The vision to evangelize the cities in Africa is key and we must ensure it does not die. This is the call by the President of Malawi, His Excellency Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.
Speaking when he met a delegation from African Enterprise, the President said he felt led to lead in a public platform, a call that was received differently by different people. “I felt led to this public platform (the presidency), and at times, people didn’t understand or others did, and others would pray for me,” he said.
In his remarks about the importance of engaging leaders in Africa for ownership and perpetuity of God’s mission, Rev. Dr. Chakwera highlighted on the need to be keen to work towards the Africa God wants.
“The Africa we want is about pursuing policies toward self-reliance etc – but rarely do we ask ourselves: What is the Africa God wants? Too many times, we are pursuing our agenda and not God’s agenda. When all is said and done, as we serve people and seek God’s will for them, God’s will is for their freedom, not oppression. The oppression of people is caused by sin,” emphasized President Chakwera.
The President also recounted how he encountered African Enterprise and worked closely with the organization. He remembered reading about Michael Cassidy’s great vision in the 70s, and in 1991 he was in ministry with African Enterprise. Dr. Chakwera remembered and paid tribute to the late Stephen Lungu, the immediate former International Team Leader, who also served earlier as AE Malawi’s Team Leader.
“Sometimes we honor people when they are dead – but for Lungu, God’s military honor was accorded. Sometimes you wonder about God’s ways of doing things and you remember he is God,” said the President as he encouraged the AE team to do what they’ve got to do while they have the time.
On behalf of the International Board, AE International Team Leader Rev. Dr. Stephen Mbogo invited His Excellency to AE 60th Anniversary Grand Celebration where the President is expected to be the Guest Speaker. The celebration is scheduled for Friday 2nd September 2022 in Lusaka, Zambia.
While confirming his participation, President Chakwera emphasized that: “It would be a wonderful opportunity to affirm AE’s ministry across the nations over the past 60 years. Urbanization is the next big thing and we must plan ahead; work together as a foundation – with all churches to put Africa on a path of transformation.”
The AE delegation that met with the Malawian President consisted of top leadership, including Rev. Dr. Stephen Mbogo, Rev Rangford Chokotho, Mrs Evelyn Itimu, Dr. Lutangu Lubasi, Dr. Cornelius Huwa, Esther Chengo and Salome Mumbi.
In March 1974, the historic South African Congress on Mission and Evangelism took place in Durban. This gathering, the first of its kind drew together 800 leaders from all races and from most denominations in the South African Church to confer together for 10 days. To this congress AE invited several East African leaders, most notably Dr John Gatu, a Presbyterian leader from Kenya, and also Rev John Mpaayei, General Secretary of the East African Bible Society.
These Brethren were so struck by what they saw in Durban and by its huge impact that they were ready for the suggestion from Michael of a Pan African Christian Leadership Assembly drawing Christian leaders from all the countries of Africa. The vision took hold and brought forth the Pan African Christian Leadership assembly in Nairobi in December 1976. Again there were 800 delegates drawn from 49 out of Africa’s 51 Countries, and from every conceivable denomination. PACLA established a network of relationships across Africa which survives mainly in the next generation even to this day.
By a miracle of God’s grace some 70 delegates from South Africa secured visas at the very last moment to travel to Kenya for PACLA. In the time for national meetings, the South African group had tremendous internal struggles, having carried with them from South Africa all the problems convulsing the country at the time. But at PACLA some marvelous reconciliations took place and the newly united group of South African leaders returned to South Africa ready to be inspired by Professor David Bosch and Michael Cassidy for a South African counterpart to PACLA.
This finally came forth in 1979 with David Bosch as the Chairman and Michael as the Programme Chairman. Some 5000 delegates met in Pretoria and the revolutionary chemistry of encounter brought forth a transforming network of relationships which contributed significantly to the final ending of apartheid. A key in this was the person of Professor Johan Heyns, a Dutch Reformed leader who became moderator of the NGK (DRC) He was deeply challenged by PACLA and in many ways racially transformed. The PACLA experience led him to set up a commission in the NGK to establish whether apartheid could be biblically and theologically justified. The consequences were monumental.
At the General Synod of 1985 it was recognized and accepted that “Apartheid is a Sin and a Heresy.” Michael believes that this finally put the skids under the apartheid government more effectively than economic sanctions, cultural boycotts and sporting isolation. After PACLA Dr. Piet Koornhoff, then minister of Plural/ Bantu Affairs, who had in fact opposed PACLA, said “This is the Miracle South Africa needs.”
