Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wishes from afar....

Can you believe it? Another year come and gone! So many things have happened that one’s mind reels…and yet, so much is yet to be done. Millions have never heard of the Babe of Bethlehem…of the Child born to die so that all may live.

As we look over the past year, we are grateful that we could have trained so many trainers…that we could have multiplied so many multipliers. There is an excitement growing in the Anglican Province of Southern Africa as clergy and lay folk alike rediscover the simple method of making disciples who are equipped to make disciples. Even though we have reached into 13 of the 28 Dioceses in the Province, there are 15 more that have not been introduced to the first module of the LEAD training. The words of Jesus echo in our ears: The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.

We are also grateful for every partner in this ministry…those who have faithfully supported us, prayed for us, encouraged us, laboured with us, and simply been there for us. Everything we do is dependent on teamwork…we simply couldn’t do this without you. You are very much appreciated.

So, across the miles…the oceans and borders…Louise and I want to wish you the happiest of Christmases and pray for the Lord best blessings for the new year.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

As clear as...

As we have received a number of questions regarding the LEAD Program from various partners in the Gospel, we thought it might be of value to us all to answer them collectively.

One part of the LEAD Program is called Strategy. This is the first of four modules which we are teaching to individuals selected from both clergy and laity in each of the 28 Dioceses in the Anglican Province of Southern Africa. Strategy explores the ministry of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels as a model for disciple-making and tracks an individual’s growth from unbelief or immaturity to maturity in Christ. This is best illustrated using the diagram below.

There are four major sections all starting with the letter ‘p’.

1.     Passion – we examine the Great Commandment to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Without this love, the motive for making disciples will be faulty and, barring the gracious intervention of the Lord, will end in failure.
2.     Purpose – we examine the Great Commission to show that the reason the church exists on earth is for us to make disciples. Jesus’ final command to His followers was for them to make disciples of all nations…disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples. Jesus said that those who believe in Him would do what He did and even greater things than He did – as Jesus’ main focus was on training 12 men and a group of women to do what He did, we believe that this ought to be the focus of the Church as well.
3.     Process – we examine the general progression of an individual from unbelief or immaturity to maturity. This loosely follows the 4 chair Discipling model of Dann Spader (see here: We discuss how one wins the lost, builds the believer, equips the worker, and multiplies disciplemakers.
4.     Product – we examine the qualities of a fully discipled person so that we have a clear picture of what we are aiming at when walking with a person to bring them to the point of maturity in Christ. This is important as if we have no measure or nothing to aim at we will not know when we have reached our goal and when it is time for us to leave our disciple to make another disciple. If too soon, our disciple may not imitate us in making other disciples. The idea is based on 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul encourages Timothy to entrust what he had learned from Paul to faithful followers who will be able to teach others also.

Strategy includes a 60 Day Chronological Study of the Life of Jesus which helps put more meat on the bones of the initial training. This is followed-up with various articles, studies, and other helpful tools and resources on disciple-making. We stay in touch with all trainees via email and telephone calls. Each trainee also receives a link to the Dann Spader videos which are freely available in his website (see link above). We also encourage trainees to obtain a copy of Dann Spader’s book 4 Chair Discipling which is available for a minimal fee…at least one copy for each Diocese if individuals cannot afford their own personal copy.

The other three modules will be taught once we have taught Strategy in all 28 Dioceses. Foundations indentifies six key priorities based on Jesus’ dsiciple-making ministry. Vision focusses on helping leaders define their calling, grow in godly character traits, and develop their unique competencies as leaders. Multiplication identifies different stages of Jesus’ ministry and how He grew an effective movement of disciple-making that ultimately changed the world.

For many, this training is a huge paradigm shift from an attractional or program-based focus to an external, other-person-centred focus. It is also a shift from a clergy-centred model to a every follower model and the goal is to have churches filled with active and mature disciple-makers rather than passive receivers.

There are four steps for training in each Diocese. The first step is us training folks we call “faculty” – trainers of trainers. The next step is to assist these faculty members in training Diocesan teams. The third step is to have the Diocesan team members train parish teams. The final step is to have parish teams train every parishioner in cell/small/Bible Study groups and/or Sunday School classes.

