News & Events

Moderator’s blog from South Africa visit

March 13, 2013

From 6-13 March Free Church Moderator Rev Dr Iain D Campbell will be visiting South Africa. The latest updates from his trip will be posted below, and also on his blog.

You can also download the latest newsletter from the Free Church-supported Dumisani Theological Institute in South Africa, by clicking here.

Wednesday 13 March

I decided to include a photograph of Alistair at his desk in Dumisani, just to show that he is (literally) entombed by books in his little corner of South Africa.

Even the photo does not to justice to the fact that he and his books are vying for space, but, as always, he was happy to oblige.

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This morning Dumisani hosted a small ministers’ fraternal which meets regularly around different churches in the district.

I spoke on Preaching through Exodus, and very much enjoyed both the fellowship and the coffee and cake afterwards.

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After a short break I was on duty for four hours of lectures and preaching, beginning with a College devotional on Luke 24, and then three talks on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

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uMfundisi is the Xhosa for ‘teacher’ and is regularly used for a minister - so that was very much my role today.

I now look forward to the journey home, and reversing the role, so that I shall speak to others about my time here.

It was a heavy schedule, but one which I enjoyed being involved in. The level of interest and support from other churches was also very encouraging.

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Perhaps I shall have time to blog about impressions and conclusions at some other time, but for now I hope these short blogs have given some sense of the wonder of the place that is South Africa, and some idea of the role our church has to play in this part of the world.

More than that, I hope it will sharpen out view of mission; for, as the sign on the exit gate of Bethany Emmanuel church says, ‘You are now entering the mission field. Are you prepared with the Gospel?’

Indeed. May we all be missionaries, wherever we are.

Tuesday 12 March

Alistair Wilson kindly drove us to Mpongo Game Reserve today, where we had a good morning scouting for African animals.

The zebra were breathtaking, as were the giraffe, rhino and buck deer which we saw roaming freely in their natural environment.

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The hungry hippo by the coffee shop was ready to entertain us and to appear for a loaf of bread. What some animals will not do for attention!

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What a wonderful panorama of nature there is all around us here - creation resplendent in its native beauty. And what marvellous lessons it has to teach us.

I took a photo of warthogs grazing - moving forward all the time on their knees. Guess that’s the way Christians should graze too.

But I’ve also been doing a little reading on the politics of South Africa, and the remarkable and tragic violence of the apartheid regime.

Isn’t it amazing how, out of all of animate creation, man should have so found a propensity for violence, disorder and social chaos?

The move towards democracy has been one of the great social changes in the South Africa of my generation.

How we ought to pray that the young people growing up in today’s South Africa will be shaped by higher ideals than in the past, and that the churches will serve them well.

I look forward to a day of ministry in Dumisani tomorrow.

Monday 11 March (posted yesterday)

Yesterday morning Anne and I attended the graduation and awards ceremony of Dumisani Bible Institute.

It was held in Bethany Emmanuel Baptist Church, and started at 10am, except that the congregation kept arriving during the course of the service - standard practice I’m told! By the time we finished the place was quite full!
There were thirteen students receiving awards, though not all were able to be present for the ceremony. Many of these had been studying for their degree part-time over several years.

Their dedication was admirable, and the ceremony marked a remarkable achievement.

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It was an honour to be associated with the Dumisani staff for the occasion, and I spoke from 2 Corinthians 4 on the work of the ministry, and on the three dimensions of the gospel: what God has done for us, what he does in us, and what he does for us.

The evening offered a bit of relaxation, which we appreciated as we prepared for the Sunday services.

This morning I preached at one of the congregations of the Free Church of Southern Africa, with which our own denomination at home has had a long association.

This FCSA is in King William’s Town, and is known as Club View. The building is fairly new, and is often used for large convention meetings.

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It was a real joy to meet first with the Kirk Session, and then to preach to the congregation. The singing was uplifting, and the warmth of the people was such an encouragement.

They had provided snacks for us after the service, as a special treat. It was a real joy to speak to them as they spoke of their affection for some of the missionaries who had served in South Africa.

I look forward to preaching this evening in Bethel Emmanuel Baptist Church, where we had the graduation yesterday.

In the FCSA congregation the women sit apart from the men, and Anne enjoyed being looked after by the ladies.

With it being Mothering Sunday back home, I think she was missing the family a bit; but in God’s Providence she was singing Psalm 23 with the Mamas of Club View.

How better to spend Mothers’ Day than to join with people we had never met, in a place we had never seen, and to sing of a common faith in the goodness and mercy of God that follow all of his people all their days?

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Saturday 9 March

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Today began with coffee at Dumisani, where Anne and I had the opportunity to meet the staff at their morning break. The school is closed on a Friday, so it becomes a day for administration and other duties.

We saw the new computers for which the WFM have been raising money, and which will be of great benefit for the students.

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Most of the morning was then spent at Teleios School, based at Emmanuel Bethany Baptist Church, and of which Jenny Wilson is Principal. What a great privilege it was to get a taste of the great work being done at the school.

