Last week we met a man in Masi walking bac
k from the store with a bag of pap (a rice type maize meal that constitutes the base of all meals here), it was mid morning and he was obviously on his way to being drunk. That isn’t too unusual for us here, a large proportion of Masi residents start abusing alcohol on friday evening all the way through to Sunday morning, keeping themselves in the cycle of poverty that created the pain in their lives that they are trying to escape from by drinking.
We get to the mans house as we help him and he invites us in. In the corner of this shack is a lady, stick thin, so much so that it is clear she is in the final stages of AIDs and TB (which in south Africa are virtually synonyms). He later explained the lady was his wife and she had recently been released from a well known local AIDs hospice after her condition improving. Not many people in Masi admit to having the disease and her husband is insistent she simply has a stomach problem, and puts her improving health down to a visit to the sangoma (traditional healer/witchdoctor). A local doctor told us once that a study estimated that for every 1 person seen at a ‘western’ medical clinic in Masi 9 others have opted to visit a sangoma.
We are offered a seat in the normal hospitable Xhosa fashion, and I begin to tell them about how my life was changed by Jesus and how I longed to see other peoples lives changed through the love of God. The man listened smiling, politely nodding at all the right moments, a number of neighbours came in during our visit, all similarly drunk and it was clear this man was well connected in this area of Masi. What was strange though was that his wife stayed away from us, not speaking and even refusing help to cook and carry things from Rachel. As we left we asked if we could pray for their household and asked them whether they would be interested in gathering their neighbours to discover more about Jesus together. They agreed to prayer and seemed open to us coming back. As we prayed I felt the holy spirit urge us to pray for the mans wife. I would normally never ‘force’ prayer on someone who seemed so closed but we are learning in this heightened spiritual environment to be obedient to the voice of God. We asked whether we could pray for her healing and her husband had told us she had lots of pain all week. We prayed and blessed them, and then we left.We agreed to go back that next week to be true to our word but honestly speaking didn’t expect much.
During the next week, I headed back to the house with a Xhosa friend and a cpx student from Malawi as Rachel was sick and couldn’t come in. As I arrived we greeted the wife who was standing outside with a younger lady and man, but quickly discovered the ‘gatekeeper’, the husband, had gone out. I quickly decided that as he was the most engaged and ‘hungry’ person there would be little point trying to push the discovery study, so I asked my Xhosa friend to ask the wife whether we could pray for her health again. This time she responded far more enthusiastically than any of our previous interactions, she said that God had given her no pain that week at all and invited us into the house.The younger lady (who turned out to be her daugher) and younger man (a neighbour half dressed in a shirt and tie for church) also came in and decided they wanted to do this discovery study.
As we began, the husband returned and joined in. We went round sharing one thing we were thankful for in the past week and began to read John 3:16-17.
The discovery method is based around a series of questions which can be applied to any bible passage and encourages the group to self discover the truths and application of that verse, which is known to the most effective and long lasting way that people learn things.
We went through the study with the group and had some great ‘discovery’ moments, particularly the wife who when I asked her what she felt like she had learnt she said that she learnt eternal life came through believing Gods son! The man who came on his way to church (which is a church which is nominally christian and includes ancestor worship, teaching their attendees little of the Gospel of Jesus) said he realised half way through he was going to be late for church, and then said he realised, I guess this is church!
The daughter of the family also agreed to help lead the next discovery study which means we can help her carry it on themselves, building community and discovering God and salvation.
Would you pray with us that this seed of planted would grow into the fruit we are dreaming of here One of many local led community of baptized believers that worships, fellowships, reads the word, leaving with a desire to obey to see individuals, families and communities transformed. This is what we are dreaming of in South Africa!