My trip to South Africa germinated about a year ago when Esme Bowers, a friend from Cape Town came to visit. As she and Emily Voorhies, president of Tirzah International,were talking about plans for networking women leaders in ministry in South Africa, they casually asked, “Why don’t you join us?”
That invitation resonated with what I’d been subconsciously desiring. One last trip back to South Africa to see the changes and to connect with people I’d known so many years ago. At my age I felt I shouldn’t travel alone internationally. But this would enable me to travel with my good friend, Emily. I felt the Lord had put this desire in my heart, and then opened the door without my even pushing it!
So a year later I found myself actually on this long journey. When we arrived in Johannesburg after two over- night flights and a day layover in Frankfurt, we parted ways. She met up with Esme, and Caesar, the man who took over Youth Alive in 1976, picked me up and took me to his home.
A week later I reconnected with Emily at a retreat center near the O. R. Tambo airport—a new state of the art complex. Esme had invited a small group of women leaders from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia to meet each other and share experiences. This was the initial purpose for my trip. I was asked to share my life’s journey and God’s faithfulness, and to encourage the women to know how to “pass the baton.” We spent one session studying how to use my book, Lessons in Leadership, which Emily had given to each participant.
Whenever I’m with international women I’m impressed with their courage and persistence in following God’s call on their lives. For example, Maria belongs to a mission minded church which sends teams to prayer walk in the Middle East. Maria has been to Iran, Iraq and Yemen where she and a partner have knocked on doors offering to pray for women.This is but one example of the growing mission interest among South Africans today.
One young woman brought a power-point presentation of the media ministry she and her husband are involved in. She gave each woman a packet of beautiful designed books for teachers to use discussing problems youth face in today’s culture. Remember, eighteen years ago , under apartheid, there was no opportunity for an African, least of all an African woman, to learn how to use computers, much less produce 21st century media!
Nqobile was our youngest participant—only twenty. By the time she was twelve, she’d lost both her parents and cared for herself in abject poverty. A social worker threatened to put her in an orphanage, but she maintained her independence, working weekends and persisted in her schooling. When her stepmother (who had not taken her in) died, “Q” as we called her, suddenlyfound herself with full responsibility for a five- year-old half-sister. But under God’s providence, an Afrikaans women “adopted” Q, who is now studying part time at UNISA (University of South Africa) and working as a teacher’s aide. We saw tremendous potential in this young woman. It was a special delight to have Annejie, her adoptive white mother, participate in our program. Another major change since apartheid
Elisina originally came from Zimbabwe . After earning her Ph. D. in theology she came to South Africa to teach at the South African Theological Seminary in Pieternmaritsburg. (One of our keen Youth Alivers, Moshe Rajwili, was president of the seminary until he was hit by a car and killed a year ago.)Elisina has designed African based curriciulum which is accredited, but she does not want to leave behind any woman who is willing to study. She has written some courses which grant a certificate enabling those women to be recognized in ministry.Her desire is to see the historical abuse of women corrected. But she says it won’t happen over night. She encouraged the younger women to be patient . In their eagerness to use their gifts they must be careful not to destroy the church.
Even the oppportunity for sharing in a multi-generational setting is a change. As I witnessed the desire for unity, the giftedness and the wisdom portrayed in this group , it was evident that African women are carrying the baton to the next generation.