Phakimisa

 

 

 

We are back people!

In case you are wondering why these blog posts came to a sudden halt, there has been a bit of faff going on (this is putting it lightly), meaning that I haven’t been able to update this blog about the rest of our time in South Africa.

Flight delays and transfers unfortunately resulted in 8 lost suitcases at the end of our trip. However for some reason my case decided to take the long way round back to Belfast and so took two weeks longer than everyone else’s to arrive. Inside this case was my pink notebook brimming with notes about our trip and quotes from people we engaged with. Something that these blog posts would be quite lost without. And so, unfortunately the blog had to be put on hold. But alas! The prodigal suitcase has returned and so we are back to business.

And what better thing to be writing about than Phakimisa.

The very first thing I wrote in my notebook whilst visiting Phakimisa was- ‘what joy in this place!’

We were greeted at the door with not just a hello but ‘come here, let me squeeze you!’.

Phakimisa is a ministry of Pinetown Methodist Church. Phakimisa describes itself as an organisation that ‘is all about people’. The organisation is built up of volunteers and paid employees led by their director, Thokozani Poswa. An inspiring and passionate servant of God.

On their website they state: ‘PHAKAMISA responds to the needs of adults and children from poor communities who are living with HIV/AIDS through our uplifting and economically empowering programmes.’ 

Phakimisa offers classes of training, in cooking, beading, and their educare programme amongst other things. Training pre primary teachers who then go out to work in ‘wandering schools’ in informal settlements.

These schools are generally made up of 20-30 children. Most of whom are orphaned or impoverished in some manner. The wandering schools are there to provide a safe space for children who’s parents or caregivers are looking for a job.

We were given the chance to visit two of the wandering schools. This was enlightening, eye opening, and humbling. But these kids. These kids could only bring joy. Smiles and excitement radiated out of both of the tiny spaces that are these children’s reality each day. On our second visit, we were helping to nail pieces of metal to the holes in the shack, in order to make it more sustainable. As we played with the children and spent time in this poor but unbelievably warm and welcoming community, Thokozani explained how ‘Phakimisa is doing whatever they can to give them life.’ Most of the children don’t know about Christmas. They were terrified to be in a car due to the unfamiliarity. They have seen a small number of white people. Thokozani said: ‘Even though the environment isn’t conducive enough, we are able to put a smile on their faces.’

Whenever we first walked into this school, it quickly became clear that English is not these children’s first language. I would be lying if I didn’t allow panic to set in for a few minutes. How would I communicate with them? How could I serve these children in this time we had together?

Well these thoughts were silly. Within half an hour I was swapping sunglasses with these children, playing hand games, they were teaching me how to pose, and I was teaching them how to dab. (Much to others dismay). A language  or age or cultural barrier is not enough to stop the love of God being shared between people. This morning was probably my favourite morning in our time in South Africa. It taught us so clearly that joy is not found in things, it can be shared in the smallest of things, and to my delight this includes dabbing.

Because of the wandering schools, these children will be able to go on to primary school equipped. They are being given the chance that their home life would have never been able to give them

Phakimisa is serving beyond its day to day work. Phakimisa is serving 52 areas in Durban surrounding Pinetown. Through the connections they are constantly making, and the training they provide, God is working through Phakimisa to impact around 400 people daily.

Phakimisa is a community of people who are loving people well. A community of people that are truly trying to reflect Jesus in their ministry and how they treat others. I am so glad we got to spend some time with them.

As a team, leaving South Africa, our time with Phakimisa left a lasting impact. Even as we said goodbye, the laughs and the warmth pouring out of that room was indescribable. They are people that I will never forget.

‘As I have loved you, love one another.’ John 13:34

In love and in prayer,

Jill

 

 

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8 Methodists go back to school

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Now before you think we have been working too hard here in Durban, don’t worry, we have had a day off in amidst all the laughing, tea drinking and talking. Again, before you think we spent our day off relaxing and maybe beginning to process the trip so far, you’re wrong. Our day off entailed a 3 am start (yay!). However, this was for a VERY good reason. We went on Safari! It was rather fun. Definitely worth the sleep deprivation.

After our encounter with a family of rhinos and giraffes (I’m not even lying, we stumbled upon about 15 giraffes at one point. Side note, I had no idea giraffes could be so sassy.) we were ready to get back to business. Tuesday and Wednesday brought us to the beautiful John Wesley School in Pinetown.

John Wesley School is a ministry of Pinetown Methodist Church. The school has 600 pupils currently and 54 staff members.

From our welcome from Darron, the principal, I had an inkling that our time in this school was going to be very special. And I wasn’t wrong.

It is a low fee independent school. Meaning that it can practice a Christian Ethos, without facing challenges from the government. However this does mean that it cannot solely rely on funding from the state.

We were given a tour upon arrival. From this tour alone, I have written in my notebook at least 4 times, the children are so polite here! Every child that passed us greeted us. Gemma and I, the following day spent some time in the foundation classes, in which we were instantly greeted with hugs. Which is an excellent way to spend a Wednesday morning if you ask me.

Each team member spent time in different classes, where we were mostly given a chance to share about our little green island overseas. Bethany even snuck a few Irish dance lessons in there (she’s available for hire by the way, hourly rate obviously). Chris and Zoe had the chance to play some rugby with the kids, Ben got to teach the children about art, and Bethany and Emma spent Wednesday afternoon as our very own music maestros (I think they never want to hear SHINE again).

We spent a lot of time with Darron and had the chance to learn about the schooling situation here in South Africa. With two recently qualified teachers on our team, education has been a big topic of conversation on this trip. And it was eye opening to learn of some of the problems that SA is facing right now in this crucial area.

I was shocked to hear that only 20% of schools in this country are fully functioning. And some of the stories of violence and injustice that others are facing. Darron shared that ‘Christian national education has a very negative connotation around here.’ And that ‘A lot would changed if there was a move towards God.’ In the schools.

Something that also stood out to me was Darron’s awareness of the racial problems that South Africa is still facing today. He spoke about this issue with a humble heart. This was especially evident when he was telling stories about his own staff. His insight and passion for the school. There is a huge amount compassion between the staff. They clearly recognise how different their upbringings were, but they are using these differences and injustices to promote unity in their own learning environment, to educate the next generation and the future leaders of South Africa-

‘The children we are sending out are going to be world changers.’

Despite the early morning starts (7.15am for an assembly!!!) and the throwback to school days that the bells kindly reminded me of, I loved my time in this place that epitomises joy in so many ways. Thank you to all the staff and pupils of John Wesley School who made us feel welcome.

Please continue to pray for the team as we prepare to leave South Africa tomorrow! Pray for our final evening together and the services in Pinetown Methodist tomorrow.

There are more blog posts to come about our time with Phakimisa! Which was amazing. Thank you for all your support so far.

‘Don’t let anyone look down on youbecause you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.’
1Timothy 4:12

In love and prayer,
Jill

RETREAT



Friday evening brought us to another part of Durban. After a very cramped but banter filled bus journey we arrived at St Dominic’s retreat centre in The Bluff. 

It’s safe to say, that each of us had been on our fair share of youth retreats before, and so each team member was very intrigued to see how a South African retreat would differ. There was a mixture of emotions before embarking on this filled weekend. Most of the team were excited. I say most, because there was definitely a few nervous faces in there! 

Through many times in my life, I have found that God has an excellent sense of humour. God has also taught me (on multiple occasions, you think I would have learned by now) that we as humans constantly underestimate him and how much he can move in one place. This weekend was no different, as we came away from the weekend with full hearts and huge smiles (also very satisfied bellies, shout out to the amazing chef in St Dominics) at how God breathed into our conversations and experiences. 

The whole weekend started off on a very powerful note. There were 9 young adults from South Africa and 8 Northern Irish folks. What a combination! Jools asked each of us to share a story with the group from the last 12 months. It could be any story that we wanted. The next two hours brought stories that made us laugh, made us cry. The sheer vulnerability in the room was wonderful. I myself couldn’t believe how open everyone was to sharing, considering that other youth weekends I’ve been on, it’s taken at least a day for people to feel comfortable enough to open up and share. 

