Reasons for Prayer and Praise

Sunday Evening we received a phone call: Greg’s Mom passed away. It wasn’t a surprise. She’d told us she was ready to go. Now ninety, it had been some weeks since she’d been comfortable to converse over Skype. Anxious to join the family to remember, and celebrate her life, we left SA last Tuesday evening for services this weekend. We’re thankful for her legacy of love and are confident that joy flowed heartily from her life because she lived the unconditional love and grace that Jesus modeled. Accepting people as they are, and enjoying what life would bring each day was Grandmother Seghers’ specialty. She will be missed. Pray for peace, joy, and love that continues to unite us in times of grief. We have joined Greg’s family in Mississippi for her funeral tomorrow.

Short-termers, Howard and Lynn Swank, arrived at Sunbury in March to help us, while Dan and Beth Hoffman are in the USA on furlough. The Swanks have assured us that they are trusting God as they unexpectedly “man the fort” in our absence. Pray for health, strength, and wisdom.

Two weeks ago, before any of this could be foreseen on our timeline, a long time co-worker and African pastor came to us for prayer and asked to stay at Sunbury. He needed space and divine protection to evaluate and respond to spiritual warfare happening at his homestead. Experiencing symptoms of a migraine, sordid body pain and immobility that medical doctors could not diagnose, there were other unexplainable happenings directed at discouraging him when in the region of his home. As a final impetus, his brother had spoken to him of spiritual curses on the family immediately before his sudden death weeks before. Before our departure, we had been praying with our friend daily, and we continue to seek God’s protection and sovereignty in this situation. His physical symptoms are still undiagnosed, slowly improving, but still present. He is trusting God and continuing to seek direction. He will stay in our home in our absence. 

We’re thankful and praise the Lord that our last minute flight to the US was relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive. Though upon arrival we did have ONLY 15 minutes of panic at 10 pm Wednesday night. We had lost our passports at Chicago’s ORD curb-side pick-up and were thankful when our late-night call to ORD Dispatch promised a quick recovery. They had already been turned in and awaited our reclamation at the Airport Customs Office on Thursday.

Birds-eye view of Chicago’s skyline taken from our plane on Wednesday.

Last minute preparations for travel included interacting with Greg’s doctor’s office and ascertaining a medical certificate to clear him should his radio-active state set off alarms at airport security. We were thankful to learn that PSI levels are in rapid decline, and we continue to trust God that they will continue to decrease to levels that indicate his cancer is cleared. 

Please be in prayer for our sister-in-law Jennifer as she also works through her journey with cancer. Pray that her next stage of treatment will be less intense and debilitating than the first stage has been. Pray also for Carlene’s brother Rick and their children. Having lived the journey ourselves, and with co-workers, Mark and Barb Hugo, we know the diagnosis of cancer for any one family member challenges and changes the whole family. May they know God’s peace and love in the midst of this trial.

Carlene has occasionally been in communication with a published author regarding the Bible study we are writing, Redeeming Sexual Love. On Monday, while packing for our trip, she heard from this author. A known publishing house has expressed a willingness to look at our proposal for publication. We are confident that all things happen in God’s time, and publishing our Bible study will be accomplished as God directs and not before. 

Greg’s responsibilities as Field Director include never-ending cycles of administrative communications between ZEMA’s SA missionaries and the USA office. This new role challenges us to navigate life and ministry in new ways. Traveling more, we find respite in the established routines of the past. We continue to mentor young couples, missionaries, and national pastors, and enjoy developing these relationships. While simultaneously, we are challenged to learn the new technicalities of IT, organizational policies, developing procedures, and what is required to facilitate growth and leadership that will move forward with Millennials and Generation Z at the helm. 

In this little narration of Reasons for Prayer and Praise, we hope our prayer requests and items of praise are self-evident. I have italicised certain phrases to facilitate your thoughts in this regard.  Pray as the Lord leads you. And may He bless you, as you are a blessing to us in your faithful support of our family and ministry.

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Greg and Carlene Interview Siyabonga Shungube

Siyabonga Shungube is a young man born in Swaziland whose job transferred him to South Africa where he is now living. We first met Siyabonga when he began studying through ZEBS at Sunbury. Recently we asked Siyabonga about his Bible training and ministry in his community. 

Siyabonga Shungube and his wife, Thabisile

G: Please share with us how the teachings you’ve received at the Zion Bible Schools have impacted your life, community, and church.