So far we have managed to train individuals in 13 of the 28 Dioceses. Not all trainees have access to the internet, especially those in rural areas, but for the most part that is, at present, more the exception than the rule. Once we begin to make inroads into Dioceses such as Namibia, Angola, and Niassa (northern Mozambique) this may change. Follow-up from a distance is difficult enough but not having email access makes it even more difficult, but hopefully each Diocese will eventually have their own select individuals who would be able to do that part of our work on the ground, so to speak.

The plan is to train in every Diocese at least by the end of next year. Right now, distance and lack of proper funding makes this problematic, but not impossible. We are praying about the possibility of purchasing our own vehicle so that we can travel to more remote areas without having to rent a suitable vehicle at great cost. Louise and I are used to “roughing it” and we have our own tent and camping equipment, so accommodation is generally not an issue.

Each Diocese has a coordinator who helps us organise the training as they are present and can arrange the more practical side of things such as accommodation, transport, and meals. They are appointed by the Bishop of the Diocese and report to them. We have an annual coordinators meeting where we encourage them to give us feedback so that we might work out a way to help them better in the future. The last coordinator’s meeting was overwhelmingly positive for which we are grateful. The coordinators are beginning to see the value of disciple-making and folks are excited and filled with anticipation for what lies ahead.

In the past we have held two training sessions back to back so to accommodate those who, for various reasons, could not make the Friday (working laity) or Sunday (clergy or lay ministers) sessions. This is tricky as there are only two of us and separating laity from clergy is not always the best thing to do, so we try to persuade employed folks to take a day off or for clergy to arrange for someone else to take their services.

The education level of trainees differs from Diocese to Diocese. Generally speaking the folks from poorer and/or rural Dioceses tend to have a lower level of education than those who live in cities. For the time being, our training is limited to the Province of Southern Africa, although we are not opposed to training in other Provinces. We would love to train our Ethiopian brethren some day and perhaps we could do that when we go to the graduation in June 2018.

We hope this helps you understand more about what we are doing here! Thank you once again for your participation in the Gospel! We simply cannot do this without you.

Johann and Louise

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

End of the Year

Since our last letter, Louise and have done the LEAD (Leadership for Evangelism And Disciple-Making) training in eleven additional Dioceses, namely Cape Town, False Bay and Saldana (August 4-6: 16 participants), Arniston/False Bay (August 11-13: 17 participants), Christ the King (August 25-27: 19 participants), Swaziland along with Thokozani (September 1-3: 16 participants), East London/Grahamstown (September 19-20: 23 participants), Polokwane/St Mark the Evangelist (October 2-3: 7 participants), Johannesburg (October 6-7: 21 participants), Lebombo (October 24-29: 50 participants), Kimberley and Kuruman (November 3-4: 18 participants), and in George (December 1-3: 20 participants).

Altogether, 13 Dioceses out of 28 Dioceses in the Province of Southern Africa.

We also attended J-Life Foundations (the second of four modules) Training along with our friend and protégée, Thokozani Hslatswayo, on August 9-10 in False Bay, Cape Town, the Global Leadership Summit on October 18-20, and the J-Life Summit on November 24-25.

We also promoted the LEAD project at a Mother’s Union/Anglican Women’s Fellowship Breakfast in Cape Town on July 15, at a gathering of COTT Students in Cape Town on July 21, at gatherings in Pretoria, Klerksdorp, Kuruman, Kimberley, Welkom respectively from September 4 through 13, at the Provincial Standing Committee Meeting on September 27-30, at the Rondebosch Archdeaconry Meeting on November 16, and the Gugulethu Archdeaconry Meeting on November 22.

Johann attended the GtC Coordinator’s Meeting on November 26-29. Our Director, Trevor Pearce, as well as the Growing the Church Board, said that compared with the meeting last year, this was overwhelmingly positive. 
We received reports from several coordinators about individuals and churches making disciples or teaching Strategy to a friend and/or a group. Swaziland and St Andrew’s, Pimville have made attempts at broadening the training. Many have gone through the 60 Chronological Study on the Life of Christ. Others have started small groups and Bible Studies. We know that our dear friend, protégée, and passionate co-worker, Thokozani Hlatshwayo has been training others in Highveld.