When everyone had shared, Jools asked us how we felt. 

Nosipho summed it up in one sentence: ‘God is not in one place’. 

From the range of stories, it was so evident how much God is moving in so many different places, in so many people’s hearts but all at the same time. 

God’s heart is our bridge between these different communities, between different sides of the world. His love is connecting us all, even if we are three plane journeys apart. 

Others remarked that it was ‘so easy to connect’. 

We are all equal, when we share in the love of Jesus. 

The weekend continued on a similar note. As a group, we spent the next two days, sharing in stories, describing our homes, talking about the different experiences of injustice that we had seen, but also the similarities between the problems we had faced, and are still facing in our societies today. 

However, it wasn’t all so serious sometimes. I don’t think anyone anticipated just how well we would all get on. On the Saturday evening, I am pretty sure I gained stomach muscles just from laughing. 

Saturday afternoon found us in a very typical youth weekend situation. A search for a shop for snacks. I still laugh at the fact that we currently, are at the bottom of the world, we are all over 18 years old, and yet we still were searching for a shop on the Saturday afternoon of a youth weekend. Standard on so many levels. 

On Saturday night, each group shared some cultural experiences. I’m not quite sure how well we represented our little country, but we gave it our best shot. Our South African pals showed us some song and dance, and games. We in turn gave them a taste of some of our musical…delicacy (does chanting ‘Will Griggs on fire’ count?). 

Stages of tiredness were definitely being exceeded at this point in the trip. I went to bed that night with a sore stomach and make up running down my face. The definition of dreamy really. 

It has to be said however, that our Sunday morning worship that we shared together, has definitely been a highlight of the trip for me so far. Different aspects of the service were handed to different people to plan. It was self made worship, and after some worship, testimony and prayer, we had the opportunity to share in communion with one another. It was a. special service, and very intimate, as we gathered together in love to glorify God. 

I am so grateful that we were able to share in this weekend and real quality time with these guys. Who I think we can now call good pals. 

Please continue to pray for the team, as we make our way around Durban, in our little bus! Pray for energy levels again, as we are now more than halfway through our trip, and that we can continue to embrace every conversation. Pray for openness for God to guide us and work through us in so many ways. 

‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ.’ 
1 Corinthians 12: 12 

In love and in prayer, 

Jill 

Two days with the Church Land Programme

 

 

To sum up these 48 hours in one blog post is a tricky ask. I have taken over 10 pages of notes in my notebook alone! Scribbling down quotes, facts, experiences, from a side of South Africa that I had never heard of before.

Last night at the end of our debrief, Jools prayed ‘Thank you God that we have the privilege of being part of a world that we don’t get to see.’

And it was a massive privilege to share this week with the people of the Church Land Programme and the Abahlali Organisation.

Our day began with a series of introductions. Graham, who is currently leading the team in CLP (Church Land Programme) and David, brought three others with them, and four team members of the Abahlali organisation. It was VERY entertaining, each group trying to attempt pronunciations of different names, with Graham even stating at one point about the Northern Irish accent- ‘I am dumbfounded that English could ever sound like that.’

We spent the morning learning more about the two projects. It was here that we were told about the history of both organisations, and the difference they have made to so many communities here in South Africa.

I was shocked by the statistics that were shared. That during Apartheid, 80% of the land owned in South Africa was owned by white people. White people in this time made up just 13% of the population.

Land for many people here is an entity that you trade but also was described as an identity. Graham called it ‘a place of belonging’. The CLP was established to understand the problem of church distributed land after Apartheid. Their intention was to discover which land the churches do own and then transfer this land to the black communities who had nothing.

The Abahlali organisation work with people of the communities within informal settlements. They are doing amazing work, listening to these people who don’t have very much and serving them TOGETHER. For all of us when we visited two of the settlements, we were struck by the sense of unity and community shared. This organisation is not looked upon in favour by the Government at present. We were informed that they had been described by the government as ‘a South African Terrorist organisation.’

This team are doing nothing but innocent works here that are overflowing with compassion and empathy.

