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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Baptism and Purification Services

        (Details and Prophecies)

Here follow details of two services - the first due to adverse prophecies could not proceed to Baptism mainly because the candidate was found “unsuitable” at present.

The services described below took place at B.U.C.Z. The service began in the usual way with confessions and hymn singing and I was welcomed by the Evangelist. who explained that in that church they baptized with the Holy Spirit and Water. Then, after more hymn singing, the baptismal candidates were called forward, but there was only one present, and some baptized people for purification.

The Evangelist in charge called upon the Secretary to read the story of Naaman from the Bible. He started to tell the story to the congregation about how Naaman was a leper and then a servant told him how he could be cured by dipping himself in the River Jordan seven times. The Evangelist did not want to continue to tell the story in case people did not believe him before hearing it from the Bible. The Secretary read the story from 2 Kings S, v 9-14.

While she was in the middle of it, the Moruti arrived, having started a hymn outside the church which the rest of us took up. This was followed by several' hymns; then the Evangelist handed over the service to the Moruti explaining that they were in the middle of reading about Naaman.

At this point the Moruti revealed that while he had been dancing he had received prophecy that someone in the church had biltongs (dried meat) of a man -i.e. sorcery as from a human not the usual wild game, which they well knew was banned in their church, and this would stop them from being able to do their work properly in their church, disturbing their powers to prophets,

After another hymn the Moruti emphasized that everyone who went to baptism or purification should make sure they were Holy. He said he was handing the service back to the Evangelist, who would be in charge of the service that night, but they would first sing a hymn to help give him power.

After this hymn another prophet visiting from his own church, was welcomed. The Evangelist briefly referred to the story of Jonah and the Whale before starting another hymn. The visiting prophet spoke briefly about how he was glad to visit them.

After another hymn~ the Evangelist said how glad he was to see even the oldest members at the church that night as when the trumpet of Christ calls they will be ready. They will not be like the 5 foolish virgins who were called for a marriage but were unprepared, not having  enough oil for their lamps. They will rather be like the 5 wise ones who were prepared. He also referred to the Biblical story of the talents, how we should multiply our talents given us by God to use, not to bury them like the servant who was only given one talent.

Then another hymn was sung. The senior Moruti asked to interrupt for a moment. He welcomed me formally and reminded the congregation about how it says in the Bible that there is no difference between a Greek and a Jew.(Whenever I visited churches this text was always referred to - there was still Apartheid in South Africa and many of the members worked in the mines and kitchens.).

He told them to do their work properly and they should always be prepared. He asked the congregation to sing some hymns to welcome me properly -they sang about four during which some people "got the Spirit". Then the Evangelist addressed the congregation, again reminding them that when they were called to be Christians they were like children who needed to learn. He warned them that they were forbidden beer, and neither should they sell it to others as shebeen queens. They should always remember that Christ died for us. He called the baptismal candidate to kneel in the centre so they would “see” if she was ready to be baptized. He said "You are domesticated, but whenever a new domestic animal like a cow or a sheep arrives, it must be put in the centre so that it can become used to the other animals. The baptismal candidate was like that because she was not yet baptized, she did not yet know the rules of baptism and the baptized. She then went to the centre and a hymn was sung around her.

The Moruti again spoke saying that in St. Matthew we read that John the Baptist preached all over Judea about the Holy Word. Many people started to follow him but he told them they should not think he was a prophet like Isiah but they should repent and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Another hymn followed. The Moruti continued that we were now going to discuss the words from Isiah 11. One should concentrate on being as white as snow, be cleansed of sin, and be as white as a sheep.(This is an interesting analogy as sheep are not necessarily white in Botswana, often looking similar to goats, nor is there snow.).

The Bible reminds us that we should be prepared at all times, even if one had been cured, (baptized), but if one does not follow the rules, one will fail on the Day of Judgement. After another hymn the Moruti continued that he hoped that everyone in the church, as they had decided to follow the right way, would be ready on the Day  of Judgement. In Amos 8, v. 11 God said that on that day ladies and young men would suffer because of the drought brought by God. On that day it would be too late to hear the Word. They should prepare now, not be like the 5 unprepared virgins. They should be like the 5 wise ones.

Two hymns followed and the Moruti continued that he particularly addressed his words to the baptismal candidate; he had not just invented these words, they were from the Bible. Even Hosea had wrapped wild animal skins around his waist and eaten honey and locusts. John the Baptist had preached about God, and after his sermon many people had come to be baptized after they had repented of their s ins . He told the baptismal candidate that after a person has been  baptized they felt as though they are born again, Nicodemus had asked Christ about how this was possible. Christ had replied that you are born again with water and the Holy Spirit. You should ask forgiveness for bad things you had done, and repent. The Bible tells us that we should keep these words in our hearts wherever we go. From these words we see that there is nobody who can say they have not heard.

