The People’s Zion

Greg and I began our seven-hour drive north on the N3 highway that expands Durban to Johannesburg with the African sun warming our vehicle despite the crisp weather of early spring. In recent years, together and alone on our long drives, I enjoy reading aloud as we go. Greg and I share a wide range of interests; recently we’ve read such books as Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela and Paul, Women & Wives, by Craig Keener. As we settled into this journey, we looked forward to beginning our next opus: The People’s Zion. This book, by Joel Cabrita, is a historical account of Zionism. It’s not about a national movement seeking a Jewish homeland in Israel, but rather the religious movement that began in our own homeland of Illinois, and what Joel calls Zion’s “transatlantic story.” We anticipate an exposition of the beginnings, and reasons, our ministry exists. I’d like to tell you more and will, possibly even again, as time goes on.

The People’s Zion is available on Amazon. To view, click above.

Raised in Swaziland, the author, Joel Cabrita has committed her life to a growing understanding of African beliefs.  Dr. Cabrita was a University Lecturer in World Christianities at Cambridge University (see note below), specializing in the development of African religions. Dr. Cabrita was commissioned by the university to compile research for what has become, The People’s Zion, Southern Africa, the United States, and a Transatlantic Faith-Healing Movement.  We met Joel in Zion for a discussion over lunch, in July of 2012. At that time Joel had just begun her research for this project.

Since then she has spent considerable time on several continents, with Zionists. Living at Sunbury for a week, relocating again to Southern Africa for two years, and traveling regularly to those places unfolded by her research, Joel has ascertained testimony from “Zionists” of both North American and African descent.

Consoled by what promised to be a worthwhile account of Zion’s history, Greg and I settled into the story and our long drive ahead. Chuckling through a bit of Cambridge-like language, at the end of the twenty-four-page introduction, Greg smiled. “So that’s what we’ve been doing all these years!”

Says Dr. Cabrita, “three enduring features of transatlantic Zion are nonetheless discernible. First, Zionists on both sides of the Atlantic have first and foremost been egalitarians, propelled by the belief that all Christians are equal regardless of status, and committed to attacking and bringing down hierarchies of all kinds. Zionists argued that ministers, clerics, and other specialized experts occupy no privileged position in the Kingdom of God.” Secondly, Zionists are reformers, “…their endless propensity for dissent, criticism, and rebellion against established ways of being religious …springs from the heartfelt zeal that characterized their faith.”  Quoting Alec Ryrie, “from the beginning, a love affair with God has been at the heart of [Protestant’s] faith.” (2017, p.1). Finally, “Zionists in both the United States and Southern Africa were cosmopolitans who rejected the notion that humanity could be divided up according to race, nationality, or language…drawing on a long tradition of Christian thought … that presented the church as a template for a redeemed society unified under God and across biological and social differences.” 

Note: This past June Sanford University’s, Centre for African Studies announced that Joel would be joining their faculty in the fall semester of 2018.


From Zion to Shembe

Around the time that Dr. John Alexander Dowie was beginning his church movement in Zion, IL (see October 2017 post, “Who Are the AmaZioni?”) an African by the name of Isaiah Shembe began to gather followers in South Africa.  “‘The Word,’ had come to him from God,” he said. And “he was anointed to save the African people.” This was the beginning of the Shembe in South Africa. The “spirit of Shembe” has been passed generationally to his successors. The amaNazaretha, the name Isaiah Shembe gave his church, was a million strong when disputes arose regarding Shembe’s successor in the 1980’s, and the amaNazaretha began to splinter.

However, the Shembes are still known, alive, and continue to assemble in South Africa. Not as numerous as the Zionists, they have a similar zeal. Their hope is directed to Isaiah Shembe. “Shembe is the Way!” commonly adorns the side of taxis and bumpers on cars. We were recently privileged to be invited into an amaNazaretha church after Greg had preached at an engagement celebration for an amaZioni couple. Zion churches combined to celebrate the engagement, along with others from the surrounding community.

Our pale faces create a bit of a stir, and even more so when we’re able to converse, and Greg teach, in their language. Lifting up the authority of Scripture, he invites people to a Bible school. Not knowing which Zionists are truly followers of Jesus, and which are more committed to African tradition than their belief in what the Bible says, Greg always shares the Gospel in a way that’s relevant to the purpose of the meeting. This service ended, and we enjoyed their celebratory meal. Getting ready to leave, a gentleman hurriedly caught up to us before we could get in our vehicle. “Will you come to my church and teach?”

Greg responded, “Alright. What church do you attend?”

“AmaNazaretha, …But we worship, on Saturday.”

“That’s ok. I can come on a Saturday.” Greg was somewhat surprised. “But I teach about Jesus …from the Bible.”

“That’s ok. We want to hear the Bible. We like to learn from the Bible too,” was his response.

