Around 6,000 people were in attendance for the event, held last Saturday night in the main hall at Oslofjord Convention Center. The program, titled “Life is the light of men”, was a collaboration between two BCC congregations – Horten and South Africa – and explored different aspects of the missionary work conducted on the African continent.
An extraordinary international fundraiser for missionary work in Africa preceded the event, and inspired churches and fellow believers in every corner of the world. Before the evening’s festivities, the collection stood at 49 million Norwegian kroner (NOK), but the number continued to rise – over 50 million NOK – during the program.
At the feast we heard more about the missionary work that was the purpose for the fundraiser. The missionary work has many different dimensions, including the physical construction of mission centers, church development, Christian social entrepreneurship, distribution of Christian media content and a multicultural youth program.
Missionary work and sustainability
We heard the story behind the construction of a new mission center in Yaounde, Cameroon in 2013, which was the start of a new era. Many young people in the church here were unemployed at the time but received education and training in various disciplines and vocations under the auspices of this building project. This made them competent, resourceful and qualified for completely new job opportunities, which led to more long-term independence. In addition, they became useful resources for their home churches, and made it possible to run the mission centers in ways that were both practical and financially sustainable.
The churches in Africa need gathering places to grow and prosper. Some of the driving forces behind the successful building project in Cameroon wanted to use a similar model and continue the work in several other African countries. In recent years, properties and mission centers have been developed in DR Congo, Bafoussam in Cameroon and Malawi.
Interesting films were also shown during the program which gave viewers insight into missionary themes. Here is one of them:
“You do not need a special profile to be a missionary”
Following the project in Cameroon, a permanent program was established in South Africa for young people from all over the African continent. “With it, missionary work really became part of church life in Vanderbijpark,” says Tielman Slabbert, who is responsible for the program.
“The young people in the exchange program are from many African countries and cultures and spend a year here. They become part of the congregation here, they work together with us, and participate in everything. They work for children and youth, join Bible studies, church gatherings and various activities all over.”
When the church in South Africa implemented the new youth program, they soon realized that previous conceptions about being a missionary were insufficient.
“We were put to the test and experienced that what remained was what Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine and persevere in it. In doing so you will save yourself and those who hear you.’ You can say ‘those who experience you’. Then we realize that true missionaries are those who do this.”
“They don’t have a special profile. They can be a plumber, a carpenter, a cook, or an accountant. Anybody can become a proper missionary. The young people get to experience us, they get to experience how the gospel is lived out – in practice. Then it is the life that counts,” says Tielman Slabbert.
“We see that the year on the youth program does something with the young people, they change, and it’s so hopeful, so positive. And then of course, these young people are gripped by the gospel. And when they go home, they take a spirit and atmosphere that brings life around them.”
Through practical and spiritual training and genuine participation in church life, the young people can themselves become missionaries. When they return home, they continue to build the church by utilizing what they’ve learned here.
Simunye – We are one
After Saturday’s program, many attendees had a certain song stanza stuck in their heads: “Simunye – we are one”, from a song the African churches used to inspire fellow believers around the world in weeks leading up to the Pentecost conference.
Nearly 50 participants from five different African countries traveled to Norway for the conference, and many of them performed a spirited live rendition for a delighted audience. William Goxo from South Africa was one of the performers. He commented later that in addition to contributing to a historic fundraiser, many of the African attendees had saved for a long time for the chance to attend the conference.
“They have given their time, money, energy and their lives for this effort and that makes it even more blessed to be together with other like-minded friends from all over the world,” said Goxo.
Across nations, cultures and dividing lines
Jesus has called us to be members of His body – a biblical image of Christ and the church. Here we become one, across nations, cultures and other dividing lines. In this body, all the members need each other. When we work together and lift as one, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.
Tielman Slabbert is thrilled with the unity that has characterized the collection and the preparations for the mission-themed event:
“Thinking about the song Simunye – meaning ‘we are one’, and the engagement of our dear friends from all over the world, it just confirms that the church is the Body of Christ with one calling, one mind and one common goal. I am extremely thankful that we all can be along, poor and rich, young and old, all on equal footing according to our ability.”