Nearly 40 people from nine nations took part in the Global Prayer Safari that began Feb. 1 in Pretoria, in the north of South Africa, and made its way through several communities, visiting prisons, churches, and other sites before ending Feb. 11 in Cape Town.
An initiative of Resonate Global Mission’s regional team in eastern and southern Africa, the Prayer Safari is coordinated by Mwaya Wa Kitavi, the regional team leader.
Other similar Prayer Safari trips have taken place elsewhere in Africa over the past few years.
When participants arrived in Pretoria for this year’s event, they received a program describing the purpose of the journey, which focused on the theme “Reclaiming Hope.”
“South Africa is twenty-four years into democracy, and we find ourselves in the difficult terrain of living on the other side of that brutal apartheid hill,” says the program.
“We also continue to find many more hills to climb, many of which resemble apartheid conditions. As we journey over the next ten days, we will enter past stories and experiences within the present and be brought to cry, intercede, worship, and hope together. . . .
“Empowered by the Spirit, we have a responsibility to find and retrieve what has already been redeemed in Christ, even within unexpected places and people. We also have to cultivate the signs and seeds of hope, especially the fragile and vulnerable ones.”
On the way across South Africa, John Algera, pastor of Madison Avenue CRC in Paterson, N.J., posted a running commentary on Facebook. Here is a look at some of his reflections, followed by a few comments by others who were on the journey.
Early in the trip, he writes: “We are in South Africa on the Global Prayer Safari [GPS]. Our team includes members from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Korea, Canada, and the U.S. We are having profound times of prayer at many different prayer points. . . . Today we prayed in Bloemfontein (‘blooming fountain’) and prayed over the city from Naval Mountain. We also prayed at the women's memorial for the 26,000 Afrikaner women and children who were put in concentration camps by the British and died there [during the Second Boer War (1899-1902)]. We confessed sins of . . . racism and injustice. . . .”
On another day he wrote: “Yesterday we traveled to Graaff-Reinet, through beautiful mountain passes that remind me of the Southwest [U.S.]. We entered Camdeboo National Park to pray over the land. It was a beautiful drive to the top, where we confessed sins of destroying God's good earth, prayed for rain, and blessed the land. We then traveled through the ‘Karoo’ (South Africa Desert). They are desperate for rain here as well as in Cape Town. The land is so dry. Every river we cross has no water in it. Tonight we are in the town of Sutherland; we went up to the South Africa Astronomical Observatory, where we looked at the stars and celebrated the infinity of God's creation. ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’!”
He wrote the next day: “Today we began our prayer journey in the small town of Sutherland, which is 70 miles from any other town. Mostly sheepherders. We traveled through the Karoo (desert) and then fertile valleys full of vineyards and many mountains and finally though a mountain tunnel to the city of Paarl. This is the city where the Lord used Andrew Murray, the pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church there, to help spark a revival. . . . We prayed for revival in the church in South Africa and the world.
“We then traveled on to Drakenstein Correctional Centre, which is where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 months before his release. We visited the house he lived in with his family and prayed there confessing sin, seeking justice, [petitioning] for our governments, and asking for the Lord's help to use us as salt and light. We traveled to Cape Town and concluded the day riding the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, where we prayed for the city, the land, rain, and much more.”
On another day Algera also wrote: “We began the day early with morning prayer and the Eucharist at 7 a.m. at St. George’s Cathedral, the Anglican Cathedral in downtown Cape Town. The British had a large presence here, so there are many Anglican churches as well as many others. South Africa is considered 80 percent Christian, yet we see the horrors that came from the hands of Christians. Slavery was begun in South Africa as soon as colonization began with the British and Dutch, knowing they couldn't settle the land without slaves. Slaves came from West Africa, Malaysia, India, and other parts of Asia. They were auctioned off in front of the Dutch Reformed Church, and across from Parliament was a huge ‘Slave Lodge’ where thousands were kept in horrific conditions. . . . It’s so profound that Christians holding to the same Bible, creeds, and confessions as our church today could do this. Sin can be so deceiving. We continued the day praying for a ministry called ‘The Warehouse’ that works helping churches address justice issues like this.”
While in Cape Town, Algera also wrote: “We begin every GPS morning with devotions, working through the Lord's Prayer. This morning, Risamati, a professor of Greek and New Testament at Northwestern University (in Cape Town) led us. We traveled today to ‘Cape Flats.’ This was the area where 60,000 people were forcefully removed from Cape Town in 1976 because of their color. Their old neighborhood was bulldozed, and all signs of it, including streets, were removed. Cape Flats is government housing much like our ‘projects’ used to be. Unemployment, crime, gangs, and drug use are high.
“Yet here the body of Christ is letting the light of Jesus shine in many ways. We met with some leaders of Beulah Christian Center and then prayer-walked the community. It was a profound time of seeing the mustard seeds of hope growing.
“We then traveled back to the waterfront to go to Robben Island. This is the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 years in prison. Our guide was a former political prisoner who gave us insight into the fight for justice and the end of apartheid.”
Finally: “Today is the conclusion of the GPS. We worshiped at various local churches. Our group attended Khinysha Christian Center in ‘Cape Flats.’ This is a more multiracial congregation with some white and many black and colored (these distinctions are still used: colored are mixed-race people of white, black, Asian, Indian background). It was good to worship together with them as they are seeking to be the light of Christ in the community there. We then traveled downtown, where a large celebration was going on for the 28th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.”
Ken Koning, pastor of McBain (Mich.) CRC, said that being on the Global Prayer Safari was an incredible opportunity.
“We got to hear and see what is going on in a community, then join in prayer with those believers that God would move in those situations and communities,” he said.
Highlights for him included “learning more deeply about justice issues and having God awaken a greater compassion in me around those issues, as well as walking through a hospital praying for staff and patients and seeing God at work bringing some healing and blessing to those who were prayed for.”
Koning added: “I think [the Global Prayer Safari] is an undiscovered jewel in our denomination.”
Bouwe Leenstra, a member of Goshen (N.Y) CRC, said the Global Prayer Safari was a great way to see and travel in a country and come in contact with many of its people in many different circumstances.
“We were able to pray for so many people in the streets, in businesses, in government, in churches, everywhere. We prayed that God would end the drought in Cape Town. The rain came. One of the GPS themes is ‘We pray on-site with insight.’"
Derryl French, also a member of Goshen CRC, said that, as the youngest person on the trip, he felt that a major highlight of the trip was the fellowship between the prayer warriors.
“I have been on the GPS trips in the past two years, but this year I feel that the way the team grew together and communicated with each other was a lot better. An impact on my life was learning how recent the devastations in their history have been, such as apartheid being done in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Trish DeJong, who works for Resonate in Canada, said it was an amazing experience to pray together with pastors and ministry leaders from so many countries.
“We prayed our way across the country — in a school, hospital, mine, former prison, stock exchange, many community centers, churches, mountaintops, government buildings, and so much more.”
Michael Ribbens, a Resonate missionary in South Africa, said the country “is like an old house. The more we dig into the corners and cupboards, the more we see the fragile and broken areas.
“The old house is still very much loved and still very much in need of restoration. Our prayer journey entered into the wounded areas of South Africa — scars from forced removals and . . . stories of black young people being shot with their high school uniform on, and of women and children being sent off to concentration camps under the scorched earth. Led by the local community members, we journeyed deeper into these sites and found both our collective woundedness and our shared hope and humanity in Christ.”