On Sunday and Monday, December 6 and 7, Our Savior, Lansing held a farewell recognition for Rev. Mandla J. Khumalo, who has served as a Missionary to the USA from South Africa since early 2019, and his family. Pastor Khumalo, his wife, Lindiwe, and their grandson Nhlakanipho (“NK”) found a church home at Our Savior for the duration of their stay in the US (see related story here). NK attended Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade at Our Savior’s school, and Lindiwe was active in the LWML, as a school office volunteer, small group ministry, and women’s ministry.
Rev. William Wangelin, pastor of Our Savior, shares a story that highlights Pastor Khumalo’s direct approach to sharing the Gospel: In the first few days of their time in Lansing, the Khumalos visited a local grocery store. Khumalo overheard a woman talking on her phone—in Zulu. This, of course, caused Khumalo to strike up a conversation with the woman, and he invited her to church. On the first Sunday that he preached at Our Savior, there was the woman he had met in the grocery store!
According to Wangelin, “You can’t help but smile when meeting this man of God, and to be stirred by his story of transformation by the power of the Spirit. His booming voice resonates with a passion and urgency for sharing Christ with each and every person within our reach.” Michigan District President Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier, a longtime friend of Khumalo, calls him “the embodiment of reconciliation between God and man, an ambassador for Christ, a peace maker, and a bold proclaimer of the Gospel.”
President Maier adds: “During his two years in Michigan, he prolifically shared the Good News of Christ crucified and risen with mission fire, fervor, and zeal in many of our churches, grade schools, and High Schools” (see related story here). “He was present in the United States for the July, 2019 Synodical Convention in Tampa, FL, when the Confessional Lutheran Church of South Africa—the denomination he started and of which he is Bishop—was given full Altar and Pulpit fellowship with the LCMS … something he had prayed for since his formal seminary education at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. in the late 1980’s.”
One of the congregations visited by Khumalo was St. John’s in St. Johns. Church administrator Becky DeWitt shares, “Pastor Khumalo came to our church June 23, 2019, to kick off our 150th Anniversary Celebration. It was a great honor to have him here. His sermon was both energetic and uplifting. But more than that, Pastor Khumalo’s words wove a thread reminding us to always consider ‘the truly great things God has done.’ We were encouraged to remember that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, to be thankful that we experience the great things God does for us each and every day, and that our duty is to take that forward, telling all about Jesus and the wondrous work of God. Pastor Khumalo is a great inspiration; a man we hold in high esteem. We wish him all the best as he and his family travel back to their homeland.”
Khumalo also visited Immanuel, Grand Rapids. Pastor Craig Bickel says, “Immanuel has had Pastor Khumalo share the love of Christ with us on two Sundays. He has also been a blessing encouraging and supporting our Central Africa French Fellowship. Having him support our work of ‘making disciples of all nations’ has been a great blessing. We will miss his service in Grand Rapids.”
Rev. Steve Schilke of Zion, Bay City, also comments on the positive experience he and his congregation had with Khumalo: “He is an inspirational speaker and had a very heart-warming delivery. I had many positive comments from Zion members. God bless our church for men and women like the Khumalos and their ministry.”
Although Covid 19 greatly hampered his travels and opportunities for widespread ministry as planned in the United States, he prayerfully concentrated his efforts in the Lansing area, serving regularly at Living Word Lutheran Church for their African services on Sunday afternoon, preaching and working with Vicar Moses Dangba and the Sudanese and Congolese members. He also initiated several meetings with Lansing area pastors to discuss how they can better serve this African immigrant community.
Rev. Wangelin shares, “I have seen Pastor Khumalo bring a great enthusiasm and joy to ministry, especially among our African members. He has helped us celebrate the full diversity of the people of God and shown us what it means to be a church of all nations.”
On the effect Khumalo has had on the congregation at Our Savior, Wangelin says: “Pastor Khumalo’s preaching and testimony are powerful and motivating us for greater Gospel outreach. He has helped us focus on the Great Commission with a renewed focus and greater enthusiasm, as we reach out to all nations and share the Good News of Jesus.”
Rev. Todd Biermann of Faith, Grand Blanc, shares: “I will never forget Mandla’s exuberance in the pulpit. While I was preaching in his home pulpit in Middleburg, he was preaching in my pulpit back in Grand Blanc. I called to greet Mandla and my congregation later in the afternoon South African time, only to learn that he had just BROKEN my pulpit with his powerful pounding. How rude! He still owes me 😉 Keep preaching with the same zeal always, dear brother, and I will be paid in full!”
As the Khumalos’ stay comes to a close, the Our Savior church family gathered in person and online to hear Khumalo preach one last time (watch it here). Khumalo’s sermon followed a simple outline based on Isaiah 9:6:
Jesus was wonderful in His birth.
He was wonderful in His growth.
He was wonderful in His death AND resurrection.
According to President Maier, who was also present at the service, “If someone had never heard the Gospel, or wondered what Christianity was all about, [Khumalo] verbally and visually clearly confessed the one true Christian faith for all to know.”
The congregation also gave a gift to St. Peter Confessional Lutheran Church in South Africa: a stained glass window that had been in storage since Our Savior’s new sanctuary was built. The window depicts St. Augustine, a North African Bishop from the early church who happens to be a favorite of Khumalo’s and after whom his grandson, NK, received his middle name. Our Savior also arranged for shipping so that the window can make it to its final destination in Middelburg.
“Let us join together in continuing to pray for Bishop Khumalo as he and his family return to South Africa. May his ministry efforts there again be greatly blessed. May the churches here in Michigan that have a deep relationship with Khumalo continue in those relationships under the guiding hand of a loving God! May we all continue to pray to be bold witnesses of our truly Wonderful God until we meet again,” encourages Maier.
Featured image, L-R: Vicar Ian Heinze, Rev. William Wangelin, Lindiwe and Rev. Mandla Khumalo, Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier, Rev. Lang Lang, and Our Savior Lutheran School Principal Matthew Couser. Photos and video by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS