A Long-Awaited Visit
I first met Monametsi Bahudi in 2014, at a meeting held in Zambia for most of the HeartCry missionaries in Southern Africa. Ever since meeting this jovial brother, I have desired to visit him in Botswana. After all, he’s a farmer and has a John Deere tractor! Being from the Midwest, I liked him immediately. Seeing his church-planting work in the city of Gaborone proved to be quite challenging, though, since Monametsi was attempting to pastor full-time and attend seminary in South Africa. Time after time, visits were proposed and postponed due to schedule conflicts.
Meanwhile, Monametsi’s reports continued to come in, describing all of the ‘ups and downs’ of church-planting work - evangelism, discipleship, marriage counseling, training men, financial challenges, a struggling second church-plant. Sometimes there seemed to be more ‘downs’ than ‘ups.’ Last November he finally finished seminary and in January our schedules finally aligned for the the long-awaited visit to Botswana.
A Solid Core
What I found in Gaborone was wonderfully encouraging. Central Baptist Church has a very solid core upon which they can build and grow even stronger. Their attractive meeting place was filled with a healthy balance of several young families, a number of young adults, and lots of kids. There are young professionals in the church with good jobs. Equally promising, Monametsi has finished seminary and can now devote his full energy to the church.
And the church continues to grow in size and spiritual maturity. They added four new members last year through conversion and baptism. Brother Bahudi is busy discipling men and expects a couple of them to be ready for eldership soon. The depth of faith was especially apparent in one precious family as the wife/mother battles cancer with a quiet peace and joy in the midst of great pain and sorrow. Please pray for healing mercy and much comfort for that family, and for Pastor Bahudi as he shepherds them through this trial.
Moving Toward Autonomy
There is one area that could be strengthened in the church - financial faithfulness. This is a common need in many of the churches we partner with around the world. In Africa, many of the members have come out of the prosperity cult where they were constantly pressured to give so that the pastor could live in extravagant wealth. Giving may not be a pleasant topic for them. There is still significant poverty in many regions of Africa, sometimes resulting in feelings of dependence on outside help rather than taking ownership of the church’s finances. All of this is understandable when even we in the West fail to give as we should, with far fewer legitimate excuses.
Whatever the reasons for financial weakness, indigenous churches must be helped toward financial autonomy - self-sustaining and standing on their own. That is why HeartCry partners with Kabwata Baptist Church (Lusaka, Zambia) in a deliberate weaning process for their church-plants. A church-planter receives full support for 4-5 years, then that support is cut back by 25% each following year as the church assumes financial responsibility for their pastor. The process is neither flawless nor painless, but it does prevent perpetual dependency.
Gaborone is a church-plant of Kabwata, and they are already a couple of years into the weaning process. Before long, outside support will end. To help prepare the church for that, Pastor Chipita Sibale of Kabwata Baptist and I urged them to make greater strides in maturity. Preaching on King Uzziah, Pastor Chipita reminded us that how we end our race counts far more than how we start. Then I preached two messages outlining Scriptural financial priorities for the church - first in the support of their pastor and then expanding Gospel missions in their land. The fellowship was certainly sweet and we trust that the saints were edified. Please pray that in Botswana and around the world, more indigenous churches would understand from Scripture, and embrace by faith, their financial responsibilities in fulfilling the Great Commission.