What Next? Looking At The Next 60 Years

So what do we do in the NEXT 60 YEARS? Answer?  Simple! Keep fulfilling the SAME calling He gave us 60 years ago!!  Africa is our parish. The cities our focus. Evangelism our activity.

Why do I say that so simply and emphatically? Well, because the Bible says:” The gifts and call of God are IRREVOCABLE.”(Rom.11:29). In other words, once God has issued His call to an individual or group, He gifts them to fulfil that calling and doesn’t change His mind.  The calling is irrevocable. Immutable. “Without repentance”, says the King James. In other words, God is not going to repent or turn away from the calling He has given us, and for which He has gifted us.

So if our calling as we define it and understand it is ” to evangelise the cities of Africa through word and deed in partnership with the church”, then we must get on with this in the next 60 years. And if we don’t, the Lord is perfectly able to raise up others who will. Pray God that never has to happen.

But that does not mean we mustn’t seek out new methods and means of contextualising our ministry to fit the new situations in Africa. So while our calling & focus won’t change, our methodologies may, and probably should. That said, I still think the AE Pan African citywide mission of stratified evangelism should remain the core component of AE ‘s ministry, and I believe there are many other strategies within that, and beyond it which should and MUST be explored for greater effectiveness.

Obviously the new world of social media and new techniques for using older media, such as radio and television, demands our thorough exploration of how to use these more effectively. And with COVID 19 perhaps restricting our ability to mount mass gatherings, it becomes even more important that we get more fully into reaching people in their homes.  Thus I am very thankful for Leonard Kiswangi ‘s superb weekly TV programs in DRC Congo. which reach thousands without Leonard having to move from a studio.

This is in addition, by the way, to Leonard’s continuing with relatively normal missions. Bravo, Leonard and Anthos. All other team leaders should explore such options. And not forgetting that radio is still the main medium used by the majority of people in Africa. I believe we should have huge radio endeavours throughout our African teams.

And what about literature & books. Africa is ever increasingly a reading continent. I believe all our teams have individuals capable of writing good books or booklets. I have recently encouraged AESA Team Leader, Theuns Pauw, to write up his extraordinary story and testimony and he has done so, and we are hoping to see it published next year. Both Stephen & Rosemary Mbogo have likewise recently written superb autobiographies. Come on other team leaders, you can do the same.

Think too of Melisachew Mesfin, our amazing TL in Ethiopia, whose large volume of discipleship material is read by thousands of young trainee leaders in his country. Nii Amuu has also written great material for the Ghanaian church. So, yes, I am calling on AE team members to usher in a new era of solid Christian writing, both inspirational and theological, for Africa. And our new publishing friends, Oasis International in Chicago, are ready to help us get this out. Their specific calling is to help get African-written books out in Africa.

I also believe, as we launch out into our next 6 decades, that we should recommit ourselves to the full inspiration and final authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and morals. This is clearly set forth in the Lausanne Covenant, our constitutionally enshrined statement of faith. This Covenant we should revisit, restudy, and re-embrace as our theological foundation.

The next sixty years could see the return of our Precious Lord. In the meantime, we should ” work while it is Day, knowing that the night comes when no one can work.”(John 9:4).

So, dear ones, let’s go for it!! We have only touched the hem of Africa’s garment. There is much land yet to be possessed.

Celebrating Festo Kivengere: A Short Biography

Festo Kivengere (1919–1988) was a Ugandan Anglican leader sometimes referred to as “the Billy Graham of Africa”. He played a huge role in a Christian Revival in Southwestern Uganda, but had to flee in 1973 to neighbouring Kenya in fear for his life after speaking out against Idi Amin‘s tyrannical behaviour.

Kivengere had been made Bishop of Kigezi and was among several bishops summoned to Amin’s quarters. Angry mobs called for their deaths. Eventually, all were permitted to leave but one, the Archbishop, Janani Luwum. The others waited for Luwum to join them but he never came out. The next day the government announced that Luwum had died in an automobile accident.

Urged to flee by friends who said, “One dead bishop is enough,” he and his wife that night drove as far as their vehicle could take them and with the help of local church people in the hills they walked until the next morning brought them to safety across the border in Rwanda.

He later authored the book I Love Idi Amin to emphasize the qualities of forgiveness for those who wronged you and love of those who persecute you. Kivengere stated, “On the cross, Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.’ As evil as Idi Amin is, how can I do less toward him?”

Bishop Festo was invited by Michael Cassidy to join African Enterprise in 1969 and to build up a team of AE evangelists in East Africa. He returned to Uganda after Amin’s downfall to continue an active ministry until his death by leukemia in 1988.

Kivengere was known as a great storyteller and often thrilled his own and other’s children with his storytelling skills. A favourite story of his: “One day a little girl sat watching her mother working in the kitchen. She asked her mummy, ‘What does God do all day long?’ For a while the mother was stumped, but then she said, “Darling, I’ll tell you what God does all day long. He spends his whole day mending broken things.”

 

Source: Wikipedia

Ebenezer: Thus Far the Lord has Helped Us

1 Samuel 7:2-13: Ebenezer

“Thus far has the Lord helped us”. The people of Israel had backslidden but under the leadership of Samuel, they decided to come back to the Lord in fasting and prayer. They threw away the foreign idols and recommitted themselves to the Lord. Their archenemy the Philistines miscalculated their move and attacked when the people were enjoying their retreat with the Lord, in the middle of a burnt offering. This was the wrong moment to attack because “the Lord thundered with loud thunder… and threw them into panic…” (10). And Samuel set a stone and called it “Ebenezer, saying ‘thus far has the Lord helped us’”.

