In September I traveled to the African continent for the first time. I went with Minister Bongane Nyathi to attend his sister’s wedding in Johannesburg, South Africa. The wedding was traditional and went on for three days. It was really beautiful and festive.
I learned a little about Zulu and Sotho cultures and history and observed many of the traditional festivities and customs. In fact, the Nyathi family invited me to be a part of the wedding party at one of the wedding ceremonies and taught me to do some Zulu dancing. I was pretty good!
After the wedding reception an elder, who was an uncle to the groom, approached me and began speaking to me in Sotho. I asked him to speak in English but he refused, saying: “I Lesotho man, I speak Sotho”. He continued speaking to me in his native language and all the while holding my hand and looking into my eyes. He then kissed my hand, embraced me and in English said: “Welcome home son”. He blessed my soul! It brings fresh tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
While visiting Johannesburg, I also had an opportunity to speak at W.W. Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Kliptown/Soweto. The church has a rich history. It is the site of the early meetings of the African National Congress (ANC) and is rumored to be the place where the ANC Charter was signed. The members of the congregation were warm and exuberant, praising God with gladness. They received me enthusiastically and promised me that they enjoyed my preaching.
While visiting the church I visited a child care center that the church sponsors and learned that some of the 60 children that they assist are orphaned. These children leave the child care center each night and sleep in shacks with no heat and no running water.
They have no parents to care for them or look out for their well-being. In some cases they are cared for by grandmothers who hardly have enough to take care of themselves. My heart went out to the children and I decided to raise funds and awareness to try to help them. Upon my return to the U.S., I asked the Men’s Chorus at my Church, Allen Temple Baptist Church to help me raise funds to assist them. The men agreed and toward that end, we presented a benefit concert on January 11, 2009 at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. The theme for our concert was taken from Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The church and the community supported us enthusiastically and we raised several thousand dollars to take back to Johannesburg and help the children in the nursery and surrounding community.
I returned to Johannesburg in March. The pastor asked that I meet with various auxiliaries in addition to the children and volunteers at the nursery. During the first week I met with various church auxiliaries, including the Young Adults and Young Men’s ministries. We discussed ways that each group could become more effective in their service to the church and surrounding community. Both groups expressed a desire to collaborate with their counterpart groups at Allen Temple Baptist Church in order to expand the role of their auxiliary at W.W. Brown Church.
I preached during the week at a special service and I also spoke during Sunday morning service.
I also met with the volunteers at the nursery to find out what supplies the nursery needed. They informed me that they needed mats for the toddlers, cribs for the infants, blankets, a refrigerator, and school supplies. I purchased all of those items while there and delivered them to the nursery during my visit.
I also visited the homes of grannies and surrogate grannies who were caring for adopted children whose parents had died from HIV/AIDS. These grannies and their adopted children live in very challenging conditions (shacks with no running water, no electricity, no beds, little furniture, meager clothing, and very little food). I gave the children mats and blankets and promised to remember them during my next visit.
The Reverend E.S. Pudule and the members of the W.W. Brown Memorial Baptist Church send their warmest regards to the Men’s Chorus, to Allen Temple, members of McGee Avenue Baptist Church, and Progressive Church in Stockton. They expressed great appreciation for our effort during my visit with them, and I was very touched by the reception I received and the love and warmth shown by our brothers and sisters at W.W. Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Kliptown, South Africa.
Minister Bongane Nyathi, who served here in the U.S. for many years, sends warm regards and asked that the church pray for him and his family. He is to be ordained in June of this year and hopes to be able to return to the U.S. by the end of the year.
I am thankful to Allen Temple for providing me with the opportunity to minister in this way. When I was delivering the items to the center, the volunteers were praying and rejoicing, and I felt something wonderful down deep within. Perhaps it was the love emanating from the folk there. Perhaps it was the sense that our small gifts made a big difference to the children and volunteers. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit affirming our mission work–our effort to ‘bear one another’s burdens’. Whatever it was, it felt good and affirming and it is still with me. I am convinced that this ministry has God’s blessing.
If you are interested in helping, please feel free to call me at (510) 433.0175.
— Rev. Theophous Reagans, Esq. is an associate minister at Allen Temple Baptist Church – www.allen-temple.org