CHRIST – The Only Answer
Joy in God’s Work
The blessing which has been seen in Botswana faces many challenges.
The greatest joy we have known in Botswana is to see lives changed eternally by the power of God. Through the preaching of the gospel, God has blessed in salvation, and through the teaching of His Word, the new believers have grown in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
In the assembly here in Gaborone, many of the believers demonstrate a growing devotion to the Lord, a hunger for the Word, a loyalty to the assembly, a care for the saints, and a burden for the lost. When we see the love and character of Christ expressed in these ways, our hearts are warmed.
It is a great privilege to help set the tone and direction of a new and developing work, but the progress and preservation of the work so far is due to God’s grace alone. We know the enemy is busy: there are dangers without and, at times, troubles within. There have been disappointments as well as encouragements. Nevertheless, it remains our responsibility to lay a good foundation of sound teaching and practice, and to lean hard upon God.
Pioneering in the gospel with a view to the establishment of a new assembly has, in our experience, taken many years. In particular, the development of gift and an exercise to shepherd the flock is a lengthy process and, at times, an erratic one particularly when, as in Botswana, people are frequently transferred away to remote areas in their employment.
At present, there are five assemblies in Botswana. In Serowe, Jim and Irene Legge engage in printing work and provide us all with a ready supply of suitable literature. Cohn and Christine Raggett have recently moved to Palapye where Cohn has opportunities to teach in the schools. They continue to meet with the believers in Serowe on Lord’s Day. Francis-town has an established assembly where John and Onty Bandy have begun to serve the Lord. One interesting feature of the assembly is their Sunday School work amongst the deaf. In Selebi-Phikwe, John and Margaret Rutter spend time in door-to-door visitation and John values opportunities to preach in the local prison. In Maun, Sid and Karen Halsband have been encouraged to see a number saved. Sid has set up a brick-making project to give prisoners initial employment following their release.
We have labored in Gaborone since 1984 and our colleague, Joy Griffiths, has been with us since 1990. The assembly has grown and now there are over 60 in fellowship. There are about a dozen university students in the assembly and some have come from other places. Also, we are glad to have a number of godly brethren who have shepherd hearts.
I retired from active medical practice two years ago after recovering from a minor stroke. Since then I have been seeking to devote my time and energy to gospel work. This year we have had efforts in Mochudi village, in Jwaneng, and in the past month we have had a week of cottage meetings in our own home and then also a week in Joy’s home. On each occasion I have shared the preaching with a local brother. Recently, a woman was saved who had attended nightly meetings.
Hazel still helps with domiciliary midwifery in the city. Every day of the week the sisters are engaged in work amongst the children, often meeting in gardens or under trees. Hazel and Joy work hard to encourage others to share in this work as well as visiting in homes, schools and hospitals.
We make extensive use of tracts and other good literature in the language of the people. Recently, a Setswana Bible Dictionary has been printed. We trust that this will help those who cannot make use of English materials as they study the Scriptures.
We have just begun building a new hall in Gaborone West. We first applied for a plot nine years ago and the progress seemed painfully slow but the Lord’s timing is always perfect. God willing, we intend to use the new hall to continue the gospel work in that expanding area of the city.
Sorrow in Satan’s work
I have been asked to mention the AIDS epidemic and how it affects the work of God here. The sad reality is that AIDS is ravaging our country and carrying away many to an early grave. The most recent statistics are alarming: they reveal a rapidly increasing incidence of infection and a declining life expectancy. The government is deeply concerned by this drain on the country’s most precious resource – its young men and women — but patterns of human behavior are not so easily changed.
We have grown accustomed to seeing long queues of relatives arriving at graveyards every weekend and several funeral services being conducted at the same time, side by side. Believers who are even distantly related to the deceased are under great pressure to attend the preceding week of nightly gatherings in the home and the long funeral service on the Sunday morning. The overall effect of so many funerals can be disruptive to assembly meetings.
My own involvement in voluntary medical work in Botswana began in 1982 when AIDS was only starting to be recognized. In the intervening years the spread of the disease has reached epidemic proportions as the virus has gained a stranglehold on the nation’s health. Public health advances in the fight against TB and other infections have been reversed. Today the majority of patients who present for any reason are HIV positive.
The Bible makes it clear that we reap what we sow and in the area of sexual relationships a free and easy life-style is sinful and can have devastating consequences. These unchanging divine principles should be spelled out clearly but we need to be wise and careful as to when and how we express these truths. Here we have often looked upon a dying infant infected before birth by its mother, or a sick woman infected by an unfaithful husband. Such cases are tragic victims.
Hope in God’s Work
The local chief who was HIV positive sat opposite me in the clinic and confessed, “You Christians are the only ones with the answer.” Indeed we are! We have a message of salvation and hope. We have a Savior who died that we might live abundantly and eternally. He is the only answer to our every need. We should proclaim this truth to all, unreservedly but compassionately. The following are a few of the important lessons we are learning.
1. Importance of children’s work – To be saved young in life means to be delivered from a life of sin. We need to reach out to boys and girls and work hard to see them come to Christ and then work just as hard to see them grow strong in Christ.
2. The teaching of God’s truth – The truth of Scripture concerning a holy walk before the world must be taught plainly to new believers. Our words need to be simple and direct so that we are understood and a godly example must back up what we say.
3. The counseling of young couples – Those preparing for marriage in the Lord need help. In our situation it is wise that both partners are counseled and tested for HIV before marriage. Christian couples who are healthy and employed are often called upon to provide support for sick relatives. This adds pressure to a new marriage.
4. The care of those affected – We have started to see AIDS directly affect assembly life. Some in fellowship are known or are suspected to be infected. They are not to be shunned but supported. Their presence raises difficult issues such as the sharing of the cup at the Lord’s Supper.
5. The sup port of the bereaved – I think of a lovely family of three young girls who have recently lost their father. They continue to attend one of our Sunday Schools but for weeks after the funeral, the youngest girl just sat with her head buried in her hands weeping quietly. We seek to visit and encourage this family.
6. The care of the orphans – Traditionally in Botswana society, orphans are absorbed quickly and readily into the extended family. This has been so for many years, but now the challenge is to care for orphans who have little or no extended family and those orphans who are themselves infected with the virus.
We need much wisdom and we covet your prayers for Botswana.