In a previous post I wrote about the possibility to start with a new church in the area known as Lavumisa in Swaziland. This was due to an invitation by the local member of parliament (MP) in that area from whom we have had tremendous support for our work amongst those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Yesterday Tim Deller (my friend from the USA) and I travelled to Lavumisa for our first meeting. In a recent post David Watson shared his view on finding the person of peace. He bases his convictions on various parts of Scripture (Matthew 10 & Luke 10) where Jesus tells His disciples to enter a city and to find a person of peace. Obviously, this person would not necessarily be a Christian, but it would probably be someone with authority and integrity within the community, who would be able to make it possible for the early disciples to share the gospel in that area. I have found a number of people who believe that this method of evangelisation has a longer-lasting effect than older methods where the gospel was shared at random, hoping that it would fall on fertile ground.
Well, Tim and I discussed this issue at length and decided that we are going to give this a try. Finding the person of peace was not really an issue, because the MP was adamant that we would be gathering at his homestead. To decline his kind offer would have been very insensitive and would have closed doors for us. When we arrived at the homestead (about 100 miles from my home) we found a number of people already waiting for the church to start. Amazingly, at least ten men were present. I immediately realised that they were there, most probably because the MP had invited them to come. Chances are that if I myself had invited them, that they would not have come. Now, Swazis have their own time. Most don’t have wristwatches and I think they work more or less according to the sun! Although Tim and I were there at 11, we stood around, chatting to people and waiting for some people who had promised to come but had not yet turned up. It was closer to 12 when we actually started, and even then quite a number of people joined us later during our gathering. Close to 45 people turned up – about 30 more than I had anticipated.
Instead of starting with the gospel (which most have probably heard at some time or another), I started by telling them about two ideas which people have of God and which are both wrong. One is the concept of God as a grandfather, lovingly smiling at us and patting us on the head, regardless of what we had done (in other words ignoring the wrong as if it never happened.) The other concept is God as a policeman, always on the lookout for anything which we do wrong so that we can be punished. In the Swazi context where people are often filled with fear that the ancestors might punish them in some way and that they therefore need to be appeased on a regular base to avert their anger, this second concept is quite relevant. I then went on to explain, according to Genesis 1 & 2 how great God really is – Who can, with a single word create heavens and earth, Who can, with a single word create light (even though the sun was only created later), Who can, with a single word create animals, fish and birds and Who can, by using some dust, create a human being, with a heart, lungs, a brain, eyes, ears and everything else necessary to survive. This same God can, by using a rib, create a woman to live beside this man. And this God, Who is so huge that He can fit the world in the palm of His hand, knows me by name and He loves me. This God, Who knows everything about me, the good and the bad, Who even knows things that I think and do that nobody else knows about, loves me! He loves me in spite of the things that I do and think and say and don’t do, that nobody else knows about! (Isn’t this incredible?)
Well, I ended off by reminding the older people (the younger ones don’t have to be reminded) how they felt when they first fell in love. With a smile, even the older people acknowledged this. I then told them that the God to Whom I want to introduce them, can have the same effect on us, that our hearts start beating a bit faster and we get a feeling of joy coming all over us when we realise how much He loves us.
For the next few Sundays I won’t be able to attend church at Lavumisa. This coming Sunday Tim will be there to tell them some more about God. Where this is going to lead to, I have no idea, but I’m willing to go with the flow to see what will happen.