There’s a passage in Amos 9 that paints a vision of the Kingdom: “Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved.” Amos paints a picture of abundant fertility– of land so lush and fertile that crops spring up as soon as they are planted.
That’s how Mariannhill feels, some days.
Mariannhill is aptly named– a township nestled on the rolling green peaks and valleys of Kwa-zulu Natal, small houses and huts perched on ledges carved from the hillside. There is a Good News Center in the township that acts as a community center, creche (pre-school), and ecclesial hall.
The Mariannhill ecclesia is culturally Zulu, which means the hymns are punctuated by a lot of clapping, stamping, and thumping. It’s such beautiful worship, and the music spills out of the building into the community. However, the ecclesia has seen diminishing Sunday school attendance in recent months, and we wanted to help turn that around.
How do you get kids in South Africa to come investigate the strange umlungus (white people) roaming through their township?
Bring a soccer ball.
And within about 90 minutes, this was our group. The soccer pitch is at the bottom of a big valley, which means that everyone on the surrounding hillsides can see it. And when they see it, they come running.
Sam and Matt used some soccer basics to teach some Biblical principles (you have to keep your eye on the goal when you’re shooting, just like you need to focus on the Kingdom to get there; you have to pass and work as a team, just like you need to support your friends in their walk), and I held down the position of “baby management.” (Most of the kids are in charge of watching their younger siblings, and one by one they all deposited them near me on the side of the field).
The girls also tried to teach me some Zulu dance moves:
At the end of the soccer event, we pointed to our t-shirts, and got one of the older kids to translate our invitation to Sunday school. When we intoned “Zombuso Kankulunkulu” (“kingdom of God” in Zulu– it’s the branding on all our tshirts as well as our cars and the Good News centers), the kids started jumping up and down and chanting “Kingdom! Kingdom! Kingdom!”
We ran a similar program on Saturday afternoon, and when we showed up on Sunday morning, the Sunday school was more than double its usual size! The kids even sat through the memorial service, filling the hall to capacity.
There are so many children here, and they are all so eager for any sort of engagement and adult attention. Having the community centers already established in the community is such an asset.
It’s so encouraging when such a small effort can yield such immediate and visible results. We are watering the planting of others, but God continues to grant the increase.