The amaZioni are a passionate people.
The Zion movement has exploded over the past several years, traveling up the continent. With over 4,000 denominations, it is estimated that there are anywhere from 15-20 million amaZioni in Southern Africa today, and that number is ever-increasing.
Unfortunately, most Zion churches are syncretistic.
They combine what they know of the Bible with practices common to traditional African culture. They say that they love the Lord, but they also worship their ancestors. They claim Christ, yet they also practice witchcraft. They may attend church every Sunday and attend all night services, yet the pastor may not know or teach the Bible. They worship with joyful singing and rhythmic drums, but may interrupt the service to make sacrifices to appease their dead relatives. They hunger for the truth of God’s Word, yet have few resources to hear that Word taught.
Zion Evangelical Bible Schools are the heartbeat of the mission. Because of the connection ZEMA has with the history of the Zion movement, ZEMA missionaries are accepted among the amaZioni and able to bring the truth of God’s Word to a people desperately waiting to hear it.
As Khuba explains in his testimony, “ZEBS is needed because many people got lost…they love God, but they don’t understand.”
ZEBS is a 4-year Bible program offered to pastors and church leaders. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It is this living Word that speaks to the students, that changes lives. As they encounter God’s truth, students grapple with the contradictions between their culture and Christianity. The goal is not to Westernize the amaZioni. The goal is rather to embrace them, gathering more worshippers from every nation, tribe, people and language (Revelation 7:9). The goal is to train the pastors and leaders so that they in turn can reach their own people with the truth of the Gospel.
What started as two schools run by a few missionaries has grown to over sixty (yes, 60!) schools across Southern Africa today–and the requests keep coming! One of the things I love about this mission is that our missionaries never go anywhere they are not invited; rather, they are in high demand. They cannot keep up with the requests- what a wonderful problem to have!
This past weekend, we celebrated another ZEBS graduation. I’m thankful for the dedication of the teachers, who travel great distances and sacrifice much sleep and drink far too much Coke in order to keep up with the demands. I’m thankful for the students who come- some traveling for days- to study the Bible. And I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness. He is so, so good!
Here are a few snapshots from this year’s celebration:
Preparing lunch for 300 people!
By far the biggest pot of rice I’ve ever seen. You have to stir it with an oar!
My Aunt Laurel updating contact information for soon-to-be ZEBS alumni.
The graduates lined up and ready.
A very full house. It felt like the walls were shaking!
It was fun to see the ladies take a break from the kitchen to get in on the dancing. Left to right: Monica, Ellen and Ntombifuthi.
The procession begins! They dance into the hall.
Worship and testimonies.
1st, 2nd and 3rd year students receive their certificates.
The hooded graduates.
So much joy!
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
through all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”