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New minister at Knox United

Posted on July 16, 2014 by Taber Times

Taking over the pulpit at Knox United Church last month, Rev. Mokwadi Basele comes to the community from southern Africa and is already feeling the warmth of Canadian hospitality.

Basele arrived in Taber in early June from Botswana, and he and his family are still settling into the community.

“I come from Botswana, which is in southern Africa, next to South Africa. Our official language is English, so all medium of instruction is in English. I started my primary school and public school, until I finished, and then I worked in a bank for some time. I joined an ecumenical movement, called the Botswana Council of Churches. From there, I felt called to the ordained ministry. My church is called the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. I went to the university for two years to do pastoral theology, which was a requirement. I was then posted to a rural church, where I served for two and half years, and I was ordained. The church had about 300 members.”

Basele then served a larger congregation in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, following his service in a rural area.

“After that I moved into the capital city, called Gaborone, to a church with between 2,500 and 3,000 members. I served there for four and half years. It was quite challenging, because it was people of different social and cultural backgrounds, different educational backgrounds, people of different ages — and you participate in the wider community, the capital city which is more of a metropolitan city — you interact with people from across the globe. It was quite an experience to work for that church.”

After a further transfer, Basele became involved in marriage counselling on behalf of the government.

“After four and half years, I was transferred to a semi-urban area. Which is a little bit of the city life, and the traditional, tribal experience. I put the two together, being next to the capital city. I served all of them, and during that I did a lot of marriage counselling, with government. When they did their marriages, they would ask me to go and do marriage counselling before they started.”

While adding to his educational background, Basele was named to an important position within his church’s hierarchy, serving in multiple roles in Botswana.

“I also joined the university part time, teaching philosophy. During that time I went back to university (University of Botswana) to do my B.A., majoring in theology. In 2011, I was appointed synod secretary of the church. Here in the United Church, it would be the conference secretary. When you are appointed the synod secretary, you are the administrator, you are the spiritual overseer of the whole church. You supervise ministers, you take care of the church property in the whole country, you act as the spiritual leader, you see to the spiritual growth and spiritual life of members across the country. You also represent the church in government, and private organizations. So you are the focal person in the whole country on behalf of the church, generally. I am also the representative of the church across southern Africa, and I’m the spokesperson of the church with the media and other organizations.”

During his time there, Basele was appointed as a member of the university council, became involved in transforming the Botswana College of Agriculture into a university, as well as working with the Ministry of Health on human research.

Basele pointed out the United Church of Canada bears a close resemblance to his own church, one which helped facilitate his move to bring his family to Canada.

“My church is a Congregational church, and the United Church of Canada is a mixture of Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian. The two churches are sister churches, and we are both members of the World Council of Churches. Over the years, there has been a relationship that we would call a north and south relationship — the churches in the north linking with the churches in the south. Over the years, the churches in the north have been sending ministers and missionaries to the south, and to the Third World.”

Although many of his colleagues seek to settle in the United Kingdom, Basele admitted he felt called to come to Canada.  

“Ten years ago, our church and its partners, including the United Church of Canada, agreed that we can now exchange, instead of a one way traffic, anyone can come and serve anywhere in the world if they’re accepted. Most of our people go to the U.K., because we were a British colony, so we had a lot of connections with the U.K. I looked at Canada as an alternative to come and serve God’s people in a different context. Largely, the theology of the United Church here and the theology of my church are almost the same, the structure is almost the same. I felt called to come and join my fellow Christians here.”

First impressions of the church and the community have so far been positive, according to Basele.

“When I started the process, I was overwhelmingly accepted by the church in Taber, the Knox United Church. After the processes were finalized, I finally came down here to the small town. It’s a beautiful town — I like it.”

Basele has been favourably impressed with the atmosphere of Taber since his arrival, and is looking forward to getting to know his congregation and the wider community better in coming months.

“The church is beautiful, and filled with people with a Christian spirit, who are very welcoming. When we came here — to my surprise — my understanding of the community here is they don’t see the colour of a person when they meet you. They see a person created in the image of God. That made us feel at home in this place. Comparing it to where I come from, it’s very neighbourly. You see people meeting on the street and greeting each other. The neighbours where we are staying, several of them came to our place to meet us and welcome us in the neighbourhood. The Taber community has really welcomed us, and we feel happy about it. I could see the spirit of God moving around this place, and that people have the Christian spirit here.”

Many of the cultural differences between southern African and southern Alberta are obviously stark, and Basele is still getting used to the idea of being a newly-minted Albertan.

“The little challenge that we’ve experienced so far is a transport challenge, in the sense that the town, and you people here, don’t have a lot of public transport like we would have back home, where people largely depend on public transport. But here it looks like God has blessed you all, that you have your own small car or truck that will take you from one place to the other. But members of the church have offered to assist us.”

Learning about the history of the church and the congregation is keeping the 54-year-old Basele occupied.

“I’ve started getting busy. One of the things that makes me busy is to acquaint myself with the way of life here, the culture, and to begin to know more about the history of the church.”

Basele is looking forward to becoming involved in working with community organizations and government in future.

“I’d like to interact with other churches, and how they see themselves doing ministry. So we are able to not be too individualistic as churches, but to work co-operatively, to serve God and answer the call of God. I’m also interested in interacting with organizations and government departments, wherever possible.”

Basele is joined by his wife, Prisca, his two boys Mahika and Lobopo, and his daughter Gaisi. Basele’s children will start attending school in the community in the fall.

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