My wife Christine and I were in assembly fellowship in Manchester, England, when the Lord first began to exercise our hearts regarding full-time service, and in particular missionary work. Over a period of years the Lord dealt with us and when we finally surrendered ourselves to Him for service wherever He directed, He then led us to Botswana.
Botswana is a landlocked country in the center of Southern Africa. Politically, it is a stable country with a healthy economy. Assembly work commenced over 30 years ago in Serowe, which is the main center of the Bamangwato tribe amongst whom we work. Palapye, where we now live and work, is a large village (population 30,000) situated north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Palapye is of strategic importance as a government program of expansion has been ongoing now for some years. There are plans for the village to double in size and it is fast becoming a town, with such modern facilities as streetlights and quite a few tarred roads!
We started to reach out with the gospel in Palapye in 1997 with childrens meetings in 2 different locations. The interest among the children was encouraging, but we were very conscious that they knew nothing about the gospel, having been brought up under witchcraft and traditional beliefs. In 1997 we also had our first cottage meeting in the home of one of our elders from the Serowe assembly, who, together with his wife, both live and work in Palapye.
We have had cottage meetings in numerous locations in Serowe over the years and we therefore had a great desire to do the same in different parts of Palapye. In the goodness of the Lord, we have been able to have such meetings in 4 different locations so far. The Lord has been working in the lives of those who have heard the gospel in this way and it is marvelous in our eyes.
We commenced a weekly bookstall in the main shopping area in Palapye in 1997 and this proved to be a good source of contacts. We have been able to distribute hundreds of gospel leaflets and an encouraging number of Setswana (and English) Bibles have been bought by local people together with large quantities of good gospel literature and sound assembly teaching. Redevelopment of the shopping area meant that we were not able to continue the bookstall in that location but we hope to recommence shortly.
Work in the Schools
The work in the Palapye Schools began as a result of a conversation that our daughter Beth had with a mother one Saturday morning at the bookstall. Beth was inviting this womans children to the childrens meetings; this led to an opening in one of the Primary Schools where we were welcomed with open arms. We approached the Regional Education Officer to get permission for the teaching of the Word of God in all the state Primary Schools and this was granted. We now have the privilege of teaching the top 4 years of children in these 8 schools every week and it really was a tremendous breakthrough in the work of the Lord.
Fellowship in the Gospel
We have really appreciated the fellowship of the saints in Serowe in this pioneer work in Palapye. In the early days of the work, the believers helped in the weekly bookstall, the childrens meetings, and the weekly cottage meetings. When we eventually commenced a Sunday School, young men from the Serowe Assembly committed themselves to helping us.
We began negotiating over a period of months for 2 adjoining sites which had several properties on them. Eventually, after patient but persistent pursuit, the sites were secured and, in the goodness of the Lord, we were able to buy all the buildings, one of which was renovated to become the Gospel Hall. There were additional buildings, two of which we made into a house suitable for ourselves. Within a week of moving into the buildings we had our 1st gospel meeting and were encouraged to see a number of local people attending. We had commenced our 1st Sunday School under the tree on the Gospel Hall plot and a handful of children gathered. The buildings had been badly vandalized and dilapidated; so many months of renovation work began. But the Lord, in His faithfulness, provided.
As numbers grew, so did the need for increased accommodation. Planning permission was obtained, and the existing building was extended to provide toilets, a new meeting room, and an additional classroom. This phase of the building work is still ongoing but the new meeting room is now in use and is proving to be a tremendous blessing. Hundreds of children now attend Sunday School, many of them regularly; year by year the numbers are increasing. The Bible class every Sunday afternoon is attended by Secondary School students.
Secondary School Morning Assemblies
For the past few years we have had the privilege of preaching the gospel in the school assemblies just before 7am, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, reaching about 2000 students each week, virtually all of whom we have actually taught in the Primary Schools in previous years. Please pray for the school teachers who also stand and listen as the gospel is preached in these school assemblies.
Villages Around Palapye
The Lord opened a door for us to take the gospel to other villages within striking distance of Palapye. Four village schools are visited on a monthly basis and we are able to teach the Word of God to the top 4 years of children once again.
As a result of the sowing of the Seed, God has blessed His Word and some have been saved. Please pray for their spiritual preservation. We meet together each Wednesday evening for Bible Study and seek to help them grow in the things of God.
Christine has home-schooled our 3 children since being in Botswana. This meant that Andrew, Beth, and Philip became part of the work and fully involved in our service for the Lord. Andrew and Beth are now in England at University and they have been greatly helped of the Lord. Philip hopes to go to UK for university studies next year, God willing.