On the 30th of September 2009, approximately 220 believers from the six assemblies around Botswana, came to Serowe to commemorate forty years of assembly testimony in the country. The six assemblies are located in Gaborone, Serowe, Francistown, Palapye, Selebi-Phikwe and Maun. The following pro-vides a brief history of the development of assembly testimony in Botswana as seen through the eyes of one of the local brethren – Dr. Kgosi Mompati from the Francistown Assembly.
‘Despite some early evangelical activity it was not until the late 1960’s that assembly testimony was established in Botswana. God had laid his hand on Jim and Irene Legge from Cowdenbeath in Scotland who, after initially seeking to serve the Lord in Angola, were redirected to Botswana and they arrived in the country in 1969 and settled in Serowe. Much of Jim and Irene’s initial outreach centred around regular medical clinics in the surrounding area
Under God’s providential care I met Jim and Irene in April 1973. I had been saved from a life of ignorance, sin and fear of witchcraft through the preaching of a young evangelist from South Africa who had visited my school in 1972. However, the truths regarding assurance of salvation and the eternal security of believers had not been impressed upon my mind at that time and consequently I had doubts about my salvation. I was also interested in getting to know about baptism, but this had not been explained to me. Thankfully, my concerns were immediately addressed when I met Jim and Irene, who in true Priscilla and Aquila fashion expounded to me the way of Christ more perfectly. It was a great joy when, in December 1973, together with another brother, Mr Lekoko, I was baptized and received into fellowship in the Serowe assembly. The assembly began with seven believers. These included a brother who used to drive three hours to the meetings and Mavis Medupe – the first convert of Jim and Irene’s work.
Gospel outreach activities in neighbouring villages such as Mabeleapudi resulted in others, such as Ivan and Lenyora Mbangiwa, trusting the Lord and many of these early believers were in attendance at the anniversary conference.
During the early 1980’s Jim and Irene began monthly visits to Gaborone for Bible study with a small number of believers who lived there.
It was at this time that Dr. Clark Logan and his wife Hazel arrived in Serowe from Northern Ireland. They lived in Serowe for two years learning Setswana and helping in the medical work that Jim and Irene had commenced.
In February 1984 Clark and Hazel moved to Gaborone and finding a few believers there, their house became like Priscilla and Aquila’s home – neighbours were invited to meetings in their home and outreach extended to prisons and other parts of Gaborone. A number of others trusted the Lord at this time. The Lord provided a plot of land in Broadhurst, a hall was erected and the assembly met there for the first time in July 1987.
Today there are gospel activities in neighbouring villages with a regular weekly visit to Mochudi for children’s and adult meetings. A further hall has been constructed in another area of Gaborone and outreach continues in both locations among adults and children. Joy Griffiths from Eastbourne, joined the Logan’s in 1990.
In 1985, Ian and Rebecca Rees arrived in Serowe, having been commended from Bath. For two years they too were in Serowe learning the language before leaving for Francistown in July 1987. There they opened a small bookshop and started a children’s meeting. They were joined by a number of believers who had moved from Serowe and on the 12th June 1988 the assembly was established. In these early days a number were saved including Peter Marewa – one of our able gospel preachers – and a young sister Ontiretse who later married brother John Bandy who was commended to service from Milton Keynes assembly in England and arrived in Botswana in June 1999. The assembly benefited much from the ministry and fellowship of David and Helen McKillen, who lived in Francistown for four years before moving to Cape Town in October 2009.
In 1989, Levi and Abigail Zulu arrived from Zambia. They initially settled in Gaborone but soon moved to Selebi-Phikwe. Simultaneously, Albert Horan, originally from Northern Ireland and who worked in a Technical College in Gaborone, was also transferred to that town. Soon a meeting of believers started in the Zulu’s home, where they began to break bread. Later, a plot of land was granted and a temporary shelter was built in 1992. The Zulu’s returned to Zambia in 1995 but John and Margaret Rutter, who were commended from Bath, moved to Selebi-Phikwe to help in the work. In 2006, Bryan and Johanna Jenkins were commended from Wales to the work in Botswana and they also settled in Selebi-Phikwe. There are currently around fifteen to twenty believers meeting in the assembly there.
In 1991, Sid and Karen Halsband were commended to the Lord’s work from Canada. They settled in Gaborone for a while, learning Setswana. In April 1992, however, Sid became seriously ill and had to go back to Canada. Through the mercy of God, he recovered, and in 1993 they returned, eventually settling in Maun in the north of the country. A Zambian brother, Dan Nguluka, was already preaching the gospel there and there were a few believers who came from Seronga (north of Maun) for schooling. Selelo and Jane Motlaleselelo later joined these believers in 1994. The assembly started to break bread in May 1995. The Lord graciously provided a plot of land and the gospel hall was opened and dedicated to His service in March 2008.
Colin and Christine Raggett were commended from Manchester in 1992 and settled in Serowe for several years to learn the language and to help in the work there. In 1997 they started adult and children’s meetings in Palapye about forty kilometres from Serowe, eventually moving there in October 1999. The gospel work grew and eventually a number trusted the Lord and the saints began breaking bread in August 2000.
The Lord has graciously sustained His work in Botswana over the years, and hearts are still being exercised regarding the work here. In December 2007, the believers in Serowe had the joy of welcoming Franklin and Jenny McIlroy, who were commended to His service from Northern Ireland. They have recently moved to Maun to assist in the work there in view of brother Sid Halsband’s continuing health problems
These forty years have been a testimony of God’s faithfulness. The period has seen six assemblies planted, zeal in the gospel has continued, and many children are reached with the gospel through Sunday schools, children’s meetings and school access for literature distribution. Most assemblies are engaged in prison work. There has also been good teaching in the local assemblies as well as support in ministry from visiting brethren who come to Botswana from time to time.
The Lord’s servants have faithfully laboured. It is our prayer that the years ahead may be characterized by maturity and development of spiritual gifts among local brethren who should be able to take the gospel to other parts of Botswana and to continue to edify the Lord’s people’.