Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Relationship-building with Seeiso Street Church

On March 23, I flew out on my way to Johannesburg, South Africa to make some connections with the Seeiso Street church near Pretoria. From Kigali, Rwanda, on Ethiopia Airlines, that means flying Northeast to travel South. I flew to Addis Ababa and spent the evening with Alemayehu, a former student of mine at the Nairobi Great Commission School in Nairobi, Kenya, and Moges, a roving evangelist among the approximately 1000 churches of Christ throughout Ethiopia. These two brothers met my flight and took me out to dinner at a touristy type restaurant. I enjoyed the food and fellowship, but the music and floor show was rather loud and we couldn't really carry on a conversation.

After dinner they took me back to the Church of Christ mission station in the Makanisa suburb of the city. They helped me settle into a room in the guesthouse and stayed for a few minutes. It seemed like the old days except that we didn't have time to really discuss how the church was doing, growing and maturing. I was listening for a need that I might be able to meet or find someone else who could, but I didn't hear of one. Alemayehu said the mission driver would come early and take me back to the airport. It was a quick stop and I was sorry that I would not get to meet the families of the brothers this time. Hope to see these brothers at the Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference in August, next year.

I arrived in Johannesburg in the early afternoon and who was there to meet me but my friend, Machona Monyamane, the pulpit minister of the Seeiso Street church in Atteridgeville, just west of Pretoria. Machona showed me some of the city and then took me to a mall where we took some refreshment, then later dropped me at the home of one of the widows of the church. That evening several of the brothers came by and we had a nice visit over a delicious meal. I heard from these brothers what an impact the Pepperdine Bible lectures had made on the outlook and ministry of both Tebogo and Machona. It was obvious they had a much bigger agenda for the trip to the U. S. last year than just presenting a class at the Pepperdine lectures. They went to every class they could, networked with as many people as they could and attended the all the evening events they could. Machona told me that he even interviewed the shuttle bus drivers as they drove him up the Malibu hills. The result was that they claimed there time at Pepperdine gave them a global view of the church. They said their Bible study, their preaching, their approach to evangelism and their view of the church as a whole had been all impacted by their experience that week in May. They were excited about the possibility of working with Missions Resource Network to build partnerships that could improve and expand their mission outreach. I went to bed that evening excited by what the next few days might bring.

Machona picked me up early and we drove back to the airport to pick up Phil Jackson, MRN's facilitator for European church planting, who was coming in to work with me in a short introductory workshop on disciple making. Phil had never been to Africa and I had lived here most of my life. What Phil experienced that week was not your typical African experience. We found that this church had a membership of 700 plus and 50+ year history. It was a church that had a significant influence in the area and had planted several other congregations. They were involved in international missions in Asia and Africa, making numerous short-term mission trips to various locations every year. For it's size, this in itself went way beyond anything that I knew of in any congregation in Africa or the world for that matter.

The Saturday morning of our visit coincided with a monthly prayer breakfast when the leaders of area congregations came together for fellowship and prayer. The breakfast this month was hosted by Seeiso Street where 40-50 people met. Tebogo Ramatsui, the missions minister of the church and grandson of the man who planted the church in 1958, took about 30 minutes to share some of the ministries and missions the church was involved in and some of their vision and plans for local and foreign missions.

Our main goal in meeting with this church on this trip was not so much to impart something to them; we hoped the time would come for that. Rather it was to get to know them, learn from them and begin building a relationship with them that we hoped would blossom into investment in the kingdom of God in Africa. And learn we did. We met the leaders of several sister congregations, were taken to a cultural park to learn about the various indigenous cultures of South Africa. We were even treated to an international football (soccer) match between Eygpt and South Africa, which South Africa won 1-0 for the first time ever against Egypt. Phil and I were hosted in the country home of a gracious couple, Kenny and Jemina Mookeng and their family. Their little detached guesthouse with two bedrooms was a great fit for us. Then on Sunday evening, our last night there, the Mookengs hosted a farewell dinner for Phil and me, inviting many of the leaders and their wives to be with us. It was such a sweet experience.

Privately, Phil and I were blown away by our time with the Seeiso Street church. Phil was already begging to come back with me in the future. Frankly, in all my years in Africa, I had never been hosted like this before. But it was the passion and the vision that seeped out all over us at this church that impacted us the most. It was, in our MRN parlance of the day, a ready-made, God-prepared Global Launch Site for missions in Africa and globally. I couldn't wait until I could return and bring Nancy with me. Little did I know how and when that would happen ...