When the Corona virus hit the world, analysts turned their eyes towards Africa and prophesied an unprecedented apocalypse for the continent. In an interview with CNN, American philanthropist Melinda Gates predicted that the virus would have its worst effect in developing countries with a special concern for the continent of Africa where she could already see bodies lying around on the streets.

We fasted, we interceded, all over the continent people prayed and are still praying. The Lord raised his banner against that enemy that was coming against us like a flood. Did the virus hit our countries? Yes, we lost people but not to the magnitude predicted by the prophets of doom. We, too, as a continent could set our Ebenezer and shout in praise and thanksgiving, “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

How about us in AE? As we look back over 60 years of ministry in our beloved continent of Africa with its corruption, its wars, its pandemics, droughts and famines, we could easily cry out “thus far has the Lord helped us”. We have carried out ministry in the most straining conditions, we have survived financial crises, scarcity of staff and resources, internal issues that at times rocked the ministry and threatened to divide us. But here we are, still standing together, strong, going from victory into victory in service to the Lord and his people.

This is our time to raise our voices together and shout, “Ebenezer.” “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through spreads everywhere the flagrance of the knowledge of him.” (2 Cor.2:14).

Tribute to Ebenezer Sikakane

It was with real sadness that we heard of the passing to glory of our very dear friend, and long time colleague Ebenezer Sikakane. But our sadness is overwhelmed by our realisation that he is with his Lord whom he served in a distinguished manner all his life. In this lies the wonderful comfort of those who are left behind.

We extend our deepest sympathy to his second wife, Emlinah whom he married a number of years after his first wife, Emily, had gone to be with the Lord. So to Emlinah and all the family plus grandchildren we extend our deepest sympathy and express our huge gratitude for this great man of God, husband, father and grandfather.

Our original team first met Ebenezer Sikakane when we came to Pietermaritzburg for our very first mission in 1962. Ebenezer, a theologian, musician, writer and lecturer at Union Bible Institute brought to the city-hall the amazing UBI choir which he had trained and which delighted audiences on many occasions. The whole team loved Ebenezer and dearly hoped he would one day join us.

When the team returned to South Africa at the end of 1964 and were to conduct our first mission on return to Ladysmith in Northern Natal, Ebenezer was invited to join the mission as a volunteer. Ebenezer was one of the stars of the show and so loved his ministry with AE that he was ready to respond positively to our invitation to join us.

I personally loved ministering with Ebenezer who proved himself not only the best Zulu interpreter in the country but one of the greatest Zulu preachers in all South Africa. Ebenezer served the ministry with distinction, and I had the privilege of having him accompany me in ministry in a number of schools, in Egypt and then in Latin America (Panama and Nicarugua). In 1970 he and I preached together for three weeks in a mission to Soweto.

In Nicaragua he was always very amused when we were travelling with Bishop Festo Kivengere and a mixed up pastor introduced him to a meeting as “Bishop Sugarcane”!!

Sadly in the late 80’s in South Africa he felt so overwhelmed and depressed by the apartheid system, and fearful of being detained, that he emigrated to Canada where he became a baptist pastor, and our representative in Toronto and remained part of the AE fellowship in North America from that day to this.

He was a lovely man of deep godliness with the gifts of friendship and laughter and he won people to Christ wherever he went. We do indeed bless the Lord for his life and again send our deep sympathies to the beautiful Christian family he has left behind.

Reconciling the Past through Forgiveness

After 60 years of Ministry a Solemn Assembly would give time and space to reflect.

“Solemn assemblies are for the purpose of spiritual renewal … with the intent of

  1. Turning more fully to God’s grace offered to us in Christ through repentance and confession.
  2. Laying ourselves bare before the Holy One in prayer
  3. Listening for the Spirits’ still small voice through scripture and preaching” [1]

Before a Solemn Assembly concludes in praise and worship, there is much time spent on Reflection, Repentance, Forgiveness and Reconciliation

In the “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook [2], Miroslav Volf says

“It is so crucial to see our forgiving not simply as our own act, but as participation in God’s forgiving.

Our forgiving is faulty. God’s forgiving is faultless.

Our forgiving is provisional. God’s is final…

The only way we dare forgive is by making our forgiving transparent to God’s forgiving and always open to revision.

After all, our forgiveness is only possible as an echo of God’s” 2

Forgiveness is hard. You cannot pretend things are fine when you feel stabbed in the heart and trust is gone.

“True forgiveness … is a costly heart rending process.”

The Chapter on the Discipline of Forgiveness, in its section labelled “practice [of Forgiveness] includes;

  • Forgiving myself for my mistakes and limits, as God has forgiven me
  • Attaching my heart to God’s forgiving heart and extending God’s forgiveness when I can’t extend my own
  • Naming wrongdoing, for justice sake, but asking for grace to see the wrong-doer apart from their actions.
  • Not tying forgiveness to another’s admission for wrong doing
  • Discerning between forgiveness and collusion in perpetual abuse [2]

May we all be healed and changed as we seek to forgive

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Prayer for you as an individual to quietly work through with God alone

  1. “Take time to come before God and write your list of things you need to forgive
  2. Ask God to extend forgiveness for those things you feel you can’t yet forgive
  3. Name wrong doing for justices sake, and ask for grace to see the wrong-doer apart from their actions
  4. Ask God to assist you to not .. expect an admission of wrongdoing
  5. Ask God to help you discern between forgiveness and collusion in perpetual abuse, [and if found, pray for the perpetual abuse to cease]”

This prayer may take time to work through with God’s help and make take time for change and reconciliation to come.

References:

  1. Biblical and Historical Background on Solemn Assemblies. – Presbyterian Church of USA. Web address; presbyterianmission.org
  2. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook; Practices that Transform us – Adele Ahlburg Calhoun . IVP 2015 Available in Paperback and e-reader