F3. THE PHILIPPOLIS MINISTRY ADDED
FLOODS OF WATER AND OF BLESSING
The year 2013 started in rather a shocking way in Mozambique as a flood swept over portions of the Gaza province. Heavy rains had been falling in South Africa, building up masses of water in the Limpopo River that caused it to overflow its banks and sweep away everything in its path. At some places it overflowed some kilometres into the adjoining lowlands. It was estimated that 130 000 people were displaced and some 30 to 40 died. Human bodies as well as animal carcasses were seen drifting down the river. The flood hit Chokwe, a major town where we bought our supplies, on 23 January. Hundreds of people were caught unawares. Some managed to flee to higher ground but hundreds were trapped and climbed onto the roofs of buildings where they remained for some days before being rescued. Our bank was also flooded and for many months afterwards we had to travel more than 100 kilometres to draw money.
Our headquarters suffered no damage because we had built it on higher ground but some of our co-workers lost most of their possessions, fortunately escaping with their lives. We immediately set about sending supplies to our people although it was very difficult to reach them due to the roads being washed away.
The Word states that to them that love God, all things work together for good (Rom 8:28). It seems that this text has a wider application, for in the wake of the flood that wrought havoc, especially in the Gaza province, we experienced a flood of mostly unconverted people enrolling as students in our discipleship classes as the following statistics indicate:
|Number of students
|January – 552
|March – 679
|Number of classes
|Number of part-time teachers
Some people blame God for what they suffer, but others see his goodness for keeping His hand over them during catastrophes and seek to know Him more intimately afterwards. During such times they realise that man’s life is like the steam escaping from a kettle, that exists but for a moment and then disappears.
We were so grateful to be right amongst the Mozambican people and that our co-workers that had also lost much of their property, could not only identify with their plight, but also impart hope, teaching them about Him that came down from heaven to suffer for us so that our suffering will end here on earth and not be carried over into the world that is to come.
Regarding the number of students: I remember that some 7 years before, when this work began, we were ministering to 3 students. The Lord multiplied them like the loaves and fishes so that they now totalled 679.
The bigger the work grew, the smaller we felt. We saw it as the Father glorifying his Son and the Son glorifying the Father and the Spirit glorifying both Father and Son and we as workers were each just playing a minor role in this expanding picture of His grace towards us, an undeserving humanity. There were moments when we felt as if we were standing some distance away on a hillock, watching a work being done by someone else, a work which we were not really part of. I felt like saying: “Lord I wish you would come down and be with me that I may humbly ask You: ‘What are You doing down there; What are your plans for the future; Where are You heading’?”
One would end up by just praising His Name, adoring Him, relishing His presence and then get down there and play one’s little role and pray that He may empower one to continue for another few years.
Numbers are thrilling, but individuals are fascinating. One must never forget that God does not just look at the number of people, but looks right into the multitudes and there His eyes of love see real people with real longings, grievances and fears, facing real challenges and His heart is moved for them: the Marys, Johns and Peters and He sends forth his Spirit to minister to each one individually according to their needs. I can never read the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4) but sense that awesome love of Christ that searches out the ones written off by society, gently bringing them into the fold.
This was also the situation at Philippolis. The number of students that attended was still very low, but during two successive Sundays in April, we saw a movement of God’s Spirit in the Poding tse Rolo class. On both occasions there were a number of people whose hearts were touched by God’s Spirit and they expressed their desire to accept the Lord as their Saviour, the Coverer of their spiritual nakedness. How warmly the heart of the minister of the Word glows when he sees tears welling up in the eyes of those that have just prayed the sinner’s prayer to obtain forgiveness and to be born into the Father’s family. Incidents like these motivate one to pray till late at night and go on and on and thirst for more and more of God’s grace and anointing. That is why I say: numbers are interesting, but individuals set your heart aglow, fuel your spirit.
