Nightly News   |  December 08, 2013

South Africa remembers its favorite son

The nation remembered former president Nelson Mandela at various services. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> president obama will begin making his way here to south africa tomorrow. to attend tuesday's public memorial service for nelson mandela . for three days now, south africans have been honoring and celebrating the man who helped unlock racist suppression and led his nation into democracy. it was a day of prayer and reflection. richard engel is also in johannesburg tonight and has this report.

>> reporter: south africans let the holy spirit overwhelm them. they came to pray here because nelson mandela prayed here. fire master tom was growing up. mandela was in prison. they met only after he walk free.

>> he was a friend. is he blood and flesh like us? because he was so good.

>> reporter: for many here, mandela was more than just a prisoner turned president. he taught a lesson.

>> we must always be humble, kind, and we huft love each other.

>> the love that is everybody.

>> reporter: even the u.s. ambassador got into the spirit singing kumbaya.

>> it was incredibly powerful. if that singing did not stir your spirit --

>> reporter: this is a very special church. there were race riots here. black residents ran and took shelter in the building. they were chased down by police. it has now become a symbol of defiance against apartheid. and the symbols of joy we saw here were around the country. there were services of many faiths but one unifying message.

>> we are greatful for his courage and dignity in adversity. and for his mighty power of forgiveness.

>> forgiveness.

>> reporter: at churches nationwide, they prayed for two men who forgave the sins of others.

>> as he closes his eyes, we begin to believe that now we have someone who cares so much for us, who will open our eyes going forward together with the saints.

>> reporter: in africa today, they remember mandela and it seems, began to elevate a sanlt.