Even in the body of Christ, brothers and sisters sometimes lose touch, but reunions can rebuild relationships and bring about great joy.
Such is the case with SIM SA and the Luchazi people in the Northern Cape.
“My hope, my dream, my prayer is that we strengthen our relationship with this church, because it is an SIM partner church,” said Siegfried Ngubane, SIM SA country director.
The Luchazi originally came from Angola and Namibia but were no longer welcome there because they had fought alongside South Africa’s forces in the Angolan War. The South African government allowed them to settle in mining towns in the Northern Cape.
Before its merger with SIM, Africa Evangelical Fellowship had begun working with the Luchazi people in South Africa. AEF helped plant a church among them, sent a Luchazi man to Union Bible Institute in Pietermaritzburg to be trained as a minister, and ordained him after he had completed his training. The relationship somehow ended, but the connection has been remembered through the thirteen Luchazi churches, which include “SIM” in their names.
Siegfried hopes to involve all stakeholders in the resumed relationship – the Luchazi people and their church here; the churches in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa; and the SIM offices in all three countries.
Siegfried first heard about the Luchazi in Northern Cape when he became SIM SA’s country director in 2010. The SIM director overseeing Namibia and Angola emailed Siegfried about them and asked him to help the church register, but he was unable to find any information. Two years later, he was at an SIM conference equipping pastors with ministry books when someone mentioned them again.
“My passion started growing from there,” Siegfried said, adding that he soon started receiving emails from the Luchazi pastor who’d been trained by AEF many years earlier. They finally met in person at a conference in 2013.
“Because of those three encounters – first the Namibian director, second the Pastors’ Books Conference, and thirdly, when I met him in person for the first time – I planned that when I went to the Northern Cape, I would go straight to his church and his denomination, so that’s why I contacted him,” said Siegfried, who visited the pastor on his national research tour.
Now that contact has been re-established, Siegfried hopes to renew SIM’s relationship with the Luchazi people, but he wants to take care that it happens in ways that strengthen the church rather than create conflicts or dependencies.
“I think we can really start working alongside the pastor, strengthening his ministry, especially that of leadership, and not take over from him … It’s strengthening his leadership, but it’s also making sure that he’s raising his own leaders, where I think the mission can partner with him. And from there, think about the people themselves,” Siegfried said, adding that the church only has its original pastor.
“As the only pastor, I cannot see how only one man can look after so many churches; even if he’s got good theology, the church will struggle …. But at least one positive thing is that he and all his leadership see this big need, that they need training in discipleship, leadership development and theology.”
One of the first steps, Siegfried said, is helping the Luchazi church network with other entities and resources, such as Nehemiah Bible Institute. NBI offers affordable theological training that can be completed at a distance, and their materials are available in Portuguese, which is one of the languages the Luchazi speak. Siegfried also plans to make a return trip to the Luchazi with a team of missionaries and church leaders.
By Brian Heffron, SIM SA missionary journalist