These are unusual days in South Africa. After twenty years of isolation from international sports competition, South Africa not only participated in, but hosted, the Rugby World Cup last month. People came from around the world to be a part of the fever.
Actually, South Africa not only hosted and participated in the World Cup - they won it. For the final against New Zealand, South Africa president Nelson Mandela donned a number 6 rugby shirt, the number of the Springboks white captain, Francois Pienaar. Blacks, whites and coloreds displayed a unity without historical comparison as thousands danced and celebrated in the streets of South Africa's cities. Where once a country divided existed, a nation united was born.
Unity is not only being displayed around the vision of rugby. Christians in South Africa are rapidly unifying around the vision of South Africa as a country committed to world evangelization. The events of this week have more than confirmed this. For four days in the first week of July, five thousand six hundred people of all ages gathered in Pretoria for the Love Southern Africa (LSA) '95 conference, hosted this year by the World Mission Center and Christian Students' Association. This high attendance, more than double last year's, symbolizes the rapid growth of the vision. On the final day of the conference, Saturday, July 8th, 17,000 Christians marched through downtown Pretoria to declare that God is very much alive and busy building His church in the nations.
The City Impact march included thousands of banners and scores of dancers, led by fifty Christian motorcyclists.
During the celebration almost 2000 were commissioned for 1-3 week outreaches into southern African nations to carry the life- transforming message of Jesus Christ. Many left directly after the celebration, while still others left after the closing session of the conference that evening. The rest of the teams departed on the following Sunday and Monday. Immediately following the celebration and declaration, the participants shared the gospel throughout Pretoria.
Through the prayer track, conference participants also committed themselves to mobilize one million South Africans to participate in praying through the 100 gateway cities of the 10/40 Window in October 1995. All seventeen Christian magazines in South Africa have offered free space to print the month- long prayer calendar for the cities. Precious moments of reconciliation broke out throughout the conference. One entire session of the prayer track (with a participation of more than 900) dealt with the sins of the fathers that had been passed on to the sons. Forgiveness was asked for and received by those representing various aspects of society: fathers to children, children to parents, whites to blacks, men to women, various churches to para-church organizations, teachers to students. Many tears were shed and much healing took place.
"We are hoping LSA '95 will have a result like that of a stone cast into a pond with an increasing ripple effect from Pretoria, to southern Africa, with the 2000 going off, and then to the world with the international participants (25 nations were represented)," said Willie Crew, Director of the World Mission Center.
Participants at LSA '95 were encouraged to mobilize teams from churches for on-site research to each of the 100 least-evangelized peoples of southern Africa. Some seventeen teams of those 2000 people going out were committed to do the on-site research among ten least- evangelized peoples following a training at LSA '95.
By the year 2000 the Love Southern Africa executives are expecting that each of the twenty four African countries south of the Equator will have their own conference. They are setting the pace for the planning of an AD 2000 Day of Celebration for who Jesus is and what He has done in building His church among every people in Southern Africa and link together with them by satellite. In other continents a similar continent and global satellite link-up is anticipated. On that final day of LSA '95, a symbol for the new positioning of South Africa for world evangelization was given as the seventeen thousand who marched made a declaration that God wants to use South Africa in world evangelization and they are committed to carry out His will.
In July 1997, the LSA Executive is proposing to host a global consultation on world evangelization by the year 2000 and beyond (GCOWE '97). This gathering is expected to include some 1200 international leaders from 100 countries of the world in addition to 4,000 South African adult and youth and 500 pastors.
The international leaders are expected to include 500 mission executives, 300 African leaders, 200 presidents and academic deans of theological institutions worldwide and 300 other AD 2000 national and regional coordinators and track leaders.
From a commitment of the LSA leaders it appears that a rapidly growing global student volunteer movement is emerging. During GCOWE '95, in May 1995, Student Mission 2000 brought 70,000 Korean students to the Olympic stadium for a challenge for world evangelization. In January 1997, GERACAO '97 (Generation of 1997) is to be held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, at which 50,000 Latin Americans will be rallied to a stadium to be challenged to world evangelization. At GCOWE 1997, another 50,000 students are expected to be rallied at a stadium in South Africa to challenge them to world evangelization. Within a period of 26 months unprecedented student rallies will have been held in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Cassie Carstens, who currently heads the Christian Students' Association (CSA) informed the LSA '95 audience on the last evening of the conference that he would be seeking a directional change for the CSA for the next two years in order to prepare for the student mobilization event of GCOWE '97. The CSA currently has a membership of 80,000 and contact with more than 500,000 university and high school students and church chapters throughout the country.
