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World Cup boosts urban outreach

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP)–“The World Cup is over, but South Africa is still here.”

The words of a missionary with the International Mission Board in Johannesburg reflect the challenge ahead for urban missionaries serving in South Africa. IMB workers are praying that God will use their evangelistic initiatives during the World Cup soccer tournament to expand their outreach to the lost people of the nation’s cities.

IMB missionaries minister in five cities that hosted the various World Cup matches: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

“The goals we had for the World Cup were to primarily impact South Africa and the people of South Africa in our urban areas,” said missionary Wade Coker, the lead IMB strategist for southern Africa. Now, he noted, is the time for follow-up.

“To me the most critical work and sometimes the most difficult work in these types of events is going to take place now in the coming month or two,” Coker said, “and that is following up the decisions and … gathering the people together in Bible studies and in new outreach groups.”

Coker said the Gospel was shared with thousands of people across South Africa, and hundreds made decisions to follow Christ. In Cape Town alone, Coker cited 287 people receiving Christ.

“From all the reports I’m hearing, the goals were accomplished in that we did go into these townships and had a great impact,” he said. A township is an urban area often characterized by high population density and low incomes.

Missionaries working in Soweto, a collection of townships in Johannesburg, had a goal of planting a church in the Dobsonville township during the World Cup.

Kurt Holiday, an IMB missionary who oversees strategies to reach South Africa’s urban centers, reported that a church indeed has been started there. “We did Holiday Bible Clubs and soccer clinics, witnessing and handing out tracts, and greeted people up and down the streets,” Holiday said.

Now a small group of new believers regularly gathers in Dobsonville, forming the nucleus of a new church. “I think that is going to end up being the result of the World Cup, and that is great,” Holiday said.

More than 35,000 pieces of evangelistic literature were distributed in Soweto, including a Christian sports magazine, Gospel portions and tracts. “Every contact that we have will be followed up within the next month. We have an immediate plan,” Holiday reported.

“Using sporting events to get the Gospel out, we’ve shown that it can be very effective and is a way to plant churches, as long as there’s a strategy beforehand and follow-up afterwards,” he said.

Both Holiday and Coker credit the efforts of volunteers who helped to carry out successful World Cup strategies.

“They were essential,” Holiday said. “There’s no way we could have done what we did, accomplished what we accomplished, without their help. As good as [the] missionaries are that we have, we just can’t cover that much ground that quickly.”
Charles Braddix is a writer and photographer for the International Mission Board global communication team. To view a prayer video on the urban centers of South Africa, go to http://www.africastories.org/south-africa-is-still-here/video-urban-prayer-journal/. For more stories on what God is doing in Africa visit the IMB affiliate website www.AfricaStories.org.

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  • Charles Braddix