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South Africa

Welcome to South Africa, the most industrialized and one of the richest nations in Africa. God continues to develop his church in this land.

Ministry Vision

By faith, SIM sees:

  • its church partners reaching out with the message of God's love to those around them.
  • its church partners developing full time administrations capable of providing the leadership necessary for numerical and spiritual growth.
  • its church partners responding effectively to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, instructing believers in holy living, and reaching out with love and compassion to those most affected by AIDS.
  • men, women, and children brought to faith in Jesus, taught and discipled in loving fellowships, and equipped for ministry and every good work.

Current SIM Ministry

SIM missionaries are involved in a variety of ministries including evangelism and church planting, discipleship, Christian education, theological education, and leadership development. There is a specialist ministry which focus on international students, as well as work at a hospital and a children's home. Work among miners is being handed over to local church partners. A variety of HIV and AIDS projects are being run in cooperation with church partners, encompassing prevention, home-based care, and care for orphans. In 2003, SIM began helping the Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa (ZEMA) to teach the Bible to leaders of African independent churches.

SIM's Partner Church

The first ministries started in 1889 to soldiers, sailors, railway, and mine workers in the developing parts of the country. The vision expanded quickly, however, and soon workers were sent to begin work among the Africans in Natal and Zululand (now Kwa Zulu Natal Province) and in Transkei (Eastern Cape Province) in South Africa, as well as in Swaziland. The influx of Indian farm laborers in the Durban (Natal) area in the 1860s provided other opportunities for ministry.

Out of the early mission outreach, two churches emerged: the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC) among the Zulu, Xhosa, and Swazi peoples of South Africa and Swaziland; and the Evangelical Church of South Africa (ECSA) among the Tamil speaking Indian population.

In the 1990s, outreach to the Tswana people of North West Province resulted in the emergence of several congregations, which are now incorporated into existing denominations. And in Johannesburg, outreach to Chinese immigrants has brought about a church affiliated with the Chinese Covenant Churches. Also during this period, a group of former Angolans living in South Africa affiliated themselves with the mission. They are known as the Evangelical Bible Church (SIM) since many of them also worked in Namibia and were influenced by SIM's partner church there (EBC).

In 1984, a group called Life Challenge Africa (LCA) began work among the 350,000 Indian and Malaysians in the Cape Town area. In 1986, LCA merged with SIM, providing the opportunity for further development of outreach through personal evangelism, as well as training and mobilizing churches in several major centers. In 2001, a video training tool, Battle for the Hearts, was produced in cooperation with Trans World Radio and is being used in a variety of churches and Bible colleges.

History of Christianity

The Khoi-San people were contacted as early as 1488, but showed little receptivity to mission work. In 1737, a Moravian missionary worked among them. In 1799, four years after the British took control of the Cape, the London Missionary Society (LMS) began work among the Khoi and Xhosa peoples, founding Bethelsdorp. In 1816, British Methodists began working along the southeast coast. That work has resulted in the second largest Black membership in South Africa claiming over 10% of the population. In 1817, Robert Moffatt of the LMS arrived at the Cape and from his mission at Kuruman, the Tswana Bible was translated and printed, schools were established, and vast areas were evangelized. Moffatt was the father-in-law of an even more well-known LMS missionary who worked in Southern Africa, David Livingstone.

The Dutch Reformed Church (NGK) began outreach among blacks in 1836. This work grew but was also fractured by doctrinal, political, and geographical concerns into five separate organizations between 1853 and 1866. In 1963, three of these churches plus another reunited with the mother church in Cape Town to form the General Synod NGK. This is an all-white organization, but its mission work has developed separate black, colored, and Asian churches which are all united under the Federal Council of the Dutch Reformed Churches. Under this umbrella, it is the largest church in South Africa today, with over 12.5% of the population.

The Presbyterian Church began work in 1813 to serve the whites of the Cape. Several other Presbyterian Mission groups followed and have formed two important denominations: the black Presbyterian (all Black), and the Presbyterian Church of South Africa (65% white). Negotiations are in progress for the union of these two bodies. In 1908 the Apostolic Faith Mission entered. It is the only mission to have made extensive inroads into the Afrikaans-speaking community. In 1967 the LMS, together with three other missions, formed the Congregational Church of Southern Africa. A number of smaller missions began work in South Africa in the 1980s.

One of the most significant developments in the history of missions in South Africa was the introduction of the teachings of Dr. John Alexander Dowie of the Christian Catholic Church (Zion, Illinois) at the turn of the 20th Century. Under the influence of this teaching, Rev. P.L. LeRoux left the Dutch Reformed Church in 1902 to start the first Black African Christian Catholic Church in the Wakkerstroom district. The visit of Overseer Daniel Bryant from the "mother church" in 1905 reported 5000 members among the Zulu and Basuto, in six buildings and 36 preaching points. Today these "Zion" churches (or amaZioni) form a large part of an estimated 15 million people involved in African Independent Churches spread throughout 7500 different groups in South Africa. Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa, ZEMA, is involved in teaching the Bible to leaders of this movement. In 2003, SIM was invited to join in this work and has enjoyed a rich partnership ever since.

Mission outreach from South Africa has been large and has included some world-renowned missionary enterprises. Examples are NGK (Dutch Reformed Church), with a major outreach for many years to a number of African nations; South Africa General Mission (1889), founded by well-known missionary statesman, Andrew Murray; International Fellowship of Christian Churches, now with a worldwide ministry to and through medical workers; African Evangelistic Band; Dorothea Mission; and more recently, African Enterprise, and Christ for all Nations.

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