Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

My name is Nqobile

This is a testimony which was given by a learner in my wife’s maths class before the whole school, this past Monday. The girl gave me permission to publish it on my blog.
Good morning fellow teachers and pupils.
There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless about them and in every storm there’s a story. We all go through storms in life, whether it’s a mental, spiritual or physical storm. There was a girl who like most girls had a happy family, a mother, a father and an adorable baby sister, but at the age of fifteen she was all on her own. ‘How?’ you may ask. When she was seven, her baby sister passed away. At age ten, her mother passed away due to a crack in her skull which resulted from a car accident they’d been in earlier. And just when she thought she couldn’t lose anyone else, her father passed away at age fifteen, due to colon cancer.
At that moment this girl started doubting there was a God, the worst part of it being she was alone in her house and in the world with no one to take care of her. She had family, but when she needed them the most, they were nowhere to be found. Then of course she sought help at social services but came back feeling worse than she had before, after hearing that the only help they could give her was to put her in an orphanage. When they told her this, she cried and one of the social workers told her not to cry because it wasn’t their fault she was an orphan. She was fifteen years old. She had a number of bad options: drugs, alcohol, suicide. But she chose none of the above.
Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
This girl had a name and it meant ‘Conqueror’. Many people may not understand its true meaning. This name means: Overcome, Defeater, To triumph over.
Its at this time where she had no one to talk to and no one to ask help from that she made a prayer asking God why He had taken everything away from her. She thought of all those children around her who often complained about their parents and how they were never satisfied. It was during this storm in her life where she gave her life to God and met Jesus and had a shoulder to cry on, realizing that God had never left her, for in Jeremiah 29:11 it says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She is turning eighteen this year and is strong and truly believes in God.
By the way, my name is Nqobile, but I’m better known as “Q”. My name means ‘Conqueror’, ‘To triumph over’.
Looking back from where I come and everything I’ve been through, I’m standing in front of you today proclaiming that from the impossible it is possible. No matter what you’re going through and how life seems at this moment, God has not left you. He is a mighty God who never fails us, a God of peace and a God of restoration. That was the storm in which I found my story.
Thank you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 Posted by | Africa, Death, Disappointments, Hope, Mission, Prayer, Theology | 8 Comments

And what if revival comes?

A number of years ago, one of our dear friends, living in the same town where we stay, made a remark which more or less said the following: “I’m praying that God will bring revival to this town and that at least 2000 people will come to repentance.” To which I replied (to her shock): “I’m going to start praying that it will not happen.” After she recovered from the shock of hearing blasphemy from the mouth of a pastor, I explained to her why I said this. At that time we were just not ready to receive 2000 new believers into any (or all) of the churches in the town. The new believers would be neglected. They would probably starve (spiritually) and eventually many of them will leave the church and return to their old lives.

Even now, when I do evangelism training in churches, I tell the people that they must not even start with an evangelism program, unless if they have everything in place to receive and support the new believers. This is almost like preparing the unborn baby’s room in anticipation for the birth that will take place.

During this past week I realised once again how unprepared most churches are for new believers. And this time it was my own congregation in Swaziland that I had to admit is still not ready for any form of revival. Since we started with our AIDS Home-Based Caring ministry, I believed that people will be affected by the caring attitude coming from the church. Our aim was not to attract new members for our own church, but we did hope that people in the communities where we work will start realising that God actually loves them. From time to time individuals did decide to join our church.

And then, in 2007, I received an invitation from one of Swaziland’s Members of Parliament in an area known as Lavumisa, to start conducting church services in his area. He opened his home to us, invited people to come and things started happening. I myself went there on various Sundays and when Tim Deller was still in Swaziland, he also went there regularly. He mentioned this a few times in his own blog, and I also blogged about it, amongst others in Starting a new church at Lavumisa.

There is, however, one big problem about conducting services at this place, and this is the distance which I have to travel to get there. It is almost 160 km (100 miles) from my home, meaning that, to go there, implies a round trip of more than 300 km. But then I also have other places which I need to visit on Sundays and furthermore I’m also invited at times to preach in other churches. From the start I realised that it would not be possible for me personally to take responsibility for this area. After the people indicated that they wanted our church to continue working in the area, I took the matter to the church council and asked them to discuss ways of helping these people. I sensed a reluctance amongst some of the church council members, but they eventually agreed that they would arrange that people in the vicinity of Lavumisa would help with church services. Unfortunately, it seems as if they did send people there a few times and then stopped going.

Last month we trained a group of caregivers in an area known as Qomintaba, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from one of our existing churches at Matsanjeni. I was totally unprepared for what happened next. On Wednesday I heard that the headman of the area had come to repentance. We didn’t speak to him about Christ. But he was so touched by what he saw the church doing, that he decided that he wanted to accept this Christ we are preaching and now he, and a large number of the caregivers, want to join our church. I know that most people will say “Halleluiah” when they hear this, but this is becoming a logistical nightmare. Once again, we don’t have people in that area that can take responsibility to do the work. But then the church members at Matsanjeni made their own plan. They would drive down to Qomintaba on a Sunday morning, help them with a church service at 9, then drive back to Matsanjeni to have another service at 11.

And then, on Wednesday, I had a long discussion with one of our church elders, and found that he was actually irritated by this. His first remark was that I’m putting him under stress because he feels that it is his responsibility to care for these people. In fact, he told me that we should just forget about them. (Wow! I can now understand how Peter felt when he returned to Jerusalem after Cornelius had accepted Christ in Acts 10.) I could understand his point of view. But I also realised that he was still not ready for God to do big things in the church. He was still feeling that everything is his responsibility. Eventually I (hopefully) convinced him that not I nor anyone else was expecting him to conduct services at Qomintaba on a regular basis. I would love to visit them in the near future. I would love him to visit them as well. But we need to respect the church at Matsanjeni who have taken this responsibility upon their own shoulders, encourage them, supply them with the basic needs and then allow them to do this work. This, I think, is probably fairly close to the New Testament model of the church.

But I couldn’t help wondering what would happen in most churches, my own included, if a real revival starts taking place.

Friday, June 12, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Church, Disappointments, Evangelism, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Leadership, Meetings, Mission, Social issues, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology, Worship | 1 Comment

The Angus Buchan Phenomenon

It seems you either love Angus Buchan, from Mighty Men Conference-fame, or you hate him. For those who don’t know whom I’m speaking about: Angus Buchan is a farmer living in the Kwazulu-Natal midlands in South Africa who started an evangelism ministry some years ago. About six or seven years ago I attended one of his services in the town where I live. I went absolutely open-minded, but left, deeply anguished by some things I saw that evening. (If you are interested in what happened, you can drop me a comment with your email address. I don’t think I should discuss it on this open forum.)
Nevertheless, I think it was in 2007 that he organised the first South African Mighty Men Conference, attended by several thousand men. Last year he pitched, what is supposed to be the largest tent in the world, on his farm and accommodated 60,000 men. As from today thousands of cars are driving to his farm again for the 2009 conference where Angus Buchan hopes to have 200,000 men attend! By the way, the book and the movie, Faith Like Potatoes, is a biography about his life.
In spite of my negative experience at his service a few years ago, I had the feeling last year that he might just be God’s man for South Africa at this time. I don’t necessarily have to agree with everything he does to believe that God can use him effectively. After the conference, which a number of people I know attended, I noticed distinct changes in the lives of many of them – changes for the better. One person, who was an absolute racist and did his utmost to break down the work we’re doing in Swaziland, came to repentance and has since contributed substantial amounts towards our work amongst people with HIV and AIDS in Swaziland. Others, who had been Christians, but living more like non-Christians, came back and a year later their lives are still fully devoted to God. Obviously, a large number also came back and returned to their old lives. I’m grateful, however, for the change in many people’s lives.
But I do have a few concerns. One of the things I suspected, is the restricted audience he has. This was confirmed yesterday when I watched a home-made DVD made by someone who had attended last year. I don’t have percentages to prove my point, but the majority by far of the people who attended, were White males. In follow-up conferences held during the rest of the year at sport stadiums, attracting tens of thousands of people, the majority of people attending were also White. I suspect (and I would like to hear the opinion of others on this point) that many White people see in Angus something comparable to an Old Testament prophet, called by God to give hope to the people of South Africa in times where many are uneasy about the future. What worries me – and I know, once again, that I have no proof to substantiate what I’m saying, merely a “gut feeling” – is that White people may have the hope that God is going to put South Africa back into the hands of the White people, or at least, in the hands of Christians, and I fear that this may be false hope.
The other concern I have is the reverence that people have for him. It is almost as if some people take his words to have even greater authority than the Bible. Or at least, his interpretation of the Bible is believed rather than the interpretation of people who are also serious about finding the true meaning of the Bible but who differ from him. For many people, the words of Angus Buchan has the highest authority. I’m sure that this isn’t what he wants, but I would be afraid if I myself ended up in such a position. I’m not sure whether I would really be able to handle this new-found glory in the right way. After last year’s conference I told many of my friends that we need to pray, if this man is really someone sent by God for these times in South Africa, that God would grant him the ability to remain humble.
As for myself: I have respect for Angus Buchan. I’m not a disciple of him, nor do I hate him. At this stage I prefer to follow the instruction in Acts 5:39 : “…if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

Thursday, April 23, 2009 Posted by | AIDS, Cross-cultural experiences, Disappointments, Evangelicals, Evangelism, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Prayer, Racism, Swaziland, Theology | 112 Comments

Determining motives for giving

I was put into a fairly uncomfortable situation today. Some time ago I received a phone call from a certain pastor in Swaziland who has a lot of connections in high places. He had heard that the Embassy of one of the Asian countries represented in Swaziland was planning to give out food and he wanted to know whether we had the infrastructure to distribute 25 metric tons of food in the area where we work. That’s approximately 55000 pounds. The way that we are working, with different projects in different communities, each with it’s own committee and coordinator, does make it fairly easy to distribute food and clothing within these areas and obviously 25 metric tons of food would fill many stomachs.
It is what happened afterwards that started frustrating me. The 25 tons of food was reduced to 5 tons of rice. We have at the present stage 400 volunteers in our AIDS home-based caring project, taking care of between 1500 and 1600 people. This means, if each volunteer and each client had to receive some of the rice, they would each receive 2.5 kilogram (about 5 pounds) of rice. And without wanting to sound ungrateful (and I do realise that for anyone suffering from hunger, even this small amount of rice will be a huge blessing) – this is not going to make a big difference in the circumstances in which the majority of people in Swaziland are living. But then, the thing that really frustrated me, was the media coverage that had been arranged for the occasion. Obviously, because the ambassador was there, it was considered as a very important occasion. All the newspapers of Swaziland were represented at the occasion (both of them!) and all the TV channels sent reporters (both of them!) to cover this moment when the 167 bags of rice were being handed over to us.
Throughout the entire ceremony I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that this was much more about propaganda than about really caring for the people of Swaziland. I spent a lot of time with the ambassador today, listening to his motives, but without being convinced that this was an honest attempt to really make a difference to the circumstances of the needy people in Swaziland. Hundreds of photos were taken, TV news interviews were conducted. In my own interview I decided to concentrate much more on the story of how God had miraculously provided us with so many things that we had needed up to now and that this ministry has truly become a faith ministry. (We can’t see Swazi TV where we live, so I am wondering how much of this will be shown on TV.)
I’m still trying to sort out my own feelings – the reason why I wrote about this. I’m not unthankful. But I can’t help feeling uncomfortable by the way in which this presentation was handled today. Perhaps it was just too much exposure to something that wasn’t really going to make a difference to people on the long run. I think I’ve seen much more important and life-changing things happening during the past few years, without any media exposure at all.
Possibly my lack of enthusiasm was caused by the fact that there had been absolutely no building of relationships today. And this has always been one of the biggest problems in mission: Handing out material goods to people with whom you have no desire to build a relationship.

Thursday, February 12, 2009 Posted by | AIDS, Building relations, Cross-cultural experiences, Disappointments, Giving, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Partnership, Poverty, Social issues, Swaziland | 7 Comments

