zambian pastor, runs a brick-making factory and could teach such a PT class.
There is still a very long way to go in urging pastors in Africa to go Back to the Bible. Pray for more labourers in this endeavour. Pray that pastors would continue to be inspired by the example of the Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli and faithfully preach expositionaly through every Book of the Bible with Reformation fire!
“’Is not My Word like a fire?’ says the Lord, and ‘like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’”
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
Abrie and Taryn have been married since 16 December 2015.