Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Getting the AIDS message across through song

A friend of mine used to be a professor at the University of the North (in South Africa) in New Testament. Not only is he a great New Testament scholar, but he is also fluent in a number of languages spoken in South Africa, including the North-Sotho language, also known as Pedi (spoken primarily by the Black people living in the northern part of South Africa). Before he became a professor, he was also a missionary in South Africa where he put in a lot of effort to get to know the culture of the people he was working with.
Southern Africa has a fairly high percentage of Christians. South Africa (according to Operation World) has 73.52% Christians while Swaziland has 82.7% Christians. However, a great number of these Christians are in churches where a full-time pastor cannot be afforded and where the pastor, more likely than not, has never seen the inside of a theological classroom. In many of these churches the only Christian book available is the Bible and a luxury such as material for Sunday School or Catechism does not exist. Now, this professor friend of mine often visited these churches to observe what they are doing and he once shared with me the method they use to pass on Biblical knowledge from one generation to the next. They do it through the songs which they sing. Because he was fluent in the language, he could understand what they were singing and he told me that it was amazing to hear the depth of the theology which they communicated through their songs. In typical African tradition, the songs are repeated ad infinitum, but somewhere the message of the songs became implanted in their minds.
On Friday we finished the training of our 11th group of home-based caregivers in Swaziland in an area known as Manyandzeni (which, by the way, brings our number of volunteers in this ministry to over 385!) The last day of training is also a fun-day, where people are thanked, where we hand out the towels – a ceremony which I wrote about here and here – and where there is also a lot of singing. I know many of the songs which the Swazis traditionally sing, but on Friday they also sang a number of songs which I did not know and the words of which I could not follow. I asked someone to explain the songs to me and found out that these were fairly new songs in which the message about AIDS is communicated. The one song said that AIDS is a terrible disease which is killing people and we have to be careful that we don’t get infected. The other song was combined with actions where the group stands in a circle while one person sweeps the floor with a broom. The broom is then given to someone else who sweeps a bit and then passes it on again. The words of the song says that the ant collects food and takes it to the nest and gives it to the other ants. They also collect food and take it to the nest. And in the same way the HI virus is also picked up by one person who passes it on to others.
It is forever a problem on how to educate people (many who are illiterate) on the danger of AIDS. Perhaps this is the answer. As those who are educated about AIDS start singing songs about it and others start singing with them, the message will be heard by more and more people and possibly this will lead to a change in life-style.
Finally: Just a reminder: Operation World suggests that we pray for South Africa on 12-14 October and jot it down in your diary that 23 October is the day when Operation World unites Christians all over the world in prayer for Swaziland.


Monday, October 13, 2008 - Posted by | Africa, AIDS, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Swaziland, Theology

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