After each training, we send all participants with emails various resources such as a link to Dann Spader’s Videos, a chronological Bible Study method, various disciple-making articles, and other helpful tools. We also try to do long-distance coaching, but, like long-distance relationships, this has its limitations. Louise has created a database of all participants listed under their Diocese in MyAnglican to make further email correspondence easier…however, we were not always able to read the handwriting of some participants, so they are falling through the cracks because we don't have their emails.

In an ideal world, there ought to be at least one solid, sold-out, passionate LEAD Faculty member in each Diocese who will be able to encourage, coach, and hold other participants accountable.

On a personal note, Louise and I are planning to come to the US at the end of March and to stay through April. This visit will be to spend time with our children and grandchildren, to meet two of our grandchildren, Constance and Everett (yet to be born!) for the first time, and to visit as many of our supporters as possible. We are still in need of more support and hope to meet with new partners as well.

Louise's mum, Annie, affectionately known as the Queen, is becoming more frail and Louise spends as much time with her as possible. With our current schedule, we are hardly home, so visits are few and far between, which is a pity. 

Thank you for your love, encouragement, and unfailing support! You are deeply appreciated. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel...without you, we would not be able to do what we do.

We wish you a blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas! May our sovereign Lord grant you your hearts desire.

Many blessings.
Johann and Louise

Monday, December 4, 2017

Disciple-Making Training in the George Diocese.

The Rev Lyndon Du Plessis and his team did a fantastic job in preparing for our training! Each participant received a folder with a note pad and a summary of the Diocesan Strategic Growth Plan including a prayer written specifically for the occasion. Representatives came from George, Plettenberg Bay and the surrounding area, Mosselbay, Riversdale, and Swellendam. One couple will be going to the Oudtshoorn area, so indirectly that was covered as well. 

We received immediate feedback from the group...all very positive. Folks were saying that this was a life changing experience for them...that they have been longing for something like this for a long time...that they cannot wait to share this with others...that they feel equipped to make disciples now...and so on.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Palpable fear...

Louise and I did another introductory presentation for the Disciple-Making program last night, this time in a suburb called Gugulethu.

The name is a contraction of igugu lethu, which is Xhosa for our pride. (See: It was established in the 1960's to deal with overcrowding in Langa, the only other area black people were allowed to live at the time.

Today, Gugulethu and the surrounding area is ruled by local gangs and crime is rampant. (See: Murder, rape, beatings, theft, even cannibalism in one case. People live in fear. I can't remember when last I was in an area where fear was almost tangible...palpable. You could see it, smell it, feel it...

One of our priests who serves in the neighbouring suburb of Mannenberg told us that he was returning home two weeks earlier with a few colleagues in his car when he saw a group of young men in the road ahead. He decided to turn left to avoid them and as he did, one young man pulled out a gun and started firing...only nothing happened. Either the gun was not loaded, or the shots were fired over the vehicle - either way, they managed to get away without being shot. Nevertheless, they are all struggling to overcome the traumatic experience.

Sirens were blaring during the presentation...apparently, this is normal. When we left, a young man went out with us and made sure we got away safely. Driving past the local police station, we saw crowds of people standing outside waiting to get in. What kind of life is this?

Please join us in praying for the gang members in particular. Pray that the Holy Spirit would convict them of their wickedness and turn them to Jesus. Pray that our Lord will raise up new authority figures in the lives of the young people there. Pray for our brothers and sisters who seek to reach out to those who promote fear and those paralysed by fear.


Please wear red tomorrow...

