January Newsletter 2021
Greetings Fellow Workers / Sanibonane Bazalwane
As expected, 2021 begins in just as turbulent and uncertain a vein as 2020 left us. Our world endures changing seasons of leadership, conflict and COVID19 strains. It’s not always possible to interpret or understand the times and many in our world see no plan in all this global confusion. Yet, Daniel, the great interpreter, reminds us, that our God has ordained this season and has raised up (and taken down) rulers to serve according to His will not theirs. May the Lord give us wisdom and discernment to serve God’s people in the times He has placed us.
After almost a year of lockdown restrictions, we are still far from a return to ‘normality’. Its estimated that even with the availability of vaccines it will take most of this year to obtain and administer them. In the midst of this second wave, I’m sure we are all feeling moments of frustration, anxiety and even despair as we endure more days of unhappy isolation.
Many have voiced their dismay at the Level 3 blanket ban on church meetings, yet other gatherings (e.g. casinos) are allowed. We agree there are inconsistencies but are also aware of the challenge of containing the virus while also sustaining the fragile economy. Some Christian groups have chosen to take legal steps against the government’s ban, but not all church leaders are convinced this is the best way forward. The reality is that the country is in the grips of a highly infectious second wave and most of our communities are feeling the effects even more directly than the first wave. Within our REACH family alone, we are now at approximately fifty reported deaths and hundreds of infections and hospitalizations. Clearly there are legitimate reasons for the current precautions.
It is with this in mind that our Executive Committee has chosen to abstain from joining a court action. We will, however, continue to engage with Government as we voice our concerns and proposals to the National Command Council. They also need our prayers.
I again appeal to all our local church leaders to be well anchored in the face of a wide number of alarming and often conflicting news sources. The times call for level-headed leadership and prayerful perseverance in wisely applied Gospel ministry. We need leaders who ‘understand the times and know what Israel should do’.
Our Trustees have agreed to extend our Relief Fund into 2021 as we expect further financial difficulties in several of our church communities. Retrenchments, salary cuts and supplementary income are an increasing reality for local church ministry teams.
I invite you to prayerfully commit to making ongoing contributions to this most vital fund.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb.10:24,25
It’s true that the gathered community is at the very heart of the Christian life. It is, however, a stretch to interpret Hebrews 10:25 as an unbreakable command to assemble despite a dangerous pandemic. The context of Hebrews 10 is a word to a church that was increasingly unwilling to meet in the face of ongoing persecution and growing disillusion with the gospel. We are not in those same circumstances. We long to meet together, but at this stage it is unwise (and illegal) to organize large gatherings in the face of such an infectious virus.
We can still, however, ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds’ and we must not give up meeting together even under these current restrictions. But this needs to be through online meetings, households, outdoor opportunities and other ways the changing regulations will allow us. Let us put our minds to finding creative means to connect and to make every effort to encourage each other till the Day of eternal gathering dawns.
You will all be aware of the current social and political difficulties in Uganda. For some days we have been unable to communicate with friends and ministry partners in the country. Please keep the situation in your prayers. Remember especially, Archbishop Kazimba, asking the Lord to give him wisdom and courage as he leads God’s people through these difficult days.
At present it is too early to decide how we will convene our 2021 Synod, but we will continue to keep an eye on developments. All national meetings in our first quarter will be online only. I am also mindful of the important regional discussions with regards to structural transformation and racism. I do not want to let this slip off the agenda but also trust you will bear with us as we work through these difficult days.
Our college has successfully managed many challenges as they worked to adjust classes and courses in the light of ongoing COVID19 precautions. This year will surely see more of the same demand for adjustments and creative measures. Please ask the Lord to guide and sustain our faculty and staff and give thanks for a good 2021 student intake.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18
Many have shared what a struggle it has been to spend time with the Lord in these COVID days. It may sound like a strange problem given that we are largely confined to our homes and have plenty of alone time! It is, however, not surprising because the problem is more spiritual than circumstantial. Let us resolve to pursue a more disciplined prayer life, trusting the God who alone changes times and seasons. It may even be good for us to pray for each other – that we may be praying for each other!
There are hundreds of grieving and infected families that need our prayers. Your local church networks will have brought relevant names of members to your attention. Many of our ministers and workers have also contracted the virus over the last year and we are glad to report that most are recovering well. Let us give thanks to God for his daily mercies. I do want to remind you of a few of our ministers and workers who have been brought to our attention for prayer in recent days (I’m sure there are others we are unaware of and we would appreciate the information for future updates).
Rev. Denys Nande: Bishop Katenda has informed us of “uncle” Denys’ hospitalization in recent days. He has tested negative for COVID but remains in a general ward. Please keep this long serving REACH Namibia minister and his family in your prayers.
Bishop Raj Moodley: Please remember Bishop Raj’s family. His daughter Janine has COVID and son-in-law Sachin has been very ill in hospital with COVID infection.
Rev. Elias Majozi: Pray for Rev Majozi as he recovers from COVID in hospital. Lift up his entire family to the Lord as they grieve the loss of his son Thabanzi Majozi.
Mrs Belinda Mhlongo: Lift up Mrs Mhlongo as she and her family grieve the passing of her husband Bongani Mhlongo (son of the late Rev. Leonard Mhlongo) from COVID19 complications.
Rev. Mike and Gillian Marsland: Please remember the Marsland’s as they recover from COVID infection.
Mrs Sandra Radebe: Please remember Mrs Radebe and her family as they mourn the passing of Rev. Lucas Radebe. A long serving and faithful minister in REACH-SA.
Mrs Sheila du Plooy: Sister-in-law of Rev. Ernie du Plooy. Seriously ill in hospital with COVID / Pneumonia.
I express gratitude to our Father for our REACH family and their ongoing prayers and encouragement. I long to meet you all face to face and to gather for worship as we sit under the Word together. It has helped me to remember how the underground church persevered for years without the blessing of open corporate worship. Even though our separation is pandemic rather than persecution related, may the Lord give us that same strength to joyfully endure and creatively connect as God’s family in Christ.
“Kepha iNkosi yokuthula uqobo mayiniphe ukuthula ngezikhathi zonke nangezindlela zonke. INkosi mayibe nani nonke.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16