An Indigenous Church
In roughly 15 years of preaching, Paul the apostle visited over 20 places that are listed in Acts leaving churches in each place. Our calling is the same though our gifts and godliness are a shadow of the first Christian missionary. After 10 years of evangelism in the villages around Elim, last week we gathered for the last official meeting with the Elim Baptist Church. As you may recall from our May letter, Alpheus Nyalungu has been ordained as the pastor of the 25 believers there.
What passed through our hearts as we worshipped with them for the last time? The sadness we think we would feel when one of our children leaves the home. The joy that is in the presence of the angels, since one decade ago, all of these who are now dear brothers and sisters were separate from Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world. The fear of future sin, since it is a long and dangerous journey through the narrow gate and to the Celestial City. The hope that these believers would show themselves examples of the faith as the Thessalonians did (1 Thess. 1:6-8).
An Indigenous Building
This week, just before the new year dawned, the church finally gained protection from the rain as we raised the roof. Over the last 4 years, 99% of the labor was done by Tsonga Christians the majority of whom began the process as boys and ended it as men. Lord-willing, the church will use the new building this weekend because the daycare in which we had been worshipping was destroyed in a storm on 24 December! The church’s first service will be conducted in a building without doors, glass in the windows, or the missionary; but they do have bricks, a roof, and the Word of God.
An Indigenous Budget
In November 2012, EBC made the final payment for the land and began digging holes for fence poles. At that time the average monthly offerings were $22 and the estimated building cost was just under $18,000. The membership contained only 4 adults, none of whom were employed. This year, there are 14 adults representing 9 jobs with an average of $285 per month in the offerings. During the building project, the members voted to support a churchplanter in Zimbabwe at 10-15% of their budget, and in 2017, the members voted to raise the missions support to 20% of their budget.
Though the members paid for nearly everything themselves, this year New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg surprised us with a generous offering to cover the entire roof. Without that gift, I am not sure what the church would do now in light of last week’s storm, since none of the members has a home large enough to hold the 30-40 who meet each Sunday. Like David found Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:32), we have found friends along the road as well.
Paul’s Prayers for a Young Church
As we look back at this church, our only hope is found in the Lord of the Church and His reviving Spirit, since both our labors and their maturity are sandy foundations at best. Do labor with us in prayer as Paul did for his beloved Thessalonians.
- Thank God for their faith. 1 Thess. 1:2
- Pray that these Christians would be models of the faith. 1 Thess. 1:6-7
- Pray that the Word of God would sound forth from EBC. 1 Thess. 1:8
- Pray that they would increase in love for one another. 1 Thess. 3:12
- Pray that each Christian’s heart would be established in holiness. 1 Thess. 3:13
- Pray that they would persevere until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23
Lord-willing tomorrow, we will begin Sunday services with a small group in Valdezia, another village about 25 kilometers northeast of Elim. We must meet at someone’s home under some trees because we do not live there, and it is poorer than Elim. Thankfully, EBC purchased chairs for us to begin this new churchplant. Since August 2015, I and other believers from EBC have been teaching in homes throughout this village of about 15,000. Please pray that God would open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light.