We arrived here at the end of March 2021 with the following goals in mind.
The textbook ministry has always been the focus. In the long run, this has the greatest potential for good. It will not produce the immediate results that a focus on evangelism might produce, but long-term it is critically important.
- We also wanted to help the churches in Eswatini with leadership issues. The church has been here since the mid-1960s, but only two congregations have appointed elders or deacons. One of those two have struggled recently because of the departure and resignation of most of the elders.
- We need to stay involved in a local church, and the one we chose is the Timbutini congregation. They handled our immigration paperwork for us, so it made sense.
- We hoped to build a house on land that one member at Timbutini had offered to us. He then hoped to pay us back for the house at some point in the future.
- We hoped to learn SiSwati this time. When we lived here 2000-2003, we were teaching at a school that had very few native Swazi students. There was little reason and little opportunity to learn the language at that time. This time, we thought that we would be living in Timbutini, surrounded by the language, and that we would learn it.
Eleven months in, the reality is, as always, a bit different than the plan. The textbook work has advanced faster than expected. We have brought out a completely revised and expanded textbook covering Genesis and Exodus. We have made a surprising amount of progress on a second volume which will cover Leviticus through Deuteronomy. Through the “Priming the Pump” effort, two books (God-Centred Bible Study and God’s Mission Begins, vol 1) have been shipped to four schools in Nigeria and two schools in Zambia.
Working with local congregations on leadership has proven more difficult than expected. COVID related restrictions on travel and assembly are still in place here. And there were also times of political unrest that made it unsafe to travel. We are, however, beginning to make progress on this. I have been holding a weekday evening class for those of the Fairview church who are able to attend. This coming Sunday I will begin a once per month Sunday morning sermon series for the whole congregation. In June I am scheduled to speak at Pigg’s Peak on the need for biblical leadership.
The difficulties working with other congregations have allowed us more time to work with the Timbutini church. I travel to Timbutini either on Friday or Saturday (and sometimes both days). Elijah Malaza and I do house to house visitation. I have also been holding a Bible study at the Makwakwa homestead. We were able to baptize three of those attending this study on Sunday. I have done most of the preaching at Timbutini since we arrived. Attendance has rebounded considerable. Twenty-five was a good attendance a year ago. Now we have close to fifty each Sunday.
The idea of building a house in Timbutini has not gone well. The brother who owned the land admitted that, if we built a full-sized house, he would not be able to repay us within the foreseeable future. I suggested that I could loan him enough money so that he could build a small weekend cottage on the property. He thought that this would work, and that he would be able to repay us within a reasonable time.
If it had worked, it would have been a real blessing to the work in Timbutini, since different ones of us who are interested in the work could have gone out from time to time to spend a couple of days there. But, with none of us living nearby to supervise, the construction did not go well. The funds we loaned were all used up without producing a usable cottage. [Note: this was our own money, coming from the sale of our home in the States. No donated funds were risked in this effort.]
Our efforts to learn SiSwati have not gone well. We have had to rent a house. The one we could afford is ideal for many aspects of our work. But the location does not bring us into much contact with SiSwati speakers; and we have been unable to find a teacher to help us. I am not sure that I know any more SiSwati than I did a year ago.
All in all it has been an excellent first eleven months. The textbook work is proceeding better than expected. The leadership training effort is beginning to pick up momentum. The work with the Timbutini church is leading to growth. We have suffered a financial setback. We are not doing well on language learning. But maybe these things will improve as well.
Keep us in your prayers.
African Textbook Ministry, %Church of Christ, 5130 Flanders Road, Toledo, OH 43623