I have recently returned from Angola, West Africa, where I was speaking at a Missionary, Medical and Humanitarian Aid Workers conference. This was way out in the country in the Angolan bushland at the rustic Vihua Game Resort some 3 hours south east of Lubango. It was a cute place and fenced in from the African animals like springbok, kudu, giraffe, rhinoceros, zebra and ostriches, although monkeys were romping through the resort each day. I had a wonderful time being amongst missionaries, doctors, surgeons and humanitarian aid leaders and local workers, many of whom had been there for decades. They were amazing people who simply considered themselves God’s servants to the locals and had won the trust of thousands. I called them “very talented legends” in their amazing fields of expertise. In fact, I used a story that described my feelings towards them.
In the mid-1700s John Wesley and George Whitfield had nation-shaking ministries, Wesley being a wonderful pastor (founding the Methodist Church) and Whitfield, an amazing evangelist, especially preaching out-of-doors to the coalminers and the poor of London. They didn’t see eye to eye on certain doctrines which divided them somewhat. The story goes (which I can’t prove but certainly believe it could be true because of the respect these men had for each other) that one of Wesley’s congregation, a very critical man, said to Wesley, “Do you think we will see Whitfield in heaven?” Meaning that he didn’t think Whitfield was going to heaven. Wesley said to him, “I don’t think we will see Whitfield in heaven”. The critic was smugly pleased when he thought that Wesley agreed with him. And then Wesley said, “Whitfield will be so close to Jesus when it comes to the giving of rewards in heaven, and we will be so far back that I don’t think we will see Whitfield from that distance”. What a great answer.
That is the way I regarded those precious missionaries in Angola – that they would be so close to Jesus when it came to the giving of rewards in heaven, and I would be so far back that I would not see them from that distance. One of them said to me, “Come on, sir, we are all God’s simple servants and we all need each other in His service. Just give us your teachings and encourage us”.
Some of them were worn out and discouraged and even considered quitting. The timing of this Spiritual Life Conference was excellent, where my simple messages appeared to be an encouragement to them – like water on dry ground for some. The testimony times revealed how close some of them were to quitting but changed their minds to continue until they had fulfilled God’s plan.
I had 5 flights getting to Angola via South Africa and Namibia, and then 4 flights on the return journey. This and Harvest Time the overland travel through the Angolan bushland were somewhat stressful. I kept thinking that the Apostles Paul and Barnabas had it much worse than me in their day. However, my gracious hosts Dan and Rachel Hoyme, in Angola, took really good care of me. En route to Angola I had two extra flights (Brisbane to Western Australia (Bunbury) to conduct the funeral of a very good older friend of mine, who had asked if me to do his funeral more than two years ago. It was such a privilege to honour my old friend and support his dear wife and family. Then I had to fly back to Sydney to connect with the international flight to Johannesburg, and on to Angola. Thank you for your prayers for me (and for Margurita) while I was away.
Stopover in Johannesburg, South Africa
On my return journey I stopped in Johannesburg for a couple of days to visit long-standing friends, Doug and Mary McKeown, for a few days. They are gracious people from early days in ministry in 1973 whom we met through Boys Brigade in South Africa – they were captains of a Boys Brigade Company and introduced me to a ministry across South Africa in which I had the privilege of leading many hundreds of boys and their families to Christ. Doug and Mary remind us very much of Aquila and Priscilla in the book of Acts, in the way they have operated house churches, hosted missionaries, and have brought so many to Christ themselves. I ministered at the wonderful Chinese Grace Family Church. The young Chinese university students that I had the privilege to lead to Christ in Johannesburg 45 years, are still around (with white hair now). They were pioneers of this wonderful outreach church that has become wonderfully multi-ethnic. Their children and grandchildren are the church leaders and musicians today. We had a great Sunday morning service and a delicious Chinese lunch afterwards.