When we arrived the children were enjoying making use of a cold water slide; I was very tempted to use it myself since the temperature has remained very high. The children enjoyed having their photographs taken as much as using the slide, and it was no problem to get them to pose for their Scottish audience!

Of course, taking a teacher to a school is like taking a minister to a theological institute, so Anne enjoyed meeting the staff and pupils, and getting involved in the lessons!

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It was also very moving to be asked to speak at the school’s end of week Assembly; the children were very enthusiastic singers! It was also very moving to have ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd (I will trust)’ as the closing song; just a week ago Anne finished her week at her school singing the same song, so she found it very emotional to hear it sung now in a South African school!

So the morning was about the education of theological students, and the education of children and young people. The rest of the day was about our own continuing education as we toured some of the villages and settlements around KWT and were able to enjoy a meal with the Wilsons in the evening.

We are always learning, aren’t we? And travel is certainly a unique medium of education.

Friday 8 March

The jet lag caught up with us a little bit this morning, so we rested for a good few hours before doing anything else. The temperature was a little cooler than yesterday, but still in the 20+ยบ area.

The afternoon was a tour of King William’s Town and surrounding areas, courtesy of Jenny Wilson; in spite of a full day at work she made time to act as tour guide, for which we were very grateful.

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KWT itself is a bustling town, ‘rich in ornate Victorian architecture’ as one of the guide books puts it. Some of the church buildings are very impressive - the Presbyterian and Anglican buildings strikingly so. Its colonial houses and streets have a striking beauty, and some of the mansions in part of the town betray wealth and prestige.

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But a stone’s throw from the town - or at least a short drive - shows a different landscape of Xhosa settlements in villages of tiny two-roomed houses and evident poverty.

The links the Wilsons have made here enabled us to visit the family of one of their friends, who kindly allowed us into their home. How easily we grumble at the least thing; how thankful we should be for all that God has given us.

And how thankful we should be as a church that our missionary families are doing far more than we expect of them, and becoming involved with people across a wide spectrum of social inequalities and of personal needs. They ought to command our deepest respect and our constant prayers.

King William’s Town is also the birthplace of Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist of the 1970s, whose grave we also visited.

Biko is regarded now as one of the great heroes of modern South Africa. How fortunate many of us are that we were spared involvement in such bitter and bloody controversies.

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It was certainly a day of learning, which was completed with a delightful meal at the home of Deon and Shelley Lombard, Vice-Principal and administrator of Dumisani respectively; and with whom the Whytocks are staying during their time at the Institute currently.

Developing friendships in the cause of the gospel is a major part of a unique visit like this, and we look forward to the next few days.

Thursday 7 March

Since Dumisani Theological Institute (DTI) is our primary reason for visiting South Africa, it was good to share a meal with most of the faculty this evening, in the home of the Principal, Alistair Wilson, where we are staying.

We enjoyed food and fellowship with Deon and Shelley Lombard, Wayne and Megan Gretz, and Jack and Nancy Whytock from Prince Edward Island, who are helping at DTI for the next three months.

Already we have been amazed at the diversity of this rich culture - the diversity of cultures and languages, of landscapes and of views, of people and communities.

English speakers, Afrikaans speakers and Xhosa speakers living together and working together, and, in this case, in the cause of Christ and his gospel.

Earlier we visited DTI itself, and saw buildings which had been familiar to us from Mission Board reports in church magazines as well as from reports of visiting missionaries.

For me there is a rich Scottish legacy and heritage represented in the work of the Institute, but more and more I realise that this is only one strand of the background to the work going on to train pastors in the Institute today.

Others laboured, and still others enter into these labours, and the work goes on. None of us, and none of our traditions, has a monopoly on the Lord’s work, but it is a joy to be in it together.

Hopefully I’ll get to post some more photographs tomorrow, but meantime the combination of the South African heat, the early flight times and the supper around our fellowship table is making me drowsy and fit only to sleep.

Wednesday 6 March

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My wife and I (pictured above) have just arrived in King William’s Town, South Africa, where we will be spending the next week with Rev Dr Alistair Wilson and his wife, Jenny.

I’m here as part of my Moderatorial duties, to visit Dumisani Bible School as the guest at their graduation this Saturday, when I will bring the greetings of the Free Church of Scotland, who have always had a strong link to the School.

We plan to meet up with some of the students and I will be doing some preaching and lecturing while I’m here.

Last night we had a lovely, if brief, stopover at Johannesburg where we stayed with Rev Thomas Dreyer and his wife Erna.

Thomas is a minister in the Gereformeerde Kerk in Randburg, and will be visiting our General Assembly later this year as a representative of his denomination.

Today I should be attending Committee meetings in Edinburgh. Instead, I am getting used to the South African sun. Can’t be everywhere, I’m afraid. More news later.

Rev Dr Iain D Campbell is Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and minister of Point Free Church on the Isle of Lewis.

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