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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Ditapelo Service - Details

- Sermons, Readings, Prayers and Prophecies

The Ditapelo Service, I attended was held by Bethlehem, as part of a regular Sunday Service which had started in Bethlehem's church. We then went in procession to the other side of the village (about half an hour's journey on foot). We sang Zion hymns all the way. Our method of entry to the troubled home once we arrived at their kgotla has already been described in Volume 1, Chapter 15. Below is described the service that took place once we had entered the home.

After a hymn the Vice-Bishop announced that he thanked God for giving him energy and power to come to that home that day. He was reminded of a story in the Bible where the people were living in a certain village called Nineveh, and this village had been filled with bad luck and many were ill. When God saw that Nineveh was coming to an end, he sent his son Jonah there to go and warn the villagers that they would all be ruined. Jonah thought they deserved it and had embarked on a ship going in the opposite direction. Then God had sent terrible storms. When the ship was about to be wrecked, the sailors had cast lots to find out what caused their trouble Jonah had been found guilty and they told him to wake up and pray with them.

The Mookamedi (Vice-Bishop) then started a hymn: "Wake up Jonah and Let's pray". After the hymn he continued the story of Jonah. Jonah had not wanted to cause their deaths so he had told them to throw him into the sea and he would be helped by God. The Mookamedi told the owner of the home that he would like him to listen carefully because they had been sent to him by God.

He next referred to the story of Nicodemus, where he had asked Christ how He as such a young man could do such miracles. Nicodemus wanted to ask for help from Christ but had been afraid that people might laugh at him for asking for help from such a young man like Christ was. This shows us that people should not look down upon other people for no good reason.(i.e. even if the owner of the home should hear about his troubles from young people and women in the congregation he should not disregard their words - traditionally only the elders are believed to have wisdom.).

 Nicodemus had visited Christ and said he did not know where He had got his power. Christ had then answered that was why he needed to be born again with Water and the Holy Spirit so that he could understand. If he was not born again with Water and the Holy Spirit he could never reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Nicodemus had been very surprised by this and asked how he could be born again when he was so old, how could he go back to his mother's womb, and Christ had explained that, if he was baptized, he would be born again. The Mookamedi then said that that was why they had come to the house. He had been sent in that way and he was now going to talk about Hosea 5, v. 13. They would read that from the Bible first. He advised the owners of the home to live by prayers and all become Zionists, to pray to God, confess their sins and then they would be forgiven. One should never hide that one is a Christian. God is the only one we find in Corinthians 12. In that book we learn that there are many gifts and because of lack of knowledge, different people know different things. Some know how to heal, others to perform miracles etc. He wanted the congregation to look at Hebrews 12, v. 15 and St. John 12, v.24. The Secretary read these verses then we sang the hymn "We are coming to pray for you (they gave the name of the people of the home in their hymn).

Another hymn followed "All ears should listen to the Word of God because a trumpet calls". The Secretary next read James 5 v13 and Isaiah 38, v. 1-6, Corinthians 12, v. 1, Hebrews 12, v. 25-26. These Bible readings were interspersed with hymns. The Mookamedi said that in all these readings it emphasized the power of God and how He can help people in their troubles if they follow Him. Those who refused God's Word were punished with earthquakes etc. and on the Day of Judgement, which is very close, those who had been deaf to his words would go to Hell whereas Christians would fly with the angels in the sky.

He continued to preach that in Deuteronomy 28, v. 1 it says that if you take note of the Word of God you will be blessed in your home and everything you do will be blessed. Sometimes a person can be so cursed that even their clothes are included, and because of this curse they will not be happy on Earth or live eternally. One will be cursed by God if one is unfriendly and hates people. Life without God is not a happy life. After a further hymn he said that the Spirit had told him to speak in SiNdebele and he would soon start doing so. He himself had never been taught this language, nor was he a Matebele.

From the Word of God he heard that the mother of the son is not the one responsible for the children's bad behaviour and during the Day of Judgement she will not be punished for this. If a person does bad things, challenging one's father, fighting and drinking, that person should know that it is not their father who will be blamed. Maybe on Earth the father will be charged cattle, but on the Day of Judgement it is that person who will answer for their own crimes, not their father. He continued on this theme after a further hymn, emphasizing that we are all answerable for our own faults on the Day of Judgement. He mentioned how some bad children might boast how they would do bad things because their fathers were good orators and would speak for them at the kgotla (Traditionally a father represents children at the kgotla, and if the child is fined, e.g. 6 cattle for making a girl pregnant, it is the father who must pay), but if one reads in the Bible, one can see how such a person is cursed. But it does not matter if a person is cursed by others for being a Christian. It is better to be cursed on Earth. Those who are not polite and do not take care of their parents are cursed, as are those who insult people and challenge them. Even though a father may be responsible on Earth if his son makes girls pregnant he will be charged cattle, but on the Day of Judgement it is that individual who will be punished, not his father.( Here he is referring to the bad children of the home. The children of the owner of the home were present during the service and one was even drunk.)

The Mookamedi continued that these people would have their cattle taken from them because of their drunkenness and their own children would go astray and be reared by others. (Here he could refer them to Deuteronomy 28 - part of the laws of Moses, how those who please God will be blessed and those who disobey will be cursed.) During the time of Rains, such bad people would find that on their own earth there was no rain, and their Lands would be dusty, rocky and infertile and their wives would be taken by their own comrades. Therefore they should hurry up and listen to the Commandments of God that he was giving them.

