The 26th annual Bless the Nations missions conference in Port Elizabeth will take place from Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23 with one of the founder members, David Mnki of Duytywa among the keynote speakers.
For more than a quarter of a century Bless The Nations has played a role in mobilising PE people to serve all over the world as missionaries and to promote missions in their local churches. With more than 100 churches across the metropole being represented at each conference, the movement has also contributed greatly towards unity between Christians from different church and community backgrounds, says coordinator Professor Jean Greyling.
Other speakers at the conference, which will be held at Hoogland Dutch Reformed Church, Charlo, include Frits van der Merwe (Mozambique), Judy Pelleboer (Russia), Alec Zacaroli (USA), Jeremy Sieberhagen (OM) and Chim Onyebilamna (CAPRO). Visitors are welcome to drop in any time during the weekend to attend main conference events and to view the many missionary exhibitions. There is no official registration and attendance of the conference is free. Costs are covered through love offerings during the weekend.
The history of the conference can be traced back to the mid 1980’s when American missionary David Bliss came to South Africa with a calling to stir the South African church for world missions, explains Greyling. As a young man Bliss was deeply touched by the books of Andrew Murray, from where he developed an interest in South Africa. In those early years Bliss partnered with David Mniki from Dutywa and Francois Vosloo from Operation Mobilisation.
Bliss started with missions conferences in Wellington. A group of church leaders from PE attended one of these conferences and returned convinced that something similar had to start in Port Elizabeth.
The first Bless the Nations Conference in Port Elizabeth happened in June 1988 and has been held annually since then. Bliss and Mniki were the main speakers at the early conferences. Combined with the conferences monthly Concerts of Prayer (prayer meetings for missions) and a part time Mission School have also been running in the city since the early 1990’s.
The logo “Prayer, Revival and Missions” summarises the purpose of the movement, says Greyling. Combined with prayer and personal revival, church goers have been challenged regarding the church’s task of World Missions.
Writing about his partnership with Bliss and Vosloo at birth of Bless The Nations, Mniki says: “My driving inspiration was to see the sleeping giant of the black African church arise to the challenge of cross cultural mission. What we represented – an Afrikaner, an American, a Xhosa – in terms of the incarnation of cross-cultural mission, we were aware of. But only in hindsight, can I truly appreciate the power and the wisdom of God that helped us transcend our sentiments, the barriers of language and culture, and the racially divided politics of the time.”