"Don't drink and drive," shouted the little boy with so much confidence and enthusiasm that it almost broke my heart to tell him: "This was not one of the Ten Commandments."I was teaching morning Sunday School class, at one of the churches of our partner convention, the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA), and was trying to assess how much of the Bible the children knew and what foundational teachings I would have to review.Well, their questions and interest lead me to go all the way back to Genesis and re-share "The Creation" and repeatedly teach from Exodus on "The Ten Commandments" until they could hear them in their sleep.
This same sort of teaching has been difficult enough to do in our ministry in the USA with small groups of English speaking children.But, this was quite a challenge seeing that I had 60-80, eight to twelve year old pupils, on any given "very warm" Sunday and none of them spoke English as their "mother tongue," or first language.My classroom was the neat, packed-dirt-spot, outside, under a tree, near a tin building used for the four to six year olds.The church building is a small one and there are so many children at this church that the building cannot accommodate all the adults and children at the same time.We, also, did not have parents who were willing to teach until just recently.But God has sent us several parents who are willing to teach and who can interpret in Pedi, Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu, and other of the eleven official South African languages that these children can really understand.
We thank God for the might and truth of his Word, and the saving work that it will do in these children's lives.The seeds are being planted and we are confident that they will be sufficiently watered with the prayers that you are sending up.Please continue to pray for the people of South Africa.
Our work here, in South Africa, seemed to start slowly, but the work pace has quickened and the time is moving rapidly by.We started out with church planting assignments in two rural poverty stricken, provinces (similar to what we would refer to as "states"). These provinces are several hundred kilometers away from where we live and from where the children attend school.The sheer distance and travel time required to visit these areas became a challenge and restriction that forced us and our partners to re-evaluate the effectiveness and financial stewardship of such an assignment.
Discussion and agreement was reached, by the leadership of our national partner and ourselves.We agreed that we would work and spend some time closer to home base, in support of our partner's national office in Johannesburg, and spend some time traveling to various other regions and provinces in support of the BCSA national church planters.So, some days we go to the national office, or work with some of the mission works of the local churches, empowerment programs, or HIV/AIDS projects in the Johannesburg area doing administrative, planning and procurement assignments.And, on other days we travel to many of the black townships, in which our BCSA partner has churches, to conduct evangelistic crusades and do leadership development and strategic planning with local churches and project leaders.
In addition to the work with the black African descendent Baptist Convention of South Africa we, also, support and advance the ministry and work of several other partner conventions in South Africa; namely, the white Dutch descendent Afrikaans Baptist Kerk ("Church"), the Indian and Coloured descendent Baptist Mission of South Africa and Indian Baptist Association of South Africa, and the white British descendent Baptist Union of South Africa in areas of empowerment projects, leadership development, reconciliation and social ministry projects.
There are several "firsts" that we have been blessed to be a part of.As a pastor there is great satisfaction in sharing the Gospel with others and for Charles the opportunity to share the Gospel by doing leadership training and teach a course on evangelism on the Indian Ocean side of South Africa near the city of Durban, with a group of pastors and lay leaders, at the "first" Mission Training School for the Baptist Mission of South Africa was a true privilege.
Another first that we have been involved in is the planning of the first Mission Conference of the Baptist Convention of South Africa to be held in early May 2003.Two ABCUSA pastors from the states, Rev. Dr. John Hopkins (Lynnewood, CA) and Rev. La Verne Adams (Philadelphia, PA) will be traveling to South Africa to do mission and evangelistic work with a number of Baptist churches, and Charles has arranged for these two pastors to be guest speakers at the BCSA's "first" Mission Conference.The theme for this meeting that the two pastors will share on will be: "The Great Commission in the New Millennium."Topics will include: "Is the Great Commission still relevant today?""To who is it given?""Is it for us?"And, "How do we, as a poor church body, implement and carry it out?"
As with our American Baptist churches in the United States the Lenten Season was a very busy time of ministry, preaching and travel.Evangelism was the major emphasis of our ministry work during the Easter week.We traveled to the two black townships of Winterveldt and Mabopane located north of Pretoria, which is one of the three capital sites of South Africa.In one of the churches, the children put on "The Passion" play and recited scripture and sang.
The richness of the worship, praise, music and drama in the township churches was on this occasion, as on others, a tremendous experience.Charles preached Good Friday, Easter Saturday, and Easter Sunday morning.Then he started an evangelistic "tent crusade," preaching on the Wednesday and Thursday nights after Easter in the largest black township in South Africa, Soweto, located outside of Johannesburg.
The spiritual joy of Easter with its new hope and new life is saddened by the large numbers of rode deaths that are experienced here in South Africa.This year more than four hundred were killed in the three-day Easter weekend in vehicle accidents.This is down from the last few years' death tolls of greater than eight hundred for the same period.
At these Easter celebrations, lots of food is cooked and enjoyed.These women are cooking outside of the church building in large iron pots they usually stir with very large wooden spoons.The chicken, smothered cabbage, rice, "pap" (similar to grits), "chakalaka" (very tasty tomato sauce), green salad and rice are very good to the palate and well balanced for the diet.Two to three hundred people can be fed from these pots with large portions on each plate.These are some of the blessings that we have experienced working in and among our brothers and sisters in South Africa.
As always, we ask that you continue to pray for our brethren here and keep us and our children in prayer.
In His Service
Charles, Sarah, Chasah, Caleb and Charliese West
Missionaries to South Africa
American Baptist Churches, USA