He continued that he could "see" (in his Spirit) that somewhere in that home there was a buried lonaka (medicine horn) that had been taken from a traditional doctor to bewitch the family. As he was talking about this, he could "see" that someone at the church was not happy to hear his words (i.e. the sorcerer was present). But that person should beware because he (the Mookamedi) could take it out from the place where it was buried and he would hit the person who was guilty, on the nose and mouth, so that his teeth would be knocked out. Then we sang a non-Setswana hymn.

The Mookamedi continued that in Isaiah 38, v. I, it tells how Hezebiah was very ill and nearly dead. The prophet Isaiah told him he would die. Then he had heard from God that God had decided to allow him to live another I5 years and promised to save the city from the Assyrians. Hezebiah was very pleased, he was healed and so he lived longer. This was just like the home where this Ditapelo was being held. They had been having problems and now God would hear their prayers and help them to solve their problems. God would comfort those who had problems.

After another hymn the Mookamedi said that in Ezekiel it says that when you are worried you should sing a hymn; if the problems continue you should pray to God; if it still is not solved then you should call the members of the congregation to help you pray and the power of Christianity will help the one who believes in God. The best thing therefore was to confess ones sins so that they can be forgiven.

Elia was a person in the Bible like all of us, and he was told that for 3.5 years there would be no rain. Elia was just an ordinary person. Many people believe that things only happen if a certain Moruti is called, but that is not true. Everything we ask in God's name is done. There are many people who are misled by their understanding of the kingdom of Earth or because of their children and friends who influence them. He himself remembered that when he started in church people had cried bitterly because they missed the friend they had lived with and had had "good times" with. He had been a good buyer of beer and a drinker of it. He had been a good dancer at gumba-gumba, and a player of guitars. Therefore they believed he was going astray when he left these things. They thought he was confused and had Badingwana (Ancestral spirits of dead children).

Some said he had been a good person when he had been making girls of the village pregnant, drinking beer, playing guitars and dancing at gumba-gumba (all banned by Zion Church members), always stabbing and fighting people, whispering and talking badly about people. Now that he had left all these things they thought he was a devil preaching Holy Words that were leading him astray. Everyone on Earth was angered by the bad things he had mentioned, but when one does evil things one always finds one has a lot of friends, but the only thing they really love one for is one’s purse. There would be many people who would love a person because of the way he may fight and as soon as he stops all these things, they will hate him and talk badly about him. Then he started a hymn "Forgive my sins, I believe every day and praise You my Lord, I praise You my Saviour for forgiving my sins." He continued along the same theme that one is loved when one does bad things but that just as it says in Psalms "When I cut sackcloth and wear it, everyone tends to talk about me and the bad people started to hate me, even my home boys start spitting at me and saying I should not believe in the God I have started worshipping." In Psalm 22 it says "My God, why have you forsaken me? Why can't you hear me cry" Those were the words said by David when he started worshipping God "God please deliver me quickly, my fathers who believed in You and were forgiven. They were not shy."

We should follow these words and not think that the only people God is with are those we see Him with now. Matthew 24 v.24 warns us about false prophets whom we should ignore. The Day of Judgement is coming for everyone, the rich and the poor alike, the good and the bad. He referred to one occasion when a drunkard had challenged ladies who were passing on their way home from the church saying "Jesus I'm having a good time drinking" and asking them for tobacco. But they should take. no notice and not be persuaded by such things to leave Christianity. Then we sang the hymn "Even if they are doing bad things they are Christ's creatures".

Next the Moruti explained that now it was the time to pray but he had just been trying to let the children of the home know a little about their bad behaviour. When a person dies, their spirit leaves the body and only the body remains here. Therefore they should take note that in the Bible we are warned to love our neighbours and respect our parents. Our parents are the ones who make us and suffered for us when we were small. Those that ill-treat parents are cursed. When you are weak your mother was the one who held you, and if she had been bad she would have killed you. But because she was good you lived, she suffered for you. If you insult her, you are cursed on Earth and in Heaven because you are insulting the ones who cared for you.

Then during the following hymn we went out into the yard, where dancing started. The men, led by the Mookamedi, danced in one line and the women led by the Mookamedi's wife danced in the other and the lines wove in and out of each other. Next the family were put in the middle of the dancing circle and were danced around. Then they were prayed on by the Barapedi in the centre of the circle. After that we were all prayed on - the unbaptized first, then baptized women and children, and then the men. (The Mookamedi announced that sorcerers should keep outside as when they touched one when praying, she would be caught.) We were prayed on first by one Moruti and then another then two together (the latter included the Mookamedi). They prayed on the head, shoulders, back, chest and stomach, their hands were trembling.

After this the Moruti started a cheer "Viva, Bethlehem, Viva" which was taken up by all the others. The Mookamedi said he was glad that we had come to that house to pray. We then all walked back to the church in procession singing hymns on the way. We entered the church in single file in the same order as we had entered the kgotla.

Announcements were made and a collection was taken. People who wanted to join were put in the centre, but the Mookamedi warned new members that they should only join if their parents agreed, as if they joined they would not be allowed to use traditional medicine, only the Holy Water which “quarrels” with traditional medicine (i.e. attracts lightning when mixed with it in the same house or kgotla e.g. this had happened at the kgotla of the Malome of one of my informants.) . Therefore if they Joined without their parents’ consent, they would discredit the Zion Church. which was taken up by all the others. After this the service ended at about 5.00 p.m.