One of the unique features of GCOWE '97 will be a conference of some 500 mission executives from around the world concerned about sending missionaries to the remaining unreached peoples by the year 2000. They will be presented the information on the 2,000 or so significantly large (over 10,000 individuals) least evangelized peoples of the world to discuss how these can have a church- planting movement initiated by December 31, 2000. It is expected that the complete documentation of 2,000 or so significant least evangelized peoples of the world, from on-site research teams around the world, will be available to present to the mission executives.
At parallel gathering, as part of GCOWE '97, presidents and academic deans of theological institutions and Bible schools worldwide will be invited to deliberate over the growing global initiative approaching the year 2000 and how they can more effectively prepare their students for taking up the task of a church for every people and the gospel for every person.
Another parallel conference within this meeting will be the All- African AD 2000 and Beyond consultation at which some 300 key African leaders are expected. This meeting would serve as a continent-wide AD 2000 gathering to advance the vision of a church for every people and the gospel for every person in every country in Africa and the entire world.
LSA is a seven-year strategy, begun in 1993, to determine who are the unreached or least reached in southern Africa and to give them the opportunity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ by the year 2000. LSA, which is part of a worldwide movement committed to completing the task of world evangelization by the year 2000, was birthed when God gathered a group of South African mission leaders into relationship.
LSA recognizes that apart from reaching the least reached of southern Africa, we also have the responsibility of reaching our own country. We believe that the Body of Christ must play a leading role in developing the peoples of South Africa, meeting them at the point of their need, through research, nation building and reconciliation, reconstruction, development and community empowerment.
LSA fully understands that God has a call on the South African Church: to be a blesser of the nations of the world. Believing that as this nation gives of itself, a channel of God's blessing will be opened to her, LSA seeks to encourage both the local church and mission organizations to get involved in reaching those areas of the world that have never heard of the gospel, especially in the 10/40 Window. The demise of apartheid and the birth of a new South Africa has brought about this unprecedented opportunity for the nation to become a blesser of nations.
I. The LSA tracks. These tracks are quality networks of ministries and churches that have the same vision and goals. The nineteen tracks already in place are the strength and the backbone of the movement.
II. The annual conference. This is the visible part of LSA. LSA '95 is the third in a series of seven conferences leading up to the year 2000. Its uniqueness can be found in the delegation of the co- ordinating responsibilities for the conference to a different missions organization every year.
III. The short-term outreaches into southern Africa. These teams go out after the annual conference. Their primary goal is to expose the participants to the mission field. A secondary goal is to form bridges to reach the least reached of southern Africa. Almost 2,000 are on 1-3 week outreaches into Africa south of the equator. Judging by the continued growth, interest and involvement of local churches and ministries, it is evident that the hand of the Lord is on LSA.
This year's conference was packed to capacity. A sense of anticipation could be felt on the opening night. Much of the program was visual with the use of video, laser, dance, drama, mime, flags, and music to show the participants what they would learn over the next few days.
The conference was really two in one. Organized this year by World Mission Center and the Christian Students' Association, LSA was geared for both the younger and older participant. A plenary session was held in the morning for the young people while 400 Christian leaders, pastors, and mission executives met in the Mini-Leaders Conference to discuss strategy for South Africa and LSA and to hear moving testimonies from some of the South African GCOWE '95 delegation of 66 who were in Seoul in May 1995. Then the participants moved on to World Focus seminars taught by various authorities from around the globe. Tracks and the more practical workshops were held in the afternoon. The evening plenary sessions, at which Trevor Sampson and Bill Drake ministered in music and an international missions leader spoke, were attended by both groups. Relationships with the Lord were deepened through praise and ministry from the Word. Relationships with others were made and strengthened that in the future could lead to bridges of ministry around the world. The heartbeat of God for the nations was received by many as they committed themselves to pray and obey.
The results of this conference may not be known in our lifetimes, but one day when we stand before the throne of the Lamb with the multitude from every tongue, tribe and nation perhaps we will begin to comprehend the scope of what God has begun this week.
LSA is establishing a model for on-site research teams to the 2,500 or so significant (more than 10,000 individuals) least evangelized peoples of the world by "... researching the 100 least reached people groups in the southern African region," Mac Adaimi, head of research at World Mission Center said.
"The vision of Love Southern Africa is to give everybody in Southern Africa the opportunity of hearing the gospel by the year 2000. To achieve this we need to know which people have not yet heard the gospel. Our plan of action is to raise 100 research outreach teams (2- 4 people in every team). They will consist of interested individuals sent out by enthusiastic local churches to every one of these 100 unreached peoples. These teams will collect relevant information which will be used to motivate and mobilise local churches across South Africa to reach out to the various ethnic groups with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Love Southern Africa '95 program concluded with words that could be a challenge to every person reading this article: "We believe... it is possible to give every person in southern Africa the opportunity to hear the gospel...it is possible to be significantly involved in establishing a church for every people... it is possible to be a part of getting the gospel to every person in the world BY THE YEAR 2000! Do you?"
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