Last week we spent a day at the rural Zulu village of Matendeni, South Africa in the Drakensberg Mountains. This week we added the words inkungu (fog), liyana (it is raining), udaka (mud) and limakhaza (it is cold) to our vocabulary. We were not able to drive into the village due to mud that was as slippery as ice. Praise God that we were not stuck while attempting the heavily rutted roads that comprise the last two miles of our journey. Pastor Bongamusa arranged for us to park in the yard of a group of huts. We showed our gratitude by giving a soccer ball from members of the West Virginia Baptist Convention to the children that had gathered to observe us. They immediately began to play catch.
The rain let up and we walked over some stones through a shallow river and climbed up a tall hillside to take the short cut to our health builder training site.
Twenty-seven year old Pastor Bongamusa was trained at a Baptist seminary on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. We met him through our main partner denomination, the Baptist Mission of South Africa. Pastor Bongamusa told us that many doors have opened to him since we have been going out with him into the community to measure blood pressure. He said that people appreciate that the Baptist church is working to be relevant to their needs. They are glad that members of their own community will be trained in much needed health skills. Pastor Bongamusa, who planted a church there in February 2008, said that some people had been put off by bad experiences with churches that “criticize what people do, but don’t teach.”
One man who engages in traditional ancestral worship was hostile to Pastor Bongamusa’s church planting efforts. Last week, the man invited Pastor Bongamusa into his home and requested that the pastor pray for him and his family. Other doors have opened for group Bible study meetings. Pastor Bongamusa encourages questions and discussion. Many of the health builders from poorer backgrounds that we train have chaotic life situations. Health builder trainee Rose had two siblings die of different illnesses a few weeks ago. One died of complications related to high blood pressure. They were buried on the same day.
Despite the recent loss of her siblings, Rose enthusiastically participated in training that day. Pastor Bongamusa was an excellent translator. She had many questions and enjoyed the opportunity to study and think about how the Bible applies to her life situation. Our hosts eventually brought in a small electric heater for us that they borrowed from their neighbours. This took the edge off the cold.
At this session, we showed our video on high blood pressure in Zulu. The students successfully measured the blood pressure of the people in the household. By the time we were ready to walk back down to our car, the rain and periodic thunder had mercifully ceased.
Before leaving, we stopped to thank Rose’s mom for the chicken, tomato and rice meal and tea that she served. We found Rose’s parents and her 4-year-old nephew with cerebral palsy in the next-door thatched hut by a small fire in the middle on the floor. They were resting on mats on the ground in order to avoid the smoke. There was no chimney so they kept the door open. We offered our condolences for their recent losses and prayed with them.
Your support of the World Mission Offering enables us to equip churches, reach people for Jesus and build health skills in Matendeni.
Rick and Anita Gutierrez