After another hymn, the Moruti preached, interspersed with hymn singing to give him more power to preach. He preached on the story from the Bible about how the Angel of God had a safety pin to open fire from a hole. From this, fire and smoke, locusts and plagues came but not to destroy the good things of the Earth or those with the sign of God on their forehead, but those who were the enemies of God. (This presumably refers to the story of the plagues prior to the Flight of the Jews from Egypt, led by Moses.)

Then the Secretary was called to read Revelations 22, v. 11. The Moruti used this to emphasize that we should be prepared for God's coming very soon. He was coming to see if people have done his work and those who have,will be rewarded. He is the Beginning and the End. The Word tells us that the prepared ones will be saved but the unprepared ones like dogs and sorcerers will stay outside. (In this church there was constant warning to people not to be involved in sorcery.) He emphasized that this is why it is important to follow God's way. After another hymn, the Moruti continued that people should be like Nicodemus, who had asked how he could be born again he had been told that if he was born again with water and the Holy Spirit he would see Christ, but if not then he would never see Heaven. (This is interesting as it justifies the method of this type of baptism.)

After another hymn he referred them to Proverbs 7 which warns people to remember the law of God. Revelation 22 v. 12-15 also warns us that God is coming very soon to reward His servants. In Exodus 20. v. 7 we are warned not to take the name of God in vain. If anyone is not prepared when God arrives they will be left outside.

Several more hymns followed to accompanying dancing around the still kneeling candidate, and the Moruti announced that they were trying to find out about the candidate's suitability and the condition of the water for baptism i.e. if they would be safe from the water snake.  Next an old woman prophet revealed that she had “received” prophecy about a man in the church. She was asking for prayers as she was trying to identify the clothes she had seen in her Spirit. He had a green cord and she "saw" him suffering with cramp pains and painful legs.. She then spotted the man and he agreed that  this was so. She added that hen she had been dancing she had "seen" a woman was disturbing her Spirit. This woman should make sure she repented before coming to church on the following Sunday.

Next a young woman prophet revealed that she feared the things that the baptismal candidate had done. Then followed another hymn to make her (this prophet's) Spirit stronger, during which the old woman prophet had Spirit very strongly and kept falling. The young woman prophet (a primary Standard 6 student) asked the girl in the centre if she always heard a noise at her home. She said that in her Spirit she could "see" that at that girl's home there was something that always roamed around at night in their yard, and there was always the noise of singing at night.

The Evangelist took over here. He said he could "see" that at that girl's home there was a hyena  (an animal associated with sorcerers) which always roamed at night in the yard and house and made a noise. The girl was always frightened and talked to herself because she was worried. Her stomach expanded and her hair stood on end. Her family were afraid because of the noise at night, doors would always open at night, and there was knocking.

Then the Moruti told her that he "saw" that there was something that stopped her breathing properly when she was asleep, she had nightmares and aching legs, and at the base of her spine and neck she had pains. The girl agreed to all this by saying "Amen". The Moruti continued that he could "see" that as she was sitting there there was something troubling her but she was not revealing it. She knew herself what it was, but was keeping it hidden. (In fact he could' “see” that she was pregnant but not admitting it.) She was afraid that if she went to baptism she would be drowned but instead of revealing it, she was hiding it. The girl agreed to this.

The Moruti said that if she did not know what he was talking about he would continue, but he was sure she knew what he was referring to. His Spirit showed him that she had a headache and could not see properly because she was so worried. The girl agreed to this too. Sometimes, he continued, when she had these pains she felt she would have a nosebleed. She agreed to this too. Then the hymns continued.

After several hymns the Moruti told the baptismal candidate that when he danced around her he could "see" shade in front of her looking like the picture of a child crying in front of her. The Spirit told him that this child would come in front of her and if the child did not come then there would be crying that would remain.(Maybe here he meant that if she tried to make an abortion she would be troubled by the Spirit of the dead child.) He asked her if he had had a child before, but she said that she had never had a child. He then continued that sometimes the girl discovered that she was pregnant and then the signs would disappear. (Maybe she had previously made abortions - a terrible taboo.) She agreed to this and said she understood this part of the prophecy. The young woman prophet continued the prophecy by saying that her Spirit showed her that this candidate should not go to baptism. If she went, the snake would kill her. (An interesting blending of traditional and Christian beliefs.)

The Moruti continued, saying his Spirit had shown him this too. This candidate was not the right type to go to Baptism because she made abortions. At this point the candidate finally agreed that she did. He then continued that if she had been doing this she needed to be cleansed properly in the Zion way before she could go to baptism. She must be given Holy Water and a red cord to be wrapped around her waist. She often felt dizzy and if she was taken to baptism she might even faint and drown.

The Evangelist continued that she was having problems with headaches and was not suitable for baptism. She herself felt frightened when she thought about it, because she knew that if she went she would not come back. She was then told to stand aside and it was announced that they would not be going to baptism that week but would continue with an ordinary service. Anyone requiring a prophecy was told to stand forward.

