Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saturday in Swaziland

Today I went to a HIV & AIDs training workshop in Ermelo, South Africa on how to set up a good project. It was delivered by a Deacon, Dr. Vernon van Wyk who was one of the original people who started Amcare, A Center of Faith, Hope & Love in Alberton, South Africa. Amcare stands for Alberton Methodist Care and Relief Enterprise. I have driven by Amcare on my previous mission trips to South Africa, but this is the first I was able to hear about it. What an impressive, God-filled story. This organization provides care on so many levels from testing, counselling to feeding schemes and training so people can earn a living to crisis disaster help for neighbouring communities. The workshop was very good and also very motivating. I attended with one of the Pastors from the Central Circuit and the woman that I am working with to implement a grant from the National Children’s Home in the UK to assist and improve the quality of life for HIV+ and orphaned and vulnerable children. The cart was put before the horse on this grant, meaning the funding was obtained before the project was clearly defined and planned so the timing of this workshop was fantastic.

Ermelo is about a 2 hour drive if you don’t get behind too many slow trucks and if the border crossing isn’t crowded. Once again, we drove into Ermelo and it was like driving into another world. The workshop was held at the charming little Methodist Church. I realize I stick out in a crowd, but when the Pastor of the church and the presenter come up to great me and tell me they have heard of me, I get a little worried! I never know whether to be grateful or worried at the offers hospitality if I need to get away!

The ladies of the church served us a wonderful morning tea (complete with sandwiches), then two hours later it was a fantastic lunch complete with an apple cobbler with ice cream, followed by tea with cake two hours later before we left for home. These ladies were awesome cooks. I couldn’t believe the amount of food that was consumed in such a short period of time. Methodists really do love to eat!

On the trip back, the young Pastor, France, and I had an opportunity to chat about various things. France was a teacher “by profession” before becoming a Pastor. He is a Swazi and attended one of the Methodist schools in the Central circuit and taught at another one. We talked about several things including some of the needs of the schools and how we have to be so careful not to create a counter culture of children and communities who will just sit back and expect to have things handed to them. This is becoming a real problem in Swaziland as so many organizations and people are coming in and putting up carepoints, and providing food and other items without requiring anything or teaching the person how to do something differently. This is something I have been really struggling with since coming to Swaziland. I walk into a school and the first thing I am asked is “what can you give me?” or “Our school needs ____, can you get this for us?” While the needs are so great here, I am also very concerned about how to provide assistance without providing a hand out that in the long run either doesn’t really make a difference or isn’t some sort of a partnership with the receiver. I don’t want to hand them a fish, I want to teach them how to fish so they can fish for a life time. There is also the issue of what they think they might need versus what they can really use without having other more basic needs met. For example, the head teacher at one school told me they really need stoves and equipment for their home economics classroom. Home Economics is a required course for 6th and 7th graders. When she showed me the home economics classroom, it was being used to teach a class of 50 or 60 students because there wasn’t anywhere else to put these students. This school doesn’t need stoves and pots and pans right now, it needs another classroom or a new home economics classroom to put the equipment in!

France and I also talked about the challenges of the Methodist Church in Swaziland. The Central circuit has 54 societies (churches). Each pastor has many churches he has to attend to. France has 18 societies he is responsible for. He says he is really becoming a “communion” pastor. He has so many societies that he can’t give Pastoral care. The Methodist Church in Swaziland is loosing members to the new, larger “charismatic” churches that are springing up. We talked about how hard it is to combat that when a Pastor is responsible for so many societies. Society Stewards are left to do the services and preaching on Sundays. This also impedes the ability of the church to preach from the pulpit on topics the Methodist Church wants known such as its scriptural stand on HIV & AIDS, the care, love and acceptance of people who have HIV and AIDS, the need to live a Christian lifestyle, and the importance of HIV testing. We also talked about how in Swaziland, as in many of the congregations in the United States, the Methodist Church seems to have forgotten John Wesley’s passion for Christ, evangelism, the scriptures, singing, worshiping, and especially serving others.

Here is another little tidbit about the day. At 6:00 AM (yes, 6:00 in the morning) my phone rings. It is the secretary of the church asking me to come and move my car because they needed to use the space. I was almost ready to leave for Ermelo so I said I’d be over in a few minutes. Imagine my surprise when I walked across the primary school yard and onto the church property and saw that it was filled with cars. I then heard singing and then the Pastor’s voice coming from the sanctuary! A funeral was underway. At 6:00 in the morning! Funerals start early in the morning in Swaziland.

This person had died in a traffic accident. I really wonder what the rate of automobile related deaths are in this country but the way people drive and with all the obstacles on the road including everything from cows to people to stalled or extremely slow vehicles, I am sure it is very high.

So another day in Swaziland comes to an end. My mind is boggled again. Please pray for the people, the Pastors and the Methodist Church in Swaziland.


Richard Rooney said...

I think this is a very interesting blog. I have also been blogging about how people from overseas come to Swaziland to 'help'. In particulalr I am concerned about the way the international media reports on such people and in so doing distorts the picture of Swaziland to the outside world.

My blog, Swazi Media Commentary alsocontains information and commentary about media freedom and media ethics in Swaziland.

Come visit me at

Judy said...

I think I have figured out how to log on to your blog. You are doing so many amzing things there for the Lord. I'm glad you have found a Bible Study for yourself.
Will, continue to keep praying for you.