During my trip through the southern region of Swaziland, also known as the Shiselweni region, I travelled from Lavumisa to Matsanjeni where we have a church building in which we have regular gatherings on Sundays as well as during the week. If you had clicked on the above link you would have seen that the present church building is still built of raw cement blocks. Last year I arrived at the church one Sunday morning after I had been unable to go there for a number of weeks. As I entered the building I noticed something different, but it took me some time to realise what it was. The church had been plastered on the inside. I was absolutely amazed, because nobody had discussed it with me beforehand. To be quite honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. I mean, I’m the pastor of the church! (In the Reformed tradition we usually don’t distinguish between a “senior” pastor and other pastors, but if we had, I would have been the “senior” pastor.) However, I can say with total honesty that I did not experience the slightest irritation or jealousy. On the contrary, I just felt at that moment that I wanted to praise the Lord that those people had reached the point where they made important decisions on their own, without first waiting to see whether I would approve. This is how it should be. As pastor I am called to play a certain leadership role in the church which has a lot to do with building the vision, motivating people and obviously focussing mainly on the spiritual issues (keeping in mind that I consider things such as caring for people with AIDS or starting AIDS prevention programs as totally spiritual.)
Then we had our Christmas vacation and on most Sundays I preach at our church at Dwaleni. On Friday, for the first time this year, I went to see the people at Matsanjeni. On entering the church I was greeted with a huge pile of cement – probably about 150 or 200 bags. I had been told that they were intending to plaster the outside of the church as well, but this was way too much cement for this purpose. Then I was told that they were going to build a preschool as well as a kitchen in order to start caring for and feeding the orphans of that area. I was close to tears when they told me this. These are people who really have nothing. In the poverty stricken country of Swaziland, the Shiselweni region is the hardest hit and Matsanjeni is about the poorest of the poor. And yet they had decided to collect material to build a preschool and a kitchen so that the most vulnerable people in the community could be helped! We had done a survey in that area two years ago and one of the questions which we asked was how many people are living in a house and how many rooms are being used as bedrooms. Answers like: 14 people sharing 4 bedrooms, 11 people sharing 2 bedrooms or 6 people with only one bedroom was the norm rather than the exception. On average every bedroom was occupied by 3 people. 40% of the homes did not have a father and in 50% of the homes at least one person had died during the previous year! And these are the people who have now said that they need to share what they have to make life easier for those with even less than themselves!
What I’m describing here is not happening all over Swaziland. There are many people here who still believe that they are too poor to do anything. But it is encouraging to see what happens when poor people cross this hurdle. And the amazing is that God really does seem to entrust such people with even greater responsibilities once they have shown that they can be trusted in smaller responsibilities.
And just so that I could say on Friday, as David, that “my cup runneth over…” I ended at Dwaleni where we have been busy with a feeding project for orphans since 2006 and a preschool since 2007. Although we should be getting food from the World Food Program, the structures for distributing the food seems to have fallen apart and since June last year every month has been a struggle to get food. And on Friday we learnt that UNICEF has now committed itself to deliver food at our church every month with the request that we feed the children not only once a day as we have done up to now, but to feed them twice a day.
What a day! Seeing God in action in different ways and knowing that much more is going to happen throughout the rest of the year! This is such a privilege.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008 Posted by Arnau van Wyngaard | Celebration, Church, Culture, Death, Dependency, Giving, Grace, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Indigenous church, Mission, Poverty, Prayer, Social issues, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment
This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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