At this point the visiting prophet spoke, saying that they had prophesied that girl but they had hidden things. He went into a South African language returning every now and then to Setswana. He complained that the girl had not been prophesied properly, she was dishonest and hiding the bad things she had done, and was like a jackal - slang for a prostitute. (What was strange about this prophecy was that the girl concerned was in fact his girlfriend whom he had made pregnant whilst his wife was a Motsetsi.) The prophets were hiding the truth. If it had been at his own church, even if he himself was a sorcerer, it would have been publicly revealed.

The Evangelist thanked him for his words but replied that at their church they did not like to divulge secrets because it was very bad to tell everyone. They were quite sure that the girl knew what they were referring to. They would go to Baptism and Purification the next week, and anyone wishing to go should arrive on time. It was not good when people asked for prayers to help them and then did not turn up. This was very bad for church discipline. The Moruti concluded that John the Baptist baptized only those who had been truly repentant, but that it was impossible to take snakes and sorcerers to be baptized before they had repented before God, because this would show that they (i.e. the Church) despised God. Baptism must be respected and done properly. When people were to be purified they should not refuse because the water is too cold and then run into the hills. They would next prophesy those who asked for it.

Baptism Service

The following week, in August 1978, I attended B.U.C.Z. Church again to observe Baptism. The service started in the usual way with hymn singing, confessions etc. whilst awaiting everyone's arrival. Then the Moruti announced it was the beginning of the Baptism Service. He referred to a Zion hymn "The soldiers of Christ are close to him and their eyes are like weapons" which meant to him that a Christian should demonstrate their  Christianity by doing everything properly with enthusiasm. For example when he said "Khotso"  (Peace) everyone should answer "Amen!" properly.

Then a Deacon, Dixon, said he was very glad to be among them and apologised for being late but when he was about to leave for the church his sister's husband had arrived from Serowe. On the way, on the steep hill near Moshopa, this brother-in-law had had an accident and had nearly lost an arm. He had been taken to the hospital and that was what had delayed him. The Moruti interrupted at this point by saying that the night before he had received a prophecy of someone dying in a car accident and then he had prayed very hard to God for this person's safety. He was sure if he had not done this Dixon's brother-in-law would have died.

He next asked if the baptismal candidates were present. One should know that on the Day of Judgement it would be important that one was registered with a church so that one could be saved. He referred the congrega.t1.onto Matthew 18, v. 18, if on that Day you were not a member of any church then you would be in trouble. (N.B. this appears to be an incorrect Biblical reference.) He then announced that the Evangelist would be in charge at Baptism. At present he was sleeping, he himself would sleep when they went to Baptism. The congregation should please God by singing and dancing properly, and even pick up a small sorcereri and run around with it. In that way they would be able to study it and prophesy it. Whenever there was a  sorcerer present, a prophet would keep saying "Wareng Moya? Wareng Moya?" (What are you saying Spirit? What are you saying Spirit) because the evil presence of a sorcerer stops the prophet "seeing" clearly. Then the hymn "Khotso! Khotso!" was sung. Next three women members were prophesied because they were involved in bewitching and they were disturbing other people's spirits.

This continued for some time and then the baptismal candidates were called forward to the centre. One, a young man, put down a small Vick tin containing traditional medicines. This was to show that he was leaving everything to do with traditional medicine. These candidates were prophesied in the same way as described in the service above.

I did not witness this part of the service as I was taken to sleep in one of the other houses of the yard until they were ready to leave for Baptism. On this occasion the candidates were accepted, but I was told that at first the prophets had seen that the water would be dangerous for Baptism but they had prayed hard to God and were finally ”'told” by their Spirit that everything would be alright.

At about 4.30 a.m. I was awoken when they were about to leave for Baptism. We walked through the village singing hymns, down the side of the hill to the dam. By the time we arrived it was dawn and very cold. A big fire was made. We all collected by the side of the water by the fire and sang the special Baptism hymn "There's a river of Blood, where everyone is washed". This was led by the Evangelist.

Next we knelt and prayed for forgiveness, ending in "Our Father". We sang another hymn "We are praising you, 0 Lord, and we're happy about living well under the love of Christ and the protection of our Father. We've been forgiven by the help of Your Son who died for us."  The Evangelist went into the water first raising his arms in prayer before entering. I was told that he was praying that the water snake should be peaceful.

The rest of us continued singing hymns whilst first the baptismal candidates, followed by those to be purified, entered the water one at a time. At the edge of the water stood two or three Barapedi. One Khosa took out each candidate to the Evangelist, who stood waist deep in water. He dipped each candidate three times, repeating "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost". Some candidates "got the Spirit" very strongly and had to be supported as they were led out of the water, where at the edge they were prayed on by the Barapedi who often shook them to and fro. On one candidate the Evangelist said "I baptise you.. you will now stop running around with girls and being a thief, and you will leave all other bad and evil things."

When everyone had been baptized or purified, the Evangelist came out of the water - he first prayed over it again, thanking the water snake. After all had dried, changed and warmed up by the fire, we all knelt down facing the East. The Evangelist thanked God for bringing us there and protecting us from troubles, ending by asking that peace should remain evermore.

We walked back to the village to return to our individual homes at about 9.00 a.m..