[notice]Pastor Bongani Mgayi says the church can hold its head high in SA history. But it should not expect to be honoured by the world. [/notice]Exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast of America is again pummelled – by Hurricane Isaac. When things go bad for humans or when the world is faced by catastrophe, commentators call it an ‘act of God.’ But, when things go well humans pat each other on the back and give each other awards, prizes and medals.
Mandela is inaccurately held up as some kind of saviour in South Africa, as the father of the nation, to whom all South Africans owe gratitude for the fortunate turn of events in our country.
My parents have a different account of history. They remember how they as Christians would pray and fast, holding night vigils and meeting illegally in back rooms to intercede in the townships. This was while the politicians were in jail, in exile and on the streets murdering other black people through necklacing, and by humiliating old ladies by giving them OMO washing powder to drink as punishment for going to work.
My mother remembers vividly how they were praying in a shack in Crossroads when a group of security police stormed in to arrest and beat them. But as they crashed inside they found the women praying, took off their hats and quietly slipped out.
I remember as a young boy growing up in church how every Sunday at the Assemblies of God in Nyanga, a deacon would read 1 Timothy 2: 1-7 followed by reading out loud the name of every country in Africa. The church would then stand and the elders would lead a prayer for peace for Africa, mentioning the heads of state by name.
Pastor Nkomonde, an elder at the Assemblies of God, once told of an account how they as young men were working as assistants to Nicholas Bhengu. Bhengu would set up tent crusades in the townships of Zwelitsha, Zwide and Gompo. With the tent’s arrival there would be peace and criminals would return their loot, violent men would bring their weapons to the tent and there would be no stone-throwing or tyres burnt in the streets – a kind of peace the Stability Unit of the police could never achieve.
Mrs Mene, a retired school principal from Old Crossroads, recounted for us at a recent prayer in Cape Town how they were living in fear, while the ‘witdoeke’ – a group led by Johnson Ngxobongwana – were burning down shacks and hacking other black people to death in the streets. She mentions that their only comfort was to meet at churches and pray.
The Church has served the world well and will receive its reward in the world to come.
The Church was part and parcel of the struggle for freedom in South Africa and does not need to justify its existence to the world and onlookers. The Church must unapologetically assume its position as the bona fide agent of peace, justice and transformation in society.
Godly men such as Livingstone, Murray, Lake, Bhengu, Ciliza, Duma and Ngidi brought revival and transformation to their communities and reformed entire societies, but are never referenced in the world’s books and never receive an award, citation, honorary degree, or public lecture in their honour. Yet the world hosts a concert and offers 67 minutes of their time on Mandela day.
Jesus reminded us that we are no greater than Him; if the rulers of the time never acknowledged Him, how could the contemporary Church expect to be acknowledged by the media, government, UN or historians.
We must preserve our own history and testimonies, lest we allow the world to write a distorted history for us. The accounts of history we have in the Gospels are accounts by simple men who had no status. The academics, historians and authors of the time had no interest in keeping an accurate record of the Lord’s work or writing an account of the work of the Church.
It remains incumbent upon the Church to produce a “more accurate account” of history, much like Dr Luke sought to do when he wrote to Theophilus (Luke 1: 1-4; Acts 1: 1). Dr Luke had to produce a record of the work of the Lord, as the government of the time and Herod refused to acknowledge the Lord’s mighty deeds.
Herod was struck down for his arrogance (Acts 12: 21-23) and Pharaoh was humiliated for failing to acknowledge the finger of God (Exodus 8: 19).
If we don’t write and recite the miracles of history the next generation will not see the ‘invisible’ finger of God over South Africa, Africa and world affairs.