Church and Politics

I’m surrounded by political issues at the moment. In Swaziland we’ve just gone through a time of elections (although most people feel that Swaziland is still ruled in a very undemocratic way), our neighbours to the north (Zimbabwe) are trying to come to some form of political agreement to stop the country from collapsing entirely, South Africa is getting ready for elections next year and the ruling ANC (African National Congress) has to cope with a breakaway group which is planning to form a new party in time for the elections. And having many dear friends in the USA, I also keep an eye on what is happening over there as their presidential election is coming closer. George Barna just published the results on a poll which his organisation did to try and determine where the votes of Christians will fall in the presidential election. If you’re interested in the outcome of the poll, you can access it here.
Over the past few weeks Christianity Today (and I’m sure many other Christian organisations) also did its fair share to try and determine how Christians will vote in the coming presidential election. One of the articles about this topic has the title: “What We Really Want.” Although I have a lot of understanding for the sentiments of Christians when they vote, I believe that South Africa is fortunate in a certain sense that we have been able to grow out of the mode of thinking that, voting for a certain person or voting for a certain party will benefit Christianity significantly.
I can still remember, when I was much younger, how thrilled we as young Christian students were to listen to speeches made by political leaders in which they unashamedly spoke about their faith in and dependence upon Jesus Christ. The then ruling National Party was known for its policy on Christian ethics (although I could never quite understand, even as a teenager, how they could condemn casinos and dog races – because of the sin of gambling – while allowing gambling at horse races!) I also belonged to (and was sent to Swaziland as missionary from) the Dutch Reformed Church which was often known as “The National Party in prayer,” because of the great number of politicians who belonged to this church.
This morning I was invited to a breakfast and shared the table with a politician from one of the opposition parties who will be taking part in the 2009 elections in South Africa. He made the remark that South Africa, before 1994, was more Christian than it is today.
I beg to differ. It may be true that politicians spoke more openly about their personal relationship with Christ, but when one realises that they kept a – what I consider as a demonic – racist policy (Apartheid) in place and when one reads the stories of how people were often senselessly imprisoned and killed, then one can hardly say that the government of those days were more Christian than the present government.
As I grew older, I realised that I will never be able to give my full support to any political party or to any political candidate. I believe that Christians should vote. I believe that Christians need to discern who they are voting for and why they are voting for a certain individual. But my experience as a South African taught me not to depend too much upon people. Most people, no matter who they are, will disappoint you at some stage. No wonder the wise author of Psalm 146 warned us in verse 3: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.”
Ultimately, politicians are there to govern a country. They are not appointed in the first place to promote Christianity. Christians are there to proclaim Christ. It’s not a matter of “… and ne’er the twain shall meet,” but I do think that the role description needs to be made clearer. I don’t want Christian politicians to keep quiet about their faith. But if they dare to speak out about their faith, then they need to make sure that their lives reflect this faith to the people whom they have been called to serve.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 Posted by | Church, Disappointments, Evangelicals, Mission, Swaziland | 4 Comments

Commitment in missions

I have a friend who says that he has “tickability”. I’m not sure whether non-Africans have experience with ticks. (Perhaps someone can tell me whether ticks are known in the northern hemisphere with its extremely cold winters.) In any case, a tick is a small insect which bites onto an animal (or a human) and sucks out blood and it really takes some effort to get them off the animals, at the risk of breaking of the ticks head and it causing further infections. My friend claims that he has “tickability”. Once he’s committed himself to something, he won’t let go – no matter what!
I’ve just returned from Dwaleni where a group of people from a congregation in South Africa will be busy with a short-term outreach until 3 April. I know the youth pastor of this congregation very well and she has been looking forward to this outreach for many months. What was extremely disappointing to her was, once everything had been finalised and quite a number of school kids had committed themselves to come for the outreach, to find that one by one the children cancelled their plans. Eventually the team turned up today with four young people (three more will be joining them on Friday.)
I won’t say that this lack of commitment does not disappointment me anymore. In fact, it does. I’m probably just getting a bit immune against it, because it happens so often. The problem does not lie with the children. One could probably say that the problem lies with the parents who should tell their children that you should not make a commitment unless if you intend to follow through with it. But the problem lies even deeper than this. Very few churches seem to have the ability to make a commitment towards mission. This is one of the most-heard arguments used when discussing involvement in mission: “We don’t want to commit ourselves towards supporting this project!” Why not? Why can’t we commit ourselves for a mission project? What are we afraid of? Are we afraid that people will become dependent upon us? Or are we afraid that we will become tired of doing good?
I was thinking today that I have had pastors arranging with me to bring a group from their congregation to Swaziland for a short-term outreach and then, as the days come closer and I don’t hear anything from them, I eventually have to call to confirm whether they are still coming, only to find out that the outreach had been cancelled and the pastor did not even take the trouble to pick up a phone to let me know. This, I would describe as a lack of “tickability”.
I’m busy working through the book of Acts together with a group of people and Paul’s commitment, his “tickability”, is probably one of the greatest characteristics in the life of this missionary. I’ve just read today that the number of missionaries in the world has increased significantly over the past few years. This is good news. From my side I hope that these missionaries possess a good douse of “tickability” and that those congregations who have sent them and who have committed to support them, pray for them, visit them also have enough “tickability” to continue with this. Mission and commitment go hand-in-hand. This is true for the missionary as well as those who support and encourage him/her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 Posted by | Church, Dependency, Disappointments, Mission, Partnership, Prayer, Short-term outreaches, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology | 7 Comments

