Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I didn't come to South Africa expecting to develop a burden for the poor. I think in part I didn't even begin to know what poverty was until I came to South Africa. I mean I used to think I was poor. I was perfectly content to focus my ministry the women in the church and the staff at Lambano. Yet, the longer I am here the harder it becomes to keep that my only focus. But I keep thinking, what are we doing to reach the large majority of our country that won’t come through our church doors?

It would be easy to stay comfortable but every time I drive down the street passed the local squatters camp I think, "What is the church doing to minister to these people?". That question has become more personal recently. I now think, "What am I doing to minister to these people? What am I doing to bring the gospel to the needy?" In some ways, it was easy to sooth my conscience. I mean I work in an orphanage for HIV positive children. But is there more I should be doing? I have been convicted as I have read Scripture of the priority it places on the church being involved in mercy ministries. (For more on this check out my brother's blog: Africa Bound.)

You see I am convinced that the answer to the AIDs crisis in South Africa is the gospel. Its not the result of a lack of medicine or a lack of education. Yes, those things would help but the AIDs crisis in part is a result of a worldview that is shaped by ancestral worship. But its hard to share the gospel with someone who hasn't eaten in days and not be concerned with feeding them as well. Another GMI missionary recently put it this way to me, "For hundreds of year the church has been telling people the gospel, its time to start showing them what the gospel looks like."

Well, what does this all mean for me? Lambano has started a work in one of the local townships (Katlehong). We provide food to families impacted by HIV. We also have been involved in raising the monies to build houses for people who had no place to live. Each Thursday we take a doctor and an occupational therapist and run a clinic for HIV positive children. (Do you know that in just one of the local cemeteries over a 100 children are buried a month? The majority of these would be AIDs related deaths.) In addition, we train foster mothers so that they can get the government funding they are eligible for and we will be starting a feeding program that will provide lunch for over 1800 school children each day. For many, this will probably be their only meal of the day. We also would like to develop a sustainability project and teach them a trade so that will in turn help them earn an income. The goal: to show them what the gospel looks like. This ministry has provided us with tremendous evangelistic opportunities.

The problem has been that there has been no one to work with this project and lead it which is were I fit in. As of January, I will be helping to head this part of of our ministry up. In about a year, this will all come under the work of the hospice we are building. What’s exciting about that is that the hospice is on the same piece of property as our church plant. There is a tremendous lack of good churches in the black community. To have our ministry geographically close to a solid one will be a tremendous help in helping establish people in the church.

Please pray for this. Pray specifically for opportunities to share Christ with those we will be ministering to. Our desire is to not merely be another humanitarian group but to really bring the truth of God's Word to bear in these people's lives. Pray for wisdom and strength as I add this into my current responsibilities. Pray for my continued safety. Katlehong (the township we are ministering in) isn't the safest part of the city. In addition, pray that God will raise up a good biblical church in Katlehong. Our church plant is currently to far from the township for many of them to go to but there really isn't anywhere else to send them to.

1 comment:

Nutria Boy said...

Beth. Praise God for His work through you and your family there in SA.

I, too, have face a very similar situation but in our own country as I walked the smelly streets of New Orleans and the surrounding area in post-Katrina.

The result has been that the Lord has convicted me of the same things you have expressed and I find myself wondering what on earth I'm doing next to this toothless person with bad body odor who wants some soup.

I am thankful to our Almighty Savior that He has given me a vision for an open door to the community through providing rebuilding, food, clothes, and other services to those who have little to no help or hope.

What a beautiful conduit for the glory of the Gospel - an active faith that shuttles the Word.

Pastor Eddie Exposito, Slidell LA