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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


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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


Reflections on our Visit to the Mashishimale Centre

 and other HIV/AID projects in South Africa

March 18-29, 2013

 

The 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.

 

In 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:

 

 


First, I 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!

 

When I 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 HIV/AIDS.


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 Haiti 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, Apartheid 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!



These 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!

Teresa Dekker (Vice-President of RSC)





What a great experience, and privilege, to go to South Africa 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!

Marion van den Akker
 



  
















In my 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 patients.

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 Holiday 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 ‘Communist’!

 

Charles Webster

 

 

I was part of a team which visited South Africa 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 Africa 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 media.

 

We were blessed to experience the beauty of Kruger National Park, the Mpumalanga Escarpment and Graskop Gorge, visit the Apartheid Museum, Soweto 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 Southern Africa

 

Margaret Kapteyn

 

 

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 Pretoria.

 

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 today.

 

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 Canada 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)

 

John Kapteyn
Executive Secretary, Regional Synod of Canada, RCA

 


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