Sunday, October 2, 2011

Preaching to Christians in the Military in Swaziland

“They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the LORD is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses” (Zechariah 10:5).

Peter Louwrens, the chief organiser of the AMCF conference
My preaching ministry takes me to many places and this time I was preaching at the 4th Africa South Association of Military Christian Fellowships (AMCF) Conference. It was held in Manzini, in the Kingdom of Swaziland, from Monday 26th to Friday 30th September 2011. The mission of the AMCF is “to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all the military men and women of the world.” The theme of their southern Africa regional conference was “Being Passionate for God’s Glory” from Psalm 29:1-2. It was heart warming to meet men and women in uniform who love the Lord and want him to be glorified.

Major General Jeffrey S Tshabalala officially opening the conference
The Deputy Army Commander of Swaziland, Major General Jeffrey S Tshabalala, officially opened the conference. The president of the worldwide AMCF, General Lee, was also in attendance. It was good to see the officers in full ceremonial uniforms. Their shoes were so well polished that I could almost see my face in them! It was also good to see all the salutes that were being given to those of higher ranks. This was a very strange sight for those of us who only worship in the context where there are no ranks.

General Lee, from Korea, the president of the worldwide AMCF
The conferences comprised sermons, seminars, and reports from various countries.  As the main speaker, I preached five sermons, on (a) Knowing the God of heaven, (b) Loving the God of heaven, (c) Worshipping the God of heaven, (d) Serving the God of heaven, and (e) Conforming to the God of heaven.

Rev A M C Dlamini, my co-preacher at the conference
The other preacher was Rev A M C Dlamini, senior pastor of International Tabernacle Church. I missed his first session when he preached from Hebrews on intimacy with God. In his second sermon, he preached from Exodus 33:18 where Moses said to God, “Please show me your glory.” He preached on desperation for God’s glory.  Due to “public demand” he was squeezed into the programme on the third day, and so he spoke from Acts 10 (on Cornelius) about divine intimacy and intervention.  Rev Dlamini was evidently no small preacher like me because cameramen always arrived some 30 minutes before he arrived and set up their equipment to record his preaching. I suspect he is on TV in Swaziland regularly.

"Yours truly" among the men and women in uniform during a group photo
Listening to the reports from various countries, it was clear that in some of them there was tension between military chaplains and the AMCFs, but it was evident that everyone was hoping that in due season good relations would be restored. Also, in some countries the AMCFs were not yet in place, in others the AMCFs were weak, while in others they were fully formed and robust.

Various types of handmade candles at the Swazi candles factory and shop
On one afternoon we went on a tour of three tourist destinations. The first was a factory that produces beautiful hand-made candles. The second was a cultural village where we were taken around a village homestead and given a talk on how life was in an average Swazi village, and then we watched a cultural dancing group. Finally we went to a crafts shopping centre where a number of us parted with good money buying souvenirs for home. I often tell people that travelling is expensive business—and souvenirs are part of the problem!

Traditional dancers showing us how it is done in Swazi villages
I missed the Zambian delegation at the AMCF conference. I was told that they were expecting 12 from Zambia. My guess is that with the change of government in the country only the previous week they were probably very involved in organising various spiritual activities around the country. I trust that those who were present returned to their countries with renewed zeal to serve the God of glory among the men and women in uniform. After all, as Zechariah says, war is won when the Lord is with you!

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