South African GBFS Conference 19-22 Sept 2019
– Alison Jackson
It was my honour and privilege to attend and speak at the South African GBFS conference in Mthatha. I had been invited by our GFS World Wide President, Mrs Thembeka Pama to speak at the conference and to see something of the Eastern Cape and the work of GBFS there
You might wonder why it is referred to as the GBFS and not simply GFS. This is for a very simple reason. In South Africa there were no boys uniformed youth organisations such as BB or CLB as we have here in Ireland and so the GFS welcomed boys within its’ membership and changed its’ name to be the GBFS – Girls and Boys Friendly Society.
The theme for the conference was :
“Growing GBFS together in prayer and action”
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” Eph 4 v 15-16
There were approximately 300 teenagers from across South Africa in attendance with around a further 100+ leaders, many had travelled for many hours by minibus and car to be in attendance.
I was fortunate that Arnold, my husband was able to travel with me on this trip. What a welcome we received, and the joy and enthusiasm from the first moment lasted right until everyone was heading home. South Africa is described as the Rainbow Nation and has 11 official languages. Many of the young people spoke 3 or 4 languages including English and throughout the conference Xhosa, Zulu and English was used. It was so encouraging to see the passion and desire the young people had for their faith and wanting to grow and develop that faith and importantly put that faith into action.
We were often up and ready for 6.30am for morning Eucharist at 7.00am. The joy of worshipping God was evident and this continued throughout the day until evening prayers. The GBFS had a great sense of fun, and this was clear to see throughout the conference.
What was especially encouraging was the support that the GBFS received from the church, the Bishop and Cathedral Chapter based at St John’s Cathedral in Mthatha, the GBFS Diocesan Chaplain and also from Bishop Dintoe, the Bishop of the Free State and also the Provincial Youth Liaising Bishop who drove 8 hours to address the conference. The GBFS are blessed with this support, pastoral care and guidance. The GBFS leaders we met demonstrated God’s love in action, and like the younger members had a joy and delight in taking time to be with other GBFS leaders, members, to listen to , to be challenged and also encouraged from the Word of God.
The Conference also addressed Gender based issues and had the Minister for Gender Based issues address the conference and Green Anglicans address the conference and our response to climate change.
Please remember in prayer the work of the GBFS, the GFS World Wide President, Mrs Pama and the World Council team as they prepare to welcome us to South Africa in 2020. We can be sure of a very warm welcome and an opportunity to develop many long and lasting friendships.