Wednesday evening with the pastors of Elukwatini was a special climatic moment with this group. I will try and color the background, setting and subject so that you can mentally come in the room with us.
This former township is over twenty kilometers from the small town of Badplaas. Elukwatini is two smaller villages surrounded by several other villages called Nhlazatshe and Honingklip. It is the heart of the Swazi tribe area not far from the boarder of Swaziland. The people speak SiSwati mostly.
We meet in the tribal community center that is steeped in the traditions of the Swazi nation. Cows graze on the grass of the center. In one room we met was the designated chair for the chief. The key leader of the community turned the chair to the wall saying this is for the chief only. I realized that tradition still runs deep in the hearts of the people.
We could only fit in the largest gathering room that is circular in shape. Approximately sixty pastors have gathered weekly for the last three weeks to study the Bible. Using the inductive Bible study method taught at Dallas Theological Seminary we had walked through numerous scriptures focused on Jesus and his disciples. At the same time we have been wrestling with difficult scriptures identified by Jim Jones of the People’s Temple.
Once the sun goes down the large room is lit by one single light bulb. It makes reading difficult after 6:30. But it does not dim the excitement and interest of the crowd. When I asked questions hands go up around the room.
I would seek their observations and questions on each word, phrase and situation presented in each Biblical story. Mostly they would inject spiritual thinking into most of their comments. I would say, great thought but it is not in this story. They would laugh as they recognized the well worn mental path to seeing God’s Word. Often they would not let the Word speak for itself. They had other spiritual conclusions to blanket the story.
We were reading the story of Jesus healing the blind man to a blur in Mark 8:22-26. (read the story yourself and get a feel of their thinking) This one of a kind story is the only time where Jesus heals someone in two stages. It was done for the benefit of the disciples and it had a powerful message. Gentlemen, you do not see me clearly! You may walk with me but you don’t understand who I am. It wasn’t until the blind man looked intently at Jesus that his sight was restored.
The critical question that came from the crowd was, why did Jesus spit on his eyes? I explained how spittle was considered a traditional healing element during the time of Jesus. One of the pastors gasped and said the traditional healing methods of the Swazi Tribe came through the Sangoma (witch doctor) and Inyanga (medicine man). Maybe Christ is saying traditional methods of healing are not as effective as looking to Jesus!
The rustle in the crowd made me realize we touched a nerve in the group. Unknown to me were the large number of ZCC (Zion Christian Church) pastors in the assembly. That major church in Africa is not only the largest but it mixes Christianity with the Bantu ancestral worship. They will use the Bible only to support their Bantu practices.
For the first time some pastors were being pricked by the Holy Spirit to question the practices of their traditional faith. Naively I stepped right on top of the issue that keeps Africa trapped in a dark world of deceit. I didn’t even see it coming, but the Lord did.
I so wish you could have been there for that moment. Pastors lamented that only one session was left for next Wednesday. One pastor asked if I would come preach in his church this Sunday. Sadly I had to decline since I was scheduled to preach in another section of Mpumalanga this weekend. Another wanted to know when we can come back and do more studies. A third spoke of his dream that haunts his heart and mind. He wants a pastoral training center for all the pastors. He wants to build a library that could be used by the community leaders.
Those closing conversations felt like mental fireworks were going off. Thank you for coming with us to this remote spot in the world and watching the Holy Spirit move.
Cathy and Danny Sartin
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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.