It was one of life’s special and treasured privileges yesterday to join John’s family at our nearby hospital and pray for him and anoint him with oil. He had been suddenly struck down just a couple of days ago with an intestinal blockage which resulted in a rupture in his stomach. His beloved wife Christine rushed him to hospital and his devoted boys Larry and Lloyd rallied around him. John’s other son, Lance, comes in today. But most sadly, he will be here too late, because it was only some 45 minutes after I left the hospital, and his family a few minutes later, that my beloved and most precious friend, John, went to be with the Lord.
When Larry messaged me with this news I felt deeply shocked, totally stricken and heart- rent. I found it incomprehensible, and still do less than a day later. By God’s merciful grace, not having wept for a good few years, God gave me the gift of tears last night and I was able to weep over the loss of this beloved man. That was good.
But the tears of his family must be many more than mine. So with everyone in African Enterprise worldwide, Carol and I extend to Christine, Lance, Larry, and Lloyd and the rest of the family and grandchildren our deepest possibly sympathy and condolences. They have lost a prince of a man as husband, father, grandfather, and uncle. May they know that poignant blessedness of “those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
For myself I have lost one of life’s dearest, most precious and most loyal friends. John and his first wife Rona, who died a number of years ago, both came to the Lord during our first ever mission which took place in Pietermaritzburg in August 1962, which will be 60 years ago, this August. Hard to believe. As the first AE team returned from the USA to South Africa in late 1964, we quickly took up again with John and Rona, our friendship deepened, and to our everlasting gratitude John and Rona joined the team in 1967 just as we launched on Spearhead, our first full scale youth mission to the southern suburbs of Cape Town.
With his background in public relations and graphic art John produced some amazing publicity material for us and was crucial in the formation of the evangelistic youth homegroups which were so central to that mission. We all quickly recognized that we had a Champion in our midst. Later that year came our first of three missions to Wits University in Johannesburg. John’s role was again central, and he was quickly developing into a preacher, teacher, and trainer in his own right.
Then just two years later John had risen to the position of being able to set up our enormous one-year Mission 70 to Johannesburg and Soweto with no less than 300 churches participating. It was truly an achievement of note.
Dear John continued to excel in the ministry on all these different fronts until finally when the AE Christian Leadership Training Centre was established in 1980 he became its Director. This led into two decades of the Centre’s hey-day. During this time John became deeply interested in how churches grow and develop, and this led him to go to Fuller Seminary and take a Theological Degree in Church Growth. When he returned he was the expert on the subject for the whole of South Africa. Not surprisingly our training wing at AESA was named after John, “To honour, salute and remember the inspiring labors at the center of John Tooke, AE Team Member, 1967 – 1991.”
A time came in 1991 when John felt that he wanted to go into the Methodist ministry and really learn more deeply how to run and grow a local church. This he did successfully in the Cape for a number of years before returning here so we could share the home straight of our lives together while he initiated and set up The Michael Cassidy and Friends Legacy Project, now so ably led and run by Charlene Pauw, wife of AESA Team Leader, Theuns.
During these years John also did his PhD at the University of Pretoria and I was overwhelmed and humbled when he told me that he wanted to do it on this poor sinner, MC, and his ministry in the cities of Africa. Imagine my joy being present at John’s doctoral graduation ceremony when he was adorned with that spectacular red gown and cap. For me another wonderful John memory for the ages.
Over all these years, apart from being the most wonderful of friends, John was a deeply committed and involved family man. He adored his first wife Rona, his brilliantly talented sons, and his adoring grandchildren. And when Rona finally got full-on dementia and was institutionalized, and even unable to speak or communicate, John visited her daily for four years and demonstrated spectacularly what the wedding vows were all about in loving for better or worse, in sickness and in health “until death us do part”.
As John visited Rona every day for all those years, I was lost in admiration and gratitude for him. He was such an inspiration. By God’s glorious grace a number of years later He brought Christine Jarvis into John’s life, she, being the widow of Ralph, the long time Director of AE Communications. Oh, the joy of seeing this gift of each to the other. And how much we praise God for the four blissful years they had together. Our hearts go out so much to dear, stricken Christine at this time.
So here we are at the end of a journey of one of this era’s special men of God. And this will be registering with me very poignantly tomorrow afternoon (April 1, 2022) when John and I were to have one of our regularly planned meetings together for fellowship, reflection and prayer. If there were no Christ and no Gospel and we all went back to an accidental nothingness out of which we accidentally came, then all would be dust and ashes, despair and disillusionment. But NO, our Jesus “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.” (2 Timothy 1:10).
If death once thought he was the lethal fast bowler, he now knows that Jesus by his death and resurrection has hit him out of the ground for six! And John is now discovering what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has there entered the heart of man the things God has prepared for them that love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
As we give deep thanks for John’s great life, we extend again our deepest sympathy to Christine and all the family and assure them of our ongoing prayers.
Aurevoir, dear friend. We will see you in the morning.
