This past week alone has introduced me to members of the Sotho, Shagaan, Tswane and Swazi or Swati tribes of Africa. I taught in five different churches that were located in various townships and villages in Mpumalanga Province. In addition I taught a week of classes on Christian Leadership at the African School of Missions. I found myself exhausted by the end of the week.
The memories etched on my heart are rich and deep. Driving to a poor church in the Township of Mhluzi yesterday the driver pointed out a tree and painted rocks that is the meeting place of the local Zion Church. They are a mixture of the ancestor worship and Christianity. They are led by the local San Goma or witch doctor. You could see them walking around dressed in special clothes adopted by the local group. I have seen Zionists every Sunday when I would go to preach around the province. There is no greater example of twisting the Word of God than these groups.
I think all of you know how special I consider the Word of God. I spent over twenty hours teaching the Word in various locations. But I was deeply blessed by the Alliance Church in Mhluzi yesterday. They sang a song and danced holding their Bibles in the air. First the women followed by the men and boys. They sang we trust in the word of God. I have never seen a group show such love for the Bible. When they had finished a one year old boy came walking in front of me holding his Bible high in the air. He was copying the adults.
The people of the church sang so loud that my ears were ringing. No instruments or sound system was used. They sang with great passion and zeal. Their faith walk with Jesus is in a different situation than we experience in the states. Demonic forces are openly opposing them in the community. Their faith cannot be halfhearted.
I also would like to share with you a letter written to leaders of Deeper Still Missions by a student from the African School of Missions. This is her report on the classes during last week.
Firstly, I want to thank you for the opportunity to have had Danny Sartin with us. It was a great privilege and I have learned a lot.
Danny’s classes were at times inspiring, interesting, motivating and mind stirring, but also had a firm grip on reality. I, myself, learned to be a true detective of God’s Word. Danny taught us how to study the Bible, how to make that which we learned applicable on our daily lives and even on our leadership role in our future ministries. I especially found the intense self-search, to which he lead us, extremely valuable. Danny simply made me see the gap in my life, but even greater than that, he also moved me to want to fill that gap with God’s Word and the application of it.
I have benefitted a great deal from this weeks’ classes, which are by far the highlight of the term. I do not have barely enough words to describe my experience or thankfulness. We would love a future visit of Danny Sartin.
I must admit that I thought Elsa was not deeply engaged in the class. She hardly spoke. Her letter blew me away. You never know what God is doing in someone’s heart.
Thank you for the prayers. Today I leave for Swaziland to work on a water source for hundreds of orphan children whose parents died from AIDS. Pray that I will have wisdom, discernment and vision that comes from the Spirit of God.
Kanyisani Alliance Church
I drove up to Khanyisani Alliance Church on a dusty dirt road. Bumps and patches of grass littered the way. It was more like a trail than a road. Pastor David Mazini was standing outside as I pulled up. His familiar broken smile and gray beard. His face is rugged from age and his statue simple and inviting. His quiet voice was warm and tender. He placed his arms around me in gratefulness. Oh thank you Pastor for cominghe said.
He directed me to park the car behind the building under the shed. I pulled around to a tin roofed area with irregular boards on three sides. It reminded me of the shed in my grandfather’s barn. It was where he parked his tractor. This now open shed had been the church building for the first twenty years of its existence, David later told me.
When I joined David around the front I noticed the outhouse near the building. It was more of an open structure than private. It also took me back to my childhood and my grandfather’s farm. It felt like rural Mississippi in the 1950′s. The church building, which was built several years ago is still unpainted on the outside. Everything feels rustic, simple and bare. No signs are on the building. But at the same time it is majestic for this community.
I stepped inside with David and saw a simple service area with plastic chairs. The pulpit had been draped in cloth and decorated with a few simple items. There were seats for well over a hundred people. I turned to David and said how many people come here? I expected maybe twenty and he said over a hundred people attend each week. He introduced me to two elderly ladies who sat in the room ready for the coming service. These ladies each smiled with missing teeth and clothes that seemed aged and unkempt. One had her hair covered with cloth tied into a bun. Out of respect they grabbed their elbow and reached out their hand of greeting.
A high percent of the people in the church have no job and little income to sustain them. But you could not tell by their hearts. Happy and content they were excited to be in the Lord’s house. Big smiles and quick laughter were followed by dancing and shaking their heads. I felt so welcome.
He took me to the back area where their Sunday School was meeting with young people and children. When I walked in each leader immediately reached out their hand in greeting and said welcome Pastor.
We came around the corner and I saw dozens of little children with a bowl of food in their lap. They were eating before the service. David said it would be the only meal for many of them today. Most of the small ones have lost both of their parents to Aids. The rest had lost at least one parent. I was stunned. Where does the food come from I asked. He said the teachers cook it and the church pays for the food.
