Steve Plodinec., (M.Div.'96), teaches at Christ Seminary, a Master's Academy International Training Center (TMAI), in Polokwane, South Africa. (Interestingly, Steve's former church in Newtown, Connecticut, is now pastored by 2007 TMS graduate Joey Newton). Here is an update on Steve's disciple, seminary student Martin Seliane, who has planted a new church three hours south of Johannesburg.
Steve went to visit Martin at his church, "God’s Power Ministries", in a small town surrounded by corn and wheat fields. The church is in an “informal settlement” on the edge of town and, like the homes around it, the church is made of tin and scavenged metal and wood. In one room, about fifteen feet by twenty feet are packed 35-40 people each Sunday. The little kids sit on the dirt floor next to the pulpit, the bigger kids are behind them, and sitting on the benches are the moms with babies. Young adults and the men sit in the back of the church. There are 6-8 men in Martin’s church, which is very good for a black church of that size.
On a recent Saturday morning Pastor Martin and Steve went to a funeral. Steve was not sure how he would be received, but Martin reassured him, “You are a visiting pastor, so it is OK and they expect that you will be involved."
The departed was a member of the ANC (the African National Congress) which is the ruling party of South Africa. A number of people stood up and spoke about about the deceased. Then, one of the leaders of the 30 or so ANC Party members who were there, got up and spoke about two minutes, talking about how the deceased was a member of the ANC Party and had worked for the people against tyranny. After everyone had their say, Martin stood up to preach and the ANC group started to walk out. Martin, no pushover, pointed his finger at them, spoke loudly and forcefully saying, “Stop! Come back here! We listened to you and now it is time for you to listen to the Word of God.” A few seconds later, the speaker of the group came back in followed by the rest of the Party members. Martin preached a very good sermon and started by saying, “At funerals it is too late to preach to the deceased, so I will preach to the living.” He was sensitive to the family and memory of the deceased, and he gave the gospel, calling all to repentance.
At the gravesite, Martin and Steve took their turn in line to shovel some dirt into the grave. After the grave was filled, the leaders of the ANC Party and their members were talking loudly. Steve stepped in front of the grave, looked one of the leaders in the eye and said loudly, “Let’s pray.” Everyone got quiet. He asked God to comfort the grieving, show His mercy and grace, and draw all the people to Himself.
Steve and Martin went back to the mother of the deceased’s home where the crowd was gathered for a meal of goat stew and vegetables. Steve looked at it and remembered what he heard a missionary say years ago, “Where He leads me I will follow, what He feeds me I will swallow.” Though the food smelled like water from a dirty gutter, he ate all of it. Later that evening, Martin said that the family really appreciated that Steve, a visiting white pastor, was fully involved in everything. He said they especially appreciated it when he stood in line to take his turn shoveling dirt into the grave, praying after the grave was filled and then eating their food. Martin said that the next time he visits the community, they will accept him because he identified with them in their grief and did everything they did. Steve's only hope was that they will also remember Martin’s ministry and the gospel he preaches to them.
Please pray for Martin, for Steve, and for Christ Seminary and the other TMAI training schools around the world where men like Martin are equipped for the work of pastoring and teaching in their home countries. You can find more information on other TMS grads who teach at TMAI schools at http://www.tmainternational.org.