In Mozambique, some 200 km to the east of our Chinhacanine headquarters, is the strategically situated, sizeable town of Ndindiza, nicely laid out by the Government in its endeavour to develop the interior regions of Mozambique. There are quite a number of official offices, even guest houses, etc., and the town has the potential to develop into a major settlement.
We targeted it as a discipleship district centre, built a house there during the latter half of 2012, appointed Andrea and Emilia as District Superintendent couple and settled them there by the end of October, having some doubt as to whether they would cope, being quite young and fresh from training. They surprised us by gathering 22 prospective students and opening their first class on 23 November. Then came the December holidays when the Mission closed down for 4 weeks and thereafter, as from 23 January, all activities at Ndindiza were disrupted by the flood. As a matter of fact, Andre and Emelia were separated from each other for about three weeks, since he was at Chin when the rains came and swamped the roads so that he could not return home.
We were now, some five months later, pleasantly surprised to receive the following report from him: “The work is growing and progressing nicely at Dindiza, and now I have started another class of Government workers who are occupied during the course of the week. I teach them on Saturdays. I had a class of 22 students and now I have another class of 12 students.”
We are also amazed at the growth in the number of classes in three of our older districts, as the following statistics show:
No of classes
Number of students
Chinhacanine (Where our head office is)
Manjangue (West of Chin)
Mabalane ( North of Chin on the way to Zimbabwe)
In between the work of keeping both Missions going, we were trying to keep our bodies in shape. Martie was still “walking for life” just about every morning soon after daybreak, except on Sundays. She was doing some 5km, at top speed. I would not even consider joining her, for I would have disgraced myself, jogging along in full view of our small-town, window-peeping community. She recently participated in a fun walk and gave a good account of herself. (Thank you Lord for an up and about wife that keeps me on my toes.)
As for me, I got myself a “brand new” used cycle, a beautiful Merida Road Racer 901, pearly white, spotless with a white helmet to go with it and made up my mind to do the Cape Argus Cycle Race in March of the following year. I had completed that 108km race at the age of 53 in 3:45, but that had been 20 years earlier, so this was going to be quite a challenge.
During May we were delighted to receive scores of testimonies from Mozambique of students who had completed their courses, of which I quote a few. They not only testified to having accepted Jesus as Saviour but also of the change this had brought about in their lives. Truly the new birth is the point of departure for cultivating a brand new character:
Lucrencia: “I used to expose and advertise the failures, sins, and the evils of other people, including my husband, but now I am totally different and a new creature. The Rivoni Ministry course rescued my life the day that I learned of how God covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve, and that lecture touched the practical part of my life.”
Albertina: “I hated and disliked almost everybody, including myself and I hardly ever smiled. Everybody was my enemy and I barely had a friend, but my life turned around the day I learned of how everybody, including myself, was made and created in the likeness and in the image of God.”
Simon: “I stole my class mate’s books, pens, food and money, but my turning point came when I learned about the consequences that followed after Jacob robbed his brother of his blessings.”
Nomsa: “I was always worrying and fearing before, but now I am at peace since the day I learned about God’s unlimited provisions even in the wilderness.”
Nilda: “I believed in evolution before, but now I am so blessed by the Rivoni course. It enabled me to discover the truth about human origin and creation.”
Sandra: “I am growing in understanding and blessed day by day as a result of the Rivoni course, especially the symbolic things from the OT which point to truths in the NT.”
Den: “I used to be a “Christian” drunkard, but things turned around the day I learned about what happened to Noah as a result of drinking wine.”
By August, though the general spiritual drought at Philippolis still held the people in its grip, we were delighted that the class we had started some two years before, was still doing very well and that we were even seeing new faces attending our Thursday evening meetings. Praise was exuberant with Martie leading with her guitar and one of the students, Elsie beating and shaking the tambourine. It blessed our hearts to see the new attendees also being gripped by the teaching. Man needs heavenly manna and spiritual waters for his soul.
