Dry bones showing signs of life
On Sunday I went to preach at one of the branches of our church, approximately 120 km (75 miles) from where we live. This is a place known as Matsanjeni. In SiSwati, the language used in Swaziland, the name Matsanjeni literally means the place of the dry bones, such as when animals die and their bones are thrown in a heap. This specific church has some history behind it, because we used to worship in a round clay hut (commonly known as a Rondavel) which was at most 5 metres (about 16 feet) in diameter. On one Sunday morning we squashed 115 people into that church! First the adults had to enter and then the children had to find space between their feet and lastly I entered and came no further than the door. A makeshift pulpit in the form of a small table was put down on the doorstep from where I had to preach (and even served communion that day!)
Then in the year 2000, after heavy rains and floods (which also did great damage in the bordering Mocambique) the church was destroyed. After that we had to worship under a tree, but that place is hot – very hot! Fortunately, a church in South Africa partnered with us and helped us to build a new church. On the day when the church was officially opened, I preached from Ezekiel 37:1-5: The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. If you want to have a look at some photos of this area and the church, click here.
Partially we have seen these words come true. Because our church buildings are mostly in rural areas, we seldom have more than 50 or 60 people attending church on a Sunday. At Matsanjeni however, we regularly have 100 or sometimes more people attending.
But I’m getting sidetracked. On Sunday I went to visit this branch. Upon entering the building, I immediately noticed that something was different – it was as if there was more light in church. And then I realised: The church had been plastered on the inside. I indicated to the man responsible for the people at this church that I wanted to speak to him outside. There he told me that someone had given them 20 bags of cement. The church members then started collecting money and soon had enough that they could employ a builder to do the work for them. What was really wonderful for me was that they did not see it necessary to ask my permission to do this (which was the normal way of doing such things). They did not go around begging for money. They took initiative, collected money and started getting the work done. What a pleasant surprise for me. Their next step will be to smoothen the floor (which is still rough concrete) and then they will plaster the outside of the church.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I believe that I’m witnessing some dry bones coming to life through the way in which people start taking responsibility. And that’s great news!
I will only be able to blog again on 28 November. I recently received a surprise invitation to visit Israel. I will be leaving South Africa on Wednesday morning and return the following Wednesday. I’ve never had an urge to visit Israel, being well aware that things are extremely commercialised and also realising that many things are dished up to unsuspecting tourists which is just not the truth. But I believe that God has now brought this opportunity in my life and I will make the most of it. So most probably, on my return, I will write something about my impressions of this visit.