So much has happened in the past three months! We’ve taught two months of Zion Evangelical Bible School (ZEBS) classes every weekend, recorded and produced new radio programs, taken a trip up north to the Vhembe District, started 40 days of Prayer and Fasting on February 26 (Ash Wednesday), and now we are experiencing a 21 day “Lockdown.”
You might be wondering, “How is the Coronavirus (COVID-19) affecting the Seelhammer’s life and ministry in South Africa? Paul had made plans to be up in the Vhembe District from April 3 until Easter, Resurrection Sunday. We had reserved a local community hall to hold a Bible study and show the Jesus Film on the new Campus Crusade for Christ equipment that Paul received on March 24. However, since all Easter services have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the plans changed. But, during these past two months of very full and busy ministry, God has been showing us He is doing a new thing, especially within the Zion Christian Church (ZCC).
As Paul traveled around, he continually “would run into” ZCC members who were open and excited for Bible Teaching; a bank teller, a grocery store worker, a pharmacy manager, a police officer, a homeless person at our gate, a person in line at the store, etc. They have not only received the ZEBS brochures, but they also asked, “Where is the class closest to me?” This is an indicator to us of God putting this new desire in their minds and hearts to study the Word of God. As you may recall, the ZCC is the single largest Zion church denomination in all of Africa. The massive ZCC Easter meetings usually have over 3 million people in attendance each year. Historically, the ZCC has been an “unreached, closed church” to ZEMA and all other church and mission organizations. So it is “a new thing” for a ZCC member to be interested in Bible training from ZEMA.
This has caused us to remember how God called us to the Zion people of South Africa in March 2004. As we look back on how God has directed and guided us as ZEMA missionaries we see a pathway that God has us walking on with Him. It looks like this:
1. In 2004, God called Carrie and Paul to bring God’s Word to the Zion churches in South Africa as ZEMA Missionaries. (Please request the “Seelhammer ZEMA Call Story” for more details.)
2. In July 2006, Paul received a word from God through an intercessory prayer meeting at Alexandria Covenant Church during a Prayer Watch International Prayer School. The scripture prayed over Paul was Isaiah 42:6-9. He knew God somehow wanted him to be a “light” to the people of Zion in South Africa.
3. In July 2012, 6 months after we relocated to Johannesburg, I had a meeting with ZEMA Missionary Bruce Britten, who was preparing to retire to the USA after more than 25 years of service in Swaziland (now called eSwatini). He told me about the long standing prayer for God to bring the ZCC back to God alone. He prayed that God would use me to bring the Word of God to the ZCC. This seemed like an impossibility to Paul.
4. In August 2014, ZEMA Missionary Richard Akers received a call from Mission Aviation Fellowship’s (MAF) South African ministry called Flying for Life (FFL). FFL was asking if ZEMA had someone who could come for a “look and see” visit to the Vhembe District in Limpopo where they had been seeing signs for local ZCC churches along the roads.
5. On November 27, 2014, ZEMA Missionary Timothy Kuehl and Paul took a day trip to the Vhembe District.
6. In February 2015, Paul met Ian Steyn, (Farming God’s Way teacher) and Bishop Musamaryia & Pastor Tshilani Matshete (Zion church leaders). This eventually led to the formation of the Vhembe District (VD) ministry team.
7. From February 2015, until July 2017, Paul took many 3-6 day “short-term mission trips” to the Vhembe District, where he started developing relationships with many different Zion church pastors, during which he distributed hundreds of Bibles in the TshiVenda, Tsonga and English languages.
8. In March 2015, Paul met ZCC Pastor Matumba, who later became born again through reading the book of John, and who became the “Man of Peace”, who encouraged Paul to approach the ZCC Vhembe District Chairperson and Elders to request a Bible training partnership between ZEMA and the ZCC.
9. In June 2015, Paul met Ndivhuwo Nkhumeleni, a recent Union Bible Institute (UBI) graduate. He was very interested in the call to train the ZCC and he became a key part of the VD team.
10. On July 11-12, 2017, God clearly called us specifically to the ZCC through a set of circumstances that was as clear and strong as the original call Carrie and Paul received in 2004. (Please request the “Seelhammer ZCC Call Story” for more details.)
11. On July 18, 2017, God brought Bishop Ramukanda and Paul together as “co-laborers” in the ZCC Vhembe District ministry. Ramukanda has been a key facilitator in the communication between ZEMA and the ZCC leaders.
12. In December 2017, Paul and a team of 20 people in the Vhembe District village where Pastor Matumba lives, held a revival at Ha-Makuya.
13. In 2018, the small book “This We Believe” was translated into TshiVenda, the predominant language in the Vhembe District.
14. In 2018, Paul and Ndivhuwo Nkhumeleni started translating all of the 450 plus ZEBS lessons from English into TshiVenda.
15. In January 2019, a letter was drafted and sent to the ZCC leader at Moria, in Limpopo.
16. In January 2020, a second letter was drafted, requesting a Bible training partnership between ZEMA and the ZCC Vhembe District’s 175 local church branches. (Please request the “2020 ZEMA-ZCC Letter for more details.)
17. On January 26, during our meeting with the Deputy Chairperson of the Vhembe District ZCC, Ramukanda and Paul were told it is possible to have the special meeting with the ZCC leaders, during their Annual Easter meetings. We hoped that this would lead to ZEMA being given permission to begin ZEBS classes in the ZCC Vhembe District churches.
18. Since January 26, Paul has continued to receive many requests for Bibles by Vhembe District Zion churches. 19. On March 19, the ZCC cancelled their Easter meetings, along with all other churches in South Africa.
20. On March 27, South African President Ramaphosa declared a 21 day “Lockdown” of all South African citizens and residents to try and stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus. We are praying that God uses this time of pause to cause the ZCC leaders, and the millions of ZCC members, to seek Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
Beginning on Thursday, April 9, we are calling you to join us in SEVEN DAYS OF PRAYER AND FASTING. We will call upon our LORD to bring the ZCC to a place of brokenness and repentance as they begin to experience the “new things”, which will be a trumpet call for them to trust in salvation through Jesus Christ only. (Joel 2:1, 28). We will be praying for peace and protection for your family and the United States of America, as we seek the refuge of our Lord (Psalm 91).
Isaiah 42:6-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people,[a] a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.