Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Celebrating the gift to serve

In my life, I’ve been involved in a number of discussions on the gifts of the Spirit. Mainline churches are usually accused that they do not give enough attention to the gifts while other churches are accused that they only emphasise a few spectacular gifts, such as the gift of healing, of speaking in tongues and driving out of demons. Usually, somewhere in the discussion I’ll ask why we don’t make much more about the gift of serving. When Paul writes in Romans 12 about the gifts of the Spirit, he says in verse 7: If it is serving, let him serve… (Not surprisingly, that remark usually ends the argument!)

I’m still waiting that one of the well known evangelists stand up one day and inform the audience that he/she has received a gift for serving and that anyone who needs to be served, should come forward!

This past Saturday I experienced something like this. After our church had received the Courageous Leadership Award for our home-based caring project in Swaziland, I had been looking for an opportunity where I could get the entire group of caregivers together to show then the trophy we had received and to honour them for the unselfish work they are doing. At last our opportunity came when we were able to organise a celebration function on Saturday. Of the 380 caregivers presently in the project, 350 arrived by bus, by car and by taxi. We had rented a school hall and by the time everybody had turned up, the hall was packed. A few people were asked to speak and in between the existing eleven groups which are part of the home-based caring project came forward – some to sing and some to do a short drama to demonstrate how they are working in the community.

My wife summed it up very well when she made the remark afterwards that she looked at the group and was absolutely amazed to see how happy they are. At one point I spoke to the headmaster of the school (who is an elder at our church and a close friend of mine) and told him that there is no way that I would do this work, if I had to do it for money. And I thought to myself that maybe these caregivers truly have received the gift of serving. I can give no other logical explanation why they would keep on doing this work, without receiving a salary, often taking the little food they have in their homes (most of the caregivers live in extreme poverty and a number of them are HIV-positive themselves) to share it with their clients, and still be happy to do it.

Swaziland’s Minister of Education also attended the function. He had actually come on behalf of the Minister of Health, (a friend of mine) who was unable to come and then asked his colleague to come on his behalf. The Minister of Health had no idea what the work was all about and while the groups were singing, he kept on asking me questions to get more information, as he was supposed to give a speech and had no idea what to talk about! (I wasn’t really worried – Swazis have a gift to speak!) But as the morning progressed he kept on telling me that he could not believe what he was seeing. He just could not believe that people would volunteer to take care of the sick and the dying, without being paid for the work.

When we were through and we had had lunch, I could barely contain my emotions. I look at the church of today and see how they struggle with deep theological questions. And then I look at these people, content with what they have, with no concern at all about the deep theological questions church leaders are discussing, merely doing what they believe God has called them to do. And, as far as I can see, they are much happier than most Christian leaders I know.


Monday, November 24, 2008 - Posted by | AIDS, Celebration, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Poverty, Swaziland, Theology


  1. Inspiring!

    Comment by brad | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. I am becoming more and more convinced that this is the ‘living’ church – these people doing something totally unnatural and totally illogical; something that does not make any sense when we look at it in any rational way; Something that is only possible if you share in the totally unnatural, totally illogical, totally irrational Grace of the Living Christ. Thank you for reminding us!

    Comment by Lyn van Rooyen | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. In a certain sense this is a bit crazy! On the one hand I never want to stop standing in awe of what these people are doing, yet at the same time this is what I believe should come naturally to the church.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Reply

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