Pastor Jacob Moses of the Tongaat Baptist Church established the Bethany School of Mission this year.Week-long conferences are being offered every three months. During the second week of August, three workshops were offered for laypersons in area churches.Rev. Kris Govender, pastor of the Christian Worship Tabernacle in Phoenix, presented a church leadership development workshop.Rick and I facilitated a workshop on church based holistic health care.Southern Baptist missionary Roger Hesch presented a workshop on church planting.Seven students completed the week-long conference.
Rick and I attended Pastor Kris' presentations.He encouraged lay members of churches to grow as leaders.He exhorted people not to passively depend on their pastor and complain about what was wrong but to be part of the solutions to the problems that their churches faced.Observing how he communicated with the Zulu and Indian students helped us learn more about how to teach in this cross-cultural setting.We also grew in our respect and admiration of this devoted servant of the Lord.
Rick attended several sessions led by Rev. Roger Hesch on church planting.Rick developed a greater understanding of the importance of house churches with lay leaders especially in areas with limited local financial resources. Pastor Roger also had a Christ-like teaching style which Rick found quite appealing and inviting for the students. Testimonies were shared. The Indian South African Christian people are very concerned with sharing their faith in Jesus, and do this in an often loving and appealing way.
Rick and I led the students in a discussion of church based holistic health care.We studied the following passages of the Bible with the students to better understand the model for healing that Christ offers:Acts 2:42 – 47 & 3:1 – 16; Luke 8:26 – 38; Luke 8:40 – 48; Luke 10:1 – 9.We considered how Christ addressed the physical, mental, spiritual and social needs of the people that he healed.We noted how God's love as experienced through Jesus Christ was an integral part of the healings described in these stories.In each case, Jesus wanted people to spread the knowledge of him so that others too could experience the healing and love that God offers.The class learned about how their local churches can promote health and healing in their communities. We also discussed present day healings by Jesus through his servants and the experiences we as a group of believers have had in this area.
The first major health problem that our Indian Baptist partners have asked us to address is cardiovascular disease which is especially prevalent among Indian South Africans.We demonstrated some practical skills like blood pressure, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index determination that lay people in churches can perform to predict risk for heart disease.We showed how churches can provide smoking cessation, diet and exercise education and counseling.We also discussed how blood sugar and cholesterol screening could be performed through churches.We explored the financial aspects of locally sustainable health outreach with the students.
The participants had many questions about the spiritual aspects of disease.One formerly Hindu student asked whether sin caused illness and why Christ heals some people and not others.The student explained that Hindus view illness as a punishment for sins in a past life.When a person suffers, they may go to their Hindu temple priest to be given actions to carry out so that they may be freed from their suffering.This may take the form of prescribed rituals such as piercing their bodies at certain times of the year and even dragging heavy objects that are attached to hooks that are in embedded into their flesh.A Zulu student explained that people who were sick in her community may go to a sangoma who can divine the reason for their illness and suffering. Often the cause is determined to be the result of problems with relationships with others in their community.She gave the example that a jealous person might curse another person that he or she envies causing an illness and that a sangoma could find this out by divination.The sangoma instructs people on the steps to take in order to resolve the situation.Sometimes, she said, they make cuts in the skin and put in muthi (herbs prepared using sorcery) in the cuts.The students agreed that they did not feel that they could talk to Western trained doctors and nurses about spiritual questions that they had related to illness.There is a need for medical providers who have the time and training to address spiritual issues from a Christian perspective as they help people with medical problems.
One of the women who attended the workshop also completed the blood pressure training course that we held in the spring at Tongaat Baptist Mission Church.She is married and has three children.After gaining a new understanding of how nursing skills could be utilized at a church based health clinic, her desire to become a nurse was rekindled.Her husband attended the sessions with her after quitting his job just two days prior to the start of the workshops.Two weeks prior, a gun was held to his head during a robbery at the appliance store where he did repair work.He and a few other people were forced into a bathroom. Because they could potentially identify the thieves in a line up, he believed that they would be killed.One assailant came in to kill them with a machete and knocked an African man into a wash basin which fell and ruptured a water pipe causing water to spray.In the confusion, the assailant fled.Ten days later, ten customers were robbed at gun point in this same store.The owner of the store refused to pay for better security so the man quit his job after the second robbery.
At the end of the workshop both husband and wife had ideas of how they could start ministering to the health needs in their community through their local church.The woman is interested in attending a year-long intensive program at a Christian nursing school in Durban that would grant her a nursing degree.The tuition for this program is 12,000 Rand (approximately $1600), cost prohibitive at this time, but she looks forward to the upcoming training sessions that we will hold.She recently purchased a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope and is already measuring the blood pressures of people and sharing the love of Christ in her community.
Yours in Christ,