The Regional Synod of Canada (RSC) is one of eight regional
synods in the Reformed Church in America. The Regional Synod of
Canada provides spiritual and practical leadership by
shepherding leaders, congregations and classes. We cast the
vision of the Synod, coordinate new church developments and
serves as a catalyst for congregation renewal. more
The Regional Synod of Canada is called by God to
mobilize the classes, churches, pastoral leadership, and laity into
mission. Mobilizing for Mission will help transform God’s call and our
dreams into reality. We mobilize the church by preparing the church and
providing resources for mission. Mission is responding to Christ’s call
to “Go and make disciples.” more
on our Visit to the Mashishimale Centre
and other HIV/AID projects in South Africa
Regional Synod of Canada is in the second year of a partnership with the
Northern Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
supporting the work of the Namakgale congregation with those infect and
affect by HIV/AIDS. This includes supporting the ongoing costs of a
feeding station in Mashishimale which provides meal, homework assistance
and other activities for over 200 children. We also donated to the cost
of the renovations to the feeding centre in Mashishimale are finished.
March, Marion van den Akker, Teresa Dekker (VP-RSC), Charles Webster,
and John and Margaret Kapteyn visited the project to celebrate the
completion of the feeding station.
Here are some reflections from each of us:
am so grateful that I could be a part of this trip. Without this
invitation, I would probably not have been able to do a trip like this
although it has always been a “someday” thought!
was recalling the Sunday morning worship service to one of my friends,
she asked if that was the biggest impression of my trip. Although it was
one, I think there are three aspects that I continually impress my heart
and thoughts and think about.
The worship with the Namakgale congregation was
certainly one. The genuineness and expressive worship brought me to meet
with God in a way that was fresh and meaningful. The spontaneity and
music was a “taste of heaven”. I found myself overcome with unstoppable
tears just because of the peace and presence of the Holy One! I realized
that this expression of worship came so naturally for them. . .
the dancing, and singing is something they grow up with. The
children are very expressive as well. I came to appreciate that one
style of worship is not better or worse . . . just
different. However my friend was quick to ask “ Do we squash that
spontaneity in our children and that’s why as adults we’re not so
comfortable to express our worship?” More food for thought!
Another area that has a big impact on me was the
feeding/children/AIDSHIV ministry of Ma Rhody. This is a grass roots
ministry that has grown from her desire to minister to the children and
their families. Her church is now supporting her in her work and they
are so thankful for the support they received from other organizations. The children and Ma Rhody were so thankful for the gifts that we
brought along. Ma Rhody also does much for the families stricken with
There seems to be needs for this program as well, such as
distribution of epap (nutritious food). People in my congregation have
been asking me if there is a need for ongoing support, financially
and/or physically. I ask that we as a Regional Synod consider how we can
better communicate the project and our commitment to the ongoing work so
that they will be able to help us fund this.
We had asked Ma Rhody if the could benefit from people from Canada helping out at the Centre,
but I don’t know if they are set up for it. Would they be able to
accommodate helpers who would like to give a lending hand?
I suggest the RSC explore the sending of volunteers.
When I asked Ma Rhody if the cycle of sickness and poverty would end, she
emphatically and quickly said “The children!” When the children can be
given an opportunity for education and good jobs, they will look after the family. Every generation, more children will be
able to be educated and secure a job and that makes the future bright
for families in this community. So it will take time and in the meantime...
Also the discrimination issues in
South Africa was a heavy burden on my
heart. It made me so sorry for how the Europeans have treated other
nations that they perceived to be less than themselves. In November
2012, I came back from attending the Maritime Day of Encouragement in Nova Scotia (hearing from the First Nations
delegates about the residential schools and treatment of Natives) it was
Remembrance Day and we ended our Sunday Service with “O Canada”. I could
not sing the anthem. “O Canada, our home and native land .
. ..” I wondered, “Do the First Nations sing this anthem?” and “How do
they feel when we sing this?” Dirk, my
husband, has returned from
just before we left for SA. He was telling me also about the poverty and
illness and injustice that was rampant there. And then now while
visiting the shantytowns,
Museum, and Hector (?)
