As we nudge closer to the 150-day mark in various stages of lockdown due to COVID-19, we look at how the family of God has fared in Southern Africa. We have witnessed baptisms and restorations, a wedding, and many events online through a prism of tears of joy and sadness.
What is heart-warming is that God is still hard at work in changing people’s lives throughout the 12 countries in our region. Family members, close friends, campus students, single moms and teens have made Jesus the Lord of their lives during this period. In Zimbabwe, God added 27 souls since the start of 2020. The churches there recorded 23 baptisms and 1 restoration since the lockdown started in March.
Some baptisms were extra-special for a few of the church leaders. In Lusaka, Zambia, John and Jane Maleya baptized their son, Jayson. In Harare, Zimbabwe, Edwin and Christine Shumba baptized their daughter Rumbidzai, and in Cape Town, South Africa, Werner and Lize Vos baptized their daughter, Micayla.
In Mozambique, Victor tied the knot with Yolanda during the month of May. While only the couple who counselled them could attend the ceremony, the rest of the church in Maputo witnessed the wedding online.
Speaking of online activities, in these days of online sermons, Bible discussions, devotionals and discipling, the start of lockdown created lots of anxiety as some disciples do not have smartphones or access to Wi-Fi, and data costs are prohibitive. But, God has shown himself to be faithful as always and proved that where there is a will, there is a way. So much so, that the northwest region of the Johannesburg church, in collaboration with Mpho Khalo, the leader of the Soweto region, bought entry-level smartphones for the elderly disciples in Soweto to make sure they do not miss out.
So, not only were members able to tune in to online services hosted by the local churches, but they could also attend online events from sister churches overseas.
These events ranged from a regional singles devotional, a series of parenting classes hosted by Frank and Beth Radcliff, webinars on purity by Dave and Robin Weidner, grief and anxiety, and mental health workshops, and even women’s day functions. Not to be outdone, the teens participated in local and international devotionals (despite sometimes hectic time differences) and fun nights. Even the Missions Training Academy continued to teach impactful classes in virtual space.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways – economically, socially, and medically. Several disciples still work on the frontline of the pandemic; many disciples have been infected and affected and have lost family members and friends who succumbed to the virus. A number of church members lost their jobs, and all the churches have stepped it up in making sure everyone has food to eat by providing emergency food parcels to those in needs. The work in community projects in the region has also continued with the help of Hope worldwide who work with various partners to alleviate the plight of those less fortunate.
In 2 Chronicles 16:9, the Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” While no one knows when this pandemic will end, we fix our eyes on our Father who continues to take care of us all.