Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sierra Leone - Reaching out to help the children

Once one of the foremost countries in Africa in terms of education, infrastructure and healthcare, Sierra Leone now ranks bottom (177th out of 177) on the UN's human development index. One in four children dies before the age of five, the worst infant mortality rate in the world. The health system is on its knees. Nearly all medical staff fled during an 11-year civil war. Five years on, there are still fewer than 10 surgeons for the entire country and 1 doctor to 96,000 inhabitants. Sierra Leone is the worst place on Earth to live, according to a new UN report on human development! Within these trying conditions, Bro. Bob Fox reports how brothers and sisters are reaching out to bring the love of God to people in both deed and word.

CMAD School Freetown
As a result of the enormous influx of refuges into the capital during the rebel war which lasted for over 10 yrs, there has been a need to supplement the poor education system in the country, as a result we have been running a nursery school in Freetown for Thumbnailover 10 yrs. Currently we have upgraded the school to primary education and now have over 100 pupils. On our recent visit we were pleased to see that the school is progressing well, the new toilet block is nearing completion with only the sanitary wear, tiling and plastering remaining to be done. Once this is complete the old toilet block can be demolished and work started on getting the base for the 3 new classrooms.

Adult literacy
Adult literacy is a major problem in Sierra Leone due to the total breakdown of the education system during the 10 yrs of war. As a result we started running adult literacy classes in all the areas where we have ecclesias. In Freetown we have over 24 students attending 3 nights per week Thumbnail

In Wanjamma they have 25 enrolled from the village and 10 brothers and sisters

Due to severe sanitation problems in the village which is causing constant outbreaks of cholera and typhoid we are building three toilet blocks. One is almost complete the other two are at blockwork stage.
Talia Makia
Talia Makia is a village in the Eastern Province. With the aid of the Meal A Day we have recently taken over the running and management of the school which has approx 150 war orphans and deserted children. The school was formerly run by a Muslim trust who abandoned it early this year through misappropriation of funds
We were sad to hear that nearly 50 of the children were off school sick with Cholera which was said to be due to a lack of sanitation. Several villagers had died during the outbreak. We also learned that malaria is a big problem with the children - about 25-30% are infected so far. None have mosquito nets. No one in the village or surrounding areas had been vaccinated against any of the major diseases. Kenema ecclesia have been supplying basic drugs to those children that are sick and covering the cost from ecclesial funds until now, but this will become a burden to the ecclesia.
Uniforms have been made for the children. Nearly all the uniforms are complete, but it was decided not to issue them until the new academic year, in September, as they would be worn all summer and be half worn out by the beginning of term as many of the children had little if any other clothing.

We have embarked on feeding programme for the children at the school, sponsored by Meal A Day. All the cooking and cutlery has been bought and is in use. The cooking is being done in the open which will become a problem in the next 4 – 6 weeks when the rains come, so it is a matter of urgency that we get an open sided kitchen built as soon as possible

A new ecclesia has been established at Talia and it has 20 adult visitors and 50-60 children coming to the Breaking of Bread on Sundays.

The village and surrounding villages urgently require a surgery, which was part of our plan from the outset. Infant mortality in the country is 40%, officially the worst in the world. Life expectancy is no more than 40yrs, and although I can't substantiate it, I would say Talia is probably about on the national average.

In Talia’s case this is solely due to poor hygiene, no toilets and no medical facilities within reasonable reach and cost. The cost is approx. $3 per consultation plus drugs. However, the average daily spend on food is less that $0.50 per family. Most could not afford to seek medical help even if it was available.

Bro. Bob Fox

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Marianhill Ecclesia has a new home

We have by God’s grace become the owners of a house in Mariannhill as a venue for the ecclesia. It is a lovely plot overlooking verdant meadows and on the other side of the valley is the Catholic monastery.
Some things in Africa can be a lot quicker than elsewhere in the world. This property was bought and previous owners moved out within about 3 weeks. It had to be formalised through a ceremony of drinking beer together with the seller and elders of the community all in attendance. The lot fell on Dan Egginton and I to engage in this on Saturday evening. The next challenge was to find a place for the previous owners Zazi and Bongi to live.

I thought I had secured a flat for them to stay in whilst they used our purchase money to renovate a house they had inherited. So the next day we carted them and all their possessions off to their new house.

ThumbnailThings then started going wrong when the landlord said they could only move in at 6pm rather than the original promise of 1pm. We off-loaded all the furniture in the park nearby and decided to wait it out. Things got worse when at 5:30 pm the landlord decided that they could only move in the next day, once a lease had been signed and the minimum period was 6 months. Things got even worse when at 6pm, it was dark, lightening and thunder started, and a drop of rain fell on my head.    

My prayer was that God would change the heart of the landlord. The rain was about to pour down all over the furniture. God didn’t change the heart of the landlord but he did stop the rain. All around us it poured down but where we were it stayed dry.
We managed to get the furniture back to our garage at home where it was secure and dry. We have housed at our home Zazi and Bongi whilst they set up their home. They have decided that on Wednesday they are coming with us to Bible class. The Lord moves in amazing ways with many other things to achieve than we see at the time. Mariannhill ecclesia now has a venue.

ThumbnailThe cost of the land was R98,000. The cost of a wooded structure to be used as the ecclesial hall will be about R85,000. We are appealing to anyone who would like to help us by donating to this and assist the Mariannhill ecclesia.

Please email for more information.

Bro. Tim Genders

Tales from the Townships

Soweto! Before the end of apartheid, it was no place for a white man. Some will remember Steve Biko and the 1960s. It was an absolute "no go" area. Thanks be to God, that it is no longer the case. I enjoyed fellowship with our brethren, sisters and friends in Soweto last summer.

On my return to South Africa two weeks ago, this time to the Durban area to help with the preaching project, what a joy it was to see how much progress has been made in preaching in townships. We now have small ecclesias in Lamontville and Marianhill, close to Durban. So far, I have been privileged to make two visits to Marianhill and one to Lamontville, and to share a joyous occasion while witnessing the baptism of four young people from Marianhill, which increases membership to eleven.

As they don't know how to "do" long, light, English summers in South Africa, brother Craig Blewett and I set off in the dark for an evening meeting in Lamontville. Lots of dark roads - I'm still in the dark as to how we got there! But we did. We met with three sisters and two interested friends.

We "Western culture" (perhaps first world) folks can learn so much from them. Yes, we have a good intellectual knowledge and understanding of Scripture, but how often does it show in our faces? It's different in the townships! Faces light up when we discuss the Scriptures. An appreciation of God's love for us, and of the saving work of our Lord Jesus, shone from the faces of our sisters that night. The evening was made memorable in our breaking of bread, and keen discussion after the meeting.

ThumbnailThe next evening, brother Tim Genders and I set out for Marianhill. Same story: no English summer, and I've no idea how we got there! But, get there we did, and walked down a long steep concrete path in the dark to brother Phinda and sister Sylvester's home at the bottom of the hill. Before long, 18 brothers, sisters and friends were eagerly gathered for Bible Class. We began with two African songs of praise. How I love the sound of their voices with impromptu harmonies. What a joy there is in their expressions of thanks to our God. They were all eager and attentive listeners - what a delight for the speaker!

My second visit to Marianhill was particularly memorable. For a start, it was raining. In the Third World, that's never good news for attendance at meetings. No cars to glide the occupants into an ecclesial car park. Just muddy walks and wet clothing. Yet 12 of us gathered for Bible Class on a cold evening.
Brother Tim led a discussion on Forgiveness, based on Matthew chapters 6 and 18. What was impressive, was the willingness of teenage boys to join in the discussion. One comment of "when you forgive it lifts a burden from your own heart" was particularly perceptive.

Then, a "magic moment". As Tim was talking about us learning to forgive, especially now as Marianhill ecclesia is growing and problems are inevitable, sister Sylvester said "some people killed my brother, but I have forgive them." Stunned silence! Now that was forgiveness! What a lesson we all took home that night.

Two weeks gone, three township meetings attended. I look forward to many more, God willing, and I hope to keep readers informed.

Bro. David White

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Being a Missionary in your own country

You do not need to risk life and limb in some remote, war torn and poverty stricken country to make a difference! You don’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres and suffer grave discomfort to reach those in need of your help. You can make a difference right here, right now.

When Liezl and I were asked to spend two weeks helping out at the Margate Good News Centre we were slightly skeptical as to what two young women would be able to achieve – especially once we received the ‘to do list’ from Bro Alistair Clark! However trusting that this was an opportunity set before us by God (and more than happy to escape the Jo’burg winter) we eagerly accepted and… here follows what happened.

We had never been to the Centre and had only a fairly vague idea of what to expect, the general consensus being that Liezl would help Sis Cecilia with the Good News Crèche and I would help Bro Nelson in the Bible Education Centre.

We arrived on Monday, June 2nd. We immediately noticed that the Good News Centre (which is situated in the Margate Christadelphian Hall) is one of at least 10 churches/religious facilities in a less than a 5km radius! Also the Centre is fenced all around due to the crèche – but no buzzer/bell at the gate and little signage – and this gave it a distinctly uninviting feel. The crèche has 3 kids at the moment – 3 very bright, friendly and willing kids! Ayanda (age 5), her cousin Owami (age 3) and Elethu (age 4).

To our delight we found the crèche rich in resources (books, toys, educational posters, musical instruments) - which are sadly not being utilized. Also Cecilia understands very little English and Nelson needs to translate everything. The BEC had a generally unkempt air about it – prices faded or falling off, books bent from being positioned wrong, very cluttered and disorganized, not at all attractively laid out – the shelves are positioned so that you can hardly see the books! There were 2 students registered for the 22 Lesson Bible Course – Nelson’s 2 sons.

