A Stranger in Zion

When I arrived in Estcourt on a Saturday evening after a day of travelling, all I could think about was dinner, some work on my next day’s sermon and sleep. GWC had sent me to visit graduate Sipho Mfusi in KwaZulu Natal.

The greetings over, Sipho told me there was a service that evening, and he hoped I would be able to give a sermon. The service started at 10pm. I preached at about 1am, one of 6 male preachers, and we were followed by 8 women. The service concluded at 5am. This was my first experience of a South African Zionist church in action.

Sipho is a Zulu; he worked for South African Airways in Sydney. He and his wife, Lungi, wandered into David Cook’s church and came to know Jesus. Eventually they ended up at GWC and Sipho explained to me that he wanted to understand the Bible so he could return and teach it to his people. Wow!

The Zionists are the biggest “church” in South Africa. Over a million members attend their annual conference. But people debate whether they are really Christian. They are nothing to do with Israel Zionism, but an African-initiated, African-led blend of Catholicism, Protestantism, Pentecostalism, Ancestor Worship and Traditional healing.

Would they allow someone to come among them and teach the Bible? Lungi is the granddaughter of an archbishop, so Sipho thought they might. What I saw encouraged me. Amongst his many activities in the town he holds weekly Bible classes and has fifty people enrolled in GWC’s Exploreprogram.

One of the bishops of the “NDI Ethiopian Catholic Church of Zion in Africa” told me how deeply appreciated Sipho’s ministry is, and how he was opening their eyes to the teaching of the Bible. But there are difficulties, so watch this space!