SS: Thanks for that. ZEBS and ZBC have impacted me hugely in my personal life, community, church, and even in my family. In my life personally, I was living in Swaziland when I received Christ. I didn’t have people that I could learn from concerning the Word. The doctrine of the people I was under wasn’t according to the Word of God. It wasn’t right. So when I received Christ I had a hunger for the true Word. I had to visit other churches and fellowship with them. As I fellowshipped with them I grew in the Word, but I also had that hunger for how I could grow fully in Christ. As time went on I met Bruce Britten who introduced me to Zion Bible College and I started studying there. 

When the time came for me to come to South Africa, Bruce wrote a letter for me to be transferred to ZEBS here in South Africa. I saw my life changing. In the community where I stay right now, when I arrived, I saw that many of the youth were engaged in smoking, drugs, drinking and doing the wrong things. While studying at ZEBS I decided to join a church where I could teach young people the book of Mark from beginning to end. Before the main service on Sundays, I met with them. At the end of the study, I gave each of them a certificate to encourage them.  I’ve seen them changing the way they do things. Though there are some who are not following the Word, I can see some, where there is a complete change and God has done a good work in them. 

Even in my family there is change. Most of my family members are now Christians. Some have also attended ZEBS. My church gives me the opportunity to preach, even on Good Fridays. I don’t think I would be able to stand in front of such a large crowd without training from ZEBS. So ZEBS and ZBC have helped me in church, community, and even family. 

G: How have you seen an impact on people in your church?

SS: Since I have gotten training from ZEBS, I have shared with them what the Bible says about some of the doctrines of the church. I’m seeing some people now going away from the worship of ancestors and wanting to worship God alone. The biggest problem we have here is the worship of ancestors.

C: Are you a pastor in your church?

SS: I am preaching in the church.  I am an “umshmayeli,” because the church government is that we have an Arch Bishop, and I am a preacher under his leadership. 

C: You came to South Africa from Swaziland. Is your family still in Swaziland? 

SS: My father and my mother are in Swaziland, but I got married. My wife and my son are here with me, living in Stanger. 

C: You go to a Zion church in Stanger?

SS: When I first came from Swaziland I attended another Zion Church. But there came a time when there was a problem in the church and they wanted to consult the spirits because of the problem. We said this was not right. When we said that, the church leadership said to me if I would not cooperate with them in this, we could not work together. At that time I decided I should start another branch of the Zion Church that I had attended in Swaziland. So now in Stanger  (South Africa), I have started another branch under the leadership of the Zion Church I was a part of in Swaziland. 

G: Siyabonga, thank you for taking the time, and allowing us this interview. We look forward to sharing your story with others who will pray for you and your church.

A current ZBC class in Swaziland (eSwatini) such as Siyabonga attended.
Ceremonial march of teachers and graduates ZEBS graduation in 2014, the year  Siyabonga graduated.

 

Addendum: The Zion Evangelical Bible Schools (ZEBS) and Zion Bible Colleges (ZBC) are Bible schools started by missionaries working with ZEMA and other mission agencies (currently TEAM, SIM, and DMG) who partner with us. These schools share a core curriculum, and the leadership comes together annually for training and fellowship. The difference between ZEBS and ZBC has to do with our desire to honor an established organisation of churches in Swaziland (now eSwatini, 19 April 2018). Those schools started by the leadership based in eSwatini did not want to create confusion regarding a large denomination of churches located there. To alleviate the potential for confusion with this denomination, called “Evangelical Churches,” they moved away from the ZEBS title, which had already been established in South Africa, opting for ZBC. At this time both ZEBS and ZBC may be found in many Southern African countries. 

Who Are the AmaZioni? (Part 3)

The Evangelistic Task -Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.        “All the world”… quite a calling!

These are Jesus’ words to us who value His opinion. The chart below represents all the world, for all time. Everyone lies somewhere within this chart. It is the realm of our spirits, that part of us which can connect in a relationship with God. Neither the knowledge of God nor a zeal for God can bring us into a meaningful relationship with Him and the eternal fellowship that exists in Him. Where are you?

Jesus said, the Father and I are one. If you know me, you know the Father. Follow me!

As followers of Jesus, our task is to move oneself, and encourage others to follow, from whatever quadrant we exist within, to the place of being both knowledgeable of and zealous for our relationship with God. The less knowledge we have of God, the more we’ll fear Him, and apathy lacks the intimacy of meaningful love. But perfect love casts out fear. A relationship with God requires both knowledge and zeal.

Most people from western communities fall into quadrants one and two. The amaZioni exist in quadrant three. With little knowledge and much zeal, they place their hope in traditional animistic practices to appease ancestors who may be angry, hoping for unity in the spiritual realm.

