Assembly Work in the Murchison Area
The work is in two aspects: there are six Zulu-speaking assemblies and one assembly using English. Many of the Zulu people, of course, understand and use English, which means that there is good fellowship between these two groups.
Prior to the first democratic elections in 1994, there was a great level of violence in this area due to the two main factions seeking to intimidate each other. A large number of men moved away to safer areas and the assemblies suffered as a result. Since 1994, things have settled down in the area, but, sadly, most who moved away did not return; numerically the assemblies have suffered.
One of the problems associated with this work is that, according to Zulu custom, “religion” is the domain of the ladies; the result is that there is a great preponderance of women in the assemblies and few men to give leadership. This means that there is a dearth of overseers in the assemblies, with all that results from that.
Charismatic teaching has also found its way into some of the assemblies. One assembly in particular was split because of this teaching. There is currently an effort to build up this assembly again and aggressive evangelism is taking place in the homes around. Some have professed faith in Christ and the assembly is starting to move ahead but most, if not all, of those who have trusted the Lord are women. In addition to this, the Muslims have built a mosque near the gospel hall and are actively “buying” the local people by offering to pay for the education of the children.
A quarterly conference rotates among the assemblies. This brings together the believers from the different areas and gives a good opportunity for consecutive teaching of the Scriptures. In addition to this, each year leading brethren from the various assemblies in the locality, as well as areas farther away, come together for five days of intensive Bible teaching. There is opportunity for them to bring their problems and questions that can be addressed from the Scriptures. This forum has proved to be most useful in terms of strengthening their grasp of New Testament church principles.
The Zulu brethren and sisters have the opportunity to take the gospel to the patients in the hospital at Murchison. They hold a gospel meeting each morning in one of the TB wards, visit the patients individually in the various wards, read the Word of God to them, and leave tracts with those who show an interest. This has been a fruitful field of labor over the years.
It has been possible to send Zulu Bible correspondence courses into some prisons. Currently, these courses go into more than 40 prisons around the country and around 4,000 men and women study the Scriptures in this way. We are sure that some of them have been soundly saved, going by what they write in their letters, but we do not “count heads” – a futile exercise. One man recently said, “It is a great thing that the Lord has done for me this year.”
The English-language assembly is very isolated. The nearest English assembly to the north of us is over 90 miles away, while to the south the nearest is 500 miles away. There are about 60 in fellowship, comprising whites, Africans, Indians, and Coloreds – a good mix, all working together in harmony.
The weekly gospel meetings are well attended, the hall being full most Lord’s days, and a number of unsaved people at each meeting. The Sunday School had around 140 children attending (the assembly provides a bus to transport them to and from the hall) but more recently the numbers have started to decline somewhat. An average of around 30 attend the Bible class, for which I am responsible.
For the past 12 years or so, it has been possible to go into the classrooms of one High School in the town of Port Shepstone to teach the Word of God to the approximately 1,300 pupils. This work has been blessed of the Lord in the salvation of a number of these young people, and even one teacher has trusted the Lord as a result of what she heard in the classroom. I usually teach Grade 11 classes, ages 16-17, and every year in class I have Hindus, sometimes Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists, and this past year I even had some Jehovah’s Witnesses, an unusual occurrence as they are strictly instructed not to attend these classes.
As many people are very religious here in South Africa, it is difficult to get them to attend gospel meetings. They have their “own church.” On the other hand, they will readily attend a Bible study in a home. Thus, we are able to bring the gospel to them in the homes—rather like the cottage meetings of a bygone era.
Twice a month we have the great privilege of preaching the gospel to a group of people who live in a complex for the elderly. Over the years we have seen a number of these women in advanced years coming to faith in Christ. The assembly has benefited by the work among the elderly. One lady trusted the Lord while in her 80s and was subsequently baptized and brought into assembly fellowship. She has since gone to be with the Lord. Another elderly lady started to attend the gospel meeting at the assembly. After one meeting, on the way out she said to me, with eyes swimming with tears, “I have learned something today! I’ve learned that I’m lost!” Some days later, while reading over some verses of Scripture that we gave her, she trusted the Lord. She, too, was subsequently baptized and is still in assembly fellowship.
During the past year the Lord has graciously seen fit to bless us in seeing a number of young people profess faith in the Lord Jesus. Their lives seem to display signs of reality. We rejoice in this, but we long to see more truly repenting of their sin and trusting the Savior.
Please pray for these various aspects of the work. Satan is very busy. Materialism is a huge problem in every section of the community here in South Africa. Many are being led astray with the so-called “prosperity gospel,” which is not the gospel at all. But opportunities abound, and many are anxious to hear the truth of the Word of God. Pray that the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in every aspect of this work.