Making Connections in Ovamboland

I went to Namibia to be a blessing and walked away being blessed out of my socks by the people there. We all came back feeling full and having our lives transformed with a different outlook on ministry back at home..

This is how Joanne Cawood felt after leading the children.s ministry team on the Churches for Namibia. (CFN) group's 4th annual visit to Ovamboland to serve the Owambo people from 4 - 10 July.

Many hours of preparation ensured an intensive and successful time of ministry and fellowship by this year.s team of 57 people, representing 11 churches and 2 colleges. The group, accompanied by GWC students, and later representatives from the Bible Institute of South Africa, divided into six teams to minister to leaders and pastors, men, women, youth, children, and the deaf and blind. A support ministry team provided music for camp devotions, ensured that the team was well fed and that suitable vehicles for the trip were used.

Colin Banfield, chairman of the Cape Missions Working Group, led a 3-day, multi-denominational retreat for pastors and leaders with the theme .Making Connections. at an Anglican training centre in Onakwaya. Other talks were presented by Pete Smuts of the Bible Institute, David Greeff a missionary stationed in Ovamboland and representative of Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS), Johan Coetzer of GWC and an Ovambo Baptist pastor Laban Mwashakela. Graham Ebden, who passed away since CFN.s last visit, was sorely missed as he had always been great help in this ministry.

Ovambo churches were assisted to develop a vision for their congregations at the retreat, says Banfield. .The theme was based on the threefold approach we have at Durbanville Community Church where we encourage everyone associated with our church to be sure they are: Connected to Jesus personally (and can lead others to Him); connected to the church family (in a real and meaningful way as they serve the church and care for one another); and connected to the world (as Jesus leads us in intentional relationships with the communities and friends around us). We discussed how churches could make sure that they were working at making these three connections.”

fig01Tish Hanekom and Renee Chase led the women’s ministry, listening to, praying with, and enabling women to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. The women seemed to be the ones who carried the weight of the many social ills on their shoulders, including the impact of Aids and its effect on their children and grandchildren.

Byron Fester, who led the youth ministry, reported that in the past the focus had been on working with the youth at the churches. This year more than a 1000 learners were reached through visits to 3 schools, arranged by David Greeff. “

We were privileged to use a HIV and Aids resource called Reach 4 Life and to distribute about 320 Bibles in the process. Most of the teachers gave us their classes so that we could tell the gospel. That’s something you’ll find difficult to see happening back home. We used the 2 Ways to Live gospel presentation in the classrooms and we split up into groups afterwards. The lack of simple gospel teaching saddened us, but we were greatly encouraged by the youth asking so many questions.

The sports ministry team led by Vaughn Brand held tournaments in several towns, combining sport coaching with life coaching. The sports teams were encouraged to join the Reach 4 Life groups. Combining the youth and sports ministry in this way brought many wonderful gospel opportunities.

Joanne Cawood’s children’s ministry team visited 11 schools during the eight days, some literally out in the bushes. Afternoon clubs were also held at churches and at the missionary’s home, presenting the gospel message with drama and teaching the children some simple gospel songs.

fig02The children’s ministry also included a training day for teachers who wanted to learn how to do children's church, as their children’s church was run very much like adult church. Chris Ebden and Sarah Gilbert presented them with a Bible overview and the ministry team shared their ideas on how to do fun songs, memory verses, review games, and small group sessions.

The ministry at the School for the deaf and blind was led by Lisa Harvey. The team have a good relationship with a school in Ongwediva where they spent a number of days last year training the teachers and equipping them with material to teach the children through the year. Allison Banfield who was part of the ministry to the blind said the work was very challenging. “The deaf children at least have sign language through which we can communicate, but the blind children are totally dependant on our communication and touch. Just to have someone give them a hug and show an interest in them personally, means so much to them. Steve Kukard taught the blind teens the Christianity Explained course, a part of which they later performed in a drama for the children - to consolidate what we had taught them through the week.“

Greeff expressed his gratitude to the CFN for their annual visits, saying that it means a lot to the missionaries stationed there. “The visiting team’s ministry in schools, churches, among children, and in shebeens will lead people to ask ‘How can I be trained to do that?’ God could then lead them to NETS!”