The men exchanged phone numbers, and for the next two weeks, on Friday Mr. Ngcambashe called to see if we could come the next day. “No, I’m sorry, my wife and I need to attend a funeral tomorrow,” Greg said the first week. The following Friday he hesitantly responded again, “No, I’m sorry I can’t come tomorrow. I’ll be teaching at one of our Bible schools.” Then, sensing his refusals could be misunderstood, “But I’m not busy next Saturday. May I plan to come then?”

Glad for our willingness, Mr. Ngcambashe indicated we could come to the early service at 9am or the later service in the afternoon. No all-night services for the Shembes, they have two shorter services that span the day, with a meal in between. Driving to our place of meeting, we wondered at what we anticipated would be a brand-new cultural experience, even after 25 years!

Arriving at their place of worship the following afternoon, the leader, a man we hadn’t met before, was quick to size up these “abelungu”(white people) arriving at his temple site. As is typical for African congregations, the men were situated on one side and the women on the other. So, we separated to join our respective congregants. With long strides, the leader moved quickly to intercept Carlene before she entered the temple area. “The shoes must come off” He spoke in a friendly, but slightly aggressive manner. And then, “Those. Those, those are ok. But the shoes must come off!” indicating my nylon hose. “Ok,” she responded trying to figure things out. Should she put them somewhere specific? Where did everyone else put them? “That’s fine.” Not seeing many shoes lying around she took them to the car thinking, “I get this. Many Zionists do this too.”

In her black skirt, entering the crowd of white-robed women, Carlene wondered if her stockings would survive the day. Still wearing her black dress hat, it was only as she descended the hill into the crowd that she realized, “he was actually processing his own convictions! The stockings shouldn’t be here. If only I’d realized! I would have taken them off!!!  Too late!”

Bombarded with surprised looks and pleasant conversation, the Shembe women soon recognized she was comfortable mingling in an African setting. The ladies welcomed her by taking pictures, asking questions, and they confidently replaced Carlene’s hat, with a colorful, African “indwangu” (singular) to tie around her head. Most of the amaNazaretha wives had ornate woven bands tied around white “izindwangu” (plural). However, izindwangu of any design is typical African attire; it was a welcoming gesture.

After conversing with the men for a time, Greg followed as they moved toward the temple site. Watching, Greg observed each person kneel before crossing the threshold, “Senzani?” (What are we doing?) “We just kneel to pray for the service before we go inside,” was their reply. Greg considered their actions, knelt, and prayed silently that Jesus would be honored by our presence with the Shembe that day.

The service was quite liturgical. Congregants sang and followed an order of service using a book of Shembe songs and praises. First, an elderly woman spoke, and then the leader who intercepted Carlene. Everyone either knelt or sat on the ground. The leader explained that Shembes are intentional about keeping their heads low, “because we must keep ourselves low to God.” Though people were free to come and go as need be, there was little movement and no dancing at this service, such as we are accustomed to with the Zionists. From his kneeling position, the leader spoke clearly, probably more to the “abelungu” than to his assembled followers. He clearly explained, “God sent Jesus to the save the white people by setting Jesus among the Jews. But he sent Shembe to Africa, to save Africans!” He was careful to reference the Bible in support of his words; lifting up Shembe, he acknowledged God. 

Finishing his teaching, the leader invited Greg to “give a greeting.”  Desiring to share more than a basic greeting, Greg requested permission to speak from the Bible. In respect for the Shembe people gathered that day Greg preached a 20-minute sermon from his knees.

Greg’s 20-minute sermon. That’s really short for an Africa preacher! Remember he was just supposed to, “give a greeting.”

“To get to my house,” Greg said, “you must follow the signposts to ‘Sunbury Christian Camp…'” There are several signs before you arrive at Sunbury, and I won’t belabor the point to you our readers. In typical African style, Greg told his tale of following these signposts to be sure you arrive “at my house …to talk to me.” Then he changed the story, by telling of God’s signposts, which he unfolded from the Old Testament. Starting with Adam and Eve, with Abraham, and then at the “Pass-over” of the Jewish exodus, with big motions to illustrate the angel of death “passing-over” the house,  God required “the blood of a sacrificed lamb.” Greg stated simply, “The Bible shows us that God’s signposts along the way, point to a blood sacrifice.” Then again, with clarity and African pizazz, he described how we can know that Jesus was God’s last sacrificed lamb. He was the last signpost, because the curtain to the holy of holies was torn, “from top to bottom! In two pieces! So that we can follow the signposts to arrive close to God.”

When Greg finished, the leader of this beautiful, gracious congregation of African followers of Shembe, raised from his seat on the ground, resumed his kneeling position as spokesman and thanked us for coming. He thanked us for being courteous to accommodate their African traditions and said, “If Madame had come wearing pants, I wouldn’t have let them in. But they arrived respectfully, and took off their shoes, ‘Not a problem!’ they said. I like their hearts.” Then he invited us back and insisted that Carlene take whatever pictures she would like of those assembled together.