Museum, the worldwide theme reoccurs. . . We have the way to live and
believe . . . ALL must be like us. What surprised me in SA was
that it was so recent that this was practiced!!! I am so ashamed!
thoughts have all caused me to look at my life today. How can I
truly be Christ to those around me? Where are there hurts that I can
minister to? Where do I have the “better than thou” attitude? And above
all, how can I express my worship genuinely and authentically with my
whole being? I can see that the first two areas will be covered with the
third!!! Thanks be to God for continually working in me!
Dekker (Vice-President of RSC)
What a great experience, and privilege, to go to
with a great bunch of people! It was a
well-filled schedule while we were there which I would for sure love to
do it again! What a beautiful country South Africa is
– even though there is much poverty there. It
doesn’t take long to realize and see how much South Africans have
suffered in the past. However, there is hope for them
as many of the people have their hope and trust in God.
God is moving people like Mama Rhody to
have visions and live them out. Mme Rhody is a person
with a huge heart, who works at Tumelong Feeding
Center where kids get fed,
receive help with homework after school, and experience love—since many
are orphans. The kids look forward to being there
after school is done!
On Saturday the kids were excited as they lined up to
receive their gifts. Over 200 of them!
The kids all received a toothbrush, toothpaste, face cloth, soap,
and shampoo. The youngest ones also received a
stuffed animal. After everyone received this,
even some adults, we still had plenty left over! It
was amazing to think that the team, through donations, were able to
bring not just enough, but more than enough gifts! Enough so that there
will be another time that gifts will be given to those who are in need
of it. The Sunday School kids also received a
bracelet made by GEMS girls in Canada. They did
not hesitate to place them around their arm and walk around showing
people in the courtyard.
In 2010 I
had the opportunity to attend General Synod. During this General Synod
meeting the Belhar Confession was adopted as the RCA’s fourth confession
of faith. The Belhar confession focuses and
challenges us to live out our daily lives following principles of unity,
reconciliation and justice. During the past two
weeks, I had the privilege to see this come alive between Canadians from
the RCA, and South Africans of the URSCA denomination.
We were welcomed by kids singing and dancing for us at the gate,
kids and adult choirs at the church, amazing meals from different
congregational members, hugs, and African handshakes.
Race, skin color or language did not stand in the way of this
partnership and celebration of what God has done and is doing.
We washed our hands before every meal. However, it
was not the usual type of hand-washing. Someone
else would pour out water out of a jug so that we could wash our hands
underneath the small stream. It was a type of
serving each other that I am not used to, but think we could learn from
and do more often. It is a beautiful symbol of
accepting and serving each other and showing love.
I am blessed to have been
part of this trip! I have
learned and seen a lot, and I am very grateful for it.
The team was great, and I loved getting to know each one of them
better, and share this experience with them. It will
be a trip that I will always remember!
community I describe what I call an Endemic of Mission Trips – a Baptist
friend with Team in Bolivia; Wesleyan Pastor in Haiti; Salvation Army had a Youth Team in Jamaica and a Retired United Church Minister in Grenada for 6 months and I to South Africa. In
many cases, especially with evangelicals, it is ‘this is what we built’!
In our case it is being warmly received and thanked by Namakgale and
Mashishimale as well as their Regional Synod and Presbytery (Classis);
for making possible a Day Care and Feeding
Center for children in a rural village of Mashishimale. The concrete mission thing
we did was pass out plates of food to hungry children and gift packages
provided by our congregations! Although
we were being ‘thanked’ I reminded a few people that all we did was
provide money for a building. I reminded the parishioner that your
people designed the building, you found the contractors and volunteer
labour to make it possible, you are working with one of your own – ‘Mama
Rhody’ to make her dream a reality. All we are doing is walking beside
you in your mission for Christ. It is an exciting
way to do mission.
