Botswana will celebrate 50 years of independence this year. It was at midnight on September 30, 1966, that the Union Jack of Great Britain was lowered for the last time and the blue, black, and white flag of the Republic of Botswana was hoisted for the first time. It was reported that the new flag was slow to unfurl, but a timely gust of wind assisted, and an independent nation was born. The national anthem was sung with joy: “Fatshe jeno la rona, Ke mpho ya Modimo …” – “Blessed be this noble land, Gift to us from God’s strong hand … .”
Yes, God has been good to Botswana. Soon after independence, the quiet colonial backwater formerly known as Bechuanaland, became an economic leader in Africa when rich deposits of diamonds were discovered. The resulting boost in export revenue drove the rapid, country-wide development. Major challenges remain, however, and at present we are facing a severe drought. We are all acutely aware of how fragile a desert country is when there is not enough water.
Perhaps even more important than the relative wealth of the country is the peace and stability we have enjoyed for many years, even though we are at the center of a sometimes-troubled region. These favorable conditions, flowing from wise and responsible governance, translated into a wonderful degree of freedom for gospel work throughout the land. Surely this is the greatest blessing of all, and we are most thankful that Botswana has been graced with a long and rich Christian heritage. Men such as Robert Moffat (1795-1883) and David Livingstone (1813-1873) left an enduring mark upon the land. Assembly work has been carried on since 1969 and we praise the Lord for all that He has done in blessing the labors of His servants and establishing a testimony for His glory. The following lines focus on the present situation in Botswana.
In the six assemblies there are many men and women who have wonderful stories to tell of God’s saving grace. We never tire of hearing of another soul trusting the Lord. The life-giving message of the gospel is sounded regularly in each place. In Gaborone we have four weekly gospel meetings, including an open-air meeting each Thursday. We normally take along a few benches and local people, both adults and children, are often willing to join us and listen right through. Special efforts are conducted at various times, but in general, it is not easy these days to interest adults to come and hear. A lot of hard work is involved in maintaining personal contacts with individuals and transporting people to and from the meetings.
There is no such problem with the children’s work. They come by the hundreds, and if you are feeling a little down, you are revived as soon as you arrive in a village and see the little ones jumping up and down in anticipation and calling out a welcome to you. They have been patiently waiting in the shade of a large tree long before you arrive. They sit up, sing up, listen up, and learn their memory verses well. They are happy with a small sweet as a reward each week, and at the end of the year they are delighted to receive a special prize. God has saved many of them, and they are now in assembly fellowship, married, and with children of their own.
A particular encouragement and an answer to prayer has been the initiative of some young brethren to reach out themselves with the gospel. For the third year in a row, young believers have visited the village of Shoshong for open-air meetings and tract distribution. Those of us who are older are glad to support them in any way we can. Some single sisters living in isolated places have also been faithful in gathering groups of local children around them and having a weekly Sunday school class. God has blessed this exercise too.
Regular and systematic Bible teaching is vital for the spiritual health of individual believers and the assembly as a whole. With the passage of time, we now have able shepherds and teachers who care for the flock and bring to us profitable and challenging instruction from the Scriptures. We are grateful for those from overseas who have made good books in English available to us to pass on to the believers. To build up those who are more at home reading Setswana, we keep busy sourcing and translating helpful material for their benefit. Annual conferences give us all an opportunity to renew fellowship with one another and to hear God’s voice through the ministry of the Word. We have also enjoyed having visiting speakers from outside the country to help us.
It will be no surprise that at times there have been disappointments and discouragements, sorrows and tears. The enemy of souls never misses a chance to seek to disturb God’s people and divide His work.
We are surrounded by many false cults propagating their doctrines. Materialism is tightening its grip on the hearts and minds of many; believers are not immune from these influences, or from the inroads of worldliness. Those who are fortunate enough to have employment are finding that they are under increasing pressure to give more time and effort to their employers. At short notice they can also be transferred in government service to areas far from assembly fellowship. Inevitably, assembly attendance and participation suffers as a result. These are just a few of the problems that we face. There are many others, but the Lord never promised that serving Him would be easy anywhere, at any time. What He did promise was that He would be with us always!
Something you can do
Please continue to pray for Botswana and the six assemblies. Remember Jim and Irene Legge in Serowe where they have faithfully labored for many years. An extensive correspondence and literature work continues to bear fruit. Remember Colin and Christine Raggett in Palapye and the many opportunities in the schools. Francistown, our second major city, has an active assembly where John and Onty Bandy have been serving the Lord for a number of years. Do not forget the two smaller assemblies in Selebi-Phikwe and Maun, where there are no longer overseas missionary brethren. Instead, several younger men seek to maintain the testimonies in each of these places. Dan Nguluka (Zambia) lives and works in Maun and assists the assembly there. Finally, you might remember us in Gaborone where Hazel and I, together with our friend and colleague, Joy Griffiths, engage in a large Sunday school work in 13 different locations in and around the capital city. I keep on my study desk a framed Scripture text, my first Sunday school prize dating from November, 1957. It bears these words: “Pray without ceasing.”