You should have received our latest TIDBITS, He is “Baba!”as an old fashioned PDF.And you will continue to do so! If not, and you would like to receive TIDBITS Newsletters from us, please contact Carlene: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1&2, NKJV)
The Zionists of Southern Africa have a zeal, for God who most of them do not know. They praise God who seems far away, and fear ancestors that feel much closer. Easter will soon be upon us. This is the Zionists’ high holiday. Twenty-six years ago our ministry began with cold call beach encounters where we witnessed multiple immersion baptisms to cast out demons and known by the locals to occasionally result in drownings. Today we are privileged to participate in equipping Zionist Christians with Bible truths that equip them to reach into their communities with the Gospel. ZEMA has a growing radio ministry, annual conferences, and individuals who meet regularly to support and study God’s Word together. There are 87 ZEBS schools with 87 teachers, 61 of whom are African co-workers. Through these schools 2400 students hear, share, and grow as they study God’s Word together. As Zionists have begun to focus on Jesus, their zeal is directed toward God, their creator, who knows them intimately, loves them, and has revealed Himself through His Word.
Following our last TIDBITS, we received notes of encouragement from many. Thank you. What we can say is that our discouraging circumstances aren’t much different from yours: conflict in communities, families, marriages, health, and financial challenges. Each of us harbors longings for some type of change. Socially, politically, and spiritually something is missing. Before His death, Jesus said it quite simply, I thirst. Globally, unrest affects us. Deeply. We desire the ideals of Eden before hell broke loose.
Without confidence that God has a bigger plan and can identify with the intimate realities of ill health, family struggle, social unrest, injustice, and poverty, some have given up. Others cling to the hope they have in God, who at the moment feels very far away. Echoing Jesus’ words we wonder, My God, My God, why…? Greg and I sing out as the Psalmist: Lord, restore in [us] the joy of your salvation, and grant us a willing spirit to sustain [us]! (51:12 NIV)
Longing keeps joy at bay. We yearn for feelings of goodness, belonging and worth to well up from within and be contagiously evident. Recently we’ve found ourselves repeatedly contemplating Ezra’s words: The joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Where is joy? I feel weak. When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) Really?
Ezra spoke these words because Israel’s situation was dire; there was no joy welling up. Ezra focused on hope and urged his people to do the same. Similarly to how Jesus would one day respond to feelings of helpless devastation, Ezra encouraged his people to look beyond present circumstances to God’s promise of joy in their future.
Daily Greg and I remember that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him, endured…” Even for Jesus, joy did not well up from inside. Instead, joy lay before Him in the hope and certainty that God is powerful and able to carry out His plan. Compelled by this confidence, Jesus continued to identify with humankind to profound levels of human interaction. Identifying with the broken plight of humanity, He put one foot in front of the other, all the way to the cross.
However weak we feel, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends, and His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness!” Among the Zionists, churches are growing. Even while lives and communities are being exposed in intimate realities that are often broken, hope is what we have to hold onto. There is joy before us in the rightness of walking a difficult road with others. Knowing we aren’t alone, and there is something better in the journey ahead, we say “The Lord is [our] inheritance; therefore we will wait for Him!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Family, friends, ministry, and God’s power displayed in every beautiful detail of creation: each testifies to our Creator’s goodness and attention to the minute details that ultimately bring us joy. Hope remains because, in these, we get a glimpse of what has already been accomplished, the miraculous restoration of the Kingdom of God, at the cross.
Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness. Psalm 96:11-13
Photos in this series of posts are taken from a gratitude journal Carlene has collected over our years in South Africa.
My thoughts meandered through rabbit trails of information and emotions as I considered what I would share in our next post. As I journaled, prayed and processed life, verses from Hebrews chapter twelve repeatedly came to mind, and what began as one post kept developing. We trust, through the next few weeks, you’ll be encouraged to pray for our journey, supported in your journey, and that together we’ll walk with Jesus through challenging times to the throne of God.
