By Ian Siebörger, Team Leader, #BreakTheMould Mission 2016, Rhodes University
The theme chosen for Christians @ Rhodes’ 2016 campus mission on Rhodes University was #BreakTheMould, based on Romans 12:2, which says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.
When we prayed for the mission, we asked: “God, break our moulds.”
God took us seriously
We had no idea how seriously God would take that prayer!
A week before the mission, we discussed as a steering committee what we would do if student protests continued during the mission and the university was shut down. Unanimously we decided to go ahead with the mission regardless, even if it meant that we would face persecution for it.
We thought the mission started very well, with a variety of excellent speakers sharing the Good News on topics that were suddenly made very relevant by the situation unfolding on campus: our Monday talk was about protest, and on Tuesday Afrika Mhlophe spoke on culture at lunchtime.
Despite having to keep changing venues due to the protests, our Tuesday evening panel discussion, entitled #BreakTheReligionMould, was full, and Afrika Mhlophe, Carol Mkize from His People Church at Wits University, Simon Brace from Ratio Christi at North West University and Mahlatse Mashua from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries were able to speak into a very wide variety of people’s lives.
Many people put their contact details on feedback slips, asking to continue discussing Jesus’ message with us.
But the real turning point of the mission came on Wednesday afternoon. We met in the mission tent on the front lawns of campus to prepare for the lunchtime talk by Mahlatse Mashua.
After we had prayed for the talk, we were walking across the lawns on our way to the venue when we heard a crowd of protesters marching and singing along Somerset Street over the wall from the lawns. Next, rubber bullets rang out from the street, and students started running towards us on the lawns.
I called everyone to go back to the tent, and instead of holding Mahlatse’s talk, we found ourselves serving water and sugar to traumatised students while the tent was turned into a first aid station and a safe refuge for those who needed it.
People were in far too much shock for us to preach the Good News using words, but God put us at the right place at the right time to show His love in a very tangible way to those who needed it.
A different atmosphere
A very different atmosphere marked the rest of the mission. One event was taken over by protesters as we listened to their stories of their painful experiences.
As God planned it, the next day’s lunchtime talk was entitled #BreakTheInjusticeMould.
On Friday at lunchtime we gave out water as well as pancakes to protesters at the tent after a silent protest against police brutality.
At the mission’s closing event, Stephen Lungu from African Enterprise told his thrilling testimony of coming to kill everyone at a mission event in Zimbabwe and ending up giving his life to Jesus instead. Quite a few people responded to an invitation at the end of his talk.
Many moulds broken
By the end of the mission, God had broken a whole range of moulds. He broke the moulds of non-Christian students and staff, who could no longer accuse Christians of being invisible and indifferent to their struggles. He broke the moulds of many others who thought that God and His Good News had nothing to say about the (often literally) burning issues consuming public debate in our country. And in His miraculous way, He broke our moulds too, showing us a whole new way to do missions by carrying His healing presence onto our broken campus.