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Remembering Reinhard Bonnke

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Epiphany-that moment when what was previously vague assumes a level of clarity that renders it a close or common aspect of life from that point of true revelation. Some of us find (experience) epiphany walking down the street, others still take entire lifetimes before they see the truth behind some aspect of life that had eluded them, and the lucky few have the world and its inner ramifications revealed when they are still pretty young.

I got my epiphany within the walls of a Christian-faith-based rehabilitation centre, and from the people that I met whilst there I learned of the true meanings of salvation and redemption, sinning and perdition.
The teachers and mentors there were many, drawn from within the ranks of the addicts that had fallen off the bus enough times to know that they should teach others not to give in to the temptation that would lead to relapse. There were many preachers too that taught one of the value God and Jesus added onto one’s life, and amongst the teachings of Alan Mc Cauley, Ray Mc Cauley, Benny Hinn, Myles Munroe, Brian Houston, and others, there was the name of Reinhard Bonnke, the evangelist whose missions in Africa came to define the meaning of true charity.

To my fellow addicts and I, and to others gathered or resident at the recovery centre  also, it became obvious from the onset that we must record the understanding we have of the things of the Spirit and show our conclusions arrived at through the Word. This necessitated the keeping of a diary or journal of some sort to cover the day to day events and to mark the path of progress as illuminated by what we have seen in the course of the day.

One reason we chose what to read in the centre is that there are many books today presenting many alternative views on common topics, meaning that one could easily fall off the recovery bandwagon and relapse. There are too many variations to the understanding of God that exist and unless a standard authority is accepted and agreed by which to judge all such teachings, many of those whose understanding of the Word of God are bound to get lost even before understanding the full benefits it offers.

Our individual experiences vary, but the Scriptures do not change and there is a natural public appetite to hear the things that God has done, but few actually follow the meanings to their core. There is a strong tendency that has been exhibited over the years to draw spiritual teachings primarily from alternative sources, and this lead to the Word (the Bible) being regarded only as a secondary backup, if at all. We live in an age where what is called “anecdote theology” is rife and many of the scholars or followers of this type of theology choose only those sections of the Bible that support their view.

This is not new as there have been many theories of Christian revival.
This leaves the learner anxious oftentimes, worried about whether their perspective on the supernaturalness of God is right. It is because this new approach viewed from the common man’s viewpoint leads to the questioning of the tremendous burst of divine revival phenomena today seen with the mushrooming of new denominations and congregations. One has to consciously decide that for themselves, the grounds for their faith must be the Word of God, which is where I believe we should stand as believers.
Reinhard Bonnke always taught that Divine Power is the essence of the Christian witness.

He always made sure to note that this aspect of Christian faith is not a Gospel accessory, and unlike the bell on a bicycle, is actually what keeps the whole machine of religious faith moving. In all his congregations, one was left with the reality that there is never the slightest hint that some disciples would be powerless if they held on to their faith. The fact of the matter is that Christianity is either supernatural or nothing at all.

In his own words he said, “We have a supernatural Jesus, with a supernatural ministry, creating a supernatural Church, with a supernatural Gospel and a supernatural Bible. Take the miraculous away and you have taken Christianity’s life away.”

The Church has with the passage of the years become an ethical society or a social club when it is in essence intended to be the grid system for transmitting the power of God into this powerless world where evil seems to be the main preoccupation of the fallen, in fact, it on several occasions seems to be the victor. It therefore needed the ministry of figures such as Reinhard Bonnke to realise the fact that you and I are conductors of God’s power to the world, and that it is a role we should never forget but must assume with all the zeal we can muster.

It was here, in the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho in 1967 that God placed upon his heart the vision of ‘the entire continent of Africa, being transformed by the precious blood of Jesus’. Evangelist Bonnke began holding meetings in a tent that accommodated just 800 people, but, as attendance steadily increased, larger and larger tents had to be purchased, until finally, in 1984, he commissioned the construction of the world’s largest mobile structure, a tent capable of seating 34,000 people.

Attendance at his meetings even exceeded the capacity of this huge structure, and he began open-air Gospel Campaigns with an initial gathering of over 150,000 people per service. From that point on he conducted city-wide meetings across the continent with as many as 1.6 million people attending a single meeting using towering sound systems that can be heard for miles.

It has now been more than 40 years since Reinhard Bonnke founded the international ministry of Christ for all Nations (CfaN), which currently has offices in the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Africa, Singapore, Brazil and Australia. Since the start of the new millennium, through a host of major events in Africa and other parts of the world, the ministry has recorded more than 66 million documented decisions for Jesus Christ.

Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke was principally known for his Great Gospel Campaigns throughout the Continent of Africa. The son of a pastor, Reinhard gave his life to the Lord at age nine, and heard the call to the African mission field before he was even a teenager. After attending Bible College in Wales, he pastored a church and then went on to start missionary work in Africa. This he says was inspired by his reading of the book of Acts in the Bible. He states:

“The book of Acts reads better than any modern novel. It has clearly defined characters–some in leading roles and others as supporting cast. It has action, adventure, triumph and tragedy. The scenes change from Jerusalem to Damascus to Antioch to Rome, from prison cells to shipwrecks. We encounter the wind of the Holy Spirit and the emboldened peasant apostles who moved in phenomenal miracles and baffled government leaders of their day. However, these great apostles were not always distinguished nor did they always act nobly.”

He further goes to show that he was startled when he read in Mark 16:8 that the disciples, before Jesus ascended to heaven, did not believe. The same unbelief is found in Mark 16:11. Then, two verses later in verse 13, the same four words–they did not believe. Again, in verse 14, the same four words–they did not believe. The initial group of disciples were a bunch of unbelievers. He was however left amazed by the fact that in the next verse, verse 15, Jesus said to these unbelieving and fearful believers, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

He admits to have had a contrary view in that he would have approached Jesus from behind and whispered into His ear, “Master, Lord, don’t You know that the disciples You just gave the Supreme Commission to are a bunch of unbelievers? They will never be able to do it!” such was the initial challenge he held in the early years of his ministry, the periods of doubt as to whether he was fit enough to hold ministry in different countries on the continent. What ended up as the largest ministry was a challenge to his apostolic mission in the early years, but he held on to the glorious end.

Reinhard Bonnke understood the secret Jesus held by sending green disciples to teach the message to the masses of unbelievers. The supernatural power of God would take over where doubt lurked, and it would strengthen the apostle in the delivery of the message to the masses that lacked the knowledge of God. He says:

Something happened between verse 14 and verse 20. In verse 20, we read, “They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the Word through the accompanying signs, Amen.” What happened between verse 14 and verse 20? Chronologically, Acts Chapter 2 happened. The disciples walked out of weakness and arrived at the power to do what Jesus had commissioned them to execute after He ascended to heaven: “But you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In the same way, we all can leave weakness and step into unending power.

It is said by a Nigerian minister (Rev T. A. Babawale) of the church that before Reinhard Bonnke came to Nigeria the preaching of the word was too doctrinal in teaching, and the result was a lot of disunity in Christendom. The now common notion is that once your own doctrine is different from my own, I believe that you are not holy. You are not righteous. You are not of God. What Evangelist Bonnke brought was something: simple gospel, simplicity of gospel and the true acceptance of Jesus Christ as the saviour.

There was never a moment that Bonnke attacked anyone on the basis of their religious affiliation. He was fair to all, and thus brought a new dimension to the preaching of the gospel. He could teach fellow Christian ministers about the value of fairness, and even went on to preach to the fundamentalists in other religions. It is for this reason that he was embraced, that he was loved. Without attacking anyone he just went on and preached Christ’s message of peace, progress, salvation, healing, and deliverance. That is all there was to the man of God, nothing more, and nothing less of everything as were demonstrated by Reverend Bonnke.

It seems that for the man who was born on the 19th of April, 1940 and who passed on the 7th of December, 2019 the focus was on the effect that sin had on the life of an individual. He saw sin as the one thing that causes problems for the larger part of the human race. He saw sin as the bringer of poverty, backwardness, destruction, and all of the other vices that foment human regress. He would say, “But once you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour; your sin will be forgiven. And once your sin will be forgiven, you will be at liberty. You’ll be free from the devil, the devil – the evil in conscience.”

The experiences of the early 2000’s on volunteer missions across the various locations and squatter camps revealed a side to Reinhard Bonnke and his Christ for all Nations (CfaN) organisation. There were blankets for poor families; there were food and cosmetics packages for those in need, and the constant call to care for the less fortunate.

For us as a bunch of recovering addicts, the words of Reinhard Bonnke became deeds, because the delivery of the packages went hand in hand with the ministering of the word to the destitute, the poor and the needy living on the fringes of society. Some of us came out of rehab better people because of the practical lessons the rescue missions to various shantytowns and informal settlements taught us. It was not about us; it was for the greater good of humanity as a whole: it is the credo he seems to have lived by until his passing.

We have a bad world when the conscience that drives our deeds is of an evil nature. We gain a better world when we empathise with others, when we go out of our way and follow the teachings offered in the Bible as we should. Forget the new type of evangelist focused more on owning private jets and palatial estates, the man that walks the dust with the forgotten of the world and who actually seeks the means to assuage the anguish of their squalor and lack of knowledge is actually the figure one should set out to emulate. Reinhard Bonnke was such a figure to the end. All one can say is, auf wiedersehen Man of God.

Ts’episo Mothibi

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Insight

We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges

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For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

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Insight

Call that a muffin?

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In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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Insight

Lessons from Israel: Part 3

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I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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