On Tuesday this week I managed to weave myself into the conflict engulfing Rhodes University and had two sessions to share the gospel during an evangelistic mission hosted by Christians @ Rhodes — an umbrella body that represents all Christians on the campus.
Their mission — with the theme ‘Break the Mould — entails various evangelistic talks and events throughout the week covering a range of topics.
The topic of my first talk was ‘Breaking the Culture Mould’ but it was almost cancelled due to the student protests that broke out earlier in the day. In fact, Mahlatse Mashua, who is the South African head of Ravi Zecharias International Ministries and one of the speakers for the mission, phoned me while I was stuck in one of the roadworks stops leading to Grahamstown to gauge my thoughts on whether to cancel or continue with my talk. He told me about the turmoil that ensued earlier with students in running battles with police.
I was by that time 15 minutes from the campus, and the idea of turning back was just not attractive. I arrived and went straight to the mission tent which was pitched close to the Law Faculty and also very close to where the students had earlier clashed with the police.
I was met with reports of breakthroughs with the gospel with some participants pleasantly surprised at how open students were to conversations about faith. The participants also told me about how they had responded and brought relief to students who were injured and traumatised by police action.
So even though there were disturbances to their planned programme, they also happened to be at the right place and at the right time. The disturbances did lead to a change of venue for my talk and I went to the new venue with a wait-and-see attitude with regards to the attendance.
Well, by the time I started my talk at 1:15pm that venue was about 70% full. Leaning on my book, Freed by God but Imprisoned by Culture I shared my thoughts on culture and then opened the platform for questions and answers.
As to be expected, the topic of culture did ruffle the feathers of those who see their culture as an index of their identity. But the opportunity to present the superiority of the gospel in such instances is something I cherish.
In the evening we returned for the talk on “Breaking the Religion Mould”. For this talk, I shared a platform with Mashua, Carol Mkize – who is a pastor at His People Johannesburg, and Simon Brace – who is a missionary and apologist based at North West University. We took 15 minutes each, doing our best to break the religion mould and present Christianity as a better alternative.
But as you might have seen from news reports, things have got worse now at Rhodes University. Police are being accused of heavy-handedness in their response to a group of students who decided to disturb lectures.
So pray — and while doing so, please also pray for a meeting I will be part of that has been planned at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) this coming Saturday. The meeting is an attempt to find a way forward in the impasse engulfing South African universities and also to deal with competing interests.
A particular issue is to find a balance between the interests of those wanting the campus to remain closed until their demand for a free education is met, and those who want lectures and the academic programme to resume.