South Africa | September 22

The Worship Tree

Ingwavuma Children

The aging tree stands on the corner of the property near the road. Its bark has been peeled off by years of sun, rain, and many curious hands. The dirt at the tree’s base has been ground away by countless feet, and the roots are worn smooth from providing seats for excited children and weary adults. But the tree’s heart is strong, and its branches provide cooling shade for those who sit under it. This tree is special; it’s the children’s worship area every Sabbath. Here they sing songs to Jesus and listen as their teacher tells them Bible stories.

No Church in Ingwavuma

The growing congregation in the town of Ingwavuma [ing-wah-VOO-mah] in northeastern South Africa worships in the community hall, a one-room building. Because there’s no classroom for the children, they worship under the big tree in the dusty yard. When it rains, the children take shelter in the community hall and worship with the adults.

The church members share the community hall with many other groups. One day the women may gather to knit and talk. Another night the town council discusses important matters in the community.

Early on Sabbath morning believers prepare the community center for worship, arranging chairs and a table in the front for the worship leaders. Soon the worshippers gather, singing songs of love to Jesus as they arrive. The melody of their strong voices flows through the windows, beckoning others to hurry to Sabbath worship.

Time for Worship

Meanwhile the children gather under the worship tree a few feet away. Their sweet voices rise in joyful praise. Then the teacher asks, “Who can recite last week’s Bible text?” Eager hands wave, and one by one the children recite the Bible text.

Then it’s story time. The children lean forward to see the picture the teacher holds up as she tells the Bible story.

When the teacher finishes the story, she recites the day’s Bible text. “Today’s Bible text is in Philippians 4:19. It says: ‘My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’* Let’s say it together,” she encourages. “My God … [encourage children in class to repeat after teacher] shall supply all your need … according to His riches in glory … by Christ Jesus.” The children and the teacher repeat the verse together several times.

“Who can tell me what the verse means?” the teacher asks.

“It means that when we are in trouble we can ask God, and He will help us,” one boy says.

“It means that if we don’t have food to eat, we can ask God, and He will give us food,” a girl says quietly.

“It means that God is telling us that we don’t have to worry about things we need, because Jesus knows, and He will give us what we need,” another boy answers.

“These are good answers,” the teacher says. “God does know our needs, and He will provide, just as He provides grass for our cattle and sunshine and rain to grow the rice and vegetables we eat. He sees our needs and will provide.”

A Special Place

“Sometimes God supplies our needs by asking others to help,” continues the teacher. “This quarter people all around the world will help build a church right here in Ingwavuma. God has heard our prayers for a church—a building dedicated to worshipping God and sharing our faith with the people in our community.

God has provided the land, and we are buying bricks to begin building the church. But it will take us years to finish the church. However, in a few weeks people around the world will give their Thirteenth Sabbath Offering to help us have a church in which to worship. And children around the world are giving their offering so we can have a Sabbath School room just for children!” The teacher’s eyes glisten with joy.

“When we have a worship room of our own, parents will gladly let their children come to worship with us and learn stories about Jesus. Let’s pray that our church on the hilltop will be a light to our community.”

The children bowed their heads as one of the children prayed. Then the children sang another happy song as they gave their offerings to Jesus.

As we plan for our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering on September 29, let’s pray that our generosity will help believers in one small town in Africa bring many others to Jesus.


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