We stepped outside to see a large water tank that is filled by the church for use on Sunday’s There is no water well anywhere in the community. This tank is filled by a water truck. Children were filling a cup of water to drink with their meal. They were very careful to close the faucet and not let water drip on the ground. It is a precious gift for them.
All of a sudden I realized that my heart was not prepared for the simple beauty that I was witnessing. This church is a haven for the broken, lost and desperate children who must continue without their parents. These teachers call them all by name and treat them like their own little ones. Zodwig, Sipho, Lesego, Sindy, Excellent and Nokwanda were introduced to me along with many more. I glanced into the eyes of children who looked at me with a longing that tugged at my heart. They smiled and showed gratitude that they were being remembered by someone. I had to choke back the tears.
I did not understand the depth of ministry that was going on. When the service began their voices hit the top of the ceiling. There was no piano, organ, or any instrument. Everything was human voices only. On occasion a tambourine was used to accent the voices. But they sang and danced to every song. The depth of their worship was so enjoyable, spontaneous, rich and continual. Then the little children went forward and sang this little light of mine. I am gona let it shine. How can they want to shine in such desperate circumstances?
Greetings began and everyone in the church came to me and welcomed me. Even the little children made their way around the adults. Nothing plastic or formal but it was warm words, hugs and smiles. The little children gleefully told each other about meeting the big tall white man. No one wanted to miss my hand. One of the elder ladies came up and said, yea bo (a popular African greeting), I am so glad you are here.
I felt very inadequate to share with this crowd. They speak Swati and Zulu. Some understand a little English but it is very little. The Scripture reading was in Zulu and presentations were in Swati. How do I connect with them?
The Word of God was the bridge and they responded well. Many had the Zulu Bibles we had provided last year through special gifts. They leafed through the Gospels to follow the stories and listen to Pastor David as he translated my comments into Swati. The children sat on the edge of their chairs when I told the story of Balaam’s donkey from the Old Testament. Laughter and comments filled the room as I demonstrated Balaam on his donkey. The children were amazed that the donkey spoke to Balaam.
Afterwards several wanted the verses from Numbers about the donkey. I want to go home and read the story myself! But most importantly you could hear the gratitude in each voice for the sermon. Oh Pastor, God spoke through you today. Thank you for coming.
The Sabie River bridge near Skukuzu.
I have been amazed at the presence of the Lord in such unique circumstances. I went with missionary Ronas Marule into Kruger Park to rest, reflect, refocus and renew our hearts. We drove on the Sabie River bridge and I was stunned at the damage from the floods in late January. Water levels had gone up above the bridge and destroyed the railing from debris. It had gone up over three stories. But more amazing was the absence of the animals. They had left the area two days before the floods hit and moved to higher ground in the North. How did they know?
I have also been amazed at the presence of Satan at key moments. I was sitting with a dozen ministry staff and we were deeply involved in Bible study that was at the moment of climax. The staff were smiling and excited about what God was showing them. The next moment we heard a pop and spewing sound. One stepped into the next room and a water pipe had burst and was spraying water all over the floor. Scrambling to catch the heavy spray and keep the water contained in a specific area. Phone calls for help and trying to find the cutoff for the building. After an extended time we sat back down and one staff said, Satan is trying to take our focus off God’s Word. Amazing.
This week has been full of Bible study and speaking to Pastors throughout the area. Over one hundred church leaders have attended three separate meetings this week. It is moving so fast. Tomorrow I begin teaching at the African School of Missions.
But let me share with you what Ronas Marule has to say about this past week.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
We always look forward for Danny and Cathy to come visit us every year because they are a blessing to us as a family we feel refreshed by their encouragement to both Busie and me.
One of the areas Danny is helping us is ministry to the local Churches and Leadership sessions which is a great need in Africa, his knowledge of the word of God is so valuable to us. Last Sunday at Bushbuckridge Word of Life Church at Pastor Israel Malele’s church I was so blessed as he preached about two of the secret disciples of Jesus and showed us how they let Jesus down and yet they had courage and boldness to recover and had great impact. I could sense the anointing upon the preaching it was not just knowledge but with the power of the Spirit of God.
It is really valuable to have such a great teacher of the word to come share with us his experience in ministry and leadership he has accumulated over the years. I’m glad that they are coming to us and assisting in whatever way to help in the work that we are doing for His Kingdom.
I’m also blessed to spend the last two days with Danny looking at how to lead my team to achieve better using everyone’s gifts, I have learnt that what I do not have someone in the team will balance that. When Danny and Cathy came the last three year I was not sure if I was the right person to lead Province the reason I was only looking at what I do not have but they introduced a book that help me to see my strengths and also letting the strengths of the other team members balance what I do not have. Right now I’m excited looking forward for our meeting on Friday with the other leaders in my team to see how to complement each other from our different strengths.
