The Road South: Pioneering the Church of God in Botswana
By Jim and Mary Nipp
At Mid-America Christian University, our school song, “Anywhere O Lord With thee”, included the lyrics, “On a desert though it be.” Little did we know we would “go south on the desert road.”
Called to missions ministry by the Lord, my wife and I raised enough money to purchase a one-way ticket on the ocean freighter African Gulf. I was twenty-three and she was twenty. We sailed out of New York harbor and watched the Statue of Liberty fade into the distance under a full moon on that spring night in 1962.
We spent a month at sea, stopping at many ports along the way, where they loaded and unloaded freight. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I went below deck to the engine room where a closet of old books were located. The rocking ship caused the books to pile against the door. I opened the door and the book Lost World of the Kalahari, by South African author Laurens van der Post, fell at my feet. Little did I realize that God had placed it there. I took it back to our cabin and read it. It was mainly about a village called Maun, in the Republic of Botswana. The village was located at the edge of the Kalahari Desert.
Our destination was Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After serving a year in ministry in Tanzania, we sought the Lord for direction and he reminded us of the book on the ship. In faith, we left Tanzania by road, traveling south to the Kalahari desert, arriving in the village of Maun. There, we appeared before the Kotla (pronounced coat-lah), the council of tribal chiefs, who met under a tree in the center of the village. Permission was granted by the tribal chiefs in the village of Maun. We sent a telegram back home stating what the Lord had accomplished, The telegram stated Revelation 3:8 (KJV)—“I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.”
Our first service was under a tree in Maun. We cut logs for pews. A broken truck spring and a tire lever made a perfect bell. Twenty-one people attended that service. To this date, The Botswana Church of God has grown from that location, with congregations scattered throughout the country. The national church is today autonomous, planting congregations throughout the country. Representatives plan to attend the Global Gathering in 2013.