We’ve been here for over 24 hours now… and still loving it. South Africa truly is a beautiful country.
At just after 11am Sihle came to pick us up to take us into Soweto. It was an interesting time getting a small guided tour from someone who was brought up there.

Let me give you a little background. Soweto stands for ‘South Western Townships’ and is one of the places set aside for black South Africans during apartheid. When many people hear the word ‘township’ they think of shanty towns. That’s not actually the case. Indeed there are shanty towns (or ‘informal settlements’ as they’re now called) but there are also millionaires living in them. In fact as you drive into Soweto along one of the main roads you will come across the million Rand houses first of all. Soweto houses around 4 million people and is where Nelson Mandela comes from, and his former wife Winnie still lives.

p1010169.jpgOne of the most striking things was the wealth of prosperity gospel churches (if you’ll excuse the pun). There are some massive churches seating many thousands of people and the people flock to them. Sihle said it illustrates the spiritual hunger they have. The problem is they are being manipulated and fed garbage.

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We also stopped by one of the ‘informal settlements’. The lady that I talked about in the last post who was told to pay thousands for a minister to pray for her comes from there, and that’s where the people from Sihle’s church met her as they went around the settlement.

In the afternoon we went to meet with the rest of Sihle’s church and we had a great time. The people are so warm and friendly and we felt right at home, even though, culturally, things were very different. There was great passion in the singing, and a great back beat! If only we sang like that in our churches in the UK! (just compare our attempt at singing a Zulu song that I posted a few months ago when Sihle came to visit, with their rendition – a marked difference…).

It was a great privilege getting to speak to them, and they were a pleasure to speak to. It was actually quite easy because they were so responsive – it was easy to engage with them as they evidently engaged with me. I preached on Ephesians 2-3, looking at the issue of Identity (this was adapted from a talk I gave for a church weekend away – see the category on Ephesians). It was great to people able to speak about God’s plan to bring all nations under Christ, and that the church is the expression of God’s wisdom before a watching world. I almost had a tear in my eye as we looked at how the Gentiles were excluded from God with a sign that told them to keep out. The people I was speaking to knew what a sign like that would feel like personally. But the great news of the gospel is that there is no more Jew or Gentile, European or non-European – there is God’s people. And the church, that united people under Jesus, is a slap in the face to the devil’s attempts at thwarting God’s plans as God shows that his plan will succeed. God will create this new people, and he is already doing it.

God is so good and it is such an encouragement to spend time with his people on the other side of the world. We couldn’t understand a lot of the words used, especially in the songs, but we knew we believed the same things. Praise God for his mercy and the beauty of what he is doing in his church.

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