Dear GCI Family and Friends,
It is with great pleasure that I report to you about the excellent conferences that took place in Aruka, South Africa and Chongwe, Zambia. Susan and I were accompanied by Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma (KK) for these outstanding meetings. How sweet it was to spend quality time ministering with KK!
My heart had been longing to meet with our African leadership since the 2020 and 2021 conferences were postponed due to Covid-19. This long season reminded me of the apostle Paul when he was often delayed due to various hardships, and he sent letters to churches that he longed to be with in person. There is nothing that can replace being together and sharing life-on-life experiences.
Takalani Musekwa, Regional Director (RD) of South Africa, and his wife Margaret (pictured right) hosted the conference in Aruka over the Palm Sunday weekend. Aruka is a retreat property (formerly named Linga Longa) owned and operated by GCI South Africa. The flow of presentations, followed by table discussions and then group debriefs, made for a wonderful sharing and learning environment. It is also noteworthy that I was able to share lunch with the South African Board of Directors. These faithful volunteers are much needed stewards of our ministries and serve as wise advisors to our ministry directors in their respective countries. GCI is filled with such good, service-oriented people.
The praise and worship throughout the trip was amazing and inspirational. The African members express their joy through beautiful voices, passionate smiles, and the movement of dance. When I worship with them, I feel like we are joining the heavenly host at the throne room in a deeply meaningful way.
Here’s a story I hope will encourage you, as it did me. On my first night in South Africa, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t fall back to sleep. As I prayed and thought about the upcoming presentations, a praise song ran through my head. I kept thinking about the concept of rising up like an eagle and being overwhelmed by the power of his love. I couldn’t quite put all the words together in my head, but it moved me. I was thrilled when, on the first day of worship, the praise band had chosen “The Power of His Love” as one of the worship selections. I sensed the Holy Spirit winking at me and confirming that these meetings were meant to be.
Gardner Kunje, Regional Director of Central Africa, along with KK hosted the conference in Chongwe over Holy Week. We stayed true to the Worship Calendar and highlighted the events from Maundy Thursday through Resurrection Sunday. We even held a foot-washing ceremony. This had not been done in several years, and it was a joy to participate out of the freedom we have in Jesus. And happy were we as we did it.
I cannot recount all the highlights as they were so numerous. Major themes that stood out were unity in purpose and movement toward Healthy Church, especially as it relates to making new disciples.
There were many wonderful conversations about how we are actively working together to become a healthier church, and all the conference participants were eager learners. A specific point that stuck out is when we acknowledged how our mission statement—“Living and Sharing the Gospel”—is just as relevant today as when we came up with it many years back. However, we noticed that while our members are quite good at living out the gospel in their private lives, we have not been quite as good at sharing the gospel with others. Hence the emphasis on being compelled by love (the love of Jesus).
One of the presentations in Zambia by Takalani struck a strong chord. He referenced the apostle Paul in Romans 10:1.
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them (Israel) is that they may be saved. (NRSVA)
For Israel to know Jesus and to be saved was a burning desire that Paul held closely. Do we share a burning desire for our people group (be it family, neighbors, or co-workers)? Effectively sharing the gospel begins with our broken-heartedness for those who don’t yet know Jesus. Maybe we could begin our days by asking the Lord of the Harvest to guide us to people in our sphere of influence who he is preparing and drawing? I think he will honor such a prayer. Let’s see what happens.
The spirit of goodwill and unity of purpose was palpable. An example of this unity of purpose came from West Africa Regional Director, Emmanuel Okai. He gave an outstanding presentation called “Building a Farm System.” He spoke from his 70-years of life experience about how we can invite others in and effectively walk with them around the apprenticeship square so they can be prepared for ministry. He reiterated the need for us to be like John the Baptist, willing to personally decrease so others can increase. Then he ended the talk with the inspiring thought of how the ones coming after us can be like Elisha succeeding Elijah and be given a “double portion” of the Spirit. What a bright future that paints!
In a personal conversation with Emmanuel, he said if all of us keep doing these same methods and practices over a long stretch of time, imagine what an amazing transformation there could be in our church. I resolutely stated, “Yes! And what if this is true in all six global regions around the world?” The two of us shared an invigorating notion that caused goose bumps. What if?
I must recognize KK and his RDs as they have been casting a vision for Africa they call Vision 2025. They began this in 2020 and are now weaving in our global three-year plan, which fits quite nicely. Well done!
Stay tuned for more about our trip to Africa in the next Update issue.