Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A sad passing, but not without joy

A South African acquaintance of mine has reached the place he spent so much time telling others about: heaven.

Pastor Philip Mokson of Masiphumelele Baptist Church was shot to death Sunday evening during a Bible study at his church building by a young man who had been attending the church. From the press release posted on the CCFm website:

On Monday evening, 22 January 2007, at 8:05pm, one of the regular attendees of the Masiphumelele Baptist Church shot dead the Pastor of the Masiphumelele Baptist Church and injured a young woman attendee. He then turned the gun on himself and killed himself.

A group of young people were having a Bible study in the Church hall when this man left the group and returned a few moments later firing a gun. A number of shots were fired and Pastor Philip Mokson was killed at the scene in the Church. The perpertrator then fired on a young woman who is in a very serious condition in Groote Schuur Hospital. The rest of the attendees fled the building and then the perpetrator turned the gun on himself.

Pastor Philip Mokson had served this community from its inception, for 18 years. He was a much loved and highly respected man. He was an extremely active Pastor, involved in bringing peace and justice to the community over the years. He was to be found at every community emergency or tragedy, rendering help and assistance. The community regularly called on him for his intervention. He was actively involved in Living Hope Community Centre, a health based NGO in the area. Pastor Philip was a founder Trustee of Radio Fish Hoek/CCFm and has continued to faithfully serve the Radio CCFm Board of Trustees to date.

Hundreds of members of the community gathered around the church and kept vigil until the early hours of this morning. The community of Masiphumlelele responded with great dignity and quiet reverence for the man that they all loved dearly, as paramedics and Police did their work.

This tragic incident is in no way like many of the township crimes of which we are so familiar. It came about as a result of a severely depressed man who members of the community were seeking to help.

Pastor Philip and the church had been offering help to the young man, who suffered from severe depression, as best they could.

I've spent many hours in this little building in the township of Masiphumelele, in the Cape Town area, leading music and coloring with the kids during the Children's Clubs held there, as well as attending services. When I was there in Dec. with the Extreme Response team, Pastor Philip greeted me with a big smile and a hug; I was a little surprised he recognized me. African men can be hard to read, so you never know what impression you're making on them. From the above it's clear Pastor Philip made quite an impression on his community, due to his passionate love for God and people.

I'm sure he would not have chosen to go at the time and in the way he did, but I have to believe he would have no regrets about his choices to serve his Lord and his community that put him in harm's way that evening.

I don't want to make it seem like I think Pastor Philip was a perfect man, or someone to be worshiped; he was human, after all. But he did set a fine example just in being there and following God as best he could, and keeping at it, and recruiting others' help in the work. Makes me want to "trim the fat" in my own life, and do what's really important.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot, missionary

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