IMB missionary’s first convert instrumental in starting 8 churches in Africa
Christians understand they may never see the fruits of their labor. But that’s not the case for Wayne Myers and his wife, Barbara, who served as IMB missionaries to Swaziland for 23 years. And the joys of their labor have been shared in recent weeks with many Kentucky Baptists.
When the Myers’ family went to Swaziland in 1993, their first convert was a woman named Anna. The testimony of how God changed her life is vivid when you learn that she was instrumental in helping start eight churches in Swaziland.
Not only did Anna work to plant churches, but she has remained a strong voice for the Lord. And her family has followed her footsteps in serving the Lord. Anna’s son, Chris, pastors the first church that the Myers started. Mpumelelo (Lelo) is a youth leader in the local church as well as at the national level in his country.
When Wayne and Barbara arrived in Swaziland in 1993, Barbara’s primary work was with women and children. Both Chris and Lelo were children she taught. As they grew older, they worked with Barbara. Their sister was a translator for Barbara.
Anna, Chris and Lelo were among a group of 12 Swazi natives visiting the states — and while the rest of the group was in North Carolina, those three spent time in schools and churches in Kentucky.
Helping them with travel and other arrangements in the Bluegrass were Jay Hatfield, associational mission strategist for Central Association of Kentucky, and his wife, Cheryl.
The Kentucky connection with the Myers’ work began in 2017 when Joy Bolton of Kentucky WMU took a team there. “As a result of us going and meeting them, we went back,” said Cheryl. Kentucky WMU took a team of five there last October, and this year a team of four separate from WMU will accompany Wayne to Swaziland.
“Thankfully the Lord has given opportunities to continue ministering there — we lead volunteer teams,” Wayne said, adding that the Lottie Moon Offering was crucial in enabling them to go as missionaries.
“It enabled us to go. The Lord called me to be a missionary to Africa when I was 13,” Wayne noted. “Through the growing up years it was just my dream. When I was about 40 is when we went. We couldn’t, we wouldn’t, have been able to do what we did without Lottie Moon. We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be in Africa or meet Anna or Chris or Lelo. None of that would have happened without Lottie Moon.”
Those ministering in that third world country find people who are receptive to the gospel, yet resistant to make a decision. Culture and custom are hindrances.
It’s the only African country with a king, and it also is the challenge of being the No. 1 country in the world with HIV AIDS. As a result, 75 percent of the population is under 25 years of age.
“Many say to me they are a Christian, but there are many of those who have never heard the gospel — they haven’t heard a good presentation. They’ve heard a mix of a lot of things. They have a mixture of ancestor worship there,” Chris said.
“There’s still a tremendous need for the gospel,” Wayne said. Jay recalls sharing with a family there and seeing a man standing in the distance, listening to what was said. “I went to him and had an interpreter with me. He told us that he wanted to know Jesus, so we shared with him and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.” The young lady who was the interpreter looked at Jay with tears in her eyes and said, “We almost left, we almost missed him.”
There’s a building program in progress at the church where Chris pastors. “What’s so fascinating to me is they are building walls, and the old church is right in the middle of it. They’re building walls around it and concreting it in,” Jay said. “And they continue to meet there while they are doing this.”
Jay went two years ago at the invitation of Joy Bolton, who said preachers were needed on the trip. The result — 30 professions of faith.
Jay also had the opportunity to preach in Chris’ church. “They are wonderful, sweet people,” he said. “They all want their picture made with you. One lady wanted my Bible — she couldn’t read my Bible but she wanted it. I wished I had brought more because I still had times I needed it to preach.”
In addition to preaching, their mission was to distribute Baptist Global Response buckets packed by Kentucky Baptists.