It was also interesting and moving to visit a large AIDS Hospice west of Johannesburg, as well as
Ennerdale URC’s HIV-AIDS project and visit a couple homes and pray with
Having been active in the Anti-apartheid movements in the late 1980’s,
visiting the Apartheid Museum was a revelation. It was
interesting to note how the German NAZI ideology was imported to and
embraced by the .National Party. ‘Jew’ was replaced by ‘Black’,
‘Coloured’ and ‘Asian’ ethnic groups. It worked well for the
Global-International Gold and other Mining Corporations providing cheep
mine labour. It was interesting to see all the parallels with Glace Bay
Nova Scotia in the 1920’s. If there was any
labour unrest in those days the solution was easy “Call in the Army’
which they did on occasion! The former mining communities have a spring
named for a local miner killed by the Royal Canadian Army! One of the
Adjunct Professors at Tyndale College in Toronto, a friend of mine, can
boast about being ‘jailed’ and ‘exiled’ from South Africa when he was a
‘Student’ at Rhodes Divinity College in circa 1980, for being a
I was part of a team
which visited South
in Nov. 2009 to help the RSC discern a potential project where we could
best support the needs of people suffering from HIV/AIDS or the
consequences of the disease. It was decided to support the Tumelong Center
(place of faith) in the community of Mashishimale. We partnered with the
local Namakgale Uniting Reformed Church in Southern
and the Northern Synod of URCSA.
It was exciting to visit
the project three and half years later to take part in the dedication of
the new addition and renovations to the drop in center. More
importantly, it was a blessing to reconnect in person with the children
and adults involved with the center. On our first day, we were warmly
greeted with hugs and singing and by the end of the day, the children
were lining up (sometimes several times) to receive hugs and kisses from
us as we said our goodbyes. The following day, we celebrated in South
African style, the dedication of the center. Speeches were made, joyful
songs sung, a meal was shared, stories were heard as to how the ministry
of the Tumelong Center has changed lives and the gifts which we
brought from Canada
were handed out. We also heard about the future dreams and hopes for the
ministry. Our African brothers and sisters in Christ were quick to tell
us that although the gifts were much appreciated, they were more touched
that we would come and visit them personally. As a result, our
relationship has been made stronger and we realize that to continue to
deepen our ties, we need to communicate more often and pray for one
another on a regular basis. We were also able to share ideas and common
struggles that both our denominations face.
We did have the
opportunity to visit other projects and ministries in the region.
Although some progress is being made in the fight against HIV/AIDS,
there is much work to be done. There is still a denial among the male
population that they are infected and therefore they do not seek
treatment. As a result, the female population is still being infected at
a high rate. There is also difficulty in reaching the younger population
even though the message is being spread through billboards and other
We were blessed to
experience the beauty of Kruger National Park, the Mpumalanga Escarpment and Graskop
Gorge, visit the Apartheid Museum,
and experience the warm hospitality of the South African people.
God is at work in South Africa and I believe that He
is calling us to be His hands and feet in this country! I pray that our
congregations here in Canada
will prayerfully consider supporting this important ministry and to
remember to pray for the Uniting Reformed Church in
As I reflect on our
visit to South Africa,
I thank God for the warm welcome from the children and the Namakgale
church. I felt loved and they said they did as well. We did not just
send money but came to see them and that meant so much to them,
especially as they are in a remote area, five hours north of
At the Dedication, I
heard what a difference our involvement makes and that affirmed our
work. What a joy that God is using us for His work.
I was moved when we
interviewed a 17 year-old who started coming to the centre when she was
seven. She is now a helper. I asked her what difference the centre made
in her life. She said that without the centre she is sure that she would
have become pregnant, contracted HIV/AIDS and perhaps not be alive
Later, we visited a
woman who was dying due to HIV/AIDS. Her husband had died last week.
Wessie, the pastor who oversaw HIV/AIDS Homecare in the area, assured her
that they would look after her daughter after she was gone. We prayed
with them and the daughter was very distraught.
We do not realize how
good we have it in
and how much of the world lives in poverty and pain. The problem is
overwhelming but if we can but make a small difference, it will be a big
thing for those we help and a big Thing for our Lord! (Matthew 25:40)
Executive Secretary, Regional Synod of Canada, RCA