Grace Community Church, South Africa

From Anabaptistwiki
Grace Community Church
Sf-map.gif
South Africa: World Factbook, 2009[1]

Location

Philipstown, South Africa

Date Established

1990's

Presiding Officer

Leon Pula[2]

MWC Affiliated?

Yes

Number of Congregations

7

Membership

1,027

Grace Community Church is a Mennonite World Conference church located in Philipstown, South Africa. Philipstown, South Africa is located in the heart of a rural sheep ranching territory in the northwest part of the country.[3] Most recently, the Grace Community Church in South Africa has reported to have 1,027 members in seven different congregations.[4]

Stories

Create new articles that tell stories about the Anabaptists of Grace Community Church and insert links to those stories here. Click here to learn more about stories.

History

Origins

The church began when Pastor David Makaleni decided to build a church and evangelize within the Philipstown community in the 1990's.[5] Makaleni became a legend in the area for carrying the gospel to many workers struggling to live on sheep farms. He drove thousands of miles to spread the good news. During his life, David planted nearly 20 cell groups and rid most of the plantations of the alcoholism that was creating an epidemic.
After some time, Grace Community Church had mentioned that they would really like to have some of their members ordained. Tim Lind, a Mennonite Central Committee representative, helped connect Grace Community with the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe.[6] During 2001, Bishop Shenk and his wife Nancy, travelled to Philipstown to ordain pastors and advise the church on how to install deacons.[7]

David Makalani.png

Pastor David Makaleni [8]

Growth

Apartheid

The Philipstown community continues to be an area of economic depression influenced by sheep farms.[9] The sheep farms are the main source of wealth in the community, and as it was before the apartheid, the farms belong almost solely to white farmers. Because of this, these white farmers employ large numbers of African workers.[10] While the church and Philipstown community can feel disgruntled in a culture that had been closed by color for so long, Grace Community Church has rapidly grown since apartheid. Pastor Leon Pula is the head of the church at the moment. For quite some time, now, Pastor Pula has been fervently involved in politics. During 2006 he was the only person of color in a senior government position and had already been a deputy chairperson for a branch of the African National Congress (ANC).[11] He has only been allowed to hold congress since apartheid is finally over. The African National Congress finally came to power in 2006 and the victory released a lot of emotion for change.[12] Pastor Pula continues to be a well known leader within the community and has continued to try and bridge the gap between the opposition party and the ANC. Although the church has grown tremendously since apartheid, the economy has completely plummeted since the opposing party lost power.

Contemporary Trends

While the affects of apartheid continue to be present, the church members in Philipstown do believe that a change has been made. They would agree that they are living in a free country, because while it is still not good it’s much different that it was.[13]
Recently, efforts have been made to build relations with other Anabaptist churches, including the Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa. However, even though these relationships have been made, neither BIC nor Mennonites have continued to nurture this church. Even still, the church continues to grow and study the scriptures to their best knowledge.
Pastor Leon Pula believes that the focus in the church right now is on the youth. The church would like to develop the youth to be able to keep the church alive and get them ready for leadership.[14]
Pula and his wife, Leah, have had some success with facing other struggles within the community as well, such as drinking and fighting. They have led counseling, generating many success stories along with peace and healthiness.[15]
Setting up a ministry in the Philipvale Primary School has been another project for Leon Pula. This ministry is an outreach to the youth in the community, and the youth group meets every night.[16]

Leon Pula.png

Pastor Leon Pula praying over a member in his congregation [17]

Identifying as Anabaptist

The major way that Grace Community identifies as Anabaptist is trying to keep peace within the community. By showing and representing reconciliation, they want to show that peace is attainable between the whites and blacks. Their efforts to reduce alcoholism within the community have also generated similar themes of peace.

Important Individuals

  • Pastor Leon Pula - He is the pastor of Grace Community Church in Philipstown, South Africa. Currently Pula is involved in politics and is the only person of color in a senior government position. Pastor Pula continues to be a well known leader within the community and has continued to try and bridge the gap between the opposition party and the ANC.

Current Challenges

Probably the biggest challenge facing Grace Community Church today is the repercussions of apartheid. The affects of apartheid create a constant struggle in the community, as well as in South Africa, because many of the black nationals do not have money and they are forced to ask white people for it. In a way this interferes with the nationals ability to live out their newly found freedom. Pastor Pula hopes that in the near future whites will come to worship at their church.

Building.jpg

In 2006, 16 North Americans helped Grace Community to remodel their church. By doing so, people within the community could see hope in the fact that blacks and whites could work together someday. [18]


Many people within and around the Philipstown community are reliant on alcohol, which results in constant struggle and unnecessary fighting. Pastor Leon Pula and his wife, Leah, are doing what they can to change this problem, but more could be done.[19]
The HIV/AIDs crisis is also a serious struggle the church is facing.[20] While there are many youth in the church that cannot fully understand their actions, a continued effort at showing the path to a new life in Jesus Christ is necessary.



Annotated Bibliography

  • "Africa." Africa Summary. Mennonite World Conference, 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members%202009/Africa%20Summary.doc>.
This website directs the reader to a document that lists the different Anabaptist and Mennonite World Conference churches within Africa. The document lists the African countries in alphabetical order, with a list of each church in the pertaining country. Under the church’s name is the number of members and how many congregations exist within each church.
  • Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
This is one of the most thorough books on Anabaptist history within the African context that I used during research. While it focuses on the whole continent, this book pays ample attention to the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in Southern Africa. There was even a small section specifically on the Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa. This was a primary source.
  • Dreaming A New South Africa. Dir. Patricia McFarlane and Stanley Green. Perf. Pastor Leon Pula. Mennonite Mission Network, 2006. DVD.
Trying to capture the struggles still faced by Anabaptists after the apartheid, Goshen College students travelled to South Africa to interview several people within Anabaptist churches. The interviews were mostly the pastors of the three different congregations that were highlighted in the film. One of the churches focused on was Grace Community Church in Philipstown. The influential pastor there, Leon Pula, provided some good insight into the changing community and church. This was a primary source.
  • "Grace Community Church." Mennonite Mission Network. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://www.me nnonitemission.net/OurWork/Partners/Pages/GraceCommunityChurch.aspx>.
Listed on Mennonite Mission Network’s website, this brief description of Grace Community Church sums up the little history and relevance that is well known about the church. While mentioning some of the beginnings of the church, this site mostly focuses on the success and influence that Grace Community has within the region. This was a secondary source.
  • Hollinger-Janzen, Lynda. "In South Africa, Workers Dismantle Walls, Build God's Household." The Mennonite 07 Dec. 2007.
This article in The Mennonite focuses on the efforts to help Grace Community Church to renovate their church. The church had a crumbling building, but after some people from overseas came and volunteered their time for a couple weeks, the church was able to be a better and safer meeting place. It was important to continuously mention that the church serves more like a community center within this small community. This is a news story and a magazine article.
  • Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
Focusing on the same pastors and material that was mentioned in the video listed above, “Dreaming A New South Africa,” this article provides a few more statistics and more detailed information about Grace Community Church. What is important to mention in this article is that the founder of the church, David Makaleni, is interviewed, while he is not mentioned in the film. David has since died, and it is encouraging to have his perspective. This was a secondary source and a magazine article.
  • McFarlane, Patricia. "Tell Me About Grace Community Church." E-mail interview. 11 Apr. 2011.
Travelling to South Africa with the Goshen College team to film “Dreaming A New South Africa,” Pat McFarlane described a little about he experience and memories while visiting Grace Community Church. While she is not an expert, Pat gave a very down to earth and memorable response to the things she saw and experienced while in Philipstown.

Citations

  1. "South Africa," CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html
  2. "Africa." Africa Summary. Mennonite World Conference, 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members%202009/Africa%20Summary.doc>.
  3. Dreaming A New South Africa. Dir. Patricia McFarlane and Stanley Green. Perf. Pastor Leon Pula. Mennonite Mission Network, 2006. DVD.
  4. "Africa." Africa Summary. Mennonite World Conference, 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members%202009/Africa%20Summary.doc&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;.
  5. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  6. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  7. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  8. Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
  9. "Grace Community Church." Mennonite Mission Network. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;amp;lt;http://www.me nnonitemission.net/OurWork/Partners/Pages/GraceCommunityChurch.aspx&amp;amp;gt;.
  10. "Grace Community Church." Mennonite Mission Network. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;amp;lt;http://www.me nnonitemission.net/OurWork/Partners/Pages/GraceCommunityChurch.aspx&amp;amp;gt;.
  11. Dreaming A New South Africa. Dir. Patricia McFarlane and Stanley Green. Perf. Pastor Leon Pula. Mennonite Mission Network, 2006. DVD.
  12. Dreaming A New South Africa. Dir. Patricia McFarlane and Stanley Green. Perf. Pastor Leon Pula. Mennonite Mission Network, 2006. DVD.
  13. Dreaming A New South Africa. Dir. Patricia McFarlane and Stanley Green. Perf. Pastor Leon Pula. Mennonite Mission Network, 2006. DVD.
  14. Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
  15. Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
  16. Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
  17. Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
  18. Hollinger-Janzen, Lynda. "In South Africa, Workers Dismantle Walls, Build God's Household." The Mennonite 07 Dec. 2007.
  19. Jones, Charles T. "Passion Burns in South Africa." The Mennonite 01 July 2003: 8-11.
  20. McFarlane, Patricia. "Tell Me About Grace Community Church." E-mail interview. 11 Apr. 2011.

Acknowledgments

This information was compiled by Aspen Schmidt, working through the Anabaptist/Mennonite History course at Goshen College in Goshen, IN.</center>