Christians are now the most persecuted people on please wear red on Red Wednesday 22nd November 2017 to show solidarity with the Church of the Martyrs, for we are united by the ecumenism of blood.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Disciple-making: taking the pressure off our clergy

This is one of the reasons Louise and I teach disciple-making. If all our parishioners are empowered and enabled to make disciples of their neighbours, friends, and acquaintances the pressure will be off the clergy who will then be free to do what they have been called to do: equip the saints to do the work of the ministry!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Substitutionary Confession

In our staff devotions this morning, we read from Nehemiah 9:26-38. While I was reading, two verses stood out to me. "Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that You gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruits and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom You have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please and we are in great distress." (vs. 36-37) 

A lot has been said about the rampant corruption and violent crime epidemic in South Africa for a while now as well as about the crippling effects of the worst drought in decades. If we take some of the warnings in Scripture seriously, we may conclude that these seemingly separate subjects are actually linked by the collective sins of our people...we are told that peace and prosperity is a byproduct of God's blessing upon an obedient people...strife and struggle and suffering is a byproduct of the withholding of God's blessing. And, according to this reading, the rulers we have are those whom God places over us because of our sins...

The chapter as a whole is about confession, contrition, and covenant it the Levites recited the nation's history from creation to their present day to point out a pattern of disobedience that eventually culminated in the nation being defeated and exiled. Now, they had returned to their land after 70 years in Babylon, but still they were not entirely free...indeed, they were never really free again, save for a short period under the Hasmonean Kings. 

But what struck me in the reading of this passage was the willingness of the people to confess the sins of the nation as if they were their own. We see this in Daniel chapter 9 as well, where a man described as faithful to the Lord and His Law even to the point of dangerous civil disobedience, confesses the sins of the nation as if they were his own with "prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes". "We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets..." We...not they.

It is so easy for us to point fingers at others and to blame them for the current state of affairs in South Africa. We can look back in time and blame our ancestors...we can look across the political spectrum and blame each other...but the blame game does not solve anything. It just serves to deepen the gulf that divides us from each other and to perpetuate the resentment and bitterness that robs us of the dream of unity as the rainbow nation. 

But to confess the collective sins of the nation as a confess the sins of our ancestors and our contemporaries as if they were our own, may help to bring us together at the foot of the cross where the need for forgiveness, grace, and mercy places us all on level ground. And who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from His fierce anger, (Jonah 3:9), and may well hear from heaven and will forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14b).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mozambique: Day Three

Bang! Bang! Were we the only people in the guesthouse? Did no one else hear the sound? Bang! Bang! A wind from the ocean, only 20 km east from here, started blowing during the early hours of the morning and, as all windows are left open here, doors were being blown open and shut. Bang! Bang! I heard the voice of Lynn Bouterese of SAMS saying, “Earplugs, Johann! You need to use earplugs!”

Bang! Bang! Finally, I decided to get up to close the offending door. But the power had gone off sometime during the night as well, and it was so dark I could not see my hand in front of my face. Walking with my arms outstretched, I found our door, walked out into the courtyard, and towards the banging door. But first things first…I needed to do what men my age often have to do during the night…but the bathroom was pitch dark as well. I had to make sure I located the correct receptacle. Bang! Bang! Blast that door. Having succeeded in my quest, I slowly found my way to the source of the sound and closed the door. But oh, stuff and fluff! It had no clip and would not stay closed. The only other option was to open it all the way to the wall and hope that the wind would keep it there.

After having relocated our bed, I tried in vain to go back to sleep. After Louise and I had tossed and turned for what seemed like an eternity, she finally got up to make coffee…they had used Cassava branches to make the fire, so the water had a distinct sweet fire flavour. Hmm…Cassava flavoured coffee…

The cooks arrived as I was making our second cups at 5 AM. “No power?” she said in Portuguese. “No…no power,” I replied in sign language. Obviously she knew where the problem lay as it came on soon after. Our hot water for bathing arrived in a kettle…hmm, Cassava…now we smell like our coffee.

Morning Prayer was at 7 AM…and, praise God, one clever soul decided that we need to go directly to the conference room rather than wait for breakfast to arrive. Moving along.

The teaching was difficult today. This is an unusually large group. 45 participants plus spouses and visitors…some come, some go. People seemed to be tired and often nodded off. We had to take a lot more breaks than usual and we did stretching exercises and sang songs in an attempt to energise folks. Also, there seemed to be a tendency to go off on rabbit trails…this is quite normal when there are priests in the room (J), but unfortunately, in this case, it appeared to reveal a lack of unity and some dissatisfaction within the group itself. Some political questions came up as well…we tried to dodge them as tactfully as possible, bringing people back to the manual before them.

