White teen transformed

February 25, 2010

In 2000 I attended an Evangelism Explosion training course at Rhema Bible church in Jo’burg. Yes, I really was a fire-preaching evangelist at one stage, proud of it, certain of it, and I could sum up all you needed to know in 15 minutes. 5 minutes if in a hurry, and 25 if I really told the stories in detail and mentioned a lot of Bible verses. The life-transforming experiences I had in this time will probably always make me wary of totally demonizing this group of people. I remember where I come from.

It was a typical thing. Bunch of American evangelists coming in with their winning recipe to teach us South Africans how to evangelize the world. Rhema did the altar call the Sunday, and we were doing the follow-up during the week.

Rhema was an interracial church, and most of the people we visited that week was black, as far as I can remember, On the afternoon of the last full day of the course, I got a call to say that my grandfather had died. This was the grandfather I have been named after. I was really, really sad. My father offered to come and pick me up, but I preferred staying and finishing the course. That night we visited Tsidi, who had made a commitment with the altar call the Sunday. We spent some time chatting and asked about the commitment she made. She said it was just being swept up by emotion, and that actually she was a Christian for a long time already. But I offered to share the gospel anyhow (use every chance you get, right?), and did the little presentation. Swept up in all my own emotions of the day, I experienced an extreme emotional high at that stage. I felt extremely close to these people. And even though I can explain this in all sorts of ways, spiritual, psychological, or whatever, the reality is that on that evening I saw a black girl, same age as I was, as a total equal. As a friend. We exchanged email addresses, and were writing to each other for a long time.

I remember knowing distincly that I cannot go back to school in the same way, that I will have to change the relations I had with my black peers. And it did happen. I remember Shimon, Amir, Mavela and others. Friends I made in the last few years of high school.


3 Responses to “White teen transformed”

  1. Steve Says:

    I can identify with that.

    I was in a church for a couple of years that did Evangelism Explosion, and went through the courses (clinics, they called them). I was even on the board of EE III South Africa for a while. And I won’t knock it. Yes, it had shortcomings, but it at least taught people to articulate their faith indead of standing there with a mouthful of teeth when someone asked what they believed.

    And it worked.

    I gave a demo once, or rather, a group of us did, at a conference in Sochanguve. A bunch of people with EE experience each took two untrained people out into the neighbourhood at random, to show how it worked.

    My group went into a house, and there were three people outside the kitchen door drinking beer. We greeted them, knocked and went inside to see the householder. The inside of the house was full of shady ladies and crates of beer. We’d walked into a brothel cum shebeen. So we went out again, drew up empty plastic beer crates and sat with the three guys drinking their beer in the yard chatting to them about this and that, and then had the opportunity to present the gospel, and did. And one of the guys poured his beer down the drain can came back to the church to meet the priest. He said his father had been a Zionist minister, and he was the prodigal son.

    And I thought EE, developed in Florida for rich white suburbanites, was perhaps too culture bound. But it worked in a Soshanguve shebeen too.

  2. […] is more relevant here, in a Bildungsroman kind of way, such as my blogging friend Cobus van Wyngaard is writing, is a student conference I went to in the July […]

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