1bLet us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1&2 NASV)
We’re so very thankful for the support we have in one another and faithful friends and partners in ministry. We are relying on these relationships through difficult times! The other day I said to Greg, “I feel like we’re walking on water.” He looked at me, confused. Victory and rising above circumstances didn’t fit our present feelings. We both have days where we wonder: How did it come to this? How can we…? Why…? And finally, when will we see the way out? Realizing his dilemma, I immediately responded, “Walking on water isn’t fun! Storms are raging around us. It’s scary, and people are getting hurt. Badly!” Life is hard right now. Generally, we feel uncertain and aren’t sure about the next right step. All we can do is keep focused on God and trust Him to work out the details.
Above water in a stormy sea is not a safe place. Identifying with Peter led us to these verses in Hebrews chapter twelve. Jesus also set His eyes unwaveringly on what lay ahead. God’s plan and His power in terrible circumstances ended at a stable place: the joy of sitting at God’s throne. Jesus’s confidence and trust in God kept Him on course. Jesus’ call to Peter was a call to join Him in what feels like a treacherous walk of faith.
Being a part of ZEMA’s ministries is exciting! However, our foundations are being rattled at the core. There are profoundly painful things happening around us. As reported at the ZEMA Annual Business meeting in March, our USA office needs to make significant changes. The USA board will make some tough decisions on 2 April 2019. Andrew Sisson’s resignation (ZEMA mission director) will take effect by July. Greg has been part of some of the discussions. Additionally, People we minister to and with are wrestling with weighty issues of family, health, and finance. Joy is elusive.
It would be desirable to avoid unpleasant realities right now. However, sometimes things get bad, and they can’t be hidden or avoided and still be honest. We appreciate your prayers. We’re confident that God is in control and walking with us. This is a challenging time and in some ways, devastating. But, we trust that all things happen in His time and that He provides for His work and is accomplishing His plan.
Photos in this series of posts are taken from a gratitude journal Carlene has collected over the years.
In the late 1990’s Rev. Meshack Ngcobo, was a local pastor for a 20-30K member Zion denomination, the Christian Catholic Apostolic Holy Spirit Church in Zion. Though this large congregation meets annually in the province of Kwa Zulu Natal, and its membership is widespread, routinely its congregants fellowship as house churches, a few of which Rev. Ngcobo led.
I met Rev. Ngcobo in 2004 when he began attending a Zion Evangelical Bible School (ZEBS) at Enlhungwane, a community in the township of KwaMashu, outside of Durban. Each week, sitting in children’s desks at the local primary school, adult leaders gathered to study God’s Word. Rev. Ngcobo listened attentively and asked many questions. Elated by what he was learning, Pastor Ngcobo began attending ZEBS at Sunbury as well. By the time he graduated in 2007, Pastor Ngcobo could see the practice of ancestor worship was a tradition which was rooted in fear, that prevented his people from experiencing freedom the Bible teaches is ours in Christ.
We remained in touch, and on occasion, Pastor Ngcobo invited me to services for his congregation. By 2009, he had rejected syncretism, which had been part of his church traditions in the earlier years as a pastor. I asked him to teach at some of our ongoing ZEBS in KwaMashu, which he did for a time. However, this became less frequent because he had a full-time job and was committed nurturing his 100 member congregation by living and teaching from the Bible. In 2010 while attending an engagement celebration service, I was encouraged to hear Pastor Ngcobo advise one congregation to support the young couple financially and spiritually. He emphasized that together we need to honor God as a supportive community, by helping one another to reflect God’s Covenant love in practical ways. He said, “Lobola has become selfish. Now that we know the Truth, it is our job to be light, and bring Truth to our community. We must help our young people marry and live in God’s ways.”
It has been many years now since I have seen Pastor Ngcobo. But recently a young accountant I met through a Zion fellowship for university students, shared that he had begun attending Rev. Ngcobo’s church, which now has 1200 members. Catching up with this young man’s story I learned that he had left his father’s Zion church because his father insists on worshipping the ancestors instead of God alone. But Rev. Ngcobo, he said, “He is staying with the Truth!”
Praise God with us for Pastor Ngcobo and his congregation. Pray that God would raise up young leaders who will carry on this vision for becoming the united Bride of Christ that supports one another to glorify God and His ways.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.