Elsie and one of the new students were going out on house visitation every Wednesday and she was also raising a small choir in Poding tse Rolo where she and Meintjies, her husband, have their home.
Together they had also begun to reach out to two nearby farms on Sunday afternoons, to share the lessons they had been taught in our classes. To one of these farms they had been invited by a couple that had found the Lord during one of our classes earlier that year. When we visited one of their meetings a couple of weeks later, we were so delighted to see with what enthusiasm all those farm workers were worshipping the Lord and even participating in other kinds of ministry such as giving testimony of what God had done for them. Others would open the Word, read a verse and explain what God had told them through that Scripture portion.
In those days of turbulence in our country, with thousands of people striking and burning tyres on the roads and daily reports of corruption and maladministration of funds by Government officials, it was so good to see the other side of the coin; to see what God was doing, to see that He was building His Kingdom. What a pity that the television crews would not sometimes also film these uplifting events.
A major part of my work still consisted of writing study guides for our local and Mozambican students. This consumed much of my time. It is something that you cannot just sit down and do, like peeling a dish of potatoes. You cannot just start typing. You really need to dig into the Word of God like a prospector searching for gold. You need to do research, reading as many commentaries as are available and most of all listen to the Spirit of God. The end product must have both depth in teaching and simplicity in explaining the truths in order that even those that have very little education, may benefit by it. During the previous months I had written study guides on 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians. I also wrote notes on the first three chapters of the book of Revelation.
In Mozambique, by the middle of the year, 98 students were awarded their certificates, many of them being male (especially) pastors. This was exceptional, for in most areas men made up a minority of the population because so many had died in the cival war and some had left to take up employment in South Africa.
Of the 23 students at a village called Muzunguya that had passed their exams, 65% (15) were illiterate, which means that the lessons had to be repeated to them over and over to enable them to remember the material. Oral exams then had to be taken, that is, every student had to be examined individually. Much effort is required to “make disciples” out there in the rural areas.
Pastor Lazaro Uthui, one of that group of students, testified: “Since I became a student of Rivoni Mission, the work of pastoring became easy and is no longer a burden to me.” His reason for saying this, was that he was now able to answer the questions asked by his flock and had ample spiritual food, derived from the lectures, with which to feed them on Sundays.
In Mozambique, during 2013 our student numbers reached an all time high of 724.
At Philippolis, towards the end of 2013, we decided to turn our sitting room (lounge) into a Praise and Worship room and equipped it with an audio mixer, high quality loudspeaker (donated by an audio shop in Bloemfontein) and a video projector to project songs and videos onto the wall. (These items we had brought over from Mozambique when we relocated to Philippolis.) (What a wonderful wife the Lord gave me, a true Gospel partner that was willing to open up her home for the making of disciples for His glorious Kingdom that is shortly to be revealed to us in all its splendour).
You may be asking whether I did justice to that beautiful cycle I had bought on the 6th of March. Indeed I did. I took part in the Bloemfontein OFM Classic cycle race over 106km and completed it in just under 4 hours; an average of approximately 26.6km per hour. With this I was well pleased. The Lord, the Lord, He just manipulated all the elements to favour me for there was hardly any wind – and that in the Free State! Martie assisted me so much and in so many ways: preparing pastas two days in advance, holding the cycle for me when needed, waiting in the car while I was on the road! Bless the Lord oh my soul! The successful completion of this race also counted in my favour for the Cape Argus cycle race in March the following year, affording me a more favourable starting position.
Martie and I had also been having very special times with the Lord just about every morning from 7.45 to 8.30 during the latter part of the year. Though we were also praying for the work, our children and other relatives, etc., we were, first of all, concentrating on praising and worshipping Him. His presence during these times was sometimes awesome and one felt like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, not wanting to leave His special presence and getting back to one’s daily routine.
