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One Sunday in Botswana

In rapidly changing southern Africa, a church practices big-city ministry.

GABORONE, Botswana — Six hours. It took us six hours to cross the border from South Africa and make it to this capital city on the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

Inside Story | Erik Tryggestad

Evidently, there was a festival in Botswana. The monstrously slow immigration line was packed with South African musicians and TV stars. At one point, a frustrated visitor, upon being told where to wait for the fourth or fifth time, yelled, “Stop telling us where to stand! We know where we are!”

I wasn’t here for the festival. I rode along with two South African evangelists — Machona Monyamane and Zonge Xoshe — as they delivered a large meeting tent to a newly planted Church of Christ in a town called Molepolole.

The Broadhurst Church of Christ, the mother congregation of Botswana, planted the church with assistance from Gospel Chariot Missions. (See “A Church of Christ on wheels” for more about that.)

During our brief stay, Broadhurst members housed and fed us, treating us like family. Despite the vast ocean that separates us, we swapped stories of mutual acquaintances, politics and sports.

On Sunday morning we worshiped with the Broadhurst church, where longtime minister Dennis Malepa serves. I was surprised to learn that many of the church’s members had spent the previous morning jogging around the building as part of a community health fair.

Too often I think of African Christianity as something that takes place in the wilderness, beneath thatched roofs. But the Broadhurst church is one where young professionals look up Scriptures on their mobile phones, where song leaders gather during Bible class to run through PowerPoint slides for worship — practicing hymns in English and Setswana.

This church plays a vital role in reaching Africa’s ever-growing, ever-modernizing urban centers.

During the service, I was blessed to lead prayers for the Lord’s Supper — a Sunday morning experience shared by believers around the world.

Whether we’re gathered under a mango tree in the daylight, in a basement room in secret or in a massive, air-conditioned auditorium, when we’re with the church, “We know where we are!”

Gaborone, South-East District, Botswana

Republic of Botswana

POPULATION: 2.2 million.

LANGUAGES: Setswana and other native dialects, English.

RELIGION: Almost 80 percent Christian groups, including Anglican, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, Methodist and African independent churches.

HISTORY: Tribes of bushmen occupied Botswana for centuries before Bantu speakers entered the area in the 16th century. The discovery of gold and diamonds in the region in the 1860s brought an influx of Europeans. The British proclaimed the land a protectorate called Bechuanaland and ruled until independence in 1966. Today the country is known as one of Africa’s most stable nations and has the continent’s longest-continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record, the BBC reports.

In English and Setswana, a sign welcomes members and guests to the Broadhurst Church of Christ. Behind the gate, young adults participate in an outdoor Bible class.

CHURCHES OF CHRIST: Missionaries Patrick Selemela, Dean Troyer, and Mike Tanaro came to Botswana in 1974, encouraged by U.S. missionary Tex Williams. The workers helped launch the first Church of Christ in the capital, Gaborone.

SOURCES: CIA World Factbook, “Churches of Christ Around the World” by Mac Lynn, BBC News.

Sunday worship with the Broadhurst Church of Christ

Filed under: Inside Story International Top Stories

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