I also experienced a first today. One of my translators was checking his emails while he was translating and answering questions! Talk about multi-tasking…and he is not even a woman!

It started raining just before lunch…lunch that was not on time again. Have I said that this training has been very different and difficult? Not just because of the logistics and the inability to plan ahead. Not just because of the need for translation. Not just because we have English manuals and they have Portuguese manuals. Not just because this is actually a family getaway weekend for clergy families. But everything seemed to be in slow motion. At one point, during my teaching, I sensed that there was some spiritual disturbance going on. I looked over to Louise to ask her to pray and do spiritual warfare. She did and the air cleared. Strange…but real here.

The rain was wreaking havoc with the electricity throughout the day. On, off…on, off. And then, when lunch arrived we experienced something of a missionary nightmare. The dish is obviously a local delicacy, but not something westerners would normally find palatable. An acquired taste and smell, to be sure…like the Filipino fruit, Durian..or like Livarot cheese. It appeared to be the stomach of a goat…and you know what they say…if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…sigh, and we were doing so well.

The rain brought cooler weather to Maciene. For us, this was welcome, but for the locals this was catastrophic. Everyone went searching for woollen scarves and caps and jackets and sweaters. Windows and doors were closed…which created a bit of a problem with the goat, but that’s another story.

Then Bishop Carlos arrived together with Bishop Allen from Pretoria who was accompanied by two Archdeacons and a non-stipendiary priest…at this point the wheels came off the training bus. They addressed the group for about two hours. Then we had Evening Prayer and two choirs. Needless to say, no one was looking forward to another whole session of training…so we improvised as best we could and shortened it. I took the life of Peter and condensed it into a story, which, for some or other reason became a comedy. But through the laughter the penny dropped and I once again heard the Lord say, “You see? Leave it to Me and I will see that my children understand the message. I am still the One Who makes Fishers of people out of the most unlikely people in the most unlikely situations.”

So, yes…ultimately this was a very good experience…in spite of the many hiccups along the way, the overall message was comprehended. Bishop Carlos reminded us and everyone else that this was just the beginning…many people said they could not wait for us to return. Hopefully, next time, the groups will be smaller.

I gave my old clergy shirts to Padre Campira, our Growing the Church coordinator, and for one panicky moment I thought the man was going to kiss me. He told us that he only has one shirt…a shirt that was given to him when he was ordained many years ago. These priests and deacons have sacrificed so much to be labourers in God’s Vineyard. This was a humbling moment for us to be sure.

Their family time continues but our time has come to an end. Tomorrow we leave for South Africa…

Friday, October 27, 2017

Mozambique: Day Two

What is that awful smell? Something is clearly rotten in the state of the guesthouse kitchen! I hope it isn’t our lunch!

Day Two has begun.

Our night had been interrupted periodically as folks were arriving all hours of the night and morning. Nobody seemed to have received the “Please be quiet, people sleeping” memo. The birds apparently had not received it either. Needless to say, our day started in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully, the kitchen had left hot water in flasks so we could make coffee. And then that rotten smell invaded the guesthouse…

Thankfully, we had to attend early morning Eucharist and could escape from the powerful, pungent, pervasive pong that hung over the whole house. It was a full-on Eucharist with testimonies, prayers for healing, Choirs, and a possible demonic manifestation included for good measure. Then there was breakfast, which took a long time. Needless to say, we started late…but as everything we say has to be translated, we will skip the Dann Spader videos and make up time that way.

We had to stop at noon for prayers, but thankfully there were no further unexpected events. Lunch was from one until two, but as folks had been falling asleep throughout our teaching in the morning, we were not expecting anything better after lunch! Singing lively songs and doing stretch exercises did help to revive the group when the heads drooped too low…but we are still behind our usual schedule.

We had Evening Prayer, followed by two choir groups…stunning singing, that’s all I can say…even though I wanted desperately to get on with the teaching! Some times, one just has to chill and let God be God, no?

We decided to show two of the Dann Spader videos as we figured out that about two thirds did understand enough English to follow the message. Everyone seemed to appreciate them and applauded at the end of both.

Supper and bed…thankfully it is much cooler and we hope to rest well.