Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

My weekend in Tzaneen

Well I’m back home after a really great weekend in Tzaneen. It was my first visit to this town, although it is well-known because of the sub-tropical fruit grown in the area. I was accommodated on a farm of a family, both man and woman medical doctors with two really great children and the man’s father, who is a retired pastor, presently 87 years old with a great brain and a healthy body. Actually, it was this old man who had arranged for me to visit their congregation for their “mission weekend.” The amazing thing about this “medical couple” is that they had decided to devote their lives to work in the poorest of the poor communities where people cannot afford medical services – the type of work usually snuffed at by other doctors with “greater aspirations.” What a privilege to have been in this house and to experience the love and devotion within this family!
On Friday evening I met a group of around thirty people. After initially wondering how I should present my talk, I eventually opted for a more informal discussion, focussing on the following three topics:

  1. What is AIDS and why is it such a terrible disease?
  2. What is the church’s task in this time of AIDS?
  3. Our story in Swaziland. This part also included a personal testimony of what God had done in my own life to change me concerning this issue. I have written something about this very personal experience that I had with God in a previous post which you can access here.

I could sense that for many people this was their first real exposure to the problem of HIV and AIDS. Only about four people had ever had anything to do with this illness before. I ended the evening by sharing one of the most remarkable things which ever happened to me when I saw some of the home-based caregivers building a house for a drunkard, “because they wanted him to experience the love of God as well.” If you don’t know this story, you can read it here.
On Saturday we drove out to a black community some miles from Tzaneen. They had shown interest in building a pre-school and kitchen where orphans could be cared for and the white church had indicated that they would assist in collecting money for the project. Exactly why I was asked to go there, I’m still not sure, but I also shared with them what we are doing in our home-based caring project in Swaziland. But I had the fear, as the afternoon went on, that the planned project would end up in disappointments and accusations. This often happens when white (western) people get excited with a project. They collect the money, do all the planning, find a builder, ensure that everything is done correctly and when the building is completer, they “hand over” the building to the black community. But then, more often than not, there seems to be a lack of ownership towards the project. It is as if the black people cannot understand why the white people withdraw. I therefore facilitated the further discussion, asking the black people what they felt the next step should be. And as I expected, they wanted to appoint a committee to represent them. I was glad that this had happened and after choosing the committee and dedicating them to the Lord, both groups (white and black) promised that they would work together from day one, neither group going forward without consulting the others. If they can keep to this commitment, I am sure that things will really work out well and I am looking forward to see the end result. I hope that they will invite me to attend the official opening of the centre.
On Sunday I preached during the morning service, focussing on Luke 5:12-16, especially on the words in verse 13 where we read: Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
Sunday evening I led a Bible Study on Revelations 21:1-8. Probably the most important thing happened during this Bible Study when the present pastor of the congregation said that the time is past that they can afford to listen to someone speaking for a whole weekend, go home and forget about what had been said. He proposed that a meeting be held within the next two weeks to discuss plans on how to get their own congregation involved in some form of project where people outside the church could really experience the love of God through Christians. Wrapping up the weekend, I told those present that if they should forget everything that I had said during the weekend and only remember what their own pastor had just shared, I would be more than happy, as this was, in my own estimate, the most important thing that had been said.
I had a really great weekend, made lots of new friends and am looking forward to what the Lord will do in their congregation in the future.

Monday, March 10, 2008 Posted by | Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Disappointments, Giving, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Indigenous church, Meetings, Mission, Partnership, Poverty, Social issues, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment