Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Taking hands in the fight against AIDS

I’ve had a pretty hectic week. On Wednesday I made a trip up to the north of Swaziland, to the capital, Mbabane, where we have now started the official process of getting our home-based caring group registered as an NGO. From time to time we have people, churches or other groups wanting to donate clothes, medical supplies or food to assist us with the work we are doing and although the customs officials at the border are VERY friendly and lenient, always allowing us to take the products through, we also realise that the correct way in which to do this is to be registered as an NGO and then to get a tax and customs exemption form from the department of customs and excise. Because we have obtained a lot of credibility with the local people as well as their representatives in parliament, we are fortunately also receiving a lot of assistance to speed up the process, which can, in Swaziland, take up to a few years to complete! From Mbabane I drove to the eastern side of the country, drove all the way down the eastern border to the south, then turned west again to see how things were going on with the training of the people at Matsanjeni, focussing on traumatised children before returning home – a round trip of about 330 miles in extreme heat. (Air conditioning isn’t a luxury – it;s a necessity!) Along the way I came across four American girls stuck with their vehicle after they had a flat (or a puncture, as we know it). They are also working in Swaziland for some mission organisation. I stopped to assist them with the tyre. Fortunately, before the hard work started of loosening the studs on the wheel, help arrived from their mission organisation (how did we survive without cell phones?) and I could continue on my way. So, if any of the mothers of these girls are reading this, I’m pleased to report: your daughter is safe! 😉
As I was making the trip I just kept on marvelling at the beauty of this country. Swaziland is often called “Little Switzerland” and a trip like I had on Wednesday makes it clear where Swaziland got this nickname.
This weekend I’ll be visiting a church in South Africa in a town called Tzaneen, not too far from the Kruger National Park. This is a typical white, Afrikaans-speaking congregation (which is found all over South Africa) who had decided that they want to take hands with another congregation consisting entirely of black members speaking one of the indigenous African languages (I’m not sure what language – but I’ll find out on Saturday when I’ll be meeting up with them – probably Venda or Pedi.) Because the black communities are so large and also because of their culture where communities are much more closely linked with each other, they also experience the AIDS problem and the related deaths much more personally. They have now invited me to meet with the white congregation this evening (Friday) to inform them about the problem of HIV and AIDS and also to explain to them what we are doing as a church to help people. On Saturday I will meet the members from a number of black churches and discuss the situation with them to inform them of our work but also to try and plan with them how they can tackle the problem in their own communities. On Sunday morning I will be preaching in the white congregation and during the evening service we will try and have a question and answer session, aiming to find a way forward that these two groups can take hands to fight against this terrible disease. Neither of these groups can make a real difference on their own. Thye black churches have the man (woman) power and the white churches have the resources. If these groups can take hands, there is enormous potential within them.
I’m really looking forward to this. I believe that we have developed certain principles in Swaziland (with the help of other people who guided us in the right direction) that can be duplicated in other areas outside Swaziland. Obviously each area and each situation is unique, which is why I cannot merely implement our model in another place. But if the principles are applied, then a group of Christians can, within their unique circumstances, really make a huge difference in their communities, becoming – as we have formulated it in our vision – the hands and feet of Christ within the community.
Just an interesting remark: My good friend, Tim Deller from the USA who is helping us in Swaziland, will this evening be going to his first rugby match ever with some friends of mine from South Africa. He’s travelling up to Pretoria for this occasion. Oh boy – he’s really so excited!
Please also read Tim’s latest post which you can access here.  It will really open your eyes for what we experience on a daily base in Swaziland. He even has a few links to Youtube video clips that he posted if you want to experience Swaziland as he sees it.

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Friday, March 7, 2008 - Posted by | Africa, Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Death, Giving, Health, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Indigenous church, Mission, Partnership, Social issues, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology, Women

2 Comments »

  1. This is such a compelling post. I grew up in Zimbabwe, and my parents were missionaries from Canada. I remember even as a child thinking that there were a lot of churches in the country, so why did we need to be there? But they were there to work on building cultural bridges which didn’t exist, and of course don’t to an even greater extent now.

    May the Lord bless this unity of purpose in ways that neither side can even imagine from here!

    Comment by brad | Friday, March 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Brad, thanks for your comment. It’s such a pity that missionaries have to come from overseas to open people’s eyes about injustice and cultural divisions. Whereabouts in Zimbabwe were your folks situated.
    The fact that you’re reading this blog indicates that you still have a heart for mission! May God give that you never lose it.
    Arnau

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, March 10, 2008 | Reply


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