The ‘test run’ on the material was at the leader’s Bible study where Tish works with the women leaders of the churches- Christchurch Ondangwa, St. Peters and St. Johns. It went relatively well with the help of an interpreter, but we found that the ‘egg/omelette’ illustration was meaningless to them as the people we work with said they don’t prepare eggs in this fashion. One of the team suggested we use the grain mahangu as the basis of the illustration. (Mahangu lasts well- even more than one season, but if it should get wet it becomes mouldy and then is unusable)
The illustration of the ‘headman and his mother’ (instead of the just judge) almost always created great amusement, but it clearly also got the message across powerfully. Without fail the women identified the headman’s actions with those of Christ on the cross atoning for our sins.
On one occasion we found the illustration using the book- depicting our sin- worked particularly well. The church we were in had no power, and of course no lights, but at the time of using this illustration a shaft of sunlight shone through the window illuminating the illustration far better than any other means during our teaching- it was one of those special moments that seems particularly sharp and clear.
In the various churches each member of the women’s ministry team participated in the teaching with the material broken down into smaller sections and each of the women did very well. Each time the material was taught the vocabulary was refined, we anticipated sticking points better and illustrations were taught with increasing clarity.
Once the material had been taught to the women, we encouraged them to teach it to each other and back to us with the interpreter interpreting back into English without the help of the booklet- sometimes she did need some help though. With many giggles and much shyness they began and many became increasingly bold as they gained a little experience- I believe this helped to cement the concepts and Gospel truths communicated in this material. It also gave us an opportunity to correct any flawed understanding.
One particular morning had Emilia and Asnath from Ondangwa demonstrating the chair and book illustrations at St. Johns. Other women then practised presenting the illustrations. It was delightful to witness the questions and chatting around these demonstrations as they discussed them as friends and peers with one another.
In total the “Understanding the Gospel” material was taught to approximately 50 women- it was difficult to keep records as we were working at 2 different churches on any given morning. The only drawback was that many of the women do not read Kwanyama, only NDonga.
When I cast my mind back to the first time I went to Ondangwa in 2007 it is difficult to reconcile what we experienced then with the ministry of today. In 2007 we worked with a maximum of 12 women over the entire time we were there and we battled through material which dealt with basic concepts such as ‘what is sin’. They barely opened their Bibles and had no idea where to find references. Now many of the women have a clear understanding of the Gospel and are able to correct and teach their peers with regards to these basics. Many, possibly most, own their own Bibles and a good number of them are able to hunt down references on their own. Many of these Bibles are becoming marked with pencil and highlighters and that is a joy to see.
As mentioned earlier the women ministered in two different teams at different churches in the mornings. We had a teaching team and a crafting team and our people moved from one team to another as the needs presented themselves. Crafting as a consistent branch of ministry was introduced for the first time this year. We were prepared to teach the women how to sew beanbags for their children with a little embroidery on the bags. At St. Peters our students were far more ambitious and they ended up making aprons with embroidered pockets. There was also wool and knitting needles as well as crochet hooks. All women learnt either basic knitting or crochet. We were fortunate that the maintenance team was able to service the hand operated sewing machines so we could use those out at St. Peters.
The crafting was a wonderful time of connection with the women- when there were interpreters, testimonies were shared and there was plenty of laughter and of course plenty of the necessary sweet tea! We discovered that women found it a good opportunity to invite their friends who do not normally attend church so our numbers were in excess of 25 at St Johns and about 20 at St Peters.
We will need a dedicated children’s worker with the women’s team in future as there were so many little ones (from infant to about ages 4-5 years old) that we ended up running impromptu programmes with these littlies.
In future I would love to see the crafting side of things maintained whilst the teaching would be so exciting if we could work through a short book such as Ruth that can be managed over 3 mornings with 2 sessions each.
Women’s ministry team consisted of:
Michelle Daries (St. James)
Carine Brand (CC Paarl)
Marion Edmonds Smith (CC Tygerberg)
Muriel Bartholomew (St. Matthews)
Renée Chase (Meadowridge Baptist)
Jean Kavanagh (CC Blairgowrie)
Karrie Botha (St. Matthews)
We ministered at:
Christchurch Ondangwa- one afternoon (Leaders bible Study)
St. Peters- teaching 2 days, crafting 3 days
St. Johns- teaching 2 days, crafting 2 days
St. Lukes- teaching 2 days with short crafting sessions tagged on afterwards due to the distances
All the churches were visited by the team on the Sunday when our men had the opportunity to preach and our women had the privilege of handing out the gifts of clothing so generously sent from our home churches. Our childrens’ and youth teams ran Sunday schools. The team went in 5 different directions to 5 different churches and it was a blessed time visiting with brothers and sisters in and around Ovamboland.
Many of our teaching and crafting sessions were accompanied by impromptu sessions of song and sometimes dance. The joy of our Ovambo sisters is contagious and I often came away convicted of my own lack of joy in my salvation. Our final day ended with a traditional lunch prepared by the ladies of St. Peters. It was a joyful and sad time as we once again bade our beloved Ovambo sisters adieu until next year- God willing.
