I spent a week in South Africa this summer on a church-related missions trip. This trip report will share about my time on the ground, which included visits to parts of the country outside Johannesburg and Cape Town.
My Missions Trip To South Africa
So often we see church “mission” work reduced to habitat-for-humanity style building projects or food drives or even children’s vacation Bible school programs. Those are all great things, but this was not one of those trips.
Here, the focus was on equipping pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons with sound doctrine, the sort of spiritual bread that is essential in properly approaching the Christan faith.
The prosperity gospel has crept into Africa, buoyed by the mixing of ancestral tradition with a view of God as a cosmic genie waiting to grant every wish of those who ask in faith.
I think we call can see, whether people of faith or not, that the world does NOT work in that way.
That’s not to say that this is a uniform problem. We visited many thriving churches and pastors who do so much with so little, a humbling reminder of how obscenely wealthy even “poor” people are in the United States.
The haunting quip of Desmond Tutu is an important admonition:
“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray. ‘ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
But abrogating the Bible because the Bible was misused by some is not a logically coherent argument. The Bible is not null and void just because men are.
Still, this was not paternalistic American imperialists trying to impose their preferred doctrines on unwilling participants. At every church we visited, we were invited. There was dialogue. There was mutual learning. And I must say, it was one of my most rewarding trips ever.
This isn’t a theological blog and so I will not be sharing specifically about the meetings themselves, but I’m sure some of that will come out. We have plenty of flights, lounges, and hotels to review too, none of which I have even teased in earlier posts:
- United 777-200 Business Class Los Angeles – Newark
- United Polaris Lounge Newark
- United 787-9 Business Class Newark – Cape Town
- Hyatt Regency Cape Town
- Bidvest Premier Lounge Cape Town (CPT)
- FlySafair 737-800 Economy Class Cape Town – Durban
- An American-Style Diner In Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (Great Coffee Too)
- SouthernSun Hotel Pietermaritzburg
- An Austrian Lunch In The South African Countryside
- My First Time Driving A Chinese Car (Haval)
- Pietermaritzburg Aero Club (PZB)
- AirLink ERJ-145 Economy Class Pietermaritzburg to Johannebsurg
- Hyatt House Johannesburg Rosebank
- Great Coffee In Rosebank, Johannesburg
- The Apartheid Museum, South Africa
- Reflecting On The Life Of Desmond Tutu
- Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Johannesburg (JNB)
- Kenya Airways 737-800 Business Class Johannesburg – Nairobi
- A 5-Minute Connection In Nairobi…
- Kenya Airways 787-8 Business Class Nairobi – New York
- Great Coffee At New York JFK Airport
Spoiler: Kenya Airways was a delightful surprise.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them.
As a Bible believing Christian, I am really looking forward to this Trip Report
As a non Christian and non believer, I also am looking forward.
Though I believe the basis of religion is a mistake, it seems to lead Matthew to amazingly good conclusions.
South Africa remains my favorite country to visit still after many years of extensive travel . The diversity of the country amazes me. From diving off the east coast to walking with the penguins on the west coast and all the amazing country in between not the least of which is Kruger and Cape Town, this place I always left in awe.
But it was also the country I felt less secure. From corrupt police that shook me down, scary streets of a Pretoria where I was always intimidated, highways that advertise warnings of high jacking, remote dirt roads where I was sure I would have a flat tire, and of course, driving among the unpredictable elephants, this country is not for the faint of heart.
I admire your commitment to mission work there. I work some with orphans in a very remote area of India in the Assam region. Not as group mission but just as an individual. Going alone in a place where western faces don’t exist is intimidating enough but I never felt aa insecure as South Africa. Maybe it’s just perception.
I wish you well in your work there.
I’m commenting now from Bali. I can relate to your statement about how well we have it compared to the majority in the world. I’ve reflected on that very thought much since my return here.
I thought Kenya Airways use the SAA lounge at JNB- they certainly sent me there when I passed through back in April, and a pretty amazing lounge it was too!
KQ does use SAA lounge – I used my Cap One Venture X card to enter VS lounge.
Ah, and the comment by Fathiss reminded me that it would be interesting if you could add a post around the security situation for those visiting RSA.