Having the chance to visit two of the Urban settlements was eye opening.

The first one, Catocrest, has over 6,000 families living there. There is no access to mains electricity and no access to running water. Toilets are shared between eight to ten people and really, are just a basic hole in the ground. We got the chance to hear from some of the people who are living in the settlements. The team were really touched by one girl in particular who shared. Her name was Sane, and she was 23 years old. She spoke with such passion. You could audibly hear the hurt in her voice when she was sharing about her experiences. She is just a young woman who is desperate to further her studies and embrace the opportunities that her education has blessed her with so far. Sane said: ‘if we have no water, no electricity- how are we free?’. She also shared about being a young leader within the settlement and the importance of respect. As most of us are involved with youth and children’s leadership at home, it was amazing to hear these experiences in another corner of the world. And the qualities that we could perhaps carry home to our own churches.

The second settlement we visited was called Catomanor. When we arrived, most of the families came to see what was going on as we gathered in their ‘town hall’. Led by the kids, the community just kept bursting into song. The atmosphere of unity and joy poured out of the room! It was infectious.

The people’s joy and unity was the main thing that we as a team were struck most by when spending time with these programmes and visiting the settlements. When we visited Catomanor, I was walking with one of the people who lived there. He pointed at a small vegetable patch that some members of the community had been growing. The excitement and pride in his eyes was so humbling. It instantly injects a new perspective into how you view your own life.

As we spent Friday morning reflecting on what we saw in the settlements, it was wonderful to hear of the different things that impacted people. Each of us were blown away by the fact that driving ten minutes down the road away from the settlements, leads you to the beach front in Durban, which has two massive sports stadiums. The contrast between the poor and the tourism. Injustice is crying out. It made us contemplate, how much this government are valuing their OWN people.

David as we were leaving the settlements said: ‘Trips and programmes like this are bringing people closer to an understanding of the justice that is needed.’

With the first two days of this trip being so incredibly enriching and powerful, I’m beyond excited to see the lessons that God is continuing to teach us as a team, as we explore this wonderful country.

Please continue to pray for us as a team. Pray for unity and for energy! Thank you to everyone who has showed us support so far.

I am so grateful to be here!

‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
Joshua 1:9

In love and in prayer,
Jill

 

Twas’ the night before 8 Methodists venture to Durban

It’s 9:59pm on Monday 9th July 2018. As I sit on the floor of my room at home, comfortable, but jittery, I am excited and intrigued as to what kind of environment I will be sitting in just 24 hours time. I have no doubt I will be just as comfortable, but maybe a little less jittery. I am also fully aware that there will be just a smidgen of sleep deprivation in there. What a wonderful cocktail of emotions!

The suitcases are packed, the injections have been had, the travel pillow is ready (it’s memory foam, how fancay ). I can’t quite believe how fast this trip has crept up! In just 12 hours time we will be on a bus to Dublin airport, ready to travel to the exciting and vibrant South Africa!

How incredible an opportunity to be able to go out as a young person and see how God is moving in this corner of the world.

We are a team of eight. Eight different personalities, eight different body clocks, but one thing in common. A heart for Jesus!

There’s Gemma who likes grapes. Jools who likes justice. Emma who likes elephants. Chris who likes coco pops. Zoe who likes Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Bethany who likes burritos. Ben who likes banter. And Jill who likes jam donuts. What. A. Bunch.

As a team we are expectant and excited to see how God is going to move on this trip. On behalf of the team I ask you keep us in your prayers as we travel together. For safety, but also for some team bonding, with lots of laughs along the way!

I am so excited to hear the stories that lie in Pinetown Methodist Church and its community outreach programme ‘Phakisma’. This is where we will be spending the bulk of our time. Keep an eye on this blog, as I will be updating it as often as possible to share our progress, some of the work we will be doing and our general experiences on the trip.

With Bethany Stephens WhatsApp’s pinging into my phone every day giving us updates on how many days left in capital letters, how could I not be excited?

With that, watch this space for more!

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.’                     -Psalm 96 v3

In love and in prayers,

Jill

-MCI SA TEAM 2018-