My weekend in Tzaneen

Well I’m back home after a really great weekend in Tzaneen. It was my first visit to this town, although it is well-known because of the sub-tropical fruit grown in the area. I was accommodated on a farm of a family, both man and woman medical doctors with two really great children and the man’s father, who is a retired pastor, presently 87 years old with a great brain and a healthy body. Actually, it was this old man who had arranged for me to visit their congregation for their “mission weekend.” The amazing thing about this “medical couple” is that they had decided to devote their lives to work in the poorest of the poor communities where people cannot afford medical services – the type of work usually snuffed at by other doctors with “greater aspirations.” What a privilege to have been in this house and to experience the love and devotion within this family!
On Friday evening I met a group of around thirty people. After initially wondering how I should present my talk, I eventually opted for a more informal discussion, focussing on the following three topics:

  1. What is AIDS and why is it such a terrible disease?
  2. What is the church’s task in this time of AIDS?
  3. Our story in Swaziland. This part also included a personal testimony of what God had done in my own life to change me concerning this issue. I have written something about this very personal experience that I had with God in a previous post which you can access here.

I could sense that for many people this was their first real exposure to the problem of HIV and AIDS. Only about four people had ever had anything to do with this illness before. I ended the evening by sharing one of the most remarkable things which ever happened to me when I saw some of the home-based caregivers building a house for a drunkard, “because they wanted him to experience the love of God as well.” If you don’t know this story, you can read it here.
On Saturday we drove out to a black community some miles from Tzaneen. They had shown interest in building a pre-school and kitchen where orphans could be cared for and the white church had indicated that they would assist in collecting money for the project. Exactly why I was asked to go there, I’m still not sure, but I also shared with them what we are doing in our home-based caring project in Swaziland. But I had the fear, as the afternoon went on, that the planned project would end up in disappointments and accusations. This often happens when white (western) people get excited with a project. They collect the money, do all the planning, find a builder, ensure that everything is done correctly and when the building is completer, they “hand over” the building to the black community. But then, more often than not, there seems to be a lack of ownership towards the project. It is as if the black people cannot understand why the white people withdraw. I therefore facilitated the further discussion, asking the black people what they felt the next step should be. And as I expected, they wanted to appoint a committee to represent them. I was glad that this had happened and after choosing the committee and dedicating them to the Lord, both groups (white and black) promised that they would work together from day one, neither group going forward without consulting the others. If they can keep to this commitment, I am sure that things will really work out well and I am looking forward to see the end result. I hope that they will invite me to attend the official opening of the centre.
On Sunday I preached during the morning service, focussing on Luke 5:12-16, especially on the words in verse 13 where we read: Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
Sunday evening I led a Bible Study on Revelations 21:1-8. Probably the most important thing happened during this Bible Study when the present pastor of the congregation said that the time is past that they can afford to listen to someone speaking for a whole weekend, go home and forget about what had been said. He proposed that a meeting be held within the next two weeks to discuss plans on how to get their own congregation involved in some form of project where people outside the church could really experience the love of God through Christians. Wrapping up the weekend, I told those present that if they should forget everything that I had said during the weekend and only remember what their own pastor had just shared, I would be more than happy, as this was, in my own estimate, the most important thing that had been said.
I had a really great weekend, made lots of new friends and am looking forward to what the Lord will do in their congregation in the future.

