The purpose of these conferences is to provide a high standard of expository preaching and supply books at affordable prices for pastors. Such books are like gold to the majority here, who have very few books.
Our aim is for these Evangelical Press-sponsored conferences to become annual events and provide great inspiration, fellowship and expository literature. This can only be fulfilled if there is a powerful work of the Holy Spirit creating soul-thirst for Scripture truth and a high standard of unity in gospel truth.
The Lord knows how to bring good out of pain and suffering. If my wife Lyn had not been injured at Johannesburg airport last January she would not have been in Wilgers Hospital for surgery; and the meetings for prayer and conference planning (Irving Steggles, Nick and Sheila Court, and Erroll) would not have taken place in the Wilgers Hospital café. It was out of those prayers that the Pretoria conference was born.
To establish the conferences as annual events is difficult. For instance, due to the disintegration of Zimbabwe it has not been possible to continue in Harare, where there was a blessed residential conference in February 2006 with 70 pastors in attendance.
The three conferences this January were truly encouraging. Plans are in place for January 2008; we hope to receive help through EP discounts and financial support from churches.
Raymond Zulu, pastor of High Wycombe Evangelical Church in England, accompanied Lyn and myself from England. The staff on board our plane flights were duly impressed when I assured them that Raymond was our bodyguard! Raymond was the sole preacher at Hillcrest and principal preacher in Pretoria. He also rendered valuable diaconal and pastoral service at the Port Elizabeth conference.
The three conferences were as follows. On 12 January there was a one-day conference in Hillcrest Baptist Church, Kwazulu. Thirty came. On average each conferee purchased seven subsidised books and received a gift pack of five books.
Everything was in Zulu. Raymond Zulu was the preacher, Ernest Mcambi chairman, Hartmut Dedekind chief organiser. Ernest will invite three senior Zulu pastors to join the conference committee.
Hartmut plans to visit pastors in Newcastle, Ladysmith, Escourt and the environs of Hillcrest to explain the 2008 conference and encourage them to come. One obstacle to pastors attending is difficulty in travel. Most African pastors travel by minibus taxis.
Secondly, from 15-17 January we held a residential conference at Sumcay Conference Centre near Port Elizabeth, attended by 65. The organisers gelled well together — Siphiwe from the platform, Dr Paul Stoltz as overall director, and Toza who is librarian at the Bible Institute of Eastern Cape (BIEC). Toza ran the book tables. This conference centre was ideal. The Eastern Cape is economically the poorest part of South Africa, with a high rate of unemployment.
On 18-20 January we held a residential conference at Ora et Labora Conference Centre. Planning was late, but 30 still came. Six travelled from Swaziland, via a three-hour road journey. Twenty-five attended the morning prayer meetings — an excellent spiritual base from which to work next year.
Ora et Labora is a run down centre on an undeveloped farm, 20 kms from Pretoria. The main hall is set in a pleasant environment. An Afrikaans police officer, Neil by name, is in charge of the centre and is chief chef. The food was first class; on the final day a whole sheep was roasted on a spit for the last meal!
Ronald Kalifungwa expounded the subject of pastors and their wives and treated in detail how husbands should lovingly care for their wives, according to biblical injunctions. Raymond Zulu expounded what it means to preach the Word so as to change lifestyles. He also addressed the dangers of syncretism.
Ken Brownell of East London Tabernacle in London, England, spoke on ministering in the city. Erroll addressed the subject ‘What is a church?’
The book tables were served by Bev Rowlands, who has gained experience in this at the now ‘famous’ Africa-style conference in Nampula, Mozambique (a residential conference in its eighth year).
Please pray for unity in these inter-denominational conferences. Exceptional unity was experienced in Hillcrest and Pretoria. With men coming from widely different backgrounds it was more difficult in Port Elizabeth, but unity was maintained in the bonds of peace.
Please pray for safety too. Yes, we are grateful that there were no accidents on the roads, but there was sickness in the camp in Pretoria. Potent medication was needed to keep Ronald Kalifungwa and Ken Brownell on their feet.