On Monday we met with Pastor Philip at his church in Temba. I actually had the opportunity to spend the night with Philip and his family after our meeting. It was really good to catch up with him and to meet his family and get to know them a little bit.
I met Pastor Philip on my first trip to South Africa in December of 2003. I have corresponded with him every since, and he even stayed with me for a few days during a US visit back in 2006. His church, Ebenezer Bible Church, is located in the community of Temba. Temba is a more rural community roughly 35 minutes outside of Pretoria. It has a population of roughly 350,000. The church is in the process of building an orphan home in conjunction with African Leadership Development (a US based missions organization). When it is finished it will house 20 orphans. Temba like many other impoverished communities throughout South Africa has been heavily hit by HIV/Aids. During our time with Philip we focused our discussion on the spiritual dynamic within Temba (and other black communities there) - more specifically the stronghold of witchdoctors and ancestral worship. He described the reality that in some families, to accept Christ is to disrespect your ancestors - and that is taken very seriously. He also spoke in great detail on the impact of witch doctor's on peoples lives. He shared that when people are poor and when they are desperate the supposed healing and help that witchdoctors offer is very appealing. When I picture "witch doctors" I usually think of face paint, strange hair, and strange clothes. However, Pastor Philip shared how most times now they are in plain clothes, and have normal vocations such as teacher and principal. He emphasized both the use of psychological manipulation (FEAR) and the realty of a spiritual battle going on. The thing that encourage me the most about our conversation that day was his emphasis on injecting FAITH and HOPE into people's lives through the Word of God and prayer. Here is some of what he shared...
"God uses faith, the devil uses fear. Fear is the door for demonic activity. I have to teach much about Faith."
"The Name of Jesus is stronger than a witch doctor. I must teach people this Truth. It is my job to teach people that God is more powerful than the devil."
When discussing how he ministers to those who are sick and suffering from HIV/Aids...
"We don't console people to die. We provoke people to Faith. I don't say people will be healed but it is my duty to give them Hope."
"I don't pretend to have all of the answers. When I don't know what to say I say, 'let's pray' and God moves! We are depending on God's grace."
During my recent Montana trip this summer our theme was faith. We spent the whole week in Hebrews Chapter 11 - the hall of faith. We memorized Hebrews 11:1 and Hebrews 11:6. I was given an experiential education on faith during my 2 weeks in South Africa. These pastors and really all of our brothers and sisters in the churches here truly seek after and rely on God for MANY things. Philip echoed what Vincent and Gloria shared with us, "and God moves!" I have shared with several people lately that I have been challenged in my devotion time and in my readings to have a more exalted view of Christ and/or a loftier view of God. I have been quoting Tozer who states that "an exalted view of Christ will always lead to radical actions for Christ." It is evident that Pastor Philip, Pastor Vincent, Pastor Isaac and others here have this "exalted view of God." God is BIG to them (God IS big!). I pray that my faith would increase...
Hebrews 11:1 = Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:6 = And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.