Our alarm is normally set for 5:30 AM, but today we had to be up an hour earlier. By 5:30 I would need to be at the gate of the school, where I was to meet someone to guide me to the home of Hezekiel “Mboy” Mdluli. I was at the Mdlulis’ once before, about twenty years ago for their wedding. Now I was going to his funeral.
He had long been one of the most reliable preachers in Eswatini. In the years we were here before, every tent meeting (and we had plenty) would include at least one night when Mboy would be the speaker. He earned his living selling auto parts or in the construction trades, but he loved to preach, and was good at it.
I waited outside the gate of the school for quite a while. As I sat there in the dark, I reflected on the fact that it is not nearly as dark as it used to be. When we first came to (what was then called) Manzini Bible School, the field across the road was planted with pineapple. It is not a field anymore; now it is a housing development. I could not count the houses, but I would guess that there are several hundred houses within sight of that gate. Twenty years ago there were none.
The loss of a good preacher, and the sight of all of those houses, combined to make me realize the urgency of our task. All around the world, as people get to be better off materially, their interest in spiritual things seems to diminish. A critical moment for the work in Africa has come. We must raise up a generation of church leaders who are capable of keeping the church faithful while leading the church forward.
Sixty years ago, when Eldred Echols and Al Horne purchased the land for the school, the pressing need seemed to be for evangelists to reap the abundant harvest. Sub-Saharan Africa was coming to Christ rapidly. Hezekiel Mdluli was one of the evangelists that school would train. Some of these workers did an excellent job of bringing people in.
Now the situation has changed. There is still potential for growth. There is still greater receptivity here than in Europe or North America, but now there are many churches, and so few prepared to serve as elders, deacons, or Bible class teachers. We cannot go on taking men with the “gift of gab” and giving them enough texts to teach the way to salvation. God gave his church a Bible with sixty-six books. All of those books have their purpose; they all need to be studied and taught. Otherwise, the converts so easily go astray into materialism or some other ism. Without solid grounding in the truth, Christian truth will so quickly mix with human reasoning and pagan superstitions.
The people living in that housing development across the road will not be won and kept by a ministry that is shallow in its use of scripture. The whole Bible needs to be taught. Its relevance to our lives must be demonstrated. If it is not, they will turn elsewhere.
God’s Mission Begins
Yesterday I ordered the proofreading copies of God’s Mission Begins (Vol 1), a 265-page book that is designed to help Africans see the relevance of Genesis and Exodus to their lives. If the proofreaders do not find too many corrections to be made, the book should be ready for use in the schools by the end of 2021. I have already started on volume two, which will cover Leviticus through Deuteronomy.
We must keep at this work. We look to the past and appreciate the efforts of those who have gone before. We also look to the future and work for the greater advance of the kingdom and greater glory of the Lord.
African Textbook Ministry, Church of Christ, 5130 Flanders Road, Toledo, OH 43623