Joy in the City
One of the main reasons we came to South Africa was to ‘plant’ a church – ie. a mini church community that will grow big in a new place. Bloemfontein church plant has been sort of marinading for quite a while in private before being presented to the public. Our name is “Joy in the City” and, in response to an elbow in the ribs from God, we felt it was time to “go big” even though we are small in numbers. We’ve had a kind of family motto since we arrived in South Africa, which was used particularly during our renovation months, “Go Big or Go Home!” (not that going home was an option now I come to think of it …)
And so in church too we found ourselves going BIG even though there had only been 12 of us usually, plus faithful dogs (all church plants include dogs in their statistics). A few minutes before our first public meeting we were feeling slightly sick, wandering around a huge school hall that could easily seat 450. Imaginary tumbleweed was rolling across this vast dusty room as if we were standing in a deserted street in a cowboy film. Vultures circled above in the harsh sunlight, waiting to pick over our bones (not quite – but yeh, it was pretty quiet and scary.) Those moments signalled the end of the beginning: months of praying and dreaming, wallets emptied, leaflets printed, families re-located, banners designed, PA purchased, band plugged in.. but would anyone actually walk through the door?? It was quite a moment – there was literally nothing else we could have done – it was ‘over to God’.
What would you say to your town or city, if you had the chance? It is daunting, the privilege of being given a brand new platform. We are confident that people here are thirsty for the gospel of grace, and actually they could use a bit of fun too! We also have a wonderful set of values: ‘Come as you are’, ‘Hope and Healing’, ‘Multicultural family’ and ‘Radical generosity’. Surely people can’t help but fall in love with this message?
People started to arrive! The relief was immense, and we tried not to overwhelm them in a rugby scrum. It was wonderful to have our friends from Lesotho there to help set the atmosphere and to make us look more popular than we are! JOY broke out in worship and the band sounded miraculously good, considering that we couldn’t hear ourselves and had never really played together before that morning. I sang lyrics that I had no idea how to pronounce – I just picked out the vowel sounds “ahh-ee-yaaaaa” – something like that but don’t tell anyone. Some things felt like home – eg. having a little gang of dancing girls. Other things felt very foreign, like having high school pupils turned up in their uniforms from the boarding school.
Soon they followed the dance steps of our brothers and sisters from Lesotho and it was a beautiful sight. People began to relax and we were off. Who knows what will happen here in the Free State but so far we have had 2 Sundays, with 2 people finding faith for the first time. One was a school girl from the boarding school, and one a young man, a brand new student who has just arrived here to study. Another new student decided during the first song that she was joining our church – apparently we were singing in Swahili and her family are from Tanzania so it felt like home. These stories were so encouraging from our first Sundays and then reality started to sink in… we are going to have to do this all over again every week!! I think at that point we had a traditional English afternoon NAP. We’re not getting any younger you know…
If you’re reading this and you’re feeling excited, perhaps you too could be part of a church plant? It is certainly an adventure and you’ll never be the same again. Why not Bloemfontein?? It’s sunny nearly everyday you know… Just sayin’