One country where the IMM has many friends is SOUTH AFRICA. This is a country with a HUGE mining industry. Many minerals are extracted but two of the most important relate to the rich deposits of GOLD and PLATINUM. These are high value minerals and although we associate them with jewellery they are now in high demand for use in many areas of modern technology, including the electronics industry. South African mines are by far the biggest producers of gold and platinum in the world, employing an estimated 400,000 miners and associate workers.
The mines extracting gold and platinum are based round Johannesburg and Rustenburg - an area known as the Witwatersrand. Here there are numerous mines and these provide work for many tens of thousands of miners and associate workers employed by several large mining companies. Some of these mines are very deep indeed, many going 2 miles down into the earth's crust - the work is very hard and demanding on the miners. The temperature down the mine can be at a constant 30 degrees Centigrade, even with ice and refrigeration systems used to cool the air! It can take up to 12 tons of rock to be brought to the surface just to extract one ounce of pure gold!
Over a period of more than 40 years an excellent Christian witness was provided for these men by the CHRISTIAN MINISTRY TO MINERS, part of the Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) based in South Africa. Bible Book vans manned by evangelists visited the many mining sites selling Bibles and providing tracts as well as making useful contacts with the miners, not only as they came to and from work but also in the many hostels provided by the mining companies. Groups of miners were encouraged to meet for prayer, worship and Bible study. There was a valuable visiting ministry to the men in the mine hospitals too, as accidents in the mines are a constant hazard in the industry.
Not only local men from South Africa but many others came from countries all over the southern part of Africa looking for employment in the mines - countries such as Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Many of them found Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour as a result of this faithful witness. Christian groups were formed in the mine hostels. Bible studies and Bible courses by post were organised for the miners. Since then, many have gone back to their home countries and taken the Gospel with them. Churches have been started and many have been blessed.
The International Miners' Mission, both in Switzerland and the UK, have been instrumental in assisting this outreach over a period of nearly 20 years, providing grants for specific projects such as housing, transport and salaries for the evangelists. However the way in which the ministry has developed would indicate that a new organisational structure is required for the future. As a result, a new IMM South Africa Committee has been established and is an independent charity registered in South Africa.
The people actively involved in the day to day running of the IMM's outreach ministry to miners will initially be pastors and evangelists Elijah Dube, Patrick Langa, Maurice Langa, Mohau Mofokeng and Andrew Mayathula. These are all mature men, who have many years experience working amongst the large mining communities. David Shillitoe and Michael Jarvis of IMM (UK) visited Johannesburg and Rustenburg at the end of February 2007 on a fact-finding mission in order to meet and get to know the IMM South African committee members. They were able to visit the mining areas and see the situation for themselves. They were impressed by the clear VISION of the IMM South Africa Committee to develop this ministry of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the many thousands of miners and their families. It has accordingly been agreed that start-up funds will be provided to finance the work. The support will be financed by IMM (Australia), IMM (USA) and IMM (UK).
The challenge to meet the spiritual needs of these miners and their families is great. There cannot be many places in the whole world where so many men are working underground in such a relatively small area. It is estimated that there are some 400,000 miners working in South Africa - and this number is growing! Few of them have the opportunity to visit established churches - THE TEAM NEEDS TO GO TO THE MINERS!
Some of the projects being undertaken (and planned) include:
Do please pray for our brethren in South Africa heading up this ministry. They need our prayers and support.
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