The Body Is Not a Building

by Abby J.

Through the rocky roads, tight between small, tin homes, tucked in the hill overlooking the Schoemansdal Valley is Jeppes Reef Lutheran Church. It’s a single cement room, arranged with plastic chairs for 250 people. Instead of a bell in a tower, the beginnings of services are signaled by the songs of those who gather early. Sunday is 2-3 hours and Tuesday prayer group is 1 hour. I’ve been going early to assist with Sunday School. This month meant practices for the first ever Nativity play!

Our pastor, Reverend Pereira, oversees many churches so is only able to come every 2 months. The hidden blessing surfaces as united care. My host mom leads the congregation but everyone holds equal responsibility for the worship created. When the scripture is presented, anyone is welcome to walk up and read. During testimonies, all are invited to share. The children, youth and adult choirs perform each week though in times of transition, someone always begins a song, committing proudly to its melody until the rest quickly join in. It is neither an obligation nor a performance. Whether you need to dance, cry, kneel at the altar, speak in tongues, step out for a snack or come in late, nobody scorns. The children are not hushed but rather lay in the aisle listening or munching on popcorn; the older ones caring for the younger.

Perhaps we fear that ‘holiness’ is fragile. It must be kept clean, orderly and infused with tight tradition to be safe. Here, there is still incredible respect but it’s lived in. It has breath and authenticity. And ‘holy’ is what God paints a space where love is uninhibited and thankfulness is organic. This church is not cement; it’s a body indeed.

 

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World AIDS Day

aids ribbonDecember 1st is World Aids Day. Ntuthuko Nkosi shares his perspective on this day as a South African. 

World Aids Day is one of the most important days on our South African calendar. It’s like a mirror yet again it’s more like binoculars. It reflects us where we come from as a people and projects where we are headed to.

Aids and other related infections have swept our people more than civil wars and apartheid government did. This pandemic terrorized our villages and townships like a plague. It left homes with no parents and made parents out of children. In all, it suffocated life out of our villages.

This day does not only bring us into tears as we mourn the deaths of our brothers and sisters. But this day calls us to salute all those who were killed for disclosing their statuses. These are/were the modern prophets and prophetess who died carrying an important message of life.

In this day we again salute our care givers nurses and family members. Mostly the family members who treated us with love and got infected. With their love our brothers and sisters died physically but their spirits rested in peace.

We celebrate with the ones who are affected and who have been mentally positive in their new healthy lifestyles as they adhere to the medication.

Today is a day of victory, as we have won the battle of stigma which has brought us to a new and lived reality that HIV/AIDS is not a life sentence.

A Blessed World Aids day.

 

NkosiNtuthuko Nkosi will be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) in 2016. He also serves as an Ecumenical Advocate with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel as well as as a member of Kairos Southern Africa.

 

YAGM-SA 2014-2015

Here they are! The new group. They arrived in Johannesburg on Friday, August 22nd.

After the group’s arrival, we spent a week together at the location of the national church office of our companion church (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa – ELCSA) where they have their church offices as well as a motel/lodge and meeting space. We got to know each other as a group and we tended to matters of beginning and orientation. We also visited some significant sites including the Cradle of Humankind and the Apartheid Museum. In addition, we learned from our hosts as we heard from Presiding Bishop Phaswana, as we attended worship at a congregation on-site, as we were welcomed by General Secretary Rev. Mathe, and as we feasted at a braii put on by members of the congregation we visited. Good beginnings all around.

On Friday, August 29th, the new YAGM headed out to their new sites. Now, they are getting to know their communities and beginning to settle in. Keep them in your prayers. It’s quite a thing to venture off to completely new places. But they are received well and cared for well by our companions. We thank God for them.

John, Adwoa, Dave, Caity, Brett, Brittani, Emmeline, Mae Helen, Hannah

John, Adwoa, Dave, Caity, Brett, Brittani, Emmeline, Mae Helen, Hannah

A Glimpse Into Life in Bellville

During the later part of her YAGM year, Jen moved to another community to help support the work of the ELCSA church community that was hosting her. Here, she shows a glimpse of the places and people of her life while she served in that location: 

Bellville Youth Center
Officially titled House Erich Leistner, the Bellville Youth Center is a student hostel attached to the Bellville Lutheran Church. With a spacious meeting hall, they also host community outreach event and church functions. My pastor asked me to move to help with the center’s development in assisting the new director with administration, outreach, and event planning. It’s fun work and I get to stay at the hostel with the students.

We recently hosted a huge Mother’s Day Buffet and it was rewarding to get to see all of our hard work turn into a packed hall full of happy families and fantastic food. It was the first outreach/multi-church event and a wonderful way to bring together people from over five churches in the area. After the smash success of our Mother’s Day event we already have plans for a Father’s Day braai (barbeque), a Youth Day gathering, and a wonderful Women’s Day event planned for the upcoming months.

It’s wonderful to be a part of the church reaching out into the community and bringing people together outside of Sunday service. Living with the students has given me many new friendships as well through playing guitar, going to rugby matches, and watching South African soap operas together.

Women of Worth
Women of Worth is a women and children’s empowerment center in Bellville South. They are a multifaceted organization run by incredibly passionate women dedicated to make a real difference in their community.

Several skills-based classes are taught out of the center including comprehensive sewing, beading, fabric painting, mosaic, and handicrafts. It’s wonderful to spend time at the center and have women stop in to talk about how they are able to support themselves financially because of the skills they have learned at the center.

They also are aware of the needs of women in the area and serve as a resource base for women looking for counseling, support, or social services. Several personal development sessions are also held on the premises along with business classes to support women on their way to financial and emotional independence no matter their situation.

My favorite part of working with the WOW center is spending time with their after school program. They reach out to girls in local schools to provide positive role models and a safe environment for discussing women’s issues. We talk about healthy relationships, encourage dreams, and spend a lot of time laughing together.

It’s been inspiring walking with women so passionate about working for real change in their community. I truly look up to them and hope to live out their passion in my own life!