We transported Mr. Ngcambashe back to his home and gave him a tract that tells about our ZEBS schools. Do they really want to know the Bible? Who knows what God will do, and at what time? But we’re thankful, in awe, and privileged to watch and wait while He works. It is amazing what can be said when love and finding common ground is our focus. Unity in diversity, even in the face of opposing convictions, is a beautiful reflection of our Trinitarian God. It was a beautiful experience. We left that service, still wondering at what door God may be opening. Will they really invite us back again? Or was that just a kindly gesture, knowing it will never happen? Whichever, we were privileged to vividly experience that God can be lifted up without condemnation when love and humility is our common ground.

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

A Couple Bits & Pieces

Sunday School Teacher Training

At Sunbury 42 Students gathered as together, we prepared a 7-week curriculum to teach the creation story. We were excited to be able to offer them a free digital copy of a video, The Creation Story to use in their Sunday Schools. We’re thankful for this donation from Revelation Media who is developing this Animate Bible Series. You can also access the 20-minute episode for free by clicking HERE.

So fun learning the Creation Chant together! It wouldn’t have been possible without our team: Pastor and Thuleleni Mpungose, Stephen and Jessica Langley,                     and Michael Baker

Rethinking Sexuality Launch

Carlene has been posting videos on Facebook using the 5 Building Blocks for a Biblical View of Sexuality Juli Slattery outlines in her book. Using these building blocks, she’s shared bits of our journey to healing. You may view the videos from any Facebook account. Type #rethinkingsexuality into the search bar and enter. From that page go to the videos tab. You’ll be able to view these most easily from there.

Rethinking Sexuality is now available online and in bookstores.


Chosen! Us! Can You Believe It?!

Chosen in so many ways! Not to belittle what might be obvious choices, today we’ll just name two!

Chosen to speak what we are passionate about. We love what we do. Thank you for supporting us to evangelize and disciple amaZioni church leaders. Furthermore, today, Carlene is as excited as she can be for another reason!

Recently Carlene was chosen to be on the Launch Team for a book by Dr. Juli Slattery, Rethinking Sexuality. Getting sneak previews has confirmed that the message of Rethinking Sexuality, is a message close to our heart. We plan to continue writing our Bible study, Redeeming Sexual Love. But for now, we believe the message these two books contain is not our message, but God’s to communicate in whatever way He chooses! We’ve asked Him to open and close doors to guide our us to our part in the task of speaking the Gospel truth of human sexuality.

Chosen to love and support, “’til death do us part.” In 2014 when it first became public that we were writing a book entitled Redeeming Sexual Love, one curious and slightly befuddled supporter asked, “Where did that come from?! How is it that a missionary ministering to a traditional African culture decides to write a book about sex?”

The answer? Missionaries are just people, and have real issues to work through too!

In our marriage, God brought together a fundamentally religious good-girl and an anything for a good time Catholic boy. Our marriage survived the addictive patterns of our pasts because God led us on a Biblical path to sexual freedom. He brought us to a place of marital intimacy that exceeds sexual exploits by showing us the Gospel message embedded in “US.”  (Pun intended😉, thank you very much!)

Coming to South Africa was a huge part of our healing. At a critical time, God had exposed what were fruitless patterns of communication to set us on a different road, then stripped us of our support systems. In Africa, we found ourselves on a path where we could see His light in the distance, but it often seemed very far away! Life was hard, but moving toward better. On difficult days we had no one to turn to except one another and God’s Word. Through commitment, communication, and God’s intervention at crucial times, He began to expose the nature of our sin, the threat to family and community, and the abundance of His grace and power to heal!

God’s healing work in our life has changed who we are. It has changed how we relate to one another and how we share the Gospel in our ministry. God’s message for redemption is relevant in whatever culture we find ourselves in, and it is powerful to draw people to Himself and one another. Spirituality and sexually two sides of one coin no matter what continent you call home, or what the color of your skin. It’s time for the Church to speak up and speak out in relevant ways.

Dr. Juli Slattery is a former Focus on the Family talk show host and co-founder of the ministry, Authentic Intimacy. Rethinking Sexuality will be available in bookstores next month (July 24th). Carlene will be posting #rethinkingsexuality information regularly on Facebook and Instagram . If you want weekly or possibly day-to-day updates over the next 10 weeks, please “Follow” us there! And if you really want to help, “Like” our posts with a 👍🏼

Did you like the zebra pic? 25 years in South Africa, with at least one visit to the game park per year has afforded us many gorgeous pics we can never figure out how to use! For the next 10 weeks, we’ll use some of these to highlight quotes from Rethinking Sexuality.  View these quotes by searching for the hashtag: #creationwaits819 (for Romans 8:19).



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 new technicalities required by the position: organizational policies, developing procedures, and figuring out what is required to facilitate growth and leadership that will move ZEMA forward with millennials and generation Z at the helm. 

I don’t have the time to update our Prayer Requests page today. 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.

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.
  • 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


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?