“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah 52:7
Vuyo sounded excited on the phone. “We’ve been given a building to start a church,” he said.
I was my usual skeptical self. This comes from years of seeing how mission organizations and missionaries in Africa have been manipulated, mislead, lied to, ripped-off and held hostage until they sign the mission buildings over to the locals.
The telephone conversation with Vuyo continued as he shared the location: Gugulethu. Gugulethu? To western ears, the word is merely an indecipherable tongue-twister. But to Africans, it’s code for “gangster land.” Translation: “It isn’t really your building, so how do you protect yourself—and not just your physical self, but also your financial self? What happens if you invest in repairs and then the owner suddenly wants you out? Who are you accountable to? Who do you expect to join the church? How can you meet in a dilapidated old building with broken windows, no electricity, toilets or water? Are you nuts?!”
My reactions may sound a bit rash, but in African missions, we quickly learn the difference between faith and idealism. Faith is God-given and God-nurtured. Idealism is often man-derived and ripe for exploitation. So, we rely on the Holy Spirit for discernment.
Vuyo was a gangster and partner in crime with Gcinikhaya Makoma, whom I shot when he made up part of the attackers at the St James church massacre in 1993.
Vuyo ended up in prison after a foiled cash-in-transit heist. After five years of awaiting trial for numerous crimes, including robbery, theft and breaking and entering a domicile, he escaped and became a wanted fugitive.
When he was found, all the other charges against him were withdrawn. He was convicted of escaping from prison and sentenced to five years.
During his incarceration Vuyo came to faith in Jesus Christ and as they say, “The rest is history!”
In prison he met Steve, a notorious gang leader. We’ll hear about Steve’s turning to Christ soon, on our missionaryinafrica’s podcast.
Our Stone Hill ministry has been the fortunate beneficiary of Vuyo and Steve’s ministry with each of them speaking at our camps and preaching at Sunday evening services. We’ve seen their practical love for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and their fellow man. Their dedication to God’s Word and concern for the lost are amazing.
How could I not help with supporting a church plant in gangster land? Where else is a ministry to Christ more needed? And who else can even relate to these local street thugs, let alone minister to them?
Vuyo and Steve immediately got to work. First, the cleaning of the hall began. Sixty chairs were purchased for parishioners. The broken and non-existent hand basins and toilets were replaced. Running water was connected. A new stage, built. The broken doors and windows, replaced. All this over the past month.
The first service
When the first Gospel service took place, not everything was in order. But then, the Gospel of the Kingdom must go forth.
Ten people put their faith in Jesus Christ at the first service. Now, a month later, those 60 chairs are already too few!
No time is wasted in discipling the new converts. Meetings take place every evening and new converts are added daily. These are trained to tell others about their newfound faith and then report back, with the reactions and questions they receive incorporated into presentations to reach and teach new believers.
One day at the ministry, a demon-possessed woman, carrying a small child, was delivered from her tormentors; she turned in faith to Jesus Christ. The young child was also prayed over.
Later she testified to how peacefully her and her child now sleep at night; no more medicine from the witchdoctor and no more child screaming through the night.
Vuyo and Steve dream of running camps for their newly converted youth. This setting can provide them a respite from the exhausting distractions associated with normal living in a devastated community, such as gangsterism, drugs and illicit sex.
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
Charl van Wyk