At the close of their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas returned to their home assembly at Antioch and reported on “all that God had done with them” (Acts 14:27). The church would have been encouraged and challenged to hear of the triumphs of the gospel in distant lands.
In this short review of over 40 years of assembly work in Botswana it would be easy enough to speak of human activity and what missionaries have done, but what has God done? We confess that we are unable to see the whole picture – we must await a coming day when the Lord will reveal all that He accomplished – but perhaps the best we can do now is mention four key areas that are clear evidence of God at work.
He has opened doors
As newlyweds Jim and Irene Legge left Scotland for Portugal and months of language learning in anticipation of going to Angola to serve God there, but the door was closed. They moved on to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and hoped to settle eventually in Malawi but again the door was firmly closed. And then in a wonderful way the Lord opened the door to a new field in the land of Botswana (cf Acts 16:6-9). In 1969 they settled in the village of Serowe where they still labor. All of us who subsequently have come to serve the Lord in Botswana have our own story to tell of how the Lord has called, guided, and opened up the way. When He opens, no man can shut.
The Lord has also opened doors in the cities, towns, and villages of this land for us to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. We are grateful for the liberty we still enjoy in Botswana to preach anywhere and everywhere, to anyone and everyone: in gospel halls or individual homes; under tents or often under trees; in the open air and market places, in schools, colleges and universities; in clinics, hospitals, and prisons. Our children’s work continues to grow and grow. At present in the Gaborone area and in several surrounding villages we have 12 separate classes for boys and girls each week. Recently a new work was begun in the nearby village of Tsolamosese. Many young people who have been saved have influenced their parents to come and hear the gospel but otherwise adults are still hard to reach, especially the men.
He has saved souls
Bountiful sowing has reaped a bountiful harvest but in general we have had to be patient. In Gaborone we waited for almost two years before we saw the first fruit in 1985 when an inmate was saved in the local prison. Since then some years have been very fruitful and many souls have been saved; in other years we have been glad of the ones and the twos. A few weeks ago, following our July conference in Gaborone, a young man of 17 was saved. Like many others he first heard the gospel at Sunday school. His grandmother was saved just before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the Lord took her home, then his mother trusted the Lord; now Pako is rejoicing in sins forgiven.
It is interesting to observe the rapid changes in Botswana even within one generation. We have some dear believers in fellowship who can neither read nor write; they sit beside their own children who now hold Master’s degrees and occupy high positions in government. Both are bound together in the bundle of life and share equally in all of the blessings found in Christ.
He has planted testimonies
There are presently six assemblies in the country: Serowe, Gaborone, Francistown, Selebi-Phikwe, Maun, and Palpaye. The majority of the population lives in the towns and villages surrounding the central Kalahari Desert. One constraining factor in establishing the work in any locality here is the mobility of the population. There is rapid urban drift as young people move from village to town to city in pursuit of higher education. The same applies to those who seek employment. Those fortunate enough to obtain a government post must be prepared for periodic relocations around the country. All of this presents challenges to us as we seek to build up the local testimonies.
Visitors from overseas often speak of the joy of the local believers and their freshness in the things of God. One recent visitor wrote: “I can assure you that I left with my heart filled with joy … it is so good to see believers coming from far to listen to the Word of God.” You too would enjoy the harmonious singing, the infectious smiles of the children, and the warmth of the fellowship. At first you might be a little frustrated by the language barrier, our different sense of time, and the constant dust on your footwear, but the warning still stands: “Africa is like malaria – it gets into your blood!” You will want to return.
He has raised up shepherds
We are thankful to have seen the Lord raise up men with shepherd hearts. He has equipped and exercised them to faithfully and lovingly care for the believers. From within our own ranks there are those who are simple in their gospel preaching, sound in their Bible teaching, and sweet in their remembrance of the Lord. Over the years I have learned so much from my three fellow-elders in the Gaborone Assembly. We have been through the ups and downs together and there have been times of deep trial when our only recourse has been to cry unto the Lord for His mercy and grace. He has never failed us.
We would ask you to join with us in prayer for the furtherance and also the preservation of the work. The enemy is ever busy and works overtime. And yet, as we survey a divine work taking root and blossoming in Botswana we are moved to exclaim with thankfulness, “What hath God wrought!”(Num 23:23).