I had a rough day in circuit yesterday. No one around. Nothing to do. Apparently it's the Women's Manyano Convention. Fortunately I'm not expected to be there (I don't think I am . . .) But I didn't anticipate it and my supervising minister is there and I have no clue what is happening over Easter and Holy Week. He answered my voicemail with an sms - so at least I knew where he was. I don't know what is happening this weekend. Is there a funeral? Do I need to preach at Grootdraai, wherever that is? Would they even notice if I decided to start my own church in PE? (That's sort of a joke - I'm not going to!!!)
The day before someone told me how when a minister doesn't receive a stipend from the MCSA connexion because the assessments haven't been paid, the congregation just takes a collection and gives the result to the minister. This could actually be more than the stipend! But the congregation avoids making any contribution to the connexion (overall leadership of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa). It probably seems like a good idea to them. But when the minister decides to leave, they no doubt turn to the connexion looking for a new, fully-trained minister - to whose training and general upkeep (the connexion pays part of medical aid and pension and so on from assessments) they have made no contribution. This aspect of African culture depresses me.
I read this morning from 1 Samuel 6 where Samuel says to the Israelites who are sincerely mourning God's apparent absence from their lives, if you really want to return to God, get rid of your Baals and your Ashtoreths. And I had a sense of the real repentance of the people of Israel. One of the ladies from one of my churches came to me a couple of weeks ago and said that I must not feel unwanted at Shaw. The sermon I had preached had driven many of the ladies to a deep repentance and that they appreciated me. (I preached on 'I consider all things loss compared to the surpassing knowledge of knowing Jesus Christ'). I was really touched, but it came into focus as I thought of a crowd of Manyano ladies putting aside the Baals and the Ashroreths of their lives and coming to know Jesus in a real way.
Sometimes it feels that there is no hope. That people are stuck irredeemably in their ways. But if Jesus is all that I have to give, that is riches. I could add teaching and leadership ability, but it counts nothing compared to giving Jesus. [For those who will say that Jesus is already here, yes he is. I can't 'give' them Jesus. But for many they do not know how much he is really here and they need to be given that.]