I remember running an Alpha course with a group of teenagers many years ago, and being so impressed with how straightforward and basic it was. It really explained what it means to be a Christian in great, simple terms.
So, on hearing news from Cape Town that Alpha is being run in Gugulethu I wondered if it is the first time that this internationally reknowned introductory Christian course is being run in a township setting? I phoned one of the facilitators to find out. Mbuyelo Bikwani has a fulltime, very busy job, but is passionate about running this course in his free time.
Alpha has been received in Gugulethu as a kind of ʻnew revivalʼ. It is a first for a township setting in the Western Cape. The course was first run 3 months ago with a group of six to eight pastors. The initial group members are now in the process of being trained up themselves, so that they can go back to their churches and facilitate the course with members of their congregations, so this has the capacity to spread really quickly. They are now busy with the second course with the pastors again and some members of their congregations.
Bishop V. Mtini of the hosting church has asked the question: “ Why is this only coming now? Where was this before?”
The bishop’s response validates the impact that Alpha has had on the people attending. Participants are able to see the value in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Bikwani said that Alpha is normally for unchurched people, but he says it is perfect in itʼs setting for the churched who say they know God, but donʼt actually know how to know God. He said the basics are wonderful and set a firmer foundation in peopleʼs lives.
He finds that it is a journey that people are re-taking that they thought they had completed, but it is now a new journey due to new revelations. It has had a huge impact on the peopleʼs lives and there are many testimonies.
Bikwani’s final comment was that if they had reached just one person with this course, it would have been worth it. He is absolutely continuing to volunteer his time and says that youth groups are the next target.
I also spoke to Annalise Peterson, the Regional Administrator for Alpha for the Western Cape. She said that they are getting calls from all over the Western Cape of people wanting to do the Alpha course. They are busy with a group of bikers at present. She did say that they have had to translate the course into the main South African languages like Zulu, Afrikaans and Xhosa so that everyone can benefit and also to keep the meaning of the paragraphs consistent.
According to a note on the Alpha SA website, The Nicky Gumble DVD may not be as appropriate in a township context especially where we are hosting older people because the British accent and humour sometimes makes it difficult for guests to understand. The solution here is live talks by an appropriately trained person who is able to use different languages spoken by delegates.
Also on the website, Alpha in the Township coordinator, Josephine says: “The crucial thing for the township is that the host must be very sensitive to issues of culture as we are working with a lot of different groups and we have learnt that to help them to come to Christ we must respect where they come from by being polite and sensitive.”