Reuben Mgodeli has many ministries. In addition to leading a denomination and providing leadership for a thriving Bible school, he is a prolific writer. This is the second story in More Mustard Seeds, a Mennonite Mission Network series that features how God uses ordinary people to make the earth a little bit more like heaven. Read the first story here.
Reuben Mgodeli heard about Bethany Bible School, now Mennonite Bible School (MBS), in 1994, through its enthusiastic students.
"Since then, I have been very active in the work of the Bible school," Mgodeli said.
This enthusiasm continues to inspire Mgodeli, now the school's director, a position in which he has served in since 2014. While MBS continues to offer courses at the original location in Mthatha, South Africa, under Mgodeli's leadership, the school has grown to include four more locations in Eastern Cape Province. And, as of July 23, it expanded into neighboring KwaZulu-Natal province, where 16 participants studied God's word together in Durban, the largest city in the province.
"My life was shaped by so many people, writers, and even by Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospels," Mgodeli said. "Mennonites helped me a lot, and I managed to combine my Pentecostal background with Mennonite ideology. Anna and Joe Sawatzky and other Mennonites, who used to visit and teach at Mennonite Bible School, changed my life for the best."
Though Mgodeli is a bishop at Healing Fountain Church and serves as a mentor, teacher, and director at MBS, "Being a writer is my calling, more than preaching or being a pastor," he said. "God has given me the assignment to share the good news about peace, love and forgiveness. I am called Apostle of Love, by those who know me."
Mgodeli said he trained himself to write by reading other authors, including the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Carl Jung, Martin Luther King Jr. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Mgodeli's most recent book, Forgiveness Liberates: Unforgiveness is choosing to stay trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for someone else's crime, is being published. [To order, contact Lynda Hollinger-Janzen.] The following excerpt from the chapter, Love, Peace and Non-Violence, though written for the South Africa context, has much to offer each of the world's nations.
Love in thought is truth. Love in action is right conduct. Love in understanding is peace. Love in feeling is non-violence…
We live in a country where those who want to destroy have more followers than those who want to build and improve. I want to encourage all South Africans to become agents of peace. Distance yourselves from those who incite trouble and racial hatred! They only seek to keep South Africans divided and angry. We must choose rather to become nation builders; those who are able to diffuse volatile situations and bring life and hope.
There are two groups of people in South Africa.
Each time we discuss the importance of unity and how to create a country with equal opportunities for all, members of Group B will mention the past. Some of the members of Group B are our friends, and sometimes they offend us with their negativity and unforgiveness. Each time they offend with their negativity and unforgiveness, there are two options: Either you embrace them and preach unity, or you reject them.
- Members of Group A have moved on from the past. They preach unity and collaboration between Black and White people.
- Members of Group B remain in the past. They preach hatred and division.
People can be influenced to love and forgive, and they can be influenced to hate, depending on whom they spend most of their time with. If they spend most of their time listening to members of Group A, they will learn to love and forgive. If they spend most of their time listening to voices of hatred and division, they will become hateful and divisive.
"Above and beyond all else, it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment. The urgent needs of the personality for creative expression are starved to death. A man's horizon may become so completely dominated by the intense character of his hatred that there remains no creative residue in his mind and spirit to give to great ideas," wrote Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited…
Loving in the time of hate is a revolutionary act [and is a sign of our citizenship in Christ's kingdom.] …Until we live in love and peace as the human family, no one else will. The madness of greed and superiority is the nucleus of those who want for themselves what they destroy for others. Love those who hate you. Forgive those who offend you. Lift up those who are attempting to bring you down. Bless those who cursed you. This is how we can change the world!