Christians are being sanctified-changed, by God’s Spirit, and moving from wherever is their starting point, through quadrant four toward meaningful intimacy with God. The sanctifying work of God’s Spirit increases our zeal and understanding. One day, all fears cast aside, we will be reunited with our King. We’ll know God our Creator, just as He fully knows and understands us.

The task of evangelism with the amaZioni of Southern Africa is to introduce them to the God they are already zealous for and show them from His Word that because of His love for them, they can be free from the fear that motivates the animistic practices of their religion, frequently holding them in cycles of poverty.

Scripture:  Matthew 28:19, Mark 1:17, 16:15, Luke 9:23, John 10:30, 14:7-9, 1 John, 1:6&7, 4:18

Who Are the amaZioni? (Part 2)

Zionist Beliefs & Practices -Some amaZioni churches fall to the side of Christian faith, some fall to the side of African tradition, most are somewhere in between.

AmaZioni beliefs and practices range from Christian, that you would be comfortable with, to African traditions that are far removed from western ways of worship.

Christian Beliefs: The Bible is the Word of God, Salvation is through Jesus Christ, God has the power to heal, We should live holy lives. The Holy Spirit has the greatest power in our lives.

Christian Practices: Communion, Take care of widows and orphans, Laying on hands to pray for the sick, Triune Immersion Baptism

Sometimes Christian practices & beliefs move toward African tradition:  In baptism, multiple submersion (10-20+) is sometimes practiced to remove evil spirits, Praying for the sick may include other means to invoke spiritual blessing and healing.African Traditional Beliefs:  Besides the Holy Spirit, other spirits are also active and influential in our lives. These may intercede on our behalf, or they may be the cause of bad luck and must be appeased. Sangomas and prophets have unique access to the spiritual world. Herbs, medicines and holy water have extraordinary powers. Seawater has the greatest healing and cleansing power.

African Traditional Practices: amaZioni feel a need to show evidence of spiritual activity (unintelligible vocalizations, swoon, trance, and dance ), Sacrifice of animals, carrying sticks & charms, communication with the spirit world through trance and dreams are all means of addressing the needs of the spirit world.

What do we do as we minister to the amaZioni? We accept invitations to their services and lift up the name of Jesus and the authority of Scripture. We invite them to study the Bible through ZEBS Bible schools or the This We Believe correspondence course.

Up Next: Who Are the amaZioni? (Part 3) -The Evangelistic Task

 

PS. Be sure to take a look at our updated  PRAYER REQUESTSHAPPENINGS, and PHOTO ALBUM

 

Who Are the amaZioni? (Part 1)

AmaZioni, or African Zionists, are the ‘people of Zion.’

Amazioni churches are 80% of the African Indigenous Church movement. They are NOT followers of Shembe.

Historically, Zionists follow Christian beliefs taught by Dr. John Alexander Dowie, of Zion, IL USA (early 1900). They are ZEALOUS for God, though most, even leaders, have no formal Bible training.

They are:

  • Gardeners, domestic workers, teachers, managers, doctors and more.
  • The largest new religious movement in the world. Bigger than the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness churches.
  • Over 4000 denominations, of which the commonly known ZCC is only one.
  • Statistically, 1 out of 4 black Africans is a Zionist, and 20% of the total population in South Africa.
  • The syncretistic, mixing their African traditional religion with the Gospel and other forms of Christianity.

Some amaZioni churches fall to the side of Christian faith, some fall to the side of African tradition, most are somewhere in between.

PS. Be sure to take a look at our updated  PRAYER REQUESTSHAPPENINGS, PHOTO ALBUM, and OUR MINISTRY  pages! 

 

Times and Seasons of Change

ZEMA -South Africa’s Field Director Elect

Our ministry in South Africa is directly guided by ZEMA’s Field Council, which is led by the Field Director. This person has always been one of ZEMA’s missionaries who is elected to fill this position. Richard Akers has held the position for the past five years; he asked to be replaced in January 2018. He also indicated that as ZEMA has been growing over the years, the position has become a full-time job, and his replacement should be someone who can focus his energy primarily on that position. In January, the missionary body indicated though none present at the business meeting felt they could step into the position presently, they hoped it could be someone who already knows ZEMA and its ministries. A committee was appointed to search out candidates for the Field Director.

We arrived back in South Africa after that meeting and shared with the Field Council that with our family circumstances changing, we desired to be active with ZEMA on both sides of the ocean.

A couple of months later, the search committee approached Greg about becoming the new Field Director in 2018. We have prayed about this opportunity and consulted with many of ZEMA’s leadership on both sides of the ocean. Greg has agreed to accept the position for a two-year term beginning in January 2018.

This means that we will be doing quite a bit more traveling and consulting with missionaries and organizations affiliated with ZEMA. Presently Greg is beginning to take on responsibilities. Daily he and Richard communicate as he learns the admin side of this position. We look forward to what is in store.

ZEMA -USA, A New Look and New Way

We could not do what we do, without a home office in the USA to handle all that is needed administratively.  As time has passed, ZEMA’s home office needs have also changed. The missionaries’ needs from the office have changed, government requirements have become more complicated, and for ZEMA to keep growing, we need to be able to present ZEMA’s opportunities relevantly to the next generation. So, ZEMA USA has launched a series of development projects. These projects involve updating and developing its financial software, website, media, print materials, and internship programs.

Please note the following ways you can be involved:

Firstly, ZEMA is updating its donation software program. If you have financially supported us through ZEMA, this change affects you.  For security reasons, ZEMA’s current provider will not transfer financial information to our new software provider. (This is a good thing!) But it means that for you to continue financially supporting our ministry, ZEMA needs you to provide them with your financial details once again. If you have financially supported us, you will be receiving a call from ZEMA’s office (Andrew Sisson or Kathy Richards) to update this information. Please feel free to contact ZEMA directly at 847-872-7363 if you have any questions or to help expedite this process.

ZEMA has also established a ZEMA Development Fund. Money raised through this fund will benefit our office and our ministry greatly. ZEMA has been accepted by Elevation’s grant program, which will fund match to help raise these finances. You can take a look at this opportunity by clicking HERE

SUNBURY – Needs

You may have heard us say this before, but there is no better way to describe living at Sunbury than a great game of whack-a-mole! There’s always something happening, unceasing challenge, never-a-dull-moment because you expect the unexpected. Every day is a new day, with something different!

So, to set your mind at ease, the electricity’s been taken care of; we now have a generator! Water problems have been addressed …for now😉. Nonetheless, hot water heaters still go out, toilets get blocked, windows broken, roofs leak, monkeys, snakes, frogs, people😃…you name it we’ve dealt with it, and undoubtedly will again!

We’re so thankful for Eric and Di deLange, and Dan and Beth Hoffman who have very capably run Sunbury’s camping ministry for the past three years.

Eric and Di will be retiring the end of this year. Sunbury needs a couple to replace them. This couple would be involved in maintenance, managing staff, hosting camps, and office work.

Dan and Beth will be on home assignment for three months in 2018. This makes getting additional Sunbury coverage vital. Do you know someone who might enjoy the challenge of whack-a-mole at Sunbury? Would you consider coming for some time, yourself?

TIDBITS Update

See the poverty around you?  We do daily. You will too, if you’re looking for it. View a 3 minute clip by the Chalmers Center on OUR MINISTRY page as we consider our response to poverty.

ZEBS Alumni Conference 2017

This past weekend, we invited our ZEBS alumni to bring their spouse to a conference focused on building healthy marriage and family relationships. We’re thankful for the 37 alumni which were able to come. And for our colleagues who assisted with teaching at this conference. See photos on our PHOTO ALBUM page.

Greg and Carlene began the meetings on Friday by laying a Biblical foundation for marriage. We led the students through passages to demonstrate how God designed men and women to reflect the unified relationships of the Trinity. Created to function as one, our neediness reflects that God’s image remains, though our unity has been broken.

We’re thankful for those who helped with the teaching, and for those who travelled great distances to attend. Pray for God to complete His good work in our lives, and see our PRAYER REQUESTS page for other prayer items.

Good Friday???

Destroy this temple, and in three days …I will raise it up.
John 2:19
What’s GOOD about Today? Today Greg traveled five hours to share about the Zion Bible Schools with Pastors from the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion (pictured above). This is the first time we’ve had this opportunity to share about ZEBS with this denomination and feel like it is a significant step! We are excited that all of their pastors are encouraged by their leadership from the CCAC in Zion, IL to attend a Bible school with ZEMA. Greg traveled 5 hours this morning to meet with their assistant to the General overseer and help to clarify and translate for some of their meetings.
  But even more importantly, today is the day we commemorate Jesus’ death. Is that good? Absolutely! We chose the road to destruction, and He took the punishment in our place. Then He overcame that judgment in life, and instead of destruction we have the privilege of being temples and joining with our God through His Spirit.
Enjoy your celebrations this blessed weekend!
Do you not know? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God. You are not your own, you have been bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20