Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Church Dedication on September 2nd

On Sunday, September 2, 2007 Dr. Brian Jennings, Bishop of the Highveld and Swaziland District of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa came to town to dedicate a church in the town of Malindza which is about 30 minutes away from Manzini in what is called the lowveld. What does “lowveld” mean? The low lands which translates to HOT and dry. There is very little water anywhere. It was probably in the mid 90’s in the afternoon. That doesn’t sound so bad right now to a Texan, however, one must remember that it is very early spring here. It isn’t supposed to really get hot until December and January.

The church dedication was awesome. It was a four hour service. It started with everyone outside. There was a tent set up where the special guests, which I’m learning that at least for now, I am a special guest wherever I go. A men’s choir came singing and dancing to get us from the tent and we all walked or danced to the church building. Once there the Bishop and Rev. Ngema said prayers of thanks and blessings, unveiled the stones, accepted the keys to the church, cut the ribbon to the door, and lead us all into the sanctuary. I was brought up to the front to sit next to Bishop Jennings wife, Lauren, which was great because we not only had a great view of the activities, but we were sitting in the breeze from an open door. The service lasted 4 hours.

The excitement, praising God, and stories about how the church was built filled my soul. Everything was translated into English because of the Bishop. Glory Hallelujah! The church started meeting in a building in town in 1994. They had to keep their business and worship to an hour so that others could also use the space. Keeping worship to one hour was just too hard, so in 1997 they finally obtained a piece of land and started worshiping under a tree. Then the traffic got to be too distracting so they built a small wooden structure. They have been saving and working to grow into the church that was being dedicated today. When Rev. Ngema first visited the church after becoming the Central Circuit Superintendent in 1997 or 1998, he asked all of the children to bring him a Christmas present of a brick so they could start saving to build a permanent structure. The children did that. So in essence, Bishop Jennings was dedicating Rev. Ngema’s Christmas present! What a story it was, and what material for the sermon.

Bishop Jennings gave a very humble, simple but powerful message. He spoke of the church being a Christmas present because God gave us Christ so we would know God. Christ told us to go out and be disciples; to share Christ with others. In essence the new Church is the way of sharing Christ with all who see it and see people from the church in their daily walks of life. He asked each person in the room to imagine that it was only the bishop and the individual person in the room. Then he asked “Will others see Jesus in you every moment of the day?” and “What does Jesus mean to you?” Of course, he also talked about the ultimate Christmas gift of Christ and the Christ gift the church is.

Bishops also get the honor of naming the churches they dedicate. He named the church “Emseni” Chapel. Emseni means “place of grace.” There were several times during his message that my eyes were filled with tears – tears of thanksgiving because of the blessing I was experiencing and of seeing Jesus Christ all around me.

I couldn’t help but think of Dan, Karah, Liz, Joe, Mary, Rick, Ingelore and the rest of the 2004 South Africa team during the ceremony. They would have loved this.

After the service, there was a huge meal. It had been prepared by the women of the church over open fires in huge cast iron pots. Everyone ate quickly and quietly, as I’ve learned they do in Swaziland, and then left. I know the women were totally exhausted, yet I’m sure very proud and happy by the time the day was over and everything was cleaned up and put away.
What a wonderful day! What a blessing to be witness to the love and dedication of these brothers and sisters in Christ.

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