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?


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

Maundy Thursday

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…
Today is Maundy Thursday. Does that mean anything to you? It didn’t to me. What I do know is that today Zionists are traveling all over South Africa to get to their services which begin tomorrow. And for our ministry, this is the busiest weekend of the year. Carlene will host the Easter camp for Umfundisi Shobede’s Church, which comes to Sunbury each year (Baptism above, 2012). Greg will be traveling to various services from the Eastern Cape to Empangeni, which is just north of here.
So, evidently, Maundy comes from the Latin root, “mandatum,” which means command. In the context of Easter, it refers to Jesus’ commands. “A new commandment,” He said. You know it well. Love …as He loved. 
How? Listen to others, live with others, connect. Give, and forgive, as He did. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” That’s grace; His grace. Forgiveness offered, even before the offense is realized. Because “they don’t know….” We think we know, and say we know. But Jesus’ perspective says, we don’t. Forgiveness. A graceful offer to identify, and connect in the most difficult of circumstances. And this is the love He asks us to pass on.
  Then? All will know. He will multiply, and build His Church. Today, and every day, that is our goal and our prayer …for you, for the Zionists, and for ourselves.
… you also, love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34 & 35

Adjusting ~ We’re Back in South Africa

Over two days we traveled from Chicago’s snow to the sweltering heat of Durban: a temperature change of +80ºF! We arrived in South Africa on 6 January 2017. After spending a year in the USA, to be with our children as they slotted into their new lives in the USA, saying good-bye to them and our grandchildren was quite emotional.

Home USA …just before Christmas.

Home SA …just after we arrived!

We arrived at Sunbury in the middle of ZEMA’s Annual Missionary Conference. The timing was quite helpful! Though jet-lagged, and I’m not certain how productive our presence at the meetings seemed to others, it was good to be with friends who understood our spaced-out presence and gave us several days where our meals were provided before we needed to do a big grocery shop and begin to fend for ourselves. ZEMA’s conference ended on Monday, and by Friday we were as ready as we could be for students to arrive at Sunbury for ZEBS.

Now we’re happy to begin working out our family life and ministry from this angle. There are still many questions to be answered. But we feel content to wait, believing God will continue to lead us.

Initially, Carlene spent days reclaiming our house from the geckos which had taken over! Greg spent his initial days sorting through names, certificates, and schedules for ZEBS and its students. Presently we’re also deciding what new ministries we will be able to participate in since our workload slightly decreased while we were away.

The past two weekends Greg began teaching once again. He says his Zulu is a bit “rusty,” but he managed with occasional reminders from students who also know English. On Saturday he also preached at an all-night service, which he enjoys immensely.

Carlene is getting caught up with office admin, and once the Newsletter and Blogs are updated will begin writing once again. See the Redeeming Sexual Love page for some details on our Bible study project.

We don’t know how our life and ministry will unfold over the next month and year. What we do know is that we’ll continue to administrate the ZEBS at Sunbury, support the three schools which happen simultaneously in northern KZN (KwaNgwanse, Jozini, Mbazwana) and teach at each of these as well as other opportunities. We’ll also continue to develop mentoring relationships, and continue to edit the Bible study Redeeming Sexual Love.


Unity in Diversity

img_1892Each year one of our supporting churches, Christ Community Church, has a week long missions conference, affectionately known by their fellowship as “Convocation Week.” Greg was asked to speak this year at their Convocation’s opening service. The Conference theme was drawn from Revelations Ch 7, which describes a day we look forward to when every tribe and nation will gather at the thrown of God. “Until the Whole World Hears, Convocation 2016” was held September 25-October 2 at the CCC in Zion, IL. An audio of Greg preaching the sermon on that first Sunday is available. You can listen by clicking here. The clip is just over 40 minutes in duration.