Thank you for your prayers.
Spider waiting in his web.
I watched yesterday morning as a large troop of monkeys went over the roof, through the trees and right up to my window. I stepped outside and watched. When one would notice my presence they would quickly move and jump into the tree. Yet others would just stare as they chewed on pieces of food they had found. The mother and baby was so touching.
I sat and began to watch closely. Then I noticed a spider web as a insect flew into the trap. Multiple spiders raced to the point seeking to capture the meal they had worked so hard for. They had strung webbing across the top of the bushes and plants to provide an almost invisible barrier to capture unsuspecting meals. It flexed with the bush as the wind blew.
Next I noticed the hundreds of ants walking around on the ground. Following one another on invisible trails that seem to have a predetermined purpose. I couldn’t find a single ant that wasn’t moving. Busy about life and each focused on a responsibility for the colony. I see a dozen or so crawling over the remaining seed from a piece of fruit. They have picked it clean.
God is so marvelous. From the smallest to the largest in His Kingdom. Every time I stop and contemplate what He has done I am amazed. And the wonder of God is at my window and all around me when I walk. I am so negligent to stop and take notice.
While in Africa I have been exposed to the spiritual battles that are very obscure in America. Here spiritualism is very obvious. I have seen and experienced it firsthand. There is even a radio station in Johannesburg that interviews Satan worshipers who discuss sending spirits to sift people in other parts of town. The Dark Continent still has a strong influence from ancestral worship, Sangomas (witch doctors), Inyagas (medicine men) and a need to please the ancestors.
But the most exciting time this week was watching the changes in the hearts of Buyela young people. One wrote, Uncle Danny’s teachings have encouraged me to live the Word of God and be obedient to the Word. All the meetings made me realize the Word of God is true. My eyes have been opened to a whole new world. I’ve never been so touched. There has been a new seed planted in my heart and my lifestyle. I can’t wait to reach out to others.
God’s handiwork in our hearts is a true marvel. His Word has such power to change a spirit. Tomorrow I will be preaching at two churches in Bushbuckridge. Please pray that his Word will have the same affect on the hearts of the people.
Thank you so much for praying during this past week. Buyela is now in Mafeking, South Africa beginning their ministry. More wonders will become evident as His Spirit moves.
Monkey outside our room who stole our bananas.
It is a familiar place to return. The trees, mountain side, and friends who have become like family. I was greeted this morning by a monkey at the window. No doubt he wanted in the room to pillage for any food. Oh there goes one racing across the roof. It reminds me that I am in Africa.
I met with Buyela last night for the first time. The opening session began with a group tired from a full day of activities but there were six hands in the air when I halted the discussion over two hours later. The appetite for God’s Word is so strong. Their questions literally jumped from Genesis to Revelation. Few of them read the Word every day because it is so confusing or they are so tired. Standard answers too often given by busy Christians today.
I walk the grounds of Cyara and remember former students and prior events. I sat and talked for hours with one student last year over on this bench. I watched teams dance and practice over here. African young people were repeating lines in German in preparation for a year of performances around Europe. Faces race through the pages of my mind. Students who have become like my own children as time has passed. Weddings being discussed by those who have been serving for over two years. God has finally led them to a lifelong commitment of ministry together.
Four members of Buyela are repeating their year of service again. Snowey, Kekeletso, Clubby and Malcolm are familiar faces among the group. But there are new members to greet and get to know. Hadley, EJ, Thurston, Jarize, Emelda and Kaylin come from Cape Town to Nelspruit and various other communities throughout South Africa. There are bright young hearts hungry for knowledge and understanding.
I see Freddie, Warren, Joe and Lolo who are training these young missionaries from over Africa and Germany. Freddie is repeating his year of service with I-Themba. The stories seem endless as they came up to say that I need to talk with you.
There is one major difference this year. Cathy is at home while I am here. This is the first time we have been separated by the eight thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean. We started Deeper Still Missions over three years ago. When I talked with her last night (it was lunch for her) she was feeding our grandson Ben. Gosh do I miss his smiling little face also. But the impending excitement of our third grandson’s birth is exhilarating. Zach is to be born in just a few weeks. Pray for Letitia as she prepares.
I am thankful for your prayers. We will begin drilling into the Word of God and seeking the face of God today. Now begins several weeks of love below the surface in the hearts of many missionaries and Pastors.
Four decade veteran of youth ministry in churches, Youth For Christ and now is the Founder and Executive Director of Deeper Still Missions. Danny and his wife Cathy spend most of their time mentoring missionaries in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America. Future opportunities include South America and the Asia Pacific area.