Reconciling people, churches and ministries in Central, Port Elizabeth, to each other and to Christ is the passion of two young women who spearhead a new initiative called MOR For Central.
Chantal Coetzee and Leanne Goodberry say that their calling to serve in the historic heart of the city is the culmination of a seven year walk of faith since they came to PE from Johannesburg.
“We both moved to PE through a business that I brought down here and not long after I got here God said that’s how I got you here but not why I got you here,” said Leanne.
She said that their journey of finding God’s purpose connected them with people in industry, business, schools and churches and they both developed a passion to “see walls come down in churches and between believers and unbelievers”.
After a friend invited them to attend a quiet day at Holy Trinity Anglican Church –one of a number of stately old stone churches in the suburb — they began to develop a heart for the unpredictable area with its historic buildings, drug lords, prostitutes, homeless people, seedy clubs, art galleries, trendy restaurants and coffee shops, and pioneering church plants. They also developed a relationship with Holy Trinity’s Reverend David Stansbury, who told them that God had shown him that he was going to send people to serve the churches of Central in a full-time, itinerant, capacity, promoting reconciliation and facilitating shared ministry. His words gelled with a conviction that had been growing in their own hearts for some time that they were being called into some type of ‘circuit rider’ ministry, said Coetzee.
The two friends participated in several outreaches in the area with local pastors and businessmen affiliated to Central Christian Network, an association that was already doing its best to promote unity and joint ministry in the area. They saw that due to the drastically changed demographics of the area there were distinct groups of people that hardly crossed paths with each other: congregants with a family church history in the area going back 120 years who still faithfully attend their traditional church but no longer live in the neighbourhood; a new generation of predominantly young residents which includes people from other African countries; people who work in the area by day but disappear at night; old-time residents who come home from work at night and lock their doors; night life people and street people.
During this time they were also connected with Transformation Christian Network and its metro-wide Nehemiah Vision (NV) project which aims to “rebuild the walls of Nelson Mandela Bay” through establishing ministry networking teams in each of the metro’s 60 wards.
Coetzee said it first struck her as ironic that they had a vision to take down walls and the NV project was talking about rebuilding walls. But after attending a NV prayer meeting she said God gave her a picture of using the dismantled walls of the church to rebuild the walls of the city. She also had a dream in which she understood that the ‘latter rain’ revival that many hungered for would only come when people were “united and of one accord” as the believers were at the ‘former rain’ revival of Pentecost.
“That was the big wake-up, the big drive that we’ve got to do this thing,” said Coetzee referring to their decision three months ago to commit themselves to being the fulltime, itinerant, urban missionaries pursuing a ministry of reconciliation in Central.
Day by day they have been connecting with the different groups of people in the area and connecting them with each other. They have slotted into prayer groups. They have established that ministry work and resource needs of certain churches can be met by members of other congregations and have linked people in projects that cross denominations. They have been working on building relations with people who are served by feeding schemes in the area and were touched by a recent city outreach to homeless people, in order to facilitate ongoing discipleship.
The friends say that their own story which began in Johannesburg when Goodberry hired Coetzee to work in her business team, prepared them for their ministry. God used Goodberry to reach Coetzee and to restore her from a place of great despair and brokenness. Because of that experience they are able to look at any prostitute or addict or vagrant on the street and know for certain that God can heal them completely.
“It has motivated us in this ministry just to love people better and we have had a lot of people from the start saying ‘How long are you here for?’ They want to know if we are going to go the distance — especially if we are talking about drug rehabilitation or getting a girl off the street,” said Goodberry.
She said pastors who meet them for the first time are especially wary as they have seen many wonderful interventions fizzle out because of lack of follow-through.
“Some say ‘I like what I’m hearing but we need to walk a little bit together.’ And that’s fine,” she said with a wry smile.
The friends are establishing eight strategic action teams – starting with an intercessory team – to carry out the various practical needs of their ministry of reconciliation.
“We are recruiting. We cannot do it alone,” said Coetzee. They invite anybody who is involved in the area or who has a heart for the area to contact them to get plugged into ministry needs. Some of the ministry needs that MOR 4 Central is currently supporting are baby abandonment, abortion, human trafficking, prison ministry, hospital ministry, care of the homeless, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and prevention.
They say that people can get involved by buttering bread at a soup kitchen, praying, contributing financially or in a host of other activities. Anybody interested can contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org / 082 728 3056 (Chantal Coetzee) or email@example.com / 083 302 3134 (Leanne Goodberry).