At the end of November Francois and a number of other Mission friends attended our Mozambique team’s year-end function at Chinhacanine on which he reported as follows:
“When planning the trip, rumours of war in Mozambique picked up and reports were received of attacks in the northern part of the country, but after seeking God’s guidance in prayer, we left Pretoria on Thursday, 28 November around 05:30 am and travelled through to Mozambique without any incidents. Our group consisted of Wimpie Vorster, his wife Marelize and their four children in their Renault Megan Scenic. With me in the Toyota Hilux D/C was Bruce Hay and Gideon Kriel. The last part of the tarred road had sufficient potholes in which to plant a field of maize. From there, Baloi led us over a very wet dirt road with many deviations. We got to Chinhacanine by 10:00 that evening and were grateful to be accommodated in Baloi’s two roomed flat.
We were up by 05:30 for the main meeting was scheduled for 09:00 am. Some 60 to 80 local pastors, network leaders, community leaders, government officials as well as many friends and relatives of the ‘graduates’ attended the ceremony. The spirit was fantastic as the students came walking in, singing ‘Glory to God’, all dressed up smartly, the women in white blouses and black skirts and the men in white shirts and black trousers, all students wearing a red sash across the front. The colour of their apparel was symbolizing Christ’s red Blood washing away the black sin, leaving them white as snow. It was all very grand and beautiful. This was such a special event to those people that live a simple life, yet in their heart of hearts have a desire for the greatest of all, which is Him, the Creator of the Universe.
After the graduation, there was a special meal, deliciously prepared as only these people can do in the simplest of ways. All the attendees fellowshipped together, enjoying one another’s company, then, one by one, the guests and visitors departed and only the staff remained to clean up and pack away the utensils.
Just after 14:00 all 8 superintendents gathered and Bruce taught them the essence of farming God’s way. This is a well developed economical way of tilling the soil and covering it with available material to preserve the moisture. (It was a useful practical lecture for we are intending to assist our leaders to gradually begin to provide in their own needs.)”
One of the other Mission friends, Wimpie Vorster commented as follows:
“It was remarkable how quickly we came to love these people. We sensed the attitude of their hearts. The Holy Spirit was present in the meetings, even the demons fled. We had a life-changing lesson in really praising God in total surrender as a group. We saw sound training, effective systems, practical material provision, and wise long-term planning. What has been instilled into these leaders is yielding great and good fruit. We got excited about their unity as a team. The Word is effectively transmitted from one disciple to the next. For our children this was a first experience outside the borders of our country and good cross-cultural exposure. They spontaneously joined in to play with the local children. It was a very positive experience for our whole family and an introduction to a life and calling of which we are dreaming.
At Philippolis we planned our closing meeting to be just a Christian love meal but the Spirit of the Lord had more in mind. On sitting down after we had worshipped, one of the ladies spontaneously began to testify to the blessing the classes had been to her during the past year.
The situation at Philippolis is that church members receive very little spiritual nourishment in the churches they belong to, either because there is no real flow of the Holy Spirit or because they do not have full-time local pastors, so they have to nourish themselves when gathering on Sundays.
We were astounded to discover that for many of them, our ministry had become the pipeline through which the Lord was feeding and building them. In a nutshell: they had become ‘addicted’ to the discipleship classes. Just about everyone testified and they all basically said this same thing.
A young woman originally from Bloemfontein, said she had been hungering after God but did not seem to be able to break through to the Lord while attending a strongly Evangelical denomination there, but in our classes she could ask all the questions that had troubled her and that was how one night she got to understand the Gospel, accepted the Lord Jesus and now knew for certain that she had been born again by His Spirit.
We were also delighted by the testimonies of two teenagers telling of the challenges they were facing at school and in their homes and how they were overcoming these because of the knowledge they were gaining by attending the classes.
That closing night, the Lord opened up the curtain for Martie and me to glimpse just a little of what was happening in the spiritual realm and what a lovely surprise it was!
PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!
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