We have all heard the old African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child”, well we at Challenge Ministries believe it takes a community to plant a church. Which is why our church plants are called In Community By Community.
The vision for these community church plants began in 2007 when Kevin Ward, the director of Challenge Ministries, went through to Mozambique to see what Samaritan’s Purse was doing in reaching out to the community. There he saw a health team operate by knocking door to door serving the community. He returned feeling like the church in Swaziland should be more effective in reaching the community with medical health and with the word of God. Not just as an outreach but with the church going out into the community daily to meet the needs within the community.
Soon afterwards we received news that we could no longer expand Hawane Farm any further given Environmental reasons. We were advised that we would be able to negotiate the environmental reasons within the law and continue to expand. However when we went to pray and wait on the Lord on this the Lord gave us a new strategy which was to empower churches in the worst affected areas. These churches would have a home for the pastor near the church. This meant that the pastors would not have to walk long distances to get to church but could rather live in community with the church. Our vision was to empower the pastor to empower the community. This would mean that the community itself would knock door to door caring for nutrition, caring for health, caring for the people as vibrant expressions of being the hands and feet of Jesus. So we waited on God for a strategy that would be later known as “In Community by Community” and the heartbeat of it was to plant a church in the worst affected areas where the pastor could live beside the church, initially with our support, and a health team, nutrition team, evangelistic team, a sports team would be raised in the local church by the local church in order to reach the community.
The first ICBC church plant that we felt we had to go to was Hawane. It was closest to us at Potters Wheel and to our main base at Hawane. So we planted Hawane CLC. In planting Hawane CLC, Christian Life Centre Dayton from Ohio had come across to ask us about our vision. On sharing our vision for In Community By Community church plant’s they felt this was a vision they would like to partner with. They generously blessed us with the funds to begin our very first ICBC in Hawane.
The second area we had looked at was Lavumisa, which was the most devastated area due to the drought and the HIV Aids pandemic. As our vision was to reach the most affected and infected areas which had the least employed population. We prayed and sought the heart of the Father to know if this was indeed a place that would experience drought. With this in mind, years before in 1995, we had experienced a serious drought in Lavumisa. So I knew the area already and I had previously seen God impact the area with miraculous provision of rain after we had prayed.
We have learnt from the Lord that poverty is often, not always, but often a mindset that has to be changed by putting our focus on the Lord rather than on man. So it was when we began praying about whether we should goto Lavumisa that we found doors open to the church who had previously experienced, in 1995, the breakthrough in drought through the provision of rain. And so Pastor Sabelo who had already had his church going under a tree in Lavumisa was the next choice of who we should impact. At the time he was walking for 2 hours on a Sunday to preach to his congregation under a tree for a few hours and then walk 2 hours home again. He had been doing this for 12 years when we met with him to speak about the ICBC vision. For him this was an answer to prayer as it meant he could have a house and a church built where he was already meeting every Sunday and the gruelling walk in the intense heat each Sunday would no longer be necessary.
Whilst we set up the ICBC at Lavumisa there was a missionary, Randy Freeman, who had identified Engcamini as the next area to go to. Vusi Makhonta had already moved to Engcamini, he was not known by us but he was known by Randy Freeman. Randy suggested that we empower and equip Vusi Makhonta and so that is exactly what we did. We went out to visit his site and we saw his vision and his commitment to our vision of In Community by Community. And so we supported him in setting up an ICBC in Engcamini.
The heart of God was that these three would be the models for us to expand out on and train people through the vision to reach those in the harshest of environments and the most negatively impacted areas with the gospel through healthcare, through evangelism, through nutrition whilst being focused on the church actively being a part of this. The vision God gave us is to plant 60 ICBC churches in Swaziland by 2027. Although this seems like a mammoth task we have already witnessed how when we partner with God in His vision, nothing is impossible!