There were many challenges which Michael likewise faced in the few years running up to South Africa’s historic 1994 first democratic and non-racial elections. The threats facing the country were enormous, even after Mandela was released in early 1990 and the liberation movements unbanned by President FW de Klerk. In many ways the basic challenge was listening for guidance and then just fulfilling the next step as shown by the Lord in obedience. Even if the steps seemed modest in nature. But Michael and the AE team had to believe that whatever the Lord led them to do could have significant consequences.
Maybe the first step shown to the team was in the run up to AE’s thirtieth anniversary in 1992 of the first mission to Maritzburg in 1962. For the celebratory gathering leaders from all the teams in the rest of Africa were to be coming to South Africa. The South African team realised that these brothers and sisters had been through tremendous political convulsions in their own countries in the run-ups to political independence. They therefore would have much to share and teach. Thus it was that the notion came to Michael and the South African team to break these brothers and sisters up into several teamlets to visit the top leadership of each political party in South Africa and simply pray for each leader. Although this seemed a weak initiative, Michael felt obedience was very important. The venture was called From Africa with Love.
The story of these visits, which turned out in the end to be exceedingly significant, is catalogued in Michael’s book A Witness For Ever. The interesting realisation came to the team that many of these political leaders, from far left to far right, were dreaming similar dreams for the future of South Africa. So surely they should be sharing these dreams and visions in dialogue with each other. Face to face communication seemed to be an urgent necessity.
The challenge now for Michael was a practical one about how to get this to happen. Again guidance was sought, with the next challenge of discerning it. It’s interesting how God works, because Michael found himself in conversation with a Democratic Party Member of Parliament called Rupert Lorimer. Suddenly Rupert said: “I know a place called Kolobe. It’s an upmarket game lodge North of Pretoria with marvellous privacy and seclusion. Why don’t we take groups of these politicians from far left to far right away for a fun weekend of sharing their life stories? And simply discovering each other.”
This witnessed deeply to Michael and with his Personal Assistant, Peter Kerton-Johnston, they set about organising the first of these in early December 1992. The outcome was extraordinary. As each person shared their autobiographies, then their visions for the future of the country, then the steps to accomplishing that vision, scales fell off people’s eyes, enemies were humanised and demythologised, and stereotypes were blown up. To Michael’s astonishment, the chemistry of encounter produced results beyond all expectations as enemies suddenly became friends and willing co-belligerents in the struggle to see a new day of peace, reconciliation and justice come about in South Africa.
Through 1993, a further five such weekends took place with some 92 leading political figures not only from all the liberation movements but from the SA government itself going through this process. While participants did not leave Kolobe all in political agreement, they nevertheless left as friends who would seek to work together for the New Day.
The rollout from the Kolobe Lodge encounters forms a major theme in Michael’s book on the elections A Witness For Ever. In fact, the Kolobe friendships ended up playing a historic role in averting political catastrophe and enabling South Africa to come through to a new political dispensation. This always amazed Michael. It seemed to him that God in His totally mysterious ways had taken one of the weakest political initiatives and used it under His Hand in bringing forth what became known as the Miracle Election and the ushering in of what Desmond Tutu called “A Rainbow Nation”.
In retrospect Michael always felt that the key challenge he and others faced in the run up to the historic 1994 elections was that of simply listening to the Lord, seeking His specific guidance, and then following through in practical obedience. The Lord then did the rest.
I guess the very heart of the AE vision that has brought us to this great sixtieth anniversary day would lie in the very nature, context and wording of the Lords clear call to me in Madison Square Garden in 1957 during the Billy Graham New York crusade.
Can you imagine. I was visiting relatives in USA during a summer vacation during my university studies in England and was invited by a student in Fuller seminary to go down to some of the crusade meetings. There, night after night, I heard Billy Graham faithfully and clearly preaching the Gospel. I was touched and stirred. In fact, inspired.
One night after one of the meetings I was down in the basement of Madison Square Gardens where respondees were being counselled. I was pensively walking up and down and reflecting on what I was seeing. Then, like Isaiah, I can say, “I heard the voice of the Lord…” (Isaiah 6: 8)
It was a pivotal moment in my life and the Word was clear and unmistakable. “Why not in Africa? I want you to do evangelism in the cities of Africa.” Over and out! I was startled, even shocked, because I only saw myself as capable of evangelizing young school boys as a Christian School master and I was terrified of public speaking. I tried to protest my inability but the message of the Voice persisted and that night I left Madison square gardens a called man.
And it was on that word and that experience that AE came forth with its vision “To Evangelize the cities of Africa through word and deed in partnership with the Church.” The Lord brought many others to share in this call and that is why 60 years later we are here celebrating the anniversary of the launching of our ministry in the mission to Maritzburg in 1962.
Praise His Name!