An added highlight was the screening of the Jesus film this year which we ran over 3 evenings towards the end of our stay- many attended were impacted by a film in their own language. On one evening I sat with Asnath during the screening and she commented throughout about various aspects of the movie. The run time is long and viewing conditions cold and uncomfortable, but people stayed and responded eagerly to what they saw. I would definitely do this again- it would be wonderful if we could do it at an outlying area.
It is a wonderful privilege to minister to these people who are so open and loving- I need to remind myself repeatedly that this is the work of the Lord, these are His women and He will complete His work according to His will.
What if someone gave you the chance to go and pick roses in the desert? You might wonder how that would be possible, in a dry and parched land. Well, for me, my visit to northern Namibia was just like that.
I was going with my church team to visit and encourage Tish Hanekom, our missionary in Ondongwa, who lives in an area less than 100kms from the Angolan border. The land is flat and arid, as cold as the far side of the moon by night but like a furnace at midday. The roses were there, they just needed coaxing out of the ground.
I was tasked with children’s ministry. It was a 2-week mission and I needed some help so, a month before the trip, I went to GNM to get my Saber player preloaded in the local language. In previous years, whilst in Mozambique, I had used Cindau (a language similar to Shona) but now we would be with children who spoke Oshikwanyama.
The Saber is a wind up MP3 player that’s preloaded with 40 Bible Stories explaining God’s big picture for the salvation and discipleship of his Church. The stories correspond with a flip chart of 40 colour pictures. The stories are simple, yet convey the mighty truths of scripture: the creation and fall of man, and God’s unfolding plan to redeem a people to himself through his son Jesus. They also include biblical instruction for living a life pleasing to the saviour.
And so we went out each day from church to church in the area and set up our classroom under the nearest tree. We used hand puppets to open our story and then went straight into the teaching. Classes were up to 60 strong with children from toddlers to teens plus some Mammas and babies. A short Gospel presentation was made after every session and many children responded to an invitation to ask Jesus to be their friend.
What could be sweeter than sitting under a tree and telling God’s great message of salvation to little ones, in their own language?
It was even better than picking roses.
My first time on Mission
I have been aware of the Mission to Namibia for some years now but have always felt that it was not a good time for me and I couldn’t really take time off from my business so have ignored it… until this year. Fairly early in the year I gave it more thought and realised that I had just been putting up excuses as I could very easily make a plan work-wise and it was during the school holidays so the impact would be minimal. The only potential obstacle was the money needed but the Lord provided for this completely (and miraculously) so that all four of my family could go (Ross, Muriel, Gareth and Jordan Bartholomew).
After applying very late and being accepted our excitement and trepidation began to mount, having never done anything like this before. Our boys had been on a number of “GO” missions and Muriel and I have led kids camps but we had never been on a mission before. We both decided that the best way forward was to just be open to whatever the Lord brought in our path and deal with it under him. The orientation sessions proved very helpful but as with anything like this, they only really made sense once we were in the thick of things so to speak.
Departure date arrived almost too quickly but we were ready and the three day drive went off very well (apart from a few small hitches) and we all arrived safely in Nakambale where we were to stay for the duration of the mission. It was great being part of a much larger group but all with one purpose – to bring the Gospel to the people of Ovamboland. I had no knowledge or awareness of any of the history of the churches or work in the region so all was very new to me. On the first night Tish Hanekom welcomed us and pointed out that some people would be bitten by an unexpected bug whilst there – the Namibia bug. Little did I know at the time that I would catch the full on disease, but more of that later.
I was part of the Maintenance team and our task was to build a car-port for Tish and do some reparation work at two of the churches. This team proved most energetic, well at least Mike Sessions did, and managed to complete rather an amazing amount of work to the joy of all concerned.
I also had the privilege of joining the team working at Eluwa on a number of occasions and this was most certainly the high (and very emotional) point of the mission for me when I was sitting in the sand with about 6 deaf children who taught me to sign the alphabet. On one day I also joined the Men’s Ministry for an outing and had a very interesting meeting with some of the older men from St Peter’s church. I also was able to preach at St Peter’s church on the Sunday via an interpreter (Timothy Kanime) which was very new to me as well. The ladies team also needed a lift on the day they were treated to a traditional meal and I was asked to join in and although the food was very new to my palate I enjoyed the experience and it was a blessing being with these ladies. I have developed a very soft spot for Christophine in particular as she helped us with the physical work on the church and also displayed much care and love for us when she thought we had got lost after dropping her at her home one evening. Her love for the Lord shines through very obviously!
Far too quickly our time came to an end and we had to start saying good bye and packing everything away and head homeward. On reflection while there I began to feel that more attention was needed in building the leadership of the churches as well as preparing future leaders since all the current ministers are in their 70’s and 80’s. I also found that there was little in the way of medical care for the children at Eluwa and determined to try and get the school and Christian Blind Mission (which looks after people with handicaps throughout Africa) together so that many of these children could be helped in such a way that they could hear and see since many of them had conditions that could be treated effectively.
During our debriefing time one of the things that we were asked to do was put a paragraph together to express our answer should we be asked about our time in Namibia since many people will think of it as a holiday or a little outreach work. My answer will be: “My time in Namibia stretched me spiritually and physically and I developed a love for the people that I was not prepared for”.
I don’t know what the future will hold but my time with Ovamboland isn’t done just because I am back in South Africa.