25 March 2020
A New Family
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19 - 22)
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are reminded that by being Christians we are connected to every other Christian on the planet. As a trustee of WorldShare I am regularly reminded of the Christians around the world in the different ministries we partner with. I am also frequently humbled at the circumstances in which our brothers and sisters are proclaiming the Gospel and loving some of the neediest people on earth. In worldly terms, households can be complicated places. They may be wealthy, they may be poor. There may be a variety of relationships within them, or they may be sad and lonely places. In Christ we are members of God’s household and as such God’s people become our housemates and family. This does not mean that all the relationships are easy, but we can be confident that our new family members will be connected in Christ and so rooted in love.
In 2014 I had the privilege of visiting Hope for Africa Mission (HfAM) in South Africa, an organisation definitely built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. We were hosted by Bishop Hendrick Mahlangu and his family. Hendrick is one of the most charismatic and inspiring yet humble Christian leaders I have ever met. Although my visit was almost six years ago, I have a lasting memory of the commitment and passion for the Gospel exhibited by Hendrick and the rest of the team at Hope for Africa Mission. Hope for Africa Mission has a vision to see the whole continent of Africa come to know Jesus. Hendrick makes clear that it is no good preaching the Gospel alone if people are hungry and in need. And so a key aspect of Hope for Africa Mission is to meet people’s basic needs and love them first before preaching the Gospel. This is often evidenced through their response in disaster relief, for example in 2019 they supported neighbouring countries with food and humanitarian aid as well as restoration and healing following Cyclone Idai.
A key verse that Hendrick shared with me during my stay is from James 1:27:
Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Hendrick showed us two specific aspects of Hope for Africa Mission which are locally putting this verse into action.
First, was Grace Christian School. When we visited it was during school holidays so there were no children around, but we visited the premises and spoke to a couple of the teachers who were there and are passionate about giving the children the best opportunity in life. Grace Christian School is a fee-paying school, although many of the children are orphans - typically from parents who have succumbed to HIV - and their school places are paid for.
Second, we visited a piece of land where Hendrick was keen to start building a Widow’s Centre. This would be a community centre with a few permanent residents but mainly being a facility to offer fellowship, company, and skills training for widows in the community. Since my visit, the Widow Centre has become a reality and provides spiritual support to women who are suffering the loss of their husbands as well as supplying food aid where it is needed. This is definitely one part of our Christian household that is putting good Christian instruction into practice.
WorldShare demonstrates to me that we are all fellow citizens and members of God’s household where there are widows, orphans, brothers, sisters and many more family members. There is a comfort in knowing that we are all connected in this family by one spirit, the Holy Spirit, and unified through Jesus into a new and eternal home.
Richard Cartlidge is on our Board of Trustees and visited Hope for Africa Mission, South Africa in 2014.