“Is that your church building?” Ron teased as we passed a cluster of magnificent brick structures on acres of manicured lawns.
“Yes,” Dave said turning into a long drive on the far side of the grounds.
“That is your building?” Ron asked incredulously.
“Yes,“ Dave repeated and told us the story of Mike Taliaferro’s dream of acquiring this property when he led the church in Joburg. Before Mike left to return to America in 2003, the expansive acreage had been purchased. A brother here who is a building contractor undertook the work of completing the beautiful campus. There is a main auditorium which can seat approximately 1500, and separate buildings which include a small chapel, classrooms, church offices, HOPE administrative offices and activity areas for teens are laid out like a small college.
We entered the sanctuary to the sounds of the singers rehearsing to lead us in worship. The song service was soul-stirring (this is a great understatement, but I have no words to describe it). The beauty of the voices and harmonies and African rhythms almost compel the body’s core muscles to undulate in time—an urge which few of our African brothers and sisters resist (to our great delight). There are four primary languages in South Africa—Zulu, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English– and, in deference to this diversity, songs are sung in each of these languages. The words (with translation into English when an African tongue is articulated) are projected on two large screens at the front of the auditorium. I begged our hosts for a CD, but none has ever been made. I promised to hawk them stateside and return the profits for African missions if one is ever produced. Still, without that recorded reproduction of these heavenly melodies, I know they will return with me in my heart as one of my most treasured memories of this trip.
The church theme here for the year is “Reach Up, Reach Out, Reach In”. With a focus on reaching up, the lead evangelist, Justin Renton, preached an inspiring sermon titled “Our View of God.” Beginning with II Corinthians 10:3ff, “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”, he challenged us to deepen our understanding of God as the perfect Father.
We returned to the Pocta home for a “braai,” the very popular South African version of a barbeque. Dave, our grillmaster for the day, offered us yummy meats including my favorite: ostrich! The fellowship with the Pocta, Renton and Aguirre families lasted all day and was pure joy!