Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor Eugene Johnson surprised Christians at an outdoor thanksgiving and prayer event in Gqeberha (PE) on Sunday when she put aside an official speech that had been written for her and instead delivered a message straight from her heart, which she said she preferred to do as a child of God.
Speaking at the Ebenezer Park and Praise event led by church leaders from across the city to give God thanks for sparing South Africa during the pandemic, she urged believers to earnestly pray for councillors to have “a spirit of wisdom and knowledge and understanding and the fear of God in which God delights” in order to deliver services to all residents and to deal with corruption and the water crisis.
City church leaders laid hands on Johnson and prayed for her on the meeting podium on the historic Donkin Memorial grounds.
At the end of the three and a half hour service Pastor Subusiso Khoza, the visionary of the thanksgiving event and nine others he has mobilised around South Africa since 2020, said he had just heard that the united church in the city will be getting the use of the Nelson Mandela Soccer Stadium for free for an evangelism harvest event in the city. He later confirmed to Gateway News that the stadium offer was made by the mayor.
About 15 people, mostly teenagers and pre-teens, professed faith in Jesus after responding to an altar call by Khoza at the end of his message in which he explained why it was important to give glory to God for sparing the nation from millions of Covid deaths that had been predicted by experts.
About 500 people attended the event during which various city pastors led thanksgiving prayers and prayers for rain. The afternoon also included lively times of worship.
Intercessors who had prayed with the mayor at the City Hall the previous week — a ministry they offer to all Nelson Mandela Bay mayors — told Gateway News Johnson asked to pray at the end of their time together and proceeded to pray aloud for six minutes.
A relatively unknown local ANC leader and businesswoman, Johnson was a surprise candidate in the mayoral election at a council meeting in November. She was announced less than 24 hours before the council sitting. She defeated former mayor and DP councillor Nqaba Bhanga by just one vote to sit at the head of an ANC-led coalition municipality. Service delivery in Nelson Mandela Bay has taken a battering over the past five years in which several previous coalition governments collapsed.
“It is God who puts kings and queens in place. And God has called us for such a time as this, and God has called you for such a time as this,” said the mayor during her speech on Sunday. Johnson’s public zeal for God and her commitment to prayer and the Gospel does raise the question whether God has indeed raised an unexpected vessel to succeed where others have failed in a city facing dire economic, social and political challenges compounded by a devastating water crisis.
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