A Global Gathering
Bishop Zechariah is from South Sudan, one of the 40,000 lost boys who had to flee their homes and journey, on foot, from political violence to neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. Amongst a past riddled with suffering, Zechariah became a Christian in a refugee camp and has since travelled across the world and dedicated his life to seeking theological education to equip himself in shepherding his family, community, and fellow clergyman.
Zechariah is one of fourteen pastors visiting South Africa for three and a half weeks in an inaugural PhD program piloted by a partnership between the Oxford Institute of Theological Studies, Stellenbosch School of Theology, and the Barnabas Foundation. According to research from the Oxford Institute, is estimated that 70% of students who go for doctoral studies in Europe or the States for their PhD’s never return to their home country for ministry. This program is unique in that it allows students to access the best of global theological education with university credentials and remain with their family and not abandon their sphere of ministry. This will be a three to four-year journey of research, writing, and a whole lot of time and hard work for each of these men.
East Mountain has entered in as a community offering assistance and hospitality in any way we can: hosting, helping, feeding, transporting, and immersing them into our lives and activities. One particular event, our weekly Friday braai (barbeque), was a participant favorite and gave us the opportunity to enter into conversations over a shared meal. We at East Mountain find value in connecting over food and believe it is where authentic life and conversation happens. It was around the table where I heard Zechariah’s story and where I was able to absorb so much of these pastor’s unmeasurable wisdom.
Three weeks went by fast, but East Mountain cherished the opportunity to connect with other believers from such drastically different countries and cultures who are truly living out God’s commission to His people. These pastors are literally from all over the world visiting from Ghana, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the Bahamas, Nigeria, South Sudan and Madagascar. We have been deeply humbled and truly grateful to sit with, listen to, and pray with these inspiring men. Their stories, their humility, and their ministries have reminded us of how many religious, social, and economic liberties we take for granted daily. More than anything though these men have inspired us to press harder into the work we feel we are called to do, investing holistically into the lives of our young leaders and residents here in South Africa. As sad as it was to say goodbye to our new friends and fellow brothers of Christ, we now have not only stories to share, but people and places to pray for and hopefully visit.
By: Megan Buchan, Serving in South Africa