I will address this. It makes me think of this story I wrote several years ago after visiting Cape Town–
Hope you’ll go to Papua New Guinea. There are some fascinating flights to remote villages with thrilling jungle air strips. Many people doing missionary work there. It would make a very interesting trip report.
I’m pro-choice so I’ll take a hard pass reading this.
What a weird comment.
Mathew is a GOP conservative. No doubt about it:(
You have got to be kidding me.
Exciting to see you serving in this way – looking forward to reading the report!
“I think we call can see, whether people of faith or not, that the world does work in that way.” doesn’t make sense though haha
Wow, critical missing word. Thanks Alvin.
I have a cousin with a theology degree. He said the term they use for prosperity gospel is transactional theology.
which one Novus ordo or TLM?
Protestant, not Roman Catholic.
I don’t waste time or energy debating philosophies. I ask the person to answer the following question : Is the Holy Spirit of God directing and guiding your actions and words? Otherwise, it’s opinion and feelings.
I lived as a Christian many years. I preached and taught in a non-paid position for over 25 years. I am well aware of the scriptures.
But I enjoy the debates on philosophy (I prefer to call discussions). Over the years I am convinced of the improbability of the scriptures being the true word of God through these discussions. Travel has enhanced that disbelief.
But I never discuss with anyone in an effort to undermine their faith. Many in my family are deeply religious. I would never want to detract from their beliefs. Faith is important in the lives of many to help them through this life and into what many perceive to be a next one.
I used to hate philosophy but I’ve come to realize the great value of it. I believe now it’s the most important thing. We all want the same thing, to find the underlying truths, that’s what philosophy is. Quantum physics seeks the same and the answers they find are intriguing.
The Bible forced me into views that went against my instincts. If you take a legalistic view of it like I did, you condemn many things. But I realized that legalistic view led to me to an awkward conclusion: the Bible is truly a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t book.
Just one man’s view. Mine holds no more value than yours. Probably less.
Thanks for the post. In my previous vocation, I lived overseas doing theological education, and it is a huge need. There are so many pastors around the world working hard to lead their churches while lacking even the most basic tools to help them understand and apply the Scriptures. When combined with greedy charlatans pushing false religion for their own financial gain, it is a recipe for disaster. I’m glad you were able to contribute in a small way and look forward to the trip reviews.
How do i get my next trip designed as a missionary trip and get a tax write off on it?
All my trips are business expenses…
how did you book the flights? which points?
UA ticket was revenue (upgraded), internal flights were revenue, return on Kenya Airways was booked with Flying Blue points.
I had a really good experience travelling with my wife on Kenya airways. Always remember it when I’m squashed into a fancy herringbone seat that everyone loves these days 🙂
Any concern about using points and cash to fly biz for a trip to experience the poverty in Africa? I wonder about that myself as I’m thinking of getting involved in similar work.
Thank you for serving and helping spread the truth! Looking forward to the reports…
I’m looking forward to your trip review on this. Thanks for sharing. I’ve supported some good friends for many years that do missionary work in Africa training pastors. They have mostly worked in Kenya and Zambia but some work in nearby countries. Not sure if the link will work but you can see some of their work at https://mailchi.mp/909817f944bb/dons-african-ministry-7277172?e=60965ff538
I think communicating good doctrine is a very good mission. There is so much false teaching in the world.
Christian missionaries have throughout history have raped, pillaged, and destroyed indigenous cultures, religions and languages. All in the “name” of conquest or wealth and riches, or more recently, do gooderism that make white people in wealthy countries feel good about themselves. You’re not saving them. You’re ruining them.
I’ll pray for you!
“So often we see church ‘mission’ work reduced to habitat-for-humanity style building projects or food drives ”
Actually this is a much more useful use of so-called “mission” trips than the “spiritual bread” nonsense. No one in Africa or Asia needs your “spiritual bread.” Please keep it out of Africa and Asia. You are doing so much more harm to those communities and cultures than you realize. Not that it will make material difference to you but this ends my reading of this blog. I didn’t know you were one of those and will not knowingly lend one penny of direct or indirect support to “mission” work. Your “mission” work contributes to destroying indigenous cultures. You can say you were “invited,” sure, but that’s only after the havoc and pillaging of your “mission” ancestors. You believe the Bible is the only way and is the TRUTH. And so you feel justified and duty-bound. I feel duty-bound as well. Over and out.
Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you!