by the AD2000 staff representative,
in Pretoria, South Africa February 18, 1997
What better way to start a week of planning meetings for GCOWE 97 than in a packed church filled with 1500 people being asked by Luis Bush, AD2000 International Director: "Not only am I asking you to house and feed and care for the anticipated 5,000 GCOWE delegates who will arrive here on June 30,1997... I am asking you if, after the delegates leave and you have been challenged by their presence, how many of you are open to going yourself as missionaries?" The altar was filled as 65 South Africans came forward, some with tears, realizing that the blessing of hosting GCOWE 97 was already being manifested in their church, host of one of the nine break-out consultations of GCOWE 97.
Would you pray for these 65 future missionaries? Would you pray for the 35 international Christian missionary leaders who have come from 9 countries to plan this week for GCOWE 97? These meetings, being held in Pretoria until Friday, February 21st, will be a time of waiting on the Lord to discern His agenda for the June Global Consultation on World Evangelization.
The planning meetings were kicked off with a gala banquet for 230 key supporters to officially launch GCOWE 97 to the South African Christian community and to the host city of Pretoria. The black mayor of Pretoria greeted the gathering and singled out a white Anglican pastor in the audience during his opening remarks. The mayor remembered years ago protesting in the streets against Apartheid, marching side by side with this Anglican pastor. The mayor told how impressed he was with the caliber of the leadership present and let the guests know that Pretoria would host them with great hospitality. Many political leaders are expected to attend. It was reported that just recently the President of the country of Benin had registered.
Willie Crew, GCOWE 97 Director, reported that, because of the logistics of gathering registrations from so many countries, the registration process will remain open. In many countries, registrations cannot be mailed and must be hand-delivered and then carried to South Africa. To date, delegates from 71 different countries have registered. Rev. Crew and Luis Bush both reported that they feel the goal of 100 countries will be reached.
Arriving late, the AD2000 national initiatives coordinator, Rev. Ross Campbell, who had to change into his suit in the car on his way from the Johannesburg airport, gave an encouraging report concerning GCOWE 97 registrations. Having just arrived from West Africa, Rev. Campbell reported that several countries there have met their quota and are begging for more spots for delegates.
The banquet seemed like a GCOWE 95 reunion with so many familiar faces who were present in Seoul. A brother, Rev. Lot Sibiya, who pastors a large church in one of the black townships, reported that his participation in GCOWE 95 in Seoul, Korea, changed his life and his ministry. He considers it his calling to offer the same experience to his fellow pastors in South Africa.
Rev. Bush quoted missionary researcher Marjorie Froise, who was in attendance, by noting that the missionary force from South Africa doubled between 1994 and 1996 and in the last year has doubled again. GCOWE 97 will bring the world to South Africa, and partnerships will be formed that can impact the remaining unreached people groups. It was also noted that the racial reconciliation that is happening in South Africa is a model for the rest of the world. Rev. Bush reported that 200 key Brazilian leaders had just recently registered and are eager to come and partner with the South Africans.
Rev. Bush said he was impressed with the commitment to prayer he is observing by the South African church. Four hundred intercessors will pray around the clock during GCOWE 97. Strategic intercessors from six countries have been recruited to head up this team and will help to discern what God is saying to the delegates who will assemble during GCOWE 97.
On a personal level, I was impressed by the caliber of the people present who are the leaders planning GCOWE 97. My table mates, Al and Lorry Lutz (AD2000 women's track coordinator), were pleased to see George Ngamlana present who some 35 years ago found Christ in the ministry of Youth Alive that Al and Lorry helped to start in South Africa. Since that time, Rev. Ngamlana pastored a very successful church in Soweto and then became the President of the Baptist Union leading over 600 churches.
A newly-written song premiered at the banquet that mentioned all the sleepless nights and sacrifices that missionary leaders make and that it will result in jewels in crowns that will be laid at Jesus' feet. In response to this song about heaven, Rev. Bush concluded by quoting Martin Luther, "There are only two days in my diary -- today and that day."
It was a great evening. We left with our stomachs full and our hearts encouraged as we headed toward a very short night of rest before the 35 consultation coordinators roll up their shirtsleeves for three days of planning the detailed GCOWE 97 schedule. Please pray for these strategic meetings and stay tuned for reports from these meetings.
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