Thursday, September 7, 2017

Gauteng, Swaziland, and Beyond. Day Fifteen.

We are surrounded by the sounds of the African Bushveld…and yet we are only a few miles from some of the largest cities in Southern Africa! Appropriately named “Innebos” (Dutch for In the Bush) is our stop for tonight and tomorrow night.

We left Graskop at about 8 AM and drove north along the same route we drove yesterday…but this time we kept going up to a town by the name of Tzaneen. As I’ve already said a few times, I was in this general area 40 years ago, but it was in Tzaneen that I first encountered the Anglican Church since having become a follower of Jesus myself. I was still a very young Christian and the liturgy was way above my head. Truth be told, I was bored stiff. So, to keep myself awake during the service, I started to harass the young lady in front of me. I tied her shoelaces together…I blew in her neck or tickled it…and then I attempted to steal her Prayer Book…when she tried to stop me, her head hit the pew in front of her with a crash! We giggled all the way through the rest of the service. Outside, one of my fellow missionaries bluntly stated: “If you do not respect the Anglican Church, at least respect God!” I’ve never forgotten that scolding. Dear Les died a few years later…

But there was also a church in an area still known as Ofcolaco….or, as one of the residents said, the last outpost of the British Empire. And that’s what this church was…a bunch of rich British farmers that wanted a piece of England in their African lives. After the Eucharist, one chap turned to another and said, “Now I’ve been cleansed from sin so I can sin all over again.” We chuckled thinking he was jesting, but no…they went to their British Club and got plastered…all of them. While trying to lead one of the women there to the Lord she looked me squarely in the eye and asked, “What do I need God for? I have a wonderful husband, we have two beautiful boys, we have a farm, and all the money we need. Why would I need Him?”

We stopped at Ofcolaco today…not much going on there now. The church had burned down a few years ago, but a family member rebuilt it. Most of the old British folks have left and church services are only once every six or seven weeks or on special occasions. Sad really…did the Lord remove His candlestick? The young farmer who still works there – three generations, he told me – was very kind and showed us the new church built very much along the lines of the old one. I could still see myself standing in line to shake the hands of the parishioners as they left the building…

From Tzaneen we pressed on down to Polokwane where Bishop Martin Breytenbach lives…he is the head of Growing the Church…and we wanted to stop in with him to discuss possible dates for training in His Diocese. We are looking at March next year. We arrived at lunchtime…the worst possible time to arrive…but the electricity had gone off in his area and we were fasting anyway, so no one felt awkward. We prayed together and then left.

“Fasting?” you may ask. Yes, fasting. The head of J-Life Africa, has asked all the trainers to fast every Thursday for 13 weeks praying specifically for a paradigm shift in the way church is done here. Everything is still a holdover from the past and very attraction oriented. Clergy control just about every thing and parishioners do little more than show up for ‘church’. So, we are fasting a praying that the Lord will lead us all back to His biblical model…the model of disciple making…and that church folks will not view this as just another fad in the long line of other fads that have come and gone…but something that works and ought to become part of the warp and the woof of their lives as followers of Jesus. Pray with us, please.

It was a long and rather boring drive to Pretoria. Besides the Toll Booths there was not much to break up the monotony of driving on a Highway. But it was far and my rear end began to have a loud conversation with me…I told him to be quiet and longsuffering. And it paid off in the end…oops, that’s a pretty good pun, even if I must say myself.

Innebos is a place where a weary soul can rest and be replenished…and now for bed…goodnight all y’all.

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