Monday, March 10, 2008 Posted by | Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Disappointments, Giving, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Indigenous church, Meetings, Mission, Partnership, Poverty, Social issues, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment

When should you give money?

I was confronted today with a situation which I have learnt to hate. About six months ago a man knocked at our door. He knew from somewhere that I was a pastor, although he lives more than 200 miles from where we live. He must have picked up the news somewhere in town. He told me that he was called as a witness in a court case after his daughter had been raped. Because he was a witness, he was liable to receive a travelling allowance from the court, but he did not have enough money to travel to the town where the court case was to take place and now he wanted to borrow money from me so that he could travel to this town, appear on behalf of his daughter and then, on his way back, he would repay me.
Now, I cannot remember that I had ever “borrowed” money to anyone who knocked at my door and then had them bring back the money. In fact, I have more or less decided in principle that I never give money to an individual. Too often I have found people asking for money after their money had been stolen or lost, only to find out afterwards that the money which I had given them was spent at the local bottle store.
But on that particular day I listened to his story and asked myself how I would feel as a father if I was in that situation. I obviously took into consideration that there was probably more than a 80% chance that he was telling a lie, but still, if the story was true, how would I feel? Eventually I gave him the money, deciding that I would not get it back but at the same time making a mental note of his features, so that I would recognise him if he should ever come back to my home.
And today he did come back. I’m not sure if he thought that I would not recognise him, but after I greeted him in a friendly manner, I told him that I assumed that he was there to repay my money which he had borrowed. But of course I was wrong – he was there to borrow some more money. His story now was that his wife had died (of AIDS) as well as his son (also of AIDS) and that his three daugters, the oldest who is 11, were at home and he had already left them for two nights on their own and he wanted to return to his home today to ensure that they were still fine. Furthermore, he was on ARV (anti-retroviral) treatment for AIDS and he had to return home to continue with the treatment. And then I stood before the choice, whether I was going to give him money again or whether I was going to tell him to leave.
He kept on asking over and over again for money while I told him that I was not going to give him more money. Once again I asked myself what I would have done if I had really been in his position. Eventually I said to myself that he had clearly been telling me a lie on the previous occasion or he was telling me a lie now, because a few months ago he had a grown daughter while now his first-born was only 11 years old. This sounded a bit strange. Furthermore, if he had really left his children with an eleven year old to take care of them, then he himself should be punished for being so careless. And if he had really stopped his ARV treatment for two days, then one extra day wouldn’t cause extra harm.
Eventually I sent him away after giving him a glass of water which he had asked for. I’m sure that I’m correct in my analysis of the situation.
The only thing I’m not sure of is whether Jesus would have done the same thing that I did today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 Posted by | Cross-cultural experiences, Dependency, Disappointments, Giving, HIV & AIDS, Hospitality, Mission, Poverty | Leave a comment

AIDS and the lack of respect for women

If you’ve never read a Swazi newspaper before, then you should do yourself a favour and read it on the internet! You can link to it here.
One of the blogs I read regularly comes from Richard Rooney. He is Associate Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Swaziland and every weekday he comments on the articles written in the country’s newspapers. Sometimes I feel that he is to critical and even cynical, but I still read his posts as it does give a lot of insight in what is going on in the country. Today’s post touched on a topic which he had commented on before. It can be read here.
A female security guard was apparently raped and after reporting on this the newspaper wrote an article in which women are given advice on how to avoid being raped. Apparently the best advice given in the article (which unfortunately I did not read myself) was for women to clothe themselves decently in order to avoid being raped. You can read Rooney’s article yourself to see what he thinks about this advice.
While I personally think that we need to remember that we are living in a sinful world where all possible precautions should be taken to prevent crime against your own body and your possessions, Rooney touches on a very serious matter in his article. Obviously I would advise any female to stay away from dark alleys or from other secluded spots, but then again, why should a woman not be safe in such places? In an ideal situation, a woman should be able to move around anywhere and at any time without having to fear being raped.
And this is where I agree with Rooney: The blame in the article he refers to is placed totally on the shoulders of the rape victims. Men, according to this article, cannot control themselves and therefore women have to take full responsibility to prevent themselves from being raped. And should they fail in doing this, then the men cannot be blamed for what had happened!
In a country which is slowly but surely being devastated through the effects of HIV/AIDS, one of the ways which would have the greatest effect on the outcome of the war against this pandemic, would probably be to show greater respect towards all females. While it is being said in the newspapers that men do not have to take responsibility for their own lives and that women who are raped are themselves to blame, I cannot see how things will ever be able to change in the country.
Of course, it is not only in Swaziland where this is the case. In most parts of the world, including Europe and the USA, one would find a great number of men who have no respect for women. What is perhaps different in Swaziland is that this is being written in the national newspaper.
Rooney ends his article with the following words: The Times is wrong on rape. It has been told time and again that it is wrong, so why does it insist on continuing to give men permission to rape?
It was disappointing for me to read this article and I can only pray that someday a man with stature will stand up to call the men of this country to taking responsibility for their own lives. Before this happens, I cannot see how the AIDS pandemic will be reversed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 Posted by | Disappointments, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Swaziland, Women | 3 Comments

