Selfishness and Refugees

Ministry Testimonials

By Rodney Kirkpatrick

Philippians 2:5-11 NASB

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, [6] who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. [8] Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The attitude of Christ is a consistent characteristic throughout the amazing life of Jesus.  He chooses to leave the Glory of His Father’s presence & a myriad of worshiping angels for a humble birth with little fanfare.  He spends ninety percent of His Life preparing & waiting to spend the last ten percent of His Life walking out His Ministry. He is given the Holy Spirit without limit and proceeds to act in a very measured way by only doing what He sees The Father doing.  He lives a flawless life and yet chooses to die in an unjust and terrible way that should be reserved for those who live callously.  What on earth could motivate anyone to look beyond themselves with such regularity?  By placing other’s benefit above his own, The Life of Christ is FULL of miraculous fruit that changes the world forever. 

When Trina and I made our plans for living on the mission field in Durban, South Africa, ministering to leaders was a primary focus.  We had recently finished more than ten years in a pastoral role and hoped to use our experience to benefit others serving God in a similar way.  Shortly after we arrived, we met an unassuming young refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) named Levi Nzuzi.  He was an affable person that just about anyone would like to be around, but we soon discovered that he had an unusual persistence that made him different.  Almost immediately after our introduction, Levi started asking Trina and I to come and share with people he had a burden to help. 

Initially I resisted Levi’s overtures because it didn’t look like what he was asking fit our vision.  After about a year of consistent requests, Trina and I agreed to accompany him to the Etete Township near our home.  The first meeting took place outside with two chairs set up in front of migrant worker’s quarters that had sparse electricity and no running water.  We waited while Levi knocked on doors and invited people to be prayed for out in the yard.   There was an immediate impact on the individuals that day, largely through a manifestation of the spiritual gifts we referenced in the previous blog (CLICK HERE to read that).  Several people prayed to receive Christ for the first time and a number of others decided to become more serious about their commitments to live for Him.  The Bible Study in Etete would continue on Saturday mornings for the next ten years.

The original location for The Bible Study in Etete

The diverse group who attended came from a number of different African backgrounds.  Levi was one of many attendees from The DRC and we also hosted people from Zulu, Mozambican, Zimbabwean, & Rwandan backgrounds. While there are cultural differences between African Nations and Tribes, the biggest divide was between Trina and I’s very different western style of communication and the African Culture shared by everyone else who made up our group.  One common trait was that everyone, including Trina and I, had financial challenges. Only one out of sixteen people who participated in the second meeting had steady employment and there was no obvious way to change this situation. 

 The drive to the area we worked in was an interesting and dangerous journey.  Over the five mile distance travelled to the bible study, motorists would report, on a regular basis: carjacking attempts, vehicle stoning attempts, community wide riots and severely drunk pedestrians walking in the motorways. The downtown area of Shakaskraal was unavoidable and often overcrowded with the feeling that something bad could happen at any moment.  Once while dropping off one of the attendees in Shakaskraal, they were attacked in our car when we stopped and opened the door. Before we knew it, a crowd was gathering around our vehicle and we barely made it away without a serious incident!

The mosque in downtown Shakaskraal

In spite of the culturally inspired communication barriers, financial difficulties and uncomfortable natural circumstances, The Lord did amazing things through our meetings in Etete.  Because we didn’t have the budget to alleviate basic material needs, we prayed and God acted. Within one year, the group went from under ten percent employed to one hundred percent employment.  This was such a drastic change, we had people seeking out the meeting because they had never heard of a gathering where everyone present had a job.  We had a generous benefactor seek us out and provide five hundred pounds of basic food commodities per month for anyone who was in need. For a time this was used by the members of the study, but soon the initial recipients had their needs met. They began distributing the extra food to needy members of their community!

The most significant outcome of the outreach was the leaders it produced over time.  Some of the long standing members of the Bible Study eventually asked our permission to reach out to other leaders in the larger Christian Community of Durban.  At their initiation, we hosted pastors that influenced significant numbers of people in their respective congregations for workshops. The outreach effectively went from two chairs in the middle of the township to a place of influence in the lives of thousands. It is awesome to consider that God fulfilled the vision to encourage leaders through this little bible study that we first thought would hamper our ability to do this very thing.

Benny Kabikwe in front of a Shembe Worship Service near The Etete Township

The Life of Christ teaches us that a selfless attitude is an important key that unlocks God’s Power while WE are on earth. Remember that Jesus definitely didn’t want to go to the cross & He needed His Father to help Him (see Luke 22:39-46). Our testimony of working with Refugees in South Africa is a simple example that illustrates this point.  Any calling in any environment is profoundly enhanced when we adopt the attitude that others are more important than ourselves!

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