Sunday, June 16th is Youth Day in South Africa. On this day in 1976, 700 students lost their lives for taking part in a protest in the streets of Soweto. For many the cause these brave young people gave their life for is almost nonsensical in the new era of "The Rainbow Nation". Yet the iconic image taken by news photographer, Sam Nzima of the dying 13 year old Hector Pieterson remains committed to memory around the world.
We are reminded of their sacrifice in the sermon presented by Dr Murunwa Makwarela, the Youth Pastor at The Word of Life Ministries Church on the outskirts of Pretoria. His message is one of inspiration and joy, filled with hope and promise for our youth.
The spirit of this church and its people take me back to the most ancient days of prophecy and biblical truth where faith in God and the supernatural power to bring miracles into existence are never questioned. This is a place that vibrates with The Spirit and Essence of Christ. It's in the music, the voices, the declarations, the joyful dance of the soul that Christ breathes the eternal message of love into us. Here we are united. Here we are at peace. Here we can live in eternal hope.
Driven by faith the church was established on the 18th January 1998 by Pastor Noel and Rirhandzu Sithole in a one bedroom flat in Parkvilla, Sunnyside, Pretoria. By 2004, a fund raising team led by the inspirational Dr Makwarela finds me standing on the grounds where their 3500 seater auditorium will be built.
Today we hold service in a 1000 seater Alpine Marquee and there is no space within that sacred place where God is not present. We are taken back into the scriptures to "Daniel 3" to the image of gold and the blazing furnace, where the jews denounced by the astrologers chose to be thrown into a blazing furnace rather than bow down to the image of gold
made by King Nebuchadnezzar.
And so it is that when we decide and choose the path of God we are also put through a blazing furnace "seven times hotter" to test our faith. In Psalm "119:9" we are told that a young person must stay on the path of purity by living according to the word of God and hide His words in their hearts and always delight in the decrees of God. Then no decree given by an Earthly King over our lives will have any effect. We too can step bound into a blazing furnace knowing that our God will untie the bonds that bind us and walk with us so that we may continue to live as warriors of faith.
After the service we walk around the vast church grounds. There is nothing here but dust ... but that is now. We are all made of dust and each and every building and monument and sky scraper was once dust. From this dust will be built the 3500 seater sanctuary to Christ and the world will hear the voices of the people singing praises and teaching the word of God. For here on this ground is hope embedded in faith. Here Miracles Have A Voice!
And so too from the dust of despair and uprising and anger there is a monument just two blocks away from where the young Hector was so tragically shot. We will not forget but neither will God. For we "who sit down in the High God's presence, spend the night in Shaddai's shadow, say this: God, you're my refuge. I trust in you and I'm safe." (Psalm 91: The Message).