And here is where the real fun part began!

Getting the word out:

Margate hall, BEC, crecheFocusing on ‘advertising’ the Margate Good News Centre we set up a table in the local mall on the Friday (Hibiscus Mall) where we had big posters advertising the God’s Master Plan Bible Course and the Crèche Course which Sis Leah Egginton will be presenting, and we also took along stock from the BEC. We put up posters in local libraries, shop windows and made pamphlets advertising the Courses in both Zulu and English – bearing in mind that the community is primarily Zulu speaking.

We were surprised to discover that most of the people knew about the Christadelphian Hall - they just didn’t know you were allowed in! During the ‘Mall Day’ we registered 13 students for the God’s Master Plan Course and had 9 definite applicants for the Crèche Course (and one hopefully not so definite applicant – a 60 year old inebriated Irishman who promised to “kill kids who misbehave”!). We also sold R45.00 worth of stock and had interested customers saying they would visit the Centre in future for birthday gifts etc.

Due the success of this first ‘Mall Day’ we went again the next Friday where we registered another 13 students and generated a further R110.00 in sales! (*HOT UPDATE* The Creche course is now on and there are 12 people attending!)

The Crèche:

First we changed their rather complicated ‘daily program’ to the much simpler one which Leah recommends in the Crèche Course, then started teaching them songs (they especially enjoy ‘Sing Hosanna’) and trying to show Nelson and Cecilia how to prepare and present classes. They have 2 lessons a day – we would do the first one and then help Cecilia prepare the second one, which she then presented to the kids on her own. We introduced the ‘Naughty Chair’ as a disciplinary method – and once the boundaries were defined the classes were much more manageable. They have plenty of resources at their disposal so hopefully after the Crèche Course things can really start taking off.

General Improvements:

One of the biggest would be the bell Bro’s Alistair and Nelson installed at the gate, they also put up a post box for Bro Nelson and once Bro Dan Egginton puts up the big sign this should help create a more approachable feel to the Centre.

We sorted out the BEC, got Nelson familiarised with the administration of the Courses and the BEC, made colourful ‘quote posters’ for the BEC, put up extra educational posters in the crèche, taught Nelson & Cecilia to use the microwave and made business cards for Nelson.


We then had the added enjoyment of doing the daily Bible readings with Nelson’s family as well as being able to help with the Sunday School and partaking in the Margate Memorial Services. During both the readings and the Memorial Meeting Nelson translates everything into Zulu for Cecilia – so we came home knowing quite a few helpful Zulu phrases!

It was definitely two very fruitful weeks, we enjoyed the experience immensely and have both learned a lot. Not least of all that we as two sisters can in fact work together without a single fight!

We are both very thankful – to God for the opportunity and for being with us throughout; to the COP Fund for sponsoring our travel fees; and to our family who were all very optimistic and supportive about the trip.

Lilandi Scheepers

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Four Baptisms for Marianhill ecclesia

On Sunday (15 June) we had the greatest joy seeing four new children of God go through the waters of baptism.


They are here looking lovely and happy just before they were baptised. They are Nosi Bikitsha, Neli Ngubo, Kwanda Mzwilwini and Dudu Shange. All of them are between 17 and 23 years old. Their baptisms are great for our youth in South Africa.


Dan and Leah Egginton and Ben Dailey, our volunteers here from Australia have been teaching them the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We all celebrated the day with a big lunch together. After all it is not every day that your ecclesia  grows by more than 50%. Phinda and Dan did the baptisms. It was a great day for Mariannhill and South Africa.


Tim Genders

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Good News - Baked Beans & Spaghetti

Lamontville Good News centre has been very busy this week.  On Sunday the weekly meeting was held. There was quite a crowd, approximately 6 of Marcus’ WhizzKids Youth attended and enthusiastically joined in with the praise and discussion that morning.
The Sunday school had 23 children with age ranges of 3-10 and we did the lesson of Creation and Adam and Eve. After this we went on our weekly walk around the community, distributing the weeks “Good News” - baked beans and Spaghetti.

During the week the crèche routine and program were in full swing. The children are now learning the first couple of letters of the alphabet and are often heard singing the songs for each letter that we teach them, during their play time.

The children’s English is coming along great and there are often a few laughs as the children try and teach us volunteers (Jay and Amy) the Zulu language.

An interest of the children at the moment is gardens, such as digging, finding natural items and discussing them with the carer - especially flowers and leaves. Based on this interest we are staring a small garden with a few vegetables and flowers, encouraging the children to help plant and watch them grow.

Another use for the centre this week was for Marcus to run a course on HIV training and counselling in the Lamontville crèche. This was attended by 22 enthusiastic people of  all ages.

Amy McClure