The glory of the Lord surrounded them as they sang last week, said Lydia Lincks, one of the members of a fiery worship team I had the privilege of meeting this week.
This is not your everyday worship group. The 13 women and two men I was talking to are all employees at the Levyvale SUPERSPAR in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape.
And the glorious manifestation of God’s presence that Lydia described was not at a church service but in the supermarket aisles during a half hour time of early morning worship and prayer before the store opened its doors to customers on Tuesday last week.
The in-store worship team is just one of many signs of God’s transforming work at the SUPERSPAR that began six months ago when the store owners Daan and Adri Olivier invited Evangelism Explosion field worker Paul Clough to offer team building sessions to their 150 employees.
Orchestrated by God
Clough said most of his ministry over the past eight years had involved schools and what is happening in the store — where about 70% of the staff have committed to follow Jesus — had taken him completely by surprise and had been totally orchestrated by God.
Early in the team building God laid it on his heart to share the gospel and so he got to present the good news fully to every staff member.
He was then led to shift from team building to discipleship training for those who wanted it. He began with bible studies and God showed him that the staff members who had accepted Jesus would do the work of reaching their colleagues who had not responded to the Lord.
Wanting to introduce times of worship in which people could encounter God he brought worship DVDs to facilitate worship. But as employees began to sing along with the DVDs, God gave him the insight “Spar has got talent”.
He realised they didn’t need the DVDs. There were enough talented singers among the staff members to lead worship and that is how the worship team was birthed.
I listened to the team singing a capella in a training room at the back of the store on Tuesday during one of their twice-weekly discipleship training times. You can see and hear this impressive group in the clip below which I videoed with my cellphone.
The team members were employees of various departments and from various different backgrounds who had just came together out of the training times, said group member Siphosihle Mali.
Various members shared their awe and gratitude for what God was doing in the group.
Monica Pati said she became very ill two months ago. She felt despairing as doctors she saw had different ideas about her sickness — one thought it was her liver, another thought it was her kidneys. But then members of the worship team and Clough prayed for her and she became healthy. When the doctors saw the change in her they sent he for a scan but could find nothing wrong with her.
Strengthened and healed
Maria Lungisa said that last year had been tough as five of their colleagues at the store had died. When Monica became sick they worried that she might die. But as the team members worshiped together God strengthened them for the challenges they faced at work, and healed them and reminded them of His love for them. Encouraged by Clough they prayed in the building every day for God to take away sickness.
Others spoke of improved relationships, a renewed sense of divine purpose and calling in their work, exchanging a negative mindset for an attitude of living fully for God every day, and customers noticing that there was something different in a positive way in the store.
Clough said: “The work that God has done in the lives of the staff is absolutely mind-blowing — to see how they have grown from timid, shy people to very outspoken people who are not ashamed for what they stand for has been absolutely amazing to see.
“I really do believe that God is going to use this team for big things and it is not just going to be the SPAR that is impacted it is going to explode outside of that.”
Laurika Lombard who heads up human resources at the store agreed with Clough.
She said she had seen nothing like the current move of God at the store during her 16 years there.
“I never expected anything like this to happen but it is very welcome,” she said.
‘Big things are coming’
“I believe that God is going to change this store — that big things are coming.”
Lombard said that she would like to see the worship team’s ministry extended beyond the early-morning time before the store opened to times of singing in the store while customers were shopping.
“I would like to see opportunities for the customers to find a change of heart though hearing the worship team sing inside the store, and we believe that it is going to happen,” she said.
With Christmas rapidly approaching Clough and Lombard are collaborating in arranging for a week of carols in the store carpark before Christmas.
Arrangements have still to be confirmed but their vision is to hold evening carol singing sessions on the weekdays leading to Christmas Day and afternoon and evening sessions on Saturday.
They hoped that worship teams from various local churches and the SUPERSPAR worship team would fill in the singing slots, said Clough.