We’ve arrived and South Africa is more beautiful than we remembered it. It’s a lovely cool summers day – an extremely pleasant welcome to our first experience of summer in Africa.

Today was our restful day as we recovered from the flight and prepared for the weeks ahead… little did we know what was actually going to be in store for us.
We’re staying at a B&B tonight and have been hearing from the couple who run it about their church’s hopes of planting a church in a nearby area called Sophiatown. Sophiatown apparently used to be a mixed area and was a hot bed of Jazz. But with apartheid came the forcible removal of all blacks from this area to another called Meadow View, which was literally… a meadow. Sophiatown became a home for poorer Afrikaners and changed its name to ‘Triomph’ – Victory.

With the new South Africa in the 90’s came yet another change for this place. It’s old name was returned and other Africans were allowed to move into the area.
However, the result of this history is that it is a place without a solid sense of community. There still seems to be some resentment harboured between communities, with even churches refusing to change their name to include ‘Sophiatown’, keeping instead with the Afrikaner ‘Triomph’.

Sophiatown is also home to a large number of police families as specific housing was built for them there.

All in all, as our hosts were explaining, Sophiatown presents a wonderful opportunity for church planting. It is a place in need of community, and there is no more solid, more long lasting community than God’s people, the church. Introducing a church that is willing to face and meet the issues of integration is also of paramount importance.

So please pray for ‘Melville Union’ (the church involved) as they look to plant in this area, and especially for someone who can lead a church plant there.
We will hopefully be able to tell you more about this later in the week as we’re meeting Dave West, the pastor of Melville Union.
We also found out about the work they do amongst street children. They put on food for these kids a few times a week.

We had a bit of a rest in the afternoon, tried to go to ‘pick ‘n’ pay’ for some Rascals (sweets) and Biltong (dried meat), but unfortunately we were too late… it had already shut.

In the evening (after a lovely summer storm) Sihle collected us to take us to a Braai (a BBQ) with people from his church. They had spent the afternoon visiting houses and shopping centres in Soweto, inviting them to some events over Easter and talking aboutp1010153.jpg Jesus more as the opportunity allowed. After having our fill of steak, chicken and wurst, people shared stories of their experience. It was exciting to see these young people getting really excited about sharing the gospel – while being daunted by it at the same time! One of the guys was telling us about the barrier some people have to Christianity because ‘it is the white man’s religion’. While it is so sad to see the devastation of years of white domination (and we Brits have to take our fair share of the blame for the turbulent history of South Africa) it reminds us that the true gospel really is a breath of fresh air. The truth that God is uniting people from every tribe and language and nation is something that needs to be proclaimed loud and clear in this land.

Another girl told us about a lady who had lost a number of her family in an accident, and had been told to give R2000 (£150) for a minister to pray for her. Another church said she had to pay R4000 (£260) to be allowed to wear the special clothes that would allow her membership of the church. She was insisting on giving the two Christians who had gone to see her money for each of her dead relatives as she had been taught by the Roman Catholic Church that this would give them better luck. The spiritual abuse is sometimes frightening. How important it is, as one of the people were saying tonight, for us to have absolute integrity with our dealings with others.

To wrap it up Sihle announced that we would then pray for these things. As I settled down to wait my turn, like a good Englishman, to pray for my brothers and sisters in Soweto, I was met with a barrage of prayers. Some people say it’s hard to get a word in at prayer meetings at the Crowded House. Well this was on another level! Everyone prayed at once! This did raise some interesting considerations as me and Sihle talked about it afterwards (as Sihle raised – intelligible words in Corinthians?), but it was also one of those good challenges not to take our culture for granted or to think it is the best or even the only way to do things. There was a passion and fervency about the praying as it was clear the people cared about what was going on.

Time to sleep now. If this was a quiet day, we dread to think what a packed schedule will look like!