Writing mission reports

In our church in Swaziland October and November are the months for reports. Next weekend we have our annual synod meeting in Swaziland which gives the different congregations a chance to report on the work that had been done during the past year and then in November we meet with the missions committee which coordinates the subsidies given towards missions in Swaziland and then basically the same reports which were discussed during the synod meeting will also be presented to these people so that they can be updated on what is going on in Swaziland.
The problem which I have (and have had for many years) with these reports, is that everybody tries to draw a very positive picture of how the work is progressing. Nobody wants to be too honest about any negative things happening, because that may have a bad reflection on leadership and worse, someone may decide that the subsidies should be reduced! So now the reports become very technical where the truth needs to be told but also where certain crucial things are left out of the reports which may reflect negatively on the work being done. I’m convinced that it’s not only in Swaziland where this situation is found. I think all over, where church work is done, the same type of thing will be found.
I wonder how Paul would have handled situations like this. If I look at 1 Corinthians 12-14 then I can imagine him sitting at a meeting and saying to those present: We see in this report that brother Timothy has a problem down at Macedonia. We can see that he is really suffering because of this and it is wrong that he suffers on his own. Therefore, let us discuss ways in which we can give him greater support so that the kingdom of God will not be compromised and brother Timothy can also be encouraged to go on with the work.
But unfortunately this is not always how things are done in the church. A former colleague of mine once decided to write a newsletter to his prayer supporters in which he tried to inform them of the difficult situations which he had to face and for which he needed prayer support. He received so much criticism, that in the next newsletter he decided to focus solely on the positive things happening and asked them to thank the Lord for these wonderful things.
So today I’m busy writing reports. And I was wondering whether we should report that in one area our church died. How will they react if they hear that, for a whole year, in spite of continued efforts to make a difference, we have had only one person who regularly attend church? Actually, we knew about this problem a year ago, mainly caused by family strife within the area and accusations from one of our members that her mother had bewitched her baby and caused the baby’s death. We followed the Biblical principle to wait another year. But now I’ve decided that we can put our energy and time into much better projects than trying to revive a dead church. I suggested that we admit that the horse is dead, and if a horse is dead, then you need to dismount. I think it was Bill Hybels who wrote in his Courageous Leadership that true leaders know when to stop. It is not a sign of strong leadership to continue with something which is dead (unless of course if God convinces you to persevere to demonstrate His power). It is also not a sign of bad leadership to admit that something is not working as was hoped. But how will the others react if we write this in a report?
Personally I prefer an honest report – giving both the positive and the negative aspects of the work. And I trust that our fellow-Christians will realise that the negative aspects of the work is not due to lack of trying, but perhaps because God has something else in mind that we could do with our energy and time. But I must say that I’ve lost a lot of my enthusiasm for writing official mission reports.

Just on a personal (and VERY positive) note and for those whose interest may not be where all South Africans’ interests are at the moment: Last night South Africa won their match in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in France and next Saturday South Africa will be up against England to determine who will be the champions for the next four years. I’m pretty sure that not all the members of the South African team are Christians, but it was really moving to see the team gathering in a circle after the match and praying together to thank God for their victory. So, if you are reading this and you are from England: I still love you as a fellow-believer, but I honestly and sincerely hope that South Africa will win this match ;-)

Monday, October 15, 2007 Posted by | Bill Hybels, Church, Disappointments, Hope, Meetings, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland | 2 Comments

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