By Connie W. Adams
My wife and I had planned to spend the month of January working in South Africa. Instead, we had to return after completing two weeks of the scheduled work because of a heart attack suffered by Bobby’s mother. She passed away while we were in flight back to the States and we were greeted by that news at the airport in Louisville.
But we were able to form some impressions of the work we saw and thought our readers might have some interest in these observations. South Africa is a big country, and we would not have been able to visit several areas where there are congregations even with the full schedule which had been set for us. The part of the country we saw is a mix of industry in the larger cities along with tribal traditions in the suburbs and villages in the more remote areas. The landscape is diverse with mountains, valleys, high plains, and bush country. Johannesburg is a large, sprawling city with elevation of over 5,500 feet, higher than Denver. We saw corn in abundance, some wheat and sugar cane in lower Natal. Even in small towns like Eshowe, the stores are well stocked with supplies.
Unemployment is high in the nation, over 40%, we were told. Crime has reached major proportions and every house we visited had barred windows and doors. One of the preachers with whom we worked, Robert Buchanan, has had two cars stolen and his home burglarized. There is still some friction among the various tribes. The minority whites are of British and Dutch descent. There is a growing number of Indian and Pakistani people.
Preacher Training School
We were met in Durban by Paul and Helen Williams and Basil and Gloria Cass. It took about two hours to drive up the coast of the Indian Ocean and turn slightly north to reach the small town of Eshowe (about 5,000) which is home for the Williamses. I spoke here on Saturday night and two times on Sunday to this congregation of about 60-65 Zulus. Funda was the excellent interpreter. A two-weeks preacher training school had been planned for Monday-Friday of each week. Teachers were Paul Williams, Basil Cass, Scott Tope, and the writer. The second week brethren Cass and Tope could not come and Robert Buchanan came to help, joined also by David Ngonyama, a Zulu preacher supported by the church at Eshowe. Paul Williams gave practical instructions about study habits, tools, public reading and speaking, and offered critiques of assigned efforts by the students. Scott Tope taught five sessions on sermon preparation and delivery. Basil Cass taught from 1 and 2 Timothy about the preacher’s work under the theme “Take Heed to Thyself and to the Doctrine.” The first week I taught classes on premillennialism, the covenants, and institutionalism. The second week I taught classes on the preacher and his work and on divorce and remarriage. Paul Williams continued his theme with more time allowed for the students to speak and use what they had learned. Robert Buchanan enlarged upon the theme of sermon prepara- tion and also assigned students speaking duties. David Ngonyama taught an interesting class on how to conduct tent meetings, something which he does often and usually with much success.
The first week we had up to 18 in attendance with some coming from Johannesburg and Durban. The second week these were not able to come and we had five or six most days. These men were there for both weeks and their ability seemed more evident with each day’s work. A couple of these men have great potential. Ashley Goosen came all the way from Port Elizabeth where he does a good amount of preaching. He is a mature man of 48 who is ready to devote himself to fulltime preaching when support can be arranged. Classes ran from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. with a one hour break for lunch. Lunch was provided at the Williams’ home thanks to the work of Helen, Bobby, and Esther (the first week). While we had the training school at the build- ing in town, Bobby taught classes for the women in the Williams’ home for eight days dealing with a number of subjects ranging from godly womanhood to moral issues to learning how to teach other women.
After classes the first Friday, we went home with Basil Cass who lives in Pinetown, a suburb on the northwest side of Durban. He works with several congregations in the Durban area. On Saturday night I spoke to the Shallcross congregation. These brethren are Indians. They meet in a school and we had about 40 present. They have two elders. On Sunday morning I spoke to a small group (12-15) of Zulus meeting in a private home. A brother who is a school teacher works with them, a brother Manzini. Then on Sun- day night I spoke at Pinetown where Doug Bauer preaches. The building was filled. They have a nice building. We had good singing at each place we visited. Paul and Helen Williams were there that night and drove us back to Eshowe to begin the second week of the training school the next morning. I spoke 30 times in two weeks and Bobby taught eight classes for women.
We arrived Friday night at White River after a seven hour trip with Robert Buchanan. We spent the night in his home and were graciously received by him, his wife, Cheryl, and sons, Jacque and Graham. Early the next morning we received an E-mail from Harold Byers of Louisville telling us Bobby’s mother had suffered a heart attack and was in a Louisville hospital. Of course, we began to make immediate plans to come home. Rob drove us the four hours to Johannesburg where we caught a plane at 9:00 P.M.
We had been scheduled to preach Sunday-Wednesday nights at White River where Robert Buchanan, Hendrik Joubert, and Sakkie Pretorius work. They each preach for several congregations in that area. We were then scheduled to go with Johnny Scholtz up into Zimbabwe for a few days of preaching in villages in the bush country and then were to end our visit by speaking the last week-end in congregations in the Johannesburg area. That part of the work remains unfinished and we hope that someday in the future we may be able to finish that and also visit brethren in other areas besides. That remains to be seen. Leslie Maydell and Gene Tope were both in the States and we missed seeing them.
I will not forget the last thing Scott Tope said to me when we said goodbye. He said, “Tell the brethren that we are spread very thin here and could use more help.” We had good impressions of the work and workers we met. We spent more time with the Williamses than anyone else because of the training school. Their knowledge of the work there and dedication to it is obvious. They have now spent over 30 years in South Africa.
Indeed, “the field is the world” and I hope you have enjoyed this snapshot of a small part of the work in South Africa. One thing which stood out was the fact that the native churches have been taught to stand on their own and support their own men as they are able. With such men as Funda and David at Eshowe, brother Manzini in Durban and the Indian work at Shallcross, I believe the work in these places will grow and keep the light of truth burning